“Excellent performance, girls, just superb!” said Emmeck as soon as the cameras were turned off. “I was genuinely captivated! Now let’s not keep you waiting any longer, my dears, let’s get you started! Follow me! That’s right, no need to be shy, come right along!”
All of the girls except for Ginger rose from their kneeling positions and walked in the direction he was indicating, down a long hallway with a plush red carpet. Ginger crawled. She felt foolish about it, but the rules were the rules. She was an animal, and animals didn’t stand. She hadn’t done it since… since Morris had tried to escape with her. The memory brought with it sharp and familiar pain. The one person who tried to save her from all this, and in the end she’d killed him herself.
“Can you hear us?” said Mr Wilmingshire through the receiver. “Ginger?”
“Don’t be silly, George,” said Mrs Wilmingshire with amusement. “These don’t work the other way, remember? Now Ginger, you were a very good girl for Vin just now. We’re proud of you.”
“Yes, very cute,” Mr Wilmingshire agreed. “Absolutely adorable. Everyone down here was just roaring with laughter!” Ginger felt shame heat her face. “Now, once you get started I think you should go… hmm, which way should she go, dear?”
“North, I suppose? I feel like that’s always a generally good direction, isn’t it?”
“If you say so, dear, then I’m sure it’s true. North it is, Ginger!”
The hallways they were walking through grew significantly less fancy as they went deeper into the Paradisium. These were passageways for the servants and staff to use, not places that the people downstairs would ever be treading in. Occasionally they passed by an employee or two, who would duck out of the way with the timidity of frightened rabbits. None of them looked quite as bad off as the slaves downstairs, but they still had worn faces and too lean frames.
If their rundown states bothered Emmeck, the man didn’t show it. He whistled a jaunty tune as he led the mob of women like a pied piper to their destination, a freight elevator. It was large, but everyone still had to squeeze together to fit. Ginger crouched on her back legs to help minimize how much room she herself took up. “This is where we must part for now, my beauties,” Emmeck told them after they were all in. “But rest assured, I will be watching over all of you! Best of luck!” He gave an elaborate bow as the doors closed on his grinning face. The elevator rumbled and began to move.
The time passed slowly and uncomfortably in the crowded metal box. Ginger spent most of it with the Wilmingshires, who had forgotten that their transmitter was still on and chattered in her ear about their lunch plans. Aside from them, the journey was a silent one. Ginger glanced at some of the other women, and saw a few of them nodding. They must all be listening to their own receivers, she realized. And probably hearing more important info than whether their owners were more in the mood for steak or salmon.
She still hadn’t heard a single explanation of what this game she was supposed to be participating in was, and she was increasingly certain that she wasn’t going to get one. It was frustrating, given that everyone else seemed to know exactly what was going on, but not surprising. People rarely bothered to explain things to her. They only punished her for getting them wrong.
The elevator felt like it was moving at a swift pace, and Ginger had expected their time in it to be brief, but it showed no sign of stopping as the seconds and minutes piled up. The deeper they descended into the earth, the more she felt like she was being buried alive. She’d been underground before, but never anywhere near this deep. She imagined the millions of tons of rock now above them, and felt slightly sick. She’d already lost her forest; were they going to take the sky and stars away from her too?
About half an hour passed before the elevator at last shuddered to a stop. Trepidation raised goosebumps all over Ginger’s flesh as she stared at the closed doors, and she wasn’t the only one. Almost every woman looked tense as they waited, their body language filled with varying degrees of excitement and fear. The redhead heard murmured whispers as two or three of them prayed.
The doors slid open.
Everyone else rushed out like a herd of deer fleeing a wolf, emptying the elevator in bare seconds. Ginger padded out more slowly, looking around. They were in a large stone cavern, with more than a dozen twisting passages leading out in different directions, and lights embedded in the stone walls at regular intervals to provide illumination. The other women scattered as they ran, two or three to each of the tunnels. The dragon girl flapped her wings and disappeared up a hole in the cavern roof, followed closely behind by the raven. Another winged girl, this one sporting pink hair and an eagle mask, streaked past the women on the ground instead, taking an immediate lead. In moments, Ginger was completely alone in the cavern. She flinched as the elevator doors behind her shut loudly and definitively.
She regarded the passageways with bemusement. Was she supposed to know what was down them? Did the others? They were all in a hurry, that much was clear, but she still had no idea what they were after. The red fox touched the wall next to the elevator, and sniffed it. Wherever they were, it was nowhere natural. The wall looked like stone, but it felt off, and it smelled of paint. This entire cave formation was man-made, probably out of cement.
“And they’re off, folks!” said Emmeck excitedly in her ear, the announcer’s voice replacing the Wilmingshires. He was painfully loud, and she winced in discomfort. “With only ten minutes left before round one begins, all of our beautiful contestants have scattered to the four winds, seeking the fabulous presents we’ve left for them down there!” His voice turned dry. “Well, almost all of them. Poor Ginger seems to be busy admiring the stonework. But who can blame her? Our artisans have really outdone themselves this year, creating some amazing locales for our girls to play in! Many of them won’t make it past the caves to appreciate them, of course! Round one is where we start to find out who the real contestants are!”
“Oh, do go on then, Ginger,” said Mrs. Wilmingshire. “Don’t just sit there.”
“Yes,” said Mr Wilmingshire. “Any way you like, really!”
Ginger was tempted to just lay down and wait for the game to be over. She couldn’t possibly gain anything by winning, and she doubted that losing meant death, not if her owners had sent their favorite pet without any worry. But that would only bring punishment afterward. And… it was odd. Levinson had thoroughly beaten anything resembling pride or self esteem out of her, and yet somehow she found that it still rankled to be looked down on. To everyone else in the world, everywhere but inside her own head, she was just stupid adorable Ginger.
She picked a passage at random and began crawling down it. She’d lived for centuries on all fours, but this body wasn’t made for it, and she was aware that she was traveling far slower than any of the other women had. But it couldn’t be helped. Though there was no sign of any cameras, Emmeck’s running commentary made it clear that everyone was still being watched. The rules were more important than this game.
She’d barely begun before the tunnel split, and then split again, and again, and again, until she’d completely lost track of what direction she was heading in. The caves seemed to be a complex maze of interconnected passageways. Ginger pictured the palace somewhere far above her. If the caves took up even half as much space as the reception hall had, they were a very vast maze indeed.
After a few minutes of meandering, her current tunnel opened up into a small circular cavern. It was empty, but she saw tracks on the ground leading in and out of every passage. Whatever had been here, if anything, had already been taken. She found two more caverns as she crawled along, all of them equally picked clean, and felt a growing sense of frustration. Was that it then? Would she spend the entire time chasing other people’s shadows? Why was she even trying to do this, if she’d already lost?
“And as we rapidly approach the start of round one,” Emmeck boomed, “Ember, the queen of flame and sky, is the last contestant to enter the playing field! For the sake of all our other poor earnest girls, we just had to give our fiery champion a little handicap this year. After all, we wouldn’t want our prodigious phoenix to get bored, would we? Now, will the head start everyone else received mean the difference between victory and defeat? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out, and I don’t have to! Because it all begins in five, four, three, two, one!!”
At first, it seemed to Ginger that nothing at all had changed when his countdown stopped. But then she smelled something. A sharp, aggressive scent like spoiled meat coming from behind her and quickly growing stronger. It was a foul and abrasive stench that made her hair stand on end, the olfactory equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. “Oh my,” said Mrs Wilmingshire admiringly. “They’ve really outdone themselves this year, haven’t they, George? Those things are almost as big as you are!”
Her husband chuckled. “Yes, they are fine looking animals, aren’t they? Perhaps we should see if we can get one for Ginger when we get back home?”
The red haired fox tried to crawl away from the source of the scent as quickly as she could, but it seemed to be coming from every passageway. Not the same smell every time, but subtly different. Multiple sources. She caught the faint clacking of nails on the ground as the unseen creatures raced down the tunnels. She reached a four-way intersection and turned around, paralyzed with indecision. Which way to go? Which way…
One of the beasts appeared from behind a bend. It was a dog… no, it was something that had once been a dog. Now it was something else, something grotesque. It was huge, nearly as large as she’d once been as a fox, with an incongruous bright pink ribbon tied around its neck. Whatever cruel trick had increased its size had done nothing for its dark fur, which was left only in ragged clumps, separated by exposed skin stretched over bulging muscles. Its fangs and claws were long, sharp, and jagged, but they weren’t what terrified her about it. The source of her fear was the bulbous red penis that protruded from between its legs, precum dribbling out the tip. Like Jessica had said, it didn’t look like quite as frightful as one of the Wilmingshire’s, but it would still be absolute agony to be violated by something that large. And even if its cock had been tiny, the thought of being mounted and used by a disgusting animal like this was enough to make her skin crawl.
Its black, beady eyes met hers. It was only for an instant, but that was all it took for her to understand that despite its appearance, it was no mere beast. It wasn’t true intelligence that she saw behind those eyes, but there was something more than animal cunning there. When the beast’s cock twitched at the sight of her and the creature sprang forward, she knew sadism was guiding it more than any base instinct. She’d seen it often enough, in almost every human she’d met in the last year, to be more than familiar with it. The dog wanted her. It wanted to pin her down and ram its cock into her and make her scream as it savaged her insides.
She turned and fled, scrambling away on all fours.
Ginger knew she couldn’t evade it for long. The creature was steadily closing the distance as it bounded after her, and there was no chance of wearing it down with a long chase. The dog was bursting with manic energy, completely unlike a pet who’d been half-starved for months and spent her nights so miserable that she barely caught any sleep. Its unnatural form was the only reason she wasn’t tackled within the first few seconds; its legs were jointed in multiple places, giving it an awkward half running half crawling gait, and because of its great size and ungainliness, it wasn’t actually moving all that quickly. She could have run circles around it when she had her old body, and even now she could possibly outrun it on two feet if she pushed herself. But that was about as feasible as flapping her arms and flying.
She moved from one passageway to the next, going in random directions, hoping she might throw off the beast, but it easily matched her every turn, growing closer with each passing moment. “It looks like we’re about to have our first elimination, folks!” said Emmeck eagerly. “I know we all had such high hopes for little Ginger, but I supposed this it’s only poetic for our fox to be brought down by hounds!”
She didn’t even know why she was fleeing. It was a huge, ugly thing that wanted to rape her. So what? That was her life now. Why pretend that today could be any different? But she found herself trying to escape anyway, trying to outrun the inevitable. The beast was almost right on top of her when Ginger burst into a new tunnel and saw another contestant there, a brown haired woman with a deer mask and matching antlers. A pair of blue ribbons, identical to the dog’s except for color, were knotted around one wrist. The woman froze in surprise to see her, just for a second, and that was all it took. The dog changed targets in an instant, pouncing on the deer and crashing into her with its several hundred kilos of mass. The brunette squealed as she was slammed into the ground, the beast’s cock already inside her. Ginger continued crawling away, not looking back as her cries echoed down the tunnel.
“A sudden turn of good fortune for Ginger!” Emmeck announced. “And a disastrous one for White Hart, our very first elimination! Don’t worry, my “deer”, all of our guard dogs are sterile, so there’s no danger of leaving the Paradisium with a belly full of puppies… not that our good boy there isn’t going to try his best to prove us wrong!” He laughed. “And our Ginger isn’t out of the woods just yet, folks, because here comes another one!” Ginger darted a glance behind her and saw that the man was telling the truth. A second hound, just as big and gruesome as the first and wearing an identical pink ribbon, was charging towards her.
“Good show, sweetums,” Mr Wilmingshire said. “I quite thought that was the end of it, to be honest. Whatever happens now, at least you won’t have been first to go, eh?”
Ginger kept crawling as fast as she could, now panting with exertion and half convinced she could feel the dog’s breath on her backside. Was there nothing else she could do? She felt foolish for trying to run in the first place. She should just lay down and spread her legs. She had no illusions that submission would make the beast treat her any less viciously, but that didn’t matter. Being used roughly was what fucktoys like her were for. But despite the urging of her common sense, she continued padding down the tunnels.
She reached another intersection and spotted a cavern at one end. She hurried towards her only chance, praying that it wouldn’t be as empty as all the others. “Ooh, did you see that, folks?!” Emmeck shouted. “Oh my, White Hart is going to be feeling that for a while!”
The announcer was still crowing about whatever had just happened when Ginger reached the cavern, the dog close behind. Her eyes darted all around, taking it in. There was something there! It was… it was a box of crackers wrapped in a blue ribbon. And the cavern was a dead end, its only exit blocked by the chasing hound. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Nothing to defend herself with. She spun around to face the beast, choosing to meet it head on instead of being downed from behind. At least this way, she thought bitterly, it was more likely to rape her cunt instead of her ass.
The dog sprang forward, slobber running down its chin, and even though Ginger thought she’d resigned herself to her fate, at the last moment she rolled to the side on pure instinct, dodging its attack by bare inches. The hound spun around and came at her again, and again she dodged. The third time she wasn’t so lucky. She was a moment too slow, and while she dodged the tackle itself, the hound’s claws caught the side of her arm and ripped it wide open from shoulder to elbow. For anyone else the arm would be crippled forever, and even for Ginger it was a serious injury that wouldn’t heal anytime soon. She stumbled and collapsed to the cavern floor into a quickly expanding puddle of her own blood.
“A nasty wound for Ginger, but don’t look away just yet, folks!” Emmeck cried. “I think we’re about to see something special, because here! She! Comes!” Ginger caught the scent of smoke and a glimpse of flickering flames, and then another woman was there, racing down the tunnel towards them.
Her robe was gone, exposing a lithe athletic frame, but Ember’s hair still blazed like before, casting wild shifting shadows across the walls. As she entered the cavern at a sprint, she leapt into the air, soaring for a brief moment before landing on the hound’s back. She wasn’t a small woman, and she’d built up considerable momentum, but the huge dog didn’t even flinch at the impact. It howled in anger instead and tried to buck her off, but the phoenix wrapped her long legs around him and held on deftly. She raised something small and sharp in her right hand: a broken off antler.
Ember buried the jagged thing in the beast’s neck, and yellow blood fountained out. It howled again, still angry, but this time there was pain and fear there too. The animal went into a frenzy, staggering from side to side in a violent attempt to throw her off, smashing itself against the cavern walls, but it couldn’t stop her from pulling the makeshift weapon out and stabbing it again and again. Its movements slowed further with each passing second, until the creature staggered into a complete stop. It wavered in place for a moment, then toppled to the ground.
The flame haired woman hopped off it as it collapsed, tearing its pink ribbon free as she went. With a practiced motion, she looped it around her wrist and tied it on with one hand, where it joined two blue ones. She picked up the box of crackers, which had ended up half destroyed in the commotion, and took its ribbon as well. Then she went back to the dead beast and pried off one of its great fangs, tossing the deer antler away in favor of the superior weapon. Ginger watched it all numbly from her prone position, still in shock.
“Did you see that, folks?!” Emmeck was screaming. “Did you see that?! In a single decisive action, Ember not only rockets to first place and a clear lead, she demonstrates why she has been our champion for so long! We’ve been dazzled by her fearlessness for the last four years, and it appears this year will be no different, as right out of the gate she goes on the attack, as fast and deadly as a firestorm! With that ten point ribbon, combined with the one she just picked up and the two she retrieved from poor White Hart, who is busy receiving her second batch of puppy batter even as we speak, she’s already put herself at an impressive thirteen points!”
Ginger stared up at the woman with amazement and gratitude. She had… she had saved her! If not her life, she’d at least saved her from another horrible rape. The redhead couldn’t remember ever seeing anything more majestic than the phoenix in that moment, the firelight playing over her body as she stood tall and proud.
The woman approached warily, looking at the visibly healing wound on the fox’s arm, then crouched beside her. Ginger didn’t resist as the woman took hold of her arm, allowing her to examine it more closely. “That’s a neat trick,” Ember said, watching the wound slowly closing up. “But weaklings like you shouldn’t be here.” Ginger screamed as her savior stabbed her in the shoulder with the beast fang.
The fox tried to turn away, but the flame haired woman shifted to pin her down with a knee on her neck, handling her as easily as she’d handled the hound moments ago. She grabbed Ginger’s wrist with her other hand to keep her arm still as she tore the fang down its length, nearly bisecting it entirely as she ripped the flesh open. She did the same for her other arm, then took hold of one of Ginger’s tails and impassively wiped the blood off of her weapon before standing. “Just stay here and wait for the end,” she advised coldly, and then strode away. Ginger stared down at the two wounds as Ember disappeared back down the tunnel. Even with her improved healing, it would be hours before she was recovered.
“That’s two contestants down,” announced Emmeck. “But there are four hours left in round one, and it’s still anyone’s game! More than half of the one hundred ribbons remain uncollected, and there are always more guard dogs!” He chuckled. “Storm Hag is already catching up to Ember at eleven points, and Vorona isn’t far behind at seven! Happy hunting girls, and remember: it’s not just about who has the most! It’s the ones with the least that will have to spend the rest of the game down here entertaining their new canine pals. You should all thank Ginger and White Hart for their generosity in ending up with zero points!”
“Ah well, she had a good run,” Mr Wilmingshire said, not sounding particularly bothered.
“And to be taken down personally by Ember, no less,” agreed his wife. “Mrs. Lancaster will be beside herself with jealousy.”
If the remaining rounds were like this one, Du Jiao Shou reflected, this would be even easier than she’d expected.
The giraffe masked woman strode as fearlessly through the tunnels as she would in the safety of her own home, her curly orange hair flowing down her back. She was flanked by two hounds on either side of her, and two more both behind and ahead, the beasts small compared to her own seven foot tall form. Their wills had been stronger than most, and even still she could feel their minds struggling against her, but they had been no match for a qilin. They were now her pets, perfectly obedient and steadfastly loyal. Disgusting pets to be sure, abominations that she would be happy to put out of their misery the moment they were no longer needed, but useful in a variety of ways.
All eight beasts still had their pink ribbons dangling from their necks. She could have removed them at any time, but it was best to wait. When her score shot up far beyond everyone else, she would become a target, and though she had confidence in her canine bodyguards’ ability to protect her, encouraging a confrontation would be an unnecessary risk. Once there were only a few minutes left, and it was too late for anyone to stop her, then she would let them discover how badly they had all lost. They’d no doubt gang up on her in subsequent rounds, but she would already have a commanding lead. Besides, the only real threat would be Ember, and Du Jiao Shou already knew the woman’s weakness.
Winning this silly competition would only be the first step, of course. The real goal was to get in close proximity to the ones behind this wicked place, and the winners circle would provide the perfect opportunity. Karakostas himself would be tricky, but she didn’t need to go after the dragon first. Human minds weren’t that much more difficult to control than animal ones,and even a single success would give her the foothold that she needed to finally bring the Paradisium down.
“Someone approaching at two o’clock,” said Zhi Ruo in her ear, her voice holding none of its usual warmth. Supposedly their communications were private, but neither of them believed that for a moment. The Paradisium had nothing to lose by spying, and no morals to hold it back. So until this was long over and they were far from here, Du Jiao Shou and her wife would continue the charade of slave and owner. “Alias Crikey, race unknown.”
“Cooee!” called out the newcomer, who turned out to be a short, dark haired woman wearing a koala mask. “Didn’t realize there was a party going on over here!” She spoke with a heavy Australian accent and held herself with a relaxed air as she looked over the qilin and her small army of dogs. “Truth be told, I’m a bit more of a cat person meself.”
“Meself?” the qilin asked, studying the koala woman. She appeared human, but there were many races capable of hiding their true nature. Du Jaio Shou focused with her horn, trying to use it to reach out and touch her mind, find out what sort of creature she was dealing with, but the woman’s pysche slipped out of her grasp. The hounds hadn’t completely submitted to her yet, and the active effort required to control them was taxing her abilities.
“Yeah, meself!” answered Crikey . “What, you got a problem with people from Down Under?”
“I have a contextual problem,” Du Jiao Shou told her. “Meself is a token of British slang, not Australian.”
“Oh,” said Crikey, disappointed. “Really?” The accent in her voice vanished completely. “That’s what I get for not keeping a closer eye on things; I really thought no one was going to notice. Vinny didn’t bat an eye when I told him how much I loved eating shrimp on the barbie.” She patted one of the dogs. “I don’t suppose I could borrow these boys? Their ribbons, at least?”
“No,” the horned woman said. “Now please leave. I have no desire for violence, but I also have no interest in games and will defend myself if necessary.”
Crikey laughed, and when she spoke again, the feigned accent was back. “What, me? Pick a fight with a seven foot goliath? Even if you were seven inches, your pups would eat me alive!” She scratched the nearby dog behind the ear. “You’d fuck little Crikey right to death, wouldn’t ya?” she teased in a high pitched voice, and then turned back to Du Jiao Shou. “Nah, I ain’t big on violence. Prefer to solve my problems peacefully, y’know? Like by asking. May I please have all these nice pink ribbons?”
“No,” the qilin said, “and I will not warn you again.” She gave the hounds a mental command, and they all began growling. “Please leave.”
Crikey held up her hands in a show of surrender. “Alright, alright, can’t blame a girl for trying.” She began to walk backwards, hands still raised. “One piece of advice though, one gal to another? Entropy’s a real kick in the sweetmeats. It’s always easier to break something than to build it.” She gave a careless flick of a hand, and suddenly all eight of Du Jiao Shou’s links to the hounds fell apart like cobwebs before a storm. “Byyyyyyyyye!”
The qilin ignored the kaola girl as she continued strolling away, all her attention on frantically trying to restore her control over the dogs. She had no idea how the girl had done that, but she didn’t have time to consider the dilemma. The hounds understood what she had done to them, and she didn’t need her mental abilities to feel the rage and bloodlust radiating from all of them. Her horn glowed a brilliant orange as she gathered up all of her remaining power. Using up everything she had in the first round would make the future ones difficult, but she couldn’t worry about that right now. She would subdue the beasts, get their ribbons, and then send them off far away, in case that girl came back.
One of the hounds reared its head up and snapped at her, its teeth catching on her horn. The thin, delicate instrument resisted for less than a second before it shattered, and the beast crunched the pieces in its mouth. Du Jiao Shou brought a hand up to her head in stunned horror. He’d… he’d destroyed her… another hound charged into her, sending her sprawling backwards to the ground, onto her thick orange mane. She was surrounded, unable to even see anything but the dark, hideous creatures circling her.
“Ying Yue!” Zhi Ruo shouted, too panicked to remember to use her wife’s alias. “Ying Yue, run! You-” There was a sudden barrage of noise in the qilin’s ear, and the receiver went silent.
Grief and panic rose up in her, but Ying Yue pushed them aside as she grabbed the front leg of one of her opponents. The creature twisted, trying to pull itself free, but though she abhorred physical violence, she was larger and stronger than any of them. She rolled to the side and threw the beast against the tunnel wall, the creature smashing into it with enough force to crack the cement. It slid down slowly, yellow blood leaking from its shattered frame.
The other seven proved far more difficult. If they’d fought independently, she might have been able to overpower them, but they worked together to keep her subdued. The next time she tried to grab one of them, she nearly lost a hand to the others, and whenever she tried to rise to her feet, one of them was ready to bring her back down again, forcing her to remain on her back. It was a battle of attrition, the beasts slowly wearing her down over long minutes. She fought with everything she had, killing two more of them in the process, but she knew she was fighting a losing battle, one that ended when one of the beasts managed to clamp its jaws around her neck before she could stop it.
Ying Yue froze, steeling herself for the agony of having her throat ripped out. The thought of death was terrifying, and the failure of her mission tragic, but she had known this was a possibility since she and Zhi Ruo had first decided to infiltrate the Paradisium. She would meet her end with honor. But the long teeth, sharp though they were, didn’t break the flesh, instead touching it almost daintily. The qilin lay on her back, frozen in anticipation of violence as the beast growled, a low rumbling from its chest that seemed to shake the whole cave. After a second the hound growled again, making her entire body hum along with the vibration of it, and this time the pressure of its fangs increased infinitesimally. It wanted her to do something, but she didn’t know what.
Even without her horn, she was still a qilin, and she touched its mind, trying to understand. The creatures had no real language, but they weren’t simple animals either, and neither of them needed words to communicate through thought. She saw what it wanted of her, and recoiled. No! She’d rather die! She sent just that to the beast, and a moment later its jaws withdrew. Before her success could provide any relief, though, its mouth closed around the little finger of her left hand. Again its movement was far more precise than she’d ever have expected would be possible of the hulking beast, its teeth tenderly gripping the digit without doing harm.
Then it bit down, and her finger snapped like a twig.
Ying Yue shrieked in pain, and tried to yank her hand away from the hound, but she couldn’t do that without ripping her own finger off. Another beast put a greasy paw down on her arm, pinning it in place as the first one released her little finger and cradled her ring finger in its mouth instead. Another crunch that carried with it an explosion of agony. “Please!” she screamed, sending her words mentally as well. “Please stop!” The beast responded with the image of destroying all of her fingers like this, then her toes, then her wrists and ankles, elbows and knees, smashing her body to pieces little by little before they would be ready to feast on her flesh. “Nooooo!” she wailed as its teeth found her middle finger.
It sent back the image of what they wanted, the thought that made her feel sick just to think about. She would much rather die first. But to be tortured, given a slow and agonizing end…?
Ying Yue spread her legs.
The hounds wasted no time. Her arm and finger were released and one of them fell atop her, its weirdly jointed legs allowing it to lower itself to the position it needed for its unsheathed cock to touch her slit. The moment the hound’s cock touched her waiting flesh, it rammed its hips violently forward, in one motion impaling her entire pussy on the length of its prick. The qilin, who had never known a lover other than her wife, screamed and lifted her hands to try and push the hideous thing off of her, but the moment she did one of them gripped her finger with its jaws once again. She gave in to the wordless threat, letting her hands drop passively to her side. The four watching animals wagged their tails as they watched, broadcasting a sense of amusement.
Ying Yue laid there, beneath a huge, grotesque hound, feeling like she was being hit by a car every time its weight dropped onto her. With each thrust, its rock hard head would smash into her cervix, making her convulse with nauseating agony. After several minutes of this, she felt something break inside her and the hound’s head penetrated her womb, making the too small pocket bulge around it. She howled.as her innermost depths became its punching bag, but when canine teeth found one of her fingers again, she meekly quieted down.
Her breasts and belly were already dark with growing bruises by the time the beast howled and began spraying its cum into her womb, the liquid hot enough to make the sensitive walls blister. When it pulled out, its cock dribbling the last of its cum onto her marred skin, she had no strength or will to do anything but continue laying there, exhausted.
Another hound approached right on the heels of the first, and she was dismayed to see its cock was just as big as the other. It nudged her side with its snout, sending a simple command as it did, and she obediently rolled over for it, too exhausted to consider the implications until its bulbous cock head touched not her slit, which was now red and gaping and leaking cum, but her tight, never touched asshole.
The orange haired woman shrieked as the hound, just like its companion before it, stabbed its entire length into her in one go. The first one had to been too big to fit its whole cock into her pussy, but this one had no such problem with her ass. She felt her organs get viciously shoved to the side to make room for its huge shaft. Then it yanked itself out of her just as quickly, leaving her feeling for a brief moment like a doll with all its stuffing ripped out, before slamming back in. Her body was ground against the cavern floor, breasts crushed and scraped and pounded, as it repeated the violent cycle several times a second.
And then just as suddenly as it had begun, the beast stopped and withdrew, leaving her asshole torn open and bleeding. Ying Yue cried as it told her what it wanted her to do. “Please just kill me,” she begged. “Please!” There were no teeth this time, only a low growl from the others. And it was enough. All remaining resistance in her collapsed, and she rose to her knees and reached behind herself to spread her cheeks out with her hands, submitting to the beast as its bitch and offering up her ass to it. It rammed back into her, assraping as her violently as before as she kept her hands in place.
The qilin was so lost in the haze of pain, terror, and humiliation that it took her a moment to notice another hound rubbing its shaft over her face, getting its sticky precum all over her. When it told her what it wanted, she didn’t even consider refusing. Ying Yue opened her mouth and began to suck on its cock. It responded with the image of fucking her throat, smashing her teeth down her esophagus as it savaged her in the same manner her other two holes had been taken. She got the message and sucked harder.
After a few minutes of being spitroasted by the two hounds, she heard a voice in her ear. “Hi there, sweetie, this is Vin on a private line. I can see that you’re busy, but I just wanted to let you know that we discovered a few… inaccuracies with your paperwork, and as such we’ve been forced to disqualify you from this year’s competition. Now, we know you came all the way out here to have some fun with us, and we feel just terrible, so we’re not going to leave you high and dry. We’d like to offer you a position here at the Paradisium as dog trainer, where you’ll do, well, exactly what you’re doing right now! The boys are so much happier when they have a few bitches to keep them company, and they seem to have taken a real liking to you. What do ya say?” She moaned around the dog cock in her mouth. “Perfect! Consider yourself hired.”
The dick she was sucking spurted without warning, shooting its superheated cum against the back of her throat. She gagged, not only at the horrible searing pain, but at the foul slimy taste of it. She’d never tasted anything more disgusting, but when the beast communicated what it would do to her if she spilled its valuable seed, she clamped her lips close around its shaft and desperately slurped down every drop. Before it had finished, the dog in her ass came too, howling in triumph as it buried itself in her guts a final time, and before it sent any message, she reflexively pressed her ass cheeks together to keep its sperm from leaking out as it filled her up.
“Oh, and honey?” said Vin. “We’ve decided to consider your “owner” for a position at the Paradisium too. I’d let her tell you all about it herself, but she’s busy auditioning for it between my legs right now. She’s going to have to really impress us if she wants to get hired, but don’t worry if she fails; we can always use her as meat instead.” Ying Yue sobbed at the knowledge of her wife’s fate, but when another hound pressed its cock against her lips she didn’t hesitate to open her mouth and start sucking, and when the one coming up behind her sent an image of a litter of squealing puppies, she spread her pussy lips apart with her fingers to invite the beast into her aching womb. Both dogs wagged their tails as they sent back a sense of deep satisfaction, the meaning as clear as day: good bitch.
Vorona had never considered herself claustrophobic before, but these tunnels were making a good argument for it. The dark haired raven flapped her wings irritably, barely able to stretch down here without smacking into cold gray stone.
“There are two more ribbons down the eastern passage,” said her father. “Hurry up and get them.” He sounded angry, which was no surprise. He was always angry when he talked to her. She looked around for a moment, trying to find the camera he must be watching her with. Unlike the bulky mundane ones they’d used for the interviews, the Paradisium relied on a more magical solution for keeping track of contestants during the game. There was at least one eye attached to each girl, and more free floating to be used when necessary. She’d handled one of them once, and it had been so small she’d almost lost track of it in her palm. Unable to spot it, she shrugged and settled for raising her middle finger in a random direction. He’d know who it was meant for.
Sure enough, he started cursing at her, but she tuned him out. It was a skill she’d had plenty of opportunity to master. Ignoring him always earned her a beating or worse, but so what? It wasn’t as though obedience had ever gotten her much better treatment, and he couldn’t touch her down here.
Vorona raised her arm and counted her ribbons: nine. Not a bad haul, all things considered. She couldn’t take full advantage of her mobility down here, but she knew the dogs well enough to evade them. And more than well enough to know not to risk going after one of those pink ribbons they wore. She’d come across more than one contestant who’d thought she could replicate Ember’s feat, and ended up a spunk covered plaything instead. If she listened closely, she could still hear the faint thumping as their temporary owners made full use of them. She felt sorry for the poor girls, but there was nothing she could do for them. Once the dogs got started, they didn’t care about anything but cumming as quickly and as often as possible to try and breed their bitches. On the one hand, it meant that once they’d claimed a girl, they wouldn’t bother anyone else down here. On the other, anyone trying to get in the way would wind up either dead or mounted.
Vorona wasn’t in a hurry to meet either fate. That’s why she’d flown herself up to the tallest ceiling she could find and grabbed onto some rocks. A couple times dogs had barked at her from below, some of them trying to jump and get at her feet, but she was well out of their reach. The first round was always the shortest; just another couple hours and she could relax…. as much as a sex slave trapped nearly a mile below the surface in a sadist’s playground could relax, that is.
A loud noise on her right caught her attention, and she was surprised to find two of the dogs fighting each other. The first was significantly smaller than the second, but it was managing to hold its own as the two canines tumbled across the floor. The larger dog snarled and tried to sink its teeth into the smaller one’s neck, but the animal twisted away and all but ripped off one of its opponent’s ears in the process. The gray furred beast seemed to move far more gracefully than any dog she’d seen so far, and it… Vorona started, nearly falling down from the ceiling. Was that a wolf?
It was clear that the hound was physically stronger, but it had nothing on the wolf’s speed, or her tenacity. When it left several deep gashes across her face with a rake of its paws, a blow that would’ve sent one of its own kind skittering away, she didn’t even flinch, and soon the blood on her muzzle was all that was left of the wounds. Every further wound the beast managed to inflict on her healed just as quickly.
After a few more exchanges, the dog finally realized that it was outmatched and tried to get away, but the wolf was having none of it. A quick snap of her jaws severed a tendon on its back leg and sent the creature tumbling. The wolf didn’t waste the opportunity, pouncing on its back and tearing at it with her fangs and claws. The dog rolled, trying to knock her off, but all it managed to do was expose its vulnerable underbelly to her. Vorona winced and closed her eyes as the wolf went for the kill.
When she opened them a few seconds later, it was over. The dog laid dead on the cavern floor, the wolf panting beside it. Her jaws ripped the pink ribbon from its neck, and now that it was still, Vorona noticed the four blue ribbons already tied to a front leg. “And Moonshine jumps to second with an incredible athletic display!” crowed Emmeck. “We might have found another worthy challenger for Ember… if she can survive the next few minutes, that is!”
It didn’t take long to understand what the announcer referring to. Growling heralded the approach of another dog, but it wasn’t coming from just one direction. Every one of the branching passageways around them hummed with it, sometimes two or three from the same tunnel. The dogs didn’t have any real sense of family, but they frequently formed packs, and this one’s had heard their packmate dying and were coming to avenge it.
The wolf’s ears flattened against her head and she circled, looking for an escape route. Vorona could tell there wasn’t one. The hounds knew how to corner an animal, and they had no intention of letting one that had killed their own get away from them. The first dog appeared from a bend in a passageway, stalking forward with deliberate slow menace; they’d been trained to play with their prey. A second, a third, and a fourth, appeared shortly after. The wolf growled back at them, and their lips parted to let their tongues loll out. The raven recognized the body language: they were laughing at her.
“Finally, a bit of luck,” Vorona’s father grumbled. “Tanya warned me about that one. Said the sooner the werewolf was eliminated, the better.” Vorona watched them slowly close in on the wolf, paying the raven above no attention. She could just stay up here and wait it out. Might even get the chance to snatch up that pink ribbon of hers after she went down and the dogs got busy. It was the safe, sensible and logical choice.
“Hey!” she shouted instead. “You want a little help?” Her father cursed and began yelling at her, which immediately made her feel good about her decision.
The wolf’s head snapped up to look at her for a second, golden eyes meeting her own, before lowering to eye the dogs again. There had been no hope or gratitude in those eyes, only suspicion. Her mouth opened, and the voice that came out was a bit raspy but unmistakably feminine, and carried a strong Southern lilt. “In exchange for what?”
“Um, not eating me, I guess?” Vorona said.
The wolf was directly beneath her now, the hounds nearly close enough to pounce as they drew closer. “A ceasefire, you mean?”
“Yeah, one of those! You in?”
The wolf shot her another quick glance. “Suppose I ain’t really in a position to refuse, now am I?”
Vorona let go of the ceiling and let herself fall to the ground. She landed on her feet, the impact hard enough to send a jolt running up both her legs. She wobbled and almost fell, putting a hand on the wolf’s shoulder to steady herself. Some of the dogs wagged their tails at the sight of her, probably pleased at the prospect of more holes to go around. Being this close to them evoked a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. “I’m, uh, I’m gonna feel really, really stupid if this doesn’t work,” she muttered.
Then the raven put two fingers in her mouth and whistled.
The dogs’ reaction was immediate. Tails down, they turned and ran, fleeing in all directions. Before the shrill sound had finishing echoing off the cave walls, Vorona and the wolf were alone. The dark haired woman sagged as the tension left her body all at once. The beasts were all trained to react that way, but the whistling was only effective at a very narrow pitch and duration, and she hadn’t practiced it in weeks. That had been reckless, even for her.
“Well…” said Emmeck, sounding confused. “That was… I’m not certain what we just saw there, folks, but it was certainly impressive! Our bookmakers gave Vorona decent marks, but it looks like they might have underestimated the girl. I imagine there are quite a few people out there kicking themselves for not putting down more money on our fine feathered friend!”
“You… really did it,” said the wolf slowly, sounding like she still didn’t believe it.
“Uh huh,” said Vorona, some of the uneasy feeling returning as she reconsidered the fact that the two of them were now alone. “So, ceasefire, right? Nobody tries to eat anybody?”
The wolf’s body contorted unnaturally, limbs shifting and fur receding, and then there was a brown haired woman in a wolf mask standing there instead, with fair skin and a lean, sinewy frame. She scrubbed her mouth with the back of her arm and turned her head to spit out some blood. “Not unless you ask nicely, hon,” she said, her voice smoother and calmer now. She held out a hand. “Name’s Moonshine, by the way.”
“Vorona,” said the raven, taking the woman’s hand. “I’ve never met a werewolf before. Does it hurt doing that?”
“Only as much as someone breaking every bone in your body while ripping all your hair out by the roots,” said Moonshine dryly. “You get used to it. And I’ve never met a…” She looked the raven up and down.
“Alkonost,” Vorona lied.
“Never met an alkonost before, so I guess we’re even.” She grinned at the raven behind her mask, her hazel eyes sparkling “Do all alkonosts make a habit of rescuing damsels in distress? Or is that just you?”
Vorona felt her cheeks grow hot. “If I ever meet one, I’ll ask. I just…” She shrugged. “You were in trouble…… aaaaand I knew it would piss off a lot of people watching.” Her father in particular, who was still ranting.through her earpiece. “Everybody up there wants us all to be at each other’s throats. It’s crazy. I’m not going to stand by and let other people get killed or worse just for some meaningless points.”
“They ain’t meaningless to everyone,” Moonshine said, her grin fading. “Most people woulda happily left me to rot, and I can’t say I’d blame ’em for it.”
“It’s no big deal,” Vorona insisted. “You probably would’ve done the same for me if our positions were reversed.”
The werewolf hesitated. “I don’t know about that, hon. When I was younger, before all of…” – she waved her hands in the air – “this, sure, but now? I’d like to think I still would, but… to be honest, I hope I never get the chance to find out.” She shook her head. “Seriously, thank you.”
“We should get moving,” Vorona said. “The whistle drove them away, but they’ll be back soon, and I don’t know if it’ll work again.”
“I still don’t know why it worked the first time,” Moonshine said. “There some trick to it?”
“Something like that,” Vorona said. It was bad enough having her father complaining nonstop in one ear; she was in no hurry to discuss her family situation. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do if the brunette pushed the issue, but Moonshine simply nodded, accepting that it wasn’t something she wanted to talk about.
“Well, whatever it was,” she said, “I’m grateful. You didn’t just save my hide, you went and put your own at risk too, jumping down like that.”
“Couldn’t be helped, I… had to…” Vorona trailed off. She looked back up at the ceiling, and then down to the floor.
“…you didn’t need to jump down to do that, did you?” Moonshine asked.
“It… felt like the right thing to do at the time,” Vorona said weakly.
The werewolf laughed, and after a moment Vorona joined her. “I like you,” the brunette said when she’d recovered. “You’re good people. Stay safe out there, okay? Not a whole lotta good people around, down here or up there.” Her form shifted again, and the gray wolf padded away down one of the tunnels.
Vorona watched her until she was out of sight. “Wipe that stupid smile off your face and move,” her father growled. “You have a job to do here.” Vorona reflexively flipped him off again, but she headed down the eastern passage to seek out the two ribbons he’d told her about. She wouldn’t have so strong an advantage next round, so she might as well make use of it while she could.
The raven hoped that the other woman would still be there when the round was over. She couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt as she replayed the conversation in her head. Her actions hadn’t been quite as selfless as Moonshine had made them out to be. It wasn’t really that tempting to try and steal the wolf’s ribbons from her. They were even more worthless to her than they were for everybody else.
After all, unlike them, she wasn’t here to win.
Time passed. Emmeck continued excitedly narrating the events of the competition as Ginger sat and watched her arms slowly heal. The irony that anyone else could have simply gotten up and walked away on two legs wasn’t lost on her. For the first hour she expected another hound to find her at any minute, but it seemed that the scent of their companion’s corpse was keeping them away. Five more women were caught and savaged by the animals while Ginger waited, growing angrier with each passing minute. So what if it was just a stupid game? So what if winning meant nothing? This was the closest she’d felt to being free since Levinson. The closest she’d probably ever come to feeling like more than a furry fucktoy. And she was spending it as a useless lump.
According to Emmeck, there was only half an hour left when her frustration overcame her sense and she began to shuffle forward on her knees, both of her arms still far too weak to support her weight. “Dear!” Mrs Wilmingshire said. “I think Ginger is making a go of it again.”
“Oh, so she is,” said Mr. Wilmingshire. “Good girl, sweetums! Do you think she still has a chance?”
“I don’t see why not,” said his wife. “She only needs one ribbon to stay in the game, right? And look at the map, there’s one right over there nobody has touched. I’m sure she can get there if she tries.”
“Ginger, can you hear me?” asked Mr Wilmingshire. “There’s a ribbon that’s sort of down and left from you. You’re going to want to, um, cut across a few times, and then zig zag through… hmm, it’s a bit hard to explain. You’re always better than me at directions, Jessica.”
“Welll…” Mrs Wilmingshire said doubtfully. “Why don’t we try doing hot and cold? Colder, colder… that’s it, warmer, warm-no no, colder, yes, warmer, hmm, I suppose you’re going to have to get a bit colder and then warmer…oh bother, I can’t do this!” The receiver went silent.
Ginger continued shuffling forward on her knees, slowly moving through the tunnels and choosing her path at random. Her pace was slow, and she was more likely to be headed farther away from what she wanted than closer, but she continued. Just for now, just for these thirty minutes left until she was eliminated, she could pretend that she was more than cute, simple Ginger. She could feel a little like herself again.
“Go right,” said a new voice in her ear, familiar and cold. Celeste? Ginger had no time to think about it, quickly shuffling into the right hand passage. “Follow the left wall for the next three intersections,” said the woman, her voice impassive. Ginger followed the woman’s precise instructions.
“The master and mistress seemed somewhat distressed,” Celeste said. “I have offered my services. The downward passage, then straight ahead.” She paused. “The path branches after that. If you go left, there is a high probability that you will encounter one of the guard dogs currently patrolling on an east-west vector. If you go right instead, you will avoid him, but the distance you will need to travel is likely greater than you could proceed in the time allotted. I will leave the choice to you.”
The dangerous route or the safe route. The correct decision was obvious. Injured arms or not, she’d already been amazingly lucky to get away from the dogs the first time. Only a complete idiot would put herself back into that kind of danger just to win a silly game. Right was the only sane choice.
Ginger turned left. If this was it, at least she’d know she tried.
“Very well,” Celeste said, and Ginger almost thought there was a hint of approval in her tone as she supplied the next set of directions.
Qarinah moaned, rocking back and forth on her knees as the hound came inside the dark haired, dusky skinned woman again. How many times had he used her now? Twenty seven? Twenty eight? All day long the beast had mounted her again and again. And she loved him for it.
For the first two hours, he’d been wonderfully relentless, still rock hard inside her even after cumming. It had taken sixteen loads before his endurance began to falter, his thick rod growing soft after his pleasure. She had not minded, or faulted him for his lack. On the contrary, she had been delighted the first time it happened, eager for the chance to repay him for all he’d done.
By now the hound anticipated what was going to happen, and once his dick slipped out of her still clenching slit he rolled over to lay on his side. Qarinah turned around and crawled to him with a smile on her face. “Good boy,” she told him as she nuzzled his manhood, wishing she didn’t have this silly lion mask in the way . “Such a good hardworking boy.” She began to lap him, savoring the taste of their combined juices.
The first few times, his response to her tongue had been nearly instantaneous, but it was taking longer and longer now to get him hard again. She didn’t mind, though. To lick and suck him was its own kind of pleasure, and the dark haired woman hummed a happy mindless tune as she enjoyed her task.
After about fifteen minutes of her tender care, the beast began to harden in her mouth, but his movements had slowed and his head drooped with fatigue, and she realized with a tinge of regret that this would be his final load. Her fingers lightly played with his balls as she took him deeper into her mouth. She had taken him in both of her lower holes, but never her throat, and it would be a shame to miss her chance.
His plump shaft felt incredible stuffing her gullet, and she used a hand to stroke the bulge in her neck, delighting in the way her indirect touch made him pulse and quiver. She couldn’t breathe like this, but that was one of the best parts of taking a man in her throat. It was only with great reluctance that she pulled back each time, drawing just a single quick breath to keep her conscious before eagerly swallowing him back up.
As his warm, gooey cum began to fill her belly, Qarinah purred in pleasure around him. She kept her lips tightly sealed and sucked hard, determined not to waste a single drop of him. By the time she’d wrung out the last of it, she was amused to find the huge beast already asleep and snoring softly.
“Shall we call it there?” Muhtadi asked through her receiver, “or should I see if I can find you another one?”
The black haired woman in the lion mask shook her head. These creatures were amazing, but there was less than an hour left, which wasn’t anywhere near enough time to properly make love to another. It would be positively cruel to tease one of them like that. No, best to be getting on. She gently extricated herself from the hound, careful not to disturb his slumber. She just as carefully untied the pink ribbon around his neck before tying it around her wrist. She didn’t particularly care about the points, but it would be a shame to be eliminated before getting to enjoy everything this game had to offer. Qarinah gave her lover a soft kiss on his forehead and slipped away.
“Only teeeeeen minutes left!” said Emmeck. “Ember still holds the lead with twenty one points! And on the other side, twelve contestants are struggling to remain in the game. Let’s all cheer for them, folks!”
The caves were a twisting, incomprehensible maze to Ginger, but Celeste seemed to know exactly where to go, and kept her supplied with directions. “Continue straight for the next seven intersections,” she said eventually. “At your current pace, it will take roughly six minutes. In the meantime, has anyone explained the nature of the Paradisium Game to you?” The fox shook her head. “I suspected as much. Very well. As your temporary handler, it is my duty to instruct you so that you can perform adequately for the master and mistress. The game takes place over five days and five rounds, with contestants competing to accumulate points in the form of ribbons. In each round, the worst performing contestants will be eliminated from the competition, until the final round where a winner is decided.”
Calling it elimination made it sound like something formal and civilized, but Ginger didn’t need Celeste to tell her what it entailed. Being eliminated meant staying down here until the game was over. Four days straight trapped in these tunnels with the monster dogs… she had no desire to find out what that would be like.
“There are two criteria for elimination. The first is to possess the lowest score at the end of any given round. The second is to fail to obtain any points during a given round. Due to the contestants that are currently incapacitated and will score zero points, that means both can be avoided in this current round by collecting at least one ribbon. Between rounds, violence is prohibited, as is theft of ribbons, but while the clock is running all conduct is allowed, up to and including murder. The only exception is acts viewed as attempts to escape, which are punishable by death.”
Murder? Slaves would murder each other for the sake of some silly game? …Of course they would. Ginger had witnessed time and again how easily she was blamed for her faults, as though every mistake was a deliberate act of rebellion, and the Wilmingshires seemed more lenient than most, outside of their rules. If she was here on the behalf of someone like Levinson, and she knew that he would be furious with her for taking anything less than first place… she wished she could believe that she wouldn’t sink so low as to kill an innocent, but centuries spent bearing the hunger of a gumiho had taught her she was more than capable of it.
“It’s down to the final two minutes!” said Emmeck. ‘But there are still ribbons out on the floor! Don’t miss your chance, girls!”
“Miss Ginger,” said Celeste sharply a moment later, cutting through the fox’s thoughts, “the guard appears to have noticed you.” Ginger’s own nose confirmed her words a moment later, as the acrid scent of the hound reached her. “It is approaching your location. You cannot outdistance it at your current speed.” The smell grew stronger, and she heard the clacking of nails again before she caught movement in the corner of her eye from a side passage. She recoiled, expecting another hound, but it was one of the other slaves, a woman with alabaster white skin and a monkey mask. She didn’t spare a glance at Ginger as she ran along the same course Celeste had set, easily outpacing the fox. It was very much like the situation between her and White Hart at the beginning of the round, except that this time it was Ginger who would be sacrificed to help the other survive.
Ginger cursed her slow movement as the hound caught up and the woman pulled away. If she could just run, she might have a chance…
“Miss Ginger,” said Celeste sternly, as though reading her mind. “The master and mistress have given you strict orders to behave as an animal. You are not to speak, you are not to stand, and you are certainly not to run. They have not ceased those orders, and I would never advise you to do anything that went against their wishes. However…” Her voice softened, just a little. “The master, the mistress, and myself are not in a position to enforce those orders at the moment. Were you to disobey, we would be unable to stop you.”
“One more minute!” said Emmeck. “Those dogs down there are getting frisky! They know it’s almost their turn to have some fun!”
Ginger looked down at herself. The woman was right. There was no one here to make her follow the Wilmingshire’s silly rules. No one but herself. But that didn’t matter. She hadn’t disobeyed an order since… not since her escape attempt at the camp. That was the last time she had entertained the slightest hint of rebellion. Fighting back had never gotten her anywhere, done nothing but make her more miserable than ever.
Obedience was different. Obedience had made everything better. Being Ginger was a safe and familiar prison. She had done her best to abandon everything she’d ever known and become the furry fucktoy all of her owners thought of her as. The process had not been quick, simple, or painless, and she’d had to fight for it every step of the way. She’d had to mercilessly crush every spark of life inside of her, remind herself day in and day out that she was nothing more than this. And for the most part, it had worked. Despair was an easier burden to carry when you knew hope was a waste of time. Abuse didn’t feel as bad when you knew that you deserved it. Life was so much simpler once you understood that you were worthless trash, and that being humiliated and raped was as natural and appropriate as sleeping and eating.
Was she really going to throw all that hard work away? And for what? To try and return to her old self? All she’d ever accomplished as a gumiho was bringing pain and death to people who didn’t deserve it. At least the fucktoy could make people happy. If it hadn’t taken her so long to accept how pathetic she truly was, if she’d just been a good fox slut for Levinson from the beginning like she was supposed to, Morris would still be alive.
It was a familiar sentiment, but for once it didn’t have its usual sting. It wasn’t that she didn’t grieve for the man. But for the first time she found herself wondering: was his death really her fault? He had known the risks when he made his choices. That wasn’t to say he was stupid or wrong for making them, just that it was disrespectful to act like he’d had no will of his own. He had chosen to help her, and he wouldn’t want her to hate herself for that.
The dog had nearly caught up to her. She could feel it right behind her, and knew that any moment now it would get close enough to spring forward and bring her down. But its presence hardly seemed important right now. The brutal rape it represented was nothing compared to the pain that she was considering inflicting on herself despite everything she’d learned over the last year. What would Morris want from her? The answer came immediately to her, as loud and clear as thunder. He would want her to fight. He would want her to run. He’d wanted it badly enough to give up his life for it.
Was that reason enough to try? To her surprise, she realized that it was. The dying wish of a man she’d barely known shouldn’t have meant much to her, but it did. She couldn’t rewind time and save him. She couldn’t make his death anything more than a meaningless tragedy. But she could at least respect what he’d tried to accomplish. This was going to be a mistake, as bad as any she’d ever made, but just this once, for a little while, she’d pretend she could be more than what she was. In his memory.
Her legs wobbled at the unfamiliar position, but after a couple shaky steps she developed a more natural rhythm. The cave walls streaked by, the sound of her own footsteps echoing in her ears, at she rejoiced at the forgotten feeling of speed. The hound behind her growled, displeased with losing ground on its prey. Seo-yun closed in on the woman ahead of her as the cavern appeared up ahead. There was the ribbon, wrapped around a small backpack.
Vin Emmeck was counting down the last few seconds as both slaves sprinted into the cavern, Seo-yun now right behind the monkey woman and the monster dog following them both. The other woman was dashing towards the pack, but Seo-yun crouched low and dived forward instead, her injured arms outstretched.
“And that’s the end of round one, folks!” Emmeck said. “Haven’t these girls all done great? Let’s give them a hand!”
Seo-yun’s heart thudded as she rolled across the ground, the pack between her protesting arms. Had she made it in time? She found out the answer when the albino woman moaned and collapsed to the floor, limbs twitching weakly. Seo-yun immediately thought of the jackal, but the woman’s mask didn’t seem to be suffocating her. In fact, after a few seconds, it crumbled just like the jackal’s had, leaving behind a pretty girl with tears in her eyes who all but vanished from sight as the massive hound mounted her. She let out a weak, mournful cry, buried beneath all its weight, as it began humping furiously, its thick red cock appearing and disappearing inside her.
“Round one was the limit for fourteen of our contestants!” Emmeck announced. “Six of them were already entertaining our pups, and the other eight are feeling a liiiiiittle bit sleepy right about now.” He laughed. “Don’t worry, the paralysis will wear off after a little while. Those good boys of ours deserve active squirmy fucktoys, after all. Those girls will spend the remaining four days of the competition being man’s best friend’s best fuckholes. And you’re not going to believe this, folks, but remember sweet little Ginger, our uniquely talented Miss Yip Yip? She’s beaten the odds and made it through round one! On the flip side, our favorite phoenix leads the pack with twenty two points, with Storm Hag in close second and Vorona trailing farther behind in third. We’ll find out tomorrow if Ember can maintain her lead, or if we see the beginning of a stunning upset!”
Emmeck was still talking, but another voice cut in through the receiver, male and bored. “All active contestants converge at the elevator. Any contestant not within the rest area in forty five minutes will be locked out and disqualified.”
“Exit the cavern using the ascending passage and then turn left,” ordered Celeste. Seo-yun slung the backpack over the shoulder and obeyed, her eyes still on the woman being raped. The dog howled triumphantly as yellowish cum ran out the woman’s cunt and down her alabaster white legs, its cock still rock hard and thrusting madly.
Celeste led her down the long and winding path to the freight elevator. Once she got there, Seo-yun understood what the man had meant about a rest area. The elevator doors were open, and so was the back wall of the shaft, revealing a small barracks like set of rooms behind it. There was an open area with chairs and couches, a long room filled with rows of cots, a pair of bathrooms, and even a small kitchen. Some of the women were already sleeping, and most of the others were in the public room, though no one seemed all that talkative.
“We are being asked to retire for the night,” Celeste said. “I will contact you again in the morning.” The receiver went silent.
As the remaining stragglers arrived, Seo-yun was shocked at how much smaller the group already looked. They’d lost nearly a third of everyone, and she had a feeling that the next rounds might be even more severe. Though everyone here had succeeded in getting points, their results were extremely disparate. About ten of them, including Ember, had more than ninety points between them. A few of the others had two or three, but most were like Ginger and had made it through with a single solitary point. Vin Emmeck was an obnoxious blowhard, but the fox was starting to see what he’d meant when he mentioned finding out who the “real” contestants were.
The forty five minutes were almost up when another masked woman emerged from a tunnel. It was the one called Storm Hag, the green skinned woman in the shark mask. She was festooned with ribbons, and carried a machete comfortably in one hand, the blade dripping with yellow blood. “You getting scared yet, Ember?” she called out, as she sauntered towards the elevator. “Your little trick with the dog is the only reason you’re still in first right now. I’m faster than you, I’m stronger than you, and I’m hungrier than you.” She stopped just outside the elevator doors. “Why don’t you come out here so we can cut to the chase? We’ve still got a couple minutes left; plenty of time to settle this here and now.”
Everyone’s attention was on her, waiting to see if Ember would accept her challenge. But as the seconds ticked by, there was no sign of the phoenix. Finally Storm Hag laughed scornfully. “The great and powerful Ember’s a coward, huh? What a fucking joke. Alright, bitch, we’ll do this the hard way and stretch your humiliation out over the next few days. You’d better sleep well tonight, little firebird, because soon you’re gonna be having nightmares about me every time you-” The elevator doors closed in her face.
A few of the watching women giggled.
“All contestants should now be in the rest area,” said the bored voice in Seo-yun’s ear. “Any contestants not in the rest area will be locked out until tomorrow morning. You have three hours until lights out. You have eleven hours until wake up call. While in the rest area, violence and theft are not permitted, and are grounds for potential permanent disqualification.”
There was a pair of small windows on the doors, and Storm Hag tapped her machete against one of them. “What the hell is this?” she asked, annoyed, and then raised her voice. “Hey! Someone open the damn doors back up! This ain’t funny!”
Seo-yun smelled spoiled meat, and the sound of growling began to drift in from five different tunnels.
“Seriously, you fucking idiots!” Storm Hag yelled. “So what if I was a couple seconds late? This ain’t some random pissant nobody out here, I’m in second place! You seen the betting windows lately? Only round one and they’re already giving me almost even odds against that the fire cunt.” The growling grew louder, and it came from eight different tunnels now.
“Fine then!” she snapped, an undercurrent of tension in her voice. “Don’t blame me for breaking your fucking door!” She swung the machete at the window, and it bounced off harmlessly. She gritted her teeth and swung again, and even through the door, Seo-yun could feel the raw power behind the blow. The machete snapped cleanly in half without leaving a mark.
Dogs started coming out of the tunnels, forming a loose circle. Seo-yun could see the hunger in their eyes. There were fourteen other women out there, paralyzed or already half fucked to death, but there were far more than fourteen dogs roaming this maze. The other women were probably already surrounded and claimed, and if this pack wanted a bitch of their own to spend the next four days with, the shark woman was their last option.
Nobody was giggling anymore as Storm Hag began to pound on the elevator doors with her fists. “Let me in!” she screamed. “You can’t do this to me! Don’t you know who I am?! I’m the one whose gonna snuff out Em-” The first hound crashed into her, slamming her up against the doors. Face pressed against one of the windows, Storm Hag stared at the watching women in horror, the doors rattling violently with each thrust into her. “You… can’t…” she gasped. The beast fucked her hard and fast, like it was trying to smash her to a pulp against the elevator.
Seo-yun looked around for the elevator controls. Opening the doors wouldn’t be the smartest idea, but it was better than doing nothing. Her efforts were in vain though: they weren’t even standing in the elevator itself, just the empty shaft, the car itself somewhere in the darkness above them. The metal walls around them had no buttons or other means to operate the doors. A few of the other women tried to force them open, but they had no more success than Storm Hag had. The green haired woman in the dragon mask tried the longest, but even she eventually gave up.
The shark woman kept fighting and struggling as the beast used her, but its weight and physical strength gave it the clear advantage. It battered her like a rag doll, slamming her repeatedly against the unforgiving doors with enough force to make the ground shake. She was still struggling when the beast howled and its cum began to run down her legs. Storm Hag shuddered when it popped free of her, but before she could even begin to turn around to fight back or flee, a second dog had taken its place, fucking the trapped woman with as much ferocity as the first.
By the time the second dog finished using her, Storm Hag looked haggard and weak, all of her arrogance replaced with exhaustion and fear. “Please…” she managed hoarsely, her face, chest, and throat bruised after being bashed against the elevator so many times. “I’m… isn’t fair… not supposed to… be like this…” By the time the third dog was done, she was shaking, barely able to stay on her feet. When the fourth pulled out, she simply crumpled to the ground in a heap. The beast lifted one leg, and the woman was too tired to react as it pissed all over her back, marking her as the pack’s property.
Yet another one immediately pounced, and the green skinned woman’s angry, humiliated scream told Seo-yun that it wasn’t her cunt getting fucked this time. Some life returned to her, but it wasn’t enough to stop the animal from eagerly raping her ass, pounding the woman’s backside like it wanted to turn her inside out. Storm Hag began begging when it forced its knot into her, but her wailing pleas only seemed to spur the beast on. When it was done, it too pissed on her, most of it ending up in her now distended asshole. By the time her guts had been violated as many times as her pussy, she was barely twitching in response to the abuse, but the pack was nowhere near done.
It took the dogs more than thirty minutes to all fuck and mark Storm Hag. Some made use of her cunt, others her ass, but all of them took the time to piss on her. Even the first three, the ones that had raped her in a standing position, circled around to empty their bladders on her prone body. By the time all the dogs had used her, there was no trace of the confident, powerful fighter that had been there earlier. The cum filled, piss soaked fucktoy was just a broken, weeping mess now. One of the dogs grabbed her hair in its teeth, and the pack vanished down one tunnel, dragging their new bitch with them.
“Good riddance,” said Ember, and Seo-yun jumped, turning around to see the flame haired phoenix right behind them, calmly watching the scene. “There’s a loudmouth like her every year.”
Seo-yun glared at the woman. How could she be so heartless? The green skinned woman hadn’t seemed particularly friendly, but she had been a slave like the rest of them. A victim. They shouldn’t hate each other, or gloat over their degradation.
Ember glared right back. “You got a problem with something, Yip Yip?” she asked. Seo-yun grit her teeth, unable to respond without humiliating herself. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” The phoenix looked down at the fox’s arms, which were now merely heavily scarred. “And here I was doing you a favor. If you think Storm Bitch has it bad just because she’s making friends with a few overgrown mutts, you’re not going to be happy when you see the remaining rounds. They change what’s what every time, but one thing is always the same: the longer you last, the worse it is to fail.” She looked around contemptuously. “By the time this is all over, most of you will be wishing you could’ve traded places with that moron out there. The rest of you will be dead.”
Vorona was relieved to find Moonshine safe and sound in the common room. “You made it!” she said, letting out a breath that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Inwardly she winced. She hadn’t meant to sound quite so happy about it. The woman would probably find it creepy.
“Barely,” the wolf said, sounding distracted as she stared at the ribbons on her arm. She’d scored better than a lot of the other women, but it looked like she’d still fallen short of Vorona by several points, and Ember by further still. Then she shook her head and smiled. “It’s good to see you too, sugar.” If Vorona’s emotional display of happiness had bothered her, she gave no sign of it. “You save any more damsels since the last time I saw you?”
The raven blushed. “No, I, uh, no.” God, she sounded like such an idiot right now.
The werewolf laughed, but there was nothing mean behind it. “What’s wrong, hon? You looked less scared of me when you thought I might try to eat you!” She patted the couch cushion next to her. “Why don’t you sit down? Relax a little.”
Vorona gratefully took her advice. “I, um…” She took a deep breath. “I don’t have much experience with people who don’t, y’know, hate me.” Dealing with assholes like her father was easy. Even interacting with someone as terrifying as her sister still followed simple patterns of obedience, humiliation, and pain. Usually the most positive relationship she could form with anyone was one of pure indifference. Kindness was unfamiliar territory, and it left the normally boisterous girl feeling shy and tongue tied.
“Yeah,” Moonshine said wistfully, “certainly know what that’s like.” She pushed some of her hair away from her eyes, her expression distant.
The raven knew that she should just let the conversation end there. It would be the best for both of them. She shouldn’t push her luck, shouldn’t say another word, definitely shouldn’t say what she wanted to say right now… her mouth opened before she could stop herself. “Hey, do you, um…” She gestured vaguely towards the kitchen area. “We’ve got a few hours before bed. Do you wanna, like… hang out until then?”
Moonshine blinked, her eyes refocusing on the dark haired woman. “Vee, are you asking me out on a date?” she asked, her smile returning.
“Yeah, I guess,” said Vorona, trying to sound casual, like this wasn’t the very first time she’d tried anything like this. There weren’t a lot of dating prospects when you grew up in a research lab.
The werewolf was looking at her in a way that made Vorona acutely aware that they were both naked and sweaty. “Count me in, hon,” she said. “What were you thinking, dinner and a movie? Couple rounds of mini golf?” Moonshine’s tone was mischievous, but her eyes were gentle as she slipped an arm behind the raven, her skin smooth and warm against her bare back. “Trip to the planetarium maybe?” The wolf leaned her head in, and Vorona met her halfway. She tasted of salt and blood, but her lips were soft and welcoming.
Vorona didn’t know how long the kiss lasted, but when it ended, both of them were panting a little. “I’m sure we’ll figure something out,” the dark haired woman breathed, and they kissed again.
“Mmm hmmm,” Moonshine agreed, lips still pressed against hers.
Everyone scattered in the aftermath of Storm Hag’s rape. Seo-yun visited the kitchen and found it only lightly stocked with prepackaged meals. There were signs warning against taking more than one, presumably to prevent someone from hoarding food and starving the others. Seo-yun warmed up her allotted meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and jell-o, reminding herself that she should be grateful to eat something normal for once, but deep down she wished she hadn’t left that box of crackers behind.
The food was plain and tasteless as she sat and picked at it in the lounge, but in truth, she was nearly giddy with joy, even after that horrible scene outside. She was sitting in a chair! And when she was done with her food she would get to stand up and walk! They were such small, simple things, but they made her feel alive in a way she hadn’t felt since the forest. She reflected on how ironic it was to be delighted doing things that she never would have done as a fox. Perhaps spending so long in human form was starting to change her.
As she ate, her arms fully healed by now, she was pleasantly surprised to see that Betty had made the cut, though the cat too sported only a single ribbon. She was less happy that Snowflake, the woman who’d laughed at her humiliation earlier, had not only made it, but had twelve ribbons of her own. The selkie glanced at Seo-yun’s one ribbon as she walked by, and even through the mask the fox had no trouble seeing her sneer.
Once she was done eating, Seo-yun took the time to examine the backpack she’d found. It was a very plain design, little more than a sack with straps attached, but it might come in handy. She had a feeling that there weren’t going to be any clothes to be found anywhere down here, which made options for carrying things without needing the use of your hands limited.
She wasn’t the only one who’d brought back something. From the sound of it, most of the ribbons had come attached to useless garbage, but several women carried simple tools or weapons that they hadn’t possessed before, and received more than a few jealous looks from the others. Seo-yun wilted a bit when she saw some envious glances at her pack too, and did what she could to cover it from view. Just because they were all slaves like her didn’t mean that she was safe with them. Ember had taught her that lesson painfully well out in the tunnels.
There was still about an hour before lights out when Seo-yun went into one of the bathrooms to prepare for bed. It was a small utilitarian room with a tiled floor, holding just a toilet, a shower, and a sink. In sharp contrast to the splendor of the palace above, and the detailed construction of the caves, everything in the rest area looked remarkably cheap, and the bathrooms were no exception. The sink leaked, and the shower drain was already clogged with hair and fur. But the bathroom’s poor condition couldn’t stop her from grinning in pleasure at getting to sit on a toilet for once.
She was still seated when the door opened and Ember of all people came in, shutting and locking the door behind her. The fox looked up at her in shock, the heat of the phoenix’s presence quickly warming up the tiny space. “Here’s the thing, Yip Yip,” the flame haired woman said softly. “I’ve decided I like that backpack of yours. So you’re going to give it to me.”
It took Seo-yun a moment to process what she’d just heard. The champion of the Paradisium, the woman everyone treated as some larger than life legend, was not only alone with her in the bathroom, she was trying to make her give up what was arguably her only possession in the world. And not long ago, she would have done it without question. Following orders was what she did, after all, and usually they were far crueler than this. But it didn’t seem right. Seo-yun had witnessed for herself how incredible Ember was. And here she was, just a four tailed pet fucktoy who didn’t know what she was doing. Why did the woman need to keep pushing her down like this?
Trembling, Seo-yun clutched the pack in her hands tightly and shook her head. It was hers, and she wasn’t going to just give it up.
“No?” the phoenix asked, stepping a little closer, close enough that the heat of her flames grew uncomfortable. “And what would you do if I just took it, huh? You’re too pathetic to even tell anyone about it. No, you’re going to give it to me, and I’ll tell you why. First, because you owe me. You’d have spent the last few hours, and the rest of the damn week, getting pumped full of canine spunk if I hadn’t shown up when I did. And second, because if you don’t, I will make tomorrow hell for you. The girl on girl fighting doesn’t usually start in earnest until about round three, but I can make an exception this time. And if you think your little healing trick will be enough to beat me, think again.” She stepped even closer, her mask right up against Seo-yun’s, staring into the fox’s eyes. “I don’t like to kill people if I can help it, but someone as durable as you makes things nice and easy for me, don’t you? I could make you burn, Yip Yip, and do it guilt free.”
Seo-yun stared back into the phoenix’s eyes, and saw… “Samantha?” she asked, the word coming out before she could stop herself.
Ember’s reaction was immediate and violent. She slammed Seo-yun against the back of the toilet with one hand, pinning her there, and with the other produced the beast fang from seemingly out of nowhere and brought it up to the fox’s neck. “Who the fuck told you that name?”
“I… I have no idea,” Seo-yun whispered. “I just… you’re Samantha, aren’t you?”
“Is this some game of Master Sindak’s?” Ember hissed. “A test to see how I’ll react? Or are you just stupid enough to try and blackmail me?” The tip of the fang pressed harder against Seo-yun’s throat, beginning to draw blood. “Girls kill themselves in here all the time,” she whispered. “Go into the bathroom and never come out. When they find your body, nobody will question that this was all just too much for the poor little fox.” Seo-yun tried to struggle, but the woman was far stronger than her, and she didn’t accomplish anything but widening the wound on her neck.
Both women flinched as someone pounded on the bathroom door. “There’s thirty of us and two bathrooms,” came an angry shout. “Hurry up!”
Ember didn’t let up, and for a second Seo-yun was convinced the woman was going to keep going, but then she cursed and the pressure vanished. “This isn’t over, Yip Yip,” she whispered harshly. She yanked open the door with a violent gesture that made it bang against the wall, and the woman waiting on the other side let out a panicked squeak when she saw who she’d been yelling at. “We’ll continue this soon,” she promised darkly, and stalked away without another word. The other woman followed behind her, stammering apologies.
Only after she was gone did it finally hit Seo-yun that she’d been talking, and her insides clenched with sudden terror at the realization. The Wilmingshires couldn’t be watching right now, could they? She felt dizzy and lightheaded. She sat on the toilet for a minute longer, hoping her mind would clear, but she only seemed to feel worse with every passing minute. Her head pounded, and her stomach was threatening to reject everything she’d put into it. What was going on? How and why was Sam here?
She had to get out of here. Any minute now the woman might come back and try to finish the job. Seo-yun slowly stood up, even the cautious movement making her head whirl, and winced at the pain in her neck. The place where Ember, where Samantha had stabbed her still hurt. It… she stared at herself in the mirror, stunned by what she saw. No. No, that wasn’t right…
Seo-yun lifted one of her hands up. She was just tired and scared and it was making her see things. She’d prove it. Her fingers shook as she pressed a thumbnail against the palm, hard enough to draw a thin red of line of blood.
Just like the wound in her neck, it didn’t heal.