“Isn’t this nice?” asked the mistress.
“Mmmhmm,” agreed the master next to her. “Quite splendid, really! And you say you do this every year?”
Karakostas gave them both a chilly smile. “Yes, once the number of entrants has reached a more manageable level, I find it beneficial for the players to come together for a spot of socialization. A chance to put faces to names and remind everyone that behind all the sensationalism, this is only a game and all in good fun.” He was a tall, lean man with a short trimmed goatee and spectacles. His green hair would have looked out of place on almost anyone else, but the perfectly tailored suit he wore had been designed to complement the color. Leathery green wings grew from his back and a pair of horns sprouted from his forehead, all as neat and polished as the rest of him. He gave a small, calculated chuckle. “Of course, usually I am merely the host, and not a player in my own right.”
“Oh, I don’t know if players is the right term for us,” said the mistress modestly. “We found it dreadfully confusing when we tried to herd our Ginger. Celeste is so much better at handling animals, aren’t you?”
Celeste gave a polite nod. “Thank you for the compliment, mistress.”
Nine people sat around the circular lacquered oaken table, including the master, the mistress, and Celeste herself. They were in one of the upper rooms of the Paradisium, an area normally off limits to everyone but senior staff. The dining room’s design was far different from the reception hall downstairs. That area, as well as the upstairs area that handlers had access to during the game, was all glitz, everything meant to capture the eye and impress the idea of wealth. The dining room, however, had an atmosphere that was both more confident and more reserved. Nothing was flashy, but on close examination each individual piece was rare, expensive, and complemented everything around it with a perfection bordering on the divine.
“So you’re the one that owns that creature,” said a pale, dark haired man of Eastern European descent. Though his clothing was as expensive looking and well tailored as Karakostas and the master and mistress, it still looked out of place against his worn, scowling features. He looked like a man more at home in a fist fight than a dinner party.
“Oh, you mean our Ginger?” the mistress asked. “Yes, I actually picked her up for George’s-”
“No,” he interrupted, “I mean that.” He pointed at Celeste. “That thing pretending to be human.”
Celeste bowed her head. “It was not my intention to deceive. I apologize if I have caused offense.” His expression only grew more sour at her words.
“Oh, she’s harmless,” assured the mistress. “Celeste has been a mainstay of my family for… how long has it been, Celeste?”
“Three hundred and forty seven years, ten months, nine hours, twenty five minutes, and twelve seconds, mistress.”
“See?” said the mistress brightly. “She’s served the head of the Bloomdyne family for generations.”
“And we were delighted to bring her into the Wilmingshire family when we married,” added the master. “I’ve never seen a harder or more loyal worker myself.”
“Yes, she’s almost family herself, aren’t you, Celeste?” asked the mistress.
“Thank you,” said the servant. “It is my honor to serve my mistress and master.” That answer seemed to satisfy them both. Like all things she said, it was a statement of absolute truth. Serving them meant obeying the oath to which she was bound, which was an act of honor. Her own personal feelings about her master and mistress were irrelevant to the statement.
“So what, uh, what is she then?” asked the young American man a few seats away, squinting at her curiously. “I mean, she looks human to me.” He was seated directly between both Karakostas and the other man, which made his relatively shabby clothing stand out all the more.
“She is winter fae,” spat the Eastern European man. “A foul demon that deceives and ensnares humans.”
“Well now,” said the master, a little taken aback “I don’t think she’s exactly doing much ensnaring. And I’ve never known her to say something untrue.”
“Yes,” said the man, his tone almost a growl. “That’s how you know she is deceiving you.”
“Why don’t we all calm down?” said Karakostas, in a friendly tone that suggested his statement wasn’t a request. “Madam Celeste is here on behalf of the Wilmingshire family, who have been respected customers of ours for years, and has acquitted herself well as one of our players. And Mr Petrov is both an old friend and a close business associate of the Paradisium. Some of the more exotic obstacles in this year’s game were provided by his company, and at no charge.” He clapped his hands lightly. “There’s an idea. Given that there are quite a few people here who have never met each other, it might be conducive to conversation if we begin by going around and introducing ourselves.” He put a hand on his chest. “As you already know, I am Karakostas, owner of the Paradisium. My entry is Astaria.” He smiled slightly. “I’m sorry, I find it difficult to remember her pet name. Delphyne.”
“Martin Glendale, Glendale Automotive,” said the young American. “Call me Martin. That’s my girl Betty down there, the cat one.”
“Ilya Petrov,” said the Eastern European man. “CEO of Paragon Inc, and I have the misfortune of owning that winged bitch Vorona.”
“Sindak,” said the efreet after him. Several empty spaces had been left between him and the others at the table to minimize the staggering heat that radiated from him. He wore no clothing at all, his obsidian flesh glowing and shifting. His rocky face split into a smile. “Ember is my pet and personal project.”
“George Wilmingshire,” said the master. “And my wife, Jessica Wilmingshire, hailing from Somerset in Great Britain. Little Ginger is ours.”
“Mordred,” said Mordred, looking bored. “Snowflake.”
“I am Muhtadi,” said the Arabian man between him and Karakostas. After Martin he was the youngest there, and the only one wearing clothes approaching normal garb. “Muhtadi Basara. Qarinah is my wife.”
That caused a stir. “Your wife?!” exclaimed the master, looking flabbergasted. “But, but wasn’t Qarinah that one who spent all yesterday rutting with one of the dogs? That is your wife?”
“Yes,” Muhtadi said stiffly. “She is my wife.”
“Why on earth would you make your own wife do something like that?” asked the mistress, just as flustered as her husband. “Was it, you know, some kind of punishment in your culture?”
The Arab’s expression darkened. “No. It had nothing to do with ‘my culture’, and I did not make my wife do anything. Coming to the Paradisium was her decision, and she has my full support.”
“But she’s not your, your property, right?” asked the master. “Is that even allowed here?”
“I should rather think so,” said Karakostas. “Delphyne isn’t a slave either. She’s my daughter.”
The mistress looked about ready to faint at that news, and even most of the others seemed taken aback. “Now that sounds like a family squabble if ever I heard one,” said Martin with a grin.
“Just a little life lesson,” said the green haired man, steepling his fingers. “Like so many young people, she has certain… ideas about the world that do not mesh with reality. If it were up to her, this entire place would be shut down!” He smiled with amusement at the notion. “So she and I made a deal. If she were to enter this year’s contest and win, I would cede full control of the Paradisium and its assets to her.”
“You’d throw everything away for some game?” asked Mordred skeptically. “You can’t really mean that.”
Karakostas raised an eyebrow at him. “I would have expected one of your peerage and wisdom to know that a dragon’s word is their bond, Mordred. If she wins, I will do exactly as we agreed. But the idea is foolish. She has done well so far – she is my daughter after all – but she will fail soon, in either this round or the next. Hopefully she’ll return to me with more humility and fewer unrealistic ideals.”
“And if she cheats?” argued Mordred. “What’s to stop her from telling the others all about your little deal?”
“Yeah, they’d all just let her win, wouldn’t they?” agreed Martin.
“Please give me some credit, gentlemen,” said Karakostas. “As part of our agreement, if she tells any of them the truth, the deal is immediately forfeit. And even if her oath was not as reliable as my own, there is no chance of any secret discussions down there.” He gave a small satisfied smile. “They are all being monitored quite thoroughly by my staff at all times.”
“Besides,” said Sindak, grinning, “no matter what she tells or promises the others, my Ember will never just let someone else win.”
“Still though,” the mistress complained. “There has a to be a better way of teaching the poor thing than… than to treat her like some common slave. She’s your daughter!”
Petrov rolled his eyes. “What does her bloodline have to do with anything? Vorona is my daughter as well, and my slave.” Sindak perked up on hearing that.
“Oh, that’s alright,” said the mistress, waving a hand at him. “As long as she’s a slave. I just can’t fathom the idea of sending a…” She hesitated, searching for the right word.
“A person?” suggested the master.
“Exactly,” agreed the mistress, and give him a kiss. “I can’t fathom sending a person down there.”
“But the raven girl is an alkonost, isn’t she?” asked the efreet. “I would’ve sworn it wasn’t possible for a human to breed with an alkonost.”
“It’s not,” Petrov agreed, looking smug, and though Sindak continued to press him for details, he would say no more on the topic.
“I really must thank you all for the opportunity to entertain guests like this,” said Karakostas. “The Paradisium requires a great deal of attention to maintain, and it is a rare night that I get to relax and enjoy myself in proper company. Please, if there is anything about the food or service tonight that does not mean your approval, let me know at once. I wish to make this as pleasant an experience as possible for all of us.”
“Oh, I’m sure the food will be just wonderful,” assured the mistress. “And the service…” she shivered slightly in pleasure. “It has already earned my approval several times over.”
Several uniformed waiters were already poised and ready around the room to meet any guest’s request. Karakostas’s personal assistant was present as well, a short and squat man who stood at attention just behind the dragon’s seat in case he was needed. He wore an earpiece and occasionally spoke quietly and discreetly in response to some unheard message, managing the Paradisium’s mundane affairs while his employer relaxed. But that wasn’t the sort of service the mistress was referring to.
Nine naked slaves knelt beneath the oaken table, lapping and sucking at the people seated. Celeste was unused to such attention and had no interest in an unwilling partner, but to refuse her host’s hospitality would embarrass the master and mistress, so she tolerated the soft tongue that explored her slit. Muhtadi had kept his legs closed at first, refusing the unspoken offer, but after the one assigned to him had whimpered quietly, he’d given in and reluctantly let her tend to him. He had no doubt realized that regardless of the reasons behind it, the slave would be harshly punished afterward if she was rejected by him.
The other seven people had no such qualms about enjoying the experience. The master happily patted his slave’s head as she sucked on him. She’d dislocated her own jaw fitting her mouth around him, but the Paradisium’s staff was thoroughly trained – given their master’s penchant for marking people as meat, their every task was a matter of life and death – and she had performed without hesitation or complaint. As his cockhead bulged against her cheeks, her fingers delicately played with his shaft and scrotum, trying to tease his next load out of him. Her stomach was already slightly swollen after wringing two from him, and given what Celeste knew of her master, she estimated that the woman would look at least seven months pregnant by the time the night was over.
She was in for an unpleasant ordeal, but not the worst one that waited. The slave assigned to Mordred was limp and unresponsive as his cock pummeled her throat. She’d passed out moments ago thanks to his hand around her neck, which was squeezing tight enough to cause bruises. He would presumably let her breathe again once he had finished, but he showed zero qualms about killing her if his orgasm arrived too late. Vampires were not known for their compassion or mercy.
The one with Sindak was among the only two who did not go at her task quietly. He didn’t seem to be doing any lasting harm to her, but from the way she moaned and sobbed as she serviced him, the close contact was agony. The slave pleasing Karakostas himself was vocally distressed as well. Celeste had caught only a quick glimpse of the thick, scaly appendage between the dragon’s legs before he’d packed the entire thing into the woman’s mouth and throat, but that was enough to understand how much pain it must be causing. And unlike the efreet, the blood that trickled down the slave’s clenched lips suggested that there was indeed permanent damage being done.
“Hey, wait a minute,” said Martin. He was resting a hand casually on the back of his slave’s head as she went at her task with unbridled enthusiasm. The woman was likely grateful that she’d been assigned to an ordinary human, and wanted to give him no cause to ask for someone else. The American looked around curiously, pointing at each person in turn while his lips moved silently. “Isn’t there supposed to be one more of us? For the koala, right?”
“Mr. Stiles has chosen not to make an appearance tonight,” said the dragon. “He said he was feeling a bit under the weather.”
“Shame,” said the master, making only a half hearted attempt to sound sincere before changing the subject to one he had more interest in. “Hope he feels better soon. Now, Mr Petrov, if I may, our host mentioned something about you providing the ‘exotic obstacles’? Would that be those marvelous dogs from yesterday? I must say, I’ve never seen anything like them in all my days.”
A rare smile touched Illya Petrov’s lips. “Of course you haven’t. They didn’t exist until we created them.”
That caught people’s interest. “Created them?” Martin asked eagerly. “You mean, like, dog breeding?”
“I mean that they were designed and manufactured in one of Paragon’s laboratories.”
“Are they some kind of robot then?” asked the mistress with wide eyes.
Petrov laughed. “No, they are as flesh and blood as any other human. Half human,” he amended, after seeing the others’ reaction. “Grown with a proprietary mix of human, canine, and other elements. Our original blueprint was intended solely for combat scenarios, but the designs of the ones sent to the Paradisium Game were modified to fuck as well as they fight.”
The mistress giggled. “They certainly are good at it. They were nearly as impressive as my husband!” The master smiled fondly at her. “Of course, they were a bit rougher with the slaves than I expected, but I suppose it’s all in good fun, yes?”
“How exactly did you expect giant rapacious dogs to treat their fucktoys?” Mordred’s tone was flat and dismissive.
The mistress appeared to take no offense from it, letting out a small self-deprecating laugh. “I know, it was quite silly of me, wasn’t it? It was only, well… as our good host said, the Paradisium Game is just a game. And all those little animals out there are trying their best to make their owners proud. It seems a shame for any of the poor dears to be seriously hurt or killed. It’s not as though they’re meat.”
Sindak’s chest rumbled as he chuckled with amusement. “That’s a great point, Lady Wilmingshire, and I agree completely! Meat deserves whatever happens to it, but not these brave, noble competitors of ours!” So Ember was meat. Celeste filed that information away for the future.
“Is that what you meant by daughter, then?” Muhtadi asked. “The girl, Vorona, she was grown like your dogs?”
“If only,” said Petrov, his good humor fading. “She was born in the normal manner. If I’d designed her, I never would’ve allowed so much pigheadedness. She wouldn’t be able to talk back like she does now, either. Our creations are put on an accelerated growth rate, going from embryo to adulthood in a matter of months.” He tapped his head. “They’re fully developed physically, and their brains are almost entirely human, but they’re still animals mentally, with little grasp of language or complex concepts.”
“You do more than just dogs?” Martin asked.
“Much more. Let me tell you about what they’ll be seeing tomorrow…”
Celeste remained silent as the conversation continued and the first course arrived. While she had been given a place of equal standing at the table, she was still a servant, and had little in common with the others. She answered questions when asked, and attended to the master and mistress as was her duty, but for the most part her mind was elsewhere. She had made a mistake today, and it burned inside her normally tranquil mind. She usually took pride in her competence, but she had failed Ginger twice today. First by not providing proper timely warning of the trap she fell into, and second by judging the fox to be incapable of escape.
Ginger had been a source of discomfort to the fae from the moment she arrived. She was far from the first slave that had shared the same household as Celeste, but the others had always been purchased from the Paradisium many years after their initial captures. They performed to the best of their ability, but by the time they reached the Bloomdynes or the Wilmingshires they were little more than appliances, alive only by technical definition. Ginger was different. She tried to hide the spark of life inside of her from everyone, especially herself, so that she could act like any other slave, but it was there.
Celeste had lived in service of humans for three hundred and forty seven years, ten months, ten hours, eight minutes, and forty five seconds. None of her masters or mistresses had been upstanding people – it wouldn’t have been much of a punishment otherwise – but she had learned to draw a distinct line separating her role from their actions. There was honor in service, and whatever crimes or cruelties her owners inflicted, it did not reflect on her. Ginger’s presence made that distinction difficult. She was a constant reminder that Celeste’s life was now spent serving people that she’d once had the freedom to despise.
The Paradisium Game and Celeste’s new place in it had only exacerbated this tension. Celeste was well aware that life would become easier for both Ginger and herself once the fox’s will broke and she became another empty minded slave. But when she’d volunteered to take over as handler, Celeste had gained a responsibility to assist the woman that ran directly counter to that. She hadn’t decided yet if becoming the fox’s handler had been another mistake. It had been a spur-of-the-moment decision, which was rare for the fae to make. She had seen how badly Ginger was struggling, and how much effort she was applying to the attempt, and when the opportunity to assist the woman presented itself, Celeste had promptly taken it. It was rash decisions like that which had led to her sentence in the first place. Now she had to choose between helping her remain in the game, which meant fanning that spark of life inside her, or helping her to give up on who she’d once been, which meant extinguishing it.
This conflict had resulted in today’s miscalculations. Unable to commit to either path, she’d ended up middling somewhere in between, performing her role far below the standards of excellence she usually set for herself. Ginger’s actions in turn had shamed her. The fox had selflessly risked her own safety to save another while Celeste had still been busy equivocating.
A heated conversation refocused the fae’s attention on the dinner party. Petrov had just asked Muhtadi how much money the man wanted for Qarinah.
“I will not tell you again!” the Arabian man was saying. “Qarinah is not a slave. She is a free woman and my wife.”
“Spoken like a man who has never owned a slave before,” Petrov scoffed. “She could do everything she does you for now, only better once she’s learned some proper fear.” He leered at the man. “Let me have her for just a month, and I promise she will return far better behaved than she is now. Even a single night would be more than enough to teach her some tricks that I am certain you will appreciate.”
“You will be silent!” Muhtadi said angrily, pushing the woman sucking on him away and rising from his seat. “I will not listen to this filth any longer!”
Petrov sneered at him as he stood up as well. “Save me the holier than thou attitude. Your wife spent yesterday getting pounded by one of my mutts while we all watched, remember? Don’t pretend she’s faithful. I’m just offering you a chance to get some money from her cunt instead of giving it away for free.”
“I told you to be silent!” raged the Arabian man, stepping up to Petrov.
“And I don’t care,” said Petrov, staring the man down. “Do you really think just because we are all here in one room, we are equals? I possess more wealth than the entire GDP of whatever shithole country you came from, and command powers that you have never even imagined. And you, you are just a pathetic cuckold with a slut for a wife.”
Celeste could tell that Muhtadi was about to punch the other man in the jaw. There was plenty of time for her to intervene and prevent the man from carrying out violence. She took a sip of water instead.
The mistress gasped as Petrov collapsed to the ground, a couple of his teeth scattering across the floor. Muhtadi stood over him. “I do not care how much money or power you have. You do not own me, and you do not own Camiel.”
“Gentlemen!” said Karakostas, getting in between them. “Please, let us be civil! We are all friends here.”
“No, we are not,” said Muhtadi, giving the dragon a glare. He looked the others over, including all of them in his anger, as he zipped his pants back up. “You are all foul creatures, and I can no longer stand your stench.” He exited the room without another word.
“My word,’ the master said as Petrov stumbled to his feet, his expensive suit now marred by blood. “That was all rather dramatic, wasn’t it?” The mistress nodded her agreement.
Petrov’s scowl never left his face after that incident, and he did not speak again the entire night. The others proved more than capable of carrying the conversation without him, however. “I must ask,” said the master at one point. “What is it like to have Ember as your very own slave?”
Sindak smiled at him. “Imagine owning a prize cockroach, or having a bit of rotten mold in your home that turns out to know some party tricks. That’s the gist of it.” The master looked confused, but chuckled as though he understood exactly what the efreet meant.
Mordred was nearly as silent as Petrov, but at one point he seemed to react to something, staring down at the floor. “You disobedient little bitch,” he said quietly to himself, amused. He held up a single finger. A few minutes later he added another.
“Something the matter?” asked Sindak, curious.
“Just keeping tracking of how many times I’ll have to punish Snowflake when this is over,” the dark haired man said. He continued adding fingers throughout the night.
“So if you’re a dragon,” Martin said later. It was after dinner by then, and his words were a little slurred from the brandy. “Does that mean you can, you know…” He flapped his arms in the air. “And fwoosh and all that?”
“Fly? Yes,” answered Karakostas. “And ‘fwoosh’ as well, as you put it, though I haven’t done that in quite a long time.” He gave the American a conspiratorial wink. “It always gives me terrible heartburn.”
“That’s real nice,” Martin said happily. “I always wished I could fly, and all that stuff. Seems like a ton of fun.”
“If I might ask, Mr Glendale,” said the mistress delicately, “how did you come to acquire your, ah, Betty?”
“Oh, her?” asked Martin. “Aw, you know, she and her sister were just a couple strays wandering around, if you know what I mean. The sister was a bit feral at first, but Betty? Always just the sweetest little thing. Not the brightest bulb in the bucket, but soft and meek and eager to please.” He giggled. “She’s a good kitty cat, isn’t she?”
Eventually the dinner party began to wrap up. Martin was still explaining in intricate detail the ins and outs of the used car industry to a thoroughly uninterested Mordred when the master and mistress stood to take their leave. The slave who’d been licking the mistress seemed utterly exhausted, her tongue lolling out of her mouth after several hours of hard use, but that was nothing compared to her partner, whose swollen belly rubbed against the floor as she crawled away. “We really can’t thank you enough for this opportunity,” the mistress told Karakostas. “This entire experience since we arrived has been such a delight!”
“You are too kind,” said the dragon. He was on his fifth slave of the night, the first four being sent away and replaced as soon as each finished him. Celeste wanted to believe that they’d been dismissed so that they could rest and recover from the self-inflicted injuries their service had required, but the despairing eyes of each of them suggested a much crueler fate awaited them. “This is the least I can do to repay you for bringing such an interesting specimen to our little game. I must confess, when I saw your Ginger’s interview with Mr Emmeck, I assumed that she would not be around for very long. Her last minute turnaround yesterday and her performance today were a most pleasant surprise.”
The master and mistress looked a bit uncomfortable with his praise, though they tried to hide it. They were still unhappy about Ginger talking and not remaining on all fours. “Ginger was doing her best to honor the rules of our household,” Celeste told Karakostas. Her words drew a few looks of surprise; it was the first time tonight she had spoken anything other than an answer to a direct question. “At home, she has the role of a pet, and knew that her master and mistress would wish her to act as such in public. During the actual game, however, she might have drawn shame upon her owners by hobbling herself with additional restrictions. She wished for an exemption that would allow her to ignore the rules for the time being, and the master and mistress allowed it.” This was completely true. Ginger might have embarrassed the Wilmingshires with a poor performance, although Celeste doubted that the fox had much cared about that. And the master and mistress had allowed her to disregard the rules, in that they had not been able to physically compel her to stop breaking them.
Karakostas nodded. “She seems to be a fine animal indeed, and very loyal. It is a rare slave that shows such devotion to her masters, and I applaud your wisdom in granting her request. You must be quite proud of her.”
“Erm, yes,” said the master, sounding unsure. Then, in a more confident tone, “Yes, quite. Our Ginger is perfectly behaved at home, so there’s no harm in allowing her a minor indulgence for a few days. Right?” His last statement was directed at his wife.
“Absolutely,” agreed the mistress. “I must confess, we were a bit hesitant about it at first, but she really is trying so hard for our sakes.”
By the time they left a few minutes later, the master and mistress seemed to have convinced even themselves that it had been their decision to let Ginger break the rules. Celeste allowed herself the smallest of smiles. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
Seo-yun didn’t truly appreciate the regenerative powers that she’d possessed all her life until she woke up the next morning as exhausted as she’d been the night before, and in even more pain. All of her overworked muscles were sore, and her body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. When she realized that it was already morning, and that she would have to endure another full day of this hellish competition like this, she cried for a few minutes before she worked up the courage to get out of bed.
The others had gathered in the kitchen, busy eating breakfast. Even Ember was there, though she kept her distance from everyone. Qarinah noticed the fox first, and her face grew pale. “Ginger! What… what in the world happened to you, dear?” Seo-yun looked down at herself. Her front and back were riddled with welts from Snowflake’s tails, and her thighs were still black and blue from the rough pounding. She didn’t dare feel around to check, but she felt certain her asshole had been damaged too much to even close up, and still gaped behind her.
“The little fox slut begged me to fuck her brains out last night,” said Snowflake matter-of-factly, eating cold cereal out of the box. When Qarinah gave her a disbelieving look, she shrugged. “Don’t blame me: she’s the painslut who said nothing made her gush more than getting beaten like a piñata. Isn’t that right, freak?”
Seo-yuh swallowed, her mouth feeling painfully dry. If she denied it, she didn’t know what the nogitsune might do. “Y-yes,” she rasped, the words making her sore throat ache. Snowflake had kept her up for hours before allowing her to return to her own bed to sleep, and most of that time had been spent with one of the fox’s tails tightly wrapped around her neck. The woman had passed the time teaching Seo-yun exactly how she liked having her pussy licked, and was quick to strangle her half to death every time her efforts were found wanting.
“Yes…?” Snowflake repeatedly coldly.
“Yes mistress Snowflake,” Seo-yun quickly amended.
The nogitsune nodded in satisfaction, a smug smile on her lips. “See?” she told Qarinah. Then she barked “No, don’t go over there!” Her last statement was directed at Seo-yun, who had begun stumbling towards the counter, where the food was assembled. There wasn’t much: cereal, some fruit, a few boxes of microwavable breakfast sandwiches, but she was starving, and she was going to need all the energy she could get today… but it looked like Snowflake had other ideas. The nogitsune rapped the kitchen table softly. “Your breakfast is down here, freak.”
Delphyne gave Seo-yun a serious look. “She cannot force you to do anything you don’t wish to do,” she said softly. “We are all equals here, and I will not allow one of us to bully another. We must be better than those above.”
Seo-yun forced herself to smile. “No, it’s okay, really. I’m… mistress Snowflake is right, I’m a horny painslut and she’s…she’s just treating me the way I asked her to last night.” The fox sank to her knees, trying not to show how much the movement hurt, and crawled under the table. Snowflake’s knees were already spread and waiting, and Seo-yun planted her face between the woman’s legs and got to work.
There was an awkward silence above her. “I really don’t think…” Betty began.
“Shut it.” That was Ember. “She’s made her choice,” she said derisively. “If she wants to give up, let her.”
Snowflake purred as Seo-yun’s tongue brought her to orgasm. By now, the fox knew better than to stop licking. “She really is a good cunt licker, you know, after a little training. Anyone else want to try her?”
“No,” said Delphyne firmly. Seo-yun’s arm was grabbed, and the dragon pulled her out from under the table with surprising strength. “That’s enough.” She sounded furious, but when she looked down and met Seo-yun’s eyes, there was kindness in hers. “Go eat some real breakfast,” she said. “Please.”
“I didn’t say she could stop,” protested Snowflake. “Or are you just hoping to take her place?”
Delphyne ignored her. “Eat,” she urged again, and gently pulled Seo-yun to her feet and led her to the food. The fox darted a glance back at Snowflake, fearful that there was about to be violence, but the woman just heaved a sigh.
“Whatever,” she said, and ate another handful of cereal. “We’re leaving in a minute anyway.”
Seo-yun ate as quickly as her tired muscles would allow. After everything last night, even eating was painful, but she forced food down anyway. It felt like she was given only seconds before a voice in their ears directed them all to enter the elevator again. She quickly stuffed as much in her mouth as she could fit before leaving the kitchen, slowly chewing it on the way.
The once packed elevator now felt so empty with only eight of them. It rumbled as it slowly carried them towards their next arena, a place where more of them would be left behind. Ember, Vorona, and Snowflake each stood on their own, while the rest of them gathered in the center. “Wonder what’s gonna try and rape us next?” Crikey asked. Then she winked at Qarinah. “Sorry, I meant to say I wonder what’s gonna try and rape some of us and have vigorous surprise sex with others.”
“You don’t have to push yourselves today,” Seo-yun said softly. “As long as you can get just one ribbon, you’ll be okay…” She didn’t even have any left thanks to her deal with Snowflake. The others had noticed her lack of ribbons by now, but none of them seemed in any hurry to ask her about it.
The women around her exchanged glances. “It’s not like I can complain about this becoming a best of seven instead of a best of eight,” Crikey said. “But don’t go throwin’ yourself into the jaws of the beast on our account.”
Betty nodded. “I don’t value the outcome of this contest over anyone’s health, meow. It will not please me to see you hurt yourself for our sakes, meow.”
Seo-yun shook her head. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s…” She lifted one arm to let the others see how much effort it took, and how badly the limb shook. “I only barely made it through the last two rounds. I’m not going to be able to come back this time.”
Qarinah spread her arms. “May I?” When the fox nodded, the woman swept her into a gentle hug, careful not to hurt her. Seo-yun blinked and found tears in her eyes. No one had hugged her like this since her parents, and it felt wonderful, so wonderful that she wished it would never end. “There are people that love you and want to see you find happiness,” the succubus told Seo-yun as they embraced. “And I know it because I’m one of them.”
“You don’t even know me,” Seo-yun mumbled. “You don’t know the things I’ve done…” Morris had convinced her to stop running from her past, but that didn’t excuse it. She’d brought so much death and misery to the world… her legs shook under the weight of her sins, and Qarinah’s embrace was suddenly the thing keeping her upright.
“I’m not interested in the past,” the dark haired woman told her. It felt so safe and warm to be in her arms, and Seo-yun longed to just close her eyes and sleep for the next week exactly like this. “I’ve never met who you once were, and I never will. What matters to me is who you are right now, Ginger, and that’s a good person.”
“No, I’m-” Seo-yun mumbled.
“Yes you are,” said Qarinah. “Trust me, I’m kind of an expert on the subject. You’re a good person and you deserve better than this, okay? So do me a favor, and don’t count yourself down and out just yet. Nothing is over until it’s over.”
All too soon, the elevator stopped, and Seo-yun reluctantly disengaged from the hug. “Thank you,” she told the woman. “I… thank you.” The succubus was wrong, but that wasn’t what mattered. She was showing Seo-yun kindness, and if the fox’s life had taught her anything, it was that kindness should always be treasured.
“Yarrr, maties!” announced Emmeck in their ears. “Are ya landlubbers ready for a riproaring adventure on the high seas?! Because that’s what we got for you today!” The doors opened, revealing a wide, dark lake. There was another fake sky overhead, but this one was nighttime, a black canvas littered with bright stars. There was a dock in front of them where eight wooden boats bobbed in the water, each with a flag that bore one of their masks on it. Scattered in every direction, far enough that they weren’t much more than dots, large ships sat motionless. “There’s plenty of pirates treasure ta be found floating on tha sea!” Emmeck announced. “But the true treasure, that be hiding beneath the waves. Sunken ships filled with blue, red, and even pink ribbons, waiting for the lass brave enough to claim them. But shiver your timbers, because it be a long way down, and there are creatures far worse than sharks that call this sea their home. Can you find your way down there and back, or will ya end up as fish food?”
Everyone streamed out of the elevator and got in their individual boats. Each was just a small wooden tub with the sail and a pair of oars. Seo-yun wasn’t the only one looking at the water with apprehension as she slowly untied the boat from the dock. “I was hoping there would not be water,” said Delphyne, grim but resolute.
Crikey clapped her on the back. “Don’t worry your head about it too much, Delphy. Like the man said, it’s a long way down, but as long as you keep your chin up and your wits about you, you’ll come out of it okay, and that’s a promise.”
“Thank you, Crikey,” Delphyne said, and smiled, though it had a sickly look to it. “I will try to keep that in mind.”
Ember got her boat untied first, and rowed away with quick, powerful strokes. Vorona had already left, ignoring her boat in favor of her wings. Then it was Qarinah, and Crikey, and Snowflake, and Betty, and Delphyne, until only Seo-yun remained at the dock.
“I have a direction in mind that I hope will be beneficial,” said Celeste. “…You are not moving.”
Seo-yun just shrugged, unable to tell the woman directly that she had no chance today.
There was silence for a minute. “I understand,” Celeste said eventually. “You are injured, and your success today is extremely unlikely. There is no shame in stopping here, and I believe the master and mistress will not be upset by your resignation. They were happy to have lasted longer than most of the other competitors, and appear willing to forgive you for your disobedience in adhering to the standard rules of behavior. There are no outside forces compelling you to continue.”
She could stop. Seo-yun sank to her knees, feeling her exhaustion more than ever. She had permission to stop. She wasn’t even going to be punished later. She could just lay down right now and rest, truly rest like she hadn’t been able to do for such a long time now. She could already feel her body wanting to shut down. If she closed her eyes now, she wouldn’t ever have to wake up. It would be all over: no more game, no more abduction, no more slavery, no more guilt, no more failure. Just peace. Blessed, silent peace. She felt such relief at the idea, but at the same time, there was a growing sense of unease. Was she really going to just end things here? Of course she was, but… was she?
“But,” Celeste continued. “Whether you stop or continue is your decision. In my observations over the last two days, fear has rarely been your motivation. I do not know what you might hope to gain from this competition, but I do know that you will not find it by standing still. Whichever path you choose, you will have my support and respect, as long as it is a path you chose, not simply one you accepted.”
Respect? For her? The woman wasn’t making any sense, but her words had sparked something inside Seo-yun. What did she want? It was a question that she hadn’t asked herself in a long time. She hadn’t needed to: the answer would have just been “to not hurt”. But was that still true, or did she want more now?
Seo-yun slowly rose. She finished untying her boat and pushed it away from the dock with one oar. Celeste began to give her directions, but Seo-yun shook her head. It wasn’t points that she was after.
She set off in the direction Ember had gone.
“Just a little further to your right,” Muhtadi told Qarinah. “Yes, that direction. Just keep rowing that way.”
Qarinah didn’t see anything in that direction but more water, but she wasn’t the one with the map. For a while, there was nothing but the gentle bobbing of the boat upon the water, and the sound of the oars. ”Almost there, love,” Muhtadi said. “Trust me.”
She did, but her heart wasn’t in it today. Snowflake had been right about her last night, even if she was a hateful see you next Tuesday. Qarinah had a million different excuses for why she’d never tried to do anything against the Paradisium, but they were all just that: excuses. And coming here and playing by the Paradisium’s rules helped to legitimize the place and excuse its behavior. And she’d already known that perfectly well, but she’d let herself ignore it. She’d listened to her libido and her curiosity over her heart.
“It’s not your fault,” her husband told her softly, and she started.
“How did you-” she began, and then remembered that he couldn’t hear her.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw you act so surprised,” Muhtadi said with gentle humor. “Usually it feels like the I’m the one trying to catch up to your pace. I saw what happened to the other women yesterday.” The humor faded. “I would have said something during the Game, but I was too focused to pay the coverage any attention until the round ended. Afterward though… every one of those massive screens in the reception hall was plastered with one cruel scene or another. In perfect detail, of course; all the better to help those watching revel in every moment of abuse. And I know you, my love. I knew that you would feel their grief, and I knew that you would find a way to blame yourself for them. Am I wrong?”
Qarinah shook her head, and couldn’t help a small smile. She really had become predictable, hadn’t she?
“The Paradisium is a wretched place filled with wretched people,” her husband continued. “I saw more than enough proof of that last night. But it is an evil that has entrenched itself in the hearts and minds of many, and cannot simply be ripped out of them roots and all. And we are not the sort of people upon which the world turns and tyrants fall. Our lot in life is a more humble one, to be among the drops of water that wear away at the foundations. In the words of Desmond Mpilo Tutu: ‘Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’”
Muhtadi was right. He had a habit of it; she should’ve remembered that it was never a good idea to get into an argument with a philosophy professor, doubly so when said professor was her husband. She’d just told Ginger not to get hung up on the past, and here she was failing to practice what she preached. It wasn’t like her to act this way. She’d never been the type to just sit around moping instead of acting, and she wasn’t going to let that change now. All she could do was move forward, and try not repeat the same mistakes. There had to be some way she could help the others. And if that way also led to her having lots and lots of great sex, well… that was just serendipity.
The boat came to an abrupt stop that nearly caused her to take a tumble into the water, and Qarinah leaned over the side to see what she’d struck. One of those sunken ships Vin had talked about? No. There was something beneath, but it was no ship. And it was moving.
Six white tentacles grabbed the lid of the boat, and the unfamiliar creature lifted itself up and out of the water. Its main mass was about the size of a person, but that wasn’t what drew her attention. The tentacles did. Lots and lots of tentacles. There were at least a hundred attached to the beast at various points, all of them as long and thick as a man’s arm and covered with a viscous gray slime. They waved eagerly in the air as the creature loomed over her. Four of them wrapped themselves around each of her limbs, and the succubus was effortlessly hoisted up in the air.
Suspended, immobilized, and surrounded by a mass of tentacles that were already beginning to excitedly stroke her body, Qarinah beamed at her newest lover and made a mental note to thoroughly thank her husband for this later. “Why, hello,” she purred.
“Don’t you dare fuck this up,” snarled Ilya Petrov. “If even you can’t get this right, you’re nothing but a worthless failure!” He was always in a bad mood, but he sounded extra angry today for some reason.
Any other time, Nadia would have cursed out her father, regardless of whether he could hear her or not, but for once they were on the same side. She was going to do this right. Belle was counting on her.
She glided over the still waters, trying to peer down into their depths. Father claimed she was in the right spot, but she trusted her own eyes over his word. She’d trust just about anything more than that bastard. But though it wasn’t quite as dark as true night in the arena, it was close, and water was an impenetrable black wall to her. She had no choice but to go in blind and hope that this wasn’t just an elaborate way for him to kill her.
Nadia rose in the air, until she’d nearly reached the painted stars of the ceiling, then dived straight down, plunging into the water. Her speed decreased dramatically under the surface, but she pressed forward, swimming with everything she had. And then her progress was abruptly halted as multiple somethings wrapped around her arms and legs.
The leviathan drew her closer to it, more and more of its tentacles ensnaring her limbs, until she couldn’t even see her flesh anymore. The raven was helpless as other tentacles began a slower, hungrier exploration of her body. Two of them pressed between her legs and began squirming into her holes. The first reached her cervix easily and swelled to fill her entire vaginal cavity, while the second began to wind through her intestines. Another slid between her lips and went straight down, making it all the way into her stomach. The leviathan began to fuck its captive, slimy tentacles pumping in and out of her body.
So far, so good, Nadia thought. Now for the hard part.
Betty kicked and struggled, but she was too weak to overpower a single one of the tentacles, and the creature had a seemingly endless number. The battle had been decided the moment the monster had targeted her. Its slimy limbs had emerged from every direction, surrounding her little vessel before pouncing.
“He called them suckers leviathans,” Martin said eagerly. Her master didn’t sound at all concerned about her plight. “Sounded real proud of them, and I can see why. Did you know they average, what was it, one hundred and sixty tentacles? And each one of them, they… no, no, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. You have fun out there, kitten.”
Betty knew that was going to be the closest thing she got to assistance from her master. He didn’t care about winning; if he had, he wouldn’t have sent her in this absurd getup. This was nothing but a chance to do some networking and see her get humiliated at the same time. He was probably watching right now with his cock in her sister’s mouth. Betty wished, not for the first time, that their roles had been reversed. Her twin sister would have been far better at all of this than Betty, and while the girl wasn’t in any hurry to suck their master’s cock, it would at least be a familiar indignity.
The girl watched her boat drift away as she hung in the air, suspended by multiple tentacles. There was just her, the water, and the monster now. This was going to be a long day.
More tentacles emerged from the surface, but these weren’t looking to restrain her like the first ones. One of them, thinner than the others, slid around her breasts in a figure eight and then tightened, squeezing her chest painfully. Another two went straight for her nipples, and began to rub their tips against the sensitive buds. Like all the tentacles, they were covered in a thick gray slime, and their movements were smearing it all over her nipples. A fourth tentacle slid in between her cleavage, stopping with its tip mere centimeters from her face. The one around her breasts began to undulate, causing her breasts to obscenely scrub the new tentacle, which had begun rubbing against her cheeks. Betty cried out as an unseen tentacle behind her slapped her backside, sharp and painful. The moment her lips parted, the tentacle between her breasts slid further forward, until its end rested on her tongue. Betty understood what it wanted, but it wasn’t until her backside was struck again that she complied, lapping at the tentacle’s tip. It pulsed excitedly in response, and the figure eight began playing with her breasts even more forcefully
More tentacles appeared. Two of them went around her upper arms, and began to slide back and forth, grinding their tips against her soft armpits. Two more wrapped around her legs to similarly pleasure themselves with the backs of her knees. Three rolled around in the tresses of her dark hair. Two rubbed themselves against the palms of her hands, and another two against the soles of her feet in a manner that made her squirm. Another slid up and down the crack in her ass, another pressed and poked her belly button like it was trying to burrow inside her, and two more yet caressed the cheeks on her face.
There were eighteen tentacles now rubbing against her, their movements growing stronger with each passing second. All of them were dripping with slime, and soon her entire body was covered with their gray ooze. Rather than drying themselves off on her flesh, the tentacles appeared to get slimier and slimier as time passed, and Betty realized with some trepidation that she knew what the slime was: precum.
This was going to be a very long day.
All eighteen tentacles finished at the same time, white goo erupting from their tips. It was even thickier than the monster’s precum, and stickier. And there was seemingly no end to it. Each tentacle had what felt like a gallon worth of monster cum, and together they plastered Betty from head to toe with their seed. Not an inch of her body escaped their defilement. She could have taken a bath in the stuff and come out cleaner.
When the spray petered out, the eighteen tentacles all withdrew, giving the girl only a moment’s respite before more emerged from the water to take their place. Soon she was again entangled in a mass of squirming, eager white limbs. And then there was a new one, one that went straight for her mouth. It was thicker than the others, but also more flexible, and oddest of all it split in two thinner tentacles at the end. As it invaded her throat, one tentacle began sinking all the way down her esophagus, while the other forced its way into her trachea. The two filled her completely, swelling to match the contours of her mouth and throat without so much as a molecule of empty space left behind.
Betty panicked as she felt herself suffocate, and fought with renewed vigor, but she was held fast as the other tentacles continued to masturbated themselves with her flesh. Her lungs demanded air, completely stymied by the tentacle plugging her airway. The girl remained hanging in mid-air, unable to do anything but wait to pass out… but she didn’t. Her lungs and brain continued screaming that she was dying, their insistence growing more urgent as time passed, but time was passing. First seconds, and then minutes, and she was still fully conscious.
Around the time the second set of tentacles ejaculated all over her, further basting her in the monster’s cum, Betty became certain of what was going on. The tentacle in her trachea was somehow providing her body oxygen directly. Her body just didn’t recognize what was happening, so it was convinced that she was suffocating to death even though she was fine. It was such an odd quirk of biology that it had to be intentional, and Betty had a feeling she knew exactly why.
Sure enough, the monster masturbated like that twice more before it got bored of what it must have considered foreplay, and pulled Betty’s cum soaked body down into the water. Its seed was so viscous that even underwater it remained clinging to her skin and hair as she went down, down, down, until she was at the bottom of the sea, and it was now just her, the water, the monster, and the monster’s roughly one hundred and sixty tentacles. More began rubbing themselves against her in a now familiar violation, but still others began to press between her legs, demanding access to her lower holes.
She was dry, but thanks to their precum slime, that proved no deterrent. The first tentacle to push its way into her cunt was one of the thickest things she’d ever had up there, and one quickly became two as a second used its elasticity to squeeze in alongside the first and expand once it had purchase. A third managed to wedge itself in too, while two others performed a similar trick with her asshole after yanking her tail butt plug out. She tried to wrest a hand free so she could grab hold of the plug, but she was completely trapped and could only watch as it drifted away. All five tentacles pumped her independently, each eager to fill her with cum. And more, so many more, still pressed hungrily against both cunt and ass, seeking to join in.
“Aww shucks,” said Martin, “your poor tail. Wave goodbye to it, Sally.”
By the time the first ones began to cum, some of their sperm coating her insides and the rest sliding slowly down her legs, she was up to five in her pussy and four in her ass. Each one that finished and pulled out was immediately replaced by another just as eager. Betty knew she’d made about half the tentacles ejaculate by now, but you wouldn’t have known by looking at the beast. Every last one of them was still waving wildly and slathered in precum, just waiting for their opportunity to shoot into or onto the monster’s new fucktoy. “Don’t worry about that sucker getting tired,” her owner confirmed a few minutes later. “Those little doggies a couple days ago were designed to fight and fuck, but these leviathans were built to be pure lovers. They’re chock full of adrenaline and hormones, and got a set of balls on ‘em that would put even my new troll friend to shame. He’s a one-man, one-stop, twenty four-seven gangbang, kitty cat, and you’re all his.’
This was going to be a very, very long day.
The oars proved easier to handle than Seo-yun had expected, and her boat glided smoothly across the water. “I believe the ship ahead of you was Ember’s destination,” said Celeste. “If she has already departed, I have calculated the most likely course she would have taken.” Seo-yun had expected the servant to chide her when she’d realized where the fox was going, but Celeste had done nothing of the sort, calmly advising Seo-yun just as before.
As the ship grew closer, Seo-yun could make out the small boat moored next to it. The sight of the phoenix’s flag filled her with equal parts excitement and terror. She’d found Ember, just like she’d wanted. Now what the hell was she going to do with her?
She tied her boat to Ember’s and climbed onto the ship. It was an ostentatious recreation of a stereotypical eighteenth century European pirate ship. A naked mermaid with oversized breasts was carved into the ship’s bow, the massive frilled sails bore grinning skulls, and there were ropes and rigging everywhere, most of which appeared completely unnecessary and in some cases not actually attached to anything. The cannons lining the sides had no firing mechanism, and the door to the captain’s quarters was painted on. This was a prop, not a real ship.
There was no sign of Ember, but at the center of the deck was an open hatch leading into the ship’s depths. “Ember!” Seo-yun called down it, not wanting to surprise the woman and provoke a fight. “It’s… it’s Ginger! You know, um, Yip Yip? I need to talk to you!” There was no response.
This was a mistake. This was a big mistake. But she went down the hatch anyway.
“An amazing play by Vorona!” Emmeck boomed in her ear, much louder than his usual running stream of commentary, and the surprised fox nearly fell off the ladder before she recovered. “That’s fifteen points for the raven! A few more and she’ll have captured the lead!” Seo-yun didn’t know what had happened, but she was glad for the poor woman.
The crew quarters were empty, save for hammocks hung up every which way. Some bottles of alcohol lay scattered on the floor, but when Seo-yun picked one up and sniffed its contents, out of curiosity more than anything else, she found it was just water and food coloring. She gulped it down; after having to live on piss for two weeks with Levinson, she was never going to pass up a drink of water if she could help it. What was left of the bottle, and two unopened ones, went into her backpack for safekeeping. There was only one door down here, presumably to the cargo hold. “Ember?” she tried calling again. “I’m, I’m coming closer, okay? I just want to talk!” Still nothing.
She had no idea what she was going to say when she found the woman. Their last conversation hadn’t exactly gone well. But she knew she had to try. It couldn’t be a coincidence that Samantha was here, and she couldn’t let her die again.
The ribbons Emmeck had promised were in the cargo hold: three bright blue ones tied around empty barrels. If Ember was down here, she was nowhere to be seen. Seo-yun glanced around as she tied the ribbons to her wrist. This didn’t make any sense. Where was she? Had she abandoned her boat here? But even then, she would’ve at least looked around before she went, and Ember wouldn’t have just left these ribbons behind. Something was wrong.
Seo-yun smelled smoke.
She wasted no time running out of the cargo hold, but stopped short at the sight of flames. The crew quarters that she’d been in just minutes ago was now on fire. Several of the hammocks blazed, blocking the way to the ladder. Seo-yun eyed them, trying to find a way through, but she couldn’t see anything, and the flames were quickly spreading, chewing through the cheap wood varnish. She could feel the heat on her face, stifling and oppressive. She coughed, eyes watering and lungs full of smoke, and nearly collapsed.
“The second hammock from the right!” Celeste urged. “There is enough open space beneath.” Seo-yun didn’t have time to see for herself if the woman was right. She dove underneath it, and and crawled forward as quickly as she could. The floor there was soaking wet, which had to be why it had escaped the flames so far. She dragged herself through the rest of the way, scrambled to her feet, and climbed the ladder as quickly as she could.
The hatch was closed, and it wouldn’t open when she pushed on it. It wasn’t locked, but there was something heavy blocking it from above. The smoke was all concentrated at this height and Seo-yun coughed, feeling sick and dizzy. She pushed on the hatch as hard as she could, imagining that she could already feel the flames licking at her feet. She could feel whatever was above her giving way, but it was doing it far too slowly. She was going to burn alive in just a few seconds… any second now…
The hatch popped open, and Seo-yun quickly climbed up and onto the deck, gratefully breathing the cleaner, cooler air. It took a minute before she’d recovered enough to look around. Thankfully, nothing was on fire up here. It all looked much the same, except that one of the fake cannons was sitting next to the hatch now, and both Ember and Seo-yun’s boats were nowhere to be seen.
Seo-yun looked out over the water, and spotted Ember’s boat out in the distance, with the fiery haired woman in it. But she wasn’t alone. “Uh oh folks!” Emmeck confirmed a few second later. “We might be about to see a major upset today! The queen of flame and sky had gotten herself shanghaied by some unruly buccaneers! We’ve seen her escape from worse situations before, but is this the day our champion’s legacy ends?” Three men in outlandish pirate outfits were sharing the boat with Ember, and though she was struggling wildly, they seemed to have her well restrained. One man was rowing the boat while the other two groped her.
Seo-yun coughed, tasting the smoke drifting up through the floorboards. She could feel the heat beneath the deck steadily growing as the flames consumed everything. She couldn’t stay here.
The fox hit the water with a splash, and immediately began swimming. The water was cold, but after the heat of the flames, it was a welcome chill. Ahead, she could see the faint glow of Ember’s hair growing smaller in the distance. She began to swim after it, the cold water growing less pleasant with each stroke.
Ember had tried to kill her. That hadn’t just been a warning or a scare tactic. Seo-yun knew why the floor beneath the hammock had been soaking wet: because Ember had doused the room with the alcohol bottles before lighting the fires. She was only alive right now because the builders had cut corners using water instead of real alcohol, and Ember had been in too much of a hurry to notice what she was pouring. It was luck, pure and simple, and if Seo-yun ran into the woman again, she probably wouldn’t survive the experience. Ember didn’t want to talk. She just wanted Seo-yun dead.
But that changed nothing. Seo-yun continued swimming after Samantha.
Ember cursed and tried to kick the man holding her leg behind her, but she couldn’t see and had no leverage. Her struggles only made him laugh as he pressed her leg against the boat railing and his companion began to lash it in place.
“You made it all the way to the third round this time, meat,” Master Sindak told her. “Two full days of not getting raped, that might just be a record!”
She’d been a fucking idiot. She’d been so focused on the fox that she’d forgotten to be wary of other dangers. She didn’t know where the men had been hiding, probably in some of the barrels, but they’d managed to take her by surprise, and before she knew it, they’d tied her up on her own boat and flung her only weapon into the water.
“Look at that tight phoenix ass!” one of the men said, and slapped her hard on the butt. “You think her insides are extra hot too?” She was face down over the bow of the boat, the upper half of her body jutting out above the water. Her wrists were bound behind her, and both her legs were secured to opposite sides of the boat, leaving her crotch completely exposed.
“I’m about to find out,” said the second man, already fumbling with his pants.
“Fuck you!” said the first. “I’m the one that took the risk of grabbing her, I get dibs.”
“Fuck both of you,” Ember growled. “I’m going to roast your godda-” The first man grabbed the back of her head and shoved it under the water, extinguishing her hair. Sindak started laughing.
“I’ve always said this bitch needs an attitude adjustment,” the man said, the water distorting his words. “Struts around the Paradisium like she’s more than just the number one piece of fuckmeat.” He yanked her head up and out of the water. “I don’t know what kind of pussy of an owner you have that lets his slave act like this, but today you’re my fuckmeat-”
“Our fuckmeat,” interrupted the other man.
The first one sighed. “Whatever. Point is, I want to hear the great and all powerful Ember beg for my cock in that ass.”
“If I were you, motherfucker,” Ember said, “I’d skip the psych bullshit and just dive in. Get the most out of these last few minutes of your life.”
He dunked her head underwater again. “We’ll see how you feel when you wake up,” he told her. “Enjoy drowning, flame bitch.”
Ember didn’t bother to fight it. Suffocation was nothing new to her by now. Whenever Master Sindak fucked her throat, he couldn’t care less whether she could breathe or not. Samantha would pass out with his molten hot prick pounding her, and when she woke she’d either have his boiling seed in her stomach already, or he’d still be going at it. Ember just closed her eyes and tried to think of it as a nap. She could sure as hell use one. After a couple minutes, she couldn’t stop her oxygen starved body from breathing in some water, making her choke and thrash despite herself. She was still squirming as everything faded to black.
And then she was awake and spitting up water, her head back above the surface. “How you feeling now, bitch?” asked the first man. “Got something you want ask me?”
She coughed. “Yeah, actually,” she said. “You mind sticking me back in? The water saves me from having to smell you fuckers.”
He spat, the spittle striking her ass cheek, and shoved her back into the water. She used the time to consider her next steps. The fox had escaped the trap she’d set for it, which was was more annoying than the pirates. The creature had followed her, which meant only one thing: it was hoping to kill Ember today and claim her points for itself. A natural plan to take, since it was no doubt confident that it could beat an ordinary human in a fight. Ember would have to show the creature how flawed an assumption that was.
Remembering the fox’s foolish attempt to trick her made her seethe. Pretending it just wanted to talk… did it think she was stupid? What really burned was that a few years ago, an obvious ploy like that would have worked on her. During the first competition, Ember had tried so hard to find allies among the other women, but every attempt had been met with scorn and derision. The only reason she’d made it through the first few rounds was that they’d all looked down on her as a pathetic human begging for help, and ignored her on the assumption that she would get herself eliminated quickly enough.
The second year had been far worse. Everyone had wanted to be the returning champion’s friend. Everyone had wanted to take advantage of her. By the time she claimed victory that year, she’d been forced to kill three of them in self defense. It was a painful lesson, but one she’d learned well: trust no one. The Paradisium Game was the best chance most women had for a better life. Winners whose owners weren’t sadistic efreet assholes were often granted their freedom as a prize, or at least given a place of honor. Graduating from a mutt to a show dog might not sound like much, but it made a world of difference to the mutt, and there was nothing they weren’t willing to do for it.
The two pirates were shouting at each other now as she coughed up some more water. They’d drowned her four times now? Five? She hadn’t bothered to keep track. “Once we reach the island, there’s gonna be twenty more guys wanting a piece,” one of them was yelling. “Right now it’s just the three of us, and you’re wasting our damn opportunity on some fucking power trip!”
“The flame bitch has to learn her place,” argued the other. “She’s too goddamn uppity.”
His companion sighed. “Jesus man, she’s a fucking slave. She wants to pretend to be something more for a couple days, who cares? Just get out of the way.” Ember felt him enter her, his cock sinking slowly into her unlubricated asshole. “Mmm,” he said, groaning in pleasure. “You were right, I think she is extra hot in here!” Being anally raped dry was a very common occurrence for Samantha; even if Master Sindak had any interest in easing her pain rather than increasing it, lubication didn’t last long around an efreet. The pirate’s cock was smaller than her owner’s, and wasn’t even burning her alive. It was practically a relaxing experience.
The man raped her ass for a few minutes before shooting his load into her bowels. Despite his complaining, his friend immediately took his place, though he took out his annoyance on Ember by drowning her while he fucked her. She’d passed out another three times before her insides were painted with more sticky seed. When he was done, the one rowing the boat passed off the oars and gave her a try.
All three men had sampled her cunt as well, and were debating if there was a safe way to have her suck their cocks – she saw no reason to let them know there wasn’t – when they began to near their destination. It was a tiny artificial island, only a few acres in size. Twenty foot rock cliffs went all around the perimeter, save for a single dock on one side, where she could already see more men standing. Most of the island was dominated by the massive pirate fortress at its center. The wooden building was flying dozens of pirate flags and the light of multiple fires danced within it.
When they reached the dock, the ropes binding Ember’s legs to the boat were cut, and she was roughly shoved into the group of waiting men. Half a dozen different hands began to fondle her body, and someone whose breath was absolutely disgusting forced her into a kiss. “Let’s bring her in, boys!” one of them called out. “We got our very own prize phoenix to fuck today!”
They all cheered.
Qarinah drifted aimlessly through the ocean in her partner’s warm embrace. Now this was the sort of encounter she’d been hoping to have when she came to the Paradisium. She stroked the beast’s soft tentacles, communicating her love for him. He had worked so very hard to please her, and based on the hundreds of times he had cum, she was confident that she’d returned the favor. He really was a sweetheart, despite its appearance. Enthusiastic, to be certain. Tireless, my yes. But she’d sensed no malice from the creature, only raw lust that she’d happily answered in kind.
Something caught her eye, and she looked to see a ship wreck a short distance away. Some of the best sex of her life and free ribbons? Sure. She just had to figure out how to get over there. The succubus began to softly paddle her way over, hoping her lover would be willing to follow along, and to her surprise he surged forward along the path she’d indicated, making much better time than she could have ever managed on her own. As an experiment, she tried paddling in a slightly different direction, and the beast immediately matched it. Now that was interesting…
A few minutes later, he waited patiently as she untied two red ribbons and a pink from a mast of the sunken ship. “And Qarinah shoots up the charts!” Vin announced excitedly. “By taming the mighty leviathan, the lion becomes the second to claim the sunken treasure! Will she be able to catch up to the raven?”
Qarinah nuzzled her partner softly, and was rewarded by two of his tentacles slipping inside her body, making love to her eagerly but gently. Such a good boy, really. She looked around, but it was too dark to see any more of the ships. Well, she was in no hurry. She picked a random direction, and soon she and her lover were on their way.
Nadia silently cursed Emmeck as she directed her leviathan towards the next sunken ship. Why couldn’t that little rat bastard have just shut up for once?
Without him, this round would have been a runaway victory for her, just as her father had intended. The leviathans were trained to respond to aggression: fight back and they become rampaging rape beasts. Don’t resist and… well, she’d still been raped by hers dozens of times by now, but it was far gentler about it than it could have been, and it was allowing her to guide its path. The creatures were living oxygen tanks, albeit with hundreds of horny tentacles attached.
If Emmeck hadn’t run his mouth, she could’ve kept drifting from ship to ship the entire day, stocking up on points. But now the others knew the leviathans were more than just a danger to be avoided, and given that it was Qarinah who had discovered their real purpose, it wouldn’t be hard for any of them to suss out how she’d done it. They’d all be down here any minute, and they’d – the raven gasped as her leviathan began furiously pumping her asshole with two of its huge tentacles, while several more tentacles started masturbating with her soft wings. She had to calm down, or she wouldn’t get anywhere. Nadia forced herself to relax, ignoring her lungs’ insistence that she was drowning. She’d spent more than a hundred hours training with these things, and she wasn’t going to let the thousands upon thousands of tentacle rapes that had resulted go to waste.
Eventually, though it took much longer than she liked, the leviathan settled down into its more normal routine, still fucking her but less roughly, and receptive to her touch. It was still double teaming her asshole though, and it was an unpleasant reminder of the goblin rape yesterday, and the events that had followed. Nadia could have screamed as her negative thoughts set the beast off again, and resulted in her tits getting fucked and god knew how many tentacles stuffed into her pussy. Relax, she ordered herself. She had to relax! She had a game to win.
Deep below the waters, the thoroughly gangraped Betty cried tears of relief as the dozens of tentacles simultaneously fucking her began to calm down in response to her ceased struggles . If she and Qarinah were both still around tonight, she was going to cook that woman a feast.
“Aww, that’s not half as much fun,” Martin complained a short time later as she collected a few ribbons from a nearby wreck. “I wonder what it would do if you tried to bite him instead.”
The dark haired girl had absolutely no interest in finding out. If it was that aggressive in its natural state, and so relatively peaceful in this one, she could only imagine how much more violent it would be if it became genuinely angry. But she knew her owner well; he hadn’t been speaking idly, he’d been giving her an order.
So she bit down hard on the tentacles in her mouth.
The monster’s reaction was immediate. She’d thought it had been fucking her hard before, but that had just been its eagerness to pleasure itself. Now it wanted to hurt her, and it was well equipped for the task. Each time a tentacle slammed against her cervix, it felt like she was being kicked, and the ones in her guts were thrusting so sharply and deeply that she half expected the tips to pop out of her mouth. It started stuffing even more of them into her as well, forcing her insides to stretch as the number of tentacles violating her body nearly doubled and more continued furiously trying to wedge themselves in. The outside of her body wasn’t spared either. Countless tentacles began to lash at her, punch her, slap her. Some of them wrapped around her throat and abdomen and began to squeeze, trying to make her sore holes even tighter. Everything hurt, and still the monster was cumming over and over, wringing its pleasure from her battered and cum-soaked body.
Martin was laughing as she was punished for her forced act of defiance. “Now that’s more like it! Wouldn’t want my favorite pussy cat to get bored down there, right? I’m sure you can sweeten him back up and get a ride home once the round is over, but we’ve got hours to all enjoy ourselves before then. Mmm, you hear what that thing is doing to your sister, Sally? Feel how hard it’s got me? You’re gonna get to gobble up a whole bunch of loads today cause of her! Why don’t you tell her how grateful you are?”
“…aahnk yuh beht teeh…” came a soft, muffled voice. Betty felt a wave of nausea that had nothing to do with the squirming thrusting tentacles in her stomach. Even now, separated by each other and and unable to see or communicate, she and her sister were being used to make each other more miserable.
“So if it’s this mad now,” Martin mused, “what do you think it would do if you went and bit him again? Heck, I wonder what would happen if you just kept trying to rile him up more and more. Maybe he’d start trying to stuff every last tentacle he’s got into you, yeah? Boy, that sure would be a neat sight.”
Betty whimpered, and then did as she was told.
Delphyne had never been comfortable around water. She couldn’t fly in it and she couldn’t breathe fire in it. Couldn’t breathe, period. She’d been trained how to swim from an early age by a former Olympic medalist, but being good at it didn’t make the experience any less unpleasant.
“There is no need to push yourself, my daughter,” said Karakostas. “I know you harbor certain discomforts about swimming. The last two days have been more than enough to prove the conviction of your beliefs to me, if not their accuracy.”
Had her father deliberately created this particular challenge for her? She sighed. Of course he had. They’d agreed on their challenge months ago, and he would have had plenty of time to request something like this. Karakostas was many things, but never the type of man to pass up an advantage when he saw one.
She knew that he thought this was all just some foolish fancy of hers. The day the game began, he’d been unable to hide his surprise when she’d met him at their agreed upon location, already naked and masked. He’d expected her to back down when the time came, and probably fall to her knees begging him to release her from their agreement. It was easy to see why he hadn’t taken their challenge seriously. Growing up, she’d been given everything she wanted, sometimes before she even knew she wanted it. She’d spent her life eating the finest meals, wearing the finest clothes, and having a small army worth of servants at her beck and call. She’d grown up in the lap of luxury, and never ventured outside of it. In all her life, she’d still never even stepped foot outside the Paradisium. How ridiculous it must seem to him, that his pampered, sheltered daughter thought she could play the role of a sex slave.
But the joke was on him: she had already been a slave all her life. A very well kept slave, but that didn’t make the bars go away. She’d been given everything she’d ever wanted, except the ability to decide anything for herself. Before she’d even been born, Karakostas had planned out every detail of her life. What kind of person he wanted her to be, how she would spend her time, what she would love and what she would hate… maybe slave was too generous a term. She’d never been anything to him but a doll to dress up.
Delphyne wanted to see the world, she wanted to meet new people. She wanted to make a difference, and for the better. The Paradisium and everything it stood for disgusted her, but not as much as her father’s assumption that she would help him run it when she grew older. She would sooner die than contribute to this nightmare place.
To her shame, she hadn’t always felt this way. For most of her life, she’d actually been happy to live in her gilded cage, and she’d swallowed every lie her father fed her without hesitation. They hadn’t been blatant lies, like trying to hide the nature of the Paradisium. They’d been far more insidious. Some people were superior to others, he’d taught her, and dragons were superior to all. Those who had obtained power were worthy of it by definition, and those who were powerless deserved whatever they got.
For far too long, she hadn’t questioned the atrocities of the Paradisium. The men and women who owned slaves all possessed great influence and wealth, and that didn’t just mean that they could do whatever they wanted, it meant that they should. The commoners beneath them barely qualified as people, just mindless sheep to be herded this way and that. To exploit them for your own desires was no different than plucking fruit off a tree to satisfy your hunger. And the ones beneath them, the slaves? It was generous to even call them alive. They weren’t people, not really, not in any ways that mattered. They were simply toys that existed for others to play with. The cruelty of their treatment was irrelevant: they were property, and those who owned them had the right to use their property however they liked, even if what they liked was to break and destroy them.
Delphyne had even owned a slave of her own once, a gift from her father when she’d become of age. The memory made her feel like scum, but at the time she’d seen nothing wrong with it. The girl’s name had been Ellie, and she’d been the daughter of a Paradisium customer whose debts had piled up. Delphyne hadn’t deliberately mistreated her, but only because she’d never felt the need to. Ellie had tended to all of her needs, like bathing her and dressing her and bringing her food. And sex. Delphyne hadn’t even known the concept of consent when she took Ellie to her bed that first night. In her mind, asking the girl if she’d wanted to do this would have been like asking a dress if it wanted to be worn. Ellie had pleasured her with her tongue then, and on many other occasions. It was common, in fact, for the girl to spend more time with her head between the dragon’s legs than she did standing up. Delphyne had never returned the favor.
The dragon hadn’ts held any animosity towards the woman. If asked, she would have described her feelings as affection. Not the affection of one person for another, or even a person for their pet. More like a person and her favorite chair. Sometimes she liked to imagine that Ellie hadn’t been miserable serving her, that she’d been able to find some happiness with Delphyne as her mistress, but she knew that was just wishful thinking. She had not been deliberately cruel, but she had not been kind either. She’d done things like have Ellie beaten for slacking off, or let her servants take the slave to their own beds when they asked. She’d thought, stupidly, that it was simply how things were done. Her actions were not borne out of malice, but that didn’t mean anything.
Ellie was only human, and after about a decade of hard work both her physical health and beauty had declined. Delphyne hadn’t really considered what it would mean for the woman when she’d asked father for a a new slave to replace her. She’d just sort of assumed that they would find someone else who wanted Ellie. And if they did decide to put her down, well, she’d served her purpose, hadn’t she?
They’d made her meat.
Delphyne would still be a blind and stupid doll if the woman hadn’t fled at some point. One of the men had broken her arm in several places, not realizing that the mangled limb would allow her to escape her restraints if she was desperate enough. Ellie had known that there was no way she’d be able to escape the Paradisium, so she’d run to her only hope of rescue instead: her mistress. Delphyne had been shocked when the bloody, battered woman had stumbled into her quarters to beg for mercy. Her pursuers had been right behind her, and Delphyne had witnessed firsthand the way that they treated meat.
She’d known rationally what the term meant. Father had always made it sound almost humane: unwanted or disobedient slaves would be destroyed in whatever manner others found pleasing, so that their deaths would double as their final acts of servitude. But she hadn’t known what it meant to be meat until she’d watched Ellie brutally raped, beaten and murdered right in front of her. They took their time, no doubt angry with her for making them give chase. Delphyne had seen the hatred in their eyes, the raw sadism that drove them. And she’d heard Ellie’s screams. For as long as she could, until she was too badly injured to form words anymore, Ellie had continued begging her for help. And when she couldn’t speak anymore,she’d just stared at her, wordlessly praying for salvation.
The dragon hadn’t known what to do. She’d been paralyzed with indecision, trapped between the comforting lies she’d been told all her life and the stark reality in front of her. So she’d just watched. Whenever she looked back on her life and all the terrible things she’d done, that moment stood out as the worst. She’d just watched.
Ellie hadn’t been a dress, or a chair, or a piece of fruit, or a pet, or a toy, or anything else. She’d been a person, with as much right to life and happiness as anyone else, and she’d been tortured to death because Delphyne had wanted a younger face between her legs.
Delphyne’s eyes had been opened after that. Opened far too late, but opened. She’d foolishly believed for a time that she could convince her father to see reason, that he’d been as blind to it all as she had been. But eventually she’d accepted the truth: her father already knew everything. He just didn’t care. It was then that she’d realized her own place in the world. Her father didn’t see her as a person anymore than she’d seen Ellie as one. She was just a piece of property labeled “daughter” to him.
She knew that when he’d suggested this challenge to her, he hadn’t been serious. “Enter and win the Paradisium Game this year as a slave and I’ll hand total control over to you.” It had just been a way to shut her up. But she’d called his bluff and forced his hand. She would bring this place down, or die trying.
Delphyne stood up in her boat and looked down at the water. It stared back at her, dark and unknowable. “I cannot stop you from doing this,” said Karakostas. “But neither can I save you if things go wrong. I suggest you listen to logic and reason over capricious emotions, Astaria. This will not go well for you.”
She ignored him as she focused on the watery depths. If what Emmeck had announced was true, she would need to go down there if she wanted any hope of winning. There were few things that she wanted to do less, but it didn’t matter. This was just another obstacle her father had put in her way to slow her down. He still thought that when push came to shove, she’d give in. But she was done with just watching, and she’d been standing still for far too long already. Delphyne took a deep breath, then plunged into the sea.
The closer Seo-yun got to the island, the more ominous it looked. Those cliffs hadn’t seemed so bad from a distance, but now that she was up close, they were more than a little intimidating. The dock would have been much easier, but there was no way she’d get anywhere near it without being spotted, which left only the cliffs. She did her best to dry her hands, then grabbed a jutting stone and began to haul herself up.
Seo-yun had never been much of a swimmer, even in her natural form, but she’d found that she took to the water quite easily. Except for her tails, which had become furry anchors when waterlogged. It was the first time she’d ever felt positive about not having all nine. It had still taken hours of swimming to catch up to the kidnappers though. It wasn’t simply a matter of swimming speed; she’d had to make constant detours to evade the underwater creatures. Left on her own, she would have fallen victim to them within minutes. Celeste’s assistance avoiding them had been invaluable.
“And our favorite phoenix has become officially airtight!” crowed Emmeck. “The boys learned their lesson after that first unfortunate soul and put a ring gag on her. Are there any cameras available for a closeup? Yes, just look at that cock sliding down her throat! She doesn’t seem too happy about it, does she?” He laughed. “These pirates seem to have things well in hand. See that collar the lovely Ember is now sporting? It only allows a trickle of breath – when her throat isn’t too stuffed full of meat, of course! As long as they keep her from getting too much oxygen, she won’t able to light up, and they’ll have a soft helpless phoenix to play with! But be careful boys, because you just might be playing with fire!”
Seo-yun tried not to let Emmeck’s running commentary on Ember’s gangrape bother her. It sounded like there were about thirty men stationed on the island, and all of them had congregated to the phoenix to have their turn with her, leaving everywhere else unguarded and unwatched. If she could sneak in close enough, she could do something to help the woman escape. It would have been nice to have the slightest idea what that something was, but it was the best plan she could come up with.
The fox reached the top of the cliff and pushed herself up and over it. The island itself was mostly flat, but there were a few bushes here and there, and she quickly too cover behind one. Thirty against one were poor odds, but she still had one major advantage: no one knew she was there. As long as she held the element of surprise, it was just a matter of being patient and looking for opportunities.
“What’s this?” asked Emmeck. “A second guest has arrived at the pirate hideout! It appears that Ginger has gotten jealous of all of Ember’s attention, because here comes the little fox now! That’s fantastic news for our marauders: twice the number of holes means twice as many happy cocks down there, just as soon as they get their hands on her! Oh no, not that way: she’s down on the southwest side! Good luck with your fox hunt, boys!”
Seo-yun cursed and began running.