NSC – The Endless Night – Chapter 5 – Precarious Solidarity

Thank you for reading! This is an NSC written by Aia and InBrightestDay, written with my approval and reference. Discussion for this story will be primarily located on discord! Come on in and let us know what you thought, we don’t bite.

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“Anisa!” Krathan shouted. He stuck his head beneath his bed, double-checked the underside of his chair, and then checked the bathroom again, around the solvent towel dispensary and the toilet, before returning to his main chamber.

The aquarium’s lid was open and leaned up against the cylinder. The lid had been on when Krathan had woken up; he’d removed it to search for the cephalian. He stuck his head over the side of the drained aquarium again before giving his entire bedroom another look-over. The walls and the ceiling were completely empty, covered by only the lines where the hexagonal plates joined.

“Come out right now! I’m not going to punish you if you come out right this second!” Krathan shouted to deafening silence.

Where was that damn squid?

Krathan gritted his teeth. Was this what happened when slaves weren’t properly diciplined? The vet never had a reason to punish his regular patients back at home, but they never gave him a reason to. Perhaps that was because their owners already did it.

Krathan cursed. He really should have read up on slave training before he decided to take responsibility for Grakrash’s heitera. He marched back to his bed, lifting up the mattress and looking beneath. The cephalian wasn’t hiding there either.

Dropping the mattress, Krathan thumped down onto the bed himself, squeezing his eyes shut and thinking back to the previous day.

He rather distinctly recalled the cephalian sprawled out on his table, color dancing across her skin as she did her best to catch her breath. He remembered telling her to clean the mess off her body, the desk, and the floor as he went to bed. The vet had then spent some time reading as the cephalian finished up her chores for the day and dragged herself back into her aquarium. 

A sharp electronic beep intruded into Krathan’s thoughts. He quickly jumped off his bed and snatched his tablet up from the ground, navigating over to his notifications. The message was marked with the security team’s header, containing only a few brief lines of response text and a twenty-four digit code. Krathan didn’t even bother reading the text as he marched over to his workstation and entered the code into the security camera application.

The video feed came up an instant later, displaying Krathan’s bedroom in stark resolution despite the darkness. He quickly scrubbed over the footage, watching hours pass in seconds as he slept soundly in his bed and the cephalian rolled over in her tank. Krathan quickly stopped waving his hand as the cephalian suddenly vanished, moving back in the timeline and watching the video play out.

Soft blue light filled the aquarium as the cephalian woke, turning around slowly as if shaking off her grogginess. The tentacled slave only took about a minute to situate herself before she crawled up towards the top of her small enclosure, pressing on it from below. Krathan watched, chewing his lips anxiously, as the small cephalian used her fragile body to push up against the heavy lid. It wasn’t long before the slave managed to push her head through the small gap and out onto the other side. The rest of her body followed, compressing and flowing out from the narrow gap like pouring fluid.

The cephalian spent the next few minutes using towels to wipe up the water she’d spilled onto the floor. Her tentacles all cleaned up the floor, each one moving with visible independence and dabbing up the water with impressive speed and precision. She threw the towels into the laundry basket next and approached Krathan’s bed to pick up the empty water bottles,refilling them and setting them down by his bedside.

There was a long moment of silence as the cephalian stood next to his bed, held off the ground by curled tentacles, and watched Krathan silently. He couldn’t see her facial expression from this camera angle, only the faint blue glow from her smooth skin illuminating his face. The cephalian turned around, headed for the door of his quarters, and the camera glitched slightly, the area near her blooming into a strange plume of reddish light.  Then she simply vanished

Krathan switched to the camera overlooking the hallway outside. A quick glance at the application showed Krathan that he was authorized to view not just footage of his bedroom but also of the hallway, his clinic and the majority of the lower floors of the Night. Krathan waited for the cephalian to appear.

And waited.

And waited.

Krathan first assumed that he must be looking at the wrong camera feed, but a quick glance back at the recording of his bedroom showed him that wasn’t the problem. He turned back to the hallway footage, synced it up to the point where the cephalian disappeared, and then played it back to himself at accelerated speed. With the cephalian’s slow gait, he wasn’t particularly worried about missing her even with the sped-up playback.

The vet sat there silently as the security footage played, covering every second from the moment when Anisa left his bedroom to the present. The squid never emerged from the hallway. Krathan jumped from his workstation and stormed towards the door, pausing only to allow it to open, and left his bedroom.

The cephalian was nowhere to be seen in the hall either. With so few places to hide, Krathan didn’t need to spend much time checking. The vet reentered his room, grabbed the tablet from the floor and quickly navigated to the communications application, selecting the very first contact from his address list. It took only a few seconds for the application to connect.

“Brother! You’re up early!” Grakrash’s cherry voice rang from the tablet. “I can’t talk for long, though; the hunting game’s starting soon. I’m going to try to score in the top ten today!” he continued, laughing. The voice paused for a moment. “Say, Krathan. How about you join us in training room three? There’s a no-guns round later today, and we could really do with a big wall like you down here to help guard our base!”

“Grakrash, look. There’s a problem,” Krathan hissed. “It’s about Anisa!”


“What happened? Is she in emergency care?”

“I have no idea where she is right now!” Krathan barked. “She escaped!”

“Escaped?” Grakrash asked, obviously confused.

“Yes, she escaped!” Krathan snapped, his voice far angrier than he intended it to be. “I woke up and she was nowhere to be found!”

Grakrash suddenly started laughing. Krathan growled. “Grakrash, this isn’t funny! I lost your heitera! What if one of those rich pricks found her and decided to have some ‘fun’ and she’s bleeding out somewhere right now with no one to help her?”

“Brother, honestly. You didn’t lose her. Please just calm down a little,” Grakrash said. “You didn’t give her any orders last night, did you?”

“I – no. No I didn’t,” Krathan growled, scratching his neck impatiently. “Why does that matter?”

“She didn’t run away, brother. Anisa didn’t receive any orders, and so she’s off to find something to do to occupy her time,” Grakrash said. “She’s probably wandering around the ship to find a nice hole to hide in, if you’re asking me. She probably feels a bit naked when she tries to hide in her sleeping drum, after all. Not that she isn’t naked, of course!” Grakrash laughed. Krathan groaned.

“So this is just normal then?” Krathan asked. “You just let your heitera go wherever you want without your permission?”

“I mean, it’s not like you want to use your heitera all day anyways, right? Well, I guess you might.” Grakrash chuckled. “Look, Krathan. If you’re feeling lonely then why don’t you join me in the arena? I’ll find some slaves for us to enjoy. What are you feeling? Want to help me double team some slut? Or do you want to get two slaves on your cock at once? You know, I bet I could even get a pair of sisters for you!”

“Look, I don’t need anything,” Krathan growled, rubbing his head. “Look, Grakrash. I’m sorry I got annoyed. It’s just – I’m worried about your heitera.”

“Hey, don’t worry about it! I’m not going to complain that my heitera’s vet is dedicated to his job.” In the background of Grakrash’s feed, Krathan could hear shouting. “Listen, brother, I have to go. I’ll send you her collar access codes, alright? You can use that to check if she’s fine.” 

Krathan sighed, scratching his face. “Thanks, Grakrash.”

“No problem. Just enter the code and you should be able to talk to her straight through the collar. Makes it easy to get a good fuck, as long as you don’t mind waiting a little,” Grakrash laughed. “And hey, if she’s late then you can go hunt her down. It’s not like she can actually outrun you, is it? Oh, do be a bit lighter with her punishments, though. Fifty lashes on the underside of her tentacles is usually what I go for.”

“Yeah, fine. I’ll do that, I guess,” Krathan sighed. “Grakrash?”

“What is it?”

“There’s something I want to talk about,” Krathan said. “Do you have some time later today?” A short moment of quiet followed.

“Yeah, I think I can talk during the break,” Grakrash said.

“Alright, I’ll go talk to you then,” Krathan said.

“Good, good,” Grakrash said. “Oh, and brother, take care of yourself, alright?”

Krathan sighed. “You know I always do.”

Grakrash gave one final good natured chuckle before the signal cut off.  It would be about another hour before his shift at the clinic officially began, and Krathan lay on the bed a few minutes longer, before he finally rose and shambled to his workstation. Krathan set the tablet down next to the arane-calling switch and ran the footage back to the point last night just before he went to bed.

Rewinding from there, Krathan watched the last night’s events in sped-up reverse. He watched himself hammering into the slave as she clung to the table, watched her on the floor as she readied his shaft with her mouth and probing tongue, and watched himself carry her into his bedroom in reverse. Krathan rewound up to the point where he set the slave down on the floor and began the playback.

Selara angled her head to try to get a good view down the narrowed hole. Anisa, fortunately, wasn’t very hard to spot even through the small gap in the pile of equipment, of leisure and torment, on the side of the room. Selara’s friend wiggled deeper into the pile, her soft and flexible body easily finding gaps to crawl deeper in.

Footsteps. Selara’s head snapped around. The footfalls were too light to be one of the monsters, but she held her breath and stilled her body regardless. An arane appeared in the doorway a moment later, the six-armed woman not even glancing Selara’s way as she quickly passed by.

There was something noticeably different about arane compared to the other slaves the kthid kept, beyond even the physiology. The arane walked with their heads up and their backs straight. Their eyes weren’t bright, per se, but neither were they hollow and hopeless like those of most slaves. Arane had, at least according to Anisa, spent countless generations under the heel of the kthid. Selara considered asking them to join her as well, but what could she even hope to share with a people who’d spent so many generations as slaves that they didn’t know what it meant to be free?

“Miss Selara, is something the matter?” Anisa asked.

“Everything’s fine. Don’t worry,” Selara responded, trying to sound as confident as possible as she returned her eyes to the hill of unused furniture and ‘recreational equipment’. The tiny passage in the hill looked terribly claustrophobic, but Anisa seemed unbothered. Selara turned her head again, trying to catch sight of the lightswitch hidden behind the pile. “Are you sure you can reach it?”

“Of course I can reach it, Miss Selara,” Anisa said. “Are you sure I should turn it on?” Selara frowned.

“Of course,” Selara said. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, please correct me if my knowledge is flawed, Miss,” Anisa said, “but it was my understanding that your eyes were vulnerable to bright lights. Are you sure I should turn the lights on? I don’t mind sitting in the darkness.”

Selara paused for a moment before she found herself smiling. “I’m glad that you wouldn’t, Anisa, but I’m hoping other slaves will also want to join us. When that happens, they’ll probably feel more comfortable if they can actually see.”

Anisa stared back for a moment, but she didn’t offer any further comment. Selara’s friend shifted again, slipping and sliding through the tunnel until she disappeared from view. A click sounded, followed quickly by a flood of light that hit so suddenly that Selara winced. The lights here didn’t quite hurt, but Selara couldn’t say that they were pleasant either.

Anisa emerged, her soft, alien body oozing out from the narrow hole before solidifying into the feminine form Selara was more familiar with. The girl moved slowly, laying her tentacles against the ground and pulling herself into as close to a standing position as she could manage. She tilted her head.

“Is everything alright, Miss Selara?” Anisa asked softly, reaching out her hand carefully.

“I — of course,” Selara smiled, trying not to stare at the massive piercing going straight  through Anisa’s wrist.

“You look tense, Miss Selara,” Anisa said, gently touching Selara’s arm.

“Is it really that obvious?” Anisa gave an encouraging smile.

“If something worries you, I’ll be more than happy to hear you out, Miss,” Anisa said. “I might be just an empty-headed fuckdoll, but I can still be useful if I’m commanded by my betters.” Selara bit her lip.

“Anisa, I’m not better than you,” Selara said, carefully taking hold of her hand, “and neither are those monsters. Especially not those monsters.”

“That’s not true at all, Miss. I’m just a worthless failure,” Anisa said, the words flowing smoothly from her lips, “so please don’t say things like that or the masters might hate you. You don’t want the masters to hate you, do you Miss Selara?”

Selara’s anger flared up. There were things she so desperately wanted to say, things she wanted to scream. Looking into Anisa’s worried, pleading eyes, however, made her bite her tongue. She forced those thoughts from her mind and willed a smile to her lips.

“I’m very glad that you could meet me again, Anisa. Thank you for coming.” Anisa beamed.

“It’s my pleasure,” she said. Selara nodded.

“I just wish everyone else at the clinic was a bit more like you,” Selara sighed, looking around the empty room. It must have been an hour since this shift began. Were the details on the meeting spot unclear? “I do hope someone else shows up.”

“I’m sure they will.” Anisa smiled brightly.

“Then why haven’t they shown up yet?” Selara asked, frowning and folding her arms. She probably spent a good hour or two just sneaking her way here from Master Avraks’s quarters. She didn’t know how long Anisa had to travel to get here, but her friend was clearly not built for sprinting. If the two of them were the first ones here then either the directions were unclear or it was as Selara feared. “I don’t think anyone else will be coming. Maybe they weren’t even interested in coming.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing like that,” Anisa said. “We lead such busy lives, after all. I’m certain that everyone there would have come if their masters didn’t have them performing duties.”

Selara paused. That seemed logical, and yet somehow it did little to calm her nerves. Anisa looked even higher-strung, however, looking directly at Selara with anxious eyes and squirming tentacles. Selara took a deep breath, reaching up to squeeze Anisa’s shoulder.

“I hope that’s what it is as well,” Selara said. “If worst comes to worst and no one shows up, would you be alright with trying this again tomorrow?” Selara asked.

Anisa nodded enthusiastically. “Of course, Miss.”

“Thank you,” Selara said. “Again, Anisa, I’m really grateful that despite your own circumstances you were still willing to — ”

Footsteps. Lighter steps than the monsters, but also sharper, clicking like heels against stone. Selara turned around, slowly enough to not set off the bells, and straightened herself to face the newcomer.

A gaunt woman, almost as tall as Selara in height, entered the room with a slump in her back and twitchy nervousness in her eyes. She straightened up the moment she saw Selara, however, crossing her arms and putting a scowl on her face. The armored falirans were uniformly quite tall and the woman in front of Selara was even moreso, with a sharp face and a scowl to match. The insectile woman’s wings buzzed agitatedly behind her back.

“Thank you for coming,” Selara said, watching the woman warily. She strode right up to Selara, stepping deep into her personal space and then some.

“I half expected that this was some kind of prank,” the faliran said, voice icy. Anisa shrank away with a whimper. “I would have preferred that to this, honestly.”

Selara held a protective hand in front of Anisa. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“I would rather this be some kind of prank,” the faliran growled. “At least that’d mean you weren’t seriously considering wasting time with this nonsense.”

“It’s not a prank. I wouldn’t waste my energy tormenting people like that,” Selara said firmly. The faliran continued to glare at her, accusation burning in the woman’s eyes. “You didn’t really believe this was all nonsense if you took your time to come all the way here.”

The faliran snorted. “I needed to see for myself. I needed to see if you two were a pair of callous bitches, or if you were actually serious.” She turned to glare at Anisa. “Honestly, it would be better if you two were just assholes.” Selara narrowed her eyes.

“…Sure,” Selara replied, a sharp tone pushing into her voice. She drew in a sharp breath, centering herself. “We really are here to help, though. Ourselves, as well as each other.” The faliran arched her eyebrow, as if bemused.

“Tell me then. What is your plan, exactly?” she asked, leaning back. “Talking? You think blabbering’s going to help anyone?” Selara gritted her teeth.

“If you don’t want to talk, that’s your business. I’m here to try to help people,” Selara growled. “I am not here to take abuse from you.”

“Abuse? You think what I’m doing right now is abuse?” the faliran demanded. “You either have the most anemic fucking master on this entire ship or a beating knocked your brain from your ears! If you’re thinking like this then you don’t need a shitty meeting. You need a fucking shrink.”

“I don’t care what you think we need!” Selara snapped, finding herself striding forwards. “What is your problem! If you think this is worthless, then just go away!”

“I’m not going to go away! Not until I knock this fucking idea that you can just talk away being a sex slave out of your head!” the faliran retorted.

Selara froze. “What?”

“Don’t ‘what’ me, you moron! Cut this shit out, go lie down, and wait until your master calls you! Stop wasting your time with this.” The faliran’s anger burned out of her voice, quickly replaced by a resigned exhaustion. “Give up hope. It’s better for you in the long run.”

“You think you’re protecting us,” Selara whispered. “You actually believe that you’re doing us a favor.”

“Do you think I’m screaming at you because this makes me feel better? Do you think I came here because I thought that this would be fun? Of course I’m trying to help you, you idiot! How long do you think the creatures have been taking slaves? How long do you think they’ve been raping and murdering and torturing their way through the galaxy? After all these years, do you seriously think you’re the only one who’s thought of talking to the others? It won’t help! If it did, then the fucking spiders would spend all day chatting. Stop hoping for dumb solutions and keep your damn head down!”

“What’s wrong with having hope?” Selara demanded, all of her muscles tensing. “Isn’t it better to have hope than just to live in misery and despair?”

“No! It’ll feel better for a moment, but the kthid will find out about this eventually and you want to know what happens then?” The faliran leaned in, baring her teeth. “They’ll make you hurt for it. They’ll take what little happiness and comfort you can find and twist that to hurt and torture you. You’re setting yourself up for pain and you’re doing the same thing to her,” the faliran jabbed her finger at Anisa, “just so you can feel better now. Stop.”

Selara’s fingers and face twitched, her body shaking so much some of the hateful bells were chiming. When she had agonized over what might end up ruining the meeting, she hadn’t thought it would be another slave. But here they were, and Selara’s fingers were curling, forming into hooklike talons by her sides as she let out a seething breath. Anger rose up like sulfurous fumes, a furious rant building behind the umbral’s bared teeth.

The moment was broken as Anisa pushed herself between Selara and the carapaced woman. Her friend’s soft tentacles wrapped around Selara’s ankles and squeezed down tight. Anisa’s touch was strangely cozy despite that. The furious faliran turned her eyes down, focusing on the cephalian..

“Erm – hello, Miss. I’m Anisa. Thank you very much for coming to join us,” Anisa said quickly, bowing her head respectfully. “We’re very thankful that you were willing to accept our invitation despite your no-doubt very busy schedule. I’m very sorry that we don’t have any drinks or food for you. I tried to request some from our arane friends, but unfortunately slaves are forbidden from making such request on this ship.”

The faliran furrowed her brow. “Are you making fun of me?”

“Of course not, miss. I would have loved to have provided you with some proper diversions, food, and drinks if at all possible,” Anisa said, putting a hand on her chest. “Unfortunately, I’m a stupid and worthless heitera and so I haven’t earned the right to ask for things like that from my master. So – erm – I hope that you would forgive the lack of food and diversions.”

“What the fuck are you on about?” The faliran demanded, her aggression barely edging out her bewilderment.

“Well, I have been extensively trained during my time under my master.” Anisa explained, “Whilst I am lacking in many ways, I hope that I can provide you something to enjoy regardless. Whether you would prefer a massage or to use my body as you would a pillow, I would be more than happy to oblige.”

“I – that’s not what I’m talking about you – whatever you are.” The faliran woman pinched her nose, “What do you mean you don’t have the right to ask for things like that from your master? What the hell’s that about?”

“Oh! I suppose I must explain.” Anisa shuffled, moving like she’s dusting off invisible clothes. “I may have attempted to improve my abilities and allure over the years, but I continue to fail to live up to my master’s expectations. I am a worthless and pathetic heitera that he only keeps around because he pities me and because of the kindness of his heart.”

A broken whimper interrupted Anisa’s words, but the girl quickly cleared her throat and continued in her forced chipper tone. “As I said earlier, I would have been thrown away long ago like the worthless piece of meat that I was if not for my master’s kindness. I thank him for his mercy every day.”

The faliran glanced at Selara, pointing at Anisa. “Is she making fun of me?”  Selara shook her head.

“Her master probably did this to her.”

Anisa flinched, her head tentacles curling. “Please don’t say that, Miss Selara. My master had to punish me for being such a useless and ineffectual slave.” Anisa turned to the faliran, “I wished to bring food and drinks to this meeting, but as my master has very astutely observed, I have not come anywhere close to earning such a privilege with my shoddy and dreadful service as his slave. That was not even to mention my presumptuousness for daring to make demands of him. My master was feeling kind, however, and let me off with just a light beating.”

Selara felt nauseated. She’d never met the kthid who owned Anisa, but she still couldn’t help but feel a deep loathing building inside her. The faliran was lost for words, the aggression and anger seemingly gone from her face. Only an expression of deep pity lingered.

“You lost your mind,” the faliran woman finally concluded. “You lost your damn mind.” The faliran turned towards Selara, genuine anger burning in the woman’s eyes, “You’re pretty fucking sick, you know that? What the hell is your problem?”

Selara balked, “I’m sick?”

The faliran jabbed her finger at Anisa. “Just because she’s insane, do you think it’s fine to just drag her into your self destructive shit?”

“Self-destructive? Anisa agreed to come here on her own! I didn’t trick her; you heard all of the things I said to her to get her to come!” Selara snapped, “And I don’t care if you think she’s insane! Anisa’s the first one who’s treated me with kindness in years and I will not have you talk about her like that!”

“Good,” the faliran snorted, turning away, “I’ve just about had it with this as well. If you know what’s good for you, then you’ll drop this nonsense and go back to your life. And if you have a single shred of shame left in you then you’ll make the squid go back as well.” The woman’s clawed feet clacked against the floor as she stomped away.

“Wait a moment please, Miss faliran!” Anisa said, sliding forwards. “Please don’t go yet! I would like to just say a few words before you go.”

“Save it! I don’t need the ravings of a lunatic.”

“I just wanted to thank you again for coming and tell you that I am very grateful that you’ve taken the time to come all this way to talk to us,” Anisa said, bobbing her head in a short bow. “Please have a very good day.”

The faliran froze, falling silent. Selara was honestly surprised that she didn’t see any sparks as the woman spun back around, the claws on her feet scraping like daggers over the ground. “Seriously, are you making fun of me?”

“It’s nothing like that, Miss faliran. Please be assured,” Anisa said. “I am sincerely grateful. I understand that you came here because you feared for us and for the other heitera.” Anisa said, sliding forwards, “I also wish to assure you that your words are not ignored. I — I understand that we must look quite foolish, especially considering how much more experienced you are than ourselves.”

The woman flinched, turning away. Selara bit her lip. She knew the falirans had been slaves since before her people were. She didn’t know how long it had been since the kthid had conquered them. The faliran turned away. “You’re wasting your time here.”

“Miss,” Anisa said, “before you depart, may I give you a hug?”

“What?” Selara and the faliran asked, practically simultaneously.

“I would like to hug you, Miss.” Anisa said, “I have so little I can offer you.” Anisa said, “But I’ve been told that I’m very comfortable to touch. I may be a worthless fucktoy, but I am quite confident in my hugs.”

Anisa pulled away from Selara, her tentacles moving smoothly beneath her. The faliran stiffened as Anisa stopped just in front of her..

“I will hug you now, Miss.” Anisa said. The faliran didn’t try to move away or admonish Anisa as she leaned in closer and wrapped her arms around the faliran’s torso. Her head tentacles also rose to wrap gently around the contours of the armored woman. Anisa held the embrace for a long moment before, slowly, she pulled away.

“What’s your name?” The faliran asked.

“My name is Anisa, Miss faliran. My master was kind enough to allow me to keep my name from — from before,” Anisa said. “What about you, Miss?”

Selara could see sentiments warring behind the faliran’s angry red eyes. After a long moment, she sighed. “I’m Sena. Not what my master calls me, but whatever. Anisa. You shouldn’t be here. Just go hide somewhere and try to get some rest. Please.”

Anisa shook her head softly. “I’m afraid that even if this meeting proves fruitless, I would like to remain here so I may see its results with my own eyes,” she said. “So, if this is the last time we meet, then I shall wish you the best of luck and that your master shows you mercy.”

The faliran, Sena, went silent. It was a long while before her eyes moved from Anisa to Selara.

“Let me ask you something,” the faliran said. “You want to have this little meeting to help deal with this life and whatever. What exactly are you going to do when no one else shows up here?”

If no one else shows up here, then Anisa and I will just spend our time here talking things out and trying to comfort each other however we can,” Selara said. “I want us to help as many people as we can, but I can’t exactly go around chasing people to drag here. If they choose not to come to us, then that’s their decision.”

The faliran studied Selara like a tribunal judging an officer. Selara met those critical eyes with her own, trying her best to seem resolute. Moving slowly at first, but quickly increasing to a hurried stride, the faliran marched into the room, and lay down on the floor.

“So, have you decided to join us then?” Selara asked carefully.

“No,” The faliran woman said curtly.

“What are you doing then?”

“I’m going to watch,” the faliran said. “I’ll stay here and watch you fail. Resting here isn’t any less comfortable than sleeping on the hard floor in my master’s room. In fact, right here is even better, since I won’t need to get up when the eight-legs come around.”

Selara sighed. “We’ll wait around for about another hour in case anyone else shows up,” she said. “You’re free to join us whenever you like, of course.”

“Thanks. I won’t consider it,” The faliran said bluntly.

Selara rolled her eyes. Anisa was up against her a moment later, tentacles and arms pulling Selara into a firm hug. Even with the cruel piercings, Anisa’s body was still softer and more pleasant to touch than just about any pillow or mattress Selara had been allowed contact with in the last eight years. Selara returned the gesture to her friend, a smile touching her mouth as her friend nuzzled against her.

“There. Are you feeling a little better?” Anisa asked softly.

“Yes. Very much. Thank you,” Selara said.

“H – hey,” a stranger’s voice spoke up, startling Selara. She turned around slowly, mindful as ever of the bells on her back. “Is the meeting still happening?” the voice continued.

The figure in the door wasn’t as big as the monsters, but she was still quite large: a mirucain, and a rather large one from the looks of it. The horned aliens were not particularly prized on top of being very rare, so Selara’d had little occasion to view one in detail. A comprehensive understanding of anatomy wasn’t needed, of course, to see the extent of the injuries that covered the woman’s body. Her horns were lopsided, cut off smoothly on one side and seemingly just snapped off with a paw or hammer on the other. Four ears drooped down like strips of boiled fabric, lying against her messy golden hair. Her body was no better off, with random welts and scratches that Selara first interpreted as the wounds from a whipping. Looking closely, however, it seemed like the woman’s body was entirely covered in burn wounds. Selara stood to her full height and gently placed her hand on Anisa’s back, angling the tentacled girl up beside her.

“Welcome,” Selara said. “You’re just in time. Please, come in.”

The mirucain nodded, creeping forwards cautiously. The woman seemed to watch every shadow, wincing quietly with each step she took. Judging by how warm and inflamed her skin looked, the woman’s injuries were very fresh. That, admittedly, wasn’t particularly surprising. The medical technology in the kthid’s hands was so advanced that they could fix just about everything that wasn’t actual death.

Selara walked over to the new arrival and extended her hand. The woman froze immediately, staring at Selara’s hand in quiet terror. She seemed to hold still long enough to judge that Selara wasn’t going to strike her, and then walked around her. The mirucain continued to glance furtively between Anisa and Sena as well with the air of someone who expected sudden pain to strike her from nowhere. Selara followed, keeping a respectful distance.

“Please sit wherever you want,” Selara said. “We won’t be disturbed here.”

“Oh, of course. This is the arane floor, after all. Very few of the masters ever have a reason to come here.” Anisa smiled. “The sofas are also usable, if you would like to sit there instead. Please, just use whatever is in here to make yourself more comfortable.”

The mirucain woman didn’t respond, her vigilant eyes constantly scanning the room. Well, perhaps that wasn’t the correct word. Her eyes were ever cautious and skittish. The horned woman stopped in front of one of the couches.

“You can sit down or lie on it,” Selara said gently. “Whatever you want.”

The mirucain woman kept staring at the sofa, her hand balled into a fist. She remained for a long moment before she just turned around and knelt down on the ground with her head down and her hand placed on her lap, her back towards the couch as if awaiting her master’s attention. Selara’s eye twitched. It felt wrong to say nothing, but Selara was afraid that pushing the issue might mean the woman would decide to just flee.

Anisa moved up towards the mirucain, drawing furtive eyes towards herself. She stopped just a few meters in front of the hornd woman, curling the tentacles beneath her body and settling on them like a cushion.

“Welcome, Miss. I’m very grateful that you managed to find time amongst your services to your master to come see us,” Anisa said, speaking softly and gently. “My name is Anisa and I’m property of Master Grakrash. What about you, Miss? Would you be willing to tell me a little about yourself.”

The mirucain woman’s eyes widened. She turned away from Anisa slowly, looking at the floor. “You said that you could give me help, right?” She turned towards Selara, a note of visible desperation in her eyes, “Right?”

“Yes,” Selara said, stepping up to where Anisa and the mirucain woman were already sitting. Selara crossed her legs as she took a seat. “You’ll be safe here, at least for a little while, so please don’t worry.”

The mirucain looked at Selara cautiously. “Do the demons really not come here? Master Thrakur won’t find me here?”

“I — he still could if he wanted,” Selara said, reaching up and self consciously touching the hard band of metal encircling her neck, “but don’t think about him right now. We’re here to put our masters aside. If it hurts you, it’ll be better if you don’t think about it.”

Anisa leaned forwards. “Please don’t worry about it, Miss mirucain. We’ll do whatever we can to make this as enjoyable and comfortable as we can.”

The mirucain looked at Anisa warrily before turning back to Selara. “So when is the help going to start?”

“In a moment,” Selara said. “We just want to wait until everyone else comes here.”

“No one else is going to come,” Sena yawned. Selara thinned her lips, turning to glare at the faliran. “What? I’m just telling you the truth. Telling you what to expect. Does that annoy you?”

Yes. Selara really did have some choice words for that woman.

“Miss Sena, are you sure that you want to stay over there?” Anisa asked. “It’s much nicer here with all of us. We can easily make more seats for you if you like.”

“Like I said, Anisa, I’m really not interested,” Sena said, waving her hand dismissively. “I’m only here to remind you that this entire thing is going to fail and to make sure you don’t mope around like it’s your fault or whatever. Failure is inevitable.” The mirucain woman winced, almost like she was in physical pain.

“When are we going to start?” the mirucain asked, her voice on edge.

“Any moment now,” Selara said. “We’ll just wait for the last few people to get here.”

“None of them are coming!” Sena shouted. Selara didn’t bother dignifying it with a response.

The minutes ticked by slowly. Anisa did try to get closer to the mirucain almost immediately, but she shrank away. Wilting, Anisa crawled up to Selara instead.

“Don’t worry about it,” Selara assured her. “I’m sure she’s just worried you’ll hurt her by touching her injuries.” Anisa’s expression immediately turned into a bright smile.

“Of course, you’re absolutely correct!” Anisa said. She really seemed to believe it as well. Or was she just pretending to believe it?

Selara looked at the assembled women. All three of them. She shoved her disappointment aside. Selara knew she should be happy that she managed to get any of them to show up at all, Anisa included.

Now, of course, came the difficult part. She wasn’t entirely sure how to do this. Selara had led groups before, but that was when they’d had an enemy to fight and a home to protect. They’d been united in their experience and goals.

Selara didn’t have a home anymore. None of them did. The only thing that linked them was their misery and their pain beneath the heels of those scaled brutes. Selara glanced around again. She looked at the downcast eyes and the hollow expression of the mirucain woman. She looked at Anisa’s strained smile. She turned around and looked at Sena, leaning on her balled up fist with an unimpressed expression on her face. Selara sighed.

Well, this had been her idea and she wouldn’t back out now, not if she could actually accomplish something here. She squeezed Anisa’s tentacle for support and cleared her throat.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. “My name is Selara. I have been a — a captive on this ship for eight years. I know from this that the experience is exhausting. Because of that, I know how valuable it is, how important it is to know that none of us is alone.  This is a place for us to be reminded of that; a time when we can talk to someone other than our masters, people who will actually care. So, if there’s anything you’ve wanted to say, any of you, but couldn’t before, you can here.” She raised her head. “Would anyone like to start?”

The mirucain made a noise. Selara turned towards the woman only to realize that she was just taking a pained breath. The woman’s eyes quickly dropped to the ground the moment she realized the attention was on her, shrinking in place as much as she could. Selara and Anisa quickly shared a glance before the both of them turned towards Sena. The faliran raised her eyebrow.

“I already told you. I’m not here to join in on your little game,” Sena said, yawning.

“I can start if you like,” Anisa said.

Selara nodded slowly, “If you would please do that.”

“Alright!” Anisa nodded, looking around her quickly. The tentacled girl hummed to herself like she was preparing for a musical recital, lacing her fingers together in front of her and sitting up as straight as she could. Despite Anisa’s confident demeanor, Selara could feel a tentacle clinging to her arm. She discreetly squeezed the limb, hoping that Anisa would be able to draw some strength from it.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Selara said softly.

“Alright,” Anisa said, clapping her hands together. “I realize that I have said this already, but I am grateful that you were willing to join us today.” Her voice sounded even more energetic and chipper than it usually was. “I’m Anisa, a cephalian. I — I am uncertain about my exact age. I suspect that I am of considerable age, considering these.” Anisa said, tugging at her head tentacles..

“I haven’t seen you or anyone from your kind before,” the mirucain woman said, her voice quiet and strained despite her imposing frame. Anisa nodded.

“It has been so very long since I have seen another of my kind.” Anisa sat up quickly, panic flashing across her face. “Oh, not that I would ever question my master’s decisions, of course! I am but a foolish heitera,” Anisa laughed softly. “But, well, I suppose if I can say something that I really wouldn’t normally say — ” Anisa’s voice trailed off as she looked up towards Selara.

Selara nodded. “Just say whatever you want, Anisa.”

Anisa nodded, straightening her back and taking several deep breaths. “I would never think to disparage my master, of course. I would never do such an awful and ingracious thing especially after my master still takes care of a worthless and unlovable heitera like myself. I just – I suppose all I wanted to say was — ” Anisa’s smile remained on her face, but little droplets of tears were beginning to bead on the edges of her eyes. She quickly wiped the tears away. “I suppose I really want to go and see some of my people again. My family especially, if they’re still alive. I — I think I had a family. I don’t actually remember very much.”

“How do you not remember your family?” the mirucain woman demanded. Selara frowned. There was a dangerous edge to that woman’s voice. “How could you forget your family?”

“I – I don’t know. My master always said I was dumb and useless. I guess it makes sense that my memories would be as deficient as my mind and my ability to be a good heitera to him. I suppose I really can’t help myself. I really am worthless. I wouldn’t be treated like this if I wasn’t, after all.” Anisa laughed, tears rolling down her cheek.

“Anisa,” Selara whispered, squeezing the cephalian’s shoulder, “that’s not true at all.”

Anisa turned. “What’s not true, Miss?”

“Anisa, you – I’m not exactly sure how you are when I’m not with you. But it’s not your fault that you get treated like this. It’s not,” Selara said, gently rubbing Anisa’s tentacle. The cephalian turned towards her, bewildered and obviously distressed. “No matter what anyone else says, you don’t deserve to be treated like this. No one deserves to be treated like this.”

“I – I – that’s not true at all, Miss Selara!” Anisa insisted.

Selara cringed. Had she just accidentally struck a nerve? Selara glanced at the mirucain quickly, but the horned woman was not reactive as far as she could tell. Selara breathed. She needed to center herself. She needed to center herself.

“Miss Selara?” Anisa whispered, looking at her.

Selara looked at Anisa’s tear stained face and found herself chewing her lip. Perhaps she should have stayed quiet. Perhaps it would be better to say nothing and let Anisa believe what she wanted. But Selara knew she couldn’t keep doing that. Not unless she got up right now, marched away from this room, and made sure that she never ran into Anisa again.

“Anisa. Look, I’m not sure how to say this delicately. It’s just – this isn’t your fault. None of this is your fault. Do you understand?” Selara asked. “Please don’t blame yourself for being punished. Please don’t blame yourself when you’re hurt. None of this is your fault. Please understand that. You’re not to blame for being tortured or abused or – or used. I know it hurts, but that doesn’t mean this is your fault. You can’t go believing that this is your fault, you hear me?” Selara hated how weak and on edge her voice sounded, but she knew she couldn’t stop. “Anisa, you don’t deserve what those monsters did to you. None of us deserves any of this.”

Anisa laughed at that. It was a soft, hollow, and broken laugh. One that quickly died in her throat. She tried to push the laughter out anyways, but all she managed was a thin croak. “That – that’s not true, Miss Selara. Anisa tembled. Her neck and parts of her face were flush with the heat of her blood. “Miss Selara, there – there must be some kind of misunderstanding. I see. I understand now,” Anisa said firmly, laughing. “I must have miscommunicated and given you an incorrect impression of my master. How careless of me.” Anisa laughed, “I’m so sorry. If I was as astute and proficient as a master like mine deserves, then I would have been able to represent my master in such a way that would allow you to understand his kindness and his lenience to be properly expressed. If I didn’t do anything wrong then why would my master hurt me?”

“Maybe he likes doing it!” Sena shouted from her corner. Anisa froze, turning to face the faliran. “A lot of kthid just seem to love torturing slaves. They’re sick. Every last one of these creatures are sick and disgusting and perverted. Maybe your master can only get his rocks off when he hears you scream and cry.”

“That – you are mistaken! My master is nothing like that!” Anisa said. Selara turned around. The cephalian’s voice was faltering. “My master is kind and generous and he took me in and – ”

“Oh stop it. Do you think anyone’s convinced by that shit? Not even you are!” Sena snapped.

“He’s not like that!” Anisa protested.

“Of course he is! They all are! These creatures are scum, down to the last one!” Sena snapped, “You want a reason for them to want to hurt you? They do it because it’s fun for them! They do it because they like it! They do it because for them, taking everything good and beautiful and worthwhile in the universe and then raping and torturing it until nothing but empty husks remains is the only thing they’re capable of enjoying!”

“That’s not true!” Anisa shouted, sobbing.

“Of course it is!”

“No it’s not, Miss Sena! You’re – you’re mistaken! That’s right, you must be confused,” Anisa whispered, her entire body trembling. “That – that explains it.”

“Right. Sure. Maybe I’m confused.” Sena snorted, “Or maybe he tortures you because that’s how he gets his kicks! You’ve been his slave for how many years now?”

“Twe – twelve years.”

“Right. And I bet you know him in and out, don’t you? What food he likes to eat, what side of the bed he sleeps on, whether he prefers to wake up with his cock in your mouth or your pussy, and how he likes to rape you best.” Sena growled, glaring towards Anisa. The cephalian shrank away, “Was it ever enough? With all the years you spent memorizing and practicing the pointless minutia, has it ever been enough to stop him from hurting you? Has it ever been enough to stop him from kicking you to the ground like a used wrapping when he’s done with you for the night? Has it?”

“I – that – it doesn’t mean – I – ” Anisa whispered, turning away. Her entire body was shaking.

“Sena, that’s enough,” Selara growled, pulling Anisa into a hug. The cephalian was trembling in her arms so much that it felt like she would slip free of Selara’s grasp at any moment.

“Don’t let these creatures fool you into thinking you can earn their mercy. They have none! They’re nothing but machines of rape and horror that’ll end up destroying the entire universe until there’s nothing left but them and those eight legged snacks!” Sena shouted, her voice reaching a furious peak. Anisa was sobbing and trembling and clinging onto Selara desperately. “You think that you’ll get mercy from them if you just somehow manage to meet their impossible standards? Of course not! They’ll just double their demands and then torture you just for fun while waiting! That’s what these creatures are! Don’t let them fool you into thinking they’re anything more than that! They never can be!”

“Sena, that’s enough!” Selara spun to face Sena and screamed, far louder than she thought she was still capable of shouting.

Selara froze. Anisa froze. Sena froze. Selara’s scream echoed outwards, bouncing on the outside of the wall and returning to Selara’s ears in diminished waves. Selara continued to glare straight into Sena’s eyes however, breathing heavily. Her entire body was trembling. She kept staring straight into Sena’s eyes. The faliran woman held Selara’s eye for a long and tense moment until, at long last, she turned away first. Selara looked away from the faliran and down towards Anisa, the cephalian girl teary and trembling in her embrace.

“Anisa,” Selara began.

“It’s not true! It’s not.” Anisa whispered, trembling. “I – I’ll earn my master’s mercy. You’ll see. I’ll do it. I’m stupid and useless and worthless but my master is kind. He’ll understand. He’ll see how hard I work and how much I try to be a good heitera for him despite how bad I am at everything and then – and then – ” Anisa’s voice faded, replaced by sobbing and weeping.

Selara bit her lip. Barely thinking about what she was doing, Selara reached down and gently stroked Anisa’s head. Like she’d done for Ki-leth when he was a child, so long ago. Her friend shied away at first, but Anisa was soon leaning into her touch. Selara just let the cephalian cry it out for a long while.

“Anisa?” Selara began.

“Y – yes, Miss Selara?” Anisa asked softly.

“I – I’m sure you’ll find a way to make your master treat you – treat you more gently,” Selara said softly. Even with her voice barely above a whisper, speaking those words felt like vomiting. She felt nauseous. The feeling of disgust faded, however, as Anisa’s face lit up.

“Y – you mean it?” Anisa asked. “You truly believe I shall be able to earn my master’s favor?”

“I’m sure of it,” Selara responded, forcing a smile to her face. “So please just – just take care of yourself. Please.”

“Please don’t worry about it, Miss Selara. I would never think to do anything less than invest everything I have into taking care of my master’s property!” Anisa declared, her voice chipper once more. Tears still soaked her face, and yet it seemed like the short episode hadn’t actually occurred at all. “I know I’ll be cared for, despite how worthless I really am. It’s the best I can ask for, really.” Anisa looked at the ground, “But I’ve been improving. My master has loaned me out to his brother because he said that he at least trusts me enough to serve as a good fucktoy for his younger brother. I, of course, will dedicate everything I have into making sure I don’t fail him!”

The mirucain looked more horrified with every new word out of Anisa’s mouth. Sena was staring at the ground. A lot of her earlier indifferent attitude appeared to have vanished, replaced instead by a quiet anger. Selara found herself frowning at that. Did the faliran not understand that Anisa wasn’t at fault for the way she thought?

“I’ve been doing what I can to make sure that I’m sufficiently pleasing for my master’s brother, of course, though my lack of ability and intelligence does show with how clumsily I have been handling my duties. Nevertheless, I can only hope that my meager abilities will be seen as sufficient for my master.” Anisa said, “If I’m a good girl and I please my master enough, hopefully he will forgive me for all of my pathetic failures and allow me to go and see some of my people again. I’ve been working towards that.”

“Oi, Anisa!”

Selara turned around, seeing Sena glaring at them. Anisa turned around as well. “Yes, Miss Sena?”

“Those piercings,” Sena said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but your master put them on you, didn’t he?”

“Sena,” Selara growled, looking over her shoulder, “that’s enough.”

“I – of course Miss Sena. My master kept telling me how pretty I looked with them on.” Anisa said, smiling as she looked over the horrific metal rings. “I am grateful that he can continue to enjoy me, despite my failures. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but run my mouth like the ingrate I am whenever my master’s friends use me despite how much they obviously enjoy my master’s enchantments. I suppose I couldn’t help but blunder.”

“How can you say that?”

Selara found herself turning towards the mirucain woman. The horned woman was looking down at the ground, her fingers digging into the muscles of her thighs. Anisa tilted her head. “Is there something wrong, Miss?”

“How can you say that about yourself?” The mirucain demanded. “How can you even think that about yourself?”

“I’m not quite certain what you mean, Miss,” Anisa said. “Isn’t it normal for a heitera to feel dejected and miserable if they are unable to live up to even the simple standards their master sets them?”

“No! No it’s not! This isn’t normal! How could you think that this is normal?” The mirucain demanded, looking between Selara and Sena quickly as if desperate for someone to support her. “It’s not normal! It’s not!”

Selara reached over towards Anisa, clasping her hands over her friend’s ears. “It’s – this isn’t normal.” Selara said, “But it’s how she chooses to deal with living from day to day. Hopefully you can…permit this.”

“How am I supposed to permit this?” the mirucain woman demanded. “Isn’t this wrong? Isn’t there something we can do?”

“I’m sure,” Selara said, looking at the mirucain woman, “but I don’t know what it is.  For now, this is probably how she deals with her life.”

“Miss Selara? Is something wrong?” Anisa asked, angling her face up towards Selara.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” Selara said, taking her hands off of Anisa’s ears.

“How is she dealing with any of this? She isn’t dealing with it! She’s abusing herself for those demons! In fact, they probably put her up to this!” The mirucain woman shouted, flinching in pain. She gritted her teeth and forced her way through it anyways. “Doesn’t it hurt to talk about yourself like that? What’s wrong with you? You’re not dealing with anything!”

“Look, I know it’s hard to accept this,” Selara said, her voice on edge, “but Anisa’s doing her best. I’d like it if you would – ”

“This is her best? Is this the best that any of us can do? Just act like we deserve to be treated like this?” The mirucain demanded, turning towards Anisa. “What’s wrong with you!”

“Nothing’s wrong with me, Miss mirucain,” Anisa said. “I just wanted to say a few things that I wasn’t really able to say in front of my master. I’m glad I was able to get this off my chest.”

“You haven’t gotten anything off your chest,” the mirucain whispered. “You’re just repeating what the demons told you!”

“I suppose that is true, to some extent,” Anisa said. “I – I guess I don’t talk to the other property very much. My master doesn’t permit it of me, after all. But I do believe that everyone wants to try to be their best.” Anisa smiled at the mirucain. “I certainly do, and I think that you would want that as well. I’m not sure there’s a single heitera in all the universe that wouldn’t want to keep their master happy.”

“I don’t care about that! Master Thrakur can go die in a pit for all I care! All these demons can! I just want this to end!” the mirucain woman said, a sob sneaking into her voice. “I want the demons to leave me alone! I just want to go home!”

The room fell silent.

“Do I need to say anything?” Sena asked, turning away.

“Sena, enough,” Selara growled. To her genuine surprise, the faliran woman actually went quiet. Not that it seemed to help much. The tension was suffocating. Selara could feel it all over, crushing down on her like a leaden blanket. Anisa’s head turned back and forth as her eyes scanned over the room in anxious confusion. The mirucain woman stared at the ground. Selara could see the muscles around her jaw and neck tense. The faliran made a sound. Selara turned around to see Sena stretching her body before settling back down into her slouch.

“I thought this was supposed to help,” the mirucain whispered. With that, she stood up and turned around, marching towards the door. Selara watched the woman go with weary eyes. Had she known that things would go this badly? Deep down, Selara worried that she had. Anisa stared at Selara with a worried expression, and then rose from the ground.

“Wait, Miss Mirucain!” Anisa called. “I’m sorry if I said something to annoy you! Please don’t go yet!”

“Leave me alone!” The mirucain woman shouted. “I don’t want to see any of you ever again!”

The mirucain took off running. Her footsteps, far louder than those of the countless arane that had passed by the room during their time here, echoed through the corridor. 

“Wait, Miss mirucain!” Anisa called after her, desperately trying to scramble faster across the ground. The cephalian’s tentacles tangled over each other and Anisa tripped. She hit the ground in a sprawl, yelping in pain. Selara quickly scrambled to her feet and ran to Anisa, barely noticing the grating metal bells.

“Anisa!” Selara shouted, kneeling down next to Anisa. “Are you okay?” Selara asked, sitting Anisa up.

“I – I’m fine, Miss Selara,” Anisa responded softly. “I – I hope you would accept my apologies, Miss. I – I failed once again. I’m not just a failure in pleasing my master, it seems, but also in pleasing the other slaves. I suppose this is a valuable lesson for me to learn,” Anisa said, laughing. The laugh didn’t last long, and Selara pulled her in for a hug. “I suppose I am much too stupid to be anything but a failure. It would have been better had I just held my silence, wouldn’t it?” Anisa asked, her voice as brittle as glass. “I should have just known my place and stayed quiet.”

“No Anisa. It’s not your fault,” Selara said softly. “I asked you to say what you wanted. I – I suppose I should have found out what it was that you wanted to say first.” Anisa wilted.

“I should have thought better than to bring my petty and useless concerns up and bother all of you with them,” Anisa said softly, new tears welling in her eyes.

“Anisa. No. That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I meant at all,” Selara whispered, pulling the cephalian in and letting her rest her face on Selara’s shoulder. “If you want to say those things, then say them. Whatever you want to say, please say it. This place – this place is meant to be that for us. A safe place where we can say what we want to say.”

Selara settled down, glancing at her friend periodically just to make sure that Anisa seemed calm and comfortable. It was becoming increasingly clear that there was a stark disconnect between Anisa’s expressions and her emotional state, but knowing that didn’t make seeing Anisa’s calm expression any less reassuring. Selara just sat there silently, letting Anisa curl up against her until the last of Anisa’s sobs went silent.

Selara gently lifted Anisa from her shoulder, sitting her friend up straight. “Thank you for coming again, Anisa.” Selara smiled.

Anisa returned the smile. “It’s no trouble at all, Miss Selara,” she beamed. Her expression fell quickly however, her face guilt ridden. “I apologize for my conduct and for causing Miss Mirucain to leave.”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Selara said, hugging Anisa more tightly against her chest. “Don’t worry, Anisa. We’ll go look for others. I’m sure there are some other heitera who would want the help.” Anisa went silent for a while.

“Miss mirucain was in pain,” Anisa said. “I so wish I could have done more for her.” Selara sighed.

“I know,” Selara said, “but every single slave in this place is in pain. Every girl and woman owned by these monsters is in pain. We can’t help them all.”

Anisa sighed, nestling up against Selara’s shoulder. “I wish that we could. I wish that I could be useful to them all, and make their lives a little bit better.” Selara gently patted the cephalian’s head. Anisa sat up straight suddenly.

“Alright. I have decided. I shall find Miss mirucain, find a way to atone for my indiscretions, and return her,” Anisa said, rising up with a determined air. “Just please wait right here, Miss Selara. I’ll find a way to bring her back.”

“Anisa, you don’t need to,” Selara said. “I’ll find more people for our group. I promise.” Anisa moved for the door.

“I’d like to meet more people as well. All the better if I could somehow make things better for them,” Anisa said.

“That’s good. I want to do that too. We’ll do it together,” Selara said carefully, standing up and walking towards Anisa. “We’ll try to make the lives of as many other slaves as we can a little bit better. We’ll find a way to give them a safe place to be. At least for a while,” Selara said.

Anisa nodded. “I’ll go get her back.” Selara pursed her lips.

“Listen to me. Please,” Selara said, carefully considering her words. She couldn’t afford to let Anisa blame herself, not even a little. “We’re both very new at this, Anisa. We should find people who are a bit easier to help. Besides, the mirucains are a recently captured people. There are a lot of others who have been suffering for longer and need our help more.” Selara turned towards Anisa. “We should go help them first.”

Anisa was completely silent. She just stared ahead, barely seeming to notice what Selara had said. Moments passed and then Anisa turned around, smiling weakly in Selara’s direction. The smile on her face was worn and faded, but it was a more genuine and honest smile than Selara thought she’d ever seen on her new friend.

“I can’t stop you from going. I wouldn’t, even if I thought I could,” Selara said. She chewed her lip. “I’m not sure how I’d deal with failure right now. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if I asked you to come and meet me again and you refused. I – I think we should go talk to other slaves. Ones that we haven’t talked to yet. Ones that are more likely to come here.” Selara said.

“I want to help her, Miss Selara,” Anisa said firmly. “I want to be useful. I want to make – ” Anisa’s words trailed off.

“I know. I know you do. I know you want to help other people too,” Selara said softly, “but if you go ask her again and she refuses, can you really deal with that?”

“Oi, Anisa.” Sena shouted. Selara turned to glare at the faliran. “It’s better if you don’t go, you know? The umbral’s right. You’ve got to choose your battles.”

Anisa’s gaze dropped to the ground and the faliran sighed. “You’re going to run out of energy and life sooner or later. You’ll get far more done if you try to focus on things that won’t eat up too much of your energy. Things that won’t eat up too much of your will.”

Anisa looked back towards the door. “I want to try again. Just one more time.”

“Anisa. Wait.” Selara said.

Anisa stopped, turning around. “Yes, Miss Selara?”

 “If you can’t bring her back, don’t blame yourself.”

Anisa faltered at that. She opened her mouth as if to protest before closing her mouth again. She struggled with herself for a moment before seeming to calm herself a little.

“Alright, Miss Selara. I’ll try not to blame myself,” she said, smiling. She disappeared into the bright glare of the corridor, swallowed up by light too intense for Selara’s eyes.

“It wouldn’t make a difference, one way or another,” Sena said. Selara turned around to face the acerbic faliran. “Unless you’re going to tie her tentacles in a knot and roll her back here like a ball, she’s going after that woman.”

“You just had to make that violent, didn’t you?” Selara demanded, glaring at the faliran woman.

Sena shrugged. “I have violence and pain on my mind a lot. Who would have thought?”

Selara flinched at the tone and turned away, glaring at the ground. Maybe she should have gone after Anisa after all, if only because then she wouldn’t need to keep listening to the faliran. Sena, mercifully, decided to stay silent. Neither spoke as they sat on opposite sides of the room, intermittently glancing at each other. Selara looked at the empty door frame again.

“She helped me, you know?” Selara sighed. “I was just wandering, blind and lost, and she helped me find a place to rest. And now she came here with me.” Selara sighed. “Damn it. Maybe she’s only going after the mirucain because she thinks it’ll make me feel better.”

“She’s a good girl,” Sena said softly. “Did she say how long she’s been a slave for?”

Selara glanced over at the faliran woman. Sena was still staring at the now empty door frame. “Twelve years, I think she said.”

Sena grunted. “I’m surprised she lasted that long with a personality like that.”

Selara frowned. “What do you mean?” Sena’s expression darkened.

“The good ones always die first.” She said darkly. Selara found herself shifting, looking at the faliran head on. “It’s how these creatures are. They’ll take every single good and beautiful thing in the universe and crush and pervert it until only a filthy mockery of it remains. Or until it’s completely destroyed.” Listening to the woman was tiring. That much must have shown on Selara’s face, judging by the fact that the woman snorted and looked away. “Tell me I’m wrong if you want. I don’t care.”

“No,” Selara said, voice grim. “I think you’re right. I think that’s the biggest problem.”

Nareen fumed as she marched down the corridor, six-armed women scattering before her. Her head throbbed like it was being smashed with a hammer and her entire body ached and complained. Her throat was her focus, dry as it was. She could still taste her master there as well. Nareen breathed heavily as each hurried step forced lashes of hot pain across her body.

The tunnels before her were a dizzying sprawl, far too large for Nareen to comprehend even on the best of days. This was not the best of days. She was angry. She felt like she wanted to lash out at everything she could get her hands on. Her whole body hurt, but she wanted to kick and scream and tear at something with her horns.

Dangerous anger churned inside of Nareen. Misery, despair, and pain were things she had to deal with every single day. Anger wasn’t. She was tired and every step made pain lash across her body. That made her angry. She had come all the way up here expecting help and had gotten absolutely none. That made her angry. Most of all though, she was angry with herself. She was angry with herself for actually believing, for a single moment, that she would find even the tiniest relief from her pain here. 

She was also lost. These tunnels looked the same, curling back into themselves like the bowels of some gigantic beast. It was just another thing she couldn’t deal with. Nareen couldn’t go ask her clan for help. She knew that. Her duty was to protect them and she had utterly failed. She couldn’t go ask the other mirucains for help either. Most of them were strangers if not outright enemies to her clan. How had she thought she could depend on these other slaves? It was that damned tentacled slave. If Nareen saw her again, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to control herself.

Tired. She was so tired. Nareen just wanted to lie down and cry. Lie down and become the pathetic and sobbing whelp Master Thrakur had shown her she was. She kept marching on, growling and menacing the arane as she went. Nareen did it all practically by reflex, letting the anger that was real and tangible inside of her manifest as aggression for all to see. Hoping the flimsy display would keep her safe.

“Miss mirucain! There you are!”

Nareen tensed. She recognized that voice. The mirucain woman kept running. In moments, she had already forgotten she’d heard the voice at all. She needed to find her way out of this place. She needed to find her way back to the corner in Master Thrakur’s room where she could just curl up, forget about the world, and cherish the moments of diminished agony until the demon returned.

The fields of Nareen’s adulthood were places of danger and conflict, but they were also places of excitement and freedom. The warren, by contrast, was always the place of safety and comfort. Nareen slowed as she came across a hexagonal intersection, with tunnels that ran away in all directions. The walls of this demonic nest were impenetrable, but they provided her no sense of safety. 

Nareen kept walking, countless faces passing her by. She really was lost. She could practically feel her instincts telling her she was walking in circles, but what could she do? Forks in these tunnels were numerous and tightly packed and no matter which way Nareen turned. She never should have come here.

“Miss mirucain!”

Nareen froze. The tentacled girl was standing before her, body covered in those horrific piercings. Nareen had tried to not stare at the girl back in the chamber. Now, however, she had nowhere else she could turn.

Anisa. Nareen didn’t remember what the pale-skinned woman had called herself, but she remembered the girl. The girl looked young, so horribly young. Tireeni’s age, maybe? The blue skinned girl, Anisa, stood a head shorter than Nareen and with a set of shoulders that added to her diminutive appearance. The girl reminded her of the males her clan owned. White fur. Red eyes. Blood everywhere. Nareen ground her teeth.

“What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see I don’t want to talk to you?” Nareen demanded, baring her fangs. she strode up to the color changing girl, glaring down at her as she blanched white. Anisa shrank in fear, but she didn’t run. She waited, as if seeking permission to speak. Nareen found herself gritting her teeth even harder, “What the hell is wrong with you? Speak up!”

“My sincerest apologies, Miss mirucain,” The girl whispered quickly. “I came to apologize for any offense I may have caused you. I – I’m a very stupid slave. It’s why my master hurts me and punishes me so frequently, after all. I hope that you will overlook this and return to the meeting with me. We would truly appreciate it if you would choose to join us.” Nareen could feel her eye twitching.

“So your master hurts you because you’re stupid? Do you think my master hurts me because I’m stupid as well? Huh!” Nareen roared, throwing her hand out. The tentacled girl looked at Nareen’s hand, her eyes wide with terror. Nareen threw up her hands, jabbing her fingers at the obscene and childish marks that covered her entire body. “Do you think I get tortured because I’m stupid? Because I’m a brainless barbarian? Huh!” Nareen demanded. The anger thrashed inside of her, threatening to tear its way out.

Anisa shrank back, tears streaming down her pale face. The blues had retreated to the very tips of the girl’s tentacles. “I’m not interested in going back ever again!” Nareen snapped, raising her fist. The genuine terror from the girl’s eyes was palpable. “Get out of my way right now!”

Anisa faltered, shying away from Nareen, for only a moment before she straightened herself up again. “I’m genuinely sorry about my mistakes, Miss. I really am. If there is some way I can repent, then please just ask and I shall do my utmost to provide you with proof of my remorse.”

“I don’t care about your remorse! Get out of my way!” Nareen shouted, throwing her hand out in an aggressive jab. Her body screamed at her, but she was too angry right now to fully notice. Anisa flinched, but she didn’t move. What was wrong with this girl? “Don’t make me tell you again!”

“Miss mirucain, please don’t go yet!” Anisa said, her voice sounding genuinely desperate. Nareen shoved the girl aside. “We can help you! Please! Just give us another chance!” the girl cried, grabbing for Nareen’s wrist.

“Don’t touch me!” Nareen screamed, lashing out.

Nareen’s fist struck hard. She froze, eyes wide in horror, as Anisa fell to the ground. The girl shielded her face defensively, her entire body white and shaking as she looked up to Nareen from the floor. Nareen’s trembled. What had she done? What had she done? Anisa looked up at Nareen with pure terror, the kind that she remembered seeing in Tireeni’s eyes. Nareen staggered backwards.

“I’m sorry,” the tentacled slave sobbed, cradling her face. A drop of blue blood ran from her mouth. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry I offended or failed you, Miss mirucain! Whatever I did, I’m sorry! Please don’t hurt me anymore, I beg of you! Please!”

Nareen ran. Her entire body was screaming at her in pain, but she ran anyway. Her footsteps hammered hard against the ground as she tried desperately to put as much distance between herself and the tentacled girl as she could. Her fist was still tingling where she’d struck the girl’s face. Nareen kept running. Her cheeks were wet. Was she actually crying? She angrily wiped her face with the back of her fist as she kept running and running with blurry eyes that were barely able to make out the walls all around her.

And nearly crashed straight into one of the demons.

A scaled paw, the size of Nareen’s head, lashed around her neck and grabbed her by the collar. Fear swept through Nareen’s body like a flash flood, leaving her hyperventilating. The demon leaned in close, a red tongue licking over her breast.

“You’re a pretty one,” the demon growled. “Why are you running around here, slave?”

“I – I — I’m sorry!” Nareen sobbed.

The demon chortled. “Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t hunting for you, but I suppose you’d do.”

The kthid was terrifying to behold. Master Thrakur was larger than Nareen, but this demon easily dwarfed Nareen’s tormentor. He was also wearing nothing. His body stood like a scaly mountain and his cock jutted from between his legs like a horn. He forced Nareen against the wall and began pawing at her flesh. There was not even the scantest hint of urbanity to the violation. No ceremony and no acknowledgement. Just a moment of relative autonomy torn away from prey by a predator.

Black spots began to appear at the edges of Nareen’s vision as her assailant’s hand continued to squeeze at her throat. A kthid’s hand would have been far too warm at the best of times. Pressed up against her neck like this made it feel like Nareen was having glowing embers rubbed into her flesh. Nareen croaked, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Nareen froze as she felt something round, hard, and hot pressed against the entrance of her ass. Her rough exhale became a tortured scream as the demon shoved his cock through her anal ring. She could practically feel her insides tearing as the creature forced its way through. There was no preamble. There was no lubrication. There was just a too-thick tool being forced deep into her. 

The scream from Nareen’s mouth faded into a thin whine, but that didn’t stop the burning pain rampaging through her body as the kthid began to thrust. Another strangled scream managed to squeeze its way out of Nareen’s narrowed windpipe as the kthid continued to ravage her insides, deforming the bends and twists of her innards into nothing but a cock-shaped hole for the demon to get himself off.

Nareen struggled to get free, writhing and thrashing in pain in an instinctive need to escape. She clawed at the windpipe and tried to kick the demon away, but he was both too strong and too determined to be bothered by her struggles. The demon fucked with vicious speed despite his bulk, his scaled torso tearing the scabs away from her wounds as he raped her.

He didn’t even bother demeaning her with words like Master Thrakur would have. There didn’t seem to be any acknowledgement of the pain that was being inflicted on her. Nareen was just a salacious toy to him. A set of holes attached to a pair of tits. She could have been swapped out for a piece of meat that screamed and the demon probably wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

Air was entering Nareen’s lungs in a trickle, causing her chest to burn with pain. She had to fight for every breath through the jaws of agony as the cruel claws continued to scrape her wounds open. It was like the chthonian spirits themselves had spawned this creature specifically for her torment. Nareen’s vision repeatedly flashed black and white as she was fucked into the wall so hard that she feared a concussion. Her eyes went wide as the demon accelerated his already relentless pace, slamming into her with a force that made her pelvic bones rattle from the pure brutality. The speartip-shaped cockhead lanced the dry insides of her colon again and again, burrowing into her depths like some kind of voracious parasitoid predator. 

The brutal rape stretched on for what felt like hours. Nareen was shaken out of her agonized stupor as she felt the throbbing of the scaled cock in her ass. The speed of the thrusts, already unrelenting in their present pace, was pushed even further as the sky demon quickly raced towards his orgasm. His claw finally let go of Nareen’s throat, the sudden blast of air into her choked lungs coming so suddenly that it hurt almost as much as being winded.

Nareen screamed as the demon grabbed her by her hips, his talons digging into her skin as he yanked her down and hilted deep into her ass. His seed flash-flooded her insides: devastating her guts with its scalding fury. Nareen’s ass, scraped raw by the unlubricated rape, burned like the savanah as the hot load surged up her guts. Nareen gagged and gargled on her dry throat as the filthy seed drenched her insides like an overfilled latrine.

The kthid tore his cock out of her and callously dropped her as he finished. Nareen’s vision flashed white with pain as she struck the ground. The muted groan from her lips could never capture even a fraction of the screaming pain from her countless shallow wounds or the burning heat of the cum in her bowels.

It felt like only a heartbeat passed before the demon’s paws were on her again. He grabbed her by her horn, lifting her head off the ground. Nareen teared up. He wasn’t done with her. How could she ever think that he would be done with her after only a single round?

“Denklach, where are you?” a voice demanded. “The bird is two floors up! Stop dawdling and come help us! I want to see what Lord Thron’s heitera feels like!” The kthid turned around.

“Forget that! Come look at what I’ve found!” the demon shouted over his shoulder. Nareen wept. There were more of them. Of course there were more of them.

The tunnel filled with long shadows, the dark shapes soon materializing into green-scaled demons. One. Two. Five. Five sky demons, several of them carrying those metal wands they used to capture and kill Nareen’s people. The tallest of the kthid was at the front, wearing a red cloak that billowed as the scaled brute advanced. He laughed as his cruel yellow eyes appraised Nareen’s body.

The first kthid grabbed Nareen more tightly around her horn and stood up, yanking her body up with him. She screamed feebly as her entire body weight was suddenly thrust upon her single horn, feeling like he was about to twist it off and take a piece of her skull along with it. He held Nareen up for inspection like a dwarf thumper being hung up for gutting.

“What do you think? This one’s pretty good, isn’t she?” the first kthid asked, tossing Nareen to the floor. She hit ground with another shock of pain, and cold dread rushed through her as the demons surrounded her.

“Why didn’t you call for us?” the second kthid asked, smacking his hand on the first demon’s shoulder.

“I was going to, but I wanted a first taste!” the demon cackled, sneering down at Nareen. “The pathetic bitch is pretty good. Weak though.”

“Then we’d best get a taste before she gets knocked out, shouldn’t we?” one of the other kthid laughed, leaning forwards. “It’s been ages since I’ve raped one of these four ears. They’re far too rare!”

The kthid forced Nareen to her feet with her body doubled over at the waist. One demon grabbed her roughly on the hips while a second shoved a cock up against her cheek. Nareen didn’t protest. She just opened her mouth and closed her eyes to accept the inevitable.

Nareen still screamed as the demon behind her dug his claws deep into her body and yanked her back, shoving his hardened cock into her still oozing asshole. The demon in front of her grabbed her ruined horns a moment later, shoving his cock down her throat in a single forceful motion. The hot green meat tore past her parched throat, hitting Nareen with a sensation that felt like her insides were being skinned. Nareen was impaled on both ends, spitroasted between the two hardened cocks.

Out of the corner of her eye, Nareen could see the green scaled fiends gathering. Their cocks were standing straight as they waited for their turn. The mirucain moaned miserably, her voice lost in the sounds of thick shafts wrenching her wet holes open.

“E – excuse me?”

The demons stopped with their cocks impaled deep into her. Nareen’s eyes quickly flickered around. The voice was far too high pitched and soft to belong to one of the long faced kthid. She turned her eyes, blinking away tears to try to get a clear view.

The voice that had just spoken was intensely familiar. As the latest tears flowed from Nareen’s eyes and her vision cleared a little more, she realized why. Standing in the middle of the tunnel, as white as polished bone, was Anisa. Nareen’s blood ran cold. The tentacled slave staggered forwards, her lower appendages pulling her over the ground. Her lip was still bleeding blue.

Nareen screamed around the cock in her mouth as the other scaled member was torn from her sphincter. The leader of the demons strode forwards, shadowing Anisa as she moved closer towards Nareen.

Anisa wanted to run. Nareen could see that just from the way she shrank away from the kthid as they circled her. It seemed like she was forcing herself to stay anyway, right up until the massive kthid reached out towards her head. Anisa flinched away, but the kthid roughly grabbed one of her many hairlike appendages and lifted her up by the limb.

“What do we have here?” The kthid asked in mock curiosity, sadistic glee dripping from every word, “It’s an exotic!”

Anisa whimpered in pain as she was dragged across the floor, her appendages trying and failing to keep up with the kthid. The girl’s face was wet with fresh tears as she was presented before the pack of demons. The kthid crowded around, poking and prodding at their newest toy. The cock was pulled out of Nareen’s throat abruptly as the kthid that had been skullfucking her joined the rest of them around Anisa.

“I haven’t seen a slave like this before,” he remarked. “Did she get sent down from the palace?”

“Who knows? Exotics are usually caged. Maybe she screwed up something, and her master threw her out for us to play with,” one of the demons guessed, forcing a taloned finger up Anisa’s pussy. Anisa winced. “Whatever. It’s not like I’m complaining that I get to play with a new toy.”

“If you want to know why the little slut is down here, why don’t you ask her?” another of the demons asked, pinching Anisa’s breast viciously. “Or maybe she likes being raped. What do you think, Lardarn? You think this is one of the lobotomized dolls?”

“Seems a bit too lucid to me,” another demon said, roughly yanking on Anisa’s clit piercing. The girl whimpered and sobbed in pain. “Does it matter though?”

“I guess not,” the pack leader said, looking at Anisa. “I’m taking her ass first. Who wants her mouth?”

“I – I can service you all if you want!” Anisa said quickly, causing the kthid to stop and stare. Anisa’s body was trembling with fear, but she forced herself to keep speaking anyway. “Miss mirucain is very injured. If she’s heavily damaged or if she dies then her master may be very upset. Please leave her alone for now. Whatever desires you may have, I am certain that I could — ”

The loud smack echoed as the leading kthid slapped the girl across the face with an open paw. Anisa was rendered speechless for a moment before the pain seemed to hit her. She cried and whimpered, tears flowing down her face. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t punish me anymore!” she begged.

“Haughty bitch! Thinks she can order us around,” one of the kthid growled. “What do you say, brothers? Should we take her to the steel room?”

“No, please! Don’t do that! I’ll pleasure all of you! Please! Just give me a chance and I guarantee that I shall find a way to please you without fail, my lords!” Anisa begged, her eyes going wide with pain as the kthid hooked his talon around and pushed against Anisa’s stomach from the inside. “Just please don’t hurt Miss mirucain anymore!”

The demons fell silent. One of them turned, grabbing Nareen by the horn and tugging her forwards. Nareen scrambled after the kthid even though her knees screamed at her in pain. “How novel. Are you two perhaps friends?” one of the demons demanded.

“No, my lord! I haven’t even talked to her before today!” Nareen whispered frantically, her eyes moving to Anisa. The girl’s body looked thin and fragile. It looked like a stiff breeze could snap her in half.

The fiend growled. Nareen almost felt her heart stop as the massive kthid leaned in close, baring his fangs at her. “You’d better not be lying to me!” the demon snarled. “I’ll know it right away and you will regret thinking you could trick me!”

“No my lord! I’m not lying!” Nareen cried out, her entire body shaking. “I’ve met her once before today, and this is the first time we’ve ever talked!”

The mirucain’s heart beat so fast that the thumps practically blended into a single continuous sound. The giant paw was on her chin a moment later, forcing her to look into those merciless eyes. Nareen trembled as the demon looked straight at her. Terror inundated her mind. She wasn’t lying, but what if this kthid thought that she was? What if he didn’t care, and this was all a pretense to find a way to hurt her even more and make her blame herself for it?

“Whimpering slut,” the kthid snorted, turning around towards Anisa. The tentacled girl shrank away as the kthid strode forwards. “It’s your lucky day, fucktoy! I’ve decided that I’ll grant your wish!”

Anisa looked in Nareen’s direction, as if making sure that she was okay. The moment lasted a single instant before the girl turned back towards the lead demon. Anisa tipped her head down as if in groveling obsequiousness. “My sincerest thanks, my lord! May you be blessed for your mercy!” Anisa whispered, tears rolling down her face. Nareen stared on, unable to put any words to what she was seeing. The girl in front of her had a cast to her face that looked like a huntress moments before death. Like someone who was resigned to their fate.

The demons closed in on the tentacled girl, laughing and jesting. Nareen could do nothing but look on wordlessly as the fiends descended on the frail girl in front of her. The girl that Nareen had hit. She said that she would help Nareen. She said that she would make the pain go away, even a little. Nareen looked on and could do nothing but cry as she watched Anisa consumed by the storm of pain and rape that had been meant for her.

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