Story (c) 2001 by Hikaru Katayamma/Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. The character Sheila Vixen (c) Eric W Schwartz. All other characters are (c) Hikaru Katayamma.

  This story contains adult situations and language. By reading it the viewer agrees not to hold this or any other person responsible for any content they may find objectionable. If you don't like it, don't read it. Special thanks go out to Jim Lane and Coyotyee for their help in editing this project!

Identity Crisis
Act II
Chapter 38

Betrayed by a friend.

  After having seen Marduke, I shouldn't have been surprised at the entrance of my "new master." He strode into the room like he owned the place and yelled, "What the hell is going on around here?" It was the little Prince Rapes-A-Lot, Hiram. That bastard was responsible for my kidnapping.

  "What the hell is he doing on the floor?" Hiram demanded of the sorcerer, then looked over at me. "If she's been harmed there's going to be hell to pay!"

  The sorcerer gave a small nod of acknowledgement to Hiram. "She is fine, Your Highness," he stated pleasantly. "Your man, Marduke, needed a bit of a lesson on how to treat a lady." He smiled as he looked down at Marduke, who was trying to make himself invisible against the wall. "I assure you, Your Highness, there was never any risk of damage to the lady."

  "There better not be, Morgan, or I'll have your ass for a new pair of boots," the prince grumbled.

  That name rang a bell. I thought about it for a second and suddenly realized that I knew him, or rather Gwen had. He was the Emperor's younger brother. Everyone thought that he had been killed almost twenty years ago during a wizards' battle at the Arcanum. Obviously he not only had survived, he had gone underground and become a very important cog in an organization designed to undermine the Arcanum. He had always been at odds with his brother about continuing Imperial dominance of magic. The pieces were starting to fall into place.

  Morgan's face got hard as he took a step towards the prince. "Be careful with whom you threaten, Your Highness. We aren't your servants here to be abused at a whim." I saw a dark glow slowly grow around Morgan as he spoke, forcing the ashen-faced prince to back up. "Overstep your bounds and I promise you'll regret it for the rest of your short- lived life."

  Hiram fought to swallow a couple of times before steeling himself. "You dare to threaten me?" he said in a shaky voice.

  "Not a threat," Morgan replied causing Hiram to flinch away, "a promise. You are here by my master's generosity. Don't ever forget that." As he spoke, the aura faded and with it Hiram's fear dissipated as well.

  He nodded to Morgan as he tidied up his clothing. "Of course, Morgan. As long as we understand each other, I don't see why we can't have a long and profitable relationship." Satisfied that he had dealt with Morgan, Hiram turned towards me and smiled. "And there's my prize," he said as he walked towards me.

  "I'm no prize, asshole," I responded. I tried to shift my weight so as to get of a snap kick when he got close, but once again found myself unable to move. A glance at Morgan confirmed why.

  Hiram reached out and stroked the fur under my neck. I would have bit him, but I couldn't even move my head. He trailed his hand down over one breast, tweaking a nipple as he reached it. "Oh yes, you are a prize indeed," he said with a smile. "Kidnapping you has solved so very many of my problems. Without you or Marduke to testify, there will be nobody to accuse me of any crimes." He continued to run his hands over my body while he talked. "And as an added bonus, I get to have you here as a play toy."

  "I'll never be your play toy," I responded through clenched fangs. "The first opportunity I get, you'll be dead."

  Hiram laughed and took a step back while snapping a finger. Behind him, a figure cloaked in a dark robe and hood that shadowed his face stepped forward holding a box. As he got next to Hiram, the man undid the silver latches and opened the case to reveal a choker and four bracers. "I think you'll find these will change your tune."

  The man in the robe reached down and turned the table back over and then set the box down on top. He then turned and began to undo the latch on the collar I wore. There was something familiar about his scent despite the heavy musks and perfumes he used to try and mask it.

  "What do you think you're doing?" Morgan asked. "Leave that collar alone."

  Hiram turned to Morgan and waved him off. "Relax, Morgan. She's trapped inside the sphere. There's no way she can have any contact with arcane magic in here."

  Morgan made a gesture which pushed the robed man away from me. "You have no idea what you're playing with here, Hiram," he said. "Removing the Binders of Aramas may allow it access to magic again."

  The prince let out a sigh of exasperation. "True or false: Is this not the room that you trapped Lakash in?" Taking Morgan's nod as an affirmative, he continued, "And was Lakash not totally cut off from magic by these walls?" Again, Morgan nodded. "Then I don't see what your problem is. She gets her power directly from Lakash. If he had no power here back then, I don't see why he'd be able to funnel power in here now."

  The sorcerer shook his head. "That was Lakash. We don't know the capabilities of this creature," he explained. "Removal of the collar could give it access to the lesser magics."

  Prince Hiram had an annoyed expression on his face as he rolled his eyes. "Our sources have told us that the only access to magic she has is through Lakash," he lectured with a bored voice. "Even then, it's quite obvious to see when she has access to magic as her eyes change." He looked over at the hooded man who had brought in the box. "Isn't that right, Danedajin?"

  The name should have surprised me, but it didn't. Not after what I had read in Sheila's journal.

  Dane sighed and pulled the hood back from over his head. "What's the point of my trying to keep my identity hidden if you insist on blabbing my name out," he inquired from exasperation.

  The prince just waved him off. "Oh, give it a rest, Danedajin," he replied offhandedly. "It's not like she'll ever get out of here."

  "You may have faith in these losers," Dane stated with a scowl as he crossed his arms, "but it's my life on the line for helping you with this if she does get away."

  I closed my eyes and sighed quietly. I had trusted him. He had seemed such a decent bloke. It only goes to show that you can never afford to let your guard down. My biggest concern, second to escape, was to wonder if he had spilled the beans about Gwen and I sharing memories. I prayed for her sake that he hadn't. Hiram would surely use it to blackmail her into supporting him.

  "Be that as it may," Hiram said, brushing off his remark. "We know for a fact that she had never cast a spell until coming to this world. According to the Elite that she battled with at the keep, she didn't have any magical abilities at all until he witnessed her making a deal with the demon, Lakash. It was only after that point that she ever showed any magical abilities. I have no doubt the sphere will suffice." He waved to Dane and indicated that he should continue.

  "I still don't like it," Morgan declared. His reservations were obviously not enough for him to override the prince since he did nothing to stop the bard.

  Dane spent a few minutes taking apart the choker and bracers I wore before replacing them with a heavier pair. I saw that the ones he had removed were ornately carved in a metal that resembled silver or platinum and inlaid with a golden scrollwork of symbols. The new collar he used was much heavier, being made of silver and gold, but was also heavily studded with different types of gems creating an odd pattern on the surface.

  Once I had been restrained in with the new collar and bracers, Hiram instructed Morgan to release the spell. I almost fell as I tried to recover my balance. My feet felt like they were stuck in mud as I tried to move them. I found that I had the same problem with my hands. A little experimentation revealed that it was based on speed. The faster I tried to move them, the greater the resistance.

  Hiram watched as I figured out his new toy. "Now you see. I no longer have anything to fear from you, bitch. You've had your one and only shot at me. You'll find that this ring," he said, holding up his right hand to display an ornate gold and platinum ring, "will keep me utterly safe from any ill tempered acts of violence you may wish to inflict."

  With that he strode quickly over to me. As he got close, I felt my hands snap up to the collar around my neck as if they had been reeled in. The prince backhanded me and sent me to the ground.

  "That collar has many uses, bitch. And I intend to show them all to you." He turned and reached back towards where Dane stood. I saw Dane hesitate a moment before handing him a whip. "And now I think it's time to teach you some discipline."

  Without the use of my arms or legs I was unable to avoid the lashes that fell. It took all my resolve not to cry out during the whipping. I think that pissed him off because the strokes became vicious towards the end before he dropped the whip from exhaustion. It was a small victory. One that was heavily overshadowed by the pain that ran the length of my back, tail and legs, but a victory nonetheless.

  Everyone except the two guards left the room once Hiram was done with me. They just left me lying on the floor. It was all I could do to drag myself up onto the bed without passing out. A quick look at the floor behind me showed a trail of blood that had been smeared by my fur like some sort of obscene paintbrush in a crimson trail to mark my path. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the pain.

  I awoke to the painful sensation of something being painted onto one of the wounds on my back. I reflexively tried to roll away, but a firm hand on my shoulder prevented.

  "Don't try to move," Morgan directed. "This will help with the pain and speed the healing."

  I turned my head and looked at him. The gentle way he was tending to my wounds made me think he was almost human. "You know, you almost had me convinced for a while," I said finally.

  His brow furrowed as he thought about my statement. "Convinced about what?" he asked while scooping out more ointment.

  "That you were working for the better of the empire." I winced as he hit a particularly tender wound. "But now I see that your evil is the reason the Elite was created."

  Morgan gave a small snort and smiled at my statement. "You may call us evil, but we've done nothing that the Arcanum hasn't done in the name of the emperor," he replied.

  "When was the last time the emperor had someone kidnapped and ... ugh... turned into his personal slave?" There were so many wounds. I'm glad I couldn't see what my back looked like.

  "Actually," Morgan said as he paused to think, "the emperor's current head concubine was taken against her will from her parents. I think that counts as kidnapping. Of course, if she doesn't perform for him, she'll be killed, so I think that counts as slavery." He continued to paint the wounds as he talked. "And Prince Hiram is the next in line to be emperor. So if you think about it, we're simply following the orders of the future emperor, just as a mage in the Arcanum would."

  "And does the emperor flog them with a bullwhip?" I asked as he resumed treating the wounds.

  Morgan shrugged. "I am not privy to the emperor's taste in entertainment."

  Man, this guy was one cold fish, but I guess that was to be expected. All this stuff was old hat to him. Despite everything that had happened to me, I still tended to want to see these people through rose-tinted glasses.

  "Morgan," I said after a little bit. "Are you still interested in having my arcane magic on your side?"

  He looked down at me and cocked an eyebrow. "Of course we would," he said as he returned to tending my wounds.

  I reached out and stopped him from working on me. "Then release me," I said quietly. "I'll swear my oath to your group in exchange for my freedom and a chance to kill Hiram. If you want to defeat the Arcanum, then I'll put my magic behind it."

  Morgan's eyes broke contact as he hung his head. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before he spoke, "You have no idea how much I wish I could." He looked back over at me with a pained expression. "I have already discussed this my master, and he has decided to maintain our bargain with Hiram. You are more valuable to us alive and well here, than free even if you really would join us."

  "What?" I asked in shock. "How the hell can you say that? I thought you guys were hard up for an arcane mage to shift the power in your favor."

  Again Morgan frowned and paused before speaking. "We will have an arcane mage, though it will be decades before he will be ready to take his place by our side," he explained and paused for it to sink in.

  "No!" I shouted. I tried to roll away, but was unable to move because of a simple spell that held me firm against the bed. "I won't let you touch my child, damn it!"

  He shushed me as he stroked the hair on my head. "Hush now. There's no need for that," he said to soothe me. "We're not going to touch your son. You'll raise your son for us willingly."

  "Never!" I denied viciously as I tried unsuccessfully to pull my head away from him. "I'll never cooperate!"

  "But of course you will, my dear. Even now there are spells that I have woven into your mind while you slept." He trailed his fingers across the top of my head, sending shivers painfully down my spine. "The longer they work, the more detached your memories of your old life will become. Soon, you won't care about Lakash, Zig Zag or anyone else from your past. They will just be passing memories, without any importance to your future."

  "You bastard!" I sobbed out. "Why are you telling me this? Why?"

  A thin smile graced his face. "Because I need to break your spirit, and the best way to do that is to show you how hopeless your situation is," he explained, enjoying my torment. "Soon, you'll no longer even wish to escape. Once the prince is bored with you, he will give you to us permanently, at which point your programming will continue. You will once again wear the Binders of Aramas to ensure that Lakash won't be able to channel through you, and you will finally leave this room to take your place by our side." He got a far away look in his eyes as a glorious future unfolded before him. "Your son will be trained in the martial and magical arts. He will become the champion of our cause. His power will destroy the Emperor's Arcanum and allow practitioners of magic the freedom they deserve at last."

  I closed my eyes in defeat. He was right. With all the magic at their command and my being cut off from Lakash, I was trapped. In my arrogance I had tried to play Rambo and take care of the dragons alone. As a result, I had destroyed any chance at completing my quest, and I condemned Nanuk. I could almost feel the spell as it chewed up my memories. I really had screwed the pooch this time, and I was the pooch.

  "There, all done," he announced as he finished painting my wounds with the salve. "Now to accelerate your healing and get you ready for your next visit by the prince. He wants you in good condition for his next encounter."

  Great. Little Lord Rapes-A-Lot was going to be back for another run. I was about to tell Morgan what he could do with the little bastard when I realized that I could feel the magic of his spell. Not just the healing, mind you, but also the magic itself. I turned my sight inward and realized that my spirit was still part of the Great Dragon and Nanuk. Nanuk's power was healing and that's what Morgan was doing. The dragon took a small percentage of the power from change. This was healing magic and it was definitely changing me. I smiled as I concentrated on harvesting what I could of his power. It wasn't a lot, but I was slowly building up my reserves the same way I had with Lakash during my training.

  If I could build up enough magic, I might be able to blow this Popsicle stand. At the rate I was absorbing power, it would be days, maybe even weeks before I'd be able to make my move. In the meantime, I should be able to deflect that spell he put on me to screw with my memories. Of course, I'd have to ensure that Morgan had a reason to keep healing me. That meant I would have to taunt Hiram into whipping me more. Maybe even breaking bones. God, this was going to hurt, but it would be nothing compared to the pain I was going to dish out once I'd made my escape.

  I smiled as I relaxed and let the power trickle in. I had a plan now. It was just a matter of time and they would pay. I would make them all pay. Hiram, Marduke, Dane, Morgan and all their black-hearted friends, they would all feel the wrath of the dragon once I had been released. The world as they knew it was about to end.

  I tried not to cough. I was pretty sure he had punctured a lung as I was coughing up blood. My second encounter with Hiram had gone pretty much the way I had expected. He had enjoyed using his little toy to control me. I was an overgrown puppet for him to control whenever he decided to make me do something. I also found out that trying to resist was futile. The more I fought the collar's power, the more pain it inflicted. I also found that Hiram could inflict pain through the collar directly, too, which was a bad thing. I needed him to lose control and beat me, so I bided my time. Soon he got tired of making me dance around for him and decided to get down to business.

  Being prepared for it this time, I was able to keep my wits about me. After a minute or so of his humping I had quipped something to the effect of "Mind getting started already? You're beginning to bore me." He didn't take my comment well and I paid for it with a small beating. Each time he would get on a roll, I would make a snide comment and earn another beating. The last straw came when I said that the stable hands were a better lay than he was. That set him off completely. The guards had to drag him away for fear that he would hurt my child.

  In the end, I had managed to get him to give me numerous cracked and broken ribs, another broken arm and I believe a broken jaw. At least it felt like it was broken. I wasn't too sure about the condition of my right hand and wrist, as they had been kicked repeatedly. The overall pain in that arm made it impossible for me to inventory the damage.

  I heard the inner door to the room open and peeked through swollen eyelids to see who it was. Morgan came in and scowled at me as I lay on the floor. I smiled and closed my eyes.

  "What the hell are you smiling for?" he asked as he bent down to examine the damage.

  "I won," I quietly replied and looked back up at him.

  "From where I'm standing, it looks like you got the shit kicked out of you," he observed as he probed my broken arm. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

  "This is war," I replied in a whisper, "and I won the battle."

  He stopped and rocked back on his heels and frowned. "And just how in the hell did you win anything?" he demanded.

  I smiled up at him. "He never got off," I replied. "I gave him no satisfaction."

  He gave a snort and shook his head. "You're insane, you realize that?"

  I closed my eyes again and relaxed. The Japanese have a saying that life is a dream. When you have a nightmare, you tell yourself, "This is only a dream, I can wake up from it." If you look at life the same way, then this shit wasn't so bad.

  "Your wounds are beyond my ability to heal," Morgan said as he stood. "I'll send a couple of healers in to take care of you."

  I listened to him walk over to the doors and wait for them to open. He paused before stepping through and muttered something about me being crazy before he left. Yah, I was crazy all right. Crazy like a fox. That though brought a smile to my face. Crazy like a vixen would have been more appropriate.

  After a little while the inner doors opened again and three men entered. Two were wearing robes while the third was dressed casually. The odd man stood back and watched as the healers moved me from the floor back onto the bed. It was only after they had entered a trance and began to heal me did he come over and kneel down by me.

  "You sure got yourself into a mess this time, my dear," he said to me.

  I knew that voice. "Lucifer?" I asked shocked at the possibility.

  He smiled down at me and winked. "In the flesh, borrowed though it may be," he replied lightly.

  "You've got some cojones coming in here," I said impressed at his gall. "I'm surprised that you would even allow yourself to be cut off from your power."

  He chuckled a little and shook his head. "They worship me here. If it wasn't for me, they'd be hard pressed to keep their activities hidden."

  Oh, man. I remembered that Illiam had talked about the Black Legion of Celion. Great. These turkeys were all followers of Satan. I wondered if they knew who they were really dealing with. "So what brings you in here, Luci?"

  "Are you kidding?" he asked in mock surprise. "I'm just checking up on my favorite project."

  I nodded. "How about doing me a favor and getting me out of here. I've got a score to settle with Hiram and would really like to take care of it."

  He shook his head as he sat down. "I don't think so," he said, smiling at my reaction. "I think you'll be much better off in here then out there running around."

  "What?" I said in shock. "But what about the quest?"

  Lucifer laughed. "Are you kidding?" he asked between guffaws. "Lakash has dumped so much power into you he's almost turned you into an avatar. This is the best way I can think of to screw Lakash right now. Without you to complete the quest, he's just flat fucked."

  Christ on a crutch. "What about Nanuk? You said you'd help me restore her," I argued, knowing the answer.

  He shrugged. "I lied."

  It was as simple as that. He was going to screw Lakash any way he could, and if that meant destroying Nanuk, then so be it.

  "Is there anything I can get you to make your stay a little more comfortable?" he asked cheerfully.

  "Yah," I replied with a sarcastic tone. "How about Hiram's head on a platter?"

  He shook his head again. "Nope. Sorry. That boy is too important to me. He's going to be ruler of this empire. I need him alive so I can ultimately control the balance of this world." Lucifer stood and straightened up his clothes. "Seriously, anything you need? Anything to make the time pass a little faster?"

  I was going to get snotty again but decided better. "Not unless you can get me a big screen TV with cable," I replied dejectedly.

  He frowned for a second and nodded. "Well, I can't do a TV, but I will see about sending up some books that you should be able to read. Anything else?"

  I shook my head. I really didn't want anything from him. I had been uncertain about whether he was an ally or not. That question had now been answered.

  Once the door closed behind him I turned my sight inward and began harvesting power. With him involved I couldn't afford to screw around.

  I must escape.

Chapter 39