With an arm raised to light the way, Kylbyi rushed as fast as she dared through the magma-born caves which connected her safe house to the surface. Her clenched fist sizzled, the raw mana of her half-formed spell burning her turquoise scales. She really should have put up some torches down here, but those would just have made it easier for their pursuers to find them. Not that she had expected company for weeks.
After the clash at Hestrigrad, she had fled with Nyleth to a plane on the edges of Imperium controlled space-time. She had left no trace to follow, and yet, the greater daemoness had just killed six soldiers wearing armor bearing the sigil of the Heavenly Throne. There was no doubt in her mind that the usurper Taulic had found them. They had to leave--now.
The sound of air-headed giggling echoed along the corridor. No, surely she was hearing things. It was just her fear trying to prey on her. Nyleth had been on the mend from their last encounter with her despicable cousin. The rightful heir to The Throne of Heaven had put the knife through Talic's right eye. Yes, after that victory, Nyleth had been headed back towards the center of her personality swing, but the closer Kylbyi's clacking steps brought her to their hiding place, the harder it was to ignore the bubbly flirting she could hear.
She paused at the end of the last hall, not sure if she wanted to see which form Nyleth had taken. In that moment of hesitation, the daemoness found herself wondering if all this effort had been worth anything. If she had let Taulic have his way back at the Capital, would she still be studying magic with Mistress Kinera? Instead of hiding in a bunker on the edge of the known realms, would she and Nyleth be living like queens? Would Nyleth still have control over her shape-shifting powers? Would they--
"--Daddy, you're too nice to me."
Oh, fuck this.
She crushed the spell, causing the plasmid magic to spray over her and the tunnel floor as she rounded the corner. The energy on her skin fed into more energy as her emotional state tilted. The greater daemoness' brilliant white-blue energy hummed as it traveled along the mystical lines of power inked into her bright orange skin. The raw power flowing through her made the air crackle around her with a sound like hail crashing down. By the time she was to the vault-like door, her anger was raging with the force of a Category Six cyclone.
She yanked the steel barrier clear off its hinges without even trying. It probably flew fifty feet when she let go. Her normally impassive visage had been cast aside, and her face was twisted with all the fury of a flash flood.
"You just couldn't help yourself could you, Your Highness? We are wanted fugitives, Nyleth, but, no... you just had to get your kicks!"
The other daemoness looked up from her tablet, her serene, lush-lipped grin dropping in a blink as her solid black eyes widened. Nyleth was naked for some reason, her pale indigo skin cloaked only in her obscenely long, pale pink hair and brilliant magenta scales. Her build, at the moment anyway was waifish to the point of excessive. She was so delicate-looking that it seemed a stiff breeze would carry her away.
Kylbyi stalked closer, and Nyleth's star-shaped pupils grew more defined as she seemingly regained awareness. A change in mental state which was accompanied by welling tears. "Byi-Byi, I--"
"No, I don't want to hear it," she snapped. "You've been sunk into the deep end of your Princess persona so long that your brain's dribbled out of your cunt from the overwhelming urge to satisfy you newest 'Daddy'--and now, you've lead them right to us!"
"But, Byi-Byi," Nyleth rebutted as tears began to trail down her shimmering, bluish-purple cheeks. "Dadd--I mean, Lejiel--"
"--Has been saying exactly what your carefully cultivated hyper-submissive mind wanted to hear," Kylbyi said, speaking over her. "Ny, they've been using you this whole time. Lejiel is working for your cousin, not against him."
"That--that can't be true! Lejiel would never--"
"Wake up, Ny!" she said, rounding the table and pushing the naked daemoness from her seat.
Once she was on her feet, it was evident how far into the depths of her submissive ego state Nyleth had gone. The rhinestone sparkles which dotted her skin like the stars were far denser than they had ever been. The heel spikes that formed from her scales when she slid into this mindset had grown until they forced her to stand on tip-toe. Even her arm and leg scales had been altered, their rounded edges just shy of her shoulders and halfway up her thighs like they were tights.
The noble daemoness worked her jaw for a moment, opening and closing it like she had something to say but the words were caught in her throat. Her eyes kept flicking down to the tablet and back up to Kylbyi.
"What is so bloody interesting--?" She roared, snatching the tablet, her claw cracking the screen as she yanked it out of Nyleth's hands.
"No--! Give it back!" She reached for it, but Kylbyi's outstretched arm might as well have been the moon since Nyleth only came up to her chest right now, and that was with the scale-stilettos "I didn't get to say goodbye..."
"You didn't get--?" She glanced up, and Leijel's grin greeted her. There was half a breath between when Kylbyi dropped the tablet and dove to tackle Nyleth before an arc of energy cut through the air and walls alike. It continued to cut across the mountain's base leaving behind a far-off rumble as the blade sank move on. It had torn all of her wards apart like they were spider silk and would have done the same to either of them had it hit!
Nyleth was sobbing against her chest now, her small fists hitting Kylbyi's leather-clad shoulders. "You're right, Byi-Byi," she said, her voice breaking. "I... I let the praise get to me... and--and..."
"Shush, now," she commanded as the sound of booted feet echoed down the ruined corridor. "It's likely those are your cousin's men."
"Wha-why? I thought that--that we had won in Hestrigrad."
"Apparently a knife through the eye and into the brain wasn't enough to make his death stick--now hush!"
The moment the noises of movement faded, Nyleth began asking questions again. "So you're saying that you suspected Lejiel from the beginning?"
"Right," Kylbyi replied, sitting back so that Nyleth could get up. "I am pretty sure Taulic's up there, waiting for us on the surface. Even if he isn't, when we get there, he probably has a whole division deployed to the plane to hunt us down."
"That sounds, like, super bad," Nyleth said with a gasp.
"Super bad indeed. I might be the third best mage in our generation, but I can't fight those odds. Not alone. So if you can't find Her inside you, this is it," Kylbyi said, pushing a clawed finger into Nyleth's chest.
"If we get caught," she continued, "odds are I end up dead for my insurrection, and you get given to Lejiel as their reward for helping to track us down. After Taulic ensures your corruption is absolute, I'm sure your childhood friend will indulge your Daddy kink until the end of time."
Nyleth opened her mouth as her eyes brightened. The was no doubt that the idea actually appealed to her current mindset.
The realization made Kylbyi's stomach churn. There was never a chance for them to be happy, not while Taulic had designs on the Throne. As long as she lived, Nyleth was a powerful rival. Though her shapeshifting abilities had been corrupted, there was no way for Taulic to corrupt her influence on the planes.
Not wanting to yell at Nyleth again, Kylbyi held up a hand to head off any discussion. "Look, I know that sounds 'oh so wonderful' to you while deep within subby, subby Princess mode but, you aren't the only ego state in that body, and I am damn sure She is not interested in being anyone's pet."
The rumbling in the wake of the attack was growing stronger, and debris was falling all around them. A large chunk of ceiling crashed to the floor nearby, causing Nyleth to jump. "W-w-what are we going t'do--Byi-Byi?"
"Ny, I need you to--" Just then, another large chunk of stone landed on the other side of them. Thinking fast, Kylbyi dug her claws into one and pulled them against each other, giving the pair a shelter as the rest of the cave collapsed. In the dark, Kylbyi's tattoos flickered and began to glow.
"I love you, Kyl," said Nyleth, her voice's pitch a bit lower than before. "More than anything. However, we have got to stop reuniting like this."
"You love it, and you know it," Kylbyi spat back as Nyleth's body began to reshape beneath her in response to the excitement. Her delicate limbs strengthened. Her waif-like build filled out. Her sharpening claws sank into Kylbyi's back before pulling the other daemoness into a kiss. Then, the pair began working on their escape. It was hard going, the attack had sliced the mountain clear off its roots, and they had been down near the heart of it.
After two grueling hours of melting rock with magic, the pair burst from the earth like zombies. As promised, Taulic was waiting for them. He looked even more masculine and bestial since the last time--as if he had corrupted himself in a bid for even more power after his defeat in their previous encounter. He towered over their half-freed forms, his body bulging out of his imperial trappings in every direction. A baleful glow emanated from behind his eye patch, it seemed he had replaced his eye with magic. Behind him, four round-tipped tails lashed the air as an ember-like light flickered within them.
"Oh good! You're not dead," he growled in a dark, urbane tone. "Here I was worried I was going to have to dig your corpses out to dole out your punishment as enemies of the Crown."
"Oh," Taulic proclaimed over her, "there are fates far worse than death, you little daemonic whores. As you will find out--right now!"
Hauled from the ground by her shoulders, Kylbyi was restrained by someone much stronger than her. Her gaze danced about, trying to find a way to survive this situation, but it seemed hopeless. The army spanned in all directions.
Taulic turned his attention to Nyleth first, a despicable grin on his paradoxically monstrous and handsome face. He bid his soldiers to bring his older cousin over and force her to kneel before him. Nyleth might have been more herself now, her narrowed gaze leaving no doubt to her imperial background, but she was only one daemon against thousands. There was no winning move, but she would die defiant.
Nyleth's diadem-like horn flashed, blowing her captor back. She rushed Taulic. Her body began bulking up. Her huge fist caught Taulic in the face, only for his body to melt around her.
He appeared behind her and grabbed the arc of her united horns. "Nyleth of Vindlewood, Queen of the Numari, and Heir apparent to the Throne of Heaven, your attempts to incite rebellion against me and by extension the entire Imperium are punishable by death."
"However," he added as his arm muscles twitched, "I am merciful, and you will only face exile." There was an awful crack, as bone that was supposed to be unbreakable bone shattered in his fist.
Nyleth screamed ceaselessly as her protean nature fluxed and twisted her body's appearance randomly. She dropped to the ground and lay there like a fish out of water. Taulic watched her writhe in agony for a moment. His expression was bored like he was waiting on coffee to be done.
"Are you quite done?" He asked, kicking Nyleth and send her rolling.
She went silent when she stopped.
"Ah, much better. Now," Taulic proclaimed, "with this shattering of horns you are no longer the woman you once were, Nyleth of Vindlewood. Thus, you are exiled, and all your holdings are now mine for the taking."
He turned his attention to back Kylbyi and withdrew a book from a pouch at his hip and held it aloft before him. "As for you, Kylbyi of Ocher and Turquoise, I banish you to another place entirely. You shall live out your days within the pages of a story I have written just for you. May you reflect on your transgressions for all eternity."
There was a sensation of being pulled, of being stretched, as she was yanked into the air towards the book. Around her, the world flattened until it vanished entirely and only the yellowed void of paper remained. It stretched on, endlessly, in all directions. There was no sound beside her beating heart--and even that was slowing down. Oblivion came shortly after, though she did not perish.
Something about the curse kept her mind alive, made her aware of every person who picked up her book. Each time the story was read, it happened to her. Over and over, the torture and trials her fictional self endured were inflicted upon her psyche. What Taulic did not expect was that her presence in the book would also sustain her.
People who empathized with her poured their feelings into her, and that blunted the never-ending torment. Then, something neither Taulic nor Kylbyi had anticipated happened. Someone wrote another, entirely new story about her. Then they wrote another and another until there was a whole saga in which she was the heroine. The sustaining flow of energy grew stronger with each newly written tale. In time, she would be strong enough to tear her way out of the pages holding her captive, and that seemed like her best plan.
The next person who picked up her book, however, turned out to be unique. When she nicked her finger on the cover, the paper cut bled into the cardstock. Something about the woman's essence tugged at Kylbyi's. In a rush of sensation, the fallen daemoness went from being a mind in a book to the second mind in a body. For the first time in ages, she took a deep breath and savored the taste of air.
In a twist of fate, not only was this woman, Analise, powerful in ways that made Kylbyi jealous, she was apparently going to take on the daemoness' appearance as a costume. If she could leverage this confluence of fortune, it would allow her to rebuild her physical body, slide back into it, and show Taulic what power forty lifetimes afforded her.
As Analise sank into the ochre latex, Kylbyi could feel her hands, her feet once more. With each inch enveloped, the daemoness regained awareness. Given form once more, her power began to surge. There was so much she began to grow, her mana-rich body expanding to contain it. As she grew, so did Analise. Not to the same degree, yet anyway. She had to use this magic before it tore them both apart--but how?
What if she used Analise as a ground? She could channel all of her excess energy into Analise's world and save them both. Well, save herself at least. Who knew what would happen to a human if they tried to hold the power of an arch daemon--wait, that was it! If she transformed Analise into a daemon, it would solve both problems, but she had to act fast!
She just needed an anchor to Analise's world to reach through, something concrete... Like her tattoos! That would be enough to grab hold of Analise's essence and do what needed to be done. Once she had one arm complete, that should be enough. Kylbyi steadied her breathing, waiting for the exact moment. There was a sharp pain in her shoulder when Analise finished copying her ink. Kylbyi flexed and felt a jolt run down her arm. Through Analise's eyes, she saw muscle definition the woman had not had before developing
Kylbyi grinned, the expression mirroring on Analise's face. "Not possible?"
[Wha-! W-who’s there?]
Halla, help me. "You do you think?" Kylbyi sent back as she began to wiggle Analise's fingers. "Ah~! That feels great…"
[Wait, how is a fictional character–?]
"Possessing you? Think about it. You’ll figure it out if you do. I can see how smart you are from in here." This woman had no inkling of the blood flowing through her veins. She had no idea just how much this exchange was going to change her life. She was so unlike a daemon it made Kylbyi's horns ache. If only... No, she had to get back. She had to find Nyleth, and that meant playing the villain for now.
Kylbyi cracked Analise's wrist a couple times and then clenched her slender fingers into a fist. "I’ve been trapped for so long… I had forgotten what a fist felt like."
The statement was equal parts truth and taunt, but it had the desired effect. Analise began to panic, causing her heart to beat faster. She tore at the paint, but the magic in her blood was already manifesting the transformation necessary for their shared survival. Finally, she threw the brush down and tried to get up. Desperate, Kylbyi cast a spell which forced her body to remain seated. If Analise got up now, before the transformation was complete, they were both doomed.
"Now why would you do that?" Kylbyi asked as she picked up the brush once more. "We’ve got so much more work to do before you’re ready!"
Analise grabbed her wrist, but could not stop her possessed hand from tracing filigree sigils on her other shoulder. Inch by painted inch, her grip weakened until, at her elbow, Kylbyi's sense of touch strengthened and she gained control of the woman's other hand.
[Why are you… why are you doing this?]
"Because you..." Kylbyi sighed in their shared mindscape. Even if she told this mortal what situation they were in, they would still not believe that she was acting in their best interest as well. "Look, just… relax, okay? You freed me, so let me do you a favor."
[Do me a favor? By kidnapping me?]
"Hey, you wanted the have the best costume ever, right? Let make you into the spitting image of me." Although that image is probably larger than life in your reality--especially now. What else could she say? Did Analise have someone she liked? Was it--oh! Ohohoh! Analise must be luck incarnate for all of these things to line up.
"I know your lady friend will love the look," Kylbyi added. "She’s read my books a few times–and is a big fan." Carol had even written a story about Kylbyi and herself that left little to the imagination about what her appetites were like.
[O-o-okay, like that makes a difference. It’s not like I have any real choice at the moment.]
"You can tell me to stop whenever," Kylbyi intoned, repeating the first rule. "Although, art always looks weird half completed so… tell me now, or you might end up stuck half-daemonic."
[Sure…] Analise paused. Kylbyi could sense something rising around her, a dawning sense of acceptance--no, desire. Flicking through the mortal's memories, she finally hit a dream from ten years ago. A much younger Analise turned into something which had been frightening then but was now a wistful fantasy.
Analise wanted to be a daemoness. She wanted the power. Even so, she could not give herself permission to need it. [Will I be able to go back to normal?] she asked.
The transformation was just as likely to reverse as it was to last forever. It all depended on Analise, which meant that going back was likely out of the question. Once changed, she would have the freedom to grant herself the permission she needed. All that aside, if she told Analise that, she would call the thing off without a doubt, and they were running out of time. "Without any further investment, the paint should peel in a couple of days…"
[Well, it is a weekend… You know what? Sure, go ahead, Kylbyi.]
With that permission given, Kylbyi got to work. She had a handful of minutes to make the necessary adjustments. It would be close...
"Who knows?" she said, trying to be encouraging. "You might even enjoy the new look enough to keep it!"