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The Immorals: Paying the Price

Novel By: Divena
Fantasy



Sable Riverwend and her twin brother Jett have been through hell and back. Twice. And they're not done yet. They're facing their most dangerous foe yet, the god-like Arachnid bent on the total destruction of the Immorals. The reward balances out the risk, however. Or it will if they survive the battle.

Squeal to "Eyes of Jade" and the final installment in "The Immorals" trilogy. *COMPLETE* View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Submitted:Nov 3, 2008    Reads: 332    Comments: 2    Likes: 4   


She stood before me as beautiful as ever, with her ebony hair flowing around blue shoulders. Her eyes were large and soulful, her lips full and kissable. Her curves were lush under the thin fabric she wore, leaving very little to the imagination. Not that I really needed to use my imagination. Silky wings were folded prettily against her back, like a feathered cloak. Once, just the sight of her would have gotten my blood pumping with admiration, hate, lust and, yes, even fear. Only an idiot wouldn't be afraid of the bitch queen.

Now, however, seeing her only confused me. I had heard the clock chime twenty-four times. The once a century game was over and, as usual, I had lost. I had not made it to the finish line, hadn't found the door that went with my key. More than that, I had been skewered by a giant spider thing. I should have been curled up in my cell, still healing.

Unbidden, my thoughts flitted away from my current predicament and focused on her. The reason for my wounds, Sable Riverwend, my Pet. I had struck a bargain with her at the beginning of the Game. In exchange for being my bait, I had promised I would help her win the game. At the time, I hadn't expected either of us to ever reach the bedroom doors that marked the end of the game, let alone the one that would end this nightmare for her. The bargain had been a means to an end.

Then, that damn spider thing had appeared and everything had gotten complicated. Oh, Sable had certainly been useful. Just as I had thought she would, she had attracted that bastard brother of mine and drawn him right to me. I'd gotten my revenge, and still had an hour to spare.

But the spider thing had other ideas. For reasons of its own, it had taken a shine to my Pet, which was irritating enough. Worse yet, it got in the way of my fulfilling my end of the bargain. It made itself an obstacle between Sable and her goal, which meant that, to keep my word, I had to fight the damn thing. That… had not ended well for me. Like I said, the game ended with that bastard's arm through my stomach.

Which brought my whirling thoughts back to the present. What the hell was I doing, lying at the feet of the Immoral queen? My queen?

"Come to watch me die?" I asked, smirking at her. "Sorry to disappoint, but I don't intend on going out that easily."

"Don't flatter yourself, Callisthene," she snorted, frowning at me. The expression didn't affect her beauty at all, but then nothing ever would. As a race, we Immorals were nearly always heart stopping gorgeous. Irony at it's finest, I supposed. Outward beauty to hide the inward hideousness. "Stand up."

Suppressing a groan, I rolled to my feet. I wanted to stay right where I was, out of spite. But when Queen Macnawena gave an order, you obeyed, or suffered the consequences. In the process of standing, however, I realized that I was already healed. The gaping hole that should have been in my stomach was gone with smooth, gray flesh in its place. Odd, I'd never healed quite that quickly before.

"If you're not here to gloat, then what the hell do you want?" I demanded, glaring at my queen. I had never been one to bow and scrape to her, which was what had attracted her to my brother and me in the first place. Of all her children, we were the least respectful.

"To give you your prize," she answered simply, her lips curling in amusement. My blood froze. That was never a good smile.

"Prize?" I asked, cautiously. My instincts screamed at me to back away quickly, but I locked my leg muscles into place. I was not prey, even for the queen, and I would not act like such. I was a predator, and a damn good one.

"Of course, my dear Callisthene," Macnawena purred, closing the distance between us so that she could trace a clawed finger down my bare chest. "The rules of the game are very clear for the Immorals. Each of the players is given a key."

"And one day to find the door the key goes to," I interrupted, impatiently. "If the key goes into the right lock before the Game ends, then the Immoral gains his freedom for the next hundred years, until the next Game." Every Immoral that participated in the game was a criminal. I, personally, was imprisoned for murdering a fellow Immoral and getting caught. "I know the rules, Macnawena. I also know that I was not looking for the door. Hell, I don't even know what happened to my key."

"Perhaps you weren't looking for the door that went with your key, but your little human friend was," Macnawena explained, far too calmly.

"My… Pet?" I asked, unable to mask my surprise. I quickly fit the pieces together. Somehow Sable must have gotten her hands on my key. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised to find out that our finish lines were one and the same. Macnawena would have known that Anunciacion, my brother, had his eye on Sable. She also knew that my thirst for revenge would lead me right to the human woman. But if Sable used my key on her door, that could only mean… "She finished the Game?"

"The first human ever to achieve such a feat," the queen agreed. Still, that clam air didn't waver. Something was wrong. I knew it. She should have been more… something. More emotional, irritated, intrigued. No human had ever won the Game before. This was the kind of thing that the immortal Immorals clung to. New experiences to break up the monotony of an otherwise boring eternity.

"And her wish was granted, as promised?" I asked, crossing my arms. I could barely contain my curiosity. Sable had proved to be incredibly entertaining during the time I'd spent with her. And of course, there was the knowledge that, if we were both free of the Game, I could find her and play with her to my heart's content. It was a pleasing thought.

"Her wish is impossible to grant," Macnawena waved a hand dismissively.

"I didn't think anything was impossible for the great Queen Macnawena," I goaded, suppressing the urge to grit my teeth. I had to remind myself that the queen followed different rules from the rest of us. She was not obligated to uphold her end of bargains. She didn't even need an agreement with another person to access her immeasurable magic. Still, the thought of any Immoral going back on her word pissed me off.

"A simple life with her brother," Macnawena scoffed. "Impossible. Her life will never be simple, and her brother did not escape the Game."

Well, that was certainly promising. The prize for humans who played the game was having any single wish granted. The penalty, however, for not being in their room when the final chime sounded was to spend the rest of their lives as cats. If Jett, Sable's twin brother, had not escaped the Game then he was most likely an Immoral's pet now. That would be one lest obstacle in my way to Sable.

On the other hand, Sable had been willing to risk her own life to the Game in order to find her brother. Twins that close would not handle the separation well. Even I could see the two had a strong bond. Such a connection needed to be whittled away slowly, gradually. Severing it sharply would result in the death of the girl, and I wasn't willing to let a perfectly good toy escape my grasp until I was done with her.

"You have to grant a wish, yes?" I asked, choosing my words carefully.

"That is not your concern," Macnawena informed me. "I have healed your wounds and merely intended to explain why you suddenly have free rein of the mortal realm. I did not want you to think you had actually escaped me. Think of the arrogance that would grant you."

"Oh, of course, whatever," I dismissed her explanation, speaking quickly before she decided to send me away. I had to work fast. "May I propose a bargain? Just to make things interesting."

"For you or me?" Macnawena asked, suspiciously.

"Both," I answered, smirking. I had her. "Concerning the human who won the game…"

"Earth to Callisthene," Jett called, waving a hand in front of my face. I blinked, slowly, drawing myself out of the memory. I wasn't even certain what had brought the flashback on, though I wasn't surprised. Since making that bargain with the queen, I'd been remembering the strangest things at the oddest moments.

I blinked again, studying the young human in front of me. Jett Riverwend was no longer the black cat he had been for the past year. He'd discovered the loophole to the punishment, by accident or the queen's design I'm not sure. For the first year after the Game, the mortals that lost were trapped in the form of a feline, but once that year was over, they had complete control over their forms again. They could return to their human shape. However, most gave up before that year was over and forgot about their human pasts.

Sable, however, had not let Jett forget he was ever human, and he was now one of the few humans who had a second form. At his will, he could take on the shape of the cat he had been.

As a human, he was beautiful, rather than handsome. With a slight frame and feminine face framed by silky, shoulder length black hair, it would have been easy to mistake him for a woman. But then, that was more than understandable. He and his sister were physically identical in every way except for gender and, recently, hair length. Sable still kept her raven locks waist length. Their silver gray eyes were the exact same shade and shape, their caramel gold skin the same color. I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised to learn that the two had been mistaken for each other often.

"Do you need something?" I asked, arching a brow at the mortal in an arrogant gesture I knew irritated the hell out of him. So much had occurred in the past year, since I made a bargain with my queen. I had given up on whittling away at the bond between Jett and Sable a long time ago and learned to tolerate the brother. Likewise, he learned to tolerate me for the sake of his beloved sister.

"You looked like you were thinking hard about something," Jett answered with a shrug. "Did you figure out how to find the Arachnid?"

Ah, yes. The Arachnid. I suppressed the urge to wince at the reminder of the biggest pain in my ass. The wrinkle in my life. The current bane of my existence. I could go on, but I was already bored with the whole situation.

The spider thing that had skewered me in the game was the same Arachnid that we hunted now. Somehow, he had managed to escape the realm the Game existed in and now roamed the mortal plane at his own will, blatantly killing Immorals left and right. Normally, I wouldn't have cared about it. I was confident that I could avoid him easily enough. I was no weakling.

But then that damn soul seer, Jade, entered Sable's life. Gifted, or cursed depending on how you looked at it, with eyes that enabled the otherwise blind girl to see things as they were, Jade should have been dead. Immorals were very territorial when it came to their abilities, one of which was the eyesight to see past a creature's flesh and into its soul. Soul seers like Jade were hunted, once upon a time, into extinction. Or so we thought.

Oh, alright. I couldn't really place the blame for our current situation entirely on Jade's shoulders. She did have her good side. She and Jett were hopelessly infatuated with one another, which conveniently divided Jett's attention between the woman he loved and his darling sister. That meant that most of Sable's protection fell to yours truly.

Also, I suppose I have to admit, that the Arachnid would have targeted Sable and Jett regardless of whether or not Jade was around. In a quest to erase all the Immorals, it made sense to enlist the help of two predas.

Back when Immorals were more active in the mortal realm, certain humans developed traits and abilities that allowed them to fight against us. They were always born in the form of pairs, one to be the figurative bait and the other the trap. The "bait" always possessed a pure soul, something that drew us Immorals to them like moths to flames. The "trap" was always a natural with weapons, as well as stronger and faster than a normal human. The predas had a much higher chance of killing an Immoral than a normal mortal.

When we discovered we could no longer reproduce, Queen Macnawena pulled most of the Immorals from the mortal realm and implemented the only three laws we have. Do not get caught. Do not break a bargain. Do not kill another Immoral. Thousands of years passed before she allowed us to filter back into the mortal realm again, and by that time most assumed that the predas had died out. After all, predators without prey never survived long.

And yet, here I was with three beings that most of my own kind would have sworn couldn't exist. The soul seer, Jade, and the predas, Sable and Jett. I supposed I should have known as soon as I saw Sable that no one could have such a glaringly bright soul. But she was just so… perfect. She was unique and different. I'd never come across a mortal with such absolute faith in her brother, or such a gentle heart. I had honestly believed that she was a rare diamond among all the gravel that was her race. I still believed so, even knowing what she was.

And that just made me want to dim that light of hers all the more. Call it a hobby of mine, but I couldn't think of a greater pleasure than that of seducing the "pure hearted" into their own demise. Watching the light of her soul dim as she willingly committed sin after sin to darken it… it was, without a doubt, the greatest pleasure I had as an Immoral. Of course, to do that, I needed my prey's trust. I'd played this game countless times, and never had it taken me long to convince my target to dig her own grave, so to speak, once I had her trust.

Once again, though, Sable proved to be different. I'd go so far as to say she had nearly unshakeable faith in me, and yet her soul remained as beautifully pure as it had the first time I laid eyes on her. She was a challenge that I relished. I was determined to crack that shine before she died a mortal's death.

Which, annoyingly enough, could be any day now, thanks to that damn queen of mine. The Arachnid had tried to convince Sable and Jett to aide him in killing Macnawena, but that plan had backfired dramatically. Instead, the twins had entered into an agreement with the Immoral queen. They had one year to find and kill the Arachnid.

Have I mentioned the fact that it was the race of Arachnids that created the Immorals in the first place? Yes, the very thing we were hunting was a fucking god. A suicide mission at best.

In exchange for effectively tossing aside their lives, Sable, Jett, Jade and all their blood relations from now until the end of time would be free from Immoral interference. That was Jett's condition.

What did Sable get out of this, you ask? Me. I was quite flattered, actually. She had bargained away her life for my unconditional freedom. Until that point, I had been little more than a ghost, intangible and invisible to everyone but Sable and Jett. A little restriction placed on my temporary freedom. However, Sable bargained that away when she demanded that my prison sentence be lifted. More proof of her generosity and my failure at darkening her soul.

Of course, there was still a condition placed on my newfound freedom. I was only allowed to be able to affect the things in this realm so long as I did so by helping the predas. I wasn't about to admit that I would have anyway. I wasn't done with Sable yet. There was no way I was going to allow any harm to come to her, if for no other reason than the fact that I still had an open bargain with her.

When in the Game, she and I had made a gamble. If I could succeed in convincing her to choose herself over anyone else, one selfish moment, then she would be unconditionally mine. However, if she could bring me to have a single selfless moment, I would personally grant her wish.

I had every confidence that I would win the gamble. It was in a human's nature to be selfish. As far as Immorals were concerned… well, it wasn't a matter of being in our nature, our very core was as dark and filthy with selfish intent and sin as could be. Where do you think you mortals got the word "immoral" from, if not from us? My people lived only to serve themselves, and I was no exception. So it was not a matter of if my Pet would loose the bet, but when.

I knew that she had forgotten about the bet, assuming that the time limit on it had expired. She was sweetly naive that way, not realizing that we had never agreed on a time limit. I'd be damned if I let her die before I won that bet.

I forced my thoughts back to the Arachnid. These persistent trips down memory lane were going to get irritating fast. I needed to focus on the situation at hand.

"We know that he is hunting Immorals," I reminded Jett. "So we should look for areas where the Immorals are disappearing, yes?"

"Of course," Jett drawled. "Why didn't I think of that?"

"Don't snap," the focus of my current obsession chided as she walked into the hotel room Jett and I were occupying at that moment. Behind Sable was the short haired, white eyed Jade.

Jade was a lovely woman, I suppose, but she couldn't compare to Sable. No one could. Still, Jade's pale skin and eyes were a sharp contrast to her short, dyed hair. Her features were gentle and kind, and all those pitiful qualities that mortal men look for in a woman. Her slender hand was resting on the large head of Hylan, Sable and Jett's pet Monitor.

Hylan was yet another impossibility. As a Hall Monitor, he had been created with dozens of others to patrol the halls of the castle that made up the Game. Their sole purpose was to kill anything they came across, human or Immoral. And they were equipped to do just that, with diamond teeth and claws and acidic saliva.

Yet somehow, most likely due to his empathic abilities, Jett charmed the beast into being completely loyal to him. Hylan had proven to be a faithful companion to the preda and a good guard for Sable. The Immoral queen had given the hellhound a mortal form to take while in the human realm. The point had been to make him fit in more, but even so, he still stood out. Anyone would notice a Doberman that was the size of a small horse.

Hylan laid his ears flat against his skull and curled his lips back in a silent snarl when he saw me. The beast and I had a very tentative tolerance for each other, but he would always view me as a threat to his master. I would always view him as a bloodthirsty beast with the weapons needed to kill me. And I assure you, Immorals are very hard to kill. We only had one real weakness, diamonds.

Did I mention that a Hall Monitor's teeth and claws were made of diamonds? I thought so. Do I need to say any more? I thought not.

"What are we talking about?" Sable asked, sitting on the armrest of the chair her brother occupied. With a disgustingly gentle tug, Jett pulled Jade into his lap and wrapped his arms around her waist. The two exchanged a lovey dovey glance that made me want to gag.

"Callisthene was zoning," Jett explained.

"I was thinking," I corrected. What I was thinking I would not mention. They didn't need to know that much. Unless of course they asked. I couldn't lie. Well, more like wouldn't lie. It's a long story that I won't get into now. I continued before Sable could think to ask what was on my mind. I wouldn't have put it past her. The human woman had an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what I didn't want to talk about. "Where's Agent Gary?"

Agent Gary Hart was yet another mortal that had gotten dragged into Immoral business. Occasionally I felt pity for the man. After all, it wasn't like he had sought out trouble. He had merely been doing his job, seeking out a human killer. One of Jade's sisters had been the only witness, and a series of circumstances had led to Sable's volunteering to help find the murderer.

As was common with twins, especially predas, both Sable and Jett had abilities that were rare among humans. Yes, I realize that I contradicted myself in that sentence, but life is often like that. Humans, as a race, are bland and basic. However, there were always those exceptions. Twins had a tendency to develop extra talents uncommon to humans in general. Sable and Jett had these advantages on top of being predas.

Jett, as I mentioned before, was an empath. But I don't hold it against him. After all, he couldn't help the way he was born, any more than he could help being a pretty boy. And believe me, even I could tell you that he hated being as beautiful as he was. The boy was as straight as an arrow.

Sable, on the other hand, was a seeker. She had a rather unusual ability to find nearly anything. Of course, there were some restrictions. She had to be close to the object she was looking for in order to give more than just a general direction. She also had to know exactly what she was looking for. It wasn't like she could decide to find a book that held all the answers to her problems and an internal compass would lead her to it. She tried that when she believed Jett to be trapped as a cat. She needed to know specifically what book.

Because Jade's sister had actually witnessed a murder, they knew exactly who they were looking for. Using her ability, Sable was able to lead the authorities to the man's hiding place. Gary had been the agent assigned to travel with and protect Sable and Jade during the search. He was in the wrong place at the right time to have his very beliefs shaken to the core, and somehow that made him decide to help Sable, Jett and Jade in their current task. Humans could, occasionally, be somewhat unpredictable. And incredibly stupid.

"He's reporting in to his superiors," Sable answered my question. "He said something about getting time off so he could help us."

"He also said that no one would believe him if he told them that he was looking for a giant spider centaur thing," Jade added, doubtlessly guessing what we were talking about. While I could become tangible and audible to the world around me, I chose to remain in my spiritual form for the moment. Because of her eyes, she could see me but not hear me. It was more convenient for me to exist in this ghost state rather than be completely visible. At least this way I didn't have to concentrate on appearing human.

"I can't imagine why he would think such a thing," I drawled, arching a brow. "Seems like such a logical hobby to me." Yes, sarcasm has always been a constant companion of mine. We get along so well.

"Yeah, funny that," Sable retorted, her tone dry. "Gary thought that his bosses would try to lock him up. He's putting in for vacation time instead."

"He'll deserve a real vacation before all this is over," Jett added with a wince. At least he seemed to fully grasp the danger of the situation he was in. I wish I could say the same for his trouble prone sister.

"He already deserves a vacation, poor guy," Jade sighed.

"Just no island resorts," Sable muttered with a grimace. I didn't bother to suppress my own grin. Humans had been drawn into the Game thinking it was a new, rich island resort.

"I don't know," I purred, "resorts can be very relaxing." I laughed when she shot me a withering glare.

"Only you would think that hell hole was relaxing," Jett growled. Sensing his master's annoyance, Hylan echoed Jett's growl. I laughed again. My memories of the Game were no better than the twins' but the scars left behind by their experiences amused me. I had to get my pleasures where I could.

"Anyway," Sable said, before I could really provoke Jett into an argument. "Gary said he shouldn't take too long. When we gets back, we can fill him in on what we decided."

"And what did we decide, Pet?" I asked, knowing better than to assume we would actually discuss our plan of action. Sable usually only had one plan. Find a goal and plow on ahead toward it. A good plan for someone like myself, who was near impossible to kill and immortal. For a fragile mortal like her, however, it was borderline suicidal. But then, her reckless behavior was all part of the charm that made her so interesting.

"I know what we're looking for," Sable reminded us. "I'll just find him, we go to the spider thing, and kill him."

"Problem," Jett said, raising his hand as though he was a student waiting to be called on. "We don't know how to kill him."

"Your spear and Jett's bullets bounce off of the bastard's skin," I added, pointing out the obvious. Sable and Jett had both picked up weapons from the Game, both geared for killing Immorals. The blade on Sable's spear and the magically reloading bullets in Jett's gun were all diamonds.

"So maybe he's got some other weakness," Sable persisted stubbornly.

"A weakness we don't know about," Jett argued, just as mule headedly. "We might as well be begging him to kill us. We need a real plan, Sabe."

"Alright, let's hear what you came up with," Sable sniffed, looking down on her brother. Despite the little tiff, it was clear, even to a blind idiot, that the there were no hard feelings between the two. I had never met two mortals as tightly knit as the twins, a hundred years ago I would have said it was impossible. But then again, I would have claimed a lot of things impossible before I met Sable.

"We go back to the house, first," Jett began. The house he was speaking of could only be the home that the Immoral queen had set up for Sable when she completed the Game. "Jade should be with her sisters. We can pick up a few things and go from there."

"You're not leaving me behind," Jade argued, predictably. "I want to stay with you, Jett. I can help, I know I can. I can see him coming when you might not, and maybe I can find a weakness."

"She's right," Sable agreed, shamelessly siding with her brother's lover. "We can use her eyes. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't have even known when the Arachnid was following us."

"It's too dangerous," Jett argued. "I'm not exactly thrilled about you coming along, Sable. I'm not going to put both of you at risk…"

Already bored with the argument, I leaned back into the chair and allowed myself to fall through the back of it and into the wall behind. I knew what the outcome of the argument would be. For all of his prowess as a warrior, Jett was a hopeless cause when it came to his sister. There was very little that he could deny her, and when Sable teamed up with Jade, Jett wouldn't stand a chance. Of course, that didn't mean the women wouldn't spend an hour wearing him down. The man did have some pride.

There was something else I could attend to while the mortals wasted time bickering. In freeing me from my restrictions, Sable had unknowingly negated the bargain I'd made with Queen Macnawena over a year ago.

"May I propose a bargain? Just to make things interesting."

"For you or me?" Macnawena asked, suspiciously.

"Both," I answered, smirking. I had her. "Concerning the human who won the game…"

"What about her?" Macnawena asked when I hesitated a second too long. I had her interest, now all I had to do was phrase things just right. If I expressed too much interest in Sable then the queen may turn more attention onto the mortal woman than Sable would survive.

"By your own rules, you owe her a wish," I reminded the queen. "It would set a bad example to your children if you went back on your word now. Of course, no one ever said that the human got to choose which wish was granted, or even that it would be a current wish. I can tell you what to grant her in order to uphold your end of the bargain, and in exchange, I want her brother."

Macnawena studied me, her hair curling in interest. Among Immorals, such changes were common place. The way mortals grew and aged naturally, Immorals… shifted. I had personally lost track of the different traits I had developed and lost over my long lifetime. We often had to go by the feel of one another's souls rather than appearance.

"No," she finally decided, to my irritation. I knew that this wouldn't be easy. This was where the negotiations began. "Many others have expressed an interest in the brother. He's become a very valuable creature. One tiny bit of information is not worth a fraction of what some of the others are offering for him. I, myself, had an eye on him. I might just keep him for myself."

Shit. That wouldn't do. If I had any hope of playing with Sable, she needed to be weaned away from her other, not ripped apart. I had no interest in a heart broken toy.

"Then I'll sweeten the pot," I offered, keeping my tone smooth. Mustn't show emotion, or she would latch on to the weakness. "In exchange for her brother, I will tell you how to grant her wish and consent to a temporary restriction on my freedom. Say, for so long as Jett lives as a cat, I will consent to be a mute." I could always kill Jett once Sable could live without him.

"Intriguing," Macnawena mused, cocking her head. My blood turned to ice. Had I let something slip I hadn't meant to? "But still not enough. I'll will grant you the brother in exchange for the information and two restrictions on your century of freedom. You will not be seen or heard by any mortal."

"Now you ask too much for too little," I chided lightly, relieved. A test. If I had agreed, she would have known that there was something about the twins that I thought was worth such a sacrifice. "I would not be able to enjoy my games if I couldn't be seen by my toys. I'll concede to the restrictions provided I gain ownership to Jett as well as a full, undisputed claim on both twins, and the restrictions do not include them. I do not care about the rest of the mortal realm. My game involves them."

"A full undisputed claim," Macnawena repeated. "You know what that means, do you not?"

"They would be mine. No other Immoral may interfere or even approach without explicit permission from me. I'd have full freedom to punish any trespassers at my own discretion," I elaborated, showing her that I did indeed understand. It was common knowledge among the Immorals that I was very territorial over my toys. The crime I had been imprisoned for was killing a bitch who had stepped into the middle of a game Anunciacion and I were playing, and tampering with a mortal we had targeted. She was not the first I had killed for such an action, just the first I had been caught over.

"That is a very large request, especially considering just how fascinating your fellow Immorals found the two mortals," Macnawena pointed out, tapping a scaled finger against her hard lips. "It would take a great deal of effort to keep them away from that pretty little female. I'll grant you complete claim over them, in exchange for your ability to affect the mortal plane. For the full time of your freedom, you will be completely intangible."

I didn't twitch, though I wanted to hit her. What good would having access to Sable be if I couldn't touch her? "Throw in the Hall Monitor," I demanded, hoping to force her into relenting a bit. "The one that took a shine to Jett. Give it a mortal form and include it in the package, along with the spear and gun they used during the Game. May as well toss in the bastard boyfriend of hers while we're at it. He could make things interesting," I added as an afterthought. I'd need something to vent my frustrations on, and Andy, Sable's abusive ex-suitor would be perfect.

Of course, I didn't expect the queen to agree to all that, not for one little restriction. So when she nodded, I nearly choked out of shock.

"Agreed, but the restrictions last until the end of your sentence," she countered. Until the end of my sentence was a prettier way of saying permanently. "You will be invisible, inaudible, and intangible to everyone and thing, save for the twin mortals and the Hall Monitor. Even to your own kind, Callisthene.

"In exchange, you will receive undisputed claim over both of the twins. No Immorals will encroach on your territory, and if any do then you will be allowed to deal out whatever punishment you choose, with no restrictions. I will grant the Hall Monitor another form and give the feline that once was the woman's lover to her. I assume these small details are all to endear yourself to her."

"To earn her trust," I agreed. Macnawena knew me well enough to recognize the beginnings of my favorite game. Seduction was best begun with gifts.

"Very well," she continued. "The weapons they favored in the Game will be given to them as well. Is this all acceptable?"

"Yes," I agreed. I was giving up quite a bit, but I had confidence that I would be able to bargain back some freedom in the future. I thought of Sable, with her beautiful soul, and knew that breaking it would be worth any restriction placed on me. "Her wish was for a home on the beach, with a purple picket fence," I added, to seal the bargain.

"Enjoy your reprieve," Macnawena said, smirking at me. She clearly thought she had the upper hand. I mirrored her expression, keeping it in place even as she placed a hand on my cheek and used her considerable magic to alter my form.

Macnawena had always underestimated what I was capable of.





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