The mist raged to itself, letting out horrified shrieks of pure hatred the echoed across the still air of the marsh. Thick strands of liquid silver lashed around wildly, severing the frail limbs of the dead trees that survived precariously in the swamp. Stones cracked under their rueful lashes, the sturdy bricks of the wall even crumbling under their ferocity.

How dare they take her away! It was so close, so close! She was under its spell, lost in its intoxicating persuasion. She was crushing that ornery old bitch back into to her place, letting the others understand the true sense of its power. Damn the spider for pulling her away. Damn her lovers for breaking her back. She belonged to the mist. It owned her. How dare they!

Carefully, slowly, the mist managed to pull its fury inward. The strands of silver retreated back into their host, leaving rows of lifeless trees and split stones in their wake. The onyx-stained clouds swirled around each other, flashes of crimson and gold visible as they moved.

“How dare they?” the soft whispered voice hissed. “So close. All mine.”

The memory of her brought forth a fresh batch of screams. So delicate, her pale limbs glowing sliver in its soft light. Her eyes hollow, waiting for orders. Her dark hair whipping in the breeze. The alluring scent of her skin swirling around in its grasp. So delectable…

Slowly, the mist calmed itself, pulling back its thunderous raging to a seething silence. Damn them all. And damn her as well. She had given them a fight, yes, but she had fallen to their trap nonetheless. It would be a challenge to lure her back now. She would need more than a simple ambush or a seductive whisper to bring her back.

“So be it,” the mist hummed to itself. “If it will take more, then I shall give her more.”

Slowly, the clouds of black and silver began to twist around itself, its form tightening and shifting into a tight circle. The swirls of fog started to spin, slowly at first, then gaining speed after each rotation, becoming a blur of onyx, silver and crimson. Flashes of light flickered inside the cloud, illuminating the shadows within. It whirled faster, becoming smaller and darker with every turn.

Slowly, the whirring cloud began to ease it spinning. Threads of mist broke away, dissolving into the air. The orb sank down into the soft peat of the marsh, gradually dissipating into the cold night air. Bit by bit, it evaporated, leaving behind only the tiniest traces of its existence on the wind. The marsh went still, only the sound of the howling icy winds and screams of damned souls piercing the silence.

Fingers twitched slightly. Silver eyes opened. Muscles under pale flesh shuddered to life. A steady heartbeat started and strong lungs began to draw in air.

Letting out a soft growl, the young man pushed himself to his feet, brushing off any wayward chunks of moss from his ashen skin. Long strands of white hair whipped behind him in the wind. A dark smile played on his lips, slowly growing with every beat of his heart. He rolled his neck and shoulders, cracking the bones into place and stretching the tight muscles of his back.

He groaned. “Much better.”

His attention turned to the main wall, the great barrier that had held him off from the endless mass of souls for years. He strode toward it, stopping just short of the cold stones. He reached out, placing a hand on its smooth surface. A broad smile broke onto his face. No burning, no shocking, no invisible barrier that prevented him from going further. The smile widened an inch. His plan had worked.

Digging long fingers into the rock, he scaled the enormous wall, moving quickly to avoid any delays or mistimed interruptions. Hauling himself over the edge of the wall, he peered down the main hallway, searching for any sign of possible resistance. It was deserted for now, the guards having made their rounds hours ago. Perfect.

“Now then,” he whispered. “Where are you?”

Closing his eyes, he tilted his head back and inhaled deeply, searching for her scent on the air. He found nothing, causing him to scowl. He sniffed again, deeper this time, still searching for her delicious scent.

Finding nothing, the young man turned and strode down the cavernous hallway, taking deep breaths as he went. He’d find her eventually. His new form was convincing enough: tall, handsome and powerful despite his lean appearance. A little coaxing, a few seductive games and she’d be his again. All he needed was patience and a little-

There! Her scent stunned him awake from his musings. His smile returned, more wicked and menacing then before.

“Found you.”

He turned, making his way down the hall, following her aroma with every step. Oh yes, he’d have her soon enough. And this time, she wouldn’t get away.



Sticky tendrils of webbing wrapped around her wrists, jerking her hands forward and dragging her across the marsh. Another bolt of webbing circled her ankles. She screamed in rage, roaring out when another sharp tug hauled her forward. More sticky strands looped around her head, covering her mouth and silencing her cries.

The cold stone of the walls smacked against her back, making her gasp in surprised rage. Anger rushed through her veins, fighting to break out of her bonds. Whoever or whatever had captured her would face her wrath soon enough. Pulling her away from her target was beyond foolish. Now they wanted to take her away from her master? Idiots.

A booming alien voice rumbled in her ears, calling to children she couldn’t see or feel.

The tickle of tiny legs across her skin startled her. Tiny limbs raced across her arms and body, spreading their own silky webbing over her, containing her further. Tiny bodies of spiders did their magic, restraining her limbs in sticky threads until she was rendered immobile. A few crawled to her face, spinning thin thread over her cheeks and neck, trying to block the tendrils of mist from reaching her.

A few of the infant arachnids pawed gently at her face, attempting to calm her with tender touches. She gave a muffled screech and tried to shake them off. They stayed put, holding on tightly and kept up their gentle stroking while their siblings continued to bind her.

A single spider dared to crawl closer, its tiny furry body inching farther up her face. Eight microscopic eyes stared at into her own while one thin leg gently pawed at her nose. So tender, so sweet to her despite her ferocious struggle. It continued to stroke her face, emitting soft squeals as if caressed her.

One thin tendril of mist lashed out, striking the tiny spider across its abdomen. It rolled backwards and collapsed and rolled onto her shoulder, a deep gash splitting its small body open. Green liquid oozed out of the wound as its tiny legs twitched in agony. She stared at the small arachnid as it died on her skin, watching the very life drain out of its small black eyes…

Claire bolted up in bed, her breathing harsh and ragged. A thin sheen of sweat coated her skin, her heart raced under her ribs. She whipped her head around, searching for any sign of liquid silver. Finding nothing, she swallowed raggedly and sat back against the wall, pressing a hand to her chest to calm her heart. She settled back, relaxing against the cool stone of the wall.

Pulling her legs to her chest, she looped her arms around her knees and hung her head. Her mouth quivered slightly, tears began to stream down her face. The dream – a memory, really – of the small spider that had died for her made her heart break.

Poor thing. This was all my fault.

Despair crushed down on her. She felt uncontainable guilt for that tiny creature, knowing it was only trying to help her. Its brothers and sisters had helped, too, and more of them had lost their lives for her than she had thought. Would they ever forgive her or having to make such a sacrifice? Her heart sank. Surely Kerion hated her for causing him to lose his children. None of them would care for her. Why should they? This was her fault in the first place.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a small ball of fuzz crawling out from under the bed. Tiny, with eight long slender legs and a furry black body covered in multicolored swirls, it scratched at the ground searching for food.


She wiped her eyes and leaned over, reaching a hand down to the floor. Gently, she scooped up the tiny spider, watching as it turned and reared up in shocked anger. It paused, lowering its body back down onto her palm. She smiled softly and pulled her hand back up, balancing the tiny creature as it soared off the ground.

She raised her hand to her eyes, watching as the infant spider pawed around on her hand for a moment, trying to find its balance. She giggled and reached out her other hand, tenderly petting its silky fur. It squealed happily and reached out to stroke her finger, begging for more attention. A broad smile cracked her sullen features, a small glimmer of happiness starting to spark in her soul.

She pulled her finger away, bringing her hand and the spider close to her face. She nuzzled her cheek against its soft body, smiling when tiny legs reached out to stroke her skin.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “This was all my fault. You lost your siblings because of me.”

The spider squealed again, its slender legs rubbing faster against her cheek. A small attempt to calm her nerves and ease her guilt. She giggled and turned her head, planting a kiss on its tiny back.

“You’re so sweet,” she giggled. “Thank you.”

The spider squeaked happily again.

“Could you do me a favor?” she whispered.

It backed away an inch, holding completely still as it watched her expectantly.

“Could you please tell your father I’m grateful for everything your family has done? I owe you all so much.” Tears stung her eyes, though she blinked them away before they could escape.

The tiny spider nuzzled her palm, squeaking again and pawing at her fingers.

“Thank you.” She giggled again. “Come on. You must be hungry.”

Flipping the sheets back, Claire swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stepped down onto the cool floor. She stepped carefully to the table, making sure there were no surprises waiting below her feet. She pulled a chair away and sat down, gently laying out her hand on the table so the spider could climb off. It stepped lightly onto the table, turning to watch as she dug through the piles of food.

“Let’s see…what could you eat?”

She scowled as she rifled through the innumerable plates and glasses. Nothing here would do. The creature was far too tiny to eat any of her beef or drink the wine. She stared at the food, unsure of her next move.

Oh. I know!

Reaching out, she pulled the bowl of cherries forward. She plucked one from the bowl and set it in front of the small spider, settling into her chair and watching closely. One slender leg reached out to paw at the fruit, testing it cautiously. It crawled closer, the tiny fangs at it mouth moving, curious. Suddenly, it squealed and launched its tiny frame upon the fruit, sinking its mouth into the fruit and devouring it eagerly.

Claire giggled. “A spider that eats fruit…imagine that.”

“Imagine what?”

Darrow’s voice caught her off guard for an instant. Strong arms looped around her shoulders and his lips pressed against her neck.

She closed her eyes and leaned her head back into his shoulder. “Good morning,” she purred.

“Good to have you back.” He kissed her throat.

Her smile widened at the feel of his mouth on her flesh. She sighed inwardly. This was her normal, this was her regularity. Wrapped in his arms with his mouth teasing her skin, she felt more at home than she had in years.

She opened her eyes to see the tiny spider staring at her. The cherry was nothing more than a wrinkled husk now, and Kerion’s child was cleaning its mouth parts with its front legs.

“Done?” she inquired.

It squealed at her happily. She smiled and picked up the cherry, tossing it into the pool of shadows on the wall. It soaked into the blackness instantly, disappearing from view. She turned back to the spider, noticing that it stood completely still when it had her attention. As if waiting for an order.

“You ready to go home?”

It squealed again, and she held out her hand. It scampered onto her palm eagerly, she bent over, pulling out of Darrow’s embrace and placed her hand on the cool floor. The spider climbed off easily, hesitating a moment before turning around and nuzzling her thumb. She smiled and stroked its silky fur again.

“Remember to thank your father for me,” she whispered.

The creature squealed one last time before scampering off across the floor and into that shadows. It dissolved into the darkness, leaving her alone with Darrow. She sat back in her seat again, leaning back so she could rest into Darrow’s strong arms again. He complied willingly, wrapping his hands around her waist and pulling her close.

“One of Kerion’s, I presume.” His breath scorched the delicate skin of her neck.

Claire nodded.

“Did anything happen?”

“Nothing of importance. Just some guilty tears and apologies.”

“I see.” His kisses became firmer. “Then I have nothing to worry about?”

Her brows raised an inch. “Meaning?”

“You running off with Kerion.” She could hear the smile in his voice.

She giggled. “No. I love Kerion and his family, but for totally different reasons. Besides,” she reached up and caressed his neck with her fingers, “someone else has claimed me already.”

“Damn straight.” He licked her ear.

She groaned. Shaking her head, she wriggled out of his embrace and stood up from the chair, turning to smile at him. His eyes were both confused and expectant. Grinning, she held out her hands to him.

“Which reminds me. I still owe you for saving me.”

His brows rose. “Just me?”

Claire shrugged. “I figured the blowjob was for Silthos and the animalistic sex was for Thaltos. The leaves you.”

A wicked grin cracked his lips. “That it does.”

She wiggled her fingers, beckoning him. He stepped forward, smiling down at her.

“Know a place we can be alone for a moment?” She blinked her eyes innocently.

Darrow hesitated. “I’m not…there has to be-”

She shook her head. “No, not like that. Someplace with music.”

Relief etched his features. “There’s a few here. Do you have something particular in mind?”

She gave him a sly smile. “Perhaps.”

He grinned knowingly, stepping close to loop his rams around her waist. “At least let me tell the others so they don’t think something’s happened.”

“Fine.” She rose on her toes and kissed him, then spun around and strode toward the shadows that lined the wall. “I’ll be outside.”

He stilled. “With Tarrin?”

Claire’s smile turned wicked. “Maybe.”

He cocked his head to the side, quizzical. “You will be careful, correct?”

Her sinister smile never faltered. “I can’t promise anything. Take too long and I may need to find relief elsewhere.” Thin strands of shadow reached out and encircled her limbs, gently pulling her in.

His brows creased. “Fuck you.”

“Only if you hurry.” She winked and disappeared through the shadows.

She exited the pool of blackness a heartbeat later, rolling her neck and shoulders to realign her bones. She stood alone in the main hallway, deathly silent now except for the soft sound of souls screaming in the distant hellfire. She smiled softly. It was peaceful here. True, beyond the wall was something she dared not approach or tease again, but still. The quiet allowed her a small slice of calm.

The shadows behind her shuddered, signaling Darrow’s approach. Giggling, she sprinted around and hid behind a stone column, pressing up against it and hiding in the shadows. Darrow stepped through, a sly smile on his face. Clearly, his mind had drifted straight into the gutter while talking with Silthos. His face dropped when he noticed her absence, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

“Claire?” he called out.

Her muscles tensed in excitement. She bit her lip nervously, heart pounding in anticipation.

“Claire?” He stepped forward cautiously, his dark eyes scanning the hall.

She bit her lip harder, stifling her giggle of excitement.

Darrow continued forward, his steps slow and sure, his eyes moving constantly. His breathing increased slightly, his nerves on edge. She could see the thought in his eyes as he neared the column. Not again. He stepped up to the column, his eyes moving rapidly, searching for any sign of her.

Releasing her tight muscles, she launched herself at him.


They tumbled the ground in a heap of twisted limbs. Claire threw her head back and laughed, clutching her stomach as tears streamed down her eyes. Darrow, lay splayed out on the cold stone floor, stunned. His eyes narrowed in playful anger, his mouth twisting into a dark smile.

“You want to play then?” His voice was dark, deep and menacing.

Her laugher stopped abruptly, anxiety slowly seeping into her veins.

Darrow rolled over, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. He sat up, stretching his legs out and spinning her around. He laid her across his knees, using one arm to pin her down. His free hand stroked the pale flesh of her ass.

She squirmed against his body, her nervousness now turning to fear.

“I should spank you for doing that.” One finger caressed her cheek, drawing intricate swirls on her tender skin.

Her lip quivered. “Sorry.”

Dark laughter sent a chill up her spine. “No, no, no. Too late for that, my dear. You’ve upset me, and now I have to teach you a lesson.”

She whimpered. This wasn’t like Darrow at all. She knew he had some questionable tastes, but never once had he lashed out at her or threatened punishment. Maybe the mist had gotten past the walls in the middle of the night and turned him against her. She shivered and closed her eyes, fear bubbling up from her belly.

“Now then,” his pale swept across one pale cheek. “Hold still, Claire. You’ve disappointed me, and I need to make sure you don’t do it again.”

Without warning, his palm smacked against her ass, wringing a soft whimper from her throat. Her body tensed, the sting in her flesh not leaving quietly. She whimpered again, convinced her punishment signaled the loss of her dearest friend.

“I’m not done yet. You still need to learn your lesson.”

His hand traveled downward, long fingers playing with the entrance of her sex. Slowly, two fingers slipped inside, twisting and massaging her pussy as only Darrow knew how. His touch washed away the pain of his smack, making her body come alive under his iron grip. She shivered, a small moan escaping her throat.

He pulled his fingers away, giving her another hard smack on her bottom. She bit her lip, holding back her cry. Again he pulled away, again he sank his fingers deep inside her body, teasing her endlessly.

Her body relaxed a bit, the fear starting to dissipate from her belly. She hadn’t lost him after all. He was simply upset at her game – a trick, no doubt, that made him worry he’d lost her for a third time – and had found a gentle, exciting way to punish her for it. Despite her previous fears, Claire couldn’t deny that she honestly liked his punishment. Spanking wasn’t something she was quite used to yet, but mixing in his teasing fingers made it far more enjoyable.