The creature with the white gloves recognized the shift in the air but was too late to react before the hooded figure swooped in and easily subdued it. Using a merciless amount of strength, the hooded figure sent the creature crashing into the stone ground where it winced but made no sound. There was a seething hiss from the darkened hood that turned to a mirthless, sneering laugh. The creature resigned with a sigh and made no attempt to struggle but the vitriol shone in its now vibrant dove grey eyes. It made every attempt to avoid looking at its captor.

“Whatever have we here?” the hooded figure growled in a tone so low that it was barely audible. Still, Trioxin’s ears flickered in his sleep.

“A mistake, I admit,” the creature with the white gloves said, breathlessly. Its voice was still carrying the same lilt that soothed Will to sleep. Trioxin calmed in his sleep but he was still aware. The creature carefully keep an eye on the cat’s reactions through its periphery.

“Reckless fool,” the hooded figure spat in its ear with a low, feral tone. It laughed but it sounded more like a snarl. “Your charm skills are impressive but you risk drawing too much attention. You already know how little the family would approve of your behavior. Now you wish to taste their wrath as well as wake our little sleeper?”

“My punishment is set and I make no bid to fight our family, my Queen,” the creature said, the soft lilting had made the hooded figure loosen her grip. “My fate is yours to command.”

“Oh how I would truly love to believe that you are willing to behave,” the hooded figure mocked. Her tone sank to a dangerously low tone and the creature in her grip braced itself. “You insult me with your lies. I, whom you owe your life to, have never forgotten what landed you in the barracks to start with. Your willful spirit is only of use to me now as a means to carry this plan through. Your little mistake is only another pawn to be played and should she prove more useful than you, the family will have their way after all.”

“You are my family, my Queen,” the creature breathed. The charm of its voice had weakened and it knew that her grip would soon become more violent. Still it tried to keep its tone from wavering.

“And if that is so, what mistake might you have been trying to make?” she said, her teeth exposed and barely an inch away from its ear.

“The newborn isn’t aware,” the creature whispered, its voice still sonorous. “She’s still weak. She’s not yet been made into family.”

“And you would do that here,” the hooded figure snapped, crushing the creature in its grip to the ground. It became breathless and gasped in pain as a bone in its arm snapped. Trioxin’s ear flickered.

Its lips trembled but it made no sound and no attempt to stop the hooded figure as she pinned it to the ground. The creature kept its dulling grey eyes on the firelight as its Queen removed her hood finally and stared down at it with feral red eyes. It knew better than to look directly on the face of a Monarch. It was well aware that it was already in trouble but for the greater good. It understood that she must be appeased, even if it meant it had to suffer this indignity that it knew was coming. It wondered, idly, if the Queen had ever realized that it could see her face regardless. It had seen so many times in so many reflections. It was just grateful that it could cloud her view of its mind. How utterly horrified she would be to find out that her charm was weak enough that she could not hide her rotted flesh. It knew she was weaker than she liked to admit. It knew that her face sagged with the kind of grey, mottled skin that only came of one who had forced her way into the Monarchy. She would look only slightly better after she had taken from the creature but it would know the truth. This was currently its only solace as it dulled its senses and allowed its mind to go blank. She ripped at the cloth covering its neck and held to it tightly, her wicked stare only easing when she felt no movement or strain.

“Your fealty,” she growled.

“Yours, my Queen,” the creature said, tonelessly. Its words were barely more than a whisper.

The Queen wasted no further time and exposed her row of razor teeth. The creature forced itself to keep still through the pain as she ripped into its neck, tearing more than was necessary. It knew she was angry but all it had to do was sink into the feeling and let it flow through its body. Soon enough, her senses began to dull and she was preoccupied with feeding. When it could feel her grip slacken, it knew that it had managed to shake her influence and its eyes became bright, almost to the point of going white, and it was livid. It turned its attention from the fireplace to the sleeping girl on the couch. The cat would protect her with everything and the small boost that it had given the tiny beast would help enough for now. Another small dose would be better. It would allow this place to become too difficult for this wrench of a Queen to come to any longer.

The creature forced itself not to think of this sagging, horrible excuse for a Monarch. She might not be able to read its mind but she could sense its body language and it was hard enough to keep this shallow facade for as long as it had.

Her anger was becoming clearer to it now and the creature knew that it was soon going to be too weak to move. She was pressing down harder and it braced itself to prepare for another broken bone. Its punishment had clearly been decided. To escape would be nearly impossible. If it was discovered, she would have cause to claim that it had failed her and its clemency, or what passed for it in their damned family, would be revoked. It couldn’t allow itself to go dull again. It would be too weak to do anything if it tried. Instead, it took a chance and allowed itself to test the gift it had taken from the Shadow. Sinking into the feeling of being drained, it felt the edges of its very soul becoming softer. It was taking a bit more out of the creature to be doing this but it would be worth it. It clung to this thought as it allowed itself to fade a bit more, careful not to give any indication of what it was doing.

The Queen pulled off its neck suddenly and for a horrible second, the creature was certain that it had been discovered. It braced for punishment before it realized that a noise was what had distracted the Monarch. She pulled her hood back up as it winced and looked over at the cat staring at them both. Its fur had gathered and its ears were flat against its head. There was a fire in its eyes, not unlike any other feline warrior that it had ever encountered. Still, it could see the vague flicker of its own gift making the green of its eyes more vibrant. The Queen, in all her idiot bloodlust couldn’t tell yet. She was sulking internally and that would provide even more of a distraction. It now knew that it would owe this creature more than simply a gift now. It was likely that it had saved him at least for the night. If the creature could get the cat to even allow for tolerance of its presence, an ally could be born. A boon that it had never even counted on might well be within its fragile grasp. It made no attempt to look at either creature now and instead focused on the very real pain in its arm and the throbbing of its bloodied neck.

“Meddlesome creature,” the Queen snarled but was taken aback by Trioxin lowering his body and fixing his livid eyes on her. The weakened creature at her feet curled up helplessly and she sneered at it. “When you’ve finished shaming yourself for your misdeeds, make ready my entry. A touch of chaos is well in order and for all that you’ve become a thorn in my side, you have still proven yourself useful in this regard. When you can, try to find a way to make this wretched pest less of a bother.”

Trioxin hissed and the Queen stepped back. She turned her red, condemning gaze upon the creature on the floor, still trembling from her attack.

“Yes, my Queen,” it said, its voice sounding broken but its eyes bright and now fixed on Dolly. It barely managed a smile through the grimace of its pain. “My oath is given. Long live the Queen.”

The Monarch disappeared into the shadows. The creature rolled on its back and sighed, waiting until it could feel her presence wane from the room. It wouldn’t be long. The cat would see to that and her influence would never be able to stay in this place. After a few long moments, it looked over to see the cat was looking at it but its ears were upright and its fur smooth. The feline could still sense the predatory in it so the creature knew better than to proceed too quickly. However guarded the cat might be, it was still calm. The false Queen was gone and it could allow itself to return to normal.

The Shadow had been a stroke of luck. Without it the creature would still be plotting from one haven to another, still looking for a means to shake that inept false Monarch from its coat tails. The creature had been hoping for something larger to give it the strength to get far enough away that the dead Queen might lose some of the hold she had on it. The hag Monarch was so keen to keep it hanging over the creature’s head that its survival was only due to her meddling influence. The creature smiled, revealing its own wicked teeth. Let that wretch think such things. It knew that only these humiliations were sustaining that filthy Monarch and the day that it could cut her off, she would continue to rot. And how stupid she would feel if she got to see the rise of her own replacement. Oh the rage that gnat Queen would know if she ever found out that the crown she so desperately wanted was something only the creature could give her. A crown that was only now building but getting stronger and would become something much grander soon enough. It only hoped that it would survive long enough to help it grow.

The cat chirped at the creature and it wondered if this little beast could hear its thoughts. If it could, perhaps, this might be easier still. It tried to reach out to its mind by looking into the cat’s eyes but got nothing from the feline. Its mind was walled and potentially on purpose. It was no surprise really. Felines of all walks knew better than to trust a predator and it was no exception. Still, it had been instrumental in keeping the creature alive tonight. A token should be given.

Wincing, the creature pulled itself up slowly. It allowed its vulnerability to show and watched the cat as a sign of subjectivity. The cat was unmoved but remained calm aside from its tail moving back and forth. The trick from the Shadow feeding had allowed the creature to retain a bit of its strength but it was sore and its arm was still in pain. It couldn’t spare much but something still had to be given. It cradled its healing arm against its body, slowed by the fiery pain that came from moving it while the bones slowly knit themselves back together. The creature knew this token would delay its healing time but in the interest of gaining any ground with the tiny beast, it would be worth it. With its good hand, it put two fingers into its mouth and with a sigh, it braced itself and quickly snapped one of its teeth off. Making sure not to utter a sound, it forced itself to recover before placing the tooth before Trioxin. It looked into the cat’s eyes as the pupils widened.

“The crown must have its jewels,” the creature said softly. Its voice began to lilt again but with much less effect. Trioxin’s tail calmed. “Let the first of many treasures be mine to give. Keep it safe and know that it will be useful to you later.”

Trioxin eyed the broken tooth for only a second before pawing at it. The cat scooped the tooth in its paw and onto the floor before following down to pawing at it until it stuck in a crack in the stones. The creature smiled, a thin line of blood coming from its lips.

“Clever little thing you are,” it whispered, cheerfully.

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