Scouts continued rushing into the Core, describing her Settlement growing problem with great detail and alarm. Servants went about refining the map of their home, as more tunnels fell under assault. She had once thought herself safe, she had made sure her settlement Thoulack would be one to stand against the tide. Walls that wouldn’t crumble from base attacks, a people who would fight rather than flee. Yet here she was eyes transfixed on the map of her home slowly being conquered. She called to a servant who quickly moved to her side “Any word on our counterforce? They should have engaged these pests by now.”

The servant bowed “Apologies Founder, but we’ve yet to receive a report from any of the Scouts.” Illissa hid her frown, kept her face a mask of calm, even though inside she was in turmoil. But it does not do well for her children to see her distraught. “Very well, send some of the Scouts to find out, it’s unlike our Guards to keep us uninformed this long.”

The servant bowed “As you wish Founder” and quickly scurried away, leaving Illissa to once more stare at the map. Only a few sections have fallen, those hit first before the Settlement was fully prepared to aid the Wards. The Nightmares hadn’t been allowed to gain more ground since. But the creatures were branching out, finding more tunnels, more Wards to assault. Forcing her to split Chanters into smaller groups to keep everything held together. Hundreds were under her care, an army she once thought could suppress any horde of Nightmares. That none would ever be able to breach these walls. She was coming to question that now, it would take time, Rotations, an Arc, maybe two, but eventually the Nightmares would get to them.

They couldn’t hide within walls this time, they needed to thin the Nightmares numbers, give her Chanters a reprieve before their full might was brought down upon these Soulless. “Founder?” A Maiden called out to her, worry plainly shown ‘When did she get there?’ Illissa looked around and found some time had passed, her thoughts distracting her more than they should. “A report daughter?”

The Maiden bowed “The Counterforce has sent a report, things did not go as planned” Illissa brows furrowed only a moment before her mask of calm returned. “In what way?” The Maiden was shivering “Tell me child.”

“They encountered, what we can only assume by the description an Ancient.” The Maiden kept her face lowered to the floor, something that Illissa was thankful for as her mask had slipped just for a breath. “How many were lost? How many of my children were killed by that creature?” The Maiden took a deep breath “Most m-Founder, they were ill-equipped for such a task, that.” She paused clearly distraught “That and they claim there was more than one.” Illissa hands clenched, nails digging into her armchair, her mask fell, worry displayed for all to see if they had dared to look.

She composed herself, focused on the many children under her care, how they needed her. “Send a message daughter, to all those holding tunnels under assault. They are to withdraw and lower the blocks, then they’re to rest till they’re fully charged.” The Maiden started to look up hesitating “Founder?”

Her voice was calm and soothing, and she wove her soul into the words “Do as your told Daughter, do not worry, I’ve lived many Cycles, your mother has things well in hand.” The children around her relaxed, the fear claiming them fled.

She looked to map, consider the number of passages that would be lost and did her best to find peace in the matter. With Ancients outside her walls, defense was no longer an option, here children would use themselves dry and still those abominations would get in. No, she needs to rally a full force to deal with this threat before things got out of hand. She quieted her mind with prayer, fear, and worry would do her no good. If things came to the worst she would flee with what children she could and start again. Next time she would give her Chanters all the time they needed to make the Wards solid, enough that it wouldn’t take a team of her people to keep sections from crumbling down.

She closed her eyes and emptied her mind, there was nothing else she could do at the moment, and she already kept herself awake longer than she should have. Sleep she hoped, would bring with it clarity. Salvation, that her rattled mind failed to see the picture clearly, that things weren’t heading towards a disastrous end.

Illissa woke as her daughters chanted a Chord to gain her attention. A simple one that revitalizes the body, and pushed the clouds of dreams away. She sat upright, as daughters placed refreshment, and her first meal around her. She ate light as her attention was pulled towards the map, what appetite that was forming dispelled. Things, as she feared had only gotten worse, the Nightmares were slowly mapping out their home, finding more tunnels to attack spreading her people even more.

The next Settlement that her children made for her would be shaped as a layered dome. She only could curse herself for letting fear of living outside Wardless tunnels make her order a hastily designed layout. The sprawling sections of tunnels were easily to make, but the price of that had become abundantly clear.

“Have any Scouts been able to get a look outside?” a daughter at her side spoke “No Founder, the horde outside is too large for them to move around unnoticed, we’ve given them the task to check on all the tunnels, then report here if a new section is being probed.” Illissa hid her irritation, none too pleased that the Nightmares now moved freely beyond her vision “How fare the Chanters? Are they fully recovered?”

Her daughter bowed “yes Founder, they await your task for them.” Illissa tapped her fingers on the armchair as she considered. She needed to keep enough housed within to hold the defenses, long enough that they could flee if the time came. But if her children were to kill more than one Ancient at once, she would have to send out a flock worth of them. ‘There will be costs no matter the choice, better I offer enough that my gain is a certainty.’ “Send word to them and our reserves forces that they are to group together and wait at the Crossroad.” She stared at her daughter the pain in her voice plain as she spoke. “Send servants to my person Hold, they are allowed to take two crates full of Hearts, those are to be given to the Chanters to aid them in their task.”

Her daughter's displayed looks of surprise, she could hardly blame them, but a Heart was worthless if none of them were alive to use it. Her daughter bowed “The Giver will surely bless you, Founder, for such kindness.”

Illissa kept her voice soothing and calm, even though she was annoyed that her message was yet to be sent. “See to it that every Chanter gets at least one Heart, I want them to strike hard. These vermin must be taught a lesson for attacking my Settlement.”


Holding down his legs that refused to stop twitching, Hounvis tried once more to center himself, to enter a trance of calm.

Grunting, his eyes opened, nervousness getting the better off him as he forced himself to his feet. He placed his back against the wall, his foot tapping the floor rapidly. His breathing heavy, uneven, and once more he was close to panicking. He pulled out the Heart his Mother had provided him, the largest he’d ever been given, it was twice the length of his hand and almost as thick. He held it close to his chest, its warmth soothing his growing concerns.

“You are to gather at the crossroads and wait for the Founder next command” the messenger had told them. When they arrived Hounvis delusion that he wouldn’t be sent to the front ended. There waiting was another host of Chanters, twice their number. Then servants arrived bearing gifts from their Mother ‘You don’t need Hearts to Maintain Tunnels.’ That their Founder was gifting them made things worse, it meant where they were going was going to be a constant fight. Swarmed with Soulless trying to rip him apart.

A voice called out, a new messenger had arrived. “Hear me, your Founder has called for your service. You all will be launching a Counteroffensive against the horde that assaults our home.” Hounvis breath caught in his lungs. “Your main focus won’t be the common Nightmares, but their champions, Ancients have been spotted outside.” Hounvis legs gave out sliding him back down to the floor. “The Founder wants your full wrath placed upon them, and when they're dealt with your to retreat. You’re to return here and wait for a new Task. If you’ll follow me, I’ll guide you to the exit that’s to be used.”

The messenger walked away slowly, the host hesitant to follower her. Brothers helped Hounvis back to his feet, the Heart in his arms no longer as reassuring as it had once been. ‘Nightmares fine, but Ancients?’ he looked down at the Heart ‘Ancients, and she deemed to give me a single Heart to aid in the task’. He laughed slightly shaking his head.

“You alright brother?” Hounvis looked up at the fellow that called to him “Fine, just coming to terms with the weight our Founder has placed upon us.” Those around him nodded in understanding as they followed the Messenger. Only a short walk down the passage had them confronted with Wards pulsating, as was the block. “This exit will open close to where the Guards encounter these Ancients, I bless that your task is a smooth one.” Said the Messenger as she quickly pushed her way through their ranks.

None moved forward, over a hundred Chanters stared ahead, stared at the block, the only thing separating them from Death. The fear was palpable, they weren’t going out to fight soulless beasts after all. They had heard the stories, knew enough to guess the difficulty of the task pressed upon them.

They stayed silent watching that block for more than a sequence before one of their number worked up the courage to head over and active the Wards. Brothers sprang into action, Ascendance being formed and people taking to the air. The one to raise the block ran back to them, the stone sliding upward quickly.

Instantly the calls of Nightmares echoed down their hall. It stopped for a brief moment as Nightmares in the adjoining passage all turned to stare at them. But only a moment before they charged, their shrieks echoing loudly as Chanters gave answer.

The Winds howled, and the passage was made clear for them. They marched forward, raising barriers to encompass themselves. Hounvis and his ilk didn’t bother checking if the breaches had Nightmares before launching a chant into its depths. A horde of this size it didn’t matter where one fired, it would usually hit something.

The echoes of their Chants must have gained the notice of every Nightmare in the area. As in a Breath the passage was filled with the beasts, pushing through every hole in the walls. The Barriers fired off, cooking the front line of enemies, the Winds removed the rest, he and his brothers kept the chant going. The air rumbled for a solid Sequence before they stopped the flow and raised barriers again. Hounvis bit his lip, trying to get his jaw to stop jittering. Breathing heavy and his heart hammering, Hounvis flexed his ears, waiting for any large shifts in the air or ground. The last chant had been a lure more than anything if an Ancient was around it would show itself soon enough.

They moved forward again, eyes searching, ears rigid and twitching. The Winds must have cut down many, as they were left alone for some time. Long enough for them to make it to the end of their home Tunnels. The Main block leading outside laid open, the door smashed into tiny chunks of rock. They added a few more layers of shielding before embarking outside. Hounvis wished they hadn’t, for when the last of their number exited, the forest came alive. A flood of Nightmares as far as the eye could see charged at them. His hands moved on their own, a lifetime of practice responding to a threat while his mind screamed in horror.

The winds struck the screaming tide, cutting them into fragments before any could near the shielding. The forest withered around them, as his brothers drew upon the waters. It streamed over Nightmares, before changing into ice, large sections of the horde turned into statues, only for their own to shatter them to pieces underfoot. Ice shards were fired in volleys, walls were formed, the land under the Nightmares feet changed to ice. All a distraction as many Chanters added more shielding, shoring up their defenses for the eventual tide. It came, but not in the way they had expected, to all their horror.

They noticed something was wrong when the ground began to shift. He and others strengthen the barriers under their feet, while at the same time hardening the stone they stood upon. Normally it was enough to keep them from being harassed for a time. Then the ground erupted, the shielding shattered, and Hounvis watched as many of those ahead of him were sent flying into the air. He formed a small barrier to shield his eyes as dirt rained down on them. Others sent the winds, pushing the dust cloud aside. Hounvis froze as the beast come into view, their quarry finally arriving. A Carver towered over them, its full length still hidden as portions of it extended underground.

It opened its maw at them, pieces of his brothers still hanging within. The roar let out deafened them, and before they thought to fire Chants off the thing plunged back into the ground. Dirt began to shift again ‘Giver help us.’

People were shouting, dashing to reform groups as the Ancient had distracted them long enough for Nightmares to close. Those that regained their nerve first pulled the waters to them, forming walls to hid behind, as other kept the Nightmares at bay with wind blades. Hounvis aided those that worked to remake their shielding, forming a thick web of barriers for them to stand upon. They framework spread out quickly as more added their will to the construction. Now standing on firm barriers Hounvis couldn’t feel the vibration of the dirt, but he could see it, the ground was shaking fiercely. The Barriers warped as the Ancient collided with it, many layers breaking, but the framework held together. He saw the giant beak sticking out of the ground before it dashed back underneath again.

‘Curse upon this dirt.’ He thought as those around him went to repairing the shielding. It began encompassing them again as Chanters formed a protective line ahead of themselves, the Horde almost able to reach them. The ice Walls were doing little to stop the tide, as they crawled or simply smashed through the obstacles.  

“Bring the waters to us brothers, all of it.” Chanters answered the call, walls returned to water that flowed forward, more of the forest withered, all plant life close enough to their reach died. He and many others held the Nightmares back with winds as the water collected over their heads.

The Chanter called in a rushed tone “Volleys only, waste no time with walls, we save the bulk for the Ancient when it breaks the barriers.” The shielding warped again “Aim for its mouth, we’ll drown the abomination.” Hounvis prayed that the beak didn’t come up under his feet.

Ice shards flew forward holding back the Nightmares, as his Brothers spread out, the shieling left unrepaired. They watched the ground, as it quaked once more, Hounvis felt his muscles grow dense. In a blur, mass erupted from the ground smashing through the weaken shielding. Only a few Chanters were caught by its appearance. The dirt was quickly brushed aside, as the thing roared at them again. A scream “Now!” and the water over their heads surged towards the tower. Smashing into the maw, the forces nocking the beast back.

The Ancient tried pulling its mass back underneath them, but his brothers had the waters change to ice, encasing the monster. It held for a breath before the Ancient beak glowed and the ice around it shattered. They rained down more water smoothing its face, as others grouped together, making sure no one was in their line of sight.

 Blessed light blossomed striking the Ancient at the bottom where its frame connected to what remained underneath. Shell, hide and flesh vanished, as the light connected, the Ancient howled, as its towering form, no longer supported came crashing down. Now vulnerable, others answered with more light bathing the cavern. When the last essences of the chants were down a smoking ruin of the Ancient was all that remained. They gave out a small cheer, a portion of their task complete.

It changed to scream as the ground quaked, and another mass emerged sending brothers scattering. A blur of motion turned Chanters into red marks on the ground. Winds were thrown clearing the vision so they could counter this threat, but the beast withdrew back underneath before any had a chance to strike. The ground shifted under their feet, and unlike before it stayed moving.  The beast could attack at any moment, leaving many stuck in fear as they had to split their focus, the ground and the shrieking hordes that were almost on top of them.

Scream, a call “Ascendance deal with the Ancient when it shows, everyone else, focus on the horde remove them quickly!” Those carried on Ascendance rose higher, and reluctantly Hounvis and the others turned their attention to the tide of fangs. Wind and ice, and the occasion dagger of stone were thrown at the pests. The line of Nightmares slowly being pushed back. The ground continued to shift, making it difficult for him to chant with his body tense, waiting for a strike that refused to appear. It only got worse as he fought his own urges to be close with his brothers. But he nor anyone else were willing to risk giving the Ancient a large group for it to target.

The ground erupted behind him, and before he could turn the Ascendance fired off chants. Light let him see far off in the distance, gave a clear look of the horde coming for them. It had him shiver, there were so many, and more were crawling out of the holes in the walls.

The Ancient howled in pain, as it retreated back underground, and soon the floor stopped shifting. His breathing eased as he put his full focus on the Nightmares. The Ancient gone, they began pushing the Nightmares back, especially with the waters aiding them once more. Then the ground began to shift again, those above ready themselves, but the beast didn’t smash its way to the surface. No, they realize far too late, it had hollowed out the ground underneath them. Hounvis found himself falling, him and so many others, and the Ancient was there catching the unlucky ones with its mouth.  

Mind panicking he weaved shielding around himself as fast as he could, the ground quickly growing in in his vision. He screamed when he struck stone, bones popping as the shielding failed to hold back the full impacted. He hissed as his chants took hold, his soul moving about repairing the damage to his vessel. Bone moved back into place, getting more screams out of him before he sat up. Sniffling as tears streamed down his face, he looked around.

Others had fared better than him with their landing, already on their feet and regrouping the best they could. Hounvis got up and at first wobbled his way towards his brothers. He would have made better headway if he was looking forward instead of his vision pulled above. The Ancient was moving more dirt away, thinning the land the rest of the brothers were standing on. If they didn't move they would soon be joining him. “What do we do?” he called out, getting the attention of the groups of Chanters.

They only looked at each other, clueless as he on their next course of action. “Dig our way back up?” answered one of them, his own tone displaying he wasn’t thrilled about the idea. Shaking heads were peoples answer as another talked “That thing would find us easily and seeing how effortlessly it moves through the ground, it would be a blessing if we got away.”

“Then we killed it.” Said another that was making his way to them “Then we dig our way out, and head home. Two Ancients is more than enough to meet our Quota I say. The Founder bless her” he placed a hand over his chest “be cursed if she expects more.”

A few gave tired cheers of praise at the man words. Hounvis didn’t add his own, for he was still fighting back the shock at the prospect of them attacking that thing. They were surrounded in a large bowl-shaped cavern that the beast had dug out in a matter of sequences. They could be attacked at every direction now, and his brothers wanted to fight the thing. Turning to the chanter that voiced the plan, he was about to voice concern, complaint, but screams stopped him. They turned their attention skyward, as more of the ceiling gave way, and the flooring his brothers stood upon crumbled. They hadn’t retreated fast enough it seemed, as many of his fellows came raining down.

Their screams attracted the Ancient as it dashed forward, its maw swallowing his brothers one at time. “We attack now than before the beast is upon us,” said a Chanter near him, who pulled out a large Heart. Hounvis and the rest did the same, pulling the soul that was retained within. Hounvis breathed easier as the overflow traveled into him, felt the power coursing through his frame. The Ancient wasn’t so frightening anymore, just another pest to be brushed aside.

They raised their arms, and took aim, the Ancient turned to them its attention pulled to the echoes of their chants. It didn’t get time to retreat, as nothing was faster than the Givers light. Not all of the bolts hit, not at first before they made quick adjustments. But the ones that struck did more than enough, as the elongated structure of the Ancient was blasted apart into large chunks. They kept at it, alighting every part of it, down to the base where more of its frame merged with the wall. Only stopping when they had spent themselves.

Hounvis was on the ground struggling to breathe, he felt as if he were dying and he wildly stuck a hand into his robe fishing his way to a pocket that held a Heart. He gasped as he made contact, soul rushing in to fill the void. He laid on his back, sighing, and watched with widening eyes as the stump of the Ancient retracted into the wall. Before he could voice concern, his attention was pulled to the carven opening, as a hill-sized mound of hide and shell stared down at them. “Giver what is that!?”

The answer he got in turn, was the great rumblings of a hum, the mound opened, displaying a mouth. The air rippled, and he had enough time to realize what was happing before he was struck.


Yordeen never thought she would live to see the Rotation where she wished for mundane reports. That perhaps some excitement, something new to consider or talk about with her Sisters, might not always be a good thing. It had her frowning as more of the shards were placed before her, a large increase to what she was used to. Normally they would be filled with mundane grievances from those housed in new Settlements. Complaining of conditions, or the need for supplies, and always the cry for aid against Nightmares.

That last part hadn’t stopped, no that last part was the problem. Before she could always ignore it as fresh Settlements were always vulnerable to roaming hordes. That and no one would care about those places being overrun, they're filled with the barely usable people anyway. But now it wasn’t just those places complaining, but a growing and widening number of established Settlements that have thrived for Cycles. Those she couldn’t ignore, those shouldn’t be having difficulties with Nightmares. They had the numbers to easily push back a horde that attacked their walls. But instead, she was receiving increasing numbers of calls for aid. Desperate calls, that made even her housed within Sanctum walls, worried.

She took a deep breath centering herself, as she grabbed a shard and opened her mind to it. Scenes of people running through bare tunnels played, and the thought of the individual registered. ‘Settlement lost within a Round, somethings leading the local Nightmares.’

She placed the shard to the side, the Settlement was new, not important, save for the fact of how quickly it fell. She reached for another, played it and found a similar scene transpire. Her pulse quickened as each shard she connected to displayed the same outcome. None of them asking for aid but were merely letting the higher know what had happened and that the Settlement was gone.

She leaned back in her chair, breathing slowly once more reaching for composure. ‘Your inside the walls of a Sanctum, those images are not your own, you are safe, the Nightmare is far away.’ She recited her mantra serval times before she worked up the nerve to continue.

Reluctantly she reached and connected to a shard, then dropped it, as the image of the largest Nightmare she had ever witnessed entered her mind. She placed a hand over her chest, her heart hammering loudly within. That shard was placed in a different corner, with the rest of those that were deemed important. She sat there shaking, forcing herself to breathe, as she eyed the large pile of shards displayed to her. ‘Mercy Giver, I’m not made to see such sights.’

Slowly she reached out and grabbed another, looking at the shard a good while before connecting. She was in a room now full of people, over a hundred perhaps. Everyone was pressed close, the memory of fear thick, and the image of the block everyone stared at was well-defined. The Wards flickered, the room, the Core she now realized began to go dim. “Founder the connection to the Sanctum Channeling has been made, the shard is recording and ready for your message to be sent.”

Lips not her owned move to answer, “Well done daughter, ready the supplies we leave once I’m done.” Yordeen watched the scene as the women connected herself to the various Wards. “This is Illissa Thoulack Prime Chanter, sending to let those above know that the Settlement Thoulack has been lost to a tide of Nightmares led by Ancients.” The women tried to hide her panic “We don’t know how many, all attempts to remove them have failed.” The Wards dimmed and panicked cries of alarm went about. “We head south if I ‘am able I will send another report of the establishment of a new Settlement.”

A woman called “Founder we need to leave the exit tunnel has fallen under siege the Chanters don’t know how long they will keep it held.”

The message ended abruptly, and Yordeen found herself once more within the safe coffins of her office. She wiped her forehead, as she placed the shard with the rest of the Worthy. Standing she was forced to hold the table, as her legs trembled. Taking small steps she moved over to look at the Atlas of the under realm. ‘Thoulack, Thoulack, there you are.’ She grimaced as the mark showed it was a well-developed Settlement, one of the largest in that area.

Marking it off the map, she added its name to list of others that had fallen this Cycle, it was growing long, and they were barely halfway through the Cycles rotation. Looking at the shards she felt a chill run through her, already two showed great ill, how many more would be the same?


Dailin breathed in peaceful as he felt and guided the mana within him. Felt the channels that it moved through strengthen, growing, spreading. Each day he was a little stronger, slowly edging closer to those above him. It mostly had to do with where he lived, and his dedication to building the foundations that made his body. The mana so thick in the air it made things easier, every breath providing him more building blocks.

He was making headway now, with the repairs to his network mostly done his increase in mana intake doubled. It occurred to him that maybe the real reason of forcing children into adults one time through led to failure was the rushed construction of these networks.

When he first started his mana networks were in shambles, no cohesion. Some spots had too much, others too little, and the lining of the walls was thin. Almost to the point that the mana could leak out of him. It made him shiver at the thought that he was the better built of that group, he would have hated to see what the other children networks would have looked like, or if they even had one at all.

He breathed in deep drawing in more of the sweet nectar that was making him more. The veins were spreading, thickening, letting him retain and move the mana in him faster. Soon he’ll be like the others, sending chants off in a passing heartbeat. He’ll be more at ease then that any surprise attacks could, would be counter swiftly. Smiling he embraced the feeling of power coursing through his veins, felt fears, and doubt wash away. It was intoxicating, that every breath he took (as long as he guided it) was making him stronger. That bit by bit he was turning from a being of flesh into something else. He couldn’t tell, only that he was changing, and it was making him stronger. There wasn’t really more to think about it or do, well not till something bad happened because of it, but that was for a later date or never.

He doubted he would care all that much, seeing how good it felt, and how easy it had become for him. Best of all he could do it all while relaxing in his bed, two pleasured mixing into one. The only downside was he couldn’t work on his body while dreaming, a sourer note but not everything could be perfect. This was enough for him, how he spent his personal time, lying in his bed completely relaxed, breathing in deep and slowly making himself better. He smiled ‘this life isn’t so bad after all.’

Banging on his door had that smile change into frown ‘Though it could be better.’ He opened his eyes and began to rise, as the door opened and the Maiden that manhandled him at the brothel strolled in. She was thin again and completely recovered from childbirth. Dailin still had a hard time coming to terms that this race pregnancy cycle lasted a mere three months. Plus with it being common to bear two or three children in each batch.

He put on a happy face “My love good to see you.” He said while getting out of bed to greet her. She closed the door then sent a beaming smile his way “You as well my Heart” she wrapped him in a tight hug, that he returned in kind. ‘Ah, good no lectures’ he really didn’t want to hear another discussion of him spending too much of his time sleeping. He’s not, but he wasn’t going to let others know that he was actively improving himself. That one could do such a thing, he only found out because of experimentation and a memory

‘I tell you, boy, they may call me mad, but it’s true I say, true. Mana's aware you see, listens, helps you achieve what you want. You got a really clear idea in your head, the mana will do its best to make it happen.’

Dailin couldn’t recall what became of the aged man, but his words weren’t as ludicrous as his past self-believed. It really did listen, really does try its best to please the wielder. To bring what he thought, wanted, into reality, or maybe it tries to become what he envisioned. He never had some much of it at his beck and call before, it had always been very finite resource, already hoarded by those in power.

“Heart, you could at least act as if you’re listening.” He flinched “Sorry love, I was thinking of the children, my backer said they’re very cute when born.” She smiled at him, her hands playing with his ears. “They are, and it’s good you’re thinking of them since it’s why I’m here.” The joy in her voice clear “They’ve been appraised and been found to be of Worth, each child has the making of being a strong Chanter.”

She had Dailin full attention now, and she laughed. “I knew you’d be interested in that, they’ll provide us with plenty of Worth, once they've grown of course.” He smiled at her but not for the same reason ‘my kids will be fine on their own then, someone will want them, especially with how cheery Younna is’ “That’s wonderful to hear love, have there already been commissions for them?”

Younna pulled away “No that’s after their first changing, but people are interested.” Her eyes and smile grew predator-ish “My Sisters sent me to collect you, we’re all healed and ready for another batch, so you’re to follow me back to our estate.” Her hands played across his chest slowly working their way down. “If all the children come out the same, none of us with have to worry too much about the future, it’ll be more about where we live in a Sanctum, rather than if we do?”

Dailin grabbed her hands softy “Thats wonderful to her, we’ll be there for the children then, maybe make a clan at some point.” She smiled warmly at him, before pulling towards the door “Yes so let’s hurry things along, so you aren’t required to run off outside every day. Dailin looked to the chronicler, he had a few hours left before his patrol. “That’s good to hear love, I looked forward to that Rotation, and hope the Giver will have it arrive swiftly.”

Younna chuckled as they left his room “Keep providing us those Worthy children and it will. My sisters and I will start looking for more partners for you to bed once we’ve seen how the next Batch comes out. If it’s well” she looked back at him “expect to have less time laying around, at least alone that is.” Dailin forced out a small laugh, even though he felt a chill go down his spine. “I hope you’ll pick ones that are gentle.”

She snorted “Please Heart as if your one to talk.”

His cheeks warmed “That’s the incense, not me, I can’t be held responsible for my actions with a room full of that miasma clouding the air.” Her tone was condescending as she spoke “Funny, you seem to be the only one affected so completely.” She glanced at him as they walked “Or maybe you’re just using it as an excuse to be rough with delicate Maiden.”

‘Delicate my ass.’ He saw how rough others were at the brothel, how into the act they got. Dailin had a hard time imagining him being more brutish than those he’d witnessed. “I would never Love, you’re all my special flowers, if I were in control my touch would be soft and warming.”

“Oh did your backer Aethin teach you his chant? The others are quite fond of it, it’s the main reason they come back to him.” Younna said as she quickened her pace.

Dailin frowned “Well no, but I doubt it too difficult, I can probably figure it out on my own.” She squeezed his hand her tone caring “I would ask you not to, it’s never wise to dabble in things unknown, it’s bound to lead to trouble or pain.”

“Whatever you wish Love.” Dailin said ‘I wonder how you’d react if you know I’m experimenting with my own body every day.’

There walk to his Maidens housing lasted longer than he expected, as they were held within the third tier of protection, as opposed to him being on the first. A constant reminder that he was with those at the bottom. The first, if situations called it that would be sent out to deal with problems or be removed to make room. ‘Just a little longer, once my kids are working things should be easier for me. Easier for all of us, if we really can make a clan.’ He didn’t know what he would do then, the women would do most of the organizing and running of things. Maybe if they decide to be generous, they’ll let him have a say on some of the decision makings. Maybe, Younna is bossy, and the other Maidens aren’t much better in that regard. His role may end up similar to Aethins, being a Mentor to his future children.

‘It would be sweet irony if I achieve Aethin dream before he does, oh the look on his face would be priceless.’

His Maidens home finally came into view and it was large, very large. “Is this entire building yours Love?” She giggled “Your measure of my Worth is flattering, but no Heart, this home is shared by many from the brothel. But I and your other Maidens do own a sizeable section to call our own. Maybe with a few more batch under us, we could claim a building of this stature for ourselves.”

Dailin stared at the building considering its size and the number of rooms held within. “That would be a lot of children to need a place this large to house them.”

Younna laughed her tone mocking almost “Please Heart, once you have more Maidens claiming you, it won’t take two Cycles before a building of this size is filled. The smallest of clans have a number of buildings this size to hold their members.”

Dailin felt his ears go limp and numb ‘How I ‘am to train that many kids, or keep track of them. Gods how will I remember their names!’ “How will we find room for them all?” If every clan was birthing as quick as she claimed, then it was no wonder as to why Flocks were a thing.

“We won’t, not at first anyway. Eventually, another flock will be called and some of our own will be sent out.  There's nothing we can do about that, even the largest clans still send out their less worthy to make room for more desirable ones.”

It was good Younna was looking forward, was unable to see the glare he sent her way. She had said those words without the slightest sadness in her voice. ‘Our own children, and you would send them out without a second thought if it made things better for you.’ Dailin felt chills, an unpleasant reminder, that for all her cheer and honeyed words she sent his way. It was solely because of the fact he was useful to her. She had no real feelings for him, no love, he was a resource to be safeguarded as long as he kept providing.

He squeezed her hand, made his words soft and loving “That’s unfortunate to her my Love, I had hoped we could have found a way to keep our children safe.” She shook her head glancing at him “As long as the Nightmares remain, there aren’t many places to be considered safe.” She shrugged “the ones that are, well you see how high in demand it is.”

She smiled at him “But don’t worry once we have things going, have children with the worth you provide, in the long run, most of our newborn will be kept safe. Only a small portion will be would offered to protect the rest.” He smiled back to her as they enter the complex, almost wishing he could be as detached as her with the prospect of sacrificing their own to keep themselves safe. ‘I know I’m not the best person, but you Younna, and the others if they think the same. You’re monsters in your own right.’

He took in the sights tired and disgusted with the thought of his kids being sent to die. The entrance room was a large Pyramid, ordained with glass art, and floating lanterns hovering high in the air. The usual soft fabrics lined the flooring, tables and cushioned chairs were situated all over. The place was lively, the room filled with the chatterings of countless women. He didn’t see many men, those he did were rushing to be somewhere. The air was full of sweet perfumes, and on occasion, he caught the hint of incense.

“Younna, you don’t have incense clouding the air in your rooms do you?” Dailin said, concern slowly wiggling into his mind.”

He frowned when he heard her stifle a chuckle “Well of course Heart, you have needs to fulfill.” Dailin his words slightly panicked “I don’t need help with that, you know how I get with that stuff clouding my mind.” She hummed, her head tilting upward, and her words were filled with delight “Oh, how I do.”

Dailin began to pull away, but she yanked him forward, her grip tightening. “Younna I have a Patrol later this Rotation, I can’t have that incense effecting me.” Younna merely smiled at him, the look similar to when comforting a child, he, in turn, sent a glare of annoyance. The effect causing her to roll her eyes “Don’t worry, it’s only a little, nothing to the amounts found at the brothel, it’ll work its way out long before you have to leave.

“Only a little?” Dailin asked, doubt clearly displayed. Younna smiled again “Just enough to quicken the body, help things down their move along. It’s not just you who’s busy Heart, we all have tasks to get done, starting a clan just tops the list.”

Sighing Dailin stopped struggling as Younna dragged him down another hall. At its end was a closed door, where once arriving she took out a shard and pressed it into a slot. The other side was another hall with doors on both sides. He noticed the smell of incense instantly, not as she had said to the level of the brothel, but still thicker than he wanted.  Closing the door behind them Younna called out “Sisters I’ve brought our Bond-mate.” Cheers and laughter echo back at them, the source coming from the room the hall exited out into.

He saw it was a large circular room, filled with lounging furniture, a plentiful garden, and ornate table placed at the center. His Maidens had been sitting around it, but now quickly embarked from and headed in his direction. Smiles and hungry eyes dug into him. He forced a smile while at the same time tried to take steps back. Younna prevented him, clasping her arm tight around his.

“What took so long to receive him?” said one as she circled around him claiming his free arm. Younna looked to them “the usual, found him sleeping again.” They let out a collective huff while frowning at him

Dailin breathed in deep, and held his tongue as Younna continued “Then he dragged his heels, you know how he is, can’t help but look at everything he passes.”

“Well least you’re here now, the grove is ready, and I have tasks to complete.” Said another of his Maidens, one who stood taller than him. Nodding the Maidens pushed him towards another room, heavy curtained, the floor filled with pillows, blankets, and worse of all a brazier billowing thick clouds of incense. They grabbed him tighter and pushed harder when he tried resisting. One of them slamming the door shut when they all were through.


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