At the top of a small rise from which she could see glimpses of the river, though not yet of the ferry, Kisea stopped to make a few small adjustments. She stripped off her tunic and shoved it in her pack, and unhooked her water-skin. A bit of water splashed into her palms, used to streak her hair and make sure a few tendrils hung down damp and lank, and to add wet areas to her chemise and bodice that should pass for sweat, should help her story. The latter she re-laced to emphasize her curves as much as possible—pretty young siren-blood, weak from blood-loss, no telepath crystal around her neck, absolutely harmless and probably grateful for any kindness, and everyone knew how sirens showed gratitude.

If seducing one or more inside looked like the best option, she'd take it. The three cousins and Jori had failed to notice she'd left something out while discussing how she could defend herself: she was, before all else, half siren. While she couldn't drive men into enough of a frenzy to cause hearts to fail, she could certainly make brains do so under the right conditions. She rather suspected at least one would have tried to forbid her to do so, if she'd mentioned it, which would be endearing if pointless.

She replaced her water-skin, shouldered her pack again, and resumed walking.

The ferry station looked like they generally did: just a sturdy wooden cottage, this one a bit larger than average but otherwise unremarkable. Usually the inside was a single room with a loft under the peaked roof for the ferryman and his family, if any, to sleep. A shed closer to the water offered shelter for those waiting on this side as well as, probably, repair and maintenance tools; she could just make out a similar structure on the far side. A rope was strung between the two buildings, attached to a brass bell on the outside of the nearer building, a way for travellers from the far side to announce their presence, and was probably attached to a matching bell on the far side in case he was over there when someone on this side wished to cross. The kitchen garden near the house looked a bit untended and overgrown, but that could happen for any number of reasons.

She added a bit more of a stumble to her step, and hunched more as though the weight even of her stripped pack felt like a lot, head down, pretending to be unaware of the ferry crossing until she was close to the water.

“Hoy, girl!” someone hailed her roughly in human.

She turned, staggered slightly, and blinked at the man striding towards her. Could be the ferryman: he had the visible upper-body strength and was wearing practical woollen work clothes, and he was definitely human.

“What are you doing?” he demanded.

“I... I suppose I need to cross the river. But I don't have any money left, they took it all...”

“They, who?” He eyed her suspiciously, but less aggressively.

“Alasir raiders, three of them.” She touched her throat, winced. “They took a lot of my gear and... attacked me.” Humans were typically rather uncomfortable with the idea of being a food source, and tried to talk around it. Like that changed anything. “Last night. I... oh, I'm tired. Is there anywhere I could sleep overnight?”

The look he gave her was frankly appraising, but she pretended not to notice, and kept her expression hopeful and a bit vague.

“I have some friends here just now, but I think we can arrange to make space for a pretty little siren in distress.”

Right. I've just been elected as the entertainment. They are, I hope, keeping their hands off Kallima, since that might make her less valuable, but one lone siren-blood has no value except to amuse them.

“Where are you headed?” he asked, taking her arm to steer her towards the house.

“My man threw me out. My half-sister lives in...” Where? Not anywhere specifically Jordan, so the capital, then. “... in Calton, I'm trying to get to her. She told me she could get me a job with her.”

Let him wonder, siren half or human half. I know there are siren-blood making a good living in fullblood towns selling sex and related sorts of things.

“Maybe you just need to find a man who can appreciate you.”

“I thought I had,” she sighed.

Far overhead, she saw a hawk circling lazily. Normal behaviour for a hawk, especially with the amount of open ground in the immediate area, but she didn't doubt for an instant that it was Jori back in hawk-form, watching her as the ferryman escorted her to the door of the cottage.

Those shields were extremely comprehensive ones: even a step outside, she could sense no one inside. He opened the door, waved her in, and she smiled at him and stepped across the threshold.


She blinked, pushed aside the overwhelming sense of being suddenly among a substantial group. In a typical cottage room, with hearth and table and chairs, foodstuffs hanging from beams mainly in one corner, she could see only two men besides the ferryman. Not a crowd, and no sign of Kallima.

Without knowing whether there was a telepath present, she dared not reach out to check, but she could loosen her shields a little more and let information trickle in passively. A pulsing tangle of fear and discomfort with a thread of anger, that had to be Kallima, but where was she? Where were the others she could sense? Not many could possibly lurk in the loft, and she heard no motion.

Both men fit Jori's description, men in quilted armour, a staff leaning against the wall in reach of each. Both clearly human, in their prime but perhaps edging towards the end of it.

“What are you doing?” demanded one.

“She's looking for a place to sleep,” the ferryman said. “She got attacked by alasir raiders, looks like she's short a lot of blood. She's harmless.”

Helpless, you mean. But be careful not to spook the bunny too fast. All the tears and begging and struggling is just so inconvenient.

Why does it feel sometimes like the entire male population of the North is interested mainly in getting me out of my trousers and themselves between my legs?

Oh, right, I'm half siren.

Both fighters studied her narrowly; she looked at the floor, kept herself physically drawn in as tightly as she could, but raised her eyes just enough to give them a tentative smile. None of my business why a fighter's making the decisions in a cottage that presumably belongs to the ferryman...

“Give her some food,” the one that had already spoken said finally. “Come have a seat. We certainly can't just leave you to sleep outside.”

She let her smile widen, relieved. “Thank you so much.”

The ferryman guided her to a chair, helped her drop her pack, and left her to sit down while he fetched a wooden bowl and filled it from the pot hanging at the hearth. She groped for her spoon in the side of her pack, deliberately clumsily, found it and dropped it.

As her fingers brushed the floor, she realized where at least most of the others she could feel were: underneath.

She scooped up her spoon with a stammered apology, and dug into the food. Inevitably, pottage, with more than passing acquaintance with meat. Well, fish, mostly.

She had to repeat her story, and elaborate on it, while she ate, but nothing she sensed suggested any suspicion; very early on, they discarded the idea that she was anything but what she looked like, and their interest turned to her potential as entertainment. While her inner senses fed her tatters and fragments of information, she spun a story. Her husband had tired of her and thrown her out; she hinted that perhaps it was her excessive fondness for sex that had finally disgusted him, but danced around it as carefully as she would if she were modestly ashamed. She had a half-sister who worked in Calton as a barmaid and had promised to find her a job if she ever needed one. Delicately, she dropped a hint that she was much less than half siren, and sighed about how much better off she'd be if she had telepath gifts along with her red hair.

Twelve, in total, she decided finally, most below but there was a sense of presence in the loft too. More worryingly, two felt like sorcerers. Though she doubted there was a sorcerer alive Matt couldn't beat one-on-one or even two-on-one, it would leave him tied up with that. It made sense, if they'd done any research at all before doing this, since if anyone was a threat to their plot, it was Matt. There'd been sorcerers who resented Matt even when he was in the middle of learning to use his gift, and she was sure there must be more, and more venomous, now.

Carefully, she relaxed the shields she kept up against siren projection and let that begin to leak through. It wasn't hard at all to ramp up her feeling of being under intense pressure and in serious danger: she only had to let herself contemplate how many ways this could go horribly wrong. She felt the subtle change in her voice that went with siren fascination; she couldn't tell directly whether the pheromone effect was active, but judging by the increasingly intent attention all three paid to her, it almost certainly was. Inner senses, even passively, noted rising arousal, and the talkative one was working at establishing himself as alpha, presumably to make it clear that she was his either first or exclusively.

Motion in the loft, footsteps on the steep ladder-like stairs, and she turned to look.


The siren strode across the floor and slapped her across the face, then stood glaring down at her, arms crossed.

It was, as usual with siren-blood, impossible to judge her age clearly; she'd reached full maturity and there was no silver in her hair, but that left a broad window. Those clothes cost more than Kisea saw in ready coin in several years: a full-circle skirt that shaded from dark greenish-blue at the top to a paler tint at the bottom, a brocade bodice that matched in colour, over a perfectly-tailored blouse of bleached linen embroidered with an elaborate sinuous blue-green design. Fiery-red hair was gathered into two ribbon-threaded braids coiled into a crown, rather than the more modest net, but who expected modesty from sirens?

She looked drastically out of place in an environment like this: a high-level telepath with a well-paid job or some very rich man's kept woman, or possibly an uncommonly wealthy and ostentatious woman from a mixed community.

“Stop it now,” she snarled at Kisea.

“Stop... stop what? Oh! Was I...?” Kisea widened her eyes, buried her face in her hands. “Oh no, I didn't mean...” She hunched inwards, making herself as small as she could. Already emotionally on edge for almost a full day, heart aching with the certainty of what came after Kallima was safe, it was all too easy to burst into tears. “I'm sorry,” she whimpered.

She felt the other siren's mind against hers, and braced herself. One slip now could give everything away.

I don't care how strong you are, you are no match for me. My gift might be the bane of my life, but I can damned well make sure that it means Kallima gets out of this building safely.

She kept her shields loose, sending a low-level projection of shame and fear, and watched the other siren.

She had a sure and practised touch, Kisea had to admit. In fact, she was good enough to catch the currents underneath that didn't match.

Before she could draw back, Kisea grabbed hold of her.

*Surprise,* she said sweetly. *You don't need that memory, we're going to make a little change to it, just... like... that.* She erased the heartbeats of time in which the other siren had realized Kisea was pretending, substituted a conviction that she'd found nothing inconsistent under the surface. *You know I'm not a telepath, you are quite certain of that, because if I was, you'd have seen some trace of it. There was absolutely nothing except the typical low-level siren projection, and even that isn't very strong. Probably I'm only a quarter or an eighth siren, and not one of the strong ones, basically just a human with a high sex drive and just enough siren fascination to make men like me. That's all.* In images, words, bits of thought, she wove the information into a natural conclusion.

The other siren made a dismissive gesture and turned away. “Stupid little bitch. Keep pulling that trick here and you'll get what you ask for. Go ahead, keep her to play with, she'll probably love it. She's the kind that make people think the rest of us are all ripe fruit to pick.” The hard soles of her narrow-toed boots thumped against the stairs back up to the loft.

If the two sorcerers are in case Matt shows up... the siren's not here primarily as a telepath, she's here to make sure that every male wanting to rescue Kallima gets fatally distracted.

But siren fascination isn't selective. She'd catch her own allies.

Oh gods. I need to see what's downstairs, I need to see what she's planning, but I can't get caught doing it.

The ferryman brought her a mug of weak bland ale to sip while she fought her sobs back under control and calmed down, no longer under the glower of the other siren.

“Trinai's like that,” the beta fighter murmured. “Don't mind her. She's not really going to hurt you.” In flagrant contradiction to Kisea's aching cheek. “You can stay here overnight.”

“And if you don't have very much control, well, we can live with that,” the ferryman said. “We'll forgive you.”

Oh, I bet you will.

She murmured broken thanks, clutching the mug with shaking hands.

She needed an opening to do some proper telepathic work, without anyone wondering why she was so distracted. The excuse, given her professed state of weakness, offered itself readily.

She blinked rapidly a couple of times, gazing into the mug, and tried to stifle an enormous yawn. Hastily, she stammered apologies and protests that it wasn't the company.

“Take a nap,” the alpha fighter said abruptly, standing up. “Find her a blanket. Trinai's claimed the loft, but you can sleep by the hearth.”

“Oh, I... well, I don't like feeling too tired to pay attention, but...” Stammering uncertainly, she let the ferryman find her a couple of blankets and even a roll of unidentified fabric she could use as a pillow.

All three had every intention of sex with her, willing or otherwise, but at least they were patient enough to wait a little, maybe with the intention of having their new toy last a bit longer.

She curled up on the hard wooden floor between the two less-than-clean blankets and closed her eyes, letting her breathing slow, her body gradually relax, to all appearances asleep.

And now, you have a controller loose in your hidey-hole, one that you don't suspect at all. Big mistake.

Cautiously, she chanced snaking an exploratory touch outwards, ready to draw back instantly if she encountered another telepath beyond Trinai.

She didn't, but the minds she found were, universally, female. Including the sorcerers.

If they're all strictly heterosexual, then any fascination Trinai throws would have very little effect on them. Only these three would really be slowed down by it.

And so would Matt and his cousins.

Which, at a crucial moment, could be lethal.

Protective anger stirred. You can't have them!

Wait. Being ready for a potential threat from your target's ridiculously powerful sorcerer cousin is one thing, but something about this set-up smells funny. It's too elaborate.

One mind she knew she could reach with minimal noise for any other telepath to pick up, and she needed to. Right now.


He was much less than half a mile away, for the connection to snap into place that strongly, as he acknowledged it.

*Do not, under any circumstances, come near this building unless I tell you to.*

*What? But...*

*I'm still looking for information, but there's something not right about this. Six fighters in the basement guarding Kalli all being female might be just to make sure no one rapes her, but two sorceresses and a high-level siren telepath also all being female is odd. They're in the loft. I think there's a chance this is designed specifically for you and your known bodyguard. I'm not sure how the two male fighters and the ferryman fit in, they're on the main floor. I need to find out exactly what's happening here so the three of you don't walk right into a trap.* The very thought stirred protective anger. You can't have them.

*If you can get the siren out of the picture...*

*I will, but I'm going to have to do it carefully. She's strong and smart and very good, she's going to catch me if I push it. Kalli's still vulnerable, there are six fighters who could kill her before I can possibly do anything. I need you to stay right where you are. I really need to know you aren't going to anything until I tell you it's all clear.* She heard the anger sneak into her mindvoice, twisting it into an almost animal snarl. *I'm not letting this condescending nose-in-the-air overdressed bitch and her friends have any of you.*

*Be careful. Please. I want you out of this in one piece so we can get married.*

*What? Which would do what, other than making you responsible for all my presumed crimes?*

*Exactly.* He sounded rather pleased with himself.

She started to tell him he was insane, but paused. It was, just barely, possible that the Assembly might consider it. Which didn't make it less insane, because there were a host of consequences to consider, but did mean that it wasn't entirely impossible there was a way out of the tangle. Shon, who probably knew more about law and politics both than her and Matt combined, obviously thought it had a chance of success.

And bringing it up now, suddenly, meant he knew she'd intended to not live through this.

*I'll make sure I live long enough to think about it and actually answer. I promise.*

*We're so close that we can see the building. Kian could hit the next person to step out the door from here.* Relief and reassurance, twined together, coloured it vividly. *You call, we're there, but we won't move one step closer or do anything to give away our presence until then.*

Far too many men she'd met would have assumed that they knew better and charged in whenever they thought it was the right time or they felt they'd waited long enough. She had, however, met Matt's mother, and knew Matt loved and respected her, and the thought had never in Matt's life crossed his mind that being female meant being less competent. She doubted it had ever crossed Kian's, either. If he said they'd wait, she could count on that.

She had to, because if they did anything to trigger suspicion, she and Kallima were probably both dead.

The first priority was to get Kallima out of this building. Once Trinai was no longer a factor and Kallima was safe, she was sure sorcerer and huntsman and swordsman and stormhawk could deal with the remainder.

In the loft, with Trinai, were two sparkling presences that were sorcerers, one of which had the low steady rhythm of sleep. Trinai, from the impressions Kisea got, was sitting with her legs crossed and her back straight—searching, Kisea decided after observing her psychic activity for a moment. Scanning the immediate area for intrusive minds.

The onyx charm worked moderately well against telepathic scans, but just in case, Kisea eased back into Trinai's mind. From there, she neatly brushed away even the faintest of traces of three minds lurking outside, and created a psychic image of that area being vacant no matter how many times Trinai looked.

If she tried to force something that would make Trinai question her own actions, she was going to have a battle on her hands; the other siren was too observant, too good a telepath, to fail to notice that something untoward was happening. Kisea would win, but it could take a lot more time and tire her badly.

Tentatively, she dropped into the flow of Trinai's thoughts fleeting ideas that could be easily dismissed, and finally hit on material she could build on.

They've got that little tart downstairs all comfortable by the fire to rest. She's going to need it, they're going to screw out what brains she has, but she gets to rest and I'm sitting here awake and scanning an empty forest. They could show up any time, and it's more likely to be in the deep part of the night when they can see better, and I need to be alert. Although it doesn't really take that much concentration to turn male brains into mush. It does take some energy, though, to do it properly against resistance. It's early evening now, I can sleep for a little while and then I'll be more alert and stronger when night comes. I don't even need to guard against the men, they're too distracted with their clawless fangless little toy to go after someone who can defend herself.

“I'm going to sleep for an hour or two,” Trinai said abruptly. “I'll be no use when they come if I'm tired, and I'm not sensing anyone for quite a long way. Have you?”

“Two horses alone in the woods just past the crossroads,” the alert sorceress said shortly. “I'm trying to find who they belong to.”


Kisea switched focus from Trinai's mind to the sorceress', which was actually easier to work in since the sorceress couldn't directly sense her—but she might nonetheless question any suddenly conflicting impulses. Delicately, she created an image of two travellers she'd met long ago, a married pair, who did in fact have horses, and inserted them into the sorceress' mental image so that she saw it appear in the shallow silver bowl of water on the floor in front of her.

“Never mind, it's a human man, probably Southern blood to be that blonde, and a human woman, both dressed for the road, setting up camp for the night. I suppose they prefer some privacy over asking for space here, which is just as well. They're scouting around separately, easy to miss. Go ahead and sleep. I'm watching, and I'll wake Melienne to take over soon.”

Hm, Melienne's a high alasir form, not the slurred ending mixed-bloods usually use. I wonder if she's actually full alasir. It isn't impossible for fullbloods to be extremely strong sorcerers, just less likely.

Kisea watched in satisfaction while Trinai gradually fell asleep—with just a little help. Unfortunately, she did have a variety of mental defences that snapped into place as she lost consciousness, something stronger telepaths frequently developed to prevent exactly what Kisea had hoped to do: slipping into her mind like a thief.

Like most telepaths, though, who depended on their gift the way they depended on their eyes and ears, she didn't close herself off entirely. Doing that would be like sleeping inside a box with a blindfold on and ears stopped up. One level of her mind continued to monitor her surroundings, passively and all but invisibly unless someone was watching for and hoping for exactly that. Kisea couldn't get inside that way, but she could use it to wrap Trinai in a bubble of ever-deepening sleep, spinning drowsy lazy safe around her.

She couldn't be absolutely sure Trinai wouldn't wake up under sufficient stimulus, but it would take a lot, and Kisea poking around in other minds wasn't going to do it.

Who was the next most urgent threat? She wouldn't be able to put eleven more people to sleep before she was too drained to do more, though if she continued to be able to do it by stealth with no direct resistance, it would help. Five more? Six?

Or would it be more effective to dominate one totally and work through her? One of the sorceresses, maybe?

She needed to know exactly what the situation was downstairs.

She sought out Kallima's mind, and whispered, *Don't react, sweetheart, but you aren't alone any more.*

She felt Kallima start physically, but she was clever enough that when one of the fighters glanced at her, she muttered resentfully, “A bug ran over my hand.”

*Shh. I know, it's a surprise. You're going to be okay.*

*Who...?* The thought formed, quite clearly, and unafraid of the contact. But then, Kallima's father was, she gathered, a respectably strong telepath in his own right—and her aunt was Alina Jordan.

*Shimai.* No point confusing her with another name right now.

*Shi... but you've been missing for years!*

*Stories later. We need to get you out of here.*

*Where are you? I think they want Matt to come, they talk in circles a lot but I've been listening to everything I can.*

*Matt and Shon and Kian are close but they're safe, and I'm not going to let them get caught in a trap, I promise.* The thought of Trinai enthralling her trio of alasir-blood while her minions and allies killed them gave Kisea another anger-fed surge of adrenaline. Mine. Hands off. *I need to see what's going on down there. Can I borrow your eyes and ears? It won't hurt if you don't fight me, but it might feel strange.*

*You can do anything you want, if it'll get me out of here without my family getting hurt!*

Kisea stretched farther, found the part of Kallima's mind processing images, the part processing sound, and connected herself to both.

As cellars went, there was more headroom than she'd expect. Wooden beams supporting the ceiling, which was the floor of the cottage. The walls were only bare earth, though, pounded hard into a solid dense mass, and the floor likewise, so each pillar supporting the ceiling beams had a stone foundation. It was almost as large as the cottage, and fairly brightly lit by fist-sized glowing spheres of light spaced out as necessary to dispel the gloom. A ladder led upwards to a broken square outline, presumably a trap door to the cottage above. Six rough wooden cots, which would at least get the fighters up off the probably damp and insect-inhabited floor, were arranged along the walls. Around a table four female fighters, all human or close to it, all in padded leather jerkins but the quality varied, were playing a game with dice. Two more women, visibly alasir-blood, were motionless on cots, so presumably they slept in shifts.

They would've done better to have at least one more sorcerer so they could rest more, and at least a second siren telepath. But maybe you couldn't find any others willing to go along with this, hm?

Ten women on the premises, and probably all of them off-limits or at least more assertive and self-possessed than she suspected these men cared for, must be frustrating. No wonder they were so eager to have her around. Would any of them, Kallima aside, care if a hapless siren-blood was raped right in front of them? Odds were against it making any difference, even if one or two voiced an objection.

Uncharacteristically, she saw six staves along with two bows and quivers. Well, it was no more unheard-of for women to learn staff than for men to learn bow, just less common, and even less so outside of the mixed-blood community. It certainly made more sense under the circumstances.

More importantly, Kallima was confined—a heavy-looking chain ran towards her neck from a bolt in a stone that she couldn't possibly move. Kisea added tactile sensation to sight and sound, and decided it was a metal collar, one that clinked every time Kallima moved. She was still dressed, and had a bucket to use as a chamberpot; Kisea saw a half-full wooden bowl of, probably, the same fishy pottage Kisea had eaten and an empty mug, so they were feeding her, but sensation included internal messages and Kallima's digestive tract was not dealing comfortably with the abrupt change in diet.

Because it was faster, she borrowed Kallima's right hand long enough to explore the collar by touch. Just a metal band with rings in the ends, the chain welded to it, and a padlock through the rings holding it closed.

*That felt odd,* Kallima observed, unfazed.

*Sorry. I promise, I will never do you any harm, no matter what, and I'm going to make sure you're safe. But things might get a bit peculiar.*

*Telepaths can't usually do things like that.*

*No, not usually. I'm a controller. That's why I ran away, I was scared.*

She felt Kallima consider that, then shrug. *Matt knows?*


*Matt wouldn't love you like I know he still does if you were a bad person. I trust you a lot more than I trust the people who brought me here and want to hurt my family.* A brief flash of humour. *Besides, I'm used to peculiar, I've known Matt my whole life.*

*Good girl. Keep thinking that way. This is going to be over very soon now, I'm just working out the best way.*

*All right. I can't do much chained up, but if I can, I'm ready.*

Sensible, with no lady-like hysterics. Kallima had grown up wonderfully in the past decade, maybe under the influence of her formidable aunts in the Village.

Sensation that confused Kisea briefly, it wasn't Kallima's body, it was her own... a rough male hand stroking her arm, then her throat where the bite-marks showed.

Kisea dropped the connection with Kallima, and returned her attention to her own body.

The ferryman had apparently decided he'd waited long enough. Even as she opened her eyes, he leaned down to press his mouth over hers, fumbling at the laces of her bodice.

Bad breath. And a beard. Maybe that's part of the appeal of alasir-blood, no scratchy facial hair, and no matter who says what about carnivore breath, it's better than stale ale and no attempt at keeping teeth clean.

So, do I fight, or just let them wear themselves out and, with any luck, fall asleep afterwards?

Fighting could draw attention. I need to keep an eye on the sorceresses and make sure they keep seeing people to match Rose and Butterfly.

She sighed to herself, but made a questioning sleepy sound, feigning drowsy confusion.

“The other two are out doing a quick check on the area,” he murmured. “Let's have a little fun.”

She giggled, reached up to wrap both arms around his neck, pausing just long enough to undo her bodice laces herself before he could break them. “All right.”

*Matt! Both fighters are out scouting!*

*I know, we can see them. I can hide us.*

*Kalli's all right, I told her we're here. Basement, they've got a collar on her chained to a rock. I haven't seen the keys. Can you use me as a bridge inside to find them?*


*Busy, will get back to you in a minute.*

Does being bored and disgusted count as enough stress to start the pheromones again? She cooed happy encouragement in his ear, felt the shift in her voice at least, and projected arousal as strongly as she could. She helped him untie her trousers and jerk them off, followed by her drawers, and let her unfastened bodice slide off her shoulders out of her way.

At least siren physiology meant that any suggestion of sex was promptly accompanied by some degree of physical response: she wasn't dry when he thrust inside her, though it still made her grunt in mild pain.

Instead of letting her mind go somewhere else, she used every trick she knew to make sure he finished as quickly as possible.

She made a sulky sound of disappointment as he began to soften and slide out of her.

“It's been too long,” he grumbled. “But I'll want another taste of that soon.”

“Any time,” she purred.

The door made them both twist around.

The alpha fighter's face clouded as he strode across the room. “Who said you could have her?”

“I brought her in,” the ferryman protested.

“I'm in charge,” the alpha fighter snarled.

“I get a say in this too,” the beta fighter said angrily. “I thought we were going to share her.”

Hm, this is promising. Fighting each other, with very little help from me.

“Oh, please, don't fight,” she entreated them. “You're all wonderful, there's no way I could choose...”

Which, of course, only fed the fires.

She drew herself back against the wall, to stay out of the way as the alpha fighter slung a punch at the beta one.

Just to make sure it continued, she thought about as many grim outcomes to all this as she could, everything that could go wrong, to ramp up her stress level as much as possible. This kind of projection took little effort, really, and throwing in pleas to stop provided the vocal aspect nicely.

It was hard not to feel a certain amount of glee, watching them thump on each other with increasing savagery.

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