Madame Macabre returned home well after midnight, exhausted almost beyond endurance from assisting the Liberty Squad in their battle against the Void Titans. She was so tired that she didn’t even bother with a concealment spell; she simply flew into the window of her third story walkup in the Little St-Ouen district of Pyramid City, counting on the darkness and the late hour to protect her privacy. Her little bookshop was hard enough to find anyway—the odds that some stranger would be watching it when she arrived home seemed like an acceptable risk when weighed against trudging up three flights of stairs.
If anyone did show up tomorrow asking inconvenient questions, she could always cast a charm over their memories, but she didn’t feel too concerned. Despite a sign hanging over the door that announced the presence of ‘Tales Come to Life—Rare Books and Antiquities’, and another on the door itself that invited people to ‘Come On Up!’ in hand-lettered Gothic script, very few buyers ever actually made it to Madame Macabre’s shop. Quite a few very desperate sellers, usually clutching a book they were very happy to be rid of, but almost no buyers. And certainly no social callers apart from a few highly trusted superheroes. Madame Macabre didn’t invite ordinary people round her place any more than the Bank of England held high tea in their vaults.
Of course, she thought with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she alighted through the open window, the fact that nobody could get in didn’t mean she never had any security problems to worry about. Even as dulled as they were by drowsiness, her mystic senses could tell that something was wrong even before she found her clerk Mordecai slumped unconscious in his favorite armchair, a book with mysteriously blank pages lying open on the floor beneath his limp and dangling hand. As soon as she saw him, she realized exactly what it was that was pricking her magical intuition.
One of the stories had escaped again.
She reached down and scooped up the book with her pale, dexterous fingers, turning it over to look at the spine with a sense of growing apprehension. She relaxed a little when she saw the title—’The Tale of Silas the Somnomancer’—but only a tiny bit. Silas was far from the most dangerous of the narratives she kept imprisoned in her magical shop; if Stabbily Ever After or The Duchess of Bone had made it out of their volumes, she probably wouldn’t have found Mordecai alive. But she knew how Silas’s story ended, and that meant she still couldn’t leave it until morning. Damn. It was always something.
She closed her emerald-green eyes for a moment and made a few mystic passes, her fingers contorting into strange poses as she borrowed energy from her future self. It meant that she would crash even harder when the balance came due, but energy didn’t come from nowhere, and Madame knew better than to try to take on this particular foe on anything less than full rest. Silas only knew the one spell, and he was anything but subtle with it, but the longer she left him to his own devices the more powerful he would become. If he had any purchase inside Madame Macabre’s own mind, like for example being utterly drained from a full day of casting powerful magic, she knew her wards would crumble from within as well as without. She had no intention of letting that happen.
Madame Macabre felt the bright, sparkling power flow through her mind and body, washing away the cobwebs in her brain and leaving her filled with mystic strength. She made a quick, fluttering gesture at Mordecai that caused him to wake up with a spluttering cough, and said, “You fell asleep. Please don’t let it happen again; not only will I dock your pay, but there’s a very good chance that you could wake up without eyeballs. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go talk to a man about a book.” She cast a quick waking ward on him just in case, then left him stammering apologies as she flew out into the night once more.
She really wished she could find a better helpmate than Mordecai, but there wasn’t exactly a hiring website for assistants to the wardens of a mystic prison for out of control entities formed from the collective imagination of humankind. And it wasn’t as though she could simply stay in the shop twenty-four hours a day anymore—the world had too many magical threats for her to spend all her time keeping the stories under control. Mordecai tried his best, and if he sometimes slipped up, well... that was what she’d spent centuries training for, wasn’t it?
Not that Silas the Somnomancer needed centuries of training to prepare for. Even by the standards of a predetermined narrative, Silas ran on rails a bit—he was never happy with his status as a somnomancer, he always wanted to become a stronger magician, and he always looked for artifacts and rituals that would give his simple sleep spells more raw power. He never understood that he was there as a cautionary tale to young wizards, reminding them that strength wasn’t everything. Someone written specifically to be an idiot about their own area of expertise was rarely much of a threat.
(Madame Macabre sometimes suspected the writer wasn’t doing it on purpose—the prose was so bland and didactic, and Silas was such an annoying character, that many of them never even made it to the sleep spell in the back that he was there to teach about. Probably generations of student magicians willed him to life purely out of their collective irritation.)
In any event, at this stage, he wasn’t yet much of a danger. She simply had to trace him down to the nearest collection of magical items—he was drawn to them like a raven to shiny objects, and she usually found him at some museum or private collection that didn’t know what it had and didn’t have enough to be worth the attention of a real thief. Then it was just a matter of warding off his battering ram of a sleep spell and binding him back into his book. She’d done it dozens of times. It was almost comforting to have something so simple to solve at the end of a long day of saving the universe.
That attitude lasted about three hours. Then she started to get annoyed. She had checked the Pyramid City Museum, the Antiquities wing of the local college, and no less than three private collections that she’d been keeping an eye on, all with no luck. She knew she hadn’t missed him—if she knew anything about Silas, it was that he wasn’t subtle. He usually left a trail of somnolescent bodies in his wake, security guards and homeowners alike slumped where they fell as they gave in to the power of his tranquilizing sorcery. But so far, nothing. Madame Macabre was beginning to get a little bit worried. The longer it took to find him, the more tired she would get. She didn’t want to fight him on his terms, not when losing meant...
She tried to push the end of his story out of her head, but her mind simply wouldn’t let it go. Silas the Somnomancer, deciding to use the artifacts he’d collected to summon a demon and demand the power that was his by right. Silas punching a hole in the fabric of reality without the proper rituals or training of a demonologist. Silas unleashing a horde of beasts from beyond reality that consumed him and everything else. Madame Macabre sighed in frustration. Why couldn’t that long dead author simply have ended the story with Silas losing his powers or something?
Finally, just before dawn, Madame Macabre found herself outside of a palatial home owned by the Duquesne family. They were known mostly now as patrons of the arts, sitting on something like five generations of accumulated wealth, but Madame Macabre had always suspected that they owed more than a little of their fortune to sorcerous intervention back in the days when Pyramid City had first been settled. She’d always had better things to do than to prove it, though... until now. Tonight, she was desperate for a lead, and this was the only place within sixty miles of Pyramid City that she hadn’t already checked out. She had no idea where Silas would be if not here—his instincts would keep him moving away from her shop, and she certainly didn’t think he’d hopped onto a plane. His book predated the automobile, for Baal’s sake. She descended onto the terrace behind the house, her red hair streaming behind her in the pre-dawn light, and made a gesture with her fingers.
It wasn’t needed. The door was already open on its own.
Somehow, that worried her much more than it should. She didn’t like finding broken glass, unconscious butlers, ransacked display cases and missing items of power... but she was finding that she didn’t like not finding those things even more. Silas wasn’t supposed to change his MO. He wasn’t supposed to be able to. He was a story, pinned eternally into place by the strictures of his narrative. But if he was here... and Madame Macabre was increasingly convinced that he was here, somewhere... why was he hiding? How had he gained access? Where were the people who lived here? Had he caught them all in their beds, one by one, and simply deepened their natural slumber with his unnatural one? She didn’t think a bumbler like Silas would be capable of that, but—
Her whole world went sideways as she was tackled from behind. Strange hands grabbed her arms, pulled them out and away from her as they pinned her body into place, and locked fingers with her grip to keep her from making even the simplest of spellcasting gestures. And only then, as the lights went on, did Silas step into view.
He looked as she remembered him in many ways—the same threadbare velvet robes, the same weedy goatee, the same ruddy cheeks and bulbous nose like Billy Bunter had grown up and gone to seed. He gave a shrill giggle and said, almost to himself, “It worked! It worked! It really really worked! Oh my, but this is just the most wonderful thing!” He clapped his hands together nervously, his eyes alight with malicious excitement.
Madame Macabre didn’t understand how any of this could have happened. She looked over at the figures holding her tightly in their grip, utterly bewildered by their very presence—she recognized them from gossip magazines as members of the Duquesne family, one of the older sons and one of the younger daughters. Their eyes were wide open but unseeing, and they held her in a grip so determined that Madame could tell instantly that she would break her fingers sooner than break free. As she craned her neck around, struggling wildly and ineffectually against her captors, she saw that a maid and a butler had her legs held tight. And the matriarch of the family, Dame Lucette Duquesne herself, was sitting on Madame Macabre’s back with no apparent awareness of her actions. (Or her weight—Madame Macabre winced as her full breasts were squashed against the hardwood floor.)
“I, I don’t understand, how... how...?” Madame Macabre’s voice trailed off into confusion as she desperately tried to force her fingers into a spell, any spell. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand what Silas had done—he’d used his simple-but-versatile sleep spell to draw the inhabitants of the house into a waking dream, turning them into blissful and blank somnambulists who did his mental bidding. They all thought this was a strange dream, one where they subdued an intruder and welcomed an old friend that they knew they knew intimately even if they couldn’t say how or from where. It was one of the many, many applications of somnomancy that Silas wasn’t supposed to understand.
That was what had Madame Macabre so perplexed... and frankly, terrified. Silas wasn’t capable of this kind of nuance. That was the whole point of his existence—he used sleep magic purely as a blunt instrument, and one he openly disdained in favor of grand world-shattering evocations at that. How had he learned to use it to enslave people? More importantly, how had he learned anything at all?
She could figure it out later. For now, she focused on casting a simple disruption spell—it was limited and temporary, but it only required a very small motion of her left thumb. Once she snapped Isabelle Duquesne out of her waking slumber, she could get that hand free and use it to cast some serious magic to ward the whole family against Silas’s castings. She didn’t need it to last long, just long enough to bind him, and then—
She cast the spell. It didn’t work.
Or rather, it worked for a moment—Madame Macabre saw Isabelle’s eyes flutter in momentary consciousness as she became aware of her surroundings. But then her expression settled right back into that same glassy, placid indifference, and she didn’t relax her grip for nearly long enough for Madame Macabre to break free. Another wiggle of her thumb targeted Claude Duquesne on the right, but again, it simply produced a temporary flicker of awareness that settled back into that same sleepy bliss.
“I did anticipate that,” Silas said, squatting down to look her in the face. “You see, they are having a very pleasant dream at the moment—the most pleasant I could possibly give them, and that turns out to be very nice indeed. Free them as many times as you like, but their minds will always want to return to that same warm, drowsy place inside of their heads... and as long as they do, my spell will reassert itself.” He clapped again, as though his hands were a fluttering moth banging against a window pane. “Oh, this is so wonderful! I never have to go back again!”
Madame Macabre struggled to lift herself. “It’s... no good,” she gasped out, panting with the exertion of trying to rise. “You... you can’t win, you don’t ever...” Her muscles gave out and she collapsed back to the floor, her breath going out in a whoosh as the weight of Dame Lucette’s body forced the air out of her lungs. “...win...” she wheezed out, hating the defeated tone in her voice.
“Oh, I know I’ve been somewhat... limited, in the past,” Silas said modestly, his hands working in mystical gestures as he spoke. She felt his sleep spell slam into the wards she’d placed around herself before she arrived, but they held for the moment. “But I spoke to the most amazing person when I was at the university. He was there to steal a little bauble, some trinket or other that he needed for his wider plans, but he saw in me quite a bit of potential. I was flattered, really. He expanded my consciousness, let me see what I was truly capable of. Freed me of my limitations. And do you know what?” He grinned widely, his cheeks dimpling with excitement. “I genuinely think I can rule the world with just a single spell!”
He giggled again, but his fingers worked with furious intensity as he battered away at Madame Macabre’s mystic shields. “Oh, I know it seems unlikely, but really, I know just how it’s going to work! These charming people will give me all the worldly wealth I need—it seems silly that I was going to consort with demons for the power to influence people, when honestly a little cash here and there does just as well. And once you’re sound asleep... and that is going to be very soon, Madame, don’t think you can resist me forever... well, then I’ll have an ally who can do all the magic I ever wanted. And who knows so many of these delightful, um, superheroes that are so popular these days.”
He leaned in to whisper to her conspiratorially. “Between you and me, that was part of the bargain I made with my benefactor. He keeps his secrets, does his business without interference, and me? I get a whole world to rule, and every hero in it to serve me.” His hands moved faster and faster, repeating the sleep spell over and over as he spoke. “Starting with you. Starting now.”
Madame Macabre tried to tell him that he was wasting his time, that she knew the spell he was casting and that she could hold it off as long as it took to free herself. But then the borrowed energy that she had stolen from her future self ran out, and her mind collapsed into irresistible drowsiness as she sagged down into sudden, inescapable slumber. She didn’t even have time for a last thought before darkness swallowed her up. But if she had, it would have been to curse her own arrogance. Everything Silas said was true... and she was going to help him achieve it all.
She dreamed of sex.
She knew she was dreaming; one didn’t get to become a true adept in the sorcerous arts without knowing how to tell reality from its various permutations, alterations, and illusions. But knowing that it was a dream didn’t make it feel any less real; the shifting, fluxing fantasy of sex felt every bit as good to Madame Macabre’s body as if it were genuine physical pleasure. She could feel Adventure Girl’s warm breath against her labia, look down and see WildRose and Venus Ascendant latching onto her nipples with their soft lips and suckling at her heavy tits. If anything, it felt more powerful; her mind was foggy and soft, and everything beyond the sex disappeared into a warm red mist of pure and indescribable lust. She only wanted to fuck right now. And she never wanted to stop.
That was part of the spell, but she couldn’t escape it just by realizing that. She needed energy to overcome the drowsy inertia that kept drawing her back down into the dreamscape, helpless to resist the semi-permanent orgasm that flowed over her body as Adventure Girl’s tongue was replaced by the Rescuer’s cock. It felt so real to her, and so good—better than any sex could ever be. The Rescuer fucked her so powerfully, so intensely, and in the dream there was no possibility of pain or injury from his superhuman thrusts. She could take his massive dick with jackhammer force and feel nothing but pleasure. It was utterly overwhelming.
She tried to force some urgency into her thoughts, to remind herself that Silas was making her somnambulent body obey his every wish while she was trapped here in this dream state. But nothing seemed to matter. Every thought, every notion seemed to drift through her lethargic mind with the same placid, peaceful drowsiness, from ‘Oh God, Professor Psyche’s fingers feel so good on my tits’ to ‘I’m going to be used to help enslave the human race’, and there was simply nothing she could do about it. Silas’s magic kept her exhausted, enervated, drugged into blank and mindless slumber. And the sex...
The sex kept luring her deeper into her dream. She hated to admit it, but it was. It had been months since she’d had a good fuck, and decades since she’d had the kind of apocalyptic gang-bang her unconscious mind was giving her. She was getting double-penetrated by Starheart and Harrier while her tongue worked away at Sharpe’s swollen cunt, she was getting spattered with Doctor Magick’s cum all over her face and tits while Azure reached down and rubbed her clit with every thrust of the massive cock inside her. It felt so good, so real, so powerful that Madame Macabre didn’t want to let it go. Silas was right. She couldn’t resist because she didn’t want to resist. The spell would always fuck her mind deeper into pleasure, and she would sink further and further into that same drowsy bliss.
And it was even worse than that. Silas told her he was going to use her to cast spells for him. He was going to keep her drained, her mental and magical batteries constantly pressed into service for his goals while her mind drifted through an endless dream of sucking and fucking. Even though she was sleeping constantly, her mystical energies would never replenish enough for her to even try to fight him. She was defeated. Utterly, thoroughly, and completely defeated. Somehow, though, that only made the sex that much better. It really was the most ecstatic bliss that she’d ever felt in her life.
She gave in to it. She stopped struggling to think, stopped wondering if Silas was forcing her to mesmerize her friends and allies and simply relaxed her mind into the rhythm of the sex. She rode Captain Patriot’s cock to one climax after another, let Epiphany and Dilettante tweak and pinch her nipples until they practically incandesced with sensation, presented her ass to Eris and let the other woman rim her out until she almost cried with the joy of it. She couldn’t win. She couldn’t fight. She couldn’t resist all this bliss. Why try?
The pleasure was so strong. So very very powerful. So real and so powerful, as real as any sex she ever experienced and charged with so much more erotic energy that—
And then she had it. In her dream, she smiled. And she fucked her lovers even harder. She rose up and down, letting the Rescuer pound her cunt with more force than any human being could even survive, let alone enjoy, letting her dream self experience the thrusts all the way up her spine. She drew every last moan, every last whimper out of him, knowing that when she couldn’t even imagine him fucking her one second longer, there would always be another man or another woman right behind him to pour that pleasure into her.
Adventure Girl licked away at her clit, spiked that talented tongue deep into her cunt and sparked her into white-hot, tingling bliss. And Madame Macabre drew it all into herself, channeled it up her body past the sacral chakra where the sensations originated up her spine to her solar chakra, then further up and up her body with each tiny little kiss and suck. She didn’t cum from it. She wasn’t trying to cum any more.
Instead, she kept channeling the pleasure further along her chakra centers, building the tantric energy more and more with every partner. Doctor Phobos slid into her ass, his cock stimulating all of the tingling nerves with his rapid thrusts, but she simply accepted the energy and drew it up to her heart and her throat centers. When Voltaic fucked her wet pussy with a dick that literally crackled with electricity, she took every thrust until she could feel her third eye opening with the revelatory bliss of it all. She hadn’t done magic like this in ages, but it was just like riding a bicycle. (Well, perhaps not a cycle, but definitely very bi.)
Finally, as Venus Ascendant slid her entire fist into Madame Macabre’s cunt and flexed it, Madame felt the energy crowning above her head. She didn’t know whether it was the feeling of perfect fullness that did it, or the little smile of pure joy she imagined on her partner’s face, but it was all the energy she could possibly imagine. It came from her sex drive, it filled her up to overflowing far beyond anything Silas could even imagine, let alone drain. It felt like being a tiny god, holding all the power of a thousand lovers in her heart and her head, imagining it smashing down all the barriers and constraints that kept her imprisoned.
And with that... Madame Macabre woke up.
She didn’t know how long she’d spent in her waking dream, but the fact that she was wearing a completely different outfit (bondage gear? Really?) and she was kneeling at Silas’s feet next to Adventure Girl and Venus Ascendant told her a lot. He must have accomplished quite a bit while she was daydreaming. Which meant that she was really going to enjoy wiping that smug look off his face.
It didn’t take long. He barely even had time to recognize that she was free, let alone act on it before she cast a powerful ward on her friends that obliterated any trace of Silas’s spells. They both looked shocked—Madame Macabre expected they had just come out of a dream very much like the one she had experienced—but the sheer force of her tantric energy prevented the spell from reasserting itself. Strength wasn’t everything, but it certainly wasn’t nothing, either.
Then she went after Silas. The energy she was channeling wouldn’t last, but given how powerful she felt right now, she didn’t need it to. She buffeted him with a gust of wind that sent him head over heels off of his throne (really? He made himself a throne?) and kept him too off-balance to even think about another spell. Her sentient whirlwind chased him around his... throne room, Madame Macabre mentally sighed... while she scooped up the book that had held him imprisoned. He couldn’t destroy it, not without destroying himself. It was a part of him.
And now, she thought as she made a last few mystic passes, he was part of it. She gave him a tiny wave as he flowed past her, his substance melting like warm wax and scribbling itself onto the pages, and then closed the book with a grim smile. She’d need to put this one in the Sequestered Section from now on. Add that to the list of things to do, right after ‘find out who could re-inscribe a living manifestation of the human imagination, and what they were planning to do with that kind of power’. Oh, and ‘explain to the two bewildered superheroes next to you what happened’.
She looked over at Adventure Girl and Venus Ascendant. “I know this all seems odd, but... can you bear with me long enough to get this book back to my collection? My clerk has probably earned more than a little time and a half waiting for me to return.” She had a sudden memory of Mordecai, subject to a compulsion that kept him awake until she returned, and privately winced. Definitely time to give him a raise.
Adventure Girl looked over at Venus Ascendant, her cheeks bright red in that charming way she had when she was horny as fuck and didn’t want to admit it. “Um, okay,” she murmured, practically biting her lip in frustration. “We’ll follow along for the moment, we’ll wait for you to do... whatever it is you need to do.” Madame Macabre smiled politely, trying to pretend the two women wouldn’t be fucking like rabbits the second she left them in the guest room. “But we really need answers.”
“And you’ll get them,” Madame Macabre said. “In due time. Silas needs to go back on the shelf... and frankly, if you don’t mind my admitting it? I could do with a nap after all this.”