Princess studies the Magic Mirror. It shows her a grand throne room, decorated in marble and tapestries, and thronging with dozens of children ages six to twelve. They are all playing with puzzles or jacks or marbles, laughing raucously at games that would have bored them silly weeks before. And yes, there goes one little boy rolling a wooden hoop as though he had never had so much fun. The glee on his face is genuine, even if his eyes are a bit glazed. The room is more like a grand hallway lined with immense marble pillars leading to a giant dais. Perched atop the dais is a massive golden throne covered in so much gilt and ornamentation as to make it almost useless for sitting. On it sits an incredibly handsome man dressed in blue silk brocade with a delicate crown sitting at a jaunty angle in his black hair. He sits casually, one leg tossed over an ornamental arm, eating a large red apple with obvious enjoyment. His bright green eyes twinkle as he gazes lovingly on the children. He smiles absently, showing perfect teeth. Standing absolutely still at each pillar is a woman dressed scantily in sheer blue fabric . There are thirteen of the slave girls scattered about the room, staring blindly ahead unless beckoned by an imperious gesture by the Dragon. They all have black hair cut in a bob and green eyes, all share a nearly identical hour-glass figure, are within an inch of each other height-wise, and between 25 and 30 years old. Their resemblance makes Princess shudder unconsciously.
As she watches, one of the women stumbles, shaking her head in an attempt to clear the fog that had kept her still for days. When she finally looks up, the children have formed a solid wall around the Dragon, who hasn’t bothered to pause in his munching on the apple. The woman looks around confused. She doesn’t remember this place, doesn’t remember bringing her children here weeks earlier, doesn’t remember all the things she has done for the Dragon’s entertainment. She recognizes her children then, calls to them. That’s what Princess assumes happens. The Magic Mirror provides no sound for its images. When her children don’t budge, the woman calls again, steps closer to the dais causing the children to bunch closer together. Some of them bare their teeth at her, presumably as a threat. The Dragon continues to focus on his apple rather than acknowledge the frantic woman as she attempts to breach the wall of children only to be pushed back. She’s crying, trying to cover herself and still calling for her children. Finally, the Dragon finishes his apple. He looks at the core with disgust on his face then tosses it blindly at the woman, who catches it instinctively. Princess watches him say, “Kill her,” as casually as he had tossed the core. As one, the children become a vicious swarm that swiftly overtakes the woman. Princess is grateful there is no sound. The screams must be horrendous. As it is, she shuts off the Mirror before she has to see more body parts fly from the swarm. Her stomach clenches, but she refuses to give him even that much.
When she turns around, she is startled by the appearance of a aged man in a dark suit and graying hair standing by the door to her chambers. Merlin was a formidable hero in his day, but now acts as her adviser. If it galls him to be adviser to a young girl, he doesn’t show it openly. The Panhandle Territory had been Alpha’d by men for a hundred years, each of them physically intimidating enough to keep the villains hesitant to make a move against them. Princess was not only the first female Alpha in a century, but she was also the youngest at 25-years-old. She tries not to let it bother her. She knows she is strong enough for the job otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten it, but it was hard not to see some of the looks the Council gave her, or to notice how aggressive the villains have become since she took over. This is her chance to prove herself.
“You don’t have to prove yourself, Princess,” Merlin says in that gravelly voice of his. Low-level telepathy is one of his many skills. She must be really upset to let stray thoughts leak out like that.
With a sigh, she goes back to putting her uniform together. Tonight is the night. “It isn’t about that, Merlin,” she replies, hating that she even has to say that and that part of her knows she is lying. He’s going to argue. It isn’t her responsibility, after all. The Dragon had set up his lair in Lando, in the fake castle for the old amusement park. Fifty years ago, a cartoonist had tried to build a wonderland for children and only managed to bankrupt himself and everyone he knew. For decades, it passed from one wealthy family to the next, some trying to make it public while others just kept the rides working for the random spoil-the-grandkids-birthday-party. Dime store attraction parks are a niche that nobody seems to want a part of anymore. No one knew when the Dragon had arrived there or how he had made so many renovations unnoticed, but the children started disappearing nearly a month ago. It had taken her two weeks to hack into the old security cameras with Magic Mirror. By then, it was more than just children.
The children were the main problem, though, and the reason the Charlie hero and the police wouldn’t go near the park. They had tried at first, once Princess told them that’s where the children were disappearing to. A whole SWAT team was sent in. However, as soon as they set foot inside the gates, the children became a human shield. The Dragon told the cops to leave and half of them simply left, following a compulsion he had placed deeply in their minds. He threatened to kill one child at a time until the rest of them left. That was before the cops even made it to the castle. You don’t have to be a strong telepath if your talent lies in compulsion, and the Dragon was by no means a weak telepath to use compulsion without even eye contact. Still, the police couldn’t leave without further attempts at rescue so they tried to move in further. They stopped when the screaming started. They couldn’t see what was happening, but their superiors called them back. The Dragon had told some of the children to go swimming in the moat. It was electrified. The screams came from the slave girls, conscious enough for that moment to recognize their own children being electrocuted. Princess had watched the whole thing in horror. It was enough to scare the cops and the Charlie off permanently. They sent requests up to the Bravo, an arrogant hero named The Lance, who refused to lower himself to deal with such small matters.
Now the Dragon had been reigning unchallenged for a month and Princess could no longer sit idle. Her pale blue domino mask fits her face so perfectly she barely notices it at all except for the dark lenses. Her black hair, cut in a simple bob, is held back from her face by a wide red hair band. She adjusts her dark blue utility belt over her wide hips and shifts her pale yellow cloak until it sits properly on her shoulders. Her yellow boots are laced up neatly to her knees over pale blue leggings that match perfectly with her kevlar-thread leotard. With a deep breath, she pulls on her thick, yellow gloves, flexing her hands to ensure they fit right around her fingers. She tries out her hero pose in front of the standing mirror in the corner of the room. It is difficult not to grimace. At 4’11, 120 lbs, she is not intimidating in any way. But she is the perfect lure for the Dragon.
As she begins stuffing her utility belt with various supplies, Merlin says, “Do you at least have a plan?” Stupid question, but then maybe he hadn’t noticed the resemblance.
“I’m going to let him capture me, get close to him, and capture him,” she answers bluntly, snapping a cartridge closed as emphasis. “I know it’s not much of a plan, but this might be my only chance. He just lost a slave girl. That hasn’t happened for two weeks. He needs another one and I’m his type.” Merlin shakes his head, but she doesn’t let him argue. “Hassee can survive without me for a week or so.”
“That was not my argument, Princess. You can block low-level telepathy, yes, but what if he gets passed your defenses?” She looks at him tight-lipped for several seconds until he realizes what she intends. “No. You cannot let him compel you! An Alpha in his power would be disastrous. I cannot allow this.” For once, his serene demeanor is marred by ferocious anger. His leathery face has red blotches and his bushy eye brows are pulled low over wide green eyes.
Princess smiles, dimples adorning her round cheeks. “I am more than capable of handling a little compulsion, Merlin. How do you think I got to be Alpha?” She saunters up to him and pats him on his wrinkled cheek, quietly delighted at the doubt in his eyes. “Now, go home, Merlin,” she says sweetly in her high-pitched voice. Abruptly, the old man straightens up and marches from the room without a second glance. She knows all about compulsion. She won’t be able to use it forcefully on the Dragon, just as he couldn’t use his ability on her without her allowing it. That’s her theory, anyway.