Kratia gripped the energy wand and channeled more power into the spell that allowed her slip undetected into the minds of the listeners. She modified her own mental structure in order to better assimilate and evaluate the huge volume of information that was pouring in. Even with minds dulled and opened up by the music, it was tedious trying to form intimate bonds with them. Fortunately her pre-established links with Sarral and Nikademos allowed her to form an effective feedback loop.
The emotions of Sarral responded well to the music, and though buried to Sarral himself, his feelings were easily monitored by Kratia. Her link with Nikademos allowed an immediate and subtle adjustment of the music to test its effect on Sarral. Within the first few minutes Kratia had mastered control over Sarral’s hidden emotions and had made shallow mental links with those of her staff with emotional make‑up similar to Sarral’s.
A few minutes more of experimenting with the tone, pitch, melody, and lyrics had allowed Kratia to gain an in-depth understanding of each staff member’s emotional makeup. After that it was relatively easy to gain control by adjusting their feelings so they felt happy, even joyous, if they embraced the thoughts placed in their open minds by Kratia; but felt sad, nervous, depressed and generally miserable if they did not.
In less than an hour Kratia directly controlled all the minds listening to the concert. The music wasn’t important anymore; she had Nikademos stop. He fell across the keyboard, sweaty and exhausted from the spell that had been driving him with an unrelenting intensity.
Kratia felt exhausted too, but dared not relax until she ensured that the mental conditioning would hold up under stress. She walked over to Drake, who had been the hardest to seduce. He was a strong and very opinionated thinker, and the tiny window of his loneliness had been very difficult for her to enlarge and maneuver.
But in the end surrender was inevitable. Music provided a receptiveness, an opening in the listener’s mind through which a spell could slip in unimpeded by the Crystal. The key arrangement of beat, melody, harmony, lyrics – these were different for each person, but she hoped that enough emotions and opinions overlapped among people to make music practical as a mass indoctrination tool. Kratia felt giddy with excitement. Tonight’s experiment could provide confirmation of her theory.
She looked at Drake. It certainly seemed to have worked. Drake now had a sense of belonging, a camaraderie that had eluded him except in dreams. And he was totally hers; he felt a basic primal urge to serve her, and to destroy her enemies. Perfect loyalty.
Everyone in the room felt that way now, except for Nikademos and Sarral. Sarral of course could be permitted no feelings at all if he were to serve her effectively. But that had already been taken care of and no further adjustment of his mind was needed.
In Nick she had detected a flicker of love towards her; she found it somehow precious and refused to tamper with it. She wanted it to grow. Of itself. Without magic. Was she getting sentimental? No, but she would have to be careful of her feelings here.
“Drake!” she shouted as loud as she could, inches from his face.
“Yes, Lord Kratia?” he said. His tone was mild voice, without any trace of resentment. She gripped her wand and a sphere of glowing blue light formed in the air next to Drake. Within the sphere Drake’s MP-5 appeared.
“Take the gun, Drake.” He reached into the blue glow and grasped the firearm as she walked over to Lieutenant Ponce.
“Ponce, I don’t want you to leave the room or to resist me. Do you understand?”
“Yes. Lord Kratia.”
She kicked Ponce hard in the groin; he doubled up in pain, but made no move to resist her. “What did you do that for?” Ponce asked, wincing.
“Because I wanted to test you. Do you have a problem with that, soldier?”
“No, Lord Kratia,” answered Ponce, slowly straightening. She nodded and moved back to Drake.
“You know Lieutenant Ponce, correct?”
“Ponce has betrayed me. He talks too much and is guilty of treason. He must be eliminated. Kill him for me. Now.”
“Whatever you say, Kratia,” Drake said, an edge of anger in his voice. Ponce was at the far end of the hall. There was no one near him and the path was clear. Drake leveled the gun and squeezed of ten rounds.
Ponce screamed once before falling backwards against the wall and sliding down to the floor. A dark red stain spread rapidly across his shirt. Matching streaks smeared the wall behind him. Blood puddled on the floor.
The guests shouted. One of the servants screamed.
“Everyone shut up and don’t move!” shouted Kratia.
The room instantly silenced. The guests still looked terrified, with the exception of Drake and Sarral. Sarral raised one eyebrow as he looked at Kratia, then turned to gaze around the room. “Your conditioning holds,” he observed. “Even under pain and fear.”
Kratia smiled in agreement. It worked! The conditioning would hold against both banes of magic, giving her troops a powerful advantage in battle, whether against wizards or soldiers. She smiled even more broadly and motioned for Sarral to handle the clean up, then slipped out the door.
Exhausted by the execution of difficult and energy intensive spells, she walked quickly to her chambers, wanting nothing more than the luxury of real sleep. She slipped into bed, feeling the satin slide against her naked skin. She closed her eyes.
But sleep brought dreams: dreams of the power and the passion in the music of Nikademos. It invoked passions within her; let her see him in a new light. In the dream she was a dark Lord, master of the power in music, keeper of a secret flame. He was a brother Lord, sensual in power and arrogance. Her breath quickened, her heart raced. They touched and they kissed. Her nipples stiffened.
She awoke with desire. She wanted him, wanted him now. She rose and walked naked to his chamber. If any of the guards noticed her, they knew better than to stare. Kratia slipped through the door to Nick Damon’s chambers silently. She paused inside just long enough to cast a spell to enhance her night vision.
Nick was asleep on the large satin covered bed, a twin to her own. She crept over to him. He was so peaceful now: no lines of intense concentration furrowed his brow as had been the case earlier this evening.
Nikademos made the most beautiful music she had ever heard; it called out so clearly to the anguish of the human heart, and the tragedy of life. She alone of all those who had heard the music could truly appreciate it; aside from the fact that she had dulled the audience with drugs in the punch, only she had suffered enough, and struggled enough, to truly understand the message of the lyrics.
She slid under the sheets and pressed against his body. She shivered with excitement and anxiety. What if he didn’t want her? She put that thought away quickly. He had to love her. They were kindred spirits. He expressed in music what she wanted to express in magic; and would, once the Crystal allowed it. One day soon they would combine their talents, and the magic would form a pattern that would carry the dark spells throughout the land. Like the ancient days before the Crystal.
Kratia reached out hesitantly, and touched Nick. He moaned softly, but did not turn away or resist. Her hand slid downward. He grew hard in her grasp.
“I love you, Nikademos,” she whispered in his ear.
“I love you, too.” He reached out to touch her.
“I knew you did!” she breathed, and she moved atop him. For the first time in her life she did not use magic to enhance the sex or intensify her orgasm.
Afterward she kissed him. She was so happy. It didn’t even bother her that he had fallen asleep again immediately after his orgasm. She had enough joy and love for both of them.