“…from her head to her foot…”
A Superheroine tale for the Holidays.
“Aren’t you a bit cold in that outfit?”
Spellina shrugged. She supposed that a great many of the women in the audience today would have fallen over backwards at any sign of attention from billionaire playboy Wayne West, but the busy life of a stage magician/mystic mage/superheroine didn't leave much time for indulging playboys... even ruggedly handsome ones.
Still, it wasn’t hard to see why West had chosen to comment on Spellina's costume: she had forgone her usual stage outfit of black cutaway coat, white shirt and tie, and top hat, for a short red faux-fur dress, with a scoop neck trimmed in white, very short shorts underneath, and a red Santa hat perched on her shining black hair. The traditional heels and fishnet stockings stayed, though.
“A few goosebumps, Mr. West,” she smiled. "All performers have to sacrifice for their art."
And a demonstration of Spellina's "art" was to be the crowning touch on today's activities: the annual Mela Grande Christmas Charity Show attracted the city’s most important and influential names, and it was only appropriate that Mela Grande’s best-known magician be part of the entertainment.
That was one of the things, she reflected, that set her apart from the other members of the League of Heroines: Spellina had no "secret identity": her only secret was that the stage magic that she practiced and honed to perfection was but the tiniest hint of her capabilities in that area. As a Sorceress of the highest order, in fact, her greatest challenge was to suppress the desire to use “real” magic to make her stage act even more impressive. After all—what challenge would there be in that?
Spellina met the billionaire’s eyes as he continued to regard her costume. “Well, I suppose a magician’s best weapon is misdirection. Frankly, I wonder how anyone can even keep their eyes on your tricks at all.”
Spellina gave a courtesy laugh; in fact, though, West had hit the mark perfectly. There was no better way to keep an audience guessing than to always be able to direct their attention away from the trick till it was time for the big “reveal”—and revealing outfits over a shapely form were a time-honored method. Of course, for male magicians, this was achieved with the use of a scantily-dressed assistant; Spellina was able to be the whole package herself.
"Mr. West?" The encounter was interrupted by the arrival of a grey-haired man with the slightly harried look of great responsibility, who was escorting two women: a rather pneumatic blonde, and a smaller, lithe young woman with lush red hair knotted into a thick bun atop her head.
"Commissioner." Wayne West greeted Police Commissioner Gordon James politely, but clearly had his eyes on the two women.
"You know my daughter, Barbara." The redhead twinkled a smile. "And if I may present your date for the evening-- Caroline Grey-- the Senator's daughter." The blonde giggled and cooed as she moved to take the billionaire's arm. Barbara James rolled her green eyes and took her father’s arm in turn.
"C'mon, Dad... let's go find our seats."
Wayne West paused long enough to regard Spellina. "Well, nice to have met you. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what you can do." The blonde gave a slight tug on his arm, and with what seemed like resignation, West turned and followed her to his seat.
A few minutes later, Spellina had taken her place in the wings, and as the P.A. system blared out her introductory theme, she took the stage to appreciative applause. The stage was festooned with green and red garland, with tinsel glittering everywhere, the holiday cheer bringing a special brightness to the performance.
And, finally—it came time for the climax: Spellina’s straitjacket escape.
“May I have the assistance of two gentlemen from the audience?” Spellina was always careful to ask for “gentlemen”, not “volunteers”: even capable men often turned jelly-fingered when presented with the chance to slip her shapely form into a straitjacket, allowing her just that little extra advantage. Women, on the other hand, were sometimes interested in causing a bit of discomfort to the lovely magician.
There was a bit of hemming and hawing, as men glanced at their wives, to see how their participation in this enterprise would be regarded; there was some shuffling, then finally, an older gentleman in the front row stood up.
"Will I do?" He had the look of a retired investment banker, and Spellina doubted he'd had a carnal thought in his head since the Nixon administration.
"Thank you, sir," she beamed. "And another?"
"Oh, come on, Wayne," piped up a female voice whose owner Spellina couldn't see. "It'll be fun!"
With what appeared to be some reluctance, she saw Wayne West rise to his feet.
"Mr. West,” Spellina called out. “You were worried about me being cold-- going to help me into a jacket now?"
That brought the mild laugh it deserved, enough to fill the time it took the two men to ascend the stage.
"Gentlemen, what you see here is no stage prop." Spellina held up the straitjacket, as she went into her spiel about using a genuinely industrial-strength garment, how it had been checked out by a panel of experts-- the all-important buildup.
She handed the garment to the banker, who reddened and fumbled with it a bit, until West stepped forward and took it.
“Well, if I may…” there was a depth and care in West’s voice that seemed to belie the glossy playboy image, and he handled the straitjacket without any hint of clumsiness. Not that Spellina was nervous... but it was interesting.
As Spellina allowed her arms to be fed into the sleeves of the jacket, she once more experienced that special thrill that any escape challenge brought with it: the discipline not to resort to magic. Spellina’s command of the mystic arts was so profound that, at full power, no mere earthly restraints could possibly hold her; but her father, from whom she had inherited not only her interest in magic, but her genetic disposition to it, had taught her that those who came to depend solely on magic would eventually find themselves facing “real world” challenges for which they would be unprepared.
She could feel the stiff canvas begin to restrict her, her muscles moving instinctively to elude it. The older man tugged half-heartedly at the right sleeve, and began to draw it behind her back, oblivious to the fact that the sleeve was already empty. As with any good magic trick, the hard part was done before the trick actually began; of course, being a busty young woman using a straitjacket designed for a man was a bit of an advantage, as well.
But the audience saw none of that. Spellina made a few shifts and squirms, as though her “captors” were truly immobilizing her; she even allowed a hint of frustration and a bead of sweat to cross her brow.
And, in truth, this was beginning to feel as though it might be one of her more challenging escapes, because, at her other sleeve, Wayne West was clearly taking his job more seriously than his partner. The billionaire’s tone was just as light and awkward-sounding as the older man’s, but the movements of his hands belied his words, and not in the way she might have expected. While she'd had men get frisky with their hands during this part of the act, West’s hands were all business, their movements smooth, fluid, and very competent. The beautiful magician was glad that West wasn’t working on both arms!
As the two men began to fasten the buckles, Spellina went through her usual practice of relaxing her muscles into the restraint, combined with a few poses designed for further audience distraction. As the sleeves of the straitjacket were wrapped around her, she inhaled deeply, thrusting her impressive chest out, creating slack in the bindings that she’d use later. For a moment, it seemed that Wayne West had paused, as though reacting to her ploy. She stole a quick look at his face, and thought she saw a flicker of amusement—of a shared knowledge-- in his eyes, before she turned away.
As it always was, the fastening of the securing strap between her legs was the source of red faces onstage and giggles from the audience—once more ensuring that the jacket wouldn’t be tightened anywhere close to its full potential.
The ankle cuffs were next. No tricks were needed here—she would shed them easily enough once her hands were free. West fastened the buckles on the soft leather; finally, Spellina pronounced them finished, and turned to the audience.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls—a round of applause for the two men who think they have helplessly bound me!”
To a round of laughter, West and the older man nodded at the applause as they left Spellina alone on stage.
As the two men returned to their seats, Spellina gave the crowd one last show: to their eyes, her torso trussed like a turkey, her fishnetted legs cuffed, it hardly seemed that she'd be able to stand on her own, much less engineer an escape.
The frame of a "magic door" then flew down from the flies, so that she was standing in its doorway. She gave a nod, the door began to close, she took another deep breath... and vanished!
There were gasps from the audience-- a simple enough trick, but done with more speed and precision than most of them would have ever seen.
Spellina curled her body slightly as she fell through the trap door; even with the soft inflated mattress to land on, she wanted to be sure that she landed on her seat, not her shoulder or neck. Already, she could hear the "oohs" and "aahs" that had followed her "disappearance” through the trap door, and down into the well-masked orchestra pit, her CD of Scriabin playing over the sound system, mad swirls of properly “mysterious-sounding” music.
From down here, once she shed the restraints, she would wait a few minutes, to give the impression of serious struggle, then mount the electric-powered sleigh that was concealed down here, and raise the pit back up. The audience would see her free, and riding atop a huge stack of presents.
She felt the softness contract beneath her as she landed with a soft “thud” on the inflatable mattress. She blinked twice, to let her eyes accommodate to the dimness in the pit, then rolled herself up to a sitting position… then blinked again.
Dark as it was under the stage, she at first assumed that her eyes were just playing tricks on her. Certainly, no one was supposed to be down here.
“Hello?” She whispered, though it seemed unlikely the audience would have heard her voice from down here. “Is there someone there…?”
Her voice trailed off… and her vision exploded with blue lightning.
Spellina had no chance to think, to react, to speak… she simply fell backwards like someone had pulled a plug, deflating a Macy’s parade balloon, and lay staring glassily upwards, unable to move.
Spellina’s eyes were rolling crazily in her head, which ached damnably. She was still in the straitjacket; in fact, she was now completely relaxed into it, her muscles seeming to be the consistency of cranberry sauce.
Taser. Spellina congratulated herself on being able to dredge the word up out of her scrambled brains. Someone had been waiting for her down here, and had put her down for the count with a couple hundred thousand volts. She'd be lucky if she had full control of her muscles inside half an hour... which, she rather suspected, was going to be far too late.
There was a shuffling sound, and bit of dust in the close air. Spellina’s watery eyes wouldn’t blink; they remained open and glassy as a figure moved into the light: a tall woman with long black hair, dressed in a black cutaway coat and top hat, white shirt and tie, fishnet stockings, and heels.
What am I doing up there, looking at me down here? was the frazzled thought that came to Spellina as the strange apparition spoke.
"What the hell--?" The woman's voice was relatively deep and velvet-smooth. "Well, this complicates things a bit."
As the woman bent down to look more closely, it finally began to dawn on Spellina that the woman wasn't her, after all. In fact, the black hair was a wig, and the face, though one she knew well, was not familiar from the mirror, but rather from seeing it in countless crime-fighting encounters.
Xersi! Spellina’s mind called up curses in six languages, two of them dead, one of them damned. I thought she was in jail!
“Spellina, dear. How nice of you to drop in.”
Even with her brains half-fried, Spellina wanted to groan at the cliché; somehow, she’d expected better from her old opponent.
The woman knelt down and took Spellina’s chin, turning the helpless girl’s face from side to side, evidently checking for signs of her regaining her ability to move.
Now, though physical sensation was still denied her, Spellina felt real fear shoot through her body. In all her crime-fighting career, Spellina had rarely faced a more dangerous foe. Xersi was a frustrated student of the mystic arts. She was almost as knowledgeable about incantations, spells, and invocations as was Spellina herself, but she lacked Spellina’s natural gifts, that genetic makeup that separates the merely talented from the truly gifted. Too, she also lacked Spellina's work ethic, having a tendency to cut corners, ensuring that she’d forever be well behind Spellina in terms of her abilities, which led her to resent the Maiden of Magic even more.
But if Xersi lacked Spellina’s abilities, her knowledge made her extremely dangerous: of all the Stunning Sorceress’ foes, only Xersi had the knowledge necessary to neutralize Spellina’s abilities. Xersi might not be able to conjure the most powerful mystical aids and assistance herself, but she certainly knew how to prevent Spellina from doing it, either.
“Hmmm. Now this is a bit awkward.” Xersi glanced down at her own costume, then at Spellina’s hat, and at the portion of Spellina's red-and-white outfit that peeked out from under the straitjacket. “I always knew you dressed like a tramp—just hadn’t realized you’d be a Christmas tramp this time.” She sighed, theatrically. “All right, Darren—guess this is one package you’ll have to unwrap before you can wrap it!”
Spellina’s eyes would have widened if they could have. She could now see a young man, with short-trimmed hair, dressed in tight black leather, with an apron over it, who had come to stand by Xersi. Darren matched Xersi sigh for sigh.
“I suppose you're right, Xersi dear. You go ahead and change, and I'll get your new wardrobe ready." He turned to address the helpless Spellina. "All right, girlfriend, let’s have that North Pole Nightmare off you." His slender fingers made short work of the straitjacket, tossing it aside as her limp arms drooped out of it; his skin was unusually smooth and soft as he began to strip the outfit from her.
Spellina’s skin seemed to tingle as the red top and shorts were slid off, leaving her lying in bra and panties on the hard floor.
Xersi had busied herself removing the Spellina costume she’d been wearing, tossing the clothes aside, leaving only the matching fishnet hose and heels, as Darren handed over the Christmas outfit.
Leave it to Xersi, thought Spellina, as she felt the slender fingers start to undo the strap running between her legs. She’d lost count of how many minions had found themselves sufficiently distracted by her beauty to allow her to take advantage of a chance to escape. Darren, unfortunately, was clearly not going to be in that category. Instead, as he slipped the crotch strap free, and rolled her over to undo the buckles, he might have been a bored chef preparing a not terribly inspired Christmas meal.
“Oooo, I’d have thought you liked it deeper and tighter than this!” he giggled as the strap came loose.
“Oh, Spellina dear, let me tell you," Xersi chatted as she changed clothes, "when word reached me that the Queen of Diamonds was willing to spring me from prison in return for your capture… well, hell’s bells, darling, I told her I’d deliver you gift-wrapped! And that’s just what I intend to do.”
The Queen of Diamonds thought Spellina. Reputedly the richest woman in the world—certainly a ruthless and implacable foe, as the League of Heroines had discovered more than once. And one of her obsessions was the genetic makeup that allowed Spellina, and those like her, to master the magical arts. She’s still after my DNA!
The villainess stepped back into Spellina's line of vision again, and the helpless heroine noted that the outfit certainly didn't flatter Xersi as it had her-- was there any chance that it would make the imposture easier to detect?
“Well, they're waiting for ‘you’ up there," Xersi smiled. "First things first.” While Spellina was still trying to work up enough control to blink the tears out of her eyes, Xersi approached her with a thick red rubber ball in her hand, black leather straps dangling from it.
Damn. Well, I should have expected this—Xersi knows what she’s doing. Both women knew that the practice of magic is a delicate blend of art and science, but that any truly powerful magic usually requires the use of some form of spell or incantation, which must be precisely articulated to have any effect at all. Simply put, a gagged sorceress was virtually a helpless one.
Xersi grasped a fistful of silky black hair and lifted Spellina’s head; the helpless girl’s nerves were still buzzing too woozily to even feel the pain as her captor wedged the thick rubber ball into her mouth, past her teeth, strong fingers working it till it locked into place. Reaching back with her other hand, Xersi wrapped the straps around the back of Spellina’s head, then released her head to fasten the buckles tightly at the nape of her neck. Only the thickness of Spellina's hair kept the leather strap from cutting into the soft skin at the nape of her neck; as it was, her cheeks were cruelly grooved by the harsh leather.
Xersi let the gagged girl’s head drop back to the floor, then nodded to her elegant henchman. “Get her packed up nice and tight.” She then mussed the wig a bit, jumped up and down a few times to allow her forehead to bead lightly with sweat, then bent down and kissed Spellina on the forehead.
“Got to go, now. Don’t want to disappoint your public, do we?” She giggled at Spellina’s obvious frustration at being unable even to growl in response, stepped to the trap door, and activated the control to send it rising back through the stage floor.
Left alone with his captive, Darren clucked his tongue, then casually took Spellina by an arm and a hip, and rolled her over to her stomach.
“I think we’ll leave the fishnets and spikes—the look just screams ‘1-800-K-I-N-K-Y-H-O!” He gave her panty-clad rear a swat that she barely felt, but which registered painful humiliation; then, he went to work.
He began with tape. As Spellina lay face-down, drooling around the ballgag, she heard the sound of a strip being ripped from a heavy roll, and felt her hands mittened in the sticky stuff. Fingers and thumbs: the lifeblood of any escape artist or illusionist, and hers were now no more use to her than a pair of flippers would have been.
Rope was next. Really, you couldn’t beat it—more flexible than handcuffs, less prone to stretching than tape… and when you knew enough to use worn, many-times-washed clothesline, as Darren seemed to, you could be pretty well assured that the wrists you secured with it would stay secured. The first coil brought Spellina’s wrists together, crossed over each other. After two turns there, Darren crossed more of the cord between her wrists, isolating them from each other, so as to remove any prospect of her obtaining the leverage necessary to an escape attempt. Her bound wrists lay at the small of her back, limp and useless.
Elbows next. Well, that was only natural. Even if Darren would probably not get the charge out of seeing the way it thrust her breasts out that other captors had, he'd certainly know what an effective way it was to apply pressure and restriction.
With Spellina incapable of resisting, Darren was able to bring her elbows together behind her back with casual ease. By now, some of her nerve endings seemed to be working again, and as her nerve endings seemed to be starting to awaken, she could feel the rope scraping across her naked skin as he tied them tightly together.
Three loops did for the bondage here. Once Darren had these knotted, any hope Spellina might have had of moving her arms was effectively gone; her upper body near welded into one piece.
"Now, about these gams..."
Thighs. Spellina felt the young man's slender fingers work loops of cord around and around them, chafing them close together.
More cord below the knees... time-tested. She didn't recall seeing this Darren before, but it was clear that he was no novice at this. With her ankles already cuffed, Darren had only to inspect the buckles, drawing them a notch or two tighter.
Finally, Darren sat back on his haunches, and looked down at the trim form that lay trussed before him.
“Oh, the weather outside… dum de dum delightful…What was that bit about good old Saint Nick? ‘Wrapped all in fur from his head to his foot’? Don’t have any fur here… but I think we can still do a proper wrapping job on you, sweetcakes.”
Spellina heard a crinkling sound, then a tinny rattling. From the corner of her eye, she could see Darren rolling a sheet of shiny metallic gift wrap onto the floor. It must have ben what they used to wrap the giant prop packages... it had to be fully four feet wide. He drew the edge of it along next to where Spellina lay, then slid the edge of it under her limp form.
No, he's not... but he was.
With that, he began to roll the helpless heroine over and over in the gift wrap; it was smooth and supple, but designed to be strong enough to be loaded and unloaded off Santa's sled for three shows a day. Even if she had been able to free her hands and feet, she'd still have a tough time with this stuff.
Rolling over… three turns... four... the strap of the gag kept Spellina's long hair from falling in her face to obscure her vision, but the movement was starting to make her dizzy.
Finally Darren reached the end of the sheet he had torn off. He picked up a tape dispensing gun loaded with heavy clear packing tape; he lifted Spellina up with one arm, and used the other hand to wrap the tape around her body, just below her breasts, to keep the shiny green wrap in place. He repeated the process at her waist, and below her knees.
Taking the tape gun, he wrapped yards of the clear stuff around Spellina’s head, sealing her lips closed over the ballgag.
"And what would a package be without ribbon?"
The ribbon was scarlet velvet, wire-reinforced, and it hugged Spellina's curves. She was finally beginning to get some sensation back into her muscles, but all that did was threaten her with claustrophobia, as she was bound far too tightly to even think of moving.
"Darn." Darren had criss-crossed the ribbon around Spellina's body, and brought the ends together just above her breasts. "Don't suppose I could get you to put your finger right on this bow, could I?" He giggled, and tied off the bow with a flourish.
He picked up a pair of scissors, cut off a length of the red ribbon, then wound it under Spellina's chin, up around her head, before knotting a red bow atop her head.
"Oh, God!" Darren snickered. "The Queen of Diamonds will love this-- she has NO taste at all!"
Spellina glared up at him, now able to hum angrily through her gag. One word... if she could even have got her fingers free, there were a few low-level wordless spells she might have been able to use... but here she was, wrapped like a pair of skis or a set of golf clubs... and evidently about to be delivered to a woman who would regard her as a far more valuable gift than that.
Darren bent down, and lifted the tidy green bundle. “Now a little ride in Santa’s sleigh. I’m sure Xersi’s just dyin’ to drop you down the Queen’s chimney.” He stuffed the helpless Spellina deep into the bottom of the sleigh, piling the brightly-colored prop packages on top of her. He hopped aboard, and activated the second trap door, to send the sleigh rising up to the stage.
Xersi stood on the stage, arms extended, straitjacket in one hand, drinking in the applause. God, this feels good! And after all, even if I didn't really do the straitjacket escape-- well, I think what I have done today has earned me a round of applause!
The applause went on for a few more moments, when a voice came from the audience.
“That’s not Spellina!” Wayne West’s voice conveyed a sense of urgency that seemed at odds with his usual demeanor.
“Course it is, silly!” tittered the Senator’s daughter. “She’s done this trick all over the world—if she used a double to pull it off, someone would have caught on long before this.”
West fumed. And just how would I explain to the senator’s daughter that the tipoff was that there’s not another woman in this city with a pair of legs like Spellina’s!
“But I’m telling you, that’s not—“Wayne West broke off and began glancing around the theater. “You know, I just remembered that I have to go—“
”You’re not going anywhere,” the blonde cooed, and snuggled herself down on his arm. “I don’t want that wicked Spellina flirting with my date!”
“But—“West sputtered, and looked helplessly at Gordon James. The police commissioner just shrugged. “Guess you’re stuck being a gentleman for the evening, Wayne. No more of your famous disappearing acts.” As West’s expression grew bleaker, James chuckled. “Never thought I’d see Wayne West trying to run away from a beautiful blonde, did you, Babs?” He turned to his daughter’s seat… only to find it empty. “Babs?”
He turned, craning his head to try and see the rear of the theatre. “Where on earth did she disappear to?”
Wayne West shook his head, and continued to keep a wary eye on the stage.
Spellina groaned as she felt the stage trap begin to lift. She’d tried every spell she could think of that didn’t involve the use of her voice, but she’d made no progress at all. If anything, as the effects of the taser wore off, the bondage began to feel even more restrictive. She’d wiggled every muscle that would move, she’d wriggled and writhed till rivulets of sweat poured down her face… and she wasn’t an inch closer to freedom. She remained a gift-wrapped parcel, ready for delivery to one of her most dangerous enemies.
The audience cheered as the curtain parted behind Xersi, and the huge present-laden sled began making its way across the stage. Xersi hopped aboard, waving, delighted that she’d pulled off the impersonation so easily.
From the bottom of the pile of parcels, Spellina arched her back painfully, able to see through a tiny gap between two of the packages, watching Xersi waving to the crowd. Spellina made another attempt to be heard-- surely, the sound of a gagged woman ought to bring help just as fast as the word "help" would! -- but the tape sealed her mouth too well, and the thick rubber ball ensured that she could not form words. She sagged down, unable to hold the posture any longer... defeated.
From where Spellina lay helpless, she could see a flash of black and red-- long crimson tresses atop skin-tight black leather-- Flying Fox! Spellina had no idea how her fellow member of the League of Heroines had learned of her plight, but she managed to grunt out a ragged cheer behind the gag as she saw the lithe figure swing into action.
Flying Fox descended quickly, from a rope she had attached to one of the lighting pipes above the stage, and before Xersi could react, she'd caught the blonde a sharp crack on the left ear with her feet.
"OOooff!" Xersi went sprawling, the black wig slipping down over her face, obscuring her vision.
"Hey, leather girl!" a shrill voice piped up. "Nobody kicks my employer and gets away with it." Darren had bounded up from behind the sled, and drawn a wicked-looking pair of knives from the pockets of his apron. They actually looked like vegetable knives to Spellina, but Darren seemed the type that would keep all his cutlery razor-sharp. As Flying Fox dropped down onto the stage, the neat young man approached carefully, one knife held high in front, the other low and back.
"Don't be stupid." Flying Fox spoke warily. "No one has to get hurt here."
"I’ll show you hurt, bitch!" And with that, Darren made his first thrust at the caped heroine.
Flying Fox sidestepped him with an effortlessness that should have given him pause. Before he had time for a backswing, she'd sent an elbow into the soft of his upper right arm, and turned it to nerveless macaroni, the knife clattering to the stage floor as he squealed. Enraged, he drew back his left hand, as though to put all his weight behind the next thrust, but he allowed Flying Fox far too much time to prepare, and she simply stepped under the blow, kneed him in the groin, and brought both hands down sharply on the back of his neck. Darren collapsed to the stage, but before Flying Fox could turn around, she heard a strange sound behind her, and felt her ankles being seized... but not by hands. By... stout nylon cord?
She whipped around wildly to see Xersi, her face a mask of concentration. Darren's attack had allowed her enough time to get back to her feet, and she was chanting something in a language that meant nothing to Flying Fox. Insanely, though, it meant something to the cord that she'd used to swing in on, as it moved to Xersi's rhythm, like a snake charmed by a fakir, encircling Flying Fox's booted ankles, and suddenly lifting her up into the air.
"What the--?" Red hair fell around Flying Fox's face as something caused the cord to start coiling itself around the pipe height above the stage, carrying Flying Fox with it, dangling upside down! She tried to bend double, to reach the coil around her ankles, but the movement upwards was making it too hard even for her trained gymnast’s abilities. She could only flail and yell as she was lifted out of sight of the audience... and suddenly realized that she was approaching the maze of heavy iron pipes above the stage at a very dangerous speed.
Xersi staggered, again cursing the fact that what would have been a casual spell for Spellina had nearly drained her. She pulled off the wig that covered her tightly-wound blond hair, and saw that there were already audience members surging up to the stage-- and it wouldn't be long before they were joined by police. She took once last glance at the oncoming crowd, and was startled by the look of intensity in the eyes of the tuxedoed playboy who was in the lead. She cursed— After this, the Queen will… talk about off with her head!-- turned and fled backstage.
From under the pile of packages, Spellina twisted, using all her skill to will her muscles back into her service again. She didn't know how useful that would be, bound and gagged as she was, but she had to do something. Sweat stung in her eyes, and with more sensation returning every minute, her mouth was aching from the gag. She heard a sound from above her, and strained her neck to look up-- and her eyes widened in horror. With Xersi's departure, the spell holding the cord that bound Flying Fox's legs was wearing off, and the thin nylon was beginning to unravel itself from the pipe. Flying Fox was desperately fighting gravity to reach up there, but even an Olympic gymnast would have had trouble bending that far, wearing a heavy costume, cape, and utility belt. But if she didn't get her hands on the pipe, she'd come crashing down to the stage, sure to be injured or killed!
"Spellina!" Prop packages flew aside as Wayne West dug her out from her tinsel-covered prison. He had pulled a small knife from his pocket, and sliced at the tape that covered her mouth. She looked over his shoulder, and saw that Fox had but seconds left.
"HHHHHMMPPPPHHH!" Spellina wildly shook her head, and lowered it to let West see the buckle that held the ballgag in her mouth.
"Here, let me get that undone." Once more, his fingers moved with the capability that belied some form of training, and in a moment, he'd pulled the wet ball from Spellina's mouth.
"Are you all right?" She didn't answer-- she had no time. She closed her eyes, and focused as hard as she could. She inhaled as deeply as the bondage would permit, and croaked out "no og tsum wohs eht!”
Flying Fox experienced an instant of intense pain-- a headache that seemed to be caused by someone smashing a hammer between her eyes. Wayne West felt it, too... as did every member of the audience... but it was only an instant. For Flying Fox, the pain was gone immediately, replaced by astonishment as she felt herself slow in her descent to the floor, to land gently on her feet. She goggled to see the rest of the audience frozen stock-still; she was the only one moving-- well,. she and Spellina.
For the lovely sorceress was smiling weakly as she continued her incantations. Flying Fox watched as the ribbon and paper unraveled itself from around Spellina's body... rope and tape fell in spent coils all about her, and finally, the underwear-clad Spellina stood before her friend, drenched in sweat, but free.
"You.. your clothes," the Darknight Damsel stammered. Spellina looked wearily down at her near-nudity, closed her eyes, and once more began a strange incantation... and in the next instant, the red and white Santa outfit and hat were floating, unaided, to cover their owner again. From far away, Flying Fox could have sworn she heard the scream of a woman who suddenly found herself running down the streets of the city in only her lingerie.
"Spellina, should I...?"
The sorceress shook her head. "No time," she answered weakly. "Xersi and I will meet again, but this is a dangerous spell, and I don't dare use it any longer. It will insure that no one will remember what happened during these last lost minutes. And, now, if you'd be willing to help me..."
Wayne West opened his eyes. He couldn't remember closing them... couldn't imagine why he would have. For some vague reason, he had thought he'd got up out of his seat... but here he was, right next to Senator Grey's daughter... and up on stage, the triumphant Spellina had been joined by one of the city's other mysterious heroines, the Flying Fox. The two women were handing presents out to the line of children coming up the steps to the stage.
the last of the children walked off with their gifts, Flying Fox said “It’s
time for me to slip away here. I hope that no one saw…”
”Don’t worry,” Spellina smiled. “Trust me, after that spell, no one’s gonna remember anything about tonight but what we want them to.” The two women shook hands, and Spellina gave the crowd one more dazzling smile and wave, allowing Fox time to slip away unseen.
In the audience, the crowd was gathering coats and bags.
"Commissioner, did you feel... something… something strange?" Wayne West continued to study the stage as the man beside him answered.
"Not sure what you mean, West," James grunted. "Another few minutes exposure to those legs of Spellina's and I'll be feeling something, for certain!"
Spellina's legs. Something about her legs... but Wayne West couldn't put his finger on it.
“Mr. West.” A voice perked at his elbow. He looked down to see a slightly disheveled Barbara James smiling up at him. “Some show, huh?”
hmm.” The billionaire nodded, not looking directly at either Barbara or his
date. “But why do I feel that we missed the best part of it?”
Barbara turned back to walk beside her father, then looked back over her shoulder at West.
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