It should be noted that if the following events had not occurred, then the rest of the story would completely change course. Perhaps someone will explore that possibility someday.
What happened was this: it occurred to Ashion that now would be a perfect time for Stella to escape; Stella realized that, if she tried to escape, Ashion was faster; and Ashion, reacting to his suspicion, tackled Stella around the waist.
They fell heavily. Ashion quickly rolled on top of her, pinning her to the ground. Instantly she was fighting, and actually succeeded in partially pushing him off.
At least until he murmured something in a language she didn’t understand. Suddenly she could no longer move: her limbs were putty. Her mind watched, as if from a distance, as he threw her limp body over his shoulder and loped off into the trees. The entire scuffle had taken less than a minute.
Stella came to painfully in an unfamiliar environment. Her head ached abominably. She put a hand to her forehead as she sat up.
A voice said, “Sir, she’s awake.” Stella turned in that direction, only to find the business end of a cattle prod brandished dangerously close to her left earlobe. She froze.
“Ah, the famed Astriella Starfire,” another voice sneered. Venitus again. Couldn’t he leave her alone?
“What do you want with me?” she snarled. “Why am I so important to you?”
Venitus waggled a finger, replying condescendingly. “Now, now, Astriella, it would ruin the game if I told you, wouldn’t it? You’ll just have to wait.” He looked into one of the shadows. “Lieutenant, our guest is tired. Put her to sleep.”
Ashion stepped forward. Stella gasped. “You!”
He acted as if he hadn’t heard her, and spoke to Venitus. “We have several methods. Should she have a headache? If so, now or when she awakens again? Does she need dreams? Or nightmares? The specifics are up to you, Magus.” The half-elf bowed to Venitus.
Venitus considered. “Choices, choices, always choices. Astriella - ” he turned back to her abruptly, “- how are you feeling right now? Relaxed? Apprehensive?”
Stella spat at him.
“Ah, defiant. In that case, Lieutenant, she requires a headache now and later, and . . .” His face contorted into a look of extreme concentration. Stella felt him picking through her mind. “. . . dreams of helpless servitude. To me. For that is your greatest fear, is it not, my dear?” He laughed.
She realized, too late, that she was tied down. Ashion began muttering in that strange language again, but Stella recognized it as mage speech this time. She picked out the words ‘Astriella’ and ‘Venitus,’ but everything else sounded like mush.
The Magus began laughing again when she tried to move. Ashion’s chanting gained intensity. After awhile, the spell took effect, and she heard no more.