A/N: New story! I haven't abandoned the others, just needed a break from them.

This one isn't quite as long or serious as the others despite the subject material. I started writing this a few years back and picked it up again when I found some better characters. All female characters and everyone in Ironfist is mine, everyone in the Red Knights belongs to my deviantArt friend Cherille. Please R&R! XD

Take These Chains


Ironfist's imposing midnight blue tour bus was hurtling through the Virginia night, headed southbound on I-95. On the road since two AM, the last venue in Philadelphia was now 150 miles behind them and the next stop on the itinerary, Norfolk, was still over two hours away.

On board the bus, nearly everyone was asleep – the drummer smiling as he dreamed of coming home to his wife's embrace, the guitarist tossing dreamlessly while his brain was the grip of delta waves, the tour manager plagued by worries of money and time management even in his nightmares, the two roadies snoring as if in a contest for a large cash prize to see if each could drown the other out.

Somewhere behind and ahead of them on the same highway was another bus and three semis loaded with musical and production equipment including state of the art lighting and almost nonstop pyro – all the things necessary to make an Ironfist show one of Metal's most premier and over the top productions. The intention was not just to entertain, but to create the sonic equivalent of a chokehold that would stun and overpower the fans' senses entirely and send them home with glazed eyes and ears that would ring for days.

Besides the driver only two people were still awake: the singer, who had been drinking beer and playing video games up front during the entire trip and the girl in the back lounge, lying wide-eyed in the glow of a small sconce light set into the wall. After downing a six-pack of Beck's and many handfuls of greasy potato chips, the singer was starting to realize he needed to shit. With a disgusted grunt, he threw down the Gameboy on the table in front of him and eased out of the booth seat to go talk to the driver, who he found quietly humming an old Loretta Lynn song to himself as he leaned over the steering wheel.

"Gus. Dude. Can we make a pit stop soon? I gotta take a crap," the singer drawled in his northern Florida accent. Gus afforded him a quick look over his shoulder before turning his attention back to the darkened highway.

"Umm, there's a good-sized truck stop in Fredericksburg, 'bout ten more minutes, if you can wait," the Texan replied.

"Yeah, that's cool," the singer mumbled as he returned to the booth for a few more rounds of Tetris.

Ten minutes later the black Van Hool bus exited the highway and pulled smoothly to a stop in the parking lot of a sprawling truck stop just a stone's throw off the highway. The singer sighed in relief as he stepped off and strode towards the big, brightly lit building. Gus decided a visit to the men's room wouldn't be such a bad idea either, and shut the bus door behind him so it would lock for anyone trying to get in. If Joey got back before he did, the singer could just cool his heels in the warm May night for a bit.

In the back lounge, the girl had felt the bus break the gentle rocking rhythm of the 65 mph drive down the freeway and tilt to the right as it exited, then slowly come to a halt. Beside her, the bassist was making rasping noises deep in his throat as he slept soundly. She vaguely heard the bus door slam shut and thought she could make out two sets of footsteps crunching away over a gravel parking lot. After that there was nothing but the quiet, omnipresent drone of the engine, which never seemed to be totally powered down.

The girl's heart began to pound, not hard, but more urgently. Her breathing grew shallower as her hearing and vision started to quicken – this could possibly be the opportunity she had been hoping would come for nearly two weeks now.

Her chance to escape.

Chapter 1 - A Dangerous Meeting

Twelve months before

Alone in her room, Mina hung up the phone and allowed herself a short cry of triumph, knowing her grandmother wouldn't be able to hear anything over the 700 Club blaring away on the TV downstairs. By being the thirteenth caller to the local hard Rock station, she had just won tickets and pre-show passes for the Ironfist concert next month in her grandmother's hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The DJ had asked her how old she was.

"Eighteen," she lied, knowing that they wouldn't let her keep her prize if they knew she was actually two years younger. The DJ didn't question her claim, but just asked for her address. She watched the mailbox like a hawk, afraid that her grandmother would intercept the tickets and passes and destroy them like she did to Mina's Metal magazines and CDs on the very day Mina came to live with her.

"I'm not having any music or images of the Devil in this house," her grandmother had screeched as she threw Mina's things into the burning barrel, then prayed over the flames. Mina had hung back, watching in fury but afraid to challenge her. Anything was better than living with her mother, who swung back and forth between religious fervor and drunken stupor on a weekly basis. After deciding to go into a bible-based rehab-meets-retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, Mina's mother Tracy packed Mina off to live with her grandmother in Ohio, saying that it was just until she graduated high school and went to college.

I'll win in the end, you mean old witch, Mina had thought fiercely as she watched her issues of Metal Maniacs and her CD collection consigned to the flames. All I have to do is get through this next year, and then I'm done with high school and GONE!

There wasn't much adjustment moving from Michigan to Ohio as Mina found during the first week of high school in Columbus. Despite her conservative look, she quickly found friends in the Metal clique, which was a highly diverse group. Some of the kids looked like walking advertisements for Hot Topic while others, like Mina, gave no external clues about their musical tastes. By the end of September she had made two good friends, Josh and Sarah, who fell into the latter category. Josh had short hair and usually dressed like a junior car salesman, but had a music collection to die for. Sarah's home life was similar to Mina's: her parents were ultra religious right-of-right paragons of upright virtuousness in total denial that their precious only child would even show the remotest interest in anything non-Christian. But Mina knew that Sarah kept Judas Priest and Cradle of Filth CDs in her Jars of Clay and Underoath cases and drew sketches of her black-clad, longhaired crushes in her notebook margins, throwing them away before going home every day. She and Sarah shared a love for one band in particular: Ironfist.

As a freshman in Flint, Mina had first heard Ironfist while riding to school with two senior girls who lived in her neighborhood. She had instantly been taken with their brutal but melodic riffs – and their hulking dark-haired bassist, Nikas Natas. Mina began to daydream about Nikas incessantly, fantasizing about meeting him and enticing him to be her first lover. He seemed so masterful and strong, just the sort of man she wanted to surrender her innocence to. She imagined that he would set eyes on her and immediately sweep her up and carry her off to his Tampa home to fill her days and nights with unimaginable sensual adventures.

Now, knowing that she had a chance to meet him courtesy of the radio station, Mina was exultant. She ran out of her room and downstairs to the den. "Hey Grandma, I'm going to Sarah's to do homework," she blurted out, then ran out of the house before her grandmother could even react.

At Sarah's place, the girls ensconced themselves in the family's game room on the far side of the house where nobody could hear them without making an effort. To be safe, Mina broke the news about the tickets and passes in a quiet voice.

Sarah's big dark eyes widened in surprise. "No way! Oh my god, how are we going to get there, though? My parents would never let me go to an Ironfist show."

"We'll figure something out," Mina told her confidently, her mind already working furiously.

The week before the show, Mina was at Sarah's, ostensibly to work on a two-person final project for English Lit. But, with the stereo to mask their conversation, the two girls were actually strategizing about the show. "Maybe we could tell everyone that we're going to a sleepover at Jade's house. She lives pretty close to the coliseum," Sarah suggested.

"I dunno if we can trust Jade to play along, though," Mina replied, her pale blue eyes narrowed in thought. "I mean, she can't keep a secret to save her freakin' life."

They broke off speaking as a knock sounded on Sarah's bedroom door. Without waiting for an invite, her mother walked in. "Girls, I wanted to let you know that we have been given a wonderful opportunity to spread the good news about our Lord and hopefully save a few souls at the same time. Our pastor has gotten a permit to hold a protest and faith rally at the coliseum before the heavy metal show next Friday night. Sarah, your father and I would like for you to join us. Mina, I hope you can come along too, if your grandmother gives her permission."

The girls looked at each other wordlessly for a second in disbelief. "Of course we would," Sarah replied in a dutiful voice. "I think it would be awesome. And we'll work on Mina's grandma!"

After her mother left with a delighted look on her normally unexpressive face, Sarah turned to face Mina with wide eyes. "Holy crap! Talk about a golden opportunity. Kinda makes you wonder who the Man Upstairs is really looking out for, huh?"

"Do you really think we can sneak in and see the show without anyone noticing?" Mina worried aloud. "It would suck to be so close and yet so far, you know?"

"Once we get there then we'll figure it out," Sarah declared. "It's gonna work in our favor. Hell yeah, Ironfist!" She threw the devil horns with a sly smirk and Mina giggled.

The following Friday, the girls arrived at the coliseum with the rest of the protest group in the church van. It had been no problem to convince Mina's grandmother, who went to the same church as Sarah's family. "Do me proud," her grandmother had commanded as she saw Mina off that night.

"Oh, I will," Mina promised, secretly crossing her fingers, which were hidden by the long sleeves of her plain brown blouse. Underneath she was wearing a red spaghetti-strap tank top, which was the most daring item of clothing she owned.

In the parking lot across the road from the venue, everyone piled out of the van, eager to chasten sinners. Almost everyone, that was. Mina and Sarah were fairly salivating at the thought of being in the presence of the ultimate sinners, Ironfist. Sarah volunteered to work the area closest to the side entrance, hoping that they could slip inside unnoticed.

Their hope wasn't in vain. Not long after the doors opened, the girls threw their flyers into the nearest trash bin and darted through the doors. They got their tickets torn at the nearest security barrier, then headed for the seating area where the pre-show pass holders were instructed to gather. After a short wait, the lucky fans were escorted to a large room in the backstage catering area. Mina waited, nervously biting her lower lip while wishing that she could have worn something more eye-catching than jeans, sandals and the tank top. Maybe Nikas will see me for who I really am. His eyes will lock with mine and he'll take me away from all this and make me mine, she fantasized while shifting anxiously from foot to foot.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite happen the way she wanted it to. The band all entered the room at the same time and fanned out to press the flesh. Nikas had swept his dark eyes over Mina's petite, almost curveless frame, her long, straight, light brown hair and cute but round face and given her a polite nod and his autograph, but no more. After signing things and taking pictures with the guests for fifteen minutes, he swept out of the room with a stunning blonde on his arm, leaving Mina standing heartbroken beside Sarah, who got even less attention from the band.

After that night, Mina was fiercely determined to transform herself into the sort of girl that a man like Nikas would desire mightily. She got a razor cut to add bangs and layers to her flat, shapeless hair and dyed it black with subtle merlot highlights. Using her meager allowance and income from babysitting, she began building up a wardrobe of tight, revealing, mostly black outfits that would turn heads from fifty yards. For her seventeenth birthday she got her mother—now out of rehab but still not ready to reassume her parenting duties—to spring for blue-gray colored contacts to replace her glasses, making her naturally pale blue eyes stand out in a crowd. Nature provided some help too – as the year went on her breasts and hips filled out a bit and the roundness began to ebb from her face, revealing graceful cheekbones and a fey, pointed chin.

Accepting the fact that she couldn't go to Nikas as a complete innocent, she began accepting boys' offers to date and got comfortable with going to third base, but no more. The ultimate prize of her virginity was reserved for the Ironfist bassist the next time he played anywhere nearby.

She graduated high school a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday and shortly after getting an acceptance letter from Cleveland State University. Mina decided to get a jump start on her education – and her freedom – by going to the university's summer school program, which began later in June. What nobody else knew was that Ironfist's big summer tour was coming through Cleveland in early July. She would be able to go to the show dressed to impress Nikas without any nosy bible bangers breathing down her neck. Every time she thought about it, she positively shook with lust.

Her mother Tracy came to the graduation ceremony with her new live-in boyfriend who she met at the rehab center in North Carolina. "I knew you'd get though this year with flying colors thanks to your grandmother's sacrifices and our prayers," Tracy told her after the ceremony with tears in her eyes.

Sacrifices, my ass! All that woman did was destroy my stuff, snoop on me and treat me like a servant, Mina thought disgustedly, but carefully kept a happy expression on her face. Well, I'm almost free now. Just a couple of weeks to go and then I'm off to Cleveland to do whatever the hell I want!

Now she was ready to meet the object of her desire as an equal, not a starstruck kid. Now she could approach him with confidence, knowing he would want her this time and that she could definitely handle him.

And on that score, she would be half right.