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Out of the Gull.

Out of the Gull.

Timeline:

The time for war draws near.

Friends come and so do the foes.

 

Yet, the stance of some is unknown,
for friend and foe is a matter of perspective..

..and side.

 

For nature has neither and holds neither..

 

 

The beginning of this shortly
goes as far back as
Vivid Visions,
Temporal Insanity,
“I believe this belongs to you..”
and ends after
Kumse Beetles and Pixie Dust!

 

 

The undead were relentless. They came at them moaning, howling, and did they come at them shrieking!

And side by side with the dearest man of her life, Alor’Nadien ne Feymist, fought, tooth and nail, and did she deny herself of her heritage, for, at that very moment, she was not the princess of the high elves, but the Queen of Death, herself..

And behind them, her cousin, Anglenna Sunsear, rained her own kind of death and destruction and she was immaculate at it, as she had been in everything she did. Deep down, Alor’Nadien ne had always admired her cousin’s cool and somewhat aloof demeanor as she had, when she had been, but a tiny little thing, yearning to go and knock at her aunt’s door in Bari Na-ammen and beg her to give permission so her cousin would play with her.

 

The irony in that was lost to all but herself.

 

Alor’Nadien ne had never yearned to actually play with Anglenna, so much as she wanted to observe her..

..and be awesome like her!

The games had been a mere excuse and sort of a bonus..

..and she had had the chance to make someone eat her cakes, her cookies, and her pies, though, looking back, said cakes, cookies, and pies shouldn’t have had raw onions because she’d thought they made her pies crunchy. Her cookies also shouldn’t have had baby powder because she’d thought cookies ought to have that white thingy on them, nor should her cakes have had her mother’s hand cream because she’d strongly believed all cakes just must have whipped cream on them..

Yet, her cousin Anglenna had eaten them anyway, which, in later years, told her several things;

That her cousin had preferred her, quite horrible, hideous, even, cooking skills, coupled with her highly creative ingredients, than to spending time with her own mother..

That she must have enjoyed her little baby cousin’s presence, even against the prodigious, one hundred and fifty years age disparity..

That deep down, she had, in fact, been fond of her and cared for her, looked out for her, and perhaps most important of all, believed in her, even against all of her own mother’s indoctrinations..

That she would make her the queen she, Alor’Nadien ne, had never yearned to be, whether she wanted it or not..

And that she had, at some point, stopped seeing her as merely her cousin, but started viewing her and ‘that young man’ as one, and had started protecting them both..

 

Alor’Nadien ne was not sure why all these had crossed her mind at that point, but at some subconscious level, she felt that they all meant something.. something more that changes in characters, or choices, or perspectives, but change..

..in a sense that could only be defined as ‘total’.

 

And that was when she had come face to face with the Draugr, the undead monstrosity her cousin, Anglenna had warned her about. Unwittingly she’d stared at the soulless creature’s voids, where there were supposed to have been eyes and seen..

..Abyss.

 

Alor’Nadien ne blacked out.

But she did not back down.

 

With the savagery of a High Woods lynx, she slashed and hacked her way through the undead until there was only the Draugr.

She did not hesitate.

With her near three-yard long glaive and the thirty-inch deathly steel, she stabbed it..

..in the heart.

And for a bare moment, she felt the death throes of that heart carried all the way from the deathly blade, down the long shaft of her glaive, and in her hands.

She thought she felt something familiar about that final tremor in that heart..

 

And then she came around.

Staring in horror at the fallen and bloody form of her Udoorin.

 

It all went sideways after that and try as she might, Alor’Nadien ne just couldn’t remember anything.

Only that it had been she, who had slain her love.

And in her post-madness insanity, there had been that howling scream of some churning wind, followed by a brilliant flash of light..

..and that’s it.

 

She was no longer down in the stinking sewers of the once glorious city of Arashkan.

✱ ✱ ✱

Sheriff Standorin stood silently as he stared down at the rickety bed, and the tall, alluring figure lying in it with a horrible expression on his face.

Much like all the other dormitories in the temple, this small room was also comprised of a single bed, a chair, a nightstand with a washing dish, a lockless box for personal effects, and..

..that’s it.

The only variation to these had been the addition of extra beds in most of the other rooms since the arrival of the half-born, making the already small dormitories rather cramped, though the new, otherworldly guests never complained. For them, this was Heaven, as opposed to their previous ‘Hellish’ pits..

 

The tall, alluring girl, Constance, had tiny beads of sweat on her contorted face, her brows frowning, her bright red lips pressed together and though her eyes were open, there was a glossy shimmer about them; pained and somewhat glassy, as tears ran down and disappeared in her long and disheveled black hair.

She was trying, very hard, to put on a ‘happy’ front, but was failing quite miserably.

As much pain as she was in, she still managed to be quiet and dignified about it and the only other sign that would have given her apparent pain away, was her fisted hands, blessedly hiding under the itchy blanket that covered her up to her chest.

She managed to turn her head to make sure they were alone, then unclenched her lips and tried for a smile.

 

“There.. really isn’t any cause.. for such ruckus, dear Sheriff.. Standorin.. Shieldheart.. And.. I do not believe.. my actions merit.. such a scowl..”, she whispered.

 

Sheriff’s face became even more horrible.

“What did you do?”, he growled in his deep rumbling voice.

 

Constance stared at him, her gaze glassy and a bit off.

“We gave an oath.. Sheriff. To sweat.. to bleed.. and to die, to attain.. our Ascension. I have bled.”, she said with a forced smile.

 

“And now.. I am sweating..”

 

“I am not very good with levity, Miss Constance.”, scowled Standorin, as he fumed.

“Then I shall refrain.. from it..”, she smiled even more, though she had closed her eyes tightly and her frown bespoke of much pain.

“Sheriff Standorin..”, said a shy, soft, earnest voice from the door. “You should go. Constance needs rest and time to mend.”

Standorin turned to the door to see the small Inshala standing there. He inadvertently scowled at her as well, causing her to flinch, but she refused to back down. Blushing furiously, she held her ground. “Sir. Please. What she is going through is a delicate matter and requires tender care. If you are willing to give her that, you may stay. If you wish is to intorodate her, you really should leave, because she is hurting and is in much pain.”

“Intorodate?”, the sheriff asked a bit baffled.

“My Aager knows what it means. You may ask him later if you wish.”, she replied, blushing even more.

“I only want to know what is going on here. She was fine two days ago when she suddenly disappeared and this evening she was found, lying unconscious and beat, in the dirt, several miles away from the village. If there is a crime done against her, the felons must be found and face the harshest of punishments!”

“No crime was done here, Sheriff, sir.”, Inshala said, quietly. “What has befallen her, is something she has brought upon herself.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”, the sheriff growled.

“I.. I am very sorry, sir. That is the best I can explain.”, she struggled. “I do not have the right to say any more for.. certain other.. people are involved.. Should she wish it, she may share it with you. But her sacrifice is not mine to reveal. Now, she needs to rest and mend.”

“People? What other people? What sacrifice? What the heck is going on here?!”, Sheriff Standorin very nearly blared.

“Sherif Standorin.”, said a young, sharp voice, and Thomas Dimwood appeared behind Inshala. “You will refrain from such demanding attitudes and you will not raise your voice in my temple. And you will respect the privacy and sanctity of my guests and those under my care. Must I remind you that the Temple of Light is not under your jurisdiction? You, on the other hand, are in mine, now, as you are not even a guest, but a visitor. I do not want to have to remove you from my grounds, but if I must, I shall.”

 

The room’s temperature suddenly plummeted and an ominous silence spread.

 

“That was a tad uncalled for, young man.”, Standorin growled.

“So is your attitude towards my guests, the Ritual Guardian, Liaison Constance, and your free reign of my temple.”, replied Thomas cooly.

“Old Demos would never have taken that tone with me—”, the sheriff said scowling fiercely.

“You would never have done what you just did, had our Father, Demos were alive, Sheriff. Perhaps you imagine his absence gives you some leeway?”, Thomas said and his tone had taken a frosty edge now.

“Dear, Thomas..”, came the brittle voice of Constance as more tears came down her closed eyes. “..please. Friends should not fight over such technicalities. I and my brothers and sisters are new, here, in this Mortal coil, but we watch and we learn; I am certain the esteemed sheriff means no disrespect to your, your guests, nor your sanction. He.. he is merely worried.. Which is understandable and was my doing.. I shall.. tell him.. what he wants to know, and what he needs to know, also.”

“I agree.”, came Inshala’s small voice as she stared at her own feet. “I really am sorry, sir. I can say some things, I can not say some other things. There are forces in this world and.. other places.. that are beyond understanding and mustn’t be put to words on a whim for they may hear, and bring their retribution upon us. Please, sir. You must accept what I say, and stop there. I apologize for making this harder for you to understand but I am young and silly and I lack words.”

 

Standorin stared at Constance, then at the little girl, Inshala, then at Thomas, who was staring back at him, not quite as coldly as before, merely as adamant and immovable as him.

 

“I apologize for my attitude, Temple Guardian. I overstepped my boundaries in my moment of pique.”, the sheriff rumbled, though it was rather obvious, he was quite furious the way the young man had ‘man-handled’ him the way he had.

He then he walked over to the door, dropped on one knee before Inshala and with a much softer voice, he said, “And I apologize to you as well, again, and twice; once to the Ritual Guardian, and once you, dear Inshala. You have been nothing but good to this town and the refugees and probably doing more than I can see and comprehend. It would seem I am out of my debt here and trying to understand things quite beyond me, much like, it would seem, I am doomed to kneel before you and apologize, time and again, every time I turn around.”

 

Inshala’s face smoldered.

She was so embarrassed, she seemed like she was looking for some tiny hole to hide in.

So she did the only thing she could think of.

She hugged the huge, kneeling, man and hid her face there!

 

“Please do not kneel like this again, sir. Not to me, not to anyone. Decent and honorable men should bow to no one. Your son, Udoorin, never did, accept that one time when he was trying to learn me what it meant to love. He was always nice and polite to me. My Aager shows respect to everyone but feels only for very few and you are one of those few.”, she spoke from where she hid her face.

 

Sheriff Standorin blushed.

“Well, I—”, he faltered.

“—Lost?”, offered Thomas with a grin.

“I suppose I did..”, he sighed.

Then he kindly parted with the little girl, got up to his feet, and looked at the two of them.

“I would like to stay here with our Liaison until she gets better and is able to return to her duties. Lady Inshala, I would be grateful if you would go and inform Master Aager, that until such time as I am able to return to my duties, he will take over my duties as the acting sheriff, effective immediately.”, he said.

 

“Uhhmm.. Your sheriff is telling me somethings to tell you, but I have no idea what he just said, my Aager.”, Inshala whimpered in her head.

“What did he say, love?”, came Aager’s voice.

“He told me to tell you that you are something something acting something sheriff, escaping immediately!”

“Shit!”, Aager cursed vehemently. “As if I didn’t have enough on my plate..”

“AAGER FOGSTEP!”, gasped Inshala.

“I am sorry, love. Not in a very good mood today. I just can’t seem to teach this lot why we go for the jugular instead of the kidney in an ambush. I guess some people just like the drama of watching a violently struggling victim in an abhorrent amount of pain who is likely to manage a scream while he is kicking around in massive spasms as opposed to silently lowering him down with the least struggle while he quietly bleeds out!”

“Ow.. Tigers always go for the jugular! Nature is the best killer!”, Inshala said enthusiastically. “But I think your sheriff just wants to stay with Liaison Constance until she gets better.”

“Ahh.. that sounds.. familiar..”

“Ow, my.. I suppose it does, doesn’t it? Where are you? He told me to GO AND TELL you, so I think I must go to you, mustn’t I? I mean, I can’t just tell him, I just told you!”

“Yes, that would be hard to explain. Might as well come, love, perhaps we could take an early break and go home?”, Aager offered.

“I’d like that.”

 

“Alright. I guess I will go now, then?”, Inshala said with an exaggerated and guilty sort of tone and left.

 

Standorin stared after her, shook his head, then turned back to Thomas.

“Liaison Constance is a member of my office.”, he continued. “I must make sure she stays as part of my office, well and healthy, hence I invoke my right to sanction, Temple Guardian Thomas, and I believe anyone who invokes such sanction must be admitted without question or hindrance.”, he said and grinned at Thomas.

The young senior temple guardian frowned.

“I see you have been reading jurisdictional and temple laws, Sheriff. A bit out of your way, isn’t it?”, he mused.

“The esteemed Liaison has made me aware, I have been lacking in that area. Hence I took the time to remedy it. Now, if you will..”, the sheriff said and let it hanging..

“Very well, sheriff. I shall send some food to both of you soon enough.”, Thomas conceded.

“I would like to pay for them.”, Standorin said.

“We do not charge here, sheriff.”, reminded the young temple guardian.

“No, you don’t. But as small an amount as it may be, I am sure it will go somewhere better than where I’d have spent it. Accept it as a tithe, if you will. Unless you want two of your guests under your care to starve.”, Standorin said sternly.

Thomas frowned.

“What is it about you Shieldhearts and your obstinacy, I wonder.”, he said.

“It’s all about the Heart, really. The Shield, we use to bash out the obstinacy from young men! Now, if you will, I have a young Liaison to care for.”

✱ ✱ ✱

She is waking up.”, whispered a petulant voice.

“She is an early riser. But then, she’s been falling asleep where she kneels, crying all day.”, replied another voice, also in a whisper, though this one was soft and sounded like she laughed a lot in her normal merry voice. “It breaks my heart seeing her like this, day after day and it’s been weeks. I’ll admit, her boy is sort of cute, in a puppy-eye way, but the bushy thing he’s got on his face irks me.”

“Ow, yes, Temessa. It totally creeps me out! Did you bring her something to eat? I brought her my best peaches yesterday, she didn’t touch them.”, the petulant voice said.. petulantly.

“It is possible she might not like peaches, Yamara. Some Mortals do not and it even irks them. It has to do with the hair on the peaches, I think. A bit like how the boy’s bushy face irks us.”, explained Temessa in her hushed voice.

“That was not a nice thing to say, Temessa. My peaches are delicious. She didn’t eat your apples, either, if I recall.”, Yamara said in a hurt voice.

“True. But my apples are always dark and red and sweet and juicy. Just like me! Some Mortals prefer the hard and sour kind.”, shrugged Temessa.

“She didn’t touch Cherriot’s cherries, Shyad’s grapes, Kardenymp’s quinces, nor Veraminks’ berries. She is Mortal. She must be hungry by now. She will suffer scary visions and horrible dreams and die if she doesn’t eat soon.”, Yamara said a bit freaked.

“Maybe that’s why she is so skinny?”, Temmessa mused. “I wish Aremela were here. She’d know a way to make her eat and stop crying. She was the only one among us to very nearly understand Mortals.”

“It has been nearly twenty years since she’s been gone, Temessa.”, Yamara reminded her, though she said it with a very slight tremor in her own voice.

“Yes. But she was my friend and we always had the bestest fun when she was with us.”, Temessa signed.

“That’s true.”, Yamara admitted grudgingly. “Even though she snitched me to Mother, once.”

“She didn’t snitch you, Yamara. She told Mother, yes, you were being rude to everyone and, yes, you did charr Cherriot’s cherries because I snitched you to Mother and Mother asked her if this was true!”, Temessa replied simply.

Yamara made an unhappy noise.

“Did you know Mother was thinking of talking to that Blom Bundlebim Hobim so he would write all his adventures? That way, everyone will remember Aremela Berrybush!”, Temessa said suddenly.

“Ow, wow! Will we be in it, too?”, Yamara asked eagerly.

“Probably. I mean, we were there when they met, weren’t we?”

“Yes, we were. We are going to be so famous!”, Yarama beamed.

“Shhh! She is opening her eyes.. She has lovely eyes. Like dew grass after a spring rain.”, Temessa said with an adoring tone.

“Yes. But she also has dark circles around them and her face is swollen. She must eat.”, Yamara observed critically.

“Good morning, Yamara. Good morning Temessa.”, whispered Lorna..

 

..because that was the only strength she had left in her;

A whisper.

 

Temessa and Yamara just stared at her.

 

“Sweet Alor’Nadien ne. We have brought you new apples, peaches, grapes, cherries, and berries this morning. We give these to you freely and Mother knows this.”, Temessa almost pleaded.

“Yes, she does, even though she told us we could bargain for them if we wanted to. Please accept them. We already lost many of our sisters here some time ago to some villainous dwarves and it has made us very sad. We do not wish a pretty Mortal to die, as well.”, Yamara begged.

“I am sorry for your loss, dear Yamara. But it’s alright. Once my beautiful Udoorin is gone, I shall take my leave and die elsewhere. That way, I shall not ruin the sanctity of your beautiful valley.”, Lorna replied hoarsely.

“Please, pretty Alor’Nadien ne. Eat at least one peach or one apple, or even some grapes and cherries and even some berries. Before Mother comes and asks you again.”, Temessa said, this time actually pleading.

“I thank you both and your sisters. You have been nothing but kind and generous to me. My answer to Mother will be the same as it was yesterday, and the day before that, and I shall carry your kindness to my grave.”, Lorna breathed rapidly..

..and vaguely realized this rapid breathing was a new symptom.

 

Yes. Her time was coming to a close and.. rapidly..

 

The fact that she had survived as long as she had, was likely to her connection to the Spirit of High Woods. But like her woods, she too was ending.

At least she would get her moment to say farewell to her Udoorin one last time before she crawled out of Gull’s Perch.

And with that thought, she looked down at the strange,  quartz-blue, crystal-like coffin she was leaning where she lay, and where she’d woken, day after day, and fallen asleep, night after night..

..where, under layers of the quartz-blue crystal, lay the young man she had slain in her moment of insanity.

She could see his unmoving face, peaceful, yet oddly faceted and fractured in the crystal and the bloody hole that was his heart.

She remembered that moment they had first met.

In her anger, she had charged at the people that had come bursting into the room, down in the dungeons below the ruins of Themalsar, her dark, smoking glaive raised.

Whether it had been a matter of luck, initiative, skill, destiny, or fate, the young man had reached her before she could swing her blade.

He had reached her with both of his great battle-axes already at the end of their radius, and just about to cut into her slender neck.

But in his moment of madness, he had stopped, both blades nicking at her. He had stopped and opted not to slay her. And furiously blushing, he had grinned at her and said;

“Uhhmm.. Hello. I am Udoorin.”

She hadn’t.. In her madness, she had stabbed him, in the back and in the heart..

 

Inevitably, her eyes teared.

 

“I am so, sorry, my Udoorin. Today, I shall beg her again; mine life for yours. Perhaps today she will see reason.”, she whispered. “For if she will not, I am afraid you will be staying here for a while, but I shan’t. I feel the claws of death and I am all but spent. I deserve what is upon me. Should you wake, please think not too unkindly of me, for I loved you..”

“With all my heart..”

 

Heart.

 

And that single word broke her all over again.

 

“Dear child. How long shall this mourning last?”, asked a rich, throaty, mature voice asked.

“Will you not see reason?”

 

“Oops. Mother is here!”, hissed Yamara. “Better scram!”

“Right..”, agreed, Temessa and the two girls, one dryad, the other a fire nymph, took off in a haste.

 

“Your offer is beyond me, Mother Summer. And isn’t a choice I may adopt on my own. It involves him, his life, his future, and his line. Should I make that choice for him, never shall he gaze upon my face again. But at least he shall stay here and.. live.. forever..”, Lorna sobbed.

“My dear child, he may stay here, but not forever. One day, he may rise. Mortals have always been thus unpredictable. Have you given any thought as to what he will do, should that happen? His father, his friends, and you, the spark of his life, all gone and past, centuries over. Perhaps you think this a wise course of action and a mercy on his part. I do not. Mortals do not cope well when their loved ones leave. But in time they learn to live with it, for time prepares them for such losses and fills the gaps they leave. However, they never cope when they are suddenly made aware, all their loved ones are dead and gone and centuries ago. I have witnessed this before. And he was not even a Mortal, but a fey. It drow him mad; a once noble of a Court became the vilest of us all. I believe he haunts this world still.”, replied the rich, mature voice.

“Mother Titania. I beg of you.”, Lorna pleaded, her eyes tear-stricken, her voice already near hysteria. “Take mine life and give it to him. Give my beat so he would live..”

“My dear, girl, you did not do this to him. The madness of Draugr-kin is not a fairy tale. It is as infectious as it is corrosive.”

“But it was I who did this to him.. I stabbed him in the back. I destroyed his beautiful heart. I do not deserve to live when he is dying.. Take my beat. Please. Take it, and give it to him..”, Lorna wept.

“I do not take lives on a whim. And never from a Mortal who has done me no wrong. This is something the Queens may not do. This is the Law of Nature. Much like I may not give, without balance. This is who we are, and this is what we are.. A life for a life was my wont. But not yours for his. Mortals always do rush to give what they do not know. But then, how could they? You have never lived it all!”

“M.. Mother, please.. Just take it.. I give it freely..”, the beautiful princess of High Woods begged.

“You will give your life for him, and expect him to accept that, do you? Perhaps you think too little of him, after all.”, mused Titania.

“Give it to him. He does not have to know..”, Lorna cried.

“You wound want a Queen of the Fey to lie? Will that not destroy my own reputation?”, the Queen of Summer asked mildly.

“You will not take my life for his, but you would take the life of my unborn child?”, Alor’Nadien ne wept. “What will he think of me when I have given away his child?”

“Your child shall live long and happy, dear girl. She shall be the Summer Lady. The time nears when Mortals shall require all the help they can get. I am summer, and I may not mingle among Mortals. The Summer Lady can. She will have her Summer Knight to defend and protect her. And she will be much loved and honored among us. Your daughter will help shape the world and aid Mortals free us of the foul demon infestation. I have seen it. And have I also seen, how the lack of the two Ladies has caused the end of one cycle after another. This, you must know, and this you must understand, for this was why your great ancestors, Terandel Solace, Sinderel Tranquil, and Elorellen Feymist abandoned their homes to come this far and settle where they did; to prepare the Mortals for the day they would grow and gather to fight and end the demon infestation. Know this, young Alor’Nadien ne; the demons are coming. Gullem the Damned is preparing to move against the Humans at Heaven’s Hand and the elves at Tranquil even as we speak. And they will bring the numbers to overrun them.”, Titania said calmly, then paused as if considering, and arriving at some monumental realization herself.

“Know also that your arrival here was not by chance. Of all the Mortals that have ever come to my sacred sanction, only two did appear by the whims of fate. One, to cleanse my valley of uncouth Mortals bent on lustful greed and to make it whole again, for which both he and I paid a terrible and costly price. You, dear child, are the other.”

“He.. If he must know. He must agree..”, Lorna moaned.

“He must not.”, the Queen of Summer said kindly.

“Why? Why shouldn’t he know?”, cried the princess.

“My dear, dear child, as much as he loves you, cherishes you, cares for you, and honors you, he is still Mortal and can not see beyond his years. Not now, not in his lifetime. Humans are not mentally equipped for such impartial decisions, hence they must not be put to task with such a verdict. Know though, shall he be long gone by the time I come to collect my charge. Willy-nilly, this bargain is between you and I, dear child.”

“And should I fail to make a choice?”

“Then he will rise, one day, and mourn, for the first thing he sees, shall be your remains and thus he shall rage, for there shall be nons he has known left; his home and his town and everyone he has thus loved and cared and cherished shall be long gone and beyond his reach and beyond his comprehension, also. He shall come to realize that he is not mere alone but in a world forever gray for him. He shall roam the lands, never to feel love, nor luster, for what he feels, he feels only for you. Thus shall his rage be without equal, and in his unquenching madness, shall he sin and slay, and thus shall he be hunted, slain over, and thrown in a pit where there shan’t even be a stone to mark his grave..”, Titania said with a certain finality.

 

Lorna’s vision darkened, her heartbeat hammered harder than she could ever remember, her mind swirled, she was breathing harshly now.

 

“Dear child. I would ask you to take my offer. Should you prolong it any further, I am afraid, there will not be anything of you left that can regain any health. The things you feel now are the accumulation of your self-imposed hunger, fatigue, irregular slumber, and your heart-felt devastation over the course of weeks. It is time, child. Know, though, I do not make such an offer lightly, nor have I ever made this offer to any Mortal in this cycle and not because I have deemed Mortals unfit, but nons have I found a Mortal worthy.”

 

Alor’Nadie ne never realized a whole day had passed just in that single conversation.

✱ ✱ ✱

What is wrong, love?”, said Berete Hamna Vir, her voice very worried, as she came and sat next to the little boy. “You have been sitting here in the dark all night. I know it is quiet and serene down here, but you should come and play with us.”

The little boy, Dar Derune didn’t move. He just sat where he was and staring off, somewhere, far, far away, and beyond the cavernous crypt.

“Here. I brought you your favorite sam-wish. And I managed to grab two sugar canes for you.”, the girl with the sharp features said in hopes of raising some kind of response from the boy.

“I am not hungry Hamna Vir.”, mumbled the boy and sniffed.

“You.. Have you been crying, love? Yes, you have. I can see the streaks on your face. Why are you crying, my baby mate? Did someone hurt or upset you?”, asked Hamna Vir and a frown appeared on her face.

 

The boy sniffed again, then, just like that..

..he climbed into her arms and started to cry with heartbreaking sobs.

 

“Ow, my dear, dear baby. What is wrong? Please tell me. You know you can. And we two have never had any secrets.”, Hamna Vir pleaded as her own eyes blurred as she fiercely hugged the little boy.

“She.. she..”, sobbed Dar Derune. “She’s gone!”

“Ow, love. She was gone but she’s back. Constance is back. Yes, she is hurt, but she will be alright.”, soothed Hamna Vir.

“No.. Arezme.. She is gone!”

 

Hamna Vir froze.

 

“What do you mean, she’s gone?”, she whispered.

“I have been looking in on her every day to make sure she was alright, ever since she entered the Door.”, sobbed the boy.

“But.. why?”, asked Hamna Vir.

“Because.. because I can see, Hamna Vir. And I saw a spark in her heart that day when we walked out of the Door and gave our oaths, and she went in.. The spark all Mortals have, yet none of us do. The spark of a Mortal’s heart! That is how I knew she was the first amongst us! And this evening, when I looked at her again.. I saw her spark.. bloom! Then the bloom spread and spread and became incandescent. It.. its light was so bright, it almost burned me. And just like that, it was gone. I can not see her anymore, Hamna Vir..”

“I can not see Arezme, I can not see our Merisoul.. There is only light.. Brilliant, burning light.. She’s gone!”

 

..and Dar Derune broke down in her arms and cried, uncontrollably, like the little boy that he was and spluttered.

 

“What are we going to tell mirima Temez? They were BFF!”

✱ ✱ ✱

Are you feeling any better?”, Sheriff Standorin asked.

“Will you return to your duties if I said I was?”, replied Constance with a weary smile.

“Master Aager is a trustable man. I am sure he is handling things just fine.”, Standorin said, trying for a smile himself, but not quite getting there.

“It has been days, you have been here, dear sir. What ails me will wear off, given enough time.. Just not in my lifetime, I am afraid.”, the tall, alluring girl said. “Apparently, some things end up being much more costly than we ever anticipate. I feel almost Mortal in my folly.”

“You speak in words, I do not really understand, Liaison Constance.”, Standorin said with a frown. “But I will ask you one thing because I am hoping it will be something I shall comprehend.”

“You wish to know why I asked you out.”, Constance said. It wasn’t a question so much as it was a statement, really.

“Well.. Yes..”, the sheriff admitted with a flush. “I mean, I am quite older than you. Shouldn’t you find someone your own age, perhaps? Someone young and.. handsome?”

 

Constance closed her eyes, drew one of her slim hands out from under the itchy blanket and placed it on her forehead, and sighed.

 

“What is it about you Mortals and age? It is merely a number that signifies how many years ago you were conceived and absolutely nothing else. It tells me nothing about who you are, about what you have done in those years, nor about what entails you. Tell me, sir, does that number truly encapsulate you? Does it tell me your accomplishments? Or how decent and caring and how honorable you are? Would it matter if I were to tell you it has been five hundred and thirty-two years since I was conceived?”

 

Standorin gulped.

 

“I.. wouldn’t have thought you were a day older than twenty-five, ma’am..”, he mumbled. “Are you really—?”

Constance sighed again.

“Years pass differently where I come from, Stan. Yes, by your Mortal years, I guesstimate I am five hundred and thirty-two. By our standards, I am twenty-eight— which still tells you nothing about me. Not of my sins nor my deeds. Nor why I and my kind chose to abandon the only place we were perpetually abused but would never stand out. And it certainly does not tell you why I chose to date with you, does it?”, she asked wearily.

“No. I suppose it doesn’t.”, Standorin conceded.

“I promise, I will tell you. Only if you would but help me get out of this bed and wash up, as I am, very likely, quite unseemly, and perhaps even help me change. And then maybe you could take me out for lunch, or dinner? I honestly do not know what time of the day it is as these rooms have no windows. I must admit, I am quite famished. Perhaps you would go as far as a dare and we could eat at your place? I have studied Mortal cooking some. Maybe I could try my hands on it. Should you honestly like it, we can eat that. If I fail, I suppose we can go someplace where I can embarrass myself less. We can then sit there and talk or perhaps take another long walk, though, as tired as I am, you might end up carrying me back.. I leave the choices to you. In the end, I shall never take what you are unwilling to part. All I would ever want from you is to know I have someone to lean on, and that someone would make me feel mildly wanted. Should you agree, however, I would like you to expect, and accept, similar trust and care from me.”

 

Standorin gulped again.

 

“We.. could eat at my place.. though it hasn’t been touched by a woman for many years. But only if I cook while you rest. I.. can’t invite you and make you cook. That would be just wrong.”, he said, both flustered and abashed.

“I am in your care then, Standorin Shieldheart.”

 

Sheriff Standorin was a man of his word. As embarrassed as he was, and with a very flustered face, he helped the tall, alluring girl out of the rickety bed and sat her on the simple wooden chair, brought the washing dish over and with strong, calloused hands, he washed her slender hands and arms, her very appealing face, her slim neck, ran his wet hands over and through her long, silky black hair, and went as far as washing her proportionate, narrow feet, all without any sensual implications, but with tender care, and Constance silently watched his face with a demur blush but refrained from even the smallest smile.

The tall, alluring girl was a surprisingly perceptive and considerate creature.

Then, he went over and opened the door, and to the red-headed, bewitching little girl who had been silently sitting there with a naughty smirk on her face and an ear on the door, he said, “Young Demelze.. It isn’t nice to eavesdrop. But since you are here, I would consider it kindness on your part if you would bring the esteemed Liaison a brush, a pair of shoes, and a dress appropriate to her station.”

The smirking girl blushed furiously, jumped on her feet, and took off, while she mumbled to herself;

“Blistering Bloody Imps!”, she cursed. “Busted!”

 

He turned around to see Constance smiling at him.

“Uhhmm.. Is there something amusing?”, he asked a bit gruffly.

“No, no.. Merely admiring how aware you are of your surrounding even under duress.”, she replied. “Demelze won’t be able to decide whether she should be embarrassed for getting caught or feel happy you remembered her name, even though you met her only once.”

“Occupational hazard, I suppose. And I have been a lawman for quite a number of years. And.. I wouldn’t define.. uhh.. washing you a matter of duress, really.”, he replied uncomfortably.

 

There was a knock and the sheriff turned around and opened the door again to see the same red-headed, bewitching girl holding a long, elegant dress, a pair of high pumps, a hairbrush, and an odd expression stuck somewhere between a flush, a wicked smile, and a pout as if the girl just couldn’t decide on which one she should settle.

 

“Thank you. I would be happy if you would also compile a detailed progression report on the Pixie Project and have it ready by tomorrow morning.”, he said as he took the dress, the pumps, and the brush, but left her expression where it was.

Demelze squinted at him and the wicked smile on her face disappeared.

“Homework? Really?”, she said in disgust.

“You are a fully grown woman and require no homework, young lady. But Master Aager will need said report as soon as possible, and you seem like a person given to details. Unless I am totally mistaken, of course.”, Standorin said with a straight face.

Demelze’s squint turned into a distinctly deploring pout. With seething vehemence, she spun around and started marching away, all the while stomping her tiny feet!

Constance gave out a refrained, bubbly laugh.

“You have a unique way to deal with people, sir.”, she said.

“Let’s get one thing straight.”, the sheriff frowned a bit. “I would rather you didn’t ‘sir’ me when we are alone.”

“But we are in a temple, and your official standing puts you in a ‘sirly’ disposition, as silly as that sounds.”, she replied with a smile. “Though I am open to suggestions as to what you would rather I call you on a regular basis, other than Stan.. sir.”

 

Standorin fumed a bit.

Limnia Karya, his beloved deceased wife, had never played these games with him. She had been a ranger, and a decidedly practical, no-nonsense sort of woman, though, in all candor, she did act like a much younger girl when they had been alone. Then he remembered something Aager had told him about never to compare and once Standorin gave it an even cursory thought, he came to the conclusion that the young man had been right; one, they were not some fruit, vegetable, or furniture, but people, both distinct and both unique, and two, comparing was doing them both much disservice.

 

Silently he put the brush and the pumps on the bed and came near the young woman and just stood there.

It took a bare moment for the tall, alluring girl to comprehend the pause. With a shy blush, she turned around and..

..let her dress fall.

 

Standorin stared at the rather slender, curving back of the tall woman, gruffly cleared his throat, then, with decidedly clumsy hands, he helped her put on the new dress, from head to feet. 

Then, while he was down there, he reached over to the bed, grabbed the pumps, picked her feet, and put the high-heeled shoes on them, each and one at a time, as Constance watched him, silent and still.

 

“I would like to touch your hair.”, she whispered down at him. “A girl may not be tortured thus thoroughly and not be given even a crump of surcease.”

 

Sheriff Standorin didn’t say anything.

He just stood kneeling where he was, as he did the tiny clasps on the pumps and long, slender fingers ran through his hair and a sensation he hadn’t felt for nearly twenty years rippled down his spine.

 

“Stan.. Stan will do, for now, Constance..”, he whispered back.

✱ ✱ ✱

Something woke Sheriff Standorin from a deep slumber. He felt slightly groggy and looked around to see he had fallen asleep on his couch that was facing the fireplace in his two-room home.

The fire had died down to a smoldering kindle, giving a low, red-orange cast and gave the young, beautiful face sleeping peacefully on his chest a whole, different kind of glow, as Constance breathed quietly at his face, her body limply sprawled across his.

Standorin tried to recall at which point he had fallen asleep but failed. He remembered having cooked something that involved diced beef, fried onion rings, and mashed potatoes, along with some chilled apple cider. Then he and the tall, alluring young woman had taken their plates and drinks and sat on the couch and quietly talked, while they stared at the fire dancing in the grate.

The sheriff had been quite surprised and had felt not a small amount of embarrassment coupled with some guilt when he’d found out how much he’d had to say.

Standorin had never really been the talk and laugh, type.

She, on the other hand, had kept silent most of the time and had only spoken to inquire about things she couldn’t quite understand or relate because she would lack the individual reference points.

At some point, though, she had fallen completely silent and with a certain sense of frustration, the sheriff had noticed, she’d dozed off.

He berated himself on a number of levels at that point, foremost for being a boring man to have made a girl literally fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.

Then he came to the ultimate, logical explanation; Constance had gone out of her way, for the past few days, and quite beyond, to put up a ‘good’ front for his sake, making light of her pain and extreme fatigue until they both had come crashing down on her with compounded interest.

Ahh.. that was when he had taken her into his arms, and sort of leaned back..

..and had fallen asleep, with her pillowing her head on his broad, rumbling chest.

 

Then he remembered something had woken him.

He wasn’t quite sure what it had been, but he thought it sounded like an animal in pain.

He heard a careful knock on his door just then and very carefully, and with no small amount of unexpected revelation and resignation, he slid the young woman off himself and stretched her on the couch and into a more comfortable pose.

For a man his size, he padded over to the door with surprisingly quiet steps and opened it to see Aager Fogstep standing there and behind him, his little mate, Lady Inshala.

Standorin immediately knew something was wrong for the young man lacked his leather hood and half mask, his face was stricken, contorted, even, and the little girl was holding on to him from behind and sobbing into his back.

“What is it Master Aager?”, he asked in his low, rumbling voice.

“You.. you had better come, sir.”, Aager growled through clenched teeth.

Standorin cocked an eyebrow.

“Where are we going?”, he asked.

Aager paused for a moment before speaking again.

“Is.. is the Liaison here, sir?”, he asked.

“Yes. She is.”, Standorin said with a frown.

“We.. we will need her as well, sir.”, Aager replied with a decidedly determined voice.

“Why? If I might ask. She is still recovering from her.. predicament and is sleeping at the moment. I would rather we didn’t wake her.”, the sheriff said, his frown deepening.

“She is the Liaison, sir.”, Aager grinded his teeth. “And we will need her to do her job, right now, and fast.”

“What is going on, young man?”, Standorin asked, fuming a bit now.

 

Aager paused again. When he spoke this time, Standorin was astonished, for he heard a certain tremor in his voice.

 

“The leader of the Escape, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, has gone.. feral, sir. She.. and quite a number of them are breaking and burning everything that gets in their way. Thomas, Morel, and the other temple guardians have managed to get as many of the children out as they can but they are fighting amongst themselves now and against Thomas, Morel, and the temple guardians. Thomas has asked you to bring their Liaison to speak in our steed and perhaps find a way to defuse the situation before it goes any further and make sure the remaining children are not injured or worse.”

Standorin stared at him.

“They gave their word. Their oath. Why would they break their oath and risk everything they have forsworn?”, he fumed angrily.

“They.. they didn’t break their oaths, sir. They merely received some quite distressing news and.. they are hurting.. Apparently, they do not know moderation when they are upset.”

“What news? What could possibly have happened to have riled them enough to risk everything they gave up to come here?”, Standorin asked harshly.

“Perigren Ostlanna Temez just found out she lost her BFF, sir.”, Aager replied quietly and Inshala hugged him even tighter and her sobs grew louder.”

“BFF?”, asked the sheriff, a bit baffled.

“Best Fiend Friend, sir. You see, Perigren’s BFF was no other than Merisoul Xyrotwu, and she and Ranger Lieutenant Laila and Master Gnine had all gone to Silent Hills together. I don’t know how, but they just found out that Meriso.. they found out.. that they..”, he said as he tried to gulp down the lump rising earnestly up his throat. “That Merisoul is gone!”

“I.. see..”, said Standorin silently. “I.. did not know her very well. But she was the nicest felon I apprehended in my entire life.”

“She was my friend..”, came Inshala’s sobbing voice. “She was always nice and always alone. She saved me. She helped and saved everyone!”

 

It was apparent, nothing else intelligible was going to come from her anymore and not any time soon.

 

Aager turned around and hugged her tightly and held his scourging stance for as long as he could as a low, infuriated scream escaped him.

“WHAT DID YOU DO AGAIN, YOU STUPID, STUPID GIRL! I DIDN’T SEND YOU WITH GNINE AND LAILA TO KEEP THEM SAFE. I SENT THEM WITH YOU TO KEEP YOU SAFE!”

 

Then..

..with rage unseen in Serenity Home,

..he howled at the night sky

..and winter spread in jagged, sharp, spiking icicles

..as cobblestones popped, cracked, and shrapneled

..and brittle-blue, chilling frost covered everything

..a hundred yards

..in every direction.

✱ ✱ ✱

Two figures stumbled into view two days later from the east and up the banks of Arashkan River, both leaning on the other and both with severe, grim, lived, suffered, and ‘paid in full and done’, expressions on their faces.

 

Liaison Constance Alure Smithen
standing next to Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart..

 

..and Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane
standing next to Aager Fogstep were waiting for them.

 

Right behind them, another pair stood,
Anglenna Brightleaf and Armethelius Riverblade..

 

..and another;
Bremorel Songsteel and Thomas Dimwood.

 

 

AND JUST BEHIND THOSE,
FIFTEEN THOUSAND HIGH ELVES STOOD IN RIGID,
SILENT, SOLEMN MILITARY FORMATION, AND BURNING
WITH RIGHTEOUS EXALTATION, AS THEY WAITED
FOR THEIR KING AND THEIR QUEEN.

 

 

And Princess Alor’Nadien ne Feymist came
with Udoorin Shieldheart..

 


 

arashkan şehri book 07 books dungeons and dragons duygusal groups komedi role play savaş serenity the plot thickens

Kumse Beetles
and
Pixie Dust!

Kumse Beetles
and
Pixie Dust!

Timeline:

With the unexpected help of the half-born, Anglenna finally finds the possible whereabouts of the missing Udoorin Shieldheart and Princess Alor’Nadien ne;

 

The Gull’s Perch…

 

..the home of the Summer Fey
and Queen Titania, herself!

 

This, however, presents issues on its own,
as Mortals, in general, are banned from the Perch,
and half-borns, being part demon, in particular,
are never allowed to even come near
the sacred valley of the Summer Queen..

 

This story takes place shortly after
The Liaison.
and starts at the end of
The Discovery.

 

 

A depressed and depleted procession oozed down the dim halls of Serenity Home Temple as Perigren Ostlanna Temez lead her brothers and sisters down the long, spiraling stairs and into the dim cavernous crypt. 

With a grim expression on his face, Hal Mali followed her as he dragged a pale and drained-looking Cee Lingerith Demelze by the hand.

And right behind them, Hamna Vir slouched with a stubborn expression on her sharp face, as she fiercely hugged the little, slumbering Dar Derune in her arms.

“I could walk.”, came Dar Derune’s slurred voice as his head bobbed back and forth.

“I know you can, love.”, Hamna Vir said kindly, but the fire in her eyes told otherwise. She was a savage, bitter half-born to begin with, and the fact that no other than Titania, the Summer Queen, had backhanded her little Dar Derune just a few moments ago and from as far away as Gull’s Perch, had been like a slap on their collective faces. Sort of like a wake-up call, that there were things much, much more powerful than they were in this Mortal world after all, and that fact, so casually displayed, had hit them all quite hard, quite literally. And that it had been their little Dar Derune on the receiving end had made Hamna Vir, in particular, quite vexed which was putting it rather lightly, for at that very moment, the girl with the sharp features had nothing but murder in her eyes and that it had been the Summer Queen, a being way out of their league for any kind of retribution or retaliation had merely added to the insult.

“You are pulling too hard..”, whimpered a glazed Demelze.

“Ow. I am sorry, Demelze. My bad.”, said Hal Mali and with a swift scoop, he grabbed her, spun her up with a flip, and landed her in his powerful arms. “How’s that?”

“You are just taking advantage of my moment of weakness Hal Mali.. and I am liking it!”, she said, her words garbled and stumbled over each other as she smiled at him with a sloshed and woozy face.

“Aren’t you a darling?”, Hal Mali smiled back.

“I am, aren’t I?”, Demelze swooned.

“Too bad you are not going to remember any of this when you come around.”, he fumed to himself.

“Why don’t you just ask her out Hal?”, Temez asked from ahead.

“Hal? Why do you call me Hal, Perigren Ostlanna Temez?”, asked Hal Mali, a bit confused and hurt. “Have I ever upset or disappointed you in any way that I am not aware of and warrant such admonishment?”

“Never, love. But I have noted the Mortals refer to one other by shortening each other’s names. Thought perhaps we could also try it so we do not stand out when we finally come out in the open.”, she replied.

Hal Mali mused over that, as he unwittingly hugged the befuddled Demelze closer to his chest.

“Let’s see if I have understood this correctly; they not only butcher one another, they also butcher each other’s names?”

“Yes. But do not ask me why, dear. Apparently, either they do not give much importance to names, or they do not believe names have power, or they are merely ignorant. I have been studying them, but I have yet to uncover the exact reasoning behind them. Take Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel for example. Rarely have I heard anyone call her by that name. They summon her by saying only Bremorel. Young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, on the other hand, calls her fondly as Morel. I have witnessed on one occasion where someone referred to her as just ‘Bree’. She, herself, never calls her mate by his full name either, and summons him as Thomas.”, Temez tried to explain.

“That is heresy, that is.”, Hal Mali said with an ugly face. Then thought for a moment. “Or maybe not. You, my brothers, and my sisters rarely call me Hal Mali Volent Pierce. Much like we rarely call Demelze or Hamna Vir by their full name, either, and it has nothing to do with the power the name has as a whole, but everything to do with practical efficiency.”

“I think you just answered a rather vexing dilemma, dear. You are indeed as practical as you are efficient.”, smiled Temez wanly.

“If any of you calls me Vir, I will haunt you in your dreams until you wet yourselves!”, hissed Hamna Vir.

“We shall pick up this practice but only those of us who want to, and if they are comfortable with the idea. Henceforth, you may call me only Temez.”

“Well. I would rather everyone called me Hal Mali. But I will try my best not to retaliate should any of you calls me Hal. Is that acceptable?”, Hal Mali said dubiously.

“Perfectly, dear.”, Temez smiled again. “Which brings us back to my previous question; Why don’t you ask her out? It’s quite obvious you like Demelze. Actually, pretty much all of us have noticed your rather transparent interest in her. She’d make a troublesome but fiery mate. You would never get bored of life..”

Hal Mali signed.

“Am I truly that obvious?”

“When it comes to Demelze, yes, dear.”, smiled Temez.

“Yup!”, said Hamna Vir.

“Yea..”, slurred Demezle vaguely but it wasn’t clear as to what she was agreeing for her eyes were closed and her slender, diminutive figure danced limply at each step Hal Mali took down the long flight of stairs.

Hal Mali sighed again.

“No point.”, he said a bit depressed. “Demelze despises me.”

“No she doesn’t.”, objected Temez.

“Yes, she does.”, Hamna Vir inserted from the back.

“Hamna Vir!”, said Temez reprovingly.

“What? She does despise him and you know it!”, she snapped irritably.

Temez sighed this time.

“Girl, you are never going to understand the hearts of Mortals nor men if you just say everything that comes to your mind.”

“I have no interest in Mortals and the only heart that matters to me is sleeping over my shoulder. And I don’t say everything that comes to my mind. If I did, I would have said, Demelze makes fun of Hal Mali whenever he’s not around!”, Hamna Vir said waspishly.

Hal Mali’s face deflated and became mournful as he drew Demelze even closer to himself.

“Hamna Vir, dear.”, Temez said.

“What?”

“Do shut up—”

“Why?”

“—just about, NOW?

 

Hamna Vir scowled and gave Temez her best searing gaze.

 

“It’s alright, Perigren… uhhmm.. Temez.. Really. I wasn’t aware she went as far as punning me but I had my suspicions. Guess we don’t all get what we want and that’s the same whether we are in Hell or in the Mortal coil.”, Hal Mali mourned. “I will just have to be happy with the short few moments while she is nice to me like this and in my arms.”

“Don’t be sad, Hal.”, Temez tried to comfort him. “I learned a saying among Mortals that people change. I am not certain if that includes us, but my guestimation is that it does because we all did change. We were in Hell just last month, learning how to sow dissension among Mortals. Now we are among said Mortals and are actually helping them. Had you said then, I would never have believed Demelze would have done what she did for a Mortal’s son, but here we are, and here she paid her trial in pain.. a lot of it.. Give her the chance to change, Hal. I think she deserves that much.”

“Yea, Hal. What she said!”, inserted Hamna Vir with a scowl.

 

The long, spiraling stairs ended and the little group came to a large, steel-lined, heavy-looking double door.

Temez pulled at one of the rings on the door and opened it, revealing a deep, cavernous chamber lined with five hundred years of deceased temple guardians lying in their enclosed, unadorned sarcophagi. Silently, they walked up to the far end and stood before the one that had ‘Demos Lightshand’ chipped on a plaque and fit into its side.

Then they all knelt, Hal Mali still holding Demelze in his arms and Hamna Vir hugging Dar Derune in hers, closed their eyes, and prayed.

 

“Darling Demos.”, Temez whispered. “Again, we have come to thank you, for it was your kind heart that made Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood to also be kind and to accept us at our direst moment of need. Here, he has given us food and shelter, and here, he protects us from unwanted eyes and the ire of sinful men. We have come, today, in hopes of finding wisdom in your presence for we are hurting and we do not know what to do..”

“She means, we are screwed!”, mumbled Hamna Vir from behind, causing Hal Mali to snort.

 

There was a dormant silence while Temez signed in frustration.

Her BFF —Best Fiend Friend, Merisoul Xyrotwo had given the responsibility of their brothers and sisters to her, but hadn’t told her how it was supposed to be done. True, all of them had had extensive training pertaining to Mortals and their ways but said training had gone as far as the Erinyes, Autie Irine had understood them, which was at best, at a most basic level and ‘targeted’ in its sensual in nature. The ‘real world’, as ironic as that sounded, had turned out to be much, much more complicated than any of them had anticipated. They had been here merely a month or so and under the protection and sanction of a temple guardian and Temez sorely wondered what would happen when the said sanction would end, and she had no doubt that in the end, it would because eventually, everyone would have to go their separate ways. The fact that the young Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood had accepted them in the first place had been a grand gesture of just how much he trusted her BFF, even though he barely knew her and she’d once tried to ‘eat’ him and consequently gotten struck by the temple’s protection and branded because the young man had been sorely in love!

 

Temez gritted her teeth.

 

She would hold on!

And hold all her brothers and sisters together and in one piece, safe and sound, just until her Arezme Ara Serraphym, or Merisoul Xyrtwo as Mortals knew her, returned. Then she’d be free to go and find her own young man. The one she had ‘eaten’ many years ago and subsequently had gotten herself burned.

It had come as a colossal surprise to her when she’d found out the ‘boy’ had lived, though damaged.

The ‘eaten’ never survived!

Temez did not understand why that had happened. As far as she knew, it shouldn’t have happened like that at all; the boy to have survived, and her getting burned like that..

Had the boy fallen in love with her, and not just smitten by her rather ravishing countenance and blatantly wanting figure, but truly fallen in love with her in the space of a few, short, heartbeats?

Was that even possible?

As incomprehensible as that sounded to her, apparently, such a senseless infatuation had been, in fact, quite possible.

 

“Come on, doll.”, she fumed and pleaded with her eyes closed. “Please come back and fast. Your brothers and sisters direly need you..”

✱ ✱ ✱

This is rather impressive, Liaison Constance. I don’t remember the last time this office looked so tidy.”, Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart said, though just a tad grudgingly.

Constance tried very hard not to, but failed.. and beamed at him.

“Would you like to see how the new filing system works? Perhaps a demonstration is in order.”, she offered.

“Very well. Master Aager, do get me the drunkard fight involving Franderson vs. Kor’gral, our orc blacksmith apprentice if you will.”, he said.

Aager checked on the relatively short alphabetic list in his hand, got a reference number, cross-referenced it with a second list and got a second reference number from that, then went over to one of the newly crafted ‘drawer shelves’, the one with the second number, pulled it open and ran a quick glance and tugged out a specific scroll and gave it to the sheriff, with a mild grin.

The sheriff cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Alright. Unknown Strangers vs. Udoorin case, then, if you will!”, he said.

Aager repeated the same process but went to a different drawer shelf and pulled out a rather thick roll of many scrolls and brought them over to him.

Standorin gave him a suspicious look.

Constance beamed some more.

“Master Nibletyne Tinkerdome vs. Moorat Maelstrom!”

Aager gave it to him.

“Franderson vs. Demons Lightshand!”

Aager grinned and brought that one over too, in under fifteen seconds.

“Morel and Liala vs. Udoorin, Dervel and Lucious!”

Aager didn’t even bother with the lists nor the drawers for that one. He just pulled it out of his pocket!

“What the..?”, the sheriff said scowling at him.

“Thought you’d ask for that. Had it ready at hand, sir.”, Aager grinned.

“Very well.”, Standorin said, fuming at him. “I will admit this filing system of yours seems to work..”

“..as opposed to looking for a specific case file for more than half an hour at times.. Sir, you really ought to give the Liaison a bit more credit.”, Aager said, meaningfully.

Standorin gave him one of his best scowls, cleared his throat, then turned to the tall, elegant half-born in her long, not quite conservative, but decidedly refrained dress, and said, “Thank you very much for your filing system, Liaison Constance. I… we.. could talk it over lunch, perhaps? I am sure the mayor could also make use of a similar system installed in his offices..”

“But of course, sir. I will have to see their needs and how they segment their files first though.”, Constance said, smiling happily. “In fact, I would like to go see the mayor on this matter at once, If you wouldn’t mind. I shall also drop by the temple to see how things are going with the project you ordered and report its progress to you.”

“Thank you, Liaison Constance. I shall await your findings eagerly.”, Standorin replied with a flushed face.

 

After the tall half-born girl took her leave, Aager turned to the sheriff and looked at him with amusement etched all over his face.

I shall await your findings eagerly?— Really, sir? That one was a tad overdone, don’t you think?”

“I am out of practice, young man. I haven’t dated anyone since.. well.. for a good dozen years and more. Not to mention, Limnia and I never did this dating thing. We just took long, eager walks in the woods, went on patrols together, and counter-ambushed bandits! And we both enjoyed it.”

“I went after many fools, myself, with my Inshala, sir. We even fought against a treacherous paladin lord together and I saw the exhilaration in her face. But at the end of the day, it is when we are going home, arm in arm, that I see her skip and hop and glow because with me and home is the only place that she can truly be herself, and with her and home is the only place that I can truly be myself. Don’t get me wrong, sir. Whatever makes people happy. But intimacy beats them all.”

“After this war. And should we win, I am dead set on firing you, young man..”

Aager cocked an eyebrow at him.

“..just so you could become a poet!”, snorted the sheriff.

“Never happen, sir. Ow and, a ‘business lunch’ doesn’t count as a ‘date’, just so you know..”, Aager said with another grin.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?”, the sheriff growled.

“I do, and I am off. Noon-trainees!”

✱ ✱ ✱

This is the problem we have been having, Lady Inshala ‘le Fey’ Frostmain Bolgrig Hoo—”, Temez was saying, deep down in the crypts under the Serenity Home Temple.

“Please, dear Temez. Just Inshala will do, even though it despairs me as well when Mortals do cut names and words the way they do. When we are alone, please call me Inshala.”, the pretty little half-fey said with a smile.

 

Temez had taken a liking to Inshala quite immediately when they had first met several days ago and when she, Inshala, and Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel had played a cunning game of catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her ‘hubby’, Largo Summersong, and his son, D.D. Dexter Summersong, who was, somehow not Lady Lilly Venom’s son, which only made sense because he was older than she was! Just that information had made Temez feel concussed all by itself and learned her just how much she and her kin were out of their debt when it came to their pitiful knowledge of the Mortal coil.

 

“Alright..”, said Temez, trying very hard to suppress a shudder. This name cutting was something they really needed to get over, but their inner, demonic core just refused to accept such blatant use of names.. After all, misuse of names could and often did cause very volatile results.. But at least this girl, Inshala, seemed to understand their plight. Perhaps it was due to the fact that she, too, was a half-something.. a fey..

“..Inshala,”, she continued. “We were able to enchant grinded sand, kibbled light wood, certain cosmetic powders, and even flour with fire, thanks to Demelze, here, to light up under specific conditions, such as coming in contact with magic auras. Magically attained invisibility, to be exact. Our dilemma is, the powders, the sands, and the flour works but for an extremely short duration, as the material immediately settles, and hence, becomes part of the said invisible creature, or area. If we use what we have at the moment during battle, or to sprinkle it in an area where we suspect and Orken army is hidden under the veil of whatever device they are employing, it will hardly be visible during daylight, and barely be discernable during night hours. We need something, a plant or herb that we can grind that can stay afloat long enough to be practical and at the lightest magical ‘fragrance’, so to speak.”

Inshala frowned a bit as she tried to digest the issue at hand, and at a certain level, she felt relieved, for when Aager had told her she was being ‘officially’ invited here to meet with the half-born, she had dreaded that she, herself, might be put to task on some social-thingy, which she knew she was sorely lacking. This, however, was something that had to do with knowledge, something that she was good at, as opposed to something she constantly banged her head against her mental walls to comprehend.

 

As dire as the problem was, Inshala grinned!

 

And all the half-born, some one hundred plus of them silently watched her, all so very curious about this ‘very pretty’, ‘also a half-something like us’, and quite famous, Ritual Guardian-girl,  as though expecting some sort of miracle to appear at the wave of her slender hands.

At that very moment, Inshala remembered something her Aager had said, though she had vaguely understood.

 

“The answer to that is quite elementary in its simplicity.”, she said with a well-hidden smile.

Well, perhaps it wasn’t so well-hidden, as she was grinning when she said it. Aager hadn’t grinned at all.

Her Aager was awesome like that, she thought!

 

A murmur of awe spread amongst the half-born as Hal Mali grinned as well and with open admiration, while Demelze ‘oooow’ed, and Hamna Vir ogled at her.

“She.. she said that so smoothly!”, she exclaimed in a hushed voice.

“Awesome.”, someone whispered.

“Awesome.”, someone else repeated in agreement..

..and the word, ‘awesome’ rippled in low, hushed, and awe-struck whispers among the half-born!

 

Inshala beamed.

 

“Tell us!”, Temez asked eagerly, her own face flushed with excitement.

“Here.”, the little half-fey said and produced a tiny little pouch from one of her many tiny pockets hidden in her dress robes.

Temez carefully took the pouch, undid the knots, and looked into it to see some very fine, dark-red powder.

“What is this wonderful thing?”, she asked.

“Kumse Beetle shells, grinded down into a fine powder. I use it to season the food I cook and it tastes delicious!”, Inshala replied happily.

“Hal..”, she said. “..do your thing, please, dear. And Demelze, love. See if you can enchant this powder the way you have been practicing.”

“Sure.”, Hal Mali said..

..and suddenly vanished!

“That is awesome!”, Inshala said looking at where the young, pretty half-born man had just been.

Demelze took the pouch from Temez and carefully dumped its content into a small iron pot scorched with burnt marks, sat on the floor, closed her eyes and her pretty face frowned in concentration. Soon enough, the dark-red powder began to smoke.

“Careful, love.”, whispered Temez. “You are going to burn it.”

 

Demelze frowned more and the smoke dissipated.

And then, with a sharp flash of light, the iron pot poofed and Demelze opened her eyes, beads of sweat running down her face.

 

“Done.”, she said with a sniff and wiped her brows.

 

Temez reached down and took a pinch of the ‘enchanted’ dark-red powder and looked around.

“I am here, Temez. Standing just a foot in front of you.”, came Hal Mali’s voice.

Temez flung the powder in his direction!

The powder clung onto something barely discernable as someone’s arm, as it glowed, once, twice, then died.

Temez felt her shoulders slump.

“It didn’t work?”, Demezle asked, totally flustered.

 

A low murmur of consternation and despair rippled amongst the half-born.

 

“It worked.”, Inshala said confidently.

“How?”, Temez asked.

“The powder is still there and is still visible if you look closely.”

Temez, Demelze, and quite a number of others leaned over and stared at where they presumed Hal Mali was.

“She’s right.” Hal Mali’s voice was heard. “The powder is still there and try as I might, I can’t incorporate it with my shadow-aura! This is fascinating!”

“Indeed.”, mused Temez. “But.. it won’t be of any practical use if it isn’t visible from a far-off distance. Perhaps you can pour more power into the powder, Demelze?”

“I can. But it still won’t work. Either the powder will charr, or it will blink a few more times and that’s it. Unless we find a way to preserve the magic I infuse into the powder, we are, again, at a standstill.”, Demelze said somberly, an expression quite unexpected and unprecedented on her otherwise mischievous, naughty, and smirking face.

 

They all fell silent and mulled over that, and the cavernous crypt was suddenly very still. It was quite a disconcerting sight, really.

 

“Whimsi Lola!”, Inshala exclaimed suddenly!

 

The half-born all turned to look at her.

Inshala blushed a bit when she promptly became the focus of attention of so many ‘people’.

 

“I have never heard of a plant or herb by that name.”, said Temez dubiously. “Has anyone heard of this herb?”, she called to the crowd at large.

The half-born shook their heads and any number of ‘No’s and ‘Nopes’ echoed in the crypt.

“No, no.”, said Inshala hastily. “Whimsi Lola is not a plant or an herb. She is a sprite! A fey! She uses her own pixie dust from her wings to enhance her spells! That’s what we need.”

Temez looked at her curiously.

“And where may we find this Whimsi Lola sprite-fey and what would she want for her pixie dust?”

“Hmm.. That may be a problem. She is not here. But many of her friends are.. However, the fey folk, and the little ones, in particular, will not come here; too many Mortals and too much iron here, nor will they go anywhere near.. uhhmm..”, Inshala said, then faltered in embarrassment.

“Demons?”, Temez offered.

“Uhhmm.. Yes.. I am sorry.”, Inshala apologized immediately.

“Why are you apologizing, Inshala? You didn’t make us. You had no hand in our foul existence whatsoever. Never apologize for the things you didn’t do. Never.”, Temez said sternly.

“I.. was trying to be polite..”, the fey-girl faltered some more.

“This is not something to be polite about, my dear. We are what we are. We are sorry for having been made. But we are not, however, sorry for existing and we shall never apologize to anyone for that, and neither should you. We are our own now, just like you are your own..”, Temez said with harsh defiance. “Now. About this pixie dust thing. How and where may we get some?”, she asked, all business-like!

Inshala was a bit surprised at how strong-willed the Temez girl was and how she was not sorry for what she was, even if she hated being what she was.

And she felt a certain shame, there. Unlike Temez, she had loathed herself very nearly all her life for what she was or what she thought she was and had always believed her existence had been one, colossal mistake. Looking at these half-borns who had braved out of literal Hell, she promised herself to be braver and certainly to never feel guilty for being.. 

..which had been what her old Father, Cathber, and later, her Aager had been telling her all along.

 

“Well..”, she thought. “..Apparently I am just a stupid little girl.”

 

“Umm.. perhaps we could go near the forest just up north and I could call a few of the small fey-folk and bargain for some of their pixie dust?”, she said hopefully. “Then we can mix this powder with the pixie dust and gorgeous Demelze, here, can enchant it and we can test it on Hal Mali, maybe?”

“Ow.. She said I am gorgeous!”, whispered Demelze happily.

“Your offer is sound, Inshala, but not practically possible. We may not leave this temple. Not yet. I have left it a few times but carefully and only to observe the area just around the temple, and that one time when we played catch. Only Constance leaves and that is because she is our designated Liaison with the Mortals. This.. ‘test’.. however, is not her area of expertise. Is there any way you may be able to bring this dust to us?”

“I am afraid not. Pixie dust loses its potential soon after the sprite or the pixie removes it from his or her wings. Otherwise, the forest would be sparkling everywhere they went and all the time.”

“Perhaps there is a way.”, offered Hal Mali quietly as he stepped out of his ‘shadow-aura’ and became visible again.

“Do tell, dear.”, Temez asked him

“I can go out unseen.”

“Yes, dear. But you alone will not be enough. Demelze needs to go with you and Inshala.”

“I.. she can come with me.. I can hide her as well.”, he mumbled.

“I am not going anywhere with you, Hal!“, sneered Demelze. “And you can not hide me and we both know it!”

“I can.”, Hal Mali said quietly. “If I carry you in my arms..”

 

Demelze just stared at him for a moment.

“Incoming..”, murmured Hamna Vir.

 

And Demelze burst out laughing.

“Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Hah. Haaa!”

“That’s a very convincing laugh, that is..”, Hamna Vir barbed. “Can you get any more vapid, Demelze?”

“Shut up, Hamna Vir!”, spat the fiery little succubi half-born.

“What did I ever do to you, that you would hate me so much, Demelze?”, Hal Mali asked with a hurt voice.

“I saw the way you look at me, Hal! Even when we were in Hell!”, Demelze scorned at him.

“Yes. Because I find you attractive. Hence the looks.”, the handsome half-born admitted plainly. “How would you rather I look at you?”

“Never?”, scoffed the girl.

“Demelze!”, Temez very nearly snapped. “You will refrain from such attitude at once! We are all we have, here. There’s no one else to look after us but us.”

“But, Temez—”

“You will go with Hal and with Inshala and do this. For us and for yourself. Hal has looked after many of us and took a beating and burning for you at the hands of Autie Irine at least once that I know of. You may not like him, but you will show him the respect he deserves!”, Temez cracked like a whip.

 

Demelze froze.

 

“When? Why?”, she asked.

Hal Mali did not reply for a good while.

Then murmured.

“I would really rather you hadn’t told this, Temez.”

“Good done, unknown, must become known sometimes, dear. And we are running out of time. Even if this works, we must find a practical way to make it so Mortals may use them, and we must make many, many of them.”, Temez said, but not unkindly.

“Why? When?”, asked Demelze, her voice somewhat subdued.

“When.. you.. when you failed to turn in your Mortal Studies paper in our first year, I switched mine as yours and deliberately got caught with another paper of my own to avoid suspicions. And that other time when I found out Auntie Irine was going to punish you when she found out you had punned her behind her back and I deliberately tripped and fell and knocked her down. She was so angry with me that she forgot all about you..”

“What? Why? You think I couldn’t have taken a beating from that bitch?”, sneered Demelze.

“She had her fire barb whip with her..”, replied the young Hal Mali quietly..

..and an ‘owww’, chorused among the half-born.

“Fire barb whip hurts a lot because its burn is not only physical but psychic as well, and it leaves permanent marks. I.. didn’t want you to carry such ugly marks on you..”

 

Hamna Vir approached him and quietly hugged him.

I will thank you for what you did for her, Hal Mali, even if Demelze is a bitch and too vain to thank you.”

“Demelze is only scared.”, said a small, vague voice, and everyone turned to see Dar Derune sitting a short distance away, playing with some plain wooden blocks, next to a sarcophagus. “What she feels, she feels much more intensely than any of us. That is how beautiful her heart is..”

 

Hamna Vir parted Hal Mali and came up to him and with blurry eyes, she scooped up the boy and hugged him fiercely.

 

“Demelze?”, Temez asked, looking at the burning girl.

 

“I will do this. For Mali..”, she said with a stricken face.

✱ ✱ ✱

You found them?”, Constance gasped. “Why didn’t you tell me, dear?”

“We found about it just today, love.”, Temez replied and there was a tired quality about her.

“What’s the matter, Temez?”, the tall, alluring half-born asked.

“We.. me and Hamna Vir shared what Demelze went through when she cleansed the Anglenna Sunsear elf. It wasn’t fun. Gave me a very unique insight into what our brothers and sisters must go through, each with their unique abilities. I burn. But that is something I did to myself. She.. she burns so much hotter whenever she feels something —anything. Suffice to say, I can remember only one other occasion that hurt this much and that was when my old Master burned me when Merisoul and I first came up with the plan to get away from Hell.”

“I am sorry to hear that, dear. Where is the boy, then? Where is the esteemed sheriff’s son?”, Constance asked.

“East of here, some two or three days travel, there is a place called Gull’s Perch. They are there, though we could not figure out why they landed there and not in this town as the Anglenna Sunsear elf did.. I asked a bit about it to the Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and my findings are quite dire.”

“Gull’s Perch. Why do I know that name?”, mused Constance.

“You should. It is one of the places that we were warned never to go near, during our Mortal geography studies. And you can see it from here on a clear day, easy.”

“Titania!”, Constance gasped in horror!

“Hush, dear. Not so loud. We don’t want her to hear us, now do we?”, Temez warned.

“But how? How do you know they are there?”, the tall half-born girl asked slightly panicked.

“Dar Derune. He looked into the elf girl and sifted through her memories and saw our query. Then he did his thing and found them at the Perch. The Mistress of the Perch did not appreciate his intrusion and backhanded him, our Dar Derune, all the way from the Perch!”

Constance just stared at her.

“Is he alright?”

“He will be. Hanna Vir has been hovering over him like a Mortal hen mother!”

“Dear Hamna Vir..”

“Yes, yes she is.”

“Should I go and tell the esteemed sheriff about this?”, Constance asked.

“No. Mortals are not allowed in there, dear. Telling him where his son and the princess will only rile him and he will go there with iron and that will only win him the ire of the Summer Queen. And should he go there to bargain, he will be left out of his debt. He is a good and decent man but woefully unequipped for such a meeting. We must find something to bargain in his stead. Something She would want and only we may provide.”

“I may have something she may want.”, Constance said quietly.

“No, dear. Whatever She may want, we must all give. It must be a collective effort, not individual, for such singular bargains can only end in misery.”, Temez said with a tone that had a certain finality to it.

 

And that marked the first time a half-born chose to disagree at an individual level.

Constance Alure Smithen nodded..

..evasively.

And changed topic!

 

“Did the Winter Knight’s mate, Lady Inshala arrive?”

“Yes, she did. And she is a lot more smarted and wiser than she lets on. I suspected a cunning mind in her when she, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel, and I were playing catch against Lady Lilly Venom, her mate, and her mate’s son. The plans I made were twisted and convoluted and made us win. The ranger lieutenant’s plans depended more on stealth and ambush, and they also made us win. Lady Inshala’s plans were neither. Her plans were rather simple and straightforward but surprisingly efficient. Of all the games we played, the ones she planned ended the quickest and the other team never knew what hit them. Even I didn’t understand we’d won!”, Temez said with some residual surprise.

“Her hubby, the Winter Knight shows similar traits. Neither seems interested in showing off but goes straight for the source of any given problem.”, Constance mused. “Though I suspect what he accomplishes by dread, she does by care!”

“Very astute, love. Very astute, indeed. She, Hal Mali, and Demelze went to the forest just up north to work on the project we have been working on.”

“You sent two of us out? Let alone Delemze with Hal Mali? She.. doesn’t really like him all that much and does tend to make a lot of noise when he’s around.. I hope you know what you are doing, dear.”, the tall girl asked a bit surprised.

“Hal Mali went under his guise. And we.. convinced.. she should be carried by him and take advantage of his special talents..”, Temez said lightly.

 

Constance made a very strange noise that sound truly unlady-like. Something between a snort and hiccup!

 

“I am sorry I missed that.”, she said with a brilliant smile. “No, wait.. you didn’t tell Demelze about what Hal Mali did back in Hell and that he got a beating for her, did you?”

Temez sighed.

“Yes, yes I did, love.”

“Ow..”, Constance said with a bemused expression as her bright red lips made a perfect imprint. “That must have put a dent in her self-esteem.”

“It did. Or maybe not. We are demons, love. And we are humans, as well, and we all react to fear, surprise, excitement, anger, and love in different ways. Demelze being Demelze, merely goes to her usual extremes.”, Temez said thoughtfully. “What will you do for the rest of the day? Did the esteemed sheriff like your new archiving and filing system?”

“I believe he did. Albeit a tad grudgingly. But in time he will get to appreciate it more, when he can find any given file in under ten seconds, as opposed to spending half an hour to find them. And every time he does, he will remember me. And every time his men do, he will feel a certain pride.”, replied Constance with a happy face. “I should head out now. There are so many things I must learn and so many more people I must meet. Just so they learn to see our kind, if for nothing else.. I shall also carefully hint that more of our kind will arrive to help them in their coming battle.”

“Very good, love. You truly were made for PR and would have been wasted in Hell.”, Temez said admiringly.

✱ ✱ ✱

Constance calmly stepped out of Serenity Home Temple and looked up and east. It was a clear day that day, quite unexpected of the season. She could see the storm clouds loaded with sleet, snow, and hail, but they seemed to sort of skim far and around this odd town and its surrounding fields. She had overheard the pretty ranger lieutenant, Bremorel Songsteel, talking in hushed voices with her young husband, the senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, about reports of savage and violent weather, quite unheard of, occurring far to the west, beyond Scowling Hills and the name Inshala had cropped up any number of times, with nothing short of awe, during those conversations.

It seemed everyone was doing everything they could.. and more.. Eventually, whatever these Mortals did, or however they did them, time would come to face their consequences. Quite dire ones. Even a creature of Hell such as herself knew, when one dabbled with certain things, even if for a good cause, there would be consequences.

When she had first arrived to meet the sheriff’s men in the small courtyard, she had ended up ‘demonstrating’ her skills with her three-yard long pike on a young and overly enthusiastic man. There had even been bets.

After the duel, as short as it had been, was over, the bets, owed and owned, were being passed around, she had heard one of the guards snicker, “Payback is a bitch!”, as he took his winnings with a grin.

“Well..”, Constance murmured, still looking east, and the Gull’s Perch, a vertical, single ‘rock’, some half a mile at its base, reaching up and up and fading off among the clouds. It was a beautiful, awe-inspiring sight and the tall, alluring girl admired it.

 

Truly admired it.

 

“..as unlady-like, as it may sound, yes, I believe payback is a bitch!”, she said.

And with a sub-sonic boom, she shot up, high and swift!

 

At several hundred feet, she finally lost velocity, and for a bare, spectacular moment, she stood in the air, still, silent and majestic..

..and plummeted back to the earth!

 

With a sharp bank, she spread her arms, and a pair of dark, black-brown eagle wings suddenly sprouted out of her slender back, and like her slim arms, they spread out and wide..

..and she speared, not unlike a bird of prey, and with a shrill shriek, towards east, and the Perch!

✱ ✱ ✱

Lady Inshala!”, exclaimed Perigren Ostlanna Temez with surprise. “You are back!”

The little fey-girl face flushed shyly but her face was glowing with an accomplished grin.

“We did it, Temez. I called a few of the little folk and told them what we wanted, but they refused when they saw Hal Mali and Demelze. I told them they were my friends and that they were here to help protect the forest. They mulled over that for a bit then they decided perhaps they were, indeed, ‘maybe-friends’ but wanted something in return for their pixie dust. I asked them what they would want and they told me many things, but we didn’t have any of the things they wanted with us. Then they asked if we had any candy. Demelze said they didn’t have candy, but that she had something even better, and gave them sugar canes. They looked at the sugar canes, took one each, and tasted them. My eats still hurt because they all squealed with glee and just dropped on the ground gnawing on the canes.”, Inshala told her impromptu story with a seamless giggle and Temez just ogled at her, quietly mesmerized.

“When they were done with the sugar canes, they were so out of it, they were slurring and just waved their tiny hands and said, ‘Take.. Take what you want!’, so we took some of their dust and mixed it with the Kumse Beetle powder, Demelze infused it with her fire and enchanted it, then she threw it on Hal Mali and he was all glowing red and sparkly!”, she finished, her eyes alight with accomplishment.

 

Temez stared at her some more.

 

Then shook her head to come around.

Wow, the little girl had an encapturing way to tell her stories. She, herself, was a succubi half-born and knew how to enthrall. After all, it was her base thing. But this girl said what she said with some odd, bubbling, earnest, and genuine sincerity!

“Where are Hal and Demelze?”, she asked.

“Well, Hal Mali was still glowing and sparkling and quite unhappy about it, and Demelze couldn’t come back alone because she said she wasn’t wearing her correct Mortal dress for the occasion, though I am not sure what she meant by that. She did laugh at Hal Mali a lot, though, which made him angry so he started chasing her in the woods so she started running and screaming in delight!”, Inshala replied with an ‘out-of-breath’, bubbling voice.

 

Temez sighed.

 

“They are like sugar-loaded kids! Will they be alright?”, she asked, a bit worried.

“They should be. I drew a big circle and laid a camping spell and told them not to leave the circle. As long as they stay in it, not many will notice them. When the pixie-effect fades, Hal Mali can return with Demelze.”

“I hope they behave. This is not a good time for dire mistakes. That said, I am thrilled that our efforts have not been in vain. Thanks to you, we can now mass-produce this ‘pixie-effect’. We now have to find a way to make them practically useful for any Mortal to be able to use them. We also will need a lot more of your Kumse Beetle powder and the pixie dust.”, Temez mused.

“I can get you the Kumse Beetle powder. I could ask my Aager to ask his mayor, Artanboss, to ask the refugees to look for them in the forest. The pixie dust will still be a problem though. Convincing two or three sprites or pixies in one thing. Asking hundreds of them is another. We.. we might have to ask the Summer and Winter Queens..”, Inshala said a bit worried.

 

Temez looked at her for a moment, then smiled, a tad brittle. She was worried too but was trying very hard to hide it.

 

“Thank you, Inshala. You have helped us much today. Should you ever need any help, please don’t be shy.. And.. do thank your.. mate on our behalf, if you would?”, she said sincerely.

“I will, dear Temez. Merisoul was my friend. I.. I was afraid of her when we first met. But she was so sweet and pretty. And always answered the questions I asked her. She.. never judged me for what I am, and from her, I learned to accept who I am.. And.. she saved my life, once, very nearly ending her own. Thanks to her greatness, I found the time to know my Aager and be with my Aager. That would never have happened if it weren’t for her.”, Inshala said quietly and hugged Temez, and inadvertently, their horns clashed!

 

They stood looking at one another, then burst out laughing.

 

“We will need permission from one of the Queens should we want more of the pixies and the sprites for the amount we require, dear Temez.. Thinking a bit over it, I am now sure of it.. Only they can order them to come to us in such great numbers..”, said Inshala somberly.

 

And that cut right through their merry moment.

✱ ✱ ✱

Constance swooped down from the cold, moist clouds and noticed the sun had gone lower than she had expected. Soon, it would be gone altogether and she’d be forced to fly in the dark. True, she wasn’t afraid of the dark, and up to a certain point, she could even see in it, even if it were in some odd shades of violet. At the screeching speed she was flying, however, being able to see that ‘certain point’ became somewhat moot, as she would only have a bare second or two before registering she was about to smash into something and die a horrible, total body-shattering death!

The lovely, alluring girl was also an optimistic soul, though. She believed an honest and generous smile could solve more problems than displaying her other, rather.. magnetic features.. as those tended to cause more complications than they seemed to solve. She also believed in being punctual and prompt.

Constance was not an obsessive girl, strictly speaking, but merely well-organized and quite dedicated at whatever she did, and also had the uncanny ability to recognize similar attitudes or patterns in others.

Which was likely why she had noticed the esteemed sheriff of Serenity Home the first time he had come to see them and the young senior temple guardian, Thomas Dimwood, had introduced all the half-borns to him.

Yes, one might argue that all the other half-born girls had also noticed him, since, other than the senior temple guardian himself and his dozen or so junior guardians, who were all ‘off limits’, the sheriff had been the only Mortal male specimen they had been in contact outside of Hell. But the other girls had looked at him with.. well.. either as a curio or simply as something ‘edible’.. The sheriff was, after all, a handsome man, even if he was a bit older than average, as Mortal years went.

Constance, on the other hand, had noticed another quality about him; he had stood before each and every single one of the ‘a hundred and plus something’ number of them as if memorizing their individual faces and names, had politely nodded at them, and bid them a formal welcome to the town and should they require anything, that they were welcome to ask, and that he would do his best to acquire said needs, but to be patient about it, as the town was under the threat of imminent Orken attack. That, for Constance, pointed to the fact that Standorin Shieldheart was indeed a very organized, disciplined, and dedicated man.

The fact that he was also handsome and well into his mature years had been sort of a bonus.

 

Constance was also a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl..

 

Suffice to say, none of the above had anything to do with the setting of the sun nor would it help her should she fly into something and end herself quite abruptly, and certainly had nothing to do with the matter at hand.. But Constance liked to go over things in her mind when she flew, which didn’t happen as often as she wanted. An uncharitable person might think she was daydreaming. Constance would, quite strenuously, disagree with such unkind assumption since (a) it was not day, so much as it was evening now, and (b) girls did not daydream but had intricate, multitasking minds, hence they went over things which had happened, things which might happen, and even things that had already happened but how they should have actually happened..

 

That sure explained why they lived longer than their male counterparts and being Mortal or not made little to no difference.

 

“Alright.”, she mused as she went over her mental TO-DO list;

 

Find Her.
Talk to Her.
Give Her.
Get the boy.
Get the girl.
Come back.

 

“There. Everyone happy at the cost of a little pain and loss.”

 

“I doubt, dear.”, said a rich, throaty, and enthralling woman’s voice.

And a long, jagging streak of lightning came down from the clear dusk sky!

 

Constance yelped and banked right and the lightning very nearly tore through her.

Another jarring streak of lightning lit the dimming sky and the half-born girl did a sharp left turn and escaped with a singe.

 

“Stop! Please! I come in peace!”, she yelled in panic.

“No, dear girl. You only come. You are a demon, and can not come in peace, nor can you bring it here with you..”, replied the same rich voice.

“No, I am not a demon! I come in good faith and only desire to help the Mortals..”, she screamed and a swirling, columnar hurricane jabbed down from the sky, all the way down to the forest below.

“Did you not come from Hell, my dear?”, asked the throaty voice.

“Yes. Yes, I did, but..”

“There you have it, then. You, dear girl, are clearly a demon, you can not have good faith, and helping Mortals can never be your intention, nor be part of your true agenda..”, said the voice..

..and another shaft of lightning forked downed, and this one zapped the half-born girl quite savagely as more wildly dancing hurricanes came down like some demonic fingers, tearing at everything they grasped..

“My mother was a Mortal!”, shrieked Constance, her face distorted with pain for she felt something hurt dreadfully at her hip.

“I feel sorry for her, but dabbling with the damned is never wise. Every Mortal knows this.”

Constance did another sharp turn and escaped the next strike.

“She.. she was taken.. by Mortals!”, begged the girl.

“Yes. Mortals with sin in their desires, deceit in their minds, and greed in their hearts tend to do that. Which is why I banned them all. But demons were never welcome.”, said the throaty voice.

“T.. Titania?”, Constance gasped.

“Yes, dear child. I have been watching you for some time now. I had hoped you would vier from your course, but apparently, you are not as smart as I had hoped you would be.. And now you are in my domain.. and in my jurisdiction..”

Constance took a dive, the wind shrieking as she attained her combat velocity, then spun, at a whip lashing speed, and flew straight towards the Perch..

..and more hurricanes stabbed down mercilessly, and Constance slammed right into them!

With a shriek lost in the howling, swirling and enraged, dark purple-gray fingers tore into her and shredded her and tossed her!

Constance dropped out of the sky like a moot rock..

..and with a last-minute display of aerial agility, she took a sharp, right-angle turn and shot up again!

“You are a persistent one, aren’t you?”, Titania said, and three more flashes of lightning came jarring down simultaneously.

 

With a determined expression on her face, Constance banked, right, then left, then left again, barely avoiding the deadly, jarring shafts and the wrathful fingers piercing down everywhere now.

 

“Mo.. Mother Titania.. Please.. I.. We are not all demon.. We are also human. I beg of you. I truly come in peace..”, she pleaded as tears ran down her face and were whipped away by the savage wind. “I speak the truth..”

“You must see the irony of a demon claiming to speak the truth, child. And a succubus, no less. Truth or lies, it matters little, as willy-nilly, the means to ends matters not to your kind.”

“I am Constance Alure Smithen, Mother.. Thus I have given you my name and claim nothing in return.”, she very nearly blubbered for the jagging streaks of lightnings came seamlessly now and the desperate half-born was zig-zagging mindlessly through them.

“Impressive. Perhaps you hoped, by giving something, you would get something back. Surcease, perhaps? Bargains do not work like that, dear child. I must want something from you for you to offer something else in return.. I do not!”

“I merely come to inquire as to the health of two Mortals, Mother! They are dear to some in the town called Serenity Home, just west of here.”

“Ahh.. Perhaps I may consent to give you that.. for your name, even though I have not asked for it. The princess of the homeless elves is indeed, here. She is healthy, though her health deteriorates as days go by and is quite troubled, for she has dire decisions to make for her mate-to-be, who is dying. I have put him in stasis to buy him time, whilst the princess makes her choice or comes to terms with his dire predicament. It appears, someone put a hole in the boy’s heart with iron.”

“Is.. is there nothing I can do to help? Nothing at all? Her people desperately need their princess and his father and his friends desperately need him.. For them, I am willing to give that which is most precious to me!”, Constance asked as she felt her heart plummet for a hole in the heart with iron only meant one end, and little did it matter if they were Mortal, fey, or demon..

“And what may that be, my dear?”

Constance told her.

 

There was a pause as Titania seemed to mull over something for the lightnings and the savage hurricanes ceased!

 

“As intriguing as your offer is, child, the princess of the homeless elves must be the one to make the choice I have offered her as said choice pertains to her own future, the future of her mate-to-be, and their line.. There is, literally, nothing anyone else may do, for she came here, with her mate-to-be, unsummoned and uninvited, though quite unintentional, also.. Should you still want to help the Mortals you claim to want to help, however, perhaps there is some room there for bargains for you have managed to garner my admiration, if not curiosity.. Settle down Constance Alure Smithen, the child of a Mortal woman and a demon father.. I would like to take a closer look at your offer and further test your mettle.. and see if your claim is worth a bargain.”

✱ ✱ ✱

Sheriff Standorin!”, exclaimed the young guard as he burst into the sheriff’s office. “Come. Quick! You.. you had better see this!”

Slowly and calmly, the sheriff of Serenity Home rose from his seat, buckled on his sword over his shoulder as he looked at the young, excited guard.

“What is it young man?”, he rumbled, giving an assessing glance at him.

“I don’t know how to describe it, sir. Lights.. Hundreds and hundreds of them. And they are all coming here!”, the young guard said with an awestruck face.

“Lights? What lights?”

“I don’t know, sir. You must see them yourself!”, the young man said, almost jumping where he stood.

Standorin mumbled something about young and easily excitable kids but waved at the guard to lead the way.

 

The two walked over and all the way to the north gate of the town while other guards ran back and forth with already lit torches and lanterns as evening slowly settled, just to see the multitudes of refugees, all on the other side of the stone bridge that stretched over the Great Arashkan River, and all of them were standing still and staring north..

..where there were hundreds and thousands of sparkling lights hovered amongst the trees bordering the Ritual Forest and quite luminous in the settling evening.

 

“What is this?”, Standorin asked, somewhat disturbed.

“We.. I do not know, sir. Ranger Masters Devien and Moorat have gone to check, but they have not returned yet.”, replied the young guard in a hushed voice.

“Where is  Master Aager—?”

“—Here, sir.”, replied a growling voice and Aager Fogstep appeared next to him as if summoned by magic!

“What is this?”, the sheriff repeated his question.

“I am not quite sure, sir.”, Aager said in his low voice.

 

“Are you seeing this, love?”, he silently cast his own question at Inshala.

“I want to. But there is a whole crowd of people standing in front of me and I can’t get past them.”, she replied. Then with a sigh, she added. “And they are pushing at one another.. I don’t want to get trampled.”

 

Aager turned to the guards standing nearby and growled at them.

“You! Form two lines, one on each side of the road and make a gap. We cant have a crowd plugging the town’s main entrance!”

“Yes, sir!”, the guards replied hastily, saluted the right hand of the sheriff, and guards started pushing the people back and to the side of the road leading in and out of the town.

 

“That was very smart!”, Aager heard Inshala’s admiring voice.

“People should know better not to mob the town entrances by now.”, he fumed.

“They are only curious, my Aager.”

“A stupid excuse for trampling each other. This could be a diversion for an attack!”

“Very true. Almost there..”, she replied and indeed, she appeared next to him.

 

They both stared at the odd, sparkling phenomena for some time until Inshala said a bit awed, “Pixies.. and sprites! Many of them.. Thousands!”

Sheriff Standorin turned to her and asked.

“Are you sure, Lady Inshala?”

 

Inshala flinched.

She just couldn’t help it.

Big, large men scared her!

 

Standorin must have noticed this as well, for his always-stern face softened a bit and he knelt down before the little girl and spoke in a low, calm voice, though it still rumbled.

“I apologize wholeheartedly, sweet Lady Inshala. I meant neither to upset you nor to abuse your good sensibilities. You are a wonder to us all, beautiful beyond words, and your wisdom leaves us in shame.”

 

If anything could have sufficed a good blush, this was it!

 

Inshala turned bright, bright red, and covered her face with her slender hands.

“You.. you have put me to shame with your honest and kind words, sir. The lights you see are fey folk. I would plead your men to not harm them. If they have come here and in such great numbers, there must be a good reason. If you would, please tell your men, and the people all around to make room, for they will not come any near, as things stand now.”

Sheriff Standorin smiled at her, then slowly rose.

“Master Aager, if you will, inform all the guards to put away their iron and clear the way, from all the way here to the fey. No one is to stand near them, get near them, hinder them, or harm them.”

“Yes, sir.”, Aager said with a curt salute and growled orders.

 

Soon, the town’s northern entrance, the bridge, and the refugees near the woods were all cleared and a historical first occurred; the tiny, sparkling lights, the small fel-folk hovered towards Serenity Home..

 

It was an inspired possession..

..as each luminous globe carried a tiny, humanoid creature inside, or perhaps, the globes of light were there because of the tiny, humanoid creatures..

..and they bobbed, back and forth, left and right, and up and down with easy leisure and leaving a long trail of sparkling pixie dust from their tiny, barely discernable wings and entered the town and slowly but surely, they gathered before the Serenity Town Temple where the Senior Temple Guardian Thomas Dimwood, Ranger Lieutenant Bremorel Songsteel.. and Perigren Ostlanna Temez met them, as Sheriff Standorin Shieldheart, Inshala ‘la Fey’ Frostmane, and Aager Fogstep also stood nearby.

 

A tiny, tooth-pick sized creature came forth, and with demanding attitude, she spoke;

“I am Biberbell and I speak for my kin and the rest of the fey-folk gathered here, and we have come upon the command of Titania, the Summer Queen, and in retaliation, Mab, also, the Winter Queen, in hopes to partake our pixie dust much needed for the defense of this Mortal town.”, she piped.

 

Thomas, Bremorel, and Temez just ogled at the tiny thing.

 

“We have been promised satisfactory accommodations and.. CANDY!”, she squeaked.

“Uhhmm.. Candy?”, Thomas blurted a bid dumbfounded.

“Yes. Candy! But we will settle for sugar canes, too.”, she buzzed, paused, then added..

“LOTS AND LOTS OF SUGAR CANES!

..with a very lustful expression on her tiny face as she rubbed her hands together, barely refraining from a possible;

 

“GIMME!”

 

“Said conditions can be arranged, Biberbell. But we have not made any bargains with either of the Queens.”, Thomas replied with a very much freaked expression on his own face.

The tiny sprite turned to Perigren Ostlanna Temez and said with nothing short of a patronizing tone.

“The bargain has already been struck, and the debt paid in full and done.”

“Who? Who has bargained with the Queens and who has paid in full and done?”, demanded Temez.

“How should I know, demon? I am not privy to the details of what the Queens do!”, Biberbell sniffed at her.

“Ask a Constance Alure Smithen!”

“Ask her what it means; Wings for Wings..”

 


 

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The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More And Ascend..

The Fog, The Path, And The Door.
Knock, More And Ascend..

Timeline:

The Orken Horde have arrived on the doorsteps of Serenity Home. Many have gathered to defend the ‘serenity’ of this once peaceful and quiet town but it is doubtful they will be enough.

The remains of the once glorious Arashkan, the beautiful Bari Na-ammen, and the mystical Vodgar cities are all that stand between the annihilation of humanity. The numbers, however, say otherwise.

It is clear, Serenity Home needs her allies;
known, unknown, and forgotten..

And fast!

 

The heroes scatter all around the kingdom to find those allies. Some go to other cities, some to their own people to get help.

And some go where they shouldn’t..

Gnine Tinkerdome, Laila Wolvesbane, and Merisoul Xyrotwu travel to Silent Hills and quietly enter the Demon Fog to find a way to pass the slithering fog and enter the Silent Halls. The only clue they have is the strange riddle that Nadine Graciousward gave them.

 

into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
knock
more
and hallow
blood for blood
soul for soul
and
life for life
trade and be king
freely given
and
ascend

 

This story takes place a few short weeks after
Eski Efendim, Sahibim
ve Çok Daha Fazlası..

 

 

Are you sure this is the way?”, asked the gnome with a tight voice as the heavy fog settled around them once more, hiding the hills, the trees, the bushes, and finally, the earth itself.

“I have no idea, Master Gnine..”, replied the girl with the honey-brown hair, the crowning horns, and the raven-black wings, smartly.

 

There was a sullen silence..

..followed by a snort from the silent half-elf ranger girl, Laila.

 

The gnome, Gnine, turned around and scowled at Laila, then at the otherworldly beautiful girl, Merisoul, and scowled at her as well.

“This is no time for levity, Miss Mersoul.”, he said through clenched teeth.

“I don’t do levity, Master Gnine. This, you should know by now. Sweet Laila knows that I don’t, don’t you love?”, replied Merisoul brightly.

Laila coughed.

“I am not getting involved in this.”, she said and coughed again.

Merisoul shrugged and added, “And you really don’t have to ‘miss’ me all the time, you know. I will admit it is endearing, but methinks this is not quite the right time.”

 

Gnine ignored her wish and her remark. He scowled at her, some more..

..and at Laila as well, just so she wouldn’t feel left out.

 

“You said you knew the way!”, he nearly flared.

“No. I said I could find the way, given enough time..”, she corrected.

“We don’t have time.”, Gnine growled.

“Perhaps you should have decided to become a king a bit sooner, then, no?”, she smiled down at him.

“I didn’t know I had a kingdom, nor the fact that I could become her king!”, said Gnine in an exasperated tone.

“Well. There you have it then. Neither of us were sufficiently prepared and none of us knew we had to come here. This is where we admit we were caught with our pants down, I suppose, except I don’t’ have any pants and never owned one; always thought them to be a bit constricting and refraining for my taste, really..”, she said happily.

“Merisoul. PLEASE!”, said Gnine.

Laila snickered.

“‘Please’, always helps.”, Mersoul replied a bit seriously. “However, the fact remains; much like you, my dear Gnine Tinkerdome, I never came this way before either. I said I could find the way in, which is possibly true. All things considered, I am likely the only ‘friendly’ demon you are ever going to find, to get you in and through the Demon Fog.”

 

Gnine loved Merisoul.

She was pretty.

She was oddly fun.

She had an uncanny memory for events, conversations, and strange trivia.

She gave a ‘novel’ meaning to many unimportant or seemingly insignificant things.

And she was delicately accurate in whatever she did, be it blasting —or smoldering her enemies, or helping a friend..

..or even deceiving the said friend.

She would walk through fire to save what she thought was worth saving.. literally..

But she did have her exasperating moments, as well, and pushing her never helped..

Not in the long run, nor in the overall scheme of things.

 

Hence, Gnine Tinkerdome took a deep breath, slowly let go of his steam, and asked the raven winged half-succubi;

“How shall we proceed, then?”

“Smart move..”, complimented Laila.

Merisoul Xyrotwu smiled at her, then looked down at the gnome.

“I am sorry Master Gnine. I truly am. I really am not going out of my way to make things harder for you. Some things just are as hard as they are.. Period.

When the curse of the Demon Fog was laid upon these hills and your ancestors, Mortal counterparts had to be used so the curse would ‘stick’, per se. Otherwise, it would have dissipated a long, long time ago.

It is through those ‘willing’ Mortals the fog persists and said Mortals were not going to put something that could be thus easily cracked, now were they.”, Merisoul tried to explain.

“So, in other words.. what, exactly?”, asked Gnine.

“She means, we are screwed..”, inserted the ranger girl, in a low, noncommittal tone.

“Not quite.”, disagreed Merisoul.

“How so?”, asked Gnine.

“The Mortals who helped anchor the curse on this, ‘mortal’ end, used hard-to-decipher words to make it impossible for the anchor —the curse itself— to be broken. I suppose using a long array of random numbers, some sixteen or thirty digits would have sufficed and made it truly impossible to crack, but we are talking about Mortals who are, forever, subject to hubris, hence they put conditional rhymes and riddles. And you can always find the answer to a riddle.. provided you do it in the correct, sequential order.”

“Why?”, the gnome asked as a lump settled deep down his stomach for he felt a mind-numbing, and possibly a logic-murdering explanation coming his way.

“Because, my dear Master Gnine, it is the nature of hubris, which is the culmination of arrogance, pride, and vanity, to want to be noticed, much like serial killers leave calling cards behind. They want to be admired on how clever they are and how they have managed to elude capture for as long as they have.”, she replied happily.

 

Gnine stared at the girl with a sick expression, because that made ‘solving’ the riddle near impossible.

Laila chewed at a finger as she stared into the sticky fog and seemed like she wanted to be anywhere else but here.

 

“Do not despair, Master Gnine.”, Merisoul smiled at the gnome. “The riddle says;

into the hills
silent and hollow
chase the path
and through the fog
find the door
knock
more
and hallow

And here we are, in the hills, which are silent and empty. And we have thus followed the path into the fog.”

Laila rolled her eyes and silently ‘ho boy’ed at the half-succubi girl’s monumental misuse of logic.

“And the door?”, asked Gnine, looking around. “I see no door..”

“Well. If you had, that would have been too easy, and for just about anyone to find. I am thinking, the door is not a door, but a frame of mind. You of all people should know, Master Gnine, what appears, may not be. And what may not be, may be..” Merisoul said and looked at the gnome with expectation and anticipation..

 

..And it dawned in Gnine’s mind and he gave a sharp hiss..

 

“The bloody door is almost a metaphor. Very nearly an illusion.. It is the ‘unexpected’. It is right here; anywhere and everywhere!”

“Very astute, Master Gnine. I suspect you will make an excellent king someday.. What you have defined is, in fact, the very core of all power evil thrives upon; all its promise.. is an illusion!”

 

“Eh?”, baffled Laila.

Gnine, on the other hand, stared at the half-succubi girl with stunned admiration as true comprehension slowly dawned in his eyes.

 

“All those months ago..”, he gasped. “..back at that bloody demon pit, right after we killed Themalsar.. You tried to warn me.. Ow. My. Gosh! You tried to warn me and I never understood you were trying to tell me all along!”

“It’s alright, my dear Master Gnine. That self-same irony was lost upon myself, for I had descended into the same ruins for nothing other than to find power. And power I found. Just not the one I had considered, nor the kind I would have ever wanted, seeing as who and what I am.. Yet, here I am, working for one master, against a former master who will find me in the end, and suffer me pain like never felt, nor seen before.”

 

Gnine looked up at the otherworldly young woman, stepped up to her, and hugged her.

 

“Then we shall drill a hole into his Hell and come rescue you, my dear Merisoul.. Bet Udoorin would love that kind of carnage. Me, I prefer nuking from afar.. We shall bring his own walls down around him and make him suffer as he has made you suffer.”

Merisoul looked down at the gnome with surprise and astonishment.

 

“But.. Why?”, she asked.

 

“Because, my dear Soul, as inconvenient as we Mortals are, we are also headstrong, mule-headed, you might even say.. What’s more, WE LOVE and WE PROTECT OUR FRIENDS..“, he finished fiercely.

“What he said.”, added the ranger girl stoically and put a hand on the half-succubi’s shoulder.

 

Mersoul Xyrotwu rocked where she stood, as two ‘Mortals’, one little gnome, and one pretty ranger girl declared her, so blatantly, and honestly, a ‘friend’..

 

“Then I shall make it so, that you get your home, your people, your kingdom, and your destiny back, Master Gnine.”, she whispered, drew a step back, and knocked on the fog!

 

Knock.

Knock. Knock.

Knock.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Knock.

 

KNOCK!..

 

..and the fog parted, revealing a dark, broken tunnel..

..and there were shadows in the tunnel..

..many shadows..

..and they moved..

..closer..

..and closer..

 

Gnine tensed.

Laila instantly cocked an arrow and drew her bow.

But the otherworldly beautiful half-succubi did not tense nor prepare.

“There’s no need, love.”, she said to the ranger corporal!

And then she smiled.

✱ ✱ ✱

Hello, mirima..”, she whispered.

“Hello, doll..”, replied a soft, husky voice..

 

..and the leading shadow formed into a ravishingly pretty girl with short, tanned hair, one amber-brown, the other pale green eye, and long, elegant antler-like horns.

 

“Took you long enough.”, said the ravishing girl with the antler horns.

“Took a while to convince my friends and get here..”, replied Merisoul.

 

The ravishing girl looked down at the ogling gnome and at the stunned ranger-girl and smirked.

 

“You seem short on friends, or is he just short?”, she said with an amused voice.

“Friends come by quality, mirima, not by quantity.. and he is the right height for his kind. The others are busy elsewhere.”, explained Merisoul.

“And this? Pretty isn’t she..”, she smiled.

Laila fidgeted uncomfortably while Merisoul looked past her, and into the dark tunnel.

“What are they doing here?”, she asked a bit surprised.

“The Mortal anchors set the conditions, doll.”, replied the girl with the antlers.

find the door
knock
more
and hallow
blood for blood
soul for soul
and
life for life
trade and be king
freely given
and
ascend

“You knocked and I opened The Door, but you needed more.. and these..”, she said, pointing at the many shadows in the tunnel, “..are the ‘more’. They all knew you. All I did was tell them about what you had done, and they all decided they wanted to trade their blood, their life, and what soul they had, and given freely, to ascend..”

 

Merisoul stared at her and perhaps for the first time, a thunderstruck expression cast on her face..

 

“Sweetheart..”, she began, but the antler-girl butt in.

“..Told them it wouldn’t be so much fun as it would be painful, and that they would actually have to get real jobs and work for their ascension, yet here they all are.

You always did say Auntie Irine wasn’t treating her trainees right.

Perhaps she should have indeed employed and nursed us better, rather than having us suffer the extremes of her ‘education program’.. nor indulged herself upon us, the way she did..

But then, if she could have, she wouldn’t have been the bloody demon bitch that she was and none of us would have had to endure this mess in the first place as we would never have been.

Now. Are you going to introduce us or what?”

 

Merisoul sighed.

“Thank you.”, she said softly.

 

“No, doll, thank you. For the first time, we are free, and for the first time, we will have our will to our own. We will have real lives and should we wish, real mates; true loves, and lovers.. We will burn, not in flesh, but in our hearts.. And worthy pains they will be; that of birth, of life, and of death.. And perchance, understand what was bereft of our birthright; COMPASSION..”

“Sweetheart.. He will never forgive me. He CAN’T. This, I know. And this, I have accepted. But he will never let you be, either. One by one, he will hunt you all down.”, said Merisoul with tears in her eyes.

“Then we shall look upon it as a down payment for our ascension!”, replied the antler-girl, and harshly.

 

Once more, Merisoul signed.

 

Then she looked down at the befuddled gnome and the creeped-out ranger-girl standing next to him and said, “Mirima, these are two of my friends, who have also claimed me as their friend; Master Gnine Tinkerdome and Ranger Corporal Laila Wolvesbane. Master Gnine, Corporal Laila, this my BFF, Lanna Temez.. “

“..Also known as Perigren Ostlanna Temez. Nice to meet you two, I think.”, Lanna said with her soft, husky voice.

“Umm.. You are welcome?”, replied Gnine. “Nice to meet you too, I hope.”

Laila could only nod.

 

Perigren Ostlanna Temez smiled at the abashed gnome and the somewhat dumbstruck ranger-girl for a moment, then, just like that, she was all business, once again.

 

“Alright, you lot!.. Form a line, give your oaths before The First among the Lost to Rise, the King of these halls, and the Witness; She-Who-Stands-Between and go.. Hence you shall be bound only by your own oath and be free to fight for your ascension.”, she said and looked down, once more at Gnine.

Then, without warning, she slashed open her right palm, using her bare fingers..

She squeezed, and upon her bloody fist, she solemnly oathed;

 

“This blood, I, who has been known as Perigren Ostlanna Temez for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Perigren Ostlanna Temez, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”

 

Gnine Tinkerdome just stared at the antler-girl.

Laila had thought she’d prepared herself for ‘weird’ when she’d decided to come here with Gnine and Merisoul but this had just gone off her charts.

 

“Where will you all go?”, asked Merisoul curiously?

Lanna Temez smiled at Merisoul.. smirked, really.

“To the one that burned you!. The young throw-away bantam, Thomas..” she said. “I arranged to ask him and he said he would keep us all hidden and safe, in his temple, of all places, until the fighting started. He thought we’d make excellent teams for surgical strikes against enemy HQs, though I am not quite sure what that really means!”

“You.. you spoke with Thomas? Thomas Dimwood?”, blurted Laila.

“Not in person, pretty girl.. Not yet, anyway. But I suspect I shall. I just must meet the boy who burned our Merisoul.”, she said happily.

Merisoul sighed.

 

And then a tall, young, pretty young man with pale hair and impressive, curving horns stepped up, gorged open his palm, squeezed it into a bloody fist, and spoke with a cool, rusty voice.

“This blood, I, who has been known as Hal Mali Volent Pierce for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Hal Mali Volent Pierce, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend.. Hi Soul!”

“Hey, Hal.. Thank you.”, Merisoul said.

“No, girl, thank you.”, smiled Hal..

..and walked off, and disappeared in the fog.

Laila stared after the handsome creature with a thunderstruck expression.

“I thought all you succubi were girls.”, she mumbled.

 

“Ow, no, sweet Laila.”, smiled Merisoul with a glassy expression. “We were made to sow discord among Mortals..

 

All Mortals..

 

I think, deep down, you also know; of the two genders, which is the stronger and the truly dangerous one.

 

Should you ever want to destroy a people, you need not kill their men, devastate their lands, nor slaughter their animals, but merely degrade, deprave, degenerate, immoralize, and corrupt their women..

 

And we are not succubi, which is a word used to describe our heritage. The females of our real counterparts are called ‘Succubus’ and the males are called an ‘Incubus’..

 

My mother.. she was a beautiful mortal woman. She got caught in a cult led by an Incubus, who was my father.”

“I.. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to..”, faltered Laila.

“It’s alright, love. Not your fault. I loved my mother because I remember her whispering warm words to me when I was born. She died two days later. She is probably the only one that I have known to have loved me unconditionally and uncritically. Perhaps I shall find my father, one day, and discuss what he did to her.. at length.”

“I’d be happy to come along.”, Laila offered. “I myself love a good, long discussion with bow charts and pointy, directional arrows.”

 

“I apologize for the inconvenience, Master Gnine.. “, said Lanna Temez seriously. “But the oaths to ascension must be observed and properly.”

“It’s perfectly alright, my dear.”, replied Gnine with a spooked and amazed voice as he watched the long line of the prettiest, most beautiful and striking, very young women, and the very nearly as pretty, beautiful, and devilishly handsome young boys come filing out of the dark tunnel.

 

“This blood, I, who has been known as Mathilda Ravish Demure for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Mathilda Ravish Demure, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend.. Hey, you!”

“Hey, Demure. I am sorry about Blenda. She was truly a loss.”

“I am sorry too. She never did learn to keep her trap shut though. A girl should always know when to shut up and when to mouth off, particularly where Demogorgon is concerned.”, replied Mathilda with a shrug and walked off into the fog..

 

“This blood, I, who has been known as Constance Alure Smithen for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Constance Alure Smithen, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”, said another, rather alluring, soft-eyed creature with flowing, silky black hair, and long, beautiful horns, followed by a particularly bewitching girl with glowing red hair, mesmerizing eyes, pretty little horns and distinctly curving figure wearing expressly fashionable.. almost see-throughs..

“What she said..”, she blurted..

“Demelze..”, the antler-girl said with a reproving tone. “..you know that won’t work. A binding must have your full name, your intentions, and your dedication in it, put to words, and properly.”

“She’s right, dear.”, confirmed Merisoul. “You must start this with the correct perspective and reasons.. Doing what we have just done, then losing it all on a technicality would be a sorrowful way to go.”

“You can’t even give us a definitive outcome for this lasting and binding excursion but you want me to be definitive in my application?”, she whined.

“Mortals never get any ‘definitive’ in anything they do, sweet Demelze. Why should we?”, asked Lanna Temez. “Which is sort of the point..”

“I don’t understand..”, said Demelze with a deflated pout.

“Neither do I. But I do know exactly what’s waiting for us back there, and so do you.”, replied Temez as she pointed back at the dark tunnel.

Demelze sighed, nailed the skin of her palm open, and said;

“This blood, I, who has been known as Cee Lingerith Demelze for the whole of my life, do freely give. I, Cee Lingerith Demelze, who shall go forth with my brothers and sisters to fight, side by side with, and for Mortals, to pit my life, and against the odds, in hopes to redeem my soul, be free and ascend..”

..and she skimped into the fog as well.

“That one’s going to be trouble.”, said Temez, staring after the Cee ‘Lingerith’ Demelze.

“Yes..”, agreed, Merisoul. “..can you but imagine me in those skimpy things?”

“Did. Any number of times..”, smirked Lanna, and barked a silvery laugh.

Laila let out a blushed snort.

“Mirima..”, said Merisoul reproachfully.

“Yes, yes, I know. You’d look spectacular in them, though.”

“Perhaps. But then, so would you. So would any girl, Mortal and not. Which, sort of ruins the whole thing for me; to get appreciated for only my appearance in a particularly revealing bit of cloth that has nothing to do with my mind, my heart, my feelings, my wants, my ideals, nor my desires. It turns me from a living, breathing, thinking being, into a specific object with a specific use.. Which is what we were back there, to begin with..”, she said and nodded at the tunnel.

“Fun, though.”, Lanna smiled.

“Fun, and demeaning.. When I want to capture a man, it must be a permanent arrangement, and without the use of my heritage. It must be because he wants me as a person who has the free will to say ‘no’ at any given time.”, replied Merisoul.

“You never say, ‘no’, doll..”

“Yes, I do.. I just prefer not to.. I like to arrange things in a way that I do not have to say ‘no’ because I don’t like seeing sad faces around me and ‘no’ makes people unhappy. Hence, I balance my integrity with their conformity.”

“That’s a lot of work..”, said the antler-girl thoughtfully.

“Saying ‘no’ outright is easy. It requires little to no effort but a tint of courage. ‘No’, also is a heart and deal-breaker. Once it’s out, it is always out there. Why break something when it can be avoided by giving just a bit more effort on my part. We give so much more effort to the truly insignificant and the inconsequential to attain equally pointless ends. Why should it become an issue when I take the time and effort in trying not to break a heart? I find those who don’t or just can’t be bothered, corrosively sad, and destitute.

Don’t get me wrong, sweetheart. My rates aren’t really all that high. I only crave mutual wanting that isn’t limited to certain interactions.. That, I can take from any man.. The mutual wanting I desire is that of the heart.. And for that to happen, I must first understand the heart. I think that is a reasonable rate, don’t you think?”

“Then.. how will I know if I have that mutual wanting?”, Lanna Temez asked and the shadow of an unfathomable fear cast on her beautiful face.

“Do not fret, sweetheart. You already have it.”

“How? How do you know?”

“Because you still hurt, dear.. Years have gone and you still simmer and still burn!”

 

Gnine Tinkerdome watched the long line of Half-Borns coming out of the tunnel, a count of perhaps over two hundred of them, listened to their bloody oaths and stared after them as they walked into the fog and disappeared in it, with awed fascination.

But he was so much more enthralled by the point of view upon which his friend, Merisoul Xyrotwu, based her whole life and perspective upon.

It was eerie, uncanny, delicate, dedicated, extreme, and..

..by the Heavens, it had bloody worked!

 

Then the final half-succubi came; a boy that seemed no more than six or eight, dragging what appeared to be a stuffed imp, of all things. He was holding the hand of an older Half-Born girl with sharp features; sharp red lips, high cheekbones, a bold nose, a sharp, pointy chin, sharp amber-like eyes, and even sharper horns and a slim, curling tail.

She looked down at the boy then at Temez, Merisoul, and Gnine with a vicious scowl.

“I wasn’t going to leave him behind.. They beat him a few too many times and he’s not been right ever since. I suspect he is on their list for termination. No Mortal would want a disagreeable little slut with a creepy tail like me, anyway. I shall find me a home and look after him. Somewhere far and remote. He will never be right, but I will bloody make sure he always has ample food to eat, me to play tickle-tackle-toes and be stupidly happy!”

Merisoul stepped up and hugged the vicious girl.

“And that ‘kindness’ shall be your redemption, then, my beautiful Berete Hamna Vir.. I shall miss you..”

“No, you won’t!”, snorted Berete.

“I might..”, smiled Merisoul.

“Good ‘nuf for me..”, replied the vicious girl. Then she looked down at the little boy and softly spoke to him. “Say, ‘goodbye’ to your kin Merisoul and Temez, Dar Derune.”

“I don’t like the word, ‘kin’. It means ‘hate’ in one of the many Mortal tongues. I shall prefer ‘hug’. It means the same in every language, and everywhere..”, murmured the little boy vaguely, and hugged Merisoul.

“Goodbye, Merisoul.”, he whispered into her tummy..

“Goodbye, my little luv.”, said Merisoul softly. “I shall miss you.”

“I shall miss you too. You were always nice to me even though you had no reason to be. It.. it always felt like you had an angel in you.. I shall always remember, and cherish that..”, he mumbled.

Then he turned to Lanna and stared at her with big, solemn eyes.

“I want to hug you too, Temez. But I do not know if I should because you were always my favorite. I do not want you to misunderstand.”, he said with a barely audible voice.

Temez bent down to the boy, and enclosed him whole, in her arms.

“I shall bloody understand as I please, my beautiful little field..”

“Goodbye to you too, then, mirima Temez. Too bad I am broken and can’t be fixed.”

“Goodbye, Dar Derune. You were all of our favorite and we are all broken!”, sniffled Lanna. “We shall see each other again, one day. If not then, surely it will be beyond Oblivion.”

“Oblivion..”, mused the boy. “..isn’t as far as it sounds, really. I could wait!”

Then the vicious girl and the little boy gave their oaths as well and were soon gone into the fog.

 

“Well. That’s it, then.”, said Lanna Temez.

“That’s it, then..”, agreed Merisoul quietly.

 

Perigren Ostlanna Temez reached up hugged Merisoul.

 

“I shall miss you, Arezme Ara Serraphyn, my Best Fiend Friend, my sister, and my merry soul..”, she said..

 

..and she sobbed.

 

“And I shall dearly miss you as well, mirima Lanna Temez, my Best Fiend Friend, my sister, and my free soul..”, whispered Merisoul back, and for a long, long moment, she held her, and fiercely.

Then they parted..

 

Lanna Temez looked down at Gnine.

“We have cleared what we could, on our way here. Until you find yours, whatever else you face down there, is an enemy. This wasn’t the best we could do, it was merely the only thing we could do.. Through them, you must go to reach your people, and claim your hills, your halls, your throne, your heritage, your kingdom, and your destiny, Master Gnine Tinkerdome. I bid you and yours, a farewell..”

Gnine gave a solemn nod at her.

“Thank you, Lanna Temez. You shall be remembered.”

“No! My kind was a mistake that must never be remembered..”, she said harshly.

“If my friend Merisoul here is any indication of your kind, then you are but the best mistake ever to have happened.. Hence, you shall never be forgotten.”, replied Gnine.

Lanna gave Gnine a queasy stare.. Then she smiled.

“Mortals can indeed be inconvenient at times..”, she said with the same smile.

“Yes. Yes, they can, indeed..”, agreed Merisoul.

“Thank you for being my Merisoul’s friend, pretty Laila. Your kind —rangers, have always been a bane for my kind; always the first to face evil, and always the last thing we see.. You have no idea how important it is to have you as her friend. Now, I truly know she is not alone.”, Temez said seriously to Laila.

“She is welcome. And so are you.”, Laila replied. “For I know what it is to be alone.”

 

Perigren Ostlanna Temez, now only mirima Lanna Temez, gave Merisoul one last look, but no last words..

Slowly she turned..

..and walked into the Demon Fog, after her brothers and sisters.

It would seem, the great ‘Project Discord’, Aunt Irine had hatched many, many years ago had inadvertently backfired and quite horribly so, once she was, perhaps unwittingly, taken out of the equation.

The fruits of her centuries-old work to create a very special and uniquely dedicated Hell Legion to sow dissension among Mortals had just walked off.. to fight against her own master.

And Kardax’Trakxa “The Face” now had a genuine reason to hate her and her progeny..

into the hills
silent and hollow, we have ventured
chased the path
and through the fog
found the door
knocked
more
and hallowed the grounds
with our blood
freely gave our souls
and
our lives
and returned the king
and fight, we shall
to earn our ascension..

..whispered Merisoul, and with Gnine Tinkerdome leading the way and Laila Wolvesbane following closely, they entered the dark, musty tunnel starting down into the still and muted vaults of Silent Hills, to give back her voice.