A Whisper of Dusk, Ch. 6, Time After Time
Arawn’s Personal Log, Day 127
It appears that Secundus is proving to be a bit of lay-about, as he has STILL not awoken from his growth-phase torpor. I have had Quintus recheck my Deep-Memories to see if I had created him improperly. Yet, between the two of us we can find nothing out of the ordinary with his creation. I am concerned because he is getting close to the upper range of torpor limits.
He has reached adult status physically, as to mentally; that remains to be seen. On the plus side, he is showing signs of dreaming. This is indicative of his mind being active. I and my not-brothers have been keeping watch over him in turns. The cause of his excessive torpor cannot be fatigue, as what affects one affects us all. Yet none of me, are excessively tired. I am loath to attempt a Psi-contact this early in his development.
In contrast, Takana’s condition has not improved. Instead, it seems to have worsened despite our relocation to one of the Great Maou’s castle apartments. In preparation for her recovery, Takana has already taken the steps necessary to transfer her Medical assignment from the Covet Corner Hotel’s Lobby Clinic, to Fort Eequor’s Medical division.
All of our belongings fit nicely into the “Satchel of Holding” that Takana purchased for me as a present for our ‘one-month’ anniversary. I find myself enjoying the practicality of such a non-offensive magical item.
Additionally, since I’ve taken the steps to relinquish my assignment to the hotel’s Daycare; I have been informed that my presence will be sorely missed. Many of my coworkers, clients, and friends are happy for me and Takana. Almost all have wished us both well in our new endeavor.
Of Gramps and Lily (and the rest of the Hotel staff), I am proud to include them as friends, and have informed them that if they ever feel the need for help, that they should call upon me at the first opportunity.
Unfortunately, the well-wishing for my change of venue has not proven to be universal. Nalla, the Gazer-child for whom I sacrificed the previous Secundus to help save, has refused to face the fact that I am leaving. I will be returning to the Hotel in an attempt to give my farewells to her, and her family once more.
I am sitting in the main room of the Nalla’s family apartment/hotel rooms. While Nalla’s parents took the news of my departure well, alas, Nalla has not.
“I don’t WANT you to GO!” cried Nalla into my right kneecap, as she hugged my lower leg fiercely. The sharp tang of her Ooze-sweat dripping from her forearms assaulted my nose fiercely.
“You HAVE to stay!” she insisted, all of her eyes clenched shut with the intensity of her demand. (Indeed all of them. From her solo eye on her face, to the half-dozen or so tentacle-eyes that sprouted from her lower back, all of them are shedding copious quantities of tears.) My heart quails at the sight of the poor dear clinging so desperately to me.
“I am sorry Nalla.” I said, patting her on her back. “But I have to go. I have made a promi…”
“You can’t Go, Arawn! You have to Stay!” she interrupted me loudly, turning her head from the vicinity of my knee to look up endearingly at me. (Somehow, she has managed to dilate her all of her pupils to make herself seem pitifully cute.)
“Why do you insist that I stay, Nalla?” I ask in an attempt to derail her Cuteness-Attack.
“You must stay, so that you can become my Husband!” Nalla replied, frowning at me while releasing my leg long enough to place her fists on her hips.
“Why is it important for me to become your Husband?” I ask, shaking my head perplexedly. I spare a glance up at both her parents Banou (father) and Johari (Mother). In response Johari smiles indulgently at her daughter, and Banou waves his hand in a ‘Humor-Her’ gesture.
“You were hurt saving me from that Order-man! Males protect the women they want! I accept you! I will be your woman!” It was my turn to frown, then. I had no notion that her appreciation for my saving her life would have crossed into such a misplaced infatuation.
In truth, I had encountered such ‘feelings’ and verbally expressed desires of sexual reciprocity from adult females (and some males) before, under similar circumstances.
But this was the first instance (that I could recall) that any of them had expressed that desire from such a tender age. Like those who preceded Nalla, I will have to plod carefully in an attempt to diplomatically offer her a polite refusal.
“I am sorry, Nalla.” I begin, “but I am far too old to be your husband. Besides, I already have a wife now. Remember? Her name is..” once more I am interrupted.
“I don’t care! When I grow up I will be old enough to have you as a husband!” she shouts, blinking her main eye rapidly in frustration.
“I do not need another wife, nor…”, I start again.
“Lots of men have more than one wife!” she continues, “I’m not greedy, I will share you with her!” Nalla whined, baring her sharpened fangs.
‘How Magnanimous of you.’ I thought silently.
“Be that as it may, Nalla.” I reply patiently, shaking my head. Extensive reserves of patience are required with children, after all. “It will take you, oh…at least twenty years of growing up…”
“Seven.” Prompted Johari, Nalla’s Gazer mother then. I spare her a glance, trying to not show my annoyance at her interruption. She chose to smile her own serrated grin then.
‘How quickly they grow up. (5)’ Quintus remarks dryly. I choose to not dignify that remark with a response.
“Ah, yes. Seven years then.” I modify my statement, while trying to make eye contact with Banou for support. Apparently, it is his turn to smile indulgently, while his daughter starts to pout. Inwardly I sigh in exasperation.
“Seven years of growth, to reach maturity. That would be you doubling your age.” I conclude. “A lot can happen in that amount of time. After all, there could very well be another male out there who is more suited to be your husband than this ancient one.” I reply with what I hope to be a reassuring smile.
“Surely, you would not to wish to deprive him of your sweet nature?” Nalla, never once stops frowning at me during my short speech. I continue.
“Also. I have volunteered to help the Great Maou in her plan to share her message of Demonic-Love to all the world(s).” I began, Nalla, for her part, chooses then to close her eyes and remain silent as I continue talking.
“She has accepted my offer of help, and has now commanded me to begin my service at Fort Eequor. There, I can do more good than I can here at the Hotel. Perhaps even do such an amount of good as to keep the Order from attempting to harm any other innocent children again.” I finish hopefully.
For a moment more, she continues to remain silent and I begin to hope that I had gotten through to her. Her next action, proves that hope to be futile.
“NO!” Nalla shouts, opening up her single main eye and locking her gaze with mine as she seizes me by the legs once more.
“STAY!” she Commanded, “YOU WILL STAY WITH ME!” she states with her nascent compulsion ability. I could feel her feeble attempts at mental coercion flail at my Will.
Surprisingly enough I have a sudden desire to obey her, however slight or temporary. Inwardly, I smile in pride at her growing magical strength.
‘Shall I attempt to break her Compulsion, Primus? (5)’ Quintus inquired then.
‘That will not be necessary, Quintus. She would not be able to maintain such a hold on me for long. After all, she is still but a child. (1)’
‘True Primus, but Gazers have proven to be problematic in every plane of existence. (5)’
“Nalla.” I said sternly, attempting to gently push her away by her shoulders. Even then, she refuses to release me from her grasp. I sigh.
“NALLA!” Her mother shouted then, as she stood up from sitting next to her husband. “What did I tell you about Compelling people?” Johari continued, as she stepped closer to her daughter.
Nalla did not say anything then, but her frown deepened. Already, I could feel her compulsion losing its effect. I sense that she could feel it too. Finally, she breaks eye contact with me first. Then, she releases my legs and turns away. All of her eye tentacles drooping in defeat.
“Nalla.” I prompted her, hoping to get a response.
“I HATE YOU!” she shouts at me, as she begins crying as she runs to her room. I hear then the slamming of a door after I lose sight of her. I remain where I am, dumbfounded at these turn of events.
Without a word to her husband or I, Johari then went to her daughter’s door and entered without knocking. I stand up as I hear Nalla’s wails of frustration and loss, raise several decibels while her door is open.
I could not help but feel as if I was somehow at fault for inadvertently creating this situation. I am so lost in guilt, that I do not notice Banou stepping close enough to lay a sun-dark hand on my shoulder in camaraderie.
“My apologies, Banou.” I begin when I notice him.
“Think nothing of it, Master Arawn!” he tuts, removing his hand. “Nalla is young, her heart will mend. Then, she will forgive you your trespass.” He replies in his musical lilt.
“And perhaps in time, her heart will begin to yearn for another.” I said, attempting to reciprocate his sentiment. After a second or two of no response, I turn to Banou and observe a small smile on his face. He notices my gaze and speaks.
“Do not be so quick to discount the words of my Daughter, Master Arawn!” he chuckled/sang.
“But she is still a child, Craftsman Banou! How can one so young, ‘know’ who her future husband will be?” I ask, my voice laden with heavy skepticism.
“When I first met her mother, Johari, she was about of an age as Nalla is now.” He began. “She quickly informed me that I was to prepare myself to become her husband in short order! I admit to being just as unconvinced then, as you are now.”
“So what happened?” I ask, curious.
“At first, I shrugged her off, even with her innumerable Compulsions. But over the years, she never once wavered in her determination to claim me as her own!” he said, spreading his arms wide.
“Until finally.” He continues. “I faced reality and gave her what she demanded. We have been Gazer and her Incubus, for nearly a century now, and we’ve had nearly a dozen daughters since. Nalla, being but the latest.”
“Besides, Master Arawn.” He spoke with a cheerful lilt. “Ancient you may be as you claim, but I feel that you would still make for an excellent son-in-law.” He said, crossing his arms good naturedly. I shake my head at this bit of news. I had no idea that he felt this way. Then a thought occurs to me.
“You say you have had nearly a dozen daughters. Have they all knew from such a young age which male they would make their husband?” Banou then looks at me full on, and his grin widens. His own sharp teeth contrasts with his face, but he says nothing in response.
This response of his leaves me disquieted.
Later, after I return to Takana’s and I apartment at Royal Makai. I find her deep in torpor on our shared bed. We still have plenty of time before my next appointment, so I do not make a fuss.
She does not awaken at my touch. So instead, I choose to lie down and wrap my arms around her. Ever since my Dream-sending, Takana has been growing steadily more fatigued more often, no matter how much of my Essence I have tendered to her. Of late I find myself increasingly worried, as I have no idea about what to do.
Her fatigue has been a growing cause of concern for me. She kept insisting that she was fine, at first. But over time, I began to notice small things: objects she extruded would often dissolve for no apparent reason, the amount of time she spent in torpor increased dramatically,and the occasional loss of control over the number of her eyes and mouths. It was only when her work at the Hotel’s clinic, had dropped precipitously in quality, had she chosen to admit to her problem.
Together, she and I sought information and possible treatment. But, little could be found. The Shoggoth as a race were not in the habit of getting sick, so scant information could be gleaned from their archives. Such as they were. Every magical scan I conducted on my own, could find nothing wrong with her.
Luckily, word got out about Takana’s condition. Gallandia the Dark Mage, (of all people) offered her services and experience to help us out. I found this to be a bit odd, since I was under the impression that Gallandia did not care for me overly much. But, I chose to ‘Not look at a Centaur’s mouth when She offers Service,’ as one local phrase puts it.
Looking down at Takana, I drink in her other-worldly beauty as she continues in her quiet slumber. Closing my eyes and nuzzling her, I speak to Quintus.
‘Any change in Secundus’ status? (1)’
‘Negative Primus. I just got done checking up on him. He continues to sleep and dream. Once in a while he will lash out physically. Quartus is watching over him now. (5)’ he reports.
‘Is it possible that there is a connection between his overly long sleep and Takana’s? (1)’
‘I know what you are thinking Primus. You are assuming that he has somehow managed to be a drain on her own vitality. (5)’
‘How well you know me. (1)’
‘The answer is: No. Or at least, I have not found any form of connection between him and Takana. Eliminating the Psi-link with her, did improve her condition. But that has proven to be temporary. (5)’
I have nothing to say to that. Just then I feel Takana stir in my arms. Breaking my psi-conservation with Quintus I look down and see her looking back up at me. The sight of her languid amber iris/pupils set in their pools of jet colored sclera, makes me smile.
‘How magnificent you are.’ I think to myself.
“Hello Arawn.” She whispers in her peculiar intonation. It always fascinated me the way she could speak in that manner. It was almost as if I could hear her voice speaking a half-second before she moved her lips.
“Hello my love. Have you rested well?” I reply, looking at her fondly, as I reach up and over to trace her jaw line with my thumb. I feel the delicious cool wonder of her indigo skin underneath my fingertips.
“Gallandia was here, but…” Takana yawns. “But,” she continued. “She only stayed a short while. She did perform a couple more spell-tests.” Takana paused for a moment. “But she did say that she wished to speak with you about something. I can’t remember what right now.” She trails off, her eyes closing partly.
“It is all right, I will be meeting her later this night, after my next appointment.” Takana smiles up at me then.
“And then? Afterwards, will you keep your promise to take me to the Shoggoth-Conference?” she asks lazily, trying to reach up to me with one tentacle. Alas, she fails in that attempt.
I reach over and gently grab that tentacle to spare her embarrassment, and steel myself to not show my worry.
“Of course! That is the main reason why I held off reporting to Fort Eequor for so long.” I reply indulgently. “After all, you have not seen your Spawn-Sisters in, how long is it?”
“Decades.” She replies, tiredly. She then dozes off momentarily. As I wait for her to reawaken, I begin to think of the incipient meeting of Shoggoth that would be taking place in one of the larger Mausoleums in one of Royal Makai’s remaining Necropolises. The Gnome Necropolis.
‘The Necro-Gnome-Con, I think she called it.’ I thought to myself. As to what the reason they had for taking so long between meetings I could not recall.
‘Apparently, the Stars have to be Right before they can do so. (5)’ Quintus prompted.
‘Ah yes. The stars.’ I muse. ‘I had forgotten about that. (1)’ Just then I notice that Takana has opened her eyes once more.
“What are you thinking about?” she asks me weakly.
“I am thinking about the conference you are all set to drag me to. Why is it so important that I come along, again? I have so little in common with any other of your kind.” I teasingly reply.
“Because I won.” Takana replies with a weak smile.
“I made a bet with my last Spawn-Sister, Mitzi.”
“About?” I ask in curiosity.
“About who would obtain a husband first.” She says pridefully. I smile then, realizing then what she was speaking of.
“She beat me to being a Doctor first, so naturally…” she pauses to catch her breath. (Which was odd, since Shoggoth technically did not need to breathe.) “She felt that it would give her an appendage up, on getting a husband first.”
“But I got to prove her wrong.” She whispers weakly, after another short pause.
“So, what were the terms of the bet?” I ask. But I notice then, that she had fallen into her torpor again before she could answer. I stay there with her head on my shoulder, never once moving. Until hours later, Gallandia returns to relieve my vigil.
I may have cried once or twice in those hours.
Gallandia once more stood in the entrance way of Belphegor’s secret workshop. This time, the purple clad barely-dressed Dark Mage was having serious misgivings about the role Belphegor had contrived to place her in.
With a downcast mien, she reported to Belphegor that she had done what she’d been bade to do.
“Excellent Gallandia!” Belphegor replies in her childish voice, her goat-like ears wagging happily underneath her platinum crown of hair. “Soon, we will be one step closer to achieving our goals!” she cackled for a bit, then she noticed Gallandia’s frown. Pouting, she crossed her paws in front of her and asked.
“Gallandia? Is something the matter?” she demanded sternly, yet quietly. “Surely your conscience is not bothering you again?”
Gallandia refused to make eye contact with her pact-mistress and remained silent.
“Ah, I see that it is.” Belphegor stated, nodding her head with her Baphomet-goat horns bobbing in unison. “Well then, Gallandia. Why now?”
Finally, Gallandia made eye contact with Belphegor, and stared into her caprine-like eyes imploringly and spoke in a rush.
“It’s not right Mistress! They love each other, I can see it! Why must you divide them? Surely you could convince her to share him with you?” she replied.
Belphegor, then leaned back on her hoof-heels and contemplated how to reply best. After a short while of chewing on the inside of her lip, she looked back up and gives her reply.
“How old are you Gallandia?” she asked.
“Mistress?” Gallandia replied perplexed. Belphegor remained silent until she replied.
“How old am I?”
“I do not know, Mistress. I never thought to ask.” Gallandia replied nervously.
“How old do I look, now?” Belphegor asked, spreading her arms to give her servant a chance to peruse her. Gallandia, thought about it carefully.
“I’d say you look about nine or ten, in human years.” that response made Belphegor smiled wickedly.
“I am over five hundred years old, Gallandia.” she replied, stepping close enough to Gallandia to touch her, which she did. Taking ahold of one of her hands, she drew Gallandia down to one knee strongly, yet strangely gently.
“I know what you desire. Do you think that with your powers as a Dark Mage, they will allow you to look as good as I do now; In five hundred years?” Gallandia looked sadly at Belphegor for a moment, and shook her head silently.
“Or even as a Lich?” She asked gently pressing her advantage. Gallandia broke eye contact and swallowed, turning her head away to stare at the far wall. This made Belphegor smile as she went over to her work table to retrieve some items, one of which was a writing instrument. Clip-clopping back over to Gallandia, Belphegor then handed them to her. Gallandia accepted them without a word.
“You know what you need to do.” With a somber expression Gallandia stood up and turned away to begin her walk to the secret entrance. But, before leaving she impulsively chose to stop and ask Belphegor a question.
“Why him Mistress? Why does it have to BE HIM?!” This unexpected question caused Belphegor to frown in annoyance as she turned to face Gallandia full on. Fighting down her anger at Gallandia’s impertinence, she replied as evenly as she could manage.
“You were close enough to sense his power levels during the last Order attack, were you not?” Gallandia nodded,
“Then you also know that when a human male is corrupted, his capacity for Essence generation afterwards is increased by a least an order of magnitude.” She replied, pausing for effect. Gallandia blanched at the sudden realization of what her pact-mistress implied, then licked her lips at the thought. Belphegor smiled at the sight of it.
She knew she had her.
“Power enough to create my own Realm, Gallandia, and then some! Power enough to convert many others into more Baphomet! Others such as yourself.”
Quieting herself, Belphegor chose to remember a time not that long ago.
“I have tasted the Essence capacity of an Annwyfn once before! I will not let THIS ONE out of my grasp so easily!” She finished vehemently, her childlike face twisting into a line of frustration.
“Now GO! And do what needs be done!” Belphegor snarled in a most un-childlike manner. Gallandia quickly obeyed.
After Gallandia shows up to take over Takana’s vigil. I ask her about what Takana had said concerning her questions.
“I do not wish to answer now, concerning my suspicions until I know for sure Arawn. I will need to run another test or two, while you are away. Do I have your permission to do so?” Gallandia asked, her blonde tresses waving underneath her ever present purple ‘Dark-Mage’ hat. I nod my assent.
“Thank you Arawn,” she smilds. “You may go to your next appointment assured that I will keep watch over her until you return.” As she turned her attention away, I place a hand on her shoulder, she froze.
“No! I thank you Gallandia, for all that you have done! I do not know where Takana and I would be without your assistance.” Gallandia remained frozen in place for a moment more, looking into the distance. I can see her swallow then after taking a small gasp.
“I know that you and I have not seen eye to eye. But your selflessness is appreciated, and I will remember all that you have done for Millenia to come.” I finish.
Gallandia turned to me, so that my hand drops from her shoulder, looking up at me wide eyed. She seems so serious then, it is almost as if she is afraid of me. She nods but once, staring at me silently while shooing me off. I smile my thanks to her once more, as I take my leave. She is still in the same position looking at me, when I close the door.
I then proceed to my next destination. As I still have some time left over, I decide to walk there by way of a meandering route. If anything else, the time spent observing the sights and sounds of the Demon Realm capital would divert me from my worries concerning Takana.
All during the walk I observe so many wonderful things and people! I pause often and just stand watching, taking it all in.
Numerous brothels that I do not enter, despite their alluring promoters. Mamono children of all kinds playing manifold games of pursuit and capture. (What they would do once one of their number was captured, made me avert my gaze, as I gasp in shock.)
I even give some serious thought to attending the Royal Demon Art Museum upon passing it by, but decide against. The advertisements for same, suggest that it would be best to visit with one’s lover within arm’s reach.
A thousand-thousand scents and smells wafting through the thick atmosphere of the city; some I can identify, many I cannot, innumerable were those I dared not. And, of course the feel of the air as always, attempting to relentlessly worm itself into my skin.
Eventually, I begin to take notice of the time that I had spent on the diversions, and realize that I am going to be late. So, I begin running to my next destination in an effort to make up for the lost time.
I guess my doing so, triggered the predatory instinct of several of the Castle city residents, as no few of them began running after me.
A lone male running through the streets of a Demon Realm, what was I thinking? I did have a replacement Periapt of Concealment on my person. Little good does it do me though.
Most of them choose to remain trailing behind me, though that changed after a couple minutes. I laugh heartily at the sight of a pair of long-legged Kobolds passing me by, who then chase each other in a sort of running-tag game.
I am afraid that I left my retinue in no small amount of frustration at the gates of Fort Makai. For I observe many a pout and a frown when they all are stopped by a pair of Were-wolf guards at the entrance gate, yet I am not. I bow an apology to them all before being escorted to the person I am there to meet with: Dread-Sergeant Major Mac Roich. Who, as it turns out, is an Incubus.
I march into his sparsely furnished meeting room, and stand to attention before him as he sat in a lounge chair. Stiffly, I made a salute to him and waited for him to return it, so that I could then drop my own.
He appears to be a physically fit human male of approximately thirty human years of age. He has light untanned skin, long curly black hair, grey colored iris eyes, and is unshaven enough to have a light shadow of whiskers. He himself wears a rather undescript assemblage of comfortable looking clothes (tunic, vest, bifurcated pantaloons), with one glaring difference: a silverish Gorget around his neck that extends to cover most of his shoulders and collar bones. Adorning it are a number of insignia that I do not recognize.
He appears to be speechless with the spectacle of my standing stiffly before him. After an awkward moment or two, he blinks and does a double take, then slapped himself on his forehead.
“Oh yes, I’d forgotten! At Ease, Majin Arawn!” he laughs good naturedly in baritone. “There’s no need for any of the ‘formal protocol’ that you’re undoubtedly familiar with in your time of, shall I say it? ‘Order-ly’ military? He quipped as I relax. He then motions to me to sit in a fainting couch that was alongside him. I do so.
He is silent for a moment as he stared at me. “I assume you are aware that I have a name then?”
“Uh, yes sir!” I begin. I notice then, that he has raised a hand. I quiet.
“I can see why you requested a mentor Arawn!” he sighed. “It appears that you still have much to learn about fitting in with the Maou’s Army.”
“Indeed! Dread-Ser…” I begin, and trailed off as he gives me an annoyed, yet patient look. After a moment of staring at me, he sighs and continues, wetting his lips with his tongue before speaking.
“My name is Fergus, Arawn! Call me that. About the only time you’ll be required to call someone by their formal name, rank, or for that matter ‘Sir’, will either be in battle, training, or whatever other circumstance that they’ll let you know of ahead of time. Right now isn’t one of them.”
“As you wish, Dre…er..” I pause suddenly at his frown. “Fergus.” I finish, he then smiled indulgently. “I will eventually learn the ways of proper behavior.’ Fergus laughs out loud at that. Which confuses me.
After he stopped laughing, he explained.
“Proper? ‘Proper behavior’, Arawn? You definitely have much to learn! More like improper! The Maou’s Army is VERY relaxed in many things.” He grins. I smile back at the realization of my lapse.
“Walk with me Arawn,” he says suddenly, getting to his feet. I mirror him, as he walks to the door of the room and meanders outside to a covered walkway. He remains silent for a while, taking in everything in around us as he ambles along. I choose to do the same, looking about and observing the (mostly) female members of the Maou’s Army walking, scurrying, or slithering about, each on her own errand. Most of them pay us no mind. After a few minutes he speaks.
“Talk to me Arawn, I need to get a feel of who you are. I’ve read the reports of you written by Aeshma, and Director Maki, but they don’t tell me about who you are as a person.”
So, I do as he requests. Talk to him that is. I give him a condensed version of my life thus far. He is mostly silent during it all. Only asking a question or two to clarify a point. We walk across Fort Makai at least twice. At the end, he utters one word.
“Aye.” He says with a nod. He then notices my quizzical stare, and continues. “Aye, as in Yes. I think you will do well at Fort Eequor, Majin Arawn. I confess that I do not fully comprehend your situation, or your circumstances.
But, I feel that you will be an asset to the Fort, my Commanding officer, and by extension: The Great Maou.” To that I say nothing, for he seems to be not quite done with what he has to say. My suspicion is confirmed, when he stops walking and frowns as he stares deep into my eyes.
“Do not make me regret allowing you to join us.” He whispered then in a voice lined with cold iron. I meet his eyes momentarily, and nod once in acknowledgement. The moment passes, and he smiles once more, then resumes his walking.
“What of you?” I ask, “What is your story?” He glanced over at me with a wry look. It is as if he were asking me silently if I truly wished to hear it. Seeing it, I nod. He sighs and begins.
“Many years, ago.” He began. “I worked for the Order as a Monster-Hunter.” He speaks in remembrance, casting his eyes up and to the side in thought. “This, was in a land far to the west and north. A land called: Eire.” He breathes in for a moment and continues talking, drumming his fingers on his vest.
“I and my band of cohorts that I commanded, were hunting one particular crafty and wily Monster, a Dearg-Due.” He looks at me for a second. “A sort of Vampire native to that land.” He explains. “We hunted her for months, until finally, we tracked her to her lair. It was an abandoned castle far from any village, off in the Cursed Lands as we called them then. A Demon Realm is what I’d call it now.” He stops walking.
“She got away, taking along my youngest fighter.” He said ruefully, shaking his head. “But! She left behind a lair full of treasure!” his voice lilting up. “Would that we knew then, what we had discovered- Not Soon Enough!”
“In amongst the other treasure that we found within the walls of her lair, I claimed for myself a suit of armor.” I then close my eyes momentarily at that bit of news, and rub them with a thumb and forefinger. Fergus notices, and grins broadly.
“Aye, Arawn! I ken you know what happened next!” I motion for him to continue.
“Why that suit was practically made for me, it fit me so well! Within a few days, I didn’t wish to take it off for anything! While I had it on, I was Stronger! Faster! With more Stamina! Which was just as well.” He says looking at me.
“Because then, you started getting more opportunity to put it to use.” I reply quietly. Fergus laughs good naturedly.
“Aye! That I did indeed! It seemed that just about every night, we would be attacked by a group of monsters. One kind in particular: Dullahan. Always they would attack, and their leader would demand a duel with me to ‘settle the score’ as she would put it.
Invariably, I would win, and I would let them go their own way. As opposed to killing them as I should’ve. Now, I know why I did that.”
“I take it, that eventually, one of them won her duel against you?”
“Nay, lad!” Fergus stops and smiles. “None of them did. Instead, at the last, my second in command: Eileean Scathach, challenged me to a duel.”
“Why her?” I ask, puzzled.
“Because, she herself had claimed a matching set of armor from that vampire’s lair.”
“Cursed armor.” I say quietly.
“Aye! Dullahan-Armor. Both hers, and mine!” He sighs once more, pursing his lips. “While she was being corrupted into a Dullahan. I was being corrupted into a Dullahan’s Incubus. A sort of ‘general’ one, suitable for any Dullahan whose attention I’d caught.”
“Thus the Duel-challenges.” I speak. He nods. “I assume that Eileean won?” He nods again with a scowl, and continues.
“She won, because she and I had been sparring for years in fighting practice. She knew all of my tricks and limitations! Which she took full advantage of in our duel. I was most annoyed with her cheating that way, and even more upset when she claimed that I had become ‘hers’ after I lost. I can still recall the glee in her voice when she started announcing that she had won me by ‘right of duel’.” Fergus spoke with a sour expression on his face.
“Eventually, she persuaded me of the rightness of her claim. She was most persistent in her blandishments.” He frowns as he looks away, then smiles.
“Where is she now?” I inquire. He turns to me and replies.
“She is the Dullahan in Charge of Fort Eequor. You’ll be reporting to her when you arrive.” he continues, “I will be there eventually as well. Officially, I’m her adjutant, in addition to being her husband. You’ll find that many, if not most, of the officers in the Maou’s Army have husbands in similar roles with their wives.”
“Unofficially, I can do things that she herself cannot do. Conversely, we both are hoping that you will be amenable to doing ‘double-duty’ in your role in Cynosure. Especially considering your own past in covert work.” He ends his statement, almost as a question.
“I would be happy to continue in doing what I have always done best.” I say by way of reply. “But, what would you need me for?”
“What do you know of Cynosure, Arawn?”
“I know that is a merchant city situated on the far northernmost point of Kumari Kandam, the main southern continent.” I start. Fergus nods in approval. “I also know that it is also the only source of drinkable and potable water for several hundred miles in many directions. Which, technically, would make it a valuable strategic spot for any empire-minded governments.”
“Indeed it would Arawn, and that is the very excuse used by the Member states of the Order, when they attempted many times to capture the city and its lands.”
“Why were they not successful? Obviously, they failed.”
“Cynosure, it’s a Magical Place!” he replies. “It was so, long before the Great Maou came to power that is. There is something intrinsic about the city/state that prevents its conquest by outside powers.”
Finally, we stop walking. I notice that we are now situated near an empty spot, similar to a park filled with examples of Demon-realm flora. He motions to a nearby bench and we both sit upon it.
“Tell me Arawn. How familiar are you with Demon Realms? The varieties of same?” he asks, after we had both settled.
“I know there are several kinds, the Dark Demon Realm of which we now sit. The Bright Green De…” I begin.
“That one!” He interrupts. “The Bright Green Demon Realm! In your studies, how long does it normally take for such a Realm to be fully corrupted into a Dark Demon Realm?”
“From what I have studied, it varies. Sometimes as little as a few hours, to as long as ten years.”
“Exactly! Ten years! Thirteen at most.” He says, looking off into the distance. I wait for him to continue.
“Cynosure has been a sort of ‘proto’ Bright Green Demon Realm, for a nearly a century and a half.” My jaw drops in surprise then. Fergus looks over at me and speaks.
“Careful Arawn, you’ll collect Beezlebubs if you leave your mouth open long enough.” He jokes. I shut my mouth and blew out a breath heavy with dismay.
“Something in Cynosure is keeping it from being ‘conquered’ by the Great Maou.’ We have no idea what. But, believe me we’ve tried many schemes to advance its conversion. They all have failed.”
“What of the Order?”
“They’ve noticed this phenomena, too. I think you can guess why they’re interested.” I nod.
“Because if they could figure out what is preventing its corruption, they then might be able to duplicate it.” I reply quietly. Fergus nods then with his lips in a thin line.
“So, are you interested in finding out what it might be?” he asks not looking at me.
“Do you really need to ask?” He smiles.
“When you report in, you’ll start ‘officially’ as a Yokai Basic. The lowest tier of rank.”
“Which is nothing less than I expected.”
“Unofficially, you’ll be reporting to General Scathach, through me if necessary. Your cover story will be what you requested, the opportunity to serve as a Member of the Great Maou’s Army. To help her in her Grand Plan. But you will also be doing so as an undercover agent, tasked with finding out Cynosure’s grand mystery. Hopefully before the Order does.”
“That sounds like a great deal of trust that everyone is putting into me.” He turns and looks at me .
“Permission to speak freely?” I ask. He nods after a moment or three.
“You still do not trust me.” I say as a statement, not a question. He looks at me for a moment and shakes his head. I continue.
“For what it is worth, I do not blame you. I would not trust myself either, if our roles were reversed.” He looks sidelong at me then.
“Perhaps in time, you will earn that trust.” He replies, I nodded back to him as acknowledgement. He seems satisfied.
“When would you have me report in?” I ask.
“I understand you’re having some medical issues with your woman, the Shoggoth, Takana I believe her name is?”
“Yes.” I reply quietly.
“Resolve that issue first. Then report in.” he speaks quietly. I turn and look at him quizzically. He looks back at me with a pointed stare.
“Cynosure has been waiting to be turned into a full Demon Realm for a hundred and forty-seven years, Arawn. It can wait a bit longer. Your woman comes first. As it should be.”
“Thank you.” I smile. He returns it.
Once more as before, I return to the apartment at the Great Maou’s castle. Upon my arrival Gallandia has some good news.
“Ah there you are Arawn!” she greets my return with a happy mien. The sight of it lifts my mood significantly. “Since you’ve been gone, Takana has improved dramatically. She’s been awake for some time now, and has been asking for you.”
“You mentioned that you wished to run some more tests?” I prompt her.
“I did, but I will need to review things a bit more before I can proceed.”
“Thank you very much, for all your help Gallandia.” I say, as I smile relievedly to her. Gallandia, for her part merely smiles back and places her hand on my shoulder.
For some reason at that moment, I think I feel a momentary surge in Demonic energy in the room. But it is of such a short nature that I did not bother to investigate it, as I was more desirous of spending time with my beloved.
“I’ll be in the next room over relaxing, Arawn. Just in case you should decide you need me.” She speaks furtively while packing her belongings into her oversized hand bag. She then nods a tired farewell to me and exits the room, closing the door behind her as she goes.
Continuing on to the main bedchamber I am met by a wondrous sight! Takana was up and about and seemingly bouncing with energy. Her face lights up with surprise and joy when she catches sight of me. As I undoubtedly do as well. I immediately go over to embrace and kiss her.
That, is when it happens
For no sooner than she eagerly embraces me than she hesitates, and begins to shiver violently. I pause.
“Takana! Is something the matter?” I ask her concernedly as she begins to convulse. Briefly, she makes eye contact with me.
“Ah..ah!” She begins, with no small amount of fear. “Ahr…Arawn!” she calls one last time, before she dissolves into a liquid that falls to the floor with a sickening splash.
“TAKANA!” I scream in horror.
Many hours later, Gallandia approaches me in my vigil outside Takana’s examination room at the Royal Medical Institute. Takana has been in there since the night before, being poked and prodded by what medical staff there were available. I even heard the sounds of hoof-steps clopping about once, and managed to espy the shine of a Unicorn’s horn in the gaps of the examination room door between her and I.
I look up at Gallandia’s approach. She seems reluctant to speak with me as I arise to see if she has any news of Takana’s condition.
As I come near her, she raises a hand in supplication. I stop then, confused.
“I have but one final test I wish to perform Arawn. But I need your permission to proceed.”
“You have it! Do what you must!” I reply fiercely. Gallandia refuses to make eye contact with me then. Instead she chooses to keep her eyes pointed at the floor, as she reaches into her over-sized handbag and pulls out a familiar looking object.
She holds it up for a second and then makes eye contact with me.
“It is something that I had Takana extrude for me while you were away on your last appointment.” She then presents it to me. I take it and look at her questioningly.
“Just hold it for a minute or two.” She says mysteriously. I lift it up and note that it appears to be a writing implement of some kind. I try to take a closer look, but that is when it loses its cohesion and melts into the same indigo-colored protoplasmic substance that Takana is composed of. I try to capture it as it dissolves. But, it seemingly avoids my hands as it falls in its entirety to the floor. I look up to Gallandia for an explanation. She has a most somber expression on her face then.
“I’m sorry Arawn. Please forgive me, for what I am about to say to you next.” She asks imploringly, making eye contact with me.
“Why?! What is it that you are worried about, Gallandia?” I demand fiercely. She hesitates, then continues.
“There is nothing wrong with Takana.” She states with finality.
“What?! That does not make any sense Gallandia! You yourself have seen..” I begin, then stop as she raises both of her hands.
“There is nothing wrong with Takana, Arawn.” She begins once more. “The fault lies with you.” She finishes quietly with her eyes closed.
“What madness is this? By what evidence do you make this statement?!” I demand. Gallandia, swallows once, and looks back up at me then. Her eyes begging me to please calm down. Reluctantly, I do so.
“Far more than most Monsters, Arawn, Takana is a creature of Chaos. Yes?” she asks, I nod. “What are you?” she asks me quietly.
“I? I am a creature of….” I stop with my eyes going wide in sudden realization of what she is getting at.
“Are a creature of Law.” she finishes for me. “By your very natures, you two are diametrically opposed. Your feelings and desires notwithstanding.”
I want to deny this, but deep down I know that she is somehow….correct. Desperately, I mentally seek straws to grab, Quintus gives me one.
“What of the Great Maou and her husband?! He was a Hero of the Order!” I toss out. “He was a member, however remotely, of the Law!”
“Yes, he WAS.” She replies. “But then she corrupted him, did she not?” I stop, my blood running cold at the realization of what she implied. My fear was made correct with her next question.
“Can Takana corrupt you?” she whispers. I look away from her then. I already knew the answer.
“No.” I reply quietly. “She cannot. As far as I can tell, not even the Great Maou has that ability.” I admit. Even for the amount of time I had spent at Royal Makai, the heart of the Great Maou’s Realm; I remain uncorrupted.
“Why is that, Arawn?” she asks me relentlessly.
“Because of my Attainder. That which forces me to remain Immortal against my will.” I whisper hoarsely.
“And because of that Attainder, you remain a Creature of Law.” She finishes for me. “Every moment you spend with her, Arawn, means that you’re killing her.” I close my eyes then. I want to rage, I want to scream, I want to lash out at this! But I cannot.
“I want to see her.” I demand. Gallandia looks surprised by my outburst, and hesitates before replying.
“I would advise against that, Arawn. The danger…” she begins.
“Just for a moment.” I interrupt. She looks back at me sternly. “One last time.” I finish. Her face softens then as she bit at her lower lip in consternation. She thinks about it for a moment, then lifts her head and nods once at me.
“Make it quick.” She replies, but I am already through the doors. Inside I see her, and stop. She is in a large black bowl sitting upon a table. She appears to be a quiescent pool of black liquid. The sight of her in that condition stabs at my heart.
I try to move forward, but I am restrained by a hand upon my arm. It is Gallandia’s hand.
“No closer.” She warns. I do not resist. Instead I look over at her, ignoring the attendants that stand next to Takana’s bowl, they look between Gallandia and I questioningly, unsure about what to do about me.
My jaw quivers with the words I want to speak to her then. But I knew that it is useless.
‘I did this to her.’ I think to myself. Finally, I speak aloud.
“Goodbye, Takana.” I whisper stone faced. Then I turn and walk away silent, vowing never to inflict myself upon her again.
Within the hour, I am back to meet with Fergus Mac Roich. He seems surprised to see me so soon, and raises an eyebrow. Before he could ask me anything. I speak.
“I report for duty. NOW.” He is silent for a moment in concern. The he nods his head.
“It will take a day or two to get things moving properly. Return to your apartm…”
“Is there someplace I may stay here, on the Fort?” I interrupt, tightening my jaw to keep it from shaking. Fergus looks at me for a longer moment and nods once more as his frown deepens.
Later, in the efficiency room that had been made available, I meditate. Or, at least, I try to. But, eventually after many long hours, I give up the attempt.
I then stand up from my meditative trance position, and wander my way out to the balcony. No harpies are there in evidence this time around. But, there at the last in the quiet turbulent darkness overhead, I view one final ‘Whisper of Dusk’ momentarily in the sky up above, as if to mock me. The sight of it leaves me unmoved.
‘Once again.’ I think to myself. ‘Once again, I have reaped the sorrow that I have sown so many thousands of centuries ago. Time after time, the Lords of Law punish me for my ancient crime.’
‘Time after time.’
I teleport to Fort Eequor the next ‘day’. Alone.
Gallandia found herself standing before Belphegor in her hidden sanctum to give her report.
“He teleported to Fort Eequor an hour ago.”
“Excellent Gallandia! Your role in this part is now complete! You’ve done an excellent job.” Belphegor replies beaming. Gallandia, for her part seems unmoved.
“What of Takana?” she asks, concerned.
“What of her?”
“Will she recover? Now that Arawn isn’t near enough to affect her with that resonance field you had me plant on him?”
“Eventually, yes.” Belphegor yawns. Then notices Gallandia’s look of outrage.
“Several months, perhaps a year from now she’ll be right as rain.” Belphegor answers, all annoyed.
“And what of me, now?” Gallandia asks nervously.
“What do you mean?” Belphegor asks in return, perplexed.
“Since I have served my purpose and you have no more need of me, shall I ‘have an unfortunate accident’?” she demands quietly. Belphegor laughs at that, surprisingly in good nature.
“No, Gallandia! I will not ‘accidentally’ have you harmed’. For the simple fact that you and I have made a pact and I always keep my word. Besides, I may have more use for you in the future.”
“What do you mean, milady?”
“It means that Arawn will mourn for now. But he, despite being more than human and less than a God, is still a male. As such, he will eventually find himself in the arms of another woman by accident or design, no doubt.” Belphegor smiles.
“What would you have me do?” Gallandia asked.
“Perhaps, it would be time for you to have a change of scenery from Royal Makai. I’d say that you should get out, see more of the world, perhaps even drop in a time or two at say….Cynosure?” Belphegor replies with a smile and a tilt of her goat horned head that speaks volumes. Which causes Gallandia to smile with relief back in response.
“I think I would like that Mistress. If I may be so bold, I am curious, what are your plans in the interim?”
“I will be staying here at Makai, working on worming my way into the Great Maou’s good graces again.” Belphegor replies with a wicked smile on her face.
“After all, a good General should look in on her troops every now and again. Particularly in the far-off duty stations, to insure that all is in proper-working-Order for them. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Nodding her head, Gallandia took her leave.
Re-edited after 24 hours (or so), This says something about the necessity of getting a decent night’s rest before hitting the publish icon.