A Whisper of Dusk, Chapter 4 – Sex & Violins
Thank you for waiting patiently, Zrihea. I take it, that this is not a social call?” I smiled at her.
She gave me a sidelong look with just a hint of a grin, as we both knew that my question was rhetorical. I took in a quick purview of her, and I noticed then that she looked different this time. She stood taller, straighter, and appeared to be younger, healthier, more…I guess I could say…more vibrant. Even her double spiraled goat horns appeared to more robust. I would have to conclude that her Dream-Sending existence was beneficial for her.
In between the last time I saw her and now, I learned that she was a Satyros and had been an influential personage during her lifetime. Death becomes her.
‘Indeed, it is not Arawn. As well you know!’ she replied mischievously with her dream-speech. I noticed then that she held a wine glass in one of her hands. She noticed my quizzical stare at it, and spoke.
‘Zoog Moon-tree wine, Arawn. Despite the catty aftertaste, it has a spectral overtone that I’ve grown to adore. I would offer you a glass, but we have other business that needs your attention.’ She smiled broadly. ‘Business that requires a clearer head than what this concoction would allow you.’
“What business is that, Zrihea?’ I asked warily.
‘Before we begin. Allow me to convey my condolences for your loss.’ She replied, tilting her horned head with a sad mien.
‘Secundus?’ I asked.
‘Yes.’ To which, I only sighed in response. I could not say much, as I felt the pain of his passing once more.
‘Try not to punish yourself overly much with his death, Arawn. Take this ‘kinetic sculpture in front of you, for example.’ She said, as she gestured with her hand that held the wine glass towards the Gravitram. I took note of it once more, and listened with half an ear to its chiming and singing with the endless clashing of the steel spheres within its confines.
“What has this to do with his death?” I asked. She turned fully to the sculpture and spoke to me over her shoulder.
‘I see within this sculpture, a series of dynamic events. Each one occurring after another, most of them taking place in a sequence. Some happen at random, others only occur after something else occurs first.’ I grunt in response.
“The point?” I demanded stiffly. She smiled a mirthless smile then, not looking at me.
‘The point, Arawn.’ She said patiently. ‘Is that Secundus’ death was inevitable. If you had chosen to not borrow power from the Watchtower Guardians, then he would still be with you now.’
“How is that supposed to comfort me?” I replied, keeping my voice steady with an effort. She continued as if I had not spoken.
‘His death was inevitable, in that you would have destroyed and then remade Ossymand’s Tower, Arawn. It could’ve been the day before, the day after, or even next week. The end result would have still been the same. The Order attack force invaded Royal Makai, because of events that were set in motion by your destruction of that Tower.’ She turned and faced me, her eyes holding mine with a depth that seemed fathomless.
‘With the tower’s destruction, the Chief God concluded that there was a powerful entity of Law loose in her enemy’s realm. She commanded that an elite force be sent in to aid it. She was most upset when she discovered that it was you, who had garnered her attention.’ She smirked, then continued.
‘Or to put it another way: For want of a Nail, a War was lost.’ I looked at her for the longest while then. I wanted to reply, but I could not think of anything to say. Instead, all I could do was frown in contemplation of the ageless proverb. Finally, I replied.
“Thank you.” I whispered. For a few moments more, she and I contemplated the intricacies of my favorite childhood-equivalent artwork.
“All right Zrihea, what is the message you are supposed to deliver?” I sighed with resignation weighing heavily in my voice. Not looking at me, she spoke over her shoulder once more.
‘You have an important choice to make soon Arawn. Which is what Fort you will choose to serve your posting at, in the Great Maou’s army. That choice of yours, will have ramifications for untold generations.’
I began to form a sarcastic response, but as I considered recent events, I decided instead to quell them. She took note of my forbearance, then smiled again and nodded her head in approval.
“Important? Important to whom?” I demanded.
‘You, your not-brothers, the countless lives you will come in contact with there, and most importantly,’ She said gravely, ‘The Annwyfn.’ To which I gave out a short mirthless laugh.
“All of my fellow Annwyfn are dead and gone, both male and female, remember?” Such madness this Dream-Sender spoke!
She merely kept her eyes on me then, keeping silent. Then after an overly long moment, she spoke.
‘If you will not listen to me in this matter, Arawn. Then perhaps you will listen to me in another: I know that you managed to slip in a lie to the Great Maou during her interview with you, after your Summoning.’
“And what, pray tell, did I lie to her about?” I asked skeptically.
‘You spoke a half-truth. You claimed that you sought Redemption. JUST Redemption for the destruction of your home-world.’
“I most certainly DO seek such!” I cried nervously at the direction this conversation was heading.
‘But we both know that it isn’t the only thing you seek, is it not?’ She spoke in a voice that quietly thundered at me. I refused to make eye contact with her then. She stepped close to me, close enough that I could smell the scent of the Zoog-Wine wafting from her glass.
She then mentally whispered, that which I TRULY sought. That which has been my main focus for countless years. What she said, left me humbly silent for several long-dream minutes. I swallowed.
“What must I do?” I said in surrender. Thankfully, Zrihea was not vindictive in her triumph.
‘Volunteer to go to Cynosure, Arawn. That which you truly seek, lies between the city’s borders. It has been waiting for you there, since before the last Conjunction. Also, you must request a particular Mentor be assigned to you.’
“And she is?” I asked, meeting her eyes briefly, then quickly away.
‘Her name is Corporal Helvetia. You will surprise her. But not as much as she will eventually surprise you.’
“So, you say. But, I guess that I will have to find out when such occurs.”
‘Indeed.’ She said smugly.
“I take it that this is important to your Masters as well?” I inquired. Zrihea rolled her eyes then, and nodded.
“Then I want something in return.” I demanded.
‘What!?’ she demanded angrily at my impudence.
“Odinne.” She blanched at that.
‘I cannot physically send either of you to the oth…’
“NO!” I interrupted her. “That is not what I mean!” She stopped, then waited patiently for me to continue.
“I know that she is beyond my grasp forever more Zrihea! I wish to be Dream-Sent to her! I want to be able to KNOW what becomes of her!” My voice began to quaver then. I raised my hands and started gesticulating to emphasize my point.
“I know, that she will mourn me. I also know that I will never see her again in person. I…I am…” I sighed in frustration, trying to find the right words, the right phrase.
“I want closure. Not only for myself, but to find out, perhaps even provide some for Her.” I felt my eyes begin to moisten then.
“I know her, Zrihea. She is a leader, and she is strong. But she is also vulnerable. She leaned on me heavily after her brother was killed, and again after her parents died. She confided to me many times, that I was her foundation.” Licking my suddenly dry lips, I continued.
“I want to be able to go through the rest of my existence, secure in the knowledge that she is…all right.” I ended quietly. I looked up at her then, silently pleading to her stern countenance.
Zrihea’s face softened then. She seemed about to speak for a moment. Then she stopped. Finally, after several long moments turning her head to and fro, as if she were in communication with someone else, she spoke/
‘It will happen.’ She said simply.
“Thank you.” I smiled
‘Au Revoir, Arawn.’ She smiled one last time enigmatically, as I felt myself begin to awaken.
I opened my eyes then, in the arms and appendages of my newfound lover Takana. I lay there in the dark listening to the sound of her breathing in her torpor. I felt the random shifting of some part of her, as I noted that she had managed to literally wrap herself possessively around me. I also watched the occasional small part of her drip off of a bigger portion, then wend its way back to the whole.
I admired the physical countenance of my Shoggoth then, and I felt somewhat lucky as well. For now, I knew something akin to happiness. Why should I not be happy? After all, I had finally found someone as near Immortal as I. And, to top it all off, it was someone I knew from old.
While I waited for my sleep to return, I began to contemplate the necessities I would have to see to: The repair of my Shield. The replacement of Secundus, the replenishment of the Sanctuary. It would all take time and mana, but I knew that I would face all of these difficulties in my own way. I then cupped one of Takana’s breasts in a hand, and thought, ‘But I do not have to face them alone anymore.’
My mood darkened then, as my thoughts turned to what Zrihea had said concerning my half-truth.
She was correct. A half-truth is a whole lie after all. I did indeed seek more than Redemption. I held on to that grim hope that her words would prove to be true. For I sought that which every Immortal inevitably seeks.
I sought my final Death.
The next morning, I did not need Takana’s alarm clock to awaken me. This was because I awoke to the rather delightful sensation of her mouth upon my penis.
“AAaaaah!”, was the most intelligible sound I could make then. As she had engulfed my length in its entirety into her warm and welcoming mouth. This was yet another delightful benefit of having a Shoggoth for a lover. She still needed to breathe, but like every other one of her kinswomen, she had a built in respiratory bypass.
As I leaned forward, I managed to see my lover’s eyes peering back up at me from between my legs. I decided that her two main yellow-iris eyes that were set within her lavender face, to be most enchanting right then. When we made eye contact, she pulled her obsidian haired head back just enough, to be able to speak while holding onto my shaft with one of her hands. Her other hand she lay on one my thighs.
“Good Morning, Arawn.” She smiled. “I hunger for your Essence.”
“Far be it from me to deny a lady her needs.” I smiled in return. Her smile widened enough then for me to see her ivory teeth contrasting with her dark indigo gums. She then stuck out her prehensile tongue, and began to wrap it along my shaft. I could simultaneously feel the warmth of her tongue differentiating with her cool saliva. I moaned softly, as she moved her head to suckle at my pre-cum.
“Wouldst my lady, care to share herself with me?” I asked then. She cocked an eyebrow in question.
“I would break my fast with your nectar this morning.” She paused long enough in her ministrations upon my member to answer me with a smile. She then flowed herself around, so that I soon had a grand view of her own genitals poised over my head.
I looked up at her wondrous labial folds with a deep and abiding hunger. Breathing in, I could smell her enchanting scent once more; Anise it was, and something else, something still unidentifiable to me. But something that I would explore later. I had other, more enjoyable tasks that awaited my attention.
My mouth began to water in my eagerness to taste her. I reached up with my hands and took a firm and loving control of her pelvis. I then gently, but resolutely, drew her down so that my awaiting mouth and tongue could explore her nethers.
I then proceeded to give her a long, slow lick of her slit end to end, twice, so as to begin my repast with a tantalizing sampling. I noticed that she was already moistened. I was pleasantly surprised when my tongue slid past her hidden vaginal entrance, and I felt a goodly amount of her delicious syrups flow out, and down in-between my eagerly awaiting lips. I temporarily held her juices in my mouth, so as to savor her flavor fully.
I heard her moan and quiver then. This made me smile, as I knew that she could feel her liquids warming within me, and that she adored the feel of it all.
After another moment or three, I then slowly, yet determinedly, swallowed them in their entirety. This (hopefully) signaled my ready acceptance of all of her, and my desire to keep her with me.
I then proceeded to gently tease her nether lips with my own lips, teeth, and tongue, mindful to never concentrate too long upon one spot. It was then that I discovered, that she had not two sets of Labia, but three. I did not question this bounty, nor did I succumb to my innate desire to catalogue and compartmentalize this asset. Instead, I merely accepted it, and allowed myself to enjoy them to the best of my desires and ability.
It was this moment, that she chose to return her own tongue to her ministrations of my genitals. I could feel her spiral her tongue all along the complete length of my shaft. She then did something I knew no mortal woman or for that matter. few Mamono, could accomplish: She camber-spiraled her tongue around and around it, as if she were a threshing machine and my penis the wheat.
Oh no, no mortal woman could perform such a delightful service upon my person, and I doubt very much that even the most talented of Demons could as well!
I have heard many question the sanity of my desire for such a Mamono as Takana. My answer to such inane queries: Once you have tasted Shoggoth, anyone else would leave you Wroth.
Quickly, my pleasures began to rise, and it was in stereo. One pleasure with my penis shaft being spirally tongued, whilst the other was the utterly delightful taste and feel of her own sex upon and in my mouth. I could not imagine a greater heaven than the taste of my Shoggoth upon my tongue, then.
I noticed also, her moans had begun to reach their own shrill crescendo, but never did she lessen her attentions upon my manhood! Instead, they increased in friction and pressure, as if to squeeze every last bit of pleasure she could from me!
All too soon, we reached the height of our mutual pleasure simultaneously! I shot forth, what seemed to be endless amounts of ejaculate into her eagerly accepting mouth. While with her orgasm, she squirted a seeming fountain of her ambrosia into mine. Mouthful after mouthful, it seemed I guzzled as I felt her body buck and tighten against me.
Barely it seemed that we had finished, before she positioned herself so that we could kiss each other upon our mouths. Long did we intertwine our tongues passionately then. Until at the last, we parted.
We stared into each other’s loving eyes for a while. No words were spoken between us then, for none were needed. I felt then, that she could awaken me every morning in like manner, and that I would never tire of it, or her. A foolish thought perhaps, but an honest one. She then reached out with a psi-tendril and initiated an empathic contact. I accepted.
We spoke with our mouths, but we could feel the other’s emotions.
“Good morning beautiful one/ (Languid, Happy).” I began.
“Good morning handsome one/ (Pleased, Contented).” She returned.
“I wish we could stay here all day/ (Mischief, Desire).”
“As do I, Arawn. But I have duties and responsibilities to perform here at the Hotel, scant though they be/ (Reluctance, Regret).”
“Scant? I take it that your needs are not being fulfilled/ (Concerned, Puzzled)?”
“They are now/ (Mischief, Amusement)!” She giggled.
“You know what I mean/ (Exasperation, Patient).”
“Indeed I do/ (Fulfilled, Happy). What of you Arawn? I sense that there is something you wish to ask of me (Curiosity, Concern)?”
“There is. I do not know how to ask this, but I will try nonetheless/ (Fear, Worry).” She tilted her head at me.
“Ask. I will not condemn you for that/ (Patience, Implore).”
I then explained to her my circumstances, and my desire to serve the Great Maou in her Army. It took a short while, but at the end she was introspective.
“So you tell me all this. Why/ (Curiosity, Patience.)?” she asked after I had done.
“Now that we have found each other, I do not wish to be parted from you. I would have you join me at whatever duty station I choose to go to. BUT, if it be your desire to remain here at the Covet Corner Hotel, I am willing to set aside my plans, so that you may fulfill yours (Reluctant, Honesty).” She closed her eyes then, keeping a neutral expression. I could feel nothing from her then, as she had willed up an emotional shield. Her doing so, left me feeling momentarily bereft.
Finally, after many long minutes, she opened her eyes and locked them with mine. I felt her lower her shield and I became aware of her emotions once more.
“In truth, I would stay here at the Hotel, as I have found a measure of community /(Honesty, Resolve).” I nodded my head, accepting her decision with some reluctance. But, my desire to remain with her trumped my desire to serve in the Army.
“BUT/ (Amusement, Mischief)!” she said, “I came to this Hotel, so that I may find myself a husband. I have done so now, have I not/ (Joy, Fulfillment)? I am finding, that the Hotel does not allow me anywhere near as much medical experience as I would prefer/ (Sadness, Resignation). Perhaps, I would achieve more of that, at whatever place you are posted/ (Desire, Honesty).”
I smiled in silent relief then.
Just then her alarm clock began to sound, and an exasperated look passed over her face as its obnoxious intrusion caused us both to lose our empathic bond.
“oooh! That damnable clock NEVER goes off at a good time!” she complained. Seeing my look, she explained. “It is time for me to get ready to go to work.” She sighed, then continued.
“So, when do I get to meet your ‘Hounds’?” she asked me with a sly look.
“My Hounds? Great Maker! It has been quite the long while, since I have heard that term used.” I said, as I started to stand.
“Stop evading me Arawn!” She said, grabbing me by my arm playfully as she arose with me. “Show me them! Show me now!”
“But you have to go to work, do you not? I doubt that you would have sufficient time to ‘greet them all’ properly!” I teased.
“That is not what I mean, well…maybe not entirely no.” She admitted. “But, they are part of you! I simply desire to get to know: All of you!” she smiled again, with a hint of a leer.
“As You Wish!” I smiled back, and sent out a mental call.
‘Quintus! (1)’ I said mentally. For some reason, no reply was forthcoming. Frowning, I did so again. As before, I received no answer. I then summoned my other not-brothers, they too did not answer. Takana noticed my increasing level of unhappiness.
“Arawn, is something wrong?” She inquired with concern.
“Yes, I am afraid there is. I cannot contact my not brothers, my ‘Hounds’.”
“Perhaps a dog-whistle may be in order.” She snarked. I gave her an annoyed look.
I was about to say something more, when we heard a knocking upon her door, it knocked but once and nothing more. She seemed surprised, then went to see what lay in store. I chose to remain hidden within her boudoir, for my clothing lay in tatters upon the floor, my nudity being something no Mamono would ignore.
I blinked as I listened in on her discussion with someone named, ‘Lenore’. Shortly she returned bearing a paper note, with a look that was mighty sore.
“Arawn, that was a messenger from the front desk. Apparently, an official envoy from Royal Makai wishes to speak with you.” A wave of dread overtook me then. Takana continued speaking. “The person who seeks you is named: Aeshma.” To which I gave an audible sigh of relief.
“Who is she?!” Takana demanded shrilly, with all of her eyes flaring with outrage.
“She is my personal assistant. She was assigned to me during my stay at Royal Makai.” I answered, perplexed by her emotional outburst.
I reached out to her, putting my hands onto her shoulders. I felt her quivering then.
“And what did she assist you with, exactly?” she frowned, with a jealous edge to her voice. I sighed patiently.
“NOT, with whatever you are conjuring up in your mind Takana!” I replied evenly. “Why are you afraid of her?” She would not make eye contact with me then. After a few moments, she turned her head and faced me.
“Because I’ve slept with men who have left me at the first opportunity, invariably the following morning!” she spoke loudly, fiercely, her eyes boring into mine.
“Then what must I do to relieve your fears that I will not do the same?”
“Make,” she hesitated, casting her eyes down to the ground momentarily. She then gazed back up to me again with an imploring stare. I nodded. “make a full pair bonding with me.” She whispered, giving me a hurt look that was full of longing.
“Let me feel your veracity!” she demanded as she grabbed my forearms. I looked into her eyes for a moment more, searching for her motivation. But, I could sense no duplicity on her part. She demanded of me a great deal, yes. Yet, if what she said were true, then I could understand both her fear and desire.
I then reached up with both of my hands to her head and kept them a few centimeters from her temples in the Psi-Shaddai position. This configuration of hand/fingers, would allow me to fulfill her desire. I heard her gasp, as she apparently recognized them. Looking back to me, she nodded and released my arms. I placed my fingertips to her head, and within a few painful seconds, we were pair bonded mentally. She and I could then communicate, as I could with my not-brothers.
‘Hello Takana. (A)’ I spoke to her mentally. She gaped with surprise.
‘uh-uh, ummm. (T)’ she replied tentatively. I smiled patiently at her.
‘Form your mental words like you would if you were speaking. (A)’ I advised her.
‘Ish, this aarny bet-tor? (T)’
‘Not quite, but you are improving. (A)’
‘Hear nowe, Eye yam trying…. (T)’
‘Almost there. Keep going. (A)’
‘My besht. Weight, I think I have it now. (T)’ I nodded.
‘You do. You are a quick study. (A)’ She cocked an eyebrow at me.
‘Well, I may not have had the training that you have had, but I am older than you! (T)’
‘That, is open to debate. But we can discuss such later. Are you satisfied with my veracity now? (A)’
‘Tell me who is Aeshma! (T)’ she ordered.
‘I will do you one better, I will show you! (A)’ I stated, as I opened my memories to her. Quickly, yet clumsily, she reviewed my memories as they pertained to Aeshma. Soon, she was satisfied that I was not going to treat her as a trifle.
She then allowed me to review her memories of abandonment by her previous lovers, few as they were. I felt then, all of the pain she had felt as a result of the betrayal from those cads. I then sent out to her, more waves of both my desire for her company, and my own nascent beginnings of an enduring love. I felt her fears begin to subside.
‘You need to go see her, and I need to get ready for work. (T)’ she conceded. I smiled, as I could feel her reluctance to attend to her duties.
‘Before you go, I will need some clothing. (A)’ I reminded her. Giggling at my mild remonstration, she then set about extruding a set of clothes that matched the ones she ripped off of me the night before.
Oh, I enjoyed the sensation of having it lie close to my skin, as undoubtedly, as did she. Before her departure, I proceeded to help her clean and straighten her room. For I knew from ages past that Shoggoth are, as a rule, fastidious creatures.
A sudden thought occurred to me as I watched her get ready to leave. I lifted up an arm and gave the sleeve of my tunic a long lick of my tongue. All the while keeping an eye on her form.
I noticed her stiffening in surprise, as she turned around and gave me a mildly outraged expression. She then wagged one of her fingers at me in reproof. I could not help the grin that spread across my face then.
“Arawn!” she groused at me, “Don’t do that! I’ll be embarrassed if you make me jump while I’m at work!”
“So, I should not do that too often, I take it?” I asked mischievously.
“Do not do that at all! Unless I’m in the same room!” she huffed loudly enough to shake her gelled hair. “Unless, you want me to leave you stark naked in the middle of a crowd!” she threatened back with a grin. I gulped at the realization of her threat.
“I promise.” I replied nervously. We then kissed our farewells. She went to her duty station at the Lobby Clinic, and I sought out Aeshma’s room number, as was written in her handwriting upon the note.
Eventually, I made my way there, and upon finding the appropriate room, announced my arrival. When the door opened, I was met by what appeared to be a young-ish looking human woman with long silvery-purple hair that seemingly flowed with a life of its own. But, my erstwhile experience of this world told me that such youngish looks could be deceiving.
“Hello.” she spoke, languidly looking me over as if I were something good to eat. “May I help you?” she asked, running a tongue over her plump lips. I then noticed that her eyes were red, of a tinge akin to the Lilim. She then leaned forward as if to emphasize her already ample bosom. She had a most intriguing scent, something earthy.
“Good Morrow, Madam. My name is Arawn, and I was hoping to meet with Aeshma. Is she available?” I replied as I bowed a greeting, glancing momentarily at her more than adequate breasts. I then took in the rest of her and noticed that she seemed to prefer a purple motif in her clothing (or lack thereof). If, anything else. her choice of beguiling clothing seemed akin to the Lilim. Unlike them and their avowed taste for metallic lingerie, hers were made of the kind of cloth indicative of a Dark Mage. She pouted then, as if she were annoyed by my lack of interest in her plentiful assets.
“Arawn?” came a voice from within the room behind the erstwhile door greeter. As I looked up over her shoulder, I noticed Aeshma’s smiling face appear. “There you are!” Aeshma’s smile turned to a frown of annoyance as she turned to the first woman and barked at her.
“Gallandia! Move aside, so that Arawn can enter!” Gallandia did as Aeshma had ordered, but with reluctance. It was almost as if she were loath to give up her monopoly of my attention.
“Arawn, please come in.” Aeshma’s invite allowed me entrance. (I too, am bound by such limitations).
Upon having the door closed behind me, I noticed several things. The first a queerly angled shepherd’s crook standing against the door frame that had been hidden by the open door. Of which, Gallandia then took up in her hand. Also, I noted that Aeshma was now dressed casually, as opposed to her normally conservative business-like attire. She presented both of her hands to me as a form of greeting. I took hold of them and squeezed gently, as I bowed once more.
“Arawn, it is good to see you! I hope that the Covet Corner Hotel has served you well.” She beamed at me then.
I took in the sight of her fine form before replying. This time her perpetually unruly red hair was adorned with a tan beret that was affixed smartly, underneath her horns. Such, was matched by a beige outfit that accentuated her toned body in a most complimentary fashion. T’was then I noticed her spade ended tail curling to and fro in a lazy manner. I noted that her scent remained unchanged.
“It has indeed Aeshma! I thank you for telling me of your own experience here, for it has served me in good stead.” I smiled broadly. To which she responded with an open mouth, that soon transformed into a surprised smile.
“Arawn, I’ve never seen you smile before! Have you…?” she asked hopefully. To which my own heartfelt smile, widened considerably as I nodded an affirmation. Aeshma’s smile then morphed into a squeal of pure delight, clenching her fists at shoulder level. Then she jumped forward to embrace me with a strong hug. Which I returned, carefully, as her wings had started flapping furiously.
“Oh Arawn! I’m so happy for you! When do I get to meet her?” she begged of me after we parted.
“There is a good chance you may have already, as she is serving as a Nurse at the hotel’s infirmary. Her name is Takana.”
“Takana?! Yes, I have! Oh, my Maou! I’m so glad to hear that she has finally found someone, as she’s been waiting here at the hotel for the longest time!” she gushed. “Dinner! Promise me that we will all meet for dinner!” she demanded. I acquiesced to her demand.
She sighed happily, then her face grew somber. I think I could guess that a change in the topic of conversation was about to occur.
“The Overlord is vexed with you for departing so quickly from her party, Arawn!” Aeshma spoke to me sternly, crossing her arms as she did so. “Though she is most curious about how you managed to, as she put it: “Escape her clutches!”
“Aeshma! Before you continue….”” Gallandia interjected sternly, as she raised the angled shepherd’s crook that had been holding onto. Aeshma looked chastened for a second, then turned to me pressing one of her fingers against her lips. I was not aware of what this gesture meant, however, I chose to emulate her silence.
Gallandia then marked a Sigil upon the inside of the door. She then raised the oddly angled Shepherd’s Crook and turned it horizontally in both her hands and closed her eyes. She then chanted some manner of evocation that I was not familiar with. Momentarily alarmed, I turned to Aeshma who did not act as if this was anything unusual. I stayed on alert though, on the off chance that this was a trap.
Gallandia’s shepherd’s crook then began to faintly glow with a purplish emanation. This hue indicated to me that she was utilizing Demonic Energy in her conjuration, whatever it was. I looked once more to Aeshma for an explanation. She returned my look with one that pled for patience. I felt I could trust her, so I tamped down my objections.
Gallandia continued in her self-appointed task, moving about and pointing her crook at each of the four walls of the room, then the floor and ceiling. I felt uncomfortably vulnerable without my mental connection to Quintus. I surmised that our telepathic connection had been broken due to the distance between my Shield and I, and quite possibly my new connection with Takana.
What scant Demonic Magical wisdom I could recall, indicated to me that this Gallandia was not speaking any sort of attack spell, but one of detection, (?). Finally, after several tense minutes on my part, Gallandia ceased her tasks and spoke.
“This room is secure we may now speak freely.” She spoke as she lowered her crook and turned to look at Aeshma and I. I nodded my head to her in acknowledgement of her efforts. She smiled haltingly at me then, as if embarrassed.
“Arawn, I appreciate your forbearance.” Aeshma spoke, touching me lightly to gain my attention. “Now as I was saying, the Great Maou is most interested in how you managed to complete your escape.” I then observed in the corner of my eye, Gallandia’s expression changing from one of mild fatigue, to a blazing indignation. I drew in a deep breath then, and exhaled slowly.
“Time to settle accounts.” I mentioned to no one in particular. “Just how vexed is the Great Maou, with my abrupt departure?” I asked resignedly. Aeshma traded a look with Gallandia then the pair smiled wryly.
“Not terribly so, Arawn. The Great Maou does wish for me to extend her apologies for that debacle back in the Refreshment Hall. Her exact words are, and I quote: ‘I wish I could say that the behavior of those daughters of mine who attended that function, were not indicative of their general behavior. But that would be a lie.’ End Quote.” Aeshma smiled sadly at me. She went on.
“The Great Maou says that she wouldn’t blame you if you chose not to continue in her service. The reason being, that you can expect such behavior from just about every other Monster in her Army.” I smiled then, thought about it for, oh, a few nanoseconds, and then came to a decision.
“I choose to continue in my service to the Great Maou. Despite.” I replied with a smile. “This would not be the first time I have encountered such behavior from those I have sworn to serve. I imagine it will not be the last, either.” Aeshma looked at me with evident relief. Gallandia, for her part, chose then to ‘clear her throat’. Aeshma turned her to look at her, then jerked her head in realization. Turning to me…
“Arawn, there is one matter that Gallandia is most interested in, for reasons that will soon become clear.”
“I am most intrigued,” Gallandia spoke commandingly, “in how you managed to exit yourself away from the Refreshment Hall completely undetected!” she finished with no small amount of exasperation.
“Gallandia is in charge of Castle Security at Royal Makai.” Aeshma explained quickly.
“Ah! I begin to understand her interest, and also her need for her to upgrade the wards of the room.” I said turning to her. “I was able to exit, by teleporting through the waste disposal system.”
“Impossible!” She yelled, quivering in outrage. “Teleporting through the waste disposal system? By rights you should’ve come out the other side in subatomic particles!”
“I would have done so, if I had not compensated for the unidirectional spatial matrix wave.”
“But you should’ve been prevented from doing so, by the vector inhibitory-resonance manifold.” She scoffed.
“I was able to bypass such, by utilizing backward-wave oscillation by means of a neutronic polarity flow.”
“That’s not even remotely possible for a mortal!” She all but shrieked indignantly. I smiled and turned my attention to Aeshma, who was by now staring at us both with a look of befuddlement.
“I have absolutely NO IDEA what words the two of you spoke, just now.” She said after a long moment.
“I take it, that she is unaware of my status?” I replied smugly, glancing over at her. Aeshma continued to stare at us both for several seconds more, then blinked.
Gallandia looked mildly outraged at my reply, and triply so after Aeshma filled her in on the details of my arrival to this world. I waited patiently silent, adding in only a minor point when necessary, to clear up any misunderstanding. Finally, after she had waited for several seconds more after Aeshma had finished, she exhaled fiercely enough through her nose to cause her nostrils to flare, and spoke.
“Would you please, enlighten me Oh Immortal One, with any methods you might suggest so that I can compensate for your breach in my security?” she spoke coldly, glaring at me all the while.
I did so as diplomatically as I could. But, I fear that Gallandia will never be a friend of mine. She listened to what I had to say intently, but haltingly, almost as if she had been personally insulted by my actions. After finishing with my recommendations, I turned to Aeshma and asked her for a favor.
“What is your desire, Arawn?” she asked.
“Remember the shield that hangs upon the wall opposite my bed, in what used to be my apartment?” She nodded.
“Would it be possible for you to arrange to have it brought here to the Hotel?”
“I would do so if I could, Arawn!” she spoke in exasperation. “Already I’ve tried having it moved to another apartment in preparation for your possible return. But, it seemingly refuses to allow it! I’ve even had a pair of Red Oni attempt to pull it off of the wall, to no effect.” I laughed, then apologized at her outraged expression.
“Give me your hands.” I requested. She did so reluctantly. Once I had ahold of them, I asked for and received her permission to adjust her aura. I explained that it was necessary, as my shield was an Artifact that was ancient even when I was young. As such, it would not allow anyone who was not authorized to manhandle it, once it had been set onto a non-living object.
“There,” I said as I finished. “You yourself will be able to carry it. But be warned, you will find it uncomfortably cold to the touch.” She seemed rueful about her newfound ability.
After that, we exchanged a few more pleasantries, and set a time for the dinner date that evening at the Hotel’s restaurant. Aeshma promised to be there with my shield, along with a suitably written parchment-contract outlining the terms of my service to the Overlord, in her Army- that would need my signature. (In my blood of course). I bade my farewells and turned to leave, but before I departed, Aeshma stopped me with a hand to one of my elbows, then leaned forward to whisper in my ear.
“I will be bringing my husband tonight Arawn. After dinner, would you be willing to teach him how to use a hairbrush? I mean in the same way you did with Messalina.” she asked with a hopeful look. To her relief, I merely smiled and nodded.
In the interim between my business with Aeshma and the dinner date, I went to the Residential Orientation and learned the rules of my stay. Additionally, I made friends with a number of folks, and volunteered to help out with something called: “Daycare”. Of which, there was an apparent need for someone with both the patience and fortitude necessary to deal with Mamono children.
I soon demonstrated my skill with same, after I entered the establishment. The harried personnel there, were too busy dealing with a coterie of squalling children to give me a welcome. So, instead of standing upon formality, I immediately ‘plunged in’ and helped them settle down the chorus of howling infants that presaged my arrival.
Within a few minutes I was successful enough in my baby communication skills, to settle the screaming debate that the babies had been engaged in for the last hour. The baby-daycare attendants turned out to be quite the odd pair. One was a Dwarf female named Cider, and the other was a green Oni named Pocari.
Both were relieved by my arrival, and were duly impressed with my baby handling skills. So much so, that I was immediately awarded the posting of ‘Chief Baby Handler’ for the Hotel. (With an appropriate probationary period, of course.)
I believe I managed to demonstrate my efficacy of that role, when I successfully changed the asbestos diaper of a persistently cranky Dragon whelp; without once getting myself scorched in the process.
Later, after my mid-day meal period had barely begun. I received an urgent telepathic message from Takana!
‘Arawn! Come to me! I have need of you! (T)’
‘Where beloved? (A)’ I replied, as I abruptly began running.
‘Come to my rooms, it is important! HURRY!’ with that announcement I swiftly ran down the adjoining hallways with such alacrity, that I nearly bowled over a number of hotel guests. Once I arrived, I swiftly entered her room and found her waiting for me.
“What? What is it my love?” I half shouted. She replied by wrapping her tentacles around me in a semi-slimy embrace, and drew my unresisting form close to her.
“I hunger for you Arawn! I have need of you and your essence!” she replied with a throaty cry, as she all but forced me down upon her bed and swiftly dissolved my clothing.
Whatever protests I was in the process of forming at her apparent false alarm, were rapidly squelched as she began distracting me with her ministrations. Thankfully, she was only in the mood for a quick ‘bite’, as opposed to a multi-course meal.
Later, at dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants, Takana and I met with Gallandia, Aeshma and her Incubus: Sraosha. He, was a youngish looking fellow who apparently had stumbled across the Hotel whilst fleeing from one of the Order’s innumerable religious purges.
According to him, he had ducked into what he had thought was an abandoned warehouse, but what instead turned out to be a trap. Barely, had he managed to avoid a thrown net, when he had subconsciously uttered the necessary Hotel-Door invocation and took immediate advantage of it.
Then, he had quite literally fallen into Aeshma’s arms in one of the hotel’s rooms, and the rest as they say, ‘was history’.
The restaurant’s theme was one devoted to Sea Mamono, and the entertainment for the evening involved a musical group in a water tank called: Sex & Violins. This delightful quartet consisted of a Scylla, a Mermaid, a Merrow, and a Nereid; their stellar performance involved their playing a number of popular tunes with their signature violins, all the while orally pleasuring each other in a ring. This included their most popular piece: Aqua-Sonic. I have to admit to being rather distracted with it all, despite Takana’s repeated reminders to pay attention to the dinner conversation instead. Aeshma seemed to be having the same problem with her beau.
After we had made our meal selection to the attending wait staff. Our conversation began in earnest. Aeshma stated that she had been successful in retrieving my shield, but had been unnerved by her experience in handling it.
“What is wrong with that shield of yours Arawn?” she asked with a shudder. “Every time I touch it. It makes me think of the cold wastes of my home.”
“I do not know for sure why it does that. But, do not feel alone. For me it reminds me of the cold between stars.”
The rest of the party was intrigued by that, and each passed it around for an opportunity to hold it.
“It reminds me, of my empty bed.” Said Gallandia with a frown, as she handed it to Aeshma’s Incubus.
“I am reminded of the arctic gales blowing in from the north, of my home in Arcadia.” Sraosha said with a shudder, before handing it off quickly to Takana. When she took it, she flinched as a snap of something electrical occurred.
“Are you alright?” I asked as soon as it happened.
“I’m fine!” she said as she started to examine my shield.
“It reminds me of Kadath in the Cold Waste.” Takana spoke with a half-smile, as she held onto it for the longest while. Finally, Aeshma brought forth the necessary legal documents.
“Arawn, here is the contract and a copy for you to sign.” She spoke as she presented them to me.
“I would like an amendment to this contract Aeshma, if you are amenable?” I asked after giving them a quick perusal.
“Is there something wrong with it Arawn?” she inquired worriedly. I shook my head with a smile.
“Nothing wrong at all. I simply wish to commit to a duty station, along with a request for a particular mentor.”
“Which ones are those?” she asked.
“The Demon-Friendly realm of Cynosure, Fort Eequor I believe it is called, and a Corporal Helvetia.” Both Gallandia and Aeshma gave me a double take, and looked quite surprised.
“Why do you ask for that particular person, to be your mentor?”
“Her name came up in a recent conversation I had with someone here at the hotel. She was most insistent with her recommendation.” I replied. That seemed to mollify her.
“That’s interesting Arawn, that you should suddenly choose that fort!” Aeshma smiled delightfully.
“Why is that?”
“Because the last I talked with you concerning a posting, you weren’t inclined to go there. Also, I find it surprising because the Great Maou stated that she wanted me to try and convince you to go there. Apparently, she feels that it is a mystery worthy of your involvement.” I was about to inquire further what that mystery was, when I was distracted by a large influx of strong emotions coming from Takana through our psychic link.
Turning to her, I noticed that she was staring intently across to a nearby table. This table was occupied by a Dragon female, and what appeared to be a familiar looking portly gentleman dressed in this world’s version of a Majin’s robe/uniform.
The two of them seemed well matched, both in temperament and haughtiness. She, appeared to have scales of platinum; and he was dressed in gold threaded ocher robes. They were engaged in an obnoxious and judgmental conversation in which they disparaged anyone, and everyone, within their eyesight.
‘Takana? (A)’ I inquired. It took me several mental inquiries, and a physical touch from me, before she noticed. She seemed abashed when she finally took note of my attempts to contact her.
“Him!” she spoke with vehemence. Our fellow table-mates took note of the fire in her voice.
“What about him?” I asked curiously.
“He! Prester-Tim! Is one of those “men” who claimed to be interested in me for a lifetime, but left after one night, with nary an explanation.” she confided shakily.
“Would you like us to move to another table?” I asked.
‘That won’t be necessary Arawn! I am just surprised both by his sudden appearance, and the fact that he has not changed one bit.” She replied, visibly relaxing. It was then, that he took note of Takana’s intent stare at him.
“Oh, look over there, Herhes!” he sneered with a glance towards my table. “This restaurant’s standards seem to have sunk so low as to allow Goo-backs in now.” This Herhes/Dragon looked over at Takana and smirked mightily.
With that, I felt my blood pressure begin to rise with my anger. I will tolerate many things, but I refuse to countenance someone insulting my woman.
“Arawn!” Takana whispered fiercely as she felt my anger through our link. “Don’t make a scene! He’s not worth it!” I returned her gaze, and nodded my head once tersely. I began to tamp down my fury and reached out to hold her hand. Apparently, her erstwhile ex-lover took note of my forbearance, and chose to escalate the matter by coming over and pretending to be friendly.
“Why Hello Takana!” he said loudly enough for every nearby table to overhear, “Have you come to help clean up the tables?” Takana chose to try and ignore him, but he was relentless in his bullying.
“And who are you, young sir?” he demanded, it took me a second for me to realize that he was addressing me! Before I tender a reply, he continued.
“Oh no need to tax yourself, Master-Bumpkin! I’m sure that if you’re given a few hours, you’ll be able to comprehend the multisyllabic words that a Mage of my caliber can produce!” he grinned.
Looking over at his original table, I could see his Dragon companion laughing uproariously at his performance. But even as I felt my anger continue to grow, I refused to allow myself to be baited.
He persisted. He then reached down as if to manhandle Takana’s arm. But before he could, he found my own hand gripping his wrist. He gaped at me in surprise, then delight.
“Oh, what’s this? The Goo-lover has some balls after all!” he sneered.
“Do-Not-Touch my woman!” I warned, as I rose to my feet. “I will not allow your filthiness to stain her!” I saw his eyes go wide in outrage then.
He managed to snatch his hand away from mine, and while staring at me, chose to deliberately place his hand onto Takana’s shoulder in open defiance. She recoiled from his touch, and in response I placed the heel of my hand across his jaw.
The entire dining room went quiet with this display, as he fell swiftly to the floor with an audible ‘ker-thud’. It took him a few seconds to squirm his way back up to verticality. When he did, he had an outraged expression on his face, along with a spot of blood seeping from his busted lip. He wiped his face with his hand and then noticed it.
“This is an outrage! I demand compensation and an apology!” he shouted to all and sundry. My table mates were shocked into immobility by his mutterings.
“I am truly sorry that you are such an ignominious prick!” I spoke softly, as I picked up a carafe of water. “Here is your appropriate compensation.” I said, as I upended the carafe over him. He became madder than the proverbial ‘wet hen’.
“I demand a duel, you mountebank!” he threatened, as all of his chins quivered with outrage. “I WILL have satisfaction!”
‘Mage eh? Let us make this interesting then.’ I thought to no one in particular. For some reason, despite the proximity to my returned Shield, I still could not make contact with Quintus.
“I accept.” He hesitated then, as if he were surprised by my ready compliance.
“I demand that we settle this immediately! With no stand-ins!” He demanded again.
“Agreed.” I smiled. I saw him blink repeatedly, as if in dismay. He glanced furtively over at his dinner companion, and swallowed.
“As the one being challenged, I have the right to pick the weaponry of choice in this duel.” I saw him go pale with the realization of the situation he found himself in. His paling told me that he was all hiss and spittle, and had been putting on a good show in an effort to impress his dinner companion. He had not expected someone, anyone, to stand up to him.
“What is your choice?” He asked quietly, fearfully. I smiled back at him and replied with one word.
“Magic.” He seemed momentarily taken aback by that, then he smiled with a reassurance unbecoming.
“You Fool! I’m a 37th level mage in service to the state of Cymru! You have just signed your death warrant!” he yelled loudly enough to gift me with some of his bloody spittle.
“To the death then?” I replied calmly, as I wiped his spittle from my face with a handy tablecloth.
“Indeed! Buffoon!” Even with his bravado, he seemed somewhat taken aback that I refused to be cowed by his intimidation skills.
Later, that evening. After we had arrived at the agreed upon appropriate dueling spot (Outside the hotel).
“Arawn, PLEASE! Don’t duel him! He is a very powerful Majin!” she all but begged me.
“I will not back down Takana! He has insulted you, and that is something that I cannot, will not abide! Besides, do you have so little confidence in my abilities?” She grasped me tightly then, peering with her beautiful yellow and black eyes into mine desperately.
“I have all the confidence in the Multiverse for you Arawn, I’m just worried because I have the most awful luck when it comes to men!” She pouted with her eyes starting to brim with tears. “I don’t want to lose you, especially now!”
“I will be fine, Takana. For I do this in your name, and in your honor!” I replied confidently. Privately, I was able to hide the trepidation that I felt. Despite several attempts, I STILL was not able to contact Quintus for either his advice or for his abilities. For some reason my Shield had been blocked from Telepathic contact even here, outside the Hotel. Added to the mix, was the fact that Takana had drained me of a goodly amount of Essence prior to our dinner date. I had been tapping into the background Magical energy fields, but I still had not charged to my full extent.
Aeshma and Gallandia were there as witnesses. Eventually that obnoxious fool arrived with his own entourage of sycophants. I noticed that his Dragon companion had arrived as well, albeit separately from him. Nor did she choose to stand as closely to him as she had when they had made their entrance to the restaurant. It was almost as if she were now embarrassed of him.
One of his sycophants came over to me with an ‘offer’. He stated that Prester-Tim (that Jackanapes Mage) was willing to be magnanimous and would allow me to withdraw.
Provided first, that I pledge to give him a sizable sum of gold, and a public apology for my behavior. Both of which were to be given to him, by me, in public at the restaurant.
I replied appropriately: With one of my middle fingers presented in his general direction.
The dueling commenced shortly after. We faced each other ten paces apart, on a flat field of freshly mown grass. The rules were simple. We each would attack the other with one spell at a time. Also, no spell was to involve anyone other than the duelers.
He demanded that since I had ‘insulted him first’ that he should be allowed to cast first. I readily agreed, in the spirit of proper conduct.
“Gentlemen!” The announcer called out. I could see my party of Aeshma and her beau, along with Gallandia, and Takana standing nearby, but out of harm’s way.
“Will either of you relent?” He continued. I shook my head, as did my opponent. The announcer then raised a handkerchief.
“When this handkerchief hits the ground, you may begin!” he called. We both nodded in agreement. The announcer then tossed it into the air, and beat a hasty retreat.
My opponent wasted no time and made a quick invocation. The moment had arrived, now I would get a taste of his measure! I calmed my breathing and prepared my Shield-buckler.
“Silentium!” my opponent shouted, and in a trice, I was struck dumb! I tried to speak but was completely unable to.
‘What a revolting development.’ I thought to myself, as I heard my opponent laugh uproariously at my predicament.
After a few seconds, the announcer demanded that I make my opposing shot! After a few more seconds I turned to the announcer and turned my hands up as if I were befuddled.
“Return fire or forfeit!” he shouted back. I sighed inaudibly then, and shrugged. Quickly I crouched, took aim with my right hand, and silently shot forth a first level Blast-punch. My opponent, to his credit, managed to divert a goodly portion of it, but with difficulty. He then made his counter-attack.
I saw a bolt of lightning shoot from his outstretched palm towards me. I braced myself and placed my Shield-buckler in between us.
The lightning grounded itself against my buckler and dissipated with a crackle. I then stood up.
‘This? Is this all that he has?’ I thought to myself in bewilderment. After a few seconds, the announcer demanded that I make my next opposing shot!
Once more I let loose a Blast-punch, but this time with triple the force. Once again, he managed to divert most of my attack, but he seemed to be disconcerted with not only my ability to silently fire offensive spells, but also with the fact my last salvo left one of his robe arms-smoking.
After a few seconds, he changed tactics and invoked a different spell: Claws of Tearer. This too failed, almost in its entirety.
And so, for the next few minutes we volleyed back and forth a number of (what I considered) amateurish offensive spells: Rolling Thunder, Linebacker, Bolt Blinder.
But, unlike me. his spells were proving costly to him. I noticed also that he had begun to sweat profusely, and not all of it from exertion. No, most of it was from the fear that I could scent coming off of him in waves. Finally, at nearly the last, I visibly yawned.
I guess that action of mine drove him to desperation. Because that was when he threw caution to the wind, and summoned forth something that was in complete violation of dueling safety, but also of sanity!
He brought into being and began impelling towards me: Annihilation Sphere! This spell, was the magical equivalent of a naked singularity. This was beyond the pale!
This is so because once it is unleashed, it is barely controllable by even some of the best mages I have known. I had scant seconds in which to come up with a way to not only prevent my incipient death, but also the deaths of everyone else upon the field.
I began to sweat, as I observed that Sphere bearing down on me relentlessly.