Gift

“Chocolate?” A female dame asked to the similarly armoured person, her eyes narrowed as she looked at her companion with confusion while the small clanks of their individual armour reverberated throughout the spacious hallway. Around them, a few servants were carrying out their duties in relative silence.

It’s been a few weeks since her last mission and she was getting bored. Despite being posted in an exceptionally large castle which gave its occupants a dominating view of the area, she still had nothing to do.

Days of idleness had started to creep into her skin, causing slight irritation which she vented on the diminishing numbers of training dummies that were in stock. It was during one such session that her fellow dame had come and requested her presence in the war room.

Turning a corner, the duo began seeing other dames walking in the same direction, their posture strict and their face, emotionless. A professional demeanour that came as a result of military discipline.

Such a sight would have been an everyday occurrence in the warring states between the many nobles that littered the human realm, of obedient servants and stoic soldiers – if one ignored the muffled moans and lustful screams that were emitting outside the castle walls of course.

Months had passed since the Mamono had infiltrated and subdued the Order members who had stood guard; neutralizing or in some case converting them as they slept. Had the lords of the realm bothered to cross reference or even be more diligent with the reports that the newly converted were sending to them, they would have seen the many discrepancies.

“Yes,” her companion replied as she took another bite at the unknown solid bar which was segmented into equally divided cubes. A loud crack was heard as she finally bit of a piece of ‘chocolate’ from the bar before continuing.

“It’s a newly discovered treat that the humans have come up with and I must admit that it is rather… delicious if not bitter.” Waving her hands slightly as she tried finding a way to best describe the taste of the treat she had on her. At the end of her explanation, she stretched out her chocolate-carrying hand towards her friend.

“Would you like some, Alyna?” her friend offered, accompanied by a genuine smile to reaffirm that she was confident in her decision to share this treat.

With a sigh, Alyna replied, “Very well Tilda, I know how stubborn you can be.” At the end of her sentence, the two halted and face each other before Alyna leaned her head towards the treat and took a bite, pushing a loose strand of hair aside before doing so. A momentary expression of shock was evident on her face when she realized just how hard this supposed ‘treat’ was as it rested in her mouth.

With an audible crack, Alyna had finally taken a bite off, a finger near her lower lips to ensure that she doesn’t spill it before straightening her posture and resuming their journey to the war room.

Tilda was the first to break the silence, “Don’t chew, let it melt in your mouth first.” she advised.

True to her friend’s word, the sensation she felt as the chocolate melted in her mouth was delectable as evident by how her face had lit up as she began to suck on it.

With a pleasant smirk, Tilda continued, “And to think that only the rich are allowed such a treat. It’s such a good thing that we were shown the error of our ways on that fateful night.” her eyes cast downwards as she reminisced the event that led her to awakening as a Mamono; when they were ambushed by some of them who that had somehow snuck into the castle as they slept. No longer was she a pawn under the oppressive Order. Instead, she was now a free woman, capable of expressing her opinion without fear of repercussion rather than kowtowing to a prestigious noble. A sentiment that was shared by all her fellow dames, Alyna included.

After a brief period of comfortable silence, they had finally reached their location – the war room as it was so commonly called.

In the middle of said room stood a large oval table made of wood with an equally sized map resting on it. Already there were people surrounding the table as they began to wait for the rest to appear before beginning their meeting. Alyna and Tilda each took their spot and waited in silence.

The last to appear however was not an armoured dame like the rest let alone a woman but instead, a child. Yet, despite her size, the pair of curved horns protruding from her head coupled with her goat-like legs and furry paw proved otherwise. Immediately following her arrival, those in attendance stood at attention in complete sync; their backs straight, arms to their side with their heads chins held parallel to the floor. Most human commanders would have been proud at their exceptional display of discipline.

Unfortunately for them, their commander wasn’t human. Instead, their ‘uptight’ behaviour as she had previously referred to upon their inauguration into the Mamono world served only to irk their commander. The childish scowl she had on her face served to remind them of that. Before long, their unusual commander immediately protested at their behaviour.

“Boo!” she jeered, sticking a tongue out for further emphasis. Her childish display only served to unnerve those who had only begun working with her as they found it difficult to believe how a Baphomet wielding considerable power could behave so carefree.

“How many times do I have to tell you? You’re not some mindless Order pawns. You’re my fellow sisters!” she grinned, arms spread wide open before a sudden thought entered her mind that made her twitch.

“Well,” she dragged off and she assumed a contemplating look, “technically you aren’t. Not until you all became a member my Sabbath. But the Mistress wanted Mamonos who could pass off as genuine Order soldiers.” she ended with a remorseful look.

Alyna noticed her commander starting at their chest when mentioning her Sabbath, wondering to herself just what she was going through that peculiar mind of hers to be able to switch her mood so quickly.

“Anywho,” she began, assuming a serious expression while her hands rested on her hips, “ the reason why I’ve called you all here is because it’s time to enact the Mistress’s brilliant plan! That she came up with from my help of course” she coyly added.

At the prospect of their very first mission as a newly awakened Mamono, a few of them visibly twitched, a lull in their rigid posture before correcting their posture and forgetting about the Baphomet’s disdain for military discipline.

“Right, so here’s the plan that I- I mean she- I mean we.. we came up with!” she trailed off before climbing over the table and walking towards her intended destination. Clearly, the table wasn’t meant for kids. But most knew better than to bring it up, knowing how the commander prided her youthful appearance to say the least.

The Baphomet’s pitter-pattering on the table came to a halt once she stood over a significant marker on the map. Above that marker; in proud bold heading, a single word stood out.

Dalewood

“Here,” she pointed, “this is your objective.” a sinister smile on her lips as she narrowed her eyes at the marker.

Immediately, a dame raised her concern to their commander as she took a step forward, a balled fist on her heart. “But My Lady, Dalewood is the seat of the region capital. We lack both the numbers to assault and the supplies to lay siege.” she protested with a loud emphasis on the word ‘capital’.

Another dame, boosted with confidence in seeing that she was not the only one discontent with the plan stepped forward and continued where the other had left off, “What can we, a mere garrison, do against the seat of power? Even their garrison far outnumbers our troop, not even mentioning the levy they can raise let alone reinforcements.”

The Baphomet merely giggled at her sound argument.

Alyna was beginning to have doubts as to why a child was put in command in the first place.

“Who said anything about attacking? As far as I’m concerned, it’s only a couple of border guards being granted paid leave as a reward for their diligence.” A finger on her lips as she innocently made her remark.

A remark which shocked most of those present. In their excitement to finally get out of the castle and do something productive for their cause, they had forgotten that, for all intent and purposes, they were still a realm under the Order’s control who sent their reports on-schedule.

Unbeknownst to the Order however was how that, in a single night, one of their lookouts had been taken over from the inside without a drop of blood spilt from either side. If such a tactic worked wondrously, why not do it again?

It was Tilda who broke the silence.

“My Lady, what about our… weakness? Truth be told, with the amount of traffic the capital receives everyday it would be a miracle for us not to bump into someone and have our heads roll off while we conduct our mission. And an armoured figure traversing the area at night would only fuel suspicion.”

“That’s right…” Alyna thought, unaware that she had voiced her own thoughts.

Recalling her awakening into a Mamono, she realized that most of the dames who were still in their armour – her included had, been transformed into a being called Dullahan – the military arm of the Mamono Realm. Unlike their counterparts, they had full control over their actions and were capable of rational thinking which did not involve the slightest hint of lewdness. That is, if their heads were attached of course. Once detached, they revert to the characteristics trait that plagued most Mamono’s only this time it has been amplified by their pent-up emotions.

And as fate would have it, their heads were dangerously loose and would always come off at the worst possible timing.

The Baphomet merely grinned, as if she was waiting for that question all along.

“I’m glad you asked Sister Tilda. Indeed it would be difficult to remain sneaky sneaky in a place like that. But fret not dear sisters! For I have a solution to all your troubles!” she proudly announced before materializing her staff from thin air and weaving it around, gathering the mana around her.

Soon enough, a ball of light had gathered at the tip of her staff which grew brighter and brighter before finally, she held her staff high in the air and chanted an unknown incantation and then… and then… and then nothing. Absolutely nothing happened afterwards.

As much as they didn’t want to admit it, most of the dames present were shaking their heads in disappointment and looking around them to see if they had missed something. What they found instead was their commander standing on the table with a triumphant smile.

“My Lady?” the dame closest to the Baphomet reached out, unsure if something had happened to their commander to have caused the anti-climatic finish. Just as she was about to place a hand on her commander’s shoulder, she found that her commander had close the distance between the two in a flash and had firmly gripped her shoulders. Before so much as a squeal could come from her, the unfortunate dame had found her commander to begin shaking her about violently despite her countless plea to stop. Were it not for the Mamono essence running through her veins, she was sure that she would be feeling nauseous now.

“C-Commander! Why!” she chastised, through clenched teeth in an attempt to control her voice while maintaining her composure through willpower alone.

“To prove a point dummy!” her commander merely grinned in response as she took her arms off and began to make her way to another dame who was unsettled as she began to eye her like she was her own personal plaything. The thought of going through the same ordeal was swivelling in her head. The other Dullahans however, unperturbed by the Baphomet’s gaze tried to decipher the meaning behind her words.  Slowly, it began to tick to each of them before eventually they all came to the same conclusion, a collective gasp to accompany their revelation.

Her head was still attached. Despite all the violent physical motions she had endured, her head was still attached.

Alyna was left speechless. Amazement turned to confusion as a plethora of questions founds its way into her head. Before she could so much as voice them however, her commander was already on top of things. She was beginning to realize how she had earned her position despite her carefree exterior which served to hide a sharp mind.

“As long you remain focused though,” her words ending on a playful note. This caused many to raise an eyebrow at her choice of her words. By now, the Baphomet was standing right in front of the quivering dame, the height offered by the table compensated her short stature and made it possible for the Baphomet to stand face to face with the poor girl. Nothing was said before she raised both her arms menacingly, her arms raised and drawn close as she wiggled her fingers. Before anyone could so much as mouth a word, she had begun to tickle the poor dame, her aptitude in magic allowing her paws to bypass the armour and reach her body before showing no mercy to her vulnerable sides. Shock turned to endless laughter for her victim as she bent over in a vain attempt to pry herself free as an all too familiar feeling made its way to the Dullahan’s neck. It was the dull thud which broke everyone’s stare from the scene before them as they noticed how their laughing compatriot had suddenly lost her head. Literally.

The more astute amongst the crowd were able to piece two and two together. Wanting to ensure that everyone was on the same page, the Baphomet had put her demonstration into words. “Physically speaking, your heads are firmly attached to the body. However, once you let your emotions run high and allow the Mamono mana to run rampant throughout your body, it will override my magic and in turn, the spell I had placed in your body.” she finished, pointing at the headless dame who was holding on to her severed head.

The whole room was quiet as they digested this piece of information while the commander’s unfortunate victim set about to returning her head to where it belonged, ensuring that her head was still clean before doing so with the help of a friend.

Throughout the silence, the Baphomet, had conjured a small pouch and was beginning to rummage through its content, attempting to find something. Once her paws felt the smooth texture of paper, her face lit up in satisfaction and she quickly pulled it out.

“Here it is!” she practically shouted to herself as she held it high above her head. “Mistress told me that I had to read everything here and nothing less. Can you believe it? Me! Her own general!” she whined.

Unrolling the parchment, she cleared her throat before beginning.

“Hello my darlings, so sorry for keeping you in the dark but I’ve been busy making preparations for the main event as of late. Hopefully, my favourite Baphomet does what she’s told and is reading this letter word for word.

As you are no doubt aware by now, Dalewood would be the next stepping stone for us. However, rather than a full out invasion of the capital that would no doubt cause the entire Human Kingdom to go on another Crusade, we would instead be taking over it from within; weakening them for the final decisive blow. If all goes well, the other kingdoms would not notice one more of their kind falling into our embrace.

With a significant presence in the capital, this would allow us to springboard our operations throughout the area before ensuring total control over the region. For now however, we need more information to work on before my generals can come up with a plan of corrupting those in power. This is where you come in.

You’re main mission is intelligence gathering. The priorities would be, in no particular order:

  • Seat of Power
  • Troop Composition
  • Fortification Details
  • Weaknesses and Gaps
  • Patrol Route & Rotations

At dawn tomorrow, each of you will began the journey to the capital. You’ll reach the objective by noon the same day. To avoid suspicion, you will be assigned your own sectors and will have no knowledge of where the others are stationed if the worst is to happen to any of you. That way, the mission won’t be in jeopardy.

Should you have the chance to sabotage the enemy – be it taking out a popular figurehead or getting your hand inside any influential guild should it exist, then by all means do so if you can ensure that the safety of the mission won’t be compromised.

With that said, I wish you all a very good luck in this endeavour.”

Looking over the parchment once again to make sure that she hadn’t missed anything, the Baphomet let out a dramatic sigh.

“That’s it! How boring! She could have just sent a familiar here and told you guys to scout out the capital!” she protested, unaware that some of her subordinates had winced as they understood why her Mistress insisted that she deliver the letter herself. Firstly, she was probably one of the few to have used such a powerful to physically bind their heads to their bodies. Secondly, she probably would have oversimplified the mission briefing and left out crucial pieces of information as recently shown.

With nothing more to say, and muttering something about her older brother and a Sabbath, the Baphomet had called today’s meeting to a close and wished them luck for tomorrow before scurrying towards her quarters.

As Alyna and Tilda made for their respective quarters to preserve their energy for the upcoming day ahead, a soft whimper was heard from one of them. Barely noticeable if one were not standing right beside the culprit.

Alyna looked to Tilda with confusion. Admittedly, their very first task had proved to be a rather difficult one but Tilda was not the sort to shrink at the prospect of a challenge. Following her broken gaze in hopes to see the cause of her grief, Alyna nearly facepalmed when she identified the cause for her friend’s gloomy behaviour. Her chocolate had begun to melt throughout the ordeal.

“I really could use a witch right about now. Something to preserve food at the least.” Tilda remarked absently at the sight of her treat, not noticing that a passing witch was giving her a curious glance at the mention of her species.

At this, Alyna finally facepalmed. It was a good thing that her gauntlet had soft paddings for her palm. For all their changes though, Tilda still remained a glutton when it came to sweets. Not that she – to her shame, was any different though she did a better job at hiding it.

“Pray tell, how did you come across this again.” Alyna asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

“Ah! That’s right, I never told you where I got it, only what it is.” Tilda replied with a sidelong glance as she began to recall how she had come across it.

“I traded for it from one of the dames who had return with her raiding party. She said it was being shipped out of the capital by the boxes inside one of the wagons. Can you believe it? An entire box filled with these…” she answered with blissful eyes and a drooling mouth that was beginning to unnerve her friend. In all honesty, she wanted another bite but controlled herself, afraid that it would reduce her to the same mess as her friend.

Luckily for Alyna, they had already reached her own quarters at the end of their conversation. The sound of creaking wood as she pushed the door open served to break her friend out of her chocolate-induced revere as well.

As Tilda finally noticed that they had reached Alyna’s room, she gave her a quick farewell before making her way towards her own quarters.

Plopping down on her bed, Alyna closed her eyes. Tomorrow was going to be big day after all and she needed all the energy she could muster…

——- ~<><><><><>~ ——-

Alyna made her way through the deserted streets at night, a far cry from its bustling atmosphere when the sun was still up. A week had past since her arrival. During the first few days, she took on the role of a weary soldier who spent most her of time lazing about in the inn to throw off any potential pursuers as a precaution. When questioned by the regulars why she still wore her armour, she reasoned that it had become a force of habit after days spent in the field. An excuse which a nearby patron – an Order scout, had seconded before going on a tale about how he too had picked up her quirk.

Near the end of the week, she scouted her surroundings and began to draw a mental map of the area which she would be frequenting a lot for the upcoming future. The inn served as a great location for her base, seeing that it linked to many of the areas assigned to her.

Now it’s the start of the second week, and Alyna went about fulfilling her objectives as she took down notes on enemy patrol and the defensive capabilities of her sector. Weaving through the shadows as her eyes scanned for anything of note, Alyna came across a strangely familiar sight.

It was a building like any other, with crude stonework and a thatched roof. But something about the logo on the door was oddly familiar. Paying it no mind, she was about to make her way when a scream from inside the building froze her on the spot.

Her brain told her to ignore it. That it would serve to further complicate her mission if she did anything to stand out from the crowd but her heart refused to listen. She had taken the sword to protect the weak and had pledged her allegiance to her new Mistress to save the oppressed. To do nothing now would be to scoff at her obligation. At the end, pride had won and she soon found herself sprinting towards the source of the shriek she had recently heard.

Fueled by adrenaline, she kicked the door down rather than setting up an ambush and was greeted with the sight of a man in dirtied white clothing on the floor unmoving. Above him was a burly man with a clenched fist aimed at the defenceless man, his jaw hanging open at the sight of an armoured figure.

His very presence unnerved Alyna. Something about him caused her to feel uncomfortable and sick. Something about him was revolting but Alyna took deep breaths in an effort to control her emotions. She couldn’t afford to override the spell placed by the Baphomet.

Before he could so much as reach for the chipped mace that hung loosely on his side, Alyna had closed the gap with a dash and, with Mamono-fueled strength, punched the man square on the jaw with her gauntlet. A crack was heard when her fist made contact with the unknown individual before he collided with the counter behind him with a deafening crash as all sorts of odds and ends were scattered about. With a groan, the man’s head soon hung limply.

After making sure that the man was down for good, Alyna doubled over to the victim, fearing the worse. However, upon closer inspection, she noticed that the worse of the man’s injuries was a bruise on his cheek, possibly from being punched. The fact that his back rose steadily as he took in deep breaths further proved that, for the time being, he was no in no immediate danger.

Seeing that her help was no longer needed, Alyna sought to restrain the man before making her departure. As she made her way towards the unconscious assailant, the shuffling of boots behind her had a different say to the matter. Uttering a quick curse for being sloppy, Alyna took a step away from the unknown group that had blocked the door. Upon seeing their heraldry however, she hesitated. Criminals and bandits don’t possess heraldry on their equipment. Sure, turncoats would have them but what would one be doing in the middle of the kingdom he just betrayed if such were the case?

No, heraldry meant that whoever wore it was currently under the service of an influential individual such as a noble or were said individuals themselves. Unfortunately for Alyna, these men were neither. They wore the proud heraldry of Dalewood on their armour. In other words, they were the capital’s own garrison. And now she had their attention.

In a quick attempt to salvage the situation, Alyna merely lowered her guard and loosened her body in attempt to appear as harmless as possible to her newly found associates.

The tense silence was broken not by the disguised Dullahan nor the guards but instead, by the groans of an unconscious man dressed in white and lying just beside her feet. Slowly, he lifted head before resting his eyes on the lead soldier.

“Frederic? Is that you?” he meekly asked in between pauses, still recovering from his ordeal.

“Master Evrat! Are you alright? Did she hurt you?” the soldier replied.

“She?” Furrowing his eyebrows as the words left his lips.

Taking this as her moment, Alyna slightly shuffled her feet to catch his attention. The wounded man – Evrat, turned and saw her greaves before tilting his head further up and ending once he saw her face – full of worry and apprehension. Was she scared that he’ll rat her out? She was his saviour for goodness sake. He should be the one thanking her. With this, he made his decision.

What came next took even Alyna by surprise.

“Ah, you must the new guard I hired. Didn’t think you’d arrive so early.” He smiled, adding in a quick wink as he did so.

She took the hint.

“I-Indeed Master Evrat,” she followed quickly, thankful that the soldier had committed the blunder of addressing his name beforehand. To improve upon her ruse, she offered her hand towards the young man.

Accepting the offer, he took her hand and pulled himself up. He may have pulled himself up too fast however as they nearly headbutted one another. At such proximity, Alyna caught the faintest whiff of pastry and dough on him and blushed, her Mamono instincts creeping in while Evrat himself realized how beautiful his saviour was. Though their display was unintentional, Frederic took it as a sign that they were indeed working together as strangers don’t often let people be that close to them.

“Well then,” Frederic began as the two immediately broke apart, not realizing they were still holding hands, “I guess that means that I now need to know what happened here.” He stated as his men began to spread around the area, looking at the mess that had been made prior to their arrival.

Evrat gave his side of the story, about how he was simply preparing his bakery for tomorrow while Alyna stood watch outside the front door not realizing that there was a back entrance to allow the shipments of good and had allowed the criminal to sneak in before he trailing off and signalling for Alyna to finish the rest.

With two witnesses – a victim being one of them and their suspect, the soldiers carried him off to the prison to await his sentence before bidding them a good night. As the door closed with a click, the tension inside finally dropped. Unfortunately for them, they had forgotten about the other’s presence and blushed in response, finally noticing that they were alone in the middle of the night. One due to her Mamono instincts urging her to take him there and now in his vulnerable state while the other was simply out of pure adoration. Thankfully for the former, she was able to keep them in check.

“I guess I ought to thank you now My Lady,” he stated, trying to ease the atmosphere between them, “I don’t have much but I take pride in my culinary skills!” Smiling as he said so. By now the young man had set about gone for the lantern he kept under his counter and lit up before placing it in the middle of the room. He had a lot of cleaning up to do after all.


This broke Alyna out of her stupor and, not wanting to let a recently injured man overexert himself, she began to help him. “No please, you don’t have to. And please, call me Alyna.” She protested.

Just as she set about clearing the place, her eyes fell on a peculiar item that had landed on the floor in front of her. Held in some sort of packaging, the solid bar had the same logo as the sign on the door. Curiously, she grabbed hold of it and observe the item in question, as if a stare down would finally unravel its secret to her.

“You can have it if you want.” Evrat said once he saw the looks she was giving to his recent masterpiece. “It’s my latest invention. I call it, ‘chocolate’. When I first made it I never knew it would be so popular. Know almost everyone all over the kingdom wants a taste of it; even the Royal Family!” He beamed, proud of what he had accomplished.

Almost immediately, everything clicked for Alyna. She finally understood why the logo on the door was familiar. It was because the treat that Tilda had been eating a week ago bore the same logo as this one. But wait, what was it that he said about a ‘Royal Family’?

“Oh? You don’t know them?” he replied when she posed the question. They usually order me to make special batches of chocolate for them amongst other things. I personally deliver them myself since, well, I’m afraid that the courier will get greedy. Not the first time it happened.” He narrowed his eyes as he began to remember a particular incident.

This is it. In her mind Alyna knew that this was her chance. The things she could do once she’s inside their… wherever it is the Royal Family stays. She coul-… Deep breathes. Deep breathes Alyna reminded herself. Remember not to let your emotions get the better part of you. She had to proceed carefully now. First, she will need to guilt trip him into letting her have anyone she wanted. Then she needed to hint that she was low on gold and could use work. After that, she should mention how her only marketable skills are protecting people and preventing further robbery like the one that had occurred today. She can’t be too blunt nor direct at her proposal lest he’ll become suspicious of her.

With a solid plan in mind, she opened her mouth and began.

“Can I work with you?” Her tone desperate.

Well.. that didn’t go as planned. In her haste she forgot to choose her words carefully and simply went with the flow. Before she could even shrink in self-despair for blowing away her chance, a mirthful laughter filled the air.

“I don’t see why not. You seem like a good enough person. In fact…” Reaching over to the broken counter and navigating his hands through the broken glass, the man retrieved a smeared cake. However, rather than the white, creamy tone that one would associate with cakes, this one was instead dyed in different shades of brown. “Here, let’s finish this as a celebration for your employment before it goes bad! I call it the ‘Chocolate Cream Cake’!” He proudly announced, chest puffed out.

Her depressed expression soon changed into genuine happiness and laughter that caused a warm and pleasant feeling to course through her body. Standing up with renewed vigor at the prospect of such a rewarding treat, she opened her eyes and-… realized that her head had rolled off.

“AAAHHHHHHH!!!” Two screams were heard that night. One from sheer joy and happiness as she was being rewarded for her deeds like a pampered child, her desires and emotions running wild. And as for the other? It was for being assaulted a second time on the same night. However this time, the perpetrator was not only headless but also was more… kinky to say the least as she pounced on him.

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