Goetic Justice


Cover Illustration by Meandraco: https://www.furaffinity.net/user/meandraco/

© 2019 Snekguy. All rights reserved.

This work was made possible by the generous support of my Patrons:

https://www.patreon.com/Snekguy

Disclaimer: This work of erotic fiction is intended for adults only. The story contains the following themes: demons, satyrs, succubi, hallucinations, hypnosis, gentle femdom, long tongues, size difference, magic, religious and occult elements.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

CHAPTER 1: ROCK BOTTOM

 

Ryan mounted the steps, fumbling with his keys as he made his way down the carpeted corridor towards his apartment, finding the door already open when he arrived. Becky must be home, he thought to himself, stepping through into their tiny living room to see her sitting on the couch.

She put her phone down, looking up at him and smiling. She was wearing her pajamas, and her raven hair was unkempt, she must have just gotten out of the shower.

"Sorry I'm late Becky," he said, fumbling with his tie to remove the stifling garment as he leaned down to kiss her. She pecked him on the cheek, then retrieved her phone and resumed whatever it was that she had been doing, Ryan making his way into the adjoining kitchen.

"I'm famished," he complained, crouching to open the fridge. It bathed him in its yellow glow as he rummaged for leftovers, selecting a sandwich and a can of beer. "They kept us in late at the office, I got overtime pay though, Williams seems really pleased with my performance as of late. I think I might actually have a chance to move up in this company if I keep my head on straight."

He flopped down heavily beside her, cracking open his beverage and taking a draw, the cold liquid soothing as it made its way down into his empty stomach. Becky was still glued to her phone, but he was too absorbed by his sandwich to notice.

"At this rate we might actually be able to take that vacation you keep asking for, assuming I can save up enough sick days," he said as he swallowed a mouthful of tuna and tomato. It was store-bought, not very appetizing, but hunger was a seasoning that made any meal palatable. "What do you think of that? Becky?"

He reached over and placed a hand on the phone, lowering it to get her attention, and she turned off the screen as she looked up at him. She seemed distant, disinterested, but she couldn't have gotten back from her barista job more than a couple of hours ago. She must be tired, she looked as if she had been about to get into bed when he had arrived.

He shuffled closer to her and curled an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into him, the familiar scent of her preferred shampoo rising to his nose. It smelled artificial to him, but while he didn't understand her taste in soaps and perfumes, he associated them with her all the same and that alone made them enjoyable.

"Hey, don't be mad with me, okay? I know I've been working a lot lately, but I'll make it up to you this weekend. We'll spend all Saturday binging on TV shows, how about that? I'll get us some takeout, and we can watch whatever you want until the sun comes up, no pants necessary."

"I dunno Ryan," she replied, "I kind of had plans this weekend. I'm going to a concert with my friends, we probably won't be back until Monday morning."

"Anything I might like?" Ryan asked, but his smile was met with a frown.

"Ryan, you know how my friends feel about you, and it isn't anything you'd enjoy anyway. You hate live music."

That put a damper on his good mood, and he shook his head in annoyance, releasing her from his one-armed hug.

"Come on Becky, it's been months since I moved here, I can't believe that they still hate me so much. I can't even remember the last time I saw any of them. We're not teenagers anymore, we all have jobs and lives, why do they still treat me like I'm trying to steal you away from them? I feel like any time we're both free, they just come between us and-"

"Hey," Becky interrupted sternly, "remember the promise that you made when you came out here."

"I know, I know, you have your own life and I'm not going to try to interfere with it. I'm not saying don't go to the concert, I just wish that you'd keep me in the loop is all. It's hard for us to make plans together when you're always springing these things on me at the last minute."

"Maybe you need to make some friends of your own," she said dismissively. He gave her a sideways glance, trying to determine if she was being intentionally hurtful. She had turned her attention back to her phone, and so he assumed that she was just tired and grouchy. He took another bite of his sandwich, mulling over his reply for a moment.

"You know that I had to leave all of my friends behind to move here. This city is your home, but it's been a big adjustment for me. It was a downright miracle that I was able to find a position that would allow me to live here, so just try to be supportive."

"I'm going to bed," she replied tersely, "I'll see you in the morning."

***

"How am I being controlling?" Ryan exclaimed, brandishing the phone as if it was proof in itself of her misdeeds. He was seeing red, anger and hurt tying a knot in his belly, and her reaction to his outrage just made everything worse. She was furious with him. Rather than the guilty apology that he had anticipated when he had confronted her, she was angry at being discovered. It didn't make any sense, it followed no discernible logic. He had violated her privacy, but in doing so, he had uncovered wrongdoing of far greater proportions.

"You went through my fucking phone, you asshole!"

"You thought I wouldn't notice how distant you've been lately? How you've been taking every opportunity to get away from me, how you've been hiding your phone screen whenever I walk into the room? Do you think I'm some kind of idiot?"

"That doesn't give you the right to go through my shit and snoop on my private conversations like some kind of fucking stalker!"

Becky was indignant, he was amazed by her reaction to being presented with the chat logs, she was trying to switch the whole situation around so that he was the villain for uncovering her cheating.

He wasn't proud of what he had done, but his suspicions had only been confirmed. Whatever trust that existed between them had been violated long before he had taken her phone. It had been going on for months. Those sudden changes in her mood, those new clothes and the new attention to her appearance, none of it had been for his benefit. She had been seeing someone else the entire time, living in his apartment and sleeping in his bed while she had an affair, sending this person dirty text messages while they were in the same damned room. There was no concert, she wasn't seeing her friends on the weekend, she was planning to spend it with someone else.

"Three years of my life, Becky, three fucking years and you flush it all down the toilet on a whim. I was going to marry you, I wanted to have kids with you one day, and for what? A cheap thrill?"

"You're boring, Ryan! You never take me out, you never do anything that includes me, all you ever do is work and sit at that fucking computer like a zombie. I don't want to just watch movies and play video games, those are your hobbies, not mine. Paul takes me out. We go dancing, and we eat at upscale restaurants, we hang out with his friends and talk about life. What's there to talk about in your life, Ryan? Where are your friends?"

"Hundreds of miles away," he snapped, "because I left them behind to move here with you!"

"Whatever, I'm glad that you found the chat logs, because seeing what a jealous asshole you are has given me the push I need to move on with my life. We're through Ryan, I'm taking my shit, and I'm leaving."

She stormed off into their bedroom, flinging a duffel bag onto the twin bed and beginning to cram her clothes into it, throwing empty drawers to the carpet as she cleared her belongings out. Ryan couldn't think straight, he couldn't parse what was happening, as if the universe had just switched to a foreign language that he didn't speak. Yesterday everything had been fine, and today his life was in tatters. It was all happening so quickly. He paced around the small kitchen and wrung his hands. He wanted to shout and upend furniture, but as angry as he was, he felt as if all of the strength had been drained from his body. He felt ill, weak, like he had caught some terrible flu. He wanted to insult her, to say something cutting that would hurt her and bring her to tears, make her feel as bad as he did. Nothing came to mind as she slammed the bedroom door and made for the exit.

"You won't even try to fix this?" Ryan asked in disbelief as she turned in the hallway to glare at him, the bulging duffel bag slung over her shoulder. "Just like that, you're cutting me loose like a turd, you won't make any attempt to reconcile?"

"I don't owe you any explanation," she hissed, her voice full of malice and venom the likes of which he had never heard from her before. It was like some demon had possessed her, or some doppelganger had replaced her, and for a moment he wondered how he could ever have loved her the way that he had. "Now give me my fucking phone back."

He threw it at the wall behind her, the blocky device chipping the plaster and falling to the floor, its screen cracked. Becky stooped to pick it up, her green eyes flashing with rage, and for a moment he feared that she might turn and run at him.

"Real mature, I'll send you the fucking bill," she spat as she opened the door to the apartment and vanished into the corridor outside. Ryan stared at the space where she had been for a few moments, the door left ajar, before the realization of what had just happened hit him like a ton of bricks. He leaned back against the wall, sinking down to sit on the carpet, his face cradled in his hands as he choked back stinging tears. Whether they were born of anger or sadness, he couldn't tell.

***

"I'm sorry Ryan, but there's nothing more I can do. You were warned that if your performance kept suffering, you'd be let go. You've been warned, and you've been disciplined, but you keep showing up late. Your quarterly figures are down nearly forty percent. I don't know what's going on with you, but this is a business, not a charity. We can't afford to keep you on any longer. You'll be getting your final paycheck at the end of the month."

Ryan leaned across the desk, pleading with his employer, the bustle of the office almost inaudible behind the glass walls of the cubicle. There were decorative ferns made from shiny plastic, and metal filing cabinets placed against the walls, the man watching him disdainfully from behind a computer monitor.

"Please, you can't do this to me Mister Williams! I'm going through some stuff right now, but I can do better! I need this job, I'm barely keeping up on my rent as it is. I'll never be able to find work in this city on such short notice."

"I realize that you moved here to take advantage of this position, but company policy is clear on this. You've been given second and third chances, but you've become a liability. This has already been decided, and the paperwork has already been filled out, there's nothing more I can do for you besides wishing you the best of luck in finding gainful employment elsewhere."

Ryan began to speak again, but Williams cut him off with a wave of his hand, and so he sank back into the uncomfortable office chair with a look of resignation on his face.

"We're legally required to give you a month's notice, but I'd like to ask you as a personal favor, not to return to the premises again."

Ryan nodded and stood, defeated, but Williams cleared his throat to get his attention as he opened the glass door.

"You'll still be covered by our health insurer until your contract is officially terminated. If you want my advice, use it to get some help. You're a mess Ryan, your shirt isn't even buttoned properly, and I'm pretty sure you've been drinking. Go see a shrink while it's still covered by our plan and see if they can help you work this out."

He hesitated at the door, then left without comment, Williams shaking his head in exasperation as he returned to his work.

***

There wasn't anyone else, Ryan realized as he sat in the dark and stared at the flickering of his computer monitor. He had left all of his friends behind to be with Becky, left his family to accept the job offering in the city, and she was the only person that he ever confided in. Without her, he had nobody to talk to, he had neglected every other aspect of his social life. For the first time in his life, he was completely alone.

It had been weeks, but he didn't want to date again, the wound that Becky had opened with her betrayal still festered. He felt as if he couldn't trust anyone again. In accusing him of being jealous and controlling, she had inspired those very instincts within him. Every time a future partner answered a phone call, or checked their email, he would assume the worst.

Now he had no job, no family or friends, and he was on track to lose his apartment. Living in the city was expensive, there was no way he could afford to pay his rent, his meager savings wouldn't see him through the next two months. He had been so secure, so confident, but now he realized that his entire life had been a house of cards that had come crashing down around him at the slightest gust of wind.

He knew what he should do, suck it up, get back out there. He should start looking for a new job immediately, take the one suit that he owned to the dry cleaner and go to as many interviews as it took. When he had secured a new job, he would start dating again. He'd find someone better than Becky, someone who would make him question if he had ever truly loved her to begin with.

But another, more destructive facet of his personality kept asking the same question. Why?

He had done everything that he was supposed to do, everything that he had been told would ensure his success. He had worked hard to earn his degree and then he had secured a steady job at a good company. Yeah, it hadn't been the most exciting or the most intellectually stimulating work, but it had allowed him to live a modest lifestyle and it had given him the money that he needed to move in with his girlfriend. He had treated her as well as he knew how, but all of those nights that they had spent together on the couch binging on movies, and all of the time that he had spent trying to involve her in his hobbies had all been for nothing. She had been bored out of her mind, stewing in her silent resentment until she had finally sought excitement and romance elsewhere without ever having expressed her displeasure.

So what was the point? Why start over from scratch when the first attempt at creating a life for himself had gone so badly? How could he be certain that the same thing wouldn't just happen again?

***

Another month passed, and he received his final paycheck, using the money to pay his bills and to buy enough food to last him a while longer. He wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do now. The defeatist in him wanted to just sit in his apartment, distracting himself with meaningless entertainment and drink until someone came to forcibly remove him. An even darker facet of his psyche considered the final relief of a bottle of pills downed with bourbon, but he shoved those thoughts to the back of his mind. He wasn't quite destitute just yet.

He had gone too far down the rabbit hole, he had allowed his depression and his defeatism to get the better of him, and how he felt like he had dug a trench that he couldn't climb out of under his own power. Maybe he should have taken what Williams had said to heart, perhaps a psychologist could have set him back on the straight path, but it was too late for that now.

He took another swig of amber liquid from his bottle, shooting at demonic enemies on his computer screen, playing the game on autopilot as he mulled over his sorry situation. Flashing skulls and sigils, the screeching hordes of the damned and horned goat monsters throwing fireballs in his direction, it was all a blur. He started to get an idea. It was a stupid, drunken impulse, but an idea nonetheless.

He had seen it on internet chat rooms and on the forums that he frequented. Ryan had always dismissed those people as roleplayers or trolls, but the subject matter remained strangely alluring to him. He had been fond of the occult for as long as he could remember, wiling away his free time watching trashy documentaries about the supernatural and horror movies filled to the brim with cheap jump scares and bad special effects. There was a fascination there, and now that he was at rock bottom, what did he have to lose by exploring it further?

He closed the game, turning his attention to his web browser instead, typing frantically and navigating towards his forum of choice. The people here were mostly nuts, obsessed with Bigfoot and UFOs, sharing stories of ghost sightings or demonic possessions. But amongst all of the paranormal bullshit, occasionally there surfaced a conversation that seemed too genuine, too detailed and researched to be fake. Sure, some people were just crazy, but it would have taken real time and real work to fabricate such a convincing lie. What would be the point? Why take it so far?

He scrolled through pages of blurry photos of angels and sasquatches, schizophrenics talking about the voices that they heard in their heads, and sufferers of sleep paralysis who were convinced that they were being abducted by aliens. Finally, he came across the thread that he had been searching for, demonology and summoning. There was a lot of garbage here, cartoonish depictions of horned, cloven-hooved monsters with red skin being invoked by human sacrifices and appearing in a puff of smoke. Pentagrams, upturned crucifixes, nothing of any use.

Boy, he must have been drunker than he had thought to consider this, it couldn't possibly be real. But again he heard that nagging voice in the back of his mind, what do you have to lose by trying?

As he pored over the conversations and discussions, one subject stood out to him, one name that kept coming up wherever he looked. The Ars Goetia. He eventually tracked down a thread that was filled with instructions on how to draw runes and sigils, summoning circles and rituals that must be performed in order to invoke a spirit, extensive and detailed lists of Goetic demons and their associated seals. As he pored over the information, he began to realize that these were not winged beasts with pitchforks whose only purpose was to do evil, but that each demon had a realm of expertise and was said to bestow help or services upon the summoner. Some taught skills or arts, others revealed hidden truths, there was a demon here for every conceivable need.

One could summon Eligos to predict the outcome of a war, the creature appearing before the summoner as a ghostly specter riding a skeletal horse. There was Vaul, who could cause women to fall in love with his summoner, but who only spoke in broken Egyptian. Bifrons who would teach the arts and sciences, Foras who taught logic and ethics and who could make men eloquent and well-spoken, Stolas who took the form of a crowned owl and would teach his conjurer the secrets of astrology. It was a veritable shopping list of demons, seventy-two of them to be precise, along with the necessary knowledge concerning their summoning. The Ars Goetia, the source material was called, a Medieval text that detailed the exploits of one King Solomon.

There was so much information here, sources ranging from the seventeenth-century text all the way back to Biblical figures mentioned in scripture. Was this some collective insanity? Surely the sheer volume of information available lent some credence to its authenticity?

Ryan realized that trying this out would not be as simple as drawing on his floor in sharpie and then lighting some candles. If he was going to do this, really commit to it, then he needed to do the research. He had to pick one of these Goetic demons, choose one that suited his problems as closely as possible, and then figure out what he needed to do in order to invoke it.

He looked at the clock on his taskbar, noticing that several hours had passed. He had been so engrossed in his research that he hadn't even noticed. He decided to sleep on it, if he still felt like doing this when he was sober in the morning, then he'd make some serious plans.

***

Ryan awoke the following morning with a renewed desire to see the project through, his sober mind now more convinced than ever that this was the right course of action. With no job to go to and no social obligations to eat up his time, he resolved to spend the entire day researching the subject.

He started on the forum, quickly realizing that the source material for these Goetic demons was split into several different tomes and grimoires. Some were ancient scriptures said to have been written by Solomon himself, pre-dating the advent of Christianity by a thousand years. Others were Medieval texts, and still more were relatively modern adaptations of the works that were overall easier to parse. He decided to start his investigations with one of those, the most famous of which was The Lesser Key of Solomon, a collection of transcriptions of ancient manuscripts.

He downloaded a PDF file of the book but quickly became discouraged as he scrolled through the document. There was a lot of detailed information here, along with lengthy descriptions of the demons and their sigils. There were meandering invocations, and chants that would let one greet or banish the spirits. It was all too much for him to parse, however, he didn't know where to start. What he needed was a how-to.

He went back into the archives, sifting through the posts and conversations, before eventually finding exactly what he required. Aleister Crowley's Illustrated Goetia. The book detailed the man's own tentative explorations into the art of summoning, along with easy to follow, step-by-step instructions and a blow by blow account of what had occurred when the spirit had been invoked. All the better, it was only a few decades old and so was not fraught with Olde English and Latin incantations. There was no better place to start. He downloaded a scanned copy of the book, then transferred it to his phone and started to read.

Immediately he was struck by the narrator's situation, so similar was it to his own that he felt chills crawl up his spine, his eyes scanning back and forth as he devoured the pages. Crowley had lost everything, jobless and contemplating thoughts that he described as too dark to entertain, he had turned to the Goetia in his time of need. In order to turn his life around he had chosen demon number fifty-five, Orobas, who was described as being trustworthy and able to grant the favor of friends and foes. Ryan admitted to himself that he didn't understand precisely what it all meant, prelacies and true answers of divinity, but Crowley seemed to have thought Orobas perfectly suited to the task and who was Ryan to question the choice?

As he read on the narrator recounted the experience of his first summoning, along with the steps and preparations that he had taken, a veritable roadmap to anyone interested in trying it out for themselves. He had anointed himself in oils and then had created an improvised temple in his son's bedroom, drawing a summoning circle on the floor using masking tape. He had used easily obtainable incense burners and candles, no arcane artifacts of any kind, and there had been no gruesome sacrifices or bloody rituals of any sort. When laid out like this, the whole affair seemed almost mundane, pedestrian.

Ryan had pictured a man in lavish robes, sacrificing a goat with a ceremonial dagger before some complex and intricate sigil, but a Goetic summoning could apparently be carried out with common household items. The elaborate and lengthy incantations detailed in Solomon's Key seemed to be unnecessary too, more to put the summoner in a meditative state than any kind of code that would cause the demon to appear. The author had not performed them, and there had been no dire consequences. As the story went on Crowley detailed his first attempt at a summoning, clumsy and almost comically inept, yet successful in invoking the demon. Becoming frustrated with his initial lack of success, he had cursed out the spirit with a slew of profanities, and when it had reluctantly appeared, he had rubbed cinnamon oil in his own eyes by accident. Ryan was fairly confident that he could do better, if not in the ritual itself, at least in his composure.

The narrator had been successful, and the demon had appeared to him in the form of a tiny horse with a miserable expression, seen not with the eyes but as one sees an idea formed in their mind. A series of almost hysterical threats and promises had kept the creature under control, and after some back-and-forth between the two parties, a sort of contract had been formed. Orobas would use the spirits under its command to help Crowley get his life back on track, and according to him, it had worked as advertised. He had seen positive results that very same day in the form of an old friend appearing on his doorstep and giving him a car that he had desperately needed for transport. By the end of the afternoon, he had found a new job in the classifieds section of a newspaper.

Coincidence, some claimed, but the author was adamant that it was Orobas who had orchestrated his sudden good luck.

The only real problem was that the author had not started out on the same footing as Ryan, he had been educated in what he referred to as High Magick and had been tutored by a more senior Magician. Would Ryan be able to accomplish the same feats without that careful tutelage? Fuck it, this was the information age, he could obtain anything that he needed to know online. The worst case scenario was that it just didn't work and made him feel foolish. What harm was there in giving it a go?

He resolved to follow the instructions laid out in this book, to obtain the necessary information and tool and then attempt to summon his own Goetic demon.

 

CHAPTER 2: SUMMONING FOR DUMMIES

 

"Hi, do you have, uh...Myrrh Oil?" Ryan stammered, the shop assistant giving him a strange look as he read from his shopping list of ingredients. He was in a holistic medicine store, the only place that he could find that might have the component oils required to make the Oil of Abramelin described in Crowley's Goetia, apparently necessary for the ritual.

"We do," she replied, leading him towards one of the shelves in the cramped building. There were dreamcatchers and charms hanging from the ceiling, little porcelain models of fairies and dragons behind glass cabinets, and the walls were lined with jars and bottles containing all manner of plants and herbs.

"What do you need it for? It's great for treating fungal and bacterial infections, and new studies have shown that it has anti-cancer properties."

He choked back a derisive snort. He couldn't stand these new-age hippies, but he quickly realized that attempting to summon a demon was hardly a more credible use for the essential oil than treating athlete's foot.

"I need some other things too," he said, showing her his list. She paused for a moment, reading the crumpled piece of paper, then handed it back to him.

"We do carry cinnamon oil and galangal, but you'd have to get olive oil from a supermarket or maybe a general store. What's this for, if you don't mind my asking? I might be able to make some suggestions if I know more."

"Oh, my girlfriend loves this stuff," he said. "Got any candles too, maybe some incense burners? It's her birthday, and I want to treat her to a relaxing bath."

The woman clapped her hands together gleefully, apparently pleased by his reply.

"Of course, and you'll be wanting some relaxing bath salts too, we have some lavender bubble bath that's just lovely. Might I recommend a CD also? There's a recording of rainforest sounds that will just release all of that negative energy, you know?"

"Oh yeah, negative energy. Can't be doing with that."

Before long he was leaving the store with a biodegradable carrier full of oils and candles. He didn't necessarily need a lot of the soaps and salts, but Crowley had taken a lengthy bath in order to cleanse himself before the summoning, so he should too. Next stop was the general store to pick up some olive oil, a Goodwill to pick up some clothes that he could use as robes, and then a hardware store for the metal plate that he would need to engrave the demon's sigil onto.

Although Crowley's first summoning had been somewhat makeshift, after doing some more research Ryan had decided on following at least some of the more detailed instructions listed in Solomon's Key, chiefly the use of wards and protections that would serve to confine whatever entity he managed to invoke and protect him from any harm that might befall him. He also kind of just wanted to draw on things, and making occult robes would be a lot of fun.

***

Ryan sat at a desk in his apartment, he had cleared out the small living room and had ended up with a space of roughly eight by eight feet of hardwood flooring, the furniture pushed up against the walls to make as much room as possible. It was on the small side, and the book stated that nine feet was necessary, but it would have to do. The grimoires didn't account for magicians living in apartment blocks.

He was hard at work drawing sigils on pieces of card that he intended to attach to a bathrobe that he had acquired from the used clothing store. It wasn't quite a wizard's robe, but it was more than Crowley had available when he had summoned his first demon. Ryan was copying the elaborate drawings from Solomon's Key, doing his best to replicate them. These were not necessary to bring the demon forth but rather to ensure the optimal containment of it and the protection of the summoner. It was all quite elaborate, and again the sheer quantity of information gave the whole affair credence.

First, there was the Solomon's Sexangle, a figure that resembled a Star of David contained within a circle, decorated with writing and runes. He would find a way to hang this from the cloth belt of the bathrobe, he was supposed to flash it at the demon when it appeared, which would supposedly compel it to be obedient and to take a humanoid form.

Next, he would make a Pentagonal Figure of Solomon, a pendant to be worn around the neck with a ward intended to protect the user on one side and the sigil of the chosen demon on the other. He could use some string and thread it through a hole in the card. Nowhere did it state that these had to be made from any specific material like metal or wood.

The final piece of his costume would be a Ring of Solomon, a circular ward containing odd writing that would be worn on or near the face to protect him from acrid fumes, sulfur and brimstone and all that. He would draw it on a piece of card and staple it to a sweatband, easy. There was one more ward listed, the Secret Seal of Solomon, but that was to be used for containing the entity within a brass vessel, like a Genie in a lamp. Ryan had no such vessel, nor did he have any desire to attempt to confine a demon should he succeed in invoking one.

He had chalk for drawing the magical circle which was going to be an absolute bitch, along with the Triangle of Solomon that was used to confine disobedient spirits, a sort of time-out for naughty demons. The circle was going to take the most time to make by far, it was full of Hebrew nonsense that he didn't understand, and sigils within sigils that looked especially hard to reproduce.

He had fashioned a wand from a stick by shaving away the bark with a pocket knife, and he had all of the candles and incense that he had bought on hand, unsure of what scents a demon might prefer or even if it mattered at all.

There were a few other complications. Some demons could only be summoned at certain times of the month depending on their rank in Hell's armies, and some of the invocations required that the summoner hath not defiled himself by any woman in the space of a month. That last part wasn't going to be an issue, and for a moment he considered asking the demon to make it so that Becky ended her days in the company of two dozen cats.

Speaking of which, he still hadn’t decided which Goetic demon he was going to attempt to summon. He couldn't continue much further without choosing one, as its sigil was required for several of the wards. The problem was that there were so many to choose from, and the archaic language used in Solomon's Key made many of their attributes vague at best. How the hell was he supposed to know what he changeth ye dead bodyes and putteth them into one another's places actually equated to? Fortunately, Crowley's Illustrated Goetia contained just that, illustrations of all of the demons along with some brief descriptions in modern English.

As he examined the extensive list, he began to realize how arbitrary some of their stated powers and areas of expertise were. If you wanted to bend trees for some reason, then you could summon number sixty-seven, Amduscias. He was your guy when it came to tree bending, and that seemed to be about all that he did. Number thirty-one, Foras, could make you invisible and also lecture you on logic and ethics. Many of them seemed to have artistic or academic pursuits that they would teach you, from foreign languages to philosophy and painting. Perhaps risking your immortal soul was preferable to dealing with student loan collectors.

He was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of demons that could allegedly be summoned, it was like going through a list of goddamned Pokemon. They could do everything from transmuting metals to gold, to making women fall in love with him, and they could even teach him to speak to dogs. He had to think hard about what would actually solve his problems, as the author of Crowley's Illustrated Goetia had been very specific about only asking for things that you actually needed from the demons, as if they would somehow be able to tell if your motivation was greed or lust. Ryan was confident that his own needs were severe enough to warrant the intervention of a demon, and so he wasn't too worried about that. As long as he chose his invocation wisely, it shouldn't be a problem.

Perhaps he should just go with Orobas, the one that had been summoned in the story that he had read. It was a fairly low-level demon, and it was described as being loyal and reliable. It had helped Crowley get out of a similar pickle. No, he needed to make the right choice, he needed a demon that perfectly suited his needs.

***

Ryan had finally narrowed it down to three demons. Dantalion, Gamori, and Orobas. He rubbed his eyes, checking the clock on his phone. It was already past midnight, he had spent the whole day researching demons and preparing his ritual.

Dantalion was number seventy-one, a genderless creature that appeared to the summoner as a mass of shifting heads. Its domain was teaching arts and sciences, it had the ability to read minds and to relay the thoughts of others to the summoner, and it could also cause women to fall in love. Those were all useful to Ryan. He could learn a profession that might land him a job, know the thoughts of employers in order to influence them, and he could have any woman of his choosing it seemed. He wasn't sure how he felt about that last part, it seemed a little too close to brainwashing, but he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

Gamori was the fifty-sixth demon listed in the Goetia, and she appeared before the summoner as a beautiful woman riding on a camel. Her area of expertise was telling the future and causing women to fall in love. The power of prescience would help him in all manner of pursuits, from job searching to dating, and again the demon appeared to grant the love of any woman that he desired. As much as he did indeed desire the love of a woman, he wasn't sure if he needed it so severely as to invoke a demon. He was perfectly capable of dating under his own power.

If he asked for something that wasn't urgent, or too difficult for him to achieve by himself, it seemed as if bad things would happen. There was nothing explicitly forbidding it, at least not that he could find, but everything pointed to it being at best a faux pas and a worst a grievous offense. Better to just keep things simple. Asking for invincibility and riches would surely backfire in some ironic way, and any demon that could bestow such things was of high rank and no doubt beyond his ability to control.

Lastly, there was Orobas, as described in Crowley's first summoning, who appeared in the form of a horse. He could grant dignities and prelacies, though Ryan wasn't quite sure what those were yet, and he could grant the favor of friends and foes. He could see the past, present, and future, and he was described as being especially loyal.

Fuck it, Orobas it was. He would begin carving his sigil into the metal plate that he had purchased at the hardware store, and start drawing it onto the back of the Pentagonal Figure of Solomon. That should be everything. There was some nonsense about astrology and planetary hours and all kinds of other minutia mentioned in the guides that he had found online, but Crowley had not bothered with that and so neither would he. There would be no chants or prayers, no meditation, none of the intricate and overly complex steps that would draw this out for longer than he had the patience for.

After all, what did it matter if he invoked a demon through a complex and rambling chant that had to be memorized, or through simply asking it plainly to appear? Crowley had hurled insults and expletives at Orobas, and it had manifested itself all the same, which led Ryan to believe that many of the more elaborate parts of the ritual were just there for flair.

If any of this was to be believed, then it was a kind of science, albeit an arcane and spiritual science. As long as he followed the steps as they were outlined, it should work, and the more religious and superstitious aspects could be glossed over. He chuckled to himself, realizing how stupid that sounded, criticizing the superstitious when he was about to attempt a demon summoning.

It had gotten late, but everything was ready. He would get some sleep and perform the invocation the next day.

***

The summoning circle was all drawn out in chalk on the hardwood floor of his apartment, this might be a pain to clean up, but it wasn't as if he was going to get his deposit back anyway. It had taken him a couple of hours, writing out all of the little Hebrew incantations and drawing all of the pentagrams, making sure that it was lined up with the cardinal directions and triple checking that everything was properly transcribed from the Lesser Key of Solomon. He had his own little triangle to stand in that was decorated with wards, and there was the containment triangle which was intended for trapping unruly demons within its confines. He remembered that the instructions had asked for a nine-foot circle and about twelve feet of space overall, but he had to make do with what was available. If this didn't produce any measurable results, then so much might have gone wrong that it was hardly worth sweating over the details.

Even stripped of its more flamboyant elements, the ritual seemed needlessly complex, with layers of dependencies where one misstep could cause a cascading failure. He was confident of his wards and sigils, however. He was about as defended from hostile entities as it was possible to be without having a proton pack on hand, unless he had completely misunderstood some crucial element that would result in his soul being immediately devoured. Oh well, he didn't have much going on these days anyway.

He had taken a long and thorough bath, using the soaps and salts that the insufferable woman at that new age store had sold him. Apparently being clean in body was as important as any of the spiritual aspects of the summoning. After all, you wouldn't invite a guest into your house and then greet them unwashed, that was just bad manners.

He was wearing his bathrobe, the material was linen, which also seemed to be important and was mentioned frequently enough that he had sought one out. He had stapled the Sexangle drawn on card to the belt, which was supposed to compel the demon to be obedient and to take human form upon request. Then there was the Pentagonal Figure that hung from a piece of string around his neck, designed to ward off danger, and finally, the sweatband with the Ring of Solomon attached to it. As a complete package, it looked like one of those budget cosplay jokes, where somebody used household items to approximate the costume of a superhero or a cartoon character in a way that was intentionally terrible. But insofar as he could tell, his getup was perfectly in line with the rules.

He switched off the lights and then walked around the circle, lighting his candles one by one, contrasting scents of lavender and vanilla wafting through the air. He lit the incense burner too. It was some scent called dragon's blood, but to him, it just smelled like hand cream. He found himself wishing that his Ring of Solomon worked against regular smells as well as the sulfur spewed by demons, his apartment was starting to smell like a goddamned massage parlor.

He closed the blinds to ensure that the room was as dark as possible, the flickering firelight from the candles casting long, dancing shadows on the walls. There was a haze in the air from all the crap that he had lit, it was all finally starting to feel like a genuine summoning. Get some teenagers in here and give them a Ouija board, and they'd scare themselves into hysterics within minutes. He had done a pretty good job of setting the mood all things considered.

Ok, time to do this.

Ryan stooped to pick up a small vial, the Oil of Abramelin that he had mixed from its component ingredients the night before, and anointed himself with it. He dipped his finger into the liquid and touched it gently against the psychic centers of his body that were described in the books. The top of his head, between his eyes, his throat, chest, navel, and groin. He winced, it fucking burned. He could have used some of the shit your pants hot sauce that was sitting on the kitchen counter and saved himself the trouble.

There were some rituals listed in Crowley's account of his summoning, and so Ryan performed them as the author had. He held up a printout of the Lesser Banishing Ritual and the Preliminary Invocation of the Goetia, reading from the texts and trying to put on his best commanding voice. He waved his makeshift wand as he chanted the invocations, feeling somewhat foolish, like a character from one of those wizard movies that had been so popular a few years back.

When he was done, the next step was to focus on the triangle that he had drawn on the floor, to concentrate on it and will the demon to appear there. He pointed the wand at the chalk drawing, illuminated by the flickering candlelight, and spoke in the most confident tone that he could muster.

"Orobas, I summon you!"

He stood in silence for a few moments, waiting for something to happen, but there was nothing. Not to be so easily discouraged, he pointed the wand again and repeated the demand in a sterner tone.

"Orobas, I summon you into the triangle!"

Bupkis. He was feeling a little disheartened now. Should he repeat the invocation, or had the lengthy diatribes described in the Lesser Key actually been necessary after all? No, Crowley had not used them, or he would surely have documented it in his book. Maybe he should add a little flair after all, perhaps the demons appreciated the theatrics? He cleared his throat and gave it another try.

"I hereby command you, Demon Prince Orobas, to appear before me. By the true name of the God whom you are bound to serve, and by the names of the Kings that rule over you, I conjure you."

Ryan felt a chill crawl up his spine. He had the sudden sensation that he was being watched, as if there was some unseen presence in the room with him. He felt his heart quicken, looking around the gloomy apartment yet seeing nothing. Could this really be working? Was it all true? No time to contemplate the implications, he had to stay on track, courage and concentration were central to the ritual. Trying to banish the creeping feeling that someone was lurking somewhere behind him, his animal instincts urging him to run as his veins were flooded with adrenaline, he pressed on.

"I summon you into the triangle, Orobas, obey my command and do not delay."

He fumbled with the sheets of paper that he had printed out. He wanted to read off some of the names of the demons and angels that were said to compel the thing to do as it was told. While Crowley had not used them, Ryan had most of the information from the Lesser Key on hand just in case he needed it. There were fucking dozens of them, and he wasn't even going to attempt to pronounce the name Escerchie. He'd just have to keep making it up as he went along.

"Orobas, great and mighty Prince of Hell, answer my summons and come before me so that you might aid me in my hour of need!"

Ryan couldn't be sure if it was just the candles and incense, but the air seemed to be getting thicker, fumes swirling in the darkness as if some electrical appliance had caught fire. Hoping that wasn't the case, he waved his wand at the triangle, trying to will the demon to manifest. He concentrated, fixated on that chalk drawing, trying to picture what it might look like in his mind's eye. He was startled by a gust of wind that almost blew out his candles, the flames sputtering, despite all of the windows being securely closed. Things were starting to get seriously spooky, and some part of him almost wanted to back out, to abandon the whole venture while there was still time to pass everything off as coincidence or a trick of the light.

The temperature was plummeting, like somebody had been messing with the thermostat, and for a moment he could have sworn that he saw ice crystals in his breath. His eyes were playing tricks on him, mistaking the dancing shadows cast by the candles for figures moving around him, losing their definition when he managed to focus on one. He almost jumped out of his skin when he heard a loud bang from the room above, his unruly neighbors stomping around no doubt. But there was doubt, and he heard it again, it almost sounded to his frightened ears like...hooves. Clop clop clop, like there was something heavy marching around in the apartment above him, or perhaps on his ceiling? He looked up frantically. He couldn't see anything, and yet the hairs on his arms and neck were standing on end.

He regretted doing this, what the fuck had he been thinking? Why didn't he just sign up at an unemployment center, move back in with his parents, or even just take the hit and live in a hostel for a while? He felt like a suicide jumper who had just let go of the railing, his stomach lurching as he started to fall, a million better options flashing through his mind now that it was too late.

Ryan suddenly felt drawn to the triangle, magnetized to it, as if gravity was concentrating there and drawing him inexorably inward. He stared through the swirling haze, his eyes struggling to penetrate the vapors, and then he saw it.

There was some...thing in the triangle, a formless, writhing shape that was impossible to make out clearly. Only he didn't really see it, not with his eyes at least. Like a hologram projected onto a building, it cast itself into his mind like an idea. It was as if he had just discovered some new sense, sight without light, and even when he shut his eyes tightly to be free of the churning mass of malformed flesh...it was still there.

He couldn't undo this now, it was too late, he had to stay the course. Driven more by his surging adrenaline than by courage, he pointed his wand at the demon, praying that his voice sounded more angry than hysterical.

"Take form, Orobas, and no shape intended to offend or repulse!"

It became more solid, as if it was phasing in from somewhere else, almost as though it was emerging from behind a pane of frosted glass. After a moment there was a little horse sitting in the triangle, scarcely larger than a dog as it stared at him with its miserable eyes. They looked too big for its head, watery and expressive, and Ryan kept his wand trained on it as he tried to regain his composure.

Holy shit it was a demon, sitting right in the middle of his living room, holy shit! He didn't know whether to be elated or horrified, and then the thing spoke, hoarse and distant as if heard from far away.

"What...is this?"

Ryan got the distinct impression that it didn't want to be here, that it resented being confined to this triangle, but he flashed his Sexagonal sigil at it all the same.

"I have summoned you here, Orobas. You see this sigil? It means that you have to obey me."

"Obey thee?" it asked, its tone derisive. "Thou art no Magician, what manner of farce is this? Dost thou mock me, mortal?"

"I'm...no, I'm not mocking you. I summoned you here. It worked, didn't it? Now follow the rules, you have to do as I command."

As afraid as he was, Ryan was becoming quite annoyed with the weird little pony. This was his moment of triumph, and yet it seemed to think that the whole affair was some kind of practical joke. Did it not believe that he was the one who had summoned it?

"Who hast taught thee these things?" Orobas asked in its rasping voice.

"Nobody," Ryan replied tersely, "I taught myself."

"Thy sigils art scrawled upon paper, thy runes and thy incantations art as if drawn by the hand of a child, thou weareth a bathrobe. This should not have worked. How didst thou succeed in summoning me here with so little care and preparation?"

"I followed the instructions, and the fact that you're here talking to me right now proves that I did it right, so stop complaining unless you want me to burn your sigil."

He raised a slip of paper with Orobas' seal crudely drawn on it in pencil, holding up a lighter to it.

"No!" Orobas snapped, "do not do that!"

Ryan pulled away, alarmed by the intensity of the creature's objection. Perhaps the threat was more severe than he had realized. The thing seemed to calm down, sinking back into its position inside the triangle. It turned its eyes to the sigil that contained it, as if trying to find some error in the Hebrew script or the placement of the runes, something that might let it break loose. There were none, Ryan had taken great care to transcribe them properly, and so it turned its attention back to him.

"What wouldst thou ask of me, novice?"

Ryan collected himself. This was the most crucial part of the summoning, he needed to make sure that his request was phrased clearly and could not be misinterpreted either by accident or intention. He had thought long and hard about this, and he had decided on what he wanted to ask the demon.

"Orobas, I beseech you to use your powers and all of the spirits under your command to help me turn my life around. I lost my job and my wife-to-be, I've run out of money, and I'm going to lose my home. My luck has soured, and nothing is going right for me. Summoning you is my last resort. I want to be financially secure again, a steady job that pays enough for me to live comfortably, and that I enjoy. I want to be happy again. You have two weeks, it needs to be done before I get evicted at the end of the month."

The demon seemed to consider for a moment, Ryan watching it with bated breath, until it finally replied in its rasping voice.

"This I can do, but speak plainly. Art thou sure that this is thy request?"

"Yes."

"And what favors willst thou grant me in exchange?"

"If you succeed in your task, then I will order fifty tin plates from the hardware store. I'll get them engraved with your sigil, and then I'll scatter them all over the city. Laser etched, real nice, people will be finding those things for months."

"This is...acceptable, but heed this warning, novice. Thou art clearly ignorant in the ways of magick, and this work will nary be simple or quick. Be patient and follow my instructions, and thou shalt prosper before the fortnight is through."

"So we have a deal, then?"

"Aye, I accept thy terms, now see me on my way."

"Oh, right," Ryan said as he fumbled with the printout and cleared his throat. "Because you have answered my summons and have appeared before me in good faith, and now that our contract is sealed, I hereby release you to return from whence you came Orobas. Go now peaceably, with blessings and thanks, and be ever ready to return to my side again should your council be required."

The grotesque little horse bowed its head, and then as quickly as it had come, it was gone. The air cleared instantly, the oppressive haze lifting and the cold retreating, Ryan sensing that he was alone once again.

His heart was beating like a drum. His mouth was dry, and his hands were shaking conspicuously, but his terror had been replaced with elation. He had done it! He had summoned a demon, and it was all real! He hurriedly walked around the circumference of the summoning circle, blowing out the candles and dousing incense burners, then he raised the blinds and turned the lights back on. There was no sign that anything had been here, no ghostly residue in the triangle where Orobas had sat, and no hoof prints on the ceiling.

Would the demon really do as he had asked? How would it influence his life? Would he wake up the next morning with a job offer from some big IT firm waiting for him on the kitchen table? Orobas had said that it would take time and that he should be patient, but he could hardly contain his excitement.

He removed the sweatband from his head, along with the Ring of Solomon that protected him from foul odors, and his nose wrinkled at the smell of sulfur. It was faint, but it was there, overpowering the scents of the candles and incense as they faded.

He would leave the circle and the sigils on the floor in case he needed to contact Orobas again. There was no reason to clean them up when his landlord wasn't nosy, and he had no friends or family who might visit him here. He could do with changing out of his bathrobe, however, and opening a few windows. The vanilla candles were almost worse than the demonic odor.

***

Another day passed with no sign or show from Orobas, and with nothing more pressing to occupy his time Ryan spent it catching up on TV shows and video games. He had moved some of the furniture back into place just so that he could make use of the seating and the television, but he could touch up the circle with chalk if he needed to.

He was sitting on the couch, eating a slice of pizza with his controller in hand when the smell of sulfur overpowered him, a freezing cold coming over the room as if it had just been transported into the Arctic. He dropped what he was doing, shivering as he watched his breath condensate. Was Orobas returning? What should he do, did he need his robe and his sigils? Could Orobas appear of its own accord without being summoned?

He heard footsteps, heavy hooves on wood, there was no mistaking that sound. His ears tracked what his eyes could not yet see, something heavy walking across the ceiling, formless shadows dancing on the walls as if cast by ethereal candles. There was a haze in the air, those same fumes manifesting out of nowhere, this time stinging his eyes and making them water due to his lack of wards.

He suddenly became aware of something that was standing in the corner of the room, its silhouette seen more by his mind than his eyes. The amorphous mass took shape, becoming vaguely humanoid, yet tall enough that its head scraped the ceiling. This was not Orobas, unless he was taking a form that was not described in any of the grimoires, and Ryan felt a pang of fear in his belly. Had he done something wrong and let some vagrant entity into his apartment? It was said that summoning demons and playing with the occult would open one up to invasion by hostile spirits, like leaving your door unlocked in a bad neighborhood. He had no sigils on hand, no wand, nothing that might help him to protect himself or repel it.

He heard the knock of hooves on the wood floor, heavy and loud as the entity began to walk towards the couch on two jointed legs, like the hind legs of a goat or a deer. It was slowly taking form, coming more into focus as it neared him, Ryan rubbing his eyes in a futile attempt to clear them as he cowered. It shook the floorboards beneath him, far heavier than any man, and it sported a mane of twisted horns that scraped along the ceiling like nails on a chalkboard as it approached him.

As it came into focus, the haze parting before it, more of its features jumped out at him. It was undeniably female, strikingly so, such that for a moment he was completely distracted from his fear. Her torso was that of a woman, developed and shapely, soft around the belly and hips. Two heavy breasts immediately drew his gaze, pert and firm, some kind of wool or maybe feathery fur beginning between them and covering her neck in a sort of ruff. The same fluffy material was present on her shoulders and lower arms, which ended in three-fingered hands with black nails that were almost claw-like in their sharpness. Her stomach and thighs were clear, covered in smooth, pale skin that was unnaturally white. Below her burnished thighs were the legs of a Satyr, like some historical depiction of a devil, ending in the cloven hooves of a cow or a goat and covered in that same downy material.

He craned his neck to see her face, struck by its odd shape, not quite that of a goat and not quite that of a human. The features were softer and more subtle than those of an animal, with an almost imperceptible snout and the clear skin of a woman, yet the nose and ears were undeniably ovine. Half a dozen black, twisted horns sprouted from her head like a crown, protruding from amidst the feathery wool that served as her hair. Her eyes were what stood out to him the most, amber in color, and with the horizontal pupils of a sheep. She peered down at him, batting her long eyelashes as if waiting for him to make the next move.

"What...are you?" Ryan mumbled.

"I am of the Seirim, bound to serve my master, Prince Orobas." She spoke with a husky, feminine voice, strangely musical as if it was being run through a synthesizer.

"Orobas sent you here?"

"I have been assigned to you as a familiar. My master cannot remain in the mortal realm long enough to achieve what you have asked, and so I will act as a guide and intermediary."

"Oh!" Ryan stammered, knowing where she had come from not doing much to alleviate his terror. "That's...good! So you're like, going to help me out, or something?"

"My spirit is bound to yours until the contract is completed. I will carry out the instructions of my master and guide you in your efforts."

"Okay, cool, so where do we start? Are you going to use your magic powers to find out what job openings there are within commute distance?"

The demon cocked her head at him, scrutinizing him with those yellow eyes, and he shrank back into the couch.

"You are no Magician, you know nothing of our ways, yet you succeeded in invoking my master and binding him in a contract. How did you accomplish this?"

"I-I looked up the instructions and followed the steps."

"It takes years of study and meditation to truly understand the nature of the sacred texts. Learning the invocations and ceremonies of the Lemegeton is the work of a lifetime in itself, it takes an accomplished and learned practitioner of the magickal arts to even make an attempt to summon a demon. Tell me, are you familiar with the Grimorium Verum, or the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum?"

He shook his head.

"Who taught you magick?"

"Nobody, I read about it on my own," he snapped. "Listen, I'm getting pretty tired of you people questioning my competence. All that matters is that I summoned Orobas and that we have a contract. You have to do what I say, and I say that I don't need to know the ins and outs of what's going on as long as I get results. Whatever goes on under the hood is your business and not mine."

She seemed taken aback by his sudden fearlessness, blinking her ovine eyes at him.

"Very well. Magick is subtle. Far from producing instant results, it takes time and preparation to achieve what you desire. You asked for Orobas to find you work and to turn your life around, the simplest way to do that is through your own efforts, aided by his powers and counsel."

"Well we have two weeks, so the sooner we get started, the better."

She nodded her head, and Ryan wondered how heavy those horns were, or if she was even a physical manifestation and had any mass at all. He wanted to reach out a hand and touch the downy, wool-like material that covered her body in places, but he didn't dare. While he presumed to be in control of these demons, he didn't want to push his luck. The relationship felt tentative enough as it was.

"Very well, I will commune with my master and return shortly."

"Wait!" Ryan blurted as he gestured for her to stop, and she blinked at him with those inhuman eyes. "What should I call you?"

"Nahash."

And just as quickly as she had come, she was gone, the lingering smell of sulfur the only evidence that she had ever been in the room. Ryan sank back down into the couch, a cold shiver running down his spine, and he lifted the upturned slice of pizza from the faux leather cushion that he had dropped in his alarm when she had manifested.

It was one thing to summon a demon, but it was quite another to have them randomly popping in and out of reality like fucking whack-a-moles. He put a hand to his chest, feeling the rapid beating of his heart, and he wiped cold sweat from his brow. He didn't really feel in control of the situation anymore. He had made a contract with Orobas, not with this Nahash who claimed to represent him, but at least things were moving along.

He picked up his controller again, turning his attention back to the television. There wasn't much he could do right now other than wait for her to reappear.

 

CHAPTER 3: TANGIBLE RESULTS

 

Ryan was hunched over the kitchen sink washing dishes when Nahash appeared again, that same cold haze and the stench of sulfur alerting him to her imminent manifestation. A feeling of instinctual dread washed over him as he sensed her presence behind him, as if his mind rejected her on some subconscious level, an aberration that offended the laws of nature and should not have existed.

One of the plates that he was washing slipped out of his grasp and broke, the crack of the ceramic making him jump out of his skin, and he spun around to greet her with his hands still covered in soap suds.

"I have returned," Nahash said, in that oddly musical voice.

"H-Hi," he muttered weakly, looking up at the enormous demon as she towered over him and trying to keep his eyes off her ample bust for fear of offending her.

"My master, Prince Orobas, has instructed me on how we must proceed. Treat my word as you would his, heed me and your contract with him shall be completed."

At this point Ryan just wanted this nonsense to be over with as soon as possible. As much as he needed the help, he was feeling increasingly like he had done something very wrong. Maybe that was his immortal soul speaking, the implications of demons being real raised many other theological and existential questions that he dared not think about too deeply, or maybe it was just his common sense.

"Fire away," he replied, and she cocked her head at him curiously. "Continue," he clarified.

"I have the power to see into the hearts of men, and my master sees past, present and future flowing before him with great clarity. You need only state what position you seek, I will sense if that is your true desire, and then my master will plot the course of action most likely to see your request realized."

"Hang on," Ryan said as he dried his hands on a dishcloth, "you're going to have to elaborate a little on how all of this works. Why do you need to see into my heart to know what I want? Can't I just tell you? If Orobas can see into the future, then why does he need my input at all? Can't he just see what I'm going to decide in advance?"

She planted her hands on her wide hips, an oddly human gesture coming from such an alien creature, and he felt his cheeks redden as he sensed that he was about to be chastised.

"This ignorance of magick must be rectified if we are to continue," she complained. "You understand nothing of our ways, and thus your requests are uninformed and made more difficult to fulfill."

"Is this going to take long? Should I sit down?"

She gestured towards the kitchen table, and Ryan pulled up a chair. Nahash was so large that none of his furniture would have supported her and so she stood on her cloven hooves as she began her lecture.

"Time is not linear, and the future is not set in stone, our actions in the present influence and change its course. Imagine a winding river flowing before you, splitting into channels and creeks, infinite possibilities that stretch out as far as the eye can see. Each of those possibilities is a choice that might be made, an action that might be taken to change the course of history. But in order for a path to be chosen, there must be conviction. You must decide upon which path to take, and entertain no doubts. Unless you are confident in your decisions, then my master's powers will not be reliable."

"I think I understand, though that's a hell of a lot less effective than I had hoped. Will Orobas at least be able to see if an interview will go successfully, or whether I'll be hired or not?"

"That depends on you, his prescience reaches only as far as your decisions do, but the advantages that it confers are beyond anything in mortal experience."

"And what's this about you seeing into my heart? I don't remember requesting that, why is it necessary? Doesn't Orobas trust me to know what I want?"

She scrutinized him with her yellow eyes, those horizontal pupils burning into him, and he wondered if she was using her power right now.

"You are brash, you act without thought, my master was wise to see that quality in you and to assign me as your familiar. Some of your requests were vague and ill-thought-out. In the future, you should be clearer when you ask a demon to make you happy or to turn your life around. You are very fortunate that my master is loyal to his charges and does not deceive, or your happiness might have taken the form of being transformed into a crawling beast, your mind made simple enough to be satisfied by eating and rutting."

Ryan's blood ran cold, he had taken such care to formulate his request and yet in the heat of the moment it had come out less concise than he had intended, his excitement and fear getting the better of him. If he had chosen to summon one of the other demons that he had considered besides Orobas, he might be a rat right now, crawling through the building in search of insects to eat and wiring to chew.

"So you're here to make sure that I don't mess up any future requests?" Ryan asked, a little embarrassed at the thought that they didn't think he could be trusted to articulate himself.

"In part, yes, but I will also supervise you in your efforts and relay to you the instructions and premonitions of my master."

Ryan leaned on the table, resting his head in his hands as he took it all in, Nahash watching him as she waited for a response.

"Alright, so you want me to think about what kind of job I want? Can it be anything I like? What if I asked you to make me an astronaut or a professional golfer?"

"That was not stipulated in the contract. You asked for work that would pay enough to allow you to live within your means, and that you would enjoy. I advise you to keep your requests humble and grounded, time is short and the more reasonable your requests, the more expedient the results."

"Okay, okay, I wasn't really serious. So I need to look for work, and I don't have a car, which means that I need something in the city that's close enough for me to reach via public transportation."

"Very well, unless you require my assistance I will take my leave of you and return to my master's side. He will inform me when you have found a suitable position."

"Hang on," Ryan sputtered, "aren't you going to help me? Doesn't Orobas have some ability that will let me know where to look, or which job I'm going to like?"

"As I explained, his prescience extends only as far into the future as your decisions do. When your mind is made up, I will return."

She faded from reality again, disappearing before his very eyes like a mirage, shimmering as if her corporeal form had been but a haze of heat on a sun-beaten road. Ryan leaned on his hand and loosed an exasperated sigh. He was starting to question why he even needed the help of these demons if he had to job hunt on his own, who knew if there were even positions available right now? Would Orobas even be able to fulfill his end of the deal if Ryan couldn't find anything? Oh well, better get started. The longer he took, the less time the demons would have to take care of the finer details.

***

Ryan rubbed his eyes, they were red and itchy from staring at a computer monitor for so long. It was three in the morning, and he had been scouring job listing sites for hours. There was nothing in range, he could blame the economy or his own overspecialization in white-collar work, but there wasn't one job close enough that he could reach it by bus or subway that he was remotely suited to. He had moved here specifically to take advantage of a position that had been offered to him out of college, and the commute had not been a concern, he lived within a ten-minute bus ride of the damned office complex.

The best that he could find on such short notice was an opening on the city garbage collection route and an internship at an auto dealer, but those wouldn't bring in nearly enough to afford the absurd rent on his apartment. Besides, Orobas had agreed to find him a job that paid well and that he enjoyed, he wasn't about to accept a job as a garbage truck driver. No disrespect to the city workers, without them the trash would be piling on the streets, but it wasn't what he had in mind for a fulfilling career. He leaned his head on his keyboard, exhaling and cursing his bad luck, it was hopeless.

The temperature in the room suddenly plummeted, that now familiar smell of sulfur rising to his nose as vapors swirled in the air. Nahash was back, her oppressive presence bearing down on him as she appeared in the corner of the room, her sheer size and mass no less alarming to him now than when he had first laid eyes on her.

"I didn't find anything yet," he complained, "what are you doing back here?"

"You must increase the range of your search," she replied, "look farther afield for the positions that you seek."

"But I don't have a car," Ryan replied incredulously, "how the hell am I supposed to get there if I can't take public transport?"

"You shall have what you require, take this." She reached out a hand, fingers tipped with black claws that contrasted with her unnaturally pale skin, looking almost like hooves themselves. In her palm a slip of paper materialized, Ryan watching with fascination as it was borne from an orange flame, as if footage of it being burned to ash was being played back in reverse. He reached out a hand and took it, his fingers brushing her claw-like nails. He could feel their rough texture, and his digits did not pass through her as if she were a ghost, she had a physical form that he could interact with. Interesting...

He held up the slip of paper, there was an address written on it in looping, calligraphic text.

"Go to this place, set out by the stroke of seven tomorrow morning, walk briskly but do not hurry. Buy a coffee and a donut on your way and whatever happens, do not argue with her, leave promptly. You will be accosted by a drunken vagrant, be generous with him and treat him as you would a friend, but see him on his way. Sleep tonight, for you will need the rest."

"What? What's going to happen? Where are you sending me?"

"Heed my instructions, and you will see your problem solved," she said as her voice faded and her body seemed to lose its definition. Like salt dissolving in water, she faded and was gone, Ryan left holding the piece of paper as he stared at the empty space where she had been but moments ago.

He read it again, and then entered the address into his computer, the map software showing him a mall that was within walking distance of his apartment. What on Earth could he find at a mall that would help his job search? She hadn't been willing to provide any more information, so he didn't have much of a choice, he'd do as she instructed and hope for some tangible results.

He shut down the computer and headed off to bed, that demonic smell still lingering in the air. To be honest, he had been glad to be so occupied with a project, anything to keep his head off that pillow. He had found that his nights were lonely and restless without Becky's warm body to keep him company. Like a puppy that won't sleep at night without a clock placed under a pillow to simulate its mother’s heartbeat, he missed the presence of another person terribly, the lack of simple comforts like the hypnotic breathing of a partner or the warm contact of their skin leaving him with a kind of insomnia.

He would have to do his best, there was no helping it right now.

***

Ryan left the stairwell of his apartment building and stepped out onto the street, it had just gone seven and the air was still cool, the sidewalk wet from the previous night's rain. He zipped up his jacket and buried his hands in his pockets. It was a brisk autumn day, and the city was just starting to wake up, cars beginning to clog the roads as its inhabitants made their way to work. The sidewalks were still relatively clear, and so he set off in the direction of the mall, his sneakers crunching fallen leaves underfoot as the colorful trees that lined the street shed their foliage.

He went over Nahash's instructions in his head as he winded past other pedestrians, trying to make sense of them. Who was he supposed to avoid arguing with and what was going to happen when he reached his destination? She had been so vague, and yet oddly specific at the same time, Orobas must have foreseen something and told her to relay to him only what information he needed.

He could go for a coffee and a donut though, a macchiato might be a good start to what was apparently going to be a busy day, and he'd sell his soul to these demons before he turned down a cruller. There was only one coffee shop on the route that took him to the mall, and after a short walk, he arrived outside, stepping through the door and taking a place in a short line. There weren't many people here yet, but it would be bustling before long, and he waited impatiently for his turn. The smell of fresh coffee was soothing and familiar. He wasn't much of a morning person, and so caffeine was his crutch when he had to wake up early to catch the bus.

Would he miss whatever unspoken deadline Orobas had set if he took too long? No, Nahash had told him not to hurry, he had to trust that everything would work out the way that had been foreseen.

When his turn came, he stepped up to the counter, and his stomach knotted as he saw Becky standing at the register. Her dark hair was tied back in a bun, and she was wearing green overalls with the company logo on her breast. Of course, she worked as a barista at this chain, she usually didn't start work until after he had already set off and so he had never encountered her on the job before. Her eyes widened as she recognized him, and then narrowed, he had been radio silent since they had broken up and he hadn't contacted her in over a month.

"Hey...Becky..."

"Ryan," she answered dismissively.

"I'll have a...uh...a macchiato and a cruller."

Her eyes flashed with fury, and she spun her head around to make sure that her manager wasn't in earshot before leaning over the counter to whisper angrily to him.

"That's all you've got to say me?" she hissed. "You don't speak to me for a month, and then you show up here asking for coffee?"

"Well you work at a coffee shop," he replied, gesturing to her overalls. She fumed, looking like she wanted to vault over the counter and lay into him, but it wasn't worth her job. "Besides, you made your feelings pretty clear, why would I care what you had to say about it after you stormed out of my apartment?"

"Three years and you don't even try to contact me, you don't reply to my messages on social media, you never answer your phone! A real man wouldn't just let me go like that without a fight."

"Why on Earth would I want to get back together with you after what you did?"

"Hey, I broke up with you," she spat.

"Yeah, if you consider getting caught sleeping around breaking up with someone."

She was about ready to go off on one of her catty rants, no doubt full of expletives and derogatory statements about his manhood and his financial situation, but then he remembered what Nahash had told him.

'Whatever happens, do not argue with her.'

This was it, this was what she had been talking about, the vague and cryptic instructions that had been relayed to him were already falling into place. It was like struggling with a puzzle before finally understanding how it fit together, that click of realization when you got your head around the problem.

"You're such a pussy Ryan, you didn't even-"

He held up a hand to cut her off, and her face contorted with rage, her brow furrowed and her lips pursed.

"A macchiato and a cruller please."

"How dare you," she started, but he silenced her again with another wave of his hand.

"I have places to be, Becky. Don't make me talk to your manager."

She slinked off to fetch his order and returned after a minute, sliding the paper bag across the counter begrudgingly and slamming his coffee down on the polished wood. She shot him a dirty look, then rang him up, foisting the crumpled receipt into his waiting hand.

"Enjoy your beverage, sir," she spat, her voice dripping with venom. He turned and left without another word, feeling her eyes burning holes into his back as he stepped out onto the street, the cool wind blowing his hair and rustling his paper bag. He set off towards the mall again, a spring in his step as he sipped his coffee. He had to admit that it had felt pretty good to shut Becky down like that. Had she cheated on him for attention then? As some kind of punishment for him failing to keep her entertained? Oh, what did it matter, he wouldn't be able to forgive her either way. He still felt a knot in his stomach when he thought about her, like someone was twisting a hot knife in his gut, but he already felt a little better. It was nice to be outside again, feeling the breeze on his face and the crisp air in his lungs, getting some exercise rather than sitting in front of a screen and trying to blank reality from his mind.

The hot coffee warmed his belly, and he fished inside the bag for his donut, taking a bite of the twisted dough and then sucking the sweet glaze from his fingers as he walked. As Nahash had instructed, his pace was brisk, but he wasn't hurrying. The city was coming to life around him, traffic coming to a standstill as cars blocked the road, bicycles weaving between them as people hurried to work. Pedestrians carrying briefcases and umbrellas emerged from subway stairwells, crowds of them milling about like ants clad in overcoats, the bustle and cacophony oddly soothing to him.

He walked for another ten minutes or so, dropping his empty styrofoam cup and the paper bag into a trash can once he had finished his breakfast, the smells of exhaust fumes and the sounds of angry motorists doing little to dampen his mood. He knew that something good was going to happen today, something positive, it was an odd and welcome feeling to be assured that luck would be on your side.

As he rounded a corner and the entrance to the mall came into view, he felt a tug on his pants leg, and he stumbled as he turned around to see what had grabbed him. There was a homeless man lying prone on the street, clad in tattered wool clothing and sporting fingerless gloves, his weather-beaten face obscured behind a wiry beard. He stank of booze, and he was clearly drunk, Ryan shaking him off in disgust as the man propped himself up against the wall of the building behind him. He took off his moth-eaten beanie, and held it out towards Ryan like a collection plate, his hair long and matted.

"Hey fella," he slurred drunkenly, "can ya spare a penny for...for the poor?"

Ryan brushed himself off and turned to leave, but then he remembered what Nahash had said. You will be accosted by a drunken vagrant, be generous with him and treat him as you would a friend, but see him on his way. She had been right about Becky at the coffee shop, there was no reason to doubt her now, and so he opened his coat and searched for his wallet. The homeless man waited expectantly as Ryan opened it and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. The demon had advised him to be generous, and it wasn't as if twenty bucks was going to prevent him from losing his apartment if he didn't find a job in time.

Ryan handed it to him, and the vagrant held it up to the light, struggling to his feet and reaching out to embrace him. Ryan grimaced as the filthy stranger hugged him tightly, the smell of body odor and alcohol washing over him, but he endured it and patted the man on the back reassuringly. Treat him as you would a friend, that's what Nahash had said.

"Yer a real pal," he mumbled as Ryan eased himself out of his arms, "whas yer name?"

"Ryan, and it's no trouble, really."

"Ryan, ah'll keep an eye out for ya."

Send him on his way, he thought, as he turned the man away and gave him a gentle nudge to send him doddering off down the sidewalk. He muttered incoherently to himself, wealthier and more handsomely dressed city folk avoiding him like the plague as he passed by them. Ryan watched him stumble along for a moment, and then continued on towards the mall, pushing his way through the glass doors and into the food court near the entrance.

He had never visited a mall so early in the day before, and he was surprised to see it relatively empty, many of the stores were just now opening for business. The smell of breakfast food greeted him as he made his way past the tables and glass counters, not sure of why he was there or what he was supposed to do next, doubt nagging at him as he wondered if Nahash might have forgotten to relay the rest of her instructions to him. He emerged into the mall proper, morning sunlight beaming down through the windows in the domed roof, and he wandered past clothing outlets and various other stores as he searched for some clue that might set him on the right path.

"You, sir!"

Ryan turned his head, looking in the direction of the voice, and he spotted a man in a dark suit standing beside a car. It was in the middle of the walkway on a raised podium, cordoned off by a red velvet rope, a white sedan with a silver grill and gleaming hubcaps. The man who had called to him waved him over, and he approached slowly.

"Enter the raffle and win a car! Just fill out your information on this form and enter for a chance to win."

Ryan took the sheet of paper and glanced over it, they wanted his personal information, things like his home address and his phone number. He felt a surge of excitement welling in him. This was it, this was what Orobas had foreseen! He needed a car for work, and so Orobas had used his powers of prescience to contrive a series of events that would result in him winning this car, putting him in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to fill out the winning form. The stop at the coffee shop, his encounter with the homeless man, all links in the chain that would delay his arrival until precisely this moment in time.

He asked for a pen and filled out the sheet of paper, handing it back and starting to walk around the podium to get a better look at the car. It was a four-door sedan, a luxury model with all the trimmings, probably sponsored by some local auto dealership.

"She's a beauty," the crier said, slipping the form that Ryan had filled out into a box. "This year's model, five-year warranty, comes with all the bells and whistles. You know, you're lucky, got here in the nick of time. You're one of the last people to hand in your form, the registration ends at midday."

"You don't say," Ryan mused, playing his eyes over the snow-white finish as he circled the vehicle. It was shiny, he could see his reflection in the bodywork, distorted like a funhouse mirror. He didn't know all that much about cars, but it was as nice a one as he could imagine owning. Beyond something like a sports car of course, but like Nahash had said, if he kept his expectations reasonable then their relationship would bear fruit. "So how do I win?"

"Your information will be entered into a raffle, and the winner will be randomly decided by the luck of the draw. If you're the lucky winner, then you'll receive a phone call with further instructions."

"I'm feeling pretty lucky today," he said, suppressing a grin.

***

"You were right about everything," Ryan said excitedly, gesturing wildly as he paced around the living room. Nahash had appeared again shortly after he had returned from the mall, and she was sitting on his couch as he circled it, her oddly goat-like head turning to track him. She looked large enough to crush the wooden frame into splinters, and yet the cushions beneath her ample rump barely sagged, as if her weight and mass were not as her appearance suggested. Did she grow tired, and did she need rest? Was she relaxing, or was this some illusion for his benefit? Orobas had not even taken form until he had been compelled to do so by the sigil. What was Nahash's true form, and did she even have one?

"The coffee shop, the homeless guy, everything that you said came true. So what's next?" he asked as he leaned on the back of the couch, her long ears flicking as if to bat away invisible flies. "When do I get the car?"

"Soon. For now, you must widen your search, look farther afield for work and find something that pleases you. Once you have made a decision, my master will be able to see into the future with greater clarity, and he will be able to advise your next course of action."

"This is great," Ryan exclaimed. "I didn't understand your methods at first, but this is like having a strategy guide for life itself."

"Now do you understand the way that magick works?"

"Yeah, yeah I do. The applications are limitless, I could win the lottery and become a millionaire, I could..."

He noticed that her expression had changed, her amber eyes were peering at him with what almost looked like disdain.

"I remember, don't worry,” he said in an attempt to reassure her. “I have to keep my requests humble for the best results. In any case, that wasn't part of my contract with Orobas, a job that I enjoy will work out better for me than a winning lottery ticket anyway. Most people who win eventually go broke, you know."

Her expression softened, and she seemed satisfied. Demons must really hate greed. As beings who were described as the embodiment of sin and evil, they sure seemed to get pissed off with him when he talked about things that he didn't need, did they just want to avoid the extra workload?

"Something doesn't add up," Ryan said, walking around to the front of the couch and standing before the demon. "You guys are demons, right? You're bound by contract not to do me any harm, at least not directly, but isn't your whole shtick trying to tempt people into self-ruination?"

She crossed her long legs, distractingly naked, her cloven hoof dangling as it protruded from the feathery fur that looked so much like a woolen knee sock. It was odd, the more time that she spent in his apartment, the more her demeanor seemed to change. She had gone from an imposing and terrifying figure who stood stoically as she advised him, to someone who made herself at home on his couch. She was lingering for longer and longer upon each visit too. If anything she was becoming more comfortable around him, maybe that was it?

"What do you think of, when you hear the word demon?" Nahash asked, and Ryan had to take a moment to think about his reply.

"Red guy with a beard and a pitchfork, embodiment of evil, takes your soul in exchange for a monkey-paw contract that eventually fucks you over in some cruel and ironic way."

"And have you found that to be the case?"

"No," he answered, a little sheepish now. "I don't mean to be like...insensitive or anything."

"Biblical lore talks of fallen angels, of good versus evil. But in reality, there is an entire world of spirits and entities that exists beyond your perception. There is no more good or evil in a spirit than there is in a mortal, we follow our whims and our fancies just as you do, and we are bound by the laws of our society much as you are bound by those of yours."

"So you won't try to corrupt me or anything like that, you won't steal my soul?"

"My master is loyal to his exorcist, and no lies pass his lips. Is that not why you chose to summon him above all others?"

"In part, yeah."

"I am bound to him, and to you, treat my words as if they came from his mouth. There is much that you do not yet understand, and much that I cannot teach you, arcane knowledge that is forbidden to mortals and ancient histories that I do not know myself. It is not my master's place to teach you the secret history of the world, nor is it mine. That is the domain of other demons who you might learn to summon in time. But what you must understand is that our history pre-dates yours by eons, and that many of what you refer to as demons are simply old gods who lost their following, and with it their power. Most have no interest in your immortal soul and seek only to fulfill their contracts."

"So what's the deal with the sigils? Why does Orobas treat engraved metal plates as currency?"

"As I said, many are gods who lost their power. Their worshipers are long dead, and their icons have been reduced to dust. Worship and tribute invigorates them, strengthens them. Without it, they would fade and cease to be."

"So..." Ryan hesitated, wanting to ask more questions but unsure of whether he really wanted to know the answers.

"I sense uncertainty in you," she said, watching him with those horizontal pupils. "You wonder if the religion that you know is true, and you fear that you will be judged poorly for what you have done. The surviving texts contain fragments of the truth, though none have accurately recorded the full account of what happened before the deluge, as so much was lost to your people."

She shuffled aside and patted the cushion beside her with her clawed hand, an oddly human gesture that contrasted with her demonic appearance.

"Come, sit with me."

Her hips were so wide that there would barely be room for him, and he was a little apprehensive about getting so close to her. He wasn't as fearful of her as he had been when she had first appeared, but she still had a fearsome look about her, those horns could have skewered a sizable cow.

"Do not be afraid. I am your familiar, my purpose is to serve you."

Still skeptical, he sat down on the couch, his hip pressing against the soft meat of her thigh. She was as physical as he was, he didn't pass through her like she was a ghost, he could even smell her. Far from the stench of sulfur when she manifested, up close she smelled more earthy, but in a pleasant way. It reminded him of grass and soil after a rainstorm.

She was so large, oppressive, and yet the couch did not sag beneath her. Her meaty thighs were almost as large as his torso, tapering into thinner and more goat-like limbs below the knee, the transition masked by her white fur. It was a struggle to keep his eyes off her bust, her two mammoth breasts hung free, battling against the gravity that fought to take hold of them. They were like a pair of damned exercise balls made of flesh. They should have been back-breakingly heavy, and yet despite their mass, she carried them easily on her massive frame. Whatever she weighed, it wasn't right, perhaps she had more control over her form than he thought.

"I am here to help you in the full scope of your contract with Orobas, it is my job to aid him in his understanding of what it is that you actually want, to see you so worried will not do."

"You don't think that I'm going to hell for consorting with demons, then?"

"Even my master cannot see that which has not yet been decided, but a man's life is long and fraught with challenges, I sincerely doubt that one act can doom him. Besides, as you now know, good and evil are relative."

"Were you ever...alive? Were you a person once?"

"Did I go to hell, you mean? No, I am of the Seirim, the progeny of the demon Azazel. I was never human. We were spirits who inhabited the plains and forests of the ancient world, we were also named Satyrs, or Jinn. It is best not to dwell on such questions, Ryan. As I have explained, my purpose here is not to recant secret histories to you, but you may learn in time if you continue your magickal pursuits."

"But hell is real?"

"Hell is just one realm amongst many. Heed my words, Ryan, it is best not to dwell on such things. Your time on Earth is so fleeting, you cannot waste it worrying about what will come after, live your life here and in time the truth will reveal itself to you."

"I suppose..."

He flinched as he felt her heavy arm on his shoulder, he could feel those hard nails scraping against his clothing. Was she trying to reassure him? For a moment he wanted to break away from her, to leap from the couch and flee, something deep in his subconscious mind still screamed that she was an aberration. It was as if he sensed that she wasn't supposed to be on some instinctual level. It wasn't fear exactly, more like some kind of immuno-response from reality itself.

She was clearer and more manifest than Orobas had been at least. As much as she projected her form into his mind like an intrusive thought, he saw her with his physical eyes, and he could reach out and touch her with his hands. It was as if the longer she remained here, the more manifest she became.

"Your heart is filled with turmoil," she said, her musical voice softer now. "At night your thoughts keep you awake, your sleep is disturbed. You must rest if you are to perform the tasks that will be given to you optimally, my master has foreseen it becoming a problem. I can help, if you wish it."

"Help? How?"

This line of conversation was making him uncomfortable, he didn't like the idea of her seeing into his heart, or whatever it was that she did. His emotions were his own private business, and he hadn't asked for this in the contract. At least, he didn't think that he had. To be honest, he didn't know what he was feeling right now, his fucked up emotional state was what had cost him his job in the first place.

"I can soothe your mind, send you into a deep and untroubled sleep."

"How?" Ryan asked, his interest admittedly piqued by the idea. He hadn't slept properly since the day that Becky had left. "Speak plainly."

"Perhaps it is better if I show you."

"Show me? How are you-"

Before he could voice a complaint, her hold on him tightened, and she pulled him against her massive body in a one-armed hug. He fought for a moment, damn she was strong, but his alarm quickly faded. His face was pressed into the feathery wool that started between her weighty breasts and formed a kind of ruff around her neck and shoulders. It was the softest thing that he had ever felt in his life, like the fur of some luxury mink coat. It was puffy and downy, not quite wool and not quite hair, his face sinking into it as she placed a hand on the back of his head.

Her ample bosom was an inch below his chin, heavy, shapely globes that were larger than his head and held aloft as if by some invisible force. It looked as if he could have sunk his arm into her cleavage up to the damned elbow. He dared not touch them for fear of offending her, she looked strong enough to pull his arms out of their sockets, and so he let his hands rest around her waist.

She pressed him deeper into the wool, and despite the cold that fell over the room whenever she appeared, her body was warm. He could hear a heartbeat beneath her pale skin, which was as smooth as glass and soft like silk wherever it wasn't covered by her fur. Her scent was intoxicating, that earthy smell filling his nose as her fine hairs tickled him.

It was as if the world around them fell away, his concerns suddenly seeming remote and faint, all that mattered was this sensation. He exhaled slowly, nuzzling gently as he felt her softness against his cheek, her powerful heart beating slow and steady like some kind of hypnotic drum. Her chest rose and fell, her breathing deep and rhythmic, inviting him to follow suit. He was becoming drowsy, a kind of euphoria overcoming him, his muscles aching as if he had just run a marathon.

He leaned into her, and he felt her other arm wrap around him, cradling him in a warm cocoon of soft flesh and fluffy wool as his consciousness began to fade. It was like being sedated before an operation, irresistible, his eyes closing of their own accord as everything went dark.

"Sleep," she whispered in that oddly synthesized voice, her lips an inch from his ear.

In an instant he was wide awake, sitting on the couch in his apartment again, his head snapping back and forth to get his bearings as Nahash watched him with her ovine eyes.

"W-What the fuck was that?" he stammered, lurching to his feet and backing away from her. "What did you do to me?"

"As I said, I can help you sleep. My powers pale in comparison to those of my master, but I can see into the hearts of men, feel their emotions and their desires. I can also influence them to an extent. I can soothe fears and calm worries, ease loss, and dull pain." She cocked her head at him, blinking those long eyelashes. "You feel violated, that was not my intention."

He rubbed his temples, unsure of how to respond. Yeah, it had been a violation. She had reached into his brain with her magick or her psychic powers, or her pheromones or whatever the fuck it was that she did, and she had scrambled his brains like an omelet. She had changed his chemistry, or his thought process, or something. It was all muddled. Yet that lingering calm still dulled his anger, a warmth and peace that had given him such a brief respite from what she had described as his emotional turmoil. Now he felt all the worse in comparison, like a rucksack full of bricks had been slung over his shoulders, the knot in his belly returning with a vengeance.

"I...I don't...know what that was."

"Should you wish it, I will stay with you until you fall asleep to ensure that your rest is peaceful. You cannot attend a job interview in your current state, you are unkempt and poorly rested."

He shook his head, waving his hand dismissively.

"I need a minute, just...don't do that shit again without asking me, okay?"

"Understood."

He walked over to the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee from the pot, taking a long draw of the now lukewarm liquid in an attempt to shake off the drowsiness that still clung to him. It had felt...good, very good, a damn sight better than playing video games until he was exhausted and then downing a cap of NyQuil.

She was right of course, he was a fucking mess, had been for weeks. He wasn't sleeping, he had purple rings under his eyes and his face was covered in unshaven stubble, he hadn't ironed a shirt in a month. If he was going to find a job, then he needed to get his shit together, and maybe she could help him to do that. That was why Orobas had sent her after all, the guy knew what he was doing, and he hadn't been wrong yet.

Still, the idea of allowing her to manipulate him like that bothered him. His thoughts and emotions were his alone, she had no business invading his privacy like that. What else could she see and feel? He looked over the kitchen counter, across the open-plan apartment at her as she waited on the couch, her oddly dissonant combination of womanly and animal features drawing his gaze. Those comely hips, her soft thighs, those pert breasts that would have put any mortal woman to shame...

Could she sense his confused attraction to her? Read his intrusive thoughts as he tried to suppress them? He didn't dare to ask her.

"Expand your search for a job today," she called over to him from her seat on the couch. "My master will tell me what you decide, and if you desire it, I shall return tonight."

With that she was gone, the stink of sulfur masking her pleasant, earthy scent.

 

CHAPTER 4: SWEET DREAMS

 

Ryan had finally found something, a job interview for a good position in his field that paid well and was in range of his soon-to-be new car. He scheduled an interview by email, then slumped over his keyboard, exhausted and relieved. He had a car, he had a job interview, now he just needed to nail the face-to-face, and he might actually be able to climb out of this hole.

He checked the clock on his taskbar, it was two in the morning, he needed to get some sleep. He rubbed his itchy eyes and yawned widely, the room lit only by the pale glow of his computer monitor, and stood up from his office chair to stretch. He was kind of hungry too, he had been job searching for hours, might be a good idea to get a bowl of cereal before turning in.

He made his way to the kitchen and opened the fridge door, crouching to retrieve the milk as it cast him in its yellow light, then fetched a bowl from the sink and a box of frosted flakes from the cupboard. He flopped down into a chair at the kitchen table and poured his meal, the cereal crunching loudly in the silent apartment as he chewed, alone in the gloom.

This bachelor lifestyle didn't suit him. He had moved here to be with Becky, and now that she was gone, the apartment was as silent and as lifeless as a grave. With nobody around to impress, he was no longer taking care of himself. He was a lousy cook, and without Becky to feed him, he was eating like shit. He had stopped exercising too, and his previously flush belly was starting to bulge over his belt line a little. He rested his face in his hand as he wolfed down the tasteless cereal, realizing that it was a little stale, but not caring enough to make himself a proper meal.

Maybe Nahash was right about his emotional turmoil, maybe he was depressed or something, and he just didn't know it. This didn't feel like something that well-adjusted people did, eating stale cereal on his own in the dark at two AM. His mind wandered away from thoughts of good meals and warm beds, back to what the familiar had shown him, her superhuman ability to lull him into a calm and untroubled sleep.

It had taken him by surprise, which was part of the reason that he had reacted so badly to it, and he still didn't know how to feel about the idea that she could manipulate his emotional state and project illusions into his mind. What was a man, if not the culmination of his mental processes? The chemistry of his brain, the integrity of his thoughts, the decisions that defined him. When you subverted that, what did you make of him? Some kind of meat puppet with no free will of his own?

So many philosophical and theological questions had been raised by this whole venture that Ryan had just stopped thinking about them as Nahash had advised, it was better to just live his life and worry about the details when he had an eternity to mull them over.

Should he call her back again? The prospect of a good night's rest was appealing, but the thought of letting someone hypnotize him made his skin crawl. Still, he was starting to trust the familiar and her demonic master. Their plan was bearing fruit already, and they had not taken advantage of any opportunities that would have allowed them to screw him over. At least not so far.

What the heck, he'd at least give it a try. If he didn't like it, then he could always forbid Nahash from doing it again. How should he contact her though, would Orobas just know because of his decision-based future-seeing powers?

As if to answer his question, the signature cold fell over the room, all the more noticeable as it was already a cool autumn night. Nahash appeared in her usual spot near the summoning circle, emerging from the swirling vapors as he plugged his nose against the smell and waited for it to dissipate.

She walked over to him, her cloven footsteps loud and heavy on the wood floor, wide hips rolling as she approached the table. Her nakedness was no less distracting in the dark, her pale skin and white fur seemed to glow in the cold moonlight that flowed through the blinds, the deep shadows only serving to accentuate her comely figure.

"You have decided," she announced in that husky, musical voice.

"I'll give it a try, but if I don't like it, will you stop?"

"I will."

"Okay then, that's good. So...how do we..?"

"Come to the bedroom, if it pleases you."

His heart skipped, he had assumed that they would sit on the couch again, but he guessed that it made sense to sleep in a bed. She seemed to sense his apprehension, and perhaps the twinge of arousal that shadowed it, her voice low and soft as she reassured him.

"Fear not, I do not seek to entrap you, only to help ease your sleep."

He hesitated for a moment, staring into his mostly eaten bowl of cereal, and then rose to his feet with fresh determination.

"Alright, let's do it. Follow me."

He walked across the apartment as she followed behind him, her odd gait slow so as not to outpace him on her longer legs, and they stopped before the bedroom door. The apartment was open plan, for the most part. The only rooms that were sectioned off were the bathroom and the bedroom, for obvious reasons. Ryan opened the door with a creak and was immediately hit with a wall of cold air, cursing to himself as he realized that one of the windows had blown open. He hurried over and closed it, checking that it was secure this time, then he shut the curtains against the surprisingly bright moonlight. Great, now it was freezing in here.

"Sorry, looks like the wind blew it open," he grumbled as he crossed his arms and shivered. Even the hardwood was cold enough that he could feel it through his socks. "Lemme go bump up the thermostat, and we can give it a few minutes."

"It's fine," she replied, surveying the bedroom with her amber eyes. They seemed to glow in the low light almost like those of a cat, or perhaps she was producing that glow herself. Ryan's face reddened. He was a little embarrassed by the state of the room. There was dirty laundry piled on the floor, the bed hadn't been made, and the sheets and pillows were strewn all over the place. Becky had been the clean one, she had done the laundry and made the beds while he was at work, it just wasn't part of his routine.

"Aren't you cold?" Ryan asked her.

"Cold is ideal, and if it pleases you, I would like to open the curtains. The moon is full tonight, and its light soothes me."

"Suit yourself," he said with a shrug, pulling them open and letting the moonlight flood in. Who knew, maybe the moon gave her power, creatures of the night and all that. She walked over to the bed, but Ryan held out a hand to stop her, hurriedly trying to straighten the blankets.

"Hang on, I gotta make the bed, it's a rat's nest."

"If that is how you prefer to sleep, then leave it."

"Well...I like my bed a little messy, but Becky-, I mean my ex-girlfriend always wanted everything clean and straightened out."

"This all reminds you of her," Nahash said, and Ryan paused to look up at her. "You lived here together for a long time, she has left her mark on this place. You cannot turn your head in this house without those memories surfacing."

"Yeah, I guess so, but it's not like I can move. I mean, maybe I could have, but I didn't ask for that in the contract. Gotta say, my first summoning was kind of poorly thought out, I could have asked for a lot more than I did."

"This is your home, Ryan, you should not have to leave. Old memories will linger, they refuse to be forgotten, but the best way to overcome a painful memory is to replace it with a happy one. You see this as the center of your relationship with her, you made love together here, you slept in each other's arms. That will always be its significance unless you move on and make new memories, give this bed a new significance."

"How do I do that?"

"I sense that you want to replace your lost love, but that can never be. You cannot regain what was lost, but you can find something new. If you should search for another partner, then you must stop clinging to what was and open yourself to what will be, new people and new experiences."

"That's easy to say, not so easy to put into practice," he grumbled as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

"We can start right now. What is more significant, which memory will stand out in your mind? Sharing this bed with your scorned lover, or sharing it with a demon?"

"I guess that's true,” he replied, his mood lightening somewhat. “Alright then, let's make this the demon bed."

He unbuckled his belt and slid his pants off, tugging off his socks and quickly sliding beneath the sheets to escape the frigid air. He watched Nahash from under the heavy blanket as she examined the bed, perhaps it was different to what she was used to, and then she followed suit. She lifted the blanket with her clawed hand and then sat on the mattress, Ryan expecting it to sag under her weight, but again it did not. She swung one of her long, goat-like legs up onto the bed, and then the second. Before long, she was shuffling into place beside him. She had been so graceful on her feet, but she was unaccustomed to the piles of sheets, wriggling clumsily in an effort to get comfortable. Seeing her in such a mundane situation eased his tension, made her feel somehow more human and relatable.

The bed was a twin, and yet there was scarcely enough room for both of them. Her wide hips and thick thighs were pressing against his bare legs, and her exaggerated bosom was tenting the blanket, exposing him to the cold air. He tugged a little more of the blanket over to his side and shifted a little as he sealed the gap, the contrast of her smooth skin and downy wool creating a strange sensation.

Again he was surprised by how warm she was, their combined body heat was already warming the bed, and he felt her hook an arm around his shoulders as she pulled him close to her.

There was that smell again, like wet grass the morning after a rainstorm. His brain had already associated her scent with the overwhelming feeling of calm and relaxation, he was starting to become drowsy, and she hadn't even worked her magic yet.

He didn't have anywhere to put his hands, her body was so voluptuous, and he didn't know how she would respond should he touch her thigh or her breast. Just what the hell kind of relationship did they have here, anyway? She was apparently a woman, he was a man, she was nude and sharing a bed with him. Was sexual contact permitted? Did demons have sex? Did he even want that from her, goat-headed she-demon that she was? It was all so confusing.

"Relax," she whispered, her warm breath blowing his hair. "Do not think, lie still and stop fretting." Her voice was so husky, a deep contralto that resonated in his bones with an oddly synthesized quality that reminded him of a vocal track from a 1980s synth-pop song.

He tried to do as she asked, letting his face sink into that feathery ruff around her neck and chest, softer than any pillow that he could imagine. His thoughts were troubled, however, his heart beating faster as he peered down into her cleavage. The heavy sheets barely served to cover her.

"Nahash," he muttered, unable to contain himself any longer. "I gotta know...what is this, exactly? What should I-"

He felt her palm cradle his cheek, pressing his face into the nape of her neck, her skin smooth and warm. Her other hand found his and guided it around her waist, easing him into a hug and letting his fingers sink into her doughy flesh. His face reddened, feeling the pliant fat of her midriff beneath his digits, the subtle paunch of her belly and hips begging him to probe deeper. He would scarcely have been able to wrap both arms around her such was her girth, she was downright Rubenesque, her weight distributed to all of the right places. It didn't help that she had a good foot or more on him, and her proportions were massive, not at all lanky as would befit a human of her height. It had been distracting to look at, but to have her hourglass hips and her heavy breasts pressing up against him was maddening. He resisted his urges, and they lay wrapped in each other's arms, the slow beating of her massive heart and her rhythmic breathing somehow hypnotic.

"Touch me as you would a partner," she said softly, and his breath caught in his throat. "I sense that you need this comfort, but try to sleep."

They could spoon then, that's what she was saying. Touching was alright, but the goal here was to help him rest. Admittedly it was almost a struggle to stay conscious as he lay beneath the sheets with her, she was like a living body pillow that could hug back, warm and soft in all the right ways. He rubbed his cheek against the downy wool, it was deep enough that he could almost bury his face in it completely, and he squeezed himself closer to her. She responded in kind, her hold on him tightening, and he shivered as he felt her run her fingers through his hair. She stroked him like a cat, something that Becky had never done, and he melted into her inviting body as her claws tickled his scalp.

"That's...nice," he mumbled, his voice muffled by the forest of fur. Her other arm was looped around his shoulders, her hand supporting his lower back as she pressed him close, the frigid air outside the sanctuary of the bed now all but forgotten.

Skin on skin contact, the warmth of another person, the sounds and sensations of a body lying next to his. He hadn't realized how much he had missed this, how much he had needed it. He had locked himself away in his apartment for weeks, and he had been starving himself of a nutrient that he hadn't even known that his body required.

He balked as he realized that she hadn't even put the magickal moves on him yet, this was all natural, something that any other human could have provided. Well, a human of unrealistic proportions wearing a fur coat, perhaps.

Damn, the stroking was intoxicating, why the hell was his scalp so sensitive?

"So is this just...what you do?" Ryan asked her, mumbling and barely awake.

"Mortals have long sought the company of my kind, the Seirim possess qualities and abilities that soothe and excite your people. Why that is I cannot say."

Ryan had some guesses, but he held his tongue. He wanted this to last forever, and he realized that he didn't miss Becky, not really. He missed what she did for him. At least for the time being, this Seirim as she referred to herself, could do a hell of a lot more.

"In ages long past, we wandered the ancient deserts and forests of the world. Mortals would leave offerings and sacrifices to us. We were spirits of the wild, embodiments of nature's mystery and its forbidden passions. The music and revelry of the Seirim would ring out across the plains, our bonfires visible for miles around, and for a time we were the gods of simple folk. As mortals turned to greater deities and forgot the lesser spirits of the wilderness, we lost our power, and we faded from memory."

"Not to be rude, but...I can't really imagine you dancing around a bonfire, Nahash. You're so restrained and to the point."

Although he had to admit, seeing her dance would be quite something. That massive, feminine body gyrating and prancing beneath a pale moon, or illuminated by the flickering glow of a fire. He could scarcely picture it, how would a creature of her size and gait dance?

"I am bound to my master," she said, sounding somewhat wistful. "I am but a lesser spirit, without worshipers our power wanes and we must enter into the service of a greater entity or risk fading into nothing."

"So worshipers really are like a battery for you guys, huh?"

"Belief and faith, these are our food and our water, we only exist as long as someone worships us. Orobas took me and a few of my brethren into his legions, he grants us a share of his energy, and in exchange we serve him. The rest of us are scattered between different demons. I carry out the instructions of my master, no more and no less, my days of revelry are long past."

"That's sad," Ryan mumbled, "is this at least a kind of vacation for you?"

"In a way, I suppose that it is. Taking form and walking the Earth again reminds me of the old times, the moonlight on my skin, the warmth of a man..."

That got his attention, and she must have sensed the change in his emotional state. She had just let slip a lot more than she had intended, perhaps beyond the scope of her task here, and she quickly changed the subject.

"Are you ready to sleep yet? I can use my power to calm your mind," she whispered, halting her rhythmic stroking for a moment. "You need only ask."

"You're doing a pretty good job without it," he chuckled, pushing his face into the nape of her neck and breathing in her earthy scent. "Can we just...stay like this a while longer?"

"As you wish."

She resumed her stroking, and he felt an involuntary tremor pass through him. It felt so good that it made his limbs turn to mush. His eyelids were growing heavy, and a yawn forced his jaw wide open, Ryan breathing in the scent of her delicate fur as its strands tickled his skin. He allowed himself the liberty of draping his arm over Nahash's soft belly, shuffling closer to her.

She wrapped the blankets more tightly around them like a cocoon, lying on her side, those mammoth breasts pressing together under their own considerable weight. She drew his face into her bust, her hand still on the back of his head, her chin resting in his hair as her burnished skin rubbed against his reddening cheeks.

"So...you can sing?" he asked, and he heard her massive heart quicken. Did the prospect excite her, perhaps?

"Not for millennia, but yes, I can."

"Will you sing for me?"

"Why?"

"I'd like to hear it, and it would help me get to sleep."

"I can lull you into a deep and untroubled sleep at your request," she replied, "singing is not necessary for that."

"Well, I'd like to hear it."

She seemed hesitant, afraid of doing more than her role required perhaps. Would taking such liberties with her charge anger Orobas in some way? Then again, he must have foreseen everything. That was his job, after all, he wouldn't have sent her if this wasn't what he had intended to happen.

"I suppose it would be acceptable, if you wish it. What manner of song would you like to hear?"

"I don't know," he said, "something calming."

He waited, unsure of whether or not she would actually begin to sing, but before long he heard a low and musical tone rising in her throat. It would have been inaudible had her lips not been but an inch from his ear, an ancient hymn in a language that might not have been heard by mortals in thousands of years, a melodic chant with a timbre and rhythm that betrayed its immense age. It was like nothing he had heard before, and he listened in silence, captivated by the somehow mournful singing.

He could almost see it in his mind’s eye, the silhouettes of Seirim dancing beneath the cold stars, framed against a burning fire that rose high into the night air. He could hear the twang of ancient string instruments and the beating of drums as the pace and intensity of the melody quickened, unable to discern if it was his imagination or if she was projecting these images and emotions into his mind.

It was beautiful and strange, at once distinctly alien, yet distinctly familiar. It was as if the music awoke some ancient memory in him, a long-buried fragment of his ancestral past. Had his own forebears joined these spirits in their frenzied dance?

The haunting, placating song hastened still, climbing towards a crescendo. The figures that he saw in his mind danced faster and faster as they waved their arms and stamped their cloven feet on the dusty ground. There was a climax of dissonance, the instruments that he half heard and half imagined going silent, the rhythmic chant slowly fading into nothing.

He opened his eyes as if waking from a trance, and he felt like a great deal of time had passed. How long had she been singing, and how long had he lay here and listened to her?

"That was...lovely. Thank you."

"I am glad to sing again," she muttered, "no mortal has heard my voice in five thousand years."

"What ‘was’ that? I've never heard anything like it before."

"A Sumerian song. I doubt that there are any records of it that survive, that's about as far back as your historical records go."

"I saw...images in my head, Seirim dancing around a giant fire. Were you doing that?"

"In part," she replied, "but music itself is a kind of magick. It can influence emotion and mood much in the same way that I can."

"Yeah, I suppose that's true enough."

"Will you sleep now?"

He nodded, relaxing into her fluffy ruff.

"You can use your powers on me now."

"Are you sure?" Nahash asked, surprised by his change in attitude.

"Yeah, go for it."

Maybe it was because he understood her a little better, or because she had earned some of his trust, but as the waves of relaxing euphoria washed over, him he realized that he no longer feared her.

***

When Ryan awoke, Nahash was gone. He sat up in bed and yawned as he stretched his arms above his head. He was a little disappointed that he hadn't woken up in her arms, but she was a demon, after all. Being here at all must consume some kind of resource or energy required for her to manifest a physical body. He rubbed his eyes, swinging his legs out from under the sheets and hopping out of bed, swearing that he had never felt so rested in his life.

He had slept through the whole night, his mind completely blank of dreams or nightmares, he felt completely refreshed and totally energized. It was like he had been woken from some futuristic rejuvenation booth from a sci-fi movie. It was kind of frustrating to consider that such rest was always available to him, but his own schedule and hangups kept it out of reach. If he were to wake up feeling like this every morning, he could conquer the damned world.

After making his way to the kitchen, he decided that he'd make eggs and bacon today rather than subsisting on stale cereal. Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, so they said.

He got to work with the frying pan, morning sunlight streaming in between the blinds that covered his windows, and before long he was sitting down to a meal of fried eggs on toast and some crispy bacon. He took a bite of a strip, pleased with his handiwork. To think that a good night's sleep could influence his mood and outlook so dramatically...

He heard his cellphone ring, and he rose from his seat, interrupting his breakfast to search for the device. He found it beside his computer and swiped to answer the call, holding it up to his ear.

"Hello? Who is it?"

"Hello," a man's voice on the other end said, "is this Ryan Cutter?"

"It is, what can I do for you?"

"I'm pleased to inform you that you've won the West Shore Plaza raffle and that you're now the proud owner of a factory-fresh Honda Accord, sponsored by Bedlam Auto Dealership."

Finally, the car was on its way. Ryan did his best to feign surprise.

"Wow! I didn't think that anyone really won these things! That's great news."

"It's waiting for you in the parking lot of the plaza. You can come pick it up right away, then it's just a matter of signing a few more forms, and you can drive it away today!"

"I'll be down some time around midday," he replied, "thanks again!"

He hung up and returned to his breakfast, breaking one of his fried eggs open with his fork and watching the yolk ooze forth to soak his toast. Sunny side up, an apt metaphor for the way that he was feeling. If things continued along this path, then he'd be able to turn his life around for sure.

***

Ryan pulled his new car into the apartment complex parking lot, he had his own space, but he had never needed to use it before. He set the handbrake, then stepped out to admire his ride. A car like this might have been worth thirty or forty thousand dollars new, it had a five-year warranty and a full tank of gas, it was something that he would never have been able to afford without saving for years. Orobas had done a stellar job, and now he could travel, the range in which he could commute for work had just expanded by miles.

He locked the car with a beep from the remote on his key chain and made his way back to his apartment, that new car smell lingering in his clothing. When he arrived he was greeted by the smell of sulfur, Nahash must be waiting for him. As he opened the door and stepped inside, he saw that he had been right, she was waiting for him on the couch with her long legs crossed.

"I trust that the vehicle is satisfactory?"

"Oh yeah, my compliments to your boss, he really delivered."

"Your mood is positive, hopeful," she said as she scrutinized him with her amber eyes. "Your sleep was adequate?"

"That's an understatement," he laughed, shrugging off his jacket and draping it over a coat rack by the door. "I don't think I've slept that soundly since I was an infant, I woke up feeling like a new man. I tell you, if you could bottle whatever it is that you do and sell it as a medicine, you'd be a millionaire overnight."

"The next step is the job interview, you have arranged this?"

"Yes, I'll be driving there in two days. I have a face-to-face with the head of their IT department scheduled." He hesitated for a moment as he leaned on the kitchen counter and started to prepare a fresh pot of coffee. "I've been meaning to ask about that, can Orobas see into the future and let me know if I'll land the position or not? Are you guys going to help me out in some way?"

"Magick can be subtle, Ryan. If I had informed you about exactly what would happen when you went to the mall, you might have done something to change the future, or you might have behaved differently in a way that caused you to unknowingly sabotage yourself. You lack prescience, and so you live only in the moment, as if a fog obscures your vision. Live in the moment, Ryan, and let Orobas lead you. He has given you no cause to doubt him."

"Yeah. Yeah, you're right, I'll just trust that it will work out."

He set the machine going, and then walked over to join Nahash on the couch, the giant demon shuffling aside to give him space.

"It's kind of nice having you waiting for me when I get back home," he said. "Reminds me of...well, I miss that. Maybe I should get a dog or something, I don't know if my landlord allows pets."

"I am merely here to ensure that you perform the tasks that are required of you," she replied as if it was a matter of fact.

"Uh-huh. Well, I was thinking about what you were saying last night as I drove back, about the Seirim and the dancing and all that junk."

"Yes?"

"I was wondering why you're forbidden from acting the way that you used to, dancing around fires and singing for people, that kind of thing?"

She considered for a moment, scratching her furry chin with her claw-like nails.

"It is not that I am forbidden, but that it is not within the scope of my mission here. I obey my master, I do no more and no less than he asks of me, for that is my contract with him. Were someone to summon Orobas and request the revelry of the Seirim, we would of course oblige, though that isn't likely. Few alive would possess the knowledge to ask such a thing, and fewer still would have the desire to summon us. We were spirits of the wilderness, embodiments of the mysteries of nature, the unknowns of the unexplored wilds. Mortals no longer fear the forests, they no longer wonder what lurks beyond the mountains and what secrets the deserts hold. Men have traversed every inch of this planet and mapped it down to every blade of grass."

"You make it sound like you're useless, like you've lost all purpose," Ryan said as she looked down at him with her horizontal pupils. "But that's not the case. Sure the demographic that used to worship you no longer exists, but that doesn't make your skills any less impressive."

"Why would somebody go to the trouble of summoning a demon, taking out a contract with him, and using it to summon Seirim?" Nahash asked, waving her hands dismissively. "If one should desire carnality and revelry, there are far more suitable options, ways to acquire women and pleasures beyond anything that we can provide."

"Was that...part of what you used to do then? Carnality?" Ryan asked, his cheeks beginning to flush.

"Yes, we embodied not only the mysteries of nature, but also its hidden passions and secret desires. We were the shadow that lurked in men's psyche, lust and reckless abandon made manifest. We lured mortals with our song and dance, tempted them with wine, offered them the pleasures that they so often denied themselves. Some gave themselves to us in ritual, some let the wild overcome them and joined us in our dance, others we took for ourselves when the frenzy overcame us."

"Sounds a little, uh...belligerent."

"Nature is red in tooth and claw, men harbor dark desires that they will scarcely admit even to themselves, and the forest can swallow a person no different from the jaws of a beast. As I have tried to explain to you Ryan, good and evil are relative, we each must perform the roles that are given to us."

They had wild, crazy sex with mortals then, that's what she was telling him. His mind raced at the prospect. If she could put him to sleep with her magic, then what else was she capable of? What form did the revelry and carnality that she described take? The more comfortable he became around her, the less her animal features stood out to him, they had even started to blend with her more familiar figure in ways that he found quite alluring.

It had been weeks since he had been with a woman, after enjoying a fairly consistent sex life with Becky for the last three years it was like torture. If he asked...would she be forced to oblige? No, he couldn't think that way. She was a person with her own desires and goals, he couldn't coerce her into doing something like that, it would be wrong. She had been so kind to him so far, and he sensed that it was as much her natural inclination as it was an order from Orobas. He didn't want to sully their burgeoning friendship.

He realized that she was probably reading his emotional state like a book, and quickly changed the topic of conversation.

"So if you somehow regained worshipers, what would happen? Would that make you...come back to life or something?"

"I am a spirit, I was never alive," she clarified. "Though it is true that the Seirim required only the worship and belief of a handful of nomadic tribes to sustain us, as we are not powerful gods, the chances of enough people giving us their faith in the modern era are next to nothing. In such a case, we could manifest in the forests and hills again, no longer bound by summoning circles and the whims of our masters."

She seemed to falter, as if she had inadvertently said something wrong.

"Not to say that we do not owe everything to the demons that bind us and share with us their vital essence, without which we would have faded from existence entirely. Myth and faith are dying in this world, more and more you mortals value the material sciences, you reject the supernatural and the religious as fanciful and quaint. Your new god is technology, and why should it not be? It performs its wonders daily, plain for all to see, and demands no sacrifice or offerings in exchange. But we starve, Ryan. Even the greater demons and the almighty gods feel their power waning as of late."

Her elongated face was oddly expressive, her ovine eyes flashing with sorrow and regret, giving him the impression that her whole world might be on the cusp of petering out into nothing. Entire nations had been built on religions and myths in the past, but now the world was increasingly moving towards rationalism. Besides a few massive religions such as Hinduism or Catholicism, there wasn't much prayer and faith to go around. People no longer whispered about forest spirits, superstition was reserved for unlucky numbers and black cats, and demon worship was confined to a few solitary internet forums as far as he knew.

An idea was beginning to form, however, a plan. Perhaps there was something that he could do for her in return.

"I must leave now," Nahash said as she rose to her feet abruptly, "I will return tonight to help you sleep."

"Oh, do you have to go? Okay then, I'll see you later."

"I sense that you are disappointed," she replied as she turned to look down at him. "My master must expend energy to send me here, and there is a cost incurred by manifesting in the physical world for long periods of time. To use your terminology, my battery becomes drained, and I must return to the source in order to replenish it."

"I understand, but answer me this before you go. How much belief would it take to make you independent, and would Orobas release you from his service if that became the case?"

She cocked her head at him, probably wondering what was going through his mind.

"The tribesmen numbered in the hundreds, it did not take much more than that to sustain us, and I doubt that my master would be inconvenienced by the loss of a handful of Seirim. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious is all."

She gave him another sideways glance, then vanished.

***

The sun was low in the sky, the clouds painted deep shades of pink and orange as Ryan peered through the blinds. He wanted to go to bed early tonight. Resting was just an excuse at this point, he found himself watching the clock, counting down the minutes until he could share a bed with Nahash again.

Maybe it was the way she made him feel with her plush body and her ability to relax him, or maybe he was just lonely and enjoyed her company, he couldn't put his finger on exactly why it was that he so anticipated the sunset now.

As he watched the streets below, the lamps turned on, their orange glow illuminating the sidewalks and the facades of the city's buildings as what few pedestrians remained went about their routine. It was another chilly autumn night, and the pavement was littered with colorful leaves. They would have to huddle close together beneath the heavy blankets for warmth, just the way he wanted it. All he had to do was decide to go to bed, and Orobas would send her, his powers of prescience sensing that Ryan required her services.

He waited a few minutes longer, watching as the last solitary rays of sunlight dipped beneath the horizon, and then he resolved to get into bed. As if on cue, the smell of sulfur filled the air, and once again Nahash took form inside the bounds of the chalk summoning circle that still remained on the floor beneath the couch. She could not stray far from it, or her connection to whatever astral realm or alternate dimension that she hailed from would wither and die, dissipating her physical body along with it. Fortunately, the apartment was small and pokey enough that she had the run of it, he wasn't quite sure what her range was under normal circumstances.

The shifting mass of shadows took shape amidst the billowing fumes, and Nahash stood tall, blinking her eyes at him as her twisted horns brushed the ceiling.

"I have returned."

"Welcome back," he announced, doing his best to look like he hadn't been waiting around for the last couple of hours.

"Shall we proceed?"

"Oh, sure," he said as he led her over to the bedroom.

Before long they were wrapped up in the sheets, heavy blankets weighing them down as Ryan awkwardly shuffled into her embrace. She curled her long arms around him and pulled him tight against her body, her warmth and softness welcoming him once again. He felt giddy, his excitement probably counterproductive as he gleefully pushed his face into her feathery wool, feeling its delicate texture on is cheeks and smelling its familiar scent. Her gentle hands found their usual places, her clawed fingers delving into his hair to stroke his scalp and the other resting on his back to press him close.

Her heartbeat, the steady rise and fall of her copious bust, the smoothness of her skin as it pressed against his. It was like heaven, drowsiness already overcoming him as their bodies warmed the bed.

"I am glad to make you happy Ryan, but you must keep in mind that I cannot remain with you forever. Once the contract is completed I must return to my master's side, I must wean you off these comforts before my departure becomes too jarring."

"I know..." Ryan replied, exhaling into her fluffy ruff. "I don't want to replace one problem with another. I'll have to get back on the horse eventually, start dating again. But this really helps."

"I...enjoy it also," she replied, her voice low and breathy. He felt a chill run down his spine, he didn't hear her express her own feelings or opinions very often, and he was surprised to hear her reciprocate. At least that was the way that it sounded. "I can read your emotions, remember? I know what this means to you, and that is why it cannot continue forever. Such attachment between a mortal and a spirit is fated to end tragically."

His face burned, what exactly did she sense in him? His own emotions were not always clear-cut, did she know something that he didn't? He shuddered as she ran her claws through his hair, his body tensing at her touch and then relaxing as he melted into her voluptuous body. He ran his hand from her flared hips to the small of her back, his fingers resting in the dimple of her spine as he struggled to get his arm around her, it was like trying to hug an oil barrel. Her chin rested on his head, her mammoth breasts unavoidable as they pressed against his shirt, he could feel her yielding flesh through the thin fabric as she shifted to get comfortable and they bumped into him.

"What kind of attachment do you mean?" Ryan asked a little sheepishly. "We humans don't always know what we want, you know. Emotions can be obtuse."

"You desire me, Ryan, as a man desires a woman. It would bring me great pleasure to indulge you, would it not interfere with my task."

He felt her warm breath in his hair, and she nuzzled, rubbing her nose against it and drawing him closer. He felt an overwhelming urge to turn his face up and kiss her, but he resisted it, catching his impulse in the nick of time. His heart hammered in his chest, and he satisfied himself with rubbing his cheek in her silky fur instead. What the hell was he thinking? Was it just because he had been starved of affection for so long? Sexual frustration? Some kind of demonic pheromone that was seeping into his brain like an insidious toxin?

"W-Why would it interfere? I mean we could just...we're already in bed together. What am I even saying? This is..."

He pulled away a little, her tight hold on him loosening as she released him from her grasp, and he looked up at her face. Those amber eyes glowed in the dark, reflecting what little light penetrated the curtains from outside. It would have been frightening had he not already become acquainted with her. He was accustomed to her slightly elongated face, the blending of human and animal features that had seemed so jarring at first glance, now there was an undeniable femininity and allure to her that tugged at some forgotten facet of his psyche. Her head was framed by that mane of wool or fur or whatever the hell it was, her goat-like ears and her gnarled horns protruding from it, the latter of which had left deep furrows in the wooden headboard and had punctured the stack of pillows in places.

"You must find someone of your own kind to be with, for I cannot remain here, and if I allow you to become enamored with me, then the contract will not be fulfilled. You will not be happy when we are separated."

"I don't care about that right now," he blurted. "You told me to live in the moment, right? That's what I'm doing, living in this moment. Who cares about what happens later?"

"You will care," she replied, her tone soothing as she pulled him close again and began to stroke his hair. "You will be hurt again, it is not productive. Besides, the ways of the Seirim are wild and bestial, to have me unbridled might not suit you in the way you imagine."

"Do you really have so little free will under the command of Orobas?" Ryan asked, pushing his face into the nape of her neck as she held him.

"It is of no consequence. What you wish for cannot be, and it was not part of your contract with my master. Sate yourself with these comforts, not all interactions between men and women need be carnal in nature."

It wasn't an answer that he wanted to accept, but he couldn't change things, he was just a mortal after all. He ran his fingers over her glass-smooth skin, delving them into her velvet fur wherever he found it, feeling her soft body yield beneath his digits. He tried to dispel the lust that had been rising in him, burying his face in her ruff as if to escape it, and her gentle stroking resumed as if she could sense his turmoil and wanted to distract him from it.

"Shall I use my powers to calm you? You need only ask, Ryan."

"Yeah, go ahead. Sorry about this, by the way. I didn't mean to make things awkward."

"You have nothing to apologize for," she said as she took his face in her hands and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Your emotions are no mystery to me. No matter how well mannered you are and how deeply you bury them, I sense them just the same. If anything, I have transgressed by probing your mind without your permission. Alas, it is as natural to me as any other sense, I cannot stop it any more than I can shut off my sense of taste or touch."

"No, I like it," Ryan replied. "Makes things easier. I was never good at communicating how I feel."

"Mortals repress so many of their emotions," she muttered, "it can be frustrating to so clearly sense a desire that is then ardently denied. Part of what the Seirim used to do was expose these hidden emotions, as dark or dirty as they might be, bring them to light and then indulge them until those needs were satisfied."

"And...do I have any hidden emotions that I should be aware of?"

He felt a wave of pleasant fatigue wash over him, as if he had exerted himself to the limit, a satisfied ache permeating his muscles. He couldn't move, he didn't want to move, he just wanted to relax and let his tired body melt into Nahash's welcoming embrace. She stroked his hair, pressing his face into her soft fur, his eyelids heavy as he breathed in her wonderful scent. It was like falling asleep on a cloud, he couldn't keep his eyes open. His complete loss of control might have been alarming had he not been overcome by an incredible calm. Trying to stay awake was like crawling out of a swimming pool full of molasses, like trying to fight an anesthetic, and he chuckled weakly as he felt his demonic bedmate wrap her arms around him and drag him closer.

Those yellow eyes flashed in the darkness, her head framed by twisted horns, her clawed fingers roaming across his skin. Maybe it was just his tired imagination, but as his vision went dark, he could have sworn that he heard her whispering a melody into his ear.

 

CHAPTER 5: GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT

 

Ryan stood in front of the mirror, trying to straighten his wrinkled shirt and struggling with his tie. It was the day of the job interview, and he had but a scant hour to get himself prepared. It wasn't as if he had never worn a suit before, but it was Becky who had advised him on clothing, he didn't know the first thing about dressing snappy. She had prepared his wardrobe, helped him shop for clothes, ironed his shirts. Without her, he was a mess.

He trusted his demonic allies to help him get through this, but he hadn't seen Nahash since the previous night, and he was starting to get worried. He needed instructions, like the ones that she had given him on the day that he had won the car, where to go and what to do.

He smelled sulfur, and relief washed over him as Nahash's tall figure materialized in the living room, her gnarled horns scraping the ceiling. It was funny how accustomed he was getting to seeing a giant goat-demon appear out of thin air. She made her way towards him, as distractingly naked as she always was, her wide hips rolling and her heavy breasts swaying as she sidled up behind him.

"This will not do," she muttered, "raise your arms."

He did as she asked, and her claws wrapped around his neck, Ryan flinching as he felt her warm skin brush his. She removed his tie, and then tugged his shirt over his head, walking off with it to leave him bare-chested.

"What are you doing? Nahash?"

She walked over to the kitchen, her hooves clopping against the hardwood, and she pulled out an ironing board from beside the fridge. She extended the legs and set it on the floor, Ryan watching with growing embarrassment as she retrieved the iron from its place on a shelf near the washing machine. It was as if she knew where everything was, had Orobas told her?

"Come on Nahash," Ryan mumbled, "I can do that."

"You don't know how," she replied matter-of-factly. "Come, I will show you."

He walked over to stand beside her reluctantly, watching a scene that might have been comical under different circumstances, the towering she-demon plugging in the iron and filling the water reservoir as she lay his dress shirt out on the board.

"Start with the collar," she said as she popped the collar open and slowly pressed the iron from one end to the other. "Then the cuffs. Ensure that the fabric is moist, do not linger in one place for too long or you risk burning the garment. Do you see what I'm doing?"

He nodded, and she handed the iron to him.

"Now you try, iron the second cuff. Yes, that's good, remember to make use of the steam function to ensure that the clothing is moist. Apply more pressure. Good."

His mother had always been there to iron his clothes for him when he had lived at home, and when he had moved in with Becky, she had always done it for him. Now that he was alone he would have to learn to do these things on his own. He had always thought of himself as accomplished and self-sufficient. He owned an apartment in the city, he had worked a steady job, and he had lived with his girlfriend for years. But now that she was gone, he realized how dependent he still was on other people, how he had somehow avoided learning any of these mundane chores and skills even into his mid-twenties. He couldn't cook for shit, he didn't pick up after himself, he couldn't even iron a fucking shirt without help. Far be it from just finding another job, turning his life around would involve becoming self-reliant too. He had to learn how to take care of himself.

As he ironed his shirt under Nahash's tutelage, he came to a realization. This was what he had asked for. He had asked Orobas to help him turn his life around, and that was what Nahash was doing, she was acting as his damned life coach.

"You are correct," Nahash said, not even giving him a chance to ask the question. She must have sensed the realization in him or something. "Orobas has tasked me with teaching you the skills that you lack, at least where necessary for your success."

She shot him a sympathetic glance as another wave of embarrassment washed over him.

"There is no need to feel ashamed, Ryan. There was no reason for you to learn until today. Besides, your parents share equal blame in leaving you unprepared to live alone. Truth be told, this era of human history confuses me. Your relationships are more tenuous and temporary than ever before. For thousands of years, a man of your age would have had a wife and children by now, and thus would not have needed to tackle these chores as well as performing his duties. Several generations of a family would live together under one roof, but now it seems that you seek to be rid of each other as soon as possible. I cannot claim to understand these new ways."

He glared at her, a hiss of steam pouring from the iron.

"That's not really making me feel any better."

"I meant no offense, I am merely shocked by how rapidly things change in the mortal realm. Things are so static and constant in the place that I reside."

"And where is that?" Ryan asked, flipping the shirt over to iron the other side.

"You would call it Hell, but that word carries so many negative connotations in your culture. It is not a realm of eternal fire and punishment as you imagine it, but the abode of earthly spirits, the domain of those who have not aspired to lofty ideals or holy works."

"Doesn't sound so bad, I'm not exactly a Saint myself."

"It might be unimaginable to a mortal, it is a realm of raw emotion, possessing no material qualities whatsoever. There are no laws of physics, no up or down, merely oceans of sensation and currents of feeling that ebb and flow. Swirling patterns of pure thought, spirits mingling like shoals of fish. It is at once overwhelming and beautiful."

"Do you miss it? When you're here, I mean."

"No. I have dwelled there for eons. Taking a corporeal form and experiencing only my own emotions, my own thoughts...that is a rare reprieve from the relative chaos of home."

She was probably oversimplifying it for his benefit, and so he didn't pry, instead lifting his newly ironed shirt and pulling it over his head. It was warm, and all of the creases had been ironed out of it. He might actually pass for someone who had his shit together now.

He wrapped his tie around his neck and fumbled with it, his face burning as Nahash stepped forward and took charge, deftly tying a perfect Windsor knot as he averted his eyes from the massive bust that was practically hitting him in the face.

"How the hell do you even know how to do that?" he grumbled, "do demons wear ties when then go to work in Hell?"

"My master provides me with the information that I need as it becomes necessary."

"So you're like Neo from the Matrix? Tank, I need a program for ironing shirts!"

He chuckled to himself, but she obviously didn't get the reference, stepping back to look him up and down.

"It will do. You must depart twenty minutes earlier than you had intended, there will be traffic on the road that will delay you."

"Thanks, Nahash, for...y'know. Everything."

"I merely perform my duties as they are assigned," she replied, brushing his sleeve with the back of her hand to dislodge some errant fluff.

"Uh-huh, is there anything else that I need to know? Any instructions that you can give me, like when I went to the mall and you had that big lost of do's and don'ts?"

"No, my master will be using different skills to aid you today, it is better that you remain ignorant until it becomes necessary for you to know more."

He nodded, buttoning his cuffs.

"Anything else I need to do before I leave?"

"Yes, you will need your strength if you are to remain alert and focused, and you have not yet eaten today. What were you planning on doing, going hungry?"

"I figured I'd get a bowl of cereal before I headed out."

"Sit, I will cook for you. And when we have the time, I must teach you how."

"You're making me breakfast?" Ryan asked, watching her walk over to the stove. "I can handle some fried eggs you know, I'm not that helpless."

"My master informs me that in the event that you attempt to cook, you will splash bacon grease on your only dress shirt. Sit at the table and allow me."

He pulled up a chair and leaned on the table as he watched her, her back turned to him as she worked over the stovetop, breaking eggs and frying bacon with the speed and skill of a professional chef. The smell of it filled the room, Ryan's mouth beginning to water, and not just because of the alluring scent. Her rear was like a giant peach, that groove in her spine starting between her shoulders and running all the way down the smooth curve of her back, ending between the two dimples above her round cheeks. Her waist was a perfect hourglass, thick thighs supporting her massive body, her long legs tapering into those oddly dainty hooves.

The more he looked at her, the more attractive she became, and he had to shake his head in an attempt to dispel his arousal. She could sense it after all, although he wasn't sure if she had to concentrate or whether it came easily to her. Perhaps she wouldn't notice his peeping if she was occupied with another task.

She returned to the table before long, placing a plate of bacon, eggs, and sausages in front of him. Where had she even found the sausages? Perhaps Becky had bought some before she had left and Orobas had told Nahash where to find them.

"Protein and fats. Eat, it will give you strength."

"If you say so," he muttered, picking up his cutlery and forking a piece of fried egg into his mouth. He chewed cautiously, then his face lit up, and he hurriedly took another bite.

"This is great," he mumbled through a mouthful of sausage. "Where the hell did you learn to cook this good?"

"I asked my master to use his powers of prescience to tell me what kind of food you would like, and I used whatever ingredients and seasonings were available."

"I've never eaten eggs this good," he exclaimed, breaking open one of the fried eggs and watching the yellow yolk ooze around his knife.

"Sunny side up," she replied, a rare expression of humor.

"I guess Orobas really does know everything."

"I am glad that you are enjoying the meal."

"Cooking is a skill you know," Ryan added as he bit into a bacon strip, noting that it was cooked to perfection. Not too soft, not too crunchy. "This can't be your first time cooking, there's no way. Did you guys throw banquets as part of your revelry or something?"

"We did," she replied as she watched him eat, her expression hard to read. Was she proud? Content? He couldn't tell. "One thing that hasn't changed much in five thousand years is cooking. I find that fact somehow...comforting."

"So what did you guys eat back in the day?" he asked as he cut a slice of sausage, "I suppose you roasted whole pigs over fires? Or was it all magical, did you conjure wine from thin air?"

"Some of it was real, and some of it was illusory. We might have been able to spear a boar in the forest and roast it over the bonfire, but wines and spirits were harder to obtain. We had no vineyards of our own, we could not distill them, and so we stole them or took them as offerings where we could. Turning water into wine was a popular trick, using our powers to influence the senses and emotions so that a goblet of water tasted like the sweetest ambrosia."

"You can do that?” he asked, pausing his chewing. “Show me!"

"I...should not," she replied hesitantly, "it is not permitted."

"Says who? Come on, what harm can it do?"

"I have pledged to only perform the functions that my master has assigned to me," she replied, looking uncomfortable as she stood beside the table.

"It's not real alcohol after all," Ryan insisted. "I want to taste your interpretation of fine wine."

She considered for a moment, then walked over to the kitchen sink, filling a glass with water. She brought it back to the table and placed it in front of him, and he lifted it to take a sip.

"Yep, that's tap water alright. So what happens now, do I need to do anything?"

He felt a sudden warmth come over him, as if he had been wrapped in a blanket, penetrating deep into his bones. He glanced at Nahash and her yellow eyes locked with his, the hairs on his arms standing on end. He felt drowsy again, not dissimilar from when she used her abilities to relax him, and he watched her gesture to the glass of water with her clawed finger. He picked it up, feeling as if some fog had fallen over his mind, his thoughts were coming slow and muddled.

"Drink," she breathed in that low, husky voice. She was standing a few feet away, and yet he could feel her breath on his skin, hear her musical tones as if her lips were an inch from his ear. He raised the glass to his mouth and took a draw.

There was an explosion of flavor on his tongue as if all of the fruits and berries of the world had been concentrated into that one mouthful, it was the most delicious thing that he had ever tasted. It was sweet and tangy like fruit punch, and yet dry like wine, it warmed him in the way that a shot of a strong liqueur would have. It was like drinking a rainbow, he could almost see the colors of the flavors in his mind's eye, his senses melding and becoming hard to distinguish as the chilled liquid slipped down his throat.

He snapped out of his trance-like state, coming to and staring at the glass of water in his hand, then he started to laugh.

"Well god damn, ambrosia indeed."

She seemed pleased with herself, her hands planted on her wide hips as she watched him with a wry smile. Every time that he convinced her to do something like this, he saw a little glimpse of her true personality beneath the surface, a glimmer of the person that she had once been and could be again. Orobas had her so restrained, so fearful of engaging in her natural behavior, but Ryan was formulating a plan that might change that.

"You should go soon," she said, "you have but a quarter hour."

He nodded, finishing off his breakfast and then heading towards the door to fetch his jacket from the coat rack. He began to walk back towards Nahash as he buttoned up, then stopped himself, his face reddening. Every day before he left for work he would kiss Becky goodbye, and he had been about to perform the same routine with Nahash. It was a reflex, he hadn't even thought about it. She cocked her head at him, and he tried to mask his embarrassment, waving to her instead.

"Thanks for breakfast Nahash, I'll see you later. Wish me luck!"

"You don't need luck," she replied, "you have magick."

***

Ryan pulled up to the office building, turning off his engine and waiting in the driver's seat for a few moments longer, his fingers gripping the wheel as he steeled himself. This was it, the big interview. If he landed this job, then his financial worries would be over. He had help from his demon cohorts, but it was a good idea to play it safe regardless, to treat this interview as any other and do his best to make a good first impression. His qualifications were all there, what had lost him his last position was his emotional turmoil as Nahash would describe it. As long as he stayed confident, maintained eye contact and gave a firm handshake, then he should be fine.

He stepped out of the car and slammed the door behind him, straightening his jacket as he made his way to the lobby. He pushed on the glass door, then realized that the sign said pull, opening it and walking up to the front desk as he tried not to look as nervous as he was feeling. He was greeted by a secretary, a young woman with her dark hair tied back in a tight bob, wearing a pair of angular spectacles as she looked up from her computer monitor to greet him.

"Can I help you with something, sir?"

"Yes," Ryan replied, straightening his tie more because he was fidgeting than because it was crooked. "I have an interview with Mister Booker scheduled for ten AM, Ryan Cutter."

She checked her computer, twirling a biro in her fingers, and then nodded in approval. She gestured to a stairwell on his right with the pen.

"Very good Mister Cutter, you're right on time. If you'll wait outside the office on the third floor for a few minutes, I'll send word that you've arrived. I'm sure they'll be able to see you shortly."

"Thank you," Ryan replied, turning towards the stairwell. It was a large building, an IT firm that did everything from providing security solutions for companies to handling on-site hardware installations and repairs. He passed a couple of floors that were dedicated to cubicles, there were hundreds of employees milling about as they performed their duties, the sounds of phones and keyboards almost deafening. He arrived at the executive offices and took a seat in the waiting room, it was empty save for him. It was a very average office environment, chairs lined up against the walls and plastic potted ferns serving as sparse decoration. It was almost indistinguishable from the last place that he had worked, as if these offices were all cut from the same cloth.

He picked up a magazine from a nearby coffee table and leafed through it absentmindedly, waiting to be called. Before very long the door to one of the side rooms opened and a portly man wearing a pinstripe suit walked out to greet him. It was a shade of navy blue, contrasting with Ryan's black, accompanied by a red tie and a pair of shiny black shoes.

"Mister Cutter," he said, extending his hand as Ryan rose from his seat. They shook, the man looking him up and down, apparently pleased with his attire. "You're very punctual, that's encouraging! Please come into the conference room and take a seat, we'll begin the interview."

"Nice to meet you Mister Booker," he replied. He followed Booker into the room, the door closing behind them, and he was faced with a panel of interviewers sitting at a large wooden table in an expansive office. There were two women and three men besides Booker, who took up a seat to his left and gestured for him to join them. Ryan sat down stiffly, trying not to feel too self-conscious, the interviewers scrutinizing him as he waited for further instructions. Everyone was smartly dressed, they were all upper management, that much was clear. Each person had a laptop on the table in front of them, along with a glass of water, and he noted that there was a cup laid out for him as well. Behind them was a large projector screen that took up most of the wall, but besides that, the conference room was sparsely furnished, spartan and functional.

"So, Mister Cutter," an older woman in a blue pants suit at the head of the table began. "What makes you want to work for our company?"

Ryan had done this before, and he went through the usual spiel about how excited he was to work with them, trying to appear positive and enthusiastic about the prospect. These interviews were as much a judgment of character and sociability as one's employment history and qualifications, it was paramount that he remained courteous and confident. Before long the subject of his firing from his previous position came up, and he decided to answer truthfully.

"It says here that you were hired by one of our competitors three years ago, Mister Cutter," a sharply dressed man to his right added. This one was younger, perhaps in his early thirties. His black hair was cut short, and he was wearing a fitted suit of the same color. "Straight out of college apparently. You were recently let go, why was that?"

Ryan shifted uncomfortably but tried to remain relaxed, resisting the urge to fiddle with his tie.

"There was...quite a disruption to my personal life, a break-up with a long term partner. Needless to say, it impacted my ability to perform my duties. I have of course recovered, and I'm eager to get back on the horse and start working again."

"Would you say that there's a risk of the same thing happening again?" Booker asked, peering at Ryan over his laptop monitor.

"No," he replied adamantly, "I'm certain that there's no risk of a repeat."

He was starting to feel like he was losing the crowd. There was some muttering amongst the interviewers, disdainful glances in his direction. He felt a bead of sweat trickle down his brow and resisted the urge to wipe it away. If he became visibly anxious at this stage, then he might blow the interview altogether.

A cold came over the room all of a sudden, the temperature dropping noticeably, and one of the women buttoned up her jacket as she scowled in the direction of an air vent that was built into the wall above them.

"Has someone been messing with the thermostat in here?" she wondered aloud, and her colleagues shook their heads. "Maybe someone opened a window on this floor, it's the middle of damned autumn, what are they thinking? I'm sorry Mister Cutter, where were we?"

Ryan was distracted by shadows playing across the walls as if cast by flickering candles, swirling vapors descending over the room and hanging in the air like a mist. His breath caught in his throat and he looked to the interviewers with wide eyes, but they weren't reacting to what was happening around them. It was as if they couldn't see it, couldn't smell the sulfur in the air, was he the only one who could?

A giant, shadowy figure materialized in the corner of the room, towering over the smaller people as it seemed to form from the smoke. Curled horns brushed the ceiling, yellow eyes glowing ominously as it stepped forward, a monster made of acrid fumes. As it became solid, he realized that it was Nahash, her pale body catching the light as she emerged from the mist. She looked at him, putting a finger to her lips as if to say be quiet.

Ryan swallowed hard and turned his attention back to the interviewers who were frowning at him around the table.

"Is something the matter, Mister Cutter? Are you distracted? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"No, please continue, you have my undivided attention."

He tried to maintain eye contact with the woman who was cross-examining him as Nahash walked around the circumference of the room, brushing aside the decorative ferns as she passed by them. Nobody noticed her, did she exist only in Ryan's mind? What were Nahash and Orobas playing at? Nothing could have been more distracting. Why hadn't Nahash warned him that she would be making an appearance at the interview?

Nahash stood directly behind the woman, looming over her, those horizontal pupils fixed on her as she shuffled through papers and adjusted her spectacles. Suddenly her whole demeanor changed. Gone was the frown, her expression turning to one of calm and relaxation as a smile crossed her lips.

"Well, these things happen," she said jovially. "Especially early in one's life. I'm sure that your previous employer overreacted, and as a result, they've lost a highly qualified employee. I have to say your records are most impressive. You have extensive experience in system administration and programming, I can see you becoming an asset to this company."

Her colleagues seemed surprised, perhaps she wasn't usually so upbeat, a few of them glancing between one another in silent confusion. Ryan watched as Nahash waved her clawed hand across the table as if she was casting a spell on them, the cloud of vapors swirling through the air like ink in water.

The same change fell over the rest of them, Nahash must be altering their moods, influencing their emotions to make them happy and positive. The younger of the two women was even starting to gaze at him for longer than he felt was appropriate, batting her eyelashes at him as he looked away uncomfortably.

"He is highly qualified," Booker added. "Networking, web development, extensive experience with security software. I agree that his last employer probably acted rashly in terminating his contract as soon as they did."

There was a chorus of affirmations, Ryan letting his eyes wander to Nahash for a moment. She looked like she was concentrating hard on whatever it was that she was doing to them. It was difficult to pretend that she wasn't there, as enormous and disarming as her demonic form was, and Ryan did his best to stay focused on the interview as the executives moved on to other subjects.

They asked him some more specific technical questions about his certifications and what programming languages he was familiar with, and they seemed pleased by his replies. He was quizzed extensively about his experience and presented with fictional scenarios, then asked to resolve them in the way that he thought best, his rather mundane and predictable answers drawing nods of approval nonetheless. At this point, he could probably have torn off his clothes and danced naked on the table, and they would still have been willing to hire him. Nahash had them practically euphoric.

The interview dragged on, he had been sitting in this uncomfortable chair for nearly an hour now, and Nahash had not so much as glanced in his direction since first appearing. Just how much energy was being expended to keep her here? Usually, she only appeared inside the summoning circle, perhaps it took a larger expenditure of energy to manifest outside of it. Or maybe it only served as a sort of conduit, like a landing pad that directed the spirit to a specific location. He would have to ask her when this was all over and done with.

The next line of questioning concerned teamwork and social skills. He had been through this process before, a kind of personality test to determine that he wasn't some kind of sociopath who wouldn't be able to work alongside their employees. This was the part that he usually dreaded, he did not enjoy being cross-examined by a group of strangers, picking his brains and overanalyzing his every twitch in order to determine his suitability to their work environment. He excelled in the technical aspects, but when he was nervous he made mistakes, and the one thing that was essential in these interviews was confidence.

Fortunately, Nahash was running the show today. The executives were jovial and relaxed as the usually probing questions became friendly conversation, as if the room of interviewers had taken an immediate liking to him. It wasn't just Nahash doing her thing, he realized, remembering one of Orobas' powers that was listed in the Lesser Key. He had the ability to confer the favor of friends and foes, which must mean that he could influence other people's opinions of his ward. Instant good first impressions, quite the tool to have at one's disposal during a job interview.

"Well," Booker said, rising from his seat and clasping his hands together. "I think I've seen enough. I believe that I speak for everyone here when I say that we'd love to have you onboard, and if there are no objections, I'd like you to start work next week."

The rest of the interviewers expressed their approval and then they stood, Ryan following suit as they approached him and shook his hand one by one. As the younger woman who had been staring across the table at him for the duration of the session let go of him, he felt something in his palm, looking down to see a slip of paper. He shot a quizzical look at the woman, and she mimed a phone with her fingers, mouthing call me silently as she exited the room.

Ryan made for the door, then glanced back at Nahash, the horned demon slowly fading as the yellow glow of her eyes became faint and eventually vanished. The room cleared, the shadows on the walls chased away by the harsh fluorescent lighting, and just like that she was gone.

He glanced at the slip of paper again, examining the digits, then discarded it in a potted plant on his way out.

***

Ryan flung off his jacket and unfastened his tie, unbuttoning the collar of his dress shirt and breathing a sigh of relief as he stepped into his apartment and collapsed onto the couch. He had gotten the job, his financial worries were over. He no longer had to fret about losing the apartment or going hungry. It felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders, like he could breathe easy for the first time since Becky had left him. Orobas had really delivered, this demon thing had been a shot in the dark, but it had paid off in more ways than he could ever have imagined. What might have happened if he had not gotten drunk that night and made up his mind to do something that had seemed so ridiculous at the time?

He felt a chill come over him, a sudden realization spoiling his good mood. Had the contract been fulfilled? Was it over? Would he not see Nahash again?

He didn't know what he had expected to happen, she had no reason to be here once her task was complete so why would she choose to stay? She couldn't survive without her master's energy after all, and she was little more than an errand girl in Orobas' eyes, the demon might not allow her to come back even if she wanted to.

What about the plan that he had been concocting over the last few days? What about those little glimpses of her true personality that slipped through the cracks of the stoic facade that Orobas imposed on her? He wasn't even sure what he was feeling, he just knew that he didn't want her to leave yet, the idea of never seeing her again was intolerable.

His heart leapt as he felt a chill come over the room, indicating that someone or something was arriving, and once again those swirling vapors appeared in the air like lingering cigarette smoke in a dingy bar. Nahash was birthed from the mist, her massive figure slowly taking shape and coming into focus, seen as much in his mind as through his eyes.

"Nahash!" Ryan exclaimed excitedly, a little more emotive than he had intended. "I wasn't sure that you'd come back."

"Why would I leave you?" she replied, peering at him with her amber eyes. "My task here is not yet complete."

"But I got the job, all thanks to you of course," he said. "That was amazing by the way, I had no idea that you could mess with so many people at once. Is the contract not fulfilled though? I'm safe now, I'm not going to lose my apartment. I have a steady job, and I don't have to worry about money anymore."

"That was but one facet of your contract with Orobas," she replied. "You stipulated that you wanted him to make you happy again, and to turn your life around. These are vague requests Ryan, any other demon might have taken advantage of you. Fortunately, Orobas is loyal to his charges and does not deceive them."

"So...how do you measure if I'm happy or not?" he asked as he slumped over the headrest of the couch, watching the tall Seirim as she gestured to herself with her clawed hands.

"Do you forget? I have the ability to sense your emotions, I am perfectly capable of determining your level of happiness and contentment. I will judge when the contract has been fulfilled based on your overall emotional state."

He beamed at her, and she seemed confused by his response. She cocked her head, the gesture exaggerated by those massive horns that sprouted from her feathery wool like a gnarled crown.

"Well, I'm glad that we get to spend a little more time together," he added.

She hesitated before replying, as if she had wanted to say something else but had stopped herself.

"I have come to enjoy your company too, Ryan."

It was enough, coming from her.

"So what's next? What more is there to do?"

She sauntered around the couch, her gait never ceasing to draw his eye. She had the legs of a goat standing upright, and the way that she walked was so strange and unearthly. Her thighs were very human, shapely and alluring even, her skin pale and smooth. The wool, or maybe it was fur, started near her knees and covered her lower legs in a shaggy forest. Her limbs were digitigrade, her cloven hooves protruding from beneath the white hair, split clean down the middle like those of a deer or a sheep. She wore no clothes, not even a loincloth for modesty. She was in a seemingly perpetual state of nudity that caused her no embarrassment. The few times that he had dared to take a peek between her thighs they had been thick enough to obscure her more intimate anatomy, which in some ways was even more tantalizing than the alternative. Despite her size and her mismatch of human and animal features, she remained graceful, planting herself beside him on the cushions.

"You must begin courting again, Ryan. I sense the loneliness in you. It lingers beneath the surface, like a crocodile lying in wait for its prey, ready to leap out and strike whenever the opportunity presents itself. Until you resolve this problem you will not be happy, it will hang over you like a shadow and torment you whenever your mind is idle."

"You can tell all that just from reading my emotional state?" Ryan asked, his face reddening a little. He still wasn't entirely comfortable with having her read his mood like a book, but it was apparently necessary, and he wondered what he must look like to her. Was it like a heat-map of his body as if seen through an infrared camera, with the colors changing and shifting like a mood ring? Red for angry, blue for sad, green for jealous maybe? Perhaps it was more intuitive than that, empathic, with her being able to feel a little of what he felt as if she was inhaling second-hand smoke? He doubted that she would be able to explain it to him, after all, he lacked the sense entirely. It would be like trying to describe colors to a blind man.

"The woman at the interview today, she propositioned you. Was she not to your liking? She was within an acceptable age range, and she was fertile."

His cheeks flushed red with embarrassment, and he laughed nervously, waving his hand dismissively as Nahash looked on.

"I mean...yeah she looked fine, but I had never even met her before. I'm not that kind of guy, Nahash, I want a meaningful relationship. I want to be with someone that I share a connection with, you know? Someone I've gotten to know as a friend before we jump into something serious."

"I sense your sexual frustration, you are-"

He waved his hands again to cut her off, his face now burning in earnest as she scrutinized him.

"It's not about that, trust me. I have it under control."

"You are embarrassed, I meant no offense. I was merely relaying to you what I sensed."

"Don't worry about it, just...let's keep your future sensing above the belt, okay?"

"Very well, then what scenario do you envision wherein your needs are fulfilled?"

"I...don't know, that's kind of a hard question to answer. Sometimes we don't know what we want until it falls into our lap. I thought that I was happy with Becky, that she was my type, but more and more I'm starting to realize that our relationship wasn't that great to begin with." He chuckled to himself, and Nahash gave him a quizzical look. "Hell, I've talked more with you in the last week than I did with Becky in the last month. We really didn't have very much in common after all."

"I have enjoyed that aspect of our interaction," she replied, "it is rare that I have an opportunity to talk with someone at length. Where I reside, there is no conversation as you know it, just the ever-shifting tides of raw thought and emotion."

"That sounds like it could get overwhelming pretty fast," Ryan added, and she nodded her shaggy head.

"It can indeed. My visits to the mortal realm are so infrequent now, I sometimes find myself pining for it."

She looked off into the distance, her expression forlorn, and it broke Ryan's heart to see her that way. She was a prisoner, a slave by any metric, forced to leech energy from more powerful demons if she wanted to survive. She wasn't being held against her will exactly, but what choice did she have, live in servitude or die? He might have a way to change that, however.

"So tell me," he began, changing the subject. "How were you able to appear in the conference room today? I was under the impression that demons could only manifest inside summoning circles."

She took a moment to formulate her reply, no doubt trying to think up an explanation that would make sense to a layman.

"A circle is a conduit. It opens the door to spirits, draws them in so to speak. My master can send me outside of a summoning circle, but the energy required is exponentially higher. The runes and sigils concentrate magickal energy and bind it within the circle, making manifesting there a far easier and more attractive prospect. These magickal hotspots can form naturally too, if a place earns a reputation as being haunted, that is usually the reason. The power of a demon is finite and will not be expended unless absolutely necessary, being able to replenish some of that energy and offset the cost of manifesting is the only way to draw a demon out these days. They once walked the earth with energy to spare, the same as I'm doing right now, but as their influence and power faded they were forced to retreat into the immaterium."

"The immaterium?" Ryan asked, his curiosity peaked.

"A colloquial term for realms other than this one. They are numerous, and their properties vary, but one thing that most have in common is that they are not grounded in a physical reality. They are realms of thought and emotion, devoid of matter, and are thus make ideal homes for demons and spirits who seek to minimize their energy expenditure."

"So your kind have a natural ability to shift between them?"

"As do you," she replied, "but the souls of mortals are bound to their physical form until it expires. Some have learned the skill, they call it astral projection, or an out of body experience. Through practice or trauma their spirit leaves their body, and while it must return if that body is to survive, the spirit can exist for short periods of time in its natural and unbridled state."

"That stuff is all real, then?" Ryan mused. "Astral projection, remote viewing, all that nonsense? There were some classified documents released as part of the freedom of information act not long ago that detailed government experiments with such abilities, but I don't think that anyone really believed it. It's like...cognitive dissonance. Why would organizations like the FBI pump funding into such projects if they didn't show promise, and yet conventional wisdom insists that it can't be genuine. I guess the proof is staring me right in the face," he said as he looked up at Nahash, "but it still seems unbelievable."

"The mortal realm is one of constant, unending distraction," she continued. "To possess senses is to have them be perpetually stimulated. Sight, smell, touch, and taste. During every second of every day, you're processing sensory information that does nothing but distract from your true spiritual self. It is akin trying to solve a math problem during intercourse, it is impossible to concentrate on anything besides the sensations."

"That's a rather lewd metaphor, but I think I get the picture. If you don't possess a body, then you're just alone with your thoughts and emotions, like a brain in a vat."

"Some cannot abide it. Others, such as we Seirim, revel in the variety and intensity of those sensations." She looked wistful again, as if remembering bygone days. "The exquisite tastes of food and wine, biting into a fruit and feeling its juices burst forth into your mouth, the cool breeze on your skin and the warmth of a fire. These are things that I miss dearly."

"So how do you astral project?" Ryan asked. "Is it something that I could learn to do?"

"It takes great focus and years of practice. Meditation must be employed in order to block out worldly distractions, allowing the practitioner to concentrate on his spiritual being."

"Yeah, doesn't sound like something that I'd be suited to," he laughed. "You once told me that it wasn't your job to reveal the secrets of the universe to me, what changed your mind?"

"As I said, I find our conversations...stimulating. Besides, your curiosity is endearing."

She smiled down at him, and he felt butterflies in his stomach. A compliment from her was so rare. She could appear outside of the circle then, provided that she had enough energy to work with, that was useful to know.

"Say, Nahash. Just between you and me, if you could live independently of Orobas again, would you want to? Let's say that you had plenty of energy of your own, and worshipers, and that you could pop in and out of this realm at will. Would that make you happy?"

"Of course," she replied, surprising Ryan with her candor. She usually spoke about these subjects as if Orobas was peering over her shoulder and listening in on the conversation, which might not be too far fetched based on what he knew about the demon's abilities.

"It is impossible, of course, and thus to say that I yearn for it is no insult against my master. It is only by his grace that I continue to exist, and I will always be grateful to him for saving me from damnation."

"What would happen if a demon ran out of energy?" Ryan asked.

"They would cease to be," she replied, her tone dour. "Death as you know it is not the end, but the destruction of a spirit is truly final. Without a source of energy, they cannot exist. Engaging in demon worship, falling under the influence of a demon, even thinking about a demon or viewing its sigil feeds into its power and keeps it from fading away."

"Well, in that case, consider me as grateful towards Orobas as you are. I'm glad to have met you, Nahash."

"As I am glad to have met you," she replied. "I have not had the opportunity to tread upon solid ground for eons, and as much as I am bound by my duties, I have enjoyed this brief respite."

She stood abruptly, her body starting to fade, as if dissolving into a cloud of black smoke.

"I am being recalled by Orobas. I will return tonight, whenever you decide to sleep."

"I always look forward to it," Ryan announced, and he could have sworn that he saw a smile on her face as she vanished from his reality.

 

CHAPTER 6: BREAKING CHAINS

 

The hooded figure walked through the forest, fallen leaves crunching and twigs snapping underfoot, the naked branches of the trees reaching upwards like grasping fingers. It was dark save for the light of the waxing moon, the sky clear and velvet black, cold stars twinkling in the heavens as he clambered over gnarled roots and made his way deeper into the woods.

The forest was thick, and there was a mist that hung over it, making it hard to see much further than a few feet in any direction. He stopped at a tree, placing a gloved hand on the trunk and drawing a penknife from the pocket of his jacket. He stabbed it into the bark, carving a symbol into the wood, large and prominent. It was a pattern of crossed lines and small circles, a demonic sigil. When he was finished, he moved on to another tree. It was hard going, his breath freezing into a mist as it left his lips, his features obscured beneath the dark hood.

Over the course of an hour, he had carved them into dozens of trees, maybe a hundred. Everywhere the same symbol appeared, only varying in its size. When he reached a clearing in the dense woodland, he pulled a rucksack from his back, kneeling and rummaging through it in search of something. He drew a large, camouflaged block from the bag, and secured it around one of the trees with a belt so that it faced towards the clearing. He fiddled with the device for a minute, and then stepped back to examine it, apparently satisfied.

The task complete, he returned to the rucksack and withdrew an armful of rectangular metal plates, each roughly the size and shape of a paperback book. He walked about the clearing and the surrounding area, scattering them everywhere, that same sigil etched on each of them.

He returned to the rucksack once again, this time unzipping one of the pockets and pulling out a blood pack. The crimson liquid shone in the moonlight, and he used his knife to pop a hole in the clear plastic, handling it gingerly so as not to spill any on his clothes. He walked around the circumference of the clearing, splashing blood on the trunks of the trees, careful to coat the sigils that he had carved there. When he was satisfied he squeezed the rest of it onto the soil, as the ground was mostly clear of dead leaves in the absence of trees.

He stowed the empty plastic pack in his rucksack and then headed off into the forest once again, this time scouring the ground and brushing aside the foliage as he searched the undergrowth. He found what he was looking for, appropriately sized rocks, and carried the ones that he selected to the center of the clearing where he deposited them in a haphazard pile.

Once he had collected what looked to be enough, he began to lay them out, creating a rough circle in the clearing about ten feet across. He pulled a measuring tape from his pocket and extended it, judging the size to be correct, and then retracted it with a click.

He picked up a stick and walked around the rock circle, drawing lines in the dirt, tracing out concentric rings and then moving on to drawing pentagrams and triangles. After walking back over to his pack he withdrew a leather-bound book, referencing the drawings within to ensure that he had gotten everything right. He stowed it and withdrew a large bag of table salt, cutting a small tear in it with his pocket knife. He filled in the ruts that he had made in the soil with salt, and before long the summoning circle had taken shape, its details standing out white against the black dirt.

He crouched and began to fill in the sigils and incantations, swirling Hebrew script and arcane runes, pausing every few seconds to reference his book and make sure that his reproductions were accurate. He must have been there for two or three hours when the procedure was finally over, standing in the middle of his salt summoning circle, the carefully traced shapes and text glowing in the pale moonlight. It looked like a scene from a horror movie, or at least what a layman might assume an occult ritual would look like, and that was just the way he wanted it.

He leaned against a gnarled tree, getting as comfortable as possible in its tangled roots, then crossed his arms and closed his eyes.

***

Nahash materialized, her physical manifestation forming from the swirling mists and becoming solid, her cloven hooves meeting soft dirt underfoot as she came to stand on material ground. She opened her ovine eyes, blinking as her surroundings came into focus. It was dark, the environment lit only by the light of the moon, her pale skin and white fur reflecting it like a beacon as she turned her head to look around. She was in a clearing, thick forest closing in on her from all sides, mist hanging low over the ground as she felt the cool night air on her face.

This was her domain, a sense of déja-vu overcoming her, a kind of primal recognition sparking in her mind as she gazed at the tree line. She had not visited woodland for thousands of years, and yet the scents and sounds were all immediately familiar to her, the chirping of insects and the smell of plants and soil bringing old memories flooding back.

She wanted to break loose, to dance through these woods and vanish between the trees, the wilds calling to her with an almost irresistible intensity that rang in her head like a bell.

Those days were long over, however. With a heavy heart, she resisted the powerful urges, turning her attention to the task that her master had given her.

Where was Ryan? This was not his apartment. She could hear the sounds of the city in the distance, but it was faint and far away. She looked down to examine the summoning circle beneath her feet, drawn in the soil and filled in with salt. It was impeccably reproduced, at least considering the crude method employed, far better than the one that Ryan had drawn on his floorboards in chalk. She noticed some irregularities, there was no triangle for the summoner to stand in and no containment triangle for protecting the exorcist from uncooperative spirits. This could not have been used for summoning, it was merely acting as a gate, drawing in the ambient magickal energy in the environment and concentrating it here.

It felt good, this was a place where nature ruled, and the magick was strong.

She saw a hooded figure across the clearing, he had been resting in the roots of one of the naked trees as he had watched her materialize, and now he stood to remove his hood. It was Ryan, and he walked over to greet her.

"Ryan?" Nahash asked. "What is the meaning of this? Why are we in a forest?"

"I wasn't sure that it would work," he replied, walking around the edge of the circle with his hands in his pockets as he admired his handiwork. "I figured that wherever I decided to sleep, Orobas would send you, provided that there was a circle here to offset the energy cost of course. Looks like I was right."

"This circle was not designed for summoning rituals," she mused, "did you go to the trouble of making it just to bring me here? Why?"

"That's right. After you left earlier today, I went on a little drive. I visited a few stores to buy the supplies that I needed. After all, I don't have to worry about money anymore thanks to you. I searched for woodland that was remote, and yet reasonably accessible from the city. We're right on the edge of a national park, you know. Not many people come through here, but there are hikers and nature lovers who do, and I ensured that this clearing would be close enough to the trail that campers or hunters might stumble across it."

"Ryan, what are you doing?" Nahash asked. She sounded confused and somewhat alarmed. "Whatever this is, it isn't part of your contract with Orobas."

"No, it isn't," he replied as he came to a stop and looked up at her. "This is something that I'm doing of my own volition. I've been paying attention to what you've told me. I've listened when you've talked about sigils and the power of faith, the way that magickal energy is created and distributed."

Nahash sniffed the cool air, smelling blood and metal, her amber eyes widening.

"What have you done? You are but a novice, Ryan. If you seek to summon a more powerful demon or to make a game of powers that are far beyond your control, you risk inviting a terrible fate."

"Even I know enough that I wouldn't attempt to summon a demon without wards or a containment triangle, you give me too little credit Nahash. Look more closely, and tell me what you see."

She shot him a worried glance, then marched out of the circle, following the scents as they brought her to the edge of the forest. There were sigils carved into the trees, splashed with animal blood, from a pig by the smell of it. Her hoof hit a metal plate that was discarded on the ground, inscribed with that same symbol.

"This is the sigil of Azazel," she said, placing a hand against the tree trunk and feeling the rough bark beneath her palm.

"That's correct, Azazel is the chief of the Seirim if I'm not mistaken, and the closest thing that your kind have to a deity. When people come here, and they will, they will find these sigils carved into the trees and the summoning circle drawn in the clearing. They'll see the blood, they'll find the metal plates, and they'll take them back with them. Before the week is through, hundreds, maybe thousands of people will have seen the sigil, and these plates will be circulating throughout the state. It will be on the local news, pictures of the trees and the plates will be all over the internet, this country loves a good Satanic panic and word of this will spread like wildfire."

"You seek to empower Azazel, and through him...me," Nahash whispered.

"Not only that, but I'm starting a new myth here. Mothman, the Jersey Devil, Bigfoot. There are so many cryptids in this country, they capture the imagination of the public, some people dedicate their whole lives to investigating them. Tell me, is that not a form of worship? Are the myths of Bigfoot or the Chupacabra not widespread and pervasive enough to fuel a small tribe of spirits such as the Seirim?"

She turned her goat-like head to stare at him, her yellow eyes reflecting the light of the moon like those of a cat.

"These woods are now haunted, and what's more, I have video evidence." He pointed to the camouflaged box that was tied around a nearby tree trunk. "I've got trail cam footage of a goat demon appearing from thin air, and it's going to be all over video sharing websites before the sunrise. Even if people don't believe that it's genuine they'll argue at length over its validity, they’ll spend hours trying to figure out if and how it was faked so convincingly. The video will have millions of views by the end of the month."

Ryan stood defiantly in the center of the summoning circle, his hands planted firmly on his hips, announcing his intentions to the forest as Nahash looked on in quiet awe of him.

"I just engineered a fucking media sensation, you're going viral. Every person who sees one of these sigils, every person who believes that this is real, will feed you more magickal energy than you've seen in five thousand years."

"You did all of this...for me? Why?"

"You asked me why I turned down the woman who gave me her number at the interview today. Let's just say that over the past few days I've developed a thing for...older women."

Ryan had no idea if she would return his affections, or if spirits were even capable of romantic love. But even if she didn't reciprocate, she still deserved this. This supposedly evil creature had been kinder and more considerate towards him than anyone that he had ever met. She deserved to be free, and if Ryan was to get his wish fulfilled then so should she, it was only fair.

She blinked at him for a moment as she stood at the edge of the clearing, and then in a flash, she crossed the distance between them on her long legs. She wrapped her arms around him and lifted him clear off the ground as if he weighed no more than a doll. She squeezed him against her soft bust, hugging him tight against her body, and pressed her lips against his.

Sparks fizzled in his brain as her tongue pushed into his mouth, its exaggerated size surprising him, her kiss desperate and unbridled. The large organ explored him, smooth and sinuous as it bulged his cheeks and wrestled with his own, its tapered tip tickling the back of his throat and sending pleasant shivers rolling down his spine. It was a kiss like no other, deeper and more fervent than anything that he had experienced before, as if she was pouring her love for him into every impassioned glance.

His eyes closed of their own accord, the copper taste of her saliva pricking his taste buds as he let himself melt into her. If his arms had not been trapped against his sides by her bear hug, he would have delved his fingers into the soft mane of fur that adorned her neck and shoulders. The warmth of her body permeated his clothing in the cold autumn air, her arms gripping him tightly, the heat of their joined flesh making his head spin. Their embrace was wanton and urgent, almost panicked, all of the tension and unspoken desires that had built up over their time together bubbling to the surface with the intensity of an erupting volcano.

Her familiar scent rose to his nose, alluring and earthy, and he finally realized what it was. She smelled of the forest, of dew-soaked grass and soil, the aroma of nature itself.

Their embrace dragged on, her kiss becoming more gentle and placating, the slow brushes of her powerful tongue easing low sighs from his lips. Stars danced before his eyes, his heart hammering in his chest with such intensity that he feared it might burst. He couldn't focus on anything besides the sensation of her slippery tongue as it roiled in his mouth like a fleshy snake.

She finally pulled back with a wet smack, her lips linked to his by a strand of saliva that glistened in the light of the waxing moon, those amber eyes glowing through the gloom of the forest like hot coals.

She placed him gently back on his feet, Ryan gripping her forearm as he stood unsteadily on weak knees, dazed from her impromptu kiss. Fireflies hovered around the circle as if they were somehow drawn to the Seirim, floating on the breeze like motes of dust, their ghostly lights blinking in a beautiful display.

"Of all the things that I have seen in my time, you surprise me the most," she said as a smile curled her lips.

"S-So what happens now?" Ryan asked, his cheeks flushed as he craned his neck to look up at her.

"If what you say is true, then Azazel's power will grow, and the power of the Seirim along with it. We are born from him, we are his children in a manner of speaking, but the tribes have been scattered to the winds. Azazel can no longer support us, and so the Seirim must subsist on the energy of more prominent demons. He will wake from hibernation, and when he does, he will rally his people to him. If you succeed in starting your myth, then they will all be drawn here. If enough people believe, then this forest will become our home. We will dance under the moonlight once again."

"I meant more along the lines of...what happens now between you and me?"

"For the moment, I am still bound to Orobas, and I must do his bidding." She leaned down closer to him, crouching so that her lips were an inch from his ear, her husky voice low and seductive. "But once I am free to do as I please, there is no ward that will keep me from you."

He swallowed conspicuously, her smile turning wry, then she stood and looked to the sky.

"The hour is late. If you should wish to sleep, then do it soon."

"Guess I was awake all night setting this whole thing up. We probably shouldn't stick around here very long, if some early morning jogger comes across me, then it'll blow the whole plan. I'll start making my way back towards the car. I guess you can't walk with me?"

"Not yet," she said, "but soon I will no longer be confined to the circle. I will meet you at the apartment." He started to walk away, but saw her hesitate, the giant demon looking oddly sheepish. "And Ryan...thank you."

She faded into the mist, Ryan stopping to retrieve his camouflaged camera, then he picked up his rucksack and set off down the trail.

 

CHAPTER 7: CONSORTING WITH DEMONS

 

When Ryan stepped through the door of his apartment Nahash was waiting there for him, lounging on the couch as she watched him hang up his coat. She was treating it like a chaise longue due to her size, reclining on it as she leaned with one arm on the backrest and the other trailing over the side. Her long legs were crossed, hanging over the adjacent armrest, her cloven hooves touching the floor.

She had always been distractingly attractive, but for the first time, he felt free to really appreciate her body. He no longer feared that she would take offense if she caught him copping an eyeful. Her figure screamed fertility, avatar of nature that she was, with child-bearing hips and breasts that would have snapped the spine of a similarly endowed human woman. There was a pleasant fullness to her, the soft flesh that clung to her thighs and belly giving her curves that drew the eye with an almost magnetic power. She was Rubenesque, a standard of beauty lost to time but one that nonetheless ignited an ancient and primal lust in him.

Where her skin was clear of her delicate wool, predominantly on her thighs and torso, it was as smooth as polished metal and had the texture of fine silk. It was pale, though not pallid, there was a warmth and health to her that radiated forth to make her glow.

There was feathery fur on her chest above her breasts, extending to the neck and shoulders to create a sort of fluffy ruff that framed her face. It continued to her head, where it served as her hair, those black horns and her large ears that so resembled those of a sheep protruding from it. The same downy material covered her lower legs, giving the impression that she was wearing woolen knee socks, before her long limbs tapered into those of a goat. Her coat was as white as snow, the same color as her skin, the whole package blending seamlessly so as to make the transition between her human and animal features less jarring. Her face was closer to that of a human than a sheep or a goat, with a flat, ovine nose and the full lips of a woman.

She was comely and surprisingly graceful. Being a kind of succubus, after all, her original purpose had been to tempt tribesmen away from their wives to join the Seirim in their dance. Based on what Ryan had read about them during his research into Azazel, it was he who had first taught mankind to sin.

And here was Nahash, one of his sensuous children, tempting Ryan to sin as was her prerogative. She was exotic, strange and somewhat frightening, but there was an aura of base sexuality emanating from her that piqued his male interest nonetheless.

She beckoned to him with a clawed finger, and he walked over to her obediently, her golden eyes mesmerizing as she peered at him and batted her long lashes.

"On the couch, or in the bed?" Nahash asked in a low and sultry tone. Ryan felt himself begin to blush. He had only just expressed his feelings for her, was she already intending to take things further?

"W-What do you mean?" he stammered.

"Where do you wish to sleep?" she clarified. "On the couch, or in the bed?"

He breathed a sigh of relief and gestured to the bedroom, the demon rising from the couch and following him in. He started to pull his clothes off as Nahash watched, her gaze more covetous than usual, as if she was playing her eyes over his body rather than merely observing him as she usually did. He stripped down to his shirt and shorts, slipping beneath the heavy sheets in order to escape the bite of the cold air, and she followed suit.

If there had been a sexual charge under normal circumstances, now it was amplified tenfold, the very touch of her soft wool against his naked skin sending jolts of tingling electricity through his body. His attraction to her had been implied, unspoken but likely sensed, and now both of their feelings were out in the open. His face burned fever hot, and his heart raced, his breath bated as he felt her arm curl around him and her huge breasts pressed up against his back through the fabric of his shirt.

She spooned with him, her warm breath blowing his hair, squeezing him against her body as she lay behind him. The ruff of cushioned fur around her neck acted like a pillow, tickling his skin as he pushed back into it. He remembered that she could sense his every emotion, as if he was laid bare before her, the demon staring into his soul with those amber eyes.

"What are you afraid of?" Nahash whispered, her lips brushing his ear. He closed his eyes, her arm wrapped around his belly and resting a scant few inches from his waistband, the feathery wool soft against his midriff. "Do you think me a temptress?"

"Are you not?" Ryan mumbled, and she chuckled.

"You've learned enough about my kind by now to know what we are, and you know that I've not felt the warmth of a man in millennia." She slipped her clawed fingers beneath his shirt, dragging them lightly across his chest, making him flinch as he felt her soft lips press against his neck. He froze up, his spine arching as she planted a sucking kiss, tender and gentle yet oozing with an almost palpable desire.

"How I have yearned for the pleasures of the flesh," she murmured in his ear as his breath caught in his throat. "To live in a mire of raw thought, to have no corporeal form, to have the memories of taste and touch without ever being able to relive them is a torture worthy of the name Hell. The taste of succulent fruit, the smell of roasted meat wafting on the air, the pulse of another's heart felt through their warm skin..."

She placed her palm over his heart, feeling it throb, and he heard her exhale deeply as she savored the sensation.

"As you have already learned, it was Azazel who taught men to sin. He brought them secret knowledge and with it came the possibility of transgression. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, they ate of the forbidden fruit, finding it sumptuous and dripping with sweet nectar."

Her long tongue left her mouth to glance his ear, making him flinched, Ryan captivated by her lurid whisperings.

"You are an innocent boy, Ryan, your love is pure and unashamed. I can sense it in you, I can smell it like the wolf smells the hare." She caught his ear between her teeth and nibbled it softly, a gasp escaping his lips. "Would you think me evil if I told you that it excites me almost beyond reason? I am a demon, after all. A spirit whose driving purpose was to tempt men and women, to help them learn the pleasures and the mysteries of nature. Lust is not godly, the rutting of unthinking beasts is not sung of in churches and temples, and yet it is the pulse of all life. The darkness of the forest that calls to you, the unacceptable desire that scratches at the inside of your skull, the animal that lurks beneath your conscious mind. We taught them to embrace it, to explore it, if only to finally know what it would feel like to sate that burning need."

Ryan felt her hot breath on his neck, contrasting with the chill of the air above the bed sheets, hovering as if she wanted to plant a kiss or a bite on his sensitive skin.

"You listen so intently when I speak of demons and magick, an eager student. Now let me teach you to sin."

He loosed a stifled moan as she sank her teeth into his neck, not hard enough to break the skin, but enough to send his nerves into overdrive. It was like he had been hooked up to a battery, setting his nervous system alight with sensation. Suddenly he was acutely aware of everything. He felt her claws drag slowly from his chest to his belly, making him buck and flinch, her lips mouthing and kissing around the red mark that her teeth had left in his skin. She reached his waistband and dragged it down, savoring his every twitch, then pulled down his shorts to free his erection.

She wrapped her fingers around it, holding it in her palm and feeling it throb in her hand like a second heart, as hot as an iron in a forge and no less rigid.

"Sweet boy," she purred, holding his chin in her other hand and turning it up so that she could look down on his flushed face from above. "I'll show you pleasures that no mortal has tasted in a hundred generations."

She locked him in an upside-down kiss, her dexterous tongue worming its way into his mouth, twisting and coiling as she embraced him. Her grip on him grew tighter, pressing him against her body and making him sink into the malleable meat of her heavy bust. She squeezed his aching member in her hand, feeling him shudder, a bead of precum welling at the tip as she overwhelmed him with her relentless attentions.

Her body was so soft, breasts as large as watermelons cushioning him as her soft wool enveloped his head, her fingers curling gently around his neck as her lurid kiss dragged on. With the mattress beneath him and the quilted blankets pressing him down, his whole world was warmth and comfort, every inch of skin pressing against something soft and inviting.

He was beside himself, his muscles trembling as she ran her hard claws up and down the length of his throbbing shaft. He was so excited that every brush of her fingers sent a jolt of harsh pleasure rolling through his body like he was being electrocuted, she was playing him like some kind of musical instrument. He flinched and gasped at her touch, his nerves on fire as she teased his beleaguered body.

Her tongue piled into his mouth, so long and thick that he could barely accommodate it, his cheeks bulging outwards as she tasted their inner surface and he suppressed a gag as the tip slid into his throat. Their organs entwined, warm flesh slick with their saliva twisting and curling, her metallic flavor filling his head. He felt as if she was draining all of the strength from his body, sapping his will, this kiss alone was more intense and sexual than anything that he done with his previous partners. It was otherworldly, her own repressed lust palpable, and a tremor rolled through him as his muddled mind considered what she might have in store for him.

She licked the back of his throat, painting the roof of his mouth as her viscous saliva leaked down his red cheek, exploring him as her embrace grew ever more fervent and wanton. She stroked his thighs and belly with her deft fingers, tormenting him and drawing red trails in his skin, touching everything but his member as it ached and jumped in the air. Something about feeling her grip on his throat made him feel vulnerable, and that vulnerability only heightened his senses further, his eyes closing and his brain fizzing as if someone had filled his head with pop rocks.

Nahash sensed that it was becoming too intense for him and so she ceased her stroking, her lips breaking away with a pop and her monstrous tongue sliding out of his mouth like a giant strand of spaghetti. Ryan lay in her arms, panting and twitching, the Seirim releasing her hold on his neck to run her fingers through his hair in the way that she knew he liked.

"I'm sorry, I got a little carried away," she whispered. "It's been so long, and you're so...responsive."

Ryan caught his breath, making a futile attempt to compose himself, and then flipped over in the bed to push his face into the nape of her feathery neck. His hands roamed across her velvet skin, tracing the contours of her voluptuous body, following the curves of her figure as he sank his fingers into her doughy flesh. She wrapped her arms around him and brought him closer, squashing him against her, one hand cradling the back of his head and the other on his back. She brushed her fingers up and down his spine, her touch as light as a feather, making him shiver and groan into her ruff. She buried her nose in his hair and nuzzled contentedly, his rigid erection pressing into her paunchy belly due to their difference in height, and it was all that he could do to prevent himself from thrusting against her satin skin like an animal in heat.

"You're so taken with me," she murmured. "It's more than lust, a burning need, and I want to satisfy it. No, I want to indulge it."

She always knew what he was feeling, communication was hardly necessary. There was no need for fumbling attempts to explain how he felt about her or what he wanted when she could read his heart like an open book. There was an unbearable pressure building inside him, an urgent need for her, it made him feel like he might explode at any moment.

So why did he feel like he was going to melt into a puddle? He had always taken the lead with Becky, though it was true that she had been rather passive, if not downright boring in bed. Nahash was aggressive, unpredictable. He didn't know what she would do next, and the prospect made him weak at the knees.

"I sense such uncertainty in you," she crooned, "let me be your guide."

She gripped his wrists, rolling him onto his back and climbing atop him, tenting the blankets as she sat upright and straddled him. His member pressed between her legs as her steely thighs enclosed him, and he felt the thick lips of her sex press against it, hot and slick with her excitement. The sheets fell away from her to rest about her wide hips, sliding down her back to reveal her upper body in all its glory, her pale skin and snowy fur catching what little moonlight bled in through the blinds to illuminate her in the darkness. The curves of her body cast deep shadows, further accentuating them, her yellow eyes burning like embers as she looked down on him. Her lower body was still in shadow beneath the sheets, but those weighty breasts hung from her chest in full view, bouncing softly as they settled.

The air was cold where she had shrugged off the blankets, and yet it amplified the heat from her body, her smooth skin feverishly warm where it pressed against his own. She was heavy, but he still got the impression that she weighed far less than she ought to, and it was not too much for him to handle.

She ground her hips slowly, tantalizingly, her loins out of view as they rubbed against his shaft but never enveloped it. She was so slippery, flesh that was impossibly smooth and soft kissing his skin, her juices dripping forth to glaze it. He wanted desperately to plunge into that sopping opening, to feel her velvet insides grip him like a latex glove, but she did not release him from his torment.

She took one of his hands in hers, lifting it and planting it in the yielding meat of her breast, his fingers sinking into the supple fat as it spread around them. His mouth watered as he kneaded and squeezed, Nahash's eyelids fluttering and the pace of her grinding hastening as he explored her, Ryan reaching up with his second hand and weighing her breast in his palm. They were so heavy, he would have needed to use both arms to lift one, and beneath the pliant flesh was firmer tissue that made her spine arch when he dug for it. Her nipples were pink and hard, pressing into his palms, and he trapped them between his fingers to force a primal grunt from her throat.

He let one of his hands fall to her thigh, its flesh nigh as soft and as supple as that of her copious bust, hard muscle lurking beneath the surface as he clawed at her. Her skin was like satin, he couldn't help himself but stroke it, not finding a single hair or imperfection beneath his fingertips as he ran them towards her loins.

She batted his hand away, smirking down at him from on high, and wagged her finger as if she were scolding a naughty child.

"Not yet, we have so much to do before our dance reaches its crescendo."

She slid off him, the heat of her vulva moving away from his aching erection, but his dismay was quickly buried by fresh and exciting sensations. She crawled down his body, throwing the blankets over herself so that she was out of view beneath them, only her touch on his skin giving Ryan any indication of where was or what she was doing. Her twisted horns caught on the fabric, dragging it with her as she went, their points betraying her location as she paused over his torso.

She planted lingering kisses on his chest, biting softly as she went, her sinuous tongue leaving her mouth to lick and tease as she crawled her lips down towards his belly. Her massive breasts rested on him like two bags of sand, so large that she couldn't bring herself low enough without letting them fall on him. She tickled his ribs with her claws, their sting contrasting with the softness of her indulgent mouthing, and as she bit his hip, he reached a hand down and delved his fingers into the soft fur that served as her hair.

He felt her wet muscle curl around one of his fingers, impossibly long and dexterous, more like a slippery tentacle than anything recognizable as a tongue. She guided his digit towards her mouth, her puffy lips wrapping around it as she sucked it inside, curling her slimy organ around it and licking at his fingertip as if it were his member. He shivered, his brain overheating as he considered her implied threat. If she wrapped those lips around his shaft, he wouldn't be able to hold on.

She released him, ensuring that his finger was damp with her drool, then he yelped and covered his mouth with his hand as she dragged her tongue slowly across his inner thigh.

She breathed warm air on his pulsing member, her mouth poised an inch away from it as she made him wait, his heart about ready to explode from his chest. He covered his face with his arms, his spine rising from the mattress as she kissed his glans gingerly, her lightest touch sending a wave of pleasure rolling over him.

With a start, he realized that she hadn't even used her powers on him yet, this was just the tip of the iceberg. Who knew what she could make him feel if she were to reach inside him and stir his brain like a pot of stew, playing with his emotions and his perception as she did with his nerves. She could scramble his mind like a hit of LSD with a wave of her hand.

She gripped his hips in her hands to hold him steady and to prevent him from thrusting, her claws sinking into the meat of his butt, and he watched her horns tent the blanket over his groin. He couldn't see what she was doing, and like being blindfolded, it only served to heighten his sensitivity.

"The scent of a man," she growled, her usually husky and musical voice taking on a gruffer and more sinister timbre. "It has been far too long..."

She wound her tongue around his shaft like a snake coiling around its hapless prey, smooth muscle coating his length with syrupy saliva as she scoured its surface. She had such fine control over the appendage, using its tapered tip to pull back his foreskin, driving a surprised cry of pleasure from his lips as she painted the sensitive flesh beneath. She lapped at the precum that welled at the tip and teased his tender underside, her tongue tightening around him and beginning to pump like a fist.

Ryan couldn't think straight, he couldn't concentrate on anything besides the sensation of her muscular tongue sliding against his flesh, his fingernails digging into his burning cheeks as he tried to stave off an orgasm that was already welling.

"Nahash," he mumbled, his voice cracking as her tongue stroked him. "I can't...I'll..."

She gripped the base of his member in her hand and squeezed it tightly, cutting off his impending orgasm, Ryan biting his lip and wincing as she uncoiled her tongue so that she could speak.

"I've waited thousands of years for this," she said, "hold on just a few minutes more. I want to enjoy you, savor the taste of your flesh, drink in your emotions as one would an exquisite wine."

She sensed all of his emotions then, delighting in the pleasure that she caused him, tasting everything that he felt like a person with synesthesia whose senses merged and overlapped.

"It is like a sweet nectar to me," she continued, pausing to drag her tongue up his shaft. "The Seirim are empaths, we sense your every emotion as one breathes in the scent of a meal, hinting at the flavors to come. I want to feel your suffering, your delight, let me dine on your bliss before I take you."

Her fervor surprised him, she had been so measured and refined up until that kiss in the forest, but now she lusted for him with an intensity that might surpass his own. She had spoken so wistfully of missing the feeling of a cool breeze on her skin, how she longed for the taste of food and drink, how she missed dancing under the moonlight. Was it any surprise that she felt the same way about lovemaking? She was an earthly creature, passionate and with a reverence for all things natural. Like she had said, sex was the pulse of the natural world. It was the imperative of everything that crawled, flew and swam on this planet, and the same was true of people. Whether they wanted to admit it or not.

She caught his member with her tongue, interrupting his thought, and guided it towards her waiting lips. She wrapped them around the head, sucking him into her warm mouth, her hand still gripping the base between her thumb and forefinger. She circled the tender glans with her slippery organ, the harsh sensation making him squirm and writhe, but a hand on his hips kept him from breaking loose.

She drew him in a little deeper, the smooth inner lining of her cheeks pressing down on him from both sides, slick with her thick saliva. Her lips slid down his shaft, painfully slowly, the succubus tracing his bulging veins with her agile tongue as she went. His glans brushed the roof of her mouth, sliding into her gullet and bumping against the back of her throat, Nahash finally kissing the base of his throbbing erection as she took it as deep as it would go.

Ryan was in awe of her, marveling at her skill through the haze of his arousal. He was by no means poorly endowed, and she hadn't even flinched when his organ had grazed her esophagus. Her muscles closed around it like a vice, spasming and massaging his length as she swallowed around the foreign object, drinking down the flowing drool that didn't escape from her mouth to wet his pubic hair in fat globs.

Her throat contracted around his cock in waves as if trying to drag him deeper, her tongue escaping to lick his balls as she held him there. Damn, did she even need to breathe? How long could she possibly keep it up? The heat and suction were making his head spin, at this rate he might break before she had to come up for air.

She drew back, pursing her lips to scrape away as much of the bubbling saliva from his skin as she could, pausing with her lips locked around the head to deliver a few more wracking glances before releasing him. His member fell from her mouth, bouncing back to stand rigidly in the air, twitching as she watched it and wet her lips in anticipation of her next move.

Ryan could not see her, she was still lurking beneath the blanket, a huge mound from Ryan's perspective with pointed horns that tented the sheets above her head. She finally threw back the covers so that he could see what she was doing to him, her yellow eyes reflecting what little light penetrated the blinds as she looked up at him, teasing the tip of his erection with her finger.

"Your manhood beats between my lips like a heart," she said, stroking it and watching a pulse of pleasure tear through him. "The men of this age are so impeccably groomed. You have the scent of soaps and perfumes about you, as if you were an expensive courtesan."

She chuckled to herself at the thought, but the comment surprised him. It was if she had expected him to smell bad or to have poor hygiene, but he guessed that ancient tribesman might not have had access to electric razors and shower gel...

She bit her claw as if she were chewing a fingernail, peering up at him with a wry smile, the cogs turning in her head as she decided what to subject him to next.

"How you squirmed when I took you into my gullet," she mused, Ryan's brow furrowing at her teasing. "Tell me, did your lover never do that for you?"

"I...no, we weren't very inventive in bed," he stammered as he struggled to collect his thoughts.

"Then we will have to make up for lost time..."

She took his erection in her hand and slammed her face down on it, driving his member up to the base as she buried it in her throat. Ryan groaned like he had been punched in the gut, doubling over as a spasm of almost painfully intense pleasure tore through him, then he fell back to the mattress and tried to compose himself as she peered up at him with a gleeful expression. She was relentless, her teasing apparently done with, sliding her lips back up his shaft only to push down again and swallow his length to the hilt.

Her head bobbed in his lap, her lips pursed as she applied suction, keeping her cheeks tight against his member so that they stroked him with every thrust. His tender underside rubbed against her slippery tongue as it lay beneath him, squirming and undulating as she swallowed excess saliva from their messy coupling, the muscles of her throat drawing him deeper and milking him in unbearable waves.

His breath came in staggered gasps, Ryan pushing the heels of his hands into his eyes as he tried to stave off the pleasure, his toes curling as she wound her agile tongue around his erection and her slimy drool leaked from her lips to wet his thighs and belly. She had brought him to heights of arousal that he would not have thought possible, and now she was going to finish him off, as merciless and as efficient as an executioner at the chopping block.

This was nothing like what he was used to, the sensation was not concentrated in his loins, but rather spread through his whole body like a fog of tingling static. He could feel it in every muscle, in every bone, and he gritted his teeth as she brought her head down again to kiss the base of his member with her smooth lips. It was wet enough so as to be almost frictionless, his cock coated in a layer of her viscous saliva, fat strands of it hanging from her chin as she maintained her cruel pace.

He could scarcely parse the sensations that she was subjecting him to. The tight suction of her puffy lips and soft cheeks, the frenzied motions of her slippery tongue as it lashed and coiled around his throbbing shaft, the feeling of her throat muscles as they pressed around his glans and massaged it with rhythmic contractions as she swallowed. She watched him with those amber eyes, smoldering in the darkness, drinking in his every twitch as he neared the peak of his ecstasy.

He turned his head, burying his face in the pillows in a futile attempt to stifle his unbecoming moan, pressing the plush fabric against his red cheeks in an effort to hide his expression from her. It didn't work, however. She could sense the arousal and embarrassment on him like a bloodhound, watching his emotions play out as he experienced them.

He reached down and wrapped his fingers around one of her twisted horns, holding her tightly as she released his hips from her grip, allowing him to thrust into her throat reflexively as his faculties left him and he bucked like a beast in heat.

For a brief moment, nothing existed besides the wracking pleasure, his muscles seizing as his orgasm crashed over him in crippling waves. His spine rose from the mattress beneath, now damp with sweat and saliva, a heavy wad of his ejaculate hitting the back of her waiting throat as she held him in her mouth. Again and again, he was buffeted by that electrical pleasure, like a boat on a rough sea whose only option was to ride out the storm, his muscles wrenching as they forced his emission from his body. He felt as if it might never end, like someone was pulling a knotted rope out of him through his twitching cock, Nahash sucking and licking dotingly as she drank from the source.

He shot one last rope of his emission into her eager throat, feeling her muscles draw it down as she swallowed obediently, and she finally let his aching erection fall from her mouth along with a sordid concoction of their fluids. The mess slid down his shaft in globs, milky, sticky syrup that clung to his skin and connected her lips to his pulsing member in thick strings. She licked her lips with her prehensile tongue and then wrapped it around his member to clean off the residue, a stray aftershock disturbing him as he wallowed in his euphoria.

"As sweet as honey," she whispered, her tone lurid as he looked down at her. She crawled up his body like a predatory cat about to deliver a killing bite, somewhat menacing with her glowing eyes and sinister horns, but she collapsed in the bed beside him and ran her fingers lightly across his belly instead. She hooked a hand around his head, pulling his face into her cleavage, burying him in her plump sweater meat as he recovered from his climax.

She chuckled to herself, not needing to see his expression to know what he was feeling, and they lay together for a while as he caught his breath and regained what composure that he could muster. It was a struggle to save from falling asleep, the bed was so warm and soft, and her body was so lush and inviting. Her earthy scent filled his nostrils as he pushed his face between breasts that he could have fit his head inside several times over, her skin as smooth as glass, the placating heat that radiated from her body sedating him. She combed his hair with her claws, pleasant shivers coursing up and down his spine. But as his eyelids began to grow heavy, she prodded him with her finger.

"I am to blame for you coming to associate my body with sleep, but we are far from done." She rolled onto her back, releasing him from her cleavage and spreading her thick thighs in invitation as she kicked away the sheets. "Let the favor be repaid to he who repays a favor."

"Is that some kind of proverb?" Ryan mumbled, rising to his hands and knees unsteadily.

"One of the earliest, though if you never visited the banks of the Euphrates around 3300 BC, you can be forgiven for not recognizing it."

He shuffled between her parted thighs, each as tall as he was as he kneeled before her on the mattress, like two pillars wrapped in milky skin that tapered into the furry legs of a satyr. He could have reached out and hugged one, and his hands would scarcely have met on the other side, such was the girth of her supple fat and the taut muscle that lay beneath.

Nahash looked down at him over the mounds of her breasts, spreading under their own weight as gravity took hold of them, the twin bed barely long enough to accommodate her stature. She leaned forward and planted a hand on his head, pushing his face down towards her loins as he began to blush once again.

"It means go down on me, has pleasure made you foolish? Don't worry, you'll enjoy this more than you might imagine."

As his cheeks brushed the smooth surface of her inner thighs, he felt the heat that emanated from her loins on his lips, her earthy scent giving way to a deeply sexual musk that awoke something primal and greedy in him. He spread her flushed lips with his fingers, exposing the pink, glistening flesh beneath her porcelain skin. Though somewhat larger in scale than what he was used to, there were no obvious irregularities, and he leaned in to drag his tongue across her vulva. She shivered appreciatively, batting her long lashes as she looked down at him, one of her hands vanishing as it was engulfed by the meat of her breast and she began to play with herself.

She was so wet, a stream of clear fluid leaking from her twitching opening as he traced the folds and details of her anatomy with his tongue, her womanhood almost hot enough to burn him. She was feverish, excited, her thighs quivering around his head as he lapped and mouthed. She tasted sour and metallic, but not unpleasant, and he would have been too aroused to care anyway. He was sporting a raging erection again, still aching from prior use, as hard as steel as that sweet aroma that emanated from her hooked its claws into his brain.

"Not...bad," Nahash muttered, chewing on her claw again as she rested her hand in his hair. "But allow me to...motivate you..."

He felt a strange sensation wash over him, giving him pause as he ceased his licking for a moment. It made him feel a little dizzy, as if he had just stood up too quickly. A warmth came over him, penetrating him to the core, almost like someone had wrapped him up in a comfortable sleeping bag. He became a little drowsy, moreso than before, his mind fogging as he tried to parse what was happening to him.

She must be playing mind tricks on him again, like she did when she lulled him into a deep sleep, or when she had meddled with his senses to make that glass of water taste like wine. He felt a pressure on his head, Nahash pushing him back down, his lips returning to her labia as his tongue darted forth obediently.

His eyes widened as he tasted her syrupy juices. Gone was her natural flavor, replaced by a sweetness that could only have come from a ripe and succulent fruit. All reservations abandoned, he mouthed and kissed with a fervor that surprised even himself, her honeyed emissions dripping from his chin as she held him there with a firm grip on his hair.

It was like eating out a grapefruit, her slick flesh conveying the flavors of exotic fruits and ripe forest berries, too many to distinguish as their aroma played across his taste buds. There was the flavor of a red wine, the unmistakable hint of sweet honey, what could have been the sharp tang of melon or pineapple.

She ground her hips against his face, her viscous juices wetting her thighs and hanging from his lips in ropes, Ryan unable to help himself as she warped his perception with her magick.

"Do you find my taste...appealing?" Nahash asked wryly, craning her fluffy neck to watch covetously as he licked the sticky juices from her inner thighs. He nodded, his lips roaming back down to her vulva, pushing his tongue deep into her opening and driving a bestial grunt from her throat as he dug for more of the ambrosial liquid. It was the most wonderful thing that he had ever tasted, as if someone had fermented a heavenly wine from the orchards and vineyards of paradise, flowing from her like nectar from a flower.

"It seems that you have a sweet tooth," she crooned as she ran her claws over his scalp, Ryan trembling at her touch. "Truth be told, I could make your fantasies a reality. Your darkest and most depraved desires could be brought to light and made manifest, the impossible made real, your addled mind would not know the difference. Your senses do not define your reality, only your mind is capable of that, and the mind can be corrupted and influenced."

She closed her soft thighs around his head, trapping him and pulling him deeper as he scoured her sodden flesh with his warm tongue, her breathing becoming deeper and less regular.

"But when I look into your heart, I see nothing but my own visage. It appears that ‘I’ am your fantasy..."

He looked up over her mound, the subtle tuft of delicate fur where her pubic hair would have been tickling his nose, and as he listened to her hypnotic voice he wondered if those beautiful fireflies that floated about her twisted horns had always been there...

"To long for the hand of a demon," she chuckled, her tone salacious as if she were gossiping about her lover with a friend. "None before you have dared to entertain such a thought. If it is borne from ignorance or from conviction, I care not. I intend to indulge you, sweet, tender boy..."

She pushed him back down to continue his work, sighing contentedly as he slipped a finger inside her, the powerful muscles of her passage gripping him like a fist and attempting to draw him deeper. He couldn't get over how good she tasted, wherever his tongue roamed he encountered some new flavor, like juicy berries bursting in his mouth. Despite her size, she was impressively tight, her pelvic floor muscles bearing down on his digit with surprising ferocity.

He curled his finger inside her, her exquisite fluids leaking around it, tremors rippling through her massive body to make her thighs quiver and her tunnel tighten as he stimulated her.

That alluring scent had never gone away, and his member ached for her, as if some pheromone was commanding him to mount her and bury his manhood to the hilt in her undulating tunnel. Her insides were like damp satin, so smooth and soft that it drove him wild to imagine what those delicate walls would feel like were they to enclose his shaft, wringing him of his seed as nature demanded. He had never felt so virile, nor had he ever encountered a woman so fertile, and why should a spirit of nature and lust be anything less?

As her excitement mounted, he could have sworn that he glimpsed creepers growing across the headboard of the bed. Their vines sprouted fat, red grapes and colorful flowers bloomed before his eyes, but he couldn't be sure if what he was seeing was just a hallucination. A monarch butterfly perched on one of her horns, flapping its colorful wings, those fireflies hovering about her head like a field of stars.

"Don't get distracted," she cooed, her voice penetrating his fugue like a hot knife through butter. It was hypnotic, musical, and he felt compelled to obey her as he resumed his work.

He slid his tongue up her vulva, her damp walls gripping his finger with shocking force as he brushed something firm and erect, the colorful foliage that was growing around the bed jittering like the image on an old satellite television with a bad signal. He regained some of his clarity for a moment, smiling to himself as he realized that he had broken her concentration if only for a brief second, then the warmth washed over him again and the flowers bloomed in even brighter colors.

Her grip on his hair grew tighter as he pressed his lips around her clitoris, drawing it out from beneath its protective hood and sucking it into mouth, running his warm tongue across its smooth surface as her massive hips began to grind and gyrate. Her passage was crushing his finger as he slid it around inside her, her contractions coming hard and strong, her rippling muscles rolling down the length of his digit as if trying to pull it deeper.

Her honeyed juices spilled forth as her excitement grew, and he couldn't help but lap at the clear fluid, the flavors of oranges and ripe strawberries filling his mouth. She shivered with delight, watching him with a lurid gaze as he cleaned the burnished skin of her inner thighs, licking and sucking as strings of it clung to his lips.

He returned his attention to her hard protrusion, circling it with his organ, a salacious mixture of his saliva and her thick emissions making their contact wet and slippery. She tugged his hair and pushed his face down, her thighs closing firmly around his head like a trap, her skin cool against his burning cheeks and sticky with residue. The squashy fat cushioned him, but the muscles beneath were as strong and as hard as steel cables, they would have needed to be in order to support her massive body.

"Do not falter," she gasped, her ample chest rising and falling rapidly as he battered her clitoris with his tongue. He slipped another finger inside her, her undulating muscles pressing them together almost painfully, and she growled her delight like a beast of the forest. Her hips moved robotically, grinding as if she was trying to fuck his fingers, losing her composure as her pleasure mounted. Ryan wrapped his arm around one of the thighs that enclosed his head in an attempt to gain more purchase, finding that it was too girthy for him to get his hand all the way around it, and he kept his lips locked around her firm nub of flesh as he painted shapes on its tender surface.

"It's been so long," she whined, her heavy butt rising from the mattress as she writhed. "Too long without a body, too long an absence from the pleasures of the flesh. I need this..."

Her husky voice trailed off into a pained sigh as he caught her fleshy bud between his lips and his tongue, squeezing it gently before resuming his dutiful licking. He pumped his fingers in and out of her, reaching a fever pitch, her thighs tightening around his head and the grip of her clawed fingers in his hair unrelenting. She rolled her hips against his face, coating him in her sweet nectar, Ryan doing his utmost to keep up the pace as she neared her peak.

She doubled over and sat up on the bed, her breath catching in her throat, still and silent for a brief moment like the calm that preceded a storm. She took in a staggered gulp of air, her burnished thighs trembling around his red cheeks, her pendulant breasts swaying enticingly with the sudden motion. She threw her head back down to the pillows, her crown of gnarled horns impaling them like stuck pigs and carving deep ruts in the wooden headboard, her long spine rising from the mattress as her muscles seized and she loosed a rumbling growl that might have frightened Ryan had he been of sound mind. The small, white feathers that stuffed the pillows burst forth as she ripped them open, raining down on them like snow.

She fucked the air reflexively as her first orgasm in eons set her newly minted nerves aflame, wracking pleasure coursing through her like a backdraft, a flood of her divine emission escaping from her twitching passage to spill past his fingers and dampen the bed sheets. He hung on to her bucking body, Nahash tearing into the mattress with her claws as she endured the throes of her climax, the sound of ripping fabric audible over her guttural moans and the creaking bed springs. The flowers and vines that had appeared from nowhere crackled with static, somehow visible to his mind, but not to his eyes as he glanced at them. She was too distracted to maintain her illusion, the taste of her emission turning sour and metallic on his tongue, but Ryan couldn't have cared less in that moment. He didn't let up, mouthing and kissing her sensitive loins to draw out every last twitch and sigh, her reflexive thrusting slowing gradually as she lowered herself back down onto the bed.

She released his head from between her plump thighs, her tight grip on his hair turning to gentle stroking, and his face rose above her sodden mound to see her peering down at him with glowing eyes. Her come dripped from his chin in a sagging web as he stared up at her, the warm, tingling sensation of her magick renewed. The verdant creepers had covered the headboard in a leafy mesh, their fat grapes ripe enough to burst, their splayed flowers leaking sap as butterflies in a myriad of colors flapped their wings as they flew between them. It was dark in the room, and yet he could have sworn that he saw the glint of sunlight on them as they fluttered. A ring of fireflies circled around Nahash's horns like a halo as she sat up and leaned forward, cupping his slimy face in her hand and pressing their lips together, her serpentine tongue snaking forth to fill his mouth.

She embraced him clumsily, greedily, tasting her own juices on him but not showing any sign of caring. She was ferocious, pulling him up into her arms and sitting cross-legged, depositing him in her lap as she forced a deep and probing kiss on him. Her hallucinogenic magick came on stronger than ever as he felt her roving muscle pushing into his throat, her claws pricking his skin as she lay him back, the now familiar warmth of her powers becoming a heat as it spread through his body like a fever.

Above her was a field of stars, smearing across the sky as if seen through an overexposed camera, drawing mesmerizing trails as he watched them with drooping eyelids. The fireflies blinked their ghostly lights as they floated about her horns, a cloud of pulsing, green beacons that drifted on an invisible breeze. Her eyes stared into his soul, like two burning orbs of molten glass, her horizontal pupils blacker than black.

He twisted in her arms, doing his best to meet her lascivious kiss, the taste of her saliva now akin to the fruity aroma of her fluids as his tongue wrestled with hers. He felt her hands roaming across his body, more than two, but his alarm was short lived as his addled brain surmised that it was all part of the illusion. It was like an acid trip, she had never made him see or feel this much at once before. Every sense that he possessed was under her command. Sight, taste and touch, all puppets dancing to the tune of her pipe.

He writhed as the hands stroked him. It felt as if there were a dozen of them, but when he directed his eyes to the source of the sensations, he saw nothing. Still, it wasn't necessary to actually see them. It was convincing enough that if he closed his eyes, they might as well have been real.

Soft palms caressed his chest and belly, sharp claws tracing his jugular and running down his back as the phantom limbs had their way with him, leaving not an inch of skin untouched as the teasing fingers explored. She kept up her kissing, her lips curling into a smile as it dragged on, the phantom hands gripping his inner thighs and brushing his ribs. She stroked his cheek dotingly, Ryan unsure of whether that was her real hand or just a hallucination, feeling another close its fingers lightly around his throat.

They stroked his hair, tracing the arch of his spine, squeezing his butt and roaming near his loins as the room seemed to melt away around him until he and Nahash were alone in a void of inky darkness. They gripped his wrists and ankles, restraining him as though they belonged to an adventurous lover, the loss of control somehow exciting to him. He felt a fist grip his member, pumping slowly, another cradling his balls as still a third drew circles on his belly with its claw. Nahash's wanton kissing did not relent, her tongue writhing in his head as if it had a life of its own, warm and agile as it tasted him in places that no human organ would have been able to reach.

Despite how good it felt, how real those questing fingers seemed, his mind was hazy, and his perception was so obviously altered. It felt like he was reliving a half-remembered dream, the finer details escaping him. He was drunk on Nahash's magick, and his head spun as her affectionate handjob hastened.

He felt warm breath on his right ear, then the left, Ryan struggling to open his heavy eyelids to see Nahash looking down on him from above. He heard a soft whisper and then a disembodied mouth nibbled his ear, a second planting a sucking kiss on his neck. He couldn't take much more of this, it was overwhelming, so indulgent that he would not have imagined such a scenario even in his most depraved and selfish fantasies.

"Do you like this?" Nahash's voice whispered in his left ear.

"Do you want...more?" Her voice was coming from the right this time, lurid and seductive as he felt a slippery tongue glance his neck.

"I could drown you," left.

"In a sea of pleasure," right.

"Test your sanity," left.

"With a trial of a thousand tongues," right.

He shivered violently, overcome by the sensations, too much stimulation happening all at once. The illusion melted away, his awareness clawing its way back to the surface as if he was waking from a dream. He blinked, shaking his head to clear it, looking up at Nahash's face and the bare ceiling above her. The stars were gone, there was no forest of vines growing on the headboard, and he felt only two hands on his body.

"I sensed that it was too much for you," she said apologetically, "perhaps I should have built up to that."

He caught his breath, glad to be back in reality with his perception unaltered, but he appreciated the effort on her part all the same. It had felt amazing, indescribable, but it had been too much of a shock to his system.

"What...was that?"

"I took the reigns of your senses, directing them as I pleased. It is a trivial task to simulate grasping hands or questing lips. Your own imagination does most of the work for me, I simply have to use a little suggestion in order to send it down the right path."

"I knew that you could influence emotions and fiddle with senses, but not to that degree. That was...amazing, and a little scary," he chuckled. She could read his emotions, and so she must know that he wasn't angry or upset, yet still he felt the need to reassure her. It was no different than a lover springing an unannounced fetish on an unsuspecting partner, it had been a surprise, but he could get used to it.

"Yeah, let's build up to that," he said. "Maybe two extra hands instead of a dozen next time."

She placed a hand on his chest and lay him on his back, straddling him, lowering herself on her massive thighs to get close enough that her loins brushed against his renewed erection. His skin slid against her slick flesh, rubbing against her glistening vulva, damp with her fresh excitement. Refractory period wasn't in her vocabulary apparently, and he felt his heart quicken at the thought of finally being inside her, feeling those silken walls closing around him to wring him of his ejaculate.

She drew shapes on his chest with her claws, leering at him as she towered above him, and she wet her lips hungrily with her long tongue.

"Let us forego magick, then. We are here to indulge in earthly pleasures, after all, sins of flesh and bone. I'll put this new body through its paces. I want to test every nerve, remind myself of what I've been missing for all these centuries."

He lifted his hands, sinking his fingers into the meat of her thigh and the subtle paunch of her belly that protruded over her waistline, those luscious breasts hanging just out of his reach due to her exaggerated height. She slipped a hand between her splayed legs and took hold of his erection, his member twitching in her palm as she guided it towards her opening, pausing for a moment to let the thick strands of her excitement fall to roll down the shaft. She caught some of the clear fluid in her hand and rubbed it up and down his length, covering it in the slippery mess and biting her lip at the lewdness of the act.

She liked her lovemaking wet and lurid. Ryan couldn't complain, there was something to be said for letting go of your inhibitions and fucking as if there would be no cleanup after the sordid deed was done.

She pulled back his foreskin with her fingers, exposing his tender glans and rubbing it between her flushed lips, his flesh gliding against hers as the dripping juices made it slippery.

"Obey your nature," she said, planting a hand on the mattress beside his head to support herself as she leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "Don't think, just do, feel that primal lust and let it rule you. Man presumes to be more than a simple beast, but even a tame hound answers the howl of the wolf. You are not as far removed from your four-legged cousins as you think yourselves to be. Now rut," she snarled, "let us make the forest itself blush at our fervor."

Ryan was not as verbose or as eloquent as Nahash, and so he answered her invitation by gripping her wide hips for purchase, thrusting up into her. There was a brief moment of resistance, and then his shaft penetrated her, the harsh sensation causing them to gasp in unison. Despite his member being drenched in her fluids, her passage gripped him with all the tightness of a fist, her powerful muscles bearing down on him and wringing him as a shudder rolled through her body.

"Yes..." Nahash sighed, her sinuous tongue lolling from her mouth and reaching down almost to her cleavage. "Hold nothing back, I want to feel that ache again. It's been so long..."

There was so much pressure, her insides sucking on him like an eager mouth, the undulations of her muscles rolling up his shaft from the base to the head as they attempted to draw him deeper. Her flesh was smooth and as soft as silk, luxuriant as it pressed around his member to fit it like a latex glove, her viscous emissions making their contact slippery and gooey.

He let gravity pull him back down, his butt returning to the mattress, only the tip of his pulsing erection remaining lodged inside her as he watched the fat globs of her excitement roll down his shaft. It looked more like melted plastic than a liquid, thick and creamy, strings of it connecting her mound to his belly.

She let herself fall on him, driving him into the mattress as her considerable bulk landed on him, impaling herself on his cock. The bed springs creaked their protest as her massive thighs clamped around his hips along with most of his torso, Nahash enraptured by the sensation of his rigid organ plunging her depths, her tunnel clenching around him as her muscles seized and she loosed a bestial grunt.

Ryan was a little intimidated by her vigor. She was so much larger and stronger than him, and despite being far lighter than she looked, she was still damned heavy. Would she keep her own instincts under control? Did he want her to? She could sense his emotional state, but that might not count for anything if she was too distracted by their coupling to pay any attention to him.

He winced as her pelvic floor muscles wrung his member, a jolt of harsh pleasure tearing through his nervous system. His body tried to buck reflexively, but she was too heavy to lift. She leaned down and planted her hands to either side of his head, her breasts at eye level to him due to her larger stature, their soft meat falling to smother him. Her delicate skin brushed his cheeks, the fat of her breasts spreading to envelop him, her earthy scent sending a fresh surge of arousal coursing through his veins.

He lifted his hands and took the liberty of mauling the massive globes, digging his fingers deep into her yielding flesh, as soft as melting butter and yet firm when he squeezed it. The doughy meat spilled between his fingers as they sank up to the knuckle, Nahash grumbling under her breath in that husky voice, Ryan turning his head up to look at her face from between her boobs. She was beset, those amber eyes meeting his gaze, and then it was his turn to loose a drawn-out sigh as she began to roll her hips.

She lifted off him painfully slowly, her passage sticking to him despite the copious lubrication that still poured from her hole. It was as if her body didn't want to let him go. He felt her tight muscles gripping his cock through her impossibly supple flesh, like a hand gloved in the finest silk as she dragged up his length.

When she reached her peak, poised above him, she let gravity bring her back down to drive him into her reaches with a force that knocked the air from his lungs. He buried his face in her chest, her bountiful breasts so copious that he could get lost in them, his hands like those of a child in comparison to her generous bust. He strained his neck to reach the feathery wool that started just above her cleavage, rubbing his face in the downy material, pushing into the nape of her neck and feeling it brush against his skin.

She found a slow, heavy pace, savoring every throb and flex of his cock as he writhed impotently beneath her. She was relentless, unwavering as she came down on him again and again, the lurid sounds of their wet lovemaking rising to his ears to make him seethe with embarrassment and arousal.

Nahash was so into this, it was as if she was in a trance, drunk on the pleasure as she gyrated and ground her insides against his erection as if trying to satisfy some maddening itch. Not only did she share the features of a human and an animal, but she made love in the same manner, inhumanly vigorous and with an insatiable appetite that seemed more like that of a beast in the throes of heat than a woman. It was raw and primordial, unfettered by such trivial concerns as modesty and moderation, utterly intoxicating.

She wasn't using any of her magick to manipulate his senses and yet he still felt as if she had put him under her spell. The warmth that radiated from her staved off the cold air in the room, her plump body and generous assets a playground for his groping hands, beads of salty sweat beginning to form where her velutinous skin was clear of her furry wool.

He lay back on the mattress and let the bliss consume him, always on the edge of orgasm but never quite reaching it. Was she changing her pace to keep him wanting? Was that something that she could sense?

She sat up straight, the warmth of her breasts leaving his face, and she took his wrists in her hands as she trembled with her excitement. She pinned him to the bed and looked down at him with a covetous expression on her face, that sinuous tongue leaving her mouth to dampen her pink lips as if to tease him. She slowed her bouncing and began to circle her hips, gyrating and grinding like a belly dancer, her percussive thrusts and fluid motions timed to a beat that only she seemed able to hear. The control that she exerted over her abdominal muscles was incredible as she undulated atop him, the slick walls of her sopping tunnel scouring his organ in new and exciting ways, a whirlwind of sensations that battered him from all sides as her heavy bosom swung in time with her hypnotic waltz.

Her hourglass hips rocked from side to side, the meat of her belly and thighs quivering as she moved, Ryan entranced by her deft and practiced display. It was as much a performance art as a sex act, there was a palpable texture and depth to it as she shimmied wildly, stimulating him with tiny vibrations from her hips before driving guttural groans from him with more forceful impacts that shook his bones.

He began to hear the music in his head, quiet at first as if it was coming from a great distance, but growing louder and clearer as he concentrated on it. At first, the beating of the drums could have been mistaken for blood rushing in his ears, or the sound of his own heart pounding against his ribcage. But as the whistle of a wind instrument and the twang of a string joined it, he realized that it was her magick at work.

She released his wrists, raising her arms above her head as she danced to the ancient tune, framing and accentuating the movements of her curvaceous hips to create beautiful lines and shapes as he watched her. Her pale figure was illuminated by the licking flames of an unseen blaze, casting deep shadows across her body, her white fur tinted in shades of orange as if the flickering fire was but a foot away from her.

The beating of the drums grew faster and louder, building towards a crescendo, the sound of voices chanting in a language that he did not speak joining the instruments in their frantic song. He felt as if his pulse was married to that tempo, his excitement mounting as the pleasure of their frenzied coupling pierced through the illusion like a lightning strike. The music became discordant, Nahash abandoning her sensuous dance to fall forwards and pin his hands to the bed.

Their fingers entwined, her heavy breasts knocking against his face as she stared down at him intensely with her reflective eyes. She found a cruel and ruthless rhythm as she pounded him into the mattress with what felt like all of her strength. The springs beneath them threatened to give out, the demon coming down on him hard enough to bruise, their coupling deeper and more passionate than anything he had imagined. She thrust desperately, her juices overflowing as his aching erection plunged her depths, her hot breath washing over him as she brought her lips down to his neck and kissed him rapaciously. She harried his vulnerable throat with licks and lingering kisses, tasting the fresh sweat on his skin, biting softly as if some part of her was trying to consume him.

"Relinquish your seed," she growled, as if it was a demand that he had the capacity to refuse. "Flood me with it, share your essence with me..."

It was a request too provocative to refuse, and as his spine arched he felt a long-delayed orgasm well inside him like a geyser about to erupt, the pressure enough to make his head spin. It was futile to resist it, and as he relinquished control, a wracking pleasure tore through his exhausted body. Every nerve was aflame, every muscle seizing, a deeply satisfying ache that bordered on pain chasing the waves of euphoria as they washed over him. He dug his fingers into her inviting flesh wherever he could reach, holding her as they mated, his pulsating manhood pumping load after load of his ropy emission into her eager tunnel.

He felt her come too, joining him in his climax, snarling like an animal and throwing her horned head back as her loins contracted around him and her impressive body was reduced to a quivering wreck. She ceased her violent thrusting, twitching and shuddering, her eyes shut tight as a pleasure that she had been denied for millennia ravished her tender body.

Her passage milked him ruthlessly like some kind of reproductive machine, drawing out more of his warm ejaculate as her trembling walls rippled up his shaft like a thousand eager tongues. Over and over his body heaved into her, sweat pouring from the both of them, the milky concoction of their mixed fluids overflowing and sliding down her smooth thighs in fat wads. It was feral, unbridled, and for a moment he felt the pulse of nature itself flowing through him.

They stayed locked together for what felt like an age, every throb and shiver shared between the two lovers, feeding into each other as their intense pleasure faded and gave way to afterglow.

Nahash collapsed at his side, his still rigid member sliding out of her along with an unspeakable mess of their combined sexual fluids that clung to her thigh with the consistency of syrup. They panted in tandem, their bodies glistening with sweat in the moonlight, sore and spent as they wallowed in their post-coital bliss.

Ryan watched as she reached between her pale thighs, a finger vanishing inside her as she shivered contentedly, then she withdrew it along with a thick rope of their gluey mixture. It broke and fell wetly to her belly, Nahash examining the gunk that still dangled from her claw as if fascinated by it, biting her puffy lip.

"The blended essence of a man and a Seirim," she explained, glancing at him as he watched her. "Powerful alchemy borne of our union, liquid lust..."

His heart skipped, and he felt a fresh twinge in his loins as he watched her long tongue uncoil from her mouth, cleaning her finger of the pearly mess. She was either taking great pleasure in the bawdy act, or she just wanted him to watch as she sucked it from her claw, taking her time as if savoring the taste.

This was not entirely surprising to Ryan, he had read about sexual magick in the grimoires, ritual lovemaking performed as part of a summoning or an occult rite. It made sense for the Seirim to partake in such rituals, succubi that they were.

"It is powerful magic," she whispered salaciously, "it invigorates me. I would be remiss to let but a drop of it go to waste." She grinned, leaning over him, Ryan gripping her twisted horns as she took his lingering erection into her mouth. She sucked and licked, a stray aftershock making him shiver as her winding tongue cleaned away the mixture, pausing to tease his still sensitive glans as she withdrew.

She flopped back onto the bed beside him, the impact of her head on the pillows sending more of their stuffing floating into the air, the tiny feathers raining down on them as they lay together. The bed looked like a crime scene, the headboard was covered in scars, the pillows looked like someone had taken a knife to them and there were tears all over the mattress.

"Looks like I'm going to be buying a new bed with my first paycheck," Ryan chuckled.

Nahash rolled onto her side, taking him in her arms and pulling him into her bust, burying his face in the soft fur of her neck. He breathed in her familiar scent, utterly relaxed even without the aid of her powers as she pulled one of the heavy blankets over them, trapping their warmth beneath the sheets as they spooned.

"Now you may sleep," she crooned, running her clawed fingers through his hair. Ryan was exhausted, he was barely staying awake, but closing his eyes and letting sleep take him would mean an end to the night. He wanted this to last forever, but as he lay in her arms and the yellow rays of the rising sun pierced the blinds to cast their golden glow over the room, he succumbed to the temptation.

 

CHAPTER 8: BEST LAID PLANS

 

Ryan awoke alone in the ruined bed, yawning as he stretched his arms above his head. The sweet ache and satisfaction from their romp the previous night still lingered as he brushed away stray feathers and rose to his feet. He made his way to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, glancing at his wall clock to see that it was already midday.

He didn't like waking up alone, but he understood that manifesting a physical body did not come without a cost. If his plan succeeded, then he might finally be able to wake up in Nahash's arms for once. Speaking of which, he needed to upload that video footage from the trail cam. Hopefully, by now some hikers or joggers would have come across his little occult art installation and started spreading the word.

He retrieved the camera from his pack, which he had discarded by the door to his apartment, and rummaged inside for the camouflaged block. He brought it over to his computer, waiting a few moments for the device to boot up as he sipped at his steaming mug of coffee, then he connected a USB cable to the trail cam and began to transfer the video footage.

The night vision filter was suitably eerie, casting everything in a ghostly white glow, like an X-ray hanging on the wall of a doctor's office. Some trail cams only took photographs when they sensed movement, but this model was configured to take video, and as he squinted at the grainy image a swirl of smoke activated its motion sensor. It began to record the scene, a view of the clearing, mist billowing across the ground as the darkness of the trees surrounded the summoning circle that was drawn in the soil. The salt stood out well against the dirt in the monochrome video, and as he watched the swirling plumes of dark smoke started to take form.

He had never had an opportunity to see the process of summoning in such a clinical manner before, it was quite a lot harder to remain objective and pay attention to what was happening when the stench of sulfur was assaulting you, and the temperature around you was plummeting.

It was as if shadows were coalescing to form a humanoid shape, though there was no light source that would have been able to cast them. It was as though the very darkness in the atmosphere was concentrating in the circle. Ryan's heart skipped a beat as he considered the possibility that a camera might not be able to see Nahash at all. The demons seemed to appear as much in his mind as before his eyes, what if all it captured was formless smoke?

His fears were assuaged however as he watched Nahash materialize from the billowing vapors, although she looked less solid to the trail cam than she did to him. He could see her distinct, white fur and her twisted horns, though she almost looked transparent. Not quite a ghost, but clearly not completely real either. This must be how she truly appeared before she made up the difference through her psychic abilities. It had been the same when Orobas had been summoned in his apartment, when you looked at these demons you got the distinct impression that they were as much a mental image as a physical one, photons bombarding your eyes and ideas bombarding your brain to combine into a complete picture.

Her body interacted with the mist and her cloven hooves left footprints in the soil, she had mass, physical presence. Of course, people would assume that this was fake, computer-generated images created for the purpose of a hoax. But even the skeptics would be helping to spread the footage as they argued with each other and analyzed it frame by frame.

Nahash looked around for a moment, confused by her surroundings, and then she stepped out of view. Ryan transferred the video file to his computer then spent the next hour uploading it to popular video sharing websites, giving it an appropriately click-bait title. Ghost demon caught on camera, real or fake?! He made sure to include where the footage had been shot, as his plan hinged on starting a myth centered around the geographical location itself. Once the forest gained a reputation as being haunted then that belief would empower Azazel and his Seirim, it would become their new home. He posted links to the video on the summoning forum for good measure, wondering how many of the so-called occultists and self-professed demonologists would dismiss what might be the first concrete evidence of a real demon as fake.

He stood up from his desk, wondering what to do next. His new job didn't start for another week and Nahash wasn't around to hang out with him, might as well get some food cooking and see if he couldn't make some progress in his videogame of choice.

***

The sun was getting low in the sky when Ryan was interrupted, a frigid cold falling over the room as he set his controller down, his heart swelling with excitement as he waited for Nahash to appear.

Something was different, however, it felt wrong. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what it was, but the sensation made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He stood up as the couch beneath him began tremble, the wooden floorboards beneath his socks vibrating violently, it felt as if the whole building was being shaken apart. Was it an earthquake? Would his neighbors notice?

As he watched, the furniture that was on top of the chalk summoning circle began to move, like an unbalanced washing machine shaking its way across the floor. As the couch, the wooden coffee table and a lamp cleared the circle, the stink of sulfur permeated the air. This did not feel like Nahash, and Ryan darted across the room towards a table just below a nearby window where he had stored all of his summoning equipment. He picked up his improvised Solomonic Sexangle, still stapled to the bath robe's belt, tying the piece of card about his waist. He attached the sweatband that held the Ring of Solomon around his forehead and picked up the Pentagonal Figure, the ward that he had fashioned whose purpose was to protect him from errant demons.

He rushed over to the summoning circle and stepped into his protective triangle, trying to steady his shaking hands as he held up the Pentagon, waiting for whatever was coming through the breach to show itself to him.

The temperature continued to drop, but fortunately, the Ring of Solomon was warding off the foul smell. He watched with wide eyes as a formless mass appeared in the center of the summoning circle. It was blurry and constantly shifting, a heap of writhing flesh that was seen as if through frosted glass, dark shadows playing across the walls as if cast by some unseen fire. The air was thick with black smoke that further obscured his vision, and as he tried to bat away the fumes, he called out a command.

"Take form, demon," he shouted as he brandished the Sexangle that hung from his belt. "And none intended to offend or repulse!"

The dark fumes sped towards the poorly defined blob like filthy water rushing down a drain, the mass warping and twisting as it took shape. As the smog cleared Ryan saw a little horse sitting in the circle, roughly the size of a small dog, staring at him with its large eyes.

"Orobas?" Ryan asked, recognizing the creature.

"Why arte thou surprised?" it asked, it's voice croaky and faint. "Thou hast given me license to appear before thee."

"You surprised me is all," Ryan stammered, still shaken by the sudden house call. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"The contract is complete," Orobas wheezed, staring at him with those wet eyes. The miniature horse looked sickly, as if it was on death's door and couldn't stand, and its expression conveyed some deep misery that made it unpleasant to look at for too long.

"Oh, the contract? That's good news, but how did you determine that?"

"Vague as thy requests were," Orobas answered with palpable annoyance, "I have fulfilled the requirements of our contract. Thy livelihood is secure and thou art happy, the familiar has informed me of this."

"The familiar? You mean Nahash? She told you that I was happy?"

Was he happy? Introspection was not one of his strong suits, it could be so hard to determine one's own emotional state. But the more that he thought about it, the more correct the evaluation seemed. He no longer pined for Becky, his drought of sex and intimacy had ended explosively, and for the first time since he had broken up with her, he no longer felt that sickening knot in his stomach. He must be over Becky. In fact, he hadn't even thought about her in days, his breakup with her seemed so distant and trivial now. Nahash was his focus, those three mundane years with his human partner had lost their significance in a single night, and his burgeoning romance with the Seirim had indeed turned his life around.

"Thy contract has been fulfilled as it was defined," Orobas repeated, "do not forget thy oath to me. Two score and ten more tin plates, my sigil engraved upon them, spread far and wide so that they will be seen by many."

"Yes," Ryan replied, "I remember the deal. But what about Nahash, the familiar? Will I see her again?"

"Not through my power," the demon answered.

"What does that mean?" Ryan asked, a hint of fear entering his voice. "If you take Nahash away from me, then I won't be happy anymore. Won't that violate the terms of the contract?"

"Do not attempt to reinterpret the terms of a contract already agreed upon," Orobas hissed, its voice menacing. "I have dealt with thee fairly, I have uttered no falsehoods, and I have made no attempts to deceive thee. Now make good thy promise."

"Not until you tell me what will happen to Nahash," Ryan said, holding up the Sexangle. The little creature recoiled before the ward as if it was radiating a powerful heat that only the demon could feel. "Obey me, Orobas, into the triangle with you."

It didn't move, and so he brandished the Sexangle again, pointing towards the containment triangle that was drawn on the floor in chalk. The demon finally gave in, rising unsteadily on spindly legs that looked wholly unfit to support its bulbous head, struggling over to the triangle like a dog that had just been chastised. It glanced at him resentfully, the Sexangle compelling it to obey his commands and the Triangle of Solomon serving to protect him from anything that it might try to pull. It was a kind of cosmic naughty-chair, and the creature seemed to loathe being confined to it.

"Now tell me," Ryan continued, his voice commanding. "What will become of Nahash?"

"Thy meddling will bear fruit," it spat, "thou shalt rouse Azazel and the Seirim will flock to him. Thou hast cost a great number of demons their valued minions, this course of action was ill-advised. Were I not bound to thee by contract, I would have intervened, but that which has not yet been decided cannot be foreseen."

"I thought that the Seirim were a drain on your resources, aren't you glad that I'm restoring them?"

"They art powerful spirits, primordial avatars of nature, valued for their unique abilities and not easy to replace."

"So what, I'm on Hell's shitlist?"

"Thou shalt carry favor with Azazel, he may protect thee from reprisals...or he may not. Thou didst not form a contract with him, and I cannot be sure how he will react."

"Because it hasn't been decided yet, right."

The wretched little horse watched him for a moment with its glassy eyes, waiting for him to continue, but he was lost in thought. He might have accidentally pissed off the entire hierarchy of Hell, and though it seemed unlikely that they would waste valuable resources on reprisals, having a demon as powerful as some that were described in the Goetia even be aware of your existence was reason enough to be worried. But if that was the price of Nahash's freedom, then so be it.

"Wilst thou honor thy bargain?" Orobas asked.

"Yes, of course. I'll even do you one better. I've learned some stuff about sigils since the contract was made. You'll get more than what was agreed upon, you did more for me than I could ever have imagined."

"Then I shall take my leave of thee," the creature said.

Ryan tried to remember some of the incantations that he had printed out upon the first summoning, at least wanting to make an attempt at following proper procedure.

"Go now peaceably, with blessings and thanks."

Orobas closed its large eyes and bowed its head, vanishing from the triangle and from Ryan's mind as if a hand had reached down and plucked it out of reality. The air cleared of the stinking fumes and Ryan felt safe enough to remove his headband, only a hint of sulfur lingering after the demon's departure.

That was it then, the contract had been completed, and it hadn't even cost him his soul. Now he just had to get those tin plates engraved with Orobas' sigil and spread them around. Who knew, maybe it would tie into the myth that he was trying to start. He had something bigger planned for Orobas too, and though his activities were starting to border on vandalism, he owed it to the demon. It had been true to its word, it had saved him from the brink of destitution, and it had even found a way to cure his depression.

Had Orobas known that Ryan would fall in love with Nahash? Had it all been part of the plan? The demons were playing a chess game where Ryan couldn't see all of the pieces on the board, he could only guess at their true intentions. Perhaps losing a valuable servant was worth the tradeoff in energy that it would gain from the contract. It might even have been intentional sabotage, who knew how these demons interacted with each other, what terms they were on and how their society functioned.

Orobas could see the future, to what extent remained vague and its powers definitely had their limitations, but Ryan was pretty sure that the demon could have prevented this scenario if it had really wanted to. Maybe this was all part of some larger game that was currently beyond his ability to grasp.

The big question now was when he would see Nahash again. Orobas was clearly unwilling to expend his own energy to manifest her now that the contract had been fulfilled, and so he would have to rely on Azazel, an entity that he knew very little about. It stood to reason that he would be grateful towards Ryan for his efforts, but demons were unpredictable creatures and Ryan would never have attempted to summon anything near as powerful as him under different circumstances.

Based on what little information he had been able to find, Azazel was a true devil. Not a pagan deity who had lost favor with its worshipers or a powerful spirit, but one of the Iyrin. Otherwise known as the Watchers or Nephilim, they were the antediluvian angels of Biblical lore, one of around two hundred such entities that had joined a rebellion against the Abrahamic God and had been cast out.

The stories were steeped in metaphor and warped by time and translation, harkening back to what Nahash had told him about the loss of knowledge from the flood. If that was a literal deluge or merely an allegory for something else he couldn't say. It was almost impossible to separate true accounts from myth and hearsay, but the common thread seemed to be that these Watchers had rebelled against the chief deity of the time, perhaps even the original deity. They had lost the war, and these fallen angels were cast out of paradise to walk the Earth amongst mankind, spreading forbidden knowledge as they went. There were conflicting reports about what they had actually done to deserve this fate, from tales of a militaristic coup, to them simply taking human wives and angering their God in the process.

The more Ryan learned about this secret lore, the more it interested him. Perhaps he would beg the question of Azazel himself if he ever met the creature in person. He almost hoped that he didn't however. The kid gloves were coming off, this wasn't a demon numbering fifty-fifth in some vague hierarchy, but a fallen angel akin to Lucifer himself. Who knew what the dangers were and what sacred rules he might be breaking, but if this was what it took to see Nahash again then he would accept the consequences.

***

Ryan climbed the ladder, his shoes slipping on the damp metal rungs, wind and rain buffeting him as it blew the trees what seemed like a great distance below him. He adjusted his ski mask and pulled his hood tighter, trying to shield himself from the wind, looking up at the water tower and the grey clouds above it. The platform was just a few more feet above him. This had been a terrible idea, he should have waited for a calmer night before he had attempted this stunt.

He struggled higher, his gloved fingers gripping the guard rail as he heaved himself up onto the walkway that ringed the water tank, pressing himself flush against the structure in an effort to avoid the howling wind. A part of him wanted to abandon the whole affair, but he was up here now, he might as well finish the job.

He took a can of spray paint from the pocket of his hooded jacket, shaking it and hearing its signature rattle over the sound of the storm, gripping the metal rail with a firm hand as he walked around towards the side of the tank that faced the town. He raised his arm, doing his best to replicate the design from memory despite the terrible conditions and his limited reach. At least the stormy weather would hide him from any prying eyes, nobody in their right mind would be out for a jog in this.

When he was done, he craned his neck to admire his handiwork. It was a little crude, but it would get the job done. He stowed the can and made his way back to the ladder, hoping that he wasn't about to take the express route down.

***

"Residents were shocked today to find what appears to be an occult symbol painted on a local water tower in full view of commuters on the interstate highway this morning, turning heads and causing a few minor accidents as it distracted motorists."

The camera panned away from the female reporter and over the congested highway to point at the water tower, a tank suspended on stilts that stood above the trees that surrounded it, the sigil of Orobas painted in red across its face.

"This might be easily dismissed as an unremarkable act of petty vandalism, were it not for the strange occurrences that have been widely reported as of late, with some going as far as to blame Satanic cults operating within the city limits. This comes only days after a supposed video of a goat woman, alleged to have been filmed at the border of the national park, was released online to much fanfare from the paranormal community. Debate still rages over the authenticity of the video, even drawing the attention of the popular television show America's Unsolved Mysteries, who are slated to film an episode on the subject later this season."

The news station switched from a panning shot of the water tower to a short clip of the trail cam footage, freezing the frame where Nahash was most visible, still a blurry and somewhat transparent figure as the voice of a male news anchor spoke over it.

"So what do we think of this? Is it real, or is it some elaborate hoax? We took to social media to ask our viewers what they-"

Ryan switched off the television, grinning to himself as he sat on his couch. To think that one person could have caused so much havoc. His antics had even made their way to the local news, every person who saw the broadcast would be feeding Orobas energy. Nobody seemed to have turned up many of the engraved plates yet, and nobody had stumbled across the clearing in the forest, but they would.

He missed Nahash terribly, it was torture to see her so free and wild for such a brief time, only to be separated from her immediately afterwards. He had to hope that she pined for him in much the same way, and that his efforts were feeding her and her kin the power that they needed to make their return.

He should start checking the forest soon. If she was going to turn up somewhere, it would be there. But as word spread about the occult happenings in the area, then more kooks would be out searching for evidence. Getting caught snooping around might blow the whole thing. There was going to be a camera crew out there too, apparently, filming some reality TV show about ghost hunting or cryptids. If they came across the summoning circle and the marked trees, or perhaps even caught an appropriately brief glimpse of a Seirim on camera, millions of people around the country might tune in.

Hopefully, Orobas would be satisfied by Ryan's graffiti work. He had scattered the tin plates around the city as he had promised, this was just a little bonus. A tip for exemplary service, if you will. He didn't feel too bad about depriving the demon of his servant, Nahash had seemed more like a slave than an employee. Now she would be free to do as she pleased and Orobas would have a far greater influx of power than he had anticipated.

He couldn't believe how well this venture had worked out, and he wondered why summoning wasn't more widespread. It had not taken any special knowledge or skill to get to this point besides doing a little research. Then again, perhaps he had been extremely lucky, or his choice of demon had been especially wise. There weren't many besides Orobas who would tolerate mistakes or breaches of protocol without taking advantage of the exorcist in some way.

The possibilities were limitless, the implications profound, and one day soon he would explore this new dimension of his reality that had been opened to him. But for now he had one goal in mind, a singular fixation, getting Nahash back into his arms.

***

Another week passed with no word from Nahash, and Ryan started work, finding his new position agreeable. His employers had cooled towards him a little since the meeting, but they were still friendly and seemed happy to have him working there. The demonic powers of persuasion must wear off eventually, but the first impressions would stick. His colleagues were friendly and he was back doing work that he enjoyed, there was nothing to complain about.

The metal plates had started turning up around the city and in the surrounding area, both the ones that he had made as part of his contract with Orobas and the ones with Azazel's sigil engraved on them. Hikers had come across the summoning circle in the woods too, and the footage of the goat-lady had gone viral, rapidly nearing two million hits. His prediction of a Satanic panic was starting to come true, with a mild hysteria gripping the less skeptical residents, spilling over into the local news stations and social media websites. The debates over the authenticity of the evidence that had been uncovered so far raged, with some convinced that there was a cult of devil worshipers roaming the streets and others certain that it was an intricate hoax. In a way they were both correct, there was a hoax, and there was at least one devil worshiper. Any discussion, whether it was positive or negative, only served to spread the message further.

Surely enough energy had been accrued now? It had been days, and there had been neither sign nor show of Nahash, nor any demonic activity for that matter. He was starting to get worried, it might be worth taking a trip to the clearing tonight. With any luck, if somebody discovered him there, he could pretend to be one of the mystery hunters who were no doubt pouring into the area in an attempt to capture their own footage of the Seirim.

His heart skipped a beat as he suddenly felt the familiar cold of an apparition again, and this time his furniture did not spontaneously vibrate across the room. It could only mean that Nahash was on her way back. He had tried to at least stay groomed and to be dressed properly whenever he was outside the bathroom, his apartment was rapidly becoming a demonic thoroughfare, and he never knew when one might appear.

As he got off the couch to stand eagerly beside the chalk circle, awaiting the smell of sulfur, the room began to go dark. It was a sunny afternoon outside, and there were lamps and light fixtures on in his apartment, but it was all fading. The room began to shake, pictures on the walls jumping from their mounts to clatter noisily to the floor, the empty mug that had been sitting on the edge of his coffee table falling to break on the floor as the surface that it had been resting on shuddered violently.

This was not Nahash. Ryan dashed towards his collection of wards and magickal tools, laid out for easy access on the nearby table. He adorned himself with the protective sigils and brandished his wand as he was buffeted by swirling winds, as if there was a tiny storm contained within the room, papers from his computer desk blowing about the apartment as he struggled to keep his printed incantations from joining them.

The darkness only grew blacker, the air becoming thick and oppressive, Ryan's eyes adjusting to the gloom as the stench of sulfur and the smell of smoke overwhelmed him. Fortunately, the Ring of Solomon warded off the choking fumes as he pulled the sweatband over his head, struggling back towards the summoning circle and into his protective triangle. He could scarcely see now, it was pitch black, what little light that his eyes picked up was barely enough for him to see the walls and the couch. He would have lit candles, but the rushing wind would have blown them out in short order. Just what the hell was happening?

He realized how frightened he was, his heart pounding in his chest, and he tried to steel himself as something formed in the far corner of the room. It looked like a shadow at first, visible even in the gloom, black on black as it filled the corner like a plume of smoke. As he stared at the shape, it began to glow, a molten light burning inside it like the mouth of a volcano as glimpsed through clouds of choking ash.

He heard faint laughter coming from every direction, as if hundreds of people were chuckling at his plight, jeering at him. It sounded far enough away that it couldn't possibly have been coming from inside the room, and yet he spun his head reflexively, in a literal blind panic as he attempted to pick out its source. The quaking finally stopped, Ryan had been afraid that it was about to bring his whole apartment complex crashing down, and he tried to regain some of his composure. It was paramount when dealing with demons, they would exploit weakness, and they would take advantage of a summoner who didn't show dominance.

The laughter seemed to converge in front of him, about where the black cloud was coalescing, his ears tracking what his eyes could not see. The dark shadow was growing, twisting and warping, taking on the shape of a person. It was large, too large, and getting bigger as he watched it with wide eyes. The ill-defined mass that seemed to be its head brushed the ceiling, then as it continued to expand its shoulders followed suit. It must have been nine or ten feet tall, crouching as it filled the room, its arms spread wide as if it were holding up the roof like Atlas beneath his globe.

Ryan recoiled, horrified but unable to flee as the demon towered over him. Even if his legs had obeyed the command, the triangle was the safest place for him to be right now, he had to stand and face this thing or risk exposing himself to greater danger.

The shadowy figure became more material as the fumes began to clear, Ryan better able to see it now, though the darkness still blanketed the room as if it had been cut off from the rest of the world. Two sharp points sprouted from its head like a pair of snakes, curling into two enormous and ornate spirals, the unmistakable horns of a ram or an ibex. Fur grew all over its body, a shaggy coat of long, black hair that obscured many of its features. It had the long beard of a goat and massive, cloven hooves that tipped its digitigrade legs, the same physiology that he had seen in Nahash and yet of far larger scale.

As it opened three eyes that burned like hot coals, two where one would expect them to be and one embedded in its forehead, their glow lit the room enough that Ryan could make the thing out in greater detail. Where Nahash was part woman and part goat, this demon was wholly the latter, with an elongated snout and no human features to speak of besides its vaguely humanoid shape. It could barely fit in the room, it was bent double, peering down at him in unnerving silence.

Resisting the powerful urge to flee the room in hysterics, Ryan called out in a wavering voice, doing his best to seem as if he wasn't about to soil himself in terror.

"W-Who are you, demon? State your purpose here!"

It opened its mouth and brayed, half the laugh of a human and half the eerie cry of a goat, its massive body shaking with the effort. When it was done, it spoke in a booming and guttural voice that had a flanging effect, as if two different people were talking at once. It was simultaneously like hearing the baritone voice of a man, and one of a goat that was attempting to mimic human speech. The result made Ryan's skin crawl.

"Little child of Adam," it boomed, its voice low and powerful enough to make Ryan's teeth chatter. "Do you not recognize that which you have roused?"

Its tone was humorous, somewhat mocking, and Ryan steadied his trembling hands as he gave his reply.

"Azazel?"

"You are toying with powers far beyond your comprehension, mortal, and even further beyond your ability to control." It twisted that last word into a threat, baring its tombstone teeth, Ryan having to stop himself from accidentally leaving the triangle as he took a faltering step backwards. Azazel's expression changed to a grin, and then it laughed again, shaking the wooden floorboards beneath Ryan's feet as its hairy chest rose and fell.

"I admire that quality in man, for without that self-destructive curiosity they would not have sought the secrets that we Watchers guarded so jealously. Fear is a healthy sentiment when faced with the likes of me, child, but I would settle for respect. Calm yourself."

Ryan did his best, wiping cold sweat from his brow with his sleeve, keeping his feet planted firmly in the triangle all the same. Azazel noticed, cocking its goat head at him, that smile that had all the warmth of a corpse ever present on its lips. This was out of control, the train had gone off the fucking rails and had barreled through a fireworks factory, what the hell was he going to do if this thing turned hostile?

"You need not cling to your triangle, novice. The rites of ancient kings hold no sway over me."

"Why are you here?" Ryan asked, craning his neck to look up at the furred beast. Its body was so muscular, what he could see through the long hair at least. Something with that much mass should have gone straight through his floor and all of the apartments below it, but much like Nahash it seemed to weigh only as much as it needed to, and not an ounce more.

"It seems that for the first time since I fell to this bountiful earth, I have found myself indebted to another, a mortal no less. You are not a magician, nor do you seek my favor. It appears that you have woken me from my slumber and fed me with enough power to leave the immaterium merely as a means to an end. Tell me, Ryan Cutter, to what end?"

"I want Nahash," he announced defiantly, Azazel's grin widening as it reached a clawed hand down to stroke its scraggly beard. It watched him as it considered its reply, apparently amused.

"Is that so? By chance, you have encountered one of my daughters, bound to serve another demon, and all that you have done has been in an effort to free her? How could you be sure that she would not simply vanish into the forest once unbound?"

"I couldn't be sure, but even if she doesn't want to stay with me, she deserves to be free. She deserves to dance around bonfires, to live wild under the moon. I could see how much being bound to Orobas sapped the joy out of her."

The monstrous demon cocked its massive head at him, as large as that of a damned moose, as if trying to understand what must be bizarre motivations from its perspective. This entity was pretty close to being a god, with power that Ryan couldn't even begin to comprehend, and yet its probably long-awaited resurrection had been merely incidental.

"What manner of mortal are you that you would risk your life, nay, your immortal soul in this foolish venture? You attempted to summon a demon with no experience and no training, using only the barest instructions that you had obtained from grimoires and hearsay. Against all odds you succeeded, then you consorted with your demon's familiar and conspired to resurrect a Watcher in order to free her. All of this with no guarantee that you would be given what you desired. You know my name and my sigil, you know my reputation. I am the originator of sin and the architect of the fall, so they claim. Some would call that reckless, insane."

Ryan shrugged his shoulders dismissively, at this point he was beyond fear, a kind of impetuousness overtaking him as he stared the beast down.

"Guess I didn't have anything left to lose, and now I only have one thing left to gain. If you're able to manifest here, then my plan worked, and it means that Nahash and the other Seirim have a new source of energy."

"You want to know where she is," Azazel mused, "however I must remind you that the concept of where is meaningless in the immaterium."

"She's no longer in the immaterium though, is she?"

Azazel grinned, exposing those dull, pearly teeth again.

"You interest me, Ryan Cutter, and I owe you a debt of gratitude. Come to the clearing tonight when the moon is at its highest, and you shall have your reward..."

Azazel laughed heartily, its booming voice shaking the windows in their panes, and then its massive body faded as if it were stepping through the sheer wall behind it. The bulky mass of hair and muscle lost its solidity, fading and becoming transparent, those three burning eyes lingering as its body dissolved into a cloud of ash and smoke.

The light fixtures flickered for a moment as if uncertain, and then came back to life. Whatever haze had been obscuring the sunlight from outside lifted and the golden rays came streaming into the room, all that was left of Azazel were a few floating motes of ash.

What fear he still felt was quickly replaced with excitement, he would be seeing Nahash again soon! That, or Azazel was going to eat him or something, but that was a risk he was willing to take. When the moon is at its highest. The demon must have meant around midnight, it was a full moon, and the forest would be relatively well lit. He might encounter ghost hunters or amateur journalists scouring the woods in search of demons and cultists, but he doubted that a being as powerful as Azazel would allow anyone to stumble upon them.

Now all he had to do was wait for the moon to rise and he could be on his way.

 

CHAPTER 9: REVELRY OF THE SEIRIM

 

Ryan made his way between the dense trees, dead leaves and dried twigs cracking underfoot as he trekked through the forest. The moon was high in a cloudless sky and even through what was left of the late autumn canopy he could see well enough that he didn’t need his flashlight.

The forest was deserted, he hadn't come across anybody, even on the more accessible trails. Not to say that it was still or quiet. Despite the late season, there was fresh growth everywhere, and the air was full of insects. Clouds of drifting fireflies floated between the trunks of the birch trees, blinking their ghostly lights, each a little nebula in its own right. Bats screeched in the sky above him, and beautiful moths fluttered about on the breeze, their fuzzy bodies as colorful and as ornate as any butterfly. Flowering vines were starting to choke some of the trees, already beginning to bloom in shades of red, pink and yellow. It was as if the presence of the Seirim and their master had invigorated the forest, injecting new life into it.

He started as he heard a stick snap some distance away, stopping in his tracks and attempting to pierce the gloom, seeing what looked like a deer darting away into the undergrowth. Despite the impending winter, even large animals were out and about, as if they were being drawn to the same place that he was.

He continued on his way, hopping over exposed roots and rocky outcrops, wading through waist-high ferns and plants as he searched for the clearing. He had a pretty good sense of direction, and it wasn't too far of a walk, he should start coming across the sigils that he had carved into the trees before long.

As he leaned against one of the trunks to rest for a moment, he noticed one such carving beneath his gloved hand, he was on the right track.

As he neared the clearing, he saw a glow in the distance, the orange blaze of what must have been one of their lauded bonfires was illuminating the forest. To be seen at this distance it must have been huge indeed, and yet there was no plume of smoke that rose above the trees to betray its location. Magick fire maybe, who knew with these demons?

As he got closer, he began to hear faint music, as if a band was playing. There was the twang of stringed instruments, the pulsing beat of drums and the whistle of woodwind that might have come from pipes or flutes. It reminded him of the music that he had heard in his head when he had made love to Nahash, the style was jarring and obviously ancient, songs that had been written thousands of years before his birth.

What he had originally assumed to be the flickering of the flames was revealed to be a dozen figures dancing around the periphery of the bonfire, their dark silhouettes framed against the glow, their bodies gyrating and twisting in a frenzy. They all looked like Nahash, all female, but their height and body type varied a little from what he could make out at that distance. Off to one side, Azazel was sat on the ground, his long arms draped over his knees. His black fur was lit by the fire, casting him in an eerie glow, his three red eyes burning like molten metal as he watched the Seirim cavort. Even sitting, he was so much taller than a human and his mass was immense, like an ogre with spiraling horns.

The licking flames must have been fifteen feet high, the bonfire at least eight or nine feet across as it lay in the center of the summoning circle, piled with heavy logs that would have been beyond human capacity to lift and ringed by the stones that Ryan had placed around it.

As he lurked at the tree line, unsure of whether he should announce himself or not, the music petered out. Azazel's monstrous head turned in his direction to stare at him with its trio of red eyes. The Seirim stopped their dancing and followed suit, turning their horned heads to watch him, a dozen pairs of yellow eyes shining in the night.

"It seems that our guest has arrived," it boomed, its baritone voice carrying over the trees and echoing through the forest. "You are welcome here, Ryan Cutter, you need not hide in the shadows. Come, join us."

Even when Azazel was being polite, it came off sinister and threatening. Ryan crept out from between the trunks and started to walk across the clearing. Something about Azazel was just off, as if there was some primal instinct deep inside him that was trying to warn him away from the beast. Its stare sent chills down his spine and made the hair on his arms stand on end.

His mood lightened however when he saw one of the Seirim step forward, the reflective glint of her amber eyes somehow familiar, the comely shape of her body visible against the backdrop of flame. His pace increased to a jog, Nahash advancing to meet him on her digitigrade legs, and he flung himself into her waiting arms. She wrapped them around him, cupping her hand around the back of his head to press his face into the soft wool above her ample chest, Ryan squeezing her large body and breathing in a lungful of her sweet scent. His fingers didn't quite meet around her waist, but he did his best to return her embrace. Her smooth skin was warm and inviting, the downy fur that lined her neck and shoulders comforting him as he rubbed his cheek in it. He felt his doubts melt away, not because of her empathic powers but because he was finally able to reach out and touch her again. The plan had worked, she was here, and she was manifest. Azazel and his band of Seirim must have energy enough to spare.

He turned his head up, prying himself away from the luxury of her wooly chest, and saw her golden eyes peering down at him as her pink lips curled into a warm smile.

"I once called you a novice," she whispered, "but you have proven yourself an admirable exorcist."

"A strange specimen indeed," Azazel's voice rumbled, the creature apparently able to hear them even from so far away. "You have ensnared a rare prize here, Nahash. This mortal covets more than just your flesh, and he has proven himself a worthy ally indeed. I have dwelt amongst his kind since the time of the fall, and I have never before seen his like."

Nahash fawned over him, running her clawed fingers through his hair, pulling him tightly against her plush body as if guarding him from the jealous eyes of her sisters who watched them still.

"You know his heart," Azazel continued, rising slowly to its feet and plodding around the circumference of the bonfire on hooves the size of dinner plates. It stood nearly as tall as the flames, the light casting ominous shadows across its shaggy fur, its white teeth flashing as it spoke. "What is it that you desire, my daughter? I have offered this child of Adam a payment for his services, a reward. But your heart is wild, it is not mine to give."

It seemed that these were not merely Azazel's creations as Ryan had initially assumed, but its literal offspring. Judging by how much more bestial their father was, had it conceived them with human women? Were the Seirim hybrids of some kind, could that be the origin of their softer and more human features? That aligned with what some of the ancient texts told of the rebellious Watchers, that their taking of human wives had angered God and it was for that reason that they had been cast out. There were so many burning questions that Ryan longed to ask, but now wasn't the right time.

Nahash turned her head to look up at her father, clinging to Ryan possessively.

"I want him, father. He is kind and charitable, his love for me is pure."

The furred monster grinned widely and then turned its attention towards Ryan.

"And this is your desire also, Ryan Cutter?"

"Yes," he replied adamantly. Azazel laughed uproariously, raising its heavy head to the sky and seeming to bray at the full moon, its powerful voice shaking his bones.

"Then I shall bind her to you, a marriage between spirit and mortal," it bellowed. It turned to the sky again and bleated like a goat, an oddly unnerving sound coming from such a massive creature. "This, the creator loathes above all things," it explained. "An unholy union between man and demon, his creation corrupted and his law betrayed. My kin and I were cast out of paradise for the very same transgression. On top of all that you have risked thus far, you will break this sacred covenant?"

Ryan considered for a moment. Was he really about to go against some holy imperative? There seemed to be a God, and he was about to offend him gravely if he had not done so already. Oh, what did it matter? He had been in over his head from the very moment that he had chalked the summoning circle on the floor of his apartment.

"Well," he replied, "what's he done for me lately?"

Azazel clapped its massive hands together, a sound like thunder ringing out across the forest, and again it laughed heartily at the situation. It seemed to take great pleasure in the fact that Ryan was about to commit a grave sin. Azazel was the original rebel, after all, perhaps it would take any opportunity to spite its heavenly enemy.

"A spirit can be bound to an object," it elaborated, "which serves to anchor it to this material plane. It will forever be a beacon, drawing that spirit to it, calling to it across the gulfs of time and space."

Nahash took a step away from Ryan, raising her hand into the air, her palm facing her. Through its maniacal laughter, Azazel waved its gigantic arm, Ryan watching in awe as a ring of black smoke began to form around one of her digits. The vapors coalesced, becoming a solid object, forming a wedding band around her clawed finger that was as black as coal. She flashed her golden eyes at him, blinking her long lashes, and he felt something in his own hand.

He raised it to his face, watching the dark vapors circle his ring finger, becoming tight as it manifested a matching band. It was heavy, made from something like tungsten no doubt, circled with almost imperceptible runes and sigils of undeterminable purpose that were etched into its shiny surface.

These were wedding rings. Perhaps in an attempt to further pervert the laws that had seen him banished from heaven, Azazel had given the object of binding this shape. Ryan couldn't be sure if this was a parody of marriage designed only to offend or if the fallen angel was showing signs of sentiment, but it nevertheless filled Ryan's heart with love for his betrothed. This binding ritual was even more permanent and lasting than a marriage, her spirit would be drawn to him now, like a moth to a lantern in a dark forest.

"It is done..." Azazel announced as the pair looked between one another and their new adornments. "Her spirit is bound to that ring, like a Jinn in its bottle, a cursed item. Because of your actions, mortal, we are gorged on energy. She will be able to appear whenever and wherever you wish, and as long as you carry that ring, you will have no need of circles or wards. This is my gift to you."

So as long as Ryan wore this ring, she would be able to home in on him wherever he might be, appearing at his side as if he had gone through all of the motions and steps necessary to summon a demon? No need for nine-foot wide, intricately detailed summoning circles, no need for incantations and wards. It was perfect.

"Thank you," Ryan said, not sure how else to express his gratitude to the creature. Azazel chuckled, turning away and lumbering back over to its place beside the bonfire. It sat heavily, the ground shaking beneath Ryan's feet, and directed its three ruby eyes towards him.

"The debt has been repaid. Now, we celebrate!"

The flames exploded into activity, burning brighter and more violently, roaring into the night sky as the bonfire spat sparks and glowing embers into the air. The music resumed, although nobody seemed to be playing any of the instruments that Ryan could so distinctly hear, the Seirim continuing their hypnotic dancing as they circled the fire.

Their movements were graceful and fluid, unearthly, moving in ways that no human dancer could have approximated. There was a sexual energy to their dance, the thrusting of their wide hips undulating and sensuous as their pulsing motions drew attention to their womanly figures. They pranced on their long, goat-like legs, leaping and spinning as if they weighed nothing. They drew shapes in the air with their balletic arm movements, tossing their horned heads, an infinite variety of complex and textured movements syncing with the beat of the unseen drums.

Nahash turned and led Ryan by the hand towards the circle of dancing figures, he could feel the heat on his face as they got closer, her tall frame casting a flickering shadow over him as he followed behind her. He hoped that she wasn't intending for them to dance together. Even with a fellow human, he wouldn't have fared too well, keeping up with the Seirim would be physically impossible.

"You need not dance," she laughed, obviously sensing his apprehension. "I was trapped in the immaterium for a time. After you completed your contract with Orobas, he had no more use of me, and so I was stowed away in that soup of thought and emotion until Azazel came for me."

She stopped and turned to face him, the fire raging not three feet behind her. Despite her proximity, her delicate wool did not singe, and she did not seem uncomfortable in the least. She took his hands in hers, her skin cool and soft, and gazed down at him with those amber eyes.

"I had a lot of time to think, to ponder my situation and to miss my corporeal form. I pined for sensations, touch and taste, warmth and pleasure. But more than that, I found that I missed you. You are the only mortal and the only entity outside of my tribe who has ever considered what I might have wanted. You didn't think about what I could do for you, what purpose I might serve or what there was to be gained through me. Rather you treated me as a person, a fellow being with thoughts and feelings of their own. You freed me from bondage with no expectation of a reward."

She hooked her arms around him and pulled him close, her clawed fingers delving into his hair, pushing his face into the feathery wool of her chest. He breathed in her earthy aroma, hearing her heart beat beneath her skin, his hands finding their place around her hips.

"I am your reward," she whispered, a shiver running down his spine as she breathed warm air on his ear. "This time it is my choice, I will decide to whom I am bound, and I have chosen you."

She turned his chin up her with her finger, pressing her full lips against his, her dexterous tongue winding its way into his mouth to deliver a slow and powerful kiss that made him weak at the knees. He leaned into her, his hands roaming across her glass-smooth skin, his fingers sinking into yielding flesh. How he had missed her, her taste and smell, the feeling of her inviting body beneath his hands...

He glanced over at Azazel, the giant beast watching them with a toothy grin, then slowed his pace and broke away from Nahash's embrace.

"Maybe we should, uh...isn't he like...your father or something?"

She put a hand to her mouth and chuckled daintily, batting her long eyelashes at him.

"It was he who taught man to sin. I was made for this, you need not worry about offending Azazel."

"Come," Azazel bellowed, "join us in our revelry."

It waved its long arm, and suddenly Ryan noticed a ring of tables that circled the fire between the dancing Seirim and the stones that served as its border. Had those been there before? No, he hadn't seen them, or at least he hadn't noticed them before Azazel had drawn his attention to them. They were carved from wood, polished to a sheen, their legs hewn into elaborate sculptures and their tops decorated with inlaid geometric patterns. They were a dozen of them, each with a subtle curve so that once joined together they formed a perfect, ten-foot ring.

The dancing figures stepped back from them, and Azazel waved its massive hand again, claws the size of meat hooks extending from its furry fingers. Before Ryan's eyes, a smorgasbord of food materialized, popping into reality from thin air. The effect might have been almost comical had he not been in the presence of the demons, their inhuman faces lit by the crackling flames.

There were bowls filled to the brim with ripe fruits, wicker baskets packed with berries and grapes, goblets of sparkling wine and roasted meats glazed with honey that looked as if they had left the oven only moments ago. Had Azazel conjured all of this itself? Was it so powerful that it could will anything that it liked into existence? Ryan had seen Nahash influence his senses in order to create convincing illusions, but they were just that, illusions.

He walked towards the fire, the Seirim parting to grant him access, each as tall and as impressively endowed as Nahash was. They stood to either side of him on their long legs, peering down at him with their reflective eyes, each with a slightly different assortment of twisted horns that sprouted from their heads. He reached across the table and picked up a shiny, red apple from one of the bowls, its skin coated in droplets of dew. It was the most appetizing fruit that he had ever seen, but he hesitated, looking back towards Nahash for confirmation. She nodded and so he sank his teeth into it, the firm flesh cracking and its sweet juice pricking his tongue. He chewed and then swallowed, savoring the taste as it lingered in his mouth. It was delicious, as if all of the qualities of an apple had been concentrated and refined, giving it the perfect taste and texture. If it was an illusion and in reality his hand was empty, then it was a convincing one.

"Eat, drink!" Azazel laughed as it flung its arms into the air. The Seirim crowded around the tables, Nahash sidling up next to Ryan as he helped himself to the huge variety of food, the ever-present music changing tempo to become placating and relaxing. The Seirim were ravenous, putting their new bodies to good use, red wine escaping from their lips to stain their white wool as they drank heartily. They tore strips of glazed turkey and pork from the bone, popping fat grapes between their teeth and chewing mouthfuls of strawberries, washing it all down with tankards of frothing ale.

Ryan lived in a developed country and food was never scarce, but even to him, these delicacies were a rare treat. What might a wandering tribesman have thought of such a display five thousand years ago?

Some of the Seirim resumed their mesmerizing dancing as others watched, clapping in time with the slow rhythm as their sisters performed, Azazel apparently unwilling to participate but finding amusement in it nonetheless.

Nahash was eating a loaf of bread that looked as if it had been baked in an ancient or foreign style, spread with cheese and butter, taking bites of a plump fig as she went. These were earthly spirits, they reveled in the simplest of sensations, desiring nothing more than to explore the limits of their senses. Encouraged, Ryan followed suit, pulling away a strip of roasted chicken with his fingers and taking a bite of the succulent meat. It was cooked and seasoned to perfection, the white meat moist and warm, the skin peeling away with a satisfying crunch. It was like a taste of heaven, and he resolved to try a little of everything, Nahash draping an arm around his neck and she gulped down a goblet of pink liquid.

"Drink," she commanded, thrusting the cup into his hands. He took the goblet and raised it to his lips, a sweet nectar filling his mouth and his cheeks beginning to burn as its taste brought back a flood of sordid memories. It tasted exactly as she had the night they had made love, when she had used her powers to influence his perception, making her sexual fluids taste like the juices of a dozen fruits and berries. She leaned in and nibbled his ear gently, nuzzling the nape of his neck with her flat nose, fawning over him as she took back the cup and downed the last of the drink.

"What do you desire?" she asked. "Ales? Wines? Perhaps you wish to lay your head upon my lap while I feed you grapes?"

"Are you trying to get me drunk?" Ryan laughed, a pleasant shiver running down his spine as her warm lips kissed his neck.

"What would revelry be without drunken fumblings?"

She had become so uninhibited, the contrast between now and when she had been bound to Orobas was stark. This was the personality that Ryan had glimpsed in her rare moments of passion. She was a lush, flirting with him as if they had only just met. Ryan had rarely been on the receiving end of such advances, and it made his heart flutter.

"Our last encounter was so heated," she said, leaning over his shoulder from behind and pressing her fat breasts against his back as she plucked a peach from one of the decorative bowls. She bit into the soft flesh, letting the juice drip from her lips conspicuously, droplets of it landing on her bust. "To be given but a taste of carnal delight after so many centuries, it was like taking the merest sip of water after a millennia of thirst. Not enough to sate the desire, only enough to remind me of how much I was missing."

"The merest sip?" Ryan exclaimed as he turned to face her, lowering his voice in embarrassment as she smiled down at him and took another wet bite of her peach. "We did it to exhaustion."

"I have a lot of lost time to make up for," she replied, licking the fruit juice from her lips with her prehensile tongue. "And now that I am bound to you, I need not fear the scorn of Orobas. I can do as I please."

She raised the peach over him, and crushed it in her fingers, squeezing out the sticky juice and letting it fall to his neck. It trickled down his shoulder, then she discarded the squashed fruit on the ground and pulled open his jacket along with the shirt that he wore beneath it. She exposed him to the cool night air, leaning down to run her hot tongue across his skin, lapping up the syrupy juice and mouthing gently as she went. Her sinuous organ licked up the fluid that had pooled in his clavicle, biting his shoulder softly as she moved higher, her smooth tongue grazing his throat as he tried his hardest not to loose a gasp that might draw the attention of her sisters.

They were already looking, however, chewing on their respective choices of food as they watched with covetous eyes that shone like gold in the firelight. They could sense his emotions just as Nahash could, they didn't need to hear him to know that he was aroused and embarrassed, they didn't need to see him to know that his erection was straining against his jeans.

Nahash noticed that he was glancing at them, his cheeks burning almost as hot as the licking flames, and she turned her head to smirk at them.

"My sisters are seething with jealousy. The scent of a man is on the air, and yet they cannot have him. They cannot sate their lust, they must suppress their nature. Azazel has hidden this clearing from outsiders tonight, and so they cannot lure a mate of their own." She giggled salaciously, nipping his ear in her teeth as she whispered to him. "I had considered sharing you with them, would you have enjoyed that? I have endured the same drought that they have, I sympathize with their plight, they are my siblings after all. But now that I am bound to you, you are mine alone to enjoy."

She pulled away and thrust a foaming tankard of ale into his hands, sucking her fingers clean of peach juice.

"Drink, relax. You are among friends. These are your people now."

The other Seirim were dancing again, and the tempo of the music was rising, becoming jovial and festive as they pranced about and feasted.

Nahash was right, what did he have to fear? He was an exorcist now, the guest of honor, it was safe to let his guard down and chill out for a little while. He took a draw from the tankard, Nahash patting his shoulder in encouragement, laughing at his froth-mustache as he wiped it away with his sleeve.

"Okay," he said, “let's party like it's three-thousand BC."

***

The festivities continued late into the night, Ryan and his new Seirim friends growing drunker and more rowdy as the full moon slowly sailed across the starry sky, the food and alcohol replenishing itself almost the moment that it was consumed. As Ryan grew tipsy, his inhibitions slowly left him, even daring to attempt a dance with Nahash that ended in laughter all around when he was woefully unable to keep up with her graceful and inhumanly flexible moves.

More than once a curious Seirim had to be shooed away by a protective Nahash when they got too close to her prize, sneaking an arm around him and trying to draw him away from the group or tempting him with some new morsel of food that he had not yet tasted. They were accustomed to seducing mortals, and like teasing a hungry dog with a bone, Ryan's proximity seemed to ignite their more predatory instincts.

Nahash did not seem overly concerned, and though Ryan had no interest in anyone besides her, he had to admit that the female attention was a welcome boost to his confidence, even if it was more a result of their nature than his charms. He had never been much of a party goer. He always found that the loud music in clubs prohibited conversation, but the atmosphere at the Seirim bonfire was laid back, and their interactions were refreshingly simple.

Even Azazel joined in on the conversation, so much less intimidating when it was laughing at a joke or recounting a humorous story, Ryan quizzing the demons about ancient history and magick as they probed him for details about the modern era in turn. They were greatly amused when he pulled out his cellphone and attempted to explain the internet to them using the immaterium as a metaphor, a place where thoughts and ideas could be instantly transmitted between people.

He learned of life in the ancient world, from Sumeria and the fertile Indus valley, to the arid plains and mountains of what were now Syria and Israel. The Seirim had been all over the world, called to wherever belief in them was strongest, feeding on that energy to sustain their corporeal forms. They had journeyed to the lush forests of central Europe and to the shores of the Mediterranean where the primitive Pagan tribes had worshiped them as spirits of the wilds, giving them the name of Satyr.

They seemed to have gotten on particularly well with the ancient Greeks, talking fondly of wild feasts and orgies, the Hellenic attitude towards sex and revelry had been very compatible with the needs of the Seirim.

Ryan had attempted to ask Azazel more about the fall and the deluge, but the Watcher was evasive, and so he had dropped the subject fairly quickly. He still wasn't sure what the creature was, an evil devil who had tempted humanity into sin, or merely a romantic whose punishment had far exceeded the severity of its crimes? Ryan could sympathize with the latter, as he now found himself bound to a spirit whom he loved dearly, apparently at odds with the laws of that same deity.

Azazel was not burning in a lake of fire as the religious texts that Ryan had studied had claimed, however. It was here, throwing parties with its offspring and sharing stories around a bonfire as they clustered about its feet to listen.

Ryan had been an agnostic for as long as he could remember. It wasn't that he didn't believe in a deity, but just that his life had been too hectic to afford him much time for contemplation. His entire life from the moment he had hit puberty had been consumed by study and work, leaving little room for much else, including spiritual pursuits. Now the existence of such a God was confirmed, and it made sense from a logical standpoint. These demons and spirits drew their power from worship and faith, and as the object of worship of several major religions, this Abrahamic God must be awash with power. Ryan had seen far lesser entities perform feats of prescience and read the hearts of men, amongst other things, and so it was not unreasonable to assume that such a being might be near omnipotent.

Did this entity judge, and if it did, did it judge based on actions or on intent? Was it the only one of its kind? Did it care about the lives of mortals at all? Was it even remotely similar to what was described in the religious lore that surrounded it? Perhaps as Nahash had advised, it was better not to think about such things, he should simply live his life and let the cards fall where they may. Death was inevitable, and his questions would all be answered eventually, one way or another.

And so Ryan lost himself in the revelry for a while, dancing and feasting with ancient spirits and fallen angels until even the roaring bonfire seemed to ebb and wilt as the night dragged on. Though the food replenished itself as if by magick and the wine flowed as if sourced from some bottomless ocean, even the Seirim slowed their gorging and drinking as they grew tired. Most were hopelessly drunk, but they were all happy and satisfied, splitting off into groups of three or four and collapsing onto furry pelts that were spaced around the fire at irregular intervals. Ryan was fairly certain that those had not been there before, but he couldn't be sure, it was as if his memories of the things that Azazel conjured had somehow been tampered with. It felt like déja-vu.

The great beast itself seemed to have departed, perhaps it had other places to be, and Nahash led Ryan towards one of the vacant pelts. They collapsed onto the velutinous fur together, it felt like wolf fur or maybe a bear hide rug against his skin. Although the autumn air was cool, the fire warded off the worst of it. It has gotten low, and it lit the clearing in a dull, orange glow. It was perfect, probably by design, just bright enough and just warm enough to be comfortable.

He lay down beside Nahash, and she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him tight against her body as she was wont to do. He sank his face into her ruff of feathery wool, breathing in the comforting scent of her body, his muscles aching from all of the clumsy dancing that had so amused his hosts. Nahash stroked his hair, neither of them quite as wasted as some of her kin had gotten, but pleasantly drunk. The rise and fall of her bust was hypnotic, her slow, deep breaths inviting him to close his eyes and let his fatigue overcome him. She had other ideas, however. He shivered as he felt her dull claws draw trails down his spine, sneaking beneath his clothing as the flames crackled behind them.

"Listen," she whispered, and Ryan strained his ears. He blushed as a low moan pierced the night, rising on his elbows to glance over Nahash as she rested on her side to see their immediate neighbors writhing as they were illuminated by the firelight.

Two of her comely sisters were occupying a pelt not five feet away, the head of one buried between the meaty thighs of the other as she held onto her horns, moving rhythmically. He couldn't make out a great deal, but in a way that only made the scene more erotic, his imagination filling in the blanks as one of the Seirim pushed her long tongue deep inside the other.

"In the absence of mortals with which to sate their lust, they set upon each other," Nahash explained. "I cannot fault them for it, I have felt that great need myself. It must be hard to possess a material body after so long and to refrain from indulging in it, testing its capacity for pleasure and sensation."

As he looked about the smoldering fire he realized that there was similar activity coming from every pelt, squirming piles of Seirim whose thrusting bodies were cast in an orange light, deep shadow teasing him as it obscured the sordid details.

"Shall we join them?" Nahash whispered, her fingers wrapping around the growing bulge in his pants.

"Won't they see us?"

"They're too occupied to notice, and besides, you are among the Seirim now. Forget the prudish ways of your people and heed the call of the wild."

She slipped her fingers beneath his belt, letting his erection rest in her soft palm, holding it gently as it throbbed and flexed. She watched his turmoil with her golden eyes, his lust growing as his cheeks burned red, his member beating in her hand as his hips moved almost imperceptibly to grind against her smooth skin. Gradually his arousal overcame his embarrassment, the wanton moans and wails of the Seirim that echoed over the crackling fire goading him on, and he fumbled with his belt as she smiled knowingly at him.

He tugged off his clothing and discarded it, the fur pelt soft against his bare skin, the two of them melting into one another as hands roamed across flesh and lips sought out their counterparts. Their bodies locked together, their arms wrapped around each other, writhing on the silky fur that lay beneath them as they embraced.

Nahash had haunted Ryan's dreams since their last night together, she was like a drug. The sudden explosion of passion and then its jarring absence had driven him half crazy during the days that they had been apart. He ran his hands over her familiar curves, feeling her feathery wool beneath his fingers, taking handfuls of her meaty hips and delving his digits into her copious bust as his erection pushed into her plump belly.

"One would think that you had missed me," Nahash chuckled, and Ryan lifted his face from between her breasts to gaze up at her. He felt wild, excited, and more than a little drunk.

"Don't hold back," he stammered, "I'm ready for you this time."

Her smile turned salacious, and she batted her long lashes at him, no doubt drinking in his anticipation and his hunger for her.

"Then let us consummate this binding."

A wave of warmth washed over him, a kind of dull pleasure in itself, those amber eyes of hers seeming to glow all the brighter as he lay on his back and she loomed over him. He saw the stars above her horned head, her pale features and white fur framed against the black sky, real this time as she was lit by the bonfire. It all seemed to recede as he watched it through the haze of that smoldering pleasure, the trees and the clouds melting away, even the light of the fire driven off until all that remained was Nahash.

"Listen to my voice," she said in her husky contralto, her words creeping up his spine like questing fingers. How could he not? Even her voice was dripping with sexuality, deep and feminine, breathy in a way that made his heart leap. He felt as if she could bring him to climax with nothing more than a whisper in his ear.

"Nothing is forbidden, no desire taboo, no fantasy too indulgent. I'm going to run your body through its paces in a way that only a Seirim can, taste every exquisite emotion that you feel. I will dine on your pleasure as if it were the ripest and most succulent fruit."

He felt hands on his skin, too many of them to be hers alone, the same trick that she had played on him last time. It had taken him by surprise back then, the sensations had been too intense and too unfamiliar, but now he welcomed them.

Fingers lightly brushed his chest and belly, his muscles twitching at their touch, roaming hands stroking him all over as if he was encircled by a team of masseuses. He knew that there would be nothing there if he opened his eyes and so he kept them closed, his imagination feeding into the sensation as his mind's eye conjured slim fingers attached to buxom Seirim. Fingers entwined with his own, hands pinning him to the pelt, more of them gripping his ankles to stop his ceaseless writhing as the phantom digits set his nerves on fire with their teasing.

It was almost too much to process. When he reacted to one rub or gentle scratch, there were two more to distract his senses, his spine arching off the rug as he felt dull claws drag down it. They ran through his hair, teased his neck, played lightly over his thighs and belly. They seemed to touch him everywhere but his member, now rigid and aching, longing for a fist to grip it and start pumping.

He felt fingers delve into the flesh of his thighs and ass, becoming more wanton in their explorations, two hands cradling his warm face as a third wrapped around his throat. Could Nahash feel through these hands, he wondered, was this as much for her benefit at for his?

He twitched as he felt fingers trace his wrists from the heel of his hand down to his elbow, he was surprisingly sensitive there. The same gentle touch drew swirling shapes on his ribs and belly, his brain sparking as if it were short-circuiting. He was dazed, he couldn't think straight, he could never have imagined that she would be capable of so much using only her hands. Albeit, a great many of them. One of the fingers slipped into his mouth, and he curled his tongue around it obediently, his hips thrusting into the air in desperation as her digits brushed the skin just above the base of his erection.

Even with his eyes closed, he could feel Nahash's presence, sensing her golden stare as she looked down covetously at his tortured body. He could imagine the cruel smile that was no doubt spreading across her lips.

As if to answer the thought, he felt a kiss on his neck, lingering and wet as he loosed a low sigh. It mouthed and bit gently, a long, winding Seirim tongue escaping to taste the sweat on his skin. From the opposite side came another, planting more tender kisses on his shoulder, crawling up his jugular to pinch his ear between its teeth.

He shivered, swearing that his face might set on fire as the two disembodied mouths licked and teased, their warm breath blowing on his ears as they spoke in unison.

"Hear my voice, sweet boy, feel my touch..."

He felt a palm cup his face, turning it towards one of the mouths, its warm lips pressing against his and its serpentine tongue slithering forth. It tasted just like Nahash, and its technique was identical, Ryan leaning into it and doing his best to meet the lurid embrace as the organ coiled and twisted in his head. His efforts were distracted by the second ghost lover, whispering obscenities in his ear as it paused to bite and suck, the roving hands that caressed his body keeping up their pace.

"This pleasure is but a taste of what I can do to you," the second murmured as the first licked his inner cheeks and pushed into his throat, her embrace growing more sexual and aggressive. "Soon these tongues will paint your body, their lips will roam across your skin. Have you ever imagined what it might feel like to have half a dozen women share your manhood between them? Would you ever have dared, or was the idea so self-indulgent that you couldn't even entertain it?"

The first released him for a moment to let him catch his breath, then gripped his face in its fingers and plunged back down again, its slippery muscle roiling as its thick saliva escaped from their joined lips.

There was another hand on his face, pulling him away from the kiss and turning his head in the opposite direction, the first's tongue sliding out of his mouth as their lips parted with a wet smack. Before he could take much more than a faltering breath, the second conjured Seirim had delved her fingers into his hair in order to pull him close and was subjecting him to its bawdy embrace. His eyes rolled back into his head as yet another sinuous tongue slid into his mouth, this one more sensuous and placating than the first.

It stroked his hair and cradled his burning cheeks as it moaned softly and made his head spin with deft strokes of its organ. It had too many hands for one person, but that was hardly a complaint. The first bit his neck, licking the red welt that it left in his skin, then it pushed the tip of its winding organ into his ear before picking up where its sister had left off.

"I'll feed on your emotions, drink them down like sweet honey."

He shivered as he felt lips slide around one of his fingers, sucking it into a warm mouth, a tongue winding around it like a snake as it coated his digit in viscous saliva. Another bit him softly on the hip and yet more began to plant kisses and drag their tongues across his body. There were as many as there were hands, and he squirmed uncontrollably as several of them licked and pecked at his inner thighs. One slid its slippery tongue into his navel, the first phantom chuckling to itself by his ear, enjoying his reaction.

"Poor creature, you feel as though you might lose your mind. But I am not a cruel mistress. Let me ease your suffering, for the appetizer is but one of many courses."

The slow, soothing kiss broke off, the tongue sliding back into the disembodied mouth. The hands left his body, and the mouths ceased their teasing, leaving Ryan laying in silence and darkness for a moment. He opened his eyes to see Nahash straddling him, her juices dripping from between her thighs in heavy strands to pool on his belly. She was blurry, out of focus, only her yellow eyes burning through the haze like a pair of headlights in the mist.

"Not yet," she said, Ryan hearing her voice as much in his head as with his ears. "I want you, in every way, but not yet..."

She reached down a hand and covered his eyes like a blindfold, and when Ryan felt her lift away, his vision did not return. It must be magick, she had blocked one of his senses, and that would only serve to heighten those that remained.

He gasped as he felt warm breath blowing on his throbbing member, as if a pair of lips were pursed not an inch from the tip, and then a sucking kiss to his belly made him lurch. He had seen Nahash crouched over him, this was more of her illusion, Ryan beginning to shiver with anticipation as he remembered her threats and promises.

His demonic partner wasted no more time, the smooth lips of the disembodied mouth sliding over his glans and a bolt of harsh pleasure shooting through him like an electric shock as they glided against his sensitive flesh. It held the tip in its warm mouth, its prehensile tongue battering him, coating his pulsing erection in a thick layer of drool that leaked down his shaft.

He felt a second pair of lips below, another tongue licking at the underside of his member, and then a third that curled around his balls. Mouth number three licked and sucked, tugging gently as mouth number two slid up and down the shaft, using the saliva from mouth number one as a lubricant. Ryan was delirious, points of light dancing before his eyes as his brain fizzed and popped, his limbs still bound by the ethereal hands that pinned him against the downy pelt. Their movement was unceasing, the three serpentine tongues coiling and stroking, their smooth organs encompassing his manhood in a prison of wriggling flesh.

It was as warm and as wet as being inside Nahash, but each of the tongues was moving of its own accord, the rhythmic contractions and muscular flexing that one would expect from a vagina replaced by what felt like a ball of snakes that roiled with a ceaseless fervor.

He felt the second mouth slide up his length to meet the first, the two kissing wetly around his head, trapping it between two wrestling tongues as they made out around it. The third sucked ardently at his balls, rolling them in its mouth, lashing them with its dexterous organ as he bucked and gritted his teeth against the pleasure. Although he knew that it was merely an illusion the effect on his body was no different than if it had been real, every glance of their slippery tongues and every warm breath felt as if it was really happening to him. For all intents and purposes, it was.

He groaned as the first phantom Seirim broke away from its kiss, cradling his throbbing cock in its tongue and guiding it towards its mouth, sliding down his shaft and wrapping its lips around the base. He felt the slick muscles of a throat seize around his glans, squeezing it as if his ghost partner were swallowing, more of that viscous drool escaping to wet his pubic hair. It held him there, not needing to breathe, but simulating the sensation of a woman struggling to accommodate him for the sheer pleasure of it. He felt it gag, swallowing in waves that made his toes curl as her gullet massaged him, his glans bumping the back of its throat.

The third and second mouths continued their work, unconcerned that their sister was hogging the spotlight, mouthing and kissing at his balls and thighs as he fought the growing urge to come.

"Don't cut the fun short," he heard, a breathy voice whispering beside his ear. He flinched as he felt a hand grip the base of his member, squeezing hard to cut off his rising climax even as his erection pulsed and jumped inside the first Seirim's throat. He grunted his displeasure and then the hand released him, vanishing back into the aether as the remaining two tongues licked apologetically.

Nahash could sense his mounting excitement of course, and she was in complete control. She would not allow him to finish until she had had her fun.

His member swelled inside the first Seirim's gullet again, its tongue lapping at the sensitive underside of his glans and teasing him back to full mast as its twin sisters resumed their maddening work, puffy lips crawling across his most sensitive anatomy as their hands gripped his thighs and hips for purchase.

The ethereal Seirim that had him lodged in its throat began to move, drawing back with its lips pursed until only the tip of his erection remained between them, circling it with her powerful tongue. When he was suitably overwhelmed by the cruel sensation, it slammed back down, driving him deep into its twitching esophagus. His hips rose off the ground to thrust deeper, his member sliding against damp flesh, Ryan bucking reflexively to meet its downward motions. The pace of their messy coupling grew faster and less refined, the incorporeal Seirim allowing him to fuck its throat with no remorse, needing no air and feeling no discomfort as its tongue lolled out of its mouth and its bubbling saliva leaked free in globs.

Nahash had been right, to even fantasize about a scenario like this was self-indulgent. Even in his most depraved dreams, he would not have been so presumptuous as to imagine himself at the center of a harem with what felt like a dozen women attending to his every desire. As good as it felt and as wild as it made him, it was not what he wanted...

Nahash seemed to sense that sentiment in him, resting a hand on his chest as she leaned down close to him. Somehow he could sense that this was really her and not some apparition that she had conjured for his benefit. He couldn't see her, but he smelled her earthy musk, felt the warmth that she radiated as their cheeks brushed together and she spoke into his ear in her husky voice.

"As I said, no desire is taboo, no fantasy is too indulgent. I can make your senses dance like a puppet on a string, I can play your nerves like a harp. You will see and feel whatever suits me."

"I want to see you," he sputtered, her proximity maddening. He couldn't reach up and touch her, he couldn't see her face, bound and blindfolded by her insidious magick as he was. She chuckled, the hands that pinned him relenting, his vision returning as if he had just left a dark cave.

"What a beast I would have to be to deny such a heartfelt request," she purred, her golden eyes coming into focus as he blinked his vision clear. She was resting atop him, smiling down at him, the only thing in focus as the world around them remained dark and bleary.

"This all feels great," he stammered, wincing as the phantom Seirim let his member slide from its mouth and Nahash cocked her head at him curiously. "But this isn't what I want."

"Don't you like it?" Nahash asked, her tone uncertain. "I sense your pleasure, but..."

"I like you Nahash, not what you can do for me. All the magick tricks and illusions in the world won't feel half as good as just being with you. There's nothing more exciting to me than that."

The darkness around him faded and the illusory appendages along with it, Nahash once again cast in the orange glow of the flickering fire as she crouched over him, the sky above her gaining clarity as his eyes adjusted to the dim light. He was struck by her beauty then, her eyes bringing to mind images of light reflecting through a block of amber as her pristine, white fur blew gently in the breeze that rustled what few leaves still remained on the trees. She was ghostly, radiant, otherworldly in appearance yet alluring in her strangeness.

She must have felt what he felt, his emotions adding credence to his words, and she cradled her elongated face in her hands as she gazed down at him and batted her eyes. He felt her steely thighs tighten around him and she wet her pink lips with her tongue, her expression warming as his mind began to clear.

"Flatterer," she whispered, the accusation betrayed by her smile. "I am already bound to you, you need no longer woo me."

"You know I'm telling the truth," he laughed, "you can read my emotions like a book. Tell me, what do I feel?"

"A great warmth," she replied after a moment of reflection, "a swelling in your chest when you look upon me. Love."

"Then I'm vindicated."

"You must be mad to love an old goat like me, have you no interest in a young wife of your own kind?" He shook his head, and she stifled a chuckle with her pale hand. "Then I am glad of your madness."

She guided his member towards her opening, lowering herself slowly down onto him, a moment of resistance making them gasp in tandem before she slid down his shaft and sat on him. She took him to the base, leaning back and supporting herself with her hands, her heavy breasts bouncing as they settled. She didn't move for a few moments, enjoying the sensation of his cock throbbing inside her and giving him time to savor the sensation of her silken walls pressing around him. She was so hot, feverish, her insides threatening to scald him as his erection jumped and twitched. He could feel her every breath, her every subtle movement translating into her loins, squeezing his manhood with all the dexterity and fine control of a fist.

She began to rock her wide hips back and forth, slow and steady, rolling her horned head back as she delved a hand into one of her ample breasts. Ryan watched with drooping eyelids as she kneaded the supple flesh, as malleable as wet clay, yet springing back to its original shape when she relented. Her paunchy belly twisted, the abdominal muscles beneath flexing and writhing, her flowing motions as much dancing as lovemaking.

Ryan sank his fingers into the fat of her thigh, her burnished skin yielding beneath them, as soft as memory foam.

She seemed almost as taken with their newfound pace as he was, her reflective eyes unfocused, her body shifting and gyrating mechanically as she let her reflexes take control. She ground his rigid erection against the velvet walls of her passage, pleasure sparking as if the lovers were naught but two pieces of flint being struck together.

They fed into each other, every throb and shiver felt by the other, human and demon trapped in an endless spiral that took them higher and higher towards their inevitable climax. The other Seirim were still going about their sordid business around them, but he was completely consumed by Nahash, a blindfold was not necessary to keep his attention focused on her.

She was doing that thing with her hips again, it was mesmerizing. Percussive, sinuous movements, shimmies and slow figures of eight as if she was dancing to some unheard rhythm. She raised her arms above her head, as though lost in a trance, drawing shapes in the firelight as Ryan thrust into her from below.

It was an ever-changing pressure that stroked and squeezed him from the inside, as if she had reached a hand down into her very body and was massaging him through her satin walls, her wet flesh gliding against his skin as it wrapped him in warmth and pleasure. She had such fine control over her body, seemingly able to manipulate every muscle in her torso with the dexterity that one might have moved a finger, her pace constantly alternating to keep him on his toes.

She had him locked between her massive thighs, liked a pair of damned tree trunks, smooth skin shining with an almost reflective sheen of sweat as she twisted and thrust. There was such a wonderful fullness to her body, fat as soft as butter lavishly distributed to all of the places that drew the male gaze, buxom and shapely as the shadows cast by the fading fire accentuated her curves. She was an avatar of fertility, the sight of her tickled every primal instinct buried deep within his brain. Her hips and thighs were such that she could have strapped an anvil about her belly and carried it without breaking stride.

Ryan felt a newfound aggression welling inside him, a burning heat in his belly that demanded action, an impulse as old as time itself as Nahash rocked back and forth on top of him. She sensed it, slowing as she gazed down at him, smirking at his red face.

"Do I excite you so? Do not deny your impulses, let them overtake you. Do as nature intended."

She seemed to know what he wanted before he did, catching him in her thighs like a wrestler and rolling over onto her back, bringing him with her and releasing him to lie atop her. She propped herself up on her elbows as she looked down at him expectantly, her breasts spreading under their own substantial weight, legs parting to present herself to him in invitation.

His member had slipped out of her during the tussle, glistening with her excitement as it throbbed in the cool night air, a thick strand of her juices breaking to fall to the pelt below. He could feel the heat coming off her as he glanced down at her lips, rosy and swollen, impossibly wet as her pink flesh dripped and twitched as if begging for his attention.

"Are you going to ravish me?" Nahash asked with mock surprise in her voice. She was taunting him, goading him on, her golden eyes sly as they tracked him.

She laughed as he took her hourglass hips in his hands, clawing at her supple meat, pressing his damp member between her labia to grind it up and down her vulva. Her massive thighs quivered, her expression turning sultry, biting absentmindedly on one of her dull claws as she let the sensation wash over her with an appreciative sigh. Their contact was so slippery, hot enough that he feared he might melt, a bead of his own excitement welling at the tip of his member as their loins rubbed together.

She was so touchable, he couldn't get enough of it, taking handfuls of her doughy flesh and squeezing it between his fingers. Her body was a playground, wherever his hands roamed they were met with her paunchy curves, pale skin as smooth as varnished wood and feathery wool that was as deep and as opulent as the finest fur coat.

He couldn't hold back any longer, using his leverage to thrust inside her, the sudden penetration making Nahash arch her long spine. She pushed up to meet him, taking him as deep as he could go, the two of them shivering together as their bodies joined. She was even tighter than before, her passage narrowing around him as she took his member to the hilt, every twitch and shiver translating through her smooth walls as he felt her thighs press around him. Her head lolled back, crowned by a forest twisted horns, the Seirim taking in a sharp breath as he pulled back and prepared for another thrust. Her passage clung to him, sucking ardently as if attempting to prevent him from pulling out.

Perhaps she wasn't accustomed to being on the receiving end? Her purpose was to seduce men, after all, to have her prey so affected and so mesmerized by her seductive powers and her illusory magick that they could scarcely do more than writhe beneath her like beached fish. He was surprised by how sensitive she now seemed, how she reacted to every pulse of his member inside her, feeling the warm blood rushing through his organ as it throbbed and jumped.

He slid out of her along with a flood of her stringy fluids, taking a moment to rub his glans against her swollen sex, feeling the firmness of her engorged clitoris and watching her flinch as his rigid erection grazed it. Her gaze was hungrier now, those yellow eyes locked to his as if to convey some unspoken threat, don't you dare stop.

He would have taken her by the horns like a bull could he reach, but her head seemed a mile away from him due to their difference in stature. Instead, he contented himself with taking rough handfuls of her hips and belly for purchase, slamming back inside her with all of the force that he could muster and driving his manhood deep into her eager tunnel. She closed around him as if he had sprung a trap, flesh like satin soaked in honey pressing down on him from all sides, her pillowy thighs closing around him with a vice grip to pull him closer.

They found a pace that suited them both, slow and heavy, silent save for grunts and sighs as if their bodies were communicating on some lower and more base level than language could achieve. He relinquished control as she had advised, his reflexes taking over, running on autopilot as his conscious mind gave way to raw passion and animal instinct. She used her legs to slam him harder and deeper, crossing them behind his rump, the lurid sounds of their coitus joining those of her sisters to echo through the clearing.

Nahash reached a hand up to hook the back of his head, bringing him close as she lay on her back, pressing her breasts together with her upper arms and pulling his face down between them. Her earthy scent filled his nose, her smooth skin brushing against his burning cheeks and her soft wool tickling him, Ryan resting on her chubby body like it was a waterbed as they moved together.

Doing this outside had its benefits, the night breeze cooled their sweat-drenched bodies, the dim firelight giving everything a dreamlike quality as it bathed them in its flickering glow. He nuzzled, rubbing his face between her yielding boobs as she squashed them around his head, encompassing him completely such was their size. His fingers explored whatever they could reach, there was even a soft layer of fat on her back, his hands roaming lower to weigh her ass as it rose from the furry pelt beneath them to meet his thrusts. Her ample cheeks were more than two hands could handle, it was like trying to lift a beanbag chair, malleable flesh spilling between his fingers as he probed the firmer muscle beneath.

Some of the Seirim around the bonfire had turned their attention to the couple now, golden eyes peering at them through the gloom, heads rising from between parted thighs to stare in their direction. They could sense his emotions just as Nahash could, feel the palpable carnality and lust that was as alluring to them as fresh meat to a wolf, drawing them to him like moths to a flame. They slowly crawled towards the rutting pair, some on their hands and knees, others crouched low as if trying to avoid detection.

It was a little unnerving, or at least it would have been if Ryan had not been completely consumed by his desire for Nahash. He barely registered them as they crowded around the pelt, heads adorned with gnarled horns swaying back and forth, peering over one another and jostling to get a better look like dogs lurking beneath a table in anticipation of falling scraps. They were lit only by the firelight, a ring of ghostly figures surrounding the two lovers, cast in dark shadow as they wet their lips and watched with a tangible craving.

He got the distinct impression that they would have jumped him had Nahash not already staked her claim, a dozen of the comely creatures taking turns, having their way with him to sate their supernatural lust. As good as that might feel, Ryan was smitten with his own Seirim, his lover squirming beneath him as he glanced up at the encroaching spirits.

Nahash noticed them too, her expression softening as though she felt pity for them. She had secured a mate while they had not, her sisters left to satisfy their own needs. Azazel had hidden the clearing from mortals who might come snooping and who would usually have served as sustenance for the hungry Satyrs. Soon they would resume their ancient activities, luring men to their bonfire in order to feed on their emotions, feasting on their pleasure and gorging themselves on the energy that sustained them. But not tonight.

There was something exciting about being watched by so many rapacious Seirim, Nahash smirking at him as he redoubled his efforts, running her dull claws up and down his spine as he plunged in and out of her. He was getting close, it was impossible to hang on for long with Nahash, the very purpose of her existence seemed to be seduction. Whether Azazel had conceived her with that goal in mind, or if she was merely the natural result of copulation between the Watcher and a beautiful mortal woman, she radiated sexuality in a way that made her irresistible to him.

Those nights that he had spent in her arms, the heavy globes of her chest pressing tantalizingly against his body, feeling her warmth and the slow beat of her heart but not being able to indulge the impulses that raged within him...it had been enough to drive him half insane. Now she was bound to him, the unnaturally heavy wedding band gripping his ring finger tightly as a constant reminder. Her libido was insatiable, and he doubted that a night would go by from now on where she didn't exhaust him.

Nahash increased her pace, their bodies slamming together with renewed vigor, pulses of raw pleasure rolling over him as her passage flexed and contracted as if trying to draw his emission from his body. She crossed her arms behind his neck, leaning forward and planting her puffy lips against his, stealing a wanton kiss as they fucked in earnest. He delved his fingers into the soft ruff of wool that lined her neck and shoulders, gripping it as one would the hair of a lover, pulling her towards him as he melted into her embrace. Her tongue slid into his mouth, his head spinning as her long organ squirmed and licked the back of his throat, unashamed and wholly without restraint.

It pushed him over the edge, and he felt a pressure welling inside him, an urge that was impossible to deny as the wracking pleasure seized his muscles. Nahash felt his member swell inside her, her thighs tightening around him and squeezing him close in anticipation, breaking off from her kiss and wrapping her arms around him. She plunged his head into her cleavage, his strained groan muffled by her flesh, the first pulse of searing pleasure driving a thick wad of his emission from his trembling body.

Nahash gasped as she felt its warmth spread through her like magma, her legs gripping him almost painfully as if trying to take him deeper. Ryan's mind went blank, his eyes tightly closed as another throb tormented him, his nerves lighting up like a Christmas tree as his body forced another flood of ejaculate into Nahash. Her pelvic floor muscles milked it from him, rolling up his shaft in waves, tighter and hotter than anything that he had ever felt. She came too, a guttural grunt slipping past her pink lips as her massive body began to quake. Ryan could feel the vibrations in her loins, the rhythmic contractions making her passage wring him of everything he could give her.

They clung to each other tightly, fingers delving into flesh, hands roaming across skin and taking purchase wherever they could. He heard her heart pumping as his ear pressed against her fluffy chest, her bosom shaking around his head as her orgasm tore through her. Over and over his muscles clenched, his climax almost painful in its intensity, pumping his ropy seed deep into her waiting tunnel as she trembled beneath him on the pelt.

The Seirim watched them, their long lashes fluttering, their golden eyes losing their focus as what must have been surges of white-hot pleasure washed over them. They felt what he felt, and while he wasn't sure how intense it was for them, they were visibly stirred. Hands shot between thighs and sought out breasts, long tongues wetting lips, the creatures practically salivating as they dined on his second-hand euphoria.

One last shudder rolled over him, his aching member expelling the last of its load, the thick fluid sliding down into Nahash's quivering depths as her silken walls coaxed it from him with all the finesse of a trained hand. He slipped out of her, the profane mixture of their syrupy emissions leaking from her twitching hole to fall heavily to the pelt below, matting the fur as strings of it clung to her milky thighs. Her ample chest heaved as she caught her breath, a hand sneaking down to rub her sodden mound, easing out one last shivering aftershock.

Ryan was glowing, he felt giddy, a satisfied ache permeating his lower body as his muscles recovered from their ordeal. His member was glazed in her juices, sticky and wet, and he fell back to sit between her giant legs as she smirked down at him.

In a second, the Seirim that had surrounded them set upon him, half a dozen pairs of clawed hands gripping his chest and arms. They slid across his belly and thighs, his body still tender and sensitive, a cry of surprise escaping his lips as their desperate explorations pierced the haze of his ecstasy and drew out another lingering flutter of pleasure.

"H-Hey! What are you..."

Three heads darted between his legs as they pulled them apart, Ryan too dazed and exhausted to put up much resistance, the Seirim jostling and bumping into each other as they attempted to get at his still rigid member. He clutched at a pair of horns as one of them curled its serpentine tongue around his cock and dragged it into her mouth, sucking away the viscous juices greedily. Before she could finish one of her sisters had pulled her away, taking her position as her lips crawled across his shaft. Another mouthed at his inner thigh, licking away whatever drops of fluid that it could find while a fourth dragged its tongue across his belly. Sparks danced before his eyes, his opposition melting as they cleaned him, one of the Seirim taking the face of one of her faster sisters in her hands and slipping her tongue into her mouth to get a taste.

The same was happening to Nahash, who was biting her lip as she watched some of her sisters eat her out, their long tongues digging deep inside her in an attempt to reach the lurid concoction that had been pumped into her deepest reaches. He could see flashes of pink as they licked and probed, two tongues winding into her passage at once as more of the frantic Satyrs cleaned her thighs like people dying of thirst licking the dew from a rock.

When they were done they scurried back to their respective pelts around the fire, the show apparently over. Ryan glanced at Nahash with drooping eyelids, and she reached forward to draw him close, collapsing onto her side and bringing him with her. They lay together, tired and satisfied, the orange glow of the rising sun just beginning to show over the forest as the embers of the fire smoldered.

"As I said, the fluids borne of our union have powerful alchemic properties. They are irresistible to my neglected sisters. I could not deny them a taste, I hope you don't mind their intrusion."

"I feel bad for them," he sighed, nestled in her arms as he rubbed his face in her feathery ruff and let her scent fill his nose. "Will they be okay? What will happen to them now?"

"Azazel sees no reason to intercede. This night was for our benefit, and once we have left, they will no doubt resume their ancient activities. They will lure wandering mortals with their dancing and revelry in order to feed on their sexual energy, things will be as they once were."

"Is that going to work out in the modern era?" Ryan wondered aloud. "News travels fast, what if they're discovered?"

"I honestly don't know," she replied, stroking his hair with her dull claws. "But I'm sure that they'll be fine under Azazel's guidance. He is wise and powerful."

"And you won't be coming back here?"

She took his hand in hers, showing him the black ring that clung to his finger.

"I have no need of summoning circles or sanctuaries any longer. As long as Azazel is fed with energy, then I shall not want for it either. Though if it's all the same to you, I would like you to keep the chalk circle that you drew on the floor of your apartment. It can be...soothing to rest within its boundaries."

"So that's why you were always crashing on my couch," he laughed. "So...does this mean that you're moving in with me?"

She chuckled, pulling his face into her fur.

"I go wherever that ring goes, and if you are living in that apartment, then I suppose that I am too. I can come and go as I please, of course. The immaterium is always open to me, but as you know, I prefer to be corporeal whenever possible. I love this plane of existence, everything from the feeling of firm ground beneath my hooves to the taste of the rain on my tongue."

"Suits me just fine," he said. "It’ll be nice to have someone to come home to again."

Ryan felt a chill crawl up his spine, and he propped himself up on his elbows, looking over Nahash's prone figure at the fading bonfire. Azazel was crouched beside it, cast in dark shadows, its three ruby-red eyes staring at Ryan through the gloom. He heard it laugh to itself, a rumbling sound that was as much the bleat of a goat as anything of human origin, and then it unfurled a pair of great leathery wings. They must have been twenty feet across, kicking up dust as they flapped, lifting the great creature off the ground as the wind blew out the bonfire as if it had been nothing more than a candle. It cast the clearing into darkness, that trio of smoldering eyes all that was visible as it rose into the dark sky, the fading laughter heard only in Ryan's head as the beast vanished over the treetops.

He fell back to the pelt, that ominous voice echoing in his head, wondering what Azazel's deal was. Where was it going? Had he unwittingly unleashed some kind of monster upon the world? As bad as the fallen angel's rep was, it had done nothing so far to indicate any malice or evil intent, and yet its mere presence made Ryan's skin crawl.

Nahash pulled him close, her warmth driving away the cool morning air, and she whispered to him as fatigue began to overcome them both.

"Thank you, Ryan, for all that you have done."

"I should be the one thanking you," he replied sleepily, suppressing a yawn. "I might have been living in a tent in these woods right now if it wasn't for you and Orobas."

His life had taken such a strange and sudden turn, but against all odds, this was starting to feel normal. Maybe that was what it really meant to be a magician, having this insanity be a part of your daily life and being able to handle it without losing your grip on reality. He shuffled closer to Nahash, feeling her smooth skin beneath his fingertips, listening to her slow and steady breathing. It was hypnotic, and he closed his eyes, joining her in an exhausted and contented sleep.

 

CHAPTER 10: A TASTE OF FREEDOM

 

Becky mounted the steps of the apartment complex, muttering angrily to herself, tapping at her phone as she rounded the corner and made her way past the numbered doors towards Ryan's apartment. How dare he ignore her calls. She had wanted to teach him a lesson, that was all. He was supposed to realize what he had been doing wrong and man up, start giving her the attention that she deserved instead of taking her for granted. Instead, he had gone dark, dropping off the face of the earth and refusing to answer any of her calls or messages. She hadn't seen head nor tail of him since they had met at the coffee shop. Worse, she had seen a new car in his parking spot the last time she had driven by, a nice one. Had he landed a better job since they had split up?

She rapped on the door loudly then stood back and waited with her hands planted on her hips, silently seething as she heard the door unlock from the other side. She was ready to tear into Ryan as soon as she saw his face, a thousand curses and insults swirling in her head, but as the door opened the wind was taken out of her sails.

There was a woman standing in his apartment, tall and willowy, with pale skin and platinum-blonde hair that bordered on silver. She was wearing a fluffy, white bathrobe as if she had just gotten out of the shower. She was beautiful, and Becky was taken aback for a moment, her face reddening as she realized that she had been replaced. It was unacceptable, he couldn't do this to her!

"Where's Ryan?" Becky snapped, the tall woman cocking her head curiously as she examined her with a pair of hazel eyes that were so light as to appear amber under the right conditions.

"He is working," she replied. Damn it, even her voice was sexy, Becky fuming silently as she looked her new competition up and down in disdain.

"Well I need to speak with him, and he hasn't been answering his phone."

"You must be Becky," the strange woman mused, a smile curling her lips. "Ryan has told me all about you."

"And who the hell are you?"

"My name is...Natasha, pleased to meet you."

"What are you? His new girlfriend or something?" Becky spat, simmering with jealousy. She couldn't believe that Ryan had bounced back so quickly. A new job, a new car, a new girl. It was as if Becky had never existed and she couldn't abide being ignored, it was the one thing that drove her crazy.

"I'm his wife," the woman replied, raising her arm and brandishing a black ring so that Becky could see it. Her brow furrowed as her anger got the better of her, in the few weeks that they had been apart the bastard had gotten married?

"So you won't tell him to call me, then?"

"I could relay a message for you," Natasha said in that breathy voice, "what did you want to tell him?"

"Nothing now, just that he's a piece of shit. Where did he meet you anyway? Vegas? He can't have known you for more than a couple of months. What kind of woman gets married so quickly?"

"Don't you believe in romance, Becky?" Natasha asked as she smirked at her. The bitch was taunting her, unbelievable.

"Tell that loser that I hope he enjoys his new whore," Becky hissed, turning her back on the woman and storming off down the corridor.

"Wait," Natasha said, and Becky stopped to look back at her.

"What?"

A cold filled the corridor, chilling her to the bone, a smell like rotten eggs stinging her nose. The tall woman was standing outside of the apartment and just staring at her, those hazel eyes now glowing yellow like those of a cat. A shadow crept along the walls and ceiling to fill the hallway, crawling along the carpeted floor as if it was being cast by grasping fingers that were reaching for her. Becky wanted to scream, but the sound caught in her throat and petered out into a whimper, her feet refusing to move as though she was caught in a nightmare.

Natasha grew, the already tall woman stretching as Becky watched in horror. Her legs cracked and creaked as they snapped into a new shape, her bones appearing to break before Becky's eyes. A crown of gnarled horns sprouted from her blonde hair as if they were growing out of her skull, rising to brush the ceiling. Her fingers grew claws, her arms elongating, her face stretching grotesquely as the previously beautiful woman opened her mouth and brayed like a goat.

Becky's flight reflex finally kicked in, and she fled in the direction of the stairwell as if the devil himself was on her heels, stumbling over herself as she descended as fast as her feet could carry her. She reached the bottom, bursting through the door of the complex and out into the street, rushing past a startled Ryan without so much as glancing at him.

***

Ryan stepped through the door of his apartment, throwing his jacket onto the coat rack and finding Nahash lounging on the couch as she held a mug of steaming coffee in her hand.

"Welcome home," she said, taking a long sip as she watched him walk over to her. She made space for him and he flopped down beside her, kicking off his shoes, her free arm curling around him to pull him close.

"How was work?" she asked.

"Good," Ryan replied, "but the strangest thing just happened. I could have sworn that I saw Becky running out of the main entrance just now. She went by too fast for me to be sure, but whoever it was looked like they'd just seen a ghost. Did you...do something?"

She hid her smirk behind the mug as she took another drink.

"That was Becky, yes. She came looking for you, but I politely informed her that you had moved on and that you didn't want to see her anymore. She is a remarkably jealous woman, avaricious, I don't understand what you saw in her."

"Unfortunately I lack the ability to read people's emotions," he laughed, "sometimes you can live with a person for years and never truly know them. What have you been doing all day?"

"Exploring," she replied. "We had coffee back in my time, but I like yours better."

He looked at the floor below the couch, the chalk summoning circle strewn with wrappers and containers.

"Looks like you've been busy," he mused, leaning forward to pick up an empty bottle of hot sauce. "Did you...drink this?"

"I like the way it burns," she replied, delving her clawed fingers into his hair to stroke him as he sat back. He exhaled, his muscles relaxing, she really knew how to push his buttons. "Next time you buy food, bring me more like it. The spicier, the better."

"Or, you could actually put it on food as intended," he volunteered. "Hell, I'm making enough now to buy you whatever you want, I can think of a hundred things that you might like to try. It might not have been conjured by a Watcher, but I'm pretty sure I can find some dishes that you've never tasted before. We live in a global economy now y'know. Oh, that reminds me..."

He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small plastic packet, tossing it into her lap. She picked it up gingerly and examined it, struggling to read the brand name.

"Pop...Rocks? What is this?"

He helped her open the packaging and poured some of the tiny, pink crystals into his hand.

"Stick your tongue out," he said, and her long organ parted her lips obediently. He tipped them onto it, and she took them into her mouth, Ryan failing to suppress a grin as her eyes widened.

"What is that!?"

"It's just candy," he laughed, "I saw it at the food court at work, and I thought of you. I'll get you something sour next time, maybe a Warhead. I can guarantee that you didn't have those back in Sumeria."

She smiled as the candy fizzed on her tongue, every sensation, every taste and scent an adventure to her. It made Ryan realize how much he took for granted. The gentle breeze, the feeling of a warm shower on his skin, the sensation of a cold drink soothing his parched throat on a hot day. She was giving him a whole new appreciation for life. She had been deprived of a physical form for so long that she took pleasure in the simplest of things and he would do well to follow her example.

"What of tomorrow?" Nahash asked after the effects of the candy had worn off. "Are we still visiting the shore?"

"Yeah, I got tomorrow off, my boss was surprisingly cool about it. Whatever you did to make them like me, it stuck. Helen won't stop leering at me from across the office. The moon will be full, and it's a weekday so nobody will be around. We can spend the whole night down there."

"I want to feel sand beneath my hooves again, smell the salt on the breeze. I've not seen the ocean in eons."

He patted her thigh reassuringly then rose to his feet, stretching his arms above his head.

"Well, we'd better get some food, I've not eaten since lunch. Let's get takeout. Judging by your recent...explorations, I'm thinking buffalo chicken. Don't cock your head at me, I know you don't know what that is, you'll just have to trust me."

She rose from the couch to stand behind him, the weight of her breasts resting on his shoulders as she wrapped her arms around him, heavy enough to make his knees buckle.

"And after? I hunger for more than just food, there are other desires that I wish to sate."

She brought her head down to plant a kiss on his neck, sending a pleasant shiver rolling down his spine, the warmth of her magick flooding him and making him dizzy as if he had just taken a shot of whiskey.

"All in good time," he replied, "the night is still young."

 

-THE END-

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3 thoughts on “Goetic Justice

  1. I am so happy I found this.
    Thank you!

    If it possible, I begging you to make femdom story with android/AI main waifu or something similar.

    Your writings are absolutely amazing, I can’t criticize anything in its.

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