Visgali’s heart ached as she endured a second, small glass Holly the inn’s keeper called a shot of potato wine. The nightly ritual of the disguised nightgaunt continued as she produced three silver coins from the ether. “I still can’t find a mashter,” she said to the stern innkeeper. “I have no rights to callsh myshelf a proper demon.”
“He shwas already married!” The second drink disappeared. Visgali’s face turned a shade of bright violet as her concentration on her spell faded. Her eyes went from an emerald green to an abyssal black, her pale skin took on a grey hue where her intoxicated color didn’t, and a thin, black film covering her like a tight fitting bodysuit did little to preserve the imagination materialized as her grocer’s uniform melted away. The innkeeper refreshed the monster’s glass as she collected her payment.
“What a shame,” the Holly flatly stated. The innkeeper’s eyes were darkened with heavy black rings, and her brown hair messily hung from her head. “Keith was his name?”
“It shwas Kevin,” the nightgaunt wailed with an unearthly tone. “How could I missh that?” Visgali sipped at her potato water as she moaned.
“This makes four.” The innkeeper started to clean glasses. Watching her friend drown her sorrows in alcohol was starting to get to the innkeeper. Even if the monster made coins appear from thin air, the guilt of slowly killing her did not ease the innkeeper’s conscious. “Listen, Visgali-“
“I- I may know someone you might be interested in.” She punctuated her statement with a heavy, exhausted sigh. The monster took second to process the innkeeper’s claim, but slammed her hand down on the wood counter .
“Gib me.” The nightgaunt hiccuped.
“I have a cousin visiting, no, moving into the city. He’s single, for starters.” Visgali was hanging on her every word now, tipsy as she was. “Never seen many monsters. His family was one of those that fled to the hills after the war’s end. I’ll be putting him up while he gets his bearings with city life.”
“An out of town single man? He won’t last a week in Clemens,” Visgali said as she chased down disappointment with a drink.
“Which is why… I want you… to…,” the bartender struggled to say she wanted the nightgaunt’s help. Holly was putting her cousin on a platter and serving him up to a monster. There was no second guessing that. However, Visgali was better than the cock hungry, lust driven monsters roving the streets late at night eager to defrock and deflower the first unfortunate soul they could catch. No, the nightgaunt was obsessed with finding a master or so she called it. A man to help her grow her power along with some other things the bartender could not relate to. The bartender also figured that meant some sex, but hey, she’d treat her cousin better than a rutting ogress.
She was terrible at meeting men, and a worse judge of character, but she was kind and generous. The regulars spoke of highly of her other identity, the solemn Vanessa. As the grocer from across the street the nightgaunt hardly spoke, but she fairly traded and went to great efforts to fulfill the odd requests of her neighbors. Star fruit, bananas, hardy nuts from the mountains, Vanessa acquired novelties and exotic goods by magic they claimed, not realizing the humble grocer was a demon in disguise capable of flying to the source of each fruit in a fortnight.
“I want you to date him,” the bartender finally stammered out. Visgali turned her head like a inquisitive street cat.
“You’re… kidding me…” the nightgaunt’s distraught, weepy voice sunk deeper. She slunk into her stool. “Am I so de’perate to claw for scraps?”
“Lisssten,” she slurred. “You’re a human. You ain’t gonna- gonna get it.”
Annoyed and tired, the bartender shifted onto her back foot, crossed her arms, and threw her dark hair back with a flourish. “Fucking try me.”
“It’s like,” the nightgaunt’s bodysuit flowed and moved like tar as she pieced together a relatable explanation, “my pride, or whatever.” Visgali waved her hand as though to chase the word away. “I have to find a man myself. A part of me knows it- in-stinct-tu-all-y.” She capped her statement by downing her potato wine. “This is really good.”
“Okay, that sounds stupid. You won’t even try to date my cousin,” the bartender said as she pinched the bridge of her nose, “because you’re too good for… what?”
“No, no. It’sss not like that.” Part of Visgali was dripping on the counter now and pooling at the elbow of her drinking arm. “What is something humans do…”
“Yeah! Humans need food, right? Right?” She supported her head on her wrist. “Like you can’t not eat right?”
“Right.” The bartender’s brow furrowed as she mulled over her friend’s statement. “Wait, you don’t need to eat?” The bartender eased up her stance. Her curiosity got the better of her.
“Well, yeah. No. I mean, human food is tasty, but it’s got no ssssoul.”
“You’re kidding. You eat souls?”
“Nooo? Not like that. It’s like seasoning and substance all at once. It’sssss the best.” The bartender still looked concerned, Visgali noted. “Maybe food is a bad example.”
“What’s my soul like then?”
“Eh, like an Ogress. Big, full of… hard stuff. Pulpy.” Visgali’s abyssal eyes were mesmerizing, but the comparison stung the bartender’s own pride. “You’re a stiff drink, but I need a- a-,” the nightgaunt’s eyelids lulled over as she drifted off to sleep mid-sentence.
“Yeah, yeah,” the bartender said. She knew better than to try to excise the tar-ish ooze that covered Vasgali and her counter. Instead she went around the counter, put her drunken demon over her shoulder, and proceeded to march her to a spare room near her own.
The discarded ooze followed like ducklings and rolled after its mother in plodding turns. It was surprisingly dry. It didn’t stain. It was more akin to wax than heavier tar. Visgali weighed more than her waifish demon frame appeared, probably due to her ooze, maybe as much as her male regulars. She didn’t fight her assistance unlike their first foray to the steps to the spare room. Ugh, the bartender recalled. She rooted herself to a spot and refused to be carried.
“C’mon, first step,” she coaxed the demon up a step at a time. Visgali may not be conscious, but her body moved on its own and assisted the bartender. “C’mon, one more,” she said again and again as low as she could manage. She didn’t want a helpful guest to see her arm in arm with a nightgaunt.
They lurched past the first door and two succubi sleeping off dinner inside. They were travelers from further south, near the territories of the monsters, looking for husbands of their own. Well spoken for sex-driven fanatics of some new faith, they paid for a weekend’s stay in advance, kept to themselves, and hardly harassed her customers. They would be the most troubling to wake up. Outer beings, like demons, devils, nightgaunts, creatures who navigated tears in the sky and earth, and terrestrial succubi were loathe to get along. The bartender dragged Visgali along to her room, an unoccupied single bed with a heavy lock normally reserved for men.
It was a simple set up. A little table for convenience, a wooden bed frame with a hay mattress cozy cotton on top, and a small dresser underneath a magically sealed window. She set her drunk friend on the bedside then lowered her head to the feather pillow at the head.
Exhausted, she turned to leave, but a hand grabbed her wrist. “Thank you- Holly.” The nightgaunt’s mouth hung open after she spoke. Her open, slovenly smile mouthed a few syllables before surrendering her grip.
Night gave way to day. Holly didn’t sleep much. Two hours here, a few more hours after she prepared breakfast for her guests. It was routine for her. This morning she whipped up a heaping platter of scrambled eggs, golden brown toast, a bowl of cut-up fruits, and big glasses of apple juice. The succubi came downstairs first, followed closely by a singular Hakutaku scholar, and eventually Visgali’s disguised form groggily joined them as she arrived after everyone was seated and helping themselves.
“Your fruit selection is impeccable,” the Hakutaku offered as she spooned a large helping onto her plate. She set her long hair between her ears and horns before beginning.
“Thank you, but the credit should go to Vanessa.” Holly set strips of bacon in front of the other guests. Vanessa demurred at the praise. She nodded at the pearlescent horned foreigner before breaking off a crispy piece.
“We thank our host for providing this filling meal that we remain vigilant for Her signs,” the succubi prayed in unison with palms upturned at the sides of their plates. “Our Lady, Goddess of Roots, we seek your chosen path that we may blossom in our own season of love.” They concluded their prayer with a word neither Vanessa nor Holly understood.
“A fertility goddess, Ankannah,” the Hakutaku commented before biting down on another spoonful of strawberries and grapes. The darker brown haired succubus with jagged onyx horns looked pleasantly surprised. Her compatriot, with alluring green eyes and a pair of symmetrical rounded horns like a ram’s, only briefly looked up before eating.
“You’re familiar with our Goddess?” She began to spread strawberry jam over her toast.
“She was a… human deity, I believe. An older one. I’ve not known monsters to worship outside of their own Pantheon.” Vanessa looked uncomfortable as the two exchanged pleasantries.
“My mother participated in the Accords. She learned of the Goddess during the peace summit, and met my father in a village nearby. I was raised near humans, so it was natural to take up the faith.”
“My, times change.” The Hakutaku gave a small chuckle. “And you, miss?”
The round horned succubus was reluctant to speak. Her eyes pleaded with her associate as she ate more of her eggs. The talkative succubus grinned back before continuing.
“I’m Vivi Blackwald, and this sheepish acolyte is my apprentice Layla. I am responsible for her tutelage on Ankannah’s path.” Layla nodded as to confirm her master’s words.
“I’m Xiuying, a secular tutor. I admire those who hold faith so highly.”
“You do not?” Vivi inquired.
“No, my family practices ancestor worship, but I never really- understood it.”
“I do not mean to pry.” Vivi’s smile was dangerously disarming. She directed her attention to Holly as she refilled beverages. “Ms. Host, do you practice any faiths?”
“Nope. My mother died when I was young, and my father cursed the gods since. Nothing’s ever stuck, but I keep an open mind.”
“Ah, I-” Vivi was about to ask an increasingly perspiring Vanessa, but Layla stopped her with a gentle nudge. Vivi touched her right horn as she spoke. “Sorry, sorry. I often forget how personal one’s faith can be.” Vanessa’s relief was written plain on her face.
“Heading north then?” Xiuying asked.
“In time. Our work in Clemens is not yet complete. Part of our pilgrimage is assisting with the city’s municipal gardens. What about you Xiuying?”
“I’m just about set to leave. My path is eastbound, to the woods.”
“After a man?”
“…Yes.” Xiuying’s pointed, bovine ears bounced up. “A bard. We- we tutored together, but our duties pulled us apart. I learned he was performing near the mountains of the Vale-“
The succubus’s demeanor soured at the Vale’s mention. “I wish you luck. The Vale and its people are cursed. Foul magic permeates the land.”
The remaining time was filled with idle back and forth. For Holly, she struggled to keep up as the two exchanged theories on vegetable cultivation and rotation. They finished, with everyone going back to their rooms, except her nightgaunt friend who helped her clean up.
“It’s the least I could do.”
“Yeah- seems fair,” Holly joked. Vanessa’s face remained focused.
“And about last night. I, um, was wondering if I could…” She played with her pink, human hands as she mulled over her thoughts. The revelation appeared to her in between her waking and dreaming thoughts. She whittled away at it all morning until she found the courage to speak. “I want to meet your cousin.”
“You seemed adamant not meeting him,” Holly stated plainly.
“I realized when I woke up that, well, I found you.” Vanessa parsed her words carefully. She wanted Holly to understand. Holly patiently waited as her friend spoke carefully. “It’s important that I find my master myself, but I didn’t really think that through last night.”
“To be fair, you did drink a fair bit.”
“Yeah, and I was too distraught over my failings to appreciate that I could rely on my- my friend’s judgement in helping me.”
Holly patted her friend’s head. “It’s okay. Found out I got a pulpy soul.”
Violet blush shone through Vanessa’s disguise.
“What? Is that embarrassing too?” She waved Vanessa into the kitchen. “C’mon, you can dry the dishes.”
The dishes didn’t take long. Holly efficiently suds and rinsed the plates, while the nightgaunt used her palms with a thin film of her ooze to wipe away the moisture. They traded thanks again as Vanessa went to her own job. There, she participated in society, fulfilled her role as grocer, and by day’s end realized she had nothing to do.
She decided to peek in on Holly. She climbed the back stairs, opened a window, and extended her wings. Globules of grey matter flattened and extended as she perched on the sill. Ths street was clear of monster and human alike. With a kick, she urged her body to grapple the air. Nightgaunts did not fly in a true sense although it may look like it with their wings beating in unison behind them. No, the true source of her lift was pulling at the malleable curtain of reality. Her wings beat down. The space between her and the kitchen window expanded and contracted faster than the human eye allowed.
Visgali gasped, before stumbling into a tin trash can. A big jump took a lot out of her. There was a commotion nearby. Two voices exchanged unknown words. She began to panic. Be someone else, she begged her body. The veil of humanity hid her skin and wings, but her eyes met a man’s concerned look before the spell completed.
Mint was entranced by the abyssal eyes swirling with a sort of life he was unable to comprehend. A primal fear was met by an equally powerful demand to offer the woman his hand. In reality, his legs rooted themselves to the cobbles while he ineffectually reached out his hand to the non-human 4 feet away.
“Fuck! Visgali! Are you okay?” Holly ran past her stunned stupid cousin.
“I’m fine. Stuck the landing,” she offered a muted smile. The man behind Holly had his shaking hand out and his face was a mix of confusion and bemusement. “Tha-thank you.”
“Uh, you are welcome monster lady,” Mint managed. He folded his shaking arm, and then thought to hide it behind his back. Mint knew eight women in his whole life prior to his arrival in Clemens. His mother, his much older sister, and the other matrons of his village. He was the village’s middle child, ten years older than the oldest kid, and eight years younger than his sister.
In the last few hours, he was left frazzled by the whirling pace of Clemens and its varied inhabitants. Accosted on his way in by an armored creature who held a sword in one hand and her head in the other, nearly trampled by horse women in the street, and saved by his cousin Holly before he entered a succubus’s den, he thought himself soured on the city before he even had a chance to unpack.
“Your cousin?” Visgali asked as the illusion replaced her eyes. She liked his soul. It was a flat, honest cut of venison. Gamey, but familiar. Yet, she never saw an honest soul in the city and she briefly wondered if the familiar sense was due to his relation to Holly. The man nodded an affirmation.
“He just got in. Well, he was about a foot in the door of Carmella’s shop before I got him, but,” she elbowed his arm, “family watches out for each other. Come on in. I closed early.”
The three of them entered in through the kitchen. It was still immaculate from this morning. Holly leaned back against the counter with the sugar underneath. “Hungry?”
“A bit peckish cousin Holly,” Mint said. “Had an apple earlier, so-“
“You can join us Vanessa. I got some stuff in the icebox. You up for some cheddar and broccoli soup?”
“Oh, I’m not sure. You two haven’t seen each other in a while and I did crash in on your conversation-“
“Good,” she cut in. Holly pushed them both out to the inn’s dining area. “Take a seat.”
Mint selected the singular round table in the bar, and pulled up a seat for Vanessa as well. “Must be tiring after ya messed up like that,” he stated.
“Oh, it’s not that bad. Just um, lost my breath there.” She needled her hands under the table. “Please do not tell anyone.”
“I can do that. I dunno much ’bout the city, but my old lady says monsters got lots uh, what’s the word?” Mint trailed off as he pictured his mother lecturing. She said monsters were bad and that humans were all doomed. He heard that a lot. He tapped his foot lightly as he played out the conversation in full. Next she scolded him for whining because he didn’t need another lecture. Nope, that wasn’t what he needed. His lips curled as he remembered. “Politics,” he said with a nodding agreement.
Vanessa watched as Mint tried to complete his thought as well. She looked at the surface of his thoughts like one would pick through a grocer’s stand. Here were his distant memories, while there were his traumas from today. It seemed the dullahan Captain Agnes shocked him when she removed her head, and it left a rather dark impression on his person. While she lacked the ability to peer deeper on her own, she could follow along as he meandered through the memory as though shopping alongside him.
Mint’s mother was a bear of a woman. She was taller than Vanessa or Visgali, and she looked capable of biting a stump in two, or so her son thought in his private thoughts. She giggled at her borrowed expression. There was a warmth to her person though. A familial love, perhaps. It was a sensation as alien to Visgali as this world. Nightgaunts from the Outer Realms were born of shadow and animated by the nascent magic. She tailed Mint as he circled around the well worn memory.
She listened as his mother warned him repeatedly, each step filled with the same story over and over again. “Monsters are untrustworthy. They’ll control you.” Mint remembered his mother rapping her knuckles along their kitchen table as he asked her why the village hid themselves. The sound of bony knuckles clicking as they struck the gap in the boards. “They fight like rutting bitches, and if you cross one they’ll spin the head off your neck.”
“Oh,” Vanessa said aloud, “that’s why the captain spooked you.”
“Excuse me?” Mint lifted his leg over his right knee. “Who?”
“I was…reading your thoughts.” Vanessa felt embarrassment warming her more than the potato wine from last night. “I should asked. I…”
“It’s ok.” Mint shrugged. “Ain’t a lot to see either way.” His easygoing smile put Vanessa’s worries to rest.
Holly set three bowls down filled with fresh chicken broth and cheddar warmed over her coal fired oven. Vanessa recognized the bits of green broccoli partly disintegrated in the soup from her own store. Lastly, she put a bread basket in the middle packed with small rolls.
Mint and Holly grabbed still hot rolls and cracked open the flaky, buttery crust. Vanessa copied them. She was unsure how the humans intended to drink the soup without spoons though.
Holly scooped up a helping with the torn bread. The liquid soaked into the slice, while the more solid broccoli and cheese steamed so temptingly on top. “I get it now,” Vanessa said as she enviously watched Holly enjoy the now enhanced bread. Mint did the same, although he was more watching Vanessa watch Holly.
Vanessa nearly squealed as she ingested her own slice of flavored bread. Holly was an excellent cook. There was a hint of a spicy flavor to the soup, and the cheddar was of richer taste than it smelled. The cream stood out the most, then the bread, and finally she could make out the slightly bitter, metallic tang of broccoli as she played with morsels along her tongue. “Thank you Holly. I love this soup.”
“I’m glad you approve. Mint, how’s it? Mint? Hey!” Holly snapped her fingers at her ogling cousin. He sheepishly looked down at the bowl.
“It’s- It’s good cousin. Ma said city livin’ ruined yer cookin’ and-” He glanced up when he noticed Holly scowling. “It’s good.”
“I swear, it’s like you know how to stumble into the worst thing to say.” Holly scoffed as she continued to eat. Vanessa followed suit. When she was done, she got up. “I got dessert planned. Take me a minute to get it ready though. Visgali, Mint, why not chat and get to know each other better.” Holly added an agonized wink hoping to convey her intent to the nightgaunt.
Visgali picked up the signal. Holly made her thoughts as plain as day. She also filed away ‘the wink’ as a tool mortals used to convey a secret message and required mental probing to ascertain their true intent. Mint was nearly done with his meal so she decided to take the initiative despite the nagging thought she already fucked up once this week.
“So Mint, um, you-” Vanessa was struggling to come up with an icebreaker. She talked to humans and monsters all day, but she was rarely the one who started speaking. A knot twisted in what mortals could call a gut. She tented her fingers rather than speak.
“So you’re a monster huh?” Mint asked. “Don’t know any monsters on account of livin’ far away, but you seem uh, decent enough.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Cousin Holly don’t have many friends.” He shrugged shoulders as he slipped back into his seat. “She’s running the inn, or at least that was all she ever wrote about. No parents, no husband, no kids, no people she ever included in her life. How long ya known each other, uh, um… Vanessa?” He scratched the back of his matted, black hair.
“Vanessa is fine. It’s what most folks call me.”
“Then Holly ain’t most folks then.”
“Well, you see, she caught me drinking from her bar late one night let’s say eight months ago. It was not a good time for me. I planned to pay,” Vanessa added when she realized breaking and entering was a crime reportable to a constable, “I was me. No magic. Drunker than I ever was. She could’ve had me arrested, but when I came to, I was in a bed upstairs. She’s helped me a lot.”
“Wow.” They sat quietly. Mint was unsure what to say while Vanessa was still stuck on what to say. She decided to start at the basics rather than concoct an artificial conversation.
“I- do you know what a Nightgaunt is?”
“Never heard of ’em.” He tapped the table twice as he thought. “Oh, that’s what you are, yeah?”
Vanessa peered out the inn’s front windows. The evening crowds were gone, but certainly passersby could chance upon them. She cast a spell, drawing magic from the air and darkening the glass as though drawing a black curtain. Mint gawked as the shadows filled the space and at the globules of inky black balls spinning around Vanessa’s hand. The guise of Vanessa melted away, her form reverting, and her abyssal eyes locking with Mint’s.
“I am Visgali the Four-Gate, from the Gulf of Plurthoa’con’gortch.” She could feel his human mind and heart at odds with each other, much to her delight. “Please don’t be afraid of me.”
“You’re not, right?” She scanned his thoughts as he processed her real form. She silently commended him for not abandoning the table and the city all together upon her grand reveal.
“Sure.” He was being honest, but she struggled to understand the doubts lingering at the forefront of his thoughts. “You’re worried, about me?”
“No… wait you can read my thoughts, I guess then, sure, I am.” The words fell from his mouth like dribbling soup.
“Now I am the one that’s confused.” She picked at her fingernails as she pondered what he intended. Mint’s thoughts like to circle around in his head before he spoke. It made predicting what he would say difficult. “Why?”
“Eh, I was thinking we’re a little alike. I’m a stranger in a stranger land, yep, and you are also not from here, yeah.”
“Oh, thanks.” Both of them returned to staring at their now empty bowls.
Holly was listening in from the kitchen. She already cut the pie, got some clean silverware, and prepared some holstaur milk. She pressed her ear against the door hoping one of those two would finally make a move. At first, she gritted her teeth as Mint went on about her and her supposed lack of friends. She had friends, she told herself, Visgali, Gunther the Chimney Cleaner, Dave the Streesweeper, and as she counted off her customers, finger by finger, she realized he was mostly right. She wasn’t lonely, but she didn’t have many friends. After Visgali, how many others would she see outside of work, she wondered.
The light under the door darkened and Visgali introduced herself properly. Holly prepared to step in should Mint freak out, but her goon of a cousin seemed to handle it better than she did. Sure, she helped Visgali out, but when she saw her body in a heap smearing her floor in otherworldly darkness Holly may have turned her thoughts off and pictured herself helping any other drunk as a skunk girl or regular. She didn’t press charges at first because she wasn’t sure what Visgali would do, but as they talked, and as the nightgaunt’s luck in love soured more and more, she grew fond of the monster. Holly bit into the side of her index finger as she tried to stifle a growing sense she might cry if she got too worked up.
Alright, they reached a stalemate, she decided as she emerged with two bowls of pie in one hand, and easily managed two cups of ice cold milk in another. She set them down in front of her guests. “Hey, I’m sorry,” she started as pretended to dust off her hands, “I just remembered I’m supposed to meet with my supplier. Mint can you watch the shop? Visagali, stick around and watch Mint?”
She didn’t give either a chance to deny her request. She was already at the door and undoing a latch by the time Mint was getting up. “Cousin, I-“
“It’s fine. Visgali will take good care of you.” Holly pointed directly to the dumbfounded woman. “Am I clear? Take. Care. Of. Him.”
Visgali nodded. “Yes ma’am.”
“I’ll be back later. Lock up when you’re done here. I prepared your usual room.”
Holly was out the door before Mint could manage a response. He understood that she was busy running her business, but why did he need Visgali to look after him, he wondered. He cut a slice of pie with his spoon, the soft cracked crust giving way to a sugary mix of apples and creme. Ma said Holly and her dad were the better cooks in the family. The bite he took confirmed his mother’s statement. There was a richness in the pie he had never known before, and the way it lit up his tastebuds gave him chills. The pie was cold now, but he could imagine a fresh one with a dollop of vanilla ice cream dripping over it, melting, adding even more delightful sweetness.
Visgali was entranced now. Mint’s brief apprehension disappeared as he slowly savored the pie. Holly asked her to take care of her cousin with the intent of Visgali acting first and seizing Mint, but his personal pleasure infected her as well. The way his thoughts interpreted the stimuli he was receiving, the mixing of flavors not even present in the dish, and his recollection of his own previous samples of pie all commingled and projected outward for any demon to experience. She pictured herself dominating him, bonding with him, and finally, taking orders from him. A proper master was right in front of her. She could make him hers this instant. She set the spoon and her untouched dessert aside.
“Oh, not hungry?” He looked up. Mint was staring at her eyes again. They were like pools of black smoke over glass. They pulled him in. There was a recognition a spell was affecting him. He felt sluggish. His arms fell to his side. He felt warmness in his belly. A content, doofy smile crossed his face.
“I’m sorry,” the nightgaunt started. She wasn’t sure what to say past that. She never successfully snared a man with this charm spell before. It only affected single men, and her rotten luck made sure she never got the chance until now. “I need a master. I’m desperate. Please, help me.” She traced eight perfect, concentric circles on the table between them with her ooze.
“It’s fine… I guess.” Mint struggled to hold his mind together. A smothering blanket was pressing his brain. Head in hand, he lost what inhibitions grounded him to reality as the swirl of thoughts narrowed to a drain ending with his mouth. “You’re too cute to be sad. I think I have a crush on you Ms. Vanessa.” He failed to articulate much more than that as he became incoherent. “Fwah- I say, that you- you should, oh push, okay.”
Visgali blushed violet again. She did not expect Mint to be so amenable. She heard tell from her customers that humans were reluctant partners, and even dangerous in some cases. The charm was supposed to ease Mint into a suggestive state, not a gibbering mess. He continued speaking, but she couldn’t understand him. Instead, she concentrated on the empty space around the circles. There she saw the veil, an imperceptible cloth folded over and over, and with a gentle pull at a frayed edge she formed a rift no larger than her open palm.
She reached inside the gap and grasped at the substance of the Outer Realm. The impossible space did not yield at a touch, no, Visgali coaxed it into a concept, me, and accepted this new extension of herself. The stuff of the Outer Realm became like her ooze and crossed back with her as she used a small portion of the chaos-matter to reseal the tear.
“Wow,” Mint managed. He lifted his head and leaned forward. Visgali’s body lost its definition. He giggled. She was covered in mud, he rationalized. “Why’d you get so messy?”
“I- um, well, need to prepare myself to accept a master.”
“Oh,” he clumsily fussed his hair, “I don’t really like that word. Master. Can’t we do a nice city date or whatever it is folks do?” He gave a big sigh as he finished.
“I can’t wait. I’m starving. Why?” A pang of guilt stung at what a human could call a conscious, but she continued her work.
“It’s just…” Visgali was too busy focusing on her ritual to glean what Mint was thinking. “I didn’t like being, like, told what to do.”
“So you don’t want to help me?” Visgali slumped back. She couldn’t handle another rejection when she was this close to slake her thirst.
“Mmm, I want to help you? You’re wonderful. Scary, but beautiful. I love you. Just. Just. I don’t know.”
“I need this Mint.” She stood up and offered her hand. “Call it whatever you want. Take my hand.” He hesitated. “Please, Mint.” She could hear his heart beating a slow deliberate pace, see the moisture on his lips, and his recognition of scales being weighed behind the spell’s induced stupor.
“It’s a deal then,” he said as he took her arm. Her starved body seized him, grappled Mint’s entire arm and, with a powerful yank, she pulled him over the table and into her embrace. Unable to be shocked, Mint uttered a singular “Wow,” again.
“Thank you,” She whispered in his right ear as she held him close and brought the bulk of her gray matter over their heads.
Mint felt a long minute pass before he regained a sense of sobriety. His eyes were shut, but he felt a deep sense of peace.
“Don’t open your eyes,” Visgali’s disembodied voice pleaded. Unsure of himself, he tried moving. “Nggh, ah, Mint, ngh, stop, I-” Mint heeded her again.
“Are you-?” Mint’s voice wasn’t coming out of his mouth. He knew that much. His arm reached to his lips, or at least he tried.
“Miiiin-” Visgali’s voice was muffled. No, he was muffling her. She sounded like she was choking. Unable to bear his situation any longer, he peeked.
She didn’t want him to stop, she thought, as Mint’s new body teased her with every innocent motion. In his panic he srroked and suckled and carressed her body randomly sending her into a frenzy. She knew her master did not intend to tease as such, but she let him go on as long as he could before he opened his “eyes.”
The entire world’s color was brighter and sharper than he ever knew. The stigma that plagued his vision for years was gone, and now he could see clearly for the first time. The world’s definition was clearer and more distinct, and despite the low light seeping through the magic curtains, he was able to see the hard lines of geometry that he knew others experienced. He reached out his arm, and his whole body moved with it.
“Whoa!” He fell over, or maybe he did, Mint thought. He was looking up at a completely exposed Visgali. She was human in shape, with almost all the bits and naughty parts he expected to see, but the color of her skin, the bluish gray hue that he followed up her slender, toned legs, past her lovely, swaying hips, along her flat, healthy stomach absent of a belly button, over a pair of modest, pert breasts with buds like violet cherries and darker purple areola, and finally he saw her face; a sweat soaked expression of deviant glee masked with just a hint embarrassed concern that alarmed him in more than one way.
“Are you okay?” She said as she embraced him once again. Her hands moved through the ooze that was now his body. The sensation sent a shock through his being.
As she touched him, he saw his thoughts commingle between their contact. She showed him her home, an impossible place gouged into the Outer Realms, a sort of nest she called the Fourth Gate. Flashes of loneliness intermixed with despondency followed for an interminable period of time until she saw a rift to the material world. She watched as the humans warred with monster, the rise of the new Demon Lord and her Change, the armistice, the lives moving and living just beyond this little peephole. Her longing became unbearable. The being known as Visgali crafted a body for her to inhabit, and an armor made from her home to defend herself. No, us, an alien thought pressed into the recollection. She threw herself into this world just to escape heedless of the cost.
He watched now as his human form was overtaken by Visgali’s armor. He was changed as well. Visgali poured an immense amount of power into Mint, enough to untether his body from the material world. The eight circles she drew repulsed the clamoring laws of the natural world while reshaping him. He was still himself, she showed, as he walked through years of his life in seconds, but the starving nightgaunt needed to sate herself.
“I fed on you once,” she whispered as she brought Mint over her body again. He was aware of the tendrils he could move, and could shape the wings that plumed from her back. “When you woke up, I took just a peck. You really do have such an innocent flavor.” She recalled his taste and passed it along. Mint’s essence was textured like cotton balls stuffed in his mouth, but its taste reminded him of venison fresh off the fire.
“Hang on, let’s get to the room.” Using her magic, she turned the lock on the inn door. “I’ll show you how to turn back into your human shape.”
Mint was in a daze. He wasn’t even in Clemens for a day and he was turned into an otherworldly blob worn by a demonness like a shawl. The blazing warmth of Visgali’s body kept him at ease as she navigated up the steps, while he contemplated his situation. He imagined scratching the top of his head like he always did. It was a habit from when he was a kid. It took a second for him to realize Visgali stopped and was panting.
She was flush, and he picked up a singular feeling passing between the two: an intense lust. He realized he was unconsciously stroking the nightgaunt’s ear and massaging her scalp with two of his oozing tendrils.
“Mint, I- I needed that,” she offered with an alluring smile. She caressed her own body, and Mint’s as well. Her touch was corrosive. He melted as she rubbed her own shoulders, then worked her way down to her thighs. His loose body chased after her, entwinning with her exploring hands, guiding her as though she were touching him as well. She pushed through the door and collapsed on her familiar mattress. She was excited to show Mint all she could do for him. No more pity drinking or bothering Holly, Visgali was in control. She succeeded.
“It’s your first time sober in this bed,” Mint repeated aloud Visgali’s inner monologue.
Shame bubbled up her face. She was on the verge of tears. Emotions she tried to bury under all the bluster burst forth. “I was so lonely- and Holly wouldn’t want to see me normally so I- I…”
“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that.” He held the nightgaunt with a firm hug. “Cousin Holly set us up, yeah? I was only jokin’. You should relax. I can tell you’re tired.” Gray tears stained her long face. He had no experience comforting a monster, let alone another person. He did recall one particular event. He twisted his ankle between a rock when he was eleven. The pain was excruciating. Yet, his mother held him close and offered help as the town’s doctor applied painkilling herbal remedies. Mint did not have an herbal remedy, but he silently kept the nightgaunt woman close as she emptied herself over the course of a few minutes..
“I’m better,” she said as she wrapped her arms around them both. “Here, let me give you a hand or two.”
Mint was back in his old body before he realized it, although he was stark naked and fully erect in Visgali’s arms. “Oh. I get it. It was-” Visgali stifled his troublesome mouth with a kiss. She filled herself with his essence as he kissed her back, both awkwardly mouthing what they thought a lover’s kiss should be, and falling onto the bed together. She was ecstatic as he explored her upper body with his human hands, the relative cold of his body sending electric thrills down her skin.
She conjured a little gray matter and broke their kiss. “I will repay your kindness, Master.” Before Mint could protest, she enveloped his member in a sloppy, oozing handjob. He gasped as the ooze offered tightness and resistance while Visgali stimulated the head and shaft. She alternated her attention, moving up before jamming down his length again and again. As he lost focus on the rest of his body and his arms split back into tendrils.
Visgali directed his affections with gentle mental nudging. The time she spent watching the material world would not go to waste, she affirmed in the forefront of Mint’s mind. Wrap around her hair like a ponytail then bind her other arm behind her back. She guided him as he hesitantly brought her closer to a peak. She reveled in the strength Mint tested her with. Clumsy as he was, she never knew having someone else do the pulling could feel ten times better. Visgali groaned as she climaxed. The pleasure of her master tweaking her virgin body sent them both over the edge at the same time.
“Whoa, I, that was amazing.” He said sinking into the straw mattress. He was struggling to speak as his breath tried to catch up to the rest of him. “You were, and I was, whew,”
Visgali was asleep, he realized. Through touch, he learned she had expended everything she had, magic and stamina, getting to this point. He nuzzled up next to her with the smell of fresh greens still in her hair despite the transformations and magic. He wanted to escape the dreadful oppression of his family, the cynical pride they held as true humans, and that the world beyond the village was tainted and evil. He didn’t expect to be proven right so quickly. There were lots of good monsters, and the apple pie was better than anything his old hag ever made.