In my time on the run, I’ve heard people say that ‘the third time is the charm.’ Well, I guess they’re right if the word ‘time’ became ‘day’ and ‘charm’ turned into ‘best’ … And technically its the fourth day, but it’s the third sunrise to me and the fourth moonrise later. Even got two sets of scratches in the cave to keep track.
Anyway! I was delighted to find a minimally corrupted river full of fish and fresh water around high noon. Only took an hour and a half of wandering after spending a day in the cave locked in fear of bleeding out my eyes again after sending my response to that fancy letter. Also! Found a broken steel plate and some flint rocks by the river, so I can almost make myself a comfy fire. Brain, remember to find wood later.
‘Kay. But I’m going to have to eat the rest of that fruit later for today then.
Blech. I’d rather go hungry, but fine. Also, the harpy who ambushed me turned out to be one of her messengers and didn’t try to pounce on me at all today. Or ever actually. Today is a good day!
And there’s a letter in front of the cave!
And now it’s just a day.
… Aren’t I going to open it?
… … Sure, why not.
Thy body suffered, so too did my heart,
In good health and spirit we should both be;
Do not label me as some craven tart,
Thy form a frail babe, I do not see;
We met afore with no ill intention,
Yet left with wounds greatly needing mending;
Afar, thy flesh received my attention,
Afar, my heart healed by thy sending;
A curse thou wrote, I rejoiced as thou breathed,
Yet it did not still my worry for thee;
Take my offer, my love, angry to eased,
Please write back quickly, listen to my plea;
I, a maiden in pink, wait for thy words,
My heart waits to be aflutter like birds.
What did I just read?
… I want to say… Limerick?
Maybe it would be a good idea to not alienate the regional leader who is friendly to me.
But on the other hand, she wants to get in my pants which would make my head explode like a dropped melon if that first meeting was any clue.
Fair point. But haven’t I only been able to fully trust myself for the past several years? When have I led myself astray?
Many times. Like telling myself to follow a werewolf into her territory to hide from the Church. Or drinking the discarded bottle of wine which turned out to be slime jelly. And now we’re dealing with a lilim or succubus that’s being passive. If I don’t do anything, this place stays peaceful. Ignore.
Seventh day, eighth night. Maybe I can try to break my record being outside Church cells or monster beds at this rate. Of course, to do so, I would need to spend as little time as possible in that dark and thick forest to the west. Sure, I need wood, but I also need to not be captured by arachne or werewolves or whomever else is lurking there. Yes, that first letter promised protection, but I’m betting it doesn’t mean squat. I mean, what monster cares what circumstances a guy is in aside from ‘already bedding someone?’
What about ‘castrated?’
I wouldn’t know. Never met a guy who’s been put to the sword that way. In any case, today’s activity is boredom, brought to me by cowardice. Let’s evaluate the land for the sixtieth (I think) time on foot while not straying very far from the plateau.
At a walking pace, it’s a half hour east to the river where I catch my meals and bath (after walking another twenty minutes downstream to get to a completely uncorrupted spot). There’s a little corruption in the water, but there’s zero sign of anyone living nearby. It probably runs through one of the villages I can just barely see in the northern distance, maybe more.
I don’t know exactly how far, but that western forest is perfectly visible from anywhere on the plateau. And probably full of arachnes or werewolves or otherwise which makes me REALLY not want to be anywhere near it. But I have to try… Later… Tomorrow. Some other time.
To the south, verdant plains that quickly turn rocky with nowhere to hide from Church pursuers. The less I have to face this direction the less I have to remember the three weeks after my last breakout.
As for the plateau itself, lots of tall rocks of unnatural shapes arranged in haphazard formations that piss me off more than anything else. At least the overly smooth and clearly-carved-out cave is on the northern edge and out of the way. Though that hardly makes up for the near complete lack of room on the plateau to construct anything or do stuff aside from play hide-and-go-seek by myself or set fire to the entire place. I would do the latter immediately if brushfires were hot enough to get rid of the damn rocks. The soil of this plateau is wasted in its current state. Plus, if I had the guts to go foraging in the forest, I could start-
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, sure, why not.
Some distance away there’s a woman,
Whom some would detest and call villain.
You should be aware,
that judgement isn’t fair.
But it has left a hole in her heart that needs fillin’.
Okay, now that’s a limerick. Also, send a response, that’s my suggestion. Just like yesterday, and the day before, and every day before that.
She’s. A. Lilim or succubus!
A lilim or succubus that hasn’t just decided to blast this place with her magic or come back. I’ll think it again, it is in my best interests to keep her happy and-
Now see he-
Let me finish. She has been writing poetry and fancy letters for a week now. She is COURTING me.
That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever thought. Ignored.
Dragging small fallen trees to the plateau all week!
Gonna build me a granary or meat drying place!
With no tools but rocks! It’s a challenge that’ll fill the hours! Hey, look at that smoke in the distance!
Ugh, is she using smoke signals now?
Seems a bit far off for that. Oh, THERE’S today’s delivery, that bundle of flowers wrapped in a letter at the usual spot in front of the cave.
Damnit. She isn’t bored yet?
Do I want her to be bored?
Fair point. But these flowers means this is escalating.
May these first blooms of the season find you well.
Not a lot of content this time on so big a paper. Ig-
You know she’s courting me, right? I mean, sure I’m going to get a headache from just holding these demonic things, but there’s perfume on the card and-
Brain, I refuse to accept that a lilim or succubus is genuinely-
“Ya know the big boss is courtin’ ya, right?”
My thoughts all go poof at the surprise speaking next to me. It’s that harpy again, the one I always spot and/or ignore somewhere around the plateau before I read the day’s letter. She hasn’t invaded my personal space like this since the first delivery though which makes me backpedal a few steps in fright.
“Guess yew don’t gots a return letter today neither. Muh name’s Malida, yew seen me ’round before. Been havin’ to bum ’round here too much the past coupla weeks. S’bout time we introduced ourselves, don’t ya think?”
She puts on a lazy smile and extends a wing towards me for a hand-to-talon-shake, but I can’t help but stand stock still in surprise and caution. I know she’s been the delivery person for that demon’s daily letter every time, but she’s never spoken to me before. Malida was it? Malida’s always really stood out against the background here. Sometimes spotted her dark brown and blue feathered, pink-tabard wearing self hovering around, kicking rocks, and once even napping when I returned. But I’ve come back to that letter, to the cave, any time between the afternoon to the evening. Does she have orders not to leave until I wave a sharpened stick in her direction or duck into the cave every time?
“Ain’t ya gonna say or do somethin’ asides from stare at me like that?” Her smile drops.
Brain, maybe I should just ask?
She’ll say what she wants to say soon enough, grab a branch or something not suspiciously so I can defend myself just in case.
What part of snapping a branch off a dead tree trunk or grabbing one off the ground as I keep my eyes on her is ‘not suspicious?’
And while I’m arguing, Malida has lowered her wing and narrowed her eyes in annoyance, “Fine ya ornery little tease, listen up.”
She’s walking a circle around me, keep my eyes on her.
I will, brain, I’ll palm a flint or stick from the fire if I can later too.
“Lady Palamina wants yew somethin’ fierce. I read all them letters she sent ya, took ’em back after ya dropped ’em and keepin’ ’em safe at my place for when ya want ’em. Heck, I’ve even got a bunch more that she rejected and hucked out for disposal. Hyeh. Good laugh, some o’ those.”
That lazy drawl of hers really makes it hard to pay attention, brain.
And the ass tightening fear of her assaulting me at any time must not be helping, I should make some kind of movement if I want that sharp object in hand anytime soon.
“Now, I ain’t here to drag ya to her or some such.”
Actually, why HASN’T she tried to assault me yet?
“Got strict orders to leave ya alone and only married folks are allowed to carry anythin’ to ya… Even though it’s been me every time so far- Which is part of what I came to talk to yew about.”
Oh. Happy coincidence to get an answer as I think the question. Wait, why?
My single word question gets Malida to crack a grin and stop circling, giving the air in front of me a quick playful swipe with one talon before joking, “Hyeh. Well I’ll be, we’re on speakin’ terms now.” That cheery look slips into a grave expression almost immediately though, oddly compelling me to pay more attention to her words.
“Look, the boss is slippin’ and its hurtin’ all of us livin’ here. Lady Palamina’s someone who’ll claim a hunnert percent success as a ruler and as a lover, and we were just fine with that, ‘cept that YEW made it ninedy-nine.”
Whoa, wait, what?
“Ever since the big boss got back from that trip o’ her’s to here, all us messengers and catchers knew somethin’ was up. Gone from rose pink to bone white between her outgoin’ and incomin’ and not just her face neither.”
“White? Like the tail and wings and hair?” I can’t help but interrupt Malida’s rambling explanation after so long wondering about whether my ‘admirer’ is a lilim or a succubus for two weeks.
“Yeah, Lady Palamina’s a lilim, couldn’t ya tell before yer first little bump and hump with her? Come to think of it, how’d yew avoid-”
“No, no, we didn’t even have sex, I was-”
“Yer a dang liar for-!”
“My head swells up around demonic energy, my sk-”
“Of course yer head swells up! Yew sayin’ that yew built some kinda wall in front of the cave or some suc-”
“No, my head with the BRAIN part fills up with blood, not my dick!”
“Ooooooohhhhh… Still sounds like a lie. Ah, ferget it, come on. Follow me a second.”
As soon as the harpy turns her back, I manage to snatch a loose rock sitting at the mouth of the cave before following, folding my hands behind my back. The act gives me a bit of an ill feeling, like I’m betraying someone. It really doesn’t feel like she wants to harm me, plus hearing a voice besides my own is fantastic after so long being alone even if I don’t want to talk about what we’re talking about. Hm, maybe I am going crazy and that’s why I read those letters every day… … Eh, I’ll bring the rock anyway. Better safe than involuntarily pumped of bodily fluids.
Malida leads me to the edge of the plateau, stopping and beckoning me over. She puts a wing against my back as I get close, scaring my posture straight. But her only other move is to point out the smoke I noticed earlier.
“See that, just past that there wheat field? That’s one of the boss’ civil projects gone wrong. When I was flyin’ over, the fire was startin’ to spread, might hit the harvest there. Stuff like this has been happenin’ a lot recently. That’s never. EVER. Been the case before with her at the helm and all us folks that know ’bout those letters are keen to rip yew a new one if we didn’t know that’d just make things worse.”
Our heads swivel to face each other at the same time, my cringe to her sad and tired face. Her concern for losing a harvest is something I can sympathize with, losing even a tenth can spell death whether by taxes or hunger in human lands. I guess it might be the same in demon realms? But her point isn’t very clear yet, so I remain silent, waiting for her to speak again.
“First few days, writin’ and readin’ took up so much of her time that it was all the catcher, don’t ask, saw her doin’ in her chambers. Was nice not havin’ her pokin’ her pretty little nose every which way while us workin’ folk went ’bout our business. ‘Cept now she’s tryin’ to manage the land and yew both.”
“What’s wrong with both?”
That’s a stupid question, I only need glance away for a moment to see FIRE.
Sorry, couldn’t help it. Reflexive question since I’ve read that lilims are supposed to be all powerful and omnipotent-ish.
“It’s bad because she’s not payin’ her full attention on either and ain’t admittin’ her mistakes. She’s got a whole mess o’ lieutenants to ‘rely’ on but she still does all the heavy liftin’, so they can’t keep up with her and just follow step-by-step instructions that ain’t workin’ no more. It’s all yer damn fault for not writin’ back, ya tease.”
I told me! I told me several times that ignoring her is a bad idea! This is bigger then a year and a half ago when those lizardmen laid siege to that cathedral holding me and ended up dragging the entire town into the fight.
Damnit, but what exactly is responding her going to do? It might just make her giddy and ignore her land entirely.
But that’s the beauty of it. If she ignores her land, the people are free to make their own plans that they can keep up with and fix things at their own pace; if she goes back to managing her land, everything goes back to normal for them which they can deal with too.
Ah, not bad, brain. But I may just end up staying here forever writing letters to her.
And the alternative is to be stranded outside of her promise of safety with the Church and monsters chasing me anew.
“So yer gonna help me fix the boss’ mood.”
Malida’s glaring face, flat tone and… order don’t leave much room for interpretation. She’s already admitted that she can’t do anything to me, but I have no intention of being a jerk and making her madder.
“Oh, oh sorry, I was just thinking. Can you help me figure out what to write?”
As soon as those words dropped out of my mouth, Malida hopped and spun her body so fast to face me that I thought she was going to fly away. Instead she gives a tired smile and slaps me several times on the shoulder with a balled up talon, proclaiming, “Damn straight I will! Maybe I can get some real shut eye after this. Those mistakes I was talkin’ ’bout earlier? That includes her managin’ my days off, she just keeps sendin’ me every time insteada someone else. My kids are gonna forget their momma’s face.”
Wow, how’d I miss those bags under her eyes?
“Well uh, alright then, thanks. Let’s just get back to the cave so I can get that quill and ink. Guess I can write on the back of today’s letter too.”
We walk back side by side and get started writing down something that should stabilize the situation here. Malida edits here and there to try and get her days off intact while I try to make the harpy’s wishes not so obvious. Guess we could call this ‘paying back the community’ for tolerating my (indirect) ‘bad influence’ on their ruler for so long, but I won’t waste the chance to tell her what’s on my mind either.
Let’s see… Fringe? Singe? Range? Mange? No, no, no, no. But surely there has to be something that rhymes with that damnable word, I need it for tomorrow’s letter. Maybe if I picked up some of my books on fruits, I could- CRACK! … This problem later.
My thoughts scatter to the winds from the sound of iron upon my floor. Again. I go from leaning against my bed’s headboard to flopping onto my raised knees in utter frustration, but I will myself to calm down. But this is the thirty-ninth in three days. Three days! Yes, they’re all dealt with quite quickly, but I nearly managed to think of something rhyming with orange this time! I’m sure of it! If only I wasn’t interrupted.
The exhausted sigh I give is only imagined, there’s no energy to spare to actually do so at this point. Introducing the agricultural and mechanical advances from the east should have been a simple affair, even after personally reworking them all to accommodate demonic realm produce and practices. But now everyone is doing something wrong and it falls to me to use my time to fix everything. Yet the solutions are so obvious to me, but all my lieutenants, these men and women of talent I handpicked to join me, can’t figure out or even work around my step-by-step orders and remarks. Following them without deviation shouldn’t even result in such failures.
But they can’t, so now I have to rise from my bed again and pick up this message, unroll it, drag myself to my desk and-
Wait. … Oh! OH! This scent on the paper, that potpourri of spices I rubbed on today’s letter. Oh my, am I finally getting his attention? Truly? Do I finally have an understanding of human romance? I have to sit down and open this now! Right now!
Stop skirting around all the crap that happened when we met. Admit you’re a lilim and that I was bleeding like I had knives in my eyes. If you’re hoping to get me to lick your feet by pretending you’re human, it’s not going to work.
I’m a little surprised you never tried to come out and try to capture me again, but I prefer it that way. If you couldn’t tell from the first time, demonic energy, especially yours, turns me into a bleeding mess. There’s no better way to explain it than that I’m ‘allergic’ to what all you monsters bathe in every day. So stay the hell away, but also keep the letters coming, but not as frequently or flowery. It’s nice to receive mail, but it would be even nicer to actually have a conversation with someone, even though you’re a lilim and its through paper and ink. Your messenger looks exhausted by the way, so if you’re a slave driver on top of a sex slave holder (since you’re a lilim), I’m just going to take my chances outside your lands.
To answer your questions from two weeks ago, my name is John Doe and I used to own a fruit orchard in the west before having to deal with a demon realm conversion, not turning into an incubus, being found by the Church, escaping the Church, and then going on the run for three years.
If I’m going to live here, I want to make my living doing what I remember. If you can assist in whatever way possible towards building an orchard on a plateau (the soil’s perfect for some of the hardier apples and maybe peaches), I would appreciate it. But don’t let me get in the way of your other duties, I saw a fire in your direction today and its still burning and growing as I write this.
Ha. Haha! My hands are shaking just from holding this, but from joy or anger I cannot tell. He wrote me a proper response, shared some of his personal information (though some of it is rather curious). My conquest is finally progressing. But he also criticized and offended me. My realm was in perfect shape a mere week ago! … Was. Some books I’ve read suggest that displays of power, proper ceremony, pomp, and neatness are alluring to some. Perhaps he is attracted to such things? The thought that he may share some of my values puts a little smile on my face, a bit more than is appropriate considering I want to break him to my will. But I haven’t been upholding those values recently, have I? A scowl forms before I plant myself at my desk and begin retrieving every report in the past week on the construction efforts.
I have my realm to put in order, starting with Malida getting four days off effective immediately. Gertrude and perhaps one more will have to pick up the slack once I have all these fixes done. There is a lot to do and more shame to wipe off.