Thank you for the lovely letter last week, though you made this poor girl feel badly about herself. Surely you can make a few concessions for a lilim in love?
I jest, trust makes or breaks a relationship doesn’t it?
Yes, I am a daughter of the Demon Lord and my realm is made for monsters, but I also stand by my claim that you are welcome here regardless. I’m curious about your condition however, would you share more of your story? Perhaps I have the means to provide you with a cure to bring you full citizenship.
Your fruit orchard idea is something I want to allow, but I will require more details as to what variety of apple or peach or otherwise you desire to plant as well as the resources you will require to get started, intended use of the land, and trading plan. The payment of the costs of your business we will sort out at a later date.
I’m aware your only viable trading partner will be my realm, so be aware that the document bundled with this letter will allow you or a trustee to trade goods, currency, and services anywhere in my realm so long as the paper is presented and on their person. In light of your condition, Malida has agreed to be your trustee and has already signed the paper, you should do the same and arrange a schedule with her to accommodate any trading you might do. Regardless of what you arrange, she will be visiting twice a week from now on to drop off and pick up any mail we will send each other. But if you have something ready and can send it along sooner when you meet her for trading, I certainly don’t mind receiving it.
I hope that this will help you get started on your new life here and that we have a very friendly and fruitful relationship.
I read over the first letter I’ve received from that lilim in two weeks with some reluctance (the little curvy heart drawn at the last sentence makes me regret looking at all). If Malida wasn’t watching me like a hawk, I would’ve probably put this off until later in the day or maybe even for a week. It figures that the employee wants to keep her boss happy so I have to take one, or rather a bunch, on the chin for the team (for the rest of my life [whatever team that is]).
“Boss is almost alllll business today. That disappoint ya any?” And here we go. My closest (and only) unwanted confidant, ladies and gentlemen! I’ve only spoken with her twice including this time!
“No.” It really doesn’t. I still don’t believe she’s courting me. The letter this time is really no different than those poems, it’s just like those flowers, flirting in a different tone plus a ‘gift’ sent to draw me closer to her.
“Yew should be more friendly-like with her. Boss could use some real contact up there just like yew.”
She makes a point that I must ask more about.
For better or for worse, Malida is starting to look like the closest person I have to a friend out here. At the very least, I appreciate her keeping me focused when I have to think about her boss, though some paranoid part of me is starting to wonder if she’ll try to manipulate me further in the future, like with her days off in my first proper response to Palamina.
“And you think that because…?”
“I’ve watched yew live in a cave completely alone for two weeks and I read them reports sayin’ ya got chased here by them choir boys for three. I’ve been Lady Palamina’s messenger for ten years now and nobody writes her nothin’. None a’ us can think o’ her as any more than the big boss and her family just don’t seem to give a darn.”
“… … Hm.” Well that’s actually pretty terrible. I’ve always been under the impression that even if the monsters weren’t totally united, that the core of it all, the Demon Lord and her family, were close. I mean, they’re trying to take over the world. Though if I heard right from that wight I was a ‘guest’ of two years ago, lilims just go inactive after finding husbands or something to that effect.
Aaaand I’m starting to go off on a tangent again.
Whoops, sorry brain. Okay, so maybe if I want to keep Palamina stable, I should be feeding her crumbs of my life to appease her curiosity. But I also want to deter her from pursuing me.
Then how about taking the same tone I did before and thinly and/or openly insulting her?
That seems really temporary.
Well maybe she’ll settle for a regular routine or something.
She’s a lilim.
Um, um… Uhh… I’ll think of something later. Bye!
Get back here, brain! Ugh. Lost it. My mind’s drawing a blank here.
“Malida,” I call out to the harpy who’s reading her boss’ letter while wearing a smirk. Her head immediately swings to my direction, never losing that infuriating expression of amusement.
“Can you help me edit again?”
I’ll put the trading document to good use.
By the way, I’m not completely unable to enter demon realms, even done it a few times. Its just that I don’t want to stay very long in a place where at the very least my toes are constantly losing feeling and at the very worst I have a splitting headache. I suppose the worst that can happen here is you approaching me though, isn’t it? I need to trade and stuff though, so I’ll visitDerutcurtssometime.
I drew up some plans for my use of the land and tied them up with the letter along with anything I can remember about the Gunecies orchard. But since here is colder, the varieties I’ll grow will change from the ones listed.
So,how are you?
I look over the letter again with some disbelief. He’s responding again and so quickly. However, it’s short, it doesn’t seem very well thought out, and even insults me near the start. Still, could this be the start of something regular? Perhaps I should take a more serious tone to all my letters. Maybe he DOES share my values, wouldn’t that be something? His plans I’ll have a look at later, though I imagine he gave that much more effort than the letter. Much as I’d like to respond however, my realm is still in disorder. I’ll have to settle for planning out my next letter until everything is solved and holding steady. But… I’ll just have one more look. Just to see if I can collect more information.
Another read reduces my excitement quite a bit. My wings just fold inward and ‘deflate,’ for lack of a better word, upon realizing that the ‘visit’ and ‘how are you’ parts look tacked on and hurried. The ink is smudged a bit, the handwriting is rushed, and the former sentence is squeezing together tighter and tighter all the way to the edge of the paper. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting through to him more than I thought I was? Or perhaps the courtesy was but a mere afterthought of his. The idea that he continues to have little interest in me dampens my mood, but maybe it’s a lesson that I should be calmer in my dealings with him (and for that matter, calmer in general if I hope to get everything done). Yet I can’t help but decide to take a few minutes to find Gunecies.
My hand reaches for the pot next to my desk, several rolled up maps stick out of it, each with a different coloured backside denoting it’s purpose. I grab the red roads map and unfurl it across my desk, dropping cube paperweights at the corners. Let’s see, Gunecies, Gunecies… Ah, here it is. A little town made of more farmland than housing, close to the western coast, maybe two months and a half away from Derutcurts by foot (human feet and physical limitations anyway).
I’d circled the town’s dot on the map after hearing of its turning into a demon realm, but quickly crossed it out upon receiving the news of its ‘cleansing’ but a day later. It pays to know when and where the Church is advancing. A couple of tiny notes I made below the town’s name remind me that it wasn’t occupied or rebuilt after it’s destruction. Maybe I can take advantage of that place, find something that will ensure this letter writing of ours doesn’t end up becoming a business relationship. The results will be at least three to four months away though, maybe longer depending on how thoroughly the town is searched. So how should I keep his attention? Perhaps provoking him will get me a better idea of how he thinks. And since he’s a fruit farmer from the west, maybe if I…
I’m feeling very good today, thank you, especially after looking at your well done proposal. You have experience in your field and I very much love that.
I officially grant you my full approval of your fruit orchard and plans for the land. My realm has never had much experience with human produce since they are seen as novelties, and you’ve already set up in a place I had originally planned to be farmland, so your presence is actually quite convenient. It is also admirable that you are proposing to solve the initial seeds and stock problem by hunting around the old human settlements rather than, as you put it, ‘taking advantage of a non-existent relationship with a well-connected seductress (which I beseech you to believe truly does exist).’ You mentioned being concerned that monsters may be living amongst the ruins, but I can safely say that those worries are unfounded.
I’ve taken a census every year accounting for every habitat, natural or unnatural, within two hundred kilometers of Derutcurts and I can assure you that nobody lives in any of the old villages and towns. Very rarely, one of my people may venture out to explore them, but that should be the extent of the ruins’ occupation. My suggestion is that if you haven’t already, you should visit some of the villages closest to you and introduce yourself, for it would be well worth having help and friends to open your orchard. But no flirting, you already have me.
By the way, concerning your choice of fruit, you didn’t list tomatoes anywhere. Surely with all your expectations of apples, peaches, and other items, you should give consideration to what I’ve read is a fruit very commonly added to salads for humans?
“Ha ha, ha ha ha.” A creaking almost halting laughter slips from my mouth involuntarily as I finish reading. Way back when I ran the old orchard, I got into an argument every year with several other ‘regular’ farmers about paying me to grow a few acres of vegetables for them. In the first year, I had refused every offer they made despite them constantly lowering their demands, and the final straw was them attempting to argue for tomatoes being a fruit. ‘If it makes you more comfortable, tomatoes are a fruit too,’ they said. Apparently my rage was so comical to them that they backed down for a basket of peaches. It became something between a private joke and serious issue that happened for one week every year between all of us.
“What’s so funny?” Malida has no damn clue.
“Tomatoes are not a fruit.” Yep. There it is. That simmering rage from before that I embrace like an old friend. It makes this foreign land feel a little more homey somehow. Thanks Palamina. Thanks a bunch.
“What ain’t what now?”
Malida hops back several steps in surprise as I suddenly whip around with a deranged smile and a blurred curse pouring from my mouth like a waterfall, “Tomatoesarenotfruitandneverwillbe!”
Tomatoes are not fruit and never will be. You don’t have fruit stuffed into a sandwich, you don’t pluck a tomato from a tree to casually eat, you don’t get fed cherry tomatoes instead of grapes by a personal servant if you’re an imperious warlord or queen or lilim while reclining…
And on and on and on about situations where tomatoes are inappropriate. He’s quite passionate about this and lacking coherent thought when the subject is broached, just the reaction I was looking for. With him in this state, I might be able to get him to reveal something by accident if he doesn’t calm himself before writing. At the same time, I want to tease him some more about tomatoes, I want to see which one of us gives up first or if he catches on to my plan. Now where is that book on fruits and vegetables? My knowledge of tomatoes is woefully inadequate right now.
Tomatoes have traits that make them closer to fruit than vegetables. A fleshy exterior, seeds within, forming from a pollinated flower, the possibility of multiple colours…
… and I’m expecting a report on your orchard at the end of every month from now on. I need to know what resources this endeavour is costing you and my realm. For that matter, are you getting enough supplies? Any trouble trading? Please let me know and I can help settle things for you.
When someone grows a vegetable garden, what gets planted there? Carrots, turnips, potatoes, and TOMATOES. You never see them in a fruit orchard, never in a fruit bowl, never…
… Supplies are fine. Trade is fine. Got new furniture, water barrels, and built a smoke house. Villagers friendly enough, keep asking if I’m single or offering to trade unwelcome ‘services.’ Also willing to trade stuff for any fish, herbs, or fruit I find around and about, very helpful.
In some of the southern kingdoms, tomatoes are considered fruits there…
… You’re not just being hostile recently because I mentioned tomatoes are you? Are you just venting on your situation? Is it because I’m a lilim? I’ve heard you get along fabulously with Malida however, but she’s married.
No, finally found quiet. Price to pay was writing letters to you. You don’t try anything on me. It’s fine here. But tomatoes were designated fruit in those FEW places for TAX REASONS. Just because a few dukes or kings charge more on fruits than vegetables on exports doesn’t mean everyone agrees. Most people still consider the tomato a vegetable and not a fruit even in…
He’s not even breaking paragraphs anymore and we’ve only sent a couple of responses each. I’m not even collecting that much more information other than he still feels indifferent about my affections… I think. It’s hard to tell in the choppy wording, rushed handwriting, and ink blots. Even though it’s rather amusing to see him this way, I should stop now before he loses his mind to tomatoes instead of me.
… Huh, I feel… uncomfortable for some reason. What is this?
“Hyeh. Wow, yew can not just let that go, can ya?” Malida leans against the cave wall, peering over my shoulder at the in-progress orchard report that she isn’t talking about. She’s supposedly here to drop off a list of stuff I asked her to trade for and pick up her kids, but I could swear she’s just interested in watching me for some reason. Though generally, Palamina’s messenger hangs around a lot, tells me news, acts as a sort of ward against any single monsters that try to approach me (really should get a door for this cave [but then I couldn’t write at the mouth of it so freely]), edits my letters, and sometimes annoys the daylights out of me.
She’s making that strange laugh-breath of her’s… Did she read the letter I sent with her yesterday?
Yes brain, yes, this looks ridiculous to anyone else, but I am NOT planting tomatoes here. That lilim keeps arguing for them and they won’t even grow in these conditions. It’s way too cold, even in the spring and I imagine the summer too.
Then why am I not just writing that fact to Palamina to end this? I never even wrote about planting them, she did in the first place and then I went berserk because I thought it’d make here feel more like home (which it kinda did [it was nice doing something familiar]). I’m just as offended as me, but since Malida is laughing, she must know something I don’t.
I nearly curse Malida aloud, but halt myself… I breathe in. I breathe out.
As I slump from my exaggerated breathing, much to Malida’s continued amusement (“Hyeh”), calm somewhat settles over me, but now my enjoyable anger has been replaced by maddening annoyance and curiosity. Slapping the quill on the table above a half complete report for the month, I twist in my chair to face the harpy messenger hovering above my shoulder and nearly growl at her, “Then what’s your take on this?”
“Yer being baited and takin’ it hook, line, and sinker. Read yer mail and the boss’ ever since yew yelled at me ’bout tomatoes. My kids even see yer bein’ tricked into talkin’ ’bout more than just tomatoes and real stupidly too.” I knew that already. I’m not even writing anything that reveals much about me really, just venting. I’m more curious about what Malida said last, enough to cock an eyebrow.
“You read these to your kids?”
Malida scoffs and grins in a way that makes me think she’s trying to hold back a ‘Hyeh,’ but instead she says, “Naw, I just make stories ’bout ’em. Great material when I’m tuckin’ in my youngest chicks. Anyway, the boss has been proddin’ and pokin’ ya like a kid at a farm- animal farm I mean- so how ’bout ya prod and poke Lady Palamina right back? Ain’t everyday someone gots a lilim toleratin’ their backtalk.”
Huh. Why didn’t I think of that? I DO have a lot of questions that I would like answered, but forgot to ask between all the exploring, setting up the orchard, babysitting Malida’s kids (all four of them) when she and her husband (Tom’s a nice guy) traded for me, and conducting trade by myself.
Brain, I do believe I’ve completely lost interest and motivation in completing this report.
Gonna write a letter?
Yep. Am I thinking what I’m thinking?
Sure. Let’s see just how much she ‘loves’ me.
And Vanna winds up, twisting her waist and bracing her legs just so… Here’s the pitch! And the iron and paper SLAPS straight into my waiting palm, raised just beside my slightly surprised face.
I wasn’t expecting a report today. It’s too soon for Nadine’s team to have finished the mountain fort in the western pass and the younger yeti immigrants were coupled with several of my ex-slaves yesterday.
The iron weight falls onto my desk, then the address paper, and as I unfurl the report, the corners of my mouth start rising as I instantly recognize the handwriting.
Forget the tomatoes. Those vegetables will not grow because it’s too cold here during any point of the year. So that aside, let’s move on.
In a previous letter, you wrote that trust makes or breaks a relationship.
I don’t trust you.
You constantly claim to love me, but I have every reason to doubt that what with the whole ‘you being a lilim.’ I’m fine with being a novelty in a demonic realm, a quiet life is what I want. What I cannot accept is you constantly trying to turn me into a ‘lover.’ You go so far as to try and seduce me with letters and cover up your lilim-ness to try and get me to drop my guard, but you also poke and prod at me like I’m a caged bird that refuses to sing.
In case you didn’t get it the first time, I don’t trust you. If you insist on continuing this charade, try and convince me it isn’t one.
HOW do you love me? Our first meeting was all panic and blood.
WHY do you love me? Our responses to each other have been more business and less any other kind of relationship.
I read it once. Then twice. My smile was long gone after the third paragraph, around the time I realized that any control I had over him is lost. It took my fourth reading to finally accept the notion.
Just like after our first meeting, I step out onto the balcony to try to calm myself by staring out over my city, my field of control. One failure doesn’t stop me from being in charge. But this really has nothing to do with my rule does it? All that’s happened is that I’ve been pushed, no, shoved, so hard I’ve fallen into a corner while trying to SEDUCE someone of all things. My body is shaking, my face burns with humiliation, and my legs are being robbed of strength. No one must see me this way. I have to duck (and stumble of all things) back into my chambers, flopping gracelessly onto my bed. My hair that has fallen around my face has even lost it’s magical pink luster and turned white to further my shame. I can no longer move.
How do I respond? How CAN I respond? Answering John’s questions is an unacceptable defeat in my eyes. He will gain domination over me, knowing more about me than I know about him. But I cannot just refuse to answer him. How many books on love could possibly be wrong if all of them state that ‘trust is important to a relationship’ in one way or another? I can’t even lie to him, and if I tell him the truth, won’t he reject me outright? Our letter writing would be completely reduced to cold business and hard facts, no arguments about tomatoes, no thinly veiled insults or flirting. Just another report waiting to be handled in a straight and orderly manner like everything else in my city. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want to write to businesses and leaders, I just want to write and be written to by other PEOPLE.
I laugh into my sheets breathlessly. Those twinges of discomfort in my chest, I know why I have them now. Maybe it’s love, maybe it isn’t, but what I want isn’t another slave I’ll just release later. I want more letters, I want more communication that isn’t a request for supplies or progress updates. I just want to talk, that’s all.