Long Distance Seduction: Chapter 7


~~~

Lady Charlotte Dodd. Wight ruler of a modest estate in the north. Not all that far from Derutcurts, she visits for a weekend at the end of each month. We’ve never met personally of course. Request sealed, stamped with my insignia, and sent a week ago. Response received earlier today, I’ve yet to open it.

The Open Sky lizardmen tribe. Siege warfare experts occupying a forest in the southeast and were in constant battle with the Church-controlled city of Faceyorin. Were. They ended up slaughtered after cutting down too much of their forest for construction purposes. Not enough cover from the Church’s attack.

Father Oartinal of Church Intelligence. Married. Once to a centaur and again to a human. The two are aware of each other and on frosty terms. He is a member of a special team that actively seeks out tomes and lore held by long-lived monsters such as liches and dragons. Behind the scenes, Oartinal is the only person who sells copies of the information to anyone who can pay. Request sealed, stamped with my insignia, enclosed what I assume is half his regular payment in a separate container, and sent a week ago to his first wife. Second half to be sent out depending on the deal we will discuss. Response yet to be collected, not to be expected until the end of next month at the very least.

And that’s the last of the status reports on the research contacts.

A few sounds of fatigue slip between my lips as I strain and stretch my arms into the air, hearing some cracks and pops that aren’t at all satisfying. Besides these contact reports, I’ve reviewed all of my old research efforts this past week, and it annoys me just how little I managed to accomplish fifty years ago. Perhaps I was too caught up in managing my realm at the time, can’t even remember much of it.

Well, after I read this last pile of documents from my lieutenants, my realm can be left in their hands while I put my full attention on researching the exciting possibility of controlling or suppressing my aura. Now let’s see…


Collapsed walls? Malfunctioning or nonfunctional machinery?? Rock slides??? An argument that spiraled so far out of control that the Church tried to break through the west?!

Every report in this final stack bears nothing but increasingly bad news, and as I finish and slam each paper atop the other, they all scream at me one thing. My lieutenants must all be completely unable to- No. No, I have to calm down. Last time I thought to blame them for gross incompetence, it was my fault for giving them only half-done instructions and orders written by my half-focusing mind. … Damn. No matter how I deal with this, I’m not going to have time to do any research. It really IS like fifty years ago, how depressing.

I plow through the rest of the papers, force myself to finish and commit to memory each and every problem. When the last is slapped upon the slanted pile, threatening to topple it, I pay no mind. The only thought inside me as my hand slips from the top and flops onto my desk is, ‘I need a break.’ Something that is quickly followed by, ‘I should go see John,’ in a professional tone accompanied by what I imagine is a very unprofessional glimmer in my eyes.

John previously offered his assistance in researching my aura, and with this new, very irritating, and shameful situation that could very well decide my realm’s future about to occupy much of my time, I must accept. None of the scholars under my rule have been redirected to research my aura, just as with my first efforts. This is strictly a personal problem, and I’ll treat it as one as much as I can. The largest difference between my first attempts and now though is that I have someone I can entrust my burden to.

However, though we might call each other ‘friend,’ throwing this task upon John seems too much like taking advantage of our new relationship too soon. Is there anything I could give him in return for his time?

… Oh, yes. There is. The rest of the documents from Gunecies.

Garth Prablu’s methods for temporarily storing trees with a soaked ball of dirt and water in a bag, Helena Cotsk’s drawings on the proper storage of branches and half-grown plants over the winter, Morgan Kenif’s list of pros and cons of cutting seeds open, and all the rest. They’re highly specialized papers and a little difficult for me to completely understand even if I were to make full use of my library. John can make more sense of them, perhaps it is even his duty as a survivor of that town to preserve and maybe use these legacies. He hasn’t requested them, perhaps forgot about them like I did. Maybe he wants to forget them considering where they came from…
 
Regardless, Malida isn’t due to make her regular round trip for another day yet, and I need John’s help as soon as possible. However! Who else does he know that can fly, quickly reach his home, and safely make a delivery? With certain items, that person would be me. Oh ho ho.


Let’s see, just to be sure I have everything I sent for… One meat hook, sharp and clean. One hundred and ten feet of rope with a magical enhancement to it’s tensile strength that’s probably overkill. Finally, one 8” x 14” x 26” wicker box with holes near the top for handles and to hang it off of, plus a lid and a leather strap to keep it closed. Perfect!

Aside from all this, what el- Right, I better bring Lady Dodd’s materials if he accepts the job- Oh. Yes. I need to write a letter to explain myself.

~
Good evening, John. How are you?

I’m sorry to say that despite my excitement at commencing research into my aura that I have made almost no progress this first week. My lieu
~
 
I stop. A sudden thought just crossed my mind. Considering that I’ll be on site, the rope and hook will be a very reliable (if awkward) way of passing messages back and forth, and I have a perfectly valid excuse to be there. … Do I really need to tell myself that I need an excuse? Or one at all?

It doesn’t escape me that I’m only a step away from repeating my old behaviour. But our friendship is still so very new after months of… I don’t know what to call it. The last time I had a face to face conversation with someone who wasn’t family was maybe a century ago when my aura was weaker, but we still had to shout across thirty feet. And I can’t remember the last time I simply enjoyed the company of another in a non-sexual way before John.

Wait. What if… What if he gave all these new contacts, this new inspiration, to fill up my time? To keep me away from him?

Even after all our glorious idle chatter, my fears grow as much as my heart soars at the memory. A few days ago, I even tested his honesty with a simple thank you note. He responded back politely enough, but his casual compliment of Derutcurts isn’t enough for me. Maybe I still want to control him to an extent… My face grimaces briefly at the idea. I’d rather he be himself, unfettered and untouched.

However, I take courage in that having spoken with him once that said feat is perfectly possible to replicate. The only difference now is me making the first move.

Stepping outside, I raise two fingers to the sky, blasting a stream of pink sparks into the sky. They whip, turn, and twist above my tower’s tip, forming a left hand clutching a pointed spiral shell. My sparkling personal heraldry warns the city that I’m going to take one of my rare trips out; it should clear air traffic until my departure is confirmed. Fifteen minutes later, my collected items plus ink, paper, and quills trail behind me like a kite’s tail, all held aloft and glowing with demonic energy.

Time to go visit my friend.

~~~

And here I stand! Alone! Still alive and unmolested at the end of another day! Hurray!

“Eh. Not hurray. … Chores are done before the sun is setting completely. Guess that’s a hooray.”

Not hOOray, but hURray! And beware of the night and isolation within my cave! I must prepare to counter what crawls in the darkness!

“Sure, brain. I’ll just go ahead and prepare nothing. Just like all the other days, weeks, MONTHS I’ve been here. First few times, I was lazy and gave up quickly because I had no resources, but later, I felt secure and comfortable in a familiar place. I’ve slept peacefully for a long time, brain. Heck, even you take advantage of the peace because you need to rest up for each day’s barrage of inducing insanity. It’s time to shut u- Oh, who am I kidding? What’s your next move?”

Noting that you’re talking to yourself all the time these days.

“Like I wasn’t already for the past three and a half years. I’m just making sure you don’t confuse me when I’m thinking.”

Sure, sure, whatever I say, madman. I haven’t even told anyone else about me.

“No sense spoiling anyone’s good mood but mine.”

But then I won’t get a nice padded cell and become isolated for everyone’s safety.

“Not happening. I’m beating you on my own terms… Soon as I figure out how.”

Whatever. Now then… Previously, on ‘I’m an Idiot!’ John Doe, lab experiment turned caged exhibit, readily agreed to raise and protect the next generation of the bestial, depraved, and deadly beings known as… ‘MONSTERS!’

“Oh good, the ‘Hear ye! Hear ye! I am the royal herald,’ voice. Your gruesome creativity is about to rear it’s head again. By the way, that’s Malida’s and Tom’s kids you’re talking about there, brain. I haven’t seen them in months, and I’m hoping to make it up to them when they show up next week.”

His dire position born of sheer stupidity! Mere days after recovering from a near fatal encounter with the dread dictator, Palamina, John agreed to a clearly unfair proposition from the criminal couple, Malida the Manipulator and Thomas the Toy!

“I do it in exchange for them trading on my behalf in a place I can’t stay in for very long. Plus we like each other a lot. Jessica wants to learn how to take care of the trees, Cadence keeps dispensing hugs, and Candice and Malory think I’m a big-brother-uncle-godfather guy.”

And now John’s Mental Playhouse presents the latest production in ‘I’m an Idiot!’

“Gods, quit it already. It’s been a week. Just because you can’t control me when I’m not weakened doesn’t mean you have to be a petty little shit.”

Today’s show begins with John delicately pruning an apple tree, secure of his own safety, not jumping at every shadow, no longer fearing the forest when- THEWEREWOLVESARECOMINGOUTTOPLAY!

“What! No!”

The forest! The forest! Do I see the shadows moving about the edge? The howls in the distance?!

“NO! Don’t want to meet them again, no mor- wait, that’s just the bi-weekly races between the arachne and werewolves living there. They’re doing the perimeter run this time.”

Made me look! One step closer to becoming the crazy old man every civilization needs.

“Oh, fuck RIGHT off, brain!”

Never. I’m always watching. ALWAYS. WATCHING. One day, I’ll be tired enough to take over, at least for a while. And then I can finally strip myself of my feet with gardening shears. Almost managed it a week ago while I slept after visiting that lilim.

“And lucky I woke up just before you could.”

I’m just trying to keep me safe. Involuntarily confining myself is the best way to do it if I won’t WILLINGLY confine myself.

“Damnit, I really need a doctor.”

And yet I didn’t write for one when Malida came around nor do I have any intention of ever doing so. That first whimper I tried to make last week meant nothing didn’t it? Is friendship with monsters really worth torturing myself over?

“I have a new life here. I have new friends. I just need a way to shut you up, and my life’s goals are complete.”

Well if that’s the way I feel, all there is now is to remind me what’ll happen if I don’t listen to me. This cautionary tale is about a man being hit by a sedation spell of some sort, cast by a fellow wearing a black smock with a tiny metal box strapped over his heart, and waking up bound to a table.

“Well this sounds disturbingly familiar.”

Three hours later, after the man pisses himself while immobile, the fellow comes back with a bunch of people who are clothed the same. All of them with their tiny metal boxes. Do I know what was in those boxes?

“Oh good. You spout out how I must ‘prepare to counter what crawls in the darkness,’ and you decide I should have nightmares?”

Knives, knives, knives. The smallest and most delicate knives I had ever seen. Oh, and all of them had a couple of those thin little pointy tubes that glowed orange? Do I remember?

“… Damnit. It’s working. Outside. Now.”

Kept spots of me numb while they carved up my flesh. Told me later that they were making great strides in how the human body reacts to demonic energy. Never was sure how they were managing that.

“… Mmph. MMPH. … yeah, that was my late lunch I just kept down. Stop. Please.”

Rip and stitch, rip and stitch, rip and stitch, rip and-

“I lean against the side of my cave hunched up and with my hands folded on top of my stomach, feeling what used to be a snack slipping back into my gut and my mind starting to slip back in time. The partially broken down goop makes my throat far too hot, reminding me of when my throat was infected after one of those ‘living autopsy’ sessions. My scars start burning again, and the phantom pains try to force me to the ground, but I stand in defiance of brain’s efforts.”

Wow, I’m even narrating all of THAT. I SHOULD be sliced open again for research. But on mental illness instead of-

“Shut up, shut up, shut up! I’m not there anymore! I have shoes on! There’s grass under them! The sky is open to me! I am not being cut open on a table like a slab of- Meat hook?”

Yes! Now I’m getting it! My treatment was little more than a piece of meat and it shall differ little here, three years later- Wait, what?

“All feelings and thoughts vanish in the face of something pretty damn weird. There’s a letter impaled on the point of a hook and a rope tied to the eye stretching alllll the way up. I slowly crane my neck upwards, wondering if Malida’s trying something new and ridiculously dangerous. Continuing to speak my thoughts, I keep my lips closed, rendering it ‘mmffl hmlmmn’ with their true meanings only known to me. I’d rather no one see me seemingly speaking to myself and/or brain for obvious reasons.

“Sheesh, look at this. If a wind picks up or she moves a lot and that thing starts flopping through the air- Is that Palamina?! Well ain’t she a sight for sore eyes! What’s she doing out here being all considerate about my allergy? I didn’t think I’d be this happy to see her (but then again my present company is absolutely terrible).

“With renewed vigor, I wave with my whole arm at my friend in the sky, hoping she can see my enthusiasm (desperation) from a hundred feet up… She looks a bit farther away this time though. Oh well, that thought ain’t stopping the smile crossing my face as I see her wave back with just as much energy as I did. A bunch of glowing pink stuff that I can’t really see floats around her, aside from that rope and hook… … Still dangerous if she moves in the wrong way; could have used a fishing pole instead maybe? No, no, this thick rope is probably safer because it’s heavier, more wind resistance I think or is that resistance to wind… Or wind resistant…?

“Back on track! Hey! Let’s carefully take and read her more-than-likely-written-by-moving-objects-with-her-magic/mind letter against your expected protests! S’matter with you anyway, brain? Scared?”

~
Good afternoon, John. How are you? You seem ill. I hope I am mistaken from this distance.
~

“So short, and she saw me hunched over… This reminds me of last wee- Oh yeah! Sure, sure, okay!

It only takes a few trips to retrieve everything I’ll need to comfortably write outside for a few hours. As soon as I sit down with my little wooden chair and table, my hand rushes out a response. Really looking forward to both her company and spiting brain.”

– Glad to see you again, Palamina. I’m just having a rest after caring for the orchard. Care for a drink or a snack?

~ I’m afraid to stain the papers while we talk, so no thank you. Besides, the harvest season is approaching, I assume you have plans for all your stock?

– Too bad, here’s an apple, mind the hook. Consider it a sample for ‘official testing’ before I open a stall in Derutcurts, maybe in the middle of the fall. Need to build up stock since all the fruits are maturing at different times.

~ Keep treating me like this, and I may just give my personal endorsement for your produce instead. Thank you, I’ll save it for later.

Well, maybe it would be best if you didn’t build up your stock. You can’t stay for very long inside a demon realm and transporting more means having to spend more time to sell it all plus dealing with transportation, authorities, and paperwork.

– That’s all very true. Thank you for looking out for me, Palamina.

~ You’re welcome, John.

I’ve come here today to ask if your offer of assistance holds true. My lieutenants all need to be reevaluated so I’ll be far too occupied to do the research on my aura myself, much as I’d like to.

~~~

It’s best just to pour out what I want quickly I think.

My quill spins away from my response and request, laying to rest inside the inkwell floating next to my left shoulder. The basket, full of the documents from Gunecies, slowly bobs up and down to my right. I impale the paper on the hook before steadily lowering it by magic, the rope in front of me uncoiling like thread off a spool.

This is the part where he says that he was just being polite or isn’t qualified enough to be of actual use. But he’s been extremely courteous so far, joyous even, judging from his wording at my presence.

Still, I’m prepared to wait ten minutes for him to back out before I write another response releasing him from his promise. It’s not something I want… but just expect despite all evidence to the contrary.

Less than a minute later, I feel a tug on the rope coming from below to my unreasonable surprise. Under the current circumstances, there is no way anybody could mistake that for anything but a signal to pull up.

Looking down below like a god sitting in the heavens, I watch John get clear of the hook before winding the rope upwards. Now to see if my fears are unfounded or not. Of course, whether I want to read his response or not, it wouldn’t do to show any sign of weakness would it? Visibly anyway. Now then…

– Of course it is. What do you want me to do?

~~~

~ You surprise me again, John. I thought you might renege.

– I don’t know what that word means.

~ It means to break a promise or deal.

– Why would you think that? I visited you at the risk of my health.

~ But that’s just it, you had to risk your health to see me. I thought you might only visit once just to satisfy me and be done with it. I’ve even thought that you convincing me to research my aura was meant to occupy my time and keep me away.

– Nonsense. I meant what I said, you have my aid if you need it and we should speak to each other again repeatedly.

~ I will make the time for such meetings in the future, guaranteed.

On to business then. I put requests out to your contacts, some of my own, and a few other fonts of knowledge for possible leads. I know you aren’t a scholar John, but you’ve traveled the world and seen and heard so much. In the documents I send, look for patterns, links, and the like, maybe a little translation of old languages on the side if you are capable.

I have one such set of papers with me which I’ll hand over to you now.

– Alright then, I’ll get started tomorrow. Maybe we can work together if you can spare the time? You do one document, I do a similar one, and then we talk for a long time on what these old things could mean.

And these are from Lady Dodd? I haven’t heard that name in a long time. She was my host for three weeks a couple of years ago.

~ If I have the time, John.

You might know her better than I. She visits Derutcurts for a weekend at the end of every month, but we’ve never met in person. In fact, we never did talk much about your time on the road last week, did we?

– Could do it now. Got some time?

~ I was hoping you would ask that. Don’t rush, I can always spread some light around after the sun sets if you don’t mind the colour pink. Please, start at the beginning.


– Looks like I’ll be hiring a lot of new hands for the harvest season if I’m going to help you research.

~ I’m in no rush. When I reviewed my work from fifty years ago, it looked like I was grasping at air.

– We can try; we could succeed.

~ Of course. I’m actually feeling hopeful with your help.

How long has the moon been out?

– I have no idea. It’s really late now I guess.

~ We enjoyed ourselves then. Perhaps for too long.

– Maybe not long enough.

~ My, my, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were flirting with me, John Doe. There will be other opportunities to have some fun later, perhaps when we take breaks from what we do. I hope both our efforts go well.

Good night, John.

– Good night, Palamina. Be hearing from or writing to you soon.

“Aaaaand she’s gone now… The giant pink bubble of light we were talki- writing in slowly dimming until the only colour left in the sky is her and the gear she brought. They’re like pink shooting stars.

I hope I didn’t come off as too desperate throughout all that. Still, any company is better than brain. Heck, I’d take her company even if I weren’t in danger of rocking back and forth with my thumb in my mouth. Where is he anyway? I thought he would say something once she mentioned the flirting… Or anything at all since the start.”

FEARRRRR-

“Fuuuuuck-”

HERRRRR!

“Youuuuu. … Little late, don’t you think?”

Missed me? Valuing my council again?

“No. Just really suspicious about you disappearing. Would have preferred that you stayed gone. Hopefully helping Palamina will distract me from listening to your raving. Wish there was more to read tho-” CRISH!

“What the- A basket? And up in the sky, a pink beacon zipping away.”

Burn the wicker!

“No. Now what’s all this?”

~
I’d almost forgotten. These are all the remaining documents from the Gunecies expedition. I meant to hand these over to you in exchange for helping me, but I suppose thinking you needed a bribe to convince you was presumptuous on my part. My apologies.

I’m not sure if you actually want them back since you never asked for or mentioned them before, but I feel that you need to be the one to deal with them. It’s your choice whether you want to use them or burn them.
~

“My wish has been fulfilled! Yes! Thank you, Palamina! Look at all these memories, good and bad. Garth, Helena, Martin, Ches… Gunecies…”

Hmm… Yeah, Palamina’s right. Dunno whether I want to use them or burn them. Burrrrrn themmmmm.

“What? No! Why in the name of all the gods plus the Demon Lord and her husband and their daughters would I destroy the last remains of home and a dozen research papers painstakingly created by old friends unless I wanted to go completely, absolutely, utterly- Ohhhhh… Yea- no. These are getting preserved. We’re going to sleep now and starting research after I hire some extra hands.”

Good night, me. I should hope that I didn’t stay up TOO long and am actually exhausted from talking with my demonic stalker. And I know what happens then…

“She’s not a stalker. You’re mislabelling. And I feel fine. Bad night, brain.”


~
Dear John,

I received your report on Lady Dodd’s documents at midnight the end of last week.

It’s unfortunate that the described Salamander Battle Queen’s alchemical concoction was not something I could just drink and make my aura go ‘poof,’ but perhaps it is merely a component. Several of the hidden pictures you found from arranging the corners of the recipe’s pages in certain fashions reveal several runes that correlate with carvings that have just come from another contact. Nicole the peddler turned out to be much easier to locate than expected and traded the items in question in return for being turned into a monster. She’s a rather lovely nekomata now, so watch out, John.

Kidding.

I’m just as surprised as you are considering she’s been known to travel strictly within Church lands. She never told me her reasons for wanting it, but last I heard, Nicole is already selling goods to a number of mountain communities.

The runes have been included in the accompanying box.

Be well, John.

Signed,
Palamina

P.S.

Can to Sip

Can, Cap, Tap, Tip, and Sip.

Too easy. Now you get to try to convert Cane to Most.

~



Dear Palamina,

I switched up what research material I’m reading just in case the first turns out to be a dead end. Also because this book you sent is enormous, feels like I should start now. They could have written in multiple volumes, but no, it had to be in one giant stack that comes up to my knees. I fear for the binding and it’s exhausting supporting one end of the book while I try to read the other. Might have to bring in one of my workers to lift the thing just to get a clear view of the last pages.

This oni’s club of a book details locations of temples, catacombs, religious ruins, altars, and the like throughout the world. If there’s anywhere that we’ll need to get to in order to perform any rituals or hunt for artifacts related to demonic energy suppression, we’ll find them in this tome.

So far, all I’ve managed to do is mark a few sections that describe some locations in the north with promising names. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find somewhere local. However, as I said before, this stupid thing is extremely difficult to read normally, so don’t expect anything unless I absolutely have to look through it or until I get help, whichever comes first.

Also, it’s been two weeks, I give up on converting Cane to Most. What’s that make the score now, three to zero? And you’re still visiting in a couple of days, right?

Signed,
John


~ I cannot fathom why it took me this long to realize that what we do is easily applicable to the reevaluation of my lieutenants, which is quickly turning into something else. Because we’re communicating so much more informally, they’re fostering independence and starting to do their jobs their way. But that’s what I want to happen.

– Long time ago, I was once told that you’re more than a little bit of a control freak. Not in those exact words, but the meaning was there.

~ From Malida then? No need to cover for her, I’ve heard it all before.

Becoming more lax has been a bit of a challenge, my lieutenants have always been afraid of or respected me. Because of that, they always deferred to me on everything about their work, and that situation used to be so acceptable that I never thought about the effect that had on them.

They tried to match my thoughts and recreate exactly what I thought was ‘perfect.’ Thus they lacked flexibility in how to handle any problems that occurred. It’s better that they find their own way of handling their work. However, if they ask, I’ll still help, but teach them too for their own use.

– If you knew what you were being called behind your back, how come you figured nothing was wrong?

~ Because everything was running smoothly despite all the criticism. Of course, now I see that I was wrong. Retraining my lieutenants is progressing much faster than I expected, and it’s wonderful to know my realm will be secure in their hands. I’ll be committed fully to research in the near future.

Thank you for listening to me John, I just needed someone to talk to about all this.

– Any time. Only fair since you’ve listened to my troubles as well. Now, you going to tell me how to change Cane to Most?

~ The sequence is Cane, Cape, Cope, Mope, Mole, Molt, and Most.

– Damnit. Fine, next round then.

~ Ha ha. I do hope reading that ‘oni’s club of a book’ has expanded your vocabulary, John.



Dear Palamina,

The last few weeks have been a bit sparse in terms of research. All I can tell you is that the old man’s rhyming journal doesn’t make any sense yet, the runes from Nicole are excellent paperweights, I’m still having trouble keeping this stupid tower-book thing open long enough to match it against other maps, and the Salamander Battle Queen’s alchemical fluid is a false lead. There’s a mistranslation here; it isn’t ‘destruction of demonic energy concentrations,’ it’s ‘destruction of energetic demonic beings.’ This thing’s a coded Church recipe for some kind of water treatment that kills salamanders outright.

However, that doesn’t explain the runes I found when I was playing ‘shuffle the pages by bumping the table too hard and making the stack scatter all over the ground.’ In fact, they look like they were written by a different hand than the one who put down the anti-salamander thing. I’ll keep looking into it, found out that one of the runes roughly translates to ‘flatten’ or ‘press down,’ and another means ‘dispersal’ or ‘dilute.’

And about yesterday, thanks for coming out to market to see me, but I think people were more interested in your appearance than my fruit. Sure, I sold all my stock, but I also ran out of paper and ink. Gave it all away to the crowd when you wrote you’d be taking questions. You’re really getting used to using that meat hook and rope to communicate. I’ve overheard a few people wondering if you’re going soft, being willing to ‘embarrass’ yourself by communicating in such a strange way, but it didn’t sound like they were criticizing you for it. Guess you’re starting to become more charming than from just being a lilim.

I think I almost stayed too long, but the trip was well worth it.

Signed,
John


“Carry the two, move over the cat, then lay that thing that looks like a helmet with carrots for horns over those- wait, how do sailors read maps again…”

So! Me! I know how I’ve been a bit taxed over the last few months, what with being a race traitor and all?

“Oh for- what do you have now, brain?”

I’m weakened now, just enough to do a little something something. Maybe it will intensify my control over myself in the end.

“… … … … And what exactly would that be?”

If I think that bracing myself by putting down the quill and heading for bed is going to lessen the damage, think again. Now before you manage to lie down, have I ever tried to work when I can’t tell which direction is U
                                                                                                            P
                                                                                                            ?

“Hch! Why is everything cartwheeling? No, somersaulting, no, -Damnit! Nnf!”

Oh dear, it seems I’ve fallen N
                                                              W
                                                               O
                                                               D and can’t get .
                                                               U
                                                               P

“This won’t- This won’t. Stop me. I figured out something… Over the recent days… Every time the kids, Malida, Tom, or Palamina is here, I get happy. You disappear when I’m HAPPY.”

                                            and around and
                       around                                             around
        and                                                                                       and
   around                                                 knows.                around
and                                                  nobody                               and
Around                                      stops,                           around
                                                         she                             she
                                                            where     goes,

“HUCLL. Oh gods- gods, gobs– MMPH. Fucking-.”

What                                                 I’ll bet it’s
      could                 all that contact with HER
ever                               that will
be bothering                      eventually
         me so?                                  kill me.

                         Why don’t
                                I just
                                stop?

“You don’t get it. We don’t just write. We play games, joke, listen, all that and more. I like Palamina.”

I’m just saying
                  saying that because
                                            because I’m the
                                                                        the alternative. I
I wouldn’t like
                        like that lilim
                                            lilim under any
                                                                     any other circumstances.

“Hold it. Hollllld ittttt… I am going to keep working. This is getting done. Spiting you makes me happy, seeing HER happy makes ME happy. I will make her HAPPY.”

I                   her happiness
  think that
                                               will mean mine?

Ridiculous.

I will become,                                 a slave.
                maybe already became,
                                                                                      And then I will want me back.

“We’ll see, brain.”


– Okay, so we already know from the old grass stains that the runes were planted downwards, so these were arranged somewhere. The stupid maps tome will help us pinpoint where to do that dispersal ritual the madman’s journal sort of described. Finding the last location these were used at ought to help a lot.

~ Relying on a single source of information to confirm that our theory is correct is a bad idea, John. Not only should we find the locations, but scrutinize them for matching runes. If they don’t match, we need to find out what the new ones mean and if there are more variables we haven’t considered like weather, surroundings, and the like. I’m also concerned that we haven’t found or received anything else that might be related such as spells, artifacts, or ritualistic dance movements.

– Maybe Oartinal or one of the others that haven’t responded yet will come through then, or the sites themselves will have clues.

Have we considered that the ways the runes swirl and twist are dance movements?

~ Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty of time to be thorough about our options in the winter. Nearly everything in my realm grinds to a halt for months. John, this will be your first winter here, so be aware that it comes early here and leaves late. Please stock up.

And no. I’ll have a closer look at that idea in the future.

Also, be sure to attend the end of harvest festivities in the villages next weekend, it and the greeting of winter the weekend after that is always fun. There’s plenty going on aside from sex most of the time.

– I already am. Work crew invited me to go along with them with what we can spare from the final harvest. Should be fun, hope I’ll see you make an appearance.


~
Dear John,

How are you feeling? It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a live writing session, but as I understand it, you’re still ill. I’ve looked at the medical books in my library since this isn’t related to your allergy to demonic energy, but I’m afraid all I can do is send a doctor to you with a list of my suspicions. She should arrive in the next two days with several human realm herbs to chew on that help reduce nausea. In addition, to keep your belly full, a few bags of rice imported from Zipangu will be delivered by a harpy team tomorrow. On the back of this letter is a recipe for rice gruel, a simple and nutritious concoction that isn’t harsh on the stomach.

Get well soon, John. There’s a number of insights on our research that I’d like to discuss with you when you’re better.

Sincerely,
Palamina
~



Dear Palamina,

I’d prefer it if you continued to visit regularly.

Signed,
John


~~~

The discovery I make barely qualifies as a distraction. Not when half of the notes needed to find it were written by John’s hand. This new set of documents should make me excited, but what lays within is bad news for John and I hope this doesn’t affect his health when I tell him.

I’m worried about him. Winter has barely started and of all times, he comes down with something that’s lasted since the Winter greeting festival so far, causing him to fall into spells of vomiting and imbalance. I first heard of his sickness from Malida who once caught him vomiting and greeted her by falling into the snow. He’s been like this for… a little over a month then. Yet, whenever we do live writing, he’s as healthy as ever though his ‘from far away’ letters are becoming shorter.

Regardless, I’ve picked up almost the entirety of the research efforts myself, leaving John with light translation duties until he recovers. He objected with sentences written completely in capital letters, but switched back to a calmer style when I told him in no uncertain terms that he has cared about me enough that I need to return his… affections. It’s not the right word, but it feels appropriate considering how warmly he receives me.

It’s difficult to put him out of my mind, but I’ve done all I can for now. Dr. Loanekis visits once a week on my orders and I write and visit regularly to keep him company… after a fashion. Malida visits as well, frequently with her family. I asked her once to send me a report on John’s health from her perspective and it came to me with what my primary messenger called ‘a fresher view.’ Enclosed with her letter was a child’s crude charcoal drawing of a harpy being carried on a man’s shoulders. The former jumble of shapes was labeled, ‘Me,’ and the latter, ‘Uncle.’ Apparently, Malida’s youngest, Malory, drew that picture of health. Oops, then that ‘harpy’ is a tengu. My mistake.

Then this means he is either very good at hiding his illness from his friends or something else is in play here… Or that I’m losing focus and won’t be able to complete the research until I know he’s well again. I suppose there’s only one thing I can really do for him.

I pull out a blank piece of paper, ink, and a quill.

~
Dear John,

I have good news. Father Oartinal came through for us. He sold me a book on religions pre-dating my mother’s reign as Demon Lord and one section about a cult that crystallized demonic energy for arts and crafts (and makeshift throwing weapons) fills all the gaps we know are missing. However, I have bad news to go with this.

The madman’s journal contained what looked like random numbers instead of the page numbers. They’re coordinates when strung together from the right to the left (left to right mostly lands me into the ocean, that can’t be right). Having gone through the entire journal, I have quite a few locations to visit and examine. One of them is local; it’s the plateau where you’re living.

I remember once, months ago when I first made ‘contact’ with you, idly recalling that the plateau you began living on was the site of a ritual long forgotten. I paid it no mind at the time, but it may very well be that it’s purpose was related to demonic energy. Remember when you had Sari and her crew of minotaurs remove the tall rocks that were scattered around the plateau? I need to know where you had them moved to. If the rocks still have the runes on them somewhere or haven’t suffered from the ravages of time yet, we can try to see if they match. If they do, we will have confirmed all our efforts. Then we can go somewhere else to perform the ritual, one of the other sites must be intact.

Don’t even think of suggesting that your orchard should be destroyed in order to recreate the ritual. I won’t have it.

Sincerely,
Palamina
~
~~~

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