Mors Funebris Ch. 3 P 2

Mors Funebris Chapter 3 Part 2

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Slowly at first but with a growing awareness, Lilim Mara, the thirty-seventh daughter of the Great Maou, drifted out of unconsciousness. Slowly she became cognizant of three unusual sensations that were bothering her.
1) That she was lying on the ground surrounded by a sea of unfamiliar darkness.
2) That she was experiencing an unwelcome amount of pain all over her body.
3) That she was thirstier than she’d ever been in her entire life.

At first, all she did was to remain where she was in an effort to get a handle on these strange sensations. Somehow, she knew that her current predicament wasn’t a result of her being attacked by the greatest enemy: the Order. She’d been taught many survival lessons whilst growing up, and the main thrust of them all had been to make her familiar with any danger her world had to offer. Yet none of what she was currently experiencing had an ‘Order’ feel to them.

 ‘Do not act in haste. Sometimes the best action is no action.’ She recalled her teacher imparting to her a long time ago. She thought this while trying to moisten her parched lips with a dry tongue. As a Daughter of the Great Maou, she knew that it was incumbent on her to make it through any ordeal that she found herself in. Both her personal reputation as a Lilim and by extension, her mother’s, was at risk if she acted improperly.

After what seemed the longest while, she decided that the queer sea of Darkness wasn’t quite that bad to experience. Darkness was just one of many things she’d grown up with in the aptly named Dark Demon Realm of Royal Makai. Yet this darkness still felt wrong to her in a way that eluded her.

Then she realized why it was a wrong kind of dark. It was because she had no control over it. Even the tiniest lack of control made her feel weak. She grimaced at the thought as she hated feeling weak. 

Now pain on the other hand, was something she had had plenty of experience with, usually of the erotic variety that she had wielded upon others to enhance their pleasure and so, speed their inevitable corruption.

Turning her awareness to her current sensation of discomfort, she realized that it was different because it didn’t feel fresh, but old. Possibly many hours old. Now THAT thought vexed her. Why, she couldn’t recall right then. But it did seem to be important. So, she began to focus her attention on it.

 Frowning with the effort, she came to the conclusion that this pain was a deep and abiding hurt. One that indicated that she’d been damaged somewhere along the way to where she was now. She knew without knowing, that there’d been no malice intended behind it Yet such was small comfort.

Then she turned her awareness to the Thirst. True, for all her of life she had thirsted for Spirit Energy. Just like her siblings and every other Mamono in existence. But this thirst was vastly different from that ever present desire. This was the thirst for the most basic of all needs, the thirst for water.

When she tried to swallow then, she was surprised to discover that she couldn’t. There was too much grit coating her blackened and swollen tongue to allow it. Shifting her tongue around her mouth, she was dismayed to discover that her mouth was as dry as the desert that she’d stumbled into in this world. Cautiously, she managed to crack open one of her dust covered eyes and began to observe her surroundings.

She seemed to be lying upon the sandy ground of a small gully. Turning her awareness back to herself, she grimaced slightly when she quickly realized what most of her non-thirst discomfort mostly consisted of: It was due to the sting of wind carried sand. It was biting into her heavily sunburned skin.

It was then that she realized that her mouth had fallen open a while ago. Now, it had nearly filled with sand and dust. Spitting and coughing with the effort, she managed to dislodge a goodly portion of it out. As she managed to struggle into a slumped sitting position, she could hear the whisper of the piled sand that had collected onto her body, shift itself onto the ground all alongside her; quietly shushing her for daring to break the silence of the night.

Despite the darkness caused by the sun’s absence, Lady Mara was able to see all around herself. Looking up, she saw why. There were hundreds, no thousands, of tiny little lights in the sky above her!

‘What are those called again?’ she asked herself, while barely keeping her head upright.

‘Stars.’ A portion of her memory prompted her out of nowhere. Mara smiled deliriously when it came to her. Then, the part of her that still wanted her to survive, recalled that the air was still hot enough to continue to leech away the few remaining drops of moisture her body held stubbornly within her.  It was in that moment, that she remembered that it’d been hours since she’d drunken any water. She couldn’t remember what had happened to all of her water. She did recall that she’d packed a goodly portion of it with her, before she had stepped into the Gateway.

‘The Gateway!’ she remembered with a guilty ache, her eyes widening as she remembered her mission. She’d been sent into the world of the human male called Donnie; to that world called: Earth. To seek,….something….

All these efforts exhausted her, so much that Mara was unaware that she’d began to drift into sleep again then. But when she did, her memories returned to bother her.

‘You managed to lose your…. WHAT?!” Her mother hadn’t quite shouted at her when she’d come crawling home to beg for forgiveness and help. Prior to then Mother had kept her upbraiding voice steady and in a low tone. After all, she had plenty of opportunity to practice patience, when it came to dealing with the inevitable screw-ups her daughters managed to create on a seemingly nightly basis. The only time Mara had heard her mother scream angrily was when an older sister, Cailleach she recalled, had managed to summon a Fell-entity from one of the Dank Dimensions, and it’d had gotten loose.

“Mara, my daughter, you are such a disappointment to me!” Her Mother, the Great Maou had spoken to her with such a severe glower, that Mara couldn’t meet her gaze for more than a second. She couldn’t remember ever having felt so guilty before.

In that singular moment, Mara would’ve much preferred her Mother to have screamed and shouted instead. But she knew that she probably wasn’t going to be afforded such a luxury again, not for a long time, probably never. Not now.

“How? How did you manage to let the Order retake your kingdom?” The Great Maou demanded incredulous, as she then waited patiently for her daughter to reply.

It took her the longest while, and Mara had racked her brains endlessly searching for an answer that she’d thought her mother could be satisfied with. Oh, she could’ve used the excuse that the Order had successfully managed to organize uprisings elsewhere.

But, that still didn’t explain how, or why, they’d managed to insinuate an unnoticed undercover foothold into her Realm in the first place. She knew that she should have detected it ahead of time, somehow. But she also knew that the fact that they’d chose to begin their insurrection during one of her incessant parties, wouldn’t help her standing any with the Demon Lord.

Yes, despite all of the training she’d undergone during her formative years growing up in Royal Makai, combined with the years of apprenticing under her elder sister Druella; Mara had managed to do the inconceivable. She had lost her kingdom.

To rub salt into her wounded pride, the Order had retaken control in only a few hours. Now, Mara realized, both original and newly corrupted Mamono were probably in the process of being ‘cleansed’ by the forces of the Chief God.

‘More likely murdered!’ Mara decided bitterly as she lay dreaming memories in the sands of that nameless gully on Earth. The thought of her subjects dying because of her irresponsibility, caused her to sink herself down upon the ground in despair.

Finally, her mind recalled her answer to her Mother.

“I don’t know.” She had replied honestly, her body shaking from the tears that she held back in an effort to hide her shame.
“You don’t know?” The Great Maou had asked slowly, while staring agog at her daughter for what had seemed the longest while. Then, she closed her eyes to frown deeply and shake her head in that way that Mara had learned was her- leave me alone command. Quietly, she did as her mother had silently bade her.

After many a tension filled hour later sitting in her old rooms, she’d been summoned back to her mother’s ‘Privy Chambers’. There she had attempted to apologize for her lack.

“Mother,” she had begun mournfully, her wings dragging on the floor, “I’m sorry that I,…”

“No, Mara.” The Great Maou interrupted her then. “Do not be sorry. Instead I should be the one who should be apologizing to you.” She stated flatly. Mara couldn’t believe her pointed ears then! Looking up, she fixated her attention upon her Mother.

“But,” Mara tried again, but she stopped when her Mother waved her hand in a cutting off gesture.

“Obviously I expected too much of you. It would not be fair for me to consider that all of my daughters to be able to live up to the standard that Druella established.” The Great Maou ended with a heart-felt sigh.

The Great Maou’s words had a dire effect upon her 37th daughter. Mara clenched her teeth angrily and felt her blood pressure rising enough to cause her cheeks to burn as red as her eyes, but not with embarrassment. No, with a resentful rage!

‘DRUELLA! Always Druella!’ Mara thought angrily, her fists clenching tightly with frustration. Looking up, she noticed that her Mother had stopped speaking and now stood with her arms folded, facing her daughter while waiting patiently for Mara to get over her huff.

“After our first conversation, I sent reinforcements to retake your kingdom.” Her Mother informed her quietly. “I’ve just received reports from General Scathach that it was surprisingly easy for her to re-acquire them. It was almost as if the humans there hadn’t expected such a rapid response.” The Great Maou stated as quietly as she could manage, one of her eyes twitching. Mara then lifted her eyes to her mother’s and hoped that her Mother would forgive her lapse. But the look she saw burning in her Mother’s eyes, left her fearful.

“I see now that Commanding a kingdom is not your forte. Perhaps one of your other sisters will have better,….luck.” The Demon Lord paused, and closed her eyes to take in a deep breath.

“Now that you’re safely back here at home, I suppose that I could scrape something up for your idle hands. Perhaps I could give you a posting at,… Cynosure’s Fort Eequor, shall we say?” the Great Maou had asked absentmindedly.
Mara’s eyes widened in consternation when she had suggested THAT! Out of all of the Demon Realms that were in existence; being posted to Cynosure would be the worst! Oh how her sisters would laugh at her when they learned of it!

“Mother Please!” Mara barked desperately. “Surely there must be something else, anywhere else that I can prove my worth!?” she almost begged. Her Mother sternly held her gaze for the longest while before choosing her words carefully in reply.

“There might be something.” She said finally.

“I’ll do it!” Mara replied automatically.

“I can guarantee you, that it’ll be dangerous.” Her mother whispered impassively, holding her gaze steady.

“I’ll see my way through it!” Mara replied hoarsely, determined to not fail her mother again.

“Very well then, I will assign you this mission.”

“Thank you Mother!” Mara replied happily, relieved at the prospect.

“Don’t thank me yet. For what I have in mind may very well prove to be your undoing.” That sentence caught Mara off guard to the point that her enthusiasm took a hit. But what her mother said next, shocked her even more.

“I take it that you’re Aware of the Gruthrath Gateway, and all that it entails?” the Great Maou asked her sharply.

“Yes,… Mother!” Mara began hesitantly, “it is a Gateway to another world, and apparently one that works intermittently. From what I recall, you are desirous that that gateway be transformed into something more useful. Something permanent. This is because doing so will give you a tactical advantage somehow.”

“Correct, essentially. But there is more, there is a Majin that I’d sent through it to do whatever he felt needed to be done to make it permanent.”

“A Majin? Why not one of u s Lilim?”

“Because this gateway doesn’t lead to a pocket dimension like Wonderland. Instead it leads to another world, a singular one. The world that that obnoxious human called Donnie hails from.”

“Donnie?” Mara asked, surprised. “So that Majin you sent, it was Annwyfn Arawn wasn’t it?” Mara guessed.

“Indeed.” Her mother affirmed. Mara just barely suppressed her frown at the thought of that,….one.

She’d met him briefly at the coming out party for her first niece (or so she thought was her first niece at the time). That confounded Majin had casually shrugged off her most powerful charm spell, as if it had been water sprinkled onto a duck’s back.

“What am I to do?” she inquired neutrally.

“Find him.” Her Queen Mother said simply.

“Find him?” Mara echoed, confused.

“Yes, you are to go through the Gruthrath Gateway into this non-magical world. To the very world that the Tocs and the Ogs found themselves in for thousands of years. Once there you will seek out Annwyfn Arawn.”

“But why seek him out?”

“Because he is overdue. I had expected him to report in to me long before now. But he has not. This leaves me concerned. Once you’ve found him, either bring him or what’s left of him back.”

“Left of him? What if he’s alive?” Mara yelped, her eyes widening in shock.

“Then do what you can to assist him. Help him in any way he deems fit. I feel that I’ve been more than patient awaiting word to the results of his efforts.” The Great Maou stated with gravity, and then dismissed her daughter.

So, after several dreary hours of paying half a mind to one windbag of a Mamono after another; about what she could expect to encounter in this Alien world, Mara dutifully set her supply laden backpack firmly to her shoulders, and then stepped through the activated Gruthrath Gateway. There, she smiled with enthusiasm as she made her first excursion into that strange world called: Earth.

That enthusiasm proved to be short lived.

‘The air here is dryer than an Order priest’s words, and it’s beastly hot out too!’ she decided as the air pinched at her nostrils. She winced and had blinked heavily at the sight of the blistering hot  morning sun that greeted her upon her arrival.

Mara wasn’t aware of it at the time, but she had enough good luck in that she had indeed ended up in the 21st century, close enough time-wise to possibly run across her quarry. But, it was also her ill-luck that she ended smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert during the middle of a record-breaking heat-wave.

Looking around herself with a thoughtful frown, she noted many hills, gullies, and cliffs that were covered with numerous scrub bushes and dotted with the occasional Joshua Tree.
‘Those trees look like a flogger in mid swing.’ She mused idly as she walked underneath one. Over all, she decided that this place was one of the grimmest and most foreboding landscapes that she’d ever encountered before.

‘Even worse than the wastelands of Polove, at least before Sapphirette Spherica came along!’ she decided as she set her determination to see her way through any obstacle. Sweating heavily after only a few minutes, she noted with a frown that there weren’t any signs of habitation within eyesight.

Automatically. she pulled out and checked the tracking device her mother had given her to trace Arawn. Mara smirked when she thought that Arawn probably hadn’t even been aware that the Periapt of Concealment he’d been given, was also useful in tracking him! Males were always getting themselves into ‘predicaments’, after all.

She set out at a quick pace under the increasingly hot sun, with only the intermittent imprecation when she forgot to lift her tail over a cactus plant. Then after the first hour, when she paused to swallow some water, she held up her tracking device to reorient herself.

It was then that her mouth fell open in anger and frustration, when she observed the needle of the tracker suddenly shift by over ninety degrees! And then when she tried it again, it pointed in a different direction.

‘What is wrong with this thing?’ she thought as she began the old tried and true method of fixing recalcitrant tools: she began hitting it. It didn’t help.

Equally disconcerting to her were the strange thoughts that had begun to assail her during her march. Slowly at first, but with an ever increasing frequency, she began to fantasize the thought of confining him to a BDSM dungeon and then punishing him. She jerked in astonishment, when she realized that she’d started liking the idea of whipping him till he bled.

Unsettled by those unusual thoughts, she then tried casting several of her innate spells in an effort to distract herself. She tried such survival spells like: Shade, Water-Retrieval, or Cooling Breeze. But none of them seemed to work much out in this wilderness, if at all. Fear then began to overwhelm her when she discovered that nearly every other of her spell repertoire shared the same fate.

It was then that she recalled something about this world being inimical to magic as she knew it. But before this life-threatening discovery of hers had occurred to her, she had incautiously used up her water supplies, emptying out all four of her water canteens on spurious things like washing out dirt stains on her dress, instead of drinking it.

Soon afterward, her milky white skin began to resemble the hue of a Red Oni, and an hour after that point, she began to hallucinate. But only occasionally. At least at first.

Unknowingly, she began stumbling aimlessly through the barren landscape in search of that body of water that always lay maddeningly out of reach! It was a terrible pity that Mara the Lilim had not paid attention to the warnings of the dangers of trusting a Mirage.

It was only the luckiest of chances that she’d eventually stumbled into, and fallen over, an arroyo’s sloping cliff edge and hit her head enough to cause her to black out. At the bottom of that arroyo, she had rolled to a rest underneath the cliff’s shade. Here the shade allowed her to continue living for a while longer.

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After a timeless moment, her thoughts slowly returned to her current predicament.

‘I’m dying’, she realized sadly, yet somehow, she found herself resigned to it, despite knowing its grim finality. 

‘I’ve failed Mother again, for the last time.’ She decided, giving up. Then her thoughts stopped when she heard the sound of something moving nearby. For some reason the thought of another made her heart start to beat with a fear filled staccato.

Cautiously, she once more managed to crack open one of her dust filled eyes and began to observe her surroundings. What she observed then, gave her a small start, and some hope. This time, she seemed to be lying upon a canvas cot.

“Uhhhh.” She moaned audibly then from the pain that lanced through her body when she moved.

“Ah!” came the voice of a nearby person. It was a male voice. “You are awake. That is a good sign!” said the strange, yet somehow familiar voice. As soon as he spoke, she felt strong hands that carefully took ahold of her body, and gently lifted her to a sitting position. She hated this stranger’s boldness; what with him touching her without her consent. She moved to lash out at him for this impertinence!

Instead, she was aghast when she felt her herself lolling weakly against him. It was a male all right, of that she was sure! In all her centuries of existence, she could always identify a male’s scent anywhere, and this one had been sweating heavily for some time.

 Once more, she tried to strike out against this stranger’s overly familiar manner; what with him holding her as if she were a mere infant!
Then her anger faded when she smelled something she needed. Needed far greater than her ever present thirst for Spirit Energy.

Water.

“Wa,…” she gasped breathlessly. She tried to form the full word, but she was too weak to. It was then she felt something solid being pressed gently against her lower lip, almost immediately she felt a trickle of something that began to infiltrate her parched mouth. It was deliciously cold, and more importantly: Wet. She began to gulp it.

“I know that you are thirsty my dear,” she heard the stranger speaking once more, “but you must be careful to not drink too quickly or you will make yourself,…” he began but was interrupted when with a strength she couldn’t account for, she snatched the cup away from his hands and quaffed most the contents rapidly.

She was uncaring of the fact that she was wasting a good amount of the water as it flowed down along both sides of her face. The water then in that moment was sweeter than that Spirit Energy she’d drunk from that thirty-year old Order Monk she’d seduced on her first foray away from home!

Almost instantly, she began to regret her sudden impulse. For it was in that moment she felt her throat clench hard, along with a rapid rise in nausea that threatened to overwhelm her. Automatically, she began to bend over as her stomach roiled and started to reject its contents. She then opened her mouth and then clutched at her throat to try and fight her retching.

“Sick.” The stranger finished softly as he deftly caught the cup that she dropped, and then set it aside. He then pulled a waiting bucket onto his lap and gently directed her to vomit into it while holding a supportive arm around her shoulder. She then hurled with alacrity. She groaned at the bitterness of the water’s taste after it had traveled up her throat and out her mouth.

After several convulsions, the remaining water in her stomach stopped trying to escape and then she started to pant. It was at that point that she noticed that this stranger had been thoughtful enough to pull her hair out and away of her vomitus stream. That little kindness was when she ‘knew’ that she had little to fear from him. Somehow.

‘Not that I would fear any male!’ she reminded herself haughtily when she sat back. It was then that she noticed that a light had appeared from nowhere, and that she could see everything around her clearer.

When the one who held her with one arm, released his hold on her and then leaned over, she chose to cautiously look around. She was inside what appeared to be a Wanderer’s tent. A small domed canvas construction with two flexible rods that crossed overhead. It was of the sort used by those who chose to travel lightly.

It wasn’t large, just enough to accommodate three people who were good friends. Judging by the lack of light outside, it was still night. But there was something odd about the material of the tent, it appeared to be canvas. Yet, not.

Turning her attention back to her savior, her eyes naturally drifted over his body with the occasional admiration of his sleek muscled lines. He appeared to be a human male in his later twenties, or early thirties. She noticed then that he had chestnut brown hair cut rather short to his head. She couldn’t see his face then, as he was still turned away from her, still searching for something in that nearby backpack. He was dressed in a nearly all white ensemble, stained only with the dust and dirt of the desert.

Strangely, she found herself yearning for his touch upon her skin once more. Irked by that sudden weakness of hers, she forced her head back and took in his face when he returned to look back at her. What she saw then, surprised her. It was the very person she’d been sent to this world to seek!

“Arawn?” she spoke aloud. Or she tried to at least. Her mouth, still as dry as a blotter permitted only a half-mumble.

‘AHWA!” she barked, and then wilted as she began to quiver with weakness. Oh! How she hated being weak!

“Ah wa?” Arawn echoed with concern in his voice. “Ah, yes! Water!” he smiled with realization, as he filled the metal cup once more and handed it to her.
“Here you go, but I do not have to tell you to be more careful this time, do I?” he asked as he handed her the cup.

“Just sip it. SLOWLY.” He emphasized with a nod when she began to do that just that. After emptying the third cup of the slightly salty sweet water, she felt her strength begin to return. At which point she tried to speak. But before she could begin, both she and Arawn’s attention was diverted by the sound of someone speaking.

“Hey, Doc-Iron! I caught the word that you found us another stray.” Came the almost melodious voice of a new person. Mara found herself frowning at being compared to a stray animal. Looking up she beheld this new one.

Somehow, she had entered the tent without having made a sound. She was a slight-statured yet solidly built, young human female with a skin color several shades darker than Arawn’s. Her hair was almost black in comparison to Mara’s, tied back into a severe bun atop the nape of her neck. She was dressed in pants, shirt, and a jacket that held a small circular patch on her jacket that was bordered with the words: “Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Technician”, whatever that was. Mara found herself frowning at the blue and white cross covered shield in the center of that patch. She also held a large backpack over one shoulder.

“Well, it certainly is nice that you have chosen to put in an appearance Juanita.” Arawn shot back with a barely restrained anger in his voice.

“You know how it is Doc!” the stranger shot back with a smile. “Rush Hour Traffic is, as usual backed up on Mulholland drive.”

“Ell-A Rush hour ended hours ago, Juanita, as well you know. What kind of ambulance did you drive? I should have heard its engine, but I did not.”

“My rig broke down so I flew over instead.” Juanita replied with a dramatic sigh, as she unshouldered her backpack and plopped it on the ground next to Mara.

 “What do you need my help with the hiker-chick for? An abortion perhaps?” she snickered as she knelt down next to Mara, and began taking things out of her backpack. Mara found herself getting more annoyed with the newcomer the longer she spoke, what with Juanita’s habit of talking through her nose.

“She is not a ‘hiker-chick’, Juanita.” Arawn replied with a roll of his eyes.

“Oh? And what is she then? A call girl who you just managed to stumble across in the middle of the high desert? She does have the body of one.” Juanita commented with a leer directed towards Mara, and a knowing wink towards Arawn.

“Ahem!” Arawn shot back with a frown, annoyed. “What she is, Juanita, is an individual who is currently suffering from heat exhaustion! What I need right now is your assistance to rehydrate her. Please start her off with a saline I.V.” he directed. Nodding, Juanita automatically began to obey.

“She needs a saline I.V. huh? I’m not surprised, considering how hot its been lately.” Juanita state. She then drew out a plastic bottle that was filled with a liquid, and attached a clear tube to it, much to Mara’s puzzlement.

‘What is she going to do with that?’ she wondered, somewhat concerned when she noticed that one end of that tube held what appeared to be a metal pin.

 “All right, when and how did you find her?” Juanita asked. Arawn smiled when he saw Juanita’s shift professional attitude emerge.

“I found her passed out two hours ago during a patrol.”

“Patrol huh?” Wait!” Juanita stopped and then squinted her eyes at Arawn with a frown. “Were you trying to track Grendel again?” she demanded.

“Affirmative. I believe that I almost managed to locate his lair this time.”

“You almost came across it?! Are you telling me that you dropped that investigation, just to attend to this piece of tail!?” Juanita grumbled as she stuck a thumb in Mara’s direction. I didn’t know you had a thing for bleach-blondes!” Juanita laughed, which caused Arawn to frown at her once again.

“Yes, I did Juanita, you should know how I am by now, all of you should! While I was out here I also detected the Gateway opening!” He replied testily. His statement caused Juanita to stop laughing, and now she smirked at him for a moment.

“Take a chill-pill Doc, I’m just giving you some shit! None of us fault you for your caring about,….WAIT! The Gateway huh?” she scoffed. “What’s so important about this one that you gave up on both Grendel and your Gateway?” Juanita demanded.

“Inspect her closely, and you will have your answer.” Arawn replied cryptically, with a hint of a smile.

Juanita made a duck face and gave him a glare. But, after a few seconds of thought she cautiously moved over to Mara to begin giving her an assessment.

“Platinum hair, check!” she began, looking Mara over in the dim light, “Milky white skin-which may be perfect for the Great White North honey. But, it’s shitty for Southern California. Which you’ve already found out, judging by those first and second-degree skin burns all over you! I must say your red skin does match nicely with your inflamed eyes!” she grinned and then her smile froze. It froze because that was when her hands bumped into one of Mara’s head horns.

“Horns?” she asked touching them lightly, incredulous. “She’s got horns?”

“Some of your fellow Nightbreed also have horns Juanita, you should know this.” Arawn injected then, forcing back a smirk.

 Juanita glanced at him suspiciously once, but she bit her tongue and instead pulled out a pocket torch and turned it on. Mara flinched at the sudden brightness of the light as it played all over her.

Suddenly, Juana stopped and gasped when she noted Mara’s wings and tail.
“Madre de Dios!” Juanita shouted when she finally realized who and what it was she was looking at.
“SHE’S A DEMON!” she shouted shrilly as she stumbled backwards and fell to the ground onto her rump with an audible ‘wumpf!’. She rapidly crab crawled backward away from Mara. During this, she managed to pull out a length of beads from a jacket pocket.

Juanita then held it out between herself and Mara as if it were a magical artifact capable of harming her, and started muttering something under her breath.

‘Oh, isn’t that precious!’ Mara decided, amused by the display. As near as she could tell, the length of small beads interspersed with larger beads held a cross that was similar to the Chief God’s. Even with her depleted demonic energy levels, she could tell it was nothing more than a powerless trinket.

Strangely, for just a moment she felt the urge to rip those beads from Juanita’s hand and strangle her with them.

‘I shall enjoy ripping your Spirit Energy from you as you gasp for your last breath, sweet-meat!’ Mara thought to herself, and then stopped when she realized what just happened.

‘Where did that come from?!’ She asked herself. Then she was even more disturbed when she realized how much she still desired to act on it! Looking down, she became aware that she’d somehow managed to get to her feet.

“Doc-Iron! What do you think you’re doing!?” Juanita shouted while she managed to stumble herself upright. “Trafficking with Demons now?! That’s ungodly!” she yelled, her teeth flashing, unwisely ignoring Mara completely.

“Ungodly? Your Chief God has already demonstrated he does not give a damn about any human, let alone any of your kin!” Arawn shouted back, his eyes flaring indignantly. “Need I remind you that your church also condemns sodomites?” Arawn said meaningfully to Juanita. Who then gave him a withering glare by way of an answer and ground her teeth together.

“Who I love is none of the Holy Mother Church’s business, Iron!” Juanita yelled back at him then. “But even the most liberal of ‘Breed don’t traffic with the Devil!” she stated as she turned to go and marched herself out of the tent. “I will not have truck with Demons!” she shouted over her shoulder.

 “JUANITA BANDERAS! You will behave yourself!” Arawn/Doctor-Iron shouted then. Juanita stopped and stood in place just outside the tent, but she didn’t turn around.

“Is she a demon? Yes, she is!” he called out to her at the tent’s entrance. “But! She is one of the daughters of whom I serve. You do remember my telling you about her?” He asked. Juanita nodded her head once, and cocked an ear in his direction. Mara noticed right then, that Juanita’s ear was long and pointed.

“The Great Maou?” Juanita asked hesitantly, blinking as she turned around.

“The same.”

“But this would suggest that this Great Maou of yours, must also be a Demon!” Juanita demanded. Arawn nodded in reply. “You never mentioned that!” She yelled, her eyes flaring.

“Well, did I not also refer to her as the: ‘Demon-Lord’?” Arawn replied, abashed. “Surely you would’ve made the connection by now?” He asked cautiously, and then he stopped when Mara placed a hand on his arm. Looking over at her, he was surprised to see her well enough to stand. He was even more surprised when he saw that she was licking her lips at him.

“Hello Sweetie!” Mara purred, as she took a firm hold of his arm and directed his hand towards her now uncovered breasts. “I need a Man real bad. Are you real bad?” she asked, looking at him sultrily, gripping his arm tightly.

“Faex!” Arawn stated, both surprised and saddened.

“What’s wrong!?” Juanita asked over his shoulder.

“She is delirious, I need your help with her NOW!” He demanded, while he attempted to extricate his hand from the depths of Mara’s cleavage, and failed. He failed because Mara squeezed her breasts together into an enveloping iron like vise. When he attempted to remove his hand once more, Mara took a firm hold of both his arms and attempted to kiss him.

“Come to me lover!” Mara breathed, her lips close to his, “Lie with me, I hunger for you and only you!”

“Hey Iron! What kind of Demon is she supposed to be anyway?” Juanita demanded with amusement in her voice, while keeping herself firmly positioned on the far side of Arawn, looking over his shoulder at the Demon/Mara.

Arawn didn’t reply as he raised a hand and cupped Mara on the side of her face. Mara immediately pressed her head into it, and then she turned her head to guide one of his fingers into her mouth. Once she had it there, she then began to suck on that digit forcefully. She stopped suckling for a moment when she was surprised by the amount of Spirit Energy he contained.

‘Primus!’ Quintus mentally called out then, ‘This Lilim must be in an extreme amount of hunger, if she keeps suckling at us the way she is, we will be in danger of losing a significant amount of Mana! (5)’ he warned.

‘There is nothing for it then! Secundus! Prepare an appropriate subdual spell! (1)’ He commanded.

 “SOMNUM!” Arawn/Primus intoned. Mara jerked in surprise when she felt his magics form and expel themselves into her. She had wanted his Spirit Energy yes. But not like this! She felt herself begin to weaken and sway,. But after a moment she was able to fight off the effects of his spell. As she did, she began to uncharacteristically start hissing as she raised a doubled fist to attempt knocking him out.

“ALTUM SOMNUM!” Arawn intoned again, this time more heavily. Mara was hit harder this time, causing her to almost collapse. But still she fought back. There was no way she was going to let this prize out of her control! She was determined to drink this male’s energy down to the last drop!

“NESCIUS!” Arawn shouted finally, grasping Mara’s head with both hands. Thankfully, this did the trick, and even though Mara fought that spell with every ounce of effort, she began to black out. She could see that Arawn was sweating heavily with the effort of his spell work.

“Iron! What the hell is going on!?” Mara heard Juanita say as the darkness began to overwhelm her again.

“I must need be completely honest with you now.” He stated, and then added, “She is a prime example of the most powerful demons of her world. She is a Succubus. As such, it is now my responsibility to ensure her safety.”

“What about my world’s safety, Iron!?” Juanita growled.

“That too. Now more than ever.” Mara heard Arawn say before she succumbed to the dark.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

Eventually Mara returned to the wakefulness once more. This time, she came to in a different place. Cautiously opening an eye, she noted that she was alone. Looking around, she noticed that she was now lying naked underneath a cloth sheet. She was now at a 45 degree angle upon a well-cushioned Klinai.

This sloping couch differed from the ones she was more familiar with. It was unusual in that it had a shiny metal fence atop its perimeter top. Looking further around, she saw that she was in a room with solid walls, but it had no windows, just a singular door.

Along the sides of her Klinai beyond the railing, were a number of strange devices. One of which was affixed to her arm with a grey tube. Another was clipped to a finger. Occasionally the one attached to her arm inflated a cuff up to a painfully tight squeeze, and then it slowly released. On the face of the cuff device box, several numbers changed after. All of these strange devices gave off a series of grating chimes that annoyed her ears.

She grunted with frustration when she tried to reach out and remove those annoying cables. She discovered then that she couldn’t move her arms very far, as both her wrists and ankles were tied down with chains attached to the metal rails on both sides of the Klinai. Mara’s eyes flared with outrage then.

“If you wanted me tied down, all you had to do was ask.” She called out loudly, hiding her anger behind a sultry siren’s call. When no one answered, she began testing the limits of those restraints, in an effort to try and tear them away from her.

She began to growl with frustration when she found that despite her best efforts, she wasn’t managing to stretch out a single link in any of them, they were so strong!

‘What are these things made with?!’ she wondered angrily. ‘I’ve snapped leg irons with ease!’

Undaunted, she continued to jerk her arms and legs about, determined to free herself. She needed to get free right now! Her hunger had grown by leaps and bounds! She then realized that there was prey all around her, off in the distance beyond these walls. She could smell that each and every one of them were overflowing with Spirit Energy! Oh, there were so much that she could feast upon them for years if need be!

Her struggles stopped for a moment when the nearby door opened and Juanita entered blinking furiously. She held an annoyed look on her face. Her previously tied-up hair now hung about her shoulders in a mess. Mara guessed that she’d be woken up from her slumber. When Mara saw this newcomer, she decided who it was she would feast upon first. She was just absolutely famished.

“Oh, I see that you’re awake now!” Juanita began while standing in the entrance. “Would you mind keeping it down to a dull roar? Some of us are trying to sleep here!”

“I’m sorry!” Mara replied contritely, trying her best to look innocent, and almost succeeding.
“But I really need to go and use the privy! Would you be so kind as to allow me the opportunity!?” she stated, feigning weakness by holding up her shaking wrists.
“I’m just sooo tired and I’m feeling like I’m capable of fainting at any moment! I’d just hate to dirty myself and these sheets that I’m lying upon.” She continued, sitting forward just enough to ‘accidentally’ allow a portion of the sheets covering her to slip away and expose her skin.

“Well, I’m under strict orders by Doctor Iron, to not free you go under any circumstances!” Juanita stated, while stared suspiciously at her and the sheets thoughtfully for several seconds. As Juanita spoke, Mara gleefully noted that Juanita eyes held a measure of lust when she noticed Mara’s nakedness. Then she spoke.

“Well, I’m not too inclined to have to clean out your bedpan. Being as it’s my turn to keep watch on you.” Juanita thought aloud as she moved closer to Mara. Acting on instinct, Mara chose to shy herself away from her when she did.

“Hmph!” Juanita chuckled when she noted Mara’s reaction, then she made a half smile as she took another quick step closer. Mara pretended to not quite flinch away then as well.

Instead, she ‘accidentally’ moved again to allow a portion of the sheet covering her, to fall away from her chest. Juanita’s eyes instantly latched onto and drank in the wonder of Mara’s rounded breasts.

‘Oh, my Princess Yum-Yum, you look good enough to eat!’ Juanita thought to herself when she had to swallow away a dollop of saliva that filled her mouth then.

‘Come closer to me, morsel.’ Mara thought wickedly then, as she dredged up enough Demonic Energy to cast her subtlest Charm Spell, which was successful. She then smiled inwardly when she realized that Juanita hadn’t been aware that she’d been affected by it.

“Do you promise to not make yourself a bother?” Juanita asked her incautiously and then swallowed again, her eyes starting to gleam with a magically induced lust that addled her thoughts. Yet not all of that lust was magical in nature.

“I promise.” Mara whispered in a nervous timber, tilting her chin down and widening her eyes to give Juanita a vulnerable look. Simultaneously, Mara then summoned up another, stronger charm spell on her. Immediately, Mara felt herself fill with triumph, when she observed Juanita’s breathing begin to increase rapidly, along with the sight of her nipples poking through the fabric of her shirt.

Within a few seconds, Juanita unthinkingly took a key from her belt, and unlocked Mara’s arms and then her legs with a set of shaking hands, and then lowered the railing on one side of the hospital bed/Klinai.

“Here you go! I’ll help you to the bathroom when you feel you’re ready.” Juanita stated cheerfully, finding herself distracted by the Lilim’s ample curvatures that lay all over her luscious nude body. All was good at first.

“Would you be so kind as to help me up please?” Mara asked quietly, raising a quivering arm to her. Juanita, smiled and gently took ahold of her hand. But what happened next, caught her totally off guard.

Instead of the shaking lambkin that she had expected, Mara grabbed a firm hold of Juanita’s hand and then eagerly pulled Juanita to her naked body and began trying to kiss her passionately.

“What?!” Juanita mumbled then, surprised at this sudden display of strength. Yet, another part of her was also happy to have this beauty pressing herself to her. But before she could get another word out, Mara managed to press her lips to hers.

Juanita gasped at the sudden intrusion of Mara’s sweetly soft lips onto hers, which allowed Mara to slip her tongue deep into Juanita’s mouth. Yet, Juanita wanted to react angrily at Mara’s deception. Instead, she found herself reacting positively to Mara’s gentle and insistent mouth-rape.

Within a few seconds of resistance to this outrage, she found herself kissing Mara back rather than fighting her off as she should of. She found that her hands were stroking Mara’s head and horns, almost of their own accord. Quickly, all coherent thoughts of resistance evaporated from Juanita’s mind, as wave after wave of pleasure rambled into her core, starting from where Mara continued her oral assault upon her mouth. All the while Mara firmly maintained her grasp of Juanita’s head with a steely hold.

After a few more seconds, Mara instinctively cast another spell. This one was a De-clothing spell that she’d learn in the days of her youth. It cost her nearly the last dregs of her Demonic Energy, but she felt that it was a worthwhile investment.

Right then, Juanita became aware of a coolness that enveloped her body by the sudden absence of her clothes. With some trepidation, she became aware that Mara was now tightly cupping one of her breasts with her hand, and had begun stroking her stiffened nipple with a loving touch of her thumb.

“What do we have here?” Mara asked rhetorically, after she pulled her mouth from Juanita’s, a rope of saliva connecting their lips.

Gazing into Mara’s eyes, Juanita found herself falling into the pair of deep crimson pools before her. All she could feel then was her heart pounding with a wave of lust accompanied with an overwhelming need. 

Suddenly a strange and annoying part of her began yelling a warning. It was trying to warn her of something, something about danger.

Then all thoughts of the dangerousness of her situation melted away, when Mara insistently sought out, and forcefully began to suckle roughly at Juanita’s stiffened nipple.

“Aaaahhhhh!’ Juanita moaned in then as she was hit by the most intense pleasurable feeling that she’d ever had in her life! She then felt one of Mara’s hands then wend its way down to her exposed vulva. Deftly, Mara then began to stroke her fingers softly yet eagerly back and forth into the ever-increasing well of moistness that coated Juanita’s swiftly swelling vulva.

 Ignoring Juanita’s frustrated whimpering, Mara then paused for a moment and pulled her hand back to suck upon the dripping love-honey that her fingers were now coated with. Unknown to Juanita, Mara had done so in an effort to gauge her Spirit Energy levels. What Mara discovered then, pleased her immensely.

‘Oh you have so much Energy stored within you my Dear! I shall so enjoy feeding upon what you have to spare, and beyond!’ Mara decided as she positioned herself closer to Juanita. Once she had managed to start kissing her prey once more, she gently yet firmly pushed Juanita back upon the mattress into a semi-prone position.

There, she began kissing and suckling gently Juanita upon her neck and shoulders. This elicited a number of small moans and gasps from her intended victim.

Slowly but insistently, she began wending her head towards the source of Juanita’s Spirit Energy: her nether lips! Juanita gave out a mighty moan, as Mara eagerly suckled upon one nipple and then another! Then, before she’d become aware of Mara’s gentle love bites upon her flattened tummy, Mara had reached her intended destination.

Oh, the sweet waves of pleasure that Juanita felt then. Every one of them turned out to be more intense that the last. Until they had begun to magnify immensely, almost to the point of pushing her over the edge of sanity. Yet deep down, there was that annoying part of her that kept trying to alert her of something being wrong.

That part of Juanita commanded her hands and took ahold of Mara’s head horns in an effort to push her head away. But the best she could manage then was a feeble push.

“No, please. Stop.” Juanita begged as she gazed into Mara’s crimson eyes. In response, Mara began slurping noisily upon Juanita’s vulva and clitoris, while staring back up at her with a triumphant glee.

Juanita lost eye contact when her eyes rolled back upwards into her sockets, as her pleasure grew even more intense! She then felt what little resistance she had to Mara’s licking and suckling, fade away to almost nothing. Until at the last instead of trying to fight her off, Juanita started to guide Mara’s head to the spots she wanted her to concentrate on more.

Mara was all too happy to oblige her, since the greater amount of pleasure she could manifest from her prey, so too the greater amount of Spirit Energy she could wrest from her.

Which she did, with an ever-building lack of caution. Deep down, she was aware that she had exceeded the nominally safe harvest level. Uncaring of the consequences, Mara continued swallowing every mouthful of Juanita’s Spirit Energy that she could, determined to drain her dry.

Juanita’s entire universe, her entire existence became centered upon her vulva and its connection with Mara. Whose lips, teeth, and seemingly prehensile tongue continued to probe both the depths and surfaces of Juanita’s genitals with a reckless abandon.

Soon, Juanita began to pant in tune with the ever-building wave of orgasmic pleasure that swelled within her depths. Swiftly, she realized that she was also rapidly weakening physically as well, as a mounting lethargy threatened to overwhelm her. Deep down, she realized that the longer she allowed this to continue, the greater the chance that she’d pass out from her bliss and never wake up!

‘DOCTOR IRON! HELP ME!’ a part of her that wanted to live- suddenly screamed out mentally.

And then seemingly out of nowhere, Arawn was there in the room, standing above the bed in which the two were engaged in vigorous lovemaking. Simultaneously, both Mara and Juanita realized that they were not alone. Juanita was both relieved, but also frustrated by this change of circumstance. Part of her wanted to live to see another day, yet a greater part of her wanted Mara to continue to the inevitable dire end!

Mara on the other hand, refused to allow Arawn the opportunity to thwart her feeding so easily. Instantly, she reached out a grasping hand to Arawn in an effort to block his next effort, giving off a growl reminiscent of the feral Succubi of old.

But, even as quickly as she acted then, it wasn’t enough. Arawn raised a glowing fist, and to Juanita’s complete surprise- he expended some of his own precious Mana towards the greedy Succubus, which noisily knocked Mara out with the force of his Blast-Punch.

Even as her senses faded to black once more, Mara insisted on curling her arms possessively around her prey’s nude body. Finally, she collapsed atop Juanita, who then struggled to push Mara from atop of her. Even so, a part of her wanted to grasp at and clutch Mara’s body to her instead.

“None of that now!” Arawn stated coldly, as he slapped Juanita’s hands free of the Succubus’ body. He then pulled the now limp Mara up and off of Juanita.

“Doctor Iron!” Juanita stated tremulously then, with shame and embarrassment tinging her voice. “I’m sorry about!,…I mean, what I meant,…” she tried to explain as she began to pant, and shiver with the shock of her near fatal sexual encounter.

‘Why am I so tired all of a sudden?’ she thought desperately, trying her best to not fall asleep.

“Juanita! Are you all right?!” Arawn demanded, barely had he finished his sentence before Juanita’s fluttering eyes rolled backwards into her head and she passed out.

‘Quintus! Status Report! (1)’ Arawn/Primus demanded then as he slowly waved a hand over Juanita.

‘She is in an extreme physical exhaustion. This is probably due to her Spirit-Energy levels being nearly depleted. Judging by the Lilim’s aura, I would say that she has very nearly drained Juanita. If we had not shown up as soon as we did, Juanita would probably be now dead. (5)’ Quintus informed him.

“Damnatus!” Arawn cursed, he then stepped over to a wall intercom and activated it. “Trauma Team to Infirmary room # 714. I will need a security detail as well, Code Grey Protocols.” He ordered. As soon as he finished speaking he heard an alarm activate, it gave a harsh undulating buzzing sound when it did.

Stepping over to Juanita, he covered her nude body with a sheet, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Hold on Juanita, help is on the way.” He stated as he glanced over at the Lilim. Before he could think to ask the obvious, Quintus answered for him.

‘The LIlim is unconscious, for now. However, I am receiving indications that she already starting to fight off our Blast-Punch. Best estimation, she will not be awake for at least thirty to forty minutes. (5)’

‘If she does awake before she is restrained, do what you feel you must. I will not be responsible for allowing a deadly Succubus free rein over this world. (1)’

‘Understood. (2), (5)’. Both Secundus and Quintus replied then. Arawn settled in to wait for both the Trauma and Security details. While he waited, he did his best to prevent his inner turmoil to show on his face.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

Later, Arawn was walking down the Infirmary’s main hallway, away from Mara’s new room after making sure, damned sure, that Mara been well restrained and sedated.

‘What the hell is going on here?’ he thought to himself. ‘At near as I can tell this LIlim has only been here less than a day, and already her mother’s influence has worn off?!’

‘It could be as we surmised Primus,’ Quintus injected then into his thoughts, ‘The Chief-God of this world appears to be pulling out all of the stops in his latest efforts to destroy the Mamono of this world. (5)’ But before Arawn/Primus could reply, his thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an angry voice that was accompanied by a set of rapidly approaching feet stomping onto the hallway’s tiles.

“What the hell were you thinking, Iron!” shouted Maximillian as he came running toward Arawn. In the next moment the pair of them nearly collided in the hallway of the compounds’ infirmary. The sound of Max’s shouting echoed loudly down the way.
“Bringing a Demon here, of all places!?” he demanded. Arawn stopped and closed his eyes, trying as hard as he could to keep his temper in check.

“And where else was I supposed to take her?” Arawn shot back after opening his eyes and looking at the Doctor in charge of New-Midian’s Infirmary.

“I don’t know, you could’ve left her at Area Fifty-One, you do have access to that place, don’t you?” Maximillian growled. Without thinking, Arawn grabbed him by his shoulders and roughly shoved him onto the concrete wall. A number of wall cracks spread out like a spider’s web behind Max, when he did.

“Indeed, I do Max!” Arawn yelled into the Skinwalker’s face, “But knowing the government as both we do; they would have ended up turning her into thin slices. Just like they did with the last set of interdimensional travelers the council insisted that I transfer there.” He said as he released him.

“Would that have been so bad?” Max asked quietly, his shining eyes boring into Arawn’s as he began dusting himself off nonchalantly.
“Is it true Iron? That this new one is a Succubus?” he asked, incredulous at the notion. Arawn relaxed and released his hold upon Max.

“Yes, Yes, she is Max.” Arawn replied with a resigned sigh.

“WHAT,…THE,…FUCK, MAN!!” Somehow, Max’s already booming voice managed to get even louder. “Don’t you remember that nearly half of the Breed here in hospital, are here because of what Grendel did to them?!”

“How can I forget Max?” Arawn/Iron shot back angrily. “I am also well aware that if it were not for my efforts on their behalf, that they would currently be residing in the Morgue instead!” he shouted. At that point Max deflated momentarily. “Would they not?” Arawn pressed.

“Yes.” Max admitted with a whisper. “Yes, they would have. But why bring her here of all places?”

“What is that old human phrase? Keep your friends close?”

“And your enemies, closer? Yeah, I heard it: The Godfather I think it was.”

“Actually, I believe it is a quote from Sun Tzu, The Art of War.”

“Whatever. So, which is she to you, Doc? A friend, or an enemy?”

“I am not sure yet.” Arawn replied honestly. “Which is the main reason I had for bringing her here.”

“I think I understand your motivations now, Doc.” Max admitted. “You’re thinking of our special forces detachment, aren’t you?”

“Unfortunately, I am yes. I want them on hand for just-in-case.” Arawn paused for a moment, and then spoke once more.

“Speaking of Juanita, what is her prognosis?”

“Well Doc, she’s severely exhausted from whatever it is that that Succubus did to her. But after examining her, I’d say that after a couple of days of rest, she should be back on her feet and mouthing off like she always does.”

“That is good to hear, Max. Thank you.”

“You could go and see her now if you like. I’m sure she’ll be complaining about something in her sleep.”

“I suppose I should.” Arawn replied guiltily, “she is in that condition because of my error.”

“Oh, come on, Iron! Don’t be so down on yourself. I’m sure that she’ll forgive you. Everyone knows that she looks up to you as a Father figure.”

“Is that why I am always encountering the rough side of her tongue?” Arawn quipped. Max barked off a laugh then in reply.

“Hey, what are parents for if not for their kids to lip off to?” Max shot back, grinning. Then his grin faded as he started speaking again. “Doctor Iron?” Arawn nodded. “I don’t think that I need to tell you that the Council will be having a ton of questions to ask you.”

“Indeed, I do Max, indeed I do.” Arawn replied wearily as he resumed his walking towards the far end of the hallway, down towards the Intensive Care ward. Max chose to walk with him, keeping silent the entire way.

There, at the entrance Arawn paused. “Do you want to see them alone?” Max asked. Arawn nodded. “I’ll leave it to you then. Good Luck.” Max replied as he turned and left. After Arawn had insured that he’d gone, only then did he enter the I.C. unit and donned the special protective gear. He knew that it probably wasn’t necessary, but he chose to not take any chances.

Finally, he entered the room where the two heavily damaged individuals lay. Two battered and broken men lay there, each in their own bed and hooked up to a number of life-sustaining machines. As always, Arawn found it difficult to hear himself think over the sound of those devices.

‘Damnatus!’ he thought sadly, looking at the two men before him. ‘They are weakening, again!’

‘You know what needs be done then to keep them alive, do you not? (2)’ Secundus prodded Primus unnecessarily then.

“Yes, I do Secundus. (1)’. Arawn replied as he approached one of the individuals and placed a hand upon his forehead. After a moment of transferring some of his remaining life force/Spirit Energy into the first, he then repeated the procedure upon the second. He then stepped shakily back and observed the results.

Smiling gently, he noticed that both of their skin tones did have a slight improvement. Then he frowned with worry.

‘Tertius, Quartus, come back to me. Please? I have need of your expertise and your abilities. (1)’ Primus thought to them then. He didn’t get, nor did he expect a reply.

‘First, I underestimated the danger that Grendel proved to be, and this is the result! Then I underestimated that Lilim, and now Juanita is paying the price. Perhaps I am getting too old for this!’ he thought to himself regretfully.

‘And who else do we know of, who could possibly take over the mantle? (5)’ Quintus asked rhetorically. Arawn didn’t reply then. Instead, he just stood and kept vigil over his two comatose not-brothers for a short while.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

Mara slowly drifted into an awareness once more. This time, her awakening felt different, more confining. Without stirring so much as a single muscle, she listened to the sounds of the room. Just then, she heard the sound of someone breathing nearby, and tried to pretend that she was still unconscious.

“You can open your eyes, Lilim, I know that you are awake now.” Came the sound of Arawn’s resigned voice.

Opening her eyes as he commanded, she noticed that she was in the same bed that she’d been in previous. However, this time around her, bindings were more extensive than simple manacles.

She frowned when she realized that someone, Arawn most likely, had restrained her hands and forearms with a pair of cold-metal gauntlets that were covered with some unfamiliar runes. Testing her limits, she was even more frustrated to discover that these new restraints prevented her from wiggling any of her fingers. Automatically, she tried to project an unlocking spell, but as soon as it contacted the gauntlets, it disappeared. Much to Mara’s surprise.

‘What in the nine realms?’ she wondered nervously.

Glancing around in the low light, she became aware that she was now in a different room, it was at least twice the size of her last room, and that three of the four walls were composed all of clear glass, as was much of the ceiling. As best as she could tell, this room was surrounded by several other taller buildings nearby.

“It is good that you have awakened finally.” Arawn spoke once more. Turning her head, she got a good look of him. Her immediate impression of him was that he looked different somehow from the first time she’d met him.
How precisely he was different, she couldn’t quite tell yet then. He was standing along the far glass wall, facing her with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Unlike his usual garb of a tunic and a kilt, this time he was snappily dressed in a black jacket and bifurcated pants. She felt a chill up her spine when she saw that he was staring back at her balefully.

It was then that she noticed that he had a pair of armed guards, one each standing on either side of him in the far corners of the room. They were dressed as severely as he was, and her mouth dropped when she recognized just who, and what they were.

They were Zipangu Oni, one was red and the other blue. But, that wasn’t what it was that left her unsteady. No, it was the fact that these two Oni were fine examples of MALENESS! While she was gaping at them, they stared impassively back at her. Mara swallowed then for several reasons. Lust and fear being the chief of them.

“Arawn.” She stated unsteadily, trying to tear her attention from the hulking Red Oni. Arawn raised an eyebrow at her and dropped his arms.

“I would welcome you to New Midian, but I am afraid that you have me at a disadvantage, Lady Lilim.” He replied quietly, keeping his expression neutral.

“As do you Arawn.” Mara replied, trying to raise her arms, but it was difficult as this metal was incredibly heavy.
Arawn didn’t reply, but his eyes did shift around for several seconds as if he were having another conversation. Until at the last, his eyes shifted to her metal-clad arms. As the silence continued for an uncomfortably long while, Mara relented.

“Mara, my name is Mara.”

“Lady Mara.” Arawn stated quietly, as he began to make his way over to her. “I had thought that it was you. After all, you did make quite an interesting impression the last time we had met.”

“As I recall, you did make quite the stir amongst my sisters and I. Yet you got away despite our best efforts. How did you manage to get away?” she wondered, honestly curious.

Arawn smiled finally. This caused Mara to breathe out. She had been unaware that she had been holding onto it.

“As the locals say: a Good Magician never reveals his tricks.” He replied, evading her question.

“Fine then, don’t answer me!” Mara shot back, somewhat annoyed yet gave him somewhat of a grudging admiration.

“Are these restraints really necessary?” she demanded acidly, lifting her arms to indicate them. The metal chains made an ear aching clinking when they shifted. “Or do you treat all of your guests like this?!” she growled.

“Only those who have demonstrated themselves to be a clear and present danger. I take it that you do not remember?”

“Remember what? I remember you giving me some water and then that dark-skinned girl showing up. Juanita was it?” she asked, Arawn nodded. “After that it becomes hazy.” She replied honestly.

“Allow me to fill in the parts you apparently do not remember. After Juanita showed up, you attempted to seduce me.”

“What?! Impossible! I’d never do such a thing! Mother specifically stated that I was to make no such attempt upon you and yours!”

“Yet, you did. In fact, you did succeed in seducing Juanita later on.”

“I did? What happened?” Mara asked, surprised.

“Of her Spirit Energy, you nearly managed to drain her dry.”

“No!” Mara shouted while shaking her head, shocked.

“Indeed you did.” Arawn nodded somberly. “In fact if I had not intervened when I did, we would be having a different conversation right now.” He added darkly.

“She was that close to being drained out? Is she all right? Wait! What kind of conversation?” she demanded in confusion. Suddenly she found that she frightened by the change in the timbre of his voice.

“A eulogy.” He replied quietly, as he placed a hand to his hip. Mara followed the movement and her eyes widened when she saw what was there.

It was a firearm! This one appeared to be similar to those that the troops of the Royal Makai carried. However, this one was several sizes larger than their weapons.

“This firearm far exceeds the power of Donnie’s.” He began to explain, indicating it. “It is one of two specially commissioned pieces that I contracted with a local wizard to create. The honorable Samuel Colt, his name was.” Arawn paused for a moment, and then he continued. “It has been enhanced with deep arcane spells, to the point that it is capable of killing a God.” He paused again and screwed up his face in thought.

“Well maybe not killing a God,” he admitted, “but definitely capable of ‘fucking their shit up’ as the current saying goes.”

She felt her blood run cold then, as she looked at Arawn’s eyes. What she saw within them, was a severity that she hadn’t seen there the last/first time they’d met.

“Are you going to kill me?” she asked quietly.

“I would prefer to avoid doing so. Unfortunately, you have left me in an awkward position.”

“What do you mean?” she asked hoarsely, barely suppressing a fear-induced tremor.

“I mean,” he began, still staring down at her, “that I have been working to maintain an uneasy truce between two of the local factions. Your arrival and your subsequent actions have upset that balance between them.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I will explain. I take it that you are aware of the facts that the Tocs and the Ogs reproduced by interbreeding with the local humans?”

“Yes, Lord Byron and Herald Childe were the result of that interbreeding.”

“Good, I see that you are aware of that. This will make it easier to explain.”

“Explain what?”

“That those two individuals you mentioned just now, were not the only ones who were created by the Tocs and the Ogs during their time on this world. In fact, there are more of them. Many, many more.” He paused and glanced at his two guards.

“I see that you have also noticed my two associates here. Allow me to introduce them to you; Huey,” he said, indicating the male Red Oni, who nodded curtly at her, “and Dewey.” He said, indicating the other Oni, the blue one. Dewey chose to grimace at her instead. Mara couldn’t help but notice that all of his teeth were fangs.

“They are members of the first faction. They call themselves the Nightbreed.”

“Who composes the other faction?” she asked.

“They are humans and they call themselves: Monster Hunters. I think you can guess why.” Mara blinked and then shook her head. Arawn continued.

“The reason they hunt Monsters, is mostly because of the depredations of both the Ogs, and yes unfortunately, the Tocs as well. Both of whom have preyed upon humanity for thousands of years. Eventually, some of the humans learned to fight back against them effectively. Those who were the most successful became the antecedents of the Monster Hunters.”

“And where do you come in?”

“I established a, pardon the term, ‘humanitarian’ organization a century and a half ago. It was privately dedicated to the notion of rehabilitating those of the Nightbreed who were willing to,…uhhh, how to put it?” he asked himself. “Oh yes! ‘Become Productive Members of Society’. The number one expectation being, that they not engage in killing humans. Of course.”

“Of course.” Mara echoed, unsure of herself. “What’s the name of your Organization?”

“The Iron Foundation.”

“Iron?” she asked, holding back a giggle. Arawn glared at her.

“A deliberate mispronunciation of my name, as bestowed to me early in my time here.” He huffed. “I decided to take the mature route and ‘run with it’ as the current locals say.”

“All right, what is supposed to happen to me?”

“That will depend upon what you say next.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why are you here?” he asked her in a cold manner.

“I’m on a mission from the Great Maou. She sent me on a mission to establish a communication with you.” She replied honestly. Arawn paused and considered her for a moment.

“If such be true, then your Mother would have sent you off with a coded phrase to indicate that you are in fact, legitimate.”

“A coded phrase?” Mara asked, bewildered.

“Yes, the coded phrase that you would have been given prior to your departure. At least you would have, if you had come through the Gateway that is located in Cynosure, is it not?” he asked cryptically, his face a mask.

“I think you mean the Gruthrath Gateway!” Mara shot back as she tried to struggle herself to a sitting position. Looking at him she noticed that Arawn smiled slightly.

“Ah yes, the Gruthrath gateway, my bad.” He replied as he walked over to one of the glass walls. Looking out, he spoke.

“The sun is shining.” He said simply, not facing her.

“What are you talking about? It’s still dark out, the sun isn’t even above the horizon. Or it is as near as I can tell.” Mara replied, confused as she looked out the windows. Arawn turned around and walked towards Mara and the bed.

“The Sun.” he repeated, “Is Shining!” he said meaningfully, looking at her severely. Mara stopped and looked at him, still confused.

“I don’t underst,…” she began and then stopped when Arawn reached down to his holster and pulled out the firearm that was there. He then chambered a round and pointed the gun at her while bracing it by resting it on an elbow of his crossed arms. Mara began to pant as she realized finally what he’d been getting at.

‘The sun is shining! The sun is shining! Oh, why can’t I remember what it is I’m supposed to say in reply!’ Mara thought to herself desperately.

“The-Sun-Is-Shining.” Arawn stated coldly one last time, as he leveled the gun directly at her face. She tried to shrink back into the bedsheets when she saw that his finger had begun to squeeze its trigger.

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