Mors Funebris Chapter 3 Part 3
“The-Sun-Is-Shining.” Arawn intoned, as he lowered his gun until it was pointing directly at her face. Mara the Lilim’s already rapidly beating heat into a screaming staccato. Instinctively she tried to cower away from the threat before her.
But then she gave off a fear-filled gasp when she discovered that her restraints prevented her from moving so much as an inch!
‘He’s completely serious’ she realized with a mounting dread.
“The-Sun-Is-Shining.” Arawn stated coldly one final time, as he casually placed the tip of the guns barrel onto her forehead. The coldness of it against her skin caused an involuntary squeak to erupt from her lips.
‘What am I supposed to say?!’ she thought wildly, ‘I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say!’
Mara felt her eyes cross painfully as her attention diverted to following the movement of Arawn’s trigger finger. It was that moment that Mara noticed the innumerable runes inscribed upon the surface of his firearm.
‘Primordial Runes!’ she mentally gasped as she recognized them. ‘Potent enough to damage a Chaos-Lord. More than enough to destroy me!’ she realized. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as she observed his finger slowly tightening against that gun’s trigger, signaling her imminent doom.
‘I’m sorry Mother. I’ve failed you again.’ She thought regretfully, as she closed her eyes, held her breath and awaited her doom.
With all of her senses heightened then, Mara ‘felt’ a shift in her awareness. Of what precisely, she had no notion. When the expected moment of her demise had passed, she realized that all had gone utterly quiet.
Then after several more long seconds with no change in her status, she began to hope.
‘He should have done something by now, but he hasn’t. Why?’ she thought desperately.
Carefully opening her eyes, she noticed that both the gun and Arawn were still poised to destroy. Yet neither were advancing. Mara quickly let out her breath in a relieved sigh.
After several gasping breaths, she became aware that neither of Arawn’s guards was moving either. Unaccountably, her heart started to slow itself down, and she began to breathe easier.
Moving her head and taking stock of the situation, she noticed that Arawn retained his ever-present glower. The two Oni guards on either side of him stood impassive, their faces a pair of inscrutable masks.
It took her a few moments more before she noticed the wall clock had frozen. It was then that she realized that time itself had come to a stop. Then she heard something.
“The Ice is slippery,” an unfamiliar voice prompted in a whisper, directly into her ear. That voice was sharp, similar to her fathers. Automatically Mara turned her eyes to the voice’s source, it made her hesitate and flinch once in confusion when she noticed how close this newcomer was.
‘Where did he come from?’ was her sole thought.
To her amazement, suddenly on her right side there was now a light-skinned human male of approximately early middle age slightly balding with a hawk nose. He was standing bent over the edge of her bed, and his face held an insouciant smirk as if her predicament was a source of amusement to him.
When she turned her attention to him, the newcomer’s uncanny eyes managed to lock onto hers and held hers like an animal in a trap for what seemed like a short eternity.
Her ocular entrapment ended when an overwhelming shudder of fear rippled through her entire body. Relief passed over Mara, for she felt that she’d been in danger of drowning in their endless depths.
The only other place to look then was back towards Arawn and his firearm. Before she could do anything else, this newcomer spoke once more.
“No worries my dear,” she heard him speak in an ingratiating tone, “I’ve taken the liberty to freeze time so we can discuss your predicament.” He explained as he pulled himself up from his bent over position. Then, he turned and sat himself on the edge of the bed before casually reaching out a finger and gently nudging Arawn’s gun away from her forehead. When he did, a number of small sparks erupted from the weapon from where his finger had touched it, causing her to wince and shy away.
After he had moved it away only a scant few inches, Mara found herself staring at Arawn and realized that he still had not reacted to the change.
‘Time has indeed been frozen! But how? ‘She realized. ‘Even Mother the Demon-Lord isn’t powerful enough to accomplish such!’ she admitted, impressed despite herself.
‘He must be a powerful wizard indeed. This explains why everything feels so leaden.’ she decided in that moment. Swallowing at the realization of with whom she was now present, she activated up every bit of her charm, both natural and supernatural.
“Discuss?” she demanded in a nervous manner, not entirely feigned, as her gaze continued to shift between Arawn and this stranger. Her reply had the effect of changing his smirk into a smile. When she looked at his eyes once more, she felt a deep suspicion take ahold of her.
‘I’ve seen him sometime before. But when?’ she thought nervously, as her senses unconsciously noted that there was something strange about his aura. This almost stranger continued to stare back at her, choosing to remain in silence for several long seconds. He then he folded his arms and cocked his head at her speculatively.
“I take it that you wish to discuss a,…bargain?” she whispered, taking the initiative. Despite that hateful gun still pointed at her, she continued without a quaver in her voice.
“First off, I demand that that you remove this object from my presence!” she commanded.
“You’re not in a position to make demands Lady Mara.” The new person spoke quietly, imperiously as he glanced meaningfully at Arawn’s firearm.
“Then who are you and what do you want!” she demanded, as she noisily twisted her restraints in an effort to remove them, and flinched when she felt a spark of mana-energy ‘zap’ her.. Ignoring her plight, the stranger shifted himself over and turned to look more fully at Arawn.
“Who I am is unimportant.” He replied while still not looking at her; as he spoke a bead of sweat appeared on his forehead. Mara opened her mouth to demand why, but before she could, he continued.
“For now. That is because we don’t have much time.” He warned as if he’d heard her thought. Instead of looking at her, she noticed that he chose to concentrate on Arawn. Mara stopped and blinked several times in response confusion reigning in her mind, as she slowly became aware of the ripples of eldritch forces being manipulated close by.
‘By him.’ she realized.
“We will have the opportunity to discuss these matters more in the future.” He began again, with just a hint of strain rising in his voice. “Suffice to say that for now, I just saved your life. Yes?” He demanded, as he continued to concentrate his attention on Arawn, his body quivering with some unseen effort.
After several more seconds of concentration, he seemed to be satisfied. The stranger then turned his head back to her and held one eyebrow up questioningly. She nodded in acknowledgement when she realized what he’d asked.
“I will need to drop my time-freeze shortly.” The stranger spoke, his voice starting to crack with the effort.
“If you wish to survive the next few seconds, I would recommend that you remember to say to Arawn: ‘The Ice is slippery.’ That! Is the key-phrase he needs to hear from you. I’m assuming that you do wish to live longer, pitifully short as it may be for one such as you.” He stated as he got up to his feet and started backing away from her bed.
“Also, I would recommend that you do not mention our little conversation with Arawn.” The stranger grinned sardonically. Mara found herself grimacing at what he said next, “Because if you do, he may decide to kill you anyways.” He warned as he raised one hand.
“I’m dropping the time-freeze, now.” He instructed as he lowered that hand. When he did, Mara felt that strange shift in her awareness once more.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw Arawn’s finger recommence its progress. Her eyes continued on up beyond the firearm, and met Arawn’s eyes. They were cold, deathly cold.
“THE ICE IS SLIPPERY!” she yelled rapidly.
In response, Arawn froze his finger’s progress, and raised an eyebrow reminiscent of her erstwhile rescuer.
“Correct.” Arawn replied quietly, as he raised his firearm until it was pointing upwards, and thankfully, away from her! Mara then realized that she was panting heavily with relief.
With a thoughtful frown on his face, Arawn stared at her for a moment and then his eyes widened as his head shot around to take in the newcomer. Mara took that moment to steal a glance over at her unexpected savior as well.
The slightly lined and balding face of the newcomer remained unchanged as he looked back at Arawn with a jaunty smile. Arawn’s face did change, as he pointed his gun directly at the newcomer.
“Identify yourself!” Arawn commanded forcefully, as his two Oni guards mirrored him with their guns. The stranger ignored the actions of the two guards, and silently kept his smirking visage upon Arawn, and Arawn alone.
‘There is something decidedly peculiar with this one!’ Mara thought as she examined this newcomer more fully with her full senses. She was able to, now that the ‘time-freeze’ was over. Right then, she became aware of why the newcomer’s aura bothered her so much.
‘He must be some kind of God!’, Mara decided, her eyes widening when she finally detected his level of innate power.
Mara, and every other Mamono in existence, had the innate ability to detect Spirit Energy. While most humans had a level akin to a candle, and Arawn’s was akin to a bonfire, this newcomer’s level was akin to an inferno!
Without thinking, she tried to conjure a warding spell. She hissed in frustration when the magic-restraint bindings on her arms, wings, and tail sparked again, preventing it.
It was that moment that Mara’s and the stranger’s eyes met as he glanced over at her once. When that happened, her world fell out from under her and for just an instant; Mara peered deep within his soul. What she saw within frightened her.
‘He’s definitely a god!’ she realized, ‘A dangerous one!’ she amended as she was even more afraid of him how, than she had been of Arawn just a few moments before.
“Allow me to introduce myself then.” Stated the stranger as he spread his arms out dramatically and bowed his head and shoulders in a mocking manner. All the while, he kept his eyes directed towards Arawn.
“My name is: Cue.” He stated. Arawn’s swift reply was nonverbal.
Mara flinched when Arawn’s firearm barked not once, but three times in rapid succession. She fully expected to witness this ‘Cue’ person to scream in anguish as a result.
Instead, there was a silent flash of light so intense, that it caused her to turn her head away. When she had blinked away the dazzle from her sight, she saw that the Cue person had vanished, as opposed to the expected sight of him writhing on the floor in his death agonies.
Arawn, for his part had also winced at the intense light. But he didn’t turn his head away. Instead, once the flash had faded, his eyes shifted several times as if he were in communication with someone. Arawn then frowned in puzzlement for only a moment before barking out orders to his two Oni bodyguards.
“Huey! Dewey! Keep your weapons ready, and fire upon the newcomer as soon as you…’ he began and then trailed off into silence, as he looked once and then did a double take at Dewey- the Blue Oni.
Noticing his reaction, Mara looked directly at him and was surprised at what she beheld. Instead of the expected face of ‘Dewey’, there was now the face of Cue, complete with blue skin, fangs, and two horns protruding from his forehead.
Now, THAT!” Cue shouted, his eyes flaring with outrage. “Was incredibly rude!” Cue uttered in an outraged tone. Mara felt herself discombobulated at seeing his abrupt change in appearance.
“We’ve never met and already you’re trying to kill me?” Cue shouted angrily while waggling a finger at Arawn. That angry voice was at odds with Cue’s amused grin. Struggling with his ow anger and frustration, Arawn fought to maintain control of himself before tendering a reply.
“Your reputation,” he began as he shifted his position to hide his firearm from Cue’s eyesight, ‘precedes YOU!” Arawn then shouted as he quickly leveled the gun and rapidly fired it in Cue’s direction once more.
At least he tried to. Instead, Arawn was both annoyed and mystified by his weapon’s hammer snapping shut upon empty bullet chambers. He stopped and looked at his gun with a mounting bewilderment.
“Missing these?” Cue asked impishly as he held a hand aloft and then turned it over. As he did, Mara saw three curiously engraved bullets fall from his hand. Which then bounced on the carpeted floor with a barely audible thumping. Looking over Cue’s shoulder, Mara could see that the remaining Oni guard was having the same problem that Arawn had with his own firearm.
“What do you want?” Arawn then demanded with a hiss, as he forced himself to place his gun back into its holster and held his right hand down at his side.
“Why it’s good to see that you finally remember your manners Mogwai Basic Arawn. Bravo!” Cue smiled, clapping his hands at Arawn cheerfully.
Arawn gaped in astonishment at Cue’s knowledge of his Fort Eequor rank. He then glanced once meaningfully at Huey, who had by that time had started to place himself behind the newcomer. Huey, noticing Arawn’s unspoken command, decided instead to place himself at a right angle to Cue.
Cue’s smile dropped when he took note of Huey’s change in position.
“I hope you’re not thinking of utilizing your,…’Blast-Punch’ is it called?” he continued. “For that would be a most unwise course of action on your part.” Arawn’s only reply was a glower, and a slight twitching of the fingers on his right hand.
“Nuh-uh-uh-uh!” Cue continued, clicking his tongue in negation as he shook his head. “You may be a powerful Majin Arawn, but I would’ve expected somewhat more civilized behavior from an Annwyfn,” Cue shot back, paused and then added, ’and your remaining not-brothers!”
“Since I am the last of the Annwyfn, their standards no longer apply to me.” Arawn replied, looking somewhat shaken. “Why are you here?” he demanded as he bared his teeth and took a menacing step towards Cue, who looked surprised at Arawn’s boldness.
Mara chose that moment to shift her position in her raised bed, as she realized that both the bindings on her arms were starting to chafe. She also had become aware that both of her buttocks along with the entirety of her tail, had gone numb. Her movement caught the attention of both Cue and Arawn.
“I am here, on behalf of her!” Cue replied with a wide sweeping one-handed gesture towards Mara, and then he gave her an obvious wink. This action left her surprised, and a little mortified for some unknown reason.
“What? Explain yourself!” Arawn shouted, as he stopped and drew himself upright in indignation. Cue then smiled somehow even more broadly in a manner that reminded Mara of a Cheshire.
“You were,” Cue continued quietly which forced Arawn to calm himself enough in order to listen to him, ‘just a moment away from murdering your best ally in your fight against Grendel.” Cue smilingly informed Arawn, whose eyes then narrowed suspiciously at Cue for a moment. He then looked over at Mara for a longer bit, his eyes blazing speculatively. Cue continued.
“Also, if not for me, you would’ve thrown away the best option in your grand plan to aid Donnie.” He stated quietly, as he lowered his arms and took a step towards Arawn. Arawn returned his attention to him, but didn’t react negatively.
“Why should I trust what you have to say?” Arawn demanded. “Considering that it was you yourself, who led to Donnie’s current predicament.” Cue stopped and looked back at Arawn with his eyebrows raised, his mouth gaping in amazement.
“How did you,..?” he began and then stopped, his perplexity plain to see. It was Arawn’s turn to look amused.
“As I have already stated, Cue.” Arawn began, his mouth curling upwards in triumph. “Your reputation precedes you. I may not be as old as such as you, but I am old enough to be familiar with your eldritch signature.” Arawn breathed slowly as he stepped forwards Cue and stuck his face centimeters away from his.
“Your reputation is known far and wide throughout the Multiverse.” He continued. “I do not need to ask why you chose to torment that one sole human. It is your nature to be malicious.”
“Oh good sir, you wound me!” Cue replied, his eyes flaring dramatically, as he sighed and pressed a hand to his chest. Arawn’s then frowned and crossed his arms impatiently. After seeing it, Cue stopped himself and stood upright enough to mirror Arawn’s pose. He then smiled indulgently.
“Donnie means a lot to you, doesn’t he?” he asked, not quite innocently raising an eyebrow.
“He does.” Arawn admitted quietly. Mara gave an involuntary start at that little tidbit and then grinned a knowing smile. Catching it, Arawn shot his head around and gave the Lilim a dirty look.
“NO!” he half-shouted, “not as a lover!” he continued as he turned his head and directed his attention between Cue and Mara. “We were never that! He was more a comrade,” he stated heatedly. When he returned his attention back to Cue, he was annoyed to see that that the Cue-entity had vanished, leaving behind a confused looking Dewey.
“Dewey? Are you all right?” Arawn asked his Oni bodyguard. Dewey hesitated and then nodded his head silently. Arawn then began to speak in low tones with his two hench-Oni. After several seconds, Mara tried to get Arawn’s attention. After several more seconds of him ignoring her Mara decided that she had had enough!
“Well, are you going to let me go or not!?” she demanded impatiently, lifting her arms and rattling her restraints meaningfully. Sighing, Arawn glanced at her and spoke to his guards loudly.
“You two!” he half-shouted. “See to it that she is bathed, clothed, and fed.” He instructed, and then paused for a moment when he noticed a leer pass over the face of the red Oni male, Huey, as his attention was fixated on Mara’s bust.
“I would suggest HUMAN-food! Not your Spirit-Energy!” Arawn growled. “Unless you would prefer that she accomplish with you, what she nearly did with Juanita?” Arawn stated quietly as he noticed Huey’s grin start to fade. Arawn was satisfied when he noticed that his guard then had the decency to look shame faced for a second.
“Then escort her, intact, to my main office.” He ordered as he turned to go.
“What about my restraints?” Mara shouted then. Arawn stopped, and looked back at her. His two guards looked between him and her.
“They shall remain until such time as I feel you can be trusted without them.” He replied acerbically, and then ignored her subsequent outraged yelling as he turned and left the room.
Later, Mara felt herself both frustrated and humiliated still further, despite her best efforts to remove her bindings using every unbinding spell at her command, including the disrobing spells her own mother had taught her.
Neither could she cajole anyone to remove her manacles. Thankfully, though, the odd pair of Oni guards did unchain her from her bed. After which they exited. Just before they admonished her to wait. Within a few minutes, a pair of strange looking, not-quite human females entered with supplies and then attended to Mara’s needs.
Mara was amazed to see that both of bore pinkish, almost purple skins, and their eyes carried a silvery sheen to them. Those eyes of theirs that never looked directly at her, even while bathing and dressing her.
As they came within range of her innate Lilim senses, Mara could detect a curious blend of monster like scents emanating from them. She decided that they seemed to be a blend of Human and Mamono; and something else. What though, she had no idea.
All during the time of their ministrations, never once did they speak, either with each other or with her. She was annoyed when they steadfastly refused to answer any of her questions, after looking impassively at her for a moment. When she tried to detect their level of Spirit Energy, she was shocked to discover that they didn’t have any.
‘It’s like they’re dead! Yet, nor are they undead! What’s going on here?’ she thought, shocked by this mystery.
After they had finished, Huey and Dewey then quietly escorted Lady Mara to Arawn’s office, while she did her best to not show her displeasure at still being manacled. Using her Lilim talents, she instinctively knew that she still intrigued the pair of Oni guards most mightily, judging by their leers and ogling. Yet despite deliberately flashing her cleavage and ‘accidentally’ showing too much skin elsewhere, never once did they give in their baser desires, much to her chagrin.
After she had stepped through a pair of wooden double doors opened by her guards, she frowned when she realized that they had not followed her in.
Continuing on, she entered a spacious office that held many unusual swords on the walls, and a number of curious looking items on the various desks and podiums. One of which was a six-fingered gauntlet that appeared to be made entirely of jewels.
All of which she chose to ignore. Instead, she marched herself over to stand in front of Arawn as he sat on the other side of a desk that was sitting at the far end of the room.
“I will be with you in a moment.” He stated, not looking at her as he lifted a finger shortly; all the while keeping his attention focused on an object in front of him. What he said next, left her befuddled.
“I need to attend to the innumerable details of command. As I am sure you can understand.” He said absentmindedly as he focused himself upon a relic in front of him. Mara’s curiosity caused her to study it.
There before him, atop the desk lay an angled black box that gave off a faint whirring sound.
‘Some kind of magical relic?’ she wondered, wanting to ask about it. ‘No magic involved.’ She decided with a frown. At first, she held her peace as the minutes began to tick by.
Haughtily, she decided to maintain the silence that continued to lie between them. A silence interrupted by a number of faint poundings.
‘What is he up to?’ she wondered. As near as she could tell, all he was doing was to stab his fingertips in some unknowable pattern upon a number of small tiles that were set into the base of the box’s surface.
Occasionally, he would reach out and manipulate an ovoid object that was sitting upon a small square of blue felt like material. When he did, the ovoid would make the random clicking sound.
‘What the hell is this? It’s not like any form of communication that I’ve encountered before.’ She thought with an ever-increasing annoyance. Distracted, she looked over the rest of his desk and noticed that he had a tea set, with a steeping hut cup of tea next to his hand. Near the pot, she noticed a box labeled: ‘Earl Grey’.
‘What kind of tea is that?’ she wondered.
“Ahem!” she said, clearing her throat and folding her arms. Mara was irked when Arawn didn’t even seem to register her interruption.
She tried again several times with increasing loudness, and every time Arawn didn’t so much as blink an eye in reaction. Until finally, her already simmering anger began to boil over. A Lilim just wasn’t used to being ignored by anyone, especially not a mere human male! Finally, she had had enough!
“What in my Mother’s Name is all this about!” She shouted, “Why do you persist in keeping these restraints on me?” Mara shouted heatedly, outraged at Arawn’s cavalier attitude. Arawn finally stopped what he was doing and looked up and over at her, his eyes peering over the edge of the strange box’s rim.
“Precautions, Lady Mara.” He replied quietly, coldly.
“Precautions?!” she shouted, “From What? That Cue entity called me your best ally. Remember?” she said, holding up her manacled wrists. “What more do you need?” she shouted, totally frustrated. Arawn sighed, and closed his eyes while one of his hands then moved up and then began massaging them.
He then moved the front of the black box down until it covered the tiled portion of the box. As he sat back into his chair, he gave her an annoyed tolerant look. Mara decided that his continued lack of deference to her was getting tiresome.
“As a daughter of your sworn Mistress, I demand that I be treated appro,…” she yelled, but was interrupted by the sight of Arawn jumping to this feet and shouting at her.
“I do not give a flying rat fuck who and what you are, Princess!” he emphasized thunderously as he leaned over his desk. This caught Mara totally off guard.
“You may be royalty in your world, but such is irrelevant right now! In this world, you are an interloper and you will behave yourself appropriately! Do I make myself clear?” he demanded as he saw Mara’s irises blaze furiously red. Staring back at him, she realized that Arawn wasn’t going to back down from her, no matter how many fits she pitched.
It took a great effort on her part, but eventually Mara managed to get her anger under control. When she was ready, she nodded once to Arawn. He then continued.
“I am afraid that your restraints are rather necessary for the time being. This is due not only to the timing of your arrival, but also with your subsequent actions.” He explained, paused, and then continued.
“Those actions of yours have put me into an awkward position with the Council.” He replied as he indicated a chair she’d been standing next to and had ignored. After a moment’s hesitation, she sat herself down with a sharp ‘plop’!
‘A good flogging would do him nicely.’ She mused for a moment keeping her eyes locked with his as coolly as she could muster.
“What in the nine realms is this Council? And what does that have to do with your nearly killing me?! Mother would tear you apart right now, if she became aware of my treatment!” she shouted, and then stopped. It was then that she noticed that her usually effective emotional manipulation techniques were having no effect on him.
“I will explain everything shortly.” Arawn stated as patiently as he could. “Right now you need to answer my questions, first. Why did you come here?” he demanded, as Mara stared resentfully back at him. After several long moments, she realized that she wasn’t going to get anywhere by trying to out-stubborn him.
“Mother sent me to find out why you haven’t communicated with her in some time. I am to either assist you in your task or help you return to make a report!” Mara growled.
“Now, if you don’t have any good explanations for your behavior, I promise you that even with my Mother’s orders, I will discipline you in ways that would make a Dark Elf blush!” she finished. Arawn didn’t react the way she’d expected him to, much to her increasing infuriation. No, he smiled instead. But before she could open her mouth to continue, he spoke.
“Stinker?” he called out to no one. “Is she telling the truth?”
“Oh yes she is, Boss. Especially when she was talking about that last part.” A voice giggled from underneath Mara’s chair. “If she does follow through on that threat, I wanna be there to record it.” That voice demanded.
“What? Who?” Mara asked, confused. Before Arawn could say anything, a fist-sized orb of darkness appeared from underneath Mara’s chair. It then zipped up and over to hover in front in front of her nose.
Focusing her eyes, Mara suddenly became aware of a small butterfly-winged figure within the dark orb. It appeared to be a Leanan Sidhe, but this one was different from the ones she’d encountered before. Far different.
Oh, she had the skinny child-like curves of one. However, unlike them, this fairy had long multi-colored locks that tied into what appeared to be a rat’s nest of unkemptness. Dreadlocks, was what she later learned, were they called.
Each of those ‘dreadlocks’ swung well down past her feet. If Mara hadn’t known any better, this Leanan Sidhe’s skin was so pale, she’d have guessed that she was one of the Vampire Elite. Her miniature ankle length black leather coat reinforced that impression most mightily.
“Lady Mara, allow me to introduce: Stinker-Hell.” Arawn stated with a smile. The unusual Leanan Sidhe then managed a mid-air curtsy, all the while grinning like a Gremlin.
“Why is she here?” Mara blinked, caught very off-guard.
“Amongst her other talents, she has the ability to detect falsehoods. Such a talent comes in handy, particularly in my line of work.” Arawn smiled.
“What work is that? Aren’t you supposed to be working on establishing the Gateway from this side?” Mara demanded, confused.
“Indeed I have been, but as the saying goes, there are a lot of loose ends that needed tying up, before I deem a safe return can be ventured.”
“What loose ends?” she demanded haughtily. Arawn ignored her and continued.
“Out of all of the orders your mother bade me to do; primary amongst them was that I was to establish contact with both the Tocs, and the Ogs. She wanted me to do what I could, to get them to return home to your world. It took me a monumental amount of effort on my part, but I did manage to accomplish that.”
“So you did.” Mara admitted reluctantly with a frown. “Rather quickly from our point of view. According to Aeshma, they arrived within a half hour of your departure.” Arawn looked surprised and he beamed at that bit of news.
“How did you manage that feat so rapidly?” Mara asked, honestly curious.
“It was far longer for me. The gateway’s entrance on this side covers a vast range of time. What may have been a mere few minutes for Aeshma, took me the better part of two centuries to accomplish.” Mara jerked in surprise upon hearing that.
“Wait, what? You’ve been here for two centuries?” she exclaimed.
“Two hundred, and thirty seven years to be more precise.” Arawn stated. Mara unconsciously looked over at the Dark-Fairy for a second. When their eyes met, Stinker smiled and nodded her tiny head. Mara blinked.
“You age well.” Mara replied hollowly. ‘I wonder what kind of Incubus you would make?’ she mused, interested in him once more, despite her current circumstances.
“You are not the first to make that observation.” He said dryly, then he continued, “How well have they managed to reintegrate into Mamono society?” he asked.
“The Tocs were quite happy to return, and they had few problems doing so.” Mara answered. Arawn smiled with relief.
“And the Ogs?” he asked, Mara couldn’t help but notice that Arawn seemed to be very interested in what she had to say then.
“Uhhhh, not so much.” She replied quickly. Arawn frowned then, and wilted just a bit. “That’s because most of them were ‘Alped’ within the first few hours. All this despite their best efforts to resist my Mother’s influence as Demon-Lord.”
“Much of them? Not all?” Arawn echoed then.
“Several of the stronger ones were able to prevent their transformation for the longest while. So, Mother called in for a Sabbat Subdual Specialist. After that, even the strongest hold-outs came around within a few short days.”
“Sabbat? Wait! This Specialist, was she a Baphomet?” Arawn demanded suddenly, getting to his feet in alarm.
“Yes. How did you know?” Mara asked, and then she noticed then that this news seemed to have unnerved him, as his eyes were furiously shifting left and right.
“That Baphomet’s name, was it Belphegor?” he asked, his eyes still shifting furiously.
“Yes, I think that was her name. Is something wrong?” she asked, confused.
‘Great Maker! This does not bode well for the future! (1)’ Arawn complained.
‘Indeed not!’ Quintus replied nervously, ‘But, all may still be well. Ask Mara another question. (5)’
‘Which one? (1)’ Primus asked silently. Quintus then made a suggestion.
“Another question, this Belphegor?” Arawn began, “Did she make any of those returning male Ogs into a big brother?” Mara thought about it for a while.
“No, she did not. In fact she boasted that these Subdual spells of hers, would give her the opportunity to ‘fine-tune’ them for her eventual intended quarry.” Mara finished, “What’s wrong?” she asked, when she noticed that Arawn’s skin had paled.
“What is wrong Lady Mara,” He replied shakily. He then took in several calming breaths and then continued. “Is that this news of yours, reminds me of my aforementioned ‘loose-ends’ here.” He began, as he forced down a shudder.
“Arawn are you ill?” Mara asked, trying not to grin at the sight of his discomfort, and failing.
“During their debriefing, did either the Tocs or Ogs mention the fact that they were able to interbreed with the local humans?” he asked in an attempt to change the course of the conversation.
“Yes they did. They mentioned that out of the many that they created, most had not survived past childhood. However, they did successfully manage to sire a Chalice-Pilot. A man they named Herald Childe.” Mara replied, thinking back to what little of her Gateway-briefing she remembered.
“That is all? No mention of any others?”
“Other than Lord Byron, no.” Mara replied, shaking her head. Arawn looked to Stinker.
“Not a single lie yet, Boss.” Stinker piped up, catching his look. Mara bristled.
“Arawn! Explain yourself! I’m getting sorely tired of your mysteries! Either stop teasing me or get on with your explanations!” Mara shouted then.
“The Tocs and the Ogs seem to have ‘forgotten’ to mention that many more lived past child-hood. Hundreds to be accurate. They are the source of this world’s Monster Legends.”
“So, what’s the big deal?” Mara asked, not understanding his trepidation. “Humans and Mamono have interbred even before my Mother came along. Dhampirs, Cambions, and the like. What makes the ones of this world so special?”
“What makes these so special? I will answer you with a bit of a history lesson.”
“FINE!” Mara shot back, her black eyes flaring,with frustration and impatience.
“How powerful were the human/Pre-Maou Mamono hybrids of your world?”
“Invariably, they ended up being less powerful than their Mamono parents.” Mara huffed.
“Every time?” Arawn asked, cocking his head.
“Well, not every time.” She admitted, “A handful of them over the years did turn out to be exceptionally powerf,…” Mara stated and then came to a halt as she became aware of Arawn’s line of reasoning.
“Wait, are you saying that some of the descendants of this world’s Monster/human hybrids,…” she began, her eyes blinking in realization at what he’d been getting at.
“What?” Mara asked, confused.
“Night Breed, the Mamono of this world call themselves the Night Breed.”
“That seems particularly apt. Very well then; I take it that some of the Night Breed here have become powerful enough to force themselves upon humans?”
“Indeed, a goodly portion of them did so as part of their Chalice Pilot breeding program.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Lady Mara, I am mostly referring to the Ogs here.”
“Yes, and?” she demanded with a sigh, not getting his point.
“They are relics of the time before your Mother was able to assert her Dominance over all Mamono. Remember?” Arawn pointed out. Mara opened her mouth to reply, but then stopped as realization hit her.
“Oh, yes, that’s right..” Mara replied sheepishly, her eyes wide.
“Yes.” Arawn continued, “Now a moment more of your patience and I will explain in full.” Arawn paused and took in a deep breath. “The Night-Breed and their parents, the Tocs and the Ogs, have existed on this world, Donnie’s world, for thousands of years.”
“As such, these cross breeds and their parents have for the most part, preyed upon humanity for most of those thousands of years.” He paused, and once he had noticed that Mara was listening he continued.
“Somewhere along the line, those with the Toc Traits and the Og traits managed to breed together. This resulted in offspring that needed sex to survive, in a manner similar to what the Mamono do now. BUT!” Arawn lowered his voice, “that sex often turned out to be of the lethal variety, at least with the indigenous humans. Their offspring were originally known as Nephilim, which eventually bastardized down to Night Breed.”
“Now, those humans who were able to survive sexual relations with the Nephilim, eventually learned how to fight back. The ones who were the most successful in that endeavor eventually came to be called: Hunters.”
“Hunters?” Mara asked, confused. She’d heard that phrase before, but where?
“Yes, Hunters. They Hunted the Night Breed not only in an effort to survive, but also in the hope that they would become powerful enough to allow the rest of humanity the upper hand. Which they inevitably did.”
“Eventually, the Hunters endgame was to exterminate the Night Breed entirely. I guess you could say that the situation between humanity and the Night Breed in this world now, mirrors the one that existed in your world before your Mother came to power.” Mara didn’t reply then, as she began to ponder his words. Arawn continued. “Unlike your world, this war between humans and Night Breed has largely been a secret one.”
“Within the last couple of thousand years, as an indirect result of the Hunter’s actions, a portion of the Night Breed did manage to survive by changing their methods.”
“They did so by limiting their targets to the dregs of society: murderers, rapists, racists, republicans, that kind of ilk. The other Night Breed, who were unwilling to discipline themselves, ended up mostly eliminated by the Hunters. Thus, an unnatural selection occurred.”
“However, the few surviving, nastier forms of Night Breed sought to continue their survival by seeking alignments with higher powers. Such powers as Gods and near-Gods.”
“The way you say that, makes it sound like a bad thing.” Mara chuckled, thinking of the Fallen God of her world. This caused Arawn to pause and glower at her.
“It has been. Out of all of the Shadow Earths that I have visited in my prolonged existence. This particular Earth is without parallel when it comes to attracting maleficent entities. This world’s Chief God being a fine example.”
“All right, but that still doesn’t explain why I’m still being held in restraints!” she growled, her eyes blazing. Arawn sighed and shook his head in response.
“This world’s Chief God is a grievously savage one. He chose to not intervene against the Night Breed on behalf of humanity. If not for the actions of some other more beneficent Gods, this world would’ve long been decimated by the secret war between Humanity and the Night Breed. It was only through the background actions of myself and the Council, that ended the Great War and created a peace treaty between the two.”
“The Council? You mentioned them before.” Mara replied. “Who are they?”
“They are a compact of several individuals who represent the tribes and coalitions of both the Hunters, and Night Breed. “It took me many decades of work, but I managed to broker that peace treaty between those factions. Alas, it is an uneasy peace at best. Inevitably, I was forced to make a number of concessions, in order to keep that peace intact.
“Both groups recognize me as being neither a human nor a Night Breed. This gave me a unique ability for neutrality; as I do not favor one or the other. With that neutrality, I have endeavored to maintain that level of trust from both. Ostensibly, this is because of the Iron Foundation; Seeks the betterment of humans and monsters through cooperation.”
“Iron Foundation? Your foundation?” Mara asked, curious. Arawn nodded. She continued.
“But why do this? Why create it all? What do you get out of it?” Mara demanded.
“This is the other task your mother set me. The why, should be obvious. If she gains full access to this world, then she may gain enough power from the Monsters here to overcome the Chief God of your world.”
“Additionally, my inspiration for this peace was the words and works of Donnie, along with the same of your Mother. Both of whom showed me that Humans and Monsters are able to work side by side, without feeling the need to annihilate each other.”
“It is currently my task to see that the Council’s peace be maintained, with the hope that eventually, Donnie will be able to take over the Iron Foundation for me. After he is sent home, of course.” Arawn paused.
‘What?!’ she thought, ‘He isn’t aware that my mother has already sent him back?’ she then opened her mouth to inform him of that. He noticed.
“Let me finish!!” he half-shouted. Mara closed her mouth. “It has been a difficult road, but I have managed to keep that peace between the two going for nearly sixty local years.” He paused, and then sighed.
“Now, recently something has come along that threatens to upset that peace, possibly beyond repair.” Arawn frowned unhappily.
“How?” Mara asked, intrigued despite her misgivings.
“Grendel.” He said simply.
“Grendel? I assume that’s a he?” She asked. Arawn nodded.
“He is a member of the Night-Breed. Yet somehow, he is able to disguise himself so that he appears fully human. Well enough, to fool the best detection methods of the Hunters.”
“He is incredibly charming and quite powerful in the ways of magic. Unfortunately, he has proven himself to be utterly amoral.” Arawn replied, looking at Mara significantly for a moment, and then he continued.
“He has been engaged in a campaign of seeking ‘to,…’overthrow the yoke of enslavement’, his words not mine; that many of the Night Breed feel that the Hunters have imposed.” Arawn sighed.
“They feel that they are ‘enslaved’ by the Hunters?” Mara asked.
“Some of them, yes” Arawn nodded.
“Then how can you object to Grendel’s actions?” Mara asked.
“I have never worked at odds with anyone who works to free themselves from enslavement. Yet Grendel’s words ring hollow, because he has had numerous chances to free those he claims are enslaved. Yet, he does nothing. Instead, he attacks without warning, he engages in wanton destruction and worst, he murders without need.”
“Additionally, he makes promises and then breaks them- constantly. He has betrayed countless individuals in an effort to set one side against the other. My informants tell me, that he is desperate not for freedom, but for something else.”
“For what?” Mara demanded.
“The ability to reproduce. Apparently, he attempts to do so, so as to solidify his hold upon this world and the power that he has built up.”
“All right Arawn! I can understand his desire for that. However, I cannot condone his methods. Is that what you want me to say?” She finished. Arawn nodded. “What does all that have to do with me?!” Mara shot back.
“He cannot reproduce because there are no members of his kind other than himself.”
“So how is that a problem?” Mara replied in exasperation, “If he dies then your problem is over. Correct?”
“The problem, Lady Mara, is that he is an Incubus, of the original, lethal variety.” Arawn replied, holding up a finger. Mara stopped, and then after a moment she realized that her mouth was hanging open in surprise. Arawn gave her a humorless smile.
“Which is to say, that his penis is so enormous that it invariably damages the genitals of any female he mates with. To the point that they often bleed out before any impregnation can occur.”
“Eep!” Mara chirped then, remembering the tales from the Old Times when the male demon/Incubus was something to be afraid of, even by Succubi. Then, she shut her mouth with a snap, when she realized the conclusion Arawn had been herding her to. Arawn nodded sadly…
“Yes, I see you understand now. The only way Grendel can reproduce is with a member of his own breed, another demon, a succubus. The last fertile one was his mother and she died giving birth to him. There are not any of them around anymore. Or, there weren’t until a couple of days ago.” He stated, looking at her with a somber expression.
“Me?” Mara stated aghast, looking at her manacles.
“Yes. he may very well want you, once he learns of you. After all, you are the only creature in this world capable of both accommodating and reproducing with him.” Arawn paused and looked away. “And here you show up, acting like a Succubus of the Old Times, draining Juanita nearly to death.”
“This makes you a prize for Grendel and by extension, a target for the Hunters. Thus those restraints,” Arawn stated, looking meaningfully down at them, “are meant to keep you alive.” Mara found it difficult to speak then she was so shocked.
‘What have I gotten myself into?’ she asked herself, suddenly scared at the thought. ‘I do wish to find myself an Incubus eventually, but a worthy male. Not a murderer and betrayer.’
“Oh no!” Mara replied finally, finding herself unnerved. She looked down at her manacles with a new sight, swallowed hard and then started looking left and right in Arawn’s office, suddenly unsure of her safety. Arawn saw her and interrupted her train of thought.
“You are safe for now, Lady Mara. And I would prefer that you continue to be, provided you obey my instructions.”
“Can’t you send me home?” she demanded desperately.
“I would if I could.” Arawn replied, shaking his head negatively, his eyes sad.
“What do you mean?’ she stammered, her eyes wide.
“That Chalice that I need to communicate with your mother? The very one I need to activate the gateway with? Grendel has stolen it. Without it both you and I are stuck here.”
“Why would he steal it?”
“Because he has learned of what it can do. Give him access to another world, a world in which he could survive more readily.”
“Why would that be a bad thing? He’d enter into my world and easily fall subject to my mother’s influence.”
“Perhaps, but I highly doubt it. The reason being is that he is indeed quite powerful, powerful enough I suspect to be a threat to your mother.” Mara found herself taken aback by that news. What Arawn said next shocked her still further.
“Once he learned of the extent of your mother’s reach, I’d not be surprised if he decided to eliminate your father in an effort to supplant him, and eventually usurp her.” Arawn explained. Mara’s eyes blazed with indignation at that notion.
“How can anyone attain such power in this magic-benighted world?”
“Those malicious entities I referred to previously? They had a hand in his creation. Including that one we met earlier; that ‘Cue’ fellow.” Mara gasped then, her eyes going wide as she looked around the room worriedly.
“I know you’re a uniquely strong Majin-Arawn, surely you could do something about Grendel?” She asked, trying her best to hide her fear.
“I have tried to, several times. Just fairly recently he suggested a parley between the two of us. He sought to have me meet him openly and with no weapons, to ‘discuss matters’.”
“Unfortunately, that was when I learned the extent of his amorality. That parley turned out to be a trap. He chose to violate his word, and he subsequently decided to attack me at an inopportune moment. The result of that encounter between him and I, left me,…weakened.” Arawn admitted, looking lost for a moment. Despite herself, felt an urge to reach out a comforting hand to him.
“Two of my not-brothers are currently being ministered to in the Hospital wing, and they are both on the edge of death.” Arawn stated somberly, looking over his shoulder at something that Mara couldn’t see. He turned back and locked his eyes with hers.
“That is how powerful Grendel is, Lady Mara. Powerful enough to fight me to a standstill.” He stated, pulling his hand from hers.
“But as it is, Grendel does not have the sufficient training to activate the Chalice properly. I assume that you do?” He asked. Mara nodded, and then her eyes widened in realization of that fact.
“If he learns of me, and what I can do. He’ll want me even more.” She stated. Arawn nodded.
“In more ways than one. Now do you understand my predicament more fully?” Mara nodded nervously, thinking of the Night Breed.
“But wait, what about that eldritch firearm of yours? Surely, you’d be able to stop him with that? Even that Cue individual seemed wary of it.”
“Yes, it could and very well might. Like a fool, I left it behind during that parley that he had suggested.”
“Now I understand what you mean by ‘loose-ends’. He sounds like quite the major one.”
“Quite!” Arawn agreed, nodding.
“So when do these restraining devices of mine come off?” Mara asked, raising and rattling them meaningfully. Arawn smiled.
“That will largely depend upon you. You’re not exactly well-equipped for life in this world.”
“What do you mean? I am more than capable of defending myself against any threat!”
“I am quite sure you could. However, the Council has already made it plain that they feel that you are not trustworthy to act on your own. Your actions with Juanita being a case in point.”
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten about that. I’m sorry.” She replied sheepishly, still disturbed with the unexpected change in her behavior. “So what do they wish to have done with me? Something drastic?”
“Preferably not. What happens next depends on you.”
“How so?” she demanded. Arawn didn’t reply as he reached over to a button on his desk and pressed it. Mara could hear a faint buzzing sound off in the distance. Within a few seconds a human male came marching into the office and came to a stop to stand at stiff attention, several feet in front of both her, Arawn, and Stinker-Hell.
Mara frowned as she took him in. She noticed that he was a relatively young seeming male, dressed in a suit outfit similar to Arawn’s. Her eyes roved over his heavily muscled, almost well chiseled body. He had his brownish hair cut into a ‘high and tight’ cut. Naturally, her thoughts wandered to the notion of what he’d be like in bed, and decided she wouldn’t mind finding out. The sooner the better.
“Sir!” he stated stiffly, his right hand twitching as if he were fighting an urge to salute.
“Guardsman Alonzo.” Arawn replied with a nod, and then he turned to face Mara.
“If you are amenable, this guardsman will act as one of your, uhhhh, escorts.” Arawn stated, trying not to smile. Mara’s eyes sprung open in surprise and outrage.
“An escort? Or an executioner?” she growled, suddenly not liking the newcomer.
“As I had said, that is dependent upon you. He is a recently retired member of the Marine Corps. Marines are notable both for their steadfast discipline to matters of honor, but also for their ability to accomplish any task set to them. He’s been chosen by the Council, as being the most suitable candidate to keep you safe from Grendel, and to keep humanity safe from you. As such, he will see to your needs.”
“All of my needs?” she replied, lifting an eyebrow. Arawn opened his mouth to speak but before he could get out a word. The newcomer spoke first.
“With all due respect, ma’am,…” he began in a drawling voice, looking to Arawn. “If I am not out of turn Mr. Iron?” he asked.
“Speak freely at all times.” Arawn said as he shook his head negatively, the guard continued.
“As a Hunter I’ve encountered Succubi before Ma’am, but never one like you.” He frowned as he peered down at Mara. Mara for her part had the notion that he’d been examining her visually ever since he came into the room.
“What do you mean?” she demanded.
“What I mean Ma’am, is that the Succubi of this world, my world, were actually hideous creatures that made themselves desirable through glamour. You are not.” He stated flatly. “Hideous, that is.” He added quickly.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Mara demanded, shifting her wings in her chair while feeling slightly insulted for some reason.
“I have what is known as- True Sight. I can see through glamour or any other illusionary spell or abilities. Which is another way of saying that I cannot be charmed.” The guard replied, smiling for the first time. Mara found herself intrigued by that smile. “Either by you, or this Grendel fellow.”
“If you accept me as your guardian, then I will consider your desire to stay alive to be my number one need.” He finished. Mara pursed her lips then, grudgingly accepting his logic.
“I think I like the sound of that.” Mara purred, taking a long lingering glance all over the body of her potential guardian once more. He ignored her.
“Mr. Iron?” Alonzo said then. Arawn looked at him and then nodded, an eyebrow raised.
“The Council has also come up with another demand They have ‘requested’ that I be given access to your Extremus-gun, whatever that is, whenever I am guarding Lady Mara.” He finished. Mara noticed that Arawn’s eyes flared then, literally flared. For a moment, his eyes shone with a brilliant blue light. Alonzo took a step backwards when he saw it.
“I see.” Arawn stated quietly, his head lowered in thought, as he looked between Alonzo and Mara with his arms folded. “The Council can kiss my,..” he began, but then he was interrupted.
“The Council insists on it. They feel that the threat posed by her warrants it. Especially since they all helped fund its creation.” Alonzo stated. Arawn licked his lips and pursed his lips in response, almost as if he were about to say something untoward.
“So be it.” Arawn growled, clearly displeased. “I will give you the container for it, and proper instructions, later.” He stated. Alonzo nodded tersely. Mara, on the other hand was grinning at seeing him displeased.
“The Extremus-gun is what nearly took your life earlier.” Arawn said, not looking at her. Mara’s grin vanished in realization.
“Now, Lady Mara!” Arawn began, interrupting her train of thought. “I need to point out, that if you are going to be staying here; you are going to need to ‘earn your keep’.”
“What?!” she demanded, “Is that supposed to mean?”
“When was the last time you ever did an honest day’s work?” Arawn asked pointedly. Mara couldn’t comprehend what he was implying by such a silly question and instead, just blinked confusedly.
“Ahem!” Arawn coughed, “honest night’s work.” He amended. Mara still didn’t understand what he was getting at, and told him so. Arawn gaped at her for a second. Both Arawn and Mara ignored the guardsman when he suppressed a chuckle under a fake coughing fit, as Arawn began to detail an explanation.
“You expect me to WHAT!” she thundered, getting to her feet outraged enough for her tail to lash back and forth wildly. “Work with my hands like a common Kikkimora?!” she yelled indignantly, thinking of how unflattering she’d look in a maid’s outfit.
“Yes.” Arawn replied simply, looking rather pleased at the reaction he got from her.
“You. Cannot. Be Serious.” Mara stated, her voice lowering dangerously.
“I am.” Arawn replied, and then quickly added. “The fact of the matter, Lady Mara, is that the Foundation is not set up to cater to the idle rich. Everyone here is expected to contribute to the community with whatever means or talents they have available.”
“I will not stand for this outrage! Surely there must be some other situation available to me?” she raged.
“There is.” Arawn replied, “Though I would imagine that you would not care for it.”
“Try me!” she dared him, which caused him to smile sardonically. “Go ahead.” She prompted, seeing it.
“I could also cast a Stasis spell upon you, until such time as all of the loose ends have been taken care of.”
“What? Absolutely not!” she raged shrilly. “I heard what happened with that Hell-Hound of yours back in Cynosure! I will not subject myself to such ridicule!”
“Well Mara those are the options. Submit to a stasis spell, or volunteer to work.”
“This is beyond the Pale!” Mara raged, as she shivered with indignation. ”Even when I was ruled a kingdom, I never allowed my hands to get dirty!”
“Oh you will most certainly be getting your hands dir,…” Arawn began and then stopped talking, his eyes focusing on her.
“Wait! What?! You referred to being a ruler in the past tense?” Arawn stated, his eyes narrowing. Which caused Mara to stop raging and shut her mouth with an audible snap.
“You do not have a kingdom anymore?” he surmised. She refused to look at Arawn then.
“What happened?” Arawn asked her oh so sweetly then. Mara gave him a quick glance, and then looked away without answering and wrapped herself in her wings. Arawn folded his arms and gave her a severe frown. After a full minute of silence, Arawn began to realize that Mara wasn’t going to budge.
‘Hmph,’ Arawn/Primus began. ‘What to do now? (1)’ he thought ‘aloud’.
‘I do have a suggestion. (2)’ Secundus injected.
‘What is it? (1)’.
‘It involves some imposturing on our part.’ Secundus stated, as he then detailed his plan. ‘Thankfully, Annwyfn illusion spells still work on this world. (2)’
‘I like that idea. Make it happen. (1)’ Primus ordered. Within a short while, all was ready.
“Mara.” Arawn began, looking at the recalcitrant Lilim before him. “Talk to me please. I am adamant.” Mara wouldn’t even spare him a glance in that moment,
“Very well then Mara, you leave me no choice.” He stated with gravity. Arawn then closed his eyes and concentrated while he lifted his hands up and out. Alonzo the guardsman found himself curious as to what was going to happen, but chose to remain silent and observe. Arawn then muttered something under his breath. What happened next shocked Alonzo to his core.
Arawn’s form rippled, and then changed. Alonzo was surprised to see that Arawn’s compact, yet stout frame, expand outwards. Suddenly, in his place there now stood a six foot four hulking specimen of ripped masculinity, similar to a certain robotic terminator he’d seen in a movie. Only this one was dressed in a form fitting black warrior’s tunic.
However, this newcomer had a shock of platinum blonde hair that matched the demon standing before him. Alonzo also spied that he had a pair of sternly piercing electric blue eyes, along with a pair of pointed ears sticking out from his skull.
‘I cannot detect his normal form! What fell wizardry is this?’ he wondered.
“Young lady.” The newcomer spoke then in a deep baritone. Which caused Mara to jump involuntarily and turn herself around with alacrity.
“Papa?” Mara squeaked, quite aghast at seeing her father here of all places!
“I understand that you have been a naughty girl.” Arawn/Mara’s father frowned then, sounding most disappointed.
“I’m sorry Papa, it wasn’t my fault!” Mara shouted while shaking her head, tears starting to form in her eyes.
“What did you do?” Arawn/Father glowered. Which caused Mara to start shedding her welled up tears.
“I lost control of my kingdom.” She dutifully admitted as quietly as she could manage, her head bowed. Arawn blinked a long blink in utter surprise.
“How on earth did you manage to lose control of your country?” he asked, flabbergasted despite himself. Mara was mortified when she noticed that the guardsman was intensely interested in what she had to say then too.
“I,…uhh,….I don’t know.” She admitted in a little girl’s whisper.
“But surely you must!” Arawn breathed, baffled at her statement. “You founded that kingdom did you not? How can,…” he asked, looking at her in the eyes. Mara jerked her head up and looked at her ‘father’ in confusion. Her eyes flared a searing red when she realized what was going on.
“How could you!” She demanded then, her teeth gritted, “Arawn! Using my father’s image against me that way!” she raged as she began to try to wrestle her manacles away from her wrists. Try as she might in her fury they wouldn’t budge, despite all of its sparking and flaring.
“If you had truly been a ruler, then you would not have needed to ask me why.” Arawn stated then, as he dispelled his illusory form and returned to his normal condition.
Mara stopped tearing at her restraints and glared balefully back at him. “Every ruler has to be ruthless.” He explained. Mara didn’t reply, her nostrils flaring with every heaving breath of hers instead.
“So, you didn’t create your kingdom.” Arawn stated. “Nor do I surmise that you corrupted a preexisting one either like your sister Druella did.” He finished.
Mara’s eyes flared nova-like when she heard her elder sister’s name. Then she blushed, and chose to look away from him. After a few seconds, she shook her head once. Arawn sat back down into his chair and blew his breath out as he steepled his fingers in front of his face.
“It was given to you.” He concluded with the disappointment obvious in his voice. Mara nodded her head once. Arawn wilted. Mara spoke then.
“Mother decided that if I had to run a kingdom for a while, then I would ‘learn many a valuable lesson’. Her words.” A look of dismay, then resignation caused Arawn’s face to sag.
“Well this information casts a new light on the circumstances of your arrival.” He said in a whisper. ‘She is a Spoiled-Brat.’ he concluded.
“How so?” Mara asked, confused. Arawn sighed and shook his head in negation. Then he looked at her with a measure of pity in his eyes.
“It explains why you are here as an emissary, as opposed to your sister, Laila.”
“She’s probably off righting some wrongs, or fighting another noble cause.” Mara shot back with acid sarcasm, feeling stung by Arawn’s comparison.
‘Why must everyone be so damned judgmental of me?’ she fumed silently.
“How does one lose a kingdom?” the guardsman suddenly asked. Mara’s already hot anger, flared again when he heard him. Turning her blazing reddened eyes to him, she tried to fix him in his place. However, her potential guard, to his credit didn’t so much as flinch.
“I suggest that you give a salient answer, Lady Mara. It will give us both a valuable insight into your character.” Mara hemmed and hawed as best she could to avoid answering them then. Nevertheless, in the end, and after much prompting she began to recite her memory of that humiliating incident.
“The Order. They came along in secret.” She began.
“Shouldn’t you have detected their presence when they entered your realm?” Arawn pointed out, looking at her with a frown.
“I was distracted.” She shot back.
“Distracted? What with? Another attack from elsewhere? Perhaps a pincer movement?” The guardsman suggested. Mara shook her head and blew out her breath between her teeth.
“A party.” She said quietly.
“A party?” Arawn and the guardsman asked in unison, both of them raising their eyebrows. “Not a search party?” Arawn prompted.
“A celebration party. I was organizing a celebration to distract my people from their misery. You know, to boost their morale. After all, who doesn’t love a party? I know I do. Parties are supposed to make people feel better.” she huffed, clenching her teeth together in a nervous smile.
“Misery in a Demon Realm? The need for morale boosting? What kind of misery could affect your subjects so negatively?” Arawn asked, his eyes crossing in thought.
“Oh, it was something about a,…” she paused, thinking back. “A, uhhh, I think it may have been a famine, or a drought, or something like that. I can’t remember which.” She wondered. “Apparently during it, the Order was able to slap together an insurrection and the next thing I knew, I had to flee home to my mother.” She finished, smiling relievedly.
Mara frowned at the guardsman, as he seemed to be distracted, what with his hand covering at and clenching at his mouth. She thought she saw him smiling for a moment, but then he turned away, snorting. She looked at him oddly.
Much to her satisfaction, she saw that Arawn had chosen to refrain from asking her anymore-annoying questions. Instead, he just sat there like an idiot with his mouth hanging open, staring at her.
‘Well it is certainly nice to have him looking at me with awe for a change.’ She thought incorrectly. After a few moments, Arawn looked over to the still smirking guardsman.
“So, Alonzo, do you feel comfortable taking on the role of guardian to our guest?” he asked, pressing his lips together to fight off that smile that threatened to overwhelm him. With a supreme effort, Alonzo managed to get his smirking under control long enough to answer.
“Surprisingly enough, yes I think I can manage. Though I do think that I will need the assistance of another.”
“Do you have someone in mind?” Arawn asked, raising an eyebrow.
“She’s a Night Breed. The Council did say they wanted one of her escorts to be one of them. If anything else, she will be maintaining a firm eye on our Succubus. Plus, as a woman she’ll be able to convey information to Mara that I, as a male, would unintentionally overlook.”
“Is that all?”
“No. There is also the matter of Mara nearly draining her to death. I am under orders to kill Lady Mara, if such happens again. Juanita will the just the person to help prevent that.” Alonzo smiled. Mara looked back at him with no small amount of trepidation.
“Good thinking. Consider it done. Anything else?” Arawn said then, also smiling. Mara glared at him.
“I’ll let you know when it comes up.”
“Fair enough.” Arawn decided, breathing out a relieved sigh. Turning, he looked at Lady Mara speculatively for a moment.
“So what will it be Lady Mara? Will you submit to a stasis spell? Or will you work for your bread?”
“I don’t suppose we could work out an alternative method of paying? Say, Succubus-style?” Mara smiled, half-jokingly.
“No.” Arawn stated solemnly. Mara frowned when he realized that he wasn’t kidding.
“I think I’ll go with the ‘work for my bread’ option.” She sighed aggrievedly. Arawn slowly came to his feet and approached her.
“Before I release you from your restraints, will you agree to the local laws of Hospitality? This includes your not draining someone of their Spirit-Energy to the point of killing them.” Mara nodded once. Arawn drew in a relieved sigh, and then with a mystic gesture he spoke one word, “Vacatio.”
With an audible snap, and a muted clatter, Mara’s manacles unlatched themselves from her wrists, wings, and tail, and fell to the floor. She then gratefully stretched herself out in such a way, that it put her cleavage on ready display for Alonzo to appreciate. She smiled secretly when she saw Alonzo’s eyes bug out.
“Then I welcome you to the Iron Foundation Lady Mara. I guarantee you that your stay will be a memorable one.” Arawn replied, and then he smiled a smile that didn’t reassure her in the slightest.