Sojourn’s End Chapter 2, Sojourn’s Ender

Sojourn’s End Chapter 2, Sojourn’s Ender

Arawn’s Summoning minus 3 months

Professor Kutabe of the Royal Makai’s Department of Unnatural History gave a satisfied nod to the circle of attending Zipanganese exchange students around her, several Oni (three Red and a couple of Blue), a Ryu, two Crow-Tengu harpies, a Raiju, an Inari, and a half dozen of what she assumed to be Kunoichi. She appreciated their enthusiasm in attending her choice of venue for her next lecture in her course: Learning Life’s Lessons through the study of Strategy Games. This week Kutabe had been teaching them Chess, unbeknownst to them today she would be speaking about its antecedent: Dragon Chess.

She also appreciated the fact that they had chosen to wear the safety togs she’d recommended they wear to the excavation site in which they now stood. Well, most of them had. One of them was dressed as if she expected some unattached males to happen by. ‘Hope springs eternal,’ the Kutabe mused.

The Professor eschewed her usual cap and gown that she would’ve worn in one of her class rooms. Instead, the Hakutaku wore an outfit befitting the dirty excavation site: long pants with deep pockets with her tail curls pinned into submission, knee high demon-steel lined hoof-boots, a long-sleeved shirt covered with a tight corset; and her head was topped with a hardhat modified to accommodate the horns that protruded laterally from her head, absent the tassels. This last part was to avoid the possibility of her accidentally knocking over something fragile.

Currently the group was standing in a deep wide pit that was sectioned off in large squares marked with string and stakes.  The entire expanse was bordered by many a strangely shaped basaltic boulder that once had formed parts of walls or floors, the boulders now seemed to be arranged seemingly at random. But sometime in the past some great catastrophe had leveled what once was a Demon Royal Palace into this agglomeration of sand, silt, and rock.

This particular pit wasn’t the deepest of the site, but it was deep enough to require torches to illuminate the recently unearthed artifacts that the gaggle of students found themselves standing amongst this day. “Day” being a relative concept in a Demon Realm, after all.

The students were interspersed with a number of what appeared to be five large flat slabs of stone marked by alternating colors of squares, most of which were occupied by stately rows of odd-looking statuettes.

As the Professor looked around at her students she took note that no few of them seemed to be partly asleep, as evidenced by their half-hidden yawns.  Apparently, the brisk walk (or slither) everyone had been forced to take to access this place, hadn’t been enough to enliven them. But then, Kutabe noted with a curl of her mouth, that the majority of yawners were Oni, both Red and Blue. This suggested that they’d been up late the night before- studying.

‘Studying the writing on the side of a sake bottle, no doubt.’ Kutabe apprised uncharitably, but she didn’t allow such sour thoughts to affect her professional demeanor as she waited patiently for the group of students to settle down.

Kutabe audibly cleared her throat to gain her their attention, but it was only after the third and loudest ‘ahem’ she was able to catch the attention of even the most fatigued Red Oni.
 “Today class, we’ve journeyed to this site of what is presumed to be the ruins of an ancient Demonic Royal Palace,” Kutabe began every one of her lectures by making eye contact with her students one by one.
This was to let them know, that her lectures were not meant to be a boring recitation with her droning on in a monotone.  Instead she intended that it be a dynamic explanation that invited questions and commentary from her students in an effort to get them more fully engaged with the subject matter.
She achieved this best by walking around close to what she described. This was as to not only keep her student’s attention, but also make them on their toes (or equivalent) whenever she got close to them.

To Kutabe history wasn’t just about memorizing facts so as to pass a written test at the end of a course.  To her history was about getting her class to learn how people did things differently, yet predictably in times past. The Professor wanted her students to comprehend the motivations of the ancients so as to allow them the opportunity to apply that knowledge to the here and now, and hopefully for the future.

“You are undoubtedly wondering what is on display in and around us. The answer is- this rare find appears to be a complete set of an ancient version of Chess. What makes this find so significant is that it is a version that we in the modern day- call Dragon Chess.”

The professor paused. She could see now that she had the full attention of everyone present- particularly Fumiko the Ryu, who was standing fully erect with her tail coiled around her; her mouth slightly agape, eyes wide and fully focused on the Professor with her own yawns forgotten.

“I thought that these looked familiar!” exclaimed Fumiko, who had enrolled in the Professor’s class as an elective in order to bolster her chances of obtaining a degree in Eldritch Meteorology. “But they’re so large. Why is that?…Professor.” She added after a moment’s hesitation.

Kutabe chose to ignore her inadvertent lapse in honorifics, smiling to ease the pain of humiliation the unintended familiarity that the Ryu had displayed.  “They are that size Fumiko, because they’re sized appropriately.”, to which Fumiko got a quizzical look on her face as she tilted her head, questioningly.

 “Meaning,” the Professor continued as she approached the central board of the five slabs that were arranged in a ‘X’ pattern, “this set was meant for someone of a much larger size in stature than you or I. It’s estimated that the intended players of this Dragon Chess set, were approximately 5 meters in height.  This is evidenced by a number of other physical finds such as the staircases that have been uncovered here.

The professor bent over, reached down, and picked up one of the pieces off of the board nearest her, the center one. Its neck filled her entire hand and she appeared to be having a measure of difficultly in holding onto it- it being so large in circumference. Curiously, Kutabe found that after a few seconds her hand just seemed to mold itself naturally to the curves and bumps of her chosen chess piece.

She then reached with her other hand into one of her pants pockets and pulled out another much smaller piece. She held them both up so that all of her students could see.  “This smaller piece is one I’ve taken from a modern Dragon Chess set that I have at home. It is what is called a Pawn. See how it just sits in my hand? I can curl my fingers around it and hide it.” Kutabe noted the intrigued looks of a good portion of her class.

“This one,” she indicated moving the much larger piece up and down, (which action also seemed to come natural to her), “Is also a pawn. In fact, this is the same kind of pawn that I have here in my other hand. This should give you all an idea of just how much larger than we the demons were of this age.” Looking around, the Professor noted that she most definitely had everyone’s attention.

“Now,’ she said as she returned the oversized chess piece to its appropriate spot on its board, “who here is willing to tell us what Chess is?” Kutabe looked around and noted that one of the two Blue Oni had raised her hand. “Yes Yasu?” Kutabe motioned to her to proceed.

As Yasu stepped forward, Kutabe noted that even though she was dressed as she’d requested, she still chose to keep her shirt unbuttoned all the way down to her belt. ‘As if any males were around to pay attention,’ Kutabe thought to herself, ‘and even if they were they’d already be Incubus status and thus probably not interested anyways.’

Yasu began loudly enough for all to hear around her, “Chess is a board game intended for two people to play together. Sometimes it is meant as a game to challenge each player intellectually, to others it is a pleasant pastime. Others see it as a form of art, a theme that inspires literary pieces such as dance or music performances.” Yasu intoned in a manner that Professor Kutabe suspected that she’d memorized the passage just a few hours ago in an effort to impress.

‘In all fairness, one isn’t going to read such a passage on the side of a Sake bottle.’ The professor reminded herself, keeping her expression neutral. “Thank You Yasu. Now if you would please, step forward to this board here,” Professor Kutabe pointed to the center board in which she stood in front of “and tell me if you can see any difference between a regular chess set and this one.”

Yasu did as the Professor asked, feeling puzzled at both the size of the pieces involved and their unusual shapes. As she approached the central board she swept her ponytailed hair over her shoulder as a matter of habit. After a second or two of study with her brows furrowed in concentration- she decided that she simply couldn’t see any differences other than the difference in size as was already stated by the Professor.

Finally, she chose to carefully sit Kiza in front of the board in order to get a better look, and also to avoid knocking over something that might turn out to be fragile if she’d chosen to remain standing. (As it was she had in fact been studying the side of not just one but several Sake bottles the night before.) She felt it would do her reputation no good to damage an artifact today.

After several seconds of intense study with Yasu biting her lower lip in concentration, she gave out a sigh of frustration and said, “I’m sorry Professor, but I cannot.., Oh wait!” Suddenly she opened her mouth in surprise. ‘I can’t believe I couldn’t see it before!” Yasu thought.
 “A regular Chess board is made up of an eight by eight grid of squares. This one,” Yasu said as she looked at the other boards nearby, “and the others around it, each have a grid of ten by ten squares.”

“Well done, Yasu! Please join the others.” Kutabe said with smiling approval.

Yasu returned to her feet deftly, then she stepped carefully in her work boots so as to avoid bumping into anything in her walk back to her assigned observation spot. During her return, she carried a small glow of satisfaction at both her insightful catch and the Professor’s praise.

“Dragon Chess is similar in form to Regular Chess, but with the addition on the main board of two additional game pieces on each board for each player. Additionally, Dragon Chess has Five Boards for game play, as opposed to its simpler cousin, regular Chess, or simply Chess.

 It has been written in the words of the Wise, that a person should play chess when everyone else is playing checkers.” Kutabe continued. “Chess is a game of skill, meant to inspire strategic thinking, and it is meant to allow the opportunity to develop tactics that would allow the player to achieve success both in the game and in real life. Dragon Chess takes those life lessons and raises them to a new level of magnitude.”

Professor Kutabe looked around in the gloom of the excavation site and noted that she held, for now at least, the firm attention of everyone present. All yawns having been banished.
“Now students. Chess has proven difficult for even a regular monster to master.” Kutabe noted then that nearly all of her students nodded at that statement. The Ryu, on the other hand, merely smiled. “Dragon Chess Is much more difficult to master than regular Chess. It can be comparable in complexity to regular Chess, as regular Chess is to Checkers.”

 “Again, in the words of the wise; Mamono Children play Checkers, Adult Mamono play Chess, Superior Mamono play Dragon Chess.” Kutabe noticed that the Ryu lost her smile and pursed her mouth giving a slow nod, while letting her posture slouch. Glancing around, Professor Kutabe also noticed that she wasn’t the only one who had noticed the Ryu’s actions. Every other person in the excavation site seemed to be intimidated both by the Ryu and her reactions to the Professor’s speech, and were glaring at her and her presumed arrogance.

“It has also been said that the Gods play Dragon Chess, and that we are the pieces on their boards. This knowledge will give you a better insight on, not only what the boards and their relative pieces are, but also the kind of stakes for every game that has been played in the past.” Kutabe looked around and said, “I mention stakes because traditionally Dragon Chess was played mostly as a means of wagering great sums of not only money, but lives.”

And often souls‘, the Professor thought to herself.

“And who knows what lives were saved or lost by those who played with the Dragon Chess set you stand alongside.  Now to give you the background necessary to understand the complexity of the game play I shall give you the particulars of each of the boards, beginning with the center board,”, the Professor indicated it with her pointing stick, “The Center Board represents the Earthly Realm or our own Life’s existence. This board to my right and forward- is a representation of the Realm of the Upper Worlds, also known as: Law, or as we know it today- The Order.” The Professor paused in her speech to wait for the inevitable expulsions of disgust that any mention of the Order usually inspired. 

She continued after everyone had quieted down, “This board to my right and closer to me, is a representation of the Realm of Light, also known as the Domain of Heaven, also known as the Realm of the Chief God.
The board to my left and forward is the representation of the Realm of the Lower Worlds, also known as Chaos. And finally, the board to my left and close to me, is a representation of the Realm of Darkness, also known as the Demon Realm- the very spot in which you are now being bored to death.” The Professor quipped with some self-deprecation. Everyone present murmured a chuckle in response.

“Now for example, for the center board, there are two additional pieces called- The Merchant. Each one stands on its own respective color, like all of the other pieces. The Merchant has the option of castling with her King, like a Rook under similar circumstances. If a White Merchant piece has castled with her King, then that White Merchant can become the next Queen after the original Queen has been captured and only IF either the Law or Heaven boards is controlled by a majority of White Pieces. But if that White Merchant piece had been sitting on a black square when she had castled with her King, then either the Chaos or Darkness boards has a chance of corrupting the new Queen- which is determined by a certain number of select actions performed by those respective boards. Thus no one board can be played independently: The actions of Law and Chaos or Heaven and the Demon Realms on their respective realms, will have consequences on the Earth Board, and vis a vis.”

“Now considering the size of the pieces, their quality of workmanship, and the region in which they were found, we can conclude that this particular set belonged to a Demon Lord of some as of a yet indeterminate age.”

“Now,” said the Professor looking around at her students, “can anyone think of any way we could get an estimate of how old this set is?”  For several seconds, no one spoke while Kutabe waited patiently for a response.

Finally, someone spoke, “Names?” The professor turned to see who it was and was surprised to find that it came from Kozakura, a Red Oni who was Yasu’s constant companion, and someone the Professor felt was attending her class only at her blue friend’s insistence.

Shaking herself, Professor Kutabe asked her, “What you do mean by names Kozakura?”

“The names of the chess pieces, what are they?”

“That’s simple, we have the names of the pieces from every Dragon Chess,” the Professor started to intone.

“No! No!” said Kozakura with an impatient wave of her hand. “I don’t mean the names of the chess pieces NOW. I mean the names of the pieces from then. Are they different from now?” This question gave Kutabe a start of surprise and pleasure.

“Yes Kozakura, as a matter of fact they are different.  The names have changed in many respects to a modern Dragon Chess set.” said the Professor, looking at her least academically inclined student in a new way, “And I’m glad that you asked.” Kutabe turned her attention to the rest of her students. “Because class. In addition to the set of pieces we have here, we’ve also uncovered an instruction manual. These instructions, now mostly translated, just happen to include the names of the pieces and the rules involved about how to play properly.” Kutabe stopped and turned to face directly at the Red Oni. “Well Done Kozakura!” beamed the Professor at the Red Oni.
Kozakura then turned to her blue companion who had been staring open mouthed at Kozakura’s display of intelligence and stuck her tongue out at her. Kozakura was quite pleased as it wasn’t every day she got to one up Yasu.

“Now then follow along as I speak and if you are inspired as to a date, get my attention to bring it up.” The Professor said looking at every one of her students in turn, and then looked down at the notebook she had pulled from her other pants pocket. “Let us begin.” As she did so using her pointing stick to indicate each piece. “Here on the central (Earth) board for each player, there are ten Pawns, two Rooks, two Knights, two Priests, two Merchants, one King and one Queen. The rules for this board, are fairly much the same for the Standard Chess set as stated before.” Kutabe paused to see if anyone had anything to say, none did so she continued positioned herself next to another board.

“Here on the Chaos, Upper Left, Board for each player there are ten Servitors also known as Shoggoth. They serve as the boards Pawns. Two Mind Flayers as Rooks, two Night Gaunts as Knights, two Mi-Go as Priests, and two Yith as Merchants. Finally, we have one Cthulhu as King and one Cthylla as Queen.”

“Wait!” said Yasu with a triumphant smile. “If the Shoggoth are referred to as servitors then this set must be truly old.”

“You are correct Yasu. This one fact alone gives us an indication of just how truly ancient this set is.” This time Yasu stuck her tongue out at Kozakura, who returned the gesture with a grimace. Yasu felt the need to maintain the superiority in her relationship with Kozakura. If she hadn’t then who knows what kind of mischief she’d get into!

“As another example, the Shoggoth pawns can capture opposing pieces, and can for up to 10 turns emulate the moving capacity of the piece they’ve captured. Now to continue,” Kutabe said, “here on the darkness board, for each player there are ten Imps in place of Pawns, two Devils in place of Rooks, two Hellhounds in place of Knights, two Dark Priests in place of priests, two Demons in place of Merchants, 1 Demon Lord as King, and 1 Demon Lady as Queen.”, every student smiled at this list- as it was something they were all familiar with.

Kutabe chose to keep her third eye up as she spoke from her notes for the next set, as she expected there to be some no small amount of confusion; “On the Law Board, for each player we have ten Annwyfn in place of Pawns, two Beadles in place of Rooks, two Bailiffs in place of Knights, two Lawyers in place of Priests, two Jurists in place of Merchants, the Judge as King, and the Stenographer as the Queen.” The professor had noticed that every one of her students had a confused look on their face when she mentioned the word: ‘Annwyfn’.

“The Annwyfn. We don’t know who or what they were.” Professor Kutabe DETESTED the very concept of there being something she didn’t know about.  “Extrapolating back to their pawn position we can guess that they must have been a Servitor race of the Lords of Law, similar to Chaos and their own servitor race: the Shoggoth. Searches through our own records and the records of other institutions have been done, and we’ve yet to find any mention of them anywhere.” Kutabe admitted with a grimace.
“It can only be concluded that the Annwyfn are extinct, and have been so for at least half a million years, possibly longer since that is the last time recorded anywhere that one of the Shoggoth served willingly as a Servitor to Chaos. Which gives us an idea of just how truly ancient this set is.” The Professor noted the bewildered look on every one of her student’s faces.
She then noticed one student raising her hand.

“Yes Kozakura?”

“What are used in place of the Annwyfn in today’s Dragon Chess, Professor?”

“Good question. In modern Dragon Chess sets, they are known as: Heroes. Now, let us continue. On the Light board, for each player there are ten Seraphim in place of Pawns, two Cherubim in place of Rooks, two Thrones in place of Knights, two Virtues in place of Priests, two Dominions in place of Merchants, one Chief God and one Chief Lady.  The fact that this set differentiates the Chief God from the Lady also gives us a notion of how old it is.” Kutabe said with a smile.

“Ummm Professor?” asked Yasu.

“Yes?”

“You’ve left out two pieces. What are those?” Yasu said pointing to a pillar which had two ornately carved chess pieces sitting on it. Everyone’s attention was immediately drawn to them.

“Those two pieces are what makes Dragon Chess not only unique, but a truly interesting game.” Said the Professor as she walked over to the pillar in question. The top of which came up to the bottom of her corseted bosom. She chose to lift the taller of the two.

“This,” she said, hefting it (barely) in one hand, “Is the piece known as the Champion. It has an inherent Magic all of its own. Maneuver wise the Champion has all of the abilities of a Queen. While the other chess pieces are relegated to playing on their own respective boards this piece, along with its companion there, can travel between boards.”

“But only after a certain number of requirements are met first. And sometimes the player who chooses it has to be careful that it not be allowed too long in enemy territory- because if they do, it has been known to shift sides.” said Professor Kutabe as she set the Champion piece back down. She then picked up the slightly shorter and wider piece. Kutabe noticed then that all of her students were looking at the Ryu. Apparently Fumiko had flinched and given an audible squeak when the Professor had picked it up.

At this Kutabe changed her voice from ‘instruction’ tone to ‘cautious’ tone. “Finally, this is the piece known as: The Jester, is also known as Balo, or sometimes ‘The Fire Clown’. It is the least used Dragon Chess Piece, ever. It can do everything that the Champion piece can do.”

Now the Professor lowered her voice still further, “Its use in a game is often considered to be an act of desperation on behalf of the player who chooses to use it. This is because The Jester is infused with some unknown form of magic. Which is to say- it doesn’t always do what is expected of it, in fact it is impossible to predict what it will do. Sometimes, the Jester will switch players of its own accord. Sometimes it will move itself unaided to one of the other boards. But that’s not all. Even the Grand Masters of Dragon Chess of today are hesitant to use it.
Why? Because they are scared of it. They are scared of it because there are recorded instances of the Jester causing fatalities in Dragon Chess Tournaments.” Kutabe noticed then that Fumiko had shrunk into herself, almost as if in an effort to escape either the notice of The Jester or her Professor. If that was her intention, she had failed.

“Fumiko, do you have a story to share?” The Ryu gave a whole-body flinch to her teacher’s query, then clenched both of her paws in consternation. She met the Professor’s gaze briefly, and then slowly, reluctantly began to speak.

“I had a Great Aunt who became widowed because of a Dragon Chess Tournament.” Fumiko said quietly, everyone around her strove to hear, “Her husband at the time was enough of a Dragon Chess enthusiast that he won good amounts of money for their temple. Which is the sole reason she tolerated his passion.” Fumiko smiled half-heartedly glancing around at everyone. “Well, that set of passions that didn’t include her that is.”

Fumiko gave out a brief chuff of a laugh and continued, “He was apparently playing a high stakes game against a Western Dragon and looked to be losing a rather significant amount of money. It was then that he chose to invoke The Jester, apparently in response to his opponent summoning the Champion.”

Fumiko half-closed her eyes and breathed in deeply as if to summon up her courage, “According to the surviving witnesses, he appeared to be upset by The Jester’s movements and chose to try and ‘force’ it to his will instead of allowing it to follow its own lead.”

 “There was an explosion.” Finally, Fumiko closed her eyes and bowed her head. “My Great Uncle and his opponent were killed, including several observers. As a result, the stakes were forfeit and as it turned out he had borrowed heavily in preparation for the game. After settling his debts and the legal suits brought by all of the injured, my Great Aunt was left destitute.” Fumiko clenched her paws angrily as her tail tip lashed side to side, “The Jester Piece survived unscathed, despite its destruction of the rest of its respective game pieces.”  Fumiko then went silent.

“My apologies Fumiko.” Professor Kutabe said in an effort to soften the blow of her student’s revelation. “As you can see class, The Jester is HIGHLY Capricious, both in nature and magical ability. If you ever decide to use it, even in a learning session of Chess, remember what it is capable of.” With this the Hakutaku picked up the Champion piece in her other hand and held them both up for all the class to see.

“So, in conclusion, we can also attempt to date the age of this Dragon Chess set by studying the carving patterns of each of these. The Champion.” Which the Professor hefted up in one hand, “Or the Jester.” Which she hefted in the other hand.
As she did so she got a thoughtful look on her face and turned her head to look at the Jester. She started to slowly alternate lifting and lowering the two pieces.

Frowning, Professor Kutabe said, “This is odd. The Jester piece is heavier than the Champion piece.”

Kozakura piped in, “Perhaps it is made of a different material?”

“No, that shouldn’t make a difference. All Dragon Chess pieces ever made are supposed to match weights down to the milligram. But this Jester piece is significantly heavier.” Professor Kutabe said with a thoughtful frown on her face. “I wonder why?”

—————————————————-

Arawn’s Summoning  minus 2 months.
‘Paperwork.’ The Great Maou thought to herself as she sat in front of her work desk in her study located between her throne chambers and bedroom, ‘Empires rise and fall, Demon Lords come and go, Demons wax and Humans wane, but the paperwork remains.’ she growled to herself as she faced yet another stack of reports that needed acknowledgement and recommendations.

The Great Maou sat back in her comfortably padded chair and looked around the room, desperate for anything to distract herself from the onerous task at hand. ‘Fifteen minutes since my husband and I last had sex and already the candlesticks are starting to look good.’, she thought to herself.
The room in which she sat, (but felt like a prison to her) was a large and windowless chambered affair. After all, one didn’t need an easily broken (and dreadfully expensive) window to allow some crafty Order Hero to swing in unannounced- again. One Husband was enough.

 Her work study was an ornately decorated affair with fine tapestries depicting many a lewd scene hanging from the ceiling, but they were also good for those who decided they needed some privacy for an assignation or three. No few of which she herself had encouraged and participated in. Along with the tapestries there was an extensive library that included not only grimoires, but also many of the magical sciences, hard sciences, and geographies. The Great Maou was proud of her own sponsorship (and ownership) of the latest edition of the Monster Girl Kama Sutra with all of its volumes. (Heavily illustrated). The majority of which lay here, the more intriguing ones lying open in her bedroom for further instructionals later.

There were trusted pairs of guards posted at both entrances, A Minotaur/Cyclops pair facing inward with a solemnity that spoke of either serious dedication to their task, or a bored-out-of-their-minds-fugue state, posted at the doors to the Throne Room.
Turning her attention to the Minotaur and then the Cyclops, the Great Maou decided that of the two mind states they could possibly be in, she’d have chosen the latter based solely on the fact that there was a regular sized spider spinning a web between the Minotaur and the staff she gripped in both hands.

Turning her head and shifting over, the Great Maou could see the two Red Oni guarding the doors to her main bedroom. They too seemed to be doing their own imitation of a pair of gargoyles rather well. The Great Maou thought about going over to them and seeing if in fact they had turned to stone, but didn’t get a chance to do so as a resounding knocking came through the throne room doors.

Before either the Cyclops or her companion could behoove themselves out of their fugue state, one of the doors opened and a little girl’s head poked itself in at about mid-thigh level of the Minotaur- who had finally turned her head to look at the interloper with a frown on her face.
Or at least what would have been the face of a little human girl, if one chose to discount the two massive backward facing goat’s horns popping out of the top of her head, along with the pair of goat’s ears jutting on either side below the horns. Naturally most human girls of that particular age weren’t in the habit of decorating their hair with a pair of goat skulls.

“Your Highness!” said the goat-girl with a rambunctious grin, her silver hair careening down uncombed over her sideways leaning face and almost, but not quite hiding her cobalt blue eyes. These eyes smoldered with a power that most prepubescent ladies could only fantasize about. One large animal paw had snaked itself around the door’s edge below the head of the young lady as if helping to hold her up in place.

“Yes Belphegor, I understand that you’ve something to report?” said the Great Maou bemusedly, welcoming the distraction.

At the sound of the Overlord’s affirmation and her name, Belphegor blepped cheerfully and emerged fully from behind the door sitting astride her Eldritch War Scythe. This implement seemed to be the object of choice for every Baphomet in the Demon Realm and beyond- it functioned both as a source of mystical might and as a riding stick similar in function to a witch’s broomstick. She did this while ignoring the angered chuffs from both the Cyclops and the Minotaur guards who had attempted to stop her entrance.
 The Great Maou frowned and brought her posture up to its fullest at Belphegor’s impertinence at bringing such a weapon into her private study. ‘She knows damned full well she’s not allowed to bring that in here!’, she thought as she cleared her throat in a meaningful manner, her gaze pointedly fixed at the Baphomet.

Belphegor stopped her advance then made a moue as she covered her mouth with one of her paws. “Oops, sorry Your Majesty!” she said with a giggle as she dismounted off of her War Scythe and turned around and pushed her it back out the open door.
Once again, she ignored the annoyed looks of her Majesty’s Chamber guards as they closed the door behind her.  She started off on a small trot as the sound of her hooves echoed along the walls, back she went towards her Lord carrying a case that had been with her the entire time.
A casual observer would’ve noted the fact that this particular demon had chosen the form of a near pubescent human girl, or perhaps a near pubescent Satyros. (Albeit, dressed inappropriately for either of the two races. Of course any casual observer who made such a comment concerning appropriate clothing within earshot of said Baphomet, would soon regret opening their mouth in short order.)

Finally, the Baphomet approached to where her Demon Lord sat and gave her a curtsy. The Great Maou continued to frown as she was still less than enthused at the actions of one of her Army Generals.

Setting aside her anger momentarily, the Great Maou’s attention turned to the metal box that Belphegor had tucked under one arm. “So, Belphegor, what do you have that’s so important?”

“This milady,” Belphegor said as she came forward and held up her metal box, close enough that her Lord could see it without touching it, “is a Cryptex that appears to hold a magical artifact that its original owner didn’t want accessed by any run of the mill demon.”

The Great Maou leaned over to get a better look at the box presented. It appeared to be a cylindrical metallic affair covered in runes that looked familiar to her, but none she recognized. Even though the Great Maou herself considered herself accomplished when it came to the assessment and acquisition of magical artifacts and ancient spells this was beyond her ken, which made her frown in a thoughtful manner.

“What makes you say that, Belphegor?”

“Because I’ve attempted to open it using just about every access spell, unlocking spell, and unfolding spell available that I’m aware of.” She said as she placed it on the table in front of the Great Maou, “I’ve also attempted to open it by commanding one of the Shoggoth. She made to do so and was nearly destroyed by its spells of warding.” This tidbit made the Great Maou blink in surprise.

“So why bring it here, to me?”

“Because, after my Shoggoth recovered from the incident, she reported back to me that she had gained an insight into it. Her near destruction jogged her memories enough for her to remember how to translate the set of runes you see inscribed upon its exterior.  They are a set of instructions on how to open it, including the word of power necessary to do so.”

“I take it that you’ve tried?”

“Indeed milady, if you like I can demonstrate an attempt.” Belphegor waited for the Great Maou to give her assent, which she did with a nod of her head, she then picked the Cryptex in one paw and held it out and away from both her and her Lord. She uttered, “Patentibus!” and was rewarded with a spark of electricity that made her both cry out and drop the Cryptex upon the floor. Belphegor shook her paw and then blew upon it as if it had burned her. Which by the smell of burnt fur that soon made its way to the Great Maou’s nose, it had indeed.

“So why bring this here to me, now Belphegor?” the Great Maou asked patiently as she watched the Baphomet bend over and pick the Cryptex up and place it on the table in front of her.

“Because the Instructions state, milady, that only THE Lord of Chaos can open it. And since you are the only “THE” Lord available …’ Belphegor trailed off looking away.

The Great Maou held her breath in thought and then heaved a sigh as she stood up.  ‘Be careful what you ask for,’ she thought to herself. ‘I wanted a distraction from the tediousness of this infernal paperwork and this is what I get! Now I wish I’d just simply sent Belphegor away.’

After a short while she spoke, “Where was it found, and by whom?”

“It was found by Professor Kutabe, the Hakutaku Scholar who was invited to work at the Royal Makai Museum of Unnatural History at your behest, milady. It was found hidden inside one of the Dragon Chess pieces that they had dug up from what they assume was the Royal Palace of an Ancient Demon Lord.”

At this bit of knowledge, the Great Maou stood up and walked around her private study deep in thought and then exclaimed with a smile, “Ah yes I remember her now! I snuck in and listened to one of her lectures once, delightfully good lecturer as I recall.” She suddenly stopped, then frowned and looked over at Belphegor, “Inside a Dragon Chess piece?”, she said with her voice dropping an octave.

“Yes Great Maou,” said Belphegor nervously, her eyes darting about as she started to fidget.

“Which one?” she said with no small amount of menace, glowering at her General.

Belphegor shuffled for a bit, occasionally glancing up at her mistress until she couldn’t avoid answering her any further, she whispered, “The Jester.”

The Great Maou didn’t say anything, nor did she change her expression of extreme displeasure, but Belphegor could feel that the Great Maou was summoning up some power, something nasty.

“Let me see if I have this correct, Belphegor?” she said coldly, “You brought to me a Cryptex that MIGHT contain a magical artifact that is protected by spells that only I can access, and that has remained hidden INSIDE a Jester piece for who knows how long?” Belphegor could definitely feel something building up in power, and she knew she really didn’t want to find out what.

“Did it ever occur to you that there might have been a good reason for the one who hid it inside a Jester piece might have done so as a WARNING?” The Great  Maou said with her eyes blazing red, hunched over to face the Baphomet at her own level.

“uuuuuh, No, milady.” The Baphomet said backing up, all nervous as her eyes darted between the doors to potential safety which were now blocked by the guards, and back again to her Lordship.

At this the Great Maou kneeled down and caught the Baphomet’s chin with her hand. She stared deeply into the Baphomet’s eyes for what seemed an eternity to Belphegor. Who after a bit, dared to swallow the saliva that seemed to have accumulated within her mouth, but slowly and as quietly as she dared.

After a far too long a while of searching into Belphegor’s soul (or what was left of it), The Great Maou narrowed her eyes and stood up straight, “Strangely enough, I feel compelled to believe you.” She said as she turned away and approached the table in which the Cryptex waiting.

“If my husband were here now, and not sleeping off our latest tumble,’ the Great Maou began, “He would be screaming at me to have this disposed of, and you along with.” She said as she turned her head to look at Belphegor. “Consider yourself lucky in that regard.”
The Great Maou just stood there deep in thought staring at the rune carved cylinder sitting innocently on the table in front of her. Finally, she seemed to come to a decision. She reached out to the Cryptex, picked it up in her left hand and said, “Patentibus!” This action of her Lord, surprised the hell out of the Baphomet.

But instead of the previous reaction that Belphegor had received, the Cryptex emitted a soft red glow for a few seconds as if to assess its holder, and faded away. The cylinder then gave off an audible clanking sound and a seam appeared lengthwise along its surface.

The Great Maou held it out to Belphegor and said, “YOU may inspect its contents for me.” Belphegor was hesitant to do so, considering what almost happened to her. “NOW!” said her Lord, brooking no resistance.

Sheepishly Belphegor took the now accessible cylinder and opened it, closing her eyes as if to expect the worst.  After a second or two of nothing untoward happening, she opened her eyes and examined what was sitting within. It appeared to be a bag of some fabric. She placed the cylinder upon the table and gently teased the bag out. She then noticed that it had been drawn shut and tied with some tassels. The Tassels had been sealed with wax and marked with an imprint that looked familiar to her.

“Milady?” Belphegor turned to notice that her Overlord had been watching her over her shoulder and had seen the wax imprint as well. She went over and retrieved her own wax seal set and proceeded to melt a colored candle onto a stray piece of parchment and then imprinted it with her own seal. After letting it cool she held it close to the tassel seal and compared the two. They weren’t quite a match, but they were close enough to be comparable. Belphegor was surprised enough to gape.

“This seal must have been from an antcedent of mine.” The Great Maou said with just a hint of awe in her voice. “Save the seal, and cut the cord instead.” She commanded.

Belphegor borrowed one of the Great Maou’s letter openers and did as she was commanded, opening the bag. Within lay a roll of parchment covered in runes and tied tightly with a silken cord. Undoing the cord, she unrolled the parchment and discovered something else within its pages.

It was a bone. A Human bone by the look of it, and by the amount of light glistening off of it, it looked fresh. It looked as if it had been ripped out of a body just moments ago. Belphegor picked it up off of the table and noted that as she did so a small drop of blood seeped out of the broken end then dripped towards the surface of the table.  The drop disappeared before it hit. Just by proximity to it she could feel the mystical energies of the bone and its contents.

Looking close at it she came to the determination as to what kind of bone it was. “It’s a human rib bone, a floating rib by the look of it.” Observing it patiently, she noticed that another drop of blood had appeared at the broken end and it too fell off and as before it vanished a couple of centimeters after it took flight.  ‘How odd, almost as if it’s in a temporal loop.’ She thought to herself.

Looking closer still she noted, “There are runes inscribed on the surface. But I have no idea what kind.” She then turned to the parchment and its rune covered surface, to make a comparison “The runes on the letter appear to be different from the runes on the bone. I’ll need time to research both properly.” Belphegor said, suddenly engaged with the task at hand. She was still scared of her Overlord, but also eager to redeem herself in her Lady’s eyes. Not to mention there was the opportunity to gain some more power in her effort to help fulfill the Overlord’s Grand Plan.

The Great Maou then spoke, ”Proceed.”
————————————————–

Summoning minus fortnight

Belphegor had thrown herself into her task. She had consulted with Professor Kutabe, she had unearthed many an ancient grimoire, and she had made some deals with a race of gestalt hive-mind entities that specialized in crypto-linguistics. None of that helped in her quest to translate the runes that covered the human rib bone.
Finally, in desperation, she turned to that one entity that the Great Maou herself had forbidden any magic user in her realm to consult, that being known only as: The Other.

The Other was a quasi-entity that had emerged from deep beneath the nether worlds for reasons yet unknown, and only hinted at. Some claimed that IT had been expelled from the circles of the Lords of Chaos for the commission of a sin even they couldn’t countenance. Some others claimed that IT had come forth from worlds forbidden from even the Dead Gods, after being locked away with by the ancient Nodens. Still others passed on that IT had come from beyond the Multiverse itself with intentions that didn’t warrant the kind of response that any other kind of infection would have, yet.

The thought of dealing with The Other nauseated Belphegor. For she had done so once before- and it managed to warp her already ‘off’ personality. Still the benefits she gained from that one encounter had stood her in good stead.  So, after a month and a half of no progress she began the preparations to not only summon IT, but also to cover up any chance of the Great Maou discovering her doing so and having her punished, if not expelled from her realm.

There, in Belphegor’s most secret chamber, she managed to successfully summon up The Other into its somewhat-existence.  As she watched it form itself from the standard pile of half rotten animal remains necessary for IT to form a shell in which to inhabit, she forced down the bile that inevitably arose from such a spectacle, and maintained as close as she could a cool detached demeanor.

“I LIVE,” The Other lied when it had finished its entry into existence from Belphegor’s summoning. Belphegor looked at IT, or she tried to. Every time she did her eyes focus spot kept insisting on running away towards something less painful.

“SPEAK BELPHEGOR! WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE OF IT!” said IT in the atypical manner IT had, which grated on her nerves akin to claws scratching across a chalkboard.

“I seek a translation of an ancient artifact, and any information you can give me about what it is and how it is to be used.” Belphegor answered as in a strong a voice as she could muster. Just being as far away as she was from IT was nearly enough to overwhelm her.

“UNDERSTOOD! THE STANDARD SEXUAL REQUIREMENTS ARE THE SAME AS THE LAST TIME YOU CAME TO IT! DO YOU AGREE TO ITS TERMS?” The Other spoke with the mouths of all of the dead animals IT inhabited; the collective miasma their rotten bodies emitted threatening her self-control.

Steeling herself to the inevitable, she said in reply, “I agree.” ‘I just hope I can cope with it long enough to make my report to my Overlord.’  -she thought to herself. As she was already beginning to shake with disgust with ITs proximity.

“VERY WELL THEN! PRESENT TO ME THE OBJECT IN WHICH YOU ARE SO EAGER TO GIVE UP SO MUCH OF YOURSELF FOR!” The Other then not-giggled.

Belphegor breathed in deeply several times to help her hold her breath for as long as possible, then pulled the Artifact that she’d helped to discover out of the satchel that she’d kept around her shoulder, she then approached as close as she dared to The Other.

IT looked at the bone long and hard, as IT stood FAR too close to Belphegor’s naked skin. After a few seconds of the dead animals eyes examining the human rib bone, IT suddenly gave out a peal of not-laughter that sounded like someone who didn’t truly understand what laughter was or how it was supposed to sound.

“IT RECOGNIZES THAT NAME! IT OWES THAT ONE A DISFAVOR OR THREE! IT NOW MAKES A COUNTER OFFER BELPHEGOR! IF YOU’RE AMENABLE!”

“What do you have in mind?” Belphegor said, eager for something else, anything else than what IT had done to her before.

“IT APPRECIATES YOUR JEST! IT WILL TRANSLATE THE NAME AND GIVE YOU ALL THAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR A PROPER SUMMONING OF…THAT ENTITY! IN RETURN FOR A SINGLE PROMISE!”

“What do you propose?”

“IT DEMANDS THAT YOU MAKE THE UNBREAKABLE OATH TO PROMISE THAT YOU WILL DO ALL IN YOUR POWER, ONCE THAT CREATURE HAS BEEN SUMMONED TO YOUR REALM, TO MAKE ITS EXISTENCE A TORMENT!”

“That’s all?”

“THAT IS ALL THAT IT REQUIRES!”

Well Belphegor couldn’t pass up that kind of deal, particularly when she remembered how long it took for her to recover from the last time she acquiesced to The Other’s perverted demands.

————————————————

Summoning minus 7 days.

“It is a Covenant Artifact”, said Belphegor as she gave her report to the Great Maou, who sat in her private study with an air of gravity. Her Husband and Royal Consort stood to one side of his wife with his arms crossed, glowering silently at the Baphomet.

“A Covenant between whom, Belphegor?”- queried the Great Maou

“My sources inform me that the Covenant was made between a Lord of Chaos named Paimon, and someone who was named: Annwyfn Arawn.” Belphegor answered, still nervous from her last reproof.

 “Was?” the great Maou frowned in response.

“Excuse me, milady. IS. Even though he is indeed an ancient entity, he is still out there somewhere, alive and capable of being summoned into service.”

“These sources of yours, would you care to identify them?”- the Overlord frowned, her eyes drilling into Belphegor’s with an intensity that made the Baphomet shudder.

“Er, uhhh, ummm.” Belphegor’s eyes drifted away from her Ladyship as she fidgeted in front of the throne. After a few seconds, she stopped and in a voice barely above a whisper replied, “If it’s all the same to you milady, I’d really rather not.”

The Great Maou leaned forward in her padded chair and gave her General a suspicious glare that made Belphegor shrivel into herself.

After a few moments, “Very well then. Proceed with your report. What is a Covenant Artifact and why is it so important to my cause? Leave nothing else out of your report, Belphegor.” The great Maou ended with a chill note in her voice.

Belphegor suddenly had the urge to swallow the knot that had formed in the back of her throat. “This Covenant Artifact, is a physical component similar in function to the Covenants that are made between Humans and Elementals.” Belphegor began. “Unlike those Covenants which are only good for the lifetime of the Human, this one is indefinite because apparently this Arawn Entity is an Immortal. Which means that not only is there a good chance that he is still alive, he’s probably even more powerful than he was at the time of his last summoning.”

“So, you’re suggesting that I summon into this world an even more powerful than before- entity who will be more than likely be upset at being forced from retirement?” the Great Maou said quietly.

“Uhhmm Yes Milady. HOWEVER!” Belphegor said with one finger (?) on each paw pointing up in emphasis, “The Covenant Artifact itself was originally a part of Arawn, and therefore it is a variation of Contagion Magic. With his name inscribed upon it, you can command him to do anything you wish, and He will have to obey. This would include a command from you telling him not seek reprisal.”

The Great Maou’s face softened at this as she contemplated the Baphomet’s words. “Very well then Belphegor, tell me more. Tell me… everything you know concerning this Entity, this…Annwyfn Arawn?”

Belphegor smiled, she was sure to regain her Lord’s favor with this! “First, Annwyfn is not his name. It is a designation.” The Great Maou gave Belphegor a questioning look.

“The Annwyfn were a Servitor race bred by the Lords of Law, to be similar in function to the Shoggoth, who as you are aware, were meant to be a Servitor race to the Lords of Chaos ages ago.”

“Yet the Shoggoth rebelled.” The Great Maou stated.

“Yes milady, but now they’re a part of us and your Grand Plan. Do you not have many in your employ here in this palace? Are they not excellent performers of their assigned tasks?”

“Indeed, they are.” Said the Overlord, “Though they seem to have a tougher time than most when it comes to obtaining men of their own.” The Great Maou mused, “But such is irrelevant. Continue.”

“Apparently the Annwyfn were found to be wanting in the eyes of the Lords of Law, as such- they were allowed to go extinct, or nearly so, as Arawn is the last of his kind.” Belphegor stated manner of factly, noting that she had her Lady’s full attention as she walked around in the area in front of her.

“He has unique knowledge and abilities. All of which he has used in the service of Chaos in times long past. What those abilities were, even my source couldn’t tell me.”

Belphegor continued walking, then stopped and turned to face the Great Maou directly, “Consider this: The Ancient Lords of Chaos found him to be useful in their own endeavors!” Belphegor paused and then repeated with emphasis, “The ANCIENT LORDS OF CHAOS found him to be useful.”
Belphegor went silent and walked to her right a couple of hoof steps then turned to her Lord and said in a quiet voice, “Considering how powerful they were back then, the fact that they themselves used this artifact in front of you, to command him overwhelms me. They found him useful enough to avail themselves of his services many, many, times.”
Belphegor turned away from her Lady and said louder, “This may have nothing to do with anything, but from what Professor Kutabe tells me how old the Dragon Chess set in which this Artifact was found,”
She then looked to the Great Maou and said, “it was fairly close in time to that era in which the Lords of Chaos were sealed away.”
She then turned back around and stared down at the Covenant Artifact for several seconds in silence.  Then she lifted her head and stared straight into the Great Maou’s eyes, “Before or After, who can say?” 

The Great Maou sat in silence for several minutes contemplating the words of her Baphomet General. Finally, she spoke, “Belphegor, you may wait outside.”

The Baphomet smiled and then curtsied to her Lady, and exited the room. All the while she kept her face neutral, but deep inside she exulted. ‘I may have avoided another soul-blasting sex session with The Other!” 

After she left, the Great Maou’s husband ended his silence, “Surely you cannot even be considering this!?” he near shouted as he placed himself between his wife and the Artifact.

The Great Maou glared at him, “I am.”

“Are you insane?!”, the Royal Consort said in a tone that would’ve gotten anyone else an extended visit to the dungeon (and not the fun one), “In what circumstance could a Servitor of Law be compelled to serve Chaos? And even if we did find out what. There is still the question of how trustworthy he is.”

“Something we’ll not find out, until he arrives.”

To that Her Husband expelled a sigh of frustration and turned away from her.“It sounds like you’ve already made up your mind.” He stated, crossing his arms, not looking at her.

The Great Maou stood up from her chair and approached him, “It has already been decided, but not by me.”, she said quietly. He turned and looked at her directly, arms still crossed, one eyebrow raised with a question.

“Those of the Order understand their situation. They are aware of the fact that they are facing an enemy on two fronts.” Her Husband uncrossed his arms facing her fully, this was something he could comprehend well. He said, “On one front they are facing us, the Mamono.”

“And on the other, they are facing themselves. That is to say- their people who read the works of the Wandering Scholar for instance.” The Great Maou interjected. “Their own people are starting to question the wisdom or the need to fight those who do little or nothing to attack back. You yourself expressed surprise at discovering the ‘battle’ tactics my own Army utilizes.”

“And I still do every day.” Her Husband said wryly. “But I also understand that the Order feels it must lead, not follow the will of their people.”

“As such, then you will understand what I say next; The Order is starting to act like a cornered animal. They are getting desperate. They understand that they cannot win the long war.” The Great Maou, stopped and crossed her arms. “So, they’ve started to turn to the use of Magical Artifacts, at least according to the reports that I’ve been receiving regularly. In Lusitania for example, there are reports of the return of a war Messiah with a Magic Sword that ‘purifies’ their men of any Mamono influence, usually with fatal results.”

“But that is but one man with one sword.” Her Husband pointed out, “What could he do to upset the balance?”

“You are but one man with one sword, and you made a world of difference.” The Great Maou pointed out to her beloved, standing close enough to him to share his breath. “Do not underestimate that!”

“A valid point, milady.” He conceded, his face closing to hers.

“We know that The Order is searching for more Artifacts of Power. Who knows how long before they find something that we cannot counter, let alone conceive of?” she said as she stepped away from her husband and moved over to the Artifact sitting on the table in front of her.

“So, tell me my husband, why should I turn away from this object of power?  This very object that has sat in the hands of the very Lords of Chaos that I have inherited their power and authority from?

After many seconds of contemplative thought by Her Husband he replied with, “I cannot.”

 And with that, the Great Maou reached out and picked up the Covenant Artifact of that ancient one, Annwyfn Arawn. Looking down at it with a mixture of fear and finality she said, “So mote it be!” As soon as she spoke the words of power, the Artifact began to emit a black un-light that streamed out from between her fingers.

———————————————–

Arawn’s Summoning minus zero.

The Great Maou stood in the cleared-out area of her largest dungeon/play area in her Palace in Royal Makai.  All of the Andrews Crosses, Spanking Benches, Pillories, and Stockades, had either been relocated to other dungeons or pushed up against the walls.  As she stood there in that great empty spot, she couldn’t help but ponder how much Demonic Energy had been generated in this one place alone. ‘Probably enough to create an entity or two of my own,’ she thought, thinking of her daughters- the Lilim.

The Great Maou turned and looked over at her Husband and Belphegor. They were the only two she felt could be entrusted with tonight’s work. Her husband was on hand for any potential physical mishaps if things got out of hand, Belphegor for anything magical.

Her Husband kept checking and rechecking Belphegor’s work in her assigned task of marking protection sigils around a gigantic pentacle. Belphegor tolerated his scrutiny for as long as she dared. Though there were many a time she suppressed the urge to slice him with her War Scythe.

The Great Maou ensured that the five sconces which held the necessary Black Candles were properly placed. There were two additional circles around the central Pentacle, each circle was marked at the eight compass points with Wards of great power and protection.

All of this was done because the Great Maou wanted to be absolutely sure that nothing untoward could escape before they had had a chance to either contain or expel Arawn back from whence he came.  After a couple of hours work, her Husband came up to her and nodded his approval of the quality of Belphegor’s craftsmanship. The Great Maou then lit the Black Candles with a minor fire spell, all of which lit simultaneously.

At that moment Belphegor approached from the side, carrying a metal bowl and a large package of some clear material that contained a large number of multi-colored anthropomorphic figures that resembled infants.

“What are those, Belphegor?” The Great Maou asked.

“According to my source, these are what Annwyfn Arawn has accepted in the past as a Peace Offering, I felt it would be a good idea to include them.”- Belphegor replied as she opened the strange clear material and began to pour them into the metal bowl that she had placed upon the floor.

“Why haven’t you mentioned them before?” The Great Maou asked.

“I wasn’t aware that they still existed in one form or another until recently. It was only when I consulted with your special Agent Smith, that she managed to remember they were still made on her world. So, she made arrangements to have several cases of them sent over.” Belphegor smiled up at her Mistress. “At great expense, of course.” She added.

“Of course,” The Great Maou smiled back. ‘This Agent Smith, though lazy, has been turning out to be one of my better field agents. Like Mother, Like Daughter, I suppose.’ She laughed to herself.

Belphegor picked up the bowl and walked it over to the center of the Sigil Circles that she’d made, taking great care so as to avoid marring any of the carefully inscribed markings, she then set it down and returned. The Great Maou then noticed that Belphegor was chewing on something.

“What are you eating?” she demanded.

“I snagged a few of them to try them out, Great Maou. They’re quite good, would you care to try one?” Belphegor said with a sweet smile, holding out one.

The Great Maou accepted it and chewed on it with satisfaction. “It is a trifle too sweet for my tastes, but it’s something I could get used to, like my spouse,” She said with a smirk at her husband, who ignored her. “What are they called?”

“Jelly Babies, Great Maou.” Belphegor said with a grin as she deliberately bit the head off of one.

The Great Maou gave out a rare chuckle at that comment, “So it seems that the Entity we are about to summon is in the habit of eating babies?”

“So, it would seem. Milady.”

 Her Husband injected impatiently. “Shall we begin?”, giving an annoyed glance between the two.

“Yes, let’s.” the Great Maou said as she changed her tone to one more business-like. “Belphegor stand to my left facing the pentacle. My Husband, stand to my right.” Both took their assigned places, Belphegor with her War Scythe at the ready, Her Husband chose to keep his own Sword in its sheath.

The Great Maou stood between them facing the pentacle’s point, she then raised her hands up above her, holding in her left hand the Covenant Artifact, which still glowed its weird un-light. She closed her eyes and summoned up a significant amount of Demonic Energy.

“Annwyfn Arawn!” She shouted into the depths of her Great Dungeon, her cries echoing off the far walls. All of the energy she’d brought forth was used up in that one invocation. Almost immediately a breeze began in the confines of the dungeon, where no breeze should exist.

The Great Maou lowered her arms and glanced over at the candles, none of them so much as flickered in the wind. She felt a momentary flicker of weakness as she realized just how much energy this summoning was costing her. Again, the Great Maou summoned up more Demonic Energy.

She raised her arms and shouted again, “Annwyfn Arawn!”, and with that a crack of thunder resounded within the dungeon confines. All within the dungeon chamber winced at its peal and then felt a subsonic vibration deep within themselves. “What is this?” the Great Maou whispered to Belphegor.

She whispered back, “It is the effect of our world and Arawn’s being drawn close to each other. Continue!” 

The Great Maou lifted her arms up for a third time and summoned still more Demonic Energy, and shouted, “Annwyfn Arawn, I name thee for a third time. I Command thee to come forth from whatever nether world you’ve hidden yourself away.” Her Husband noted with alarm that the Great Maou seemed to experience a moment of vertigo from her effort.

Long moments passed without a reply. The Great Maou began to look dubious, and Belphegor got a scared look on her face.

Suddenly, “By whose Authority do you make these demands? Only a True Lord of Chaos can command me so!” came a deeply resonant voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.

The Overlord shouted in reply holding the Artifact that glowed even fiercer with its strange unlight high above her head and horns, “I am the Great Maou! Overlord of the Demon Realms of my world! It is by my Authority that I was able to access the Cryptex that held your Artifact, Arawn!” The Great Maou grinned triumphantly! It was a good sign that not only Arawn was still alive, but that she could command him!

 “Go away and bother me no more woman! My days of involuntary servitude are long past!” the voice both boomed and complained, as if to confound her.

The Great Maou resolve began to waver at that, then suddenly her eyes lit up and she said, “Arawn! If your servitude were at an end, then you’d not be able to hear me!” She’d not be so easily fooled! She summoned up far more Demonic Energy and yelled, “COME FORTH NOW!”

The winds picked up to an almost gale force and the Trio of Demons fought to remain in their places. Thunder started to crackle and boom in the dungeon regularly. Still the Great Maou held out in fierce determination, She WAS going to win this battle of wills!

 “NO!” came the voice again in defiance. She could feel his grip on his world weakening! Again, she summoned up a reserve of Demonic Energy and channeled it into her next command, “Defy me no more Arawn, I COMMAND YOU TO COME FORTH!”, she shouted one last time.

The winds howled, the vibration they’d all felt reached a bone rattling pitch and then, finally, after several seconds more, a figure emerged out of nowhere in the center of the Pentacle, it appeared to stumble and fall over into a crouch.

With this, the winds disappeared and all was quiet in the dungeon once more.

The Great Maou, though tired, took the necessary effort to judge her prize. This Arawn Entity, had chosen the appearance of an athletic young man with an olive complexion, he appeared to be in his late twenties, clean shaven with short hair, but with the exception of a warrior’s braid sprouting from the back of his head falling down his left shoulder. He appeared to be young enough to turn the Great Maou’s eye, yet old enough to suggest a potential menace.

He was breathing heavily as if he’d gone through a great race. Yet he refused to rise from his crouch. The Great Maou could see that he wore only two items, a strangely shaped loin cloth around his pelvis and a round silver metallic shield that was affixed to his back in some unknown manner.

 The Shield was emblazoned with the ancient Symbol of Chaos- eight arrows expanding from a central area out towards the cardinal points. Just then he raised his head, and looked towards at each one of them in turn. As he did so, he whispered a word.  Great Maou picked up: “Quintus.”  ‘Five? There were only three other people here. How odd.’

‘It is Time to show this entity who is in command.’ She thought to herself. “Annwyfn Arawn, I command thee to take thy True Form!” the Great Maou said imperiously, holding up the Covenant Artifact so that entity surrounded by the pentacle and its concomitant protection circles could see.

The Arawn entity turned its head looking intently at her, then it smiled ferally.

 

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