Recent Statuses

5 yrs ago
Current The moment you realize you spend more time working in titanpads than... anything else. Not sure if I should be proud or concerned.
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5 yrs ago
@Gaviloquence Yes, you've just arrived. ;D
5 yrs ago
Puncraft! The darkest of arts! Burn the witch!
5 yrs ago
TMW you realize that's your most current search history.
5 yrs ago
@PaintLynn Does that mean I can eat you now? I've been getting hungry...
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My current baby

Spells in the Dark (18+ For dark and suggestive themes: Join the witches or the hunters and they circle each other in a bleak world on the edge of annhilation. Can they come together long enough to hold back the great dark? Or will they fall to the void?

Stuff I'm in

Wolves of Redlake: A lovely little romp as a teenage werewolf. Run by the lovely @Nallore
Various 1x1's: I love the flexibility of a two person story. Group RPs will always have my heart, but they can be difficult to get off the ground. Feel free to PM me with any ideas you may have. I generally post once per week minimum and like high-casual to advanced as far as quality is concerned.

The Rest!

Hi! I'm a twenty five year old lesbian with alot of time on her hands! I've been role playing for about ten years now, although I'm new to the play by post format. I'm a pathfinder and Chronicles of Darkness veteran and still play with my group most weekends.

I'm generally pretty easy to get along with. My biggest pet peeves are:

Not informing me if you'll be away for an extended period of time. A PM or something in the OOC will do nicely. I understand life kicks all of us once in awhile, but try not to leave me hanging.

Negative people. We all get down, and that's fine. Happiness, however, is an outlook. I don't mind spending time cheering up a friend when they're usually a cheerful person. Optimism is a hell of a thing folks.

Metagaming. For obvious reasons. This has been the downfall of many a fun 'secret' plot. I usually opt for transparency, and like to surprise characters more than players. Metagaming makes that difficult.

Things I'll love you for:

Enthusiasm! This is the driving force behind any RP. When players and the GM are excited magical things can happen.

Adding to the world. I like a fleshed out world. Often times I'll leave things ambiguous so players can add to it with backstory or anything really.

Hatching your own subplot. The 'main' plot isn't the only thing going on right? Write me a story about some characters getting into hijinks. It gives the RP an organic feel that can't really be replicated otherwise.

Most Recent Posts

Sorry for being absent this week folks. My computer performed an untimely suicide, but it's successor is working just fine so I'm back.

I'll be on the pad index if anyone wants to write something.
I'm around, on the pad index, if anyone wants to write anything.
in collaboration with @Shagranoz

"A Father's Gifts"

Footsteps. Phagora heard footsteps at the door to the summoning chamber. What's more, she knew this particular, confident rythym. Lorelai Von'Strauss. The tiefling's whole body screamed in terror as she continued to draw her blasphemous symbols. Was she coming to kill her?

No. Fear was a death sentence with what she was doing. And yet... Summoning a Lord of Hell, one who answered only to the King of the Pit himself, with someone perhaps even more dangerous just outside? Who wouldn't be frightened out of their wits?

The door swung open, and Phagora's fears were confirmed. Lorelai looked around the room, an amused smirk curving her lips. "Well, well," She stepped further into the room, her new angelic servitor trailing a submissive distance behind her. "Isn't this bold? Are you hoping daddy will take you home?"

A weak smile crossed Phagora's lips. "No, I'm hoping he will tell me something, anything, about Annunaki. Knowledge is power, as I'm sure you're aware, and with the stakes as high as they are, we need all the power we can get." A finger casually swirled ink on the floor. She kept a small reserve of power in the back of her mind. There was no way Phagora could best Lorelai in a straight fight, should it come to that, but the demon binder would at least have a scar to remember her by.

"You're correct," To say Lorelai was dissapointed when she discovered that Elizabeth had all but swore an oath ensuring the tiefling's protection would be an understatement. She wasn't sure Phagora deserved death yet, but Lorelai believed that fear of it straightened the spine and purified the spirit of weakness. "There are very few plots and treasures Phagoriel is unaware of."

She took up a post against the wall opposite Phagora's work. An examination of the runes ensured that the tiefling had arranged them correctly. "Elizabeth tells me that you've performed faithfully and admirably." She sighed, but she couldn't help being pleased. "So further punishment is stayed, for now. If you manage to pull of this summoning without having your soul ripped asunder I might start having thoughts of amnesty."

The runes started to pulse with the purple of the finest wines. Phagora took her offering, a breast of quail lightly dusted with saffron, idly thinking about how much this had cost Medusa. Then, she steeled herself and began the invocation. "Phagoriel, Lord of Gluttony and Feasts! Phagoriel, He Who Shall Consume God! PHAGORIEL, I BID YOU COME FORTH!!"

A thick black sludge appeared in the room, oozing itself into the form of an obese man, who spoke with the accent of the cultured. "So. You were the one who summoned me, daughter."

Lorelai'd forgotten how much bootlicking was usually involved in 'traditional' summons. Her lips curved into a sneer of distaste, demons were low things, to be enslaved and used as a witch sees fit. Not everyone had her affinity though, and Phagora had managed to summon a Lord and remain whole, no small feat.

She held her tongue for now, nodding to the Prince in recognition. She wondered what Phagora would ask first.

"And you, Lorelai Von'Strauss. I trust you have found a use for my daughter?" The demon's head turned back towards Phagora. "Why did you summon me? I trust there is more to talk about than family matters."

Phagora swallowed nervously. Sure, her father had appeared to her in visions, but his corporeal form radiated an awesome power. "We seek all you know about Annunaki. It comes for us all, and if we are to destroy our enemy, we must understand it."

"Annunaki, you seek to know the unknowable." Phagoriel retrieved the offering of quail, and began picking at it. "The great anti-gods and unrealms of the outer dark. They rarely have any pleasurable value, and thus rarely attract my interest. However, one must live to eat, and I do have a few insights you may find valuable."

"One I'll give you for free, because you are my daughter. Amidst the mirror realms of the great desert, where foolish men have built foolish monuments to their pharoah's 'immortality' there is a black ziggurat. It's a temple to the strange alien things that will come in the Annunaki's wake, and should offer instructions on how to bind and slay them." Phagoriel had decided that the offer was indeed oppulent enough for his sensibilities, and pushed the prepared bird whole into his maw.

The room filled with the muffled sound of crunching bone and ripping meat for a few moments while the Demon Lord devoured his meal. "A second I'll offer for free out of respect for the Dragon in the room." He nodded at Lorelai. "Deep in the abyss is the Esctatic wind, a scouring thing that erases minds and consumes souls. Beyond it lays Arch-Dragon's peak, and the River Oroboros. Along the shores of the great river you might find a small hut, attended to by an old man. Do not trust his smile, or his kindness, he's the greatest servant of the outer dark left in our cosmos. Show him your might, your resolve, and rip truth from his lips."

"Your words give us great aid, Father. However, you seem to be implying something." Phagora pursed her lips in thought for a few seconds, until the answer came to her. "You offered us that information for free. That implies that there is more you can tell us, but for a price. Name it, and it shall be done."

"Baphomet, Lord of Wrath, has been causing trouble along the border to my realm. He's long envied my wealth and treasures. I don't maintain the most impressive army in the lower realms, and seek your aid in teaching my neighbor a lesson about his arrogance." Phagoriel stated simply. "Promise me you and your mistress' aid, and I'll surrender my final insight."

Lorelai smirked. It wasn't that long ago that Baphomet was knocking on Deskari's door and the succubus queen demanded similar service from the then young Von'Strauss. She turned to Phagora. "A fair price, me'thinks, and high time you learned more about your heritage. What do you think?"

"Agreed. Point us in the direction of your enemies, Lord Phagoriel, and watch them fall like wheat before the scythe." The half-demon's voice was confident to the point of arrogance. A bad thing, perhaps, but a sin her father could appreciate. Phagora canceled the summoning spell with a brief wave of her hand, a bit of impertinence even Lorelai couldn't get away with with certainty. Being family did have its perks.

Lorelai's eyes sparkled with mirth at the tiefling's confident airs. "Well done." It was not lost on the dragon that Phagora had risked much in this for the betterment and wellbeing of her coven, and Lorelai had always rewarded faith before punishing incompetence. "Consider yourself forgiven, but on tenuous terms. I don't expect you'll be making another blunder like the one that lead to this war, but neither can I tolerate one."

Phagora's skin crawled as Lorelai made her position known. Visions of her blood and soul turning into the fires of Hell danced in her head. Yet the sentence of damnation had been suspended, at least for the time being. There was something to be said about not having to worry about that.

"D-do we r-really have to go b-back to h-hell?" The angel stumbled over her words as she addressed her mistress.

"Indeed, but don't worry overmuch," Lorelai chuckled as she turned towards the door. "I'll be sure to show you all some of the 'nicer' places before we get to the blood and flames. It'll be a fun jaunt, and so long as we don't die screaming we'll have some good stories to bring back."

"Don't worry, Serrus. My father's power is great, and he will keep you safe." Phagora's words may have been reassuring, but internally, there was still turmoil in her mind. She had gambled much with this summoning, and all it had gotten her was a few leads and enlistment in another war. Oh, for some weapon or ritual she could wield against the darkness!

Serrus smiled at Phagora, grateful for her words, but she had seen first hand what Demon Lords thought of 'safety' for their servants. She'd keep her trust in the dragon for now, and hope her mistress would continue to have uses for her. "Thank you."

"Come along, Serrus, we've got a war to win before we start this one." Lorelai offered her elbow to the angel, and she took it bashfully. "Speaking of which, I'm sure Elizabeth has work for you Phagora."

"Yes. One crisis at a time, eh?" Phagora smiled ruefully as she departed. First, they had to stop the hunters from tearing the Bloodrose Coven to shreds. Then, she would have to stand with her father's army to pry his last secret from him. Then, she'd have to do her part to defeat Annunaki. Simple.
in collaboration with @SunsetRoses and @Ellion

"Mommy's Home"

Elizabeth drummed on Lorelai's desk, using her hands to spark a tune that accompanied Bob's beautiful music. Butch and Beebop fought over who was leading the other in a complex -and hideously violent- waltz, and Bo sat by Elizabeth's side, clapping along to the beat. It was a slow period, nothing new was happening. This was what had sparked out of the blue, as things usually did when Liz was around the boys. She was giddy, and even the frequent tossing and turning of her stomach wasn't enough to bring her down fully.

Serrus made her way through the castle at the behest of her new mistress. Fortunately the witches she'd met had been kind, and directed her towards Elizabeth's office. She stood before the woman's door, trying to calm herself before opening it.

This was her first task as a servant, and she felt the pressure of making a good impression. She smoothed her golden locks and the feathers of her wings. With one last breath she pushed open the door. "M-ma'am? Are you E-Elizabeth?" Her voice was hesitant as she addressed the room's occupant.

The music froze as a hesitant voice filled the air. Elizabeth's eyes landed first on the woman's blond hair, before settling justly on her wings. She recoiled, before letting a sort of awe take her over. It faded away as she could feel the tension rolling off each demon in the room. They had all bristled, waiting for a sudden movement that yelled ‘attack’. They could all sense something infernal from the angel, but her pure essence hadn't yet withered away under the pressure of Lorelai's might.

Elizabeth cleared her throat, drawing their attention off of the angel reluctantly. “I'm Elizabeth, yes. It’s a pleasure. Is there anything you've sought me out for?” The introduction flowed easily, a practiced phrase.

Success so far! Serrus was giddy, a bright smile bloomed across her face. She continued in her stumbling speech, but her voice held a trace of cheer, seemly unaware of the demons in the room. "Y-yes, Mistress L-L-Lorelai wanted to see you. S-she's in her room, her leg forbids her from using the stairs."

Elizabeth was out of her chair the moment the angel brought up Lorelai. The sudden movement sent bile up the back of her throat, but she grinned through the sting in her mouth. She couldn't wait to see Lorelai, it had been too long since they had been together. She hated herself when she found a streak of doubt running through her, wondering if Lorelai could have possibly missed her.

“Thank you so much. Will you escort me to her?” Elizabeth asked hurriedly, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Before the Angel could answer, Elizabeth was pushing past her and running down the halls towards Lorelai's chambers, demons in tow.

Serrus barely managed to utter her assent before Liz dissappeared about the corner. She jogged to keep up with her demonic entourage, that shot her dirty looks periodically.

"Seriously!?" Sousiel examined Lorelai's leg. It was broken, and Sousiel was furious about that. "I brought his back in perfect condition... more or less, and he brings me you damaged!?"

Lorelai chuckled. "My foolishness is a far sight more difficult to contain Sousiel, just wrap it and give me and Liz some space, okay."

Sousiel sighed. "Fine, but I have no more regrets about any possible stretching Triss may have suffered." She quickly did as her mistress asked.

As she turned to leave, Elizabeth burst through the door, entourage in tow. She nodded at Elizabeth before ducking into her room, out of sight of the angel.

Lorelai beamed at her lover, "My word, you're even more radiant than when I left. Tell me, why would I ever agree to something that would pry me from your side for so long?" She laughed. "It must have been foolish in the extreme."

Elizabeth had prepared herself to leap into the arms of her lover. Instead, she halted a few steps away. Lorelai's leg was set and wrapped, but it was clear it had been broken. Elizabeth’s eyes softened, and she basically took a place beside Lorelai. “I've missed you so much, Lorelai.” She breathed hopelessly, reaching out a hand to grasp her dragon's.

“How did it go, love?” Elizabeth inquired. She didn't really want to know much about the nitty gritty, but she did want to ensure that Lorelai had suceeded. “I shouldn't have let you leave, life was dull without you.”

Lorelai looked at their hands, "Nope," She scooted herself laborously to sit across Elizabeth's lap. Her leg hurt, but fuck it, she hadn't waited this long to just hold hands. Once she was situated and happy, she turned her head to meet her lover's gaze. "Much better."

"It was successful, the rewards of my labor are in my vault, where they will remain until the end of time with any luck." Lorelai kissed Elizabeth softly. "'Twas a poor reward for having to leave you alone for so long. I dreamt of you constantly. Which was frustrating in the extreme, as having felt your touch, my own is no longer satisfying." She winked.

"How have you spent your days, love?" Lorelai whispered, kissing along Liz's jaw.

Elizabeth draped an arm over Lorelai's midsection, the other resting its hand in Lorelai's hair. She returned Lorelai's kisses, pulling away before her passion could build too much. They still had things to talk about, after all. It was a shame Lorelai was injured, even more so that there were so many others about.

“I'm glad the mission was fruitful, even happier that you're home. Relatively safe.” Elizabeth chuckled, trying to find a way to approach the next topic. “My days have been spent over a bucket, emptying my stomach.” She left the topic generally broad, wondering what Lorelai would think of it.

"Oh?" Lorelai frowned, and pressed the back of her hand to Liz's forhead. "You don't feel feverish to me, perhaps you ate something bad? I'm sorry, love. I'll see if I can get you something for nausea."

Elizabeth giggled, removing Lorelai's hand from her forehead and guiding it down to her stomach. “I'm afraid that's not the reason.” She stated huskily, eyelids drooping in a contented state of relaxation. She worried not about Lorelai's reaction. Things would work. “When I'm not sick to my stomach, I'm usually working on baby names.”

"Baby...names...?" But she was sterile!? How did this happen!? Wait... she had a new body now... why would she have forged herself sterile. Lorelai's face danced between apprehension and unadulterated joy. Now was a bad time for a baby, but they could have one. A baby of their own, the first addition to the family she wanted, and its veins would run with their blood.

Her trembling hand stroked Elizabeth's stomach. A miracle was happening there, and the gravity of it was awe inspiring. She turn to Liz with moist eyes. "I... I don't think I've ever been this happy. I might die."

Elizabeth found herself overworked with joy, but as she stared into the eye's of Lorelai, a small frown appeared on her face. It disappeared as quickly as it came, but it was definitely there. She tried to pass it off as a moment of weakness, looking at Lorelai's tears. In truth, she was worried. She didn't know what Lorelai would think when she found out about her other child.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to tell Lorelai, but clamped it shut seconds later. That was Elina's secret to tell, and if Lorelai wished to love that baby just as much, who was she to stop her? “You can't die, love. Ash needs his mother, just as much as the rest of us need you. Lover, friend, something in between.”

Lorelai looked panicked for a moment, "I won't die, I promise, I'll live forever. I'm going to build you a house, on a lake, a beautiful sapphire lake, and my servitors will attend to the fields, and hunt, so you can eat." Lorelai continued, her words a heartfelt promise she would never surrender. "I'll swim with the children, and warm myself in their laughter. If Triss and Sousiel are still together, I'll build them a house on the other side of the lake, and they can visit whenever they like, so long as they behave."

"You're magnificent, radiant, brilliant, and the power you hold over my heart is terrifying. Yours is the name on my lips in my darkest hours, the only goddess I pray to." Lorelai clung tightly to Elizabeth. The warmth in her chest had become unbearable, joy and love overwhelmed her. All the beautiful things she'd always wanted, and Elizabeth was bringing them to her, one by one. "I want to give you something, anything you want. Whisper your fancy, and I'll make it so."

Elizabeth smiled, bit by bit the uncertainty was picked away. In large waves it would make an appearance, but she masked it with kisses and their everlasting promises. Her heart rate increased as her love for Lorelai grew even still. If Elizabeth ever did find the thing she feared, she knew it would stem from the woman in front of her and the tight grip she had on her heart.

“I promise to keep our children safe, and love you eternally.” Liz said simply, an easy promise to keep. She had no grand words or gestures for Lorelai, but each word she spoke was filled with passion. She sealed the deal by giving Lorelai a smattering of pecks.

It gave her enough time to think of her fancy. Liz wanted Lorelai all to herself, that was true...but something else interested her as well. “I think we should go on a family vacation sometime soon. Us, the kids, Sousiel.” She smiled, hoping Lorelai would agree. “There are so many different planes to show the girls, it would be good for us...just getting away momentarily.”

"Of course! I'll take us to Sigil, in the outlands." Lorelai tucked herself into Elizabeth, her hand lazily stroking her lover's stomach. "It's a city the likes of which you wouldn't believe. It stretches on for as far as the eye can see, and then some."

"Well visit the opera house, and the museums. Their library boast the greatest combined knowledge of the other planes, we could plan our next trip from there." Lorelai kissed Elizabeth's collarbone, nipping at it playfully. "Or did you have something else in mind?"

“I'd love to go to Sigil, Lorelai.” Elizabeth confirmed, giving Lorelai a gentle squeeze and burying her further against her chest. She would make sure Lotte and Abby each got to do something they each wanted, because the Library and museums did not sound like the best time for young children. Of course, they acted much older than they were, but when she was a child all she wanted to do was eat bricks of chocolate and beat up other children with her nonlethal whip.

“There's another thing I wanted to ask you about, more of a grown-up idea.” It could have been taken as an innuendo, but Elizabeth's brow was furrowed and her lips were pressed into a thin line. “The boys were telling me about bloodsport...I found it interesting.”

"The boys were telling you about bloodsport?" Maybe the 'boys' needed beaten, baddly, until they didn't have skin anymore. Lorelai sighed, Elizabeth wouldn't appreciate that. "It's a visceral sport, to be sure. Are you interested in competing? Maybe you're more like a traditional Dragon Knight than I thought."

There was a bang on the door and a soft scream before it came flying open. Lotte let out a mixture of crying and laughing sounds and she nearly crashed head first into Lorelai. "Mom! Mom! I've missed you so much!" There were tears running down her face as she tried to pull the older witch into an even tighter and bigger hug, almost as though she was scared that the woman would vanish is she didn't hold on for dear life.

"Lotte, give her some space. Can't you tell she is hurt?" came the voice of Abby as she walked into the room. The girls had been listening outside the door, or rather, Abby had been, Lotte had been trying to keep herself from breaking in until she knew that her mother was behind the door. Abby gave Liz a strange and pointed look before going over to stand near her sister.

"Energetic as always, aren't you sweetie?" Lorelai surpressed a groan as the girl jostled her wounded leg. She lifted her into her lap, and planted a flurry of pecks on her cheeks. "I've missed you too, have you been minding Elizabeth while I've been gone?"

She turned to Abby, and reached out a hand to stroke her cheek affectionately. Abby wasn't a hugger, or a kisser, and that was a shame, but she loved the girl no less for it. "Mindful as ever, dear, and keen as a whip. I missed you too, I trust you've been well?"

Elizabeth released her hold on Lorelai, giving her up to the children she loved so much. Elizabeth had been trying to warm up to the kids, but she was usually busy with desk work and only got to spend the minimal amount of time with them. She saw Abby stare, but didn't approach the topic. It had been a long time since they had seen Lorelai, and she didn't want to ruin anything with questions.

“The children were great for me. I showed them a few different fighting stances, let them work with wooden swords. One of the soldier witches took the time to instruct them while I was busy.” Elizabeth grinned, chest puffing up with pride. She would make warriors out of them, probably long before they would start calling her ‘mom'. “Since they were both doing so good I broke into the sweets, among other things.”

"Like the brandy," said Abby, her eyes now shifting down to Liz's stomach, looking for a not quite there bump. Her voice sounded almost bored. The training was...not really her thing, but she did it because it was a useful skill that could be used later on in life.

"It was so much fun mom! I beat Abby once! Abby is really good at it, Mom, can we go back to practicing magic now? I like learning from you the best!" Lotte shifted so that her back was resting on Lor's chest, so that she now facing the rest of the room.

"Oh?," Lorelai smirked at Elizabeth, winking. "Brandy's very fitting for young ladies of your stature, in moderation of course. We don't want to end up drunks like Clarissa do we?"

"Sound's like Abby's on her way to becoming quite the dangerous lass, hmm?' Lorelai grinned at the girl, pride plain in her eyes. Swordsmanship required a disciplined mind, and a honed body. Abby had the first aplenty, and the second would come with age.

Magical training. That was a complex topic for Lorelai's heart. Sometimes she considered eating Lotte's tongue, and growing her a new one, just so she wouldn't grow up with the gift. Higher powers than her had cursed the girl with it, however. "We'll get right back to it then, love. Soon you'll have a lovely menagerie of servitors."

She sighed happily, resting her head back on Elizabeth's shoulder. This was sublime, to sit simply in bed, surrounded by family. "Elizabeth? Should we tell them?"

Elizabeth laughed, wrapping an arm around Lorelai and pulling her close. “I think they have a good understanding, but yes.” Abby wasn't very interested in hiding her gaze. The child would have to learn more about profiling, she seemed intrigued by that topic. “Will you do the honors?” Elizabeth asked, before her eyes flashed with something mischievous. “Or would you like to report your findings, Abby?”

Abby paused, thinking it over a moment. "It better be a boy," she said shortly. Although she planned on leaving the witches one day, she didn't like the idea of someone else swooping in and making her standing in this less. Boys, for once, we much less threatening than girls.

"What....better be a boy Mom? Mama? " Asked Lotte, her eyes glancing over to Abby, then back to her mothers.

"Elizabeth's got a new addition to our family in the works. A sibling for both of you." Lorelai pecked Elizabeth's cheek warmly. "And, we were considering a vacation to celebrate, but that's further down the road."

Lorelai prepared herself for some questions. Girls getting girls pregnant was not something they taught you in school, or the delicacies of gender and romance. Their family wasn't 'normal' though, and the sooner she addressed these things, the better.

Elizabeth gave Abby a lopsided smile, trying to keep her mind open to the child. It was endearing to hear Lotte call her Mama, so much so that her cheeks tinted. “I hope it's a boy too. Do you guys have any ideas for names?” She grinned, hand running over her mostly flat stomach. Bo said she was inflating slowly, but Elizabeth only noticed the slight definition when she was focusing intently.

Abby gave a half shrug. "Lotte is better at naming things, she said, looking at her sister.

"Um, Sam? No...Charon? No...Um...Um... Gus? I like Gus. Or... Or... ASH! Abby, we could name him Ashton, then he could be Ash, like Ashley!" . Lotte beamed at her mothers, thinking it was the best name, that it righted everything. Unaware of the way that Abby increased her grip on the bed post.

"Hmmm... Ash is a lovely name," Lorelai winced internally. It was a tempting thought, to name the child after a departed loved one, to fill that hole in their hearts. It wouldn't work of course, and saddling her new baby with that responsibility would not be kind. "But I don't think we should expect such exalted things from our newest member, hmm?"

Elizabeth both loved and despised the name Ash. It reminded her of her childhood friend, Ashlynn. Ashlynn was one of the only girls she would hang out with, because unlike other ladies, Ashlynn wasn't afraid to wrestle with her. As far as hating it, the name Ash reminded her of Matrim slaughtering a child. The sister of her children. “Well, I do love the name Ash...but your mother is right, we don't want to put too much pressure on the baby.”

"Good. I don't think there should ever be another Ash. Can we go now?" Said Abby, looking pointedly at Lotte, then at the door. Lotte frowned, not quite ready to leave her long missed mother.

"Why don't you run along, if you're so eager Abby?" Lorelai tried her best, but the girl's refusal to display an inch of affection, and insistence that her sister behave in a certain way, sometimes irritated her. She smiled sweetly at the object of her frustration. "I'll see you in the morning, and Lotte will be fine sleeping with us tonight if she'd like."

"Lotte?" said Abby, although in a question, it can out much more as a demand.

Lotte looked from her sister to her mother and back again, biting her lip. "Maybe... I'll...go with...Abby now and come back in a little to you mom? Is that okay?"

Abby's lips thinned slightly, not liking the out come, but not willing to make a scene either.

"That's fine, of course, but do hurry back." Lorelai kissed Lotte's cheek before setting her gently on the floor. "I've missed my cuddle buddy."

"Goodnight Abby." Lorelai smiled at the girl. Maybe someday she'd warm up to her, but tonight wasn't going to be it. "Please try to send your sister back with pajamas if you would."

"....Of course," she said, although she was already rehearsing her speech to Lotte as to why they should let the 'mommies' have 'mommy time'. " Good night," with that she took Lotte's arm and drug her off to some other part of the castle.
Anyone wanna write something?
@Fetzen As always, weekends can be difficult for me, but I'll put in an effort.

Right now I'm sitting in the pad index if anyone needs anything.
I'm around on the index pad if anyone needs me.
in collaboration with @SunsetRoses and @Shagranoz


“Wake up, Scion.” Ettien called lazily, leaning against Triss’ desk. In his hands he twirled a note from Sousiel, the demon who had been rather animalistic towards him yesterday. He despised that savage, but Triss seemed to have some idiotic attraction towards her. It wasn't his place to interfere, but he would give wise words to Triss, just as he had with Ysera in terms of Alice.

Ettien’s words broke through the haze in Triss’ mind. The first thing she did was search her bed for Sousiel, but the demon was no where to be found. Triss pulled herself up, not bothering to cover her upper half. She stared at Ettien with a tilted head, almost daring him to be perverse. “Hand me my skirt, would you?” She asked, pointing at the writhing vines on the floor.

Ettien grinned, his eyes only falling once on Triss’ breasts before he swept down to pick up her skirt. He tossed it to her, alongside the note from her lover. “Sousiel left that, for you.” He mumbled, sitting down on the bed and placing his chin in his hand.

Triss slid on her skirt under the covers, before snatching up the note Sousiel had left. It warmed her heart, and she stared at it for a long time before setting it down on her nightstand. She was surprised Ettien hadn't torn it apart, she was also surprised he hadn't started kissing her yet. “Are you cowering because you're afraid of Sousiel?” She asked, giggling at the thought.

Ettien laughed, a booming and melodic noise. “Of course not, Triss. I just respect you, but we mustn't let them know, it would ruin all my fun.” He winked, helping her out of bed with a steady hand.

Triss looked quite flabbergasted by this prospect, and she didn't grace him with an answer. Instead, she slid on her knapsack full of mystical toyrs and walked out the door, heading towards Medusa’s office. She had plenty to tell Ms. Bloodrose, and the sooner she did the sooner it was off her chest and passed on to another.

Ettien followed, with a pop he became a snake and slithered after her. “It would be great if you just carried me, you know that?” He told her, voice ringing with mischief.

Triss stayed silent, but when they arrived at Medusa’s door she snatched up Ettien and let him do as he pleased. He began writhing around her body, just like the vines that made up her shirt. Out of respect, he gave a wide berth to her breasts, only using them as a resting place when he couldn't move any longer. Triss entered Medusa's office, surprised to see Phagora there. Her eyes narrowed, singling out Phagora. She needed to leave, the situation had to be controlled and anyone outside of Medusa and Lorelai were not allowed to know.

“Medusa, might I talk to you? Alone?” She asked politely, inching towards a seat.

"Triss, how was your trip?" Medusa smiled up from her tea. Phagora had been running errands for her recently, likely in some misguided attempt to shield herself from Lorelai's wrath.

She'd be polite, kind even, but what Lorelai decided would come to pass. She'd given up too much for peace to anger the woman now. "Please, take a seat. Phagora's been helping me lately, so whatever news you have I'm sure you can share in front of her."

Phagora had been trying desperately to ingratiate herself to whatever part of the coven's leadership she could. Elizabeth's promise to keep her alive had been a good start, but there was still the threat of maiming, torture, and other fun activities. She glanced at Triss as she entered the room. "Come on in, Triss. I swear to you, I won't bite."

Triss shook her head, taking a seat. Ettien slithered off of her, curling up on an empty spot of Medusa's desk. He stared up at Phagora, mouth open with fangs dripping venom. Triss flicked him, and he relaxed himself. She pursed her lips, and after a few moments of silence she decided to speak up. “The trip was fine, Medusa. I had plenty of fun, there were a lot of new discoveries.” Her voice was tense, and she wondered if she should just leave and try again at a later time.

"I see Sousiel didn't end up killing you, I'm pleasantly surprised." Medusa arched at eyebrow at Triss. The witch wouldn't have asked for a meeting alone to gossip about her expedition, and the tension in the girl hinted at something noteworthy. Or at least something Triss thought was noteworthy.

"Now Triss, it's painfully obvious that you have something to say." Medusa sighed. "So, why don't you just say it and be done? If it's of bearing to the coven Phagora here deserves to know anyway. Isn't that right Phagora?"

Phagora had been sitting there, silently watching the other two witches converse. She couldn't afford to open her big mouth here; too much was at stake for her personally. Yet when Medusa addressed her directly, she had no choice be to respond. "Yes. Everyone should know news that affects them, even if it is so momentous that some think it should be kept secret."

Triss shrugged, she supposed they were right, but she didn't want Phagora to be there either way. She would sound like a madwoman, and it would be so much easier if one of the elder witches announced it before a wide audience. They wouldn't be considered crazy, would they? “We have to have peace with the hunters, in order to save the world. That's the short explanation, anyways.” She said, staring Medusa straight in the eyes and waiting for her reaction.

Medusa blinked several times, going over Triss' words, making sure she'd heard her correctly. Once she was certain that this was no simple mistake of words she addressed her. "The short explanation?"

"I might need the long version Triss." Medusa doubted the girl's ability to deliver a premonition that might sway her towards peace. Too long had her coven lived in the constant shadow of Seren's Folly. She'd certainly afford her the opportunity to try, however.

Phagora almost fell out of her chair in shock. Peace with the hunters was implausible at this point, to say the least. And the fate of the world resting on their shoulders?

"We're listening, Triss. But this had better not be some tale you heard from the coven's old biddies."

“I was never talking to you, Phagora, was I?” Triss snapped, her eyes never falling upon Phagora. She shifted in her seat with a huff, taking her knapsack and clutching it to her chest to calm her. She knew it wouldn't be that easy, she knew Medusa would doubt her. Now she had to win over the technical head of the coven, otherwise this would never work. Lorelai could only sway so many, and while no one would rebel against the dragon, it was much safer with both leaders onboard. The picky witches could die for all she cared.

“I'm not that eloquent, but keep an open mind. Sousiel and I went on a journey to find the Aeon of Love, when we found her she allowed us to ask her a few questions.” Triss paused, taking in a steady breath. “I asked her about the big thing that was coming, the one the elders were talking about. She gave me the name Annunkai, it's a stillborn universe that craves to be whole. In an effort to achieve that, it will consume our world. I saw it, all of it. The blood, the monsters.”

Medsua paled slightly. Annunkai, that was an old word, for an old nightmare. If an Aeon had given Triss a vision, a warning, then she could hardly ignore it. "Go on, Triss." She said weakly.

"Annunkai, Annunkai... the name isn't familiar to me." Phagora shifted slightly in her seat. "But I know someone who might know more. Even Lorelai Von'Strauss, with all her might and depravity, is not privy to all the secrets of the Pit. However, my father is. If there is any entity who might have information, it would be him."

Triss clenched her jaw, letting the images of doomsday fade before she shifted her attention to Phagora. For once, her eyes weren't hard, she actually cared about what the woman had to say. It would have to wait just a bit longer though, for now she had to finish. “She said it could be stopped, if we show it our will to live is stronger. The Caretaker said the hunters and witches could beat it back, together. The elders can seal them away. That can't happen if we don't find peace with the hunters. Then, we can all go back to murdering each other if we feel like it.” She chuckled, knuckles white as she held her bag.

"This... certainly bears some thought." She turned to Phagora. "Phagora, could you retrieve Elizabeth and Sousiel? They need to hear this first."

"So, we just need to end centuries of hatred, then hold off annihilation. Sounds simple enough." Phagora left to bring the other two to Medusa's chambers, wondering what they would think of this particular revelation.

Triss watched Phagora leave, before slowly turning back to Medusa. “I don't know how we'll accomplish it, Medusa, but we have to try. It may be a lot to get past, but if we don't we'll all be dead. Those monsters, I can't describe how horrific they were...”

"I'm sure." Medusa stood and moved to her tool cabinet. "The horrors of the outerdark, twisted things that never were, that never could be. I don't envy you Triss, but I thank you for your service."

She turned back towards her desk with a strange basin in hand. It was cast of a strange silvery material, and strange phantasms danced across its surface like half remembered dreams or nightmares. She set it carefully on the desk between them. "This, Triss, is a Dreamer's Lexicon."

A whispered word brought the basin to life. The phantasms glowed purple as the inside filled with a luminescent milky fluid. "I'd like you to place your vision in here, so that none can deny its veracity. Can you do that for me?"

Triss stared at the fluid, watching it fill up the bowl. She glanced up at Medusa, shrugging. “Sure, I can do that. Better to share the pain than keep it inside, right?” She laughed, trying to avoid the fact that she didn't know how to use a Dreamer’s Lexicon.

Ettien sighed, sliding up Triss’ arm and fishing through her hair to find her ear. “Think of the vision, then put your finger in it, it should suck it out of you.” He told her, whispering the advice so Medusa wouldn't know. The poor child was a lost cause, and was lucky to have a Fae around.

Triss gave Ettien no thanks, mustering up every image that had come along with the vision. She dipped her finger into the milky substance. It was cold to the touch, but it felt unlike any liquid she had ever touched. It was similar to a gas, licking her skin. Triss was about to pull out, when the liquid did its work. With a gasp, Triss found the vision flooding out of her. It was like it had been sucked through a straw, flowing from her mind to the bowl. She drew up the images, still there, but ghosts of their once vivid selves. She didn't know if she was supposed to be disappointed or glad, but she looked at Medusa with a smile. “Okay, that's done.”

At that moment, Phagora returned, with Liz, Sousiel, and Bo all in tow. "You should hear the details from Triss. She's the one who had the vision, after all."

"Oh... are we really going to do that whole 'save the world' thing?" Sousiel smirked as she strode into the room, finding an empty wall to lean against. "Sometimes I think you guys really want to doom me to live forever."

She sighed. "Fair enough, I've heard the details, although Elizabeth probably needs filled in."

"Yes, Sousiel, we don't particularly like it when the world threatens to end. Medusa frowned at the demon, who shrugged unapologetically.

She pushed the Lexicon towards Elizabeth. "Let's save a little time and have you recieve the vision directly. Dip your finger in here if you would."

Elizabeth strode into the room, Bo at her side. The others had tried to come along, but she hadn't want the room to be crowded. Bo had insisted, because he claimed he was the smartest of the group and he deserved to know all the details. She smiled at Medusa and Triss, before straightening herself and moving onto business.

“So! The end of the world, I suppose we can add that to my to-do list.” Elizabeth stated nonchalantly. She knew she would probably worry about this when she wasn't under so many eyes, but for now she strode tall with controlled movements. Her finger reached out and dipped itself into the milky liquid. For a moment, she stood waiting, then she was pulled into the vision.

It started out in a grassy field, children playing with their porcelain dolls and chasing each other without a care in the world. There was a shadow, drawing Elizabeth's eyes to the sky above. She stood, unable to move or to help as the seam split open. Monsters fell from the hole, beastial and alien. They painted the ground red, feeding on everything. Everything was taken, and before long she stood in a plane where nothing was left. Time didn't carry on, there was no breeze, or color. It was all empty.

Elizabeth pulled her finger out of the substance, brows creased. Though she worried about this happening, she found herself incapable of fearing it. It made her feel sick, that she couldn't find the capacity within herself. She strode over to Bo, and the cat placed a paw on her shoulder in comfort. “How will we find peace, Medusa? The only idea I have is to show them.”

"And they won't exactly accept an engraved invitation." Phagora paused for a second in thought. "Short of enslaving their minds, I can't come up with anything. And I doubt that's a suitable solution." The witch shook a blonde ringlet out of her eyes. "Elizabeth, do you have any way of contacting them? Since you were a former hunter and all?"

“I could contact them, yes. I have plenty of contacts that I could write to or meet with. The hard part is getting them to respond, or not having them kill me.” Elizabeth shrugged. “I could always write to my dad, see if he'll meet with me in private. He may have disowned me by now, but you never know. If I know him, he wouldn't trust a rumor until he saw me himself.”

"Hmm... Isn't the hunt being lead by Robert Flint and the Digard boys?" Medusa thought for a moment. "Perhaps, if their primary quarrel is wit-"

"I swear to something Medusa, if you finish that sentance, I'll give you a dick," Sousiel glared at the woman. "Just to rip it off."

"Oh hush demon." Medusa seemed largely unconcerned about the hellspawn's threat. "If we can sacrifice Lorelai for peace, and save the world therein, don't we have a responsibility to consider it?"

"We do, Medusa." Phagora's face turned firm. "But we also have a responsibility to consider what the hunters will do to Lorelai. I see her lashed to a silver cross while lavender is poured down her throat. We may need the hunters to stop this threat. But we'll need Lorelai too, and they'll kill her long before we can explain ourselves. No. Deal. There has to be a better option."

Suddenly, an idea came to Phagora, but she didn't like it. She really didn't like it, yet it seemed like her best card to play. "Medusa, is that Dreamer's Lexicon portable?"

"Of course, the whole idea was to arrange the agreement before Lorelai returns." Medusa sighed. "We show them the vision, and promise Lorelai to them in exchange for mutual aid."

Elizabeth moved to lunge at Medusa, hand finding the whip at her side, but Bo stopped her by placing a paw on her stomach and reminding her of what she had to lose. She cursed the fragile child in her stomach, and fell into Bo’s embrace. “She's not going to be used as a bargaining chip, Medusa. If they don't side with us once they see the vision, they won't side with us after Lorelai is theirs. They'll kill her, and go straight back to war efforts.”

Triss nodded, jumping on board with General Blondie. “Besides, Lorelai is too valuable to spend in that way. If we hand her off, one of our major assets will be slaughtered. If the hunters decided to attack after that we would have a small chance of holding our ground.”

"Lorelai and her damned cult," Medusa groaned. It was a simple matter of pragmatism. Reguardless of the tension between them she wasn't eager to see the woman executed either, but there were more things to consider. "Fine, I'll perish the thought."

She looked at Elizabeth. "But that means all of you will need to find something else to offer them, some way to calm their rage long enough for them to see what we've seen." She turned her chair towards the window. "If any of you see wisdom, come find me. Otherwise, I expect you all have work to do, no?"

"My god. I've been thinking of ways for others to contact them, but I know one I can get an audience with for sure. Mat." Phagora shuddered. "He hates my guts, but I can offer him something in exchange for showing him the vision: his father's soul. If I can get an audience with him, in front of the other hunters..."

Elizabeth drew into herself, thinking of another idea. Her mind lingered on her father, but pushing past that she found herself drawn to a couple reports she had received. A woman matching the description of her dear old pal, Ashlynn. Her mind cleared as she went to speak her part to the others. “I have a friend, her name is Ashlynn. She's a Hospitaller, and she would be a perfect contact. I'm sure she'll meet with me, if I seek council with her.” She looked around the room to see the opinions of the others. A Hospitaller would have cast influence over other hunters. Liz wondered just how well Ashlynn could fight, she was quite good at wrestling when they were children.

"Great, so we've got two, plenty more to go." Sousiel pushed off of the wall. "Seems to me like the best bet may be to spread this vision in small groups, and let the hunters figure things out. Less likely to get killed that way."

"With any luck, any who see it will start spreading the need for peace. Like a cancer it will spread, until their war collapses beneath them." Sousiel grinned. "Of course, not all prophecy bearers need to be old friends or enemies. If you all really insist on saving the world, I suppose I'm in too. Besides, forceful prophecies are a form of violation right? Sounds fun."
in collaboration with @Shagranoz

"An Eye for Value"

The carriage was nice and spacious, thanks to its enchantments. Saen had coiled up on one of the benches, lazily flicking her tongue in and out. "Alyssa, I'll admit to not knowing much about this coven we're going to. Any special customs or the like I should be aware of?"

Alyssa had been watching Saen's tongue in amusement. She was aware that the near constant flicking served a neccessary function, but the similarity to a lewd gesture favored by succubi was striking. She colored lightly when she realized she was being spoken to. "Uh... yes."

She smiled sheepishly. "Lorelai tells me they're... natural folk. Nature witches so to speak." She laughed, "More of a concern for me than you, their hatred of demons is nearly matched by their fascination with the... um, hybrid human races?" She offered, hoping not to offend.

"So, they'll worship the ground I slither on, but there's a chance they'll lash you to a cross?" Saen chuckled. "Well, you have no need to worry, Alyssa. I'll keep anything from happening to you." A quiet pensiveness came over Saen's face. "I'm sorry if this is too forward, but... I thought Lorelai was the last living Von'Strauss. How did you survive when Hector Digard struck?"

"I'll try to keep my blasphemies to myself, as much as it may pain me." Alyssa winked.

"My mother was on her pilgrammage to our family home in the abyss when... the purge began." Alyssa's face darkened as she spoke. No matter now much time would pass, sometimes she thought the rage would always be there, waiting. "She rushed back to try to see what could be saved, leaving me in the care of my familiar and the family servitors."

She paused a moment, gazing out the window as she strove to calm herself. "A couple year went by after that. The first word I ever heard of my family's demise was when they threw me out of our citadel, as the abyss saw no purpose in serving a dynasty with no strength."

"I -I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you." Saen's tail tip gently brushed against Alyssa's cheek, trying to keep her lover calm. She whispered, "I'll make it up to you when we stop for the night."

"If I say it's quite alright will I forfiet the make up?" Alyssa winked, her foul mood largely dispersed by Saen's timely interference. Her hand snatched the lamia's tail long enough to plant a small kiss on its tip. "Thanks."

"Tell me about you though, what of your family? I don't think I've heard you mention them with any specificity."

"No, my dear." A quick thrill raced through Saen as Alyssa kissed her.

"There really isn't much to tell, honestly. They were traders, wandering all over the place. They didn't have the gift, but they accepted me when I found out I did. About a decade ago, I left them to make my own way in the world. Found a place crewing a trade cog. They didn't figure out what I was, besides a lamia, but I did have a knack for for finding exactly how much someone was willing to pay."

"Three years ago, I came to Castle Bloodrose, and Medusa immediately put me in charge of artificing. I can't enchant something to save my life, but I had the contacts to get rare materials for the process. And that's my story, pretty much."

"Me'thinks you're leaving all the good bits out!" Alyssa put on a faux pout. "Tell me everything. Your darkest hour, brightest moment, and how many lovers I have to live up to." She winked.

"Hmm... Well, I didn't tell you why I left the ship. To be honest... she kind of stopped floating underneath us. I don't care how scary any demon you bound is, they aren't as frightening as a storm at sea." An involuntary shudder ran down Saen's long spine. "You can at least reason with the former. When the latter comes for you, all you can do is pray."

"I spent precious little time on ships fortunately," Alyssa laughed. "And I spent most of that below deck retching up my sorry attempts to eat, and that was a calm sea. I'll take demons every time, thank you."

"Still, life at sea must have been exciting." Alyssa mused. "Seeing the world and meeting new people. Why would you ever settle into a coven after that?"

"Like I said, the ship sank. I actually washed up not that far from Castle Bloodrose. Lived on my own for a few weeks, until one of the younger witches found me. She told me where the castle was, and after that... well, I told you the rest."

"Oh! I guess I can understand that then, why put your hand back into the fire and all that." Alyssa blinked several times, she couldn't even swim. Were it her the only thing that would have washed ashore would have been a long dead corpse "It... occurred to me that part of our trip will be by boat."

She smiled weakly. "It now a bad time to mention that I can't swim? Also that I've just discovered a lovely new phobia of boats and ships of all kinds?"

The lamia's warm laughter echoed through the carriage. "Don't be afraid. Most of our journey should be along the coast, and I'm certain there's some sort of charm to calm the winds and waves. Although in that case, we might have to row."

Alyssa rummaged through her bag for the book Lorelai had loaned her, in addition to her own. "Let's just say I'll feel better once I find that charm hmmm?"

Saen peered over Alyssa's shoulder as she looked through the various spells. "Interesting... Can't see a use for that... Might have to try that one out tonight... Aha! There you are! And it doesn't like like we need anything special for that, either."

Saen gently wrapped herself around Alyssa, letting her feel the lamia's warmth. "But let's not think about that right now. Let's just sit back and enjoy the travel."

Saen had been sleeping soundly when a small bump awoke her. At first, she thought Alyssa had tapped her, but as she looked around, she realized the demon summoner was on the other side of the carriage. Then, she glanced at the eggs in their imp skin blanket. They were cracked through, all three of them, and new fractures were started to appear as they rolled around.

The lamia was over the moon with joy. She just had to wake her lover up; this was too important an event for her to witness alone. She placed her hand on Alyssa's forehead and whispered in her mind. "Darling, you'd better wake up. Our eggs are hatching!"

Alyssa woke with a start. "Eggs! Huh? What!?" She bolted upright. Her eyes fell on their eggs. They were moving about, cracks forming in their shells. She was unsure in her barely concious state of whether or not to be horrified at the small fractures in the once perfect eggs, or elated because this was normal. She turned a wide eyed glance towards Saen, and from the joy and excitement on the lamia's face she elected to settle on the second.

"It's happening? It happening!" The excitement left her bouncing in her seat, leaning forward to examine the wondrous process. She turned a panicked look towards Saen. "Is there something I have to do? Do they need milk? Blood? Anything?"

"They don't need blood, but they'll need milk once they've hatched. Which reminds me- drink this." Saen pulled out a clear blue potion. "It's antivenom. They'll have their fangs grown in, and they won't know not to use them. They won't have enough venom to do much, but better safe then sorry."

The first egg was well on its way, and a chunk of shell fell off, revealing the child within for the first time. Unfortunately, all the two witches could see was a single golden eye. Still, more cracks were forming every second, and it was clear the child would be out in under a minute. "Don't help them out. It's something they need to do on their own. We have to be sure they're strong enough to survive. One of my siblings hatched early, and died as a result."

Alyssa immediately snatched back a hand that had been reaching out to do just that. "Do you have anything for 'new-mother panic'?" She laughed weakly as she drank the contents of the offered potion. She was elated, but once again aware of how staggeringly unequiped she was to tackle this new adventure. She stole a glance at Saen, maybe she'd just have to watch and learn.

"Do you make milk now? Should I figure out how to produce milk?" Alyssa asked her lover, her eyes fixated on the small golden eye peeking out from the ruins of its shell.

"No, I don't have anything for new mothers, and if I did, I'd be taking it too. I just know more about this than you do; you haven't been prepared for a child with scales." She couldn't help winking at Alyssa.

"I can make milk, and feeding them shouldn't be too much of a challenge. This is a small clutch; six or eight is the norm. That said, I wouldn't mind if you found a spell to help in this process. There's going to be times when I'm asleep or occupied, after all."

The first baby had made its way out of the shell, and Saen picked it up. It was a boy, and above the waist, he was indistinguishable from a human, but his legs were covered in argyle scales. "I know very few human names, Alyssa. Would you take the honor of naming him?"

"Really?" Alyssa's heart thudded as the infant's first cries filled the carriage. He was beautiful, to her anyway. Even the sight of the scales covering his lower half was endearing to her. She smiled weakly, reaching out to poke the newborn's nose. "I think William's a fine name, if that's alright."

"He's gorgeous... did we really do this?" Alyssa smiled brightly at Saen. "I never expected to feel like this... tell me its normal." She laughed.

Saen burst out laughing as Alyssa tweaked the child's nose. "William's an excellent name. And I gather you're just as happy and proud as I am, so yes, it's normal."

The other two eggs had hatched by this time, both girls with the same scale pattern. She picked them up and cradled them, one in each hand. "They're beautiful. They're ours. Gods, this is the best feeling I've ever had."

"Yeah, leagues above." Alyssa said reverantly, taking William into her arms. His warm weight was fragile, and impossibly precious. New life was every bit the miracle she'd heard it was, and more. "Seeds of a new life huh? We'll have to be better now. Braver too, we just earned a whole lot to lose if we fail."

"I think we'll name this one Samantha," Saen said, bouncing the child in her left hand slightly, "And the other one will be Jennifer." Saen placed Jennifer on the floor as Samantha let out a cute little burp. A quiet edge slipped into Saen's voice. "So we won't fail."

Two days later, Saen and Alyssa reached the coastline at a thriving port. Saen crawled out of the carriage, carrying the three precious bundles. "We'll need to get a ship, Alyssa, but we can't crew it ourselves. Either we hire a crew of humans, or you call up some demons to do the heavy lifting."

"A crew of demons is a little beyond me, unfortunately." Alyssa admited. "So we'll need a human crew."

She looked around the port. She hated humans, always had. They were good for little more than manual labor and reproduction. Seeing as she'd circumnavigated the latter use she was hoping to never need the former, and yet here she was. "Where to start... maybe we'll get lucky and find a ship heading in the right direction." She made her way from the carriage into the small city.

"The best bet is to find the harbormaster. All the ships have to file with him before they leave, so that they have records of the cargo. Unless they're smugglers, which honestly might be our best bet. More coin, but fewer questions."

The harbormaster's offices were in a large building right by the docks. The man himself was a grizzled old bastard, with a gray beard hanging down to his chest. He shook his head when Saen told him where they were going.

"Altmeri lands? Few enough head that way. Only ships we've got going there are the Red Duck and the Windsgrace. Honestly, neither one's in the best of shape, but they'll get there if the weather's calm. Back, that might be another story."

"Our trip is one way, for now." Alyssa visibly paled as her mind conjured images of rickety ships breaking apart in stormy seas. She turned to Saen. "You're the expert here, love, I'll defer to your wisdom. Just remember I can't swim, okay?"

Saen looked at the manifests of both ships. "The Windsgrace seems to be the better option for us. Point us to her."

The Windsgrace was a small, two-masted vessel, with an older woman for a Captain. She greeted the two witches with a neutral expression. "I'm Captain Emisse. A woman and a lamia," she said, with a hint of distaste upon the last word, "with three little ones. The fee for a passage will be twelve gold coins, and I'll expect you to lend a hand if it's needed. We also can't spare anyone to be a nursemaid; I'm short crewed as it is."

Saen could have talked Captain Emisse down a little bit, but the price was already reasonable. "Agreed," she responded. "Come along, Alyssa. We'll need to get ourselves situated."

Alyssa followed Saen onto the ship, not bothering to hide her glare at their new captain. Once they'd found themselves a small bunk, and claimed it with their belongings, she leaned it to whisper in her lover's ear. "Are lamias unpopular around these parts? Or is it just our captain?"

Saen shrugged. "I have no idea. Either way, we'd better keep from antagonizing her. Best we avoid getting thrown overboard." A thought came to Saen's mind. "Alyssa, this is going to sound bizarre, but... how good are you at tying knots?"

"I suppose that include hexing or otherwise making her life miserable, fair enough." She sighed nodding. "Tying knots? Sure, I'm well practised at that, I used to-... let's leave it at that. Why?"

Saen decided not to pry any deeper into Alyssa's past. "Usually, when a ship like this takes on paying passengers, they're expected to help tie down the sails and do other minor tasks. Passenger doesn't have to pay as much, and the ship captain gets to cut down on costs. Both sides win. If you're familiar with ropes, then I don't have to teach you."

The lamia slid outside, feeling the warm sun on her scales. Captain Emisse called out, "Cast off and give me full sail!" With that, the Windsgrace got under way.

Two days into the journey, and things had been fairly smooth. The winds were at their back and they had following seas, so the Windsgrace was making excellent time. Saen had come out on deck and was enjoying the beautiful weather. She turned to Alyssa. "Find your sea legs yet, or are you still struggling? I know it's not easy for landlubbers."

"I'm managing, mostly." Alyssa'd spent most of the first day below deck bemoaning her fate, between helping with the rigging, which had proven a miserable task to her churning stomach.

The second day had been much better. Their charm had ensured smooth sailing, and the witch had begun to get her stride. She'd also familiarized herself with her tasks, meaning Emisse spent far less time yelling at her. That was probably best for the both of them.

She grinned at Saen. "This landlubber's doing alright, and the weather is gorgeous." She looked out over the calm sea. "I can almost see where someone would want to make a career of this."

"I agree. That's why I did. Maybe one of these days, I can persuade Medusa to buy us a ship for the long term." Saen's eyes cast out across the water. "Say, what's that?" Looks like the biggest darn fish I've ever seen."

The mate in the crow's nest had seen it, too, and had a far better view. "Captain, person in distress in the water off to port amidships! It looks like... It's a mermaid!"

Everyone raced over to the port railing to get a better view. Normally, a person in the water would be considered the highest priority, but mermaids could obviously breathe water, so they were never in danger of drowning. So, why on earth was this one flailing about?

Alyssa approached the rail of the ship cautiously. She was as excited as everyone else about the prospect of seeing a mermaid. Their elusive race had little enough reason to involve themselves in the troubles of surface dwellers, and she'd never gotten the opportunity to see more than artist's depictions.

However, it was obvious that the creature wouldn't be drowning, meaning there was a predator beneath the waves somewhere. Or worse, it was a ploy, and things were about to get difficult quickly. She called her pacts to the front of her mind. "What do you make of this, dear?" She turned to Saen.

The water was slowly turning pink, and that told the story in full detail. If anyone needed further confirmation, the mermaid rolled onto her side, exposing to the air a large gash just below her right arm. Several of the sailors turned visibly pale. Blood in warm water was like a seeking stone to the ocean's most feared predator, and a triangular fin could be seen about thirty feet away, its owner patiently waiting.

"I think she's going to be lunch if we don't help her. Captain Emisse, what are you doing? Throw her a rope!"

"But it's bad luck to bring a mermaid aboard ship!"

There wasn't enough time for this. Forgoing all her cover, Saen grabbed the captain by her hand and steamrolled into her mind. "And it's bad ethics to let one die. Throw. Her. The. Damn. Rope."

A trembling Emisse threw the rope, and her aim wasn't that bad. The rope landed about ten feet away, and the mermaid slowly grabbed it. "Everyone, pull her up!"

Alyssa did her part, grabbing the rope and heaving with the rest of them. She cast a frantic gaze at Saen. The captain's sudden change of heart was suspicious, at least to her who knew what the lamia was capable of. She silently hoped her lover had the presence of mind to do something to prevent repurcussions, otherwise things were going to get complicated.

The mermaid was about four feet clear of the water when it happened. The shark charged faster than Saen would have dreamed possible and leapt straight out of the sea, taking deadly aim. Unfortunately for the beast, it was young, and its inexperience cost it dearly here. All the shark got was about an inch of tail.

The mermaid was hauled up on deck, but she wasn't out of trouble yet. The wound was bleeding profusely. If not treated, it would only be a matter of minutes before she passed out from shock, and soon after that... Saen pointed at two of the crew members. "You, and you. Give me your shirts, quickly."

The clothing was passed over, and Saen started tearing it into strips. "Somebody, put your hands on her wounds while I rip up some bandages."

Alyssa quickly moved to crouch at the mermaid's bottom. She applied pressure to the seeping wound, blood still leaking around her hand. "You don't have much time here, Saen. Not much longer and there won't be much to hold in." She debated whether or not she should pass a demon into the wounded woman. Something to lower her heart rate, or increase her vigor.

Ultimately Saen had already risked herself in saving this woman, what more damage could she do? Her insides rippled as a servitor flowed down her arm, and into the mermaid's tail. She smirked in satisfaction as the bleeding slowed, but they were far from out of danger.

The bandages were ready, and Saen started tying them on. It was a delicate, tricky little business. Too loose, and they wouldn't staunch the bleeding. Too tight, and her lungs wouldn't be able to breathe in, forcing them to run barrels of water over the gills. Ultimately, Saen managed to find the right balance, and though the mermaid fell uncouscious near the end, she was still breathing as the blood slowed and finally came to a stop about three minutes later.

"She needs bed rest, but she'll live. Get her into quarters."

Emisse glared at Saen and Alyssa. The mermaid might have been out of danger, but the witches' troubles were only beginning.

"Alright, back to work everyone!" The captain called out. "Except you two, you have some explaining to do don't you think?"

The men dispersed, returning to their tasks. Fortunately all the excitement had left them chatting amongst themselves, affording the two witches and their captain a small measure of privacy.

Alyssa returned the captains glare defiantly. 'This is where the killing starts. That, at least, I'm good at.' Her hand rested on her hip, just above the hilt of her blade.

"What do we need to explain? We saved someone's life, isn't that enough?" Sean reared up to her full height, baring her fangs just a little. Hopefully, she could bluff Emisse into backing down. The lamia was barely competent as a fighter; she didn't fancy her chances one-on-one, and even with Alyssa backing her up, it was still far from a sure thing.

"Listen here, you saved a life." Emisse spat over the side of the ship. "But you're still... odd."

"I feel you in my head again, or even think I do. I'll have the pair of you tossed over board with more holes in you than is probably necessary to kill a witch and her pet." She glared at the lamia. "For now, why don't the two of you head below deck, I'll figure the rest out later." She huffed and stormed towards her quarters.

Alyssa relaxed. She turned to Saen. "Maybe you don't risk our lives again? That would be great, thanks." She understood the impulse, but given the same situation Alyssa would have either figured out how to save the mermaid without blowing her cover, or let her die. "Come on, I've got to get ready to make a mess anyway." She turned and started towards the bunks.

Alyssa was right. Gods damn her a dozen times, but she was right. Saen slunk away behind the demon mistress, not daring to meet her gaze. She sighed as Alyssa opened the door to their bunks. "I know I shouldn't have done that, but I couldn't just let her die. I apologize, my dear."

Alyssa paused, and slipped a hand into one of the lamia's. "I forgive you, of course. What you did was admirable if reckless, and I can hardly fault you too much for a valorous heart." She flashed her lover a weak smile. "I'll see us through this, that's my job right?"

She laughed and lead them below deck. "That mermaid had better be grateful huh?"

Saen burst out laughing. "Alyssa, you don't know the half of it. It was several years ago, but the first mate of the ship I was on actually saved the life of a merman while we were in port. The merman got down on his knees and mentioned something about a 'savior's debt.' Near as I can tell, if you rescue a merfolk, they consider it a gift that can literally never be repaid, so they serve the person who helped them in return."

She grinned. "If she has any magic, and I'm not sure if she does or not, then the Bloodroses have picked up a new member."

Obviously, the mermaid had been the talk of the entire ship, so when she came to early the next morning, the whole crew turned out to meet her. She wasn't up for walking much yet, so she resigned herself to greeting a few wellwishers at a time. Thus, the process took a good long while. Alyssa and Saen were last in line, but there was good news to that as well. Namely, that they had plenty of time to talk to her.

"Hi," Alyssa greeted the woman as they approached her cot. "I'm Alyssa, and this heroic young lamia is Saen. She's mine, so don't get too creative with your 'gratitude'." She grinned, her eyes twinking with mischief.

The mermaid tried to smile, but grimaced. "I'm Blackfin." One look, and you could tell the name fit. Even though she was currently in her mostly human form, her skin was the color of dark charcoal. She had legs in this state, but her gills were still visible on her neck. "Apologies, but I'm still getting back to normal. It'll be a couple of days before I can really move about."

The mermaid's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "So, which one of you shoved that spirit inside me? I'm grateful for the help, but he's getting to be a pain in the arse. Mind taking him back?"

"I suppose so." Alyssa placed a hand on Blackfin's arm, drawing the vile creature back into her own flesh. She suppressed a shudder as it settled back into her limbs, but she'd been free of it for a day or so at least. "So, what leaves a mermaid stranded against a shark? Foul luck? Or something more interesting?"

"One part foul luck and many, many parts stupidity," Blackfin responded. "My family farm kelp beds, and I'd gone out to start the harvest early. Wasn't looking behind me, and the swordtooth caught me. I was so surprised, I dropped the knife I was using to cut the kelp. Got away, but he was between me and home, so all I could do is swim. Blasted things are persistent, I'll give them that."

"Fair enough, I've gotten into more than enough scrapes due to my unfortunate lack of eyes in the back of my head." Alyssa leaned against the wall. "I usually don't drop my knife though, belt helps with that I suppose. So, what's next for Miss Blackfin?"

"Depends on what you want, Miss Alyssa." Blackfin coughed a little bit. "You and Saen, you saved my life. There's a concept among my people, the 'savior's debt.' Basically, if you save someone's life they're beholden to you until such time as they repay you by saving yours. Whatever coven you belong to, consider me a part."

Saen's mouth turned up in a wry smile. "Oh, and what gifts do you have?"

At this, Blackfin's right hand transmuted itself into water, still retaining its shape. "I'm a hydromancer. and a pretty good one, too. I can control a pretty large amount of water, and transmute my entire body. At least, I could if I was feeling better."

Alyssa whistled in appreciation. "Self transmutation is a hell of a trick Blackfin. Impressive."

She turned to Saen. "What's the call, dear? We can either send her back to the castle, or have her tag along with us." She shrugged. "I'm largely ambivalent on the topic."

"Hmm..." Saen's hood closed up as she thought. "Don't know of any good teleporting spells, and I don't think she be up for that anyway. She can stay."

"I'd prefer to stay myself. To be honest, I've never talked to a drylander before today." Blackfin smirked. "And after you show me the surface world, I can show you my home. Deal?"

"We're all troublesome and a little insane, you'll tire of us soon enough." Alyssa laughed. "I hope that isn't an offer to drown me. It'd be easy enough, but I can't say I like the prospect."

"Alright, welcome aboard Blackfin, with any luck our buisness will be brief and uneventful." She gently patted the woman's shoulder. "Then we can all get back to that war thing that's brewing."

Well, this was an interesting development. Perhaps this debt would be paid back after all, and soon, too. "I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what war? Is there trouble where you're from?"

"Always a little. Us surface dwellers count killing our fellows amongst our favorite passtimes. Especially witches." Alyssa smiled bitterly. "Our coven's been discovered. The predictable result is ensuing. Torches, pitchforks, hunters and all that. Going to be a bit of a party."

"We have that too, sometimes. Well, the torches are very rare..." Blackfin had a little chuckle at her own joke. "But I'll say that there are a few of us without magic that care about those with it. Would that things were the same here."

"We do too, but that's just not how it is." Alyssa turned to leave. "I'm going to get back to work. Once you're up and about we'll finish filling you in."

Saen waved goodbye to Blackfin. "I have duties to take care of as well. It was a pleasure meeting you, Blackfin, and I hope that we work well together."

The rest of the trip was largely uneventful. Alyssa and Saen spent most of their fortunately little time aboard the Windsgrace working under the suspicious eye of Captain Emisse, and sleeping in shifts against the inevitable attempt on their lives. Much to the demon-binder's surprised they arrived in the large port city intact, Emisse had proven true to her word.

Witches had little to fear in Altmeri lands. The small island chain was dominated by the Altmeri coven for which it was named. So the trio made their way inland towards the moutain that served as their base with little incident.

Griffons swarmed in the sky overhead as they made their approach, their cries a constant cacophany. Stone steps had been carved into the moutain before them, leading up to its peak in a winding and treacherous path.

Alyssa sighed. "Nature witches and their damn staircases. Why can't they ever just live in a castle? Or maybe make their lair a little easier to access?" She shook her head. "You're up Saen, you're the negotiator and all that. I'll just stay quiet and hope they don't eat me."

"Don't worry, they won't touch you." Saen paused for a brief second. "You taste terrible anyway." The lamia worked her way to the top step. Stairs were uncomfortable for her. Too many sharp corners digging into her scales.

She knocked twice on the gate guarding the Altmeri coven's paradise. "I am Saen, Emissary of the Bloodrose Coven! I come to speak with your matriarch!" Hopefully, she'd get a quick response.

"You come with company, sister." A man seemed to materialize from the stone of the mountain. He approached the gate from the other side. "Bloodrose is friendly to us, but few are. Name your companions and I'll allow you inside."

"Alyssa Von'Strauss and Blackfin, both members of the coven, with three little ones in tow."

Blackfin's gills fluttered a little bit. "Forgive us the intrusion, sir."

"The serpent can wait outside." He glared at Alyssa. "To be clear, that's the Von'Strauss, not you Saen."

The large gate creaked as it swung open. "Our matriarch is occupied at the moment, allow me to show you around while you wait."

"Where I go, Alyssa goes. This is not up for discussion. She is as much an emissary as I. She is to be treated as a honored guest."

As Saen spoke, Blackfin whispered to Alyssa, "You didn't put a curse on their village or something, did you?"

"Blame my sister, it's probably her fault." Alyssa whispered back. "She's basically Satan, can't wait to introduce you."

"...Very well, but our eyes are on her, Saen." The man was obviously not pleased, but yielded to Saen's demand. "I'll show you to the commons."

The Altmeri witches lived and worked inside spacious caverns carved near the mountain's top. The tunnels were lit with foxfire and faelights secured inside small glass spheres. The arrangements were simple, but comfortable; Tables were carved from stone as well as the chairs, cushions had been used to make the latter palatable. Decorations and murals lined the walls of each cavern, enlivening the otherwise dreary spaces effectively.

The trio spotted very few young witches. Most of the inhabitants here were old and experienced, working with strange contraptions and conceptual diagrams that indicated fearsome talents. They eyed the emissaries with interest as they passed, confidence gleaming in milky eyes.

Finally they came to the largest space yet. Cushions were strewn about the floor of the vaulted common area. Tables bore chess boards or similar amusements, and the air smelled of roasting meat. The light chatter of the gathered witches added a relaxing element to the cavern, as the women enjoyed their precious freetime with friends and collegues.

"Here you are." Their guide turned to Saen. "I'll return to collect you when the matriarch has finished her buisness."

The triplets, who up till now had been quiet, started mewling. Saen put Samantha and William to her breasts, letting them have a good meal. "You know, I think Samantha's powers might be kicking in already. I think I saw her moving a coin when we were aboard ship, though that might have been the tilt of the deck. What was the first spell you ever cast, Alyssa?"

"Binding my familiar, or my first one anyway. My grandmother walked me through it." Alyssa smiled at Samantha proudly. "Unless you count talking to 'shadows'. What was yours?"

"It's kind of funny, really. My birthday was coming up, and my mother had bought a new doll for me. Not some piece of cloth stuffed with straw, but real painted wood. It must have cost her a fortune. She must have just gotten back from hiding it, because when I accidentally brushed against her with my tail, I saw the box where she hid it in her mind. I went and got it when she went to sleep, but I forgot to put it back. The next day, they saw it out and asked me about it. That was how they, and I, learned I was a witch."

"My own mother had the gift... sort of." Blackfin chimed in. "She could talk to fish. Couldn't do anything else. So when I first made a current with my magic, everyone was shocked that I could do something like that."

"What was it like for you two?" Alyssa tilted her head quizzicaly. "My mother, and grandmother, going as far back as anyone cares to remember where demon-binders. So when I displayed the talent it was expected. I've alway wondered how other witches come into their own."

"My parents were stunned into silence when the truth came out. There was nothing in their experiences to help them deal with a daughter who could read minds. Fortunately, we lived in a place where a lot of old texts were stored, and there were some elders among the humans who at least knew what was going on to an extent. Did get a lot of shifty looks, though."

"It was easier for me." Blackfin commented. "Like I said, my mother had magic, so we knew I was going to have powers. I just turned out to be far more powerful than they expected."

"I'm starting to wonder if all those sacrifices were actually necessary." Alyssa looked between the pair. Her mouth opened a few times, closing before making a sound. "My mentors always said that we're drawn to the darker arts. Have either of you two crossed that line? Do you feel the pull?"

Blackfin shook her head. "Not really. It's not like I can call forth a tidal wave or anything truly destructive, and I've never found cause to use blood or other sacrifices. Elemental magic doesn't really need them."

Saen, however, had a much darker tale. "Of course. You can't go rooting around in someone's head without a little bit of darkness. A person's mind is their ultimate sanctuary, and to invade it... Not to mention how simple it would be to place a thought or desire that completely overwhelms them. So far, though, I've resisted that particular urge."

Alyssa nodded. "Just me then. Maybe that's why no one likes my family." She shrugged, smiling bitterly. "We'll just give the little ones your name, love. It's probably for the best."

"Alyssa, there's something I need you to understand. You are not your family. We will raise them as Von'Strausses, but we will raise them right." Saen's voice was as firm as steel. "We will teach them to master demons, but we will also teach them honor, respect, and other such things. We will make the name Von'Strauss a name that is beloved, not feared."

Alyssa smiled at Saen. "Perhaps you're right, I certainly won't argue with you." She turned her gaze towards Samantha, the likely new addition to her legacy. "You hear that Sammy? No blood sacrifices for you, a whole new chapter for us girlie, mommy says so."

"Well, maybe one or two." Saen couldn't help winking at Alyssa. "But we'll try not to make it a habit."

Two hours passed before their guide returned. He beckoned them through the sprawling tunnel complex. The slope of the ground underneath them indicated that they were ascending, so it came as little surprise when they reached a vast cavern near the mountain's peak. Griffons played and ate in the large aerie, several sizable nests lined the cavern walls.

The cavern opened into blue sky, and at its lip stood a woman. She was getting into middle age, grey lurking at the corners of her brown hair. Her weathered face broke into a soft smile as they approached. "Welcome sisters. Bloodrose has long been a friend of the Altmeri, what brings its scions to my roost?"

"We seek a firmer alliance, Matriarch. In particular, we request the use of your griffons to deliver supplies by air." Saen's voice carried throughout theaerie. "Hunters threaten us with war, and they have numbers enough to clamp down our supply lines. We need a way to get food and ritual elements into Castle Bloodrose despite this."

"Hmm..." She whistled and a hulking griffon stalked over to them. She ran her hand over its fur affectionately. "Obviously we're more than capable of that, but as friendly as we've been, nothings comes free. What does Bloodrose have to offer us?"

"It is true that we have little to offer... yet. But I have traveled far and wide, and come across stories of many relics. Perhaps if I could bring one of these to you, you would lend us the use of your griffons."

Saen could tell she had the Matriarch's attention. "Even the gods do not have the gift of true sight, save one. When the world was young, Odin sought this gift, so he walked for nine days and nights, until he reached the Well of Knowledge. Any who drink from the well shall see all, and know all... provided they provide the well's guardian a worthy offering in exchange. At first, Odin offered the life of Thor, his only son. But while the guardian said it was indeed worthy, it was not yet Thor's time. So Odin made a second offering; this time, one of his blue eyes. This offering was accepted, so Odin plucked out one of his eyes and drank from the well. That eye is still out there, still imbued with incredible power... and I shall retrieve it for you."

The witch's eyes widened. "That would be a fine gift." She considered the trio, appraising them. "I may be able to spare some soldiers as well, should your expedition return successful."

"That is more than we could hope for. We shall speak again when we return with the Eye."

As they turned to leave, Blackfin whispered to Saen, "Um... do you know where this eye is?"

"Sort of. I know it was being transported by a ship which sank, and I know the rough area where it sank. Find the ship, find the eye. Simple enough."

"... I'm going to need swimming lessons it seems." Alyssa groaned. "Nice play, Saen. The witches around here look tough, I'm sure they'll more than make it worth it."

"I have another option," Blackfin commented. "But if you and Saen are as close asyou say, she might not take kindly to it."

Saen's hood turned scarlet, the lamia equivalent of a blush. "I think I know what you're going on about, but if there's any tongue involved..."

"I love hearing things I don't take kindly to, good way to get the blood flowing." Alyssa grinned at Saen's expense. The lamia was cute while embarassed, and it wouldn't hurt to see how red her hood could get. "What do you have in mind?"

"A... um, kiss? It's not what it sounds like." By this point, Blackfin herself was starting to redden a little bit, and Saen had her head buried in her palms."A mermaid's kiss grants drywalkers the ability to breathe underwater. It's permanent, so we don't need to worry about it wearing off..."

"Ugh. Fine. Will a peck on the cheek do? I don't want you making any inroads on Alyssa, seawitch."

Alyssa looked between the two, delighted at this turn of events. "Well aren't you two a pair of maidens." She squeezed Saen's hand. "One kiss isn't going to get my heart wandering, dear."

She giggled. "Although, if your faces get any redder they might burn. Not the usual way I light fires in women, but perhaps more amusing." She turned to Blackfin. "Go ahead whenever you're ready."

As it turned out, a quick tap on the cheek was enough. Blackfin did Alyssa first, then Saen, with the latter glaring daggers at her the whole while. "And that's that. Saen, do you know where we're going to start looking?"

"Yes, and fortunately, it's not all that far." Saen voice dropped so low even Alyssa and Blackfin could barely hear it. "Honestly, don't know why these Altmeri idiots haven't pulled it up already."

The search site was about a day's sail from Altmeri lands. For what seemed like the millionth time, Saen checked her map. "Alright, this looks like the place. I think we'll have a better time if we scour the seabed directly." Sheslipped over the railing. Blackfin followed close behind, changing into her tail once she was in the water. "Come on in, Alyssa. The water's nice and warm."

"I'm sure it is." Alyssa eyed the water suspiciously. "Why couldn't it be a lake of fire? I'm good at lakes of fire."

She sighed and retrieved her spear from its position against the railing. "Alright, enough complaining from me." With one last breath she lept overboard, splashing into the calm blue with little grace.

Fortunately the water was indeed warm, and would have been pleasant had Alyssa not hated it so. Panic rose momentarily in her chest, before she realized that she was still breathing fine. She rose to the surface, and glared at her companions. "Yay, water, let's get this show on the road huh?"

Blackfin took the lead diving downwards. The bottom was about sixty feet down, sandy, and flatter than a pancake. A long ridge rose in the distance, seemingly stretching off to the horizon. A wreck lay near it, her mast still standing tall. Saen gulped a little bit. "It seems like my navigation skills are a little rusty. We have some swimming to do."

"Anyone think this whole process has been too easy?" Alyssa followed her companions, her grip on her spear tightening. "Keep your eyes peeled girls, there's a reason this hasn't been claimed yet."

The ship had been somewhat damaged by the forces of nature, a hole ripped in the bottom of her hull. "It should be in a small, dark wood box somewhere in the hold. Let's get to searching."

It was Blackfin who found the target first. She opened the box to see a beautiful blue eyeball staring back at her. "Well, this isn't creepy at all." She swam up towards the surface with her loot.

"Maybe just a little." Alyssa grinned, and turned to make her own way back to fresh air. "All in all, rather une-"

Behind her the 'ridge' opened its eye. A brillant serpintine pupil nearly the size of the witch gazed at the trio as the titanic serpent shook off decades of sediment, staining the waters with black murk. It head lunged at Blackfin, cutting off the murmaid's escape.

"Robbers, come to claim the eye?" The serpent coiled around the witches, its mountainous scales trapping them. "Explain yourselves, or join these sailors."

For the second time in less than a week, Blackfin managed to dodge snapping jaws. But this time, escape wasn't a simple matter of climbing onto a ship. Her jaw dropped as she realized just what she was facing."Jormundgandr," the mermaid said in an awed tone. "I thought you were a story told to scare fry into being good children."

"No such luck, little one. I was hunting the crushing depths before your people invented language." The serpent brought one of its eyes near Blackfin. "What brings a child of the sea, with two land witches in tow, to steal the Eye of Odin? Your prescence has stayed me wrath, for now, speak quickly before I tire."

Alyssa examined her options. Escape didn't seem likely, even if they somehow made it to the ship the beast could simple crush it. Fighting was probably more likely, although by very little, if she could get to an eye she thought she might be able to inflict some damage. Diplomacy then was their best hope, the creature seemed plenty intelligent, perhaps Saen or Blackfin could talk some sense into it.

She certainly couldn't, but she'd make a fine offering to Dagon if things started to go bad. 'Selling ourselves for power, such a fine legacy,' She thought to herself as she prepared the offering.

To lie, or not to lie? That was the question, and for Saen, the answer was simple. "We did not come to simply take it for ourselves, but to make a gift of it to another coven, in exchange for their aid in our time of need. We do not wish to cause insult to you, great Jormundgandr." Hopefully, that would work. Even the greatest demon Alyssa could conjure would be hard-pressed to scratch the serpent's armor, and with its coils already encircling them, there was nowhere left to run.

"The Eye is dangerous, Saen, more so than you understand." The beast seemed to consider something for a moment. "I've slept for a long time, what transpires on the surface? What drives you to this?"

"Madness," Blackfin commented, before Saen gave her a swift elbow in the ribs. "Witch hunters march on our coven, and we seek all the friends we can gather. As I said before, we are going to offer the Eye to the Altmeri Coven, in exchange for their griffins and soldiers. We do not seek a fight, only to go our way."

"So the folley of man continues..." The serpent fell silent for several minutes. Finally its coils released them as it turned back towards the wreckage. "I've guarded the Eye long enough. If it brings ruin on you, so be it. Best of luck Blackfin. Madness is all that awaits you in the affairs of the surface."

Saen let out a deep breath. "That settles it. I'm done with the ocean for the rest of my life." She turned and headed back for the ship. Blackfin followed, not daring to make any snide comments. They had come far too close to death for that.

Alyssa followed suit, trailing behind the pair. "I don't know, I was just starting to like it too." She laughed away her stress and fear. They'd survived, somehow, and with the Eye in tow. At least she'd have a good story for Lorelai when they returned.

It was just after sunset when the trio's little boat came back into the Altmeri's harbor. Apparently, some lookout had spotted them coming in, so many Altmeri had turned out, including the matriarch. Saen proudly showed off their new acquisition, commenting, "You know, you could have told us that this thing was guarded by a giant sea serpent. We almost ended up as a light snack!"

"With all your confidence I assumed you knew." The matriarch barked out a laugh. "I'm pleased to see you didn't, and more pleased to see that you've returned with the Eye."

Saen dutifully gave the matriarch the Eye. "We have held our end of the bargain; now it is time for you to do the same. We request the use of a squadron of griffons, as well as any soldiers you can spare."

"Yes, yes, of couse." She waved her hand dismissively as she examined her prize. "You've earned that, as well as a measure of good faith amongst the Altmeri."

She smiled at the trio. "If Bloodrose doesn't work out, two of you will have a home here. The Von'Strauss will have to go back to hell, or whever they come from." She laughed. "We'll see you arrive home safely, the Altmeri thank you for your service."

Alyssa rolled her eyes. The fear that came with her name was sometimes useful, but she was starting to get tired of the hatred. Perhaps someday that would change, but for now she bit her tongue and looked forward to being away from so many evil gazes.

Blackfin, Saen, and Alyssa made their way up to the griffon roost. The beasts were still up and about, pacing about their lair. "Saen, you ever ridden a griffin before?"

"No, and I highly doubt you have. I don't even know where to start." She looked at the griffons with apprehension. "Um, do they have saddles or something?"

"How hard can it be?" Alyssa approched one of the beasts, stoking its mane affectionatly. "What's the worse that can happen?"

"You fall off, and die." A woman approached them. "And no, they don't have saddles. Are you three the ones I'm supposed to get home?"

"Yes, we are." Blackfin looked at the woman. "I assume you are going to be our driver. And don't worry about strapping Saen in; Alyssa and I can wrap her around us like a giant scarf."

Saen thought about muttering some hexes under her breath, but decided against it. However, she didn't take the joking lying down. "Do that, and I squeeze."

"So long as you squeeze gently, love, you know how fragile I am." Alyssa winked. "Alright, so how does this work."

The witch smirked at the trio, evidently amused by their banter. "Seeing as none of you have any experience flying I'll stick you in the carriage. Much less fun, but also markedly less likely to kill you."

She turned to a large, wheeless carriage. Runes were scrawled over its surface, glowing a dull blue. "This is a sky carriage. Enchanted to be weightless when active, this is how we've managed to become a trading hub in this archipelago."

She placed a hand on its side and whispered a few command words. The runes bursted into a brillant blue for a moment, and the carriage lifted a few inches off of the ground. "See? Hop in ladies, and enjoy the ride."

Saen and Blackfin crawled into the carriage. Saen, utterly exhausted from the day's events, took her children in tow and promptly passed out on one of the benches. Blackfin, meanwhile, curled up in a corner and just watched the world go by.

Alyssa took her seat next to Saen, grinning when the woman passed out. It had been a long day, but she wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to see the world from the sky.

"Ever think you'd be in a sky carriage with land dwellers, on the way to their coven to participate in a war with hunters?" She whispered to Blackfin, trying not to wake Saen.

"No, never. When you put it like that, it sounds stark raving mad." Blackfin smiled. "Did you ever think you'd make friends with a mermaid?"

Meanwhile, Saen softly began snoring in the background, oblivious to it all.

Alyssa suppressed a giggle as Saen started snoring. "Not at all, but life's surprising me all the time these days." She sighed. "Makes you wonder what's next doesn't it?"

"Have you ever had a moment, Blackfin, when something your elders told you, that you thought was stupid, suddenly made a great deal of sense?" Alyssa asked. "And you realize that they're right. And of course they're right, they're your elders after all, they've been there."

"I used to think that the elders of Atlantis were idiots, but now that I'm older... I still think that they're idiots." Blackfin chuckled a little bit at her own joke. "Why, has something finally fallen into place for you?"

"My sister always says that you get enough power to claim and keep what's important. No more, no less." Alyssa returned her attention to the window. "This whole trip has shown me just how weak I can be, and I've got more to lose now than ever. Maybe I'll take her up on her offer of tutorship."

She grinned sheepishly. "Look at me, fatigue has left me a rambling mess. Perhaps I should leave introspection for later, when I've rested."

"I've found that one can only make a good decision on a full stomach and a good night's sleep. For now, I suggest we simply sit back and enjoy the view. Though I'll admit, I can;t wait to see Castle Bloodrose with my own eyes."

"It's really lovely." Alyssa smiled. "And I think you'll enjoy the company. We've got some of the most renown witches in the world, some of the best collected lore, and the Glow wood, which is amazing."

"If she's returned I'll introduce you to my sister and her girls." She grinned. "The former is a terrible, blackhearted woman, and the latter are cute enough to make you forget the former entirely."

"Well, I'd imagine your sister would have to be a walking nightmare to wield the powers she does." Blackfin blinked. "But if her offspring are as adorable as you claim... Strange how far from their parents the young ones swim."

"One can only hope, right?" Alyssa smiled. She settled back into her bench seat, leaning lightly against Saen. "But you'll see it all for yourself soon enough. I'm going to rest while I have the opportunity."

It was several hours before a large, grey stone building came into view below them. Blackfin's eyes widened. "Is that Castle Bloodrose? I didn't know you had such big buildings on the surface!"

"Yes, that's home sweet home." Saen stirred on the carriage bench. "If you think the outside is impressive, just wait until you see what we've done to the interior."

"Seems like our sisters have been making good use of their time." Alyssa mused as the shapes of her covenmates finally became discernable.

All of the training yard's were full to the brim with witches honing their skills. Swordplay was practised alongside kinetic witches hurling flames, lightning, or other lethal elements. Summoners worked in private corners, instilling a warrior's discipline in their menageries. The gardens flashed in hues of emerald and orange as nature witches wove spells to promote growth and hasten harvest.

Everyone moved with an eerie efficiency, but what caught Alyssa's eye were the tents. Large tents had been errected in the courtyard, and bloodied witches limped about their exteriors. "Seems like we missed some of the fun." Alyssa pointed out the wounded.

"Indeed. Doesn't look like there are many injured, though. That could mean one of two things. Either the attack was repulsed easily..." Saen's voice darkened. "Or they isolated a group and executed most of them."

"Let's hope it's the former." Blackfin hopped out of the carriage the second it landed. "Saen, take the kids. We need to find Medusa and tell her of our success."

"And report to my sister or Elizabeth for our next assignment." Alyssa sighed as she stepped down from the carriage.

Medusa was easy to find. The trio came upon her quickly, as news of a sky carriage had carried through the castle swiftly. She strode down the main stairs to the castle proper as they approached.

"Saen, Alyssa, I trust you were successful," Medusa smiled at them, relief plain in her features. "Judging by the panache of your return."

She extended a hand towards Blackfin. "And you've brought company I see. I'm Medusa."

"Blackfin of Atlantis, Madame Medusa. At your beck and call." The mermaid curtsied delicately. Evidently, she knew something of human social customs. "Yes, we managed to secure griffons for the possibility of a siege. Though the way your greenspeakers are working, food should not be that much of a problem."

"Food isn't the only thing witches need for war, but yes, with any luck we'll not starve." Medusa smiled proudly. "Well met Blackfin, I trust you're joining us formally?"

"Indeed I am." Blackfin's eyes sparkled with mirth. "Perhaps I can teach your witches a few things about water magic, and I can learn from them as well."

Saen shifted off her coils. "As you can see, Medusa, there was more good news. Two witches and a warlock, to add to our ranks down the road. Meet William, Samantha, and Jennifer."

Jennifer let out a little burp, which only added to her cuteness. "I think I'll put the little ones to bed, now." She made her way up the stairs to the main section of the castle.

"Well, aren't they cute?" Medusa grinned down at the trio. She turned to Saen as she made her way up the steps. "Congratulations, and who's the proud father? I'll need to get him a cigar."

"That would be me, ma'am." Alyssa smirked. She called to Saen. "I need to check in with Lorelai, I'll check in tonight if we don't see each other before then."

She strolled off towards the rear gardens, leaving Medusa blinking at Blackfin. "Von'Strausses and their oddness." She winked at the mermaid. "I imagine you'll want to meet our current matriarch as well. Come visit me when you get the chance, I'd love to hear about Atlantis."

"Indeed I would. And don't worry, Madame Medusa." A grin came over Blackfin's face. "One day, I'll show it to you. We get few enough visitors from the surface, and witches fewer still."

Medusa waved farewell and made her way back into castle as Alyssa lead Blackfin towards the rear garden. The garden was one of the few that had retained its previous function, being a lovely place to relax. Morale was an oft overlooked aspect of war.

"Lorelai? We've returned." Alyssa addressed her sister, who was putting a new servitor though its paces. "How was your expedition?"

Lorelai turned to the pair and smiled. "Good to see you home safe." She kissed Alyssa's cheek. "My trip was largely uneventful, the Plague Lord owes me fealty. I did manage to corrupt and tame an angel, that was fun."

She turned to Blackfin. "A face I don't recognize! I'm Lorelai Von'Strauss." She extended a hand in greeting.

"Blackfin of Atlantis, Madame Von'Strauss, and the pleasure is mine." The mermaid's eyes went wide as Lorelai described her latest exploit. "What... How on earth did you manage such a feat? Twisting an angel... I don't even want to guess how difficult it is to pervent one of God's own servants."

"The specifics are a trade secret." Lorelai winked. "But suffice to say it's not as difficult as one might think. It just requires a certain scorn for 'contemporary morality'."

"Serrus! Come show off your wings." The blonde angel shuffled obediantly to her new mistress' side, and stretched her once radiant wings. Veins of sickly black corruption marred her golden feathers.

Lorelai smiled proudly. "Very good, back to your paces."

"Yes mistress." The angel bowed, and did as she was commanded.

Lorelai returned her attention to Blackfin. "I've never met a mermaid in the flesh. You'll have to tell me some stories of your people when and if we get the time."

"And you'll have to tell me some of your stories as well." Blackfin curtsied and went on her way.

in collaboration with @Wildeyes

"Raising a Lord"

Alphonse sighed contentedly, his body was light with the satisfied ache of physical exertion. He'd kissed Triss good bye, as she left for her meeting with Sousiel. He left his implements where they were in his room, double checked the interior of Steve for the supplies he needed and proceeded to Lorelai's room, sure to take in his surroundings before revealing himelf, as was his habit.

Lorelai offered the man a small smile as she continued getting dressed. "You're lucky I have no modesty left, otherwise I might... I dunno, slap you?" She laughed. "That is still the tradition right?"

"Did you make good use of your scant free time?"

Alphonse emerged, grin firmly in place. "I might have found a new hobby. I definitely have some extra motivation to come back than I did before." Alphonse chuckled before fading into silence. "So, when do the blasphemies begin?"

"A new hobby hmm? You do seem to be smiling more nowadays Alphonse." Lorelai finished the last clasp on her robe. "Blasphemies can wait for a little bit. I'd rather hear the good news." She winked at the man. "Out with it."

"I suppose it shouldn't be a secret, eh? Alright, well, Triss and I are lovers now. As well as her and Sousiel? We need to talk about it more. What's important is, the girl's a freak in bed!" Alphonse had the happiest smile imaginable.

"You and Triss huh?" Lorelai's brow furrowed. It was bad enough that Sousiel had found herself vulnerable to the mad witch's moods and whimsy, but confirmation that Alphonse was similarly ensnared was... less than welcome. "And her and Sousiel."

She flashed her most reassuring smile. "Excuse my concern, but won't that get complicated? Is Sousiel aware of you and Triss' entanglement?" She patted the man's shoulder. "I don't mean to dissuade you obviously, love looks good on you Alphonse."

"Thanks, Lore. I haven't had the chance to talk to Sousiel about it yet, Triss just told me this morning. It could be rough, but Triss has made it clear that she wants to be with me, and I don't want to hurt Sousiel I said, we need to talk about it, but we haven't the time right now. So let's get on with damning ourselves, the sooner we go, the sooner we can get back and giggle about our relationships."

"I'm afraid you signed onto the wrong expedition if you expect this to be short my friend." Lorelai turned and planted a small kiss on the cheeks of each of her girls. "Come with me."

She lead them further up her tower to her summoning chamber. It was a plain stone room stained black. The center of the floor bore a silvered pentagram she often utilized for the 'bargaining' process for perspective servants. The far wall contained the object of their interest however.

Glowing with a dim red radiance, the runes of the portal seemed almost alive. They swam as they pulsed, evading any attempt at deciphering them. Lorelai turned to Alphonse and grabbed his remaining flesh and blood hand. Her ritual dagger opened the palm gently, and she pressed some of the blood that welled from the fresh wound against the center of the diagram, which pulsed in recognition.

"Be sure you have everything you need," Lorelai smiled grimmly. "We won't be back for awhile."

Alphonse nodded grimly. "I've got it all, baby. Lets do this."

"Let it never be said I never take you anywhere nice." Lorelai winked as she turned to the wall.

The runes began to twist as Lorelai pressed her will against the thin border. They bled across the wall, almost in an attempt to hold something back. The room's dim lighting faltered, eventually leaving them in darkess but for the flickering red sigils. With a horrific crack fault-lines began to appear in the runes, starting at the floor they crawled up the wall towards the portal's top.

With a final thrust Lorelai shattered the remaining resistance. The wall was swallowed by the hungry abyss, the shards falling into a howling maelstrom of inky-black darkness. Winds whipped about the pair as Lorelai turned to her companion. "Ladies first." With a grin she strode forward to be swallowed up by the churning gateway.

"Actually, I think I forgot my...never mind." Alphonse let his quip die as he realized that Lorelai wasn't listening. "Hello Darkness, my old friend." He leapt into the maw.

A good first stop for any abyssal expedition was the famed city of Alinshyrra. Amongst its glowing purple architecture, and its savage denizens, could be found nearly anything. Rare reagents, exotic pleasures, ancient forbidden knowledge, and the location of fallen Demon Lords were in relative abundance in the planar metropolis.

The pair found themselves on a busy sidewalk, directly in the path of a pair of balor's on their way to whatever buisness had them occupied this evening. Lorelai staggered as one of them clipped her shoulder, "Watch where you're going!" it spat as it continued past them.

She rewarded the insult by snapping the demon's neck with her tail, which vanished into black smoke as quickly as it appeared. "Fuck you." The balor's companion heaved a sigh as he looked down at his friend's corpse. Shrugging he continued as if nothing happened.

After the small incident Lorelai turned to Alphonse smiling. "Welcome to Alinshyrra, it's a lovely city. Brothels aplenty, dancehalls, bloodsport, music, all that good stuff."

"You would bring me here immediately after I entered a relationship." Alphonse replied dryly. He looked about, and found signs of everything things she had described and more. He could literally smell the promises of unearthly delights. He quickly buried himself in business. "So we're here to pick up something for mr. plague?"

"We're here to ressurrect Mr. Plague." Lorelai corrected, laughing. She linked an arm through Alphonse's so they wouldn't be seperated. "That will require a great many things, most of which I know just where to find."

She guided them to a street corner and stuck an arm out to hail one of the many carriages transporting tourists and nobles alike. "But first I say we get you familiarized with the city. It'll take a few days to get the meetings I need arranged anyway." A carriage pulled to the curb, its door opening as the squatting demon holding the reigned tipped its hat.

Alphonse stepped into the carriage. "Alright, road trip. First and most importantly, who's in charge, who has the money, and who do they fear?" Alphonse regarded the demon driver. "You're not working for one of those three are you?"

"... currently yes, considering I'm driving a Dragon around, but mostly no." He responded fearfully.

Lorelai rolled her eyes as she stepped up behind Alphonse. "The Succubus Queen Deskari is the ruler of the city." She settled into her seat, smoothing out her dress. "She rarely leaves her palace, prefering instead to have her pleasures come to her."

"The real power in the city is the combined demonic interests. Demon Lords use the city as a neutral ground to trade goods and services, as well as keep their pampered pets from the poisonous enviroments of their courts." Lorelai laughed. "One of our first targets will be Dagon's daughter, she maintains one of the finest fleets in the abyss, and we'll need it to get where we're going."

"And that's why I'm going to need you to seduce her." Lorelai grinned at Alphonse. "She's a debauched noble who loves to throw little events. You'll need an invite. I already have one, so that won't be a problem."

Burying himself in his work suddenly didn't seem like a good option to distract himself from his desires. Well, so long as it was for a worthy cause.... "So, two questions in order of importance. Is Dagon's daughter hot? And what's her name? Also, how am I leveraging this honey pot to get her boats? I guess that part's important too."

"She's comely enough, a siren I believe." Lorelai replied laughing. "Her name is Hezebel."

"As for getting her boats. Once we've infiltrated her little event, you'll take her off somewhere safe," Lorelai grinned cruely "And I'll make a mess, once she stands accountable for so many noble's deaths under her protection she'll be looking to run. I can ensure her timely escape for the low price of her fleet."

Alphonse lay back and forced himself to relax. "Lorelai, you're taking me a bit out of my comfort zone, making people safe. Not being directly responsible for dozens of deaths. I'm starting to think this is a night mare." Alphonse thought about the new applications he had turned his torture training toward. "Strangely enough, I think I'm more prepared for this than I was this morning. Let's do this."

Alphonse found Hezebel at one of her usual haunts, a bloodsport arena on the southern end of the massive city. She was escorting her date out of the stone arena's stands. He was a pale Fae lad, who seemed all the paler for the entertainment he'd just consumed. Small splatters could be seen against her white dress, and over the poor boy's face.

She turned her head away from her suitor in obvious dissapointment.

She turned back when she heard a sudden wet, gurgling sound, and a thud like sandbags striking concrete. She saw that her date had been replaced by a smiling, dashing man who was cleaning his dagger on a black cloth, stepping over the corpse of what had been her date. The man looked satisfied. He brazenly gave Hezebel a full once over before he smirked and winked at her, before beginning to start on his way.

"Wait," she said, her voice sultry and enchanting with only a word. "Are you really going to leave a lady without an escort?"

Alphonse could feel the subtle intrusion of her voice in his mind. It wasn't strong for now, but it occured to him that he might want to play too hard to get with this creature. He decided to roll with it for now. Or maybe that was her voice in his ear already. "Of course not," he said, channeling every cocksure bone in his body. "Where can I take you, my lovely lady?"

Hezebel eyed alphonse out the side of her vision as she laced her hand through his offered arm. She was going to turn in early, maybe try to leave the fae man in a sink pit, or a glory hole known to service thorn demons. This man made her curious though, perhaps she'd get some real entertainment tonight.

"This way." she said, subtly guiding them down the street.
"So, what brings a human to Alinshyrra? We don't see many of your kind around here." One of her hands crept up his fore arm to grasp his bicep. "They don't have much of a reputation for boldness. What drives a man to kill another in the street?"

Alphonse regarded the woman from the edge of one eye, allowing the other to stay aware of his surroundings.
"I have personal business here in the city. I noticed some larger demons eyeing your date's back side. I really didn't want to see that on the street, so I figured I'd do the bloke a favor."

"All right stranger, where are you from?" Hezebel asked, her sultry tone more of a command."

"Seren's Folly, just a small series of farms. I serve as an assassin for a few of the Covens there. Not much to talk about other than Hunters and Werewolves." Alphonse said, hoping that she wouldn't be too familiar with the area, and that his description would curb her curiosity.
They continued to walk in the night, Hezebel not so subtly grasping Alphonse's bicep. She managed to drag a few stories of his work, men he had killed. People he had watched die. Alphonse kept the trusty swaggering mask on his face, and Hezebel continued to squeeze his arm, evidently enraptured by the material world. Eventually, they came to their destination, a tall building with huge clear glass windows. Alphonse could see various creatures through the windows, most of them roughly humanoid, and pleasing to the eye. Of the pleasing humanoid figures, most were in chains, and many of those were currently joined in some sort of unholy union with the less comely creatures. Alphonse's gut churned with a combination of disgust and arousal. He stopped in front of the building.

"Well, you've been escorted, my lady." He said dropping her hands from his arm.

"You won't come inside with me?" She commanded.

Alphonse internally reeled from the dark temptation of her voice. The promises of pleasure that it provided, the two of them in one of those wide windowed rooms, where any one on the city streets could see.....

"Maybe another time." He said, forcefully. "Like I said, I have personal business to see to."

Hezebel narrowed her eyes at him. She stared for a long moment before she strode toward him, and pulled out an envelope from her purse. She presented it to him.

"Come here then," she said. "in two days I'll be having a Gala I would love to see you there." Her sultry tones reverberated in Alphonse's mind.

"Sure. If I've got the time." Alphonse replied coolly. Doing his best not to turn into a slavering idiot from the sound of that sweet, sexy voice. He pulled away, and stepped into the alley, making sure to meld into the shadows while he was still in her line of sight.

"Mistress! You can't ask us to suck out half a party's worth of souls, and not put out." Alphonse heard quite the debate coming from the other side of the hotel room door when he returned. "Come oooon... just a little?"

Alphonse pushed the door open to reveal a set of triplet succubi, all in various states of undress, with their hands on their hips pouting at Lorelai, who was sitting on the bed, trying very hard not to give into their demands.

The succubi turned to Alphonse in unison. "Isn't that right? She should put out. Or at least get Sousiel here to do it for her, maybe Elizabeth." They asked in unison, waiting for an answer.

Alhponse's already sexually frustrated body responded immediately to the sight of the three inhumanly beautiful women. Even more so when they posed their query. He turned his gaze to Lorelai. "Mistress Von'Strauss," he said evenly. "Is there a reason that you can't satisfy these ladies yourself?"

"Yeah! Mistress Von'Strauss, listen to your lacky and get naked, now." They cheerfully turned back towards their mistress.

'Because I'm in a relationship with Elizabeth, asshole.' Her eyes screamed as she looked at Alphonse. She realized she was putting him in a similar situation though. A good captain expects nothing of her troops that she doesn't of herself. "Alphonse, darling, you can be an asshole sometimes, how'd your date go?" She glared daggers at her companion as the succubi began advancing on her slowly.

"It was great." Alphonse said, his desires not being helped at all by being prompted to think about the sultry siren. Remembering he was most likely going to have to lay with the Siren for the sake of the mission in a few days.... "Look, ladies. Sousiel and Elizabeth are indisposed at the moment, but Lore does have one more retainer that could fill in for her." Alphonse's eyes darted downward, drawing the three identical women's attention toward the painfully engorged bulge in his pants. See that he had them captivated, Alphonse gestured for them to follow him to his own room. "You owe me" he mouthed to her, before he half fell into his room, as the demons tackled him through the portal.

"Thanks." Lorelai mouthed back. Then again, sometimes Alphonse could be a sweetheart. She relaxed into her bed, two days left before the fireworks started.

The next two nights saw the clerical side of their buisness done. Lorelai and Alphonse scoured the city in search of rare reagents and valuable information, bodies dropping in the latter's wake when the former's reputation failed to sway savvy buisness-demons. All the while the Choir, the triplet demons, followed in their footsteps, protesting their mistress' icy demeanor.

Finally the night of the Gala arrived. The murderous had readied themselves in their hotel, discussing the finer details of Lorelai's plan.

Lorelai was to arrive first, to draw no suspicoun that they'd arrived together. She exited her carriage slowly, allowing the Choir to ease her like royalty from its confines. Much to her horror she was dress far more revealingly than she'd anticipated, but from the gathering attendees that was par for the course at least. She waved demurely at friends and contacts as she made her way into the gala with the Choir in tow.

Sure enough, given Hezebel's disposition, the 'entertainment' on display at the event was sensual. Sex acts between creatures of varying beauty and savagery to be precise. Couples and groups 'performed' on lit pedistals throughout the darkened hall. Atendees roamed from display to display, commenting on the performances as if it were high art.

'To be fair it is, but still. I'm too old for this.' Lorelai sighed internally as she found an out of the way couch. Sitting, she ensured that her girls flanked her effectively. She wasn't here to mingle, and wanted to ensure everyone knew that.

Alphonse, on the other hand, was meant to mingle indeed. A part of him found the situation entertaining, He spent so much time avoiding attention, and now here he was, trying to draw attention. He was drinking wine, appreciating the art on display. He joined the round of soft polite applause whent he actors reached their next climax, trying to copy the other demon's disinterested expressions even as he noted the increasing discomfort in his pants. This stuff was sickening, yet....

Alphonse noticed Hezebel mingling with a few of her guests at the next exhibit. Alphonse made certain to begin chatting with a particularly buxom blond succubus within her line of sight. It didn't take long for Hezebel to notice Alphonse, and for her territorial nature to assert itself.

Alphonse was actually grateful when Hezebel interjected herself into the conversation.

"And this one, I had with a man while I was possessing a cow, pretty sure he started the whole minotaur ra-" the blond bimbo was gracefully interrupted when Hezebel's imperious voice cut through.

"So there's my mysterious stranger." she said. Her raven black hair was up in an elaborate bun, her dress a navy blue material that framed and hugged her breats, narrowing along her torso, revealing the toned lines of her flat stomache, before widening again to encoompasse her round, flared hips. The dress had no back, leaving her back and shoulders on full display. Her gaze turned from Alphonse to the succubus. The other woman wilted under her imperious gaze, and realized that she had better places to be.

"Hey, I was looking at that." Alphonse said dispassionately.

"I didn't invite you here to chat with common breeders." She replied, her eyes a smoldering combination of desire and aggression.

Alphonse regarded her carefully, before offering her his hand. "Care to dance then?"

Hezebel's aggresive stare broke into a positively wicked sneer. "I'd be delighted."

The two moved to the dance floor. They stepped to a haunting melody, punctuated occasionally by the beastial grunts and orgasmic cries of the night's entertainment. Hezebel seemed to take great delight in pulling her body close to his, teasing his body with her sensual curves. Alhponse for his part, seemed to be able to afflict her with at least as much frustration due to the casual and cavalier approach he took to touching her in kind, the two of them making an obscene display on the dance floor that would have gotten them thrown out in any place on earth.

'This is why I quit coming to these things.' Lorelai sighed to herself.

She stood and made her way over to the dancing 'couple'. Her hand were folded in front of her in the perfect picture of aristocracy, and the brisk clicking of her heels against the marble floors parted the crowd in front of her.

"Excuse me, Hezebel," Lorelai flashed the woman a chilling smile. "Would you mind if I borrowed your partner for a bit, This is my favorite song after all."

The demon opened her mouth to protest, before closing it as Lorelai repeated her request in the Dragon's Tongue. There were some people you simply didn't say no to in hell without backup, and Hezebel wasn't ready to turn her party into a fight over a dance. She nodded, and stepped away from Alphonse, a small pount curving her lips.

Lorelai stepped up to Alphonse, and grinned. They glid across the dancefloor, and away from prying ears. She made a show of placing her head on his shoulder, and whispered. "Fucking her on the dancefloor wasn't in the plan Alphonse, how much longer can you hold out?"

"Don't worry about it, I've got her eating out of the palm of my hand." Alphonse responded
"Trust me, it's much better to keep her dancing than talking. I can probably keep her interested for another hour before she just decides to sing me into a stupor. I'll make sure to take her to the arranged location before then. Now grab my ass before you give me back to our hostess. Gotta keep up appearances."

"So long as you're sure. I'll give her something to keep her interested then, make your job a little easier." Lorelai winked, and leaned in to bite his neck before spinning him away, slapping his ass as she turned back towards her seat. The more people, or demons, that wanted something, the more valuable that thing became. "All yours Hezebel, maybe I'll be back for him later."

Hezebel accepted Alphonse back from Lorelai, making sure squeeze his butt even tighter than she had. The two resumed dancing, though Hezebel now shot angry glances towards the Dragon when she knew she wasn't looking. Alhponse was quite used to being objectified by women from his time in the blood rose coven. It was just another part of the job. Also pretty hot. Still, it was better than trying to fight off the woman's entrancing voice. He was glad that the music had turned livelier, and his partner remained short of breath for the next several songs.

Lorelai's heart sank as she saw the one thing she'd hoped not to. Queen Deskari's entrance was heralded by several of her daughters clearing the crowd, next was a bolt of tension through the room as the Queen's unearthly beauty sent shivers up the crowd's collective spines, and next were her eyes on Lorelai's.

An amused smirk curved Deskari's full lips as she glid across the floor towards her. Her heart raced against her will as she took the seat next to her, displacing a pouting member of the Choir. "Lorelai... it's been ages, you never do call on me when your in my city anymore."

She had precisely one hour to get rid of the Queen, they'd planned their delay around this eventuality. Some noble's deaths you could get away with, but a Monarch, not likely. "I remember how long satisfying you takes, and I never seem to have the time." She evaded.

"Lorelai, there is such a thing as a quickie, or haven't you heard?" Deskari laughed throatily, her voice bouncing around Lorelai's head sweetly. "But I do understand that you've been busy, learning to breathe fire and whatnot. That's only served to exacerbate my interest."

Unfortunately Lorelai'd never come up with a plan on how to actually get rid of the woman. "And is your interest simply lecherous in design, Deskari?" Lorelai said coyly. "There are many succubi who's beauty far exceeds my own that would love to by objectified by your lasivious gaze."

"Bedding a Dragon is reward enough for my efforts I'd think." The Queen laughed again, much to Lorelai's dismay, and placed a hand on the Dragon's thigh. "Surely you've tired of the mortal world by now? With its morals and human filth scrambling around in the dark, truth so close yet so far out of reach."

"It has its charms still, and the weather's to die for." Lorelai mused, deflecting again. "Why? I'm not about to work for you, or anything similar, I'm a bit more ambitious than that, dear."

"Queens need consorts, and beauty is a plentiful commodity down here." Deskari's voice dripped with honey as she warmed up her offer. "My back still remembers your dagger, from all those years ago. Savagery, and cunning, those are things I value above all else, Lorelai. You're a Dragon now, who better as a partner? And when you kill me, you'll inherit the entire city."

"No more hunters, no more rival witches, just you and me." She cooed in Lorelai's ear. "Tell me that doesn't sound lovely."

It did. It really did. From the Queen's thinnly veiled promises of sensual delights to her blatant offer of rulership, Lorelai was sorely tempted. She looked around the room, at all the luxury and decadence. It could be hers.

Then her eyes fell on Alphonse, still fending off Hezebel's more insistent advances. The reason she'd left in the first place was to find something better than accumulating power. She'd found family, siblinghood, and more opportunities for love than she likely deserved. She had Elizabeth, Lotte, Abby, and Alphonse, treasures finer than any Deskari could offer.

She turned to the Queen with glazed eyes. "Let me wrap up a few things here, and think about your offer." She placed a calculating hand on the woman's thigh, her fingers gripping in a fascimilie of affection. "You'll hear from me tomorrow morning, probably in person."

"As you wish, Lorelai." Deskari's face curved into a triumphant smirk. She placed a small kiss on the Dragon's cheek as she stood. "Do have fun now, make some friends." With that she turned and left.

A few minutes passed as Lorelai regained control of her body. When her heart rated had returned to a semblance of normalcy she nudged the Choir. "Time to go to work darlings."

Alphonse had his arms around one of the most delightful of creatures. The music had shifted some time ago, prompting the two into slower, less lascivious dances. Though the closeness afforded greater intimacy, and for the Siren to begin leveraging her narcotic voice. Alphonse found himself infrequently forgetting that he was here to stab this witch in the back. Her invitations to her villa in the black forest was the most alluring thing he had ever heard. What would it hurt for him to go with her now? Lorelai would handle her mission just fine without him. He was supposed to go with this woman anyway, what would id matter if he left a bit early?

"Master!" An inhuman voice suddenly pierced his skull. "The signal is sprung, it is time for the next phase of the plan." The shade had noticed Lorelai's succubus stumble quite badly into one of the displays. The beast that had been wildly rutting was only too happy to have an extra toy. The unexpected addition to the spectacle attracted a massive crowd. Now was the time.

Alphonse's mind lurched suddenly as he remembered fully his situation. He pulled the woman he'd been dancing with in close and delivered his own honeyed promises into her ears. Alphonse fought hard against the allure of her throaty chuckle as she lead him away from the dance floor, the pair unnoticed by the distracted crowd.

She lead him up the stairs to a lavish chamber. Smooth, cobble stone floors gave way to a gushing hot spring. Perfumed scents permeated the room. A massive silver statue fountain of none other than Hezebel stood in the center, rather than erupting as a spray, the water flowed from the figure's mouth down her front, the gentle flow of water accentuating the woman's curves, which were rendered in full detail. Alphonse saw just how well her figure had been renditioned, as she sashayed towards the pool, her dress dropping to the floor behind her as the walked.

"Come stranger, join me for a bath." Her voice echoed off the smooth walls of the bath chamber, as she turned to him, giving him his full view of her sinfully curvaceous body framed by the massive fountain behind her.

"Of course, my dear." Alphonse intoned, not entirely sure if his worshipful tone was practiced or genuine. He'd have to find a way to keep her quiet while they were here.

The Choir slipped outside quietly, locking the doors behind them. Lorelai's eyes follow Alphonse and Hezebel out of the room. She should worry about the man less, he seemed to be handling himself nicely. She drew herself to her feet and made her way to the center of the room.

A snap of her fingers called her bound servitors to her. Several hulking demons sprung from wells of black darkness on the floor. The crowd applauded at first, titilated at the thought of such immense beasts and their surely immense manhoods splitting the other performers in a savage display. Applause soon turned to screams of horror as the first of the behemoths stode forward to rip a visiting Fae noble in half.

They scattered in an attempt to flee as the bloodbath ensued, hulking serivitors pulling men and women apart with sadistic glee. Others thought to slay the summoner in an attempt to send the horrors back. Each attempt was met with Dragonfire, reducing would be heroes to charred corpses hissing with boiling fat.

Lorelai shivered as their screams filled the night air. There was a part of her that enjoyed this, and always would.

One bloody slaughter later.

Hezebel and Alphonse returned from the private bath they had shared, feeling clean and relaxed, smelling of lavendar. Hezebel rejoined the party first, wanting to reconvene with her other guests now that she had enjoyed her conquest. She stopped dead as she was struck by the vision before her.

The mail hall was painted in blood. It had been before, but now it was painted in an additional coat consisting of her most esteemed guests. Her heart sank. If people found out about this....she began to run, calling for any retainers to survive the slaughter.

Alphonse, for his part had taken the opportunity to return to the shadows. He'd watch and wait, prepared to assist his mistress when needed.

"Quite the sight isn't it?" Lorelai chuckled as she stepped into view from around a marble column. "I tired of your little display, so I elected to put on my own."

She gestured to the room, smirking cruely. "I think it's much improved, but I could understand if you'd disagree." She winked at the heiress. "I know Deskari will. She'll throw quite the fit don't you think, but she's cute when she's killing people, so I don't mind."

Hezebel regarded Lorelai evenly. Seeing that she was surrounded, she restorted to the best weapon at hand. "No, you will pay for this!" She nearly shouted, her voice resonating with dominance and authority. "Kneel before me and beg forgiveness for this affront to the line of Dagon!"

Hezebel's voice washed over Lorelai. Her first instinct was to obey, the siren's magic was potent after all, but you don't bind demons for a career to fall at your feet before one. Her mouth opened, and Dragon's Tongue poured from her throat in a thousand-throated howl of dominance.

"Your father knows better, and you'd better learn it soon." Her eyes were angry as she slowly drew closer to the demoness. "Unless you want to end up a nameless fuckdoll for my menagerie, like so many before you."

Hezebel stood proud in the face of the Dragon's roar. For just a moment, then she cast her eyes down, and kneeled. Perhaps she could still survive this night

"I can see that you have me cornered and over powered, lady dragon." She said, her beautiful voice was even sweeter to Lorelai's ears now that it was seasoned with submission. "If not as a mindless fuck slave then, how can I serve you, mistress?"

"You can start by giving me your fleet." The darker corners of Lorelai's mind, freshly awakened by the earlier slaughter, wanted nothing more than to ravage the vulnerable heiress until she was unrecognizable. She suppressed the impulse with a shudder. "Then we can talk about how you survive this. Chin up demon, a minor setback at best."

Hezebel accepted Lorelai's invitation to raise her eyes to her new mistress's, remaining kneeling and docile. "Of course mistress, ships are of no object to me." She said, internally damning the bitch for taking her pleasure barges. "Tell me what I have to do. I'm utterly in your power."

"Pack what you'll need for a long voyage, I'll need someone to tend to my things for the duration of my expedition." Lorelai grinned malevolently. "If you please me, I'll take you to the material world, safe and away from the legion of enemies I just made you."

Hezebel rose, and backed away from her new mistress. She walked herself to her chamber
and began the humiliating task of packing her own clothes. The villa' halls echoed with her foot steps, utterly silent. Her future was dark and uncertain, but it would be close to a dragon. Perhaps this was an opportunity.

Alphonse watched the events unfold from the shadows. When Hezebel tried to assert her own dominance, Alphonse nearly felt himself coalesce to stand by her.....when Lorelai responded, he saw that he would not be needed. He returned to his room in the hotel, he stripped, and began drawing a hot bath. Even though he was free of grime already, he had not felt this dirty in a long time.

The next day saw them on the docks. Demonic servitors packed supplies and equipment onto Lorelai's fleet in subservient silence. Her soldiers were already aboard and seeing to their arms and armor. The Dragon grinned at the sight, the beauty of efficiency was of often overlooked thing. Also the beauty of a plot well hatched.

She turned to her silent companion. Alphonse bore the same demeanor he always did, but familiarity bred insight, and she could see a small gloom concealed in the man's features. Infedelity weighed on him, evidently, and she couldn't exactly blame him.

"Alphonse, dear, are you alright?" They were a ways off from the working demons, now was one of the few opportunities they'd get for privacy for some time. She laid a hand on the man's shoulder, smiling softly. "I can see trouble marring your handsome visage."

Alphonse dragged his mind out from his silent brooding. His first instinct was to deny it, that he was just doing his job, like always. It wasn't a probelm. Get off my back. Eh, he had to unload his damage eventually. May as well do it in hell where he could publicly murder anyone who laughed about it.

" know, remember how I have that girl back home. Triss?" Alphonse asked rhetorically. "Well, she's made it pretty clear that she doesn't like the idea of me sleeping with other women, and now I've done that. Again, so I'm nott feeling great about that."

"Triss? Not thrilled with your dalliances?" Lorelai covered a small chuckle with her hand. "Dear, she's probably half full of Sousiel right now, as you say."

"I understand what you're feeling, but she can hardly expect strict monogomy if she's not willing to play by the same rules." She set a hand on Alphonse's shoulder. "And you could always just not tell her. I'll probably get molested by the Choir at some point, it's a tresspass of body, not heart."

"That does seem fair." Alphonse said, mentally relaxing his momentary preparations to murder his mistress for her brief chortle. The next part was harder. "The big problem is Hezebel....she might have gotten her hooks in me. I'm not sure how bad, but I haven't been able to get her out of my head....haunting my dreams. The feeling is intoxicating, I don't even know wether I should blame her voice....or something else."

"That's concerning." Lorelai frowned at Alphonse. "I can clear you of any influence she may have over you, but if she's snatched your heart..."

She shrugged. "I can kill her if you want, might be simpler."

He seriously considered it. If he couldn't trust his own mind and heart, he would be a terrible liability in the future. Still, she could be useful to Lorelai. In the end he admired the woman too much to see her enter the dark earth now. They had managed to beat her readily enough, but her power and presence were intriguing to Alphonse. He had to wonder what would happen when she lacked the influence and privilege of her father....

"Let her live, you've already promised her safety, and I don't want you to sacrifice a potential asset for my sake." He finally said. "I'll keep my distance from her, if I have to. I'll be fine."

"If you're sure, the offer stands though. You're a more valuable asset than she, and a dear friend." Lorelai resolved to keep an eye on Alphonse. Being smitten with a demon was rarely a blessing, as the vast majority of them were incapable of real affection.

"As a change of topic." Lorelai spoke up again after a small pause. "I plan to stop by the Shadow Isles. I've been considering the phantom arm you've displayed, and my thoughts keep leading me to the Stryx. They're 'living' shadows, I thought they might have something to offer you."

She smiled at her companion. "What do you think?"

"An opportunity to look into my infernal legacy, and transcend the limits of my mortal flesh? Can't be any worse than what I've been doing. I can always use more ways to disappear." Alphonse's face turned devilish at the implications. If he was really lucky, he'd get to viciously murder something that deserved it.

Their expedition began with little fanfare, the fleet simply pushing off and sailing out into the black sea at Lorelai's whispered command. Demons roamed about the decks of the ships seeing to the rigging and other neccessary tasks with little passion. Soldiers sat stationary on benches below decks, occassionally moving to see to their equipment.

Lorelai paced the deck of the ship when the moon was out, a compass and map tracking their progression. At night she retreated below deck to rest and perform rituals to bind more blasphemous servitors to their cause.

Hezebel served dutifully, smiling demurely whenever her mistress was near. When she wasn't she continued to push her influence over the strange suitor that had cost her so much, when she could find him that is.

Weeks passed in relative silence, until finally they'd arrived at their first destination.

The Shadow Isles were a small collection of stark-black rocks jutting out of the burning abyssal sea. No light penetrated the crevices of the formations, no sounds came from the desolate rocks, and no life flourished anywhere near them.

Lorelai and Alphonse stood on the deck of their ship as it moored against the first of the small landmasses. "Hungry shadows, that's another name for the Stryx. I can't follow here, the shadows pull at my life force even from this distance."

She patted her companion on the back. "If you have need of me, call out, and I'll aid if I can." She flashed a grin. "But you should be fine."

Alphonse cracked his neck to either side, smiling cockilly. "Don't worry about it. Just a bunch of shadows blending in, right?" He chuckled. He was in a good mood. Better than he had been in during the whole of his travels on the ship. He strode out onto the shore.

Alphonse melded into the shadows of the island, and found himself in an unfamiliar position. The sensations were the same. He could feel and recognize everything around him that was covered in darkness. Which was everything. The strange thing was, within that darkness, there was no life. Alphonse could normally feel living creatures cast in shadows while he was within them. He had never been in a place with no living creatures at all. It was a peace he had never known before. Comforting even. The other thing that was strange, was that he was walking. The shadows of this island had a depth to them beyond that of the physical world. Alphonse found himself walking through a barren forest, everything around him was colored in shades of black, grey and white. Only he his own flesh shone with the light of light, except for his shadow arm, which now thrummed against his shoulder, filling him with a comforting sense of power. As he walked through the woods, he heard the hooting of owls. From the corner of his eye, he though he saw the glint of yellow contrasting sharply with the dark environment.

Their presence filled Alphonse with a sudden sense of trepidation. He recognized their murmuring calls. They were hunters, flocking and jockeying for a shot at the newest prey. Alphonse ran through the night, desperate to find a place to hide. Everything was darkness, blacks and greys. Everything except for Alphonse's radiant living flesh. He stood out against every shadow, every shade of black and white. no where was safe for him. The eyes were everywhere. His breath left him, his body ached. How long had he been running? There was no way to tell in this twilight realm. The only part of him that did not scream for release, was the shadowy arm at his side. As his body failed, the appendage thrummed with excitement. Hunger. It knew what the eyes looked for. It knew how they could survive.

Alphonse felt that hunger. Rather than being torn apart by the dark talons without, he allowed himself to be consumed by the darkness within. The part where his arm met his shoulder opened like a maw, and dragged itself along his torso, like a python devouring a boar. It didn't take long for Alphonse to be consumed by shadow. Lifeless. Dark. Hidden. Alphonse felt his soul lighten, the weight of guilt, of grief, now seemed irrelevant to him. He turned to the flock of eyes and darkness. He had to join the hunt.

Lorelai paced fretfully on the deck of her capital ship, smoke had been flowing from her nostrils nearly continuously for days. It had been days since Alphonse had departed for the shadow isles. After two days, she was forced to leave without him, presuming him dead. She might have been able to conjure a spell to invade the islands...but she needed that for the Plague Lord. Al would have to be one more casualty of this war.

"Loooorrrryyyyy, I'm hooooome!" A loud, drawn out cry suddenly shattered her brooding thoughts, and provoked a gout of flame flying over the ship's deck.
When Lorelai's momentary rage cleared, she saw a pair of yellow eyes in the shade beneath the cabin's shadow. Then Alphonse emerged, beeming smile in place. Though his previously blue eyes now glinted an animalistic yellow cant. "Did you miss me?"

"I did, until you elected to startle me." Lorelai smiled at Alphonse. "Now I'm somewhat ambivalent."

She surveyed her friend, noting the change to the man's eyes with pride. "Well done, was it everything you hoped for?"

Alphonse's smile turned savage, as he displayed a great many teeth. "Everything, and more Lorelai. I have an all new perspective now. As well, as a few new tricks." He raised his arms, and allowed them to relax back into shadows, then flexed them back into flesh and blood. "I don't want to ruin any surprises though, you'll see soon enough." His smile relaxed to his normal expression. "The whole thing was.....good, I guess, different. I flew with them. The strix. I met my father....we didn't really have a lot to say." Alphonse fell silent, not know what else to say.

"Good to hear, and I look forward to you showcasing your new techniques. I imagine there will be ample opportunity for that shortly, the remainder of our expedition will be brief, and bloody." Lorelai grinned.

As promised they arrived on the beach of the Plague Lord's domain within a week of leaving the Shadow Isles. Without the Lord's influence the land was barren and devoid of life of any kind. The witches and their army disembarked the fleet in silence.

"Alphonse, we're looking for a holy redoubt." Lorelai turned to her companion. "I need you to grab up a scout, and find out the extent of their defenses. Are you up to the task?"

Alphonse raised one eye brow at his murder buddy. "There's a holy redoubt? In the middle of hell?" Alphonse shrugged. "Alrightt, if that's that we need, I'm your man." Alphonse tipped forward, and fell face first onto the ground, flattening immediately into his own shadow.

Another glorious day in one of the worst places in the cosmos, Diom's gaze fell once again upon the barren planes of the plague lands, nothing seemed out of place, the radiance of his golden wings banished any shadows that could conceal any threats to his sacred ward. Yes, another boring day of.....pain shot through Dion's back in an instant, his feathered body twisted to look above him to see bright yellow eyes piercing his essence. He struggled to tear away from the dark creature's talons, but felt his strength fading fast, too fast. Finally, he literally tore away the beast, golden blood trailing behind him. He dove fast, desperately trying to make his way back to the keep. The shadow followed behind him, its shadow oppressing Dion's guttering light. Dion was desperately trying to gain speed, but he couldn't keep his wings sturdy, he was losing altitude too fast. The shadow's talons pierced his back once more, driving him into the earth. His light was now a faint glimmer, before the dark owl's beak pierced his skull, and drank deeply of the red gold life within.

Zureil examined the sky, or rather the cavernous ceiling of the abyssal plane she'd been assigned to. Her tenure here had been uneventful thus far, and while that was likely a blessing, it did make her brethren restless. They stood at their posts, disciplined as ever, but some of their vigilant gazes had turned glassy as the decades wore on.

On the horizon, facing the coast of the Blood Sea, a dark shape took form. She raised the alarm mentally, it seems some Lord or another decided that a favor from the Plague Lord was worth the risk. She smirked, how wrong they were, this would be a welcome break from the tedium.

Her smirked quickly faded as the horrific smoke finally took form. This was no lord. Death came for them on black wings that blotted out the sky. A Dragon, an Old God of the infernal planes. Her shadow passed over the plane towards them, and a hideous army of twisted demonic shapes sprang up in its wake.

"Quickly! Rally the sentinels! We can't let them trap us in the keep." Soldiers rushed about the courtyard beneath her, outfitting themselves for the battle ahead.

Many of the men on the walls were too slow. Starlight gathered in the beast's maw as it approached, and a horrific gout of flame accompanied its challenging roar. Men died in moments as even a large section of the outer wall was reduced to molten slag.

"Sisters! To me!" Zureil conjured several of her lesser kin, and took to the skies. If she couldn't kill the beast, or at least drive it back, their walls would be useless.

Below her the demonic infantry finally collided with her mounted division. Twisted screams filled the air as foul soldiers were impaled by the golden lances of her men. They showed no signs of stopped, of their lines breaking. Demons did not fear, and never relented. This would be a long night.

"dada dada da dummmm.... " Alphonse hummed to himself as he removed his profaned blade from a minor angel's chest. He wasn't sure if the weapons rage and loathing was more directed towards being used to destroy it's lor'ds servants, or his casual self amusement while doing so.... Alphonse had switched out his black ensemble for a white one. There were literally no shadows within the keep, as he had discovered from the eagle thing's blood. He was a bit irritated, nothing a little bit of fun on the job couldn't fix.

"Terrible thing about focus," He said thoughtfully to the dimming corpse. "Is that it precludes you from finding information from other sources. Like behind you....or slightly to the left of the big pretty battle going on outside." His gaze spread out over the wall at the terrible hosts meeting with the profane legion and sighed. "That looks like a whole lot of work." His body shimmered into shadow as he flew to a high window, and returned to flesh. He was in, and guards were at a bare minimum, just as he knew they would. Terrible and impressive as Lorelai's display had been, she wouldn't be able to defeat the angel's hosts as they were now. The sacred ark in the castle's heart was empowering them, not only holding the darkness of the plaguelands at bay, but siphoning the might of the Plague Lord into the Angels, stoking their fires to even greater fury.

Alphonse made his way into the keep's inner sanctum, silently killing the occasional guard he couldn't work his way around. Down a vaulted hallway, there was a massive gold trimmed marble door. Before it floated a silver gold sphere, enameled in mandelas. Around its circumfrence rose six feathered wings. Before each wing floated a burning brass blade. Alphonse had some work to do.

Zuriel's battle was going better than she'd expected. Holy lightning was slowly wearing through the beast's hide. It's scales glew a molten red were her bolts had kissed its profane essence. Gouts of cosmic fire had claimed several of her sisters thus far, but she'd have to mourn them later.

The trouble was that her bolts weren't cutting through the scales as fast as they needed to, she didn't like her odds against the Dragon up close. She didn't really have an option, however.

She ordered her sisters forward, towards the Dragon's head. They nodded grimly, giving their lives without hesitation. As the beast turned to bathe them in its flames, Zuriel darted forward. Her mace crackled with divine lightning as she hefted it in both hands for a decisive blow.

Its shuddering bulk was wreathed in lightning for a moment as her blow struck its flank. Molten blood met her strike, pouring from a rupture in the creature's stony hide. It screamed in pain and defiance. Her remaining sisters clutched their ears as the blasphemous roar washed over them, blood pouring from their mouths and noses as they fell dead from the sky. Zuriel was stunned by the utterance, and before she recovered the beast had established distance between them. It dissappeared into the inky, black darkness of the Plague Lands.

Zuriel gave chase. She felt the opportunity to slay a Dragon, how could she pass it up?

A marble pillar burst into molten fragments as a burning blade roared through it. Alphonse rolled to try to pierce one of the angel's wings. Alphonse had spent far more time than he had liked fighting this thing. His profaned blade couldn't pierce the armored sphere, and he couldn't get close enough to its wings due to the flame. Alphonse's ears were filled with the roar of flame before shifting into darkness once again. He had miscalculated the angel's arcs of reach, and was forced once again to rely on his shadowform to avoid certain death. Though his breath was even, his body was beginning to feel heavy. Shifting so quickly so often was beginning to wear on him, compounded by the sheer heat exhaustion from being the whirling inferno that was his adversary. "fuck this." He finally said to himself, as he shifted into shadow, and flitted under the door.

He was barely able to pull his body back together as he emerged on the other side. The sanctum was the most opulent chapel he had ever seen, even compared to the rest of the glorious castle. Made even more so by the oppressive holy light of the tabernacle held in a place of reverence on a raised platform, as if standing in for an altar. Alphonse could feel the profaned crucifix burning against his chest, its power pushed to its limit by the oppressive atmoshpere around him.

He pushed forward, pulling the last breath from his cloak, quickly dousing his blade in the cloudy dark mist of an innocent man's last breath. He raised to cleave box open, when the doors that the minor angel had been guarding burst open in a heaving explosion. It didn't hesitate for a moment as it sensed through whatever sacred equivalent it had for vision perceived his intent. It's wings retracted, and the complicated panels of its body shifted and opened to reveal an orb of sunlight. A molten blast erupted from it to consume Alphonse's body in sacred fire. No shadow would survive its might. Alphonse had other plans.

He leaped, flipping backwards over the pillar of flame, soaring towards the sphere. In midair, his body shifted to the black owl he now was and dove into the angel's heart. The shell closed around him, as he entered. It jerked through the air. It slammed into the walls before finally it dropped to the ground. The plates fell apart, as Alphonse spread hit terrible black wings.

He hopped to the tabernacle while shifting back to his human form, and plunged his now especially profaned blade into the tabernacle's lock.The Tabernacle exploded in a flash of light, then went out, leaving a faint glow in the center where it had been. When it faded, a white puss began to bubble forth. Alphonse watched, and smiled.

Alphonse sat on one of the ruined castle walls, his head reasting on his fist. He sighed again, as he heard yet another ragged scream echo through the cave. The battle had ended rather abruptly after the tabernacle was defiled. The angels were denied the voice of god, and the demons fell over them. Alphonse had joined the fray, mostly because the chapel quickly became inhospitable due to the puss, and the fevered smell emanating from it. Now that all of the murder was done, Alphonse found himself feeling content, yet irritated.

He felt full, the cherubim had been a filling meal, and the mission was done. It was time to sit or lay down and relax. Which was difficult to do with the racket echoing through this entire biosphere.

"How long is she gonna drag this out?" Hezebel commented as she sashayed to his roost. "You think she'd let us watch?" She smiled maliciously. "Or we could make our own show."

Alphonse considered her for a moment. He was content, full. Yet Hezebel's words brought the irritating screams into a new context. Maybe he could drown them out with some other screams. He felt a moment of guilt at the thought, but he quickly disregarded it. Triss had Sousiel to keep her company, what of it if Alphonse took some pleasure of his own?

"I can get a good seat for it. You'll have to sit on my lap for it though." Alphonse said with a grin.

"Oh? Not a lot of room?" She replied coyly.

"No, I just want to fuck you."

"I'm sorry mistress." The angel, now named Serrus, groveled at Lorelai's feet as the woman replaced her robe. "Truth is painful, it was a moment of weakness."

"That's quite alright, you are forgiven." Lorelai giggled. Serrus was quite docile now, but corruption would do that to a woman. "Now clean yourself up."

"Yes mistress." Serrus moved around the cave, collecting scraps of her clothing and doing her best to restore her modesty. The overall effect still left the majority of her body bare, but managed to barely cover her nipples and womanhood. The remaining scraps she used to wipe away the blood, sweat, and tears, before presenting herself to her mistress again. "Does this please you?"

"We'll get you into something more flattering when we get home, but that suits you for now." The way the angel refused to meet her eyes, or blushed like a schoolgirl everytime she spoke was almost endearing. She extended her elbow. "Come along."

Serrus link her arm through her new mistress' hesitantly. Her skin still burned lightly at the contact, as the accursed higher planes hadn't yet been beaten from her. Pain was the route to truth though, and she'd suffer in silence from now on. She belonged to Lorelai Von'strauss, and belongings don't complain.

Lorelai lead them out of the cave. She'd fly back, but she'd given the Dragon enough sway over her for now. She sighed, "Looks like we're walking."

"When your devoted servant is at the ready to transport you?" Alphonse's voice came from her left, where there had been nothing just a moment before. Hezebel stood beside him, both of them completing the final fastenings of their clothing. "The redoubt is secure, though it's getting pretty stanky. So...yeah, breath through your mouth or something."

"Ah, anticipating my needs, I'm truly blessed." Lorelai's face was cheerful, but internally concern spread across her mind. Alphonse had seemed rather torn about straying from his dear Triss when it was neccessary, and now he was rutting with Hezebel shamelessly, not even bothering to cover signs of the sin.

Perhaps he was over her, they had talked about it. For now she'd watch him closely. "Shall we dear?"

Alphonse spread himself on the ground and brought the others with him into darkness. It was time they met the newly awakened Plague Lord.

They emerged from Alphonse's shadow in the room that previously held the tabernacle. The abyssal energies of the plane had reasserted themselves, and the room had lost any traces of its once bright decadance.

Instead they stepped into an altar to disease. The stench of rotting death filled the air, rats wallowed in filth in the cesspools at the corners of the room, servitors attended their lord amidst a chorus of coughs and pained weezes.

The Plague Lord squatted atop his throne of filth. He had the head of a rat, and his vaguely humanoid body was covered in matted fur marred by oozing sores and pustules. He lifted his head to greet them, before bowing low before Lorelai.

"Mistress, you have my thanks, but surely that isn't enough." He chittered. "Speak what you desire of Disease, and it shall be done."

"Indeed, I need a plague fit to end a war. Something only your vile will could conjure." Lorelai curled her nose. She was no stranger to the stink of hot death, but this place held a concentration that was unsurpassed in her years. She pulled Serrus close, and covered her nose with a handful of the angel's hair. "And your everlasting loyalty."

"The second is a given, Mistress," The creature cackled. "In death I still dreamed, and in those fevered landscapes I created something. A cure, for the disease of humanity."

"Go on." Fortunately Serrus' hair smelled pleasant, and mostly blocked out the putrid stench of the room.

"A pathogen, with an incubation period of one month. During the first month it will present as a small cold. Sniffles, a light fever, coughing, but nothing serious." The Lord smirked, and removed several runes jars from his tattered finery. "Then, it will change them. Within a day they'll become little more than savage, hungry beasts content to feed on their own kind. The change will also make them stronger, faster, and more perceptive."

"And an immunity? How will me and mine remain safe if the hillsides swarm with beasts?" Lorelai arched an eyebrow.

"They won't attack others with the same strain, and it will mutate every twenty hosts or so." The creature extended a jar with blue runes. "This is the master strain. It's a harmless disease, but it's dominant over the rest, so you needn't fear infection from its lesser cousins. It also causes the beasts to react to you as if you were a member of their pack."

"Delightful!" Lorelai cooed. She turned to her companions. "What do you guys think?"

"Sounds pretty genius to me." Alphonse responded. "It's pretty hard to quarantine someone who's lost their shit, and willing and able to fight."

"And it should be able to spread before its symptoms become obvious."[/color] Hezebel offered. "I'm curious about the mutations, what purpose do they serve?"

"Not only do they make the disease harder to study and understand, they also serve to change the strain, meaning that so long as regular human prey is unavailable they'll kill each other." The creature chittered with mirth.

"Sounds like you're going to mutate them all into various splintered tribes of violent savages." Hezebel said dryly. "Not much of a change is it?"

Lorelai and the Plague Lord looked at each other, then burst into laughter. "No, I suppose not much, but it will be faster."

"Well, I'm satisfied," Lorelai made Serrus collect the bottles while she held her breath. Once she'd returned with her built in air filter she turned towards the exit. "Sousiel's home now, she should be able to drag us out. Any last buisness before we leave?"

Alphonse nodded gravely. "I do have a request for the Plague Lord." He turned to the fetid rat. "You mentioned that you crafted a master disease that effectively innocculated you from the others of it's strain. I'm the one that broke the seal on your grave. Could you make me one that ate STDs?"

Lorelai rolled her eyes while the Plague Lord laughed. "Of course!" One of the boils on his body twisted and changed color before bursting. The rat caught the expelled fluid in another runed bottle, produced from his many pockets. "Rut to your heart's content."

"Oh, I'm sure he will." Lorelai heaved an exasperated sigh as the Plague Lord handed Alphonse his prize. "Anything else?"

"I don' it, do I?" Alphonse inquired. The Plague Lord nodded, and chittered again. Alphonse downed the infectious concoction, and gagged, nearly retching. After lapping his tongue several times to get the taste out of his mouth he said. "Nah, I'm good, let's go."

They arrived back in Lorelai's summoning chamber, home once again. Lorelai sighed happily as the portal yawned closed behind them.

She turned to Hezebel and Serrus. "Hezebel, familiarize yourself with the remainder of my servitors. Sousiel is your superior, and she will kill you for insubordination." Hezebel bowed to her mistress and silently left the room to make good on her orders.

"Serrus, you'll be attending to me as a personal servant. Go familiarize yourself with the castle, and bring Elizabeth James to my chambers." Serrus nodded, and promptly fled the room.

She turned to Alphonse. "Well done old friend. Take a couple of days to yourself before reporting back in. You've earned it."

Alphonse cast his gaze all around him. Overwhelmed with the news. He had never seen nor heard such a thing, an honest and justly earned vacation. "Lore, I am honored. Thank you." Alphonse melded into shadow. He had to make stomaching that disgusting draught worth it somehow.

Lorelai smiled, and limped out of the chamber. There was always more work to be done. "Let's see how Elizabeth has handled things, shall we?" She muttered.
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