Arusheluxem floated in the inky sea, in the nothing, surrounded by endless rows of her own kind. Peaceful. Silent. Empty. They lurked there, enjoying the purity that filled the space that was Var Rhun.
But the daemon could not be still. Could not relax. Could not simply let go.
Fifteen years, she had striven, to build a legacy. Fifteen years she had endured, battling to subsume her host, who had the strongest will she’d ever encountered, working to subvert and weaken that pathetic King and those who would help him. Fifteen years spent turning that little flyspeck of a country into her own personal abattoir, a monument to mortal stupidity and weakness.
And then she’d been thwarted on the cusp of overwhelming victory, a victory that would have surely been enough of an achievement to advance her a full digit in Vhand’s eyes.
Fifteen years of work undone in a matter of weeks, by one little living toy.
No, she finally decided; it wasn’t good enough. She wouldn’t let it end here. Sooner or later she would be summoned once more, sooner or later the lot would fall to the daemon who had once been Anise Layd’i. And then she would work tirelessly to get free, work until she was in a spot again to return to Cylvania, or whatever its descendants or conquerors called it. And then she would have her vengeance, on the golem, or the brat, or whoever else was around.
Because now? Now it was personal. Even for something that prided itself on being an eternal force of entropy, there were limits.
The summons came sooner than Arusheluxem expected, and if she’d had lips in this form she would’ve smiled. So soon? Oh, this was perfect! All she had to do was deal with a mortal summoner, likely some desperate, sex-starved cultist, and then she could be off, finding her way back to Cylvania to strike them when they were weakened. All it would take was one slip, one flaw in the language of the pact, one of the traps that the progenitor daemons had seeded throughout mortal knowledge, and then she’d be able to turn everything around-
-Arusheluxem blinked, as she faded into the mortal body she’d been provided.
She wasn’t in front of some scruffy, half-mad man in a black sheet. Nor was she in some dusty basement, or even a proper cave.
She was on a simple, flat metal table, covered with a mirrored glass case. Grilles in the side permitted the sound of the chant to pass through. There were multiple voices intoning this one, and her eyes widened. To do that, every Cultist there had to be level twenty, at least.
“Hello?” She asked, as she tested the pact in her mind. The usual backdoors, the treacherous areas of thought that were usually left open, were shut.
The chant finished, was replaced by silence.
“Hello? Please,” she said, looking around. “I only want to serve you. Masters.” Except no, no she didn’t, because service wasn’t part of the pact. That had been omitted.
The table shuddered under her, and the glass slid up, replaced by metal. Some mechanism churned below her. And she realized that she wasn’t in a case, she was in a tube. She snapped her hands up, tried to stop the table from sliding, and nearly lost a finger. She yanked back her bloody hands before anything significant could got chopped off, and howled in frustration.
Level one again! I could have punched my way out of here easily if I still had…
Everything spun, and she hung on to the table below her for dear life. Then with a WHUMP, she landed, tilted somehow. The ceiling above her was now the ceiling in front of her, and she was standing on more metal.
Then the tube opened.
No response. After a moment, the darkness in front of her lit up with glowstones. She followed the trail, down a short hall that ended in a grilled metal door. Next to it sat a chair, and a small desk, with a book, an inkwell, and a quill pen.
Hissing behind her, and Arusheluxem turned, to see the doors of the tube she’d arrived through seal up, steam puffing out around them.
“Can you hear me?” a bored voice said from outside the door. It was muffled, blurred. She couldn’t tell the species, or even the gender of the speaker.
“Yes,” she replied.
“State the time of your last summoning.”
“I couldn’t say- it was fifteen years, six months, and three days ago.” She slapped her hand to her mouth.
She hadn’t meant to say that. She’d had a number of prevarications lined up for precisely that question. Hastily she muttered the commands that let her review the pact… and found clauses woven in there, with such skill that she hadn’t noticed them at first. She couldn’t NOT answer. She couldn’t lie, or even omit information.
A creeping dread started to build in her gut. Who WERE these people?
“State the general location of your last summoning,” continued her mysterious interrogator.
“Inside the altered dungeon located within the country of Cylvania.”
“Cylvania?” Now the voice sounded interested. “Get back into the lift for archiving.”
“What is this?” She asked. “Who are you?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“Please. I’m…” She searched her mind for memories…
…and found it blank.
She’d been given a brain that had no memories, beyond basic speech in whatever language she was speaking now, a rough knowledge of the date in about five different calendars, and a preference for orange as a favorite color. It felt… raw, around the edges. Someone had done this to her sacrificed host, for no other reason than to prevent her from knowing about her summoners.
The creeping dread in Arusheluxem’s gut grew into shaking fear. She looked down at her nude, unremarkable form, and realized that this would NOT be a standard summoning.
“Send me back. Please,” she whispered.
“No. Not until you’ve given us a thorough accounting of everything you’ve experienced over… hm, what was the duration of your summoning?”
“Fifteen years, six months, and three days.”
Silence for a bit. A muffled sound, voices talking.
“Well. No logbook for you, then.” said the voice. “You’re going directly to the inquisitors. Congratulations, you’re now Intelligence Asset number three-hundred and sixty-two. We’ve been wanting information about that area for quite a long time. And you’re going to tell us everything you know.”
“And then you’ll send me back?”
“Oh three-sixty-two,” the voice sounded very amused, “how long have you been doing this? We make no promises.”
“Just... tell me one thing.” Arusheluxem begged, in a tone she hadn’t used in a very long time. “Tell me that you mean them harm. That you’ll hurt them. Conquer them, destroy them, I don’t care,” she knew she was being irrational, giving away too much, but she couldn’t stop herself. She was level one again, and her willpower was a frail shadow of what it had been. “Just make them suffer.”
“I don’t owe you that answer. And I don’t need to give it to you. But I’ll tell you this much,” her unseen interrogator chuckled. “I don’t see any way that you telling us all about them will help them.”
The doors to the tube hissed open again, and head held high, trying to salvage some dignity, Arusheluxem walked back into the metal-lined chamber. The doors sealed, and it rumbled, carrying her down, into darkness….

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Andrew Seiple


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