The manor of one Lord Fenutant, devourer of sheep and barn animals alike, was not what one would call grand or even fancy. The black iron fence was covered in rust, and the garden overrun with Jawbreaker vines and Stranglethorn bushes was an eyesore.
Honestly, the master of the home barely seemed to notice or care that his first appearance of the manor matched him to a T. Down to the last button undone on his bulging shirt in fact.
Meanwhile Impy, who everyday almost poisoned his lord for giving him that name, woke up in his ‘room’.
He crawled out from the space between the massive cauldron used to cook the 10 meals the lord ate a day and the bleeding stone walls that had been in fashion about a thousand years ago; until the demons saw how much they would have to mop due to the seepage.
Idiots. All of them.
He poured the bucket of collected blood, today's flavor was goat blood, into the cauldron to sweeten the breakfast. Wasting any resource was just… well, wasteful. He smoothed down his servant's uniform and adjusted his slick hair back into some sort of order. He needed to start breakfast, pour an acid bath for the Master, steam his clothes with the help of a natural sulphur geyser, and of course, wake the bloody fool.
He used to have help but Lord Fenutant had devoured most of the other Imps when food was slow to arrive or when he got peckish. The idiots didn’t even see the fool lumbering towards them. They deserved to be imp snacks.
Imps. Impy was indeed an Imp.
Impressive and clever his master was for giving him that name, why yes it must have taken such an effort for his tiny brain indeed. He looked around the kitchen as he tried to figure out the best plan of attack. The kitchen had been designed for a demon of his master’s size, not Impy’s.
The old feeling of being inadequate rose inside his chest. If only Imps were taller, faster, stronger… powerful. But Imps were not and Impy had long since come to terms with the fact that short of a Godly intervention, he was an Imp for life.
Godly, being a joke of course. Impy would bite any divine hand that tried to touch him. Urgh, such beings would smell clean and wash under their nails!
He scampered onto stools and reached for various jars.
“Unicorn bladder? Hm, no he had that yesterday, he’ll throw a fit,” Impy mumbled. He put the jar back and looked at the next one.
“Dryad toes? Could work but it will need…” Impy’s black eyes scanned the row of imported ingredients from the Deep World. He hadn’t been there himself but other demons that had been summoned to it had gossiped to his master while Impy was treated like a garden gargoyle, an object more than a being.
It was filled with humans, orcs, halflings, and an assortment of other things. His master, being the clever thing he was, had heard ‘food, food, food’. So he spent a fortune on getting these odd foods.
He plucked another jar.
‘Pa… prika?” he tried to announce aloud. What a bizarre creature name. It must have had its bones ground to dust. He sniffed the jar and his nose gave hints of a distant land with heat and excitement.
“Blargh,” Impy declared simply. Adventure? Distant lands? Foolish!
The path to power was in the dangerous games of bowing one's head and ducking before some bored lord removed it! Moving from demon lord to demon lord as Impy’s skills increased was the only path out of the Imp swamps and into the sphere of any power he could grasp!
Money handling, cooking, washing blood out of sheets, angling beheaded foes on spikes, chasing charity demons off the doorstep, keeping his master from biting off more than he could chew, and most importantly… groveling. His power as an Imp servant was growing at an alarming rate.
The new dish he simply called ‘Pap’d ‘Corn’ was bubbling nicely within the goat’s blood.
Even Impy felt his stomach rumble.
Leaving the meat to simmer, he entered the main hall of the manor where he nudged a slightly off angled spike on the wall back into place. He checked the traps for any pests, nothing yet. The Abyss Mice really did eat everything…
Just last week, a perfectly good spiked mace had been ruined by these damn rodents! Impy was sure it was a weapon once touched by the Demon King! Such an august being that Impy’s knees shivered at the idea of even thinking about him.
A demon that was the very Abyss itself. He had only tasted defeat a handful of times… Rumor had it that his imps could even boss around other Demon Lords with cruel ease.
No one would dare, even by proxy, insult the Demon King.
Impy tried to remember the last time he heard anything coming from the Black Heart, the very bottom of the Abyss. It must have been about ten years ago when the King’s half-breed daughter had visited.
That girl… Impy shivered at the sheer chaos she caused in attempts to defy her father. Three levels of the Abyss were still on fire…
He shook his head, floppy ears flapping as he sighed. He drew the greenish bath and made sure it was as hot as sin. Just the way that would both be pleasant but not overindulgent for his master.
Impy did not want to have to peel the tub of lard out of the… well tub again, with a slicked up iron bar. That had been one experience that he had no desire to repeat. He hurried along the hallway, opening some windows, closing others, shifting the remains of some demon that must have snuck in to gut the Master, the snapped bones and nibble giblets were going to need some heavy duty unholy magic to remove.
The doors to the Master Bedroom loomed, unlocked for the foolish to enter. Impy did it anyway, his form darting to the side as a grey greasy hand tried to grab him.
His master grumbled in his sleep, frowning as he failed to catch Impy to eat in his sleep. Impy stared with displeasure at the round grey stomach that had a tiny head attached.
The little head looked comically childish and smooth, the frowning little mouth with thick ruby lips that looked unable to open wide enough for bloodgrapes; let alone for an imp. He moved slightly and the exposed stomach ripped into two to reveal a pair of serrated black teeth and thick cords of slime that drooled at the inhalation of Impy’s presence. A long tongue of black muscle lashed out and Impy quickly flung a chair at the tentacle snapping at his leg trying to drag his little body into the pit.
The tongue yanked and the mouth chomped on Iron Wood, turning it to chewing gum before long.
Impy turned to the window and slowly pulled open the thick curtain. The glass on the other side did not show the outside but instead a trapped fire elemental that was brighter than average. It was said to be close to the ‘Sun’ of the Deep world. The light flooded in and Impy’s master began to protest.
“No! No… I wanna sleep!” the petulant boyish voice complained.
The stomach rippled. A deep rumble bubbling out from the gaps between the teeth.
“But I could kill for a snack,” the stomach churned as the chewed Iron Wood leaked out the sides, stomach acid churning. The form began to sit up and Impy was already out of the room as his master began to look around for fresh Imp for breakfast.
Honestly… Imps didn’t even taste that good!
He shuffled into the many hidden passages for servants as his Master’s form lumbered down towards the smell of the bath. He’d both clean himself and drink the sulphur bath, and knowing Impy’s luck, a piece of that historic masonry that depicted the great Separation of the Deep and the Deeper.
The Master’s Father would not be pleased.
Impy would simply have to be ‘indisposed’ as the demon’s own kin suffered the price. All was such in the life of an Imp servant. He returned to the Kitchen and checked on the seasoned brew of Pap’d ‘Corns.
It was ready, and not a moment too soon, as Impy felt the manor shake as his Master roared from the dining room. The snacks and small pleasures Impy had left were not enough to distract his stomach now. Impy could handle the head but it was the stomach that held the brains. If Impy took too long or was too shifty, the stomach would simply swallow him up, devour his mind, learn what it wanted, and spit him back out as even less of an Imp than he was now.
That stomach’s hunger knew no end… food, wealth… knowledge… it would devour it all. A sweet prepared meal was good but a juicy secret was drool worthy.
Impy appeared in the sinner room, sliding trays of prepared desserts, cold meats, sizzling Demon Wyrm Pig flanks, and of course, the Pap’d ‘Corn.
The head looked down at the brew with curiosity.
“It looks gooey. I don’t want it.” Impy’s Master protested. His stomach rumbled.
“But we do! We want it all! More! More!” it gurgled and that tongue began to pull food in; plates and all. The head whined and cried as the stomach simply did as it wanted.
“Candy for the head!” the stomach finally relented, the tongue patting his own head with affection. Impy had already placed a large serving plate of a varied selection of sugars so sweet they would make an infernal skeleton suffer cavities. One of the larger fangs of the maw lifted it up for the head and stubby hands to grab for.
“Yay!” the head cheered.
Impy hated them… him.
It was hard to forget that Glutton Demons often had to push their insane hunger, that continued growing, into a whole new side of themselves. Impy would pity them if it were not for the fact Glutton Demons did this so as to not become so consumed by thoughts of eating that they forget to breathe.
The window nearby was knocked on. Impy turned to see a crow, about the size of a horse, waiting on the branch outside. Impy opened the latch and the crow stared with beady red eyes.
“Do hurry up, you’re letting in a draft!” Impy warned. The Carrying Crow began to choke and bulge before it vomited a series of letters covered in protective sacs of membrane. Impy shook off the saliva and threw some gold at the bird who snapped them up and flew off.
The bird was messy but one could be sure their letters would not be tampered with since one would have to catch, kill, gut, and decurse the letters to get at them. And then of course have to fight off an entire murder of the buggers alerted by their inherent magic. Impy flicked through them as his Master cheerfully slurped down the table cloth.
Horn enlargement. Charity demons hadn’t taken no for an answer…Impy would burn their plea for nothing as they begged for causes that did not exist.
Charity Demons were not liars, they had simply run out of causes to champion at this point.
Some postcard from Stomach to Head about how he enjoyed the birthday cake of 15 layers. Lovely. Finally, an official letter with the seal of the famous Gut-Glutton Clan. Impy stared at it with dismay and hope.
Was his Master finally going to be executed for being a wart on the family tree? Would Impy be freed? Would he be hired by the better branches?
Should Impy dare hope that the letter held a withering curse that would melt that tub of frumpy lard?!
He dutifully slid the letter as close as he dared and watched as the tongue whipped over it, it froze.
“That taste… Father!” the stomach said in fear. The head shrunk in on itself, like a Corpse Snapper retreating back into its shell.
“What? What does Daddy want?” the head whined. The tongue was quick to unseal the letter and pass it up to the Head, for the advantage of the head having eyes to read with.
“Dear Fenutant… finds you well… that time you ate cousin Dorina… great shifts in the world…. Changes to be expected… still banned from weddings but not honor… you must defend your honor in combat?!” the head finished in alarm.
The stomach grumbled.
“Is that all? We shall simply devour all foes!” the stomach said with anticipation. The head whined louder as he threw the letter down to the stomach.
“Armed combat! Not gut to gut! When’s the last time you held a sword?” the head demanded. Impy listened with interest at this. The stomach churned as it thought hard.
“50 years? I accidently used our sword as a toothpick… remember? Broke so we sent it to the smithy to get fixed. We’ve been too busy to get it!” the stomach admitted. Impy hid a snort.
“Busy stuffing yourselves.” Impy said in a voice so quiet even his own ears could barely detect it.
The tongue stretched much farther than Impy had ever seen it do, picked him up and held his tiny form over the maw of the stomach.
“Something to say? Something to add? I was sure I heard a snack demanding to be torn to pieces!” The stomach said. The head glared.
“You’re a rude Impy. You grumble and complain and we let you! Now you’re saying nasty things to us. We should eat you,” the Head scowled, the young voice cruel in its intent. Impy saw his last moments of existence being teased as he was lowered lower and lower, his body almost entirely inside the hot maw. His uniform beginning to dissolve.
“I lived to serve the only Master that is important. I carry my own self into the end with pride that I outwitted you this long! I will never fetch another midnight snack for you again!” Impy cursed and struggled. The head suddenly spoke.
“Oh… that works. Stomach, spit him out,” the Head ordered. There was some hesitation before the stomach did just that. Impy stared up at the proud Head.
“We’ll send the Impy to get our sword! And we will go back to bed and eat our snacks!” Head announced. Stomach growled in approval.
“Clever! This is why you are on top!” came the narcissistic praise. Impy stood, feeling his jacket slide off to one slide as an entire sleeve and shoulder had been dissolved. He had been saved from his master due to the sin of Sloth.
The touch of irony burned as proper iron should to a demon.
He turned without a word.
“The Sweating Succubus, that’s the name of our smithy guild!” Head said cheerfully. Impy merely turned, bowed, and left the room.
He froze as the last words came from the stomach.
“You are not to return until you have that sword,” the gaping maw commanded and Impy’s neck itched as the magical collar that shimmered out of normal vision burned with the command.
Impy left through the front door and his blank expression twitched once.
Then he composed himself.
Impy adjusted his ruined bowtie, huffed as he yanked his sleeve back into place and scowled at the gloomy near eternal dusk that the 55th level of the Abyss had for a sky.
He cursed all masters as he stalked down the broken path overgrown with deadly plants that retreated under his heated glare.
The gate ahead opened at the snap of his fingers. He would have taken one of the steeds that should be at the stables but they had been a festival surprise meal. Surprise for Impy, not the Master.
He stormed down the long road and watched a flock of Carrying Crows staring.
“I’m not dead nor do I have packages!” he screamed. They fled, and from behind trees came a bunch of politely smiling demons holding tins for change.
Impy gave them a flat look then smiled. It was a most innocent and benign look.
“The master would love to hear about your tales! Please do knock…loudly on the door!” Impy beamed. The group moved past him with excitement.
They talked about saving bushes from Moonlight radiation.
Charity demons… truly the worst blight on the land.
It did make him feel better to hear the doorbell being rung far behind him. The sound of screaming following soon after.
Impy was sure that would feed the Master until he returned… after many detours and distractions. He would be back before supper and earn his Master’s mercy.
Well, he would shove enough food down that fat gullet that his Master won’t notice he’s back.
Impy began to walk with a slight spring in his step.
He had a freedom of sorts! He had to enjoy this while he could. The Master could yank on his chain at anytime. That would be awkward if he didn’t have the sword but the Master would be stuffed from Impys… charity for a while.
Impy cackled into the dark iron trees.
Impy was on the verge of crying out of anger and frustration as he looked up at the master of the Sweating Succubus. He had spent the day drinking, high off his ears, ending up in a prison cell for mistaken identity. He cried Imp Racism and the demons kicked him out for being too noisy.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S BEEN MISSING FOR 40 YEARS?!” Impy demanded. The tall red demon with enough arm hair to clothe an imp stared down with boredom.
“Runilac got called for a job and never came back. He took your slob of a master’s sword to fix on the road. He’s either as dead as you think you are about to be, he found some wife to settle down with, or he got bound and stuck… sucks all the same. That demon only ever loved the forge,” the Forge Demon scratched his chin.
Impy stared, tongue going dry as his collar grew tighter around his neck…
“You must have some clue! You are his employer!” Impy demanded. The Forge Demon began hammering out a gun-sword.
A wretched thing. Terrible!
Where was the appreciation for oversized butcher swords? Impy knew the industry standards had slipped!
“Well, he said he was being called to be summoned to outfit an army for all the souls. Can’t be that many armies that sold their souls. You just need to head to the Deep World to find him.” the Demon grunted.
Impy felt his skin crawl.
“Go… to the Deep World?!” he protested and the large creature grinned, shaking his large head with amusement.
“First time? Imps don’t go often?” The Forge demon asked but he had already turned away with a wave.
“Listen, if it helps… I have a nose for every weapon ever made in this forge and blades Runi made ain’t no different. I got a sniff of one of his weapons a while ago,” the Forge Master offered. Impy couldn’t follow the Demon, his forge would burn him to a crisp but he gave the demon his best urgent expression.
“WHERE!?” Impy yelled as the hammering began, thunder on stone.
The answer made his imp heart stop.
“The King’s kid. Ruli was her name, she swung one of his weapons and beheaded one of the King’s dragons,” the demon began to laugh.
Impy considered opening his Master’s maw and leaping in while holding his nose.
Ruli, the unholy terror of the Abyss… in the Deep world… was his only clue.
Impy went back to the bar.
He drank… and drank… and cried.
Then he plotted. He plotted with impish nature.
Ruli paused as she stopped giving the Mushroom Boar Guardian belly rubs.
She frowned as she felt… something.
She turned, fully expecting to see her Dad but nothing happened.
Ah well… she grinned as she sniffed. There was booze nearby! The woman took off and she laughed as she saw the pub sign.
A Dungeon with a bar!
This was better than any place she had ever been.