“Hey Tanya,” Amelia called out sweetly, “can Lily borrow some of your clothes? she’s about your size.”
Amelia dug through the luggage in the cart and was rummaging through Tanya’s packed clothes.
“If I say yes, will you pry her off me?”
Six hours had passed since the wolves attacked. It was now late afternoon and Lily was still clinging on to Tanya happily. So far, Amelia had been ignoring Tanya’s outraged complaints, but six hours of forced cuddling was a long time. Tanya was a tough girl, but the Saintess suspected that they might be nearing the physical endurance limits of the human bladder soon.
“Yes, I will figuratively pry her off, by asking her to let go.” replied Amelia, “so what do you have that we could get her to wear.”
“I don’t care anymore Amy, just give her whatever.”
“I’ll give her your dress. You hate it. I know you only brought it along because Mrs. Marsh guilted you into it.” Amelia dug through the clothes and pulled out a thin, white, frilly little summer dress. Considering Tanya only wore pants, and preferred dark colors and slash resistant fabrics, this was definitely not her style.
“Oh, by the way, Mrs. Marsh’s hurt expression when you said you weren’t going to take this with you to the capital was one hundred percent fake. She played you like a fiddle. She knew you didn’t like it and was just being stubborn about it because she thought you looked too boyish and she hoped to turn you into a proper lady some day.”
“Well fuck her then! let’s see her try to beat the shit out of a guy twice her size while wearing a dress,” grumbled Tanya.
The town of Befield was now in view on the horizon. The town was located on the border between the forest and a vast rolling plain. Tall mountains stood in the near distance, isolating this recently colonized region from the rest of the continent. The town was situated on either side of a river and surrounded by a wooden palisade wall designed to keep the fearsome forest predators away from the townsfolk.
Compared to Amelia’s tiny village of a hundred people, this town was absolutely massive. There must have been at least a thousand people here, living in hundreds of individual houses. Befield acted as sort of a trade hub for all the little villages in this remote little corner of the Aldmerian Empire. Raw materials were the only things of value out here. The mountain villages had a prosperous mining industry, and the forest villages, like Amelia’s own town of Greenvale, harvested rich crops, rare mushrooms and medicinal herbs that only grew in the forest soil. They also took advantage of an abundant supply of wood and animal pelts.
Danica stopped the cart and got out to tend to the very exhausted Geronimo. This was the last stop before they reached the town. Amelia gently nudged the sleeping cuddle monster awake, and Tanya squirmed free. Still grumbling about dresses, she limped off into the woods to pee.
“So, we’ve almost reached the town,” Amelia held up the frilly little clothing article in front of Lily. “I think it might be a good idea to wear some clothes.”
The demon looked unconvinced, “Humans care about clothes but I have no problem with being naked,” she whispered to Amelia.
“Wearing clothes in public, is sort of a social rule that humans follow. You’re not exactly hurting anyone by being naked, but I would strongly suggest wearing clothes in public anyway.”
“Why would I follow human social rules if I’m not a human?” she said. “It sounds inconvenient.”
“Think of it this way. If you want humans to feel comfortable around you and not start trouble, then wearing clothes will help them accept you. If you follow the social rule about clothes, then they might find it easier to trust that you’ll follow the social rule about not killing them too.”
The demon sighed, “Humans are complicated.”
Amelia chuckled, “I know, right? I’ve been a human for 21 years, and even I find that we’re too complicated to understand sometimes.”
The demon took the offered dress, holding it delicately between her long claws. She tried to slide it over her head, but it got caught on her horns. Amelia scooted around behind her, and tugged at the dress, maneuvering it around the sharp spikes. Eventually, with a lot of patience, the vicious murderbeast was standing in front of Amelia, wearing a frilly little dress.
Tanya limped her way back from the bushes and burst out laughing when she saw the frilly demon.
Danica held back a giggle, “I think it looks cute,” she said.
When they were done stretching their legs, the four ladies got back on the cart and started moving again.
Amelia sat next to Danica as they rolled up to the town gate. A pair of men watched them, bows in hand, from atop their perches on either side of the entrance. The gate itself was open, but another pair of guards, this time bearing spears, stood at the ready on either side.
Amelia smiled at the men warmly, and the men smiled back. And then they saw the demon, and their smiles faded.
“Good afternoon,” one of the guards said politely, but with a threatening edge to his voice, “You look like new faces, can I ask you who you are and what business you have in Befield?”
“Certainly,” Amelia smiled, “I am Saintess Amelia Voss, Chosen of Truth. I was told that Lord Roland and Lady Claire Montagne were offering to lend us a room to stay in while we resupplied for our journey to the capital."
Amelia gestured to Tanya, sitting inside the cart, “One of us was also severely bitten by a wolf, so I would like to buy the services of a healer as well. As soon as possible.”
The guard’s posture relaxed but he eyed her skeptically, “The name’s Dean. Nobody told us that one of the Chosen was coming here. That’s pretty suspicious. How do I know that you’re even who you say you are?”
“I know you’re lying?” Amelia suggested, “Your name isn’t Dean, and you’re definitely expecting me.”
The guard, whose name wasn’t Dean, smirked, “Alright, sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
He waved over another soldier from somewhere inside the town, a younger one, likely a recruit.
“Go get Damien from the temple,” he ordered.
Not-Dean’s eyes glanced over the other people in the cart, and lingered a little bit longer on Lily, “So, the lord was expecting five guests, and uuh… no demonic servants.”
“Yes, we were five originally. Sir Thomas and Acolyte Joffrey were killed when bandits ambushed us.” Amelia turned and gestured to Lily, “And Lily here is not a servant, she is an unbound de-”
Immediately, all four guardsmen stiffened up. The two men on the ground took a step back and readied their spears. The two men with bows each took out an arrow, ready to shoot.
“Don’t attack please,” Amelia held up a hand, “She saved us from the bandits of her own volition, and in exchange, I have promised to allow her to travel with us. She has sincerely promised not to attack humans unprovoked, but she told me she will defend herself. I would like to ask that you treat her as a member of my entourage.”
The four guards looked at each other, “We wouldn’t want you to feel unwelcome, Your Eminence, but we can’t exactly allow an unbound demon to walk into the town. We already have one murderous demon on the loose, and we don’t want any more.”
“Surely you can make an exception for me,” Amelia said, with an innocent smile, “I need to honor my word, so I can’t leave Lily behind. I suppose you could allow Danica and Tanya inside, and I can camp outside the city gates with Lily while they take care of business in town. That might work.”
“Fuck that, I’m not leaving you alone out here,” interrupted Tanya.
“Right, so just Danica then,” said Amelia.
The guards walked back and argued in whispered voices. After a few seconds, one of them returned to the cart, “All right, we’ve sent a runner to ask the captain about your situation. Just wait here for a bit.”
Tanya’s healer showed up first, twenty minutes after the running recruit left for the temple. An androgynous young gentleman in white robes jogged up to the gate.
He gave Amelia a flirty smile, “Helllo, Your Eminence, my name is Damien, Acolyte of Thule. I was told you needed a healer.”
Amelia felt herself blush, “Y-yes, that’s right.”
Amelia found him handsome, extremely handsome, but at the same time she received a small blow to her self esteem. This man was, without a doubt, prettier than she was. He had wavy blond hair, perfectly styled, sparkling green eyes with perfect eyelashes, a perfectly proportioned face, and not a single blemish on his skin. Men weren't supposed to be prettier than women. It was unfair!
The healer wore similar robes to Amelia’s own. White robes or white armor indicated that a person was a servant of one of the gods and the only difference between their two robes was the pendants around their necks. His pendant bore the symbol of Thule, God of Love.
Amelia should be wearing something different. The robes and armor of those with authority were often trimmed with gold. As one of the Chosen, hand picked by the goddess directly, Amelia should rightly be wearing the shiniest of all robes, with all the golden embroidery and embellishments they could fit on it. She hated the idea of being forced to wear something pretentious like that. Like this healer, she wore the basic unadorned robes of a lower level divine servant and she was happier for it.
“My magic only works if I can touch your companion. Is she going to eat me if I try to get close?”
Damien was glancing nervously at the curious demon girl. Amelia was secretly pleased that his perfect poise was thrown off by Lily’s presence, “No, it should be fine,” she replied.
Just to be certain, she told Lily what the pretty man was going to do. She nodded in acknowledgement and watched him settle down next to Tanya. Amelia expected Lily to ignore him, or at least watch from a distance, but the demoness quietly snuck closer.
“Uuh, what’s she doing?” the healer asked.
“I think she just wants to watch.” said Amelia.
And Lily did. She watched closely as Tanya helped Damien unwrap her bandage. The young man touched a palm to her ankle, just below the calf where the bite was. A faint golden glow sparkled around his hand, and Tanya’s bite wound started to close. Lily had a look of childlike wonder as the young man performed magic in front of her eyes.
He was good at his job. The wound finished healing within a minute, and he didn’t even leave behind a scar. The demon crept closer to the healer as he worked, and by the time he was finished, she was kneeling behind him with her claws gently resting on his shoulders, smelling his hair. Amelia was focused on her friend as well, she only noticed Lily once Damien gave her a terrified look.
“Your Eminence…” the healer began, “she’s uuh… making me nervous.”
Amelia realized that Lily likely found the man pretty as well.
“Sorry, I think she likes you.” Amelia explained, “I’m still teaching her about respecting boundaries.”
Damien the healer squirmed as the demon lowered her head and opened her mouth. Starting from his collar, she slowly ran her tongue up the nervous gentleman’s neck, stopping just behind his ear. The man stifled a gasp and shivered as the demon gently nibbled on his ear lobe. Amelia was nervous that she would take a bite out of him, but no, she seemed to know what she was doing. This was a sexy bite. The servant of the god of love’s breathing went heavy and he started blushing. Amelia hated to interrupt the fun, but…
“Lily,” she said in the sweetest voice she could manage while speaking Infernal, “did you remember to get his permission first?”
The demon gave Amelia a pouty look and hugged the man possessively. She looked like a little kid, afraid that Amelia was going to confiscate this new toy she found.
“If he says it’s ok, you can keep going, but if he says no you need to stop.” Amelia lectured.
“Mister Damien, sorry about this,” said Amelia, switching back to common-tongue, “I can stop her if you want, just let me know.”
“Uuh… yeah that would be good.” said Damien, “She’s lovely but uuh… I’m not comfortable with this.”
“Sorry Lily, he said to stop,” Amelia translated into infernal.
Lily looked crushed. A variety of different expressions flashed across her face as she processed the newly discovered feeling of rejection, mostly flashing between despair and rage. She continued to hug Damien possessively. Her eyes scanned around, looking at the guards with a sinister predatory stare, assessing their weaknesses. Amelia noticed one of her claws creeping closer to Damien’s throat, gently wrapping around, getting ready to kill. The ever-wary Tanya noticed too, but thankfully nobody else seemed to. Amelia gestured for Tanya not to do anything.
With the man held hostage, Lily glared angrily at Amelia, baring her teeth slightly. Amelia simply maintained eye contact and smiled back at her. It was a bluff, her gift told her that. She wasn’t really going to kill him. After almost a minute of tense staring, the demon finally gave up. She sighed, and pushed the man away from her, accidentally knocking him over. Throwing up her arms in defeat, she shuffled away from him and settled herself in the corner of the cart.
“Thank you, Lily, I know that wasn’t easy.”
The demon pouted at her and crossed her arms.
A few minutes later, after the healer left, the demon was still pouting in the corner. Amelia saw a large group of armed men arrive at the gate. They all had matching chainmail and breastplates, and they carried spears and swords at their hip. An older man stood among the others. He was dressed in well worn armor, covered with a patina of dents and scratches. Despite the wear, his armor seemed to be of higher quality than that of the other guardsmen. He was also wearing a red cape that set him apart from the others at a glance. The older man walked up to Amelia’s cart.
“Greetings, Your Eminence, I am the captain of the town guard, Sir Richter.”
“Nice to meet you, Captain,” said Amelia with a smile.
“At the request of the Lord and Lady Montagne, we’re here to escort you and your… entourage to their estate.”
“My entire entourage, correct?” Amelia asked, gesturing behind herself to the recently rebuffed demon sitting in the cart.
“Yes,” the Captain said, keeping eye contact with the pouty demon. His polite demeanor, which was fake to begin with, crumbled, and his real voice was tinged with annoyance, “Why are you bringing another unbound demon into my town?”
“Yes, another,” the Captain’s grouchy glare turned to Amelia, “For the last two weeks we’ve had a demon sneaking around and killing people at night. It’s a crisis, and you’ve just doubled our problem.”
It was Amelia’s turn to get annoyed, “Lily isn’t the same. I’m mostly confident she won’t be trouble. I'm certain she has no intention to sneak around and murder people at night.”
The captain leaned in, so that only Amelia could hear, “Inquisitors are expensive. Our town doesn’t have one, so we don’t have the luxury of allowing the two demons to meet up and plot against us. One is hard enough to handle, if the two demons teamed up, we're screwed. I’ll be frank with you. She has one chance, and if she makes trouble, we’re putting her down.”
“Understood, Captain,” said Amelia.
The Captain walked away, and Amelia tried to perk herself up. She did not like that man. In the words of her blacksmith mentor, he seemed like a ‘cockhat’. In any case, Amelia had no need to start a fight. She got what she wanted. They were allowed inside the town, and they even had an escort to show them the way to their accommodations.
Amelia had only been to Befield once before, when she went to meet some traders and arrange for periodic ore shipments for the village smithy. Back then, there hadn’t been a parade for her.
Well, technically the parade was for Lily. And it wasn’t really a parade, it was an escort to keep her from going on a rampage and eating everybody. Still, the townsfolk thought it was a parade and they were cheering for the newly Chosen Saintess.
There were seven gods of the mortal world, just like there were seven demon lords of the Abyss. Each god had only one chosen, and when that chosen died, a new mortal was chosen somewhere in the world to replace them. There were two other Chosen known to be within the Aldmerian Empire’s borders, the Chosen of Love and the Chosen of Valor. Neither of them had much reason to visit a remote little town like this. Even though she didn’t feel like she was anything special, Amelia’s visit seemed to be a momentous occasion to the townsfolk.
Amelia sat at the front of the cart, right next to Danica who still held the reins. She waved at people as she passed, and many of them waved back. Tanya just laid down in the cart, hiding behind the side wall, not wanting to bother with the crowd. Lily poked her nose over the edge and watched the people with crimson eyes. The horns were a dead giveaway as to her nature, but she didn’t seem to alarm the townsfolk as much as she did the guards. Most of them probably assumed Lily was being controlled via a summoning geas like most demonic servants. Amelia resolved not to explicitly mention that she wasn’t, unless someone asked, or it became important for some reason.
The procession of guards, ladies, a demon and a donkey travelled towards their destination. The Montagne estate was the largest house in town. It was a massive mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens situated on a small hill overlooking the rest of the town. The late Acolyte Joffrey apparently knew the lord and lady of this fiefdom and arranged for Amelia to stay here. Apparently, getting a room at the inn was unsuitable for someone of Amelia’s status. Amelia disagreed, but by the time she found out about it, Joffrey had already made the plans.
The wagon and guards passed through a wrought iron gate and along a private cart path through the pristinely kept estate grounds. Finally, they brought the cart up to the front entrance of the mansion. Three maids waited there to greet them. One of them, an older maid, looked like the leader, and she stood at the center of the three.
“Welcome to our humble home, Your Eminence.”
The three maids wore traditional black and white uniforms. There was a black dress, worn under a frilly white apron and matching headpiece. Amelia noticed that the uniforms varied greatly from person to person. The younger maids, around courting age, seemed to favor a shorter skirt.
What followed was an impressively organized flurry of activity. Amelia got up and spoke to the head maid, giving her the details of their journey. Tanya was invited inside, taken to the drawing room, and served tea. Danica rejected the tea and was busy directing the other maids. They were all going to get separate rooms, so she was explaining whose stuff belonged to who, what clothes needed to be laundered, and reminded them to be careful with her expensive collection of books. Yes, she brought all of them with her, and each chest full of books weighed more than the three girls combined. At the same time, Geronimo, the donkey, was taken from the cart and brought to the stables for a well-deserved rest. All of that happened within two minutes.
Lily watched everything closely. When the maids surrounded the cart to start unpacking, Lily hopped off the side, and scurried a short distance away so she could watch everyone without being surrounded. Her eyes darted around as she tracked the individual movements of every single person moving around. Amelia was relieved she didn’t feel threatened. She seemed wary of all the humans running around, but not wary enough to turn murderous.
“Will we need any special accommodations for... Lily, was it?” the head maid asked. “This would be the first time we’ve hosted an unbound demon as a guest.”
“Let me ask,” Amelia waved at the demon and gestured for her to come closer. She explained what a guest was, what an accommodation was, how she was going to be treated as a guest, why treating guests nicely was considered polite, why being polite was important to humans, and finally had a chance to ask her about how the maids could make her feel comfortable and what sort of foods she ate.
“Meat. Any meat. Pounce-claw is the second tastiest, after human, but I wouldn’t mind trying some normal human food to see what your kind eats,” the demon whispered into Amelia’s ear, “I don’t care if they bow or whatever, that’s a human thing. Just tell them not to attack me, I’ll fight back if they do. I’ll still try not to kill them unless they’re using glowing swords. If they have glowing swords, then they die immediately.”
“I think the succubus called them Demonbane? The armored men used them. They hurt… and the pain was different. It wasn’t the good kind of pain.”
Amelia was getting an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach, “Armored men with Demonbane weapons? they attacked you?”
“Yeah, they were called Inquisitors I think, I only managed to kill one. Father killed the rest.”
“You killed an inquisitor. I see,” Amelia carefully kept her face blank, only freaking out on the inside. “And your father the Archfiend, he killed some too? in the mortal world? is he still here?”
“You’d see him if he was nearby, he’s taller than the trees.” the demon explained, “No, he ran off in a different direction when we left the tower. He said that he was free and that he wanted to go battle things.”
Right then. Lily wasn't just a greater demon, she was greater demon dangerous enough to kill an Inquisitor on her own. And, oh yeah, there was an unbound Archfiend on the loose somewhere on the continent. Those were two pieces of information that Amelia would have been much happier not knowing. She was going to have trouble sleeping now.
“Is everything alright, Your Eminence?” asked the maid.
“No not really, I just heard something scary that I need to process.”
The head maid was curious to know more, but Amelia decided to stay quiet on the subject for now. Instead, she passed on Lily’s requests. She doubted that maids would be wandering around with expensive enchanted weapons worth more than a castle, but just in case she made sure to specifically warn them about Lily’s Demonbane threat as well.
Amelia, Lily, and the head maid left Danica behind, still fussing over her books, and entered the mansion.