As Amelia and the others entered the mansion, Lily stepped carefully on the wooden floor. Maybe she wasn’t used to hardwood flooring? As they were led upstairs, there was an ominous creaking sound beneath their feet. Their combined weight was stressing the stairs to their limit. Amelia finally figured something out.
“Lily, how heavy are you exactly?”
The demon shrugged, and whispered in Amelia’s ear, “Very heavy I think.”
Right… Yet another mystery to uncover later. There were probably some weigh scales for livestock in the town’s market. It would be an easier mystery to solve than the question of what type of demon she was.
Amelia was shown her room and it was magnificent. From the animal fur rugs lining the floor, to the ornately detailed wood panelled walls and ceiling, it was probably the single nicest room Amelia had ever entered. The room, by itself, probably had the same sized footprint as Amelia’s old house. It featured an armoire, a vanity, and a private bathroom with a large metal tub that the maids could fill up for her if she requested it.
The crowning feature of the room was a gloriously soft looking canopy bed that Lily immediately dove into and rolled around on. The bed creaked under her weight, but miraculously, it seemed to support her. Amelia was tempted to join her, it looked so soft… Was this a feather bed? Amelia had never slept on something this fancy. The Montagne family obviously invested in quality furniture.
Amelia decided to take advantage of the bathtub right away and called for a maid. She’d been travelling through the woods for three days, so she was probably a bit ripe. The bed was now in total disarray, Lily was lost inside the chaos, peering out from the inside of a blanket cave she made for herself.
When the maid arrived, Lily and Amelia watched her walk to the empty bathtub holding a focusing crystal. This one was in the shape of a small gemstone set on the tip of a wooden wand. Usually, these were used by arcane mages to improve the efficiency of their spellcasting. They weren’t always required, but almost all mages used them.
The maid closed her eyes and concentrated. A floating blob of water sprang into existence and poured itself into the bathtub. Conjuring that much water took a few minutes, and the maid looked a little bit woozy by the end of it, likely because she consumed too much mana.
Amelia was supposed to learn how to use magic from Acolyte Joffrey during the trip. Apparently, thanks to her blessing and connection with Verita, she would have a natural talent for channeling the goddess’ power through divine magic.
The maid wasn’t using divine magic of course. This was arcane magic. The results were similar to divine magic, but the actual mechanics of casting the spells were very different. Instead of coming from a divine source, arcane magic used the mana in the air and inside the spell caster’s body to fuel its spells. No gods were involved. Amelia would eventually learn to wield divine magic, and Danica was studying hard, hoping to someday learn arcane magic. Once they found proper teachers, they would compliment each other pretty well.
With the bathtub filled with cold water, the maid activated a fire rune on the side of the tub. She told Amelia how to adjust the rune’s output and set the bath temperature to whatever she wished.
After the maid left, Amelia set out a new change of clothes for herself while she waited for the bath to warm itself up. She was about to strip down and get in the tub when she remembered she was being watched.
“You know you have your own room,” Amelia said to the pile of blankets, “you can get comfy there.”
Lily didn’t take the hint. Amelia received a rebellious stare from the crimson eyes inside the blanket cave. The monster would not give up her new nest easily. Oh whatever, she’d already spoiled Lily’s fun once today by stopping her from sexually assaulting someone, she didn’t want to be the bad guy all the time and she had to pick her battles. Plus, she’d seen Lily naked plenty of times, the demon clearly didn’t view nudity through the same cultural lens Amelia did. Amelia stripped off her clothes and climbed into a nice warm bath.
The Saintess made use of the extremely expensive scented soaps the nobles provided her and scrubbed herself clean. She then relaxed in the bath, and saw a demon squatting immediately next to the tub, peering over the side. Lily leaned forward and smelled the perfumed soap that Amelia had just rinsed out of her hair.
“Smells good doesn’t it?”
The demon shrugged, “You smelled better before.”
Amelia must have shown her confusion on her face because Lily explained, “The sweat. Human sweat smells amazing, yours included. It’s much nicer than the smell of flowers.”
“Uhh…” Amelia was about to disagree but then she remembered the blacksmith’s young apprentice, working away on a piece of hot iron, wearing no shirt under his apron, his muscular body completely drenched in sweat. Amelia subconsciously bit her lip.
“You might have a point there,” Amelia admitted, “at least, if the sweat is fresh. At some point it goes from sexy to gross.”
“Sexy?” The demon asked.
Ok… how was she going to explain the concept of sexiness to a murderous hellbeast. Did she even have a sex drive? Of course she did, she was climbing all over Damien the healer like a cat in heat. If that’s the case, she might already be aware of the concept, just not the word.
“It’s like… things that turn you on, make you aroused, horny, wet? In my case, muscular men covered in fresh sweat after a hard day’s work is one example of sexy. Different people find different things sexy though.”
“Wet down here?” Lily asked, standing and lifting the hem of her skirt shamelessly.
Amelia averted her eyes and buried her face in her hand, “Yep. Down there.”
Lily covered up, crouched back down, and carefully considered the concept of sexiness. Almost half a minute later, she came to her conclusion. “Fighting,” she decided.
Amelia looked at the demoness with incredulity, did she misunderstand the concept of sexy?
The demoness explained, “Close fights, against a powerful opponent. Either of us could win. Ideally, they would also be intelligent and cruel, fighting dirty, attacking with claws, fists and teeth. Fighting for dominance, inflicting delicious pain, and having that pain be returned to you, the excitement of battle, the closeness of bodies, the winner pins down the loser, and then…”
It was at this point that Lily’s words trailed off and she flopped backwards, staring at the ceiling and giggling with a perverted grin and a distant look in her eye. Alright then, Lily had a weird kink, but she definitely seemed to understand the concept of sexiness.
“I think I’m done,” said Amelia, climbing out of the tub and wrapping herself in a towel, “You should take a turn and use the water too, I think you could use a bath.”
“I don’t think I smell gross,” Lily said, sniffing her arm, “There’s no ‘old sweat’ smell because I don’t sweat.”
“I can still see traces of blood on your shoulders there, and your hair is greasy and tangled. Actually, I think it’s matted in parts, we might have to cut those clumps out. I should teach you about hairbrushes.”
What followed was a long, frustrating 30 minutes where Amelia tried to move a reluctant greater demon into a bathtub. At first, Amelia just tried to pick her up, but Lily went limp and grinned rebelliously as Amelia failed to even lift one of her legs off the floor. Goddess above, how heavy was she? Next, she tried tickling. The demon squirmed a bit but remained steadfast. Amelia tried poking, splashing her with water from the tub and blowing in her ear. The demon remained completely unfazed, not losing her smug victorious grin even once.
“I’ll tell you how to adjust the fire rune?” Amelia tried. She was out of ideas. Out of desperation she was trying to appeal to the demon’s sense of curiosity. It worked.
The demon hesitantly sat up, and watched Amelia explain how to adjust the water’s temperature. When Amelia was done her explanation, Lily immediately set the rune to a horrendously unsafe temperature and hopped in the tub.
Amelia got to work. She handed Lily a block of soap for her body and told her to handle things below her neck. She carefully kneeled behind the demon, making sure not to get stabbed by her horns, and lathered up some more soap to wash her hair for her.
She ended up washing and rinsing the demon girl’s hair three times, each rinse turning the bathwater a darker shade of rusty orange. Apparently, Lily’s hair soaked up blood like a sponge. If she had lighter hair, she’d have turned into a redhead. The knots and tangles took a lot of work to unravel, but Amelia managed to save most of the hair. In the end, she only had to cut out one small clump near Lily’s neck that refused to yield to her efforts.
By the time Amelia was finished with Lily’s hair, she couldn’t touch the bathwater anymore. It was scalding hot, and still getting hotter. Amelia, concerned for the girl, moved around the side, and spotted a twisted look of demonic satisfaction on her face.
“So warm,” the demon moaned, “this is the best.”
Amelia shook her head, “Don’t stay in there too long, they’ll call us for dinner soon.”
The Saintess dressed herself in a clean robe and brushed her own hair. By the time she was dressed, the demon’s bathwater was starting to bubble and simmer. Coaxing the demon out her boiling demon-soup was almost as hard as getting her in the bath in the first place. She ended up telling the demon how human foods tasted and how different they were from her usual diet of raw meat.
Once again, appealing to curiosity seemed to be the trick. Lily excitedly jumped out of the bath, leaving a trail of boiling water on the floor. Amelia hastily turned down the fire rune’s temperature and raced after Lily before she could walk out into the hallway naked.
“Clothes.” she reminded the demon.
The demon rolled her eyes, wrung the water from her hair onto the floor, and awkwardly squeezed back into Tanya’s white dress.
“A maid should come by and tell us when dinner is ready,” Amelia explained while brushing Lily’s hair.
Lily frowned and tapped her foot. She managed to wait a whole entire minute before she burst out into the hallway, with Amelia chasing after her.
“Wait Lily, even if you get there faster, the food won’t be ready any sooner.”
Amelia called after the vicious hell-monster as she walked quickly and purposefully down the hallway. A hapless maid froze in terror as the hungry demon approached her. At the last second, she dodged out of the way, dropping an arm full of freshly washed clothing and narrowly avoiding getting trampled. The demon followed the smell of food all the way to the kitchen, and Amelia gently steered her into the nearby dining room instead.
Immediately, Lily sat at the head of the table, and Amelia had to explain that, for fancy people, the ends of the table were usually reserved for the hosts, in this case, Lord and Lady Montagne. After flagging down a servant, she was pointed towards the correct seats. Apparently, Amelia was meant to be seated to the right of Lady Montagne, as the guest of honor. Her husband would sit next to her, if she had one. Amelia decided that it was going to be Lily’s spot instead. The maid told her that dinner was at least 20 minutes away, and they weren’t going to start seating people for another 15 minutes.
To help manage the demon’s expectations, Amelia explained that the portion was going to be human sized, in other words, one or two of Lily’s normal bites. So, if Lily wanted to enjoy it, she should take smaller bites, eat slowly and try to savor the taste. Rich people usually had good food.
Amelia also explained that eating with one’s hands (or claws) was generally considered bad manners. She picked up a knife and fork and tried to show the demon how to use them. Amelia didn’t realize it before but grabbing anything as small as a fork or table knife was actually quite difficult for Lily’s long and stiff claws. She was not created by the gods to be a tool user like humans, she couldn’t even close her hand into a fist without stabbing her own palm. Her ‘hands’ were only meant to be weapons. The hard black claw tips didn’t have grippy pads like human fingertips either, it was like trying to pick up a fork by pinching it between two knives. She eventually managed to grip her fork between two claw tips and squeezed it firmly enough to bend the metal slightly. She lifted it into the air, inspected the fork, grimaced, and dropped it back on the table.
“Bleh! I don’t like it,” said the demoness, eyeing the fork warily, “this metal feels wrong.”
Amelia glanced down at the fork with surprise. Hers didn’t feel wrong…
“It’s like Demonbane. The same wrongness, but it doesn’t burn.”
Oh no! How could she have forgotten? Silver!
“Sorry. I think our hosts are using silver cutlery. I only remembered now, but I heard someone say that silver weapons were used by monster hunters. Apparently, they were more effective than steel against things like werewolves, vampires, undead, and… demons. Something about piercing through magical defenses? It was just something I overheard in a tavern, and I was very drunk at the time, so I don’t know if it’s true.”
Intrigued, the demon awkwardly grabbed the fork once again. She rested one end on the table and pointed the spikey tines upwards. Holding it in place, she slammed her other hand down on it, piercing her palm.
Lily bit back a scream that twisted into a snarling growl. It was bestial, and vicious enough that Amelia nearly fell out of her chair in surprise. Lily tossed the severely bent fork, the tips of which were now coated in black demon blood, onto her plate and licked her palm.
“That hurt more than it should. A lot more…” she said, examining her palm. “Not as bad as Demonbane, but still pretty bad. It’s also healing slowly. A wound this size should close in seconds, but its still bleeding.”
“That was really dangerous,” Amelia scolded, “what if it poisoned you?”
“I’m hard to poison. Also, I’d rather find this out now, with the help of a fork, than in the middle of a fight, with the help of a silver sword. Now I know to watch out for those too, not just golden glowy Demonbane blades.”
Amelia let the demon lick her wounds. She left the table to go tell the kitchen staff about Lily’s incompatibility with silver. They sheepishly offered to give her some steel cutlery. They were worried about insulting the demon, steel cutlery was meant for the servants, not guests. Amelia reassured them that it would be fine, she didn’t think Lily would care about that too much.
Upon returning to the dining hall, she noticed that Lily’s hand stopped bleeding, but four little poke marks was still visible on her palm. A servant arrived, took away the bent and bloody fork, along with all the other silverware, and made a new table setting for the demon. Lily touched the steel fork and nodded in satisfaction.
Just because the metal didn’t feel wrong anymore, didn’t mean that Lily could suddenly manipulate the fork with her claws though. She spent the next few minutes practicing in vain, seeing almost no improvement before the others began to arrive.
Tanya and Danica were first to show up, and they were seated across from Amelia. The Lord and Lady Montagne were the next to arrive. Amelia and Danica stood when they entered the room, as proper etiquette demanded. Tanya and Lily stayed seated and looked around, confused.
Roland Montagne, lord of Befield, the surrounding villages, and pretty much all the empty wilderness on this side of the mountains, was a hardy looking gentleman with rough hands. He had shoulder-length auburn hair, colored with streaks of grey, tied back behind his neck. The thick beard on his chin was completely grey and trimmed neatly. His outfit was causal, by noble standards, a burgundy red tunic embroidered with gold and simple black trousers.
Claire Montagne, wife to Roland, looked somewhat younger than her husband, with fair skin and long raven black hair. Amelia thought she looked like a more mature version of Lily, minus the horns and claws, and with bit more bust and hips added in to replace them. She wore a long, forest green gown, and her ears, neck, and fingers were all adored with impressive glittering jewelry.
As they exchanged pleasantries, the last of the dinner guests showed up. The young man wore a plain brown shirt, and black trousers. He looked somewhat like a commoner, with his work-tanned skin and messy brown hair. He introduced himself as the lord’s son, Caiden Montagne. Amelia could see the family resemblance. He was like a younger version of his father, without the beard.
“No groping this one,” she whispered to the demon, “he’s the son of the important people that own this house, and if you offend them, we don’t get to sleep on the comfy beds anymore.”
Lily’s eyes widened with worry. She gave a serious nod of determination. Losing access to her blanket fort was a fate she desperately wanted to avoid.
They exchanged pleasantries and the young man sat down next to Danica. Danica blushed and desperately avoided eye contact with the man next to her. Amelia smiled.
Lily leaned over and whispered in Amelia’s ear, “Why is Danica afraid? she smells like fear.”
“I think she likes him,” Amelia whispered back, even though she didn’t need to. Nobody else knew infernal.
“Are they going to fight?”
Amelia snorted, and tried to hide the grin that flashed across her face.
“What?” Danica asked.
“I’ll tell you later,” said Amelia.
As everyone settled into their seats, Amelia retold to story of their harrowing journey to the lord and lady. She described leaving Greenvale, being ambushed by bandits, Sir Thomas falling in battle, the rest of them getting captured, Acolyte Joffrey’s merciless execution, and Lily’s intervention. Amelia skipped over the part where they stripped Danica, molested her, and almost raped her. They didn’t need to hear that specific detail. News of the respected old Acolyte’s demise, and that of the holy knight, cast a dark mood over the table.
The mood thankfully lightened when the first appetizer arrived, a small garden salad. It was a blend of fresh vegetables and lettuce, served with oil and vinegar. Some of the vegetables were out of season, and hard to find fresh. Amelia assumed the Montagne family was trying to show off.
Lily abandoned the fork, deciding to use her index finger-claw to spear through the lettuce leaves and bring them to her mouth. Just as planned, she took the time to savour the food, staring up at the ceiling in contemplation. Finally, she gave Amelia her verdict.
“Boring… but less boring than I expected. I like the sour.”
After the salads were done, a small cup of soup was brought out. It was a darkly colored onion soup, with a bread crouton and cheese floating on top. The bowls themselves were quite hot, fresh out of the oven. Amelia ate carefully.
Lily, on the other hand, realized that her claws weren’t going to be any help with this dish, so she picked up the burning hot ceramic bowl, brought it directly to her lips and drank. The nearby nobles looked on in horror, worried that their guest was going to hurt herself. They needn’t have worried. The soup wasn’t as hot as Lily’s earlier boiling bathwater. Amelia was pretty sure Lily was fireproof. The demon lowered the empty soup cup and gave Amelia her review.
“White stuff on the top… cheese? It was really good. The burnt flavor is good too, and the saltiness. I like this one more than the leaves.”
The main course was roast beef, with a side of potatoes with garlic and butter. It smelled heavenly. Amelia also noticed that Lily got a double portion, and her slices of the roast were lightly cooked, seared on the outside, but almost raw on the inside. The rest of the table’s roast was mostly cooked, and only slightly pink in the center. Amelia smiled at the considerate gesture.
Lily tried. She really did. But she only managed to take two small bites before she abandoned all attempts at table manners. She lifted the entire chunk of meat to her mouth and tore into it voraciously. She ended up finishing her entire portion in only a few seconds. With juices dribbling down her chin, she smiled blissfully.
“I take it she liked the roast?” Lady Claire commented with a smile. Amelia translated the comment, and the demon nodded at her happily.
“That was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Even tastier than human,” she whispered into Amelia’s ear.
“She said that was the best thing she’s ever eaten.” Amelia translated, selectively.
“I must say, Lily is rather well behaved for a demon. I’ve never heard of a demon coexisting peacefully with any of the mortal races before. What makes Lily so different?”
Amelia was about to answer, but she realized the didn’t know. She translated the question for Lily to answer herself.
“Killing humans is fun, but I’d much rather eat dinner with you than slaughter you all, even if it means I have to tolerate annoying things like wearing clothes. I don’t think other demons like Father would be as interested in following humans around and interacting with them, he’d probably just burn you all. I also like Amelia, she trusts me and doesn’t try to run away.”
Amelia translated Lily’s words back into common. She smiled proudly when she told everyone that Lily liked her.
“Who’s Father?” Caiden asked.
Amelia answered the question in her own words, “I wanted to warn you about this actually. Lily told me her father is an Archfiend, she’s apparently made from his essence and shares her horns and claws with him. I don’t know how that works, we’d have to find a demonologist to find out. The Archfiend’s name is Z’Kraugh, and today I found out that he’s currently rampaging unbound somewhere on this continent. I’d keep an eye out for forest fires if I was you.”
The entire table, Amelia’s friends included, went completely silent. Lily poked Amelia in the arm and asked what she said. Amelia translated the question and her own answer. She asked if Lily had any advice to give to the humans in the town.
“He’ll probably wipe out the town if it’s convenient, but I don’t think he’ll go out of his way to kill you, you’re not enough of a challenge for him. He said that he’s the strongest Archfiend in the Abyss, so I think he’s going to seek out powerful humans or large armies. If you see him coming, you should run away. He has fire.”
Amelia translated, and the table continued sitting in terrified silence.
“We’ll send a message to warn Dursten,” Lord Roland said.
“I’ll take care of it now,” said Lady Claire. “I’ll send messengers to the villages too.”
Lord Roland nodded approvingly at his wife. After a few more minutes of silence, the topic turned to Amelia’s short term plans.
“It was my understanding that Joffrey and Sir Thomas were supposed to guide you to the capital. What do you plan on doing now? The road through the mountains are treacherous to small groups, even worse than the forest. You’re welcome to stay here for a while if you need time to get organized,” said Lord Roland.
What was she going to do now that her plan-maker and primary protector were gone? That was a good question, one that Amelia hadn’t thought much about yet.
“The first step for me would be to send a letter to the temple in Dursten explaining what happened. They might have some advice. The road through the mountains is dangerous but I still have Tanya as a protector. She’s quite capable, despite not having earned a knighthood yet. Lily might choose to help out too. She’s not obligated to protect me, but I suspect she enjoys my company enough to want me alive.”
“I’m sure the temple of Verita would be willing dispatch a squad of holy knights to escort you,” suggested Lord Roland.
Amelia considered it. She couldn’t ask for a better escort than a squad of holy knights, they might even send one of their elites, but the capital was something like a month away. They would be waiting for a long time for that squad to organize themselves and show up.
Honestly, Amelia also didn’t like the idea of commandeering an entire squad of knights for herself. Despite all the ‘Your Eminence’ business, she didn’t feel any different than before. The old, practical, Amelia would consider that much excessive protection a waste of good gold.
After a short silence, Caiden had a suggestion, “You could take the caravan with us.”
Amelia looked over to him. Danica, still avoiding eye contact with the man, had a very lewd grin on her face. That was definitely one vote for ‘yes’.
He continued, “It’s a merchant caravan, with guards. They’re not knights, but they’ll be enough to deter bandits and the like.”
Roland gave his son a disparaging glare, “Caiden, a caravan might be fine for us, but it’s no royal carriage. It’s not the way someone like the Saintess should travel-”
“Actually, I like that idea.” Amelia interrupted, “When do we leave?”
Caiden looked at his dad nervously, but answered, “Four days time, Your Eminence.”
“Tanya, Danica, and Lily will be coming too. You should probably warn them about Lily, they can talk to me if they have concerns.”
Caiden eyed the monster nervously, “Yes, I’ll do that.”
For dessert, the Montagne family provided coffee, with fresh milk. Amelia drank hers slowly and questioned the wisdom of giving a stimulant to the fiend next to her. It was probably ok… right? She’d been keeping out of trouble so far.
"Delicious!" Lily commented, "It tastes like the crushed guts of a black-shell-click."
"Is that a good thing?" Amelia asked.
Lily nodded. Amelia looked down at the murky depths of her own cup of coffee, hesitant to take another sip.
Pushing thoughts of crushed insect guts out of her mind, Amelia looked up as Danica reached towards the centre of the table to get some cream for her coffee. She ‘accidentally’ pressed her boobs against Caiden’s shoulder as she did so. Caiden’s eyes glanced down at Danica’s cleavage for an instant before he caught himself and pretended to act innocent. He had a better poker face than Danica did, but not even the son of a nobleman could withstand the call of the boobs. Danica took it another step further by ‘accidentally’ losing her balance, tipping forwards and touching his chest to steady herself while squishing her boobs into him even further.
“Oh sorry,” she said. She wasn’t sorry at all. Amelia saw Caiden blush. Good job Danica!
Amelia might need to revise her opinion on Danica. She thought Danica was shy and innocent. Danica acted shy and innocent most of the time, but Amelia suspected her friend knew more about the art of seduction than she’d originally assumed. Danica certainly knew how to use her cleavage to her advantage. Amelia wouldn’t call herself shy, but she’d also never be this forward with a man she fancied. She’d never be able to do what Danica just did, even if she had the boobs for it.
Amelia let her eyes glance downward. She wasn’t ‘flat’, she was ‘petite’. That was a thing, right? Some guys liked that, right? Amelia sighed. This was the second blow to Amelia’s ego today. She was bested by a man in overall prettiness and bested by Danica in the boobs department. That left… butt? Amelia thought she had a nice butt, nicer than a pretty man for sure. Wait… Tanya worked out… Lots of squats and core exercises… If she had better butt than Amelia…
No, that's not a good train of thought to follow. This way leads to madness.
When the dinner was over, Danica and Caiden, who had started a conversation about different coffee types, moved over to the drawing room to chat. Amelia silently wished her the best. She was going to have to interrogate her friend later. Tanya was less interested in Danica’s love life. She excused herself and did training exercises in the rear gardens.
Lily didn’t care much either. She returned to her blanket fort before Amelia realized it, and by then it was too late. Amelia tried to negotiate with the demon to get her room back without success. Eventually, she gave up and just traded rooms with Lily. The demon’s room was furnished similarly to the Saintess’ room, so it wasn’t a big bother to move over.
Eventually night fell, Amelia and the others went to sleep. Two red eyes peered out from the depths of the blanket fort.
Lily remained awake in the darkness, and she started getting bored…