“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“This is a circus!” I slowly step back from the crowd which gathered in the palace's courtyard. All my instincts tell me to run and let others deal with the madness. It's been a few days since our agents were sent to make contact with other realms. They succeeded, mostly, and in various degrees of success. As a result we are now flooded with ambassadors and, worst of all, merchants who want to trade! I think some people didn’t hear the bells of war.
Unfortunately, Marcus senses my displeasure and reaches out as I step backwards, catching my hand in his. “You are not going to leave me alone with these idiots! And where the heck are your parents!”
I shrug, remembering my mother's mysterious request to be present today. She played me and never showed up, but those clowns in front of us did! “I think my parents decided to hide in the lowest levels of their underground research lab. Where are your parents?”
“Disappeared for some urgent business right before we were supposed to attend this meeting,” Marcus mumbles and steals a look at my official wardrobe. “Isn't this outfit a little too showy?”
Pouting, I decide to answer. “I wanted to look my best. This is an official first meeting between all the parties who have to suffer from spirit attacks, though I have a feeling that we need a dedicated building to house all of our guests.” There are at least thirty people who followed our invitation. Sadly we've no clue how influential they actually are. Our only hope is that our agents did a good job in contacting the right persons.
On an impulse, I look down myself to check out the tight fitting, blue and red dress. The colour clashes a little with my hair, but I chose a pair of black gloves to counter that. Maybe the deep V of my neckline is indeed a little too much. I wanted to make the right impression, but not that impression. If that makes any sense.
There is nothing that can be done about it now. I return my attention to our guests. From what I learned, at least seventeen other realms answered our call. Four of them are capable of multidimensional travel. Well, actually all of them are. Creating portals isn't that difficult when a whole civilisation of immortals put their minds to it. But only those four found a way to hide their portals from the spirits' attention. Most of the other realms ended up in a similar situation as Newerth, trying to ban the use of portals as much as possible. I've to admit that it's a far easier way to deal with the whole issue.
So the assembly in front of me is a mad mix of dress-codes, cultures and languages, hence I called them a circus. As least we seem to have the language problem under control. The ambassadors seem to have no trouble at shouting at and insulting each other.
Marcus steps forward and claps his hands as loud as he can. Which is very loud, given that he is using a little magic to enhance the effect. “Please, if you would allow us to lead you all to a little less public locality? We've prepared a hall which should suit our purpose. There we can discuss our situation in a more civilised manner.”
An imp-like creature steps forward. He must be from one of the realms who embrace their spirit form. His size is close to mine, so calling him an imp may be a little exaggerated on my part. Though the rest of his body fits all the criteria. Batwings, a pointy tail and ears, claws instead of fingernails, and a body that's just a little too disproportioned to call it a standard human configuration. His baggy, grey robe doesn't really hide the strangeness of his body. I wouldn't want to run around like that.
He smiles, showing me a set of red, pointy teeth. “And why should we listen to people who aren't even able to use their spirit forms? Your city is also pretty banged up. It looks like you are in more need of help than us. Why should we burden ourselves with you?”
I feel the smiling expression on my face cramp up. This behaviour is totally unfitting of an ambassador. But if they really want to compare sizes, then who am I to deny them the opportunity? The muscles on my back shift as I feel my wings bursting out of my back. Luckily the dress was made with that possibility in mind, so I don’t end up naked in front of the crowd. They probably wouldn’t have cared anyway, as their eyes are transfixed on the wings of shadow and light behind me.
My horns grow from my forehead and I feel my pupils turning to slits as I step towards the imp, allowing him a good look at the sea of stars in my eyes. “I hope you aren’t mistaking the fact that we are fighting our enemies as weakness. Who of you can claim that they took out an enemy base and fought them on their own ground?” Ok, they didn’t put up much of a fight, but I don’t have to mention that.
The imp takes a step back, his eyes on something slightly above my head. He points towards the door which I indicated earlier. “You said the prepared room is that way? I suppose we’ll at least listen to what you have to say.” Turning, he hurries to create some distance between us and follows one of the guards who takes the lead. The other ambassadors fall in line behind him like good, little school kids. Not that they were the ones who tried to provoke us.
I turn around to find out who stole all the attention from me.
What I find standing directly behind me is a monster! He is at least three heads taller than me and has red skin. Two burning horns of white fire crown his head and his eyes are two holes of pitch black emptiness. A bona fide devil! Only the sword of light gives me a hint at the identity of the newcomer. He is carrying it in an easy going manner on his shoulder. And there is the fact that someone else was standing there just a few moments ago. He is also clad in the same grey robe as Marcus.
The devil smiles, revealing a set of sharp fangs. “In the flesh.” He answers, puffing out a small cloud of smoke as he speaks. “I asked your father for some advice and shape shifting lessons, given that he is a shape shifter too. He managed to give me some directions on how to control this new skill of mine.”
I step back and try to take in his new form. In my initial confusion I didn’t recognize it, but his facial features are still the same. It’s just that he amplified his entire frame by a few numbers. “So you can shift into anything? And your clothes change with you. That’s handy.”
“Yep.” He coughs. “But I think I’ve overdone it with the smoke. Feels like having a smoker’s lung.”
“Hmm.” I let my eyes roam from his horns to his impressive chest, which is totally fake. I liked his original form, but I won’t say no to a few muscles once in a while. Then my eyes fall to his hips. “Once this shindig is over, we’ve to explore all the options. Does your whole body change size? The important parts included?”
I decide not to let his self esteem go overboard. “Just get rid of the teeth. And the smell of your breath is intolerable. Kissing is out of the question until you’ve solved that little problem.”
That wipes the stupid grin right off his face and returns him to reality just fine.