“Metokai, do you think the universe is deterministic?”
The diminutive baphomet set down her fork, which still had a bit of egg on it, and glared at Frane. “That’s a hell of a heavy question for this early in the morning, bloodsucker.”
“You see?!” Nyze proclaimed through a mouthful of toast. “If you piss her off, you get nicknamed!” Metokai stuck out her tongue and made a rude noise, and Nyze reciprocated.
Frane, quite used to their bickering by this point, ignored it. “What I’m asking is, do you think everything in the universe is inexorably defined by formulas and numbers? Do you think we’re all just the product of invisible equations we can’t comprehend?”
“I sure hope not,” Metokai responded dryly. “I’m terrible at math.”
“Wait, YOU’RE terrible at math?” Nyze asked, eyebrows smacking into the ceiling. “Aren’t you, like, leader of the entire demon army?”
“Armies, multiple. And before you ask, I have secretaries and staff officers to take care of logistics. I’m purely a big picture kind of girl.”
“Big picture, tiny baphomet,” Nyze snorted.
“Serpent, just because we’re currently enjoying breakfast doesn’t mean I will hesitate to kill you should you persist in mocking me,” Metokai said, stuffing another forkful of egg in her mouth.
“You’re welcome to try. Anytime, anywhere,” Nyze responded, taking another large bite of toast.
Frane groaned in derision. “Gods, you two, just kiss already and get it over with.” That earned her simultaneous glares from both Nyze and Metokai. They were surprisingly in sync.
“Why are you asking about determinism anyway, Frane?” Nyze said. “Did you just finish reading a philosophy book or something?”
“Hmm, well. I’m thinking about everything we’ve been through these past few weeks. Defecting to the Demon Realm, transforming into demonic versions of ourselves, even me and Ryl’s botched date yesterday. I’m wondering if any of these were truly our own choices, or if we’re simply at the whims of some grand cosmic jape.”
“Huh.” Metokai said. “Well, don’t look at me. Those kinds of sweeping existential questions are way above my pay grade.”
“Mine too,” Nyze agreed. “Say, where is Ryl anyway?”
“Passed out drunk in our bed,” Frane responded, smiling fondly. “She can’t hold her liquor.”
Nyze gawped. “Still?! She’s like… ten feet tall now!”
Frane chuckled softly. “Some things never change.”
“How was breakfast?” Psytalla asked as she walked towards the wyvern stables with Nyze.
“Oh, the usual,” Nyze shrugged. “Frane asked a bunch of weird existential questions, and Metokai teased me endlessly.”
“You two should just kiss already and get it over with,” Psytalla chortled.
“Ugh, not you too. To be clear, Metokai and I are RIVALS. Not LOVERS. RI-VALS. That lightning which shoots between us whenever we make eye contact? That’s not romantic tension, that’s VIOLENCE TENSION. Besides, I’m far too enamored with my tall, muscular Demon Lord girlfriend to pursue any side flings.”
“Aww,” Psytalla cooed. “Flattery will get you everywhere. C’mere.”
The two hugged and smooched, as lesbians do, while the stabled wyverns looked on and rumbled their approval. Then they mounted Psytalla’s personal wyvern and began their flight down to Yandar.
Strictly speaking, it was more efficient to make the trip via teleportation circle. However, Psytalla liked to fly into Yandar on wyvernback because the flight gave her a brief respite from her duties and a chance to appreciate the city from above. She sat just behind the creature’s neck on a saddle, whereas Nyze was coiled around a set of poles mounted to either side of a second saddle, a modification made specifically for lamia and other snake-bodied species.
As Psytalla took the reins and pulled gently, the wyvern beat its wings once and launched them into the air. Guided by her expert hand, it zoomed out of the stables and began the glide down to Yandar.
“You know,” Nyze said, yelling to be heard through the whistling wind, “you should join us for breakfast sometime.”
Psytalla sighed sadly. “I usually work through breakfast. You would not BELIEVE how much paperwork is involved in being Demon Lord.”
“Huh. And here I thought it was all just looking cool in your armor and saying threatening things like ‘Your weapons cannot harm me, puny mortals!’”
“That’s, like, 5% of the job at most. The rest is spreadsheets and appropriation committee meetings and business luncheons,” Psytalla groaned. “Take, for example, today’s meeting of the Evil Council. We had to send out individual summons to all 2,370 Councilors, but SOMEONE threw away the official Demon Lord letterhead by accident so we had to scramble and print the summons on generic Demon Realm letterhead instead. Which meant I had to sign an intragovernmental purchase order to get five reams of generic letterhead from the Evil Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, who had some spare in their supplies warehouse, and route it to my castle on an express delivery. All so our presses can bang out ‘Your Demon Lord demands your presence at an upcoming meeting of the Evil Council’ two thousand times. UGH.”
Nyze whistled. “Government sure has a lot of moving parts, huh?”
“Yup. Our history is rife with Demon Lords fought their way to the top, only to be buried under paperwork and quit within the year. That’s why, 1500 years ago, the Terror Demon Lord Garzath instituted a reformation policy that stated only tenured Evil Councilors may issue an ascendancy challenge to the current Demon Lord. That way, incoming Demon Lords have at least SOME governmental experience. Nothing is worse for the Realm than a clueless or incompetent leader.”
Nyze wasn’t that interested in the intricacies of Demon Realm politics but listening to her lover talk enthusiastically about her interests warmed her heart regardless. “You know, back in Saimonica, the Church teaches that demons are a bunch of mindlessly slavering meatheads. The more I learn about the Realm, the more I realize just how wrong that viewpoint is.”
“Us demons are far more complex and nuanced than you thought, eh?” Psytalla said, looking back at Nyze over her shoulder.
“Complex, yes. I’m still not convinced demons know how to be nuanced,” Nyze responded with a laugh. “Still, I’ve felt more at home here in these past four weeks than I ever did in Saimonica. That might be due to a certain someone, though~”
“Ohohoho, flattery again?” Psytalla teased. “It’s true your weapons cannot harm me, puny mortal, but your sweet compliments certainly can pierce my heart.”
Kissing while riding a wyvern travelling at 300 mph is a difficult proposition, but these two hopelessly infatuated demon lesbians found a way regardless.
Metokai, Frane and Rylmedy had all taken the teleportation circle to the Evil Coliseum like sensible folk, so Psytalla and Nyze were the last to arrive. They all met up in Psytalla’s onsite office, where Metokai gave them a primer on the Evil Council proceedings for the day.
“The primary reason Psytalla has summoned the Council is to declare her plans for war, and demand that each of the demon races send their quota of troops to the Grand Unified Demonic Armies in support of the war effort; after a period of open debate, her demand will be put to a simple majority vote and either approved or rejected by the Council. As Psytalla’s second-in-command, I’ll be presiding over the session. Nyze, Rylmedy and Frane, you three are in attendance as expert witnesses, former members of the Hero’s party who perpetrated the attack on the Demon Realm. Some of the Councilors may have questions for you three, so you’ll need to choose someone to represent you.”
““We choose Nyze!”” Frane and Rylmedy both said in unison.
“WHA? Why ME?!” Nyze cried out, slithering back a few feet.
Frane began to list the pertinent reasons. “One, you spearheaded this whole ‘defection to the Demon Realm’ thing. Two, you’re good with people, whereas I’m taciturn and Ryl is shy. Third, you’re the Demon Lord’s girlfriend. That makes you… some kind of important.”
Psytalla smiled, whereas Metokai nodded sagely. Nyze, put on the spot, had no rebuttal. “Urgh, really? I feel like I should disagree with the third one, but whatever. I’ll do it.” Nyze turned to Metokai. “Anything I should know?”
“Hmm.” Metokai tapped her hoof, thinking for a moment. “Salient points? Be open and honest. You’ll find no duplicity here. State your point calmly and clearly. Should you encounter any difficulty, yield the floor to me and I’ll bring the Council back to order. Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY…”
Metokai took a deep, dramatic breath and leaned forwards, her face conveying absolute seriousness and grim intensity.
“Never, EVER call the dragons cute.”
Nyze, who had never met a dragon before, pictured them as towering, grand reptiles, perhaps twenty or thirty feet long, and resplendent with glittering scales. Some of those things were true: their scales certainly glittered, and they were egotistical enough to describe themselves as grand… however, towering they were not. In fact, your average dragon was about the size of a housecat.
Yes, dragons were in fact itty bitty tiny things, with big doe eyes and plump pinchable cheeks. They were EXTREMELY cute. However, they were also very prideful, and calling one ‘cute’ to their face was an easy way to wind up roasted alive.
As Psytalla and company entered the council chambers, presently abuzz with the byzantine conversations of two thousand demon Councilors, Nyze saw her very first dragon. He was about a foot and a half long (including the tail), with scales that shone emerald and limpid expressive eyes to match. He was presently perched on the shoulder of an elf, a skinny six-foot tanned man with wild red hair, long pointed ears and black eyes.
The elf, dragon atop him, walked over to greet Psytalla. “Good morning to you, Demon Lord. It’s been too long since we last met.”
“And to you as well, High General Metokai,” the dragon added, in a voice that sounded like a ten-year-old boy.
Psytalla simply nodded to them, and Metokai spoke next. “I believe introductions are in order. This is Nyze, Frane and Rylmedy, formerly of the Hero’s party and since defected to the service of our liege.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance!” the dragon crowed in his soft, high-pitched voice, while licking one of his claws. “I am Raskellion, representing the dragon race. The elf I am currently astride is my husband, Valedor Rubeus, who represents the elvish diaspora.”
“I trust you’re finding the Demon Realm to your liking?” Valedor asked, while reaching up to pet his dragon husband in between the ears. Raskellion closed his eyes and purred, leaning into the headpat.
Nyze bit down on her tongue, hard enough to draw blood. She was at war with herself, fighting a very, VERY powerful urge to call the adorable little dragon ‘cute.’ She also wanted to pet the dragon, and maybe cuddle him and blow raspberries into his tummy. Metokai, standing beside her, cast a sideways warning glance that screamed ‘don’t you dare.’
“Y-Yes… th-the Demon Realm’s hospitality is behind reproach,” Nyze managed to say. Behind her, she heard Rylmedy make a noise that was somewhere between a squee and a cough.
“Rolling out the welcome mat for human traitors now, are we?” said a bassy flanged voice. Everyone turned to see a massive demon, eight feet tall and resembling a humanoid alligator, who strode over to them with ground-shaking steps.
Metokai, without a moment’s hesitation, stepped in front of Nyze. “Hello there, Sizzler. It’s thoroughly unpleasant to see you again.”
“The same to you, Metokai. Are you cozying up to these traitors as well?” Sizzler thundered.
“I see your foul tongue still rampages unchecked,” Metokai shot back while Psytalla groaned and rubbed her temples. “Serpent, bloodsucker, Ryl, may I introduce Sizzler, representing the lizardkin. His personality is just as ugly as his craggy face.”
Nyze opened and closed her mouth, not quite sure to respond. Psytalla came to her rescue. “Settle down, you two. There will be plenty of time to hash out our differences when the Council is in session.”
“Oho? Right you are, Psytalla,” Sizzler rumbled. “I will ensure the Council holds ALL your recent failures to account.”
Psytalla pressed her lips together and took three steps forwards, standing ramrod straight, and her eyes glowed bright crimson. Somehow, despite standing two feet shorter than Sizzler, she seemed taller. “You are quite welcome to do so, Sizzler. And face the consequences.”
“Harumph. We shall see,” With that, he turned and marched off.
It took a moment for the tension to deflate after that. Everyone stood frozen in place until Raskellion spoke up. “My deepest apologies for the behavior of our comrade. Sizzler is a passionate man, but lacks both discretion and politeness. His rudeness is inexcusable.” The tiny dragon jumped down off Valedor’s shoulder and rubbed himself against Nyze’s tail, a gesture meant to be comforting. Nyze almost reached down to pet him, but caught herself.
“Indeed,” Valedor added. “I hope you do not think him representative of the Evil Council. Most of us will welcome your presence in our Realm, regardless of your origins.”
“I-It’s alright,” Nyze said, oddly calmed by the dragon’s head pressed against her tail. “It was just unexpected, that’s all.” She looked over to Metokai, who was still steaming. “Thank you for springing to my defense, Metokai.”
“Think nothing of it, serpent,” she responded. “It’s my duty to keep misbehaving Councilors in line. Now, shall we begin the proceedings?”
“Yes, let’s.” Psytalla said, leading the way to the dais in the center of the Coliseum arena.
Metokai stood at the dais, a stepstool compensating for her height, and cast a sound-amplifying spell on her vocal cords. “THE COUNCIL WILL NOW COME TO ORDER!” she declared, her voice echoing through the whole Coliseum.
The Councilors in the audience seats quieted down and turned to face her.
“Loyal demons of the Evil Council, your liege Psytalla Sidealestes, the Disaster Demon Lord, has summoned you here today to discuss an issue of grave import to the Demon Realm. All rise and pay heed to Her Majesty!” She stepped aside from the dais with a flourish, motioning to Psytalla. Every demon in the chamber rose to their feet, tails or claws. Nyze felt something akin to pride swell in her chest at this scene.
Playing to the theatrics set in motion by Metokai, Psytalla regally walked over to the dais and stood, spine ramrod straight, eyes ablaze. “Please be seated, my loyal demon subjects. I thank you all for answering my summons. The topic we shall discuss today is indeed a grave one, so I ask for your full attention.
“As you are no doubt aware, three weeks and five days ago, the human Hero hailing from the Kingdom of Saimonica infiltrated the Demon Realm and lead a direct attack upon my castle. To my great shame, our defenses proved inadequate, and many of my most trusted generals were swept aside. It is only when the Hero faced me that he found defeat. I personally cut him down as easily as a scythe cuts a blade of grass.”
There was a low murmuring from the Councilors. Metokai took a step forward and boomed, “SILENCE!”
Psytalla nodded to Metokai, then continued. “Three of the Hero’s companions, Nyze, Frane and Rylmedy, defected and swore allegiance to me. They stand behind me now, newly awoken as demons. However, despite my ultimate victory over the Hero menace, these events have given me cause for deep concern. For the past two centuries we have pursued a policy of non-confrontation with the human nations that share our borders, the Kingdom of Saimonica and the Arkaelian Empire. However, this attack made it clear the humans are no longer willing to honor that peace.”
“So you finally realized that, did you?” thundered a bassy voice. Sizzler jumped out of his seat and walked into the Coliseum ring. “After 157 years of rule, you FINALLY admit there can be no coexistence between demons and humans?”
“I ORDERED YOU TO REMAIN SILENT!” Metokai shouted.
“Metokai, it’s alright,” Psytalla said calmly. “Sizzler, you may speak your piece.”
Sizzler stopped in front of the podium, teeth bared. “I have long warned you, Psytalla, that the humans were treacherous. Humans and demons are destined to fight each other; this truth is as immutable as the path of the White Moon across the sky. And yet you relaxed your defenses, preached peace and allowed these TRAITORS to invade your sanctum.” He laughed gratingly. “It would be comical if it wasn’t so pathetic. You are weak, Psytalla. Weak and foolish. You are no longer fit to be Demon Lord!”
A collective gasp went up from the audience. Psytalla stepped down from the dais and walked over directly to Sizzler, her face inches from his. “I will freely admit my failures, Sizzler, as well as my drive to learn from them and better myself. I will NOT, however, stand for being called a weakling or fool.”
“Oho?” he replied. “And you are prepared to defend your honor on the field of battle?”
“As always,” she responded coolly. “You are challenging me?”
“I am. I issue the challenge of ascendency. I will kill you and claim the rank of Demon Lord myself. The Realm deserves a STRONG Lord, one who will purge the human filth from Goezia once and for ALL!”
The Coliseum was silent, everyone’s attention rapt. Metokai stepped up to the dais again. “An ascendency challenge has been issued. Per the laws of the Council and our Realm, Sizzler will now battle Psytalla for the position of Demon Lord. Mages-at-Arms, please shield the arena.”
Metokai herded Nyze, Frane and Rylmedy into the audience seating, and the dais lowered into the floor. A moment later, a shimmering maroon magitechnological shield burst into existence around the arena. Metokai, standing between Psytalla and Sizzler, raised both her arms.
“The ascendancy challenge will now commence. This is a fight to the death. BEGIN!” She shot up lightning from her fingertips and teleported out of the arena, to Nyze’s side.
Sizzler screamed and charged towards Psytalla, claws outstretched. A moment later, his body split apart into a hundred perfectly-diced cubes, each an inch to a side. With a terrible wet schlorping sound, these flesh-cubes tumbled to the ground, bathed in blood.
Every demon gawped in sheer amazement, speechless. As the healing mages rushed out to resurrect Sizzler, Psytalla grinned savagely.
“Would anyone else care to challenge my authority?”
Nobody dared speak a word.
“Very well. If there are no further challenges, we shall continue the Council’s proceedings.”
As the shields lowered and Metokai began to walk back out towards the arena, Nyze grabbed her sleeve. “What the hell just happened?” she asked in a hoarse whisper.
“You didn’t notice? Psytalla used time magic, of course,” Metokai answered casually. “She froze time, drew her sword from hammerspace, diced up Sizzler, then unfroze time. The whole process took about ten seconds, relative perception.”
Nyze’s eyes bugged. “She can use TIME MAGIC?!”
“Of course she can, serpent. She’s the one true Demon Lord,” Metokai said proudly.
After the healing mages un-cubed and resurrected Sizzler, he stood before the Demon Lord hanging his head in shame.
“Do you have any further objections?” Psytalla asked, her face split by a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“None, my Demon Lord,” he responded demurely. “I still maintain my concerns regarding our defenses and the human threat, but I acknowledge your superiority in battle. You are truly worthy of your title.”
Nyze was a taken aback by his sudden shift in tone, and ruminated on it for a moment trying to tease out what remained unspoken. She recalled what Metokai had mentioned the previous day about the need for Psytalla to spearhead a strong response to the Hero’s assault, lest she appear weak before her subjects. Demons ultimately respected strength above all else, and Psytalla’s demonstration had made her overwhelming strength apparent to everyone. She could likely have dispatched Sizzler in a less dramatic fashion, but overkill suited her purposes. In essence, she was declaring ‘Anyone who dares oppose me will be annihilated without mercy. Now fall in line, or else.’
Now that she’d applied the stick, Psytalla turned to the carrot. “Allow me to alleviate your concerns regarding those issues, Sizzler. Firstly, we have taken great steps towards increasing our border defenses in the past four weeks, under the direction of High General Metokai. This applies to both our border with Saimonica on the continent of Skana, and our border with Arkaelia on the continent of Etru. Ground-based patrols of both borders have been quadrupled, and we’ve constructed a series of checkpoints and lookout posts as well. We’ve also ordered the Wing Corps of the Unified Armies to conduct regular airborne patrols. This should prevent another human infiltration of the Realm.”
Psytalla cast an expectant gaze towards Sizzler. He nodded his approval. “A sound strategy.”
Psytalla nodded. “Secondly, it is my intention to petition the Council for a declaration of war against Saimonica, and pursuant to wartime policy, demand from each species their quota of trained militia to supplement the Grand Unified Demonic Armies. When our forces are assembled and organized, I will personally lead the invasion of Saimonica and bring the nation to heel.”
“So!” Sizzler barked. “We are finally taking action! Excellent!”
Psytalla held up her hand to silence him. “One point of discretion, Sizzler. I want to make it clear: this will NOT be a war of annihilation. Our sole aim will be to capitulate the Saimonican government, the Church of Holy Humanity, and execute their leaders. Then, Saimonica and her people shall be annexed into the Demon Realm as peacefully as possible.”
“You want to RULE over HUMANS? IMPOSSIBLE!” Sizzler barked, and a small chorus of voices agreed with him.
“There can be no peace! Destroy them!” screamed a skeleton.
“They started this war! They want to destroy us!” shrieked a harpy.
“Why should we show mercy to humans, when they show none to us?” one of the giants roared.
As the chorus of dissenters sounded, Psytalla rose to her full height, and her eyes glowed so brightly the room was bathed in near-blinding red light. “BE SILENT,” she declared in a tone of absolute authority, and reality complied. Everyone in the chamber found themselves unable to disobey her command, so overwhelming was the pressure she exuded.
Psytalla pointed to Sizzler, who stood frozen on the spot. “You would claim that all humans are monsters. That humans are inherently treacherous, little better than beasts and worthy only of annihilation. There are many demons who share those sentiments. If that is true, however…” she turned around, motioning to Nyze, Frane and Rylmedy in a sweeping gesture, “then how do you account for these three former humans, who willingly betrayed Saimonica and the Church to join with demonkind?”
“That brings to mind an intriguing question, Demon Lord,” came a gentle voice. Everyone turned to see the elf Valedor, who had risen to his feet. “May I address the Council?”
Psytalla regarded him for a moment, then nodded.
Valedor stepped from his seat and made his way to the central arena, pausing in front of the dais. “This is a question directed at your companions, Demon Lord. If you would be so kind as to yield the floor to them.”
Nodding once more, Psytalla stepped aside. Nyze nervously slithered forwards, gripping the sides of the dais with white knuckles.
“You are Nyze, correct? Formerly of the Hero’s party?” Valedor asked, smiling kindly.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Would you mind sharing with the Council your reasons for defecting? Why did you choose to abandon humanity and become a demon?”
“L-Lesbians,” Nyze stuttered in response.
Valedor raised an eyebrow. “Pardon?”
“Lesbians! I’m… I’m a lesbian…” she continued, tripping over her words. She heard Frane groan loudly behind her, and gripped the dais tighter, taking a moment to organize her thoughts.
“I’m afraid I don’t follow,” Valedor said.
“I,” Nyze said, more confidently this time, “am a lesbian. Here in the Demon Realm, that’s nothing unusual, nothing worthy of note. However, in the Kingdom of Saimonica, the Church forbids all homosexual expression or activity as sinful and immoral.”
Valedor seemed stunned by that. “They do? That seems rather capricious. Why?”
“I honestly don’t know why. Maybe because of the Thirteen Gods’ decree that humanity ‘go forth and multiply?’ That seems most likely. The High Breeders are always talking about how it’s every human’s responsibility to have lots of children so humans can outcompete demons in population growth. It’s the central tenant of the Church, actually.”
“Huh,” Valedor responded, bemused. “Well, far be it from me to judge the belief systems of other cultures…”
Nyze wasn’t finished. “The Church teaches that sex is purely a tool for procreation. Any enjoyment derived from sex is temptation to sin, and any deviation from the traditional man and woman pairing is the same. That means people like me, who love the same gender, are abhorrent. We learn to hide our true selves or be punished. In my case, I pursued a heterosexual relationship that repulsed me in order to allay any suspicion. You can imagine how nightmarish that was for me.”
Nyze was slowly finding her confidence as she spoke, and the audience’s attention focused on her.
“Frane and Rylmedy are the same. In fact, Saimonica is filled with people like us, lesbian and gay, bisexual and transgender, who are currently shackled by the puritanical tyranny of the Church. Some manage to find their happiness and express themselves, but they always do so in the shadows, in back alleyways and seedy bars. The rest simply bear it, lie to everyone around them, lie to themselves and pretend to smile.
“That’s not the only kind of oppression that exists in Saimonica, either. The Church teaches that, because the Thirteen Gods are all male, then men are naturally superior to women. Men are expected to be leaders, warriors, clergy and such, whereas women are relegated to roles like as healers, secretaries or housemothers. And all the demonstrations of public art and celebration I’ve seen here in Yandar are forbidden by the Church as well; they teach that sidereal pleasures are mere temptations to distract from piety. Life, in their view, must be perfectly sterile, perfectly manicured and without deviation from doctrine.
“You asked why I defected, Valedor. I defected to escape that horrible environment, that suffocating cloud of religion and misogyny. That’s it; a simple and selfish decision on my part, purely for my own sake. But now that I’ve tasted true happiness as a demon, I’ve realized that I cannot do nothing while those like me continue to suffer back in the land I once called home. That is why, now, I stand by Psytalla’s side, ready to march with her armies and redeem Saimonica from the Church that rots it from the inside.”
As Nyze finished speaking and drew in a deep breath, she suddenly became aware that every eye in the Coliseum was glued to her. Suddenly self-conscious, she shrank back from the podium a bit.
Valedor clapped his hands together. “Oh my! A well-spoken, if unexpected, speech. I commend you, Nyze. You illustrated your motives beautifully.”
“Th-Thanks…” she muttered, still painfully aware of her newfound status as the center of attention.
Suddenly, Psytalla was beside her, arm around her shoulder. Nyze leaned into the embrace, closing her eyes, and heard Psytalla speak.
“Nyze and her friends have taught me much over these past four weeks. I hope that, as you heard her words today, they stirred the same passion in your hearts that they did in mine. We demons define ourselves by our rebellion against the Thirteen Gods, to the extent that we even named this body the Evil Council after that fact. The time has finally come for us to put that posturing into action, to prove we are more than mere bluster and empty words. We shall do this by eliminating the root of the Gods’ power here on Goezia. THAT is the reason I demand your support in waging this war. As the Council is my witness, I will crush the Church of Holy Humanity and bring it to total ruination. And then, when I stand atop the ashes of their beloved White Monolith, I will scream into the heavens and dare the Thirteen themselves to come and face me. Be they craven cowards, they will remain hidden and cower. But should they accept my challenge, then they will finally meet their end at the hands of the Disaster Demon Lord. Either way, they will learn the meaning of true fear. This I swear to you.
“Stand with me, my demon siblings! March with me to war! Fight alongside me, for glory and honor! Spill your blood with me, so that all those like Nyze may finally know true freedom!”
As she delivered that final line, hands outstretched, the spell of her words was shattered by thunderous applause. The audience rose to their feet, tentacles or claws and expressed their approval with raucous energy. Psytalla’s words had resonated with them splendidly.
Even Sizzler applauded, his skewed smile full of glinting teeth.
In the end, the Evil Council voted 1531 to 839 in favor of authorizing Psytalla’s war declaration. With that, the grand gears of the demonic war machine were set in motion, and Councilors adjourned for the day to send word back to their various constituencies to begin preparing for war. Nyze, for her part, was beset by many heartfelt congratulations, and the endless stream of social interactions left her drained. Mostly she just smiled and waved.
When the Coliseum was mostly empty, Valedor came walking over with Raskellion perched on his shoulder. “You look exhausted,” the elf said, looking at Nyze sympathetically.
“Extremely. I’m not used to this whole public speaking thing,” she groaned.
“Nor to the sycophants seeking to win favor with the Demon Realm’s newest rising star, I’d imagine,” he added dryly. “Still, you did stupendously.”
“Stupendously indeed! A performance worthy of a dragon!” added Raskellion, while grooming his left wing with his tongue.
Nyze moaned and planted her face in Psytalla’s chest. “Ugh, I just wanna rest. Psy, can we go unwind at Gary’s bar?”
“I second that,” Metokai added.
“Thirded,” said Frane.
“F-Fourthed…” said Ryl.
“Sounds like a consensus to me,” Psytalla said with a wry smile while stroking Nyze’s hair. “Valedor, Raskellion, care to join us?”
“We’ll take an ash check,” Valedor replied. “We already have plans for the evening. That said, Psytalla, would it be possible for me to hold court with you tomorrow? I’d like to discuss something that shouldn’t be brought up before the full Council.”
Psytalla raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Yes. And if possible, I’d like Metokai, plus Nyze and her friends in attendance. This concerns them too.”
“Very well. Be in my throne room mid-afternoon tomorrow,” Psytalla said.
“Thank you, Demon Lord. Until then, I bid you all a good night. Enjoy your drinks.” Valedor turned on his heel and walked out.
“Well, THAT was mysterious.” Nyze said, eyes narrowed.
“Indeed, serpent. I wonder if he’s plotting something,” Metokai agreed.
“Who cares. Drinking time,” Frane said in a flat tone of finality, and they all heartily agreed.
“My. You all look like you had a rough day.” Gary remarked in a voice that sounded like a poorly maintained wood chipper being shoved in another wood chipper.
“Evil Council meeting.” Psytalla tersely responded.
“…I see. I’ll go get the strong stuff from behind the bar.” Gary floated off to grab the drinks.
The strong stuff turned out to be a bubbling purple liquid that smelled strongly of sulfur and acetone. It worked wonders on everyone’s frayed nerves.
“Ahh, that’s much better,” Nyze groaned as she downed her second shot. “Are Evil Council meetings always that intense?”
““Always,”” Psytalla and Metokai chorused.
“E-Even the part where someone challenges you to a deathmatch?” Ryl asked, sipping her own shot.
“Well,” Psytalla replied, “that doesn’t happen EVERY time. But more often than not, yes.”
“Sizzler’s challenge was a long time in the making,” Metokai added. “He’s opposed Psytalla so much over the years, it was inevitable he’d make his move once he thought the time was right.”
“That was his mistake,” Psytalla snorted. “The time will NEVER be right for an impulsive, loudmouthed bigot like him. Still, he’s hardly alone in his sentiments. Over a third of the Council opposed me.”
“Because they think Sizzler’s right? That humans and demons are destined to always be enemies?” Frane asked.
Psytalla nodded. “You three are the first to, well, integrate into the Demon Realm in many centuries. The only interaction we’ve had with humans prior was killing the occasional raiding party. It’s going to take a lot to convince the more conservative elements of demon society that co-existence is truly possible.”
“Destined… to be enemies… hmm…” Frane tapped her chin thoughtfully. “That reminds me. Psytalla, do you think the universe is deterministic?”
Psytalla tilted her head. “Huh?”
Nyze slammed her head into the table, face-down. “Oh gods, not this again.”
“Do you think everything in the universe is inexorably defined by formulas and numbers? That we’re all controlled by invisible equations we can’t comprehend? Sizzler thinks humans and demons are destined to always fight, right? Isn’t that determinism?”
Psytalla scratched her chin. “I’m not a fan of determinism, personally. I don’t think it’s a very demonic philosophy.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“Think about it. We demons define ourselves by our opposition to the control of the Gods. We REJECT control as a fundamental part of our identity. If everything is one big equation, then that rejection is meaningless because our freedom is an illusion.”
“At the same time,” Frane countered, “the motion of every particle in the universe is reducible to physics, and physics is simply applied math. That means a grand unified theory could predict everything, even the actions of the Gods.”
Psytalla shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. Life is chaotic and beautiful and defies expectations. You will never be able to predict that with perfect clarity. Where does someone’s personality or memories enter into this so-called perfect equation? What about their soul? An element of uncertainty will always be present.”
“Hrm.” Frane folded her arms, lost in deep thought.
“Look,” Psytalla offered, “if you want to examine this issue in more nuance, why not ask Gary? He’s literally a sentient math equation, so I’m sure he has some insightful thoughts on the matter.”
Frane’s eyes lit up. “Ooh, good point!” She waved her arms, signaling down Gary.
“Ladies,” Gary said as he floated over. “How are the drinks?”
“Terrible,” Nyze said, lifting up her head. “They taste like congealed vomit.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Gary replied. “Would you like something else instead?”
“Absolutely not,” Nyze declared, pouring herself another shot.
“Gary, Gary!” Frane said enthusiastically. “What are your thoughts on determinism? Do you think everything in the universe is inexorably defined by formulas and numbers?”
Gary chuckled, which sounded like an ailing motorcycle constructed entirely of chainsaws. “I certainly hope not. I’m terrible at math.”