Bubble Bath
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“Hey, Pshytalla, how come your cashtle is shwaying?” Nyze asked as she jerkily wriggled into their bedroom.

The Demon Lord’s Castle was, in fact, not swaying. Nyze was just extremely drunk. She was too drunk to realize how hard Gary’s bubbling purple acetone-drink had lowered her inhibitions and destroyed her sense of balance.

“…It’s not swaying,” Psytalla responded, a wry smile on her face.

“No, it’s deeeefinitely shwaying…” Metokai mumbled, clinging to Nyze for stability. She was equally inebriated; the greater surface area of Nyze’s snake tail provided her with a firmer foundation than her own cloven hooves.

“You two are extremely drunk,” Psytalla chortled.

“Nuh uh!” Nyze protested. “I’m not as think as you drunk I am!” She poked Metokai’s goat horns, fascinated. “Look at these horns! Look at them…”

“Nyah! Be careful, sher… sherp… snake! Those are shenshitive…” Metokai yelped, red tinging her cheeks and the tips of her pointed ears.

“Oh, look at her blush!” Nyze exclaimed. “Metokai’s ears are bluuuushing! Metokai is shooooo cute… tiny cute…”

“I’m not tiny!” Metokai snapped back, turning even more red. “You’re just very big! Big… snake!” She nodded smugly, impressed by the cleverness of her insult.

“You are cute, though. Not denying that, are you?” Nyze teased, wrapping her arms around the steamy little baphomet.

“Y-Y-Your FACE is cute!” Metokai exclaimed, mashing her own face into Nyze’s breasts.

“Oho! Did you hear that, Pshytalla? She coooooomplimented me!” Nyze exclaimed happily, still embracing Metokai tightly.

“I did indeed. First time for everything, I suppose,” Psytalla said, sitting in her desk chair and crossing her legs. “Why don’t you two lie down and sleep this off?”

“YEAH! Come to bed with me, little bashomet!”

“Urgh… I will… deshtroy you… after I sleep a bit… with you…” Metokai threatened, going completely limp in Nyze’s arms. “Big shnake pillow…”

Slithering up onto Psytalla’s bed, Nyze coiled around Metokai like a big weighted blanket made of flesh and scales. “Cooooomfy?” she asked.

“Comfy… inside shnake…” was all Metokai managed to say before passing out and snoring loudly.

“Aww… she even shnores cutely…” Nyze muttered, her head falling onto a pillow. A moment later, she was snoring too.

“Goodness me. Alcohol really does make them more honest. What a couple of completely useless lesbians,” Psytalla said, looking on the two entangled rivals with a warm smile. “…Not that I have any room to talk.” She cleared her throat loudly, suddenly feeling very self-aware despite the fact that nobody conscious heard her.

******

When Nyze awoke twelve hours later, head pounding like the war drums of the whole Grand Unified Demonic Army, she cursed under her breath.

“Fuck shit balls fuck ass. That’s the last time I drink that weird purple stuff. Owwwww… my head…”

As her awareness returned, she noticed she was coiled around Metokai, who was sleeping with her mouth wide open and drooling all over Nyze’s breasts.

“Huh. That’s the second time we’ve wound up entwined like this after a night of drinking. I wonder why…” She searched her memories, trying to figure out why she’d wound up in this position, but last night was a blur. She wondered if her and Metokai had attempted some sort of inebriated duel, only to wind up like this due to alcohol-induced clumsiness.

Still, this wasn’t a bad position to be in. Although she’d rather be coiled around Psytalla, this was fine too. Nyze couldn’t deny the drooling baphomet’s sleeping face was kinda cute. In a completely platonic sense, of course.

Just then, Metokai stirred and let out a huge yawn, not unlike a cat’s. It was an adorable yawn, Nyze thought.

“Urghhhh… good morning, serpent,” she groaned, wiping the sleep from her eyes and the drool from her mouth. “We appear to be entangled bodily once more.”

Nyze nodded, wincing as the motion drove stakes of pain through her temples. “And, once more, I can’t remember how we wound up this way.”

“Nor can I,” Metokai said, wriggling her way free of Nyze’s coils. “Ow. My head feels like a hellhound just clawed all my braincells to shreds.”

“Mine feels like a minotaur went on a rampage and smashed my skull to bits.” Nyze groaned. “On that note, Metokai, what does the Demon Realm have in the way of effective hangover cures?”

Metokai stretched her legs, before tapping each hoof on the cobblestone a few times to confirm her balance. Then she turned to Nyze. “I’ll show you. Let’s go to the cafeteria.”

******

It was already early afternoon, but the castle’s cafeteria served breakfast all day; many demons were crepuscular or nocturnal, so the concept of a fixed breakfast time linked to the rising and setting of the White Moon never really caught on in the Realm.

Metokai plopped down two mugs, filled with a warm frothy brown liquid that had an intensely sweet aroma. She pushed one towards Nyze.

“What’s this?” Nyze asked, sniffing it and catching hints of cinnamon and vanilla.

“A warm milk toddy, demonic style. The base ingredient is bovitaur milk, whipped with harpy eggs and flavored with spices. This particular variant replaces the alcohol with extract from the ghostsilver tree, which acts as a stimulant. That suppresses the headache, whereas the protein and lactose get your body’s metabolism going.” Metokai explained before taking a sip of her drink.

Nyze tasted her own. It was rich and sweet, a bit like a latte. After she swallowed, she felt the telltale warm buzz of caffeine spread through her face. “Metokai, is ghostsilver bark… caffeinated?”

“I don’t know. That’s a question for the chef,” Metokai responded with a shrug.

Nyze excitedly took another sip. She was certain she’d finally found the demonic equivalent of coffee. Now if she could just get a bitter drink made with this stuff instead of a sweet one…

“So, bovitaur milk, huh? I didn’t even realize bovitaurs had udders.” Nyze had seen a few of the beastkin roaming the halls of the castle; they had humanoid upper bodies, plus two legs, one tail and two horns like those of a dairy cow. In that sense they looked similar to baphomets, except with cow features instead of goat features. They were also much taller, obviously.

“…Bovitaurs don’t have udders, serpent.” Metokai responded, looking at her askance. “You’re mixing them up with minotaurs.”

“Huh? Then where does the milk…”

“Where do you think, serpent? It comes from their breasts, obviously.”

Nyze nearly spat out her drink. “Wait, this is BREAST MILK?!” Come to think of it, many of the bovitaurs she’d seen thus far had absolutely massive breasts. Was that a species trait?

“Naturally. Why, do you find that strange?” Metokai tilted her head.

“I… I’m just… th-this kind of thing is probably normal in the Demon Realm, huh? But I haven’t drunk breast milk since I was a baby…” Nyze muttered.

“Your loss, serpent. Enjoy,” Metokai shrugged, bringing her mug to her lips once more.

Nyze studied her drink for a long moment, before slowly grabbing the mug and taking another swig.

******

After finishing their lunch-breakfast (or ‘lunfast’ as Nyze had taken to calling it), the two girls made their way to Psytalla’s throne room. They passed a bovitaur in the halls along the way, and Nyze stared at her breasts, fascinated, without even realizing it.

“Um… can I help you?” the bovitaur said awkwardly.

Metokai prodded Nyze’s thigh. “Oy, serpent.”

“OH!” Nyze yelped, coming to her senses. “I’m… sorry. Dunno what came over me.”

“Don’t mind her. She’s unimaginably useless,” Metokai said, grabbing Nyze’s arm and pulling her along the hallway, leaving a very confused bovitaur behind. “Mind your manners, serpent,” she hissed once they were far enough away to avoid the cowkin from overhearing.

“S-Sorry… it’s just… breasts…” Nyze muttered, ashamed.

“Unbelievable,” Metokai growled, shaking her head. “What a useless lesbian you are, serpent.”

“H-HEY! So are YOU!” Nyze protested.

“I don’t deny that, serpent, but I am at least subtle about it. Do try to show more discretion. Now, if you are quite finished ogling every attractive woman that we pass in the hallway, we have more serious matters to discuss.”

Nyze really, REALLY wanted to protest further, but suspected she’d just dig a deeper hole for herself. She relented. “Fine. What do we need to discuss?”

“Our strategy for the upcoming meeting with Valedor, of course.”

“We need a strategy?”

“Naturally, serpent. Valedor fights his battles in the forum of words and information, but they are battles nonetheless. We must think about tactics to extract what WE want from him without conceding too much.”

******

In the human lands, politicians generally rose to power via schmoozing the Church, schmoozing nobility or schmoozing the public in those rare countries that practiced democracy. For that reason, sycophants and suck-ups dominated the political class, and the term ‘politician’ had a very bad reputation indeed, invoking imagery of sleazy scumbags whose sole role was to coddle the ruling class.

In the Demon Realm, however, members of the Evil Council attained their rank via proving themselves strongest of their species in mortal combat; schmoozing came second to strength. For that reason, the Council was absent much scheming or backhandery... Councilors tended to say what they meant, very loudly and sometimes accompanied by violence. Subtlety was in short supply.

In that sense, Valedor was somewhat unusual for a Councilor, in that he excelled in both schmoozing AND strength. He was unquestionably the strongest elf from the Diaspora, at least for the moment, and he even suspected he could give his counterpart from the Screaming Forest a run for his quantex. He also had an affable, friendly and charming personality, and despite his soft-spoken nature possessed an incisive wit and an uncanny ability to know exactly what to say and when to say it. Many short-tempered demons had accused him of duplicity due to some obscure little lie of omission or innocuous fudging of an important detail, but he simply smiled and continued to play his long game. For these reasons, he’d been on the Evil Council for nearly a full century, whereas most Councilors didn’t even last ten years to make their tenure. He constantly displayed political acumen that would make the slimiest of human politicians feel grossly inadequate.

Just as he was congratulating himself over this fact, he felt a sharp smack on the side of his head. “OW!” he exclaimed theatrically, rubbing his temple. “What was that for, Raskellion?”

“You were getting egotistical again,” the diminutive green dragon scolded, perched in his usual spot on the elf’s shoulder.

“I didn’t even say anything!” Valedor protested.

“Didn’t have to, dear. I can smell it,” Raskellion replied, sticking out his pointed tongue. “Now quit singing your own damn praises in your headspace and think, for one damn moment, about who we’re going to see.”

“...The Demon Lord?” Valedor asked, playing along with whatever lecture his dragon husband was about to deliver.

“Yes. EXACTLY. The SKEL-DAMNED DEMON LORD. She isn’t going to play any games with you, Valey, and I don’t need to remind you how strong she is. And that High General of hers, Metokai, is no slouch either; I once saw her rip apart a giant in single combat using only her PINKY CLAW.”

“Oh, come now. That’s an exaggeration,” Valedor scoffed.

“It most assuredly is not. Metokai’s strength is cataclysmic, and her temper is twice as bad. The point is, Valey, this is a private meeting with the Demon Lord and her most trusted comrades. Please, PLEASE be suitably intimidated by that.”

Valedor scratched Raskellion in between the ears, his heart warmed by his husband’s fretting. “Relax, Rask. We’re here to help them, aren’t we?”

“Oh yes, very much so,” Raskellion said in between contented purrs. “And when you have them nipping at the bait you’re dangling, you’ll name your price. Hook and bait, line and sinker. I know you, Valey.”

“Naturally. The Demon Lord knows that too. This is how the game is played,” Valedor replied.

Raskellion sighed. “Just... try to treat this meeting with some dignity, okay? You get a little too smug when you’re in full politician mode.”

“Yes, yes, I will,” Valedor responded. “I promise to be suitably intimidated by the awe and majesty of our beloved Demon Lord.” The elf's voice carried only the SLIGHTEST hint of sarcasm, which Raskellion figured was about as much concession as he’d get.

When the two entered the Demon Lord’s towering, skull-embossed cathedral of a throne room, the sight that greeted them was so unexpected it left them both speechless.

The Demon Lord was taking a bubble bath.

******

“Valedor! Raskellion! Hello, hello!” Psytalla said warmly as she lazily scrubbed her back with a loofah. Pink-tinged bubbles drifted upwards towards the ceiling, reflecting the light of the skull-lamps. Nyze and Metokai stood to the left of the tub, both with bright red faces, whereas Frane and Rylmedy stood to the right looking awkwardly apologetic.

“M-My Demon Lord.” Valedor responded, taken aback. He felt Raskellion’s tail coil around his shoulder, as if the little dragon was seeking support. “I... did not realize your throne room had a bathtub installed.”

“Oh, it doesn’t,” Psytalla responded casually. “This is actually a tub from one of the staff bathrooms. They just had these new models installed with fire magic heating jets that I simply HAD to try. When I heard they arrived, I teleported one up here to give it a whirl. You would not BELIEVE how soft my skin feels right now.”

“A-A-A bath i-in the middle of the day?” Raskellion croaked.

“Why not? I can bathe and work at the same time. Speaking of work, I believe you two had some business with me?” Psytalla stepped out of the tub, shaking her muscled and completely nude body a few times. Water droplets flew everywhere.

“Uh... I... uh...” Valedor stuttered as Psytalla toweled herself off.

“Come now, Valedor, let’s get to it. Use your words.” Psytalla slipped into a fluffy pink bathrobe, emblazoned with little hearts on the breast, and walked over to the gibbering elf.

“Right. AHEM. Right.” Valedor cleared his throat a half-dozen times, dredged up his pre-prepared remarks, and began. “W-Well, I wanted to discuss with you two issues that I couldn’t bring up before the full Evil Council. Both are... Realm security issues, if you catch my meaning.”

Psytalla’s eyes narrowed. Her serious expression was in stark contrast to her fluffy pink bathrobe. “Go on.”

“Firstly, it’s my, uh, supposition that the infiltration of the Hero’s party represents more than a simple issue of border security. The fact that the party was able to make it through the Ashen Range undetected, and even breach your castle’s defenses with little trouble, indicates the Hero somehow had inside operating knowledge of the Realm.”

Psytalla’s mouth twisted into a grin that didn’t reach her eyes. “My, how FASCINATING. I recall reading that very same information in a tactical report from High General Metokai last week. A CLASSIFIED report, I might add.”

“Certainly classified above any level where an Evil Councilor would have access to it,” Metokai added, striding forward with a rapid-fire click-clack. “How REMARKABLE that you arrived at the same conclusion as us, by mere SUPPOSITION! A convenient coincidence, hmm?”

Valedor was sweating profusely, and he could feel his husband’s eyes boring into the side of his skull with potent ‘I told you so’ energy. He’d initially prepared a better excuse for his possession of classified information that, by all right, he should not have even known existed, but he’d been a bit too flustered by the remarkable sight of the feared Demon Lord taking a bubble bath (a bubble bath!) to remember that part of his script. Now he’d played his hand too early. He’d have to go all in or walk away with nothing. He grit his teeth and clenched his fists so firmly his nails dug painfully into his palm.

“In truth, my Demon Lord, I do possess the information from the High General’s tactical report. A copy was forwarded to me last week.”

Psytalla raised an eyebrow, her eyes softening just a bit. “How brave of you to openly admit that, Valedor.”

The elf swallowed. “Brave? No. I do believe it necessary, though. The fact that the Hero knew our defenses, and the fact that I was able to obtain a copy of classified information, are two manifestations of the same problem. In a word, the Realm lacks covert operational capability.”

Psytalla’s eyes narrowed again. “Intelligence services, you mean. Spies.”

“Precisely. Not to brag, but the Diaspora possesses a first-class intelligence service, one with a storied history stretching back five millennia.”

Metokai stroked her chin. “You’re talking about the Whispers.”

“Ah, I see you’ve heard of them,” Valedor said, feigning calm. “Back when the first elvish nomads fled the Screaming Forest, we quickly discovered we were unwelcome in many lands controlled by other species. Out of necessity, we began to covertly collect information from foreign governments to determine where it was safe to travel; that was the genesis of the Whispers. Obviously, inter-race relations have dramatically improved since then, thanks to the unification of the Realm under the Demon Lords and the Evil Council, but we still find it prudent to maintain covert operations. Information is power, after all.”

“And this surveillance even extends to my castle, hmm?” Psytalla said in an even, questioning voice.

“N-Naturally. Rest assured it’s nothing personal, my Demon Lord. In truth, it’s a practice that dates back to the very first Demon Lord, Skusea Aedes, and continued unbroken through all her successors up until you.”

Psytalla let out a low, threatening chuckle. “Well. Who am I to argue with five thousand years of tradition?”

Valedor allowed himself a small sigh; Psytalla didn’t seem entirely satisfied with his answer, but she wasn’t openly confrontational. “The reason I bring this up is because I believe the Whispers could be of great service to you, Demon Lord.”

“Oh?”

Valedor nodded. “Obviously, the Realm was already infiltrated once. The increased patrols are a good start towards preventing a recurrence, but I also believe we need to engage in counterintelligence, as well as plan our own spy expeditions into Saimonica and Arkaelia. We need information on the humans if we’re to successfully wage war against them.”

“A sound proposition,” Metokai said. “‘Know your enemy’ is the first principle of strategy.”

“I concur,” Psytalla added.

“Then, with your permission, I will assign a squad of Whisperers to immediately…”

Psytalla interrupted with a wave of her hand. “Nyze and Metokai will spearhead the first expedition into Saimonica.”

Valedor gawped. “Nyze and… Metokai?”

Psytalla nodded. “Nyze is already familiar with Saimonica, as it’s the country of her birth. And Metokai is my most brilliant tactical mind; she will study the human defenses with complete thoroughness.”

“B-But surely they’re both too important to…” Valedor argued.

“They will be accompanied by two more covert agents.” Psytalla continued, ignoring his objection. “Whisperers, potentially, to provide covert ops expertise. That is my final decision.”

Valedor acquiesced, not willing to argue the point further. He recognized the Demon Lord’s reasoning; if the Whispers conducted the spy expedition unilaterally, all intelligence would be passed back to Psytalla through him, which meant she’d be getting it secondhand. On the other hand, by sending along two of her most trusted demons, she’d have a direct line to any uncovered intelligence; nothing edited, nothing withheld. She was, in essence, proclaiming “I’m willing to accept your aid, but it will be on MY terms.”

What a formidable leader this Demon Lord is, Valedor thought. She cuts to the quick, and doesn’t give up an inch. It was foolish of me to think I could ever play politics with her. Beside him, he sensed Raskellion smirking.

Psytalla, accepting his surrender, continued. “Since you are the primary liaison to the Whispers, I am hereby appointing you Intelligence Director of the Demon Realm. You will report directly to Metokai and her chain of command. Is that satisfactory?”

Now she was dangling a new bureaucratic position in front of him, and a prestigious one at that. He knew better than to refuse.

“Of course, Demon Lord. It would be my honor,” Valedor said, bowing deeply.

“Excellent. Now, of the second matter you wished to discuss?” Psytalla changed gears so quickly that Valedor experienced conversational vertigo.

“Oh, yes. Um… the second issue regards our mutual acquaintance, Sizzler.”

Now it was the Demon Lord’s turn to be surprised by the trajectory of the conversation. “In what regard?”

“As you know, Sizzler holds a rather nativist view regarding the upcoming war. He believes the Demon Realm should be for demons alone, and humans should be either sequestered or exterminated outright. This is in direct conflict with your stated intention to peacefully integrate Saimonica into the Realm.”

“And?” Psytalla asked bitterly. “I brought him to heel in front of the entire Evil Council. Is he not sufficiently chastised?”

“For the moment, perhaps. But Sizzler’s sentiments are popular among the Council and beyond, I am sorry to say. Recall that over a third of the Council voted against you, my liege. Sizzler represents a larger populist movement that is growing. In frank terms, bigotry is on the rise throughout the Realm, and the recent attack by the Hero only served to exacerbate its ascendancy. If left unchecked, you could find yourself in the minority on the Council before long.”

There was a long, grim silence. Psytalla’s face warped into a grimace. “That is unfortunate.”

“Indubitably. I am quite happy to pass along any reports the Whispers collect regarding racist or right-wing extremist factions; that was their original purpose, after all. But I think we need a broader approach as well.”

“That approach being?”

“Education and goodwill. Nyze certainly won a lot of hearts with her impassioned speech in front of the Council, and I think we need to build on that.” He glanced over to the lamia, who was staring at the ground and fidgeting, then turned his gaze to the taciturn vampire. “Frane, if I may ask. Have you made any plans to pay homage to the Vampire Queen of the Nightlands?”

“No,” Frane responded flatly. “Is that something I need to do?”

“It’s an old tradition, one most fledgling vampires don’t bother with anymore. But in your case, I think it might bode well. If you were to journey to the Nightlands on foot, along with your… gargoyle friend?”

“Girlfriend,” Frane corrected.

“Girlfriend,” Valedor amended, “then we could transform it into a goodwill tour. Introduce the Realm at large to the humans-turned-demons, have them visit various governmental leaders along the way. Show them that humans are not monsters, just ordinary folk aspiring to happiness like everyone else. We’ll also be demonstrating that Frane and Rylmedy are paying respect to the storied traditions of the Realm, obscure though they may be.”

“Hmm. Frane?” Psytalla turned to the vampire with questioning eyes.

“It sounds fine to me. We have been wanting to see more of the Realm, especially since we got Ryl’s moon protection sorted out,” she responded.

“They’d need a guide,” Psytalla mused.

Valedor smiled. “I have someone perfect in mind. Let me confirm it with them before I propose it formally.”

“Very well,” Psytalla affirmed. “It’s a good idea, Valedor. I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need to combat bigotry with every available resource, and this is an excellent starting point.”

“Merely happy I could be of service, Demon Lord.” Valedor’s humility was completely false and everyone knew it, but nobody much cared.

“Well, you’ve given me quite a lot to think about. Thank you for bringing all this to my attention. I will be in touch soon regarding your new position, and we can examine everything we’ve discussed at length,” Psytalla said, bringing the meeting to an end.

Valedor bowed once more. “I thank you for your indulgence, Demon Lord.”

******

As soon as the door to the throne room closed behind him, Valedor staggered and grabbed the wall for balance. “By the Ruin, that was intense.”

Raskellion was silent, but his tail flicked.

“I know what you want to say, dear. ‘I warned you. I told you so.’ Yadda yadda yadda.” Valedor groused.

“Good,” Raskellion replied smugly. “Then I don’t need to say it.”

“Ugh, lesson learned,” Valedor said, rolling his eyes. “I’m going to have to support Psytalla fully. Even the most subtle duplicity won’t get past her.”

Raskellion grinned. “I don’t know what you’re so down about. You made your points, and even got a shiny new bureaucratic job to boot.”

“And all its attendant paperwork. Ahh, damn. I need a drink.”

Raskellion thought for a moment. “Wanna check out that bar Psytalla mentioned yesterday? The one owned by someone named Gary?”

“Hell yeah. Let’s go.”

******

"Gentlemen! Welcome to the Iron Maiden!" Gary said over the thumping music, his voice sounding like thirteen sea slugs fellating a blender. "New faces? Pleased to meet you. I'm Gary, the bartender."

"Hi, Gary," Valedor said tiredly. "I'm Valedor, and this is my husband Raskellion. We're both Evil Councillors."

"Oh, my! And you both seem exhausted as well, poor things," Gary cooed. The noise shattered a nearby wineglass.

Valedor winced, his sensitive elf ears twitching. "Are we ever. We just got out of a meeting with the Demon Lord."

"…I see. I’ll go get the strong stuff from behind the bar."

******

“Bravo, Metokai!” Psytalla said happily, clapping her hands. “Your plan went perfectly!”

“It was rather stupendous, wasn’t it?” Metokai placed both hands on her hips and thrust out her chest. “Valedor is in our pocket now.”

“Still… why a BUBBLE BATH?!” Nyze asked, shaking her head.

“To throw him off balance, serpent.” Metokai explained. “He was so astounded by the sight of the Demon Lord casually taking a bubble bath in the throne room that he gave away too much information too quickly. He played right into our hands.”

“I suppose. I still think you just wanted to see Psytalla naked.” Nyze said accusingly.

Metokai’s returning glare was very pot-kettle. “…No comment.”

Psytalla chortled. “The bubble bath was just the culmination of the plan, Nyze. That ‘secret’ report he was so proud of intercepting? We intentionally leaked it to the Whispers. It was a trap to bring their ‘covert’ surveillance into the open, with a juicy bit of intel they couldn’t resist acting on.”

“…SEROUSLY?! You were playing him all along?!” Nyze exclaimed.

“Of course. We countered his scheme flawlessly.”

“Ugh,” Nyze groaned. “Demon politics are so confusing. I can’t keep up.”

Psytalla smiled indulgently as she explained. “The Whispers have been a thorn in my side for decades, and now I have them in my camp instead. And the pertinent details of the report are still only known to the people in this room.”

Metokai spoke up. “By collating the intelligence you three had on our defenses with checkpoint travel records, I identified the spy who infiltrated the Realm five years ago as a female elf named Valex Argenta… likely a disguise employed by a human skilled in illusion magic, probably a ninja. I have their physical description and everything, which has been passed along to the border guards. In all likelihood, ‘Valex’ will be visiting the Realm again soon, at which point we mean to capture them.”

Nyze was impressed. “…Damn. If you can already do that, what do you even need The Whispers for?”

“Busy work, mostly,” Metokai chuckled haughtily. “They might be skilled at their craft, but they’re no match for the High General of the Grand Unified Demonic Army. Now, serpent, I believe you and I have a covert operation to prepare for. I recall that you can use illusion magic?”

Nyze nodded. “I can glamour myself to look completely human. My disguise was good enough to fool Diarn.”

“And how long can you maintain the disguise for?”

“…Around an hour.” Nyze was a skilled mage, but illusion magic wasn’t her specialty.

Metokai shook her head. “Oh no, that won’t do at all. I can keep up a glamour for six hours. We need to get you to that level before we set forth.”

Nyze groaned; this sounded like trouble with a capital T. “I’m afraid to ask, but… how?”

Metokai grinned evilly. “It’s time for a crash course in demonic magic. Come, serpent, we’re hitting the books. Prepare yourself! You and I won’t sleep a wink tonight!”

Psytalla did a double-take. “Skel almighty, Metokai. Phrasing!”

Frane blinked, and Ryl stifled a giggle. In perfect unison, Nyze and Metokai looked at Psytalla and tilted their heads. ““Huh?””

Psytalla shook her head, bewildered by the sudden display of obliviousness. “…Nevermind. Have fun, you two.”

******

On the northern fringe of the Burning Range, two harpy soldiers soared just beneath the clouds, scanning the landscape with their telescopic eyesight.

“Do you see them?” asked the larger one, her long hair fluttering behind her.

“Yeah,” responded the shorter one, who sported a butch haircut. “Two people. Elvenoid, by the looks of them. Might be actual elves.”

“Elves, coming from the direction of the Anti-Demon Wall? Seems unlikely.”

“We’d better check it out.”

The harpies folded their wings and dove downwards, arrowing towards the figures.

Bob and Rixu were about to receive some unexpected company.

I am channeling some real Star Wars prequels energy with all these politics and council meetings. Bwahahahaha!

My dear readers, I recently contributed a story to the Sappho's Spinning Wheel yuri anthology. It's a WLW re-imagining a classic legend, entitled Saint Georgina and the Dragon. Give it a read!

And of course, if you enjoy this story, please check out my other work Giant Robot Reincarnation?! sometime!

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