Chapter 96: A Future, Brightly
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It was raining today. Not a hard torrent, but a gentle, damp drizzle from a pale gray sky. Light rain wasn’t the most thematic weather for a victory of sorts, but somewhat fitting for all those who lost someone dear today.

In a way, I’d set a claw on my most pressing goal: become accepted in society without having to hide what I am. I sure didn’t feel better for it. If anything, I felt worse. My mind replayed the last week over and over again. I couldn’t fault us for staying put instead of moving against Garvin sooner—we had the barest threads of suspicion and everything to lose. Still, I had a hard time pulling my mind from the past: just what could we have done to prevent tragedy?

Haze-like, I walked alongside Seyari to our new property in Lockmoth. What will we do with it?

My claws clacked on the bumpy paving stones with each footfall. Some of the few people who saw us startled. Whether it was rumor or the odd normalcy of my clothing (sans shoes) and gait—and the way I no doubt seemed absorbed in my melancholy—no one screamed. No one ran away either, at least no one that I saw with my limited attention. If they noticed Seyari’s silver hair and golden eyes, either my girlfriend’s angelic appearance dissuaded them from more extreme reactions, or they didn’t pay it any mind. I imagined it was difficult to stand out next to the more than two-meter-tall bright crimson demon.

My thoughts drifted to and fixated on the property. Something about the thought of settling down appealed to me. Not yet, though. Why?

I listed things off in my mind: I didn’t really have acceptance yet—more like forced tolerance. Mordwell, Finley, and whatever atrocities their cult was up to were still at large. And then there was Kartania.

Tania, my younger sister. She was… somewhere. I had to trust she was safe, and I did. The cold gaze she had shown me told me much about her resolve. Tania wouldn’t break—we both had demons (heh) to chase.

Seyari tugged on my hand and I stumbled a step, almost pulling her over.

“We’re here,” she said.

Oh. “Sorry—I’ve been doing this a lot lately.” I scratched at a horn. “Thinking too much, that is.” I looked at the heavy door in front of us. Up above loomed two more floors of shuttered windows with empty planter boxes. A head-high stone fence to one side suggested a garden out back.

Seyari gazed at me for a few moments before she shook her head and smiled tiredly. “No. Next time it’s my turn, and you pull me along the street instead.”

“Sure.” I smiled back, fighting my way out of the mood I’d fallen into. One clawed hand fished around in the pocket of my hastily improvised tunic and pulled out the key. I unlocked the door and held it open for Seyari. The inside of the old home smelled damp and dusty.

With a fake sigh, she strode in ahead of me and I followed her in, ducking slightly and closing the door with my tail. There were a few pieces of old furniture, some covered in sheets, in the sitting room we could see to the side. Quietly, we checked all the rooms while I stayed drawn into my thoughts. I imagined Seyari was likewise drawn into her own. Dimly, I recognized the value of this gift I’d been given. The place I now owned was, in reality, a small mansion. The servant’s quarters attested to that, as did the overlarge size. I found myself equal parts impressed and put off.

I wondered why Lord Phelian hadn’t seen me personally to bestow such value. But it was probably the same reason I didn’t get any petty titles or favors from him: I was a demon. He was taking a risk by associating with me at all. And at the end of the day, what I’d been given was something he could write off as a necessary, impersonal gift if I were to turn coat against him, his city, or Ordia at large. Frustrating, but I’d do the same in his position.

That last thought struck me. Since when did I think like that? Perhaps I was wearing more of the mantle of a sovereign demon than I had thought.

The two of us moved to the top floor. Only one bedroom had a bed in it—a four-poster monstrosity lacking a mattress. I pulled the shutters open and sat down on the bed, looking through the dirty window and out over the rooftops of Lockmoth. The sea was hidden by mist, but I could see the edge of the crater where I’d fought the demon. That monstrosity had been a reaver—it had to have been. Its aura had made sense for that sort of being: a bunch of immiscible dots angrily pushing at each other.

Seyari closed the door and sat down next to me. She huffed, and then popped up onto my lap instead. Out of pure surprise, I let out an “oof” followed by a surprised giggle. Seyari responded by grabbing my lower hands and wrapping them about her midsection. She leaned back, head between my breasts. “I was so worried, Renna.” Seyari’s voice shook as she spoke. “You were healing so slowly and I couldn’t help at all. I knew you weren’t going to die, but I couldn’t stop thinking you would.”

“I… I’m glad I didn’t die.” I scrambled for something to assuage her. “I’m sorry, Sey. I’ll try to be more careful.”

“No.” Seyari gripped my hand tightly. “You don’t have anything to apologize for. You did the right thing.”


“I’m just complaining… fuck.” She picked her head up and slammed it back against me—I hardly felt it. “I’m selfish. Now that I have you I—I just can’t lose you.”

I put my other arms over her shoulders and leaned forward to nuzzle her hair with my chin. “I don’t think I have the words I need right now.” I hummed and took a deep breath. “But I’ll try. You were the first person in this new life to see me for me. You were the first person to comfort me—the first shoulder I could cry on. I love you Seyari—and if anyone wants to break us apart I’ll use every ounce of my power and then some to stop them.”

“Renna?” The word echoed. Seyari looked up at me and I shifted a leg so she could turn and face me at eye level. Her golden eyes were tearing up.

“Seyari.” I smiled back at her.

“I don’t know—I don’t know that I can—” Seyari’s voice stuttered and echoed around the empty room.

I stared as deep as I could into the shining depths of her eyes. “Only if you want to.”

For a long, breath-hitching moment, Seyari’s gaze met my own. Then, she broke it, closing her eyes and drawing in a breath of her own. “Fuck. I love you too, Renna. Thirty-four years and you’re the first person I’ve told anything to who looked beyond my past. You’re kind and sweet and caring; you’re equally empathic and dense as a rock and I love everything about you—from your horns to the tip of your tail.”

I hugged her with all my arms and she hugged back, tears starting to fall. She hiccupped and kept going. “I guess I was still worried I’d wake up and you’d be gone. Until you got so hurt this last time—and I realized finally that you’d never do that. And then, just like I know you do, I got in my head about it: death and endings. How does this all end?”

“One of us dies—or the other.”

Seyari stiffened. “Shit.” She laughed and hiccupped again. “That has to be it, right? Dumb as it is.”

“Doesn’t mean it has to be any time soon.” I leaned forward and rested my forehead on hers. Well, the bases of my horns—but close enough.

Seyari pulled tighter. “I damn well hope it’s a long time from now.”

“Me too.”

“What about after we kill Mordwell and Finley?” Seyari asked suddenly.

“I’m thinking a small farm on the edge of a city. Linthel maybe,” I answered honestly.

“Settle down? Just like that?” Her breath was warm against my lips.

“Maybe not. We could always see the world. Not like we have to worry about bandits or pirates.”

“Hmm.” Seyari nuzzled her nose against mine. “I think I’d like either option.”

“We have some time to decide.” I breathed hotter and closer to her lips.

She pushed forward and her lips met mine. We kissed deeply, until Seyari, having lost the duel of the tongues again (long forked tongues were unfair), pulled back for air.

My half-angel girlfriend breathed heavily, face flush and glowing eyes wet. “Tell no one I acted like this.”

I smiled cheekily. “I want to—but okay.”

“Thanks.” Seyari giggled. “I have an image to maintain.”

I smiled back. “Me too.”

“Think this bed is going to break?”

Now it was my turn to flush red. “Uh, well it doesn’t have a—”

“Doesn’t need a mattress.”

I nodded frantically, “But I don’t want to break—”

“That means you’re on the bottom then, Renna.” Seyari smiled lasciviously.

Instead of a response, I tossed both of us onto the bed and rolled over so Seyari was on top. “You get to do all the work then, Sey.”

Seyari smiled back and practically tore my top off me.


We were contemplating a third round when a knock at our front door echoed up to the room. We scrambled to get dressed and I stumbled downstairs first. I straightened my hair with my claws and opened the door.

A young woman I didn’t recognize was on the other side, dressed modestly. She handed me a small package. “A gift, miss.” If she cared I was a demon, she gave no reaction.

Numbly, I took the wrapped parcel. The woman nodded and departed quickly. In my state, I didn’t dare go after her to get a name. Instead, I shut the door and walked back inside, frowning at the package.

“What was that about?” Seyari asked from the top of the stairs.

“A package,” I replied, turning the brown-wrapped parcel over. It was tied with string and bore no marks.

Seyari frowned and took the steps down two at a time to meet me. “Let me see that.” She gazed it at with glowing eyes. “Well, the whole thing isn’t enchanted—but I obviously can’t see inside.”

“Who do you think could have sent it?” I asked. “The woman who gave it to me gave no name and there’s nothing written on it.”

Seyari shook it gently. “Beats me. You can open it, I guess. Not like whatever’s in there could do much to you.”

I hadn’t even considered it might be dangerous. “Gee, thanks for being so optimistic.” I teased. “You want to go stand in a different room or something?”

“You know damn well it could be dangerous.”

Could be. Probably isn’t.”

I looped one finger around the string and pulled it undone. Carefully, I unwrapped a small, simple-looking wooden box. I took the lid off. Inside was a spearhead, polished and nearly new-looking. My spearhead! But how? Below it was a slip of paper with flowing handwriting visible on it.

I read the slip of paper aloud. “Three parts flour to one part butter. For every part flour, one whole egg.”

Seyari blinked rapidly and shook her head. “What?”

I skipped down and read to the bottom of the slip. “It’s a recipe for tea cakes.”

Seyari’s hanging jaw drew up into a smile. Then a snicker, then a full-blown laugh. I giggled along with her. The two of us surely made quite the sight standing half-dressed and smelling of sex in the empty, dusty front hall of our newly granted estate. When the giggles died down, Seyari was the first to speak.

“Lilly?” she asked, clearly knowing the answer already.

“It has to be,” I frowned. “How did she know I’d meant to get the tea cake recipe from her—not that I’m complaining. I’m happy to have it and the spearhead back too.”

“How did she know? Do you know how many of those you put away? Really, I’m surprised your abs still had any definition when you left.”

I ran a hand down my abdomen, feeling my dense muscles. “It wasn’t that many, was it?”

“It was.”

I blushed. “Well, I’m a big girl!”

“You are.”

“And I cheat because I’m a demon.”

“You do.”

“Can I get out of this?”


“Will you tell the others?”

“I’ll ask Salvador to make a batch.”

We stared at each other. Hesitantly, I handed her the recipe. “…Acceptable, but be careful; I haven’t memorized this yet.”

Seyari laughed. “You should see your face!”

“I know full well the expression I’m making.”

“Gods forbid the Sovereign of Wrath doesn’t get her tea cakes.”

I placed all four hands on my hips. “Damn right.”

Another round of laughing was punctuated by a grumble from Seyari’s stomach.

“Haven’t you eaten?” I asked.

Seyari shrugged. “Stayed up all night watching you. How the fuck are you not hungry?”

Now it was my turn to shrug. “I am a little, I guess. I ate all the anger back at the meeting though.”

“You ate it?”

“Yeah. Tasted great, actually. I usually don’t talk about that because I figure people will find it weird.” I wiggled the claws of a couple hands. “Because, y’know, it is weird.”

“Better than you getting off on it,” Seyari said with a smirk.

I furrowed my brows and blushed. “Where did that come from?”

She shrugged, clearly copying my own shrugs, minus some arms. “Coping mechanism.”

“That’s my line!” I pouted. “So, do you want to go to the company for lunch? We need to check in with the others. I really want to talk to Taava and see how she’s doing in particular.”

“Sure,” Seyari replied. “Before we leave to head south, though, I’m taking you out to a nice dinner.”

“Aww, thanks! I don’t have to look human either, do I?”

Seyari wrapped an arm around my waist and smiled wickedly. “Fuck no—I want to see the looks on their faces.”

I snorted trying to suppress my laughter. After a short bit of cleaning upstairs, Seyari and I locked the doors and left the estate. Together, and in a much brighter mood despite the recent tragedy, Seyari and started to walk through the thinning rain to the Gelles Company branch. No point in staying the night at a house without a proper bed.

Along the way, a little worry I had in the back of my mind bloomed into being. I looked over and down at Seyari, eyes glancing to the hand she held mine with. “Priest Herron didn’t know about the old you.”

Seyari nodded. “He didn’t. I thought about it a lot while you were asleep.” She glanced around, frowning at the people watching us. With a flick of her wrist, she summoned a breeze around us that would silence our voices from eavesdroppers. “Mordwell must not have told anyone, but I couldn’t figure out why.”

“Maybe he’s trying to save face? Didn’t he keep you a secret from most people he worked with, too? When we ran into Lorelei and Markus in Baetnal, only Lorelei seemed to know about your old life.” My tail tip twitched nervously as I speculated.

Seyari shook her head. “You’re right that he didn’t tell people—at least not until the ambush. But he wouldn’t do that to save face. We walked right into whatever plan he had, and Mordwell always has backup plans. Even if he meant for us to die to that ambush and not the other way around, he would have it covered.”

I sidestepped a puddle, noting that the bubble of space my countenance afforded us was shrinking as we neared the company building. “So why keep it a secret still? He could have the whole church after us.”

“That’s what bothers me. Do you remember what was said about the inquisition during your questioning earlier?” Seyari steered us to a side street, changing our route to a longer one.

I rubbed my chin and cocked my head to one side as I thought. “No. That meeting, until the conversation with Inva, is mostly a blur. I was pretty out of it, and scared to boot.”

“Priest Herron said the Inquisition was ‘occupied.’ I know you noticed because you shot me a glance.”

I stopped walking and smacked my forehead between my horns. “Yeah, I remember now. Today’s just been… a lot.”

Seyari surprised me by pulling me into a side hug. “Yeah, it has. But what I think is going on is that Mordwell is making a move somewhere else.”

A chill washed over me, from my horns to my tail tip. The big limb stood out straight behind me for a moment before I pulled it back to its normal resting shape. “He doesn’t need us anymore. Whatever he’s doing—he doesn’t need to involve us.”

Seyari swore and the winds whirled wild before calming again. I felt her fury, bright and righteous. “He should be just as obsessed with me as I am with him. Whatever he’s doing must be close to his endgame then, and we don’t even know where he is or what kind of horrible power he’ll try to claim!” Her voice rose in volume as she spoke, the noise carrying through her wind even as her words were jumbled.

Shit. Think. Think! “We should head south like we’ve already planned,” I started slowly. “Find my sister early, if we can. She wanted to meet me in Linthel, so she thinks she’ll be headed south on Mordwell’s tail.”

Seyari groaned. “That’s a flimsy reason.”

“Do you have anything better?” I said as kindly as I could.

“Fuck.” Seyari slumped. “No—I don’t.”

“Then we stay the course until Linthel, try to find my sister, and find Mordell before he manages to finish whatever he’s planning.”

Seyari nodded, and steered us back toward the company building. We walked in silence for a moment, before she looked up at me. “Sure thing, boss,” she said cheekily, forcing some levity into her exhausted voice.

“Hey!” I pouted.

Seyari barked a short laugh. “Let’s go get lunch.”

My frown flipped back into a smile. “Fine, you’re forgiven. But I’m getting a triple portion this time!”

“I thought you said you weren’t hungry!”

“I lied,” I lied.

“No, you didn’t.” Seyari released her wind as the company building came into view ahead of us.

She had me there, so I relented. “Okay, maybe just a double portion.”

One part coziness, one part "uh-oh conspiracy!"

"'l lied,' I lied" is unironically one of my favorite lines I've written.

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