21: The Road Home
Andrea awoke; she was still alive but in a lot of pain. The pain was in her muscles; they had been controlled to such a fine precision they ached, some had become strained under Katalina’s control. Andrea looked up; she looked for her dagger; Bloodfang was nearby. The wagons were still moving; dusk would be coming soon. The group had moved away from the vault and back to the forest. She noticed that she was still in her true form, the demonic succubus. She remembers the group was about a three-day ride from Cormanworth, a day and a half flight, she figured. She was hungry still, had only fed enough life essence out of her master to satisfy the need of the moment. She will not make it back to Cormanworth before she becomes feral again.
Wiping her brow, she climbed into the seat next to Oliver, “Master, I am going to have to leave. Make sure you pay the guild out of the treasure haul. They earned it; I pay my debts. I went as far as gathering several extra gems, pass those out, and a bonus; it is important. I got what I came for.” She looked at him. “If I stay here, I am going to break the promise to you about harming the guild. I am gonna fly as far as I can in the opposite direction. This should get you a head start. I figure you can summon me back into the Devil Trap cage when you get back to Cormanworth. But if I stay now, I will break the promises I want to keep.”
Oliver turned his head to face hers, “That’s something like I had planned; I know you won’t feed on anybody here willingly; they will not submit to being fed on by a demon as well. I will take care of my duties on my end. Ka'Azalin”. Oliver said. Oliver was keeping face with the goddess's demands about the name in public.
She looked to the south, "There's a small village, to the north just before the swamps. I have a good chance to find what I need there; if anybody asks, that's where I have gone."
The wagon caravan came to a stop; the sun sphere would be setting soon. The group started setting up camp for the night.
Andrea gathered herself; she had got something special for Charmeine from the vault. A small silver winged choker with a green emerald in the center. Andrea had returned to her human form,
Charmeine clutched his spear as Andrea approached. "Hi," she studied his body; the priests had already healed up his wounds. "I got this out of the vault for you." She blushed as she presented the small gift to him, "The feathers reminded me of you."
Charmeine did not take it, "No, I know what you are now. I can't take the gift."
Andrea's eyes, slanted, her brows lowered. Her heart sank as she pulled back her hand. Andrea's voice quivered, "Charmeine. I am the same person you have known; the only thing different is you all know the rest of the story. I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid of how you might react. Even a god needs love. Sometimes you have to fight for it."
Charmeine did not say a word. Antonio stood up and took a supportive stance behind him.
Andrea dropped the choker to the ground and walked back to their wagon. She wiped a tear from her eye. Oliver could see she was upset.
Antonio patted his shoulder, "You did the right thing; accepting a gift from a Demon Lord is one way to have your soul torn asunder. Toluene would be proud of you. Bhuul sure is. Besides, you made a Demon Lord cry." He watched the Demon Lord walk back to her wagon. The Demon Lord is weak; she displays such weakness in public.
Oliver felt a bit of joy as he realized Charmeine had rejected her. He also felt bad at the same time; he had to become jealous of the feathery half-celestial. Now he did not have to worry about that.
Andrea climbed up on the wagon, pulsed her power to attract the attention of the camp. All eyes turned toward her, “Attention, fellow members of the Grindhouse Guild. I am the Demon Sorceress KaAzalin. I am the Hand of the Goddess of the Pit. I wish to thank you for your endeavors. Master Martin has your payment as agreed on with the terms of the contract. I also ensure you will have a bonus as well. You fought bravely and honorably for that. I wish to thank you. I may or may not see you after tonight; I want to say thank you for allowing me in your company for as long as it lasted.”
“Goodnight master, I hope to see you soon. I got an issue Katalina warned me about, and I have to deal with it independently. This is something you can’t help me with, if I don’t make it back, I want to thank you. You were kind to me. You are my anchor. Just remember, no matter how hard I play or with what I play with, you are my first.” Andrea looked at Charmeine; he was staring back; his eyes were cold. She left most of her gear here; she took Bloodfang; she extended her wings, crouched and leaped skyward. She had enough rest after the goddess left her. Andreas muscles ached, tolerable but ached; she would need a few more hours of rest; her body was repairing itself; this also consumed more of her own infernal life essence, making her even more hungry.
An hour or so later, Charmeine finally got the courage to come to Master Martin. He stood there for a moment. Oliver studied him for a moment; he was troubled. “Yes?” Oliver asked.
“Where did the KaAzalin go?”, Charmeine demanded.
“She left us, she wants to keep a promise she made, the battle left her weak, she was going to go hunt. She does not want to hunt the guild. She values us. She is heading toward the swamps to the north, away from us. If she does not find food, she will become a ravenous feral, killing anything near her.”
Charmeine's eyes narrowed, “There is a small fishing village near the swaps. You will let her go and murder the defenseless people?”
“We murder people all the time, and you hunted the bandits and brigands of this area, well all have. We got paid for it. It’s not much different. We do it because the law allows us to remember she is a god. They do as they please.” Master Martin commented. “If you think you can go stop her, be my guest. I won’t interfere. You know what a Hand of God is. If you think you can best her, go for it. She is a demon; your spear can kill her, do that. She’s the Hand of a God wearing a succubus suit, who also knows a fair bit of magic. Go. I myself am terrified of her, but she is unlike any demon I know; she still has a soul, that’s why you heard that little departure speech of hers. I warn you to let her be; she is not what you think. Charmeine, I will also warn you again, you rejected her advances, which I think she felt in earnest about you; she protects those she cares about.”
Charmeine shook his head, “I can’t stand by and watch that creature run loose; my family honor won’t allow it. My God won’t allow it. The Ka'Azalin is a plague on the world and must be destroyed. How can you not see this? I will do what none of you will even try. Cowards all of you.” Charmeine was bursting with pride.
“Are you sure your god won’t allow it?” Oliver added.
Charmeine extended his light blue feathery wings and lifted himself into the sky, going northward to the swamps. His spear, Testament, was aglow with light.
Clara walked over and sat down on a log next to Master Martin, “That was a setup. Ka'Azalin is hunting Charmeine.”
“You are noticing that. You are good at reading people.” Oliver responded.
“No, I know, Ka'Azalin. Charmeine has been glaring at her all this time after leaving the vault. Out of everybody here, he’s the one most likely to try anything foolish. She knew he would hunt her. She left to draw him out. This is like that thief, is it not?” she asked.
“No, much worse. She likes him, and now she is going to have to kill something she likes. She still was going to have to go; her hunger is growing. She refuses to feed on us. They are going to have to fight this out to resolve this issue. One of the two will win. He’s a better melee fighter in close-quarter fighting, Andrea is a magic caster which deals with ranged attacks. They both have divine blood. This is almost a fair fight. She is a demon, after all. His end will be horrible and slow. He will not submit.” Oliver almost felt sorry for Charmeine.