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Adventure! RPG: Dark Tidings - [Fiction] Underworld

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Mother

Daddy's special experiment was over, so Daphne began to hum to herself, still watching the movie-man. Then her father started to talk to him, which was even more interesting. Slipping off her chair, she edged closer to the movie-man and his sword. She wished she had a sword.

For a moment, Daphne does; it appears in her hand invisible to the adults because it's magic. It's long and pretty, with a pink hilt and butterflies etched on the steel. Grinning, she executed a couple of quick thrusts, making the noises of her vanquished foes in a whisper. The adults couldn't see them either, because... well, that didn't matter. All that mattered was that only Daphne could save the day!

Then another shiny caught her eye, and the sword and the enemies were forgotten. She edged closer to the swirling vortex, sneaking around a bit. She had to sneak everywhere; Daddy didn't think she was old enough for some of books she liked to read. Some of the she couldn't read, but the pictures were always interesting. Some were scary, full of scary things, but Daphne was brave; she knew that things in books wouldn't hurt you.

Daphne took another quick look around. The Indian lady was messing with her knife, which after the sword just wasn't very impressive. Daddy was still talking with the movie man. Everyone else was messing with books or empty cages. Pleased at tricking the adults again, Daphne edged closer to the vortex.

A familiar whisper reached her ears, and the girl froze for a second, unsure she'd really heard her mother's voice. She crept closer still and the orange light from the portal fell on her, its flickering aura drawing her like a moth to flame. She peered in, squinting - and then she saw her.

Emma Walton had been dead for a few months, but it wasn't long enough. Daphne had missed her mother terribly, and when she saw her just on the other side of the vortex. Without thought, she squealed, "Mommy!" and jumped into a portal to hell.

She landed on loose rock and scree and let out a childish yelp as she fell to her knees. "Ow," she lamented as she examined the scrape.

"Daphne!" The voice jerked her head up, as the child saw her mother running toward her. But her mother's face wasn't welcoming; it was afraid. "Run!" Behind her mother were monsters, like from Daddy's book. For a second, the girl was frozen; then she bolted.

Terrified, she ran mindless, losing sight of the vortex in seconds. She was in a twisting maze of valleys and cliffs that rose in ugly, ragged formations around her. She ran as hard as she could, like she was chasing butterflies at home, but this was nothing like that.

"Daphne! Here!" her mother shouted from the left, and Daphne unerringly changed course, running straight to her mother. She was standing next to a small black hole in the ragged cliff, pointing. "Hide in here!"

Daphne crouched by the entrance and peered in. She was scared of the monsters coming, but she was just as scared of the dark, dark hole. "Mommy..."

"It's safe, just go! Go!" her mother screamed at her; with a sob, Daphne crawled into the darkness. The cave was small and dry, with a small dead-end at the back. The little girl curled up at end of her little cave, whimpering to herself. After a moment, when nothing came after her, she started to cry.

Eventually, her mother crawled in, moving in easily despite the fact that most adults would have gotten stuck. "Oh, my baby," she murmured, pulling Daphne to her. Daphne didn't care that her skin was cold; she cuddled against her mother, wrapping her arms around her.

"I wanna go home, Mommy," Daphne moaned on her mother's shoulder.

"I know," Emma whispered into her hair. "And someday, I'll get you back. I promise." Daphne's stomach growled as it twisted with hunger. "First, though, some food."

Emma went first, stepping out to make sure that there were no monster waiting. When she was sure it was clear, she waved Daphne out and took her by her cold, cold hand.

For the first time, Daphne had the opportunity to see where she was. It was an ugly place, with a red sky and pillars of flame. It was hot, and Daphne choked on the smells in the air. Her mother lead her to another cave, hidden high in the rocks. "Never lead a daemon here, honey. This is our safe place."

"Ok, Mommy," Daphne said, feeling the seriousness of the moment deeply impress itself into her.

"Now, let's get some food," Emma said, leading her outside. There, the two turned over rocks until they found bugs, horrid, crawling thing. "I know this isn't pretty, but you have to eat, ok?"

"No!" Daphne protested, backing away.

"Honey, please," Emma sighed, holding a writhing beetle firmly in her fingers.

"No! I want rolls!" Daphne shouted, tears welling up in her eyes.

Emma thought for a bit and nodded. "Ok, we'll try something new." She took Daphne back to the cave and left her there, promising to return. After she'd convinced her daughter to stay, she found a small, hard-shelled daemon, killed it, and butchered it. Then she returned to the cave, built a fire and made a soup in the shell.

"That smells funny, Mommy," Daphne observed.

"But it's good soup. Just promise me you'll try it," Emma said.

Daphne protested, but eventually hunger won. As she eagerly ate the soup, her dead mother watched her with cold, cold eyes.

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Sick

The fever came soon after eating. Daphne felt steadily worse as the day dragged on, shivering and making noises of pain. Emma scouted around and found some soft things to sleep on; they smelled funny, but no worse than this whole place did. Fitfully, shivering and sweating, Daphne suffered.

Emma was terrified. She wasn't sure that her baby could survive the atmosphere here, that just being here might kill her. She racked her brain, trying to figure out what to do to save her daughter. There was only one thing, really. Only one, and Emma felt the stomach she didn't have anymore twist with anxiety.

She looked at her restlessly sleeping daughter. Reaching out, she pressed her hand to her daughter's forehead; it was hot, so hot. Part of that was because Emma was dead, and her body didn't put off heat. But part of that was simply because her daughter was burning with fever.

Emma curled her fingers around her daughter's wrist and felt for a pulse. It was slower and weaker, and she knew without a doubt that her child was dying. Only two things thrived in Hell: the dead and the damned. Daphne was neither, though she might become the dead, if Emma didn't act.

She picked up her daughter and stood easily, her dead body functioning perfectly. It was just a reflection of her living body, a shell to take up space in this world and give her a set boundary. Moving quickly, she ducked out of the cave and hurried down the rough path, heading toward a particular trail. It was dangerous for a shade to enter a daemon city, but Emma didn't care. She'd thought she'd lost her child forever, that night when she'd had her vision; she wasn't letting her go now.

Entering the city was frentic and nerve-wracking. Emma dodged daemon patrols and groups of civilian daemons, all on their bizarre and esoteric business. She had to hide, holding Daphne close and hoping that she didn't cough or sneeze at the wrong time. But Daphne was still and silent - far too silent.

At last, the last dash across an open area was behind her, and Emma leaned against the wall of the brick and mortor house while rapping on the thin wooden door. After a moment, the door opened with no visible hand or person handling it. This was expected, but Emma still shivered nervously as she clutched her daughter and stepped inside.

The daemon in the room made a gesture; it was both an invitation to sit and a magical motion that caused the door to swing shut. Emma choose to stand, waiting for the daemon to speak to her.

"What do you want, shade?" it asked, speaking the One Tongue. Emma could understand it because she was a damned shade. The daemon turned its horned head to look at her with black, shiny eyes as it waited for her answer. Like most daemons, it didn't have a gender; only a few daemons did, mostly those that needed to have one. Still, it looked more masculine than feminine, if such human labels could be applied to such an inhuman creature.

"My daughter," Emma said in One Tongue, her voice trembling. "She's dying."

That brought the daemon's head up and it stomped across the room. It grasped the skin Emma had wrapped her in and flipped the edge back, staring at her. "She's alive," it said, wonder in its voice. "A living child." Its mouth twisted a moment later. "And too young to be anything other than innocent."

"You could save her life," Emma said softly. "She could stay here, and live..."

"Uninterested," the daemon stated. "Too much innocence is useless to me."

Emma grasped at straws. She felt dirty, even as she said it, but she was desperate that her daughter live. "She won't be innocent if she stays here long."

The daemon turned back, its face speculative. "That is the truth," it said, nodding. "When she is a bit older, she could be of use to me."

She won't be here anymore, Emma thought fiercely, keeping her eyes down. She'll be gone by the time you could 'use' her.

"On to the price, then," the daemon said, rubbing its hands together. The small tentacles that hung from the underside of its arm swayed gently with the movement.

Emma took a deep breath and said, "You can have my soul."

The daemon laughed, an annoying braying noise that pierced the auditory nerves like a sharp stick. "Your soul is that of a damned shade, a suicide. It's of no great value to me; I can get a hundred like you by kicking over rocks."

Emma felt cold panic rising. Souls were the only commidity worth anything in Hell. "Can I do a service for you?" she asked.

"The only thing of value you have is the child's soul," the daemon said, its black lips twisting into a oh-so-reasonable smile.

Emma clutched her child to her, thinking hard. There was a trap here; there always was, with a daemon. If she did the unthinkable, if she let her daughter die, then would her innocent soul find her way to heaven? Or would it be trapped here? But if she gave her to the daemon, she'd damn her daughter.

But daemons didn't just take a whole soul; they'd take pieces. Daphne would survive, and she'd have a chance escaping Hell and at redemption. "Only part," she whispered. "Just a part of it."

The daemon grimaced, flashing blood-stained teeth. "Half," he grumbled.

"An eighth," Emma countered.

The daemon actually rolled its eyes. "Please. That's not worth my time. A third."

"A quarter," Emma said, her body starting to shake with self-revulsion. She was doing the best she could, but she was still felt awful. She couldn't let her baby down again.

"Done!" the daemon said, smiling. "If you wuoldn't mind...?"

Emma nodded. "You heal Daphne and take ownership of a quarter of her soul. We bind our words with the penalty of core of Daphne's spirit," she said, her voice thick with shame and love.

"I will heal the child and do accept and claim a quarter of her spirit. We bind our words with the penalty of the core of my spirit," the daemon echoed, smiling.

"Now, fix her. Please." Emma held out her daughter to the daemon.

It reached out its arm and held it over the girl's mouth. A long, brown nail sank into its skin, piercing its skin. But blood didn't come out; instead a black miasma leeched from the wound. The daemon guided the thick smoke into her mouth and let her drink it. Daphne took it, but with gasps and coughs, choking on whatever she was being fed. After a moment, it stopped the flow of the miasma and stepped away. "There. She should get better and thrive."

Emma nodded. She didn't thank the daemon; it implied that you were in it's debt, which was a bad place to be. And there weren't words for it in the language, anyway. "You've done your part."

It nodded. "Now, I have other things to tend to. Depart."

Emma scuttled out, beginning the arduous return to her cave. She hoped she'd made the right decision. She'd given her daughter a chance to survive.

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Sick

The fever came soon after eating. Daphne felt steadily worse as the day dragged on, shivering and making noises of pain. Emma scouted around and found some soft things to sleep on; they smelled funny, but no worse than this whole place did. Fitfully, shivering and sweating, Daphne suffered.

Emma was terrified. She wasn't sure that her baby could survive the atmosphere here, that just being here might kill her. She racked her brain, trying to figure out what to do to save her daughter. There was only one thing, really. Only one, and Emma felt the stomach she didn't have anymore twist with anxiety.

She looked at her restlessly sleeping daughter. Reaching out, she pressed her hand to her daughter's forehead; it was hot, so hot. Part of that was because Emma was dead, and her body didn't put off heat. But part of that was simply because her daughter was burning with fever.

Emma curled her fingers around her daughter's wrist and felt for a pulse. It was slower and weaker, and she knew without a doubt that her child was dying. Only two things thrived in Hell: the dead and the damned. Daphne was neither, though she might become the dead, if Emma didn't act.

She picked up her daughter and stood easily, her dead body functioning perfectly. It was just a reflection of her living body, a shell to take up space in this world and give her a set boundary. Moving quickly, she ducked out of the cave and hurried down the rough path, heading toward a particular trail. It was dangerous for a shade to enter a daemon city, but Emma didn't care. She'd thought she'd lost her child forever, that night when she'd had her vision; she wasn't letting her go now.

Entering the city was frentic and nerve-wracking. Emma dodged daemon patrols and groups of civilian daemons, all on their bizarre and esoteric business. She had to hide, holding Daphne close and hoping that she didn't cough or sneeze at the wrong time. But Daphne was still and silent - far too silent.

At last, the last dash across an open area was behind her, and Emma leaned against the wall of the brick and mortor house while rapping on the thin wooden door. After a moment, the door opened with no visible hand or person handling it. This was expected, but Emma still shivered nervously as she clutched her daughter and stepped inside.

The daemon in the room made a gesture; it was both an invitation to sit and a magical motion that caused the door to swing shut. Emma choose to stand, waiting for the daemon to speak to her.

"What do you want, shade?" it asked, speaking the One Tongue. Emma could understand it because she was a damned shade. The daemon turned its horned head to look at her with black, shiny eyes as it waited for her answer. Like most daemons, it didn't have a gender; only a few daemons did, mostly those that needed to have one. Still, it looked more masculine than feminine, if such human labels could be applied to such an inhuman creature.

"My daughter," Emma said in One Tongue, her voice trembling. "She's dying."

That brought the daemon's head up and it stomped across the room. It grasped the skin Emma had wrapped her in and flipped the edge back, staring at her. "She's alive," it said, wonder in its voice. "A living child." Its mouth twisted a moment later. "And too young to be anything other than innocent."

"You could save her life," Emma said softly. "She could stay here, and live..."

"Uninterested," the daemon stated. "Too much innocence is useless to me."

Emma grasped at straws. She felt dirty, even as she said it, but she was desperate that her daughter live. "She won't be innocent if she stays here long."

The daemon turned back, its face speculative. "That is the truth," it said, nodding. "When she is a bit older, she could be of use to me."

She won't be here anymore, Emma thought fiercely, keeping her eyes down. She'll be gone by the time you could 'use' her.

"On to the price, then," the daemon said, rubbing its hands together. The small tentacles that hung from the underside of its arm swayed gently with the movement.

Emma took a deep breath and said, "You can have my soul."

The daemon laughed, an annoying braying noise that pierced the auditory nerves like a sharp stick. "Your soul is that of a damned shade, a suicide. It's of no great value to me; I can get a hundred like you by kicking over rocks."

Emma felt cold panic rising. Souls were the only commidity worth anything in Hell. "Can I do a service for you?" she asked.

"The only thing of value you have is the child's soul," the daemon said, its black lips twisting into a oh-so-reasonable smile.

Emma clutched her child to her, thinking hard. There was a trap here; there always was, with a daemon. If she did the unthinkable, if she let her daughter die, then would her innocent soul find her way to heaven? Or would it be trapped here? But if she gave her to the daemon, she'd damn her daughter.

But daemons didn't just take a whole soul; they'd take pieces. Daphne would survive, and she'd have a chance escaping Hell and at redemption. "Only part," she whispered. "Just a part of it."

The daemon grimaced, flashing blood-stained teeth. "Half," he grumbled.

"An eighth," Emma countered.

The daemon actually rolled its eyes. "Please. That's not worth my time. A third."

"A quarter," Emma said, her body starting to shake with self-revulsion. She was doing the best she could, but she was still felt awful. She couldn't let her baby down again.

"Done!" the daemon said, smiling. "If you wuoldn't mind...?"

Emma nodded. "You heal Daphne and take ownership of a quarter of her soul. We bind our words with the penalty of core of Daphne's spirit," she said, her voice thick with shame and love.

"I will heal the child and do accept and claim a quarter of her spirit. We bind our words with the penalty of the core of my spirit," the daemon echoed, smiling.

"Now, fix her. Please." Emma held out her daughter to the daemon.

It reached out its arm and held it over the girl's mouth. A long, brown nail sank into its skin, piercing its skin. But blood didn't come out; instead a black miasma leeched from the wound. The daemon guided the thick smoke into her mouth and let her drink it. Daphne took it, but with gasps and coughs, choking on whatever she was being fed. After a moment, it stopped the flow of the miasma and stepped away. "There. She should get better and thrive."

Emma nodded. She didn't thank the daemon; it implied that you were in it's debt, which was a bad place to be. And there weren't words for it in the language, anyway. "You've done your part."

It nodded. "Now, I have other things to tend to. Depart."

Emma scuttled out, beginning the arduous return to her cave. She hoped she'd made the right decision. She'd given her daughter a chance to survive.

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Angel

Hell was a land of the damned and the dead. The living and the holy had no place here and Emma knew that. That's why it was so hard to watch Daphne thrive here. Her only child bounced from rock to rock, avoiding the steaming hot mud that oozed through the land like a polluted river. Her daughter reached the far side and turned, waiting for her with a happy grin on her face. Emma smiled sadly - to see her daughter happy and healthy, yet to know the price for that well-being.

"Come on, Mommy! Hurry up!" Daphne called in One Tongue, waving for her. That was another problem - the ease with which Daphne had learned the daemon tongue, almost as if she had grown up with it. And then there was her daughter's physical abilities. In the last two years - roughly, it was always hard to tell here - Daphne had grown, but had experienced none of the clusminess that growing children displayed. It was unnatural. Logic led to the conclusion that ergo, Daphne was unnatural.

What else had the daemon done to her daughter? What changes had its foul essence forced on her? Emma worried as she worked her way over the rocks, with less care than Daphne had taken. Had she fallen into the scalding mud, it would have only hurt; Emma wasn't damaged by the environment here. Daphne could be, and Emma lived in fear of the day that her child would be injured beyond her ability to treat. Then what would she do? Sell another chunk of her child's soul?

Emma crossed the hot river, putting a hand on her daughter's bare shoulder before she scampered away again. Silently, Emma made a note to try to kill something with leathery skin, to cover her daughter with more than the scraps she'd found. But Daphne wasn't interested in running away. Instead, she was pointing into the distance. "What's that?"

Emma focused her eyes, finding distance to be no impediment to her vision. To her surprise, there was something bright and radiant, flying over Hell. It clearly didn't belong here; the very air reacted poorly to it, shivering and roiling as if heat were coming off the winged being. Her hand tightened on Daphne's shoulder as she realized what it was: an angel.

They were naturally rare in Hell, but messages sometimes were delivered here, and it was up to the angels to carry them back and forth. The daemons had a harder time getting into heaven than the angels into hell. But for today, that offered Emma something, too: hope.

"Daphne, run," Emma ordered, breaking into a sprint herself. She tried to pace herself; while she could go forever, Daphne couldn't. But they had limited time, because the angel wouldn't tarry. Thankfully, it wasn't that far to run, and they caught the angel as it was alighting on the ground near a tall, black gate.

The holy being was tall and proud, broad-shoulder and thick-bodied, yet it managed to seem feminine too - its features embraced both sexes of humanity, and it was easy to see the stamp of the same Maker as Adam and Eve. It cast a glowing nimbus that washed the color out of the hellish landscape for dozens of feet around it and made its golden armor seem brighter. That nimbus was most concentrated around its head, which formed a brilliant halo. Large wings of light rested folded against its back and a sheathed sword hung from its hip. An expression of distaste screwed its features into a grimace as it rapped on the black gate the back of its golden gauntlet.

"Excuse me," Emma said, fear for her daughter making her bold. "Sir? Mr. Angel?"

"What do you want, Shade?" the angel asked, not looking at her. Ask not for ___'S Mercy, for it is not granted to those who murder and die unredeemed. The unheard word echoed in Emma's ears, both painful and incomprehensable.

Emma swallowed hard, cursing her moment of weakness, when she'd taken too much vallum with the intention to end her life. Daphne hung back, hiding behind her, clearly afraid of the angel. Emma understood; she was afraid herself. "Please, my daughter is trapped here. Can you remove her? Take her home, to her father?" Emma pulled Daphne forward, enough that the angel could see her.

It bent low, golden hair falling from under its helmet to curl and bob in the hot, tepid air. With a hiss, it pulled itself back, hand going to its sword. Take that abomination from my presence. It is daemon-tainted.

"No, please," Emma begged, "that was my fault. I did it so she'd live, please you have-"

___ has turned His Face from you and your spawn, the angel bellowed, the sword igniting with a whoosh as he pulled it clean of its sheath. Begone! The sword flashed, faster than Emma could follow and pain, true pain racked her body. She felt herself collapse to the ground, holding her gut, where a real wound marred her incorporal flesh.

"Leave my mommy alone!" Daphne screamed, bending and snatching up a rock. Her throw was well done, aiming for the angel's head, a killing blow on the animals she hunted for. In a smooth move, the angel caught the rock and hurtled it back, hitting her exactly where she had tried to hit it. Daphne was saved from a shattered skull only because she was already bending for another rock, and the stone glanced off her head instead of directly hitting her. Daphne collapsed, stunned and senseless.

"No!" Emma cried as the angel advanced on her child. Desperately, she threw herself between and the sword cut through her again.

The black gate opened, revealing a greater daemon in the door. It looked on the scene with some amusement, while the angel turned from Emma and Daphne. "You knocked, What Has ___ Done?"

The angel grunted unhappily and turned back to Emma, who was gathering Daphne up in her arms, despite the pain. Do not allow me to see you or yours again, the angel ordered. Next time, I may be on business less urgent, and have time to remove that ill-gotten thing.

Emma watched until it disappeared into the gate, then began to limp home. They'd come out to try and hunt; Daphne needed to eat, but neither of them were up to it now. Staggering, Emma managed until she came back to the rocks. Slowly, shakily, she managed to get them across. But to get up to the cave, Emma had to drag Daphne, knowing she was hurting her but unable to leave her in the open, helpless and unconscious.

It took the last of the strength to get Daphne rolled onto her pallet. Weak and trembling, Emma looked down at herself to find she was leaking something from her cuts. She worked on them, but nothing stopped the 'bleeding.' She was discorporating, becoming a part of Hell as her body dissolved into the very atmosphere. It usually took longer for this to happen, but the angel must have damaged the very core of her being. Sagging, she flopped against a wall, unable to even move now. The last thing she saw was her daughter slowly stirring, coming around. At least she'll survive, Emma said, more from blind hope than any real conviction and then Emma was no more.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Daphne sat up, her head pounding. "Mommy?" she called, putting her hand to her head. It hurt real bad, but she was more scared because her mommy wasn't there. She called for a while, but quietly, because Mommy had told her it wasn't safe to be too loud. Finally, she decided that Mommy was out, getting something. Sometimes, she did that, and she'd always come back.

Sniffling a little as her head ached, Daphne sat on her pallet and patiently waited for her mother to return.

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Pet

Daphne was in trouble. She didn't know this for sure, but there was a nagging sense of danger that made her pause in her foraging for demonic grubs. After a moment, she crab-walked forward, reaching for the next rock. After all, she only had so long until dark, and she was hungry.

There was no warning. Whatever it was could cloak itself; it jumped her from less than ten feet away. Daphne was knocked onto her hands and knees from behind, bruising her hand on the rock she'd been flipping over. Something sharp tore into her and the girl cried out as her back was ravaged. But she still had the presence of mind to stab blindly behind her with the pointed stick she'd been using to hunt grubs.

She heard something squall and run away. She'd chased whatever it was away, but the damage had been done. The girl was badly hurt.

Whimpering, Daphne sat on the rock and started to cry. She'd held together pretty well for the last few days without her mother, but now the little girl gave into panicked, pained sobs. She was crying so hard that she didn't hear the voices until they were right on top of her, and by then it was too late.

"... then she said that priests really do taste best, and I had to inform her that choir boys- what's that?"

Daphne looked up through thick tears to see two women bending over her. After she blinked a couple of times and cleared her eyes, she realized that they weren't women but demons of some kind. Small horns adorning their foreheads, large bat wings, barbed tail and goat pupils were the only demonic marks on them. They were otherwise human, though dressed in far less clothing than Daphne had ever seen on a woman before. The one of the left wore only a strip of cloth across her ample breasts and a loincloth; the one on the right was wearing a corset and incredibly skimpy underwear - most of her thighs were visible!

"It's a human, Grikla" the one wearing the corset said, bending over a little to take another look. Her short, dark hair flopped into her eyes, and she lifted a pale-skinned hand to brush it back behind her black horns. "A baby human."

"I thought babies were smaller," Grikla said, tilting her head and sending long, honey-blonde tumbling over tanned shoulders. She sniffed the air. "It doesn't smell like an innocent. It kind of smells like a daemon."

"I'm... notta... baby," Daphne choked out. "I... wantmy... mommy!"

The two daemons looked at one another. Finally, Grikla shrugged. "I have no idea what kind of daemon it is. Do you have an idea, Ilkhi?"

"Notta daemon," Daphne said, her sobs slowing and allowing her to talk. "Human."

Ilkhi pursed her lips. "It's certainly a puzzle," she said. "A baby human who has daemon-taint." She knelt down in front of Daphne. "Hey, there. I'm Ilkhi and this is Grikla. What's your name?"

"Daphne," the girl said, sniffing a little. "My mommy disappeared."

"Aww," Grikla said softly, gently dropping her sun-warm hand onto the child's shoulder. "What happened to your back?"

"Idunno," Daphne said, and the tears started again. "Something hurt me!"

"Stop crying, sweetie," Ilkhi said, bending down and picking her up. The bag of grubs fell to the ground, and the two sucubi saw it and exchanged a glance. "Come on... we'll take care of you."

Daphne wasn't sure what she was supposed to do in this situation; she wasn't supposed to go with daemons, but she couldn't fight them, and her back hurt so much. She was scared and lonely, and they were hugging her and being so nice. With a little shiver, she leaned against Ilkhi and looped her arms around her neck.

As they walked back to the brothel, Grikla asked, "Do you think the others will let us keep it?"

"Sure, Mikku gets to keep her cats," Ilkhi replied, petting Daphne's hair. "We can keep a pet, too."

"Ooo! I'm so excited!" Grikla chirped, clapping her hands. "It'll need a bath, and new clothes, and ribbons for her hair... This will be fun!"

"Food and some bedding, too," Ilkhi added. "We can get her a box and put blankets and pillows inside and keep it in my room."

"Why your room?" Grikla asked, crossing her arms and pouting.

"I have the room; you don't," Ilkhi said. "Where would you put a pet box in your mess?" She didn't give the other sucubus a chance to respond before asking, "What should we name it?"

"We need to know if it's a boy or a girl," Grikla answered, rubbing her lip with a painted fingernail.

"Human boys sorta smell like potential food," Ilkhi said. "I smelt one once when I seduced a priest. He was fucking his choir boys and every time I came to visit, there was a boy in the bed." She giggled. "I seduced them, too, when they were old enough to get it up. But human boys have a scent, and this doesn't. I think it's a girl human."

"Who cares if it's a boy?" Grikla said. "She's our girl now." She tussled Daphne's hair. "What about Kiki?"

"Mmm... I like Zinhi."

"Zinhi?"

"Yeah, it was the name of my first matron's pet human," Ilkhi said. "Cute little thing." She smiled down at the girl in her arms. "Ours is cuter, or will be when we get her cleaned up."

"Ok, Zinhi it is," Grikla said, grinning. Ahead of them, town loomed, and Daphne recoiled in fear. "Oh, don't worry, sweetie. You belong to us now. We'll get you a little collar and everything. No one's going to hurt you anymore, not with us around."

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"Zinhi. Zinhi, you lazy-head, get up!" The voice pierced Daphne's sleep and the girl slowly opened her eyes. Grikla was bending over her, smiling broadly. Daphne's eyes fell to the bit of cloth in Grikla's hand and the human beamed.

Reaching out, she brushed her finger on the silky cloth. "Is that a gift for me?" she asked her succubus owner.

"It is!" Grikla said, moving back and sitting on Ilkhi's bed. The other succubus was sprawled on the mattress, watching them intently. "You know how you were complaining about your chest hurting?"

"Yeah," Daphne said, sitting up. In truth, the skin on her chest hurt still, a soft persistent ache that made her feel restless and unsatisfied.

"Well, this will help," Grikla said, holding up the cloth. "Take off your shirt and I'll show you." Daphne did as Grikla said and let the succubus help her shrug on the strange clothing. 'Zinhi' was used to them fitting her in strange clothing and she didn't protest, despite the fact that the straps and binding materials of the halter-shaped thing weren't comfortable. "There, Zinhi, your first bra. You're so pretty!"

"She is," Ilkhi said, sitting up on the bed.

Grikla smiled in a strange way and brushed some of Daphne's hair back from her face. The tanned daemon leaned forward and kissed the human girl, her lips pressing to Daphne's. The human girl had been kissed by her owners before, but there was something different about this embrace. It gave her a funny feeling in her gut, and Daphne wasn't sure if she like it or not.

Ilkhi crawled forward and pulled Grikla away from Daphne. "She's not ready, Grikla," the dark-haired succubus said. She stood up and stepped past the two, getting Zinhi's hairbrush out. The daemoness pulled the human girl to her and directed her to sit at her feet. "Be patient, Grikla," Ilkhi added. "She's getting older every day, and she'll be ready soon."

"I hate waiting!" Grikla sighed and flopped backwards on the bed. After a moment she propped herself up on her elbows and said, "I'm glad she wasn't a boy. It'd be a shame to lose her after all this time."

Ilkhi nodded. "We'll have to keep her away from the Inuccubi, when she's old enough," she added, pulling the brush gently through Daphne's hair. After a moment, she asked, "Did you get Zinhi matching underwear?"

"Of course!" Grikla said, diving for the bag next to the bed. "Only the best for little Zinhi!"

After Ilkhi had put her hair up and Daphne had changed into the new underwear, the two succubi studied her. "So cute!" Grikla finally squeaked, reaching out to twitch a curl into place.

"Indeed," Ilkhi agreed, standing up and stretching. "Zinhi, hon, we're going out. Can you clean our rooms?"

"Sure!" Daphne chirped, smiling up at her owners happily. They were the source of all her security and affection, and she loved them as only a child can. Whether passing over the brink of childhood into adulthood would change that love was a future question. And she was a little disturbed by what she had overheard just now. But she still bent to the task of cleaning up after the two succubi.

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Seduced

Daphne couldn't sleep. She was tired, but she was also strangely restless. She kept thinking about earlier that day, about the bath, about Ilkhi's hand on her leg. Her skin still tingled from the memory.

She'd done it hundreds of times before. The brothel where the succubi lived had limited bath space for reasons that her owners couldn't express. It had something to do with living up to the fantasy, Ilkhi had explained once. Daphne didn't really understand it, but it did mean that the daemons often shared baths. Ilkhi and Grikla liked to share, and they often bathed her at the same time. This had been just like the other times, but it had also been different. Their touches had felt strange but good, and Daphne hadn't wanted it to end.

She had also missed the eager glances exchanged between the succubi, or the subtle ways they changed their attentions. She couldn't know that they were gently pushing her where they wanted.

Now, in the dark, she shivered again, thinking of the bath. It had set off something in her body, strange changes that she couldn't understand. All she knew is that she ached and burned, and she couldn't sleep.

Slowly, quietly, she got to her feet and tiptoed to the bed. Pausing, she knelt on the floor next to the sleep succubus. She must have made a noise, because Ilkhi's dark eyes opened. In the darkness, those deep brown orbs were bottomless wells of blackness. Daphne saw her owner frown, then murmur, "What is it, Zinhi? What's wrong?"

"I don't feel well," she said, causing Ilkhi to sit up and touch her forehead with concern. Daphne hadn't gotten sick, not once in the years that the daemoness had owned her. Daphne leaned into Ilkhi's soft hand, her breath slipping out in a soft moan.

Ilkhi tilted her head to the side, then cupped Daphne's face in her hands. She drew her up as she lowered her head, their lips meeting. Daphne gasped against her lips, but the sensations carried her away, making her forget the thrill of warning down her spine as she pressed herself to daemonflesh.

"I know what's wrong," Ilkhi murmured, pulling back a little. Her breath was warm and slightly sulfuric as she spoke, but Daphne didn't notice. She had long since adapted to the tinge of sulpher that hung in the air constantly. "Here, crawl up into my bed and curl up while I get Grikla."

Daphne did as she was told, slipping into the large bed, her stomach twisting as her body throbbed with sensation. After a moment, she heard Ilkhi's door open and she turned to see that the blond succubus followed her.

They didn't say anything; they had been planning this for a long time. They moved into bed on either side of her, encouraging with their hands to lie on her side. When Daphne did, Grikla was behind her and she caught her wrists, pulling her arms up and her hands behind her head. Caught between the two females, Daphne couldn't move - and that was just what they wanted.

She lost track of whom was touching her, or where their hands and lips moved. She was lost in a dizzying flood of ecstacy and sensation, helpless to do anything other than feel. She couldn't understand what was happening; it was beyond her experience. She still enjoyed it; just when she was sure it would kill her, that these building sensations would flood her, something gave and she found out what pleasure really was.

Her arms had been let go, and Daphne moved her shaky arms, moving to touch both of the succubi. "Do you feel better?" Ilkhi asked in a husky, purring voice. Daphne nodded.

"Good," Grikla replied, "because we're now going to show you how do everything we just did to you."

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Incubus

Daphne - Zinhi - was happy. She was always comfortable, never too hot or cold. There was always enough to eat. Her two owners doted on her, and the things they did for love of her made her flesh sing with delight. She was in love, or as close as one came in Hell.

But even the fabricated emotions of goodness such as true, unquestioning love, could not be allowed long in Damnation. Whether the world itself sought to undo any hint of goodness, or if denizens themselves were responsible for their over damnation was unknown. But it was this atmosphere in which Daphne tried to thrive, and was only partially successful.

The end came without warning. Ilkhi came into the room, her wide eyes falling on her pet. "Zinhi!" she cried. "Get up, get dressed. Your outside clothing, hurry!"

Scared by the panic in her keeper's voice, Zinhi jumped to obey. "What's wrong?" she cried, pulling on the heavy pants she wore when they went walking in the Wildlands outside the city.

"You have to go, before-"

The door slammed open, and a man stood there. Not a man, Zinhi realized. A daemon, but one that looked man-like. He stared at her oddly, and she felt like she should be wearing a shirt. She knelt and reached for one, and he smiled. "A real woman," he said, his voice deep and thick with a dark possessiveness. "Come here." He held out a hand.

Zinhi started forward, drawn by that voice, when Ilkhi stepped between them. "No," she said, "Zinhi is our pet!"

"You cannot stop me, soul-drinker," the incubus said. He pushed Ilkhi away, making her stumble into a wall.

"Don't hurt her!" Zinhi cried, leaping to her feet. She was young and small still, but she had defended herself for long enough that she was able to kick him hard in the leg.

Chillingly, he just laughed. "Come here," he commanded to Zinhi, turning to glare at Ilkhi, who watched helplessly. In a daze she came to him... and knew no more.

"Zinhi, darling, please wake up."

The sentence came from so far away, but Ilkhi's voice was one of two that could draw her out of this sinking darkness. A moment later, she realized that the sobbing she heard was Grikla and she 'moved' faster, awakening into pain. Her body hurt curiously, inside, and she ached all over.

"Did he take too much?" Grikla asked, her voice racked with sobs.

"Almost," Ilkha said, cradling Zinhi so that she could kiss her forehead. "Almost." She silent, then said, "She has to leave, before he comes back."

Zinhi realized they meant her. She didn't want to go, but was too tired to protest. Grikla shook her head, but she said, "I know." She started to cry harder but she began to move around the room, gathering Zinhi's things for her. "Can she walk?"

"She has to," Ilkha said, her voice hard. Tears were rolling down her face as she kissed Zinhi again. "She has to."

"We can carry her for a while," Grikla said. "We can get her away from here."

"Yes," Ilkha said. "We can get her well out into the Wildlands. She can disappear out there."

The two demonesses were silent. They were going to lose their pet one way or another, and if it was a choice between letting another consume her or returning her to the wild, there was no question which they preferred. "I have her clothes," Grikla said.

"Let's get some food for her," Ilkha said, picking Zinhi up and cradling her close. Hurrying, the two succubi left their home, leaving to dump their favorite pet in the wilderness to save her life.

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