Heaven and Hell 2: The Ways of Power
Heaven and Hell II: The Ways of Power
The damned Hellhound was laughing at me again. Slowly picking myself up off my rump after yet another failed attempt to gain some control over the wild magic I had gained access to a short time ago, I took time to rub the offended part of my anatomy and soothe my smarting tail. Then I glared at the Hound with my hands planted firmly on my wide, softly curving hips.
"Am I entertaining you, Helga?"
"Oh, very much, Mistress," the hound opened her cavernous mouth in a wide, doggy grin showing a very daunting array of needle sharp teeth and a flexible forked tongue lolling out one side of that maw. "You'll remember that I told you hanging around with you would be fun, don't you? I really do think that you've mastered the boom in front of your face then fall on your ass thing pretty well. Why don't you move on to something more challenging, like say....oh blowing a crater the size of The Gates District in Mama's nice clean little home here?"
"Humph!" I grumbled. "You're not showing me the proper respect a freed Hellhound should to her mistress."
"Like you said," Helga stopped grinning to industriously scratch her scaly hide with a hind leg. The six inch claws against her armored side made a sound not unlike fingernails on a chalkboard. "I'm a Hellhound. We don't respect anyone; all we do is howl, bite, and claw things. When we're allowed to, that is. Otherwise, we have to be content with scaring the shit out of people.
"Besides, " Helga growled, then let out a doggish sigh. "That 'her' you attached to me has been something of a problem for both the Imp and myself. It is your fault that we were transformed into females, after all."
"Neither one of you was exactly forced to come home with me, as I recall," I had, in fact, tried to discourage anyone from following me home after that near debacle in a sorcerer's lair. It wouldn't do any good for me to bring that up, though, so I tried a different approach. "Look, Helga, the same thing happened to me not long before it happened to you and Dimona. At least you two had been denizens of Hell for awhile. I spent a whole half-day here and woke up to find my male human body changed into this."
"I'd say it was an improvement," Helga grinned at me again, standing to her full height, which towered over my own five foot four inch frame, and stretching luxuriously. She then eyed me with the perspective of a male. "And A finer looking bitch I've rarely seen, Lorilei, dear. If I was still male, I'd sure be trying to screw the dark out of you."
"Oh, I get it now," with a sigh, I grinned at the hellhound, who stood six feet even at the shoulder. "my punishment wasn't being turned into a Succubus. You're my eternal punishment."
"Hey, that's a thought," Helga chuckled, which still sounded like a growl to me but I was starting to understand her different sounds and expressions. "How about if I bite you, just to see how it feels?"
"Forget it," I ordered. "You'd have one half or the other of me in your stomach before I could so much as smack you in the nose and say, "bad doggie'."
"Maybe just a little nibble?" Helga hopefully questioned. "I promise not to take much."
"Not even a lick," chuckling, I reached out a hand to scratch Helga's rough, hot nose. "Why don't you go chase the new souls, or something? I really should get on with my practice."
"Can I play with Girard?" Helga eagerly asked, with a red light shining from her eyes.
Girard was the Sorcerer who had held thrall over Helga, and a lot of other beings from both Hell and Heaven. I'd managed to kill him, with a lot of luck, and all the wild magic and hodgepodge of spells my poor brain still hadn't managed to even begin sorting out had come to me directly from his former being.
"Just don't let him out of the compound this time," I cautioned. "Mother Lillith was really pissed off when we had to scour every inch of Home last time you turned him loose to run."
"I knew where he was all the time," Helga pouted.
"Is that why you slinked away to where you thought no one could see you and pissed yourself because you were shivering so much?"
"I won't lower myself to answer that," raising her huge, iridescently scaled head in a haughty, injured gesture, she glanced at me from the corner of one red eye.
"Just go chase your former Master, will you?" I almost pleaded. "Give him a few good shakes for me."
"You got it, Mistress," Loping away with double pronged tail wagging in anticipation, she basically ignored me completely after calling out that last agreement.
"Finally!" I sighed then tried again. BOOM/CRACKLE/ZZZZZZZZZZZZT!, "Yow!"
"Hey, boss!" Dimona, my very own personal Imp leaned over to see my face. "That was something new, wasn't it?"
"Oh, shut up," I groaned, getting myself into first a sitting position (kind of an interesting project when you have a three foot tail hanging off your butt) then eased myself to my feet. "I just don't think I'm cut out for all this magic stuff, you know?"
'Hey, boss," the cute little creature (that description embarrasses the hell out of her, and since as a male Imp named Dimon had attached himself to me for some unfathomable reason, then gotten changed into a female for daring to follow me home, I thought just a little teasing wouldn't hurt anything.) gave me an encouraging look and a pat on the bottom. Okay, maybe Dimona is only two feet tall, but come on, I'm not into les relations with dwarves, no matter how cute they are. She finished with something that made me feel really bad about my earlier thoughts, though. "All you need to do is relax and let the magic flow. It's in your nature, and basically, you are the magic. Mother Lillith says that you just absorbed way too much to handle right away and given time you'll figure out how to tone things down and really be something to see in action."
"Thanks, Dimona;" I leaned over to plant a light kiss on her flawless forehead. Man oh man, if Dimona ever goes home in the condition she is now, I foresee a drastic rise in the Imp population coming. Of course, I managed to stay diplomatic enough not to mention that possibility to the gorgeous little thing. She's nervous and still a bit upset about the change in sex as it is. Telling her she's also a male Imp's wet dream come to life would probably make her crazier than she is. But on some days, who would be able to tell? Like the time not so long ago when she dreamed up what has become known as The Great Tail Caper. Everyone of us ladies woke up that day to discover we had vividly colored and ringed tails like some Technicolor raccoons. Lurid lime greens and hot pinks were the predominant shades.
Now Succubae as a group tend to get around a lot. First because of the way we feed, then in our roles as recruiters for the Legions of Hell in our ongoing if currently almost amicable war with Heaven. We also act as messengers, go betweens for factions on both sides of the conflicts, and sometimes even negotiators and mediators. So most of us have , if not seen an awful lot of weird things, we've sure heard of them. As a result, we're usually a pretty good natured bunch regarding practical jokes played on us.
Unless that joke happens to hurt our vanity. Everybody in Home, including a very pissed off Hellhound, was hunting for the perpetrator. Guess who that was? I had to hide the little fart in my holding bin until she was able to reverse the spell. Even after all was restored to as normal as we ever are around here, poor Dimona suffered (Oh, dare I say it? Sure, why not?) the torments of Hell for a while.
Thanks for the faith in me, Dimona," I grinned in spite of myself. When you look at it from a distance, her tail prank qualified as genuine classic. "Did you finally get her to forgive you?"
"Mostly," Dimona sighed, then gave me a woebegone look. "I only have to play with my dollies like a good little girl for The other three hundred and seventy mommies that I insulted and all will be forgiven."
"Well, it shouldn't be all that bad," I soothed, patting her long blonde hair into place absently and adjusting the enormous pink bow in it. "After doing that for the fifty you already have, you ought to be pretty well used to it."
"Hah!" Dimona stamped her little foot quite fetchingly. "I'm thousands of years old, was a male, and now I've got to play with dollies? Get used to it? I think not, boss. Put up with it? Do I have a choice? Not if I'm going to render the Terms of Service I swore to you."
"You'll survive," I assured her, then gave her frilly little skirt a tug to straighten it. "Now you'd better run along and play. Delilah is expecting you, after all."
"Geesh!" Dimona turned to skip off in an imitation of happiness that I was beginning to think was less of a falsity than she would like anyone else to think. "Oh, I almost forgot mommy Lorilei; Mother Lillith wants to see you. ' Now!' were her exact words, if I recall."
"Then I'd better go see her," heading that general direction I cheerfully called back. "Now you be good little girl for mommy Delilah, today!"
'Yeah, yeah, yeah," Dimona's muttering diminished in the distance, but I could have sworn I heard a happy little giggle of excitement out of her just as she passed out of the range of my hearing.
I winced internally while recalling the bawling out I gotten along with the very firm command to exercise tighter control over what my minions did while at Home the last time Mother Lillith had called me into her presence. I very carefully reviewed the recent past to try and determine if any of those that were nominally under my control had managed to really screw anything up badly enough for me to be in trouble all over again.
That took a lot of reviewing, since it included nineteen fully matured Succubae, one ebullient Hellhound who I thought at times might be entering her second puppy-hood, one mischievous and half demented Imp, and forty-three various unassigned souls that were mine until someone showed up to make me an offer for them. Nope, nothing wrong on that front as far as I was able to tell. (big sigh of relief from yours truly) Thank the powers below that those damned Angels hadn't taken it into their twisty little minds to follow me down here, too. I had enough problems dealing with the beings that were here as it was.
So, drawing back my shoulders, and taking a deep breath of the richly perfumed atmosphere of Home, I swallowed that worry and entered the portal that would take me to the receiving complex and Mother Lillith's offices. Yes, I did say offices, bureaucrats and all. This is Hell after all.
"She's waiting for you," Cheri, the Succubus that had drawn secretarial duties in the office that period, Waved me past her desk before I'd even had time to greet her.
I sailed right past the smiling succubus, not without worry, just because one us smiles in a friendly manner doesn't mean all hell is about to break loose. Nor does it mean that the particular being really has any good will towards the recipient of that smile. In point of fact, my earlier escapades, accidental or not, and all the goodies I'd pulled in as result, had more than a few noses out of joint back at the good old home place.
I knocked at the imposing door and waited for about a second before it swung open and Lillith's familiar voice urged me to enter. I did, then stood stock-still. Belial, the genial master of our opposite numbers in Hell was present with another Incubus standing somewhat uncomfortably at his side.
"So this is the little lady who's gotten everything so stirred up recently by bagging that damned Girard," he boomed cheerily, "My, my how you have changed my dear. I must say I consider your present self a vast improvement.
"Oh, please forgive my thoughtlessness," he boomed on, obviously unaware or just not caring that his voice was actually rattling the glassware on Lillith's desk as he gestured towards his nervous companion. Please allow me to perform the introductions, or should I say re-introductions?"
"By all means," Lillith gave him a look that was both pained and more than a little fond then waved him on. "But do you think it might be possible to perhaps lower the volume just a bit. Please? My prize glassware won't survive much more and I'd be quite cross if these items were to break."
"Oh, of course, Lady," he agreed, lowering the volume of that resounding voice about half a notch. At least the glassware on Mother's desk had quit shivering. I briefly wondered who they had been before being transformed into the lovely, and highly erotic crystal and glass sculptures.
"Lady Lorilei, your reputation proceeds you, so I won't bore everyone with your somewhat surprising exploits of recent times," I breathed a very real sigh of relief over that, because believe me, I was getting more than a little tired about hearing all that rehashed over and over again. In fact, some were saying that I was beginning to get cranky regarding those stories. Actually it wasn't the stories, but the disbelieving, or awestruck looks I got from any audience hearing them. Along with my feeling a small amount of annoyance when those tales were quite naturally embellished a bit.
Okay, so I was being a bitch about it. I'm female now, and a denizen of Hell with a lot more responsibilities than I should have had under the circumstances. Besides, I was exercising my Hell given right to behave as a true female and kind of liked being a little bitchy off and on. I could always blame it on the hormones, after all.
Belial went on, oblivious, or seeming to be though I knew better , to my own discomfort with the situation. I had a pretty good idea of just who this new Incubus was, and wondered what his reaction to the new and improved me would be. "May I introduce one of the newer members of my own clan, Richard."
"Lorilei, Michael?" Richard questioned with dawning realization and growing amusement in his eyes. "Is that really you in there, Mike?"
"Uh, huh," with a nod, I gave his well muscled and endowed form a critical, feminine looking over and showed my approval of what was showing in crotch with a small smile. "That you in there, Lisa?"
"Yes," Richard nodded, returning my scrutiny with an equal intensity before he broke out in a wide smile. "You are one sexier than Hell little piece, aren't you, dear. How does it feel?"
"It's pretty damned good from this end, stud," I replied, licking my lips with my tongue. If you think a regular tongue running over full, moist, inviting lips is something, you should see what a long forked one can do. Most of you guys would melt, I guarantee it. After all, that's my job now, and I do happen to very, very good at being a bad girl. It's lots more fun than being a bad boy, let me tell you.
"Hello, Lorilei," another familiar, and unwelcome voice greeted me with no little amusement and an actual tone of being glad to see me. Well, he was a male, after all, and my new body was quite specifically designed to entice that sex. The only problem with that just then was that this male also happened to be an Angel.
"Ariel," I nodded, then smiled in spite of myself. Even in his mostly human form, the angel I'd briefly met in Girard's study was a real hunk. "What brings you down here, slumming?"
"No," he answered with an unstudied aplomb, "Actually I'm here negotiating."
"Negotiating?" I was getting suspicious, and the uneasy feeling when I'd first noticed the Angel calmly sitting in an office that was one of the antechambers to Hell, was rapidly growing into strident alarm bells ringing so hard they thumped the insides of my head. "Negotiating what, exactly?"
"For your services, of course," flashing me a dazzling smile, Ariel pointed his chin towards Lillith and Belial," And for those of your former lover."
"Oh," my response wasn't the wittiest thing I'd ever come up with, but I was really kind of non-plussed over that revelation. "You know, something told me this day was going to be like this."
"Aren't you even a little interested in what I want?" Ariel asked with a lift of his eyebrows and an appreciative look at my well displayed assets.
"Nope," I shrugged, intentionally, and watched his eyes widen minutely at the delightful quivers that gesture sent through my exposed flesh. (We Succubae rarely wear anything that conceals our charms. If you want to be truthful, the stuff I wore around home and on ventures into other parts of hell might as well have not been there at all.) "Gee, Ariel, I thought you guys from way up there were supposed to be above that kind of thing."
"A pack of dirty lies," he grinned widely, "I'm a male, and not invulnerable to a lovely lady. Especially one of your particular family."
"I see," my own smile widened into a sunny, almost obscene invitation. "But with you wanting to contract Richard here, as well... I had no idea that Angels could be so kinky."
'Surprise," his smile widened even more, and I realized that he was enjoying this verbal byplay as much as he was getting his rocks off watching me. "Heaven isn't all that goody two-shoes place most of the religious nuts in the Human Realms believe. Most of them who make it past Peter, are very shocked at first. But they get used to it. Actually, you folks get most of the real fanatics down here. And good riddance I say. Fanatics are trouble from the word go.
"However much I would like to contract for your no doubt delectable favors, Lady," his expression grew serious, "That isn't what I'm here to obtain just now."
"That's too bad," I pouted, (quite prettily and seductively, too. I know because I'd been practicing in front of a mirror.) "We could have a lot of fun."
"Another time," he promised, and somehow I just knew that it would happen. "But now to business.
"Since You've already done Heaven some rather odd favors given where you come from and all," Ariel sighed and rolled his eyes, telling us all with that time honored and hoary gesture that bureaucrats weren't exclusively a problem experienced in Hell and on Earth. The powers that be, including my Lord Michael have requested your assistance in a very urgent matter."
"Ariel," drawing in a breath and doing my absolute best to not dissolve into a heap of quivering jelly that had once been a succubus, I got directly to the point. (Sort of, and it's about time, right?) "The path around this particular bush is well beaten, the garden path is now open for visitors, and I'm more than ready to be escorted down it again. Will you please get to the point?"
"All right," glancing at both Lillith and Belial, he drew in a breath and started. "As much as Heaven hates to admit it, we have a rogue on our hands."
"A rogue Angel?" I questioned with a lift of one shapely eyebrow. "Let me guess, he ran here, and you want me to help ferret him out."
"Not exactly," Ariel began to look a little nervous and I started to get that proverbial 'Real Bad Feeling' about the whole thing. "Shen-Dai is an Elohim who has decided to set up shop on his own in the Human Realms. With the express purpose of fomenting some kind of incident that will kill the short-term truce between Heaven and Hell. Then he plans to escalate things so that truce falling apart will ignite another no holds barred resumption of hostilities between Heaven and Hell. With the Human Realms caught between. We think he plans to set up another power in our interminable fight. One that could swing enough punch to finally call for Armageddon. "
"And just exactly what do you possibly think I could do against someone powerful enough to defy both Heaven and Hell?" giving everyone in the room a quick glance in the hopes that this was some nasty joke, I had the sinking feeling that they were all serious. Armageddon is the one curse word that is frowned upon in both Heaven and Hell. I mean, get real here. Both sides have a pretty good thing going as it is, with a very fine and stable balance in the Human realms between them. What kind of maniac would even consider setting up a third (neutral?) power in the Human Realms, then actually use it to trigger the End of All Things?
The kind of maniac I wanted to stay well away from, that's what kind. Unfortunately, I was getting the idea that such a comfortable scenario wasn't in my future. I was right. And boy do I hate being right in cases like that.
"Well," Ariel cleared his throat and gave me an uncomfortable (and slightly sheepish) look. "Shen-Dai is very fond of playing with the occasional succubus and Houri. Mohammed isn't all that willing to put one of his precious sex goddesses into that kind of position, which isn't all that surprising, so we had to go with a plan to approach the other side for one of theirs. Which incidentally, is the better option. Houris are very gifted when it comes to pleasing a male, but woefully limited when it comes to anything else. Like counting past ten with their shoes on.
"Approaching you, wondrous Lady, was the next logical step," the Angel gave me a guilty look and I immediately knew that the suggestion to approach Hell for my help in the matter had come directly from him. Damn! If we hadn't already been there, I'd have done my level best to send that smiling, Angelic son of a bitch straight to Hell.
"Since you have already eliminated one of our mutual enemies' most powerful minions, he has a very well grounded grudge against you," Ariel actually appeared to feel guilty with how this had turned out, but I still wasn't in a forgiving mood. Especially when he Finally(!) got to the crux of the matter. "So we would like for you to act as bait, to draw him out in order for us to get him once and for all."
"I don't look all that good wearing hooks," I grimaced, then flounced forward (flouncing is so cool, and fun too, when you can find just the right moment to do it effectively. Males just tend to naturally flinch when a female gets into a really good flounce.) "Now I ask you in all honesty. Do. I. Look. Like. Some. Poor, damned, wriggling WORM?"
Raising your voice to a near hysterical pitch is a good ploy, too. Men, of any breed, just hate dealing with a hysterical female. Powers Below and Above, being female can be so much fun at times! At first I couldn't believe how easy it was to manipulate the poor darlings just by quivering a lip and threatening tears, or offering my very attractive body as an incentive. How did I ever manage to get along as a clumsy, gullible male?
"That pretty well covers it," Ariel agreed with a smile of appreciation for my performance. "Richard is just an added bonus for the jerk, since he swings both ways."
"Now wait just a damned minute here!" Richard protested. "I haven't quite gotten used to being a male yet, but I do like being this way. Now you want me to play a faggot?"
"You are a bright boy, aren't you?" I sneered. (sneering is really hard to do right, you have to twist your lips just so and add a lopsided smile at just at the right time while twisting one eyebrow into an almost impossible angle to reach, let alone hold, to maintain the full effect of the ploy.) "With your former experience you ought to do real well with that assignment."
"I'm still going to get you for dragging me down here, Mi...Lorilei!" he sputtered, then pulled back at a warning glance from Belial. I decided it might be a really good idea to do that myself since Lillith was giving me the same kind of look.
"Okay, okay," I sighed rather theatrically, "I'll do it."
Richard and I left the office after arranging to meet Ariel in a truly neutral spot later. The Angel, Lillith and Belial remained behind bantering like old friends. (Which I suppose they really were, after all the fallen angels of Hell were once members in good standing upstairs and many of them still maintained ties with a few who hadn't backed the losing side in that revolt.)
The Incubus who had been my female lover in life simply stared at me for a few breaths without saying anything. Then he smiled wickedly, "They really did a job on you, didn't they Mike? You're one of the most gorgeous creatures I've ever seen and that includes Lillith."
"Don't compare me to Lillith," I answered, actually flattered by what he'd just said but careful not to show it, "I don't have near the age or prestige she does, and don't have nearly the sheer presence she does. And my name is Lorilei, please use it. Mike is in the past and going to remain there."
"All right, Lorilei," Richard nodded agreeably, "But tell me honestly, doesn't being like you are now, with all of Michael's memories still rattling around in that beautiful head, bother you?"
"Sometimes," I admitted with a shrug. Watching his response to the shimmies that set off in my upper anatomy brought a sly little smile to my face. "But this shape does have its compensations, and it's really kind of fun most of the time."
"So I see," he grinned back. "Ok, lets start over again here, shall we? Lorilei, as Lisa I was very angry and bitter towards Michael for causing us to be sent here, and was openly very glad to hear that you were getting all girled up to be an animate sex dream for guys. Now that I see what they've made of you, and how you've adapted so well, the part of me that is still Lisa doesn't see any of the old Mike in you at all. I guess what I'm trying to say here is, how about a cease-fire, and let's negotiate a more permanent peace between us."
"Sure," I agreed happily enough. I'd never had anything against Lisa, and saw no real reason to dislike Richard. All the animosity over how things had turned out was on the other side of things, and as he said, there was very little of the people we had been remaining to us beyond clear memories. I gave him a long looking over, too. "So How do you like being what you've become?"
"A lot," his grin widened. "I always wondered what being a guy was like, and now I've found out. I think I would have preferred it back on Earth too, if the chance had been there. I mean, Lisa was gorgeous, sexy, and bright, but still had to keep the home fires burning while her husband ventured out into the world to provide for us. Rebellion against that was probably the real reason I started responding to Mike's advances, so our getting together wasn't entire your fault. I was doing my best, pretty good for a human, to subtly reel you in too.
"Any way, now I'm a male." Raising a large hand to look at it for a moment, he then flexed a bicep with very impressive results. I know he had my mouth watering, as he glanced up to watch my obvious pleasure in his own action. "A strong, good looking guy, with extra powers of my own. Incubi are opposite numbers for you succubae, and we have much the same abilities, though a little more logical in bent because we aren't as emotionally driven as you are. We tend to be used as planners rather then openly active doers, but are just as effective in our own rights as you are in your much more flamboyant manner.
"So, all in all, I have to quite honestly say that I'm not unhappy with how things turned out," Reaching out one of those, large, strong hands, he lightly stroked my cheek and I felt wonderful little tingles and shivers run all over my body. I also knew that if an Incubus and Succubus coupled without some rather elaborate precautions, the results were usually a little Succubus or Incubus later on, so used some (rare) self control to step back. Not without some regret, but I sure wasn't ready to become a Mother in fact as well as figuratively.
"I -- I think we'd better keep this relationship on a just friends basis for the time being, Richard," was my somewhat shaken comment. Man did I want him, and knew the sentiment was returned. "It wouldn't be such a fine idea for me to be in the family way while we're doing whatever our bosses and that smug bastard of an Angel have cooked up for us, would it?"
"Nope," he grinned while giving me that 'I'll be taking a lot of cold showers" look that so many guys, myself as Michael included, had down to an art. "Partners, then?"
"Partners," I nodded with a straight face, knowing damned well that I'd be using some of the special play toys MAMA provided her girls quite frequently if I was around this particular Incubus very much at all. (a girls version of the cold shower thing, you know.) "Well, I'd better go round up my faithful minions and get a few things lined out at home. Meet you up top when everything's ready to go?"
"I'll be there, doll," he answered with a grin. "See you later."
Heading down the strangely mundane appearing hallway with its line of office doors on each side and institutional carpet, I had a lot of things to think and worry about before reaching the permanent portal leading to Home. I wondered how much trouble I'd have rounding up my often wayward charges, and just what in the Hell (and Heaven, and Earth for that matter.) anyone thought I might be able to accomplish against an Angel powerful enough to go Rogue and make a going proposition of it.
"Bait," I muttered in resignation as the portal took me. On the other side, I finished, "Bait, that's all, they don't expect you to try and fight this one, just run like Heaven's Host's are on your tail and let the really big guys take it from there."
"Oh, suuurrre," part of my mind sarcastically agreed. "Easy, right?"
"LORILEI," MAMA's thunderous but still feminine, motherly voice impinged on my worries, "LILLITH WANTS YOU TO GO TO THE GATES AND COLLECT A SPECIAL RECRUIT. THE PAPERWORK IS READY."
"Now?" I questioned, then closed my eyes while grimacing. It was the wrong thing to say, and I knew it. If Mother Lillith thought a newly collected soul was important enough to claim and retrieve right away, it was important enough for me to do so without complaining.
MAMA noted my own self castigation with obvious amusement and thankfully refrained from scolding me. Being one of that powerful entity/ place's favorites sure did have its advantages. And drawbacks. A neatly arranged stack of papers (fireproofed of course, parts of the Gate area were really unpleasant) appeared in the air in front of my pretty little nose with an impatient rattle.
Helga bounced up with an anticipatory doggish grin, tongue lolling and yellow eyes glowing with glee. "Hi, mistress. So we get to go grab a newbie, do we? I love terrorizing the new ones, I really do."
"Well," Taking in the information on the ream of papers I'd been presented with a quick scan, I shook my head. "Sorry to disappoint you, my faithful hound, but you're coming along for escort duty.
"Maybe you can terrify a few other hapless souls while we're there," I offered in an attempt to cheer the Hellhound up a little. She really hadn't had much on an opportunity to play lately except with the souls in my own holding bin, and they had become used to her, even looked forward to playing the terrified little soul running from the terrible Hellhound.
"Okay," perking up, Helga wagged her tail impatiently, "Let's get going, can we?"
Hellhounds used to be people. Really bad people, and their shapes and duties were as much reward as punishment since most of them had been actively allied with Hell when human, and smart enough to avoid being snatched up by any of the Demons they had called up. But intelligent as they were, canine habits were part and parcel of their beings. Helga was bouncing around like a terrestrial dog anxious to go for a walk in the park and hoping for a rabbit or squirrel to chase.
"Might as well," I answered, changing the default setting on the portal I'd just emerged from and taking one last look at the picture and stats on the first page of the dossier I had been given. "Come on Helga, let's go."
The GATES OF HELL aren't one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hell. Just about everyone here had already seen them (since that was where most souls entered) and quite understandably, weren't all that anxious to relive the memory. I myself much preferred the entry across the river Styx, but it wasn't used much any more, and Charon had really become bored and was a greedy old shit on top of it.)
On emerging from the portal my nose was immediately assaulted with the stench of brimstone (sulfur) and burning flesh along with about a thousand other scents that I'd rather not identify. Okay, I admit it, my imposed femininity and lifestyle had made me a lot more fastidious than any denizen of Hell had a right to be. I was spoiled, pampered, and knew it. So what? I had gotten what I deserved, or wouldn't be like I was, or dwelling in MAMA's motherly embrace.
Helga, on the other hand, sniffed delightedly, like someone away from a well liked home for a very long time, and taking a moment to savor the pleasures of returning. "Ahhh, the wonderful memories these delightful aromas bring back,"
"Yeah, great, Isn't it?" I groused, then winced as the full surround sound effect of the immense chamber hit my ears. Bellows of Demonic laughter, screams of horror and terror, and wails of despair all competed for being the loudest in my sensitive ears. I toned that down by shutting down part of the volume, then happily discovered I could do the same for my poor abused nose. An unfamiliar, but very insistent pulling sensation began to almost drag me forward, and I started walking to avoid stumbling and the embarrassment of sliding along the very nasty stuff littering the floor on my face or cute ass. "Come on, we have to go this way."
None of the muck I was working my way through so much as dared to splatter me, though some of it was clearly tempted. I glared those pieces back to their usual slumped, inanimate postures without stopping. Did I ever mention that as a Succubus, I possessed an automatic cleaning function? Let me tell you, it was going full bore as I walked through that place. It just wouldn't do for one of Hells precious little pretty things to appear as anything but fresh and sexy, after all, and I didn't mind that stricture a bit.
"Are you a Demon?" an anxious voice reached me along with a filthy hand that nearly managed to touch my knee before the cleaning power zapped it in warning.
"Yep," I answered the cringing soul who was now shaking its hand to get rid off the stinging numbness. "I sure am."
"Are you here to torture me with Hell's devices?" it questioned eagerly.
Not today, sweetie," I smiled nastily while thinking, 'Great, I've been accosted by a masochist. Must have been a good one, though. looking up, I saw a Demoness wearing its best Ugly and Terrifying guise, along with very high heeled boots and carrying a bewildering variety of whips, chains and pronged devices. Suppressing a shudder, I moved out of the way. "But I think your torturer is coming now."
"Oh, wonderful!" the soul eagerly responded.
I gave the clearly unhappy Demoness a cautiously friendly nod while passing her and she returned it, then gave her obvious charge a long suffering look. "Don' t ever piss off the Powers That Be down here, honey, I did, and have to put up with this. Would you believe its the stupid sucker's reward?
"Go figure," I shrugged. "got a collection of my own to make, see you."
Behind me I heard a low, menacing growl, several sharp snaps of canine teeth, and a delightedly terrified squeal. Evidently Helga didn't mind giving the poor soul a little reward of her own. "Helga! stop playing around and come on."
As we neared the massive, living Gates proper, we had to pass , and even push through several long cues of harvested souls shuffling along in proper misery. They were being indifferently herded towards the appropriate processing centers by a few bored looking Demons wielding the traditional pitchforks and whips. Neither the lost souls, or Demons guarding them gave me much more than a glance. Helga quite happily terrorized the odd soul, but remained obediently close by, even growling a clear threat to a spectacularly large Demon who had reached down from his immense height to try and pick me up.
"Nice doggy," its immense voice boomed out. "I'm just going to give your mistress and you a ride to where you need to go. Now we can do this easy, or hard. Your choice."
I gave Helga a grateful look for defending me, then a questioning one. She appeared to be thinking things over for a moment, then gave a doggish shrug and grinned, "Easy."
Taxi service in Hell sure did take some weird forms. The hulking, huge Demon held a hand large enough to park a fairly large truck on out flat in clear invitation, and we climbed on. To be deposited several moments later right in front of the imposing Gates themselves.
Several harried looking clerkly types were rushing around, checking lists they carried on clipboards against the huddled souls waiting in the shadow of The Gates, then singling out first one, then another to be handed off to a rather impressive array of demonic types waiting in line for their own turn to make a collection. I giggled at the sight, and Helga gave me curious look.
"This reminds me of a catalogue pickup counter at Penny's or some other department store," I told her. And sure enough, a sign proclaiming "Special Orders -- Pickup" was set into the stones of The Gate just above the counter. It was kind of hard to read, though, because the legend kept writhing into different scripts and languages with a speed that would have been impossible to keep up with if not for my enhanced senses and information retrieval abilities.
"Close," the Hellhound agreed with a grin while leering in her most hellish manner at the souls awaiting pickup. "If you'd been conscious when you got here, this is where you would have been sent."
Other Hell hounds were pacing the area, evidently awaiting the ones they were escorting or on other business of their own. I asked Helga, who not a bit embarrassed by her newly imposed female status, "Do you know any of them?"
"Oh, sure," My own personal Hellhound nodded her massive head without attempting to leave my side to speak to any of them.
"Wouldn't you like to go talk to any of them?"
"I am," Helga grinned again, then sat comfortably to renew her mental communion with her brothers and sisters.
"Are they giving you a bad time about your change?" I questioned, more out of curiosity than anything else.
"Nope," Helga answered smugly. "They're all proud and envious of me. Getting permanently assigned to a Succubus is a real honor, not to mention being a cushy job all of us fantasize about getting."
"Well don't get too comfortable," I cautioned. "We're getting an assignment that sounds like it's anything but, cushy."
"Hey, us Hellhounds adore excitement," Helga gave me a panting grin, then went back to talking with the others of her kind.
"Hey, I see ya got yer own Hellhound, cool!" a throaty, slightly rough feminine voice sounded from directly behind me. "Would ye be the fancy girl called lorilei?"
"Yes, I have a Hellhound, and yes I am Lorilei," turning to see who had spoken to me, I found myself needing to look up to see her face. (That wasn't all that uncommon, I'm not really tall, but I'm telling you that this gal was big. "Who might you be, and why are you so interested in who I am?"
"The name's Sylvanna, but people generally just call me Syl," the giantess replied cheerfully. She was at least seven feet tall, very pretty in a rough, athletic way, with visible muscles flexing whenever she moved, though they were the smoothly feminine kind and not those of a female body builder. She was wearing what I had to decide, for lack of a better term to describe it, a suit of glittering chain mail over a black leather shift that ended in a flaring little skirt that barely covered her bottom. Syl was also carrying one of the biggest damned swords I'd ever seen, and I could see the hilts of numerous knives and the head of what appeared to be a small (for her) battle axe. She grinned while I took all that in, then finished with her answers to my questions. "As fer what I'm so interested in you about little darlin', I been sent to kind of guard your delectable backside fer awhile."
"Oh, okay, Syl," I nodded, deciding then and there that it would be lot's better having her with me than against me. "That's fine, but do you mind my asking just what you are?"
"Ach, no lass, I don't mind at all, yer rep bein' what it is, a gal can ferget yer new around here," she jovially returned, with a gentle pat on the back that nearly sent me sprawling on my face. "Sorry, there Lori, honey, I oft ferget how delicate you sorts be. I'm a Hell Maid o' course. The finest one available fer this little set to yer a goin' ta be mixed up in.
Hell Maid. Oh yeah, I found the needed reference in the hodge- podge of facts that were gradually being classified and filed properly in my badly overworked brain. Hell Maids were our version of Valkyries, or something like that. They were female warriors who liked nothing better than hacking, slashing, or pounding someone. Preferably some hapless Angel, or holier than thought Paladin. Though occasionally they would resort to pounding or otherwise chastising some denizen of Hell who had really, really pissed off the people who ran the place.
"Happy to have you, Syl," I grinned back, craning my neck to get a good look at her large, expressive ice-blue eyes. "Truthfully, I was beginning to think I was way over my head on this one. I mean, Succubae are agents, negotiators, or once in awhile, assassins. We aren't exactly the epitome of head to head fighters unless we're using our magic, you know what I'm saying?"
"Ach, don't be worryin' yersel' with things like that, Ye'll do fine, girlie. Ye got the luck on yer side, and yer smart ta boot," Syl assured me then winked. "As fer as Suckies goes, I'm thinkin' yer on a the good uns and I be right proud ta be the one ta help ya, little darlin'."
"Uh, miss?" the thin, reedy voice of one of the clerks took my attention away from that fascinating conversation before I was able to ask what Syl meant by the term Suckies. I suppose, from the way she talked normally, that should have been pretty clear, but I wanted to ding her about it. Just as well I got interrupted, I suppose.
"Yes?" turning to give the clerk a falsely radiant smile, I answered sweetly, (practicing for my future conversations with Syl, no doubt.) "Is it my turn, now?"
"Claim form?" he held out a skinny hand and waited without much patience.
"Here you go, dear," I returned with saccharin dripping off my words, but it didn't bother this one at all. I flipped through the ream of papers until I found the one labeled "CLAIM FORM # 22666-3a: COLLECTING A SPECIAL REQUEST', and passed it to him.
He barely glanced at it before hitting me with the first of many frustrating questions. "Name?"
"It's on the form, isn't it?"
"Your name," he stated in a monotone that would have done a badly done robot in a terrible sci-fi epic proud.
"Lorilei," I responded.
"Hell, you dummy," I was getting my first real taste of Hell's very own bureaucracy (that was, in case you hadn't already figured it out, one of Hell's most diabolical inventions.) and wasn't enjoying it at all.
"District?" the clerk intoned.
"Home," I shot back.
"Very funny, lady," he glared at me over his half glasses, "Now come on, cooperate with me a little bit here, okay? Now where do you call home?"
"The Succubae enclave!" I almost shouted, "As if one look couldn't have told you that."
"Very good, now we're getting somewhere," he nodded briskly, then infuriated me all over again by asking, "Occupation?"
"I'm a Succubus you idiot!" was my diplomatic response. "What in Hell do you think I do?"
"Name calling will only delay this process, lady," the clerk replied mildly. "Now let me see, where were we? Ah, purpose of collection?"
"How would I know?" I grated out through clenched teeth, "my boss sent me here to pick up the soul of one Ricardo Esteban Del a Court, he was a black magician in his former life. Now could we please get on with this?!"
"You answered two questions at once," he accused. "That's very irregular, you know. Now, who's soul are you here to collect?"
"Can't you just use the answer I gave you last time?" I pleaded.
"No, lady, I can't." with a sigh of long suffering, he repeated. "Name of soul you're here to collect?"
"Ricardo -- Fucking -- Esteban -- Cock Sucking -- DEL A COURT!!" I was shouting at the end, and felt my blood pressure, or whatever I had now that took its place, rising.
"There is no need for embellishments, young lady," the exasperating trauma disguised as a clerk reproved, then handed me another form. "Sign on all the X's please, then take the finished form to the pickup area. Have a nice day."
"It just got better, thanks," I grumbled, then changed my mind as I got a look at the form. My groan must have been loud enough to hear at the Gates of Heaven. I was holding six pages of fine print, with demands for the very same answers I'd given at counter number one. With the addition of the need for about six hundred signatures.
Much later, suffering writer's cramp all the way up to my elbow, I shuffled dispiritedly to the line waiting at the pickup counter. I was firmly grasping (Okay, let's be honest, I was clutching the sheaf of papers like a drowning man with a life preserver, knowing he would never survive a try to get another one.) the paperwork I'd just finished in the hand that wasn't clenched into a claw from holding a too tiny pen for even my small fingers and hand.
Finally, my turn at the pickup counter came and I handed the papers over in silent resignation.
"These are kind of crumpled up, Ma'am." a clerk who could have been my other nemesis' twin clucked disparagingly as he carefully smoothed the papers out.
"Look." I gritted out with an outstanding show of patience, I thought, "After all I went through to get the damned things, then filling them out, I didn't want to lose them. All right?"
"No problem," he surprised me by saying, "Forms are forms, and we just stick 'em in the files then get rid of them after about a hundred years."
"Fine," my response was soft, and almost without inflection. I saw both Helga and Syl, who had been having a glorious time enjoying my first encounter with Hell's red tape mongers, wince when they heard it. "Now do you think it would be possible to hand over the one thing I actually came here for?"
"Sure," he grinned, turning his head all the way around without moving and shouted, "Get that dumbass black mage out of the box. His new owner is here to pick him up!
"Imagine," he chuckled dryly, "the idiot actually thought he'd cheated the Devil, if you'll pardon an old cliche. Got away with it for a couple centuries, but we're more dedicated to inflicting misery than the IRS. We caught up to him, just like we eventually find everyone who reneges on their payments."
"I'm sure you do," my sarcasm was lost on him, but I was far too glad to see the end of the ordeal to bother pointing it out to him any more clearly. "Just have them bring him over there, and I'll get going, okay?"
"No problem," he nodded, already gesturing for the next poor fool in line to move up.
Ricardo Esteban Del a Court's soul was smudged up some, but neither black nor tattered. He'd been a fairly decent looking guy in life, and that held true with his soul image, too. When he was hustled towards us his first sight was of the towering Syl and Helga with her paws on the Hell Maid's shoulders so she could get a better look. I don't know how it's possible, but his soul became even whiter than it had been when he caught sight of those two. When neither of them moved, he showed visible relief, then spied me carrying the papers that said he was mine, until I got him to Lillith, anyway.
Needless to say, I wasn't in a very great mood after being tangled in all that idiotic red tape, and seeing his eyes light up when they encountered me didn't help the situation any. "Haven't you ever seen a Succubus before, Black Magician?"
"Well, I think I qualified as more of a gray Magician," he defended himself, then gave me another looking over. "And no, to tell the truth, I've never had the honor of meeting one of your rather distracting sisterhood."
"Get used to it," I told him shortly, anxious to put distance between us and the Gate's Holding Center. "I'm Lorilei, this is Helga, and that's Syl. If one of us can't control you another will, so I don't want any trouble out of you, okay?"
"Better listen to the darlin' little thing," Syl advised with a leer at Ricardo, grinning when he flinched away. "She's had a hard day, and literally had to walk through Hell to collect you. I don't think she has much in the way of patience left over, if ye ken my meanin' little man."
"I'm very patient, and in a pretty good mood on top of that," Helga growled while favoring him with one of her ferocious Houndish grins. "If you do try and wander off, I'll only bite off a hand or arm today."
"Oh, don't worry, Lady Succubus," Ricardo hastily assured me, "No matter how frightening your companions are, I'm not fool enough to go running off. That would likely end up with me in some situation that is much worse than my present one."
"Don't count on it, until you've met my boss," I grumbled, looking for, and finding what I'd hoped to see. Behind the counter, tucked away in a deep recess of Stonework, was a portal and I herded my strangely assorted crew in that direction. "Come on, let's get out of here,"
"Uh, Lorilie," Helga nudged me then pointed the other direction with her nose. "That's the way out."
"So is this," I grated, "And it's a whole lot closer."
"Uh, oh," Helga sighed and fell in beside me. "So what will you do if they stop you?"
"Do my level best to fry the son of a bitch who does!" I answered halfway cheerfully. I was determined to get some of my own back, and shouldered aside the skinny clerk who tried blocking the way. Hey, I was cute, curvy, and sexy as all get out, but that didn't mean I was really weak as I looked. I was a Demon, after all, and a really pissed off one at that.
"Hey, you!" another clerk, the very same one who had given me such a bad time, rushed up and set himself between us and the portal. "This exit is for staff and official business only. No Exceptions."
"Well my business is not only official," I growled at him, (well, as close as my naturally sweet and sexy voice can come to a growl. Actually, to my embarrassment, it came out more like a cranky kitten's purr.) "Not to mention urgent. You clowns have cost me, and in addition, The Lady Lilith, way too much time as it is. Now, do you get out of the way, or do I let my friends here move you?"
Syl grinned evilly, cracking the knuckles of her large smooth hands in anticipation. "Ye know, boyo, things've been a bit too quiet fer me tastes of late. A little exercise here with you couldn't hurt a gal, could it now?"
"Me, I just like chewing on things," Helga casually added while sizing up one of his legs. "I guess I just never completely outgrew that puppyish behavior. Sad isn't it?"
"Don't force me to call security! the wimp threatened, pressing himself back against the wooden pole that barred entrance to the portal and shaking. I actually began feeling a little sorry for him, but shoved that idea aide. The twerp had deliberately made things hard for me and both of us knew it.
"Go ahead," I shrugged, letting out my best evil laugh, then stifling the giggles threatening to follow before calming down (damned raging hormones, anyway!) enough to focus my attention on the magics around us and drawing some in for my use. I don't really know what I'd have done with the stuff, but it made my eyes glow with very impressive infernal flames and all that. He caved in once that happened. looking scared, impressed, and angry all at once. "All right you over-rated, high class, stuck up little bitch! Go on through, but you'll be hearing about this later, I promise you that. "
"I'm looking forward to it, sweetie," my voice had gone all smooth and silky, stroking his pointed, lopsided ears with a promise he'd probably never realize. "Thank you so much for all your help. So long,"
I reset the destination on the portal, herded my motley crew through it, and followed without saying another word.
We emerged not in the bizarre office complex, but right in the middle of good old Home. My own family, won in that earlier confrontation with Girard but still my family in a sense that really held to the word, was waiting nearby with Mother Lillith. De la Court gazed in rapt fascination at more amassed beauty and sex appeal than most people ever saw and survived. Helga Yawned, then cast a surreptitious grin in his direction, knowing full well what was in store for the guy. Dimona, still in her little girl clothes was cutely jumping rope for 'momma' Dellilah with a resigned expression on her pretty face.
Syl grunted appreciatively, "Man, oh man, that sure almost makes me wish I was still a man,"
Giving her a puzzled look, I questioned, "So what happened to the accent? Man? You were a male, too?"
"Yes," she answered the last question first. "I got switched because of the way I was pulled down here. I killed one His Hellish Majesty's Prime Hell Maids and had to replace her with someone else or face the consequences myself. Well, It's a long story, I'll tell you sometime when we can settle down with some good booze and a little time to relax."
'The accent?" I prompted, more interested in that at the time while wondering if everyone I knew around here had been sex changed.
"Oh, that's mostly for benefit of the yokels," with a grin she tilted her beautiful head to one side in a very feminine gesture for someone so large an martially attired. "Be honest with yourself, do you really think for a minute that His Hellish Majesty Lucifer would tolerate an uneducated, uncultured oaf like the one I was acting as patrol His borders and lead His precious troops against Angel Hosts?"
"Guess not," I agreed, wondering why the aforementioned monarch would tolerate a bumbling beginner like me being in such a potentially critical position as facing a Rogue Angel bent on bringing about the Final Battle between Good and Evil.
"Ahem!" Lillith clearing her throat pulled, no make that yanked, our attention back to the proceedings. "IF you two are finished with that interesting, but out of place conversation, do you think we could get on with things? Time is growing short, you know."
De la Court was the center of a ring that I was very familiar with from recent experience. Appearing a little dazed by all the delightfully demonic attentions he had been receiving from my little sisters, (Little? Hell, most of them were taller than I was, and the youngest of them was at least several centuries my senior in age. But I'd brought them home and like some weirdly off skew Chinese Obligation, they were mine to deal with.) the soon to be member of my own personal clan had gracelessly fallen to his butt and was eyeing the teasing, giggling group ringing him with bemused enjoyment.
"You do the honors with this one," Lillith informed me with a wide smile. "Your own magic reservoirs are so large and brimming full that you won't drain anything but the male essences from him. We need his magical abilities intact, so you're elected to do the job. Have fun and use your imagination."
"Imagination?" I questioned.
"YES, LITTLE ONE," MAMA's heavy voice entered my mind with an amused tone. "KAYLA, LILLITH, AND I HAD A LOT OF FUN FORMING YOU INTO THE POWER PACKED LITTLE SEX POT YOU'VE BECOME. THIS TIME YOU GET TO GUIDE THE TRANSFORMATION."
"Oh, goody," I responded, unsure whether I really wanted to be responsible for something like that so soon after it had been done to me.
"OH, YOU'LL DO IT. WHILE HUGELY ENJOYING THE EXPERIENCE."
"All right, all right," giving in with the mental equivalent of holding out my hands in surrender, I sighed. "What's with all this sex changing around here? Is that a prerequisite for becoming a full fledged Demon or something?"
"AROUND HERE IT IS." MAMA replied acerbically, "BUT IT REALLY HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH POWER. A CHANGE OF SEX DRAWS A LARGE AMOUNT OF THE STUFF OUT OF THE NETHER REALMS, THEN A LOT OF IT HANGS AROUND. SOMETIMES, LIKE WITH YOU, IT ATTACHES TO THE ONE WHO WAS CHANGED, OTHERS IT JUST STAYS UNTIL SOMEONE PUTS IT TO USE. ALSO, THE CHANGED SEEM TO BE POWER MAGNETS ONCE THEY HAVE SETTLED INTO THEIR NEW EXISTENCES. THIS ONE IS GOING TO BE SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT, A CROSS BETWEEN A HELL MAID AND ONE OF YOU LITTLE DARLINGS."
"Oh," nodding, I wished I hadn't asked. "Well, guess I'd better get started, the only question I have right now is How am I going to do that?."
"SYL WILL HAVE A FAIR AMOUNT OF INPUT WHEN YOU GET THE TRANSFORMATION GOING. HAVE FUN, CHILD."
Ricardo was staring from one of my sisters to another so quickly I thought his head might spin right off his neck. As I entered the circle and approached him he gave me a worried grimace. "What's going on here?"
"You'll absolutely love it," I answered with a slow smile while making my clothing (okay, okay, what there was of it.) vanish. His gasp was very gratifying as he took in all of me for the first time. Hey, a girl likes to be noticed and appreciated, you know. "Just lie back and enjoy the ride, lover."
Did I feel at all guilty about the fact that this would be the absolutely final time he experienced sex as a male? Nope, not at all. Anyway, the sex as a Succubus was far better than any I'd had or even dreamed of in my wildest fantasies as a male. I was more than a little confident that our newest inductee would discover that very soon, with a little helpful push from yours truly, of course.
Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that all that lovely male essence would feed me well enough that I wouldn't need to concern myself with such mundane things as feeding for the next month or so? (Oink, oink, I confess. Yum!)
I began by gently stroking his shoulders while pointedly ignoring the rather distracting and very hard thing poking me in the belly, then embraced him fully with a long, deep kiss. (Have I mentioned the effect being French kissed by a long, forked tongue has on a guy? Wowie, zowie, tonsil delight!) Once that part of the foreplay (very brief, under the circumstances, you understand. I couldn't wait any more than he could for the coupling we both knew was coming. That wasn't an intentional pun, either.) was well underway, I wrapped him in my wings and settled into the real meat of the task.
Lowering myself onto his incredibly tumescent member, I began a slow up and down motion by flexing my knees. As his moans grew louder, I rolled us over until he was the one on top and the fun really got going. Which was a real good thing. As His male essences were pulled out by me, Mama obligingly added her own style of female essences to replace them. At the rate things were going, if the poor guy didn't cum soon, he'd never have another chance. Arching my back to help ram him farther inside of me and matching his rythym, I was finally rewarded with a load of hot, wonderful cum exploding into my own internal regions and underwent orgasm after mind numbing orgasm until we were both pretty well spent. Giving my newest sister a gentle kiss, I carefully untangled our wings and tails (Tongues, too, since those were still wrapped together.) and rose to view our handiwork. ( Syl had not only been lustily cheering me on to even greater heights of orgasmic thrills, she had thrown in more than a few suggestions of her own. Which I paid attention to as much as it was possible under the circumstances. )
She was absolutely gorgeous, if more than a bit different than one of us. I felt a mild twinge of jealousy, but that faded into elation as I noted the soft golden glow of intact, mature magical abilities within that beautiful form. "We did it!"
"NEVER DOUBTED YOU FOR A SECOND, SWEETIE," Mama confirmed in open admiration. Whether that was for my job, the finished product, or both, I neither knew nor cared. We had another member of our badly thinned out sisterhood with some very interesting additions, and one who would easily fill part of the yawning power vacuum our kind was presently experiencing. (More on that later.)
"Your name is Angelique," I softly told the stupified young Succubus/Hell Maid staring up at me from the ground. "Sleep now, little sister. Rest and be ready for one hell of a shock when you wake up."
"YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR SOMETIMES LEAVES SOMETHING TO BE DESIRED, LORILEI," Mama primly informed me, then ruined the solemn moment by giggling. (Something the size of Mama doing that is kind of like going through a five point oh earthquake.) "BUT I MUST ADMIT THAT THIS TIME IT IS VERY APPROPRIATE."
"Hell," my response was a bit distracted as I gave our newest sister a good looking over. "I remember how I reacted, and let me tell you, it was probably the biggest shock I'd ever experienced. That's including getting myself shot to death in my neighbor's bed."
Azure and silver, she slept easily and comfortably. Her eyes, before they had drooped shut were a deep, bright azure that was arresting it was so intense. Silvery wings, horns, tail, and hair combined with those compelling eyes into a beauty that would be a prime weapon against any Angel in existence. Not to mention the lithe muscularity of her build. Angelique would be as powerful physically as Syl, with the same lightning physical reflexes and innate fighting abilities of a Hell Maid. With the use of real magic thrown into the mix. Oh, boy, I couldn't help but wonder: what in the Hell (literally, of course. ) had Mama, Syl, and I unleashed on the unsuspecting worlds? A new kind of fighter, that was for sure, and one that might just tip the balance in our favor for once.
But she would be a new and different danger to the Hosts of Heaven. Something that would be needed in the future, though the War had more or less collapsed from sheer attrition and exhaustion a century before I'd come on to the scene.
A varying degree of peace, or truce, held between Heaven and Hell at the time, simply because there weren't enough bodies to fight the damned War and run things, too. The ranks of my sisterhood had been culled down to a mere three-hundred from a high of thousands. We were hit very hard, because every Angel knew we were both powerful magic users, and messengers. Get one of us, and the Angel doing so generally achieved at least two purposes. One, eliminating a dangerous foe, and Two, disrupting the enemy by breaking his lines of communication.
That was the reason I hadn't been forced to endure The Gates of Hell, and why I had extricated Ricardo, now Angelique, from that area before he could be subjected to the normal tortures and torments a newly arrived soul normally would. The Succubae were so important to Lord Lucifer, and so decimated, that Lillith had priority on anyone she felt would be workable and of use to us. Plus being given the option to mix and match, so to speak, experimentally.
Originally, I was to be nothing more than a recruiter, pulling in souls and damning them to Hell with their lust for my very exotic and entrancing beauty. I'd already been a seducer, so was perfect for Lillith's needs. Well, I've sure managed to recruit souls. Not, though, exactly as it had been planned. (see H&H: Recruiter. ) I more or less fluked into the power and magics that I have, by accidentally absorbing the life force and abilities of a very powerful black mage named Girard.
Girard, was, coincidentally, in league with the very Rogue Angel I'm being aimed at this time around. (Shudder.) Even if I am quite clearly second only to Lillith herself in sheer power and knowledge of magics among the Succubae, I'm still working out some kinks. (Damned stuff still doesn't want to cooperate with me and my directions, no matter how hard I try.)
So that's where Angelique comes in. Not only is she still a powerful and experienced magic user, she will be vital in our moves against the Rogue and His allies. Plus, hopefully, be around to train one very disgusted, and frazzled magic user right here at home. (Me.)
All I had to do, was secure Angelique's cooperation in the enterprise. Right. That was a chore I was not looking forward to handling. But orders from both Mama and more importantly, Mother Lillith, are not things a bright girl ignores. Nobody is going to accuse this sweet cheeked little darling of being stupid. (Well not to my face, or very often if they know what's good for them.)
A single high pitched shriek interrupted my watching little Dimona practice her curtsies for mommy Jasmine. I glanced towards Kayla with a wry grin. "I think our newest sister just woke up. Did I raise that much of a fuss?"
"Yes," Kayla nodded, then winced as another shriek filled the air. "Well, maybe not so much. At least you were quieter about freaking out over the change."
"LORILEI," Mama's voice reached into my thoughts.
"I'm on my way, Mama," I responded while thinking myself to the spot where we had left the new sleeping beauty.
"What did you do to me?!!!" was the first thing out of her lovely mouth when I appeared in front of her. Not "How did you do that? " or "Tell me this is all a horrible nightmare, please!" Just an angry demand to know what poor little me had done to transform dear Ricardo into voluptuous Angelique.
She actually had both of her small hands around my throat before I thrust her back with a small application of magic. I simply gave her a disgusted look while viewing her sprawled form and shook my head. "Well, if you really want to know, cutting off my air supply like that isn't exactly the way I'd go about finding out. It's kinda hard to talk when your windpipe is being squeezed shut, after all. Now are you going to settle down and listen to me? Or do I have to call Mother Lillith and Mama in to calm you down?"
"You just used magic on me," Angelique swallowed in shocked surprise. "Used it against me, and got away with it."
"Hey, I did, didn't I?" I answered with a grin, then changed my expression to one just a little more serious and considerably less of pleased amazement. "Now are we going to be able to discuss things like two civilized people, or do I have to pin you to the ground until you start to see reason?"
Angelique looked down at her own considerable charms, then at mine in a very critical comparison. With a sigh of resignation, she nodded her agreement. "We can talk. This is Hell, after all, isn't it? I shouldn't expect to be pleased with anything that happens to me here, right?"
"Got that one in one try," I grinned again, "Smart girl, Angelique."
She winced at the use of that name and pronoun on her very own person, but another glance at her vastly altered anatomy caused a rueful smile to spread across her face. "I guess expecting to be called Ricardo looking like I do now is kind of silly, isn't it? Okay, so fill me in. Why am I suddenly this demonic sex goddess?"
Because we need very badly to increase our numbers," I offered a hand to help her to her feet, inwardly chuckling at her awkwardness. "Just let the body do its thing for now and don't worry about balancing."
She took my advice, but was having trouble with a tail that seemed to have a mind and intent to rape all its own. Slapping it away from her new equipment brought a sharp little yelp of surprised pain out of her full lips, but the tail behaved itself after that. Her wings snapped up and back, folding into a configuration that aided balance while standing instead of impeding it, and she managed to balance quite well on the heeled hooves she now had for feet.
"All right," folding her arms across her chest, then consciously leaving them there in spite of the wealth of new sensations that must have caused in her, Angelique favored me with a coolly expectant look, "I'm all ears. You were saying something about our numbers needing to increase?"
'That's right," I nodded in agreement, relieved that she was beginning to accept things if not actually like them. Hell, I wasn't sure if I liked the way I was at that point either but had accepted the fact that there was no changing things. I proceeded to tell her of the War, and it's disastrous effect on the numbers in both Heaven and Hell, resulting in the uneasy truce that existed now. "We're Hell's version of Magic users, messengers, and recruiters all rolled up into one neat little package. The Angelic hosts considered us a greater danger than any of the fighting demons, including the Hell Maids, so we got targeted every chance they got. Which was a lot, from all I hear."
"So You're one of the new recruits, too?" Angelique questioned in surprise. "I would have thought you'd have been a veteran of the Wars, the way you handled yourself at the Gates, and with me just now."
"Yes, I am a new recruit," I answered, for some reason proud that she had taken me for a far older being than I was. "My powers of seduction were what landed me here, the magical power I have was the result of a real fluke."
"You're the demon temptress that took out old Girard, aren't you?" Angelique gave me a respectful look that bordered on awe. Man was I getting sick of that look on people's faces when they figured out who I was. "No wonder you seem so much older and surer of yourself. That was no mean accomplishment, Lady Lorilei, and it had every circle of magic on Earth buzzing for a good many months following the event."
"Tell me about it," my wry grin and weary of it all shrug brought the first real laugh I had heard from her to Angelique's lips. "I really was just lucky, is all. Shithouse lucky if you want to be specific. I absorbed all his power, and knowledge before I knew what it was I'd done.
"But getting back to our original subject," my relief at getting away from the talk about Girard was evident enough to bring a smile to my new sister's face as I continued. "After awhile, you'll find that being this way isn't so bad after all. We're a sought after clan, not just for our obvious attributes. You were chosen because of your skills with magic. You'd have been a terrible waste as say, a Hell Hound, or an Imp, so here you are. It can be kind of fun, being like this."
"That's easy for you to say," Angelique grumbled almost to herself before speaking up, "You've always been female, I used to be a man. I don't know if I can handle this or not, this being a female sex goddess, even if I can still use magic?"
"You can," I answered, to her relief. "Just as soon as your mind adjusts to the new body configuration you have, your magic should return in full force, maybe stronger now since you are what they call a supernatural being. That and you're something just a little different from the rest of us."
"Why? Because I can actually use magic?" That gal got to the point without bothering to so much as give the bush a token beating.
"Partially," giving her a chagrined tilt of head and raised eyebrow, I nodded. "I sure haven't managed to get the hang of it yet. But the other part is that your also a Hell Maid."
"What does that mean?" Angelique questioned with a puzzled look on her lovely face. "Be sure to explain it clearly, in words of two syllables or less if possible. I'm still confused here, and could have sworn that you just said I was a Hell Maid. I thought I was a Succubus. Now which is it going to be?"
"Both," I answered simply, keeping in line with her request regarding complexity. "You've got the physical strength and stamina of a Hell Maid, with their affinity for long sharp objects that can do an awful lot of damage to enemies, with the beauty, wiles, and magical abilities of a Succubus. Have I lost you there? You're looking kind of dazed again."
"Uh, no," shaking her head, Angelique favored me with a halfway evil grin (Good for you girl!) and chuckled. "I'm just trying to figure out how I should feel with being some kind of prototype demoness.
"Which," she pressed with an insistence that I found heartening if a little wearying. "brings me back to another, and the original question I asked you about half a lifetime ago. By the way, do all of you girls spend ten minutes saying something that could do with a simple yes or no?"
"It's all part of the mystique," I grinned viciously. "have you ever heard of a diplomat of any kind that could settle for a simple explanation for something when there was a very good chance to confuse the issue with extra wordage?"
"Guess not," she nodded, then returned my grin, not sidetracked at all. "getting back to my one burning question. You seemed a little hesitant to answer when I said that you'd always been female. You weren't always female, were you?"
"Not always, not even for all that long, " a heavy sigh slipped around my clenched teeth before I could stop the damned thing. It circled gleefully, tormenting me for a few seconds before deciding to go find something more fun to do. "I didn't start out life as a female. I was a guy, and a pretty good looking and randy one, too. Had a wife and two kids that I claimed, and s string of girlfriends on the side. I ended up here because my neighbor caught me in bed with his wife. He shot both of us, and you can see my half of the story's result standing here in front of you."
"You were a male." Angelique favored me with wide eyed wonder, then got a sick look on her lovely, expressive face as she considered the consequences for herself if that were true. "Uh, oh. That does not bode well for my already flagging masculinity, does it?"
"Probably not," I agreed wryly. After all, I had tried my own forms of denial until that night I had gone out into the Human Realms and fed for the first time. After that it was, 'Oh well, at least I'm pretty.' and things like that to rationalize how I behaved and what I now found enjoyable. Which to be blunt, was sex, sex, and even more sex. With men. Then again, there was sex. Oh well, I'm pretty sure you get the idea. "We're almost elemental creatures of sexual appetite and pleasure, so get used to the idea girlie, because that's the only way you're going to get enough nourishment to keep that lovely little body and devious mind going."
"You mean having sex. With a man? Right?" Angelique questioned in resignation.
"You surely don't think we're built like this for speed?" I shot back with an evil little grin. (I was getting pretty good with those, and the seductive half smiles that drove guys nuts. I should have been, after all the practice I'd put into the two expressions.) "Of course we do it with men. Women just don't have what we need for good diet and health. Besides, most of our really fun abilities don't work on females."
"Sure," I went on cheerfully. "We're consummate shape shifters, able to take on any --female-- form we choose to get what we want, and can actually enter a guy's dreams to get our goodies, though I much prefer the wide awake approach. It tastes and feels so much better that way.
"We are also mistresses of illusion," my descriptions were becoming a little overly enthusiastic, so I toned down my approach a little, but damn it, being a succubus was fun, and I just loved talking about it. "Which means that we can make any male see exactly what we wish for him to see. Mages, and women are more or less immune to that ability, though, so be really careful about when and how you use it."
"Okay, I can understand that," Angelique nodded, then shot me a suspicious look. "But why are you stuffing me so full of information already?"
"Because it's supper time, sweetie," I informed her, taking an unresisting hand in my own, and gently pulling her in my wake. I felt more than a little guilty about rushing a newly transformed sister into an actual feeding, but had been impressed by others far more powerful and wiser than myself that Angelique needed to become acclimated to her new existence quickly. Evidently, time to stop the Rogue was running short, and ready or not, we had to try and stop him and his plans.
"Wow!" Angelique licked her lips in sated satisfaction once we had returned to Home. "You didn't tell me how great feeding was, Lorilei!"
"Yes I did," glowing with my own excess of wonderful male essence churning in my belly, I sighed in contentment, "You just wouldn't listen."
"No, I guess I didn't, at that," with a sleepy nod, she began to settle down for the traditional post feeding nap we took. "So now what happens? I know that I wasn't just brought here for pure punishment, was I?"
"No, you weren't," carefully considering my responses and their likely effects, I gave up on subtlety and just dove in head first. (A trait I understand that is both endearing and quite likely to be getting me into more trouble than I care to think about just now at some time in the future. Most likely a lot of sometimes, come to think of it.) "Remember when I told you that you'd been chosen for your magical abilities?"
"The Rogue," Angelique nodded in wide eyed comprehension. "I'm supposed to go after that damned rogue Angel, aren't I?"
"Yes," I responded unhappily, "but trust me, you won't be doing it alone."
"Dimona!" I commanded, "Time to quit playing around and get ready for some action."
"Does that mean I get to shuck this stupid dress?" the imp popped into the air beside me with an eager expression. "And my dollies, too?"
"Unless you really think they'd be any help in a fight," I responded with a little laugh. Pretty little Dimona had been punished enough for her last prank, in my opinion, though some of my outraged sisters still wanted their revenge. "Now hop to, Imp! We have places to be, people to see, and things to do!"
"With pleasure, boss!" she flickered out of sight for a moment, then reappeared clad in skin tight black leather and gleaming chain mail. "Ready for your commands, your witchiness."
"I am not a witch," I countered with real mirth in spite of the seriousness of the situation. Dimona was always good for bringing me back down to the realities of a situation with her little jabs and taunts. "And don't you think that outfit is just a bit over the top?"
"What, you don't like it?" she pouted, then giggled. "And here I thought it was so sexy and warrior-like."
"It's very nice, dear," I answered, then mentally called the others involved with this near suicidal scheme to come to me. "Forgive me if I have just a tiny bit of trouble seeing you as an intrepid warrior type. And wear what you like, so long as you're happy with it."
"Thanks, boss!" the armor vanished to be replaced with a camouflage bikini and a carefully painted face and body to match. "How's this?
"Well, I guess I did tell you to wear whatever you liked," my reply was stopped just short of becoming caustic by the arrival of the others in rapid succession.
Helga took one look at Dimona, snorted and bit her tongue to keep from saying anything that might start an argument. A wise person, Demon, Angel, or Human, doesn't lightly anger an Imp. As Dimona once told me, Imps are sneaky little bastards that never hit you head on if they can help it. Besides, I think the Hell Hound really was fond of the little tart and didn't want to hurt her feelings.
"Is it show time, boss?" the Hell Hound asked with ill concealed eagerness. Since she had been tied to me because I accidentally freed her from the clutches of Girard, she had spent a lot of time being bored. Hell Hounds are very physical creatures, and tend to pine and pout if they can't bite, claw or really scare some poor soul.
"It is," I replied without the visible eagerness of my second most interesting servant. In case you hadn't figured it out yet, Dimona was number one in that category.
Syl stalked up with a very subdued Angelique in tow. "Well, I suppose she'll do in a pinch during a fight. But take my word for it, if the poor little darling ever reaches for her sword, start ducking and getting ready for the worst, because her magic didn't work."
"I didn't think I did so bad with this damned heavy thing," Angelique sniffed while hefting an enormous double edged sword that I'd have been lucky to drag anywhere, let alone wave around in the air with one hand. "Besides, magic comes to me on instinct, while I have to concentrate a little to use this monster."
"Looks as if you're doing just fine from where I'm standing," I offered, quickly leaning away from the sweep of the blade as she turned towards me. "Uh, on second thought, maybe you'd better rely on magic until you get a little more practice in with it."
"Everybody's a damned critic around here," Angelique sighed, carefully replacing the huge blade in the long sheath across her back. (How she ever managed that with wings, I'll never figure out.)
"Let's see, Imp, Hell Maids, Hell Hound, me," I counted heads aloud to divert attention from an embarrassed new Hell Maid. That's another breed you really don't want having a grudge against you, and they insult very easily. "Okay, that's our part of the group. Let's go meet up with the others."
I waved a portal into existence, then motioned for the others to get moving. Angelique gave me a strange look, then stopped beside me for a moment. "You sure seemed to call that up easily enough."
"Oh," I shrugged. "Portals are easy. I just think of where I want to go and one shows up leading there."
"You can conjure a portal without even so much as a hint of strain, leveled me earlier with just about as much effort, and you say you haven't got control of your magic?"
"Not yet," I nodded with a grimace. "None of the tough stuff anyway."
"Lorilei?" Angelique quietly asked, "did you know that you're one very scary person?"
"What a nice thing for you to say!" I grinned, then pointed towards the portal with an extended wingtip. ( Wings can be very expressive, you know. ) Let's not dally, okay? Bad things are about to happen and we're supposed to be right in the middle of all of them."
"Oh, I can't wait," The Hell Maid/Succubus sighed, then entered the portal.
"I can." I muttered as I followed her.
On the other side of the portal, in The Human Realms, I distastefully lifted one foot to dislodge an un-namable glop of something or other that I had no real wish to analyze. At least not any further than to decide it stank and was really nasty.
"Hey Boss," Dimona's voice somehow carried the idea a pinched up face trying to clear her nostrils of something really noisome. Hell has some dandies in that regard, but let me tell you something; for sheer creativity and disgust factor, The Human Realm's gunk, garbage, and chemically contaminated slimes beat us any time without even trying. "I think we must've landed in the sewers again. I thought Heaven owed you some favors? What? Do those haloed idiots think we really do like this kind of shit?"
"Ohh, wonderful, wonderful, stinky , beautiful gross smells!" Helga panted out between sniffs and actual deep breaths. Wallowing squishy sounds accompanied by canine whines and growls of orgasmic ecstasy pretty well ended any more discussions about liking where we had come out or not.
"Helga, I'm warning you," Syl's voice held a half amused threat, "If you get any closer and accidentally wallow over me, I'll spit you on Hell Ringer and walk through a car wash with you squirming at the end of my unhallowed blade until you're sparkling clean."
"Shit!" Angelique's voice wailed in disgusted affront. After several squelches and a lot of grumbling, something flew through the air to land in front of Helga's nose. "I sat on a damned dead rat! You can have it, my Hell Hound friend."
I won't go into any more detail about that except to say Helga quickly became one of Angelique's best friends and fervent protector. As long as my plump little behind wasn't in any trouble, that is.
My vision adapted, and I suddenly wished it wasn't quite so quick after catching a glimpse of what Helga was eating. Taking a look around, I noted a ladder headed in the right direction -- up -- and waved everyone towards it. "There we go, everybody that can climb better get started. Syl, help me haul our garbage hound up to the next level and I'll get us all cleaned up.
Helga only offered token resistance (I just got bitten once, and that was more of a nibble, and Syl got nipped right on her armor covered breast.) while the Hell Maid and I each took an end and left the filth encrusted lower level. I flew, she jumped. Man Hell maids can be something to watch when they're in action. Just so long as you aren't the action, if you get my meaning.
"I hurt my tooth on your damned tit!" Helga grumbled, feeling the chipped part of her very extensive oral armament with the tip of her dexterous tongue.
"Serves you right," Syl chuckled, "You'd think by now that a grown up Hell hound like you are would know better than to try and chew on a Hell Maid's breast. We all wear armor, after all."
One thing that kind of balances Heaven's little joke on our usual choice (or lack of, more precisely) of entry points was that the muck just sloughed off as if it wasn't interested in us any more once we were out of it. Which left us all clean, dry, and smelling much better than we had moments earlier. Most of us breathed a sigh of relief once that was finished. Helga however, cast a longing glance back down to where we had first appeared. "Aw, I hardly ever get to wallow in that kind of quality muck any longer."
"You can come back and play once we've finished what we came here to do," My voice actually held a note of command (a small one, but real command instead of wheedling like I'd been forced to use in the past for lack of a better method to obtain my varied minion's cooperation.) that the Hell Hound obeyed with reasonable good grace. A few pouts and whines don't really count as resistance.
I sought out a cleaner, much cleaner, spot outside the sewers where our partners in this dubious enterprise were supposed to be waiting. Ah ha! I found them, waved up another portal, and stepped through with my motley crew of hellions following closely behind.
Ariel, a pair of male warrior Angels from the Elohim Clan and an uncomfortable Incubus named Richard were waiting not so patiently for our arrival. One of the Elohim scowled in my direction, "Well, well. The Princess has decided to grace us with her wanton presence, and even brought some friends for entertainment."
Returning his sentiment with an overly sweet smile, making very sure he got a look at my long, pointed canines and the long, forked tongue wrapping itself around both of them. (One fork per tooth. My tongue is neither that long or dexterous, though it comes close.) "Oh, my, aren't you a big one to be making fun of a poor little girl like that? I think I'll go home and have a good pout over how mean you're being to me."
"I sure wouldn't miss you," his full melodious voice held a note of pure, prudish disapproval. Of me, my companions, and the need for him to dirty his fine Elohim hands by associating with the likes of us. "You damned Hell spawned Whore."
Still smiling, even wider, as a matter of fact, I casually reached out to pull an image from his mind and began my morphing routine. Don't ask me to describe how that feels, because I couldn't even begin to get across all the subtle nuances of body and even mind that altered just enough to achieve the precise image I was after.
A very lovely female angel raised her gleaming white wings, bent over while pulling up the hem of her gown, turned her back to him, and mooned the shit head. Her long golden hair trailed on the pavement since her head was peering back at him upside down from the area between her long, smooth legs. Oh, yeah, she was sticking her tongue out, and wiggling her cute butt very suggestively.
"Like what you see, sweetums?" I sing-songed in a very beautiful soprano that would have done an operatic diva justice. "Bet you'd like to see my front side, too, huh?"
Sweetums was flabbergasted into silence. If you can call a bunch of choking moans, and gurgles silence. That lasted for all of about twenty seconds before he drew his flaming sword while roaring in stentorian tones meant to reduce me to quivering whatever. "How DARE you profane the image of my beloved wife, Hell Spawn!"
I was neither quivering in terror or whatever else he had expected. Oh, I was shaking all right; from laughter that nearly threatened to blind me with tears. If it hadn't been for my wings being in the way, I would probably have been rolling on the ground, totally consumed by the humongous belly laughs my prank had caused me to have. Still, by the way, in my wholly inappropriate angelic guise.
"Oh, come on, lighten up, will you?" I managed to get out between chuckles that were quickly degenerating into feminine giggles of glee. "You were just thinking of the same thing I did, and hugely enjoying your little fantasy. What would wifey say if she knew about that one?"
"Nothing," Sweetums answered while halting in mid stride and glancing ruefully at his very impressively pyromaniac sword. He chuckled a bit reluctantly, then with more real mirth than anger. "But she would try ramming Star Fire here up part of me that Angels aren't supposed to have."
Morphing back to my own form, I nodded very seriously, then ingeniously asked, "Do you? Have that kind of body part, I mean?"
"I'd rather not say," he responded with an actual twinkle in his heavenly blue eyes. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one.) "You must be Lorilei. I'm Septham, and in spite of my normal misgivings over being allied with creatures of Hell, I'm happy to meet you. Do you think we could maybe play nice now?"
"Sure," my response was accompanied by a slow, careful release of energy I had gathered into some kind of spell without even realizing I'd done it. "If that's how you really want to do this, I sure won't argue about it. It's a pleasure, Septham, and yes, I am Lorilei."
While my spell, whatever it had been, dissipated harmlessly, and Septham returned Star Fire to its scabbard I heard numerous rasps, clicks, and hisses of weapons being returned to their mostly harmless resting places. Along with several audible sighs of relief. Oops!
"What?" Swinging my gaze over the whole unlikely assemblage, I pretended to look for something out of place on my person, then flashed everyone a slightly chagrined little smile. "Sorry."
Ariel watched me without expression for a few moments, shook his head and gave in to the grin that had been struggling to escape his set lips. It had a lot of fun once it was loose. "You certainly have a .... uhmm.... unique method of breaking the ice with awkward companions, Lady."
"Seems to be a bad habit I picked up along the way," shrugging, and fully, mischievously aware of what that gesture did to the male members of the party, I went on as innocently as I could. "It's harder to break than smoking, or eating peanuts once you get started on the things. Mother Lillith swears that she's sure I'm going to be getting myself in more trouble through my existence than anyone else she knows or ever heard of."
"You do seem to have an affinity for that," the Angel agreed with a wider grin. "Lillith has already told me that she is both dreading and looking forward to your future presence among Her Daughters. I myself am able to attest to that from our first meeting. I believe that you were only a few months old as one of the Succubae at the time, weren't you?"
"Hey, a girl's gotta get lucky once in awhile, you know," I frowned a bit then began laughing again. You have to admit that the situation was more than a little ludicrous. I'd only been a denizen of Hell for several months (as time flowed for me while there -- trust me, it's different than in The Human Realms, or from anywhere else I've managed to hear of.) and was already being treated as a near equal by powerful, and veteran beings on both sides. The truly humorous part of that, though, was all of them seemed more than a little wary around me. Maybe that wasn't so funny, I really hadn't even realized I was whipping up a very complex, very dangerous spell a few minutes before, and still had no clue as to what it would have been if I'd used it.
Angelique was eyeing me with something like awe as I returned to my own little party. Dimona nudged her gently and stage whispered, "You kinda get used to it after a while. When most of us see her whipping something up, even though she's not conscious of doing it, we just duck our heads, cover our poor butts, and hope for the best."
"I can see why," The half breed beauty answered, then walked up to me with a worried expression. "Do you have any idea what it was you just did?"
"Stopped some pretty strong tensions that could have caused us a whole lot of grief if they hadn't been nullified," I answered, purposely avoiding the real question she was asking.
"That's true," she conceded, then stared at me with her best serious expression (Hell Maids have that 'best serious' thing down to a fine art.) then pursued her quarry even though it didn't want to come out and play. "But you know that isn't what I'm talking about. Do you know what you just did magically?"
"Other than raised up one hell of an energy field, then getting rid of it without hurting anyone, you mean?" I shrugged again. "Haven't got a clue, sweetie."
"Well I do," she responded, obviously perplexed, "You set up a Hell Bolt -- red, searing lightning that literally shreds anything it hits and electrocutes any living being within fifty feet of where it hits -- powerful enough to blow the side out of that building over there. Then bled the energy off harmlessly, without so much as a spark.
"That much accumulated energy should have had you crackling with electricity for hours, if it didn't destroy you after not using it," Angelique drew in a breath (a really impressive sight even if you happen to be very female and interested in males like I've turned out to be.) "I was right. You are one very, very, very scary Lady, Lorilei."
"Yeah," I sighed, "I seem to do that to myself a lot lately."
Richard waited until Angelique was finished critiquing my performance, then too casually sauntered up to me wearing a hesitant grin. "Lorilei, I don't know what exactly you did just then, but you have anyone who does know just about dirtying their pants over it."
"Well," with a shrug I looked up into his handsome face and grinned. "Once I figure out what it was exactly, that I did, I'll be sure to let you know. Okay?"
"Just don't use it on me," was his reply. Following a moments shared laughter, he gestured towards the Angels. Those three were busily conferring, no doubt about what I had just done, or almost done to one of their number. "Any idea of what the plan is?"
"I get to be the bait," my grimace told anyone watching quite plainly that I wasn't all that thrilled with my imposed role in the coming actions. "And you bib, brave men and fighter types get to safely hide in the background until something -- hopefully one Rogue Angel -- tries to eat me."
"Sounds like fun," Richard nodded with a straight face. "Just so long as I don't get stuck out there with you. I much prefer the more indirect approach to things."
"Then you ought to go talk to Dimona," My answer seemed a little clipped, because it was. Hanging my sweet little tush out to dry while all these other powerful types were planning to hide in the distant shadows didn't sit all that well with me. "She's one sneaky little bitch, and ought to get along real well with the sneaky bastard you've turned out to be."
"Aw, Lorilei," he put on a hurt expression, mainly for my benefit, and reached to give me a hug. "You know better than that. My talents lie in other directions than fighting. Besides, your cute little Imp is too small for me."
Have you still got the hots for me?" I questioned from inside the circle of his arms, "After all that's happened to both of us recently?"
"Uh, no functional male could stand within fifty yards of you without getting a case of the hotsies for you, beautiful," was whispered into my ear, along with a liberal amount of tongue work in that shell-like organ.
"Gahhggh!" I pulled away and swatted him. Not hard enough to do any damage, just with enough oomph to let him know I wasn't happy with the trend things were beginning to take between him and me. "You know I hate, absolutely hate, wet willies, Richard. Please do us both a favor and try to remember what happened to us the last time we were making love?"
"We're already dead," he answered with a grin, "Or whatever our state of being is properly called, what could happen?"
"I don't particularly want to find out," was my crisp response. "Last time may have set a precedent, and I can see no sense in tempting Murphy and his insidious laws."
Not to mention the risk of getting pregnant. I know that's supposed to take some special rituals and a lot of work on the part of both participants, but the way my luck had been running lately, I didn't feel like taking the chance.
"I suppose you have a point," he reluctantly admitted, then grinned evilly. "Wow, this is rich! Me trying to get you into the sack and you putting me off with excuses like pregnancy and all that. This being a guy thing isn't so bad after all, you know."
"Neither is being female," I responded with a smirk that faded into a wry grimace. "Most of the time, anyway. But why is it that the girls always end up playing stupid roles like bait for some maniac? Why isn't it ever a guy who gets screwed like that?"
"That's just another side of the fence, dear lady," Richard smugly answered with a gleam in his eye. "Now you're beginning to see some of the drawbacks to being female. Still think it's fun?"
"Oh, sure," my response was genuine. It was fun being female, especially when you're beautiful, sexy, and moderately powerful. "I'll deal with the downside of things. At least I don't have to deal with periods, which is kind of strange considering where my Home Base is any more."
"Well, it looks as if it's time to start dealing with your new found role as bait," Richard gestured towards the gathered Angels, and I noted Ariel motioning for me to join them.
"Hmmm," giving a thoughtful sigh of resignation, I nodded while noticing the expression of displeasure on Ariel's face. "Uh, oh, looks like we might have a change in plans here. Might as well go get the bad news."
"You want me to do WHAT??!!!" I fairly screamed the last word of my question after getting the rundown on the new plan sent up (and down) from our fearless leaders.
"They want you to seduce Shen-Dai," Ariel calmly repeated. "and take Girard, or what's left of him, along as a peace offering."
"Look," I gestured at nothing in general, which is a good thing since the gesture was considered obscene in both Heaven and Hell, "Haven't I already been told that this Rogue really has it in for me because I took Girard down? What in the Nineteen Thousand Names of Hell makes you, any of you, or them, think that I'd be fool enough to get close enough to Shen-Dai to even attempt such a thing? The maniac would probably blast first and ask questions later.
"No, huh-uh, nyet, and any other word for no that ever existed. Are you out of your minds?" I questioned while refusing to accept the assignment.
"You'll also recall," Ariel dryly inserted his own comments into my tirade, "That our Rogue appreciates feminine beauty and power. You have both, and have proven the latter several times already. He wouldn't be able to resist you, sweetheart."
"Damn it!" I groused. "I'm just a baby as Succubae go. Isn't it illegal, or immoral, or something like that, to put a baby in harm's way like that?"
"Lorilei," Septham pointed out with dark humor, " I really don't think you ever qualified as being a baby at anything. If it helps, we aren't any happier than you are over this."
"I know, I know," puffing my cheeks to let out a held breath, I shook my head and looked to Ariel. "Okay, so tell me, what are you guys going to be doing while I do my best to screw the brains out of this Shen-Dai?"
"Oh, doing our best to sneak up on his minions and take them out quietly, then get to you before things start getting dangerous, " Ariel quietly explained. "Of, course, you're going to have the hard job there, convincing our target that you are making a genuine offer to join up with him and help achieve his aims."
"While I'm flat on my back with him on top of me," my answer did seem a little bitter, but also resigned. "Sure, no problem. Do I get a last meal or anything before starting on this little misadventure?"
"You really should get started," Ariel answered without much enthusiasm either. "I've argued that you aren't experienced enough with this kind of thing to be put in such danger, but the higher ups and lower downs all seem to have a great deal of confidence in you."
Great. I made a mental note to have a long, detailed discussion about things with Mother Lillith once I got out of this mess. If I manage to get my pretty little tail out of it intact. After grumbling a little, I turned back to Ariel. "Okay, then let's get this over with. Where do I find this Rogue and how am I supposed to approach him?"
"Well, that's another part of the plan that isn't all that palatable," Ariel responded. "You'll take on Human form, and go into hiding. We'll be hunting you down, and 'allow' Shen-Dai's people to rescue you. That ought to get things rolling with a little credibility for you."
"Who'll be hunting me down?" I questioned. "Just you Angels?"
"I'm afraid, not, dear heart," Syl approached wearing a sour expression. "You'll have the Imp and Hell Hound, since they're clearly bound to you. The rest of us will be out on a Hunt, with you as the Quarry."
"Lovely," I commented. "That really sounds like fun, you know? Hiding out from both Heaven and Hell, who just happened to send some pretty heavy duty troops out for the job."
"Aw, look on the bright side," Syl tried cheering me up. "We really won't be trying to hurt you, or anything. And who knows? Maybe you'll be able to evade us and avoid the necessary fireworks that would happen when we do catch up with you."
"Now I know why Hell Maids aren't used as diplomats," with a sigh, I straightened to my full height (Which wasn't all that impressive while standing next to three Angels and a Hell Maid.) and grinned at the chuckles that pithy comment brought to all of them. "Well, do I get a head start?"
"Gather up your minions, and get going," Ariel grinned. "We'll of course have to spend some time haggling over precedence of leadership, and hammering out just how this very odd, combined force is going to go about hunting down a very dangerous renegade Succubus."
"Be sure to take all the time you want," I grinned back, then turned to gesture at Dimona and Helga. "Okay you two, us renegades have to run. Ready?"
"A stupid damn Afghan," Helga groused, tossing her now pretty head to get some of the long, champagne colored fur out of her face. "Why couldn't I just be some less ditzy breed?"
"Hey, at least you get to be an adult, more or less," Dimona added her own complaints, instead of posing as a cute little four year old Human girl. I still think you should have been a Poodle, anyway, you mutt. By the way, do blondes have more fun?"
"Oh, look who's calling who names," Helga snorted. "The Imp who's own kind avoid her whenever they can because of how you tend to draw trouble everywhere you go."
"Hey, can I help it if I wanted an exciting existence?" Dimona responded, sounding a little hurt, then became a bit petulant while fussing with her long black tresses. "So, I was stupid enough to tell them that when I was first sent to Hell. They asked if I preferred a dull, interminable existence or one with a little spice to it."
"And you, sweet little idiot that were even back then," Helga gave a doggish laugh, tongue hanging out to the side of her wide open mouth, "just had to choose the one with spice."
"Well," Dimona returned a little defensively, "It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know?"
"It's good to see that you got what you asked for," I interjected, then motioned them both to silence. "Especially since some of that excitement seems to be headed right this way. Now stay in character for a while, both of you. Okay?"
Helga whined and wagged her tail. Dimona put a cute little moue on her face and lisped (rather overdramatically, I thought) "Yeth Mommy, dear."
What had attracted my attention was a scruffy looking individual who was casually moving along the walkway in front of the shabby rooms of the fleabag motel we were currently hiding out in. That alone wouldn't have been at all unusual, given the seedy neighborhood, except this guy stopped every few steps and sniffed at the air as if in search of a specific scent. That and his eyes were what gave him away; he had very distinctive, piercing violet eyes that held keen intelligence and purpose instead of the listlessness one usually associates with a derelict searching for a bottle that had one drop of cheap wine remaining in it.
"Clear for action, kiddies," I whispered as he neared a spot even with our door. Once there, he stopped, giving the air a careful sniff, then another. Satisfaction gleamed in his out of place eyes as they settled on the door of our room, and seemed to see me through the peephole I was watching from.
"You may as well come out and get this over with, little Hell Spawn," straightening his frame to an impressive six feet plus and discarding the shuffling gait he had used up to then, the fellow gave the peephole I was viewing him through an expressionless stare. "The other two can go, all I want is you, Succubus -- and the rewards posted by Heaven and Hell for you. Dead or alive, I might add. Makes no difference to me which way I take you back, but I'd suggest doing this the easy way. You wouldn't like it much if I have to come in after you, that's a promise."
Sighing, I looked back at the other two then grimaced, waving Helga out the back while gesturing for Dimona to beat it with The Hell hound. They knew what to do, so I dithered at the door to give them time to reach their positions. "Okay, what if I do come out? What are you going to do then"
"If you're sensible," the still scruffy looking Angel (I'd already identified what he was, and wasn't all that pleased with the idea of having to fight him head to head.) answered softly but with a note of menace clear in his voice, "I'll simply take you to a neutral point and turn you over to your old masters, collect the reward, and leave you to their ideas of justice."
"All right," I returned to my own form, turned up the Charm to full tilt boogie, made sure everything was perfectly in place, then slowly opened the door with a slow, inviting smile. "But I might have a reward of my own for you just turning around and leaving me to go on with what I'm doing."
The Charm, a sort of natural spell a Succubus can always make use of, knocked the guy right out of his socks. (They stank terribly, I guess he'd been playing the derelict for quit awhile.) He'd had protections up against such a thing, but evidently hadn't suspected the pure power I was able to throw behind such a simple basic spell. Whatever, the extra surge of ooomph I put into it brushed his protections aside like an annoying cobweb and grabbed hold of the one part of a male that really did have a mind of its own, so to speak. His lower head, the one attached to the part my kind are specifically made to use, was up and ready by the time I had leaned casually against the door frame.
"How long have you been in trouble with your bosses?" I questioned once sure he was completely in thrall to me. From his condition it was reasonably easy to see that he hadn't set foot in Heaven for quite some time. I could also tell that he desperately wished to return to the good graces of the Higher Ups in that Realm, and thought I might be his ticket back. Oddly enough, I was. Only not quite in the way he had hoped.
"Several centuries," he replied sadly. "I was a specialist working under The Angel of Death, and got a little overzealous on one of my assignments. I used to set up 'accidents' for certain really bad, dangerous people; to get them out of the way before they did any real and permanent damage. One of my assignments was a really nasty customer, and I didn't wait for him to die from a set up. I killed him myself. For that I was banished to The Human Realms until I could find a way to redeem myself."
"And you saw me as that redemption."
"That's right, Lady," he mumbled, clearly chagrined that I had overwhelmed him so easily, and struggling against my Charm. (With no luck, I might add. Until and unless I released him, the poor half- fallen Angel would be in my thrall unless he was very strong willed, and I grew careless.)
He was, but I wasn't. So I let him squirm for another few minutes before speaking to him again. "What do people call you?"
"I won't give you my Name," he retorted, struggling against the Charm and being successful in theat regard.
"I didn't ask for that," sighing at his stubbornness while admiring it, I wondered what in The Three Realms I was going to do with a Heavenly Hit Man while answering him. "I only wanted to know your use name. Hey You! seems a little awkward don't you think?"
"All right, Jedidiah," I smiled, and loosened the Charm's bindings just a little, "I'm going to release you in moment, but I want your word that you'll listen to my proposition and think it over before doing anything hasty like trying to take me in. Can we reach an agreement on that much?"
"You're the one holding the strings," he replied, then nodded slowly, "But you have my word, for whatever that's worth."
"Enough," I responded and let the Charm go. "Now, I have an offer to make you. One that might just get you reinstated, get that redemption you're so desperate to have, without all the unpleasantness trying to capture or kill me would bring about."
"I'm listening," Jedidiah folded his arms and leaned against a support for the overhang that covered the walkway.
"It has to do with a certain Rogue Angel, and I could use all the help I can get...." I went on into detail, omitting the part that I was actually acting as an agent for both Hell and Heaven in the enterprise, while being truthful in all other respects. Actually I painted myself as a kindred spirit to Jedidiah, in need of a hidey hole where I would be safe for a short time at least.
"Boss, are you out of your mind?!!" Dimona almost shrieked once she and Helga had been informed of what was going on. "That guy is one of The Angel of Death's elite Collectors, even if he has fallen on hard times just now. Sweet Aphrodite's Tits, boss, even an arch Demon would hesitate to tangle with one of those! What if he's a plant? Sent by The Rogue to test you?"
"Then all I've done is use a little ingenuity and razzle dazzle to get myself in his camp," I answered sweetly. But if Jedidiah is for real, we have ourselves a very powerful ally with ties into a part of Heaven's hierarchy I haven't touched so far. Given my nature, and the state of things in general through The Three Realms, that couldn't hurt at all, now could it?"
"You're still taking a damn fool chance," The Imp grumbled, but she had already agreed with my reasoning. "But I did ask for excitement, didn't I?"
"Well, you certainly are getting that, little one," Jedidah rumbled in deep throated, genuine amusement. "Your mistress seems to possess an uncanny knack for finding the deepest water she can in a very short time. Then diving in head first just to see how deep it really is."
"I know, I know," Dimona sighed in defeat. "At least she could take in a life preserver for her less than enthusiastic followers."
"I believe," Jedidiah grinned a little nastily, "that I am to be that device."
Man! Whoever the idiot was that started the rumor that Angels were all sweetness and light had to have been confined to a booby hatch at the time. Jedidiah was a very impressive character, and one filled to the brim with shadows and dark secrets that I had no wish to investigate. He was also honest -- to a point -- loyal once his allegiance had been given, and nonchalantly capable of more nastiness than a lot of Hell's denizens would be capable of in their fondest dreams.
Jedidiah was the key I had been waiting for. Not only was I supposedly on the run from the Powers That Be in both Supernatural Realms, I had successfully eluded pursuit, and recruited a still powerful Half-Fallen Angel to my own cause. That last part attracted the attention I wished from the quarter I had hoped to hear from.
Having Jedidiah along held another plus. The so called pursuit I was evading kept their distance once I'd recruited the Death Angel to my cause. I rubbed my bottom reflectively while thinking once again that Angelique and I were due for a long, serious conversation once this was over.
The four of us, we'd managed to get Jedidiah cleaned up and into some decent clothes -- don't ask how, and I won't lie about it, okay? I am a denizen of Hell, after all, so I do have to commit some evil acts off and on so they won't lift my union card. All I will say, is that some good looking guy about Jedidiah's size woke up naked and with a whole new outlook on life. He probably missed his clothes, but by that time they wouldn't have fit her any longer anyway. Plus I got myself really well fed, and the ex-guy had gotten to best lay in his life. (Okay, okay, so I'm a blabbermouth and spilled it all anyway. So what? I can't help being what I am, and I was famished at the time.)
Which brings us back to the cute little family group we appeared to be, enjoying a quiet afternoon in the park. You know, Tall, handsome Hubby, petite and lovely little Asian wife, adorable little girl, and rambunctious family dog, we actually made a pretty innocuous party and were actually enjoying ourselves.
"Angel or not," Helga growled up at Jedidiah while wagging her tail, "If you say 'get the Frisbee, Princess' one more time, I'm gonna bite you in the ass. Hard."
"But everyone out here is really having fun watching you catch the thing," Jedidiah replied in put on Innocence. "If you weren't so good at it, I wouldn't keep throwing the blasted thing. Besides, I'm actully enjoying myself for the first time in several hundred years. Surely you can't begrudge me that?"
"Try me," Helga let out a doggish sigh, then settled down to the ground in a curled up position clearly showing that she was no longer interested in playing catch.
"Heads up," I called, disturbing Helga's nap before it even started. "We've got company, and they aren't normal Humans."
A young couple was casually approaching us, smiling and waving as if we had known each other for years. They were a perfectly matched pair, good looking, athletic, well dressed in a casual manner, and were teamed Sorceress and sorcerer.
They were very formidable, especially for Humans, and I was reminded of Girard immediately. Both held a closely guarded darkness of soul, and reeked of Power. Paired up, I could see why they walked openly in the daylight. Nothing short of a catastrophic attack by a combined force of anything would take these two down. Even then the attackers wouldn't get out of the encounter unscathed.
"Lorilei, Jedidiah," the woman smiled while greeting us. "How nice to see you both. Cyrus and I were just talking about you."
She was model tall, and proportioned to match, with alert green eyes set in a face that could easily grace the cover of any fashion magazine, all framed in startling flame red hair that curled down to her narrow waist. I was almost jealous myself, and might have been if I hadn't been so wary of tricks and traps.
"Yes," the man, Cyrus, another model type with Mediterranean good looks and the lean, rangy body of an athlete agreed while holding out his hand to Jedidiah. "Lilah and I were just thinking of looking you two up. Glad we ran into you."
"It has been a while," I agreed, truthfully since I'd never laid eyes on either of them before that moment. "We'd been wondering how to get hold of you, ourselves. You're kind of hard to track down."
"Well, that problem seems to be solved," Lilah, evidently the leader of the pair, grinned. Her almond shaped green eyes held the same wariness I knew mine did, and I began feeling better about this meeting. "Would you accept an invitation to our place, so we can catch up and relax?"
Bingo. We'd been looked over, judged, and at least provisionally accepted. I nodded while smiling enthusiastically. "That would be wonderful, Lilah. We do have so many things to talk about."
"Yes we do," Cyrus smiled in evident relief and pleasure. "So why wait? Let's get going."
I gathered Dimona from the swings, she hadn't wanted to quit playing and I was beginning to worry that she was getting into her little girl act a bit too deeply, but refrained from saying anything just then. With an alert Hell Hound and innocently curious little girl in tow, we followed the pair's lead and entered a shaded pathway through a stand of trees.
"All right, all of you," Lilah lost the smile and friendly demeanor once we were in among the trees. "We don't want any surprises out of you. We are being closely watched by a small group that is powerful enough, combined with the two of us or not, to take all of you down permanently. When the portal opens, just step through and you'll be met. Do as your told and everything will be okay. Got that?"
"No problem," I nodded, carefully watching both of our 'long lost friends' for signs of treachery on their parts. Seeing none, I gave the go ahead to the others and settled back to await the opening of the promised portal.
It opened almost on top of us so quickly it had to have been preset for our presence to be a trigger. Giving the sorcerous couple a neutral nod, I waved my motley group through and followed. The portal snapped shut with an almost audible snap once we had all passed through, and sure enough, there was a small group of beings waiting for us. With restraints, and enough weaponry to daunt a brigade of marines.
"If this is how you greet all your guests," I grumped while cautiously feeling out the magical strands of energy holding my arms snugly to my sides, and finding that I would be able to break them if I really wished to. "No wonder people are so hesitant to approach you."
"Very few of our guests are certified Mage Banes," a gaunt sorceror replied without friendliness. "Both you and the Angel qualify for that title, so we aren't taking any chances with either of you. Girard was not exactly a friend, but I was well acquainted with him. We worked well together, and losing him set our plans back by at least another year.
"So I'm sure you'll understand why no one here is exactly thrilled to see you," he finished with me and turned to Jedidiah, "Well, Death Angel, you've fallen into some bad company as well as out of favor in Heaven. Why did you agree to come with the Succubus?"
"She convinced me," Jedidiah shrugged in disinterest and showed not the least bit of concern over his own bindings. "That being a lone Rogue these days is very unhealthy. Even for an ex-Death Angel. I decided that I didn't want to be on my own any longer, and that Heaven wasn't about to grant me the redemption they promised when I was banished to The Human Realm. So I teamed up with her and her minions. It seemed to be a good idea, and still does."
The implied threat in his last statement would have penetrated a rock it was so cold and sharp. Our greeter was far brighter than a rock, and acknowledged the unspoken promise of mayhem with a wicked grin. "No worry, Death Angel. Behave yourselves until Shen-Dai has had a chance to read you and talk to each one individually, and you'll be part of the family."
Or no trouble to anyone ever again, was the also unspoken finish to that statement. So, threat for threat, though delivered civilly, and no one had been harmed. Yet. I turned a light dose of Charm loose to play around the scarecrow of a man's ears just to let him know I wasn't entirely helpless either, and gave him a sunny smile. "Fine, we're being good little Angels and Demons, just like you've so pleasantly asked of us. Now do you think we could get on with things? This binding isn't all that comfortable, and if you think PMS is a bad thing, you really don't want to see me when I'm uncomfortable enough to get a little testy."
With a wave to our escort, an ill assorted crew of half breed Angels and Demons, with another unclassifiable magic user lurking in the background, the spokesman sketched an ironic bow to me. "As you wish, My Lady Mage Killer. Come on, then."
I should say a few words regarding Half Breeds here. Most of those are the products of Humans mating with a supernatural being for whatever reasons. The resulting offspring are welcome in neither Heaven, or Hell, and must spend fairly miserable (comparatively) existences in The Human Realms. Their powers are relatively weak, but driven my malice can be dangerous. As for the rare Half Breed progeny of an Angel and Demon, the less said the better. Those kind are abhorred by both sides, and greatly feared by most since they tend to possess aspects of power from both parents, though in a twisted and usually indecipherable way. Generally such creatures are dealt with quickly and ruthlessly, because as a rule, the hybrids hate both sides of their families with equal fervor. I mention all this because I suspected the hooded and distant magic user among our escorts was such a being.
Whatever the creature was, the other Half Breeds kept well clear of it, and their leader, our guide, appeared uncomfortable in its presence as well. Hmm, another something to investigate and maybe bend just a bit my way if possible. This camp, or whatever they chose to call it was pretty extensive and home to more than a few formidable creatures just waiting for a chance to strike back at the existing order in creation. I worried about my friends and their Angelic comrades following us, because cracking this particular nut was something that could require more than the teeth we had brought along. Unless we got extremely lucky. Luck had carried me through my first encounter with a hostile power, but I wasn't about to rely on it for another. So I would quietly work any angle I could find to shift the odds in my favor.
Shen-Dai's palace was nothing elaborate, but did possess clean lines and size. To call it immense would be overstating the size of the elegantly columned abode of the most dangerous Rogue since Cain himself. Let me put it this way, the place was far larger than a mansion, but as palaces go (How much do I know about palaces, for crying out loud?) it seemed a bit small. Especially for a megalomaniac who wanted to cause The Final Battle and pick up what was left for himself.
the interior had an unfinished fell to it, all echoing marble halls and floors with little or no decoration at all. And precious little in the way of furnishings, either. Until our escorts halted in front of a set of large, ornately carved ivory doors. The carvings represented an Angel -- Shen-Dai, I thought -- rewarding his faithful and punishing those who failed to appreciate his greatness, or his vision for the future of creation. I have to admit that the punishment scenes were far more imaginative and graphic than the rewards, and some of those punishments caused all of us to shudder. Even Jedidiah.
The doors opened, with a little more ceremony than I felt was really necessary, with an Angel inside announcing our presence like some debutantes at their first ball. I entered, alone, since the others had been informed that these interviews would be exclusively one on one, and made my way down a richly carpeted aisle to a massive crystal throne with a very impressive figure seated upon it. The Throne was actually more of a bench, to accommodate Shen-Dai's magnificent, snowy wings. This person, I knew beyond shadow of doubt, had to be The Rogue himself.
The crystal, multi-colored and glittering with highlights from the sunlight that streamed into the chamber to fall directly, and only I might add, on the throne and its occupant. (A bit overly theatrical there, I thought, since the being spotlighted that way was magnificent enough on his own.
Shen-Dai was both massive and lithe, with smoothly defined muscle and a face that should have graced an Asian deity. Eyes the color ant texture of blued steel stared at me without expression as I took all of him in. Judging from the length of leg he displayed, the Rogue was at least seven feet tall, maybe more, and looked as he had been very close to becoming an Archangel himself, or already had been one of the minor ones before his own fall from grace.
And he was reading me. Not just my body and mind, but the spirit housed in them. I allowed my resentment at being sex changed and turned into what was essentially in my pure form, a sexual toy for males of all types to rise along with my anger at the team who had nearly killed me making my escapes and pursuit appear genuine. The two were pretty overwhelming when combined and even I was a little shocked at the true depths of my resentment and anger over what had happened to me since awakening in Hell. Those were things that I had just put aside in the hope of working through them during quiet times that I hadn't yet managed to get.
In that case, they satisfied my silent examiner. With a welcoming smile lighting up his face (Literally, I should add, his energy really shone forth for my benefit. If nothing else, Shen-Dai was a master of hokey presentations.) "My Lady Lorilei, welcome to my home. I do hope you find the surroundings congenial, and the rules not too restricting.
"All I ask is that you join with me, freely, to end the domination of Creation by the Moral Misfits who rule in Heaven and Hell, and your word that you will behave in a fashion appropriate for a member of my followers while you are here."
"Thank you, Lord Shen-Dai," I bowed deeply, since not actually wearing a skirt made curtsies something difficult to achieve with any dignified results. "Personally, I'm delighted to be here, finally, and as you could see, bear no real love for the ones who made me as I am. I'll do my best to behave while here, and whatever I may be able to contribute to help I will do."
There I went, shading the truth again, but telling it nevertheless. I fully intended to help as much as I possibly could, but the people I was going to help weren't under his rule. With maybe a few exceptions.
"Good, good," he nodded regally, with another blinding smile for my benefit while rising to his full height and spreading his wings. I didn't have to fake my gasp of appreciation, he was truly a magnificent male, and I was drawn to him as I'd never been drawn to my former sex before. The fact that he was using his own version of Charm was not unnoticed or ignored, and I shrugged that off fairly easily. What I couldn't shrug off was the real, and intense, personal, lust I felt whenever I looked his direction. "The Hell Hound and Imp, being bound to you personally, will be your responsibility to manage.
"The Death Angel," his eyes darkened as he mentioned Jedidiah, "will have to undergo his own testing. You will find out soon enough that I have a very good reason for distrusting that one, and an old enmity that may cause problems if not smoothed over quickly.
" In the meantime Lady," his expression lightened from imminent thunderstorms to warm spring afternoon," Please wait for me outside until I have finished with Jedidiah. My followers will do all in their power to make your wait a comfortable one, then I wish to discuss what your own role will be in the Order I plan to establish as well as in the Organization I have now."
Right. From the looks he was giving me, it was pretty clear what he expected in that respect. Concubine, or even bride. I briefly considered what an offspring of that union would produce, then shoved the resulting nightmare far down into my subconscious to use on someone else later on.
Giving him my very best 'come hither' smile combined with a thousand watt invitation to do as he pleased so long as it was in his bedchambers, I bowed again. "I would be happy to do that, Lord. Again, allow me to thank you for taking me and the others in. Our days were numbered on one hand as either free beings or living ones without your intervention. My gratitude will be most happily shown to you."
"I'll look forward to seeing you again, My Lady," he responded, then gestured towards the door. "Now, if you will forgive me? Business needs tending to just now."
"Of course, my Lord," I acknowledged as regally as I could manage, turning with a small bow and walking (Okay, Slinking and Undulating ) all the way to the huge doors. I emphasized my obvious interest and desirability with a final sexy little flip of my tail just as I disappeared behind those massive valves of ivory.
"Your turn," I announced to Jedidiah, "Remember what we talked about, please. I've got a pretty good start here, and any unpleasantness right now could blow that so far out of the water I'd end up in the middle of the Sahara."
"No problem," the Death Angel offered me a reassuring smile. Oddly it was reassuring, and very warm. Had I made another conquest without even noticing? I made a quick mental note to review everything we had done and talked about, in addition to whatever I might have shown him beyond the words. And to make sure that Charm I had first snared his attention with had been fully lifted. If I was going to recruit that one, I wanted it to be fairly done with no coercion of any kind to be blamed later. Turning a Death Angel, even a banished one, would be a real feat, and raise my personal stock in Hell considerably. Plus gain me another ally and, hopefully, friend.
Speaking of which, most of the escort that had herded us to this point had gone on about whatever business they had, leaving me alone with Helga and Dimona, now back in their natural(?) forms. With the odd, aloof magic user I had made note of earlier hovering nearby. I briefly told the pair of worried minions that things seemed to be going well but they had to behave, and then turned to face the robed figure.
She, it was a she, I could tell from the way the robes were hanging and moved with the shape inside them, merely watched me in silence for a time that seemed to stretch into hours instead of the few seconds it really did.
Offering a smile of greeting, I continued watching and making no gestures of either approach or disgust. I was by then positive this mysterious female was a Half Breed issue from the outlawed mating between Angel and Demon, and could see no need to provoke her into rash actions. "Did you want something? Or are you my guard? Either way, we may as well talk and try to make the situation as pleasant as we are able. What do you say?"
"All right," a melodiously lovely voice replied as a slender, feminine hand emerged from the robes to pull back the hood and reveal her face. All three of us gaped in amazed wonder once she had. Clearly, her mother had been one of Lillith's Daughters, because no other female in creation, not even Angels possessed that exact mix of sultry, alluring beauty and unfeigned, elemental innocence. She'd also received a large dose of beauty from her Angelic sire, and the combination was something that was very literally breath taking. Almost pure, in fact.
Add a luxuriously tumbling mane of softly curling dark auburn hair framing that remarkable face, and wide, almond shaped emerald eyes, and a figure that competed with her face for sheer stupifying beauty, and there was absolutely no doubt what, if not who, her parents had been. Her father was obviously a very powerful Angel, and her mother, well, lets just say I recognized some elements of her features but hesitated to point at anyone just then.
"You should go home, honey," I whispered. "This kind of business is nothing for you to be mixed up in."
"This is home," she replied with a trace of bitterness. "My father won't acknowledge a Half Breed, and my mother wants no part of me either. I have no home other than right here, and I must tell you it beats hell out of the existence I had to lead before I found this place."
I was silent for a while, shamed at my own reaction to a possible child between myself and Shen-Dai, when faced with this beautiful young female. "We aren't all like that, you know."
"How do you expect me to believe that?" she countered with a snarl. "when all my life I've been subject to either scorn or outright hatred out of my parental families? Most Angels I've encountered tried killing me without so much as a hello, how are you, get ready to die; and no Hell Spawn wants anything to do with me either, though I will admit they haven't been quite so eager to destroy me.
"Even here, I live on sufferance because of what I am and what I can do. All I inherited from my parents was raw power, no true natural abilities to use it with. I had to learn how to use magic like some Human." Drawing in a breath, she got her temper under control, an act I could tell she was quite used to performing. "But learn I did, and very well. Now no one bothers me unless I allow it."
"That's only right," I agreed carefully, sympathizing with her plight regarding magic, and my heart going out to the lonely, angry child that she still was. "But if you hate your parentage so much, why did you follow me, and agree to talk at all?"
"I really don't know," she answered quietly. "You are the one who killed Girard, aren't you? The terribly powerful Succubus that has Heaven and Hell owing you favors even though you're younger than I am by several centuries?"
"That's me," with a self conscious nod I agreed to all of the above except one. "I didn't really kill Girard, just drained off all his magic and his life. His soul, or what's left of it anyway, is still back home in Hell, and that's pretty well where it's going to stay for awhile. I'm afraid there isn't much left of that one, and the soul may never fully recover, or regenerate enough to even resemble something Human."
"You are truly of Hell, then Lady," she answered coolly, "Because such a fate is far worse than mere death to any of Sorcerous being. No wonder old Claremont hates and fears you so much."
"Girard deserved what he got," I replied without guilt, then gave her a quizzical galnce. "Claremont? Would that be that sack of sticks and leather that 'greeted' me at the portal?"
"Yes," she chuckled at my description, "That would be him. He fancies himself as a leader of sorts around here, one of The Lord Shen- Dai's right hands. He's also afraid that you will supplant him in the corridors of power here, and rightfully so, if I heard your meeting with the Lord correctly."
"Different kind of power," with a grimace, I gestured to the Hell Hound and Imp. "I'd really rather not be a leader, but that kind of got thrust on me without much in the way of warning. Truthfully, I'm not even sure I want to stay around here. Armeggedon isn't esactly my idea of a good time, you know?"
"Mine either," the Half Breed admitted ruefully. "But so far, that seems to be the only avenue I have to gain acceptance at all with the Ruling Powers. Unless..."
"Unless," I picked up the thought and sentence. "I would be willing to intercede on your behalf in Hell. Call in some of those favors and gain you a place there? Why would I do that?"
"Because you need friends," she answered. "Powerful friends to match the enemies you've already managed to make. I could be such a friend, mostly because you were truthful when you told me you were different than the others. Take me with you when you leave here, and I'll swear any oath you would like, just so you try what I'm asking."
"This is not a good position that you're putting me in just now, you know that?" sighing, I went on without saying no. "I don't know whether I'll be staying here or not, and am something of persona non grata in both Heaven and Hell at the moment myself. Let me consider the remifications, and I'll do the best I can for you. Should I choose to leave here, you will be welcome to come with me. If I stay, given the Lord Shen-Dai's obvious designs on my nonexistent virtue with pretty transparent plans for producing heirs to his new dynasty, I think I'd be able to ease thinngs for you here, too. Best I can do for now."
"It will be enough," she agreed to my terms without haveing them stated any more clearly. "Truthfully, that's as close to any kindness I've ever received from anyone but my Mother, and she can't openly acknowledge me for political reasons."
"Thought so," I nodded again, wondering if ny head was going to fall off from all the leaning forward and pulling back. "By the way, do you have a name? Just in case I do get the chance to intercede for you?"
"Adrianna," she answered clearly, then turned to leave. "I'll be watching, Lady Lorilei. Closely. Please don't disappoint me."
"Boss," Dimona quietly questioned after Adrianna had left, "I know you don't do it on purpose, but why is it that you seem to attract all these really scary types? First a damned Death Angel, and now an Angel/Demon hybrid who wants her mommy, of all things. I'm going to have gray hair in another week at this rate, and my poor old heart can't take much more of this excitement, you know?"
"Liar," I fondly answered while ruffling the dark hair that had not the least hint of gray in it. "For now I'm just more or less making things up as I go. Maybe in time I'll figure out a more sane methodology, but I'm not making any promises."
"Guess that will have to do then," The Imp gave a long suffering sigh, then returned to the irreressible little creature she was by nature. "Don't worry about changing how you do things. Life would really be boring without all the surprises that jump out and say boo when you're around."
"What about you?" I questioned the Hell Hound.
"I'm here, I'm with you, and I'm on your side -- whichever side that might be," she grumbled. "I'll bite what or whoever I need to so your pretty backside stays intact, and since there seems to be no one to bite just now, I'm going to take a nap."
"Well, don't sleep too deeply," my caution fell on what was apparently deaf ears as soft snores punctuated by little growls arose from where Helga was curled up. One ear twitched enough to show that she was still paying attention as I finished. "Because things are liable to get a bit more lively pretty soon."
"You think, Shen-Dai is going to bed you?" Dimona questioned almost gleefully. "Right away? Without candy or flowers, or even dinner?"
"No dancing, either," I commented dryly. "The Lord and Master of this place obviouusly has the hots with a capital H for yours truly, and has had for a while now. Even if there is a meal involved, I'd guess we would go straight to desert, which is probably going to be me."
"Be real careful, Lorilei," the Imp was very concerned, and not just because she was bound to me. "As masters and mistresses go, you're the best one I've ever had, and I'd kind of hate to lose you. And the cushy job that goes with being your lackey."
"Ah,, the truth finally comes out," I laughed. "Tell me, are all Imps as mercenary as you are?"
"Worse, I'm also cursed with this perverse sense of loyalty."
"Lucky you," my answer was shortened by the openinng of those massive doors and the exit of a very quiet, and worried Death Angel.
"I see you're still in one piece," was the greeting I offered, then softened that with a warm smile. "Im glad."
"Me too," he agreed with a lopsided smile that changed to a frown of concentration. "Have you been consorting with that Half Breed who escorted us in here?"
"What if I have?"
"I sure hope you reached some kind of understanding with her," he answered grimly. "Because His Lordship has plans for you that don't involve freedom at all. He likes his Queen to be close to home, if you take my meaning. You're going to need all the firepower you can get to keep from being a stay at home, make that cloistered, wife and mommy."
"I'd pretty much suspected that,"
"Well I hope you have a contingency plan, because He wants you right now." The Death Angel answered.
"Me too," I couldn't tell him everything, but once I had His Higness in bed, things were really going to go downhill in a handbasket around here for a while. Hell was going to break loose for sure, supported by Heaven. Well, stranger things have happened. I just can't recall hearing of any at the monent.
"Find Adrianna," I ordered Helga, disturbing her nap and not caring in the least when she offered a token snarl. "Get her here, and I mean soon as you can. Yesterday would be good.
"Be ready," I ordered the Death Angel, and didn't feel one bit awkward doing it. "If things go that wrong, I have no intention of remaining as a captive Queen.
"You find the portal," I told Dimona. "And get the damned thing open once I have Him occupied."
"Right. boss!" the Imp scampered away as if Heaven's Holy Hosts were on her tail. Helga had already loped off on her own mission.
"Seems that this is a little better planned than I wasled to believe," Jedidiah commented easily while watching me take command and send my underlings off in such a hurry. "If it wouldn't be too much of a bother, what do you expect me to do?"
"Hold these doors," I answered uneasily. "When the shouting and moaning starts inside, get in, take out the guards, then keep these things from sealing shut until either I come back or help arrives. Don't be surprised if I come out running for all I'm worth, either. Just hold the doors and cover my back. Okay?"
"That Imp was right," shaking his head, he glared at the surrounding countryside, then finished. "You are crazy. Things ever get dull when you're around?"
"Not all that often," I admitted. "But then I haven't been at this Denizen of Hell thing for very long. Maybe things will settle down in time."
"Somehow, I doubt that," with a mirthless chuckle, he gallantly gestured to the door. "Watch yourself, His Highness is still suspicious. I don't think he bought your story about wanting to join his cause, but still wants you for a consort. Things could get ugly real fast."
"Then the more eager I seem, the less chance of that, right?" I didn't wait for a reply, simply slipped past him and entered whatever fate held in store behind those solid ivory doors.
The throne room wasn't empty any longer. Not that it was crowded, but a gathering of six Half Breeds, Claremont, and Cyrus and Lilah made kind of an uncomfortable nuptial get together. All of them eyed me with varying degrees of wariness, dislike, and in some cases satisfaction.
Nope, old Shen-Dai hadn't fallen for my act, but then I hadn't really thought he would. I just hoped that Helga, Dimona, and Jedidiah would be able to carry out their orders. Which would result in my having a lot of help very soon. I was going to need it.
"Welcome once again, my dear," Shen-Dai gave me a smile that was not at all pleasant. "I trust that you have been enjoying your stay here?"
"As much as one could expect," I answered, holding my own fear and revulsion down with an effort. The Half Breeds were real bad ones. The kind with power, but bent only to malicious ends. The sorcerors and sorceress present held no friendlines towards me either. "I tried winning friends and influencing people while I was waiting."
"Nothing you did will help you," Shen-Dai shrugged. "Once you entered these halls for the second time, my bindings began to take effect. So tell me, do you feel anything yet?"
"No," my answer was honest, but I shifted to magical sight and to my horror saw about a gazillion tendrils of magic waving around while trying to attach themselves to my aura. "But I'm pretty sure that is going to change pretty soon, won't it?"
"What a truly wonderful creature you are, Lorilei," The Rogue gave me an appreciative looking over. "Brains as well as beauty. Too bad for you, good for me, that your intelligence didn't kick in until just a moment ago."
'Keep thinking that, bozo,' I thought while adding strength to my aura to assist in its fending off those tendrils that meant to enslave me completely. I shrugged with not badly feigned unconcern, "Luck of the draw,"
"Well, in that vernacular, your hand is bust, and I hold all the aces," he went on, actually gloating before his trap had properly sprung. "so why don't you fold gracefully and pay your debts?"
"Why not?" I agreed, spreading my arms in surrender, "You will at least pamper me, right?"
"Oh yes, little one," he promised with another grin, this one hungry. "You will have whatever the limited mind you retain desires, except freedom."
"I have to tell you that hearing that makes me feel so much better," with a smile that seemed, and was, out of place (I just couldn't work up the nerve to snarl defiantly or do something equally stupid under the circumstances.) I slowly approached him, pointedly ignoring the others in the chamber. If Ariel's plan fell through, my goose was well done and ready for the fork. Along with my delectable tush and the rest of my anatomy. "I mean, what's a few millennia of near mindless fucking and child bearing in exchange for being a pampered little pet?"
"For that bit of sarcasm," pursing his lips, Shen-Dai looked over at the collection of sorcerers with an unspoken command, "You'll remember who and what you once were, but remain powerless to change what you will be. Now, do you have anything else to say, my soon to be bride?"
"Guess not," I muttered, giving a worried glance to the others in that gathering. And to the gown and jewelry waiting for me. All of those items so heavily spelled that they reeked of their intent, which was to subjugate me for all time, and leave me as a nearly mindless husk. Which was a prospect I didn't really wish to contemplate, let alone meekly give in to.
"I wouldn't go to such Draconian extremes," Shen-Dai conversationally told me, "But for your uncanny ability to turn enemies or powerful neutrals into allies and friends. Your hold on the Death Angel is quite remarkable in that there is no trace of bespellment. Angels and Demons alike seem inclined to being susceptible to your charms, and I simply can't risk having you running around loose in the future. Much too dangerous, and you will be far safer here with me than out running arouund and attracting any trouble in your vicinity."
"If that's an apology, I don't accept it," I responded, still inching nearer to him by slight enough increments to judge the magical atmosphere surrounding him more fully with each tiny step. I'd have prayed, but why bother? He was one the Powers That Be who had got me into the current mess to begin with. In collusion with Lucifer. And a cast of thousands, it seemed. I'd been thoroughly suckered again, and was getting more than a little pissed off over the deal, and with being a pretty little princess pawn that either side could move around as they saw fit without worry of losing a really valuable piece.
Yes, I was really steamed over the things I managed, with help, to get myself into. Which in retrospect was a good thing for me. Anger was about the only emotion that would allow me full access to the magic I had stolen from Girard; the angrier I got, the more powerful my magic would be, and by then I was vein popping, coronary inducing, furious and still escalating. I guess you can figure out what happened next, right? I unleashed the magic, mopped up the palace floor with Shen-Dai and the others, then went off to live happily ever after. What is it with people, are most of you congenital idiots with an addiction to happy endings in their fairy tales?
Okay, I apologize for that one. I still get angry when I think about what could have happened to me in The Rogue's lair.
But if you were expecting an ending like I outlined above, I happen to have several bridges I'd be willing to let go of at bargain rates. Interested?
What really happened was just about nothing. All my fury and magical power was wrapped up with fending off those damned binding spells. So as far as real fighting or anything else idiotically macho, I was a real dud. I suppose you think that my resistance was so heroic that all the gathered magic users and baddies were enthralled into motionless awe, too.
Wrong again. Granted the Sorcerers and sorceress were kind of busy, while Shen-Dai was watching with interest. But let's not forget the Half Breeds. I sure can't. And probably won't ever be able to. Those misshapen excuses for living things couldn't wait to get their claws into my tender flesh, and all moved with exactly that purpose. Which would really have blown my concentration along with any real hope of independent thought for the next few thousand years or so.
Happily, one Half Breed I'll love till the sun quits shining, burst into the chamber with a certain Death Angel and proceeded to rip the little darlings into small shreds. Adrianna gave me one short salute, then went back to spreading as much mayhem as she possibly could. That was a lot, too, believe me.
Jedidiah splattered a few Half Breeds in passing, but his real target was Shen-Dai. Okay with me. But that left two sorcerers and one sorceress for me. Oh, goody! They had, fortunately, dropped their concentration on the binding spells, and those nasty things went to mostly harmless smoke. Unfortunately, that freed them to use their spells and power against the one unengaged adversary they could see. Me.
Well, if it was a perfect world and all that... But it wasn't , isn't , and I just had to make do with what was around. That was enough. Barely.
Since my own magic was suddenly freed up and really required no direction to divert, I simply aimed it at that trio and let go. Wild magic can sure make a mess of things when it's handled that way, not to mention of people who happen to be standing in its path.
First, Claremont lit up like a Christmas tree when the leading edge of my blast hit him. Then he went kind of transparent with his skeleton standing out in relief. After that there was nothing but bones left, and those figured out what had happened and obligingly clattered to the floor before dissolving.
Second, both Lilah and Cyrus were badly burned by what was left, but were still in action if temporarily disoriented. I instinctively reached for the loose magic that hadn't been consumed in Claremont's immolation, and found more than I had planned on. Those damned binding spells again.
Cursing myself loudly and with fervor and creativity of a longshoreman, I managed to rip loose of those, then send them spinning towards the pair of surviving magic users. I doubted that would accomplish much of anything other than creating a brief distraction, but you've heard the saying about any port in a storm? Well, there was no port available, so I improvised.
The spiraling binding spells impacted on both of their auras with a very satisfying thunk! and I began gathering my own scattered wits to hit them with something before they regained their balance. I really didn't have all that much left by then, and was starting to stagger a bit, but still got a reasonably potent Hell Bolt off. That fried Cyrus, but left Lilah only beating at sparks threatening to set her robes on fire.
Okay, I encouraged myself, two down and only one to go. Wondering if Lilah was feeling as beat up as I did, I reached for the one thing left in my somewhat limited arsenal. Good old Charm. It didn't work, but fighting it off gave me time to physically reach her and grapple before she could get another spell off. I went after her with teeth, nails, barbed tail, and wing spikes all at once. Talk about confusion. Oh, she had a long, wickedly sharp dagger, managed to draw it, and was determinedly trying to impale me with the thing.
We must have made quite a scene. Two females involved in the catfight of the century, rolling around in an organic puddle and a pile of ashes, slashing , jabbing, and cheating in any way either one of us could think of on the spur of the moment. Things were drawing into a stalemate of sorts. I had the most weapons and slightly superior strength, she had the very nasty, magically enhanced dagger, and neither one of us were really in much condition to carry on hostilities any longer. But we sure did try. Until strong hands braved the flailing limbs, wings, tail, and dagger to separate us.
Ariel had hold of me, while Jedidiah had an iron grip on Lilah. Neither of us was quite ready to quit, and spent a few seconds squirming and kicking until it dawned on our blood fevered minds that the fight was over. I touched Ariel's hand while nodding, then grinned up at him. "Hi. Who won?"
"We did," he answered, then glanced at a limp Lilah in the Death Angel's grip. "Is she...?"
"Just out cold," Jedidiah puffed out his cheeks and flashed a weak grin at me. "Lady, please remind me, frequently, not to get you angry. Could you do that?"
"Sure thing," I mumbled, then kind of lost track of things.
Okay, sometimes we do get a happy ending. I freely admit it, to all of you who waded through my tirade earlier. Hey, I was scared to death, in more trouble than most folks manage to find in a lifetime, and saw a bleak future of empty, mindless smiles, bed bumping, and having hybrid, Half Breed babies. You'd have been a little testy, too under those circumstances, I'm sure.
Jedidiah had managed to hold his own, and a little more with Shen- Dai until Ariel arrived to tip the thing over and stir the mess a little more. I don't know exactly what it was originally, but there had been a long standing disagreement between the Death Angel and The Rogue. Bad Blood, I guess. Shen-Dai had sicced some of his bad boys on Jedidiah right after I'd entered his trap so confidently. (Fine, kick me or sue me, I know it was a stupid thing to do, but had run out of options pretty quickly.) Anyway, whoever he sent were poorly matched against a formerly disenchanted Death Angel who had found a purpose for being again. (Me, gee that feels kind of nice.)
Adrianna came on the scene just then, with Helga holding off a pursuing gang of nasties so she could get inside the palace. She helped Jedidiah out of a real jam there, then both of them literally broke through those awful ivory doors to enter the combat that I've already described.
A very disheveled, and battered, Dimona soon followed, riding the shoulder of no less than Ariel himself. The Archangel at large, or whatever he is, soon put what was left of the fight between The Death Angel and The Rogue to an end. With predictable results. Shen-Dai would trouble neither Heaven, Hell, or the Human Realm again. Syl and Angelique were close behind, and dove into things with gleeful abandon that I almost wish I could have seen. But I was kind of busy myself at the time. (Lilah, remember?) She and all the surviving members of the cabal were sent off for trial and justice, which aren't necessarily the same things, and I spent a few days recuperating and dodging congratulations from just about anyone who passed by where I was lounging.
One visitor, though, I was happy to see even being as grumpy as I was. "Hi, Lorilei."
I looked up, preparing my much practiced (lately) glare of absolute disgust over being disturbed yet again, to find it dissipating in the breeze. Hi, yourself, Adrianna. How are you doing?"
"Well enough," she admitted, then reached out a hand to rest lightly, shyly, on my shoulder. The one Lilah hadn't bitten. "I owe you a lot, you know. I have a place now, and a family."
"I'm glad," was my still sleepy answer. "Have you made up with your Mother yet?"
"Yes," she nodded with a small smile, "I have. But I won't be staying here much longer than I have to."
"Wait a second here," I sat up, regretting my rashness at once, but stubbornly refusing to succumb to the maliciously gleeful little toothy things industriously chewing at my wounds. (Read the better part of my body, there.) "I thought all you wanted was a chance to reach a rapprochement with at least your mother's people."
"I did, and I have," she answered simply, then grinned mischievously . "But like everything else you get involved in, there have been some complications."
"Now why am I not surprised?" I finally gave in, fairly gracefully, and sank gratefully back into Mama's healing embrace.
"Jed can't stay here without, well, you know, changing more than either of us would like." Adrianna was almost apologetic. That didn't matter, though. I sat bolt upright again, bad move but so what? "You and the Death Angel? The Heavenly Hit Man? Jedidiah?
"That's right, Lorilei," she almost gushed she was so happy. "And all because of you. Besides, Jed isn't a Death Angel any longer. He's an agent at large with very tight connections to you."
"Well, yes." again, the Lovely Half Breed girl blushed. "He'd have told you himself, but to come in here he would have had to..."
"I get the picture," I grinned at her in surprise and pleasure, "So you're going to be with him from now on?"
"At least until we decide it won't work out," she agreed, showing a truly feminine intent that such an agreement would never be reached. "Anyway, thanks to you, again, he's back in favor in Heaven, but refused to go back. He told me that without you he'd still be a gray, wandering creature with no hope for redemption. So he's joined our team. Heaven is not pleased, by the way."
"I'd imagine not," I agreed with a wider grin of my own. "Now go tell him I wish both of you the best, and get out of here. If I smile any wider, my face is going to crack and start bleeding all over the place again. I'll see you later."
"Hey, am I interrupting anything?" A male voice intruded on my thoughts, and I turned in startlement to see Richard standing in front of me wearing a broad grin. "Honey, you look like Hell."
"Gee, thanks," I grinned back, wondering if my face could take much more. "You want to tell me how you managed to get into Mama's domain without changing back into a female?"
"A technicality I really think the old darling dreamed up just for the occasion. Since I was female once, the logic goes that in some way I still am. So, here I am."
"What happened to you during all that fracas?" I questioned, not recalling his presence in the palace, but then my memories get a little fuzzy here and there about that place.
"I was being a good little spear carrier, and beating the Hell, or Heaven, out of anything foolish enough to try getting out that portal. Things got kind of messy back there, too."
"So I heard," I nodded. "Well, what now?"
"I still think we should work on getting reacquainted, but can see that now isn't really a good time. Maybe we should do that once you feel a little better."
"You stay right here," I purred. "and get down here so I can quit getting a crick in my neck trying to see you."
"If you insist,"
"Oh, I do insist. Trust me. I'm never going to be too injured or sick for this."
"Hmmm," he thoughtfully settled in beside me. "so where should I start?"
"Anywhere," I begged. "Just start, okay?"
"I love it when you say such nice things, Lor," Richard grinned.
"I'll bet, now get busy and make me a healthy, well, Succubus."