The road to Mel-daku had been a dusty trek. The town appearing in the distance though quickened the step of the two travellers. Emel, the shorter of the pair, was using her staff as a walking stick for additional support. The white wood shaft was topped with a brilliant ruby orb that glimmered in the dying light of the sunset. Her travelling robes were stained with grass and mud, and her black hair was starting to escape the ponytail she kept it up in.
Million took great strides with long, muscular legs. Dressed less conservatively than her master, she wore a white, belted toga that revealed her powerfully built arms. Her mass of golden blonde hair clung to her face from the sweat she had shed, but her amber eyes were still keen to danger as they walked. “I still don’t know why you wouldn’t let me carry you.” She commented, eyeing the weight the mage was placing on the staff.
“It’s just a blister, I’ll be fine once we get into town so I can treat it.” Emel explained, shuffling her backpack. “Besides, it’d feel… lazy I suppose, to make you carry me around all over the place.”
“Can I at least take your belongings?” Million asked, scratching at the side of her head. “Honestly, Master, I’ll feel stupid walking into town carrying hardly anything while you’ve got that pack on.”
“Hardly anything?” Emel blinked, pointing at the large rucksack slung over the demon’s back.
“Well, it’s hardly anything to me?” She shrugged with a smile. Stepping over, she soon started to relieve the mage of her pack.
“Fine, fine…” She huffed, untangling her arms from the straps. “I am never going to get used to this.” Still, she did find the going much easier without her supplies weighing her down.
“It’s simple, Master. You reawakened me-”
“Getting me banished from my hometown in the process…” The mage sighed.
“Their loss.” Million sniffed disdainfully. “Anyway, you reawakened me. I’m bound to you. Yeah, I’ve got some autonomy, but your word is law if you put sufficient willpower behind it. Yours to command. And really? Carrying your bags is nothing.”
“I don’t even use magic to clean rooms, so getting a demon to carry me around seems… something very unlikely.” Emel admitted, looking over at the cause of her journey. Million had been imprisoned in a statue in the town of Mardalen a thousand years ago by Emel’s great, great, great… well, very great grandfather, Enar the Mage. An attack on the town and a miscast spell had caused her to accidentally free the last demon known in the world. As was written in the laws of the town, she was cast out from her home.
“Fine,” Million relented, before holding up a long finger tipped with a carefully trimmed claw. “but if I see need for it, I will pick you up and carry you. I’m… well, not honour bound, but spellbound to protect you.”
As the town got closer, Emel had a question lay heavy on her lips. Just as they were about to reach the gates, she stopped. “Does that ever bother you?”
The demon glanced down to the woman, an eyebrow raised. “What?”
“Me having that amount of control over you.”
“Pff, not at all. Natural order.” Million shrugged, before nodding ahead. The gate guards had come out, their hands rather close to their swords. “Looks like trouble.”
“Halt! State your identities, and your business in Mel-daku!” One of the guards ordered, eyeing the pair suspiciously.
“I’m Emel, a mage from Mardalen. This is my… guardian,” she said, exchanging a look with her demon, “Million. We’re travellers, and here for supplies and to visit the Brewer’s Triduan festival.”
“Especially the last part.” Million added with an eager nod.
The grip on their weapons relaxed. The guard who spoke looked between the mismatched pair, before sighing. “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the festival is postponed. Grologs have taken the Brewmaster’s Baton, without that there’s no way we can go ahead with the celebration.”
The sound of Million’s jaw dropping was audible. Glancing up, Emel was rather surprised to see the sad look on her face. “Are Grologs a problem around here? We haven’t seen any on our way.” Grologs were a menace, erupting from underground caverns to snatch up travellers and raid vulnerable places. In a way the blue-skinned brutes were distantly related to Million, being the descendants of shock troops from the Siege of One Million Demons.
The guards exchanged a look. “They’ve been quiet since taking the baton. Too quiet.”
Million mused thoughtfully for a moment, before clicking her fingers. A bright, happy expression crossed her face. “We’ll get it back!”
“What?” The guards gasped.
“What?!” Emel yelped.
“What?” Million grinned. “We rest up for the night, let my master soothe her blistered feed, and then tomorrow we go and beat up Grologs, get this fancy stick back and we can then have a drink! Preferably several.”
“Throw open the gates!” One of the guards called before pointing to another. “You, run and tell Mayor Mel-Krevin that we have someone for him to meet! Come, the pair of you. Welcome to Mel-daku, we’ll get you settled in one of the inns.” He said, ushering the pair in.
“Are you crazy, Million?” Emel hissed. “Volunteering us for this, what were you thinking?”
“Don’t worry, Master.” The demon smiled. “Look, I’ve seen your coin purse, and it’s looking a little…. is emaciated a good word? You’re a good mage, I’m a kickass… ‘guardian’,” she added the air quotes with her fingers, “we save the stick, get the festival started, and maybe earn a bit of coin for our troubles. No one gets hurt except the Grologs, and no body cares about Grologs. Not even other Grologs. That’s why they’re Grologs.”
“Can you stop saying Grologs!?” Emel whined, the butt of her staff tapping on the ground with every step as they entered the town, a blush coming to her cheeks as she saw the excited faces peering out of windows at them. “They could have a massive hive nearby, I don’t believe I can take on something like that.”
Her companion just laughed from the bottom of her belly, even as she waved to the people looking out over them. “I don’t need you to believe you can do it. Just believe that I can.” She stated absolutely, before flashing her mage a bright, fanged grin. “The renown and glory will be good for us too. Imagine when those shmucks in Mardalen hear about our Grolog beat-down? They’ll be -begging- you to come back and live in your fancy tall tower again.”
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Emel hobbled towards the large inn at the bottom of the street thinking one thing: She really shouldn’t have been so insistent to Million about the virtues of helping others.