It was a little hard for Emel to eat, what with the man sitting across the table staring at her with his eyes full of hope and his top lip resembling the sweeping part of a broom. Not only was his facial hair impressive, with tufts of greying brown hair coming from upper lip, nose, eyebrows and ears, but he was giving little notice to Million’s lacklustre table manners.
Finishing her mouthful of a rather hearty winter stew, chunks of meat and assorted vegetables floating in the broth, she took out a piece of parchment and some charcoal. “So, Mayor Mel-Krevin, this Brewmaster’s Baton… why would Grologs want it?”
The mayor scratched at his moustache. “The Baton has some minor magical power, it was crafted many years ago and is used to open some of the ancient fortifications around the town. We keep certain items in the fortifications for the festival, and without them… it just can’t be done.”
She was thankful that they had been sat away from the other diners in the inn. It had gotten a little boisterous in the common room after news had spread that someone would recover their precious item, and from the sounds Million was making as she gnawed away on a drumstick, the other diners would have their appetites saved. “How far out do they extend? Perhaps there is something they wish to get access to… or wish for easier access into the town.”
The mayor nodded. “I’ve had guards stationed by the town’s entrances to the fortifications, just in case they try to break in. But Mel-daku used to be a lot bigger. It’s entirely possible the Grologs have their hive near the outer edges. They tend to come from the north, and there are old earthworks in that area.”
“Would it be possible to get some maps of the area, and any texts that might cover what we may find around there?” Emel inquired, gnawing slightly on her thumb’s mid-knuckle. “Anything that might give us an edge could be very helpful.”
Nodding, the Mayor waved one of his aides over to whisper in her ear. With a curtsey, she quickly left the side room they were in. “I’ll have some of our ancient scrolls brought up to your room. Please be careful with them though, they are old and rather delicate. Not unlike myself.” He added with a chuckle.
“I will take the utmost care.” The mage promised, touching her index and middle finger to her chest. Mel-Krevin seemed to appreciate the gesture of sincerity.
“Will you need any of the guard to come with you? Or some of the militia. I do not know if we can spare many, but-”
“Thanks, but nope!” Million grinned, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “Me and Emel know how to fight together without her singeing me with magic, and if we have to go underground, the less people the more room we have to work with.”
“Million makes a good point.” Emel said, looking at her demon with a little bit more admiration for her tactical thinking. “It’s probably best for your men to focus on the town, where there priorities lie. We might need some provisions but-”
Mel-Krevin waved his hand magnanimously. “We’ll get that covered. Write a list and we’ll have it ready for when you leave.” He pushed his chair back and stood, hands coming down to adjust his rather patched smock top. “I should get going now, but I just wanted to say thanks, to both of you, for volunteering for this. I wish you all the best.”
Rising as well, Emel bowed her head politely. “Thank you for the assistance, we’ll do our best not to let you down. I’ll give my list to your aide when she returns.” She watched the Mayor leave, his guards following him out from their position by the door. Letting out a soft sigh, she turned to Million. “I hope we’re doing the right thing…”
Her mouth full of roasted meat and the bone it clung to, all her demon could do was give her a greasy-pair of thumbs up.
By her reckoning, it had just gone past midnight when she finished her preparations for the next day. Her list had been left with the mayor’s aide with all the supplies she’d need. She’d poured over the maps and scrolls provided by Mel-Krevin to learn as much as she could about the ancient ruins in the area. The Staff of Enar’s ruby orb was glowing brightly with magical energy, even through the woollen mitt she’d pulled over it to dull its illumination of the room.
Even better was the fact that not only was she able to have a long soak in the baths at the inn, dealing with her pesky blisters in the process, but her clothes had been laundered too. And now, laying in bed dressed in a comfortable smock with her hair smelling of pineberries, all she could do was not fall asleep. Worries played across her mind of their task tomorrow. Million’s bravado couldn’t help abate the chill of fear that had settled into her chest the more she dwelled on a hive of vicious Grologs waiting for some foolish-
“Stop worrying, Master.” Million’s voice called softly from the other side of the room.
Turning away from the wall, she couldn’t spot Million in bed. Shuffling closer to the edge, she peered down to find the demon curled up on the mat just below. “… What are you doing down there?” She asked curiously, peeking over the top of the bed.
“Trying to get to sleep. Emphasis on the trying.” Million yawned. An amber eye peered back at her, the other closed. There was something feline about the demon’s eyes, from the rounded-diamond pupils to the reflective irises. “I can smell that you’re worried, and I told you already. Believe in me, Master.” She said with such certainty and conviction in her voice.
“I’m trying to… but you still haven’t answered my question. Just why are you down there instead of on the nice, comfortable bed there?” Emel asked, pointing across to the other side of the room.
“If I get used to soft mattresses and fluffy pillows, you’ll only have to deal with a grumpy me when we first camp out again.” Million grinned, the white of her teeth flashing up at the mage. “Sleep, Master.” She said a little more insistently. “You need to be wide awake to see me kick seven shades of Grolog butt.”
And with that, Million shut her eye and snuggled down on the mat, curled up surprisingly small for her tall form. Rolling back to face the wall, Emel listened to the sounds in the room. Her own breathing and that of Million’s. The creaking of a building settling down for the evening, and the scant signs of activity from outside the inn.
Soon enough, the sound of gentle snoring filled the room from the bed. Taking that as her cue, the last demon in the world rolled over into a cross-legged position. Her breathing steady she concentrated on the power within her, the golden flames of her kind. She needed to be at her best for her Master. She had to show her power could be trusted and believed in.