For the first time since Emel was banished from her hometown, she felt happy. Not just okay, or all right, but happy. Wandering the joyous streets with Million and idly browsing in shops was a wonderful feeling. The burden of carrying the shopping was easily taken up by the demon she had wound up bound to, the tall and muscular blonde woman easily carrying all their necessary purchases in one basket.
They had raided the apothecary for components for spell powders and potions, replacing what they had used in the chasm and earthwork complex and then some. Time spent at the ironmongers and the outfitters rounded off their travelling equipment with some compact cooking utensils, camp making tools and various items of clothing to make their journey a bit easier and comfortable.
Then had come the fun purchases. Emel had resisted purchasing most of Million’s suggestions, but when it came to a silken red dress with the tiniest trim of white lace, she had relented. “You’ll need something to wear at special occasions on our travels, Master.” Million had told her, holding up a black silk dress against herself. “If you get that, I’ll get this. Then we can get some new stuff for me to wear while travelling.”
As she handed the gold coins over, Emel knew she had to beware the wheedling ways of that demon. Still, she had come to consider her less as a burden and more of a companion. Maybe even a friend.
And so they found themselves, dressed in red and black respectively, stood next to Mel-Krevin who was wearing a gaudy doublet and hose ensemble as he announced the start of the evening’s festivities. Tables had been placed out in the street during the early evening, with a canopy erected over the street to keep away any spring rains that might fall. Each table was lit with thick candles and lanterns hung overhead to provide further illumination.
“Ladies and gentlemen! As Mayor of Mel-daku, it is my pleasure to announce the first of three evenings dedicated to our local brewers, who continue to impress royalty at home and abroad with their fine, flavoursome beverages!” He announced in a booming voice, his facial hair combed as tame as it could be. “On the first night, our cups are dedicated to the good family Renstien, whose beers and ales have sated many a belly on a cold winter’s night.” A huge round of applause went up as a somewhat paunchy man stood to bow, followed by his hawkish wife and children.
“But, we have double a cause for celebration this year. For the Grolog Hive that has blighted our lands is gone! Banished by the power of the Staff of Enar, and the descendant of that same mage who wields it. A millennia ago, he imprisoned the last demon and sealed off their siege. One thousand years later. his many times great-granddaughter has worked a miracle to protect us and ensure our festival could carry on today!”
Emel blushed, looking downwards even as Million drank in the attention, waving magnanimously to the crowd. She desperately hoped that no one would spot the connection between Million and the old tales.
“So, we give thanks today not only to the brewers, who keep trade and interest going in this town of ours, but to the heroines who have done so much for us in such a short space of time! To Emel of Mardalen! And her guardian, Million!” Mel-Krevin roared, his moustache bristling outwards.
The crowds cheered, and the ale soon started to flow. While Emel had been at many celebrations in Mardalen, it was a more conservative place compared to this town. While she made sure to only sample some of the beverages for the sake of politeness, the rich ales and foamy beers left her cheeks red, her ears hot and her lips tingling.
“I can’t believe you’ve not taken anyone up on the offer of dancing.” Million teased, poking her with those long, powerful fingers of hers. “The music’s good, the food’s great, the booze is plentiful. Get out there and have some fun!”
“Million, I’m not going to dance with people I don’t know.” She replied, gulping from a cup of water. She paused when she saw the demon giving her a long, calculating look. It was then that she realised her mistake. Before she could rectify it, Million was dragging her out of her chair and down to where the others were dancing.
“You should have just asked if you wanted to dance with me. And you can step on my feet all you want, not going to hurt much.” She grinned, eyes bright with merriment as she swayed and jigged about to the fiddles, drums and violins that filled the street.
In spite of herself, Emel smiled back. It was better than tapping her feet under the table.
It was much, much later when the mage collapsed on her bed in a fit of soft giggles. Her head swam from the drink, and a combination of food and dancing had left her sleepy. Kicking her shoes off, she slipped out of her dress and under the covers. “Million?” She mumbled, nuzzling her head down on the pillow.
“Yeah, Master?” The demon replied, sat on the floor next to the bed.
“Today was good and…. good.”
Chuckling, Million reached over to lay a hand on the bed. “It was. We can stay for a few more days, right? Rest up, get some information on where to go next? If we find out where the next hive is…”
“Okay. But I don’t-” Emel trailed off, peering out from the covers at Million.
“I don’t want to become reliant on using your powers.” She admitted, her eyelids heavy.
“You won’t. I’ll teach you the language, of course. You need to know it in case of an emergency. But there’s nothing wrong with having the power there and not using it. You need to improve your mage skills too.” Million replied, shifting her hand over to find her master’s.
Mumbling something else, the next thing to come from her mouth was the odd, quite snore. A smile spread across Million’s lips, sitting there for a while before finally curling up on the floor mat.
Jogging back from the grocers with an apple in hand to munch on, Million came to a dead stop as she saw the coach pull into the market place. The guardsmen were from Mardalen. The people exiting from the ornate vehicle were townsfolk. Land owners and wealthy shopkeepers. They had been there on the day they banished their town’s mage for releasing the last demon in the world from imprisonment.
Vaulting up onto the rooftops with a single push of her powerful legs, she scampered back to the hotel room and slid through the open window. “Master!” She huffed, coming face to face with Emel and Shia working on potions.
“Million, there’s a perfectly good door there.” Emel smiled, the physician laughing away. She stopped smiling when she saw the serious look on her companion’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“We need to leave town.” Million sighed, her eyes downcast. “As soon as possible.”