The Hand That Feeds

Stepping inside the small, non-descript house she kept just at the outermost reaches of Artrix, Tryst felt a sense of homecoming which did not altogether please her.

She didn’t want to think of Phostus as her home. Phostus brought out the worst in her, and she had never planned to settle there.

Things hadn’t turned out the way she thought they would.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

“Oh, don’t misunderstand me,” Lucy said, “I’m not impugning your accomplishments, and I have only the greatest respect for your many talents. But I look at you, and I can’t help but see wasted potential. All those souls lost when you just shoot men dead. All those pesky human hang-ups holding you back.”

The demon’s smile widened, and she rolled over on the banquette so that she was balanced on all fours in a kind of feral, predatory posture.

“And I was going to say that it’s a shame that you’re going to get old and decrepit, except I think we both know that’s not the case.”

The Fine Print

“My business is to serve as a trustworthy intermediary between people who wish to strike bargains, and the demons they wish to strike those bargains with,” Tryst said. The devilkin extended her arms out to both sides, and gave a deep curtsey. “Think of me as a broker for souls, if you will.”

The Councilor tilted her head back slightly, so that she stared down her nose at the bowing broker. “What makes you think I would require such a service?” she asked.

“Anyone who makes a deal with a demon can benefit from skilled representation,” Tryst said.

Here, There Be Monsters

As Gale’s ship had come up upon the wrecked galleon, her captain and first mate had been discussing whether they could launch boats to pick up survivors, or whether any boats they sent on that task would wind up as crippled and doomed as the Mermaid’s Kiss herself.

That was when Gale had cleared her throat, and called out for her captain.

“I can save her,” she’d said.

The Fire

Beryl turned to face her sister. Astria was still ashen-faced and shaken, but the color was slowly returning to her cheeks, and her breathing had settled. For what felt like an eternity, the two sisters simply stared at each other. Both were awkwardly silent beneath the weight of each other’s gaze.

Both knew what needed to be said, but neither was quite sure of how to say it.

A Name in a Book

“What’s that?” Alessa asked, a curious expression on her face.

“It’s something from the past,” Beryl said. “Something I thought had been lost.”

Alessa looked confused. “It’s not magic,” she said.

Beryl shook her head. “No, it’s not magic,” she said. “It’s more powerful than that.”

Between Two Worlds

“Why did you hide our mother’s letter from me?” Beryl asked.

Astria gave an indignant snort. “I did no such thing.”

“Please don’t lie to me, Astria. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. You kept it from me—”

“—That letter,” Astria interrupted, her voice rising to a full, indignant yell, “was addressed to Beryl Trevanei. Beryl Trevanei!” Astria leveled a finger at Beryl, and her whole body shook as she spoke. “Beryl Trevanei no longer exists! I unmade her!”

Complications

“If she’s all those things,” Alessa said, as she slid the key into the lock, “then explain to me why you’ve never been kissed before.”

Beryl blushed. Again. “I don’t think she knows how I feel,” she said. “Even if she did, I don’t know if she would feel the same.”

Alessa shot Beryl a sardonic glance. “And whose fault is that?”

He felt the Lifeline snap taut, and it pulled him back. Pulled him back from darkness into light.

He felt ground underneath him, felt himself lying on the cold, stone floor of The Place In-Between.

His lungs were empty. He gasped to fill them, choked on the blood in his mouth. He spit the blood out, tried breathing again. It hurt, but it worked.

His head swam. He felt as though he’d been kicked by a horse.

He never got used to this part.

The Lies We Tell

Beryl leaned in close to Astria’s face, so that their eyes were level. “Have you ever killed anyone, Astria? And I don’t mean, have you ever had anyone killed, because I know the answer to that. No, what I want to know is: Have you ever looked someone right in the eyes – just like I’m looking at you, now – before you burned the life out of them? Have you ever smelled the smell of their melting skin as you watched them die? Do you have any idea what that feels like?”

Friends and Killers

“Maybe now you won’t believe just anything you hear about me,” Fisco said. He returned his cigar to his mouth. “Although, remember how you asked me before if I was a killer?”

Aloise nodded.

A grin crept across Fisco’s face. “Well, you’d better watch out for your friend, there,” he said, nodding towards Beryl. “Because she’s a killer, too.”