Story: Tea & inquiries

The woman was standing awkwardly in an unfamiliar room. They’d had their introductions just a moment before outside, after which she had taken off her outer garments in order to accomodate for the warmth of the house.

The demon was not what she had been expecting: he was so… small and delicate looking. But Iria had learned long ago to not judge demons by their looks.

[Please make yourself at home. And excuse the mess.] he spoke directly into her mind, which was an odd sensation to say the least. It made her wonder if he read her thoughts and whether she should try and answer silently as well. Would it be rude to ask?

She moved slowly -just in case. The woman had grown accustomed to being around demons and some of them could be very fidgety, especially if she was carrying a weapon. Most looked down on humans, though, and she had not ran into too much trouble over the years.

As the woman sat down, the demon came to her side and directed his silent words at her: [That is an impressive blade. May I take a look?]

Iria hesitated for a visible moment, but in the end offered the sword to the demon. A mutual trust was needed in order for this to be successfull.

He had to be certain she wouldn’t try to gut him, and he would have to show her that he means no harm. Though she was already inside his house: an easy prey.

The demon slid the blade out and examined it. [I see.]

[Human forged.. but something about it…] he seemed to mumble as his eyes carefully went over every detail.
[This can kill more than mere mortals. Demons.]

Did he think she would use it on him?

“I just need it for one.” she pointed out carefully while trying to measure the demon.

[I see.] he set the sword against the table, clearly in her reach, and walked to the opposite side.

[Shall we get to why you are here.]

[Tea?] he was already pouring.
“Yes, please.”
[So, you wished to ask something of me?]

The woman hesitated, glancing at her sword, though she knew many demons were impatient with humans. “I’m… looking for someone and heard you have vast amounts of knowledge.”

[I sense there is more to the story] he remarked casually and the woman got the hint.

She raised her eyes and looked straight at the demon: “How old would you say I am?”

The demon examined her calmly for a long while, which undeniably made the woman slightly uncomfortable.
[In your mid-twenties when your time was stopped. Now… less than two centuries?]

Her hands paused for a moment, then she nodded: impressive.

She hadn’t told him anything about herself and yet he almost hit the mark. The demon didn’t have a reputation for nothing.

“I’ve been 24 years old for roughly 150 years.”

[So, what brings a young lady such as yourself to a stuffy house like this?] his voice was genuinely curious.

Iria wasn’t sure if he was being ironic with the ‘young’ or not.

“I’m looking for someone who can break this curse. And also the demon that did it. Even better if they’re one and the same- however unlikely.”
She sipped her tea, and continued: “I heard that you have knowledge of… well, nearly everything magic related. Perhaps curses as well?”

He put down his cup, [that is a vast overstatement. But yes, I am a seeker of knowledge.]
“Can you help me? I can reimburse you handsomely.”

The demon seemed pensive for a moment.

[I do not seek riches, but information. And I find you curious.]

[This is the first time I am meeting a human who wishes to die.]

Her hand stopped again.

[You could make it easier on yourself by throwing yourself on that blade of yours. It should do the trick.]

Her eyes instinctively sought out her sword. “I do not wish to die. I want to live.”

[I do not understand. This way you can live forever without fear of dying.] his eyes glimmered with curiosity.

“This… isn’t living. I have not lived a day in my life since this was done to me. Humans are not meant to live– no exist, forever like this.”

The demon just looked at her inquisitively as she tried to explain herself; “My body may go on unchanged forever, but my mind grows weary. I can no longer remember what it feels like to have my heart beat for someone. How it is to touch another person and really feel something. I want back the possibilities that were stolen from me.”

[But you can never go back to when you were. You are already out of your time.]

“No, but if this curse is lifted, my time will restart again in this period of time. I can work, fall in love, bear children, get sick, grow old and then eventually die… I do not expect someone with your slow, steady flow of time to understand, but it is what makes us human: living as hard as possible in the short amount of time we have been given.”

The demon seemed pensive again. [No… Time is not an ally for anyone. I have lived much longer than you can imagine, but my time does flow and as I approach the end, I feel I have not had enough of it for everything I wish to do.]

[Unfortunately, I am not well versed in curses. I do tamper with time a little bit, but I can not restart yours with the curse still so strong. Whoever cast it was powerful or had a long lasting source.]

“I see” she was disappointed. All this way for nothing again.

[However, I do know of a demon who knows more about curses than anyone. What I can do, is tell you where her last known location was.]

Her eyes came back to life and she straightened her back: “Truly? Would you?”

[I shall write it down, but I can not guarantee her cooperation. I have not met her myself, but rumour say she is quite rash and stubborn.]

“It doesn’t matter” she exclaimed “I’ll meet with her no matter what.”

If she was to meet her end by one of these demons, then that was that. But she refused to just accept her fate without doing nothing.

Suddenly there was a loud enough thump at the roof that made the furniture jump. Iria grabbed her tea cup instantly, and while the demon seemed to have been caught unawares as well, he recovered immediately.

[I am sorry, that was my nephew. I have told him time and time again to not land on the roof.] he sighed as he looked up at the ceiling.

‘Land?’ she wondered, but didn’t have to be confused for long: there were hurried footsteps in the hall, and a very familiar looking demon with red hair and large black & red wings appeared at the door.

“Uncle, I sensed a-”

[No wings inside the house, how many times do I need to tell you this?] the elder demon interrupted. [And I am with a guest.]

The red-haired demon had a striking resemblance to the older one she had been having tea with. He turned to look at Iria and his pink eyes widened: “… A human?”

The woman couldn’t find the words and stared at him stupidly. Yes, she had been surprised by the sudden racket and the other demon’s appearance, but what really had her attention were the giant wings. She had never seen ones like it. Not big enough to actually take to the sky.

His eyes returned to a normal expression and he managed to look a little sheepish. “Ah, sorry…”
To Iria he seemed to be wondering if he should be appearing in front of her at all. Despite his flashy looks, there was something very… human about him. She might’ve laughed at his expression, if she had been in a more relaxed environment.

His wings vanished as Khepre motioned towards him. [Please excuse my nephew. His name is Somnion, and he may be twice your age, but has nothing on your manners.]

“Twice?” the young demon seemed confused.

Iria just nodded, unsure of what else to say: “Nice to meet you”

The younger demon bowed as well, despite his confusion “Likewise” and was ushered out by Khepre, mumbling something about them being done soon.

[Now, let’s see, the last I heard of her…] He dipped his quil to the ink and started writing, a pensive look on his face.

He seemed to be racking his brain for the information and Iria took the chance to discreetly put her traveling clothes back on: this seemed like her cue to get ready to leave.

As Iria was closing her clasp, a thought occurred to her: “There was something else, I’d like to ask…” she paused, “I got into some trouble in the woods as I was travelling here.”

[Trouble?] he lifted his gaze before managing a single word on the paper.

“Yes, I was lost and in the end passed out somewhere. But when I woke up, I was close to civilization and there was a water skin next to me. I had thought someone was following me, but I couldn’t sense them properly nor see or hear anything.”

[Curious… That must’ve been Kilbas.]

[You have heard of the Hunter?]
“Hunter? The Hunter?”

The demon nodded. Of course she had heard of the Hunter. He was a legend, a fairytale to most. Iria had learned to not dismiss rumours and legends so easily, but even to her it had sounded like nonsense made to scare the children. But perhaps there was more to this -as there usually was to any old legend.

Should she ask more or let it be? Perhaps she had already used up all of Khepre’s good will.

[Careful with him.] the corners of the demon’s mouth were curved upwards in amusement as he wrote. [He is a fickle creature. One day he may be your ally and the next he will cut off your head. Though, as a human you should be relatively safe. He must not have realized your… special circumstance.]

“I’ll keep that in mind.” the woman assured as she fixed her sword on her hip.

The demon got up and held up a piece of paper to her:

[This is where I last heard she was]

She took the paper: “Thank you. How will I be able to repay you?”

[No need. But if you do find a way to reverse the curse, I would love to hear about it. At least send me word, no matter how long it takes. I will be here.]

[Oh, and careful with that blade. It’s existence alone is enough to anger some.]

“Yes, I know. I don’t carry it with me everywhere.”

She had a new lead now, and perhaps soon she would be able to end this cursed life -or prevent it from happening to someone else at the very least.

Human greed assured that many would kill to become immortal, but Iria doubted many could handle it.

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