The LionessMature

I approached the Wandering Trail Inn with a sense of foreboding. I knew that in a place like this, no one would bother to report a shady character. But if anyone, anyone, so much as recognized me I was dead. Someone with as big a price on my head as me was bound to get a slashed throat and her body thrown at the feet of the nearest Lioness if she were caught. I knew- I used to be one.

I had been wrongfully accused of killing several of our own, and I had been forced to run. The Lionesses tended to kill first, investigate never. The Lionesses were the Guardians, who policed the general populace. The Lions, the male version of the Lionesses, were much rarer, because Lionesses were also Priestesses to the Great Goddess. The Lions were not a religious figure, they were purely the carriers of the law. I had been one of the best Lionesses, considered prophetic for my ability to wield tremendous power. My element was metal, which was in no short supply here in our province. Mine was a power so unique, so completely primal in it’s ability to instill fear and respect, that I was prized above all else. And now that I had “gone rogue” I was a top priority on the dead-list. My only hope was to find someone who could help me negotiate with the leader of the Pride without killing me. There were only five people that I had ever heard of that might be able to do this, and I knew that four of them would want me as dead as the Lionesses did.

I wasn’t in my traditional white robes, as I would be if I were still a Lioness. Instead, I was clad in black and forest green. I had a cheap linen blouse that was black, and flowing black pants that were sure to be easy to fight in should it come to that. I hoped it didn’t. My cloak was green, and the only thing that I had kept that people might recognize me by; and I had done so from sheer pride. They could declare me rogue, take my robes, and throw me to the wolves, but this they couldn’t take. This, and my katana.

My katana was one of the best ever made, passed down for generations upon generations. It was an old family legend that it was forged by an ancient god of war who was indebted to one of my ancestral Matriarchs. It was said that she bargained to release him from his debt if he made a sword that could never lose, could never break, and would stay in her family until her line was dead. He had consented, but in order to do this he had to bind it’s very essence to his soul; when the sliver of soul passed from him to the sword, it was said that he gave his personality, and his ability to bind with the owner of the sword to it. When it speaks to you, or it hums with the heat of battle, it’s hard to doubt it’s origin.

I heard the sound of music blaring from the building from twenty feet away, and by the time I entered it was almost unbearably loud; I could see it was to keep the drunks awake. It wasn’t working very well, in all honesty. Since this was the only pub within twenty clicks, it was where everyone in that distance went to get drunk and pass out. The band gave up about five minutes after I entered; it was obvious they were over. Everyone was either glaring murder at them or sleeping, so it wasn’t exactly an interested crowd. I went straight to the innkeeper, and he seemed more tired than the drunks. “I need a room for the night.” I said without pleasantries. He handed me a key and pointed at the stairs, not bothering to speak. I followed the pointing hand toward the stairwell, but I was intercepted before I made it. “You looking for work, pretty?” One man, sloshed off his ass, stumbled into me. He gripped my arm roughly. I drew a thin knife and rested it lightly on his stomach. “Unless you want your insides out, and your outsides in, I suggest you remove yourself from my presence.” I demanded coldly. He let go like I was on fire, shocked. I moved on.

When I passed the last table, the lone man sitting at it had his cloak on and his eyes shadowed. I was immediately wary, but he looked up slightly. I couldn’t see his face, but I was one of the best fighters anyone in the Lionesses had seen. There were few better, and that gave me some measure of security. “Good night, Shenai.” The man muttered as I passed, and I reeled away. He rose his face to look at mine, and I recognized him immediately. The master of the Thieves’ guild. “You.” I breathed, my eyes filled with fear. He knew me; he would turn me in for sure. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, Lioness. I’ve got no grudge against you.” He looked down again, and gestured for me to sit. “I thought you were based in Ciaran?” I asked, and he smiled. It was a nice sight to see, no matter how well you knew the man. I sat.

“I am- usually. I heard of the situation, and decided to come see what could be done about it. When my men talk of a renegade Lioness, I listen.” He sat forward, and put back his hood so he could stare into my eyes. “I know you far better than you think. You are totally loyal to your cause, and the only reason you were declared rogue was because no one was left alive to tell them so.” He moved to sit languidly with his arm over the back of the chair and his other falling into his lap. “I have no doubt that you are not what they say. But I want you to consider accepting my help.” He held up a hand as I began to spit out an answer. “I know, you don’t need the help of a thief. But we are people too, pretty Lioness. We feel when one of our own needs help and we go to them. You? You are no longer a Lioness. So you are a criminal; so what? I am too. Who else could say such a thing to you, pretty Lioness?” He demanded, and I shook my head in an attempt to clear it. His words addled me, but I was still a Lioness. I said so. “Do you really, truly think that? Even if you prove your innocence, you will never be trusted again.” He seemed to care, but I knew better than to believe a thief. “What’s in it for you?” I asked suspiciously. He seemed exasperated. “Nothing! Is it so unbelievable that I want to help you?” He asked, and I nodded. “Yes. I’ve never even met you before.” He smiled coyly. “But you have. When we were young, there was a small boy who was harassed by three larger younglings. You helped that small boy, and now it’s time he returned the favor.”

I was shocked for nearly an entire minute, and he waited patiently for me to get over it. “You’ve remembered that, all these years?” I asked incredulously. “Even then, I was honor-bound. I felt I owed you a debt, and I should repay you. Not in so may words, of course. But I still felt you were owed something in return. I was never in a position to offer it to you, because you would have hated me purely on principle. I think that perhaps you don’t hold the same pure hatred for all criminals as you once did?” He phrased the last to sound like a question. “No, not anymore.” I muttered, and his smile once again showed itself. “What are you?” Nothing on the side of humanity would have remembered that far back on a question of honor and debt. “I am whatever you need me to be.” He answered cryptically. “Perhaps we should talk in private? I know my men are loyal to me, but they are all a bunch of gossips.” He joked, and I was instantly on the alert. “Hey, now; I give you my word, on my life and my honor, that I will not try to kill you this night.” I was placated, and stood. “I just got a room. We can go there.” He nodded and followed me. We sat at the table inside the cramped quarters, and I stared at him for a while. He was content to let me examine him, sitting back and doing the same.

He was tall, 6’ 6” at the least. His blonde hair was long, but tied back in a smooth wave down his back, as I had seen when he had taken his cloak off. He had a brand burned into his arm that I knew to mean he had once been a slave boy, but it wasn’t a huge shock. That was probably how I had known him, because I had once been a slave child. My guess was that he had been put to hard labor, but I had been a sewing girl. I had had it easier, but on a slave-trade factory the competition to be noticed and promoted was fierce, especially among the children. It couldn’t have been easy for him. I didn’t remember the actual occasion I had helped him, but I had no doubt that I had done so; I had been quite the protector for the underdog. He was pure muscle, but it wasn’t bulky. He had one nostril pierced with a small silver ring, and it was the purest silver I’d ever seen; I could feel it singing to me in the back of my Sense.

His eyes were a startling shade of red-black, and if he had a pupil you couldn’t tell because his eyes was the same as what it would look like. The whites of his eyes were so pure they seemed to almost glow, especially when counteracted against the deep darkness of his iris. His skin wasn’t tan, but it wasn’t noticeably pale, either, and blended nicely with the whole of him.

I took a moment to ponder what he would be seeing. I was tall for a Lioness, but short compared to him. Perhaps 5’ 7”, at the most. I looked frail, but it was pure deception. I was fast and strong, and with the help of my katana I was just nigh of unbeatable. Some would say I was unbeatable, but I’ve never been one to be narcissistic. I had raven-black hair, long, that I kept loose and flowing straight down my back. It had a slightly opalescent sheen to it, and it was another distinctive feature I had kept. This time out of vanity, however. My hair contrasted sharply with my alabaster skin that was so white it was nearly clear; my veins showed clearly in my arms and wrists, even my throat where my pulse was located. The doctors had never had trouble finding where to put a needle in me.

I had vivid, steel-gray eyes that shined like the metal I controlled. My eyelashes looked like they were made of silver, and my nails were pure copper-steel alloy. They were a shiny, red-silver color. I supposed I was attractive, but not nearly as much as everyone else seems to think.

“Done?” He asked, and instead of it being a sarcastic tone it was a true question. “Perhaps.” I allowed grudgingly, and he smiled. His teeth were the whitest I’d seen. “You still haven’t told me what you are.” I pointed out, and his smile turned into a grin. “but I did; I told you I was whatever you needed me to be. And I am. That is all that matters.” He waved it away; I wondered why he was so averse to telling me, so I asked. “We’re not the most popular of creatures; leave it at that.” He wasn’t snappish, he was just requesting that we move on. I got the feeling I would like him eventually…if I decided to accept his companionship on my quest for truth. “Fine. I’m just trying to understand why you feel the need to repay me for something that was twenty years ago.” I explained needlessly, and he nodded. “I am aware of that. And the response is that, because of what I am, I am honor-bound to you. And the fact that though you were younger than me, you still stood up to them. That, too, makes you worthy of my loyalty.” I smiled at that. “I was four, and you were five. I remember now. And the people that were pushing you were around were eight. You told me that you owed me, and that you’d repay me.” His expression lit up like the sun. “You remember me. Good. Now do you understand?” He asked, and I nodded solemnly. “Your word is something you can’t break?” I guessed; that narrowed down the field to one of three things. A fairy of some sort, which I doubted; a warlock, which was plausible; or a demon, which was next to impossible. Everyone knew demons didn’t come to this plane of existance, and they certainly didn’t let one of their children be taken into a slave-factory. “Not unless I wanted to die.” He agreed, and that nixed out the only likely option. It left fairy and demon, and I was going to go with fairy. Demon was just way too hard to believe.

“You might be helpful, although I don’t know how.” He laughed, deep in his chest. “A good thief is useful for many things, and all of them unsavory. I will travel with you, pretty Lioness.” He seemed to know that I had agreed to take him. “What’s your name?” I asked, and he shrugged. “Call me Thief, for that is all I am to you.” I started to disagree, and he shook his head. I knew he was right; for now, that was all he was to me. “I have an idea of where to pick up one other person that we will need if you are to make the Lionesses pause and listen to you; a Flair-mage named Draegnon.” I sniffed. “What good is a Flair-mage?” I demanded, and he grinned. “He wasn’t always a Flair-mage. He used to be one of the best warlocks ever seen.” He took a moment to savor the shock on my face. “He retired to become a Flair-mage when the life bored him.” He shrugged. A Flair-mage was a person that used their magic for flashy and showy purposes, like parties or sleight of hand. They were looked down on for their nomadic lifestyles. A warlock was something entirely different- secretive, stuck-up, pompous…And very, very powerful. They guarded their magic jealously, not to mention viciously, because they could summon and control demons. With enough practice and power, they could even control a demonic Lord. The horror of angering a full warlock was the same as hearing you had a day to live- because they were the same thing. “The life bored him?” I asked, my voice a higher pitch than I liked. “He’s has a very short attention span.” He seemed almost bemused, and I had a slight thought that perhaps he knew him better than he was letting on. “How do you know him?” I asked, and he smiled. “Picked up on that, did you? I met him a while ago, and that, too, has to do with what I am.” It clicked, finally, and he saw it in my eyes. He stiffened, but when I didn’t immediately say anything he cautiously relaxed again.

He was a demon. A demon. Here. On this plane. I decided to move on. “Where do we find him?” I asked instead, and his smile was just short of blinding. “And that makes you worthy of my loyalty as well, pretty Lioness.” He muttered, and I blushed lightly. “Don’t call me that; I have a name, and you know it.” I snapped. “Why should I call you Shenai when the one I have found for you fits you so well?” He asked plainly, and I arched an eyebrow. “Because my name isn’t ‘pretty Lioness’.” He just shook his head. “Very well, lovely Lioness.” I gave up with a harrumph of annoyance. “Where do we find him?” He shrugged. “He will be calling me very soon. It would be a small thing just to take you with me.” He made it sound like a walk in the park, but I was better versed in demon lore than that; he was saying he was more powerful than I could have thought possible. “Why are you on this plane?” I asked suddenly, and he blinked in thought. “The same reason that Draegnon is no longer a warlock. I got bored.” He said, and I nearly laughed. “Do you mind if I ask…” I trailed off, but he got what I was asking. “I am not of any of the Thirteen Flights of Daemon. I am what you call a demonic Lord.” I nearly passed out, but he caught me before I hit the floor; it jolted me back into reality. “That’s impossible.” I breathed, and he grinned. “Not quite. Just very rare.” He conceded in a high-strung voice. I hit him over the back of the head twice, and he yipped in pain. “What was that for?” He demanded. “That tone you just took. And for not warning me first.” I glared, and he burst into a fit of bellowing laughter. “You just hit a demonic Lord over the back of the head because he took a tone with you?” I had to admit, when you put it that way it was a little shocking. My obstinacy chose that moment to kick in, and I glared him down. “Yes, damn it.” I growled, and he laughed it was such a pure sound, you wouldn’t have suspected the darkness and fire that reigned within him. Demons were the most powerful thing that could survive in this plane. Dragons were the most powerful, but everyone knew that they would suffocate without the fiery air of Hellsphere. I lived in Godsphere, the sphere of the gods and those who worship them. There was a god for everything, including the cutthroats and murders. That was called the Unnamed, for no one dared to speak his true one and bring his wrath. The Mother was the one the Lionesses enforced, and the god that stemmed all the others.

Thief would worship Chedani, the thief’s god…Or perhaps he worshiped no god. No one knew demon culture. Some even considered them divine of themselves....

The End

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