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KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS
Seventh Chapter! Wooo! Have fun with it and don\'t read if you are under 18! All characters, place names and pretty much every thing in this story is copyrighted to me! No stealy! you steal, I will find you and break you like a twig. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Cadfael looked out of the cave mouth at the pouring rain. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. It had been raining like this for three days. The rain had actually stripped the layer of topsoil from the groud, leaving the bare rock exposed. They had tried to move through the downpour, but it was impossible, so they had to take up a temporary residence in these limestone caves. That wasn\'t the problem though. The problem was Arzhi. Since the end of the first day, he had taken to his bed from a fever. Now Cadfael didn\'t know what it was. He lay on his bedroll, next to the fire he had lit. His body was soaked with sweat and he spent a lot of time writhing around and screaming. Cadfael usually had to keep him sedated with his healing magic. He had no idea what was wrong so this was the best he could do. He moved away from the mouth of the cave and sat next to the fire. Arzhi had lit it without wood and it burned with a slightly purple flame. He lay next to it now, his eyes closed and his skin glistening with moisture. Tochinoki, his reptilian mount lay next to him, shielding the young Demon-blessed from the draft that came through the caves entrance. Cadfael\'s mare was also lying near the fire, she had a quiet dignified look about her, but Cadfael knew she was uncomfortable on the hard stone floor. He had tried to find some sort of bedding but had not had any luck. He looked back at Arzhi. His skin had turned from snow white to a dirty looking greyish white. \"As soon as this cursed rain stops...I can go and look for something that might help this fever...\" he muttered. Resting his head in his hands, Cadfael stared into the fire, and thought back on the week leading up to this point.... As they rode out of the valley where the Unicorn village was hidden, Cadfael stopped his horse and took a look back at the dense wood. \"You\'ll come back...don\'t worry.\" Arzhi said, riding past him on Tochinoki, his large reptilian mount \"Thats not what I\'m worried about\" Cadfael replied, riding after Arzhi \"It\'s a question of when I\'ll see it again.\" \"However long it takes to find my mother and mate.\" Arzhi said with a serious expression. A while later, after negotiating the treacherous terrain down the mountains and onto the flat grassy plains on the other side, Cadfael asked Arzhi what his plans were. He was somewhat shocked by the answer. \"You...what!?\" \"I said, ‘I do not have a plan\'.\" Cadfael gaped at Arzhi before shaking his head \"Let me get this straight. You know that your mother and the other demons are being kept locked away in a special Dimension created by the gods?\" \"Thats what Ciarán told me.\" \"And you believed her!?\" Arzhi gave Cadfael a stern look \"She is a servant of my Mother. Of course I trust her!\" \"Well...aside from that...have you thought of how you would break into a sealed dimension created by the gods?\" \"No. But I have heard that there are people that have the knowledge to do so.\" \"How do you know these things? I thought you spent most of your life as a sex slave?\" \"I did, but I learned a lot when I was with mother. I also had a thought.\" \"That\'s scary.\" Cadfael said with a smile \"Shut up. Anyway, mother has a huge library, containing books from all over the Multiverse. Now, in quite a few of them, there is usually a bunch of so called ‘heroes\'...\" \"Wait wait wait...you read?\" Cadfael said with mock disbelief \"Stop making fun!\" Arzhi said and pouted \"If you\'re not interested I won\'t tell you the rest.\" \"Alright! Calm down...I was just joking!\" Cadfael said with a giggle \"As I was saying, these heroes always seemed to be out to stop some crazy wizard from gathering magical artifacts that could unleash demons on the world of men. Although being sexist and specist, I thought that the authors were onto something.\" \"You aren\'t seriously suggesting we gather magical artifacts in order to open the demonic prison?\" Cadfael said with undisguised disbelief in his voice. \"That\'s exactly what I\'m suggesting.\" Arzhi said in all seriousness \"Where do you suppose we should start then?\" Cadfael sneered \"Well, we could try and find a large city, see if it has a treasury or somewhere with a powerful mage, see if it or he has a magical artifact...and we steal it!\" Cadfael rubbed his head \"I\'m gonna die....\" He muttered Cadfael jerked awake. He had dozed off in front of the fire. He looked around the cave and saw bright moonlight shining through the front of the cave. The rain had finally stopped! Cadfael jumped to his feet and ran to the cave mouth. A cool breeze blew in, and there was the indescribable scent you get after a heavy downpour. Cadfael breathed in deeply before running back into the cave. \"Tochinoki? We\'re getting out of here.\" He said to the Reptilian \"Whhhyyyy?\" the Saurian asked \"I want to get as far from here as possible...I also want to find people. I cannot treat him here.\" \"Ohhhh....kaaaaaayy...\" Tochi hissed, managing the strange syllables. Cadfael hoisted the still unconscious Arzhi into Tochinoki\'s saddle. He wrapped a blanket around him and packed away their bedding and equipment. As soon as they were packed, Cadfael mounted his mare and rode out of the cave, Tochinoki following. Cadfael had had to strap Arzhi into his saddle so that he would not fall to the ground. As they rode through the chilly night air, Cadfael could only hope they met some kind of intelligent life somewhere out here. Fortunately Cadfael spotted a glittering yellow speck on the horizon, it was defiantly a campfire. With any luck, it was a merchant caravan. After several hours, they slowly approached the light. Cadfael could see now that it was a ring of caravans around a large bonfire. Cadfael hoped that they would not comment on both his and Arzhi\'s strange markings and odd appearances too much. He needn\'t have worried, however. As a guard told him to halt, he saw that it was most certainly not human. It was actually a Gnoll, a large muscular version of the Hyena Anthropoid. \"What do you want stranger?\" he rasped \"Please, I need help for my friend, and all of our provisions were ruined by the rainstorm.\" Cadfael said. The part about the provisions was partially true. A lot of their food had become wet and ruined by the sudden downpour. \"I\'ll go ask der boss.\" The Gnoll said and disappeared into the circle of caravans Cadfael\'s mare whickered quietly as he dismounted. Soon, the Gnoll returned with the caravan\'s master. \"Nik was telling me you wanted shelter!\" the man boomed. Cadfael could see that the Caravan master was short and wide, but not fat. He was built like barrels stacked on top of each other. He had a mass of long auburn curls that came down to his shoulders. He wore dark brown traveling clothes and a long leather frock coat. \"Yes, indeed we were. My friend is sick, but I know not why.\" \"Well...we\'d be more than happy to help! Unfortunately, you get a lot of bandits out on these plains.\" \"I assure you, we are not bandits, my name is Cadfael, and my friend is Arzhi. He is a little indisposed to introduce himself though.\" Cadfael looked back at Arzhi, who had slumped in his saddle. \"So it seems! But I still cannot help you...I\'m afraid...\" Cadfael reached into his traveling cloak and pulled out a leather bag. He tossed it to the Caravan master. The human caught it deftly and opened it. He pulled out a gold coin and bit it. \"Well...that\'s a different matter!\" he laughed \"Bandits would not part with their gold! We have a spare caravan as it happens. We lost the previous owners to a bandit attack! For this price, it\'s yours! But you\'ll have to drive it yourselves.\" \"Have no fear of that, we could use the company.\" Cadfael said gratefully * A while later Cadfael sat in the Caravan. He had been introduced to the other members of the caravan. It turned out they were merchants heading to the capital. The Caravan master, a certain Master Quinn, turned out to be a very generous fellow, especially after establishing that Cadfael and Arzhi were not bandits. The Caravans resident doctor had looked at Arzhi and said that he was just as stumped as Cadfael was. Cadfael sighed and looked around the caravan. It was reasonably large with a single double bed. Cadfael wasn\'t averse to sharing, but he wondered if Arzhi would mind. \"Probably not...especially considering his up-bringing.\" he thought \"C...Cad..fael...\" Cadfael jumped and saw Arzhi was looking at him from the bed. \"Arzhi! You\'re awake!\" \"Y...yeah...so...tired...though...feels...like...\" \"Yes? Like what? Tell me so I can help you!\" \"I\'m...changing!\" Arzhi said and his eyes widened Cadfael saw the skin around them ripple slightly; a scaled pattern appeared faintly under his skin. \"Oh no...\" Cadfael said. \"You can\'t be changing!\" Cadfael hissed, so as not to wake the other travelers. \"I...am...Don\'t you see? All of the Demon-blessed transform into an avatar of their chosen deity! I am changing into not just an avatar...I am becoming...the Avatar!\" Arzhi replied \"What? How!? And how do you know this?\" \"For a start...most Demon-blessed don\'t have...markings. I do! I am almost an Albino, only true avatars of a demon are Albino! And lastly...I am her son...It is only natural that I become her true Avatar.\" \"Oh gods...what if the people we\'re traveling with find out?!\" Cadfael squeaked \"We\'re...traveling with people?\" Arzhi asked, and looked around for the first time. \"Tell me Arzhi...how many people would now about the whole demon thing?\" \"Only celestials and other demons would be able to notice a Demon-blessed. Most people think we are myths.\" \"That\'s a relief...but what am I going to tell our hosts? I have a tail! We\'re both covered in tattoos!\" \"We could say that we come from...I dunno...\" \"Lerian.\" Cadfael said promptly \"Lerian? Where\'s Lerian? \"It\'s...well I suppose it\'s where Elves come from. Well...not just Elves. All the Elementals come from there...it\'s...well it\'s as good an excuse as any.\" \"Okay...I know Elves are quite adventurous and we\'re likely to meet some...possibly...\" \"How do you know about Elves?\" Cadfael asked \"You\'ve spent most of your life either locked up or not in this realm...in fact...how do you know so much about anything!?\" Arzhi grinned \"I read a lot...Mother has a huge library. I\'m sure I\'ve mentioned this before though. As for elves...well...there was an Elf at the slavery were I was. He told me lots about them. That was before I had one of those damned collars put on. They erase your memory you see. I\'m relearning things I learnt before the collar.\" Cadfael sat there looking slightly perplexed \"You my friend...are a very, very strange individual.\" \"I suppose...it would also explain my rapid recovery.\" Arzhi said, looking down at himself. \"So...how long does this transformation take?\" \"I don\'t know...I suppose it would take a while. Normally I would be in that fever until the transformation is over...but I\'m not, so I guess it\'s gradual.\" \"How do you know all that?!\" Cadfael asked incredulously \"There is no book that could tell you that.\" \"Race memories.\" \"And how can you know that!?\" \"Common sense.\" \"I...I\'m just not going to ask how you do any of this anymore...now budge up...I\'m tired.\" Arzhi shuffled over in the large bed. Cadfael undressed and slid in beside his friend. \"Ooooh...you\'re all nice and warm!\" Arzhi said \"Don\'t get any ideas...\" Cadfael warned \"You mock me!\" \"Shut up and go to sleep.\" The next morning, Cadfael introduced Arzhi to the other members of the Caravan. There was Master Quinn, the Caravans owner, Nik, the gnollish guard, ‘Doc\' Mortimer, the caravan\'s physician, a woman called Fay who apparently did all the cooking, and three other men who introduced themselves as James, Patrick, and Moore. These three were merchants in the employ of Master Quinn. James was a tall lizard like creature with four arms and a long tail, Patrick was a human with short and messy black hair, and Moore was stout dwarven smith. Fay and Mortimer were humans, and all of them carried some sort of weapon. Moore had a large hammer hooked on his belt, James had four cutlasses, two on his belt and two on his back, Patrick had a rapier tucked into the blue sash he wore, Fay had a long dagger at her hip, Mortimer seemed to have a variety of razor sharp throwing implements and Master Quinn had a flanged mace tucked into his belt. \"I know there are hardly any women with us!\" Quinn boomed when Arzhi made this observation \"But most people don\'t want to head across the plains...to dangerous they say! Well of course it\'s dangerous! But who else is gonna get you yer fine silks and stuff!?\" \"Ssssoo....where are you two from?\" James asked as they prepared to break camp. \"Lerian.\" Cadfael said \"Ahhh...that would exssssplain it then...\" \"Explain what?\" \"Your odd appearances.\" Patrick said walking past them with a bag slung over his shoulder. \"You guys don\'t exactly blend in.\" Cadfael and Arzhi both looked at him, and then at James. \"No...your right...we don\'t\" Arzhi said Fortunately, their caravan still had horses to pull it, so Cadfael\'s mare and Tochinoki followed obediently along side. Cadfael held the reigns as the Caravan proceeded in single file down a narrow dirt road. Arzhi had decided to keep his sword and bow by him at all times. He doubted that they would get attacked by bandits, but just in case... After almost a whole day of traveling, they stopped to make camp just as the sun began to sink below the horizon. They found a flat grassy area with a large granite Tor. Soon they had a fire going and Fay began cooking. They were all sat around the fire, getting better acquainted, when suddenly Cadfael went stiff. He had always been able to sense danger, and now his \"alarm\" was going off like crazy. \"Whoa! Cadfael! Your tattoos are glowing!\" Arzhi exclaimed \"B...B...Danger!\" Cadfael shouted \"That\'s right. Very big danger.\" They all turned and saw a group of about thirty men bristling with a variety of poorly kept weaponry. \"Well well well...an undefended caravan. Looks like easy pickings boys!\" the leader laughed \"Go cut their throats!\" With a roar the bandits surged forwards. And suddenly halted. The man in the lead looked down and saw a perfectly circular hole straight through his chest. He looked up and saw Arzhi was standing upright, his bow in hand. The man toppled over backwards with a thump. \"I suggest you go away. Right now.\" Arzhi said The bandits paused for a moment, and then charged again. Arzhi sighed and put away his bow. He drew his Falchion and waited. \"This is a mistake!\" he shouted \"I suggest you go away right now!\" He called again as they were almost upon them. \"Fine...\" he hissed, his pupils narrowing to practically invisible slits. As the first bandit approached, everything seemed to slow. Arzhi span elegantly and severed the man\'s head from his shoulders with cat-like grace. Then everything speeded up again, Arzhi hurtled into the midst of the bandits, his razor sharp blade cutting through weapons and improvised armour like the wrath of the gods. His leather armour became splattered with gore and his white skin was stained red with blood. There was a loud battle cry and Arzhi saw Moore right next to him, swinging his hammer round, double handed. Arzhi span his sword around his hand and sliced upwards, splitting a bear Anthropoids skull from the chin upwards. As the Bandits began to fall back under the ferocious onslaught, Arzhi moved his sword in a complicated pattern before dropping down on one knee and slamming his sword into the ground. A crescent of red light sliced across the ground, carving a deep groove in the earth and slicing through the fleeing bandits. Arzhi got to his feet and walked over to the head bandit, who was cowering on the ground. \"Please...Have mercy!\" he whimpered \"I told you to leave!\" Arzhi snarled Baring his teeth \"And besides...I\'m all out of mercy!\" The man screamed as Arzhi stabbed his sword straight through the humans chest. The man\' scream suddenly took on a more horrified note as the Sword began to glow with a sickly black aura. Arzhi snarled and then ripped the sword from the man, blood gouting from the wound. As he slumped to the floor, Arzhi turned and walked back to the Caravan, wiping his sword. Moore was sitting by the fire having a cut in his head stitched up, and Cadfael was seeing to James, who had lost three fingers on his lower right hand. \"...and your sure thisssss\'ll work?\" he was saying \"I\'ve re-attached them and cast a small regenerative spell...so by tomorrow your finger will be as good as new!\" Cadfael replied with a grin. He picked up his bag and turned around. He looked over at Arzhi and went pale. \"A...Arzhi...?\" he asked Everyone else turned to look at Arzhi \"What? What\'s wrong?\" he asked \"Yer practically swimming in the red stuff!\" Moore laughed as Mortimer finished \"Ye must\'a enjoyed that scrap, I\'ve never seen no one fight like that before! It\'s damn good to have someone else that can fight!\" \"Well...thanks I guess...\" Arzhi said That night, after clearing away the bodies, everyone decided to turn in early. Even Nik had gone to sleep. After the carnage they had wrought earlier today, it was hard to imagine anyone else challenging them. Arzhi sat on a chair by a small table in their caravan, reading a small book by lamplight. Suddenly there was a gentle thud outside the door. Arzhi looked over at Cadfael to see he was asleep, before getting to his feet and opening the door. He looked around and then down. He saw a small messenger drake sitting by the door. It looked up at him and cheeped. It had a message capsule tied to its back. Arzhi picked it up and closed the door. He carried it to the table and set it down. It was small and blue with large round eyes. Arzhi untied the message capsule and slid out the message. He was surprised to find it was written in Demonic runes. He smiled when he read it though. To Arzhi We finally managed to crack the runes on the letter you left us. Funnily enough, they contained a spell that allowed us to actually read them...part of your plan I hope. Anyway, one of our more talented members managed to get this messenger drake, he knows to look for you, and, if you are reading this, he has found you and gotten your scent. It\'ll be able to find you wherever you are from now on. Anyway, we found out some information on this place where the demons are being held. Apparently it\'s a special prison that has been sealed by five magical talismans. I do not know yet where these have been hidden, but in order to activate them and free the demons, each talisman requires the souls of a thousand innocent people. I have no idea why the gods would do this, but there you go. We will continue searching for information. I have also sent word to other cultists in the other major cities, so they will be looking out for you. We desperately want out mistress back Arzhi...we only hope you can free her. Best of luck, Brian. Arzhi grinned and folded the letter. He knew it would be something cliché like magical talismans. The sacrifices might be a bit difficult though. Maybe he could level a small village? But that would put the Demon hunters on his trail. As far as he was aware, they were still looking for him. But maybe they thought he died in that incident with the Dragon? Arzhi shrugged and stroked the miniature dragons head. It was only about two feet long, but it must have the most incredible stamina. Arzhi got up and grabbed some jerky and began feeding it in small strips to the drake. The small reptile swallowed them greedily. Arzhi smiled and pulled out a piece of paper and a stick of graphite and began to write. A few moments later he finished writing and sealed the letter in the message tube. He tied it to the dragons back and went to the door. The dragon took off from his hands and zipped away, faster than a horse could run. Arzhi paused as he was about to go back inside, he then closed the door behind him and jumped silently down from the Caravan. He walked around the side and saw Moore sitting by the dying embers of the campfire. He was smoking a long pipe. \"Can\'t sleep lad?\" he asked as Arzhi approached \"Not really...I was just wondering what smelled so odd.\" \"Ye have a good sense ‘o smell lad. This is tobacco.\" \"Tobacco?\" \"Yeah...It\'s a kinda herb that ye smoke like this.\" Moore said, taking another puff \"Interesting...\" \"Yep...oh, there was something I was meaning to ask you.\" The dwarf looked up at Arzhi Arzhi sat down opposite the dwarf \"You may ask...but be careful what you ask...you may not like the answers.\" He said \"Yeah...so...wher\'d ye learn tae fight like that? I\'ve known some damn good warriors in my time...but none as good or as young as you.\" \"I was well trained by an extinct race.\" Moore looked slightly confused \"It\'s best you don\'t ask about that...It\'s hard to explain.\" \"I\'m sure. Anyway, next question...how d\'ye know magic? Especially magic that powerful? I don\'t think the others noticed because we went behind the caravans...but I was right there. I saw what ye did. That\'s pretty powerful destruction magic, and yer friend stitching back on James\'s fingers? That was quite impressive.\" \"Well, in Cadfael\'s case, he\'s a fast learner and had a very good teacher. As for me? Well, I\'m just good at what I do.\" \"Riiight...ye know lad...I think there\'s more ta ye than ye let on.\" \"That may be...\" Arzhi said, trailing off \"Well I see I ain\'t getting anymore answers...although ye did sate my curiosity fer now. Good night lad...see ye in the mornin\'.\" The dwarf got up and bashed is pipe against his boot, before going back to his portable blacksmiths and closing the door. Arzhi shrugged and got up, heading back to his caravan and turning in for the night. The next day, it was Arzhi at the reigns. By mid-afternoon, they had reached the walls of a large fortified town. \"This is where we part ways I think!\" Master Quinn boomed \"It was nice having you with us, but we\'re headed east now.\" \"We thank you for the hospitality, and please, take your horses back.\" Arzhi said \"But what will you have to pull the caravan?\" \"Our steeds have been getting a little fat lately. I think the exercise will do them good.\" Master Quinn laughed loudly before giving them one last farewell. Arzhi and Cadfael waved to them as they left. Arzhi couldn\'t help but notice Moore looking at him from under his bushy eyebrows. Arzhi didn\'t know why, but he suspected that there was more to Moore than met the eye. After stowing the caravan in a large coaching inn up against the north wall of the large town, Arzhi and Cadfael went their separate ways to shop for provisions. They agreed to meet back at the inn at dusk. Cadfael walked a little nervously through the streets. This town was unlike any he had encountered before. It was a human town and it stank. He kept his hood up so it obscured his face. It seemed that people with hoods were avoided. After a while he found himself in a much nicer part of the town. The cobbled streets were clean, and there was a large market in full swing. It occurred to Cadfael that before, he may have been in the town slums. He looked around the market and found none of what he was looking for. After about half an hour of mooching, he came across a shop that had a dusty display in the window. A sign outside said \"Apothecary\", Cadfael pushed open the door and went inside. He took off his hood and looked around. Various jars and bottles were crammed onto the groaning shelves. Cadfael walked up to the counter and rang the bell. A few moments later a fairly old human in a tattered silken waistcoat came out of the back room. \"Can I help you sir?\" he asked in a surprisingly clear voice. \"Uhh... yes. I was wandering if you sold Cinnabar?\" Cadfael said \"Cinnabar? Oh...I\'m sure we can do better than that!\" The store keeper said. \"What do you mean? I haven\'t told you...\" \"It\'s obvious m\'boy. You certainly don\'t look like a normal person...you\'ll be wanting the purified stuff eh?\" \"How did you know that?!\" Cadfael asked, slightly astonished. \"Heh...never mind that, here...Pure Quicksilver...or Mercury...whatever these alchemists are calling it these days.\" He placed a small bottle on the counter. It was filled with an odd silver liquid that didn\'t stick to the glass when shaken. It was oddly heavy too. Cadfael smiled, this was the stuff alright. \"That\'s perfect...but I\'ll need at least half a liter of it.\" \"Oh...planning some big experiment?\" \"Something like that.\" Arzhi, meanwhile, was quite happy strolling through the towns slums. He knew what he could find here. Sure enough, he did. It was a small shop down a dingy alley, it had a tiny pentagram painted on the door. Arzhi smiled and went inside. He was hit immediately by the sweet, sickly scent of incense. The small shop had been filled with shelves, and all of the shelves had been stuffed with various talismans, herbs, candles, knives...anything you\'d need for a demon summoning ritual. Arzhi went over to a small display and picked up a heavily ornate dagger. \"I wouldn\'t touch that if I were you!\" said a voice from behind him. Arzhi turned and saw a young woman. She was wearing very revealing black leather clothing. She had black hair and black lipstick. \"That is the Dagger of Goron, the mighty necromancer.\" She said \"It has claimed over a thousand souls in sacrifice to the dark gods.\" \"Oh really?\" Arzhi said, and snapped the blade between thumb and forefinger. The woman looked shocked \"I can tell if something is magical or not. Besides...I\'ve seen the real dagger...it looks nothing like this.\" He continued, holding up the shattered blade. \"Hmph...got ourselves a professional have we?\" the woman scoffed \"You look far too young...you\'d better pay for that too.\" Arzhi approached the counter and rested his hands on it. \"I can also smell a Demon-blessed a mile away.\" The woman\'s pupils shrank and she smiled. There was a tearing noise and large black bat-like wings sprouted from her back. There was a popping sound, and a long sinuous tail grew from her spine. Her teeth became more fang like, and her eyes changed to become multicoloured and opaque. Her skin became a creamy white. \"I had hoped you were for real.\" She said with a grin. \"A succubus?\" Arzhi said, raising an eyebrow \"Servant to Kel\'ishtar?\" \"So you do now your stuff!\" the Succubus said gleefully, licking her lips with a long, slender tongue. \"When you entered the city...I had hoped that you were for real. It seems you are.\" She continued \"Indeed I ammAAAARGH!\" Arzhi dropped suddenly to his knees, clutching his chest. He could feel his skin rippling under his armour. \"Oh...I see...\" The Succubus said leaning over the counter. \"The presence of another Demonic being is accelerating your transformation? It\'s a bastard isn\'t it? Same thing happened to me you know.\" \"Yeah...great...\" Arzhi hissed, sweat running down his face. \"Excuse me while I aaah! AAARGH!\" He threw his head back and gasped. His skin was being rapidly replaced with fine white scales. His face elongated and became snake like in appearance. He collapsed on the floor and writhed. The succubus looked at her nails until the thrashing stopped. A white scaled hand came up over the edge of the counter and gripped it. Arzhi pulled himself up and gasped. His neck had elongated to match his new Anthropoid snakes head. His purple hair grew out the top of his head and ran down his neck a short way, like a mane. He also had a long, slender tail growing from the base of his spine; it had ripped a hole in his britches as it grew. His boots had practically exploded to make way for his new, draconian feet. He looked down at his black talons and waggled his fingers. He looked up at the succubus. His eyes were now totally metallic red, and totally opaque from edge to edge. \"Well damn...\" He said \"I was hoping...for it to take a bit longer...than that!\" The Succubus introduced herself as Tara. She explained that close proximity to another Demon-blessed sped up the transformation procedure ten fold. She also expressed her surprise at the fact Arzhi was an Avatar. \"We don\'t usually get celebrities around here.\" She said \"Especially not from the Lady Yslien.\" \"Well...You got one here...\" Arzhi panted. The transformation had winded him quite badly. They had moved to the cellar, which was much larger than the shop above, and decorated like a southern harem. All silken wall hangings and pillows. There were also quite a few naked women making love to each other. \"You know...It\'s always the young pretty ones that come to m mistress.\" Tara said as they passed the writhing bodies. \"I blame it on the incense your cultists always burn.\" Arzhi sniggered \"Well...that does play quite a large role, yes.\" They entered a section of the cellar which had been cordoned off with pink curtains. They stepped through the curtains into a lush bedchamber. There was a table with two large pillows shaped like chairs. There was a cat Anthropoid curled up next to one with a collar and a fine leash around its neck. She looked up and mewed at Tara. There was an ornate silver kettle and two cups on the small table. Tara gestured Arzhi to seat himself. He did so and then jumped up, he adjusted his tail and then sat down. Tara sat opposite him and poured black tea into the cups and passed one to Arzhi. \"So Arzhi...what brings you to this neck of the woods?\" she asked, leaning back in her chair and stroking the feline on the head. Arzhi launched into his story. He told her about the Demons being imprisoned, about his quest to free them. He began telling her about the talismans that he would require when Tara suddenly squealed \"Talismans! I have one of those!\" she said gleefully, she placed her cup back on the table and ran to her dresser. She opened a draw and took out a lacquered box. She opened it and withdrew a golden ankh with a large blue gem set in it. Arzhi was in no doubt it was one of the ones he was looking for. \"Where did you find it?!\" Arzhi asked excitedly \"Someone brought it in, asked how much they could get for it! I had no idea it was this important!\" \"It is, there are five in all, they serve as keys. Once I have all of them, I can free the demons from their imprisonment.\" \"How do you activate it?\" Tara asked, handing it over to Arzhi \"The souls of a thousand beings apparently...for each one.\" \"Wow...tall order...you got anything that can absorb that many?\" \"I think my sword can...\" Arzhi said \"Wait...how do I know all this? I\'m sure I never read anything about this.\" \"Race memories I suspect.\" \"Ahhh...thought so...but that doesn\'t explain why everything is moving so fast all of a sudden.\" \"You still have four more to get, and five thousand souls to collect.\" \"True...This is perfect though. With this I\'m one step closer to freeing our masters.\" \"Arzhi...Should you need help...all of the Demon-blessed are willing to help you.\" Tara said leaning forwards. \"I shall send word, and you will have the backing of all of us. I suspect that even the other avatars will help.\" \"Excellent...unfortunately I do not know where to go from here.\" Tara smiled an evil smile. \"Why not the temple of Rodinos...the King of the Gods? It would be a good place to start looking...and an excellent place to collect souls.\" Arzhi grinned; his eyes glowed with a demonic inner light. \"Oh...perfect!\" he hissed. Ninety three miles north-west, in the capital city of Culaven, in the grand temple of Rodinos, the hig priest sat up in his chair, sweat running down his face. \"Demons...\" he whispered fearfully \"Demons are coming!\"