Jul 31st, 2020
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  1. Heavensent
  3. There was a rhythmic, heavy knocking on the door of the Grinning Kettle Inn. Holly, the innkeeper and owner of the King St. establishment, was preparing herself for a busy night. She stashed her last rack of buttered pretzel dough in the highest tier of the wood fire stove when she heard the banging. "Coming! Coming!" She shouted around the corner, past the bar and to whoever was there. It was early in the evening. She doubted a customer would knock and her cousin Mint and his wife Visgali were attending some errands she asked them to take care of. They wouldn't be back until the rush of dockworkers stumbled in. She closed the oven, then tossed a bundled scroll underneath. Holly ignited the paper with a match and with a dull pop, the spell contained within the parchment took on a life of its own. The magic flame jumped up to the inert stove. The pretzels set to cook to a perfect brown softness, she left the kitchen to attend to her unexpected guest.
  4. Immediately disconcerting, a warm light flooded through the gap under the bottom of her front door and spilled in through the windows like a clear, sunny day at noon time in spite of the overcast, fall weather plaguing the skies still visible past the aura of unnatural daylight. Holly paused at the threshold. This had to be a monster, she thought as she considered this corona of flame illuminating the front half of her inn. Yet she struggled to picture what sort of monster affected such a brilliant presence. Holly never traveled outside the coastal city of Clemens save for a single venture to a quiet beach a few miles south. She knew plenty of kinds of monsters, she figured, but certainly not all of them. She poured through her options.
  5. The local types, merfolk of various species, harpies traveling along the westerly trade winds, and succubi were the most common of the monsters who shared the city with its majority human population. There were the visiting Ogres from the mountains due north, one of which supplied Holly her booze. The forest critters with a tolerance for crowds like fawns, satyrs, and centaurs kept to themselves. The bright Will O' Wisps sparkled in the evening on the distant, wooded paths leading away from Clemens, but they were loathe to reveal themselves fully or brazenly unless to snare an unaware traveler. Holly guessed a stray fire elemental from a drier territory inland when she touched the notably warm door handle. She realized she could not have been more wrong as the door opened and revealed an angel in resplendent regalia, a blazing pillar of heat and light with a woman’s body at its center.
  6. The angel was vaguely humanoid, but her metallic bronze skin, four arms at her side, and bronze wings tucked behind her all spoke to her otherworldly nature. Veins of rushing fire visibly ran the length of her bared skin, if Holly could call the metallic material skin at all. She wasn’t able to focus long. The aura around her suffused a dry summer heat and baked the air around her. Holly thought to step back and away from the oppressive aura, but the angel's halo shone bright white, stopping her in her tracks. She did her best to avert her eyes from the angel's face.
  7. "Whoa, turn down the glare!" Holly sputtered out.
  8. The angel spoke with the sound of hot coals escaping a furnace, but the angel projected her intention directly into Holly's thoughts. The angel was worried. She needed to interrogate Holly. Her name followed. Virtue of Charity. There were a slew of other images. It passed too quick to parse. The intrusion and rush of information stunned the innkeeper, and she struggled to stay standing. It was scorching under the angel's gaze. The sweat on her skin evaporated, then her saliva left her. An unfamiliar empathy jumped into Holly's head. Virtue of Charity did not know what she was doing. Holly’s mind went blank and the words dried up before she could voice her protest.
  11. The human woman fainted. Virtue of Charity jumped forward and caught the limp body in her fourfold steady grip. The vessel was still new, the Head Executor warned Virtue of Charity, and newly minted angels should exert caution when dealing with mortals. Virtue of Charity anticipated a confrontation. The distortions were strongest around this building. Expecting a fight, she flared within her vessel. The Head Executor's grim warning played over and over in the angel's mind as she carried the increasingly heat exhausted woman back into the domicile. Under normal circumstances, protocol dictated she ask her charge if Virtue of Charity may offer her care, but the human's sudden fall superseded protocol. Collateral damage was unacceptable.
  12. The angel examined her patient: human female, age 29. The vessel was burning the human alive, she determined. She calibrated her body, the animating flames and the living metal skin, and toned down the vessel's operating temperature to a modest smouldering. Still, Virtue of Charity knew the human body would remain in a state of feverish overheat. The instinctual medical knowledge she was gifted by her creator said so. She murmured an incantation, a common spell used to produce flame, then inverted the casting gesture with a second hand. The altered spell chilled and numbed the inverted sign. The sensation was uncomfortable, the pain of water crystals forming around her fingers, and Virtue of Charity’s life force was slightly suppressed, but a necessary step to relieve the human's condition. She guided the anti-flame over the women's head. She sapped at the worst of the fever as though she were using a damp cloth.
  13. The treatment brought the human to a stable condition, but she would need hydration. She left the human's side and searched the domicile for water. Over the counter were many liquids in fogged glass bottles, but none would aid in recovery. A quick analysis revealed their contents. Virtue of Charity did not understand the mortals' desire to damage their frail bodies with alcohol. She detected a magical source in the room over, and led herself into the kitchen.
  14. The smell of cooking pretzels was the first thing she encountered, then the oven, the counter, the shelves overhead, the stocked larder, and finally, the sink. Clemens enjoyed running water throughout its limits, a modern convenience the angel now appreciated for the first time in her short life. The intuitive understanding she possessed compelled her to act. She fiddled with the handle. A little trial and error produced a trickle as the single handle moved towards herself. She used magic to draw the water into a sphere floating just above her hand. She thought it would be rude to go through the human's cupboards for something to carry the water. While it gathered, she detected the presence of an otherworldly being lingering like a stain. It pervaded all around her. Little curves in places mortals did not see, faint distortions in the fabric of reality, and other small breaks in the world normally below notice. The spatial decay would have to wait though, she reminded herself, as the orb of water in her palm reached its ideal size.
  15. Virtue of Charity doubled back to the spacious front room and addressed her patient. She mentally probed the women's outer thoughts for activity. Nothing. She was only a degree cooler. With her upper pair of arms, Virtue of Charity guided the water to the woman's mouth while her second set of lower arms dampened her forehead and neck. The anti-flame spell damaged her vessel. She needed to preserve herself in order to complete her mission. An hour passed as the angel repeated this process over and over, until the heat-struck woman stirred from her stillness.
  16. "I apologize for causing you any discomfort," Virtue of Charity flatly stated. The act of speaking was also a first for her. In the Temple, her superiors and her attendants communicated through telepathy. The voice of her vessel, a course, dry affection, pleased her.
  18. Holly woke up with a splitting hangover she briefly thought, before the resplendent angel nurse hovering above her spoke. The oppressive heat was gone, and the halo's sheen was also dulled to a manageable brightness. The angel's head and neck appeared closer to human than the angel's body. Her hair glowed golden blonde and shimmered like precious metals under the light of the iridescent ring overhead. The angel wore a human face, a healthy olive colored skin over features reminiscent of far travelers from the more tropical southern countries, focused golden eyes, and a narrow nose and slender lips. Her head was held fast by an elegant mix of living, flowing bronze and skin in an interlacing pattern at the bottom of Virtue of Charity's neck. If Holly had to guess, the angel was younger than her by five-ish years, but guessing the age of monsters was a fool's errand, and Holly presupposed Virtue of Charity was beyond her comprehension.
  19. She gave a tired sigh before gathering her senses. The images Virtue of Charity implanted into her mind came to the fore. "Uh-huh, yeah." She lifted herself up slowly. She felt a bit lightheaded, but otherwise in good shape. Sitting straight up, she glared at the divine being impressing on her space. "How long was I out for?"
  20. "Fifty-four minutes and thirty seconds." Mechanically she responded, like a seething steam whistle signaling the day’s end.
  21. "Shit. Listen, I have a big rush coming, in uh… a few minutes and I don't want my customers gawking all over you. Vanessa will be here tomorrow."
  22. "I am not leaving, and you are lying. The entity Visgali-Vanessa is subject to my inspection and judgement per the Temple of Solena."
  23. "Solena? Temple?" Holly pinched the bridge of her nose.
  24. "Are you unfamiliar?"
  25. Holly's response piqued Virtue of Charity's curiosity. The angel was a being of pure faith brought forth from the ether by the prayers of the devotees of Solena and placed within an earthly vessel. The humans she knew expressed only deference for Solena, the Face Upon the Dias, while she and her sisters were doubly fervent in their devotion. She intended to satisfy her own questions regarding the God of Sand, Sun, and Time, when Holly rolled off the table.
  26. "I don’t have time for this,” Holly stated. “I have to open tonight. Do you know how to cook?”
  27. “No, I was not-”
  28. “Can you clean dishes?”
  29. “I have never-”
  30. "I don't have time to deal with you then. You can stay in an empty room until Visgali arrives." The confounded angel seemed unsure of what to say. "Well?"
  31. "These terms are acceptable."
  32. "Do you eat?" Holly was walking back to the oven. She adored the smell of her father's pretzel recipe. The mustard needed to be mixed first, then she had a few other small things to do. Luckily, she had assistance coming soon.
  33. "I am unsure by what you mean."
  34. "If you get a room, you get a meal. I don't know what angels eat though."
  35. "I am capable of consuming food, although angels-"
  36. "Good. Up the steps, third door on the left. It's normally the single men's room so uh, there's some enchantments on the window and doorway, but they're inactive. I'll bring dinner when I get it prepared."
  37. With that said, the human disappeared into the kitchen. Virtue of Charity followed her instructions without complaint. The nightgaunt was her objective. She thought better than to risk the ire of the cooperative inn owner. She ascended to the second floor. Of the four doors, she detected only a single human, a young female, age 15, moving about on the bed of the first room. At the Temple, Virtue of Charity learned to respect the privacy of closed doors. She stumbled on two of her attendants, Daniel and Millie, fornicating in their own private quarters. She resolved to never repeat that mistake and err’d her penetrating sight whenever a door was shut.
  38. The last door on the left was unlocked and the enchantments on the door were indeed deactivated. It was a two layer-weave of spells, one that unbalanced an unwanted guest and a second that ran through the Grinning Kettle Inn’s structure. Alarms, she surmised. An uncomplicated combination of spells, she focused more on the strength of the disorientation glyph. It was maxed out in terms of power. She understood the mechanics of spellcraft in much the same way she practiced medicine: the knowledge was built into her by the Temple of Solena during her initial summoning. The spell in question was cast over and over again. Each successive casting reinforced the effect and modified the initial spell’s strength by a value according to the caster’s skill and ability, but limited by the framework of the spell. She understood the theory as a vase of water being filled by a water bearer. A water bearer carries an amount of water and fills the vase only as fast as the bearer can move the water. This water, this weight is transferred to the vase until the water pours over the brim. Virtue of Charity would struggle to cast such an intimidating spell or sustain its taxing mana maintenance. Surely a human of unremarkable magical talent like Holly would be unable to as well.
  39. The room was plain in decor. A simple mattress over a utilitarian wooden frame, a closet door opposite that, and a closed window overlooking King St. To her left was a desk and a stool, and in her right was a coat rack, another first for her. The little wooden tree wobbled as she tested its balance. She nudged it with a finger onto its two of three legs. She was reminded of a beetle rearing back. The Temple kept its laundry on lines outside where it would receive Solena's constant blessing and the beetles were a common sight in the spring upon the plateau the Temple occupied. Her beloved attendants would scold her for expressing obvious surprise at such a mundane occurrence, but how could she not.
  40. Noteworthy, the room was marred by spatial damage. The worst was on the far side of the room, by the window and bed. Bits of loose real stuff were suspended in the air, twisting and contorting as the Veil separating the world from the chaotic ether tried to seal itself. The extent of the damage was superficial, again. The veil would be repaired in time, but their appearance did not bode well with the angel. With her two right arms, she grazed a world wound. The cut space resisted her prodding at first. Virtue of Charity was surprised. Her instincts told her the wound should rebound or react. Instead, it avoided her like an ant and did all it could to avoid her. She moved away from the bed and the little fractures and moved to the window.
  41. Through the window she watched the ebb and flow of mortals making their way through the streets. Monsters and humans mingling, exchanging tired greetings as they shuffled into the welcoming light of the bars and feast halls lining the whole of King St. Scenes of jovial merrymaking and raucous play fighting spill over as the crowd grows and grows. Her attendants told her of the extravagant cities. Daniel was her lead attendant and originally lived in Clemens. “Near enough to the city,” he would say in his dour way. "Stay away from the alleys, my lady. Muggers and cutthroats lurk in the dark and they do not respect Providence."
  42. "The Head Executor warned me," Virtue of Charity repeated to herself. She relived the moments before her departure from the Temple's airfield. An angel’s memory is exact in its detail. The plateau overlooked an oasis nestled in the cleft where pilgrims supplicated and sought Solena's blessing. The small, temporary tent gatherings and their inhabitants could be observed from the Temple's perch. The rustic religious community was a far cry from the teeming throngs below.
  43. Daniel held his ground, although he was plainly uncomfortable. "Virtue of Charity, you have much to see. I just want your mission to be free of distraction and-," he wet his cracked lips, "you to return to us safely."
  47. The Grinning Kettle Inn was swamped with dough faced longshoremen caked in salt and soaked to the gills, both literally and figuratively. The seafaring races came ashore once a month to join the informal festival of laborers for wage day. Holly rushed through her predinner prep. Missing the initial dinner rush was out of the question. Her lifetime of kitchen experience put to the whetstone, Holly just squeaked by. She dashed a bit of pepper onto racks of roast chickens now rotating in her oven before tossing another cheap scroll underneath.
  48. Campbell was first at the bar, and Olivia the Mermaid hung on his arm like a guppy thirsting for water. He waved as Holly assumed her regular position at the bar. “Hey Campbell, what can I do for you and the ma’am tonight?”
  49. “Aw, Holly,” the Mermaid shyly slurred. She was a flush red. Her breath reeked of the fermented apples the seafolk enjoyed. “I’m good,” Olivia nuzzled into Campbell’s arm before trying to stifle a hiccup.
  50. “A whiskey on rocks please,” Campbell offered. He seemed unfazed by his hangeron. “I can’t stay long. Gotta get this drunk fish home.”
  51. “C’mon Campbell,” she mumbled, “You should go swimming with me.”
  52. "Liv, I think you’re taking advantage of me.”
  53. “I-,” she hiccuped again, “am.”
  54. Olivia’s pleading got under Campbell’s skin. The two were long time friends, frequent customers of Holly's, and good tippers to boot. The crooked smile Campbell wore betrayed his feigned disinterest. The pair continued their small talk. Holly shifted away and gave the two lovebirds their privacy.
  55. A dozen others meandered in, mostly men in galoshes, but two succubi in garish greens and blues trailed in last.
  56. "You're late!" Holly half-snapped at her two waitresses. "Serenity, start taking orders. Danielle, I wasn't able to get to the dishes. Could you-"
  57. "Of course, sorry," Danielle replied. She gave a delicate curtsey. She was a head shorter than Holly and Serenity, her pointed horns matching the difference arched up and forward, and her crooked tail hung low and to her right.
  58. "Same, but I don't regret it," Serenity followed her coworker. She wore two stubby, uneven horns, a wrinkled blouse, and mismatched stockings of neon green and sapphire blue. "I was hot to trot tonight! I won 30 shells," she haughtily sneered.
  59. "You're so hot you're on thin ice," Holly joked. "I've had a hell of a day."
  60. "Oh, now that you mention it, I can see that. You look so flush honey, er Holly. Everything-"
  61. "It's fine. There's an angel in the single's room. Could you deliver her a roast chicken in twenty minutes."
  62. "No, really?" Serenity's expressive eyes shot open. "I've never seen an angel-"
  63. Holly shushed the succubus. "Keep it down. She's here on business. When Mint gets back I'll have him cover the bar. I got to deal with her again. Help my cousin out, okay?"
  64. "Oh, sure, but I'm taking half the tips though."
  65. "Fine." Holly pointed to a table of tired looking longshoremen. "They were here first, m'kay. Time to get to work card shark."
  66. Twenty minutes later, Serenity arrived at the single's room, a plate of roast chicken and mashed potatoes soaked in Holly's homemade gravy in hand, and gave a knock. "Dinner!" She said through the wooden door. There were footsteps, daylight spilled underneath, and with a turn of the handle, Serenity met the angel's brilliant aura. She was surprised by the angel's artificial skin. She always imagined the servants of the human gods in the abstract, as some ancient guardians in history acting against the Unchanged monsters of the past. To be confronted by one left Serenity gathering her wits.
  67. "I appreciate your service."
  68. "It's no problem."
  69. Virtue of Charity accepted the roast chicken with her two right hands. The succubus marveled at the angel's vessel, the way its metallic arms moved under her will, rather than by muscle and nerve. With her left arms, she offered the succubus a gesture of gratitude practiced at the Temple. Raising an arm up, then clasping the hand into a fist represented the morning sun greeting the horizon. The succubus nodded in the affirmative and waved back.
  70. "I have to get going. Enjoy your meal."
  71. Virtue of Charity closed the door after the monster woman. "What a thrilling success," she said aloud. There were only a few monsters she met prior leaving the Temple of Solena. Dust elementals in their scantily clad desert garb traded with the Temple directly. Inquisitive creatures, they collected bits of valuable metals in the wake of their traveling storm forms. The Temple offered them shelter in the rare rainy seasons, took care of lost travelers the Dust Elementals picked up, and fairly treated them during the few holidays the worshippers of Solena practiced.
  72. A few insectoid monsters also passed the Temple on the way to the oasis. The stout half-beetle monsters moved through the sand like fish in a river, but on occasion climbed the plateau to discuss ongoing disputes with vulture harpies and nomadic camel centaurs, or philosophy with the Head Executor. They spoke quietly, but their thoughts were bold and firm in their grounding. Virtue of Charity worked closely with a few such beetle women as part of her training, but never engaged with their culture. The monsters were fierce fighters at heart and dueled over the right of being the first to do something. First to bathe, first to mate, first to even greet a new angel were all causes for heated duels among the beetle women.
  73. The succubus's reaction mirrored Holly's too. "Were angels so rare in Clemens as to be marvels?" She picked up the wooden fork on her plate. Etiquette and procedure of various countries popped into her thinking as she contemplated how she would approach her first meal. In Clemens, it was common and proper to give thanks to the three ocean goddess' before a meal. "By Lilia's grace, I eat. By Utopia's hand, I remain safe. By Indress's foresight, I pray to remain in their Providence."
  74. She cut a clean piece of white meat free and took a tentative bite. The morsel passed her lips, to be incinerated by her instantly. The vessel approximated taste for her and the signals it passed from body to spirit were wholly unlike any sense she enjoyed prior. The texture of the chicken was crisp on the surface, the flavor of the heat marked skin seared with spices, and invigorated her spirit with the combination. She eagerly took a second bite this time focusing on the moist, but taut flesh underneath. She tasted the spices still. Strong, sharp peppery flavors delighted her palette. Bite by easy bite, feeling of meat splitting on her vessel's teeth to the flavour all imprinted onto her person. Her spirit sparked and savoured each time though unaware of her growing luminosity.
  78. Mint and Visgali spied the beacon shining from the Inn's single's room on their hasty walk back. "This does not bode well," Visgali said in her human guise. "Let us fly.”
  79. "Wait, wait," Mint countered. He was nearly overwhelmed by his lover's empathetic response, but months together allowed him to hold back the Nightgaunt's most impulsive actions from taking him over as well. "The wards you put up would knock anyone on their backside. Let's talk to Holly first. She probably just lent the room out."
  80. Visgali harrumphed. A well reasoned response did not sit well with Visgali the Fourth-Gate. She extended her mild displeasure through their mutual link. Concern was the most evident emotion, but fear tinged Visgali's response. Mint took her hand and gave an affirming squeeze. "I'm sure it's nothing."
  81. They peered into the Grinning Kettle Inn through the door window. Serenity was flitting from table to table, chatting with patrons, setting pitchers of golden beer, and taking orders. Holly busied herself serving drinks to the bar. The crowd was rather tame for a wage day. Normally Mint would have to menace rowdy bar goers or discourage extra flirtatious monsters, but the subdued crowd and atmosphere convinced them both that perhaps nothing really was wrong.
  82. "Let's take the groceries 'round back," Mint said. "Holly looks busy."
  83. They greeted Danielle together. The long-horned succubus nodded while she worked. Professional to a fault, Danielle continued preparing plates of roast chicken and various sides with a master's speed. The succubus was a relative new hire, but she was highly recommended by an old family friend of Mint’s uncle. She trained under another chef, but struck out on her own, or so she claimed. Her tail kept time as she chopped into a breast of chicken, then snapped to attention when it dawned on her Mint and Visgali were present.
  84. "We picked up everything Holly asked for." Mint and Visgali deposited four large bags full of veggies and seasonings onto the counter. "Busy tonight?" Mint asked.
  85. Danielle glared daggers. "The kitchen was a mess. You're late. I have no help." She grunted as she deboned another roast. The crack of it splitting in two punctuated her demand. "Get working. Holly needs to get back here."
  86. "Yes ma'am."
  87. Visgali allowed her husband to do the talking. She was using a part of her oozing body to scout ahead. Hardly bigger than a centipede, Visgali still needed to guide the mass with conscious thought. The gobdule rolled ahead, through the dining area, underfoot and out of sight of the Inn patrons, until she reached the steps. She urged her scout to extend up, then over the lip of the first step. The conversation ended as she mounted the halfway point.
  88. Holly caught the green-eyed Vanessa in her peripheral vision. She fixed a customer a parting drink before Mint could step out to the bar. “Mint, oh shit!”
  89. Her frazzled cousin’s cool facade broke the minute she stepped through the kitchen door. “Holly what’s-,”
  90. “Shush. I got a guest looking for Vanessa up in the single’s room. She’s eating dinner right now, but-,” Holly trailed off. She didn’t know what to say. “Shit, look at that pile of dishes. I’m so sorry Danielle.”
  91. “You seemed busy. Mint and Vanessa can deal with the bar. Please degrease the skewers and the oven. I’ve got the meals in hand for now, but the midnight crowds are going show up sooner or later.”
  92. “Right away,” Holly said as she grabbed a mostly clean smock from a crooked nail on the wall nearest the kitchen entrance.
  93. “Vanessa, uh-,”
  94. Visgali followed Holly’s thoughts as they manifested. As a completed Nightgaunt, she was able to peer past the surface thoughts of mortals. It wasn’t that she couldn’t prior, but the psyche was a complex thing. She needed her husband as a cypher to decrypt the web of thinking that formed the deeper recesses of an individual’s thoughts. Holly’s mind was preoccupied by the angel, Virtue of Charity, and the awful heat of their first meeting. Visgali replayed the memory in full, with Holly’s emotions guiding her through the experience. She wanted to verbally commend her for maintaining her composure soon after waking up. Mint was already half leaving before she could though, and probably for the best. Holly would want to talk to her as well.
  95. “Huh, an angel?” Mint was waving to customers as he telepathically communicated with his wife. “There's nothing to worry about."
  96. “I am unfamiliar with this type of monster.”
  97. “Oh, they're not monsters.” Mint recalled his human village. The isolated community nestled in the woods practiced nature worship under some human borne deity. He flashed images of a vine-borne humanoid, an agent of that distant faith defending the community from a pack of werewolves. The memory was short, but vivid: ten-year old Mint was evacuated to the safety of the village's stone temple and did not see the battle. The green angel was gone before he was allowed to leave. Still, that a single angel was able to repel a dozen werewolves was no small feat. It also did little to ease Visgali’s concern.
  98. "I'm going to speak with her. Could you keep Holly informed of what is said?"
  99. "Sure, and if you think it's dangerous, I'll be there in an instant."
  100. Visgali gave Mint a peck on the check as she went to meet Virtue of Charity. She let go of her human guise as she climbed the steps, her eyes becoming reflective silver and her skin adjusted to its violet-grey color. The sundress she wore melted, then reformed around her body tightly. She felt her husband all around her as this portion of him bound her tightly in a black bodysuit. A Nightgaunt and their master never truly left each other. The Mint downstairs was the same as the Mint who bonded with her, and shared the same consciousness. In his current state, with him focused on the bar and the customers, the Mint who composed her body suit plainly followed her commands. Well, mostly. The body suit snapped fast around her buttocks and gave a playful smack just as she reached the top.
  101. Her little agent merged with her. It kept an eye on the door and to track the angel should she decide to move. The angel was casting spurts of bright light in every direction. The hallway was briefly lit again and again as she approached. Should she knock, she wondered, or reach out with a thought. Holly's memory told her the angel communicated that way. No, the contact might be seen as aggressive. She stopped in the hall. She was stumped. She didn't know how to deal with people. Mint was really easy to talk to. Holly spent a long time helping Visgali even after she broke into the bar and stole a load of booze. She hemmed and hawed back and forth debating the best way to start. She settled on winging it as her strategy and set herself in motion.
  102. She knocked on the door. A flash of daylight followed, this time a constant. The angel inside jumped up and to Visgali’s ears, choked down a cough.
  105. The knock on the door broke the roast chicken’s spell. Virtue of Charity stumbled, her halo and wings thrown forward, and to compensate, she stomped down to catch the rest of herself. A quick scan revealed nothing in the room. Her eyes widened when she looked past the door. An inky blob in the shape of a person was standing outside her door. The mass was inscrutable, but she did not need an extended analysis to determine what was on her threshold. Her spirit surged, her vessel glowed, and with all the grace of a flailing initiate she horked down her meal. It incinerated in a single flash. She marched to the Outer Realm demon and tossed the door aside.
  106. “Visgali the Forth-Gate, I am to be your case-worker, and if you choose, steward during your stay on the mortal plane. My name is Virtue of Charity, a representative of the Temple of Solena.” Virtue of Charity bowed. Specks of blackened chicken fell from her metallic bust. “I-,”
  107. Visgali balked at the angel. Did she just spill specks of dinner on the floor? “Hold- hold on!” She wasn’t sure what the angel was talking about. Case-worker? Steward? An audible laugh came from downstairs. Mint’s deep outburst cut through the clamor like a dull knife. The angel shook at the indignation.
  108. “Upon my investigation of this establishment, it is clear you are unaware of the damage you are causing to the fabric of the mortal plane. Look!” The angel moved aside and cast her accusation towards the bed. “Your outburst has damaged the Veil!”
  109. Visgali moved past the angel. The fabric of reality was indeed perforated, but she hadn’t given it much thought after she and Mint fucked in the room. “So?”
  110. “So? This is a clear violation of the Outer Realm Binding! You are to reseal whatever damage you may create in your travels and battle. Who were you even fighting in this bed?”
  111. Visgali blushed a deep violet. “It wasn’t a fight. I um, was forging a contract with my hus-husband.” She needled her goopy fingers together. The angel was prodding the outer most of her thoughts. Visgali allowed her to peer as deep as she wanted. The spectre of the angel got as far as the handjob before she hurried out. “I did not know about any Binding, I swear.”
  112. Virtue of Charity shook her head. The lewd sight of the woman she was speaking to had her reliving her error in looking through doors all over again. She adjusted herself. “I understand. However, if you are married, this complicates your situation.” The angel appeared pensive for Visgali’s sake.
  113. The Nightgaunt gave the angel a once over. “Complicated? She voiced defensively. “I won’t give up my master if that is what you mean.”
  114. Virtue of Charity’s hands crisscrossed. “No, no, nothing of the like. He will need to be added onto your case is what I intended. Visgali the Fourth-Gate-,”
  115. “Visgali only, please. My title is not really all that relevant on this plane. Actually, Mint and I planned on registering as a couple with the city soon. I’ll be Visgali Greensten then.” The Nightgaunt sheepishly smiled.
  116. “If that is the case, then I would be happy to do that for you.”
  117. “Wait, what? Why?”
  118. “Part of my mission is to acquaint you with the mortal plane, but seems you have done that yourself. As your case-worker, I am supposed to smooth your transition in a nominally comfortable existence. I can file the paperwork tomorrow on your behalf.”
  119. “I appreciate that… however, I am also unaware of what this Binding requires of me.”
  120. “Oh, I have it memorized if you are okay with that.”
  121. “Sure.”
  122. Virtue of Charity allowed the Outer Realm Binding to pass between the two women. The Outer Realm Binding was an important document. A contract signed by the Demon Lord and many faiths the world over. After the Change, creatures and demons from beyond the Veil took an interest in the affairs of mortals. Their attempts to adapt have largely been regarded as natural disasters, but rather than fight the trespassers the peace making Demon Lord brought them under the Binding to create a structure for them to thrive. The faithful agreed to take part, and angels like Virtue of Charity were made to shepherd the Outer Realm inhabitants to a stable life. Details, clauses, amendments, and errata, things Visgali would need time to look over were in a figurative small print. There was a single, booming, all upper case line that drew her attention. OUTER REALM INHABITANTS ARE REQUIRED TO ANSWER FAIR SUMMONS OF THE FAITH OF THEIR CHOSEN STEWARD.
  123. “What does this mean by summons? Visgali asked.
  124. “Oh, if, in the future, the Temple of Solena is in need of assistance, you are obligated to do so within certain circumstances. Typically such summons ask for labor in building a temple, or magical power should their own supply not suffice. On occasion there are dangerous summons involving natural disasters or conflict between factions, but those fall outside the norm.”
  125. Virtue of Charity and Visgali discussed the finer details of the Binding, only for Visgali’s stomach to rumble part way through. “I forgot to eat. Do you mind if I go downstairs and grab something quick?”
  126. “No. I have come to appreciate mortal food as well. I shall remain here on Holly’s request.”
  128. Holly had Mint by his ear when Visgali walked into the kitchen. The domineering Inn owner was snacking on a soft, warm pretzel and greeted Vanessa with a queer smile. “So I heard you had sex in my kitchen?”
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