"Inquisitor Toryphan," I said. "We meet again."

Toryphan nodded. His eyes seemed to burn from under his hat brim. Anger seethed through him. "Devil!" he cried.

I nodded. "No denying it," says I. Well, half-demon to be exact.

"O! you fiend! Prepare to meet your end." He drew his sword. This could get violent, I thought, and reached for my sword. A half second later, I realized that it wasn't there. Damn his magic, I thought.

"Calm down, sir," an acolyte said, herself gripping a crossbow in both excellently manicured hands.

"Calm down? Damn your eyes, damn them! I want the beast's head! I want-"

"We want evidence," said my current favourite acolyte in all the world. She brushed a chip of broken glass off her immaculate uniform, and surveyed the shattered inn room. "And a cleaner," she added.

"Quite right," I agreed. "Now, Inquisitor, if you would be so good as to let me get by staff and clean up a bit, we'll…"

I don't know why I expected this to work, or exactly what happened; but, fifteen minutes later, I was to be found handcuffed, in a dark cellar, with a chairleg sticking out of my left nostril, and several moderately large bruises.

"We'll begin again, shall we?" the acolyte asked in as pleasant a voice as she could muster.

"Indeed." The Inquisitor paced the room, stroking his chin in a most self important manner. After a moment, he stamped his foot, and turned to me. As expected, the Lyrian-Oil Lamp was swung down to before my eyes, so as to obscure vision as well as possible. Typical, thinks I.

"Demon. You will tell us what you did on the night of Grumanite."

"Grumanite? I am not familiar with the revolutionary calendar, Inquisitor. Do go on."

"The 4th Grilleite. Fiend! You will confess to your activities."

"Or? I can resist pain, you know."

"Or? Or your flesh will be ashes! I'll cut you to ribbons! You will experience the wrath of my titanic fury! Your will be pokered in unexpected places! You will be-"

"No, no, Inquisitor," said the acolyte quietly. The Inquisitor turned, seething. "Why so gentle?"

"Gentle?"

"Yes. Gentle." The acolyte joined him in his pacing. "This one deserves the cushion treatment."

"The what?" I asked innocently.

"You do not know? That is most unfortunate." The acolyte rapped on the cell door. A number of guards answered it, with a most ferocious battlecry. "No need for the halberds, gentlemen. What do you think of the cushion treatment?"

One winced.

"You're being cruel, Mistress," said a second.

"Aye," agreed the third.

"I'm sorry," I said, "but I still do not understand what this means."

"The cushion treatment," the Acolyte said, "is what they are meaning."

"Oh." I began to feel slightly nervous. "The cushion treatment?"

"They all think they're tough," a fourth guard said, scratching at his sideburns. "They all do. But the cushion… they beg for mercy, they really do."

Everyone nodded.

"So, confess, Demon," the Inquisitor said. He produced a suitcase and then, with a frankly exquisite grace, opened the catches.

Inside, of course, were all manner of knives. Big ones, small ones, spiraling ones, serrated ones, smooth ones, shiny ones, dull ones, poison dripping ones, ones with lenses attached. But, underneath all those, in all their glinting malice, was one single velvet cushion. He brushed the knives aside.

"It can render a man immobile for life," the Inquisitor said. "I daresay that it will do worse for such a fiend as yourself. We have wards, and exorcism rites, and the cleansing fire. This cushion-"

"I confess! I confess!"

"You confess? Excellent. Excellent!" The Inquisitor called for quill and parchment. "Very good." He took the cushion, placed it on his chair, and sat down.

Nothing happened.

"If you do not confess," he said, "after you have declared it, I will be forced by law to hang you, draw you, quarter you, and then keep each body part in a separate, lead lined container until the end of your days."

"Of course," the acolyte said, readying her crossbow, "if you do confess, then you shall be released."

"Released?"

"If you confess, and your crimes are minimal and repented. Then you shall be cut loose from your mortal bonds, and shall float loose in the Aether for all eternity."

"Ah…"

"You will confess?"

"I suppose so. That crossbow is silver, isn't it?"

"Of course."

"And the halberds of the guards?"

"Absolutely."

"And my bars?"

"I make watches for my girl friend out of those bars," the Inquisitor said, wistfully. "Take a few slivers, weld them together, add the mechanism. My pay cannot cover a real one, of course; but she does not complain. 'Silver is silver', she says, and that is that."

We all started at that.

"So," the Inquisitor said. "Cigar?" I took it gladly. "Lighter?" I took that too. "Let us begin. You were, we believe, at that inn from seven of the clock in the evening."

"Quite so," I agreed. "Quite so."

"What did you do, when you reached that inn?"

"Well. It is quite simple. I went to the bar."

"What then?"

"I ordered a beer."

"What sort?"

"Euclid's, if you must know."

"How strong?"

"Very."

"Define very."

"Ok. Imagine a really large number of Xs."

"I am doing so."

"It's less than that."

"Ah. So, Demon, you are averse to strong drink?"

"I… well, I dislike it, yes."

"You think it inconvenient that people brew it as such?"

"Well-"

"You have been annoyed, perhaps, when only the strong stuff was available?"

"I suppose so, yes."

"Would you dislike people who served it?"

"I have, yes."

"And we all know the consequences for people who are disliked by Demons, do we not? Note it down, Melisande; the fiend was probably responsible for the Cadmann's Hops Collective Massacre."

"That's not what I said at all!"

"You just confessed it, Demon."

"But-" Well, I had killed in my time. Were they innocent? Who knows. I didn't at the time. It was so fun back then, you see.

"You quibble, Demon. What did you do after purchasing your beer?"

"I drank it."

"And then?"

"Got some bar snacks."

"What sort?"

"Crisps."

"What sort?"

I sighed. "How specific must I be?"

"Very."

"Right. Well, you know the ones with crinkles in them, with salt and bakyl-dust sprinkled all over them?"

"My favourite!" the acolyte said gleefully.

"Be still," the Inquisitor said. "Speak not unto the Demon, listen not unto the Demon."

"Without your permission, that is."

"You are… correct, Demon. That is evidence of mind reading. Can you mind read?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"It is also possible that he caused the Expenses-Houghtmann Affair. Take note of that too."

"Damn you."

"You are the damned, Demon. I am the one who will reach salvation." Damn his smug smile, too, as he settles his notes on the table.

I blew a smoke ring in his face. He took the cigar out of my mouth, and snapped it with contemptuous ease.

"I was enjoying that!" I was about to say, but the Inquisitor had his hand on the suitcase again.

"What did you do," the Inquisitor said, "after buying some crisps?"

"I went into the corner."

"Which corner?"

"The North West one."

"The room was Decagonal, Demon. Which North West one?"

"Does it matter?"

"Interesting," the Inquisitor said. "Interesting."

"But-"

"So," the Inquisitor said. "What did you do there?"

"I listened to a Troubadour."

"Which one?"

"Harry of Limehouse."

"A good one. It is a shame then, that…"

"I didn't do a damn thing to him, Inquisitor!"

"Curious. It is a shame, then, that he has a minor speech impediment. He always had it, but struggled to overcome it. What did you do to him, Demon?"

I stuttered, and huffed, and puffed, but eventually gave up.

"What happened next?" the acolyte asked.

"He told a story about a Dragon. And I said that I could outdo him."

"Be quiet, Sir," the Acolyte said (bless her!), as the Inquisitor took a breath. "So, what was your story about?"

"It is quite simple."

"How so?"

"I can remember it all, more or less."

"Pray let us hear it, then," the Inquisitor said.

I cleared my throat.

The Grand Duke of Bixhaube-

"Ah! I do detest Bixhaube," the Inquisitor cried, his face crumpled in despair. "The cats there set off my allergies."

"As it so happens," I said, "I may have misremembered. Sorry. Really, I am. Can I start again?"

"Of course."

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Vampyre.

"I once dated a Vampyre," the Acolyte said. "Quite by accident."

"What happened?" the Inquisitor asked.

She didn't reply, but instead left the room. The door clicked shut, and I swore I could hear a nose being blown.

"Was it a Vampyre? I don't know my supernatural creatures that well."

"How ironic," the Inquisitor said, taking a gulp at a hip flask.

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

Once upon a time-

The Inquisitor sighed.

"What?"

"Dire," he said. "Truly dire."

"Did I say once upon a time? I meant:"

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

The Grand Duke of Tirollia was a great man, of low birth but high stature. His tunic was of the finest silk that matched the dazzling sapphire of his eyes, and the blonde of his hair. His sword was of sharpened steel, and was ever ready to do battle with his foes. And-

"I know of now Grand Duke of Tirollia," the Inquisitor said, "who was ever of that stature. Or of any human being. We are a dark race, with flaws, nooks and crannies. These traits rise us above the filth of Demonhood."

"It was not a historical work, you know."

"Quite, Demon! No well drawn, even remotely accurate character can be thus."

"How did I describe him? I meant something like this."

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

The Grand Duke of Tirollia was a great man indeed. But, looking at his dark hair and sad eyes, few would have dreamt of the dark past behind him. Of the mass orgies, the-

"This was in an inn in which children are present, was it not?"

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

The Grand Duke of Tirollia was a great man indeed. But, looking at his dark hair and sad eyes, few would have dreamt of the dark past behind him. Of the affair he had had, his strange liking for chocolates, or any of the other dark secrets behind him.

But his greatest secret of all was a love for Sea faring, which he had had since he was a small child, when he had always read every scrap he could obtain about the great mariners; men such as Cottwood, and A-Beckell, who could-

"Alas," cried the Inquisitor. "A-Beckell's epoch."

"What?"

"My ancestors were cruelly beset then, by the great Wargs of Geryia. I am angered about them. Greatly angered. In addition, few were literate back then, especially the Grand Dukes of Tirollia, who were sworn by great oaths never to even pick up a book, let alone read one."

"In that case," I said, "I fear that I have misremembered."

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

The Grand Duke of Tirollia was a great man indeed. But, looking at his dark hair and sad eyes, few would have dreamt of the dark past behind him. Of the affair he had had, his strange liking for chocolates, or any of the other dark secrets behind him.

But his greatest secret of all was a love for Sea faring, which he had had since he was a small child, when he had always read every scrap he could obtain about the great mariners; men whose names are as stars, to be treasured by all, and to lead a path for all lovers of life who can use a sextant.

"Very good," said guess who. "I have heard few better."

"Thank'ee kindly."

Now, one day, The Grand Duke decided to pursue his passion. He commissioned a ship and crew, and set sail from Tirol in search of adventure.

The Inquisitor looked appauled. "You genocide!" he cried. "You fiend! You unholy ulitte! Do you not realize that, whilst Grand Dukes still ruled Tirollia, that Tirol was still landlocked?"

"Well-"

"So your hero has condemned unnumbered millions of people to horrifying deaths of drowning?"

"Well, I fear that I misremembered again. The beer, you know."

"I thought it might be."

The Grand Duke of Tirollia and the Half Elf.

-"Time's up!" a voice shouted.

"Thank you, Guard Proctor." The Inquisitor shut his case (but not before he put the cushion inside), and donned his hat. "It has been most enlightening, Demon."

"But I haven't even started!" I protested.

"We have all the time in the world, Demon. Good night."

And the door slammed shut, leaving me feeling utterly forlorn.

For how was I to make a story to the tastes of such a man? And, of course, the price of failure was to be burned in the fires of the Inquisition forever more! And a Demon, of course, does not like to be flamed.