Chapter 1 - The Beginning

I pulled on the rope, straining to bring the bucket up from the depths of the well quickly, before anyone saw me. I gave a grunt of triumph as the bucket lurched out of the darkness and swung on to the lip of the well, my breath fogging up in the cold night air. I grabbed my canteen from the ground, stuck it into the bucket, and filled it with water, my hands going numb from the freezing water. It was freezing outside, and my tunic and breeches weren't enough to keep me warm.

"HEY! BOY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" A gruff voice yelled from the darkness.

I jumped, bumping the bucket back into the well with a splash. Shit. No one was supposed to be out here at this hour. I swiftly closed the canteen, and stared running down the pathway away from the voice. Since the well was in the middle of the city, I could easily escape from any pursuers down the many alleys.

I ran down deserted alleyways, littered with trash and the occasional homeless person. I came to a fork in the road, both ways looking ominous. Which way, which way? I thought.

{Go right} said a soft voice in my head.

I turned to the right and went down the road without hesitation. Why, you might ask? Because that wasn't the first time I heard the voice, and I trusted it. After all, It's been in my head for as long as I could remember.

Soon, when I was certain no one was following me, I stopped and leaned against a wall, trying to catch my breath.

"Okay, now what?" I said aloud once I caught my breath.

{Weeeeeell...} said the voice {...I don't know! Why are you asking me?!}

I sighed. "Some help you are."

{HEY! I take offense to that! Do you know how many times I've saved your ass? Ungrateful bastard!}

"You're one of the main reasons I get into trouble in the first place!"

{Hmph!}

I pushed myself off of the wall and began walking down random streets, using the moonlight to see. Soon, I made my way into the more abandoned and decrepit areas on the edge of the city. I found the old, rundown pub I was looking for and made my way carefully inside.

"Hey there, Red!"

I jumped a little at the booming voice. The few people who were in the pub turned towards me, but quickly turned back to their drinks and averted their eyes as they saw it who it was.

I made my way up to the counter, stepping over a prone body lying on the floor. I didn't even bother to check to see if he was dead or just passed out. He would be hauled out of the pub soon enough either way.

"Hey, King," I said quietly to the man at the counter, jumping up onto one of the rickety stools. "Is it finished yet?"

King gave a booming laugh. "Who d'ya think I am? 'course it's finished! Come 'round to th' back, I'll give it to ya there."

I hopped off the stool and followed King to the back of the pub into the kitchen, passing a few of the working girls. They leaned themselves against the walls as I went past, keeping their eyes respectfully on the ground.

King suddenly stopped at the back of the room at a little alcove strategically hidden by the giant stove next to it. He kicked the wall and a trap door in the panel on the wall popped open. He walked into a small room, motioning me to wait at the opening.

Soon, he came back with a long, package wrapped in a thick cloth. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he carefully handed me the package. Just as carefully, I slowly unwrapped it, holding my breath.

Inside was a long, gleaming sword and scabbard. The blade was shined to perfection, and the handle had been tightened and cleaned, the plain designs looking bright and bold, and the leather soft. The black scabbard had been freshly oiled, and a new belt attached.

I let out the breath I had been holding in a silent whoosh. "It's perfect, King. Thanks. How much do I owe ya?"

"Three Giles," King said, not even attempting to mask the pride in his voice.

I winced a little at the price, but King deserved every little bit. I dug in my pouch for the money, then pulled it out and handed it over to King. While he inspected the golden pieces, I strapped my sword around my small waist. It fit my small size perfectly. I finally felt more relaxed with the comforting steel at my side.

{Oh, sweet gods, you finally got the sword back. I felt so naked without it!}

I silently shushed the voice in my head as I fingered the plain pommel at the tip of the sword's hilt.

King and I shook hands, then we headed back out into the pub's main area. King offered me a free dinner meal, and I greatly accepted it as my stomach growled. I made my way over to one of the tables in a shadowed corner with my back to the wall and facing the door, and soon had a hot bowl of some sort of soup in front of my face. I've learned it's best not to ask what was in it.

Midway through my meal, the door to the pub opened and a tall, cloaked man walked in. Everyone in the pub turned to stare at the intruder. He pulled his hood off, and I heard a few of the men begin to mutter. But I was more interested in the intruder.

The first thing I noticed was his white hair when he pulled his hood off. Then I noticed his pointed ears, and realized with a start that he wasn't human. He must be one of those demons or faeries or other creatures I've heard about. I've never seen one up close, since they usually only travel or hang around during the day, and I'm more of a night owl myself.

I could feel the air get thicker with tension and hostility as the intruder made his way to the counter and sat down. King acted oblivious to the threat of violence in the air and walked up to the creature. "Wha' can I getcha?"

But before the intruder could say anything, there was a loud clatter as one of the customers stood up, knocking his chair to the floor. He reached to his side and grasped his sword, pulling it out of the scabbard.

{Uh-oh, this is going to get ugly. There's going to be blood spilt and heads will roll. LET'S JOIN!! You can test out the sword!}

I ignored the voice as I eagerly watched. I had heard that most of the poor and lower class humans didn't like the demons 'cause they were being replaced by the creatures, but I never realized how much. Guess most of the men in here had lost their jobs or something, and were still angry. Then again, I'm sure the booze wasn't exactly helping their tempers.

"We don't want your kind here. Get out!" the man with his sword said threateningly to the creature.

I watched in a perverse kind of amusement as the creature turned his back on the man with the sword and said to King, "I'm looking for someone." I admired his courage, but if he wasn't careful, he was going to get himself killed.

Just as I had that thought, the other customers in the pub stood up and grabbed weapons. Those who didn't have swords grabbed a knife or a stool as a weapon. "Who ya lookin' fer?" King asked, eyeing the other customers.

"Red Talon."

The room instantly froze. All the customers slowly lowered their weapons and stood absolutely still. But, slowly, as one, they turned to the corner that I was sitting in.

Or, that I had been sitting in, anyways. At the mention of the name, I had stealthily made my way over to the counter, leaning on it and reapraising the newcomer.

"Hey, King," I said, breaking the silence and getting everyone to jerk their heads in my direction, "You got a cloak I can buy? I seem to have lost mine."

He gave me a small nod, then went into his back room and quickly came back out with a deep red cloak. Handing it to me, he gave me a wink as I glared at him for his choice of color. I would have rather had a black cloak, but I guess this would work. I paid him and put it on, ignoring all the stares of the customers and the creature. I gave the creature a pointed look, then made my way outside.

{Ooooooh, are you going to be all silent and mysterious? I wonder what he wants...Maybe he wants to hire you. Oh, oh, maybe he wants to kill you! Gods know you've made enough enemies.}

You know, I thought to the voice, If I die, you die, too.

After that, it was silent. I waited a few minutes for the creature to come out of the pub. He finally came out, looking around until he spotted me. He started walking towards me, and I went around the side of the pub into a small, shadowed alley.

{HA! You ARE trying to be mysterious!}

No, I'm not, you idiot! I just don't want anyone to see us.

The creature finally made it to the alley and took a few cautious steps into the shadows.

"So," I said quietly, "Why are you looking for Red Talon?"

"Do you know where he is?" The creature had a smooth, beautiful voice, almost musical and a strange accent. "I need to find him."

"Depending on the reason why you need to see him, I may just tell you."

There was a small hesitation, then he finally said, "I need him to help me save someone."

"Who?"

"...My sister. Demon hunters took her after attacking my village."

"You know she's dead by now, right? Demon hunter's aren't going to keep a demon alive." I felt a little sorry for the guy. I knew how cruel demon hunters could be. Then again, they do pay a nice price for an odd job here and there.

"Unless they sell the demon for slavery."

Well, that changes things. It was slightly possible that his sister was still alive. "Do you know where she is now?"

"Yes, she's being held at a large, well guarded building with other slaves. I heard about Red Talon and how he'll do anything for money, and I want to hire him."

"How much are you willing to pay?" I wasn't cheap when it came to jobs. And this job sounded challenging. Or at least a little entertaining.

{You like a good challenge, though.}

Yeah, but if I get paid for it, that makes it even better.

"No offense, but I'd rather speak to Red Talon."

After a brief pause, I turned to him and said seriously, "I am Red Talon."

He raised his eyebrows incredulously. "You? But you're, what, 16, 17 years old?"

"I'm older then I look," I said wryly.

"Look, I'm sorry, but I still don't believe you are Red Talon. I heard he is a vicious killer, and maybe even a little insane. You don't look like any of those things."

I was a little annoyed at that. People think I'm insane?

{Well, you do have a voice in your head}

Shut up! "What else did you hear about him?"

The creature/demon thought for a second. "He has a red sword."

So I reached to my sword and slowly drew it out, marveling at how smoothly I could draw it out. King really was the best. It flashed in the moonlight as I gave it a few experimental swings. Then, before the demon could react, I had the blade pointed at his throat. The blade glowed a deep blood red, almost black in the limited light.

"Believe me now?" I said with an evil grin. The demon's eyes widened slightly, but he quickly got control of himself.

"Well, It's, uh, nice to meet you Mr. Red Talon," he said, raising his hands slightly in a defensive gesture. "So," he continued, looking me right in the eye, "Will you take the job?"

"What are you willing to pay me?"

I swiftly sheathed my sword as he reached into his cloak and pulled out a small, round pouch. I felt something stir in my head at the sight of it, but I ignored it. The demon carefully reached into the pouch and pulled out a small necklace with a strange stone attached to it. The stone glowed a bright blue and green, even in the shadows. As I watched, the colors began to swirl and change. I felt the earlier stirring in my head come back triple-fold. It felt like a gate suddenly broke in my mind and a rush of emotions flooded over me all at once. And the voice was back, louder and more insistent than ever.

{IT'S HERE!! mine Grab it!! must have it
take it and run mine
kill him
GET IT!
snatch it away
MINE he stole it!
GET IT BACK NEED IT NOW!!!

mine take it NOW
mine mine mine mine! Mine! MINE!! }

I wanted it more than anything I've ever wanted before. I felt my arms twitch with a violent urge to grab the necklace. But, suddenly, I realized these weren't my feelings. I wasn't the one who wanted that necklace so badly. It was the voice.

I was thankful for the shadows in the alley. They hid my internal conflict from the demon.

{KILL HIM AND TAKE IT!!}

No. You know I don't kill possible clients. It's bad for business.

{SCREW BUSINESS!! TAKE THE STONE!!}

No.

{FINE!!} the voice screamed, the shriek it gave nearly making me deaf. {THEN YOU MUST TAKE THIS JOB!! GET THAT STONE!!}

"All right. I'll take the job. So, where do we start?" I watched carefully as the demon re-wrapped the necklace and put it back under his cloak.

"Well," he said slowly, "We go to the building they're holding my sister at. Then we break her out."

"...That's your plan? Do you know the layout of the building? How many guards there are? What room your sister is in?"

"No. That's why I hired you."

I sighed, but I was thankful I was back in control of my feelings and the voice was silent. This was going to be a lot of work, though. "I guess we better get started, then."

I began to walk out of the alley, but suddenly turned around, the demon almost bumping into me. "By the way, what's your name?" I couldn't just keep calling him 'the demon.' If things went right, I was going to be meeting more demons soon, and if I just called him 'the demon,' it would get quite confusing.

"Sven."

"Alright, Sven, let's go save your sister."


--Is what I said, but how the hell am I supposed to do this?

There were guards everywhere. I crouched on the ground, surveying the scene.

{Oh, don't be such an pansy. There's not that many guards. You've dealt with more before.}

Oh, shut up. I'm psyching myself up.

We were currently on the edge of town on a small ridge overlooking the slavery building. Guards were posted all around the building and at the entrances.

Hmm, I didn't see any un-guarded entrances. I needed a way in...

{There's a caravan coming. It should be here soon. Hitch a ride on that and sneak in.}

Silently, I made my way to a road that had the markings of being used often, the demon following. Hiding behind a large bush, we sat waiting for the caravan to arrive.

Soon, the sounds of hooves and creaking wheels could be heard in the night air. Slowly, a large canvas-covered wagon led by two horses came into view. Once it was level with our hiding spot, I motioned Sven to stay put, then I quickly rushed forward.

Keeping to the shadows, I crept up to the back of the wagon, pulling the canvas flap back and leaping inside. Inside was pitch black, so I waited silently for my eyes to adjust.

Hearing the flap open behind me, I looked back and let out an exasperated breath when I saw Sven climb in after me. Shaking my head, I turned back around, looking into the shadows of the wagon.

It looked like this was a supply wagon, since barrels and sacks were laid out inside it. I walked over to the corner of the wagon and sat down.

"Hey," I whispered to Sven, "If you're going to come, don't do anything stupid and get us killed, 'kay?"

He nodded, then sat down in the opposite corner. I arranged the barrels and sacks so that they covered me, hiding me from view.

After a while, I heard a muted conversation outside the wagon.

What's going on? I thought.

{The guards are just having a chat with the person driving the wagon about the weather. Honestly, don't they have anything better to do?}

The wagon suddenly jerked forward onto what felt like a smooth road. After a few turns, the wagon stopped again, this time for good.

Is anybody nearby?

{No, it's safe to get out. Most of the 'guards' are either sleeping, entertaining themselves, or getting drunk off their asses. Ah, that sounds like the life.}

Quietly, I slid out of my hiding place, opening the flap on the wagon a crack. Looking out, I made sure no one was about, then carefully hopped out of the wagon.

{I already told you it was clear.}

Sorry. Habit.

{Humph.}

Seeing we were in the stables, I pulled my small dagger from my boot, making my way to the stable door. Looking out, I saw two different ways I could go.

Okay, where would they keep the girl?

{Probably in the middle of the compound. That way, if a slave gets out of their cage, they have less of a chance of escaping because they'd be discovered wandering around.}

I unsheathed my dagger and kept to the shadows as I slunk from the stables into the night air, keeping an eye out for any guards. Sven followed right on my heels as I cautiously made my way towards the central building, seeking an unguarded entrance.

I spotted a window high up on the outer wall above a few barrels on the side of the building deep in the shadows. Going over to the barrels, I easily lept onto one, then jumped up as high as I could and grabbed on to the window's edge. Using my feet, I levered myself up and pulled myself high enough so I could look through the window.

"What do you see?"

I glanced back down at Sven, narrowing my eyes at him. "I haven't looked yet. Be patient."

I turned back to the room, but the darkness was too deep for my human eyes to pierce.

Hey, little help here? I can't see.

{Alright, alright. Hold on.}

My vision suddenly went fuzzy, then completely black as I waited. Slowly, the room came into focus, as clear as day, the shadows nearly gone.

{There. That better?}

Yep. Much better.

I looked around the room, spotting several metal cages in one of the corners. Zoom in.

The cages became closer, and I was able to make out three different kind of demons huddled close to each other inside them. Searching for any guards, I slowly crawled through the window and hung down, then silently dropped to the floor, crouching down and looking around for any disturbances. I put my back to the wall and followed along it as I made my way to the cages, again looking around.

{Oh, for the Gods' sake. There's no guards in here! I think we've already established that the other five times you've looked.}

Hey! It doesn't hurt to be cautious.

{No, but it wastes precious time! Get on with it!}

I sighed, then slid my hand along the bars of the cage, feeling them bump against the lock. I felt a sharp zap as I slid my fingers over the metal, making me wince.

You'll have to get the lock. It's magic'd.

{Sigh. Yeah, yeah. Hold your palm up to it.}

I placed my palm over the lock, holding it still as a felt a tingling sensation flow down my arm and to my hand. With a small flash and a click of the lock, the cage door swung open a small crack, uttering a quiet creak as I opened it all the way.

The three demons' eyes turned to me, flashing iridescent colors as they all looked me up and down. "Follow me if you want to get out of here," I whispered.

After a brief hesitation, one of the demons looked at the others, then turned towards me and crawled cautiously out of the cage. I stood back and looked at the other two, watching as they warily followed.

{Greeeeaaaaat. You got them. Now. How the hell do you expect to get out of here without being seen?}

Oh, it doesn't matter if we're seen or not. We just have to escape.

{Uh, you've lost me. I thought, in order to escape, you have to NOT BE SEEN?!}

Not unless you can make a grand enough escape.

{Sigh. Whatever. Just, don't get yourself killed. And if the demon who hired you dies, don't forget to get the stone, got it? Even if you have to steal it from his dead body, GET THAT STONE!!}

Fine, fine. Jeez, calm down.

I motioned for the three demons to follow me, then made my way back over to the window. I tilted my head and listened for any sound, but heard nothing. Looking around, I spotted a beam next to the window. Running up to it, I jumped up and quickly scaled it, stopping when I reached the same height as the window.

Grabbing the frame, I swung over and hung from the window, then pulled myself up and sat on the ledge. Looking around, I made sure it was clear outside, then reached down and held out my hand. The first demon jumped up and caught my hand, nearly sending me off balance at her weight. Once I steadied myself, I pulled her up and over the ledge, handing her to the waiting Sven below.

I did the same thing with the other two demons, then jumped down after them, re-adjusting my eyes to their regular human sight. The first demon was tightly hugging Sven, and I heard their quiet whispers to each other as they held each other close and rocked back and forth. Sighing, I started heading back to the stable, yanking Sven after me.

I looked down an alley as I ran past, then cursed when I spotted a pair of guards leaning against the wall. They saw me, then yelled, running after us as we continued to run to the stables.

Why didn't you say anything?!

{Eh, I was hungry for some blood. Come on, have a little fun! Besides, you're sword is impatient for a fight. It's been bugging me.}

I growled, then stopped and turned to Sven. "Get them out of here! Go to the stable and saddle up some horses!"

"What about you?" he asked, a small frown on his face.

I felt the blood lust take over as I gave him a vicious grin, pulling my sword out and holding it aloft, catching the moonlight on the humming blade. "I'm gonna have a little fun."

He nodded his head, then ushered the female demons the rest of the way to the stables. I leaned against the wall and listened as the guards stomped down the alley. The first one turned the corner, and I swung my sword at him, cleanly slicing his head from his body. The other guard cried out, but couldn't stop himself in time.

I grabbed my sword two-handed and easily slid it through his ribs, piercing his heart. He gave a small gurgle, then fell to the ground, dead. I yanked my sword out of him, wiping it on his tunic, then looked around, listening to the rapid footsteps getting even closer.

{There's at least 15 more of them.}

I got into a steady stance, holding my sword in front of me and at the ready. Lights began to come on, lighting up the compound, and shouts announced that there was an intruder. I watched as a couple more guards spotted me, and came running down another alley towards me. They pulled their swords, and the first one to reach me swung at me.

I blocked his sword, the clanging metal loud in the night. Sliding the edge up to his hilt, I twisted my sword and spun his out of his grasp, then quickly smashed his nose in with the pommel. He went down in a shower of blood, making way for the next guard, who stab his sword straight at me, going in for the surprise attack.

I shoved his sword away using my hand against the flat of his blade and slid my own blade through his gut. Shoving him to the ground, I spun around and stab the guy who had been trying to sneak up behind me.

There was a sudden loud racket from the stable, and I watched as the doors burst open and out came Sven on a sleek, chestnut horse, followed by the girls. He was leading another horse with a saddle strapped to his back, no doubt for me.

"Hey! Come on!" he said, waving at me.

I ran towards him and lept onto the horse, taking the reins from Sven and turning the horse. Kicking my heels into it's sides, I led them through the compound, slashing at any guards who came at us.

{Archers!}

I looked up at roof of one of the buildings, spotting the five archers up there, their weapons aimed at us. I cursed, yanking on the horse's reins, trying to turn him around, but he suddenly spooked and bucked.

{Hurry!}

I'm trying!

But I already knew it was too late.

Before I could do anything, there was a sudden flash from behind me, and I watched as a trail of light flew straight at one of the archers, embedding itself in his chest and making him scream in pain. I looked back at Sven and saw him panting, sweat dotting his brow.

{Oh, he can use magic! It's rather low-level, though. Looks like he's out.}

Good. He bought us enough time.

I steadied the horse, then kissed the hilt of my sword, whispered a couple words to it, and lifted it above my head. Swinging it around in a wide arc, I threw it with all my strength into the night sky, watching as it twirled around and easily sliced through each of the archers, then whirled back towards me, it's path like that of a boomerang's.

I caught it with my left hand and quickly kicked the horse's sides, pointing him towards the compound's entrance. Once there, I stopped the horse and sized up the eight awaiting guards blocking our exit.

"Now what?" Sven asked, pulling his horse up next to me. "The girls and I can't fight, and some of the guards will just attack us if you go in and fight them. You can't get them all!"

Any ideas?

{Hmm...Fire's always good.}

Oooo, we haven't used that in a while. This'll be fun!

I grinned, wiping my sword in the horse's flank and sheathing it. Walking the horse sideways towards the guards, I spoke up, grinning widely. "If you want to live to see tomorrow, I suggest you get out of our way."

None of them moved.

{Well, it's not like you were expecting them to, anyways.}

I lifted my head up and faced the moon, closing my eyes and inhaling as much air as I could. Holding my breath, I felt my body heat up as a small burning sensation started deep in my gut, quickly growing. I felt the power build up until it was almost painful, so I faced the guards, opened my mouth and let it rip. Blue flames erupted from deep within me, shooting from my mouth and quickly enveloping the guards, their sweet screams of pain music to my ears.

I burned them all, the smell of burnt flesh thick in the air. Their screams soon ceased, and I closed my mouth as I ran out of fire, emitting a couple hacking coughs. Shaking my head, I looked at my handiwork, grinning. The guards' bodies were a mangled, blackened mess spread out across the enterance.

Letting out an insane, gleeful laugh, I slammed my heels into the horse's side and ran towards the bodies. The horse screamed at the smell, but kept going, leaping over the charred piles and landing on the other side. I yanked on the reins and glanced back at Sven and the girls, laughing at their terrified looks.

"Well, come on, already! Freedom is above that hill," I said, pointing to the small rise up ahead on the road. "What in the seven hells are you waiting for?"

Sven and the girls all shared looks, but carefully made their way through the bodies, walking the horses through a small path rather than just jumping them. I rolled my eyes and waited impatiently, my horse stamping his feet and nickering nervously.

{You need to dump this horse soon. It's a coward.}

I bet we could get a fair price for it on the market. It looks nice, and it'd probably be a good working horse.

{It's weak. It'd probably die within a week if it's forced to do hard labor.}

Not my problem.

Once Sven and the girls finally reached me, I sent the horse into a gallop as I followed the road back towards town. Just before we reached the town, I slowed the horse down to a walk, calmly entering the city. Wouldn't want to draw attention.

The voice snorted in my head. {Yeah, 'cause having three demons at your back isn't gonna draw attention.}

Shut up!

"Come on," I said, leading Sven and the girls down and alley and to the back of a hotel. I hopped off the horse and led it into the hotel's small stable, tying it to a rung attached the wall so it couldn't escape.

Sven and the girls carefully dismounted, looking around at their surroundings and trying their horses up next to mine. Sven's sister suddenly looked at me, a hopeful expression on her face. "We're really free, right?"

I nodded, watching as she suddenly began to silently cry, turning to her brother and hugging him tightly. They clung to each other, Sven's hands curling in her hair and his arms wrapping tightly around her waist. The girl suddenly reached over and pulled the other two girls into the little group hug, and they all began to rock back and forth in joy.

After a while, I cleared my throat, trying to get Sven's attention. "Not that I want to interrupt this little joy-fest you got goin' on," I said, holding out my hand, "But where's my payment?"

Sven blinked, then frowned. Sighing, he nodded, then pulled away from the girls and stepped towards me. Pulling the small pouch from one of his pockets, he opened it and flashed me the stone attached to the necklace, then twisted it back up and was about to toss it to me when his sister suddenly gasped and grabbed it from him.

"SVEN!! What are you doing!! You can't give this to him!!"

I narrowed my eyes at the girl, and I could feel the voice in my head utter a vicious, inhuman snarl. "A deal's a deal," I said, holding out my hand.

"No!" the girl yelled, holding the gem to her chest. "You can't have this!"

"Eri," Sven said softly, putting his hand gently on her shoulder. "I've already given him my word I would pay him with this."

"No, Sven, you can't! Papa warned us about how dangerous this is! You can't give it away!"

"I have to! During the raid, those criminals took everything of value! We have nothing left! Nothing but this. I had to use it to save you."

The girl - Eri - turned to me, her eyes pleading. "Please," she begged, "Don't take this."

I shook my head, moving my hand closer. "The only reason I saved you was because of that stone. Now, give it to me!"

She closed her eyes and shook her head, holding the stone even closer.

{Just kill her and take it!}

No. I didn't go through all that trouble to save her, then just end up killing her.

The voice scoffed. {Trouble? You ENJOYED that! Besides, the only reason you took this job was to get the stone.}

No, that was the reason you took the job. I took it because I wanted to have a little fun.

Sven suddenly grabbed the girl's wrist and yanked the stone free from her grasp. Her eyes flew open and she made a desperate grab for it, but Sven had already tossed it to me. I easily caught it, feeling a huge jolt of power fly up my arm, making it go numb for a few seconds. I set it in my other hand and shook my numb arm, gradually feeling a tingling sensation return.

Looking at Sven, I nodded, then fingered the stone through the material it was wrapped in, feeling it thrum with power. I hummed, tossing the stone back and forth between my two hands.

"Hey, what else do I get?" I asked tossing the stone up and down in my hand.

{Open it, you damn fool! Now!!}

Not yet. I've got a feeling this thing is strong. With what, I don't know. But I'm not opening it until we're safe and hidden, ya got that?

The voice was silent, so I took that as ascent.

"Huh?" Sven asked, drawing my attention back to him.

"I saved those other two demons. I don't do stuff for free. You paid me with the stone for your sister, but I have yet to see payment for them."

Sven's eyes narrowed at me and he held his sister closer. "What do you want?"

{His magic! Get his magic!}

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

"I want your magic. You used some back at the compound, so I know you're capable of it."

Sven narrowed his eyes at me, shaking his head. "No. I gave you the stone, but my magic? That's too much. I'll die if I lose it."

{Just kill him and take it anyways!}

I don't kill clients unless they're trying to kill me. It's bad for business.

The voice growled, it's anger and disappointment easily felt.

{Fine! Then get something else in return.}

Alright, deal.

"Fine," I said, tilting my head. "I'll take something else."

"Okay," Sven, said, nodding his head. "But...I don't have much money."

"Hmm," I hummed, turning and looking at the girl. "What about you? Do you have something to give me?"

"Anything," she said, a scared look on her face. "Name it, and it's yours."

"Hmm," I said again, tilting my head to the other side and giving her and appraising look, running my eyes up and down her body. "Anything, eh?"

"No," Sven said, putting his arm around his sister and pushing her behind him. "Not her."

"Oh?" I asked, raising my eyebrow. "Then what else do you have to offer?"

"The horses," Sven said quickly. "We were gonna ride them home, but you can have them."

"I was already planning on keeping them," I said, taking pleasure in the bewildered look on Sven's face.

"Then...My knives. I have a nice, silver set on me."

"No."

"Then what do you want?!" Sven asked, his voice getting a little desperate.

I gave it a little thought. What did I want? Hmm...Ah! I got it!

"Sweets."

Sven blinked at me, his eyebrows furrowing. "Huh? You want what?"

"Sweets. I want sweets. Do you know how hard it is to find any around here? Besides, I heard demons have great sweets."

Sven gave me a confused look. "Sweets? You want sweets?"

"Yes."

His mouth opened and closed a few times as he stared at me, then he suddenly broke out into a relieved laugh, making me frown. Sweets are nothing to laugh about.

{Good Gods, you're an idiot. Sweets? You want stupid SWEETS?!}

Oh, lighten up. I haven't had a good candy in years. And I know you've been craving some, too.

The voice gave a little grumble, then went silent.

"Alright," Sven said, wiping at his eyes. "I'll get you some sweets. Better yet, I'll make you some myself."

Oh, I can't wait for this.

{You know, I think the only thing you like more than killing and fighting is eating sweets.}

Yeah, it's too bad I could never find any.

{Well, looks like now you have.}

Yes, I thought with a manical smile, I have found sweets.