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The Soul of a Queen

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The figure placed its hand to its chest and brought forth a small lilac flame, which flickered different colors as it looked from Jowd to Cabanela to Kamila. Pink shading to green. White and red tipped. Pale blue with a familiar lilac tinge. “All so braised in misery. Oh, this new world is so delightfully full of flavor.”

It lowered its hand to point, the flame dancing on its fingertip. “Should I start with you?” It shot forward to press against Jowd, too fast to recoil from or push away. “So full of fears, just as savory as could be, and such a nice vein of deep bitterness running through. One almost feels you’d volunteer.” It turned to Kamila. “Or you, my dear? Heat and acid mixed, roiling beneath that calm surface? There’s a certain fizz there.” It put a hand to Cabanelas’s chest, grabbing his scarf and pulling him close. “Or you? Salty, bitter, acid, heat… my, my, my, you’re an entrée when I’m looking for an dessert. No, better to end a fine meal with a digestif, don’t you think?”

The thing that had been Alma turned to Kamila. “Yes, I believe you’ll do nicely.” It began to reach out a flame shrouded hand, which was stopped by a lightning-fast grab from Jowd.

“You don’t threaten my daughter,” he said, in calm tone belied by the iron grip of his hand. “And you will return Alma to us.”

The flames housing the three demon-children blazed high, laughing as they converged on the trio.

“Try to stop me!”

“You’ll be dead before you can hit the ground!”

“The whole world is mine!”

Jowd closed his eyes and reached for the magic he had gained over the last year and a half. In response to his call, a torrent of icy ether washed over the children, freezing them in their tracks. “You three are just soul-scrap,” he said conversationally. “I know you, you filthy pieces of litter. I remember.”

Cabanela jerked a glance at Jowd. “Whaaat did you remember, baby?” he said cautiously. “Have you seen these things before?”

Jowd turned up a corner of his mouth, a humorless smirk. “Figments of my imagination, I would have called them, but here they are. They were in my dreams last night.” Almost casually, he pivoted, flinging the demon across the room and away from Kamila. It righted itself with insulting ease and chuckled softly, watching the little tableau. Every chuckle made the stones underfoot jump and wiggle a little, making the footing treacherous.

Kamila, ignoring the dialogue, had taken the opportunity to back away from the floating demon and the three children and cock her crossbow. “Is this really the time to talk about this, Papa?” She spared a nervous glance at Wrexsoul. “We have to get Mama away from that thing.”

Jowd raised an eyebrow at the demons. “I think this may be exactly the time.” He snapped his fingers and pointed at the nearest child. “Think hard and remember your dreams last night. Did you see them?”

Cabanela thought. “Maaaybe…?”

“Wait,” Kamila furrowed her brow as she stared at the children. “I do remember, I think. They wanted to eat us.”

“Stiiill do,” pointed out Cabanela.

“Yes, but, they… appeared in front of me at one point? And they were themselves, and horrible, and then they had you and Papa and Mama, and then…” she paled. “I shot them, but they were you, and then we woke up.”

Cabanela found himself nodding. It sounded similar to the dream he’d had, minus some unsavory details that Kamila didn't need to hear. “So…these are dreeeam demons, hmm?”

Jowd took another look at Wrexsoul, which was floating and softly laughing to itself, waiting for its prey. The stones in the castle walls were beginning to shake and shiver. “I think it’s one demon, singular, and we’re fighting it in many different parts.” He turned and looked at Cabanela for one brief instant, before, as always, turning away as if the sight of him was a wound. “That mask is very familiar. Do you recognize it?”

Cabanela’s gaze snapped to the demon’s face. Now that Jowd mentioned it, the mask bore a marked resemblance to the one the jester had flashed on the floating continent. He had tried to destroy it then but had only managed to knock it out of the magitek clone’s hands and onto the ground. The thing that wore Cabanela’s face had wailed like a wounded child, then gone silent as it had picked the mask up and flung it over the edge. It was beyond comprehension that it was here.

Jowd said, “When I was… still in Vector, “you” used to come to my cell, and “you’d” always bring a man in a mask.” His expression went flat. “Occasionally “you” would have the man in the mask attack me or… try other things to distract me.”

Cabanela opened his mouth to question this further but Jowd continued, “The masked man was you, Cabanela. Slave crowned and bound, but you all the same.”

Cabanela drew a long breath. “If you believe that puppet in the mask was me, there’s not much more I can say to you, baby.” He turned his back on Jowd, spine held proud and straight to disguise the hurt. “I don’t remember that time, or the things I did, but I’ll tell you this: from now on, the only one who controls myyy destiny is me, and me alone.”

The frenzied laughter stopped. “Ugh, enough, not again with the heroic speeches,” interrupted Wrexsoul. “You all need to go back to bed and wait for breakfast. Naughty children need to go to sleep on time.”

Kamila, who’d been watching the children unfreeze and creep towards them little by little, leveled her crossbow at the demon fragments. “No closer.” Without further ado, she slammed back the trigger, loosing a flurry of bolts at the demon children. “We’ll defeat you, and we’ll save my Mama, and then we’re going home!”