An Uncommon Precedence
Chapter 1

It was an most uncommon precedence. A new Prince of darkness, not even dead yet. How the hell asked the imps, how the hell could it be that they were bound to the pit, when it seemed like any flaming human just could 'drop in'? Not even decently dead? 'There's going to be a revolution here' was the unspoken word down there, where was those 'equal opportunities' that the committee had babbled so much about? The very devils who had started the lottery hadn't really taken the possibility into consideration, that a living entity would be admissible to it, all because some sorry assed devil had forgotten his lottery-ticket up there.

Through committee after committee they had discussed and wrangled through the concepts and ideas that presented their new proud proof of independence. As many of them had been bureaucrats in their former life too, and also thanks to the way World War two had contributed the Neitherlands with a lot of new juridical principles, they had found a veritable plethora of new ideas and concepts to craft into their proud document of undepedence. The old Lord of the flies had fortunately, or most unfortunately, depending on ones view, lost both his post and form due to unforeseen incompatibility problems between realities. So here they were and had been for the last couple of eons, trying to draft that new document into shape whilst giving it some resemblance of modernity.

None of the bureaucrats found it much to their liking but the masses, hordes and throngs of smaller evil were pressing upon them in no mean numbers. Still, decidedly using most of their jurisprudential guidance from such undisputed sages of fairness and justice as Atilla the hun, Stalin, and last but not least The Third Reich undisputed flavor of 'peoples right' they had found themselves allotted more than their expected share of maneuverability in that never ending search for justice and power for the doomed. And all would have been fine if it hadn't been for that idiotic novelty notion of a lottery. It had started when they had discussed what would be the guiding principles for choosing their leader.

They had quickly gone through enlightened monarchy, 'guided' democracy or as some called it 'representative democracy', totalitarian monarchy, unenlightened democracy, entangled totaliarinism, fascism with or without any 'light' to it, but to their dismal surprise in the end had found none to be to their liking. That's when an Imp had whispered in Stanislaws ear. "lottery, sir. The ultimate chaos Sir, evil uncontrolled.". Somehow, nobody really understanding why or how and with none wanting to take the blame, after all they were a committee were they not, they had agreed on this imposturous idea as a guiding principle although forgetting to oversee what its restrictions and definitions should be.

That responsibility they magnanimously left to a under committee, as finding it under their notice to further bother with it as they went on to lunch. Fine specimens all, waiting and writhing under their chains, not taking into consideration what havoc that oversight might make of it. That under-committee in its turn had showed the sublime effrontery to leave it to yet another sub committee and from thereon the stampede had just grown on in dimension. What they got back was such a kludge of bureaucratic incomprehensibility with so many stamps of approval on it that no one had had the stamina to read it through, and now the over committee found themselves residing before the result of their ineptness.

A new Prince of darkness, human, and not even dead. "But he is evil?" Someone asked hopefully. Stanislaw slowly lifted his monumental head, preceded by those two extremely pointy on a daily basis honed horns. "As all men are naturally evil, we only need to remember history. It all depends on the observer, does it not." He smiled entreatingly at them as he lifted one cynical eyebrow, in the process displaying his three glittering rows of teeth's, slightly mangled by the red fleshed remains of a skull still stuck in there. "It's all in the eye of the beholder my dear colleagues. The worst thing that could happen to us would be if the living would learn how to think by them selves, but that enigma is not in front of us yet and with any luck it won't happen before judgement day." There went a sound not unlike the sound of that quiet wind in the willows through the chamber 'hear hear' as the other potentates nodded their agreement horns gleaming in the chill flames emanating from the fire pit. "But are we sure he will accept his nomination?" Another wondered, Stanislaw hawked, at last succeeding in loosening the skull that had stuck at his inner row of teeth's, leaving it merrily bouncing over the immense table wrecking all lesser objects in its way. Following its movements as it at last found a place of rest amongst some half-gnawed thighbones he thoughtfully answered. " Sir, place a fork to any mans jugular and ask him if he wants to live. Without doubt a majority suddenly will find a new pleasure in life, no matter their former state of mind as fear of death is the engine driving all living. So if I may paraphrase one of our lesser devils. 'we'll make him a offer he can't refuse'."

The daemon sitting at the lower end bent his head in pleased acknowledge of the hidden praise as well as of the hidden reprimand Stanislaw's words contained, while others still seemed less than pleased with what the idea presented. "Yes, that may be true." Said one. "But what we are offering is no less than death, is it not?" Stanislaw lifted his hand above his head to materialize the grand tome of negotiation out of the air. "According to our agreement as adversarys of, ah, that other Realm we are the sole enforcers of justice and punishment for the guilty after death and as far as I have concluded there are no clauses relating to in which capacity we are expected to live up to those standards. That is, there are no demands of us or any of our minions needing to be, ah, dead as compared to, ah, alive. That may be a sad oversight by all as no one expected this, ah, notion of a lottery deciding our Lord. Be that as it may, if we want to have a living entity as our Prince of Darkness there seems to be nothing forbidding it." Stanislaw concluded gravely although his heart, metaphorically speaking, was filled with both revulsion and regret at the prospect of allowing a live being to that immense responsibility. Silently he thought that if the powers that be had been anyway near sane he should have been appointed successor in stead of that silly lottery thing, but one had to make the worst of what there was he thought philosophically as the meeting dragged on.

Leonard Draft foresaw nothing of this palaver taking place as he woke up in his apartment in downtown Syracose two weeks earlier. To him it was just another boring day placed in front of yet another boring day in front of, well you get the gist of it. He went to the table where he had his electric drop-warmer to make himself a cup of tea, it wasn't that he was particularly exited about tea, just that his money couldn't afford him anything better for now. Yes you are guessing correctly, he was a writer and not a particularly successful one at that and for the moment a writer with a monumental writing block. He had started his new story two weeks ago 'It was a cold night' and that was it. He had stared at those five words on and of for three days now without finding any continuance, by now having a feeling that no help would be coming however long he stared. "Time to find a job" he muttered under his breath as he drank his tea, silently contemplating life's disgusting demands. Afterwards, going to the lavatory, he proceeded with his usual morning ritual although this morning also including a shave. Even though a two feet long unruly beard was nothing wrong in a writer and a poet it might present his possible future employer with somewhat of a problem he suspected.

One good thing with being a writer was that he didn't really have to explain his periods of non working, every body knew that writers were no good lazy son's of a gun anyway he thought wryly as he finished his shave. He had worked in construction before as a bricklayer and had some knowledge of concrete, there should be something for him he thought hopefully as he studied himself in the mirror. What he saw wasn't that imposing, a man of middle length, around thirty, with a angular face of no great substance, it wasn't that he was ugly looking just ordinary, except when he smiled, as he did just now taking stock of himself. Then his appearance miraculously transformed gaining both vitality and a sudden force of impact that made both men and women take notice. But those days there were no reasons for smiles he admitted to himself, they had melted away to the same distant beat that his money had. He had had some inexplicable luck with cards some months ago, not that he was a cardsharp far from it.

He had just happened to be in the vicinity being at a small gathering of literate's having a go on the muse. Well, not him, he was just there for the free booze and eggrolls provided. None the less he had found it a real bore until that strangely dressed dude had materialized from nowhere asking him if he liked cards. "I know of a friendly game, interested?" It had been Texas hold down, a variant of poker that was new to him but he had found the rules to be simple enough, and much to his surprise he had walked away from it some three thousand dollars richer next morning. "That must have been the fastest bucks I've ever made" he remembered telling the other guy as they left. "Well, spend it on sensible things then dude." The other guy had replied. "Wine, women and song my friend and don't you forget the women" as they parted, the guy disappearing as if he never had been there at all. But that was then and this was now he thought wistfully, he needed a job badly.

Stanislaw took control over the committee again. "Order." He growled banging a femur on the table. "We are here to decide how to proceed under the guidance of our new charter. Liam, you have been overseeing our ruler at work. How did he strike you?" Liam bowed to the committee, being a dark leprechaun he had no real influence into this committee but as the guide and observer of their new supreme ruler he was still of a not uneven importance. "Sir, I set him up with some money to see what his mortal inclinations might be but to my everlasting regret I have nothing positive to report. I'm sorry to say that he handled them without greed, spending them on his bare necessities not even going on a binge Sir. There is work still to be done with him before allowing him to his incline if I may say so, oh much feared raptor Sir." Stanislaw gave him a thin smile lifting his upper lip slightly to show the gleam of his fangs. "Well presented Liam." He said. "Do I take it that you find him lacking in quality then?" "Sir, if I may conclude my presentation, he is of an even temperament not inclined to bullying, without greed and to my surprise without any female companionship. In short he presents something of a disappointment to me."

As Liam furtively studied the congregation observing the steely cloud of disappointment suddenly materializing over the committee's collective heads he found it for good to add. "Although Sir, a proper seductress might still save him from the error of his ways." Not a bad idea thought Stanislaw coldly amused, quite good in fact. He had wrangled to long with how he should enforce the proper guidance needed for the realm and here Liam presented him with a most ingenious suggestion. "A proper Succuba Liam, do I understand that to be your recommendation" "Absolutely Sir, I believe that if he was to be properly, ah, adjusted to our moral values before descending his and ours accommodations would become so much easier." Now the illsmelling clouds of resentment seemed to lift from under the caverns roof as the committee, each member on its own, pondered the newfound implications of the 'guidance' this suggestion made possible. "Splendid young Liam." Said a old bitterly gnarled daemon residing at the lower half of the pentagram shaped table. "Then there is just the matter of which Succubus we should choose. As it is dear colleagues I just happen to have obtained one such of unprecedented beauty and grace. May I offer her for your pleasure?" "Instead of the altar Giemol." Another daemon hollered guffawing.

Sir Giemol seemed to take no offence as he ingratiatory continued. "A small joke I see, my dear dear Igrameel. No Sires, she is of the most innocent appearance, only feed from the bare receptacles of men and of a most wholesome quality. There is no limit of vice to her, I assure you." Stanislaw who first had thought to suggest one of his own quickly realized that he wasn't the only one seeing the possibilities opening here. Thinking of it he decided that Giemol's choice might present a more politically correct alternative than him offering one. That one was after all a daemon of the lower echelon's and as such easily controllable, better him than some of the others he admitted to himself grudgingly. "A most interesting Sir Giemol." He said suavely. "May I suggest all interested parties present their choices as fast as possible so that we can rule on their appropriateness." Hearing the spread Aye's in the congregation he hastily rapped for order stating. "Let it be taken to the protocol then that all bitches are to be presented, at the latest, our next meeting for evaluation." It was strange how the hierarchies flowed down the strata Stanislaw reflected, admitting to himself that humans for once had it better planned than them, with their equal opportunities strategy and all. In Hell the pecking order still only had two definitions, one for males and the other for females and never did they meet. For eons Stanislaw had seen it as the right and proper way, just like the rest of his denizens of Neitherland but following the recent developments on Earth had made him see the error of his ways. How was it that his marketing division had explained it? Ah yes...

'Master, Before "the female liberation" if he wanted "it" it could take him a good six months of courtship, incredible amounts of candy, flowers and dinners, phone calls, cute little stuffed animals with gushy Hallmark cards in their paws, and a lot of fancy talking and emotional blackmail. With the "liberation" he instead found women that had talked themselves out of 'sentimentality' mistrusting all romantic trappings, so good-bye stuffed animals and halloo sex. Paranoid about their career and financial independence franticly splitting all his tabs saving him tons of money. And when he slipped saying something chauvinistic he only needed to let his 'girlfriend' rant some on the gross inadequacies of men, then look sheepishly at her and explain how sorry he was being a victim of society's training. Finally, when getting bored he would get out by extending her that firm handshake saying, "I want us both to continue to grow and respect one another, but I fear that we've started to cramp each other in our relation, and although it's painful to part like this I still want us to do it as mature friends." The cleric laughed a little at that, explaining how it loosely translated into "Fuck you bitch, I just met this blonde, even easier than you."'

Not that any females was to be trusted he thought musing over the clerics explanation, on the other hand he had to admit that when in Hell only fools would trust anyone, be they male or female. In many ways the human realm were a reflection of Hell holding the same preconceived opinions that he himself used to have, being none the better for that. It was somewhat distressing to Stanislaw to find himself comparable to mere mortals but in all honesty he had to admit to it containing that metaphorical grain of truth. Not that truth was worth anything, here as well as there he thought cynically, if it had Hell would surely have shown a decline but as it was it was rather the opposite, business was booming and the souls arriving holding all the old vices. In fact it became quite tedious after some time observing all those politicians, 'great names' etc. Stripped of pompousness and power they all to often turned out to be like inflated balloons. The only thing accomplished by them being a certain flair for self-grandiosity and that art of temptation, promising fast lanes to power to those licking their boots, not that different from hell he had to admit thinking of it. But they were almost without exception devoid of originality, empty mirrors reflecting others expectations. Take Hitler for example, so strong and enigmatic in Germany but here, such a disappointment. Stanislaw had held such high hope for him once, but forced to listen to the mans incoherent ravings he, to his sorrow, had come to the unavoidable conclusion that the man was just another lunatic. And Stalin, that 'man of steel' had crumbled like some cheap alloy when he found himself here too.

How do they do it, he wondered idly, how do humans fool each other so completely. There was that human adage of course, proposing that all the best lies starts with yourself, and if it was anything he had noticed as their 'guest's' first arrived, it was their self-aggrandizing attitude combined with that total lack of self-awareness. Ah well, it wouldn't work if there weren't enough people around accepting them as real, all in all just another case of the emperors new clothes he suspected as he smugly picked his teeth's with a splintered finger-bone. If it were anything mankind was good for it had to be lying through their teeth's he thought ironically. Sometimes he wondered where the real hell was for those humans, here or there? At least we have a certain coherence down here he thought darkly proud over hells achivements. The first thing meeting those tainted souls arriving was hells own slogan 'Lies are your truth', it really helped them adapt, and so much clearer than 'Arbeit macht frei' he thought wryly.

But he had really enjoyed the ingenuity shown recently, where was it now? Ah yes Bosnia was it, with their 'ethnical cleansing' such a sweet euphemism for slaughter of cattle. And the way African's were destroying whole societies by putting mass-rape into practice, destroying family ties for ever, truly impressive even if encroaching on Hells own domains. And their idea of robbing children from the very cradle to train as killers of their own did have a certain surrealistic fascination. And the way Israeli's used civilians as human shields to hide their soldiers behind, in taste with hells finest traditions he thought, just as the Americans new ingenious re-definitions of what constituted 'Torture', almost Russian in its machinations. And the Arabic definitions of Honor when it came to women's, as well as of their interpretation of how to come to 'Paradise' by suicide-bombing, not to mention the tasteful way they entrapped ignorant women into those schemes. We need to get our 'declaration of wrongs' working again he thought, worried anew, otherwise we might find ourselves left a second-rate power and where will hells flames be then. All to probably at the human side he feared leaving his behated Hell an impotent spectator. And what that would do to the Day Of Judgement he didn't even dare contemplate, leaving hell to be judged instead as the humans already punished themselves better in life than when dead. "That must not happen!" He exclaimed in sudden horror as he raised from the throne in a mighty sweep, he had 'loaned' the throne from Shaitans own inventory and found it normally most soothing after a night's work being inlayed with ivory and human remains in a most aesthetic blend. "We need a Prince now by the horned one!" Feeling the need for action he moved betwixt in a flash leaving only an oily dark cloud behind redolently hanging, his claws relentlessly twitching as he went in search for the leprechaun.

Leonard who by now felt almost ready to meet the new day went in search for some clean clothes. As luck would have it he found some in a bag behind the bed, freshly hand washed in the washbasin just some days ago. "Ahh, Nothing like a change of clothes." He mused as he buttoned up his shirt, he couldn't help but notice how wrinkled it was but at least it was clean. As he went down the stairs his landlady came out. "Mr. Draft. You're late." Leonard smiled at her. "Don't you worry Ms. Leigh, you will get your money this week, I promise." "That better be Mr, Draft." She muttered darkly at his receding back, she raised her voice. "No longer than Sunday Mr. Draft. I have a policy to uphold here." He waved back at her acknowledging her words as he opened the front door turning out to the street. And what will I do if I don't he wondered listlessly as he a little later walked over to join the others standing in front of the window of the office of 'Amalgamated Labors', reading the adds inside it. He had just enough money to make it until Monday he guessed so he really needed to find something quickly. 'Carpenter wanted', nah, not for him. He couldn't find anyone needing a bricklayer though and no concrete workers either. He had to admit it being fall nearing winter and at that time of year most concrete works vanished along with the temperature, but he still had expected some adds to be there. After some more fruitless reading he gave up on the window in favor for a cafeteria situated just beside it. Ordering a coffee and a sandwich he sat down at a nearby table to contemplate his situation. Somebody had left a magazine there, it was a new one to him, 'from here and back' it said, idly he pocketed it in his overcoat to read later as he sipped the hot coffee chewing his sandwich.

Stanislaw found Liam hidden under three excessively writhing and fulsome unclad wenches assailing and arguing over him. "Can't get it up love?" The sound of a slap and then. "My turn you..." "Oh no, don't you stick it there, you bastard." Disgusted Stanislaw shook his head visiting anew the depths of depravation of this particular leprechaun's lecherousness as he begun lifting the wenches away. "Oh, hi Master, joining up?" Stanislaws mood that already bordered on a red rage took a dive into the bloodred. He gave the women his best dark brooding look. "Leave wenches, this is a private matter." Negligently flicking them away with his fingers. "And we weren't?" One of them sputtered under her breath as they hurriedly left, their clothes in their arms. He turned back to Liam baring his three rows of fangs. "What in hell are you still doing there? No, don't answer imbecile. Come." Sweeping the room in into a shroud of flames and darkness he took them both back to his cavern with him on his throne and Liam still without clothes, most properly left in a unordered heap of limbs on the floor. "So frolicking is better then my dear leprechaun?" He said musingly as he watched Liam trying to sort himself out. "Better than doing ones work, eh, Liam." He finished glowing with inner rage.

"No no, Master. I was leaving, I swear. It was just a small diversion before departure Sir. A appetizer of hells delights Sir, if you will" "Yes." Sneezed Stainslaw disgusted as he fastened his eyes on Liam's unclad appearance. "Small indeed I see." Wit a small economic gesture he materialized Liam's ticket. "Leaving directly you say clot? Strange, your ticket seems to disagree." He turned a even darker brooding look at Liam, behind which Liam now observed a insane fire flickering soon to break out into full flame. "You Clot ... Are ... Leaving ... Now!" Stanislaw said it with an even heavily pounding emphasis on each and every syllable and then continued somewhat more placid. "Normally I would choose another caretaker but this matter can't wait. I am only entrusting you with it as I have no other soul briefed to exchange your useless carcass with. Do not mistake that for benevolence Clot. Get dressed and wait for my command." Another negligent gesture materialized a strangely dressed small man in lederhosen.

"Take that one away." Stanislaw curtly ordered watching as his servile servant started leading Liam away. "Haven't I told you to shave that silly moustache." Stanislaw roared as they were leaving. "Ja ganz naturlich master, zu befehl." bowed the servile retainer as he stooped under the double onslaught of Stanislaws bad breath and watching his Evilness's rage at last bursting out in full flames. Liam himself had to admit to being quite happy to get out with his skin still intact as the servitor took him to a small cubicle. "Dein room jah. Bist du schnell dressed tou Shweinehund." Leaving him the man made a strange gesture, stretching out his arm in a bent angle as if to touch the roofs, swiveling around on his heels much like some wound up mechanical doll as he marched out. A strange one that one thought Liam as he watched the wall close up after the servitor. Stanislaw who still sat on his throne brooding seemed to reach to a decision and made a gesture. Materializing in front of him came a small mirror of some green fleshy substance. "Call to Sir Giemol." He ordered. The fleshy substance vibrated for a moment and then the head of Sir Giemol appeared. "What, can't you see I'm busy." He sputtered before recognizing his visitor. "Ah, Sir Stanislaw. A pleasure seeing you Sire."

If Sir Giemol's talk seemed somewhat sputtering it had its reasons. He was slightly preoccupied flogging two humans roasting over a small fire. "The domestic help do need a firm hand guiding them at times." He excused himself slightly breathless as he slowly turned the spit. "I hope I didn't interrupt your dinner." Asked Stanislaw feeling a pang of hunger hearing the drops of fat sizzling in the fire as the odor of slightly roasted flesh whiffed up his olfactory nerves through the mirrors interface. "Oh no, it's only their monthly whipping. I have to admit to being a disciple of the timeless admonitions dealt out from our most unholy book 'The Tome Of Pain'." "Ah." Said Stainslaw feeling impressed. "There are so few true devotees left, most enchanted to make your acquaintance Sir. I was calling to ask you if we could try out your subbucus, on a trial basis as it may be, but observing how you stand on firm moral ground I fear I might have been presumptuous." "Why the hurry Sir." Asked Sir Giemol. As Stanislaw started to explain his need for action and the reasons he saw lurking behind Giemol became more and more serious. "I see Sir. You feel the need of action preempting the possibility of our behated Hell becoming the goal of yet another redemption." He seemed lost in thoughts for a moment and then made up his mind. "In the eye of what you've told me I can find no reason to place obstacles in our path. I fear you are right in your conclusions and that we need to take up the reins over evil as soon as devilishly possible. I hope you will allow me some time to conclude my business though, I will meet you at supper if all goes well, will that be sufficient?" Stanislaw felt himself relax slightly, a true devil of the old school indeed, what in the seven names of hell had made him stay at such a menial post as Pit-watcher? "Your humble servant, my dear colleague. It will be my pleasure, until supper then."

Ah yes humans, victims to the constant enigma of their developmentally challenged sense of existing. Alienating themselves against each other and so proud over it. So alone, each one swept in a cocoon of their own deceit, unable to relate to their environment, all trusting to that redemption they thought existing in consuming. They were so enchantingly warped thought Stanizlaw. How the 'other side', even for a moment, could believe that there was a chance of 'uplift' for creatures like this just left him agape with incomprehension, and not of a very Christian kind either. Take their trust in the 'marketplace', their euphemism for that individual greed expressed as statistics. According to that creed of greed, hey, not bad thought Stanizlaw, kind of catchy, could be something for the marketing compartment there to paraphrase and trend analyze. Anyway, the way the humans presented rampant over-consumption as a health-sign was to Stanizlaw just another human flaw alluding to the serious retardation of their higher brain-functions. At their very best they were a dysfunctional species with an inherently distorted idea of their own superiority.

The ingenious way they were poisoning of the earth and seas in the name of progress at times made him regret that he hadn't came up with the scheme himself. But there was just no way that any one except a human could have thought up such a twisted concoction he thought, and that they had succeeded in it by just being 'human' and alive was troublesome indeed. And this new twist of 'global warming' made him go green with envy, he would love to see what they could made out of the solar-system if they got loose for real. Yes, he thought, we are in serious trouble. If they ever wake up to their true potential hell will be overrun in no time, and for trusting that realms and dimensions were out of humans reach, nah, one only had to look at a Feynman diagram to realize the true extent of their twisted imagination. No dimension were unreachable for those, what did they call them, alchemists? No, a scientist was it? So, in the end it all came down to that old adage. 'What you can't win, enmesh.' But it was still kind of unsettling finding that hell somehow stood for the stauncher more, let us admit it, humane ideals than them humanity itself harbored. Stanislaw rubbed his horn's tiredly wishing that he never had learnt how to cognizance. "That's what comes from frolicking with humans" he muttered to himself. But then again, there was still hope for them, with their new prince properly harnessed to Stanislaws needs and with 'think-tanks', that idea grabbed directly from their human counterparts, he still had hope for hell coming out above, or below as it might be here he thought somewhat wryly.

Leonard slowly finished his coffee enjoying its bitter tang as he tried to decide what to do next, remembering the paper he found he took it up to see what it contained. 'From here and back' was a strangely appropriate name for it he found. There was some really strange stories about traveling, he couldn't for his life recognize the countries they described, one holiday tip about visiting the bottomless snakepit's though sounded a little like India, but 'bottomless'? And why would anyone spend two pages describing how to roast 'long pig'. And the numerous ad's sprinkling the pages, many mentioning 'unmentionable pleasures', just made him confused, why would anyone want to know the size of the dog he wondered, and why write about how many heads? Must be one of those new Californian magazines he decided as he kept reading, science-fiction and such. Getting into the mood of the magazine made it much more enjoyable. There was a quite funny story about a lottery in hell in it. Not bad he thought, quite imaginary in fact, it seemed that the winner would become the new Prince of darkness. But he was disappointed in finding that it had no real ending, just a figure reminding him of those old war ad's 'Uncle Sam needs you' with that pointy finger sticking out, in this case more of a claw though, pointing at him, almost as if raising out of the paper.

Looking at it again he saw some small print at the bottom. 'your unlucky number is :299384-Z-qwerty' and finding under it in even smaller script the words. 'In case of winning we need to inform that there is no legal way indemnifying this lottery ticket for any future loss or gain. Neither is there any way holding hell liable for any consequences or indemnities constraining to but not less than this statement redeemable in all eternity.' Putting it back in his pocket he went to the bathroom to relieve himself before leaving. As he washed his hands his eyes idly wandered around taking in the bathroom, when they at last coming to rest in the mirror he got a small heart attack. Over his forehead someone had tattooed a number, or was it the mirror? He leaned forward to scrutinize it closer finding that the number seemed to move with him. He experimentally started to sway to see if the number would follow him in the mirror.

"A little to much last night, heh.". Hearing the sudden voice behind him startled him out of his uneasy trance. "To much of what?" he asked unsure about what the other guy meant. "Ah, that bad was it? You don't even remember it?." Leonard now realized that the guy seemed to think that he was under the ice, having had that one 'wet' night to much. " Look here." He said irritated. "I'm totally sober, it's just that damned number tattooed on my forehead." The other guy who had been on his way in now stopped and seemed to change his mind. "Tattooed? On your forehead. Oh, I see, well don't let me disturb you." Turning as if to walk out again. "Wait." Said Leonard desperately. "Can't you see it?" pointing to his brow. "Sure, sure mate, I see it, big red letters." The other man said it in a soothing voice as he slowly turned down the handle of the door, inch by inch discreetly putting himself way out from the bathroom. "No, not red." Said Leonard feebly as he fascinated looked into the mirror once more. "Blue." "Whatever you say mate, got'a go now. See'ya" leaving him alone but for that audience of one again. Leonard quickly forgot all about him as he once more tried to read what the numbers said. '299384-Z-qwerty.' What did that remind him off? He had seen that number before hadn't he, quite recently.

There was a sudden smell of sulfur accompanied by a low rumbling outside Stanislaw's chamber. He raised himself regretfully from his contemplating of his next draw to open the door. "Ah, Sir Geiemol, welcome to my simple abode." He said relieved. "I'm so pleased to find one punctual Demon, there are all to many daft ones around." "True indeed Sir Stanilaw" answered the other gravely. "I blame it on upbringing myself, to little reverence for the old truisms left I'm afraid. Like this lottery." Stanislaw gave Sir Geimol his best three fanged smile taking great care to allow only the tips to be seen, as old costums craved. "A traditionalist after my own hearts." He exclaimed hearily as he ushered them into his private chamber. "I took the liberty of ordering some small tidbits and morsels Sir, newly catched from the fire pits of hell." Offering Sir Geimol a plate of choice meats, still twitching. "So good of you." Answered Sir Geimol allowing himself to be tempted by the delicious smell of charred flesh. "As the 'The Tome Of Pain' says 'there is no meat as writhing meat, nes'pa." "Impressive Sir, are you a linguist to by chance?" Asked Stanislaw as they sat down. "Well Sir, I've done my share of travelling if I may say so. But I wouldn't call me a polyglot by any means."

Smiling Stanislaw looked at what Sir Geimols leash ended in. "And that would be?" He asked delicately. Sir Geimol gave the leash a slight jerk bringing its inhabitant forward. "Ah yes, allow me to introduce my subucus. I named her Magmaliaa in honor of her temperament. By the unholy grace of the tome Sir, it took me quite some time to whip some breeding into this one. Show your good manners now Magmaliaa, and make a nice obeisance." Magma stirred first at Stanislaw and then incomprehensibly at Sir Geimol. "Him? That will be a cold day in hell." She said haughtily as she with icy blue eyes sighted down her prominent but, oh so adorable nose at them. Sir Geimol didn't seem to be taken back by her obstinacy though, as he put the other end of the leash to work at her haunches. "Evil deeds is never finished" he remarked blithely. "Or as they say upper-of 'A good mans work' hey." He sounded somewhat smug with himself as he gave her the finishing touchups. "Let's try again dearie, now, how do a sweet young thing like you introduce herself to such a refined gentleman as our grace?" Looking up at him, her haughtiness marred by a slight frown as she now found herself on all four by Sir Geimols impatient tugs at the leash, she smiled sunnily saying. "And a very cold day to you too Sir."

Stanilaw looked at her incomprehensible for a moment and then started to laugh. "What is she." He asked. "Your court jester? She sure have some spunk." Sir Geimol guffawed too as he studied his handiwork on her with some pride. "Yes, she do take some handling." He admitted. "But she keeps me in trim." Stanislaw who by now had recovered from his sudden merriment leaned forward to ask in a earnest voice. "Quite so, quite so. So, where is she? Your creature of perfection?" Sir Geimol whom at first seemed taken by some surprise at his words hastily collected himself answering. "Sir, if thy won't mind my asking first. What in a woman is it that first takes thy fancy?" Stanislaw studied him somewhat consternated as Geimol continued. "Innocence Sir is a overrated thing, they all have it in the beginning but after your first hundred maidens? Admit it Sir, it gets boresome. Now Sir, on the other hand take a lady of wit and humor, perhaps unwilling to adapt to your every wish, someone that gives you something to put your mark on. A broader canvas for your brush if I may say so Sir. That is what I'm offering here. Not a insolent virgin, neither a empty headed bovine but one to catch the devil in us all." Stanislaw who had listened to the sales pitch with a raising irritation nodded impatiently. "Yes, yes I can well see your implication Sir Gemoil, and I'm not indisposed as to its wisdom either. So, bring her forth for my appraisal dear friend."

Geimol gave the leash another slight tug to get Magmaliaa up again. "This is my suggestion." He said sounding proud, "Not only independent but also to matter devilishly obstinate. With one single goal in her life. To drive man insane." "And to what purpose would that be?" Asked Stanislaw feeling totally confounded. "We want him to rule, not unrule. We just need her to lead him of the straight path to introduce him to the delight of the more slippery one." Sir Geimol nodded sagely. "So I too thought at first, but what hellish use would such a man be, just another ruler and, human to bones? Sir if I may be forthright. This lottery is a travesty of all bad sense, what we need is not another emulator, we need pure evil. Unrule might very well be the word here if I may say so" "And how exactly would an insane human lift forward evil?" asked Stanislaw carefully as he now found himself on very weak ice with this daemon, could he be addled by good spirits he worriedly wondered as he furtively studied his appearance. No, there were no gleam of a Gloria, no stench of pureness to him at all, he comforted himself. "No Sir, insane or sane he would still be a mockery of all that is wrong and bad. But with him insane, perhaps saner uncleaner minds could rein in this proud nation of ours, and once more lead it to its righteous path." Stanislaw listened to him with a sudden interest. "And just whom might those saner minds be?" he asked cautiously.

"Sir, let me be bold. Yours for one, and perhaps," here Sir Geimol leaned forward in a conspiratorially manner. "A councilor to help, in the shadows naturally." Sir Geimol hastily added. So, thought Stanislaw. I'm not the only one. But that he had known from the first if he wanted to be honest, but he didn't. As the idea slowly started to grow on him though he found it more and more intriguing. A 'powerbase'? Wasn't that what the humans called it. One of the greatest obstacles in hell was that they all were egomaniacs, himself included. It had take him years of counseling in human form to realize just how great a egoist he was. What was this fellow Fraud? No Freud, had said, ah yes. 'I can't help you.' And he hadn't, neither had Jung, nor Singer nor Adler. The only one with a resemblance of a cure had been that ingenious man with his behavioristic agenda. In fact he still went into therapy with him at times. He found it both wholesome and farseeing. Just take the ingenious way he had treated his daughter, confining her in a little soundproof box each time she threw a tantrum. She became a very quiet little lady in deed he recalled with a fond smile.

And with Burrhus and Ivan now working together Stanislaw felt that hell was taking giant steps psychologically, pity that it only was compromised to the inmates, but it worked, oh yes. Pavlov should never had become a physiologist, he was just so much better as a psychologist. The things they could do with conditioned responses in humans was just astounding, path-breaking work. That was the major problem with hell he thought bitterly, no self-awareness, nobody would work together for any longer time. They were no less egomaniacs at the human realm but at least they could leash themselves together. And this old one seemed to see it too? Perhaps, just perhaps. "Your ideas do have some merit Sir Geimol." He answered courtly. "But where would we find any two devils that could work together?" "Well Sir," answered Sir Geimol giving him a ingratiatory smile. "Until meeting you I had slight hope, but finding your path of endarkment similar to mine made me study your approach in some detail Sire. And I must say, for being such a, if you excuse my wordings, comparatively young daemon you have restored a hope in Hell."

Stanislaw nodded appreciatively as he listened to Geimol singing his praise. "You are a most discerning and judicial judge of character Sir Geimol. I must admit to having doubts myself at times, but you are right. Under a gifted trojka this Nation once more might grip the reins and lead. But even so, what makes you think she will match his standards?" "Standards Sir? Human males don't have standards, they have a lot of things going for them but standards is not one of them Sir. Sex drift? Absolutely, rut? Of course. But the idea of some golden standard like love is just so much balderdash. The discerning mind will know Sir, and if I may say so, you are one." He might be right thought Stanislaw considering it anew, in fact it was very like what Skinner and Pavlov was saying too. In that case a more direct approach tapping those more primeval forces might succeed where a to sophisticated just would fall. He had to admit to a growing respect for this old fossil. "Sir you amaze me." He said. "So let me know exactly how you would like to handle this situation." Now they sat down around bloodred table, glossed too a high sheen though the countless tons of human 'polish' being applied on it, Both ignoring the subbucus huddling in a corner as they laid out their plans for the conquer of hell.

'Am I going mad'? Leonard turned around to see if something else had changed. Everything seemed much the same though, well, except that tattoo on his brow. Reaching down in his pocket he at last found a old handkerchief, knitting it around his brow he checked himself in the mirror one last time. The color was sadly clashing with the rest of his clothes but, and the green dots didn't help, but who cared. "Here I come Bon Jovi" he said to the mirror as he left the washroom, feeling an overpowering need get home and hibernate. Once inside his room he sat down at the bed to take stock of his situation. He counted on his fingers. One. No job. Two. No money. Three. Brandmarked? Four. Soon to be thrown out on the streets. Five. No book. At least he had that sandwich he thought trying to console himself, but for the rest of it he really didn't know what to do. He decided to make another experiment to see if it was only him seeing those numbers. Unwrapping his handkerchief he took his tea-mug and went next door to knock on the Morgenstein's door.

A old woman voice answered. "Yes?" "Sorry ms. Morgenstein, it's me Leonard. I'm just wondering if I could lend some sugar. "How do I know that it is you, you can be any one" answered the voice. "But it's me." Said Leonard. "I have my mug with me so if you just..." Now a shrill scream was heard from the inside. "Help, help. A mugger. Go away punk or I'll blast you." Blast what? Leonard thought confused? " I'm just asking for some sugar ms. Morgenstein." He said again. "Please?" now he heard two distinct clicks coming from inside of the door and it was definitely no doorlock. "I'm counting to three," the shrill voice said. "One." "Two." Leonard decided to give up on her, the only thing he had wanted was to see after all was if she would notice anything different with him, but what was the use if she didn't even recognize his voice? As he closed his own door he heard her say "Three." And then a sound of someone letting of both barrels.

He threw himself over his bed finishing as a shivering wreck hiding against the wall. "Crazy, she has to be crazy." He mumbled as he heard her final shout. "Make my day, Punk." "I'm out of here." Exhausted he laid down listening through the thin walls as the cops and ambulance tried to sweet talk the old woman out of her apartment, falling asleep to the shrill voice triumphantly cackling. "Remember Alamo? That's me punks, want a piece of me?" Getting up real early the next morning with a headache out of this world he as quietly as possible dressed and packed his backpack. Carefully opening his door he stood there for a moment listening. Not a sound from that old woman, he found it a good sign as he as inconspicuously as possible tried to sneak down the stairway. The neighbors door had two big holes in it and the wall on the opposite site looked as if a really hard rain had fallen all over it ripping the tapestry into strips. "That could have been me." He muttered as he carefully closed the front door after him. He was going to send the money owed as fast as he got a work, that he promised himself as he stood there looking around. The morning seemed fair bringing the clean smell of ozone with it, he guessed it must have rained sometime earlier, with just a few small clouds overhanging as he slowly trudged away incrementally growing smaller as he faded into the growing dawn.

Magmalia who silently had listened to the two fossils arguing about her choose this moment to unroll from her foetal position stretching her long slim legs. Stanislaw who had studied her out of the side of his eyes suddenly found his mind emptying. She smiled at him as she with a catlike poignancy languidly unlimbered herself, her dress revolving around her showing every evocatively shimmering outline, magically tracing her body under the soft glow of the fist-sized slices of meat resting and roasting over his fire-pits homely blaze. He dazedly shook his head as he some undefined time later woke up to Geimol's voice, still droning on, describing the unsurpassable amount of time and effort put into making her this marvel of demonical engineering. He impatiently interrupted the old daemons haranguing. "Sir, I hear and I see, but what I really would like to know is what your creature herself has to say."

Now he had two problems, no work and no crib, no wait, he had three problems. He had forgotten the biggest, no money. He only had a measly sixty five dollars to him as he stood, where the hell would he sleep tonight? The autumn had finally sat in presenting him with a clear and sunny day but so cold. He thought about going over to his last girlfriend Anne to see if she would help him out, but on second thoughts he decided not to. The way they had parted left to much of a hassle to clear away and he definitely didn't want to come begging. He had some acquaintances but none that was close to him here. "Why The Hell Did I Move." He asked himself as he aimlessly kept on walking, no goal in sight. But that one was easy, big town, a new beginning, and him the rising star just waiting for that publisher to recognize his penmanship. But so far it hadn't worked out as he had expected. The town being just that little bit to big and the folks living there just that little bit shallower than he had expected. Perhaps the same could be said for him too he thought ruefully as he recalled his first impressions. Then he had only seen the greatness of it, the shops and malls filled with interesting people living glamorous lives. But the glamour had washed out bit by bit slowly forcing him to realize that life in the city was much the same as home, only without friends and with folks a lot more disinterested in him. "I need to go home." He said suddenly. Syracose wasn't what he needed, he needed someone like Joe, a real homie he could talk too and hang out with. Suddenly finding his decision made up for him he went to look for the nearest payphone.

Magmalia gifted the poor old fossil with a condescending smile as she considered her choices. Old Geimol had been fun for a while even though he was a little to lavishly enthusiastic in his preferred methods of 'instruction'. Not that she had allowed him to do her like that, no way. It had taken her a minimum of effort to train him, not that he knew of it of course or even that she was satisfied, but then again. It's like they say she thought sourly 'a womans work is never finished', but now she wasn't so sure any more. She hadn't counted on him having plans of his own, this damned lottery she thought. Just when one finally expected to have whipped things into order those blockheads had to invent a lottery. "They never seem to grow up, do they." she mumbled to herself as she smiled once more at Stanislaw. "What was it you said wench?" Stanislaw asked. "What grows up?" Magmalia gave him yet another condescending smile as she considered her future once more.

He found the payphone at the corner of westside bridge, normally they were painted in a discreet gray communal color but this one was made up in a brightly red. It's color stood out amongst the drab old buildings surrounding it making it look as incongruous as a firetruck as if it tried to scream at him, 'Here, try me, use me. I'm yours.' Wonder if I could use it in a book he thought distracted by his musings as he started to push the phone buttons. "Hey, what the h..." he exclaimed surprised as he found that there was no buttons at all to it. And it wasn't one of them old dials either? There was only what looked as a old-fashioned crank mounted to its side with a label saying 'Cranky today?' Must be some publicity stunt Leonard decided as he in vain tried to remember hearing anything about such a thing. But what the hell, when in snow be a seal, he thought philosophically as he started to crank it up, on closer consideration he was a little unsure what navy seals had to do with snow but that was just one of his problems. He had always had a very low association threshold, that was one of the things that had directed him to his nowadays, as he admitted to himself somewhat glumly, fulltime occupation as a disenchanted writer.

Magmalia whom by now had finished her little study over the male kind, especially those demonically enhanced and their monumental stupidity now found it for good to allow Stanislaw's pesky little words to reach her imperious ears. She looked down at him, or rather down at his hoof's as she kept her eyes demurely lowered while whispering in a slightly husky voice, dripping of unfulfilled promises "Humans Sir, Those wretched humans. They never grow up." Geimol smiled proudly at her modest behavior, looking at Stanislaw as if saying. "I told you I had her housecleaned, huh. Didn't I, didn't I!!" Stanislaw on his side had to admit to finding her modesty rather becoming when compared to that cheeky brash behavior he had been awarded earlier from those despicable wenches placed on top of his servant. "So child. You don't care for humans, do you?" he said doing his best to sound fatherly as he studied her lust inspiring curves with more than a little interest. "To drive that highway when dark." he distractedly found himself mumbling. He tried without success to look into her eyes as he told her. "No, no my dear child, 't's nothing, now tell me why you think so."

Magmalia smiled demurely back at his kneecap as she shyly answered. "Only that they are a sublime nuisance, revered master. They take my daemons thoughts away from me, oh master of the undead sight." Now Geimol pride over his pupil found no limits, it burgeoned forth out of his every pore as his hoofs started to shuffle in a most imperious manner. Stanislaw who had studied Gemoils little dance thoughtfully now found it for good to say in his most forthcoming manner. "The lavatory is by the pit Sir, if you wondered, gives the meat some flavor." He disdainfully turned his back at Gemoil addressing Magmalia once more. "But if i told you that we wanted you to take one in your hand child. Would you do it?" "Please Sir, if you want to torture me there are so many ways to do it." She then continued with informing him just how in great detail accompanied by the most vivid imaginary, leaving both Gemoil and Stanislaw increasingly lost to their inner thoughts. Gemoil mumbled to himself. "If she only had told me before, oh, the loss, the loss of it all." He was starting to regret his earlier, as he now started to see it, somewhat premature ambitions, in advance of those incrementally growing mind-blowingly provocative propositions Magmalia had started to suggest, pertaining as they were of stern discipline as well as of that firm, hand? Or talons possibly steering her towards her destiny.

Stanislaw whom by now couldn't help but wondering what a pearl like her had to do with a lout such as Gemoil now seriously started to consider her for his own household. And Magmalia who abruptly came to a stop, her eyes directed slightly higher as she studied the impact of her words, smiled once more demurely. "But know this, your most magnificent putrefaction. There is no way anyone can force me to take interest in a mere human. They are more immature than the drivel dripping from your fangs and an anathema to my sight." Stanislaw's horns peeked up in interest as he heard her stout refusal. Ahh, he thought, that poor child, besotted by me already. He maliciously studied Gemoils swaggering for a moment and then haughtily informed him. "She will do. Sir, I will kindly take her from your hands. On the behalf of the committee I thank you for your considerations. Now be gone I say." Gemoil who regretted this idea most avidly feebly tried to counter. "But Sir, didn't you hear the willful child, she absolutely refuses to take any part of a human. Clearly she needs more discipline. Sir..." Stanislaw smiled in a cheerless manner as he answered. "And that she will." He mumbled joyfully "get!" already looking forward to the intensified course of 'human enchantment' that he planned to take her through, with or without her consent. Magmalia who once more realized how Stanislaw words more than confirmed her expectations of the limits of male ingenuity haughtily told them, just to make sure. "And no one, I repeat Sire, no one can make me move to the human realm. I will invoke the charms of the sisterhood before that." The last thing Sir Gemoil heard before leaving was Sir Stanislaw strutting in front of his poor lost child crowing as a disjointed cock. "Soo, you think soo, do you, do you? My dear dear child." By now totally ignoring Gemoil's incoherent ramblings and displeased pleadings as he firmly were escorted out by three burly demons and with Sir Stanislaw's final words still ringing in his ears. "Don't call me, I'll call you."

Leonard felt as if he had cranked the damn phone for an eternity. Nothing was happening, except that this young kid that lazily had sauntered to the boot now was standing outside it looking in had picked up his mobile in the process of trying to get some shots of him more and more franticly rotating that crank. Stopping Leonard started to look over his situation, could he be on the candid camera? He tried to throw an inconspicuous glance out the window to see if someone else was filming but the fascinated look on the young kid forced him to turn around again facing the wall while trying to act as if the was speaking. "No, I said buy mister, yes I know that Algamated has gone down fifteen points but now's the time to buy. Sell my Microsoft stock and buyyy." He cast another furtive glance at the window, to his relief seeing the kid fast loosing interest as soon as he had stopped his cranking. Standing there he suddenly realized that the camera as easily could be hidden inside the booth. He started to search still talking into the phone. "Yes, that's right son. Amalgated will hit the roof, I can feel it in my wooden peg. " What the hell am I saying he wondered as he heard himself, but now it was to late, if he really was on the candid camera his hole was dug to deep. "And send me the weather balloon too, We will need it to save the polar bears."

He couldn't find any suspicious holes or lenses anywhere, and when looking out again he found that the kid had disappeared. He was staring into the small mirror fastened on the wall in front of him studying his desperate countenance when he suddenly realized where that camera had to be hidden. "Damned snoopers" he growled at the mirror as he started to dismantle it. After his last blade had broken he had no choice but to sacrifice the corkscrew. "Swiss workmanship my ass." He swore as the only result forthcoming was the corkscrew breaking too, leaving him a small stupid pocketknife with neither blades nor corkscrew, and with the mirror still looking as new. He stopped talking staring at the pocketknife, for the first time noticing that the color of it was the exact same as the color of the phone-boot. Giving in to a sudden impulse, deciding to leave his mark he flicked out the scissor and with a last effort drove the damn thing into the wall. Wonder above wonders, as he opened his hand he saw it there still sticking to the wall. "Yesss, and it's a homerun." He hollered as he triumphantly studied his work. Almost artistic he thought seeing how well it melted in to the milieu. "Maybe I should get a camera too" he mumbled as he stood there, the useless phone still resting in his hand.

Sir Stanislaw had fought for nine days now trying hard to instill some workman ethics in the young woman. The fight had been hard and he had to admit to it being times when he had doubted. He went to the cage and rattled its bars. "Are we happy Magma." He asked. She gave him a challenging stare as she sat there securely fastened by sturdy chains to its walls. "No Sir, but we will do your bidding." She answered meekly as she lowered her head. What was it with those demons she wondered, always trying to force her? "Can I come out, master of the living dead." She asked. Stanislaw studied her some more before acquiescing to her request. "Good girl." he said as he allowed her to dress. "Fetch." He threw her a mobile phone. " This is yours Magma, it's called a phone and works the same as scrying." "I think." He added under his breath. She looked at him with wide eyes trying her best to seem impressed with his technical know-how. "Don't worry." He said trying to sound mild. "I have a charm that will help you get oriented when in the human realm, and your own pitiful charms are perfectly sufficient for your needs upper there." He smiled at he baring his fangs, "And you will behave, else."

She meekly kept her eyes downwards as she got her dress on. It was very small and black having strategically ripped holes in it leaving her to feel as someone found after a tornado. "Yes master. Oh you undying refiner of putridity." She mumbled as she put the phone away inside a small handbag wearing the slogan "DieOr." Tastefully written in big black shiny vinyl letters cluttered over both sides of the purse. "The clothes and other details have all been researched and composed by our marketing division girl, they design only the very finest of handiwork's." He said pompously reading from the frontpage. "They have all been chosen due to their impact on twelve condemned men, all waiting at the death row in Sing Sing, and all being approximately of the same age as your 'mark', twelve to eighty-six years of age."

She now looked at some queer jewelry all ending in big safety-pins unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to attach them to her person. "Ah, those I believe to should be pinned to the dress." Stanislaw delicately suggested, annoyed anew at his marketing directors vague instructions. Why he couldn't send him some simple explanations he never had understood, instead they delivered ton after ton's of useless papers that only a brain-dead zombie would have the patience to read. Still, he had to admit it being impressive and it also helped keeping his lavatory well stocked. Pointing to the stacks of paper reaching almost over his head he blithely assured her. "You're in good hands Magmalia, have no fear. As they say over there, you're dressed to kill" She gracefully smiled at him at the same time as she thought 'Marke-ting Parket-thing blah, blah, blah, dressed to puke more probably, I can't wait to get out of here. Males... '

The last time they had let a Succuba of her elevated stature out of hell was when that bitch had gone and seduced Adam, at last as she remembered it she thought as she docilely bent her head again, listening to the old geezer drawling on about all his research. After what to her felt as a small eternity he stopped. "And remember the hot-line, that's your life-line to hell." He informed her as he wove his final incantation stamping the charm of 'communicative comparatively securely fast-sending', or CCS as they preferred to call it in hell, to her mind. "The locomoting department will see to your traveling arrangements Magma, just follow the rancid liquor line and you will find them. But don't taste. The cooks need it as it is."

Leonard lifted the phone looking at it a last time. "Anybody there." He said into it. "Anyone?" the phone silently stared back at him. Fuck it, he though putting it back in its cradle. There must be some other phone-boot to use. He turned around to open the door but found it blocked. Someone must be standing outside he realized once more feeling the cold sweat of terror breaking out. "Hi, can you move so I can get out. Asshole..." he groused as he once more tried to push open the door. There was no window mounted in it so he couldn't see what the obstacle was, and remembering the kid he started to wonder if it had been him wedging the door shut. "Come on..." he cried out as he tried to push it again. "Move dumb-ass." There was only silence meeting his voice. He looked down at his hands as finding them starting to twitch. Fearing himself near the limits of sanity he added in a shaky voice "Please..." He couldn't make any sense of this day, maybe, he thought, maybe its all a dream. He studied his upset face in the mirror. I could be in bed dreaming it all up. Yes! But everything, except this booth, had seemed so normal? He pinched himself "Aw." That hurt he thought, he looked back at the damned phone wondering what he should do. He could try to make a emergency call he supposed, if the damn phone had worked, but it didn't, did it? He lifted it up again. "Haloo." He hollered into it, lifting it to his ear to listen. There was only a very weak sound heard in it, as of some lonely wind sweeping by inside it. A rather gruesome wind too he found as he listened in more closely. As silent as a graveyard he though suddenly frightened by this blood-red thing resting in his hand. It slipped through his fingers to hang dangling from its cord as he turned back to the door staring at it. If it was a wedge somebody had to pass by sooner or later he thought trying hard to be rational about it, He just had to wait some more. "there is nobody out there then?" he asked, trying to sound threatening but sadly failing as his voice cracked up. "Okay, I better warn you, I have a knife." He said loudly, dispiritedly staring on the pocketknife stuck to the wall by its scissors. "Don't you try to break in. I'm licensed to kill" What the hell am I saying?

Magmalia smiled sweetly at the officious bureaucrat sitting behind the desk. "Yes, Sire Stanislaw have informed uds of you coming." He admitted pompously. "But as you can see." pointing to the various stacks of paper tapestried to his desk. "I'm somewhat occupied and your tickets seems to have been mislaid. Would you be a dear and come back, uh, next hornsday? I make sure to give you some time then? Or perhaps you would like some rest? At my place perhaps? I have a excellent couch" He smiled ingratiatingly at her as he made vague gestures with his white speckled fingers subtly reminding her of a equal number of thoughtlessly groveling white worms fluttering in dead air. Magmalia nodded meekly as she in a small voice concurred. "Thank you so much officer, I'll just go back to inform dear Stan that we can't meet his dead-line then." The bureaucrat twitched. "No, no. No need of that. It will only worry him. And a worrywart makes us all a bigger fart as they say" Her he tried to sound relaxed and homely as he smiled, but without any greater luck. Magmalia smiled back at him. "Oh, I'm not the one to worry." She answered sweetly. "I'm sure dear Stan will think about, something." The bureaucrat suddenly found a opened drawer. "What luck." He wheezed as he looked up on her "Your tickets my dear, lost but now found again. We pride ourself on delivering only the best of services. You have take your shots of course?" he asked now trying to sound official again. Shots? Thought Magmalia. "No thanks, I'm not thirsty." She brusquely answered wondering what it was he was trying to achieve. "First your bed and now you try to get me drunk? I will have to talk to dear Stan abut this." She threatened. "No my dear." He said almost sounding as if he was ready to cry. "Vaccinations miss, all that goes to the human realm need their vaccinations..." Magmalia stared at him incomprehensibly "Lilith never needed any." She answered. "Yes, but times have changed Miss since her last visit. They have all kinds of crossbreeds now. We pride ourselves on never being to sure." "Hogwash" Magmalia loudly exclaimed. "Could she can I, there is no need for vaccinations here. Arrange my journey at the earliest, otherwise you will have to acquit your behavior with dear Stan. We Have A Dead-Line To Meet Here..."

Leonard sat down on the floor his feet pressed against the door. Hah, try to come in now he thought smugly before realizing that he pressed them the same way the door was supposed to open. Thinking about it though he wasn't really sure that the door opened out. Standing again he gingerly tried to pull it in instead of pushing it out with the door opening silently on its well-oiled hinges. "I'm a idiot." He told himself as he started to walk out of the booth. "Yes you are." He heard a sudden voice making him jump as if attacked by a poisonous rattlesnake. Landing just outside the booth he found himself in front of the most lovely creature he ever had seen. Her eyes was a laughing far away green with her mane like a red flame against her face, its milky white skin sprinkled lightly with a few small freckles. "Oh God, I'm sorry." He exclaimed. "No acquaintance of mine." She smiled."But, why sorry?" "No, I mean..." he tried to explain as he lost himself once more in her beauty. "I mean, I'm sorry if I scared you. I mean..." he stuttered. "Yes I can hear that, you mean?" "Awh" he gave up on trying to explain himself as he wordlessly and helplessly found himself staring again. She studied him thoughtfully. So this is my 'mark' she thought. Not to bad looking as humans goes she decided. Stupid of course, but which male isn't she wondered anew, her lips twitching into a wry smile. "You can call me Magma." She said decisively crossing her arm with his. "won't you buy me a cup of something hot?" She asked as she started to lead him on to the small café that had materialized at the corner. Walking as if in a dream Leonard followed her to the café sitting down at a small table facing the street. "And what's your name then." She asked. Please, please dear God, don't make me stutter he prayed as he answered. "L Lenoard. Shit..." "Strange name, Lenoard Shit." She smiled with her eyes. "Are you sure that's your name?" "Yes, No I mean, Leonard only. I'm confused." He admitted. "Ah, Leonard Only, unusual name but nice."

Leonard tried to make some sense of their discussion but had to admit to certain shortcoming's. "It's not fair." He squealed. "This day was going to all the way to hell and just when I was giving up I had to meet someone like you, it's just not fair..." He looked down at his hands for a moment before lifting his head again. "did I just say that loud?" he asked in a such a forlorn voice that she almost started to laugh, he started to stand up to flee as she told him. "Awh, sit down Leonard, I've heard worse pickup lines." She studied him some more, was it true? Was he really that incompetent? How ever did he succeed in dressing himself in the mornings she found herself wondering as she listened to his jumble of confused explanations and excuses. "Relax boy, I'm not gonna bite you." Her smiled widened. "unless you want it." Leonard jumped backwards in his chair, almost tipping it over. Then he seemed to relax a little. A genuine smile spreading itself over his face transforming it into innocent glee as he belatedly got her pun. "Good one Magma." He said. "I'm sorry, it's not my day today, until now, It's been a living hell, and the last one too." He admitted before he once more was swept away by her eyes. "Meeting you is the highlight of a sadly squandered life Magma. Normally I'm never this lucky." If you only knew boy, she thought as she fondly smiled back at him, if only you knew. "So your luck have changed then?" she stated. "Then you can afford me a cup of cacao, can't you" He nodded eagerly as he turned to catch the attention of a waiter, realizing that this wasn't that kind of a place he went to the counter to order her and himself some hot chocolate.

"Would you like cream on it?" he asked as he was ordering, she nodded enthusiastically remembering how Lilith used to ooze over that strange beverage. "Humans." She had sneered. "putty in my hands. But the cacao, my dear. Pure bliss I assure you." Ever since hearing the bitch bragging about it Magmalia had held this strange craving for that human elixir, in fact it was the sole most important thing helping her to make up her mind about journeying to such a distant barbarian place as the human realm. Not that she was afraid of traveling, why, whenever there was interdepartmental meetings between her realm and ... Above she was there. Sometimes a secretary, sometimes in a more important position depending on the issues naturally. But she wasn't scared of travelling, no siree. When she got her first taste of the cacao she froze, to Leonard it seemed almost as if she was holding a precious baby instead of that cup of hot chocolate. "You're right." he admitted as he tasted it himself. "It's a perfect day for cacao. Let's take the table outside and enjoy." Said and done, soon enough they found themselves outside the cafe with steaming mugs of chocolate warming their hands in the cold clear sunlight. Leonard suddenly realized that they had stopped talking for quite some while without him noticing. Normally he tried to chat the girls up as much as he could, after all, he wasn't directly what the girls would call a 'stud-muffin'. But somehow she didn't seem to mind as they sat there together quietly drinking their cacao.

With a feeling as if a empty hole in her soul, well, something similar anyway, had been filled by this delicious elixir Magmalia decided to take reins and start to guide this young man into his new position of responsibility. "So tell me Leonard, what's wrong?" He started to tell her about the old lady last night but then she interrupted him. "No Leonard, from the beginning." So he found himself giving her his whole life's worth instead with her listening as fascinated as if he was telling her about far away treasures and amazing explorations. And in a way it was, Magmalia had never been human, she was one of the first, a fallen angel and this whole human experience was new to her. So it was as if listening to a very strange tribes social life and customs for her. It is a misunderstanding that all succuba is pure evil. It's no lie either of course, Lilith was a prime example of the worst kind of fallen, but just as on Earth there was all kinds of 'people' in hell some better, most worse. The whole idea of evil was a constantly developing one, much influenced by the morals of those humans living and hell just had to adapt. As Leonard at long time last arrived at yesterday coming up to today Magmali had gotten herelf a complete tour in the life of a human and there were a lot she found admirable in it. But then again she realized as she looked at him, he wasn't that old yet and neither that corrupt as those humans she had meet in hell. She almost felt bad thinking of how she was expected to 'adapt' him to his new position. But after all, it wasn't her choice, free choices were somewhat alike free will, good enough on its own ground but when conflicting interests meet 'realpolitiks' reigned sublime. And that she knew was the same for all realms, except possibly ... above.

"So you need a job, money, somewhere to sleep and someone to love?" "Have I got it right." Leonard felt himself redden as she so summarily condensed his life and future into one sentence. He liked her, a lot in fact. So much that he had started to fear his own need as she had listened, encouraging him those times he found it embarrassing enjoying his tale. He stiffened slightly as he heard her and unnoticeably he tried to pull back on his own emotions. "yes, I know." He admitted doing his best to sound suave as well as uncaring. "My boring life, not any hit I agree, not yet at least. It's been a pleasure meeting you Magda, sorry, I meant Magma. But I'm afraid that I must make my phone-call now though. I sure hope that Joe still lives at home, he was talking about joining up the last time I talked with him." He stood up abruptly giving her a stiff bow. Now why the hell did I do so he wondered. "I just wish I had meet you before, but that's life, right? So, until next time then Magma." Taken by surprise she just sat there for a moment watching his silhouette recede into the suns weak light. Then she shook herself out of her revery hurrying after him. "Wait, Leonard. What did I do? I didn't mean you any harm." Not yet anyway, she had to add silently as she quickened her steps. "Look, I have my problems too." That at least was true. "One of them being my apartment. There is something terribly wrong with my fridge and I don't know how to fix it. Couldn't you take a look on it Leonard." She took hold of his hand to stop him walking while gazing earnestly into his eyes. Leonard found his mind emptying of all thoughts, again he thought, as they looked upon each other. "Do you really want me to?" he asked sounding unsure at himself suddenly. She smiled at him not allowing him to look away. "Yes I do. And even if you can't fix it I have a spare bed for the night, and a phone too. Please." Leonard felt as if his whole world suddenly had turned upside down. Wasn't he the one supposed to beg? Reminding himself of that old saying. 'Never look a gifted horse in the mouth' and being much assured by its homely sound he decided to test his luck once more. "Okay, I do need a phone Magma and probably that bed too. Thanks." She smiled at him making very sure of not letting go of his hand as they strolled back to her apartment.

As they had been walking for a while Magma suddenly started to search her handbag. "Now, where are they "she asked. "What?" asked Leonard. "Where is my damned keys." Asked Magma as she stared straight up in the air. "Do you hear, I need my house-keys to my new address!" Leonard felt as if the air suddenly became much colder as he observed her strange behavior. "Excuse me a moment Leonard, I must phone someone." She said picking up a little red mobile from her handbag. It was a new model Leonard noticed, very small and elegant. As she opened it he couldn't help but notice that it had only one button. The button seemed to act as some sort of wheel too as she thumbed it. "Halloo, It's me, I can't seem to find my new address, oh sorry, I mean keys." She listened. "Thanks, and say hi to Stan too, will you." He started to feel a little jealous listening to her conversation, not that he knew her he thought. So far it seemed mostly the other way around, he had told her a lot he felt about himself but about her he knew next to nothing. Who were those guys she was talking with? Magmalia laughed as she searched through her handbag again. "I left them in my purse." she said triumphantly as he held it up to the light. And in there they were, two old looking keys with the address neatly engraved on them. 'misers street 8.5'. He didn't recognize the street but Syracose was a big town with over a million inhabitants. "Is it far?" he asked. "Oh, just a leetle bit." She said smiling at him once more holding his hand. "Just around the corner." To his surprise she was correct, he had thought that he knew the streets around here but he must have missed this one. It was more of an alley than a street though, ending at a little yellow two stories house abundantly swept in greenery and flowers. She walked in through the gate fumbling with her keys. I just moved in." She told Leonard apologetically. "I had to call dad to ask if I had forgotten my keys, but he remembered where I put them."

She was right Leonard found, there was something wrong with her fridge, after checking and rechecking the wiring he found a switch that seemed to be flipped the wrong way at the bottom of fridge. As he flopped it a green light came on, and a slight vibration seemed to start in the fridge making him hope that it would work again. "I think I found it." He told her. "It was a electric breaker that had flipped. I think it was raining last night, maybe that did it?" Magma gave him a hug exclaiming. "Yay, you fixed it. Good, then I'll fix us something to eat." Leonard felt quite good about himself as he sat in the living room listening to Magma go about her errands in the kitchen. He heard what sounded like some singing in there but the television set drenched it with its own sound. It was an old time favorite of his. 'The wizard of oz" with Judy Garland. He still had to make that phonecall thought but he felt as if it was no real hurry anymore. Pepei, the big black cat she had introduced him to was grooming himself in front of the fireplace, looking quite satisfied too. "I could live like this you know." He said to it. "Your mistress is lovely, the house is warm and soon we both will be fed, can there be anything more to wish for?" Pepei sort of stared at him as if it was under his dignity to answer and then revolved some turns threading on the pillow until he seemed satisfied with its elasticity. He laid down with his back to Leonard but somehow the cats untold message came through.

"Right?" said Leonard unbelievingly. "You think she's in heat do you? Forget it, humans don't do that sort of thing." But then again he thought sleepily as he arranged himself more comfortably on the couch. One could also say that humans always are in heat. Nah, don't think so. It was the sound of her laughter that woke him up, that and the weight of Pepei draped over his chest. He gingerly got himself up of the coach as she told him that the food was ready. Well out in the kitchen he found a big pot of Chili with bread at the side as well as cheese and some sort of sausage. "Dig in." She said as she gave him a plate. Looking through the kitchen window he saw that it was dark outside. "Did I sleep that long?" he asked her feeling surprised. "Oh yes." She answered. "You and the cat both. If I ever seen two lazy sons of a gun then I think you two takes the prize. Did you know you were snoring?" No way, thought Leonard. "Cats don't snore." He said. "No, I said you." She started to laugh but then she became serious again. "Do you want to call your friend now or do you want to wait until tomorrow?" she asked. He looked at her. "Where was you planning to let me bunk? Good chili by the way, lots of chili pepper to it just as I like." He smiled at her. She studied him thoughtfully. If it had been at home there wouldn't have been any discussion. In hell the gender stereotypes were strict and unforgiving, no matter if you were male or female, or something in between. "As above so below." She muttered to herself.

Either you were below or above, and depending on which side you were you either obeyed or you commanded. Humans were so much more flexible, she had understood that watching their scrying-bowl or tilivision as they called it. In a way she envied them, not that she ever had any trouble getting her way, but her gender did put obstacles in her way at times. She worried for him, the daemons of hell were quite unforgiving and he would be easy prey for them if she failed in toughening him up. As Stanislaw had planned her primary task was just that, and of course in the process making sure that he was pliable to her and Stanislaws will. Doing so Stanislaw would have it both ways, if the decision was unfavorable it would be that stupid humans fault, if favorable the direct result of his manipulations. None of the blame, all of the fame. Also he truly believed that Hell needed new blood as the competition from some humans were pitiless. If Hell didn't 'shape up' he had explained to her they might end up as a second rate nation, not worthy of their noble task any more. There were all to many countries on Earth that already pushed Hells envelope to hard for any Daemon or Succubus to be able to relax.

But somehow she liked Leonard, and that was quite disturbing. It had been a very long time since she had liked anyone, including herself. 'Liking is for humans' she reminded herself just as 'loyalty was for dogs'. She belonged to the elevated ones, as highly above them mere humans as they were above? Mice was it? Nah, ah, something stupid she thought, trying hard to remember. Donkeys perhaps? But they weren't stupid, obstinate in abundance but not stupid. Pink? Stupid and pink, were there any animals like that she wondered confusedly the only thing she could remember to be ... Bunnies? And they weren't pink ... Never mind, she thought furiously. 'As high above mere men as men was above ... goldfishes!' Yes that was it. "Goldfishes" she loudly exclaimed giving Leonard such a unmerciful look that it totally shattered what little confidence he had succeeded in rebuilding. "That's it, a goldfish..." She said. "I'm sorry Magma, but, why are you talking about goldfishes? Don't tell me that Pepei?" He looked for the cat but he was back in the living room, peacefully snoozing. "Did he take your bowl?" Magma studied Leonard uncomprehendingly, why did he expect Pepei to steal the tilivision? Absolutely down to Earth stupid those humans she thought contentedly, anyone could see and hear the tilivision blazing away in there. "No it's still there." She told him. "Good, good." He answered acting his calmest, trying to appease her fit of temper. She sure is a real redhead he decided, no doubt about it. "Where is it?" he asked. Now she seriously started to doubt for his sanity. "It's where it was when you left it." She told him irritated.

Where 'I' left it? thought Leonard. "I did?" he asked surprised. Oh, may the pit take all stupid males Magma thought as she found herself forced to ask "What Leonard, you did what... ?" "I don't know." Answered Leonard meekly starting to doubt if it had been such a good idea after all, coming here with her. Not that the food had been bad or anything but that temper of hers, jezzes? Magmalia on her side had by now decided that when God created human males he must have bee severely distracted, leaving them with no memory. "No surprise there though." She sneered, feeling good and mighty. "You will sleep." Now she started to plan again, it would be nice to have him on the floor of her bed, after all, in the morning it had been awfully cold. It would be nice to have something warm to step on. But when looking at his sorry self she found herself unable to set her little scheme into work, no matter his memory equaling a goldfish. "Oh why bother." She muttered to herself wondering if that was what those vaccinations was about, to inoculate her against humanity? "Where do you want to sleep?" she asked giving him a last chance to prove himself a real daemon. "Uh." Leonard answered looking at her wistfully. "Uh." He said again wondering what she meant. Considering his former experiences of the 'other' gender whatever he said was going to be wrong with her in that mood. "I'm the guest." He answered feeling quite clever. "So that's up to you." "Yes?" she said seriously reconsidering her first scheme. "And I'm asking you where you want to sleep?" Awh shit, there seemed to be no safe way out of this trap he realized, she wanted a fight. "Maybe I should go?" he asked her. "I don't want no fight Magma, I'll sleep wherever you want."

She started to smile at that. A seriously vicious bad-ass smile as she led him to his sleeping quarters. "What! No way I'm going to sleep on the floor Magma." He said as he realized her little scheme. "And I don't care if you have cold feet in the morning." He exploded. At last she thought, some real male behavior. "But I will sleep next to you" she patiently tried to explain. "On the floor? What's wrong with beds Magma?" She had to be seriously demented he realized, a perfectly good bed and she wanted to sleep on the floor, because her feet got cold?? Magma sat down on the bed to make a last try to explain if for this brain less moron as she now had started to see him. "Listen Leonard, be a good boy now." "This." Ang here she pointed to the pillows she had placed at the floor. "Is Your Place..." "That." And here she pointed to the bed, "Is Mine..." "And if you behave tonight and do your needs where they should be done I might even feed you in the morning" she added magnanimously feeling quite pleased with her explanatory abilities, even a goldfish would understand this she thought satisfied "Sit!". Leonard whom by now had started to fear that sometime yesterday he must have stepped into another dimension sat down defeated at last on the pillows to reconsider his options. He could leave, probably the best option for them all, but it had started to rain again and he had nowhere to go. He could take the bed and leave her to the floor, no wait, she wanted the bed. Okay, he could go down to the living room and sleep on the couch, but could he trust her? She was so strange ... Or he could sleep with her in the bed, but then it would be all to easy for her to reach over ... Was there something gleaming under that bed? A cleaver perhaps?? Awh shit, why does everything have to happen to me he thought in desperation as he searched for a way out of his maze.

If he went down he would worry about her sneaking up and attacking him, and the same seemed to be the cause if he slept beside her. Wait, he could bind her to the bed, but what would happen in the morning then. Especially if those guys came over that she had spoken too. Her 'dad' huh ... As he sat there, his brain working on overtime, he failed to notice Magmalia cheerfully starting to undress. Yes, she thought, no more cold feet. "As above so below" she told herself pleased. And it was working, even here, Stanislaw would be pleased with Leonards progress she thought cheerily to herself as she bent over to inspect the sheets. Leonard whose brain wisely had chosen this specific point of time and place to get stuck, once and for all lifted up his head so that his eyes might enjoy the sight of Magnas magnificent rear seductively wavering in and out in front of his eyes. Clad only in her negligee and with a lot of strange looking punk jewelry nabbed to it she was a true sight to behold. Suddenly his brain unfreezed and Leonard realized that this was as good a place as could be this night, he would have direct control over her every movement without having to fear her reaching over to attack him. Down in the living room he wouldn't know a thing until she attacked. And he didn't need to freeze to death either. Also ... Also he would have the enjoyment of her unclad company without the needing to tie her up. As long as he didn't fall asleep of course, but there was no Chance In Hell of that happening, that he could promise, not with her to look at. Magmalia sunk down in between the newly washed sheets softly sighing. They were so soft and nice, a pity that Leonard wasn't a real daemon though she thought, then they could have had some real fun, but what the hell. He seemed to have adjusted to his new crib quite fast anyway she thought contently as she switched the light of.

Leonard woke up to the cat treading on him once again, opening his eyes he told him "Pepei, Shhoo it, get of me you fucking monster" before realizing that it wasn't no cat, it was Magma trying to warm her feet, on him ... Screaming wildly he flew up throwing her off. Landing her on her but he rushed down to the kitchen to arm himself with the biggest frigging cleaver he could find. He had to wait quite some time before she showed up. "Why did you call me a fucking monster?" she asked still finding it hard to accept. She might be a Succuba but she definitely wasn't no monster as every red-blooded male would bear witness to. She had stood in front of the mirrior for quite some time trying to see what was so monstrous with her without succeeding. Could it have to do with his memory being so impared she wondered as she gazed at him. Realizing that he wanted to help her with the breakfast she went to the fridge to pick out some tomatoes and a onion. "Chop this." she said as she threw them to him in a easy underhanded throw. Leonard who had seen all the classic samurai movies as well as karate kid one two and three understood her directly. Already primed to react he started to chopp at them while still leaving her hand.

So she wanted to see a real samurai in action, did she, did she... 'Chop chop chop' and he had cleaved them all. What he hadn't counted on was how their trajectories changed as he chopped. He had cleaved them to the bone allright but now there was tomato and onion rings all over the kitchen. He looked at the mess he had mad and then at Magma who just stared at him, unable to understand what had come over him. He bent down over one of the pieces of tomato now decorating the walls floor and table and said. "Lets go ketchup." Which he couldn't help but finding immensely funny. Magma started to wonder if there were more impairments to him than just his memory. That he had forgotten how you chopped vegetables against a horizontally placed surface was explainable but to believe tomatoes to walk? "Eh, Leonard ... Tomatoes don't walk dear, they roll. And they don't speak either" Now Leonard's headache reached monumental proportions as he listened to her patient explanation. To not know the oldest joke on the planet. "Ah, Magma. Could you tell me which dimension this is. Is it Earth still?" Magma shook her head impatiently. "Are you wondering what realm this is? Of course its Earth." "Well Magma, I hate to say this but you've been strange all the way since I arrived at your home. I'm sure you're a very nice lady, kind to animals, kissing babies and so on but ... I really need to say good bye to you." Magma who had listened to him in stony silence now felt her temper rising again. "Me strange? Is it me that have the brain of a goldfish?? Is it me that chops vegetables in the air. Is it me that didn't want to sleep in a bed?" Well that last one might had been a little unfair she admitted to herself, but when in love, and war. Now Leonard's temper started to build up too as he heard her unfair accusations. "Brain of a goldfish? Me, am I the one walking on sleeping men in the mornings, to warm my little feeet ... As for chopping vegetables, I thought you were attacking me, in fact I think you're acting crazy." Magmalia looked at him, her eyes slowly filling with tears as she heard his judgement. "Well." She said. "I might be strange, but at least I don't expect vegetables to start talking." She stood there suddenly realizing that it all had gone badly wrong, and the worst thing of all was that she still liked him. Thinking it over she wondered if her or Stanislaws schemes really mattered. Everything seemed to keep the same anyway, from eon to eon, scheme to scheme. "Go then." She said then giving a quiet finality to her words as she turned back to the living room leaving him to himself.

Suddenly Leonard felt very much ashamed, she hadn't threatened him, it was him that had threatened her. She had took him in when he didn't have a place to go, given him food and companionship and a place to sleep. May be that she was a little weird but thinking about how the world looked, why not be a little weird? The 'sane' ones hadn't made much of a success of it either considering it all. Was it so dangerous to want to warm ones feet's? On him? Ah, that was a weird one he had to admit, but still. He pussyfooted to the living room to see if she still was there. She was, she was sitting in front of the dumb-tube staring at it with slow tears running from her eyes. Shit, he went over to her and sat himself beside her. "Magma, I'm sorry. I like you, I like you a lot but you are like no other girl I've meet. I just don't know how to handle you." He lifted her hand up from her lap to his. "Did you hear? I said I'm sorry Magma, please forgive me?" She slowly turned to him asking. "Are you going?" Leonard shook his head. "Not when you're acting like this girl. I don't want you to cry. I've acted a jerk this morning and I want to make up for it. Would you mind if I fixed us the breakfast? And you can warm your feet on me at any time you want and that's a promise. Cross my heart Magma." Magma studied his eyes and then lifted her feet and pinned them under his T-shirt. "Like this?" she asked solemnly still gazing into his eyes. "Any time Magma." He answered as solemnly as he put his hands over her small neat feet to rub some warmth into them.

He went to the kitchen somewhat later, after first showing Magma how to surf through the channels on the telly. She had stopped her tears and he had found her a warm soft blanket to cover herself up with. He hastily cleaned up his mess and then sat out to make her the best breakfast she ever had tasted. Finding that she had no cacao he told her he needed to go to shop. He saw how she stiffened up but he leaned over to give her a kiss saying. "Don't worry worrywart. I'll be back." He ran as fast as he could and bought the cacao and some whipped cream and that type of really expensive chocolate, you know, the one with a very high level of pure cacao in it, over seventy percent. When he came back the first thing he checked was if she still was there. He couldn't explain why but somehow he had worried that she would disappear just as much as he suspected that she had worried that he would. "Fucking bizarre man." He muttered as he prepared the treats. "We're both weirdoes I guess. But not to know how to surf? I wonder if she heard about the internet?" He started to smile, if she didn't he would take her to a internet cafe the next time. He was sure she would love it. Hot cocoa and the whole world at your feet. What more could one ask for? Finishing his work of love with a flower picked from her garden he carried it in on the bronzed platter he had found to watch her eat.

She looked at the bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich he had made for her with dried onion sprinkled over it and some drops of citrus to sharpen its taste. Then she studied the submarine with shrimps lettuce, thin crisp slices of citrus, and lots and lots of mayonnaise with an big aromatic leaf of dill weed majestically throning over it. To the cacao he had gotten the largest mug he could find in the mall, it was white with a red heart to it with the text 'what's up doc' and bunny the rabbit looking out from it. He had used lots of cacao and lots of dark choclate to sprinkle on top of the whipped cream. To finish it of he had bought thin mint wafers that he left sticking out from it. she lifted her eyes from the mug to him. "Is it mine?" she asked. "Yeah." He said, "I bought it for you, for your cocoa. It was the biggest I could buy." She stretched out her arms to hug him so he gave her one more kiss on her brow. "Eat now, kiss later." He suggested as he smiled. She ate it all with him sitting beside her surfing the channels for Bugs bunny. Finding it he pointed to her mug and then to the telly and let her watch. All in all it was the best breakfast he could remember, and that so even before he had his own...

"Did you like it?" he asked as she finished the last of the cacao licking her spoon clean from the last vestiges of chocolate and whipped cream. She didn't answer. "Oh shit, she can't still be angry." he worried as he intently studied her lowered eyes, She looked up on him from the spoon, her green eyes laughing again and then embraced him, dragging him down on the couch into a big hug. "You're to good to be true." She told him as they held each other afterwards. "You're right." He answered and then ducked as she tried to swipe him. "But, you're always right Magma." He then said laughing even more. "And you're mad. With a tiny whiny memory" she added maliciously as she looked up on him from the couch. He looked back suddenly having this strange feeling of utter peace, as if he at last had found a place where he fitted. "I think I'm starting to love you." He warned her. "You better tell me if you want me too." She studied his face solemnly. "Child." She said. "I'm so much older than you, you cant' know what you're saying." "No way." He protested, you can't be more than me if even that. I'm twenty nine and you cant be more than..." He scrutinized her some more. "You are younger I think, twenty three?" he accused her. "Awh, I'm robbing the cradle." She laughed at that. "Leonard. I am older, maybe not as wise as I should be, but older than that." "Be that as it may." He mumbled in her ear as he inhaled the fresh scent from her hair "I've found you and by finders right I'll keep you as you are Magma." He told her, for once knowing that he really meant it. "As long as you hold true so will I." He promised her. "What do you know about 'finders right'."asked Magma sounding surprised. "He idly twinned a small strand of her red silken hair around his finger as he answered. "I know what 'finders keepers' is Magma. And by all powers that be and all gods I will claim you for mine as long as I live, ah, that is if you allow me of course?." Magmalia looked at him. "That was a too strong oath Leonard, stronger than you ever might know. But to assault graciousness with slander would be a foul act indeed, let me countermand it slightly with one of my own." She then smiled at him as she started to sing something to him in a low husky tone. After she had finished she told him "Interpreted it goes something like this. The day is gone and we with it, but my heart remains in you. Our life's may be as falling leafs but trust it to the wind to bear our love so wide and far as to never let it die." The stanza is somewhat more difficult to catch here though.

"I don't understand this Magma. How can I know so surely that it is you I've been waiting for my whole life. And this morning we were on the brink of disaster, breaking up?"

"Don't you worry your tiny mind with such questions Leonard. If it is meant to be it's meant to be. And even if it's not chivalry still will find its place of honor in your heart. Don't expect life to give you any guarantees my friend, that's for salesmen and the devil. And both tend to lie" Listening to what she just had said she suddenly realized that she was talking and cuddling with the next potentate of Hell. But it still made no sense, undying love was very much a joked upon idea today, not only in Hell. Even in the human realm there were only a chosen few finding that balm.

"Leonard, let's take what happiness we can from the moments we get." She whispered, "And leave tomorrow to tomorrow. Seldom is there happy endings to such oaths as yours, and you must remember that the greater the elevation the longer the fall." Leonard leaned back to see her again marveling at her ready wit. "I don't know about that." He told her. "I just know that I love you like some lost piece of me, found at last and cherished to my dying breath. I think that to know you, even if only a short time, is worth more than the whole of the rest of my life."

"You are truly chivalrous my dear peanut-brain" whispered Magmalia as she slowly stroke his hair. "And I too hope it will come out right in the end for both of us, but as for now, no more undying love Leonard. The day is still young, what would you like to do?"

They stayed on the couch cuddling for quite some time. It wasn't until noon that they at last agreed on making their presence know to the world outside. Leonard had done his best explaining how low on cash he was those days but it seemed that this fact didn't bother Magma a bit.

"Poh," she said. "Money comes and money goes Leonard, that's in its very nature. Only the greedy spend their life worrying where the next crown will come from. Moderation in all vices is a golden rule my boy." When she talked like that Leonard had to admit to her possibly being older than him but not by much he hoped. He didn't want her to question their bonding by age alone. As she said tomorrow it another world, one could only live with what one had, the rest was only speculations, then again, much of the modern society seemed to try to find ways around that fact. Creating stuff like insurance companies who promised you a charmed life, well sort of, as long as you payed your premiums to the stock market and its companies which created its own legal immortality through the use of stocks where no individual could be hold responsible for the misery created by unsound decisions. It also seemed to him that the richer you became the more possibilities for insuring and looking away the risks you got with the universal 'losers' being just people like him, and possibly Magma but there he wasn't really sure. There was to much of mystery surrounding her he thought.

Another thing he reacted on was the fact that the 'best' working third world help wasn't the one from the UN or any specific help organizations. The true fact was that the capitalistic investments done through illegal sweat shops and legal ones were much more effective in lifting up a third world nation than any of those other 'help organizations', grafts non-withstanding. Leaving by greed made the world rather dark he thought at times with the only ones being released from bad decisions where just those large companies, banks and their share holders. Like those youngsters working with fresh tobacco in some south American country. Getting as much nicotine as fifty cigarettes a day from their handling of those sweating wet leaves of tobacco. According to what he had read it had been the international banking comunity that had forced that country to develop a major private tobacco industry as a guarantee for further loans. But it created cancer and mutations on the kids working, and it wasn't as if they had some other crop or choice of income to fall back on.

"Instant Marlboro men at ten, dead at twenty one" he muttered to her. The lessons learnt by the poor countries was that 'Money talk, Bullshit walks' and what the 'money' considered as Bull-shit included amongst others, global warming. So the world was constantly clamoring on the brink of disaster as he saw it, built up through the networks guaranteeing those with money to keep them. And with all means seen as legitimate as long as it earned them a buck and wasn't discovered as immoral by to many publicists. The same as the international banks had largely overblown stocks due to the fact that they bought into each other banks boosting the stocks of each and every one through the questionable practice of 'guaranteeing' each other, and loaning out on paper at least their 'value' to each other. The same way you secure a bad loan by lending the lender just enough to pay of the interest of that loan which then made it seem as a safe loan again, on paper that is. And that was all that counted, not any real values, just those presented to the 'public' and all 'legal'. It wasn't really as they were clever either, it was more as if the whole world had decided to close their eyes to the 'merry go round' pretending that the emperor still had his clothes. Add to that the grafts, bribes, and corruption created around the help organizations and it became enough to make him want to puke.

The worst of it was that it was so fucking short-sighted. Pretending could only hold that long, then a decline had to come and if the roller coaster made one dip to deep and people really paniced the whole idea of 'money' and the industries inherent worth would have to be revised. But those having 'it' weren't interested. They were able to buy themselves out from those situation that they found themselves forced to be held liable for that they couldn't 'sign of' from personally. And greed was what drove the industrialism forward. Common sense alone could tell people that a country couldn't get more and more products, more and more money and investments by each year that passed. There was limit to it, and when that limit was reached the people living in that limited nation on that limited world would have to pay. There was said to be plastic waste drifting in the ocean collected around an area big as one or two Texas. Tests in Japan had shown that plastic started to dissolve into poisonous molecules after only one year in the ocean, releasing toxins that wandered in into the fishes, and guess who eats the fish...

There existed a simple thumb-rule for the added concentrations too. Ten times stronger for each step in the chain. Plankton and krill, small fish eats bigger fish, birds and fisherman catches them. Then cows and all other animals that uses fish, and lastly us, the final consumers. So if you started with one gram and then went your way up the next 'consumer' would get ten times as much. Ten grams and the one eating that 'consumer' would ingest a hundred grams ad nasueum... 1... 10... 100... 1000... 10 000... 100 000 ... And 'one million times' the concentration we started with per kilo in seven small steps. None of this was a secret, but, the Emperor must have his clothes. And the worst part was that the poor countries went the exact same way as the rich, copying. From the dirtiest industries in the world to cleaner and cleaner as they could 'afford' it. Just that fucking idea. Afford what exactly? Clean air, healthy babies, no plastic waste mountains? Come on ... Take Japan for example. It more or less had to import and buy its 'nature' back after the violent industrialism wherein it 'created' its economic miracle, But to do so you need undeveloped resources that's healthy, and they were becoming more and more scarce. From which non-industrialized country would China buy back the soil and nature it had poisoned? Brazil? Africa?

Leonard couldn't be sure naturally on the exact mechanisms, nobody could really, but he half suspected the next fifty years to be the turning point. And if the Global Warming succeeded in warming the oceans down to that level where frozen methane rested then those molecules would go the same way as the CO2, up in the atmosphere and down again leaving no breathable air for those addicted to oxygen. It was all a very evil circle with the 'symbol' for greed being life's most notable adversary, money. And its minion's the corporations, 'legal persons' without corporal body, created out of thin air and with no humans to be held responsible for their often violent 'fuck-ups'. In short 'big business', accountable to none but its stockholders.

Thinking like this he sometimes he wondered where the real hell were.

He heard optimistic's explaining that the future was 'unlimited' as humanity always would come up with 'new solutions'? 'Give me a break... ' was what he wanted to scream to those. As Leonard saw it humanity mostly consisted of 'copy cats'. Not inventing as much as copying natures own inventions and then, what did they do then? Well, then they locked it up with patents guaranteeing only the rich side of the world to have any use of those 'new discoveries'. "We might be intelligent." he mumbled to her, "but we sure as hell ain't wise." "If you feel so?" said Magma. "Why don't you fight back?" "Fight what?" asked Leonard. "The only one worth fighting against is a symbol, money and its partner, greed. But that takes education, and that has to start with kids, not grown ups fighting to keep their job's. How do you fight a shadow? You can only quench it by letting in the light girl and I'm no Don Quixote and you're definitely not Sancho Panza."

He added somewhat calmer. "Anyway, as I see it the CO2 cycle is at least fifty years in the atmosphere Magma. And that means that if all 'man made' CO2 like our factories and cars was gone today we still would find rising concentrations hitting us for a long time." Magma looked at him incomprehensibly. "But shouldn't it start to disappear directly Leonard? As no CO2 was produced any more?" Leonard shook his head as he tried to explain his view. "Look at it this way Magma, the CO2 goes first up in the atmosphere as high as possible and then drift down, that's called its convection circle, we don't really know all mechanisms there, but my guess is that even though it will get mixed in the process going up it will mostly 'stick' together. Maybe halfway through its convection circle those concentrations would start to sink slightly, like in thirty years? And I still have to see that first guy stop using his car."

He continued lecturing as she recoiled slightly from him, shuddering, listening to his doomsday scenarios. "And if the frozen methane in the oceans gets released Magma, we're dead meat. I'm not joking either, humans will be gone from the planet if that happens. Some say that it already have happened in the Permian-Triassic extinction event. At that time around 96 percent of all sea life and 70 percent of Earth's land animals disappeared, gone for ever, and it's also the only known mass extinction of insects. 57% of all families and 83% of all related genetic groups were killed. And we're still paying our dues for that one in reduced genetic materials and a poorer Earth, and that happened a quarter of a billion years ago."

Magma became more and more uncomfortable as she thought about it. ""Do you believe in the judgement day Leonard." She asked. "Leonard just looked at her. "Then I would have to believe that we're made into god's image too, wouldn't I?" he answered trying to joke. "I'm not sure what that would make of God?" Magma smiled a rather tired smile. "Even all seeing Gods cant control all Leonard." She answered. "I think God is not as interested in 'life' as we see it, what takes his fancy seems more to be the way we treat it. So, do you believe in the judgement day or not? " Leonard just stared at her, no please he thought, don't tell me she's some kind of religious nut, not my Magma. "I'm just thinking that if you're right and there is a God it might be closer than you think." She said in a quiet voice. "And then justice will be served." She added.

Leonard scratched his head confoundedly. "And in what way would that save the world?" Magma shook her head. "I can't say Leonard." She seemed as if she wanted to add something but stopped. Leonard started to calm down again, he really, really, didn't enjoy discussing those subjects. As he saw it, it probably was to late to 'stop it' anyway. That didn't mean that one shouldn't try though. He had sold both his car and his bike, and he loved his bike. Not that it would make any difference with the Chinese producing one new 'coal-driven power plant' a week nowadays. Still, he had largely given up on informing 'the world'. Whatever reactions would come would be to late anyway he thought and to small. "I don't know either Magma. There might be a God but we haven't spoken so I just don't know. What I do know is that some of the best people I knew was believers, soft spoken and caring ones too, not pompous preachers." Magma smiled her tired smile again and as he looked at her Leonard suddenly found himself wondering if those statements she had made earlier about her age might be true. It was as if her true age suddenly fell down cascading around her, not making her any less beautiful but suddenly showing her so very tired, with pained lines around her eyes and face, as if she kept fighting an endless fight for something, doubting at times but never giving up, and still hoping for a better end. "I agree Leonard." She at last told him. Quietly she added. "I'm not that happy with the idea of a Judgement Day either. I still hope there will be found a better way." Still? Leonard shook his head helplessly. What ever did she mean by 'still'. Leonard grabbed hold of her sweeping her into his arms. "Magma." He whispered feeling the fragrance of her warm living body with every fiber of his. "Whatever and whomever you are, you are mine girl and I'm yours. I will be there. And we have some time to love, before it happens. That's more than most, thinking of all the 'small wars' raging like wild fires. And, I love you Magma."

She leaned against him now, as limply as a broken rag doll, her voice breaking she said. "I don't understand what's happening to me Leonard, I'm not made to love, anyone." "Then I'll just have to make it so." He simply stated at the same time as he decided to find out exactly what had happened to her, to make her lose faith so badly. "Do you still want to get out?" he asked her somewhat later. She nodded without saying anything, she seemed to have became a little more composed as they had sat down together on the couch. She smiled weakly at him as they got their clothes on. Well out he found it to be another cold day with gray low clouds over them, promising a first touch of snow, not that it was usual here but with the Global warming becoming a way of life the effect could be seen everywhere, rain in Sweden, draught in Australia and snow here. Leonard saw the present as being at the 'tipping point' for the global weather system and when un-balancing at that edge the weather would become quite unpredictable. He leaned over her giving her a quick kiss. "You know that I love you?" he asked for the umpthieth time that day, she squeezed his arm softy in response and nodded. As they walked he started to sing softly. "We're of the see the wizard, that wonderful wizard of oz." Slowing down slightly so that he could observe her on her own walking just before him. She looked so enchantingly lovely as she walked there, it made his heart constrict and he found himself dizzy with his feelings of her. She waited in him and then she tried to sing the words with him and suddenly he found them both marching down the alley singing it full throttle. He stopped as they came out the alley. "What is that song." she asked him as they went in to the mall to 'window shop'. "It's from 'the wizard of Oz. It's a classic. Haven't you seen it?" she mutely shook her head. "Remarkable. Then you have something to look forward too." He remarked dryly, promising himself to see if he could find it this very night. "We'll make a cinema night of it. Popcorn and coke, okay." "What's popcorn?" he had to smile at that. "You're sure your not from Oz yourself?" which made her start to laugh, her years falling of so fast that he felt as if he was holding a young child in his hands.

"Have I told you th..." he started. "Yes, you have, stop it now, I want to look at clothes." Following her lead they went to some fashion shops to let her search to her delight. It was as if she gave him personal theatre performances as she came out from that booth, draped in ever changing clothes. "Ahha, halloo Anna Karenina..." He had to say as she came out swept into something burrily synthetic vaguely reminding of fur. "Hurry girl, or we'll miss the Orient Express." "What?" "Awh, Sorry, mistaken identity." After an hour or so she seemed to have gotten enough though. She decided to buy some jeans in different colors. "I adore the idea of woman's trousers." She had confided to him as they waited at the counter. "the freedom of movement Leonard, the freedom." In reply he had given her so elegantly suggested posterior some deep thought and study and while so doing finding that he shared her appreciation to the fullest, and then she needed a dress, and then some other tiny flimsy things, but finally he was in luck again having served his time and gotten of lightly too on his good behavior. "You know Leonard, we should really try a lottery ticket. I'm feeling very lucky today." She said to him as they passed a tobacconist with his window filled with the alleged winners statements. Feeling almost tipsy himself after watching her transformations inside that fashion boutique he quickly agreed, so they went into the tobacconist to buy one. "I'm picking." she informed him as she quickly picked out one for him to scratch.

He couldn't believe his eyes. Ten thousand dollars? After deciding it had to be a joke he showed it to the shop clerk who seemed as puzzled as they was. Leonard could have sworn to distinctly hear him mutter " How the hell could this happen? Didn't I check them through?". Unhappily he gave them instructions for a nearby bank telling him that he would have no problems exchanging it for money. "Look baby doll, we're rollin in it." He triumphantly said as they came out from the bank. "Is there anything madam desire? Be aware though, the moon is still the limit." he warned. "Oh I won't need the moon." She answered smiling. "But some cocoa would be nice?" So they went to that same cafe that where they first had gotten introduced. Coming back to it Leonard reflected that even though it only was a day since they first had meet he felt as if it was ages. They ordered two large cocoa with lots of whipped cream and then sat down to talk. "This is crazy." Leonard said, "First you and now this, you're sure you're not a fairy godmother?" She smiled back thinly, thinking of Stanislaw's scheme and how those money was meant to become his first introduction into the darker sides of mankind. She was expected to introduce him to the delights of obscure nightclubs, gambling, infidelity and other forms of corruption as decreed from 'below'. Nobody down there wanted a prince to lily-white to rule over Hell, but reconsidering it Magma started to suspect that a understanding of vice didn't necessarily involve forcing yourself to drench yourself in it, the act of imagination seemed more prominent to her mind than the actual doing and there she felt that Leonard would be more than sufficient for Hells needs. The real problem was as always the question of how to make a sane, reasonably good man to embrace the realm of hell. The solutions to that problem was of course ageless, ranging from Faust to outright trickery, duping them into it until they were gone to far to find their way back. And with human nature being what it was that wasn't really hard, almost to simple she thought. Her problem now was two-fold. How to keep hell pleased at the same time as she let Leonard stay the guy he was. Because she really liked him the way he was, at times he seemed so innocent but listening to his views on big business as well as Global Warming made her wonder. She wasn't even sure if she would have succeeded within Stanislaws original schemes. Of course, Stanislaw didn't care for what state that corrupted being might be left in as long as he got what he wanted, but she did.

And it was true what she had said to Leonard, of her not being made to love and be loved. All the same something was happening with her, maybe it was her becoming corrupted in stead of him she thought suddenly cynical, and by a human no less. Then she felt ashamed of herself, she knew she had her own mission to fulfil, neither related to hell nor the human realm, or maybe to both? It was so long ago, when the universe still was an open ended place, that she had came into being, and she forgot, all the time she kept forgetting what she once thought she was meant to be. But no matter, Leonard was her imminent problem and that one she could handle easy enough. She opened her mouth to speak but he started before her. "Have I told you how you looked when we went out?" He asked, she shook her head. "I slowed down just so I could take a peek Magma, and you were lovely. Like a precocious jewel set for my pleasure." He laid his hand over hers feeling the warmth of hers under his. "And so you are now too. I wish I had the ability to stop time Magma, then I could always be there in that alley, watching you be happy in that frozen instant" She opened her mouth to answer but he interrupted again. "Maybe life is nothing Magma, but mine is yours." She stared at him horrified, did he know what he was offering? No, he had no idea. But of course, without blood to bind them by. "Leonard, do you say so to all girls?" she asked finally succeeding in putting some words of hers into his monologue. Now it was his time to shake his head. "Good." she said. "I do like you Leonard, but we don't really know each other yet. How much I ever may like what you propose we still need have the need to learn to know each other." Why did she keep turning him down wondered Leonard as he sat there trying to assimilate her words. "We have other things to consider here than love." She said in a more comforting voice. "No matter the money you still need a work Leonard. Have you any idea what you would like to work with?"

He looked at her confused, it was getting dark now and the owner was walking around lightening candles that he placed on the tables. Outside the window he could see the buildings silhouettes slipping away in the waning light and the clouds hanging even lower, their bellies swollen. "I like to write." He admitted. "But I'm not sure I'm good enough." He watched Magma looking out the window. "I think its gonna snow soon." He told her as he wondered what more he might like to do. "And I like to be with you, wherever." He heard himself say. Shit, Shouldn't there be something more to his life than writing and loving? She must think me a moron. As Magma turned back from the window her profile became as a perfectly set piece of alabaster in its darkness, lighted from the candlelight. And as she looked at him he felt as if she could see his every thought and somehow offering him unlimited possibilities. As if he just needed to say yes, I will, and then he would become the most powerful man on Earth, a conqueror winning, with power to kill those defying. He turned to the window again and as he studied its dark cold surface her image became as shimmering, her reflection becoming into all girls he ever known and cared for. "No." He heard himself say clearly. "Love and be loved Magma, that's it. And all other ambitions the steppingstones. I know what I want Magma, you, and what we can create, if we dare?" Why the hell did it have to sound so pompous? Leonard wanted to slap himself. And thinking of it again, was it even right? Well the part of him wanting to keep her as long as humanly possible was true anyway. And love did make one say stupid things at times, even if ever so true. Leonard stared at her reflection in the window, scared for real now, maybe she would just stand up and leave?

Now it was Magmas turn to feel dumbfounded, where in hell did he get those words from. There were a certain strength in them and they touched her, and worst of all left her open and defenseless. He looked back from the window. He sounded like some ignorant errant knight on a quest he did. But nevertheless he had opened a place in her that she had kept closed for a very long time. "I'm crazy about you Magma and I won't apologize for it. I don't know why or how, but I think you're mine." She tried to collect herself. "Don't you overestimate yourself now Leonard? You're still young, I'm sure there will be plenty more girls than me in your life." He just kept smiling as he gazed into her eyes, saying nothing, and suddenly realizing that both her hands were resting in his she felt confused, drawing back slightly. "Don't worry Magma. You don't need to admit anything, I can wait." That infuriating grin of his she though suddenly, she pulled her hands out of his as she tried to concentrate on just how infuriating that smile really was. Doing her best to break the spell of him and his words she mumbled. "Time to go home I think, I'm tired." Looking out on the light silent snowflakes that had started to fall sweeping the drabness of the worn down buildings and street in a soft white cover. "Not yet, please." Said Leonard. He had succeeded in sneaking away a little while at the mall, after the bank transaction was done, not long, but long enough to find what he already had seen in the morning for her. He lifted up the small case that he had kept in his pocket and gave it to her. "This is yours, I know it is."

She opened the box, Inside there rested a simple small ring inlaid with small red ruby's and a single opal, it seemed quite old and well-worn but still with a deep luster to it making it seem as if there was more than one ring resting in the case. As she slipped it on her finger she felt something like contentment coming from it. Frowning slightly she tried to feel what more qualities might be hidden inside it, but except from that profound feeling of 'rightness' that emanated from there were none to be found. But it felt good on her she had to admit to herself and gave her no little pleasure to wear. She tried to thank him for his gift but he just kept on smiling at her until she gave up, she had to do something to clean that smug smile of his face she decided irritated, ah well, later. She stood up. "Come along Leonard, I'm really tired now and you said you were going to show me the wizard of Os, remember?" As they went home Leonard taught Magma how to catch snowflakes with her mouth, they made a small contest of it in which he gracefully admitted her the winner and all in all had a rather pleasurable even if not serious conversation as they ambled home. Well inside Magma started to warm up the chili they had left over as Leonard cut them some slices of bread and cheese to go with it. Sitting in the kitchen this time Leonard decided that the chili had became even better than last day. He noticed Magma thoughtfully observing him but took no further notice of it as dipped his last slice of bread in his bowl to clean it out.

"Are you sure that you want to know whom I am Leonard?" She asked him seeming very serious suddenly just as he was trying to swallow his last bite. He chewed some more as he thought about it. "How about if I tell you what I think you are first and then we can go from there?" he asked, carefully checking if there was some chili that he had missed. She smiled as she saw was he was doing and nodded. "I think you are more than what seems." He started trying his best not to sound to stupid. "I'm not sure if you're American either, but then again I can't think of any country that would fit you really." She nodded. "I was only half joking when I asked you if you came from Oz Magma, and the way you act, so uninhibitedly as when you woke me up walking on me but-naked? That's not normal, not here at least and probably not in any country I know of." She reddened slightly at that so he hastened to assure her. "Not that I mind, you can do it any time you want for all that I care, and I do care, a lot, for you." He studied her sharply. "I think you're on some strange quest, one that you've been on for a long time. Sometimes I'm not even sure if we're from the same Earth? Not that I care as long as we can be together," he quickly added smiling at her. "What makes me most confounded though is why you picked me to talk too? I'm a nobody, well at least I was." He added ruefully as started to get a big shit-eating grin over his face. "But now I'm the rich and famous lover of the most beautiful girl in the world." He finished. Magmalia couldn't help but laugh at that, She went over to ruffle his hair and then took his hand to lead him to the couch. The sat entwined for a moment then she released her hold of him slightly to fix her blouse. "Well, I'm not." She said. "Not what?" he asked. "Of this world silly" she told him. He thought of making it into a joke but seeing her seriousness decided not to. "You're serious?" he asked instead. She nodded. " I'm very old in human terms Leonard, much older than you think. Time doesn't disturb me even though I adapt with it, and as for human, I'm not sure anymore. My earliest memories are from very far away." He looked at her worriedly. She was weird, that he knew, but this weird?

Please don't tell me she's doing a psycho on me he thought as he listened. "It's a long time in your years since I came to be but for quite some time I've held the position of a Succuba." There she stopped to see if he understood. "Is that Japanese?" he asked feeling confused. She started to laugh. "No dear, It's a honored occupation where I come from, and no, not Nippon. It involves a great deal of thinking and manipulation but very little love and I'm very good at it." A whore? The idea jolted through his mind making him both revolted as well as scared for her sake. That would explain why she wouldn't trust in love. For a prostitute love all to soon just would become a added burden he guessed as he thought about it. Manga who knew more than she wanted about human prostitution guessed his thoughts and said warningly. "Make not the mistake to compare me to a victim Leonard. The men I seduced were the victims, not me." He looked at her again but could seen no different in her from before her revelations. She was still Magma even though? "You do not understand, do you." She said as she noticed his incomprehension. "Look, I was sent here to pick you up, and to train you. You have been choosen by those powers that be to represent Hell." Now he flew up from the couch leaving her but on the floor again. He started to walk around the room, keeping a safe distance from her. "So that's why you asked me if I believed in Judgement Day." He said, he stopped his uncoordinated movements as he thought some more. "Either you're sick Magma, and then you need some help, or you're serious?" He thought some more and then had to add. "You could be both of course." Hearing himself he shook his head helplessly looking at her. "What the hell am I gonna do with you girl? Can you be treated at all?"

She realized that he had decided that she wasn't 'all here' as they said on Earth so deciding to give some credence to her propositions she levitated slightly from the couch she had climbed up on again after dusting herself of. Leonard blinked and then rubbed his eyes. "Shit, I knew I was gonna need them some day." he muttered as he tried to explain what he saw. "Need what?" asked Magma from her position some feet over the couch. "Glasses girl, I need glasses." He wailed, curiosity taking presence over his caution he went over to her to gingerly move his hand under and all around her body searching for the hidden strings. "Air massage?" she asked smiling at him. "Shit, I'm as loony as you." He said giving up on his search and sitting down on the couch. "Please Magma, come down, you scare me." She put herself in his lap. "As long as I don't have to fall on my but again Leonard." She said. "that hurt." She pouted at him a little and then started to smile. "But a good spanking, that's all together different love." She said as she burrowed into his embrace. How can I be sitting here with a witch Leonard thought scared half to death by her and still with a raging hard-on? "Magma, do you like me." He asked cautiously, she purred. "Really like me I mean?" "Yesss." She said sounding a little like her cat. "And you won't hurt me?" he asked carefully. Now she her purring stopped as she gazed at him, as he looked back into her slightly hurt eyes he felt the same calm and feeling of homecoming as that first time descend over him. "No, you wouldn't." He remarked quietly, more to himself than to her, being sure of it without knowing why. "And you love me, you said?" She half-accused him. "Males..." she muttered a little later as her lips found his.

An eternity later they separated with Leonard finding himself much more relaxed with her. Then he remembered. "So? How old are you?." He asked curiously. Magma just pouted her lips at him saying wickedly. "A gentleman wouldn't ask that question. And a real lady wouldn't answer it either. But older than you snipping." Leonard thought some more. "But you're so young." he complained. "So you would have liked me as much if I had looked as a old crone then?" Magma questioned him. Leonard had to admit to the chance of that happening being slightly less than that of him turning into a girl. "But now I wouldn't mind." He said hopefully trying to be fair, if he loved her he should be able to do it any which way, shouldn't he? "Now that I know you I mean." "Oh, goody me, at last. To be mee..." Answered Magma excitedly raising. "Behold my rightful appearance, oh lover..." She cried as she started making strange gestures with her hands. Leonard pressed himself as far back as he could in the couch, now fearfully waiting for that wicked old crone to materialize, fervently wishing that he had kept his big mouth shut instead. He waited, and then he waited some more, but nothing seemed to happen except Magma coming back to sit in his lap again, helplessly laughing at the sight of him. "Stupid. You men, soo stupid. I'm me. I told you that your time isn't mine, didn't I. This is me and don't you dare to say that you don't like me." Leonard felt as if the weigh of the universe had been taken of his chest. "Thank God that you didn't change." He mumbled into a pearly pink ear. "There have been a little to many surprises for me today, I'm not sure I could take another." Magma who halfway could understood his relief, even though she thought that he better would have loved her as a old crone too, or else, caressed him gently. "It's okay Leonard, there are some surprises left for you but we've taken care of the biggest ones." She fibbed as she lifted her head to give him a kiss. "Where's that wizard? And that popcorn you were bragging about?" As Leonard got up to pop before the flick would come on Magma relaxed by herself trying to watch that tilivision. Why they wouldn't call it a scrying-bowl she couldn't for her life understand, that other name just made her sprain her tongue. He had told her that it would be on any minute now, and also some of what it was about. She really looked forward to see what the humans thought witches to be. Perhaps it would give her a little more insight in how they saw things, she hoped.

Down in the Neitherlands Stanislaw still waited for his news, getting more and more impatient. Daemons is not really known for patience, they are known for an awful lot of things indeed, just not that. The last thing he had heard was Magmalia ordering a 'safehouse' for her and her prey. So it seemed to work out he had to admit. It was just this damned silence, wishing hell could have been more up to date in their surveillance techniques he looked into the scrying-bowl again. There were a lot of interference in it and the picture he saw was blurry as, well, hell but it did seem as if Magmalia had him on her leash, he decided, as he watched them in the couch kissing, but then the picture disappeared again. Kicking the bowl to, well, literary speaking, hell he levitated growling. "Entertainment, I need entertainment. Where's my new stock of eternally damned virgins? He hollered into the caves damp surroundings. "Servants hither!" A thin squalid gestalt could be seen to hesitantly make his entrance. "You called oh everlasting Sir." Stanislaw studied it wondering why he hadn't made of with it a long time ago." "Virgins? Where are they." He asked impatiently staring pass the gestalt as if it didn't exist. "Oh master, they are still held at the customs. They were not properly damned and so needed to go through the damning rituals again, just to make sure that no infectious diseases of saving would be released." Stanislaw swore to himself. "Those damned customs." Always a nuisance and lately grown into an ever bigger one. Another one of those new ideas that had seemed to make so much sense in the committee. "They better be virgins still or else." He muttered to himself, now noticing the shadow under the servants nose. "Didn't I tell you to shave that off?" he growled. The gestalt whom by now almost seemed wanting to flicker into oblivion under the harsh light of the fireside bowed to the floor as it slithered out. "Immediately Master of the holes of hell, I flee to your command oh Strangler of innocents, your will be done..." Stanislaw could hear its voice die out as it quickly disappeared out of his sight. That's the problem he thought, one expect excellence but gets ineptitude, not by lack of training either he added to himself. He really needed to do some house cleaning, and soon...

Magmalia stared at the movie, mechanically filling her mouth with popcorns, not even noticing Leonard's fascinated study of her enrapture. Now and then she tried to sing together with the characters, but the popcorns fast changed it into a gargling. Leonard who in vain had tried to catch her interest, finally ended up having to wave his hands in front of her calling. "Earth to Magma, do you receive. Earth to Magma, come in." Magma seemed to wake up looking at Leonard incomprehensible. "I am in?" She said. "And take your hands away, this is important." "That poor witch." She whispered a little later as she saw the wicked witch disappear under the water. "Who could have known?" " I always thought it to be just a legend." She commented to Leonard. "What?" he asked confused. "You know, witches and water. Poor things, smelling like that, no wonder they seems so dissatisfied." "What?" asked Leonard again now even more confused. "You know." Said Magma impatiently. "What men would be interesting in such foulness?" "Ah, there's that." Said Leonard who finally started to understand. "So you like it?" he asked. "Shh, be quiet, they can hear you." Said Magma as she kept on watching. Hear me? Shit, she really thinks its real, realized Leonard suddenly. "Ah, Magma." He tried. "They're not really real. It's just a mov..." But now the characters seemed to look at him too, impatiently waiting for him to finish so they could continue their discussion with the wizard. "You're not!" said Leonard feeling hurt. "Look, you're just figments of imagination." He suddenly realized that he was arguing with a television set. "Awh shit, I don't care." He finally decided laying down at the couch with his head in Magmas lap. "Tell me when its over." He said to Magma as he relaxed under her distracted caresses. "Yes master." She mumbled enrapt in the play. Master, was it thought Leonard smugly to himself as he started to fall asleep. "That's my girl." He mumbled as he snuggled in to her. "The best gir..." and then there was only quiet and the tillivision.

He woke up to Magma arguing with someone. Opening his eyes he found her and someone looking distractedly alike the good witch sitting together, eating from his bowl of popcorn. She's was right, he sleepily realized, even the good witch smelled, badly. "I'm dreaming." He said weakly. "Magma, please wake me." Magma looked down at him. "Shh, you're interrupting." She said. "Sorry, he's just a mundane." "Yes I know." The witch smiled back. Now she studied Leonard somewhat more predatorily. "How are they, you know, when it counts..." she now asked Magma delicately. Shit, I don't want to hear this realized Leonard as he in despair tried to burrow his head in Magmas lap. "Leonard..." he heard a shocked voice. " Not now, wait until bed." And then Magma apologizing. "You can see for yourself, they're really hopeless hopeless beasts." Now the voice of the good witch had taken on a really interested sound. "Ah, soo they are, the poor things, primitives huh." She said reflectively as she studied him with even more interest. "So, are they for loan, or do one need to make a reservation?" What thought Leonard bewildered. "I'm no fucking library." He proclaimed disgusted. "Shh child, you're interrupting your betters." He heard Magma. "No sorry, they're not for loan, but here they can be picked out almost for free." She graciously informed the witch. "But there is of course this problem with hygiene." She then suggested delicately. Now the good witch stared surprised. "Soo, they smell?" she asked sniffily. "It's such a shame, why can't it ever be perfect." She complained as she once more studied Leonard's supine form. Hah, thought Leonard, "You try to explain that to her Magma." He mumbled. Magma now stood up taking the witches hand. "Come dear." She said. "Not in front of the children." As they disappeared into the kitchen. Leonard stayed on the couch trying to decide if he still was dreaming or not. As he was tired he closed his eyes, slowly falling asleep to the drone of the voices coming from the kitchen.

When he woke the next time he found himself in her lap again. It was just a dream he thought highly satisfied as he once more burrowed into her softness. "Does he want to do it now... !" he heard a breathless voice. "Noo, I don't think so, he's probably just changing position." He heard Magma answer as if doubtful. Strange he thought, it sounded as if she? He opened his eyes to look up into a pair of blue sweet ones gazing dreamingly down at him from under a unruly sweep of brown hair. "Ah, I think he's awakening." She said as she played with his nose. "Have you had him long." She asked Magma. Leonard who had frozen still as an icicle under those eyes now franticly searched for Magma. She was sitting at the end of the couch, tickling his toes he noticed, smiling at him. "You mean, if he is housebroken? Well, I'm not really sure, still, one has to take the bad with the good, wouldn't you agree?" "Oh yes." He heard that breathless voice again. "What's his name?" "Leonard." "Oh, you're such a god good boy, yes you are Leonard." The witch now told him. "Would you like a popcorn?" she asked. "Yess you would, open your mouth now, good boy." This is no dream. It's a nightmare ... Decided Leonard as he in some haste scrambled to his feet. "Ah, sorry lady's, the bathroom's calling." He mumbled as he fled into its white sanitary sanctuary. The last thing he heard closing the door locking himself in was the witch telling Magma in a bewildered tone. "But I didn't hear a thing?"

After staying in there for quite some time, pinching himself repeatedly and questioning his sanity he decided to brave it back to the living room again. To his relief he could only find Magma there. "Was I dreaming?" he asked her. "In the bathroom?" she asked back. "No stupid, here I mean." He answered impatiently. "Of course." She answered. "You were snoring too, why do you ask?" Looking around briefly but finding no traces of any witch he decided it to have been a really crazy dream and feeling quite stupid about it all he decided to let it be. "Nothing." He muttered as he went to her. "Just some crazy dream I had, did you like the movie?" Magma smiled at him. "Very instructive." She answered. "But those shoes, so ugly." He stared at her for a moment before realizing what shoes she was referring too. "Well yes, but, it was just a movie love." He reassured her. "You wouldn't need to wear them or anything." She stared back at him. "I most certainly would not." She answered haughtily. "they're not mine." pointing at the corner. Turning he saw a pair of strange looking, very pointy devices standing there, looking as if they asked his forgiveness just for existing. "Where the hell did you find them?" he asked surprised but realizing who it was he was talking too, giving up on that too. "Forget it, I just don't care." As he lifted her up in his arms. "Don't you feel it's time for bed?" he asked hopefully. She moved as sinuously as a cat against him mumbling. "Mundane's, is that the only thing you do? Sleep?" but she smiled as she said it. "Yep." he said. "But it's whom we sleep with that's of interest here." As he carried her up to their room. To his surprise the door was closed, and just as he started to open it Magma interrupted him with a question. "Leonard, you don't like freezing, do you?" He stared. "No." He said. "Then you won't mind some company to night?" she asked. Now he got what she was thinking of. "No way." He assured her. "I was hoping the same Magma, your bed is certainly big enough." "I hope so?" She muttered uncertainly as he opened the door. They left the light down as they undressed with Magma being the first one in bed. "are you coming." He heard an impatient voice." "Oh yes, just you wait." He told her as he succeeded releasing himself from the last of his underwear without falling. "Several times I hope" he muttered as he felt his earthbound companion twitch impatiently at the sound of that sultry voice.

Stanislaw who had gotten himself a really hearty meal was now cleaning his teeth relaxing under his mistresses administrations. He couldn't understand his earlier impatience now. "Strange how some decent flesh can make all the difference" he muttered into the ample bosom he was resting his head in. "Thank you Sir." He heard the wretches voice answer. "Not you wench! The meal, those were some well feed humans. I need to ask the cook what he had them stuffed with." He belched as he rolled of her to stand up. "Begone you three, I have things to do." He ordered them as he robed himself. Feeling quite rested and for once in a quite good mood he sat down to read his latest fiction, 'My kampf' by that deplorable excuse for an servant. "Strange how fiction and reality can be so mismatched" he muttered as he sunk down in its ideas. "But still, with the right guidance perhaps?" he muttered thoughtfully to himself as he kept on reading.

Finding his way to the bed in the darkness he was meet by more than willing arms. He touched her erect nipple with his mouth, tasting it and then blowing on it carefully. "Chilly, is it?" he whispered. He got just a giggle in response, slowly moving further down giving each millimeter of her skin the proper care it demanded he could feel her moving restlessly under his arms, more and more impatient. "Soo, someone needs it bad" he asked as he blew at her navel. "Oh yess." He heard her whimper. "Pleasse." "Just be a god girl and daddy will make you so proud." He whispered as he at last came to that fissure of delights hiding between her loins. Wonder how she can reach, he thought, momentarily and delightfully distracted by her administrations to his lower parts. As she finally gave in to her enjoyment he felt her grab on to his head loosing all inhibitions, almost growling at his attempt to reach as deep as he could into that sweet smelling tract of bliss with his tongue, ravishing it. She mumbled incessantly he noticed distractedly as he suddenly felt something wet engulf him. "What?" He stopped as he tried to get his bearings right again but that mouth didn't let go and he was pretty sure it was a mouth now, it was after all not the first time he had had one down there? But how? "Light." He muttered to himself. "I need some light here, Magma, just a moment." He found the switch after a lot of fumbling, falling several times, and then he turned back to look at the bed. Finding them both fondly smiling at him.

"The vision of it." Muttered Stanislaw awed as he put the book down. "A real pity that he couldn't see where it applied." To his view the vistas opening in it was not mundane at all. The superior race was after all no puny humans, no the pure race was the one belonging to him. His fellow devils and daemons. But it was still pure poetry reading it he decided as he laid the book down. He wondered what was happening up there, but knowing that it was what they called sleeping time or night he couldn't bring up enough interest in him to checking it out. After all he had a whole department working for him, taking care of that, and his security was good, the best hell could produce he thought satisfied as he decided to have a leisurely stroll pass the torture pits.

He tried desperately to adjust himself to the sight of those two lovely ladies smiling at him. "Awh." He said. "What?" asked Magma. "Did you hurt yourself again you poor poor boy." Asked the other girl sounding worried. "Sorry." He muttered realizing that he had pinched himself again. "Got to stop doing that." he muttered as he looked at the bruises he already had. "Ah, I'm not sure we've been introduced." He told the blue eyed girl, who he by now was pretty sure was the one he had dreamt about. "Well." She said blushing slightly. "I'm not sure your tongue would agree to that Leonard, but I'm Loise, The good witch of the south. And we have meet before, at the couch, remember?" Now she looked down at him. "Oh." She said. "It's hurt, look at it." Looking down he saw it trying to withdraw into obscurity at the ladies fervent inspection. But then he heard Magmas cool voice. "No it's not hurt Loise, I think it's shy." And then both started to giggle leaving him to wish himself somewhere else, anywhere in fact, just not here. Muttering to himself he started to get his clothes on as fast as he could. "Damned stupid socks, damn you, damn it all..." As he turned to get out of the room while still trying to get his socks on. The girls watched his withdrawal in quiet surprise and when they heard him fall down the stairs to come up still swearing about his socks Loise turned to Magma to ask. "Do they all act like that?" Magma who still tried to figure out where it had started to go wrong just shook her head hopelessly. "Don't ask me, I think I better go down to speak with him." She said. Coming down she found Leonard in the kitchen, still swearing about his socks trying to brew some coffee.

"Damn it all." He said in a sounding a little calmer as he looked at the coffee maker. "Why did you do this to me?" Magma looked at him trying to understand. "What?" she asked. "Do what." Now Leonard looked at her for the first time. "If I want to sleep with a girl, girl. Then that's up to me. I don't need a pimp helping me out." Now it was Magmas time to feel hurt. "I'm no pimp." She told him in a hurt tone. "And I asked too." "No you didn't." Leonard told her. "You asked if I liked to be cold, not that you were going to be two in there." "It was a surprise." Said Magma frustrated. "A real man would have raised to the occasion too." She added wanting to get some back at him, pompous she thought, pompous, and ungrateful. Now Leonard stared at her. "Well, I was quite happy with you alone Magma." He said trying to make sense of her. "And maybe its different where you come from?" Fucking swingers paradise, he thought to himself getting all angry again. "And if you think that 'a real man' is just one big cock raising to all occasions you're wrong Magma. There is a lot more to it." She looked at him finding herself wishing that she hadn't thought about it at all, it had seemed both a little wicked and fun when she and Loise had cooked it up, and as the ways of hell went rather innocent too. And she had thought it a good compromise, after all, she had to show her boss some 'progress'.

But it had backfired miserably she admitted to herself, she sat down at the table wondering what to say. Leonard noticing her miserable looks felt a little stab of guilt. "It's not that I don't like her Magma, hell I don't even know her." He tried to explain. "It's just going to fast for me, that's all. And I'm not used to this 'sharing' of yours either." He stood there looking at her wondering if it wouldn't be best for them both to break it up. He wasn't sure any more, maybe the feeling he had about her was wrong, maybe they didn't fit together as he first had thought. He sat down at the other end with his cup to stare at her, wondering what he had gotten himself in this time. Magmalia felt something that was a long time gone from her person, shame, shame that she had tried to manipulate him into a situation that he obviously didn't care for. Suddenly wondering if she really wanted to go through with Stanislaw's scheme she asked. "What do you want to do? Shall I tell her to go away, she will be very disappointed Leonard, and it's not as if she's some tart either. We thought, no I thought it would do your both some good. She likes you too." Leonard drunk his coffee in deep swallows trying to decide what he really wanted. Well, he didn't feel sleepy at least but did he really want to go to bed with a girl he had spoken no more than some words too. And it was suposed to his and Magmas first night together.

"Shiit, I don't know Magma." He said miserably. "I can see that you didn't meant to hurt me, or her. But I wanted you tonight, not her." He sat thinking some more suddenly finding himself looking at the paper. "She's new to this to, ain't she?" he asked getting an idea. Magma nodded staring to hope again. "Why don't we try to go out instead, it will be fun and we will get to know each other?" Magma thought about it and suddenly felt herself starting to smile. Calling out. "Loisee, could you come down, please. Leonard have a thing to ask you. Loisee..." Loise came down swept in her cape, she looked both shy and embarrassed as she gazed on Leonard. "I'm sorry." She told him. "Did we make you angry?" Leonard looked at her thinking that those other places where those girls came from had to be a hell of a good place for raising girls. She was as gorgeous looking as Magma, a little more generously formed but quite enchanting with her blue eyes and that rich brown color of her hair cascading over her shoulders. And she really did look embarrassed he had to admit to himself. "It's okay, Magma explained." He said. "I just would like us to get to know each other a little more, would you mind?" She looked at him suddenly smiling again. "Oh yes." She said. "I too would like to know you a little more, I'm not used to human men, well, not to any men in fact." She admitted shyly. "But I've been considering adopting too." She added hopefully. "If it works out, of course?" she added doing her best to sound relaxed and world wise. Leonard just shook his head on it all. He had thought Magma strange ... hell, she was nothing compared to Loise.

"That's, ah, good of you." He said trying to act normal. "As you're new to us and this, ah, town. Wouldn't you like to see some more of it?" he asked hopefully. She studied him incomprehensible. "But it's dark."she said. "Wouldn't it be better to do that tomorrow, and get some rest now?"" Rest, thought Leonard darkly, with you two? Suddenly his companion was back trying to make him see the light. Stop it! he ordered it. "Well, I don't mean looking at buildings." He said. "I was thinking of going to somewhere we could dance and have some fun. And then go home to, ah, rest?" Searching for some clean clothes he couldn't help but notice his bruises, some of them from his pinching but the really big one coming from his falling down the stairs. I really have to stop being so clumsy he thought as he found a nice T-shirt featuring The Grateful Death and a pair of black jeans. That and my leather jacket should work just nice he decided as he finished. The girls was still in the bedroom whispering and laughing uproariously at times. The door was closed when he came to it so he knocked lightly on it. "Come in." He heard Magma. They stood in front of the large mirror studying themselves. Both dressed in a dark green material flattering Magmas red hair as well as creating a startling contrast against Loise's clear blue eyes. He couldn't get enough looking at them and they both noticed it. "So what do you think?" asked Magma twirling around letting the dress outline her curves to their full effect. Leonard suddenly felt very shabby as he studied them.

Loise started to look a tittle worried as she watched his loss of words. "You don't like it?" she said abjectly. "I told you that I didn't need to lend anything." She flared up as she turned to Magma. "My robe is perfectly sufficient for this..." "No, no no Loise, you're lovely. You both are. You look as sisters. It's me that's not dressed. I will feel very undressed compared to you two lovelies." He assured her, Loise started to look happy again and soon both girls seemed to have forgotten him as they started to discuss the makeup. That was a totally new idea to Loise it seemed and Magma had a lot of fun explaining and laying the foundation on her. Leonard studied them fascinated. This was the closest he ever had come girls doing whatever girls did when no men was there, and listening he learnt a lot about it too. When they finally was finished they lboth ooked 'dressed to kill' as the saying goes, and Leonard once more wondered what girls like that wanted to have with a guy like him. When they came down he belatedly realized that Loise planned to get her strange looking shoes, not knowing what to say without it sounding nasty he looked to Magma for help. She smiled at him and leant over to Loise to whisper. Suddenly the shoes seemed to shimmer and when they had finished they were a pair of dainty stilettos instead, each one with a dark purple rosette on them. Coming out of the alley Leonard found a carriage waiting for them. A real goddamned carriage with a horse and a driver waiting for them. "Don't you like it?" Magma pouted.

Loise went to talk to the horse. "You pretty thing." She said. "Yes you are, what's your name?" soon she and the horse acted as old friends, with Loise speaking and the horse neighing back. Leonard felt as if the night suddenly had turned into magic. Looking dubiously around he wondered what his next surprise would be, swordsmen materializing perhaps and dragons flying past. He looked up just to make sure there wasn't any, if there had been he was pretty sure that he would have turned back in. "Ah lady's, and you too Sir, where too?" asked the coachman. Magma smiled at him as she turned to Leonard questioningly. "Well." Said Leonard desperately trying to remember the name of that rock club. "The Marquise?" "Good choice Sir." Said the coachman as they started to move. "Quite nice, and roomy too. Been there before Sir?" "No." Leonard admitted. "Well sir, some words of advice then, better keep an eye on your ladies, it's easy to lose sight of each other there and some of the folks might be a little unruly." Shit, not brawls too thought Leonard, not that he couldn't defend himself, but it wasn't what he had planned for. He looked at the coachman who looked back at him seeming to weight his words judiciously before asking him. "you know the way of the falchion Sir?" Birds? Thought Leonard. "sorry, can't say I do." he answered, the coachman seemed slightly troubled at that. "well, just act relaxed Sir. I'm sure it will be alright." Magma who had listened to them talking couldn't help a slight shiver of excitement. It really sounded like her sort of club she thought. A pity that Leonard hadn't had any formal training though, she decided to put a charm or two on him, just to be sure that nothing untoward would happen with him. Loise who had listened too felt the same way and without neither of them knowing it they together succeeded in binding a very strange as well as strong charm protecting him from all edged weapons. As the charm molded into existence it found other expressions possible for it and without them knowing it it started to grow, taking a life of its own. Leonard who almost had been reduced to a nervous wreck by the time they arrived to the club stepped down to help the ladies down accompanied by a lot of shrill whistling and comments from those standing outside the club waiting to get in. Shit, this is really getting to me Leonard realise as the walked to the door. The coachman called to the doorman "Harry, let them in. They're out of towner's, don't make them freeze their asses of now, ya'hear"

Laughing a great rumbling laugh, all to large for a man as small as him the carriage started to move again leaving them outside the club's entrance. The doorman opened it for them and with a flourish whisked them inside letting them pass by the others. There were some nasty remarks at that but Leonard wisely ignored them as they came in. It was impressive he had to admit, much larger than he had expected with several floors to it and a hellish lot of noise. The first room seemed big as a cavern with big tinted mirrors in the roof and on the walls making it seem even bigger. He saw a table in the corner almost shrouded by the cloud of smoke hanging through the room. Shit, my clothes are going to stink tomorrow he realized as they made their way to it bumping into people all the time. "Didn't know that they allowed smoking any more." He shouted to the others as he finally could sit down. Magma gave him a thin smile. "There's a lot more allowed in here Leonard." She said. Somehow she didn't need to shout for her words to reach him which in fact made him rather piqued. "And how would you know?" he shouted back. Now she just flashed him one of those inscrutable smiles to then pointedly ignore him starting to whisper with Loise instead. He saw a girl with a green apron and tried to wave her to their table, as she came he looked at her anew in silent wonder. She was very pretty he though with a wide generous smile and mischievous brown eyes.

The noise around him seemed to die down as he suddenly realized that she must be the most beautiful girl he ever had seen, he felt it through his bones, she was meant for him and him for her. "I will follow you forever." He heard himself mumble as he started to raise himself from his chair. His sudden movement made Magma look up, oh oh here comes trouble, she thought as she saw the glamour wash over Leonard thrown by the serving wench. She smiled sweetly at her and with a small movement of her hand she slashed the magic leaving it to curl back. Leonard found himself standing staring at the girl, but of where he just a moment ago had felt a mountain-moving love there where just some ashes left to flutter in the wind, he shook his head dazzedly. "Could we get some beer, please?" he told her. She smiled at him with her slightly crooked teeth. "Na a problem Sir, thre tankards coming up." And then she put them on the table. How the hell did she do that wondered Leonard as he opened his wallet to pay. "Na Sir, those money es na good here." The girl exclaimed as she saw his form of payment. Magma leaned over to them and said. "Put it on Stanislaw's tab." The girl seemed almost a little awed hearing Magma. "Sir Stanislaw? Master Stanislaw? You're sure? The last one doing that had a..." Magma interrupted her. "I'm her niece, thank you, be on your way now girl. I'm sure you have other customers waiting for you."

She sniffed at that but left. "Did you see her teeth, Magma?" Leonard asked, remembering how they had gleamed white and cold, almost like pointy small fangs in the corners of her mouth. "It was like one of them old flicks, Glooria, glooriaaa." He took him for his throat making gurgling noises. "Away you servant of darkness, away I say or ... I will use my crucifix." Making that classic move with his hand as if pushing a crucifix into the brow of one of them eternally damned. There was some consternation behind him as he finished with his performance and suddenly there was a beefy hand resting n his shoulder. "Sir, that joke was in very bad taste, I demand an apology." Turning around Leonard found himself steely staring in the chest of a very large man, with a feeling like taking a slow journey his eyes wandered up, and up, and up to finally come to rest in a pair of icy blue eyes staring at him. "Apology?" He said. "It was a joke?" The man slowly shook his head. "There are jokes and then there are jokes." He said in a low voice to Leonard, then he studied him some more. "You didn't know, did you?" he said, more to himself than to Leonard.

Now Magma came to his rescue. "No sir, and my sincere apologies. His first time here Sir, and none the better for it either." She finished with a slightly crocked smile. "Apologize Leonard." She wheezed in his ear. "Do you want to fight, him?" Leonard could just shook his head. Collecting his wits he made a small bow and said. "I'm sorry if I offended you, even though I still don't know how? Will you accept my apolgy?" The man stared down at Leonard, a curious mile slowly spreading on his face. "Well, I'll be damned." He muttered. "A real true to life innocent human? In here? Are you his guardian then?" he turned to Magma who now had started to smile back. "No sir, more like his friend, but in a way you're right Sir. He truly could use a guardian in here." Now the man looked at Loise, suddenly he seemed to stiffen. "You?" he said, then he gave her one of the most magnanimous bows Leonard ever had seen. "My lady, an honor to meet you again." He said. "I'm not sure you remember me, but it was my ship 'The dancing furies' that brought you to the far shores of Alman some years ago, To the countess wedding? I'm captain Angwar, at your service My lady." Loise smiled at him. "Of course I remember Captain, who could forget you? Allow me to introduce us, this is Magmalia and the young man at your side is Leonard. Won't you join us?" The Captain who now had relaxed looked back at his table. "Would you mind joining us indeed, I'm afraid my wife would take sore affront of me if I suddenly disappeared joinig two such beautiful ladies as you, and you too of course, Sir." He added looking back at Leonard. "Nada problemo Captain." Answered Leonardo his thoughts furiously rushing through his head as he tried to decide if the captain just had made a pass on him. Beautiful? My ass.

As they went over leaving Leonard to take care of the tankards he could hear them introducing each other. They were just to fucking big he thought as he balanced them making his way to the company, reminding him of those German advertizements he had sees. Must be more than two, maybe three? Liter in each, no way that the girls would drink that he decided as he put them on the table, finding his chair between Loise and Magma he sat down and took a deep swallow. "Ahrrgh!" he said, it wasn't beer at all, it was something else in between beer and wine. "What is this?" he exclamed. "It's mjiod dear." Answered Magma. "Don't you like it?" she asked in a conciliatory tone. He tried a new swallow, it wasn't bad he decided, a weak taste of honey and a little sour, like some strange wine. "It's okay." He had to admit. "But I wanted beer." Anwar smiled. "Well youngster, beer they have, but in the beerhall, not here. This is the 'gentiles corner' where men of means and might mingle, if you see what I mean. And yes, allow me to introduce my wife, lady Anna." He gave a small bow at the dark haired lady sitting beside him who smiled at Leonard at the same time as she gave him a frank honest appraisal, finally seeming to decide in his favor. "Oh, relax Anwar, I'm Anna, and you are?" To his surprise Leonard found that he was standing again and furthermore making the same sort of gracious bow as the Captain had done at their table. "Leonard my Lady, at your service." "Ah, Sir Leonard was it, ah'pleashure." drawled someone, partly hidden by the shadows. "I've always fancied new meat. I'm Leoine, but you can call me Leo." As she leaned forwar he saw someone looking almost as a carbon copy of Anna but younger and leaner, not so voluptuous. She also looked a lot more dangerous and serious with her rapier and old fashioned pistol, and that bandoleer worn over her shoulder. "A costume party?" asked Leonard staring at her. Nobody seemed to get it so he had to ask again. "No offence my lady, but why the dress?" "Dress? Sir, I beg to differ, its' pantaloons." Leonard could just shook his head again now feeling quite dazed with it all. "Sorry Leo, but are you expecting a war?" he asked again. Now she seemed to get it, slowly a big generous smile unfolded leaving her unexpectedly young and defenseless. "Now, that's a joke in my taste" Leonard heard someone exclaim as he kept on looking at her, there were to many beautiful girls here he suddenly found himself thinking, and all interested in him? He knew the expression 'to much of a good thing' and suddenly it seemed to fit right in with where he was. He took another swallow but found to his surprise that his tankard already was empty. He must have been thirstier that he realized he thought as he distractedly swiped with Magmas, no good if she got drunk he excused himself as he swiped another swallow.

The girl seemed to view him with undisguised interest as she turned to Magma. "He's yours?" she asked courteously enough even if somewhat brusquely. Magma smiled at Leonard. "Are you?" she asked. Leonard smiled back at her. "As long as you will have me lady." He answered. "He's mine too. Well, a little at least. And you will be" Loise added defensively as she saw Leonard's dumbfounded look. "Ah, sharing and share alike." The girl answered. "A pirates trove then?" she asked Loise who suddenly smiled back at the girl nodding. "So there is no ownership set yet? Would you mind me joining up for a while? Some fun and leisure?" she asked, now with a distinct leering sound to it decided Leonard once more distracted as he found his new tankard empty too. What's wrong with this beer, he wondered. The tankards had seemed so big but every time he tried to take a little swallow, it was just empty. Forgetting the girls jabbering he looked around for that serving-girl again waving her over. "Yes Sir." she asked as she smiled at him entreatingly, she was quite striking he decided with her soft warm brown eyes and dark-green hair. Green? How could I have missed that? He wondered surprised. It was just those teeth that gave her a slightly sinister appearance, but the smile was still lovely. "Three beers, make them large this time please, they keep dhisapphearing hon'me." She smiled back at him as she suddenly was holding three more tankards. "Those will not go out Sir." She informed him warmly. "And if there is anything more you need, anything at all, just call for Mari and I will see to it, Sir." "Put it hon Sthanischlaw." He called at her reclining back, feeling quite proud with himself at remembering the name. "Magma, who is this Sthanischlaw guy." He asked her as he remembered.

"My uncle. Shh Leonard, we're having fun here." Sharpening his slightly blurred vision he found all three girls suddenly staring at him, seeming highly piqued at his interrupting their bonding. Feeling slightly awed under their disapproving looks he turned to the Captain. "Sir. Captain ah. Agnes? Noo, shorry Anchwar I mean. What was it I did wrong before?" He asked him wishing that the man could sit still, it gave him a headache trying to follow his swaying motions, thank god he had the beer he thought to himself taking another deep swallow. The captain smiled at him, seeming amused at something his wife whispered to him. "Yes my boy. Life's full of surprises, and I think you're in for a big one." He said cryptically. His wife who also seemed to sway a little whispered something more as she at the same time surreptitiously watched Leonard. The Captain laughed boisterously at her words. "Yes it's true Anna, I'm glad I'm older. Wouldn't want to be in his clothes, or out of them." There they both broke down in helpless laughter. Leonard stared at the incomprehensibly, both swaying, he thought, or was it the whole room now. "We're at shea." He told Magma. "We ghotta'ghet'off girl, now." He added sharply so that she would understand the danger they were in here. Suddenly it all made sense to his befuddled mind, this was a setup and they were taken hostage. The laughs on the other side had now take a very sinister overtone to Leonard's ears. "Don't shou worry, Smagma. You're with me." He proclaimed proudly in the air as he made up his plan of daring and wit. First to attack that dangerous looking female, it was probably her that was the warden, with her guns and all, then a cool headed retreat out the door, wait? Lifeboats? "Wheresh shte shifeboatsh." He asked straight out in the air, trying take them by surprise at the same time as he tried to remember if he has seen any on his way in. Didn't they come in one?

He had a decided memory of a rocking motion as they traveled to this place, and of a talking horse? Nah, it had to be a lifeboat, probably they had slipped something in his drink he thought glumly as he took a new distracted swallow from his tankards. He had a lot of them too he thought highly satisfied, no risk of going empty tonight. "Whe gotta'ashave she shankards." He exclaimed loudly. "Shey are sho good sho shleave here." He tried to fondle them but they kept slipping away. He started to suspiciously guard their movements, it was strange how everything suddenly had started to move he thought, some diversionary tactics he guessed. They just didn't want him to save his friends. "Shon't you scworry." he told them. "Shou're hoing shome swith shme." Thinking again he remembered. "Shand Shmashma." Thinking harder. "Shand Shouishe." Yep that was it he thought satisfied, everybody was informed and ready. Time to execute his daring plan. He gave the lean highly dangerous looking individual situated on the on the other side of the table a cunning smile and surreptitiously started to make his way over. They just don't get it, he congratulated himself but then found himself unexpectedly stopped, ah yes, the table. "Sho plashced a shable hersh." He complained not noticing the sudden silence as the others fascinated started to study him. Giving them a winsome smile he explained. "Shtupid to plashe a shable where sheople shoes, shont'shou'shink?" navigating around it. Now for the grabbing of weapons, he landed at her swaying image, a little more unexpectedly than he had planned, taking a strong hold of her as he tried to loosen the gun from its holster.

"Is he always this affectionate?" he heard a clear voice ask followed by Magmas thoughtful reply. "Don't know really, He' keeps surprising me all the time." Damned gun, it had to be some way to get it lose, he started to search, leaning at her so to hinder her attacking him. "oh, you're heavy, come on." Suddenly he was on the floor, she had thrown him. Damn that girl, she had to be highly trained in some oriental way he decided. "Shamn sthos Cshinks." He muttered to himself, traitors the whole bunch. "Why didn't he do that with me?" he heard another voice complain. "Am I that ugly?" Now there was flurry of voices going back and forth over his head as he tried to plan his new assault. Suddenly having had enough of their female chatter he exclaimed. "Shuiet, shamn you. Shi sheed sho shink." "Oh, you poor man." Someone said over his head. It was the warden. "You should have warned him." He heard a voice. "I didn't know he was going to drink all that." Someone said. "Come here." As someone helped him up in a chair. Yes, they were right, that mickey someone had slipped in his drink was taking its toll, he urgently needed some relief. "Thirsty." He mumbled into the bosom where his head now rested, not noticing the furiously blushing face of the female steadying him. "jusht'sa shlittle one." He mumbled pleadingly as he tried to remember what it was he had planed. "Aren't you going to nurse him." He heard someone ask sarcastically. "he asked for it, didn't he?". "Stop it Anna, he's drunk." He heard the breathless voice answer as he snuggled closer to that wonderful pillow. Yep, a little snooze first, and then he would be as new. Then he would teach those hijackers where the real danger was he thought contentedly as his thoughts wandered of and he started to snore.

He woke up in a dark chamber, undressed and with a headache that made him fear for his life. As he tried to remember he had some widely spread bits of memory coming to him informing him that he probably was on a boat, not that he remembered why he had take to boating? Hadn't there been some danger too? Shit, he just couldn't remember. He experimentally tried to move his head. Jesus, that headache almost seemed to blind him, he stopped moving and decided to call for help instead, there had to be someone there he hoped. "Heelp." He wheezed. Was that his voice? He couldn't for his life recognize it as his? "Help me, please. Water. I've bee poisoned..." It could very well be so, he realized as he started to remember more of yesterday. After all, there had been people with guns and he had been wrestling and? What had happened to Magma and Loise? "Magma. Are you here? Loise? Hallo, anybody ... Please." Awh shit, here he was to weak to move and somewhere else? What did they do with her. I have to get up, he decided glumly. This was no time to shrink ones duty, they were in danger, after all, he was a man, they counted on his protection. If he just wasn't so damnable weak. He tried to sit up in the bed, finding that the whole room was swaying. Yep, definitely a ship. Finding his clothes neatly placed on a small locker he laboriously got himself dressed, swearing over the way his socks seemed to sneak away from him. Finding his shoes he took them in his hand and tiptoed to the door. If it was a hijack they probably had someone posted outside he thought so he put down the shoes and made ready to rush whoever it was guarding him. He made small squeaky sounds and waited for a movement outside, nothing.

Carefully and very slowly he turned the door handle, not a sound, perhaps they had fallen asleep? Throwing all cautiousness to the winds he manhandled it wide open throwing himself out ready to defend his life. But there was nobody there? Feeling slightly foolish he went back in to put on his shoes. As he was doing so there came a slight sound from behind of him, turning around fast as oiled lightening he found himself eye to eye with a girl, approximately of the same age as him, smiling at him. "So, you're awake Leonard." She said, suddenly he remembered who she was. She was the one he had fought, and she had overcome him? Must have been that Mickey he decided, no way that this slip of a girl could have stand a chance against him normally. But he didn't really go in for fighting normally, and especially not girls, So he smiled back and asked. "Where is Magma and Loise?" She smiled at him again. "Sleeping I'm afraid. After you fell asleep we other kept on for a while. Loise is very funny." Here she studied him curiously. "Did you really run away from her?" He started to redden, he had trusted that girl. Could be some sort of torture of course, she might have had no choice but to tell it all. His memories was so vague, they seemed to stop where he had fallen down the stairs and from there on it was just a messed up blur. "Did we fight?" he asked her cautiously. Better get it out in the open he thought. "No you behaved the whole night." she answered him giving him another sunny smile. "But it was difficult to get you up. We were lucky that Anwar was here. But you slept like a lamb the whole time, Would you mind if I got my dressing gown." He stared at her tongue-tied. "dressing-gown?" "Oh, don't you worry, I like my men sober." She said with another sunny smile as went pass him. "Your virginity is safe with me." Virginity! Shit, what did she think about him? Of course, she might have gotten the impression from Loise though, probably trying to protect herself from the shame of a man running from her he thought bitterly as she picked it up.

"Why was it in here?" he asked bewildered. "Well, you wouldn't let go of me." She explained. "Even Magma was surprised over the way you seemed to take to me." And here she actually blushed. "We decided you needed some company, that's all. Don't worry, we just slept." She bloomed out in an even more furious blush as she remembered the way he had held her that night, never letting of his hold and whispering strange things in the night, like 'you're mine now girl' and 'take this' and 'don't you try to get away.' Seldom had she heard of someone falling so fast for a girl as he had. It was a very endearingly quality to her, especially as he had the good taste to know who was worthy of his love. Normally she was as cynical and hardheaded as any of her crew, but he had thrown her of course. On the other hand, she wasn't really sure if she liked to share. They were all nice, but she wasn't leaning in that direction, not that she was sure that they were either of course, but still. She decided to set him straight on it before he proclaimed his never ending love or something. "Leonard, just because we shared a bed one night, doesn't mean anything, you see?" Leonard stared some more, she was really quite nice looking and now as he had time to study her some more, probably older than she looked too. But he had Magma. And Loise too it seemed? Awh shit he couldn't even handle Magma? "Okay." He just said but seeing a fleeting expression of disappointed dismay color her countenance he quickly added. "Just give me a chance to win your friendship Leoine." Seeing her start to smile again. A good one he congratulated himself, hijacked or not she seemed to had fallen for him, big-time too? He wondered if it could have anything to do with his pheromones? He had read somewhere that certain pheromones got to some girls, like some sex-potion. He surreptitiously tried to smell his armpit, wasn't there a certain musk coming from it? Jesus, gotta be more careful with that smell he realized, I'm dangerous. "Is there a shower somewhere Leo." He asked. "and where am I?" slowly realizing that some things he remembered just had to be wrong. Syracose was nowhere near any sea, it was in the middle of the prairie.

"I had some crazy dream of sailing." He explained. "No dream." She answered shortly. "Me and the Captain have some business to take care of, and your ladies was all for taking a trip. Or do you get seasick?" she asked contritely as she realized that she, they all in fact, just had taken it for granted that he too would enjoy a small sea-trip." "No way Leo, are you kidding me?" he asked. "I was in Syracose yesterday, there is no way I can be on a ship today." But he had to admit to the floor swaying, although he had blamed it on his headache. She took his hand and led him to the a small window. "What does this look like?" she asked. "Your bathtub?" He stared out on a immense sweep of water, bigger that he ever could have imagined. He was a countryboy after all, used to horses cows and grass, not this. "But how?" he asked exasperated, trying to make some sense of it. Leoine who by now remembered that he, all his good qualities aside, after all was just was another mundane tried to explain. "The club you went too. Do you remember the club Leonard? The Marquise." Yes, he vaguely remembered some strange place, very warm and smoky. He nodded. "That was a place with many doors Leonard. Some of them open to you, but most open elsewhere." She studied him appraisingly, deciding that he seemed to handle it quite well after all. Feeling slightly relieved she said. "Come, I'll take you to your ladies. They will explain it better." Showing him to their room she left, but couldn't stop herself from giving him a little kiss before he opened their door. "Just so you remember." She said as she left him staring after her a long time, trying to get his bearings straight again. He knocked on the door. "It's Leonard, can I come in?" there was no answer so he knocked again.

"Come in." He heard a sleepy voice. Coming into their stateroom he was struck by the splendor of it. Very posh with a big window and with beautiful drapes hanging on the walls it looked more as belonging to a elegant mansion than to a ship, and a wooden one too. There was only one bed, but it was big, so big that Loise and Magma almost seemed to be lost in it. It was Loise that had told him to come in, Magma was still sleeping, snoring peacefully. "It was quite some night." Mumbled Loise sleepily. "A pity that you, ah, felt asleep so quickly." She smiled briefly. "But you got some company I understand?" She looked at him inquiringly. "Are you going to run away today too she asked as she lifted the bedcover slightly. "Or will you come and keep us company?" He felt as a fool standing there. There hadn't been any kidnappings, on that he was pretty sure. And it seemed that he had made a fool out of himself too, again he thought tiredly. And now he leaped an even greater risk to do it if he told her no. But the truth was that he still had this gigantic headache, and it hadn't became any better by Leoine's tale. The whole situation stank of magic and subterfuge, and he was stuck in the middle of it, that he knew. And to be honest, he liked what he saw looking at her and her rosy pert breasts, and he knew that she liked him, well after a fashion. "Yeah, I'll join you but don't hope for anything, I'm bushed and with a hangover bigger than the Niagara falls Loise. But if I can just rest with you?" She smiled and patted the bed in reply. So that's what he did, falling asleep again he thought dreamily. "I don't really care if there is something going on, this is still by far the best thing that ever have happened to me." Laying as he was tucked between two beautiful girls on a sea journey with as beautiful a captain all wanting him, well at least it seemed so even though he couldn't make sense of why? And to make it even stranger, although piracy was outlawed where he came from, he wasn't that sure if it was the same here. As he had leaned out that window he had gotten a good look at the stern, and there he had seen a big black and white banner with a skull and crossed bones. "Eat your heart out Peter Pan." He thought as he snuggled up to the girls. "We're comin to get'ya."

Life was really strange he thought as he woke up again, his headache had thankfully taken its good-byes and so seemed the girls to have done too. Not a bad way to wake up he thought as languidly stretched his muscles as some strange looking cat under the immense canopy hiding him from the wooden beams that created the roof. There was a knock on the door. "Come in" he called burrowing in under the sheets. "Ah there you are." Said Leoine as she came in. "I need dearly to get some sleep, I was up half the night and this day." As she started to undress. Leonard couldn't help but look as she undressed, remembering that they already had shared a bed and that it most probably was her who had put his clothes away he felt it to be a little late to act shy, even though he didn't remember a thing of it. She had a lovely body, slim with small pointy breasts, and just as Magma with some small freckles on them. "I love freckles" he mumbled as he saw them. Hearing him she pretended otherwise, in truth there were other cabins she could have used but somehow he had gotten under her skin, she missed him and as long as the possibility of having him for her own was there she had decided to enjoy the opportunity. "Real love is all to long between." She said as if to herself. Now Leonard started to get nervous again. She was obviously head over heals infatuated with him and he wasn't sure that he would have the moral stamina to tell her how he felt about Magma. She wasn't here after all, Leoine was. "Ah, Leoine did I tell you I had a headache?" he asked dubiously. She nodded as she came to him only dressed in a pair of thin panties. "Don't you worry, I'll be gentle." She assured him, a very serious expression on her face. "It's after all not as if you were used to it." I'm gonna sound as Madonna soon Leonard realised as he heard her. That infantile song 'I'm a virgin' kept running through his head as she crept up to him waggling her behind like a panther.

He felt his old comrade starting to come to attention again, desperately he tried to think of something else, she was now on all four above him, teasing him, studying his shocked expression with a satisfied smile. Sheep's, count sheep's you idiot he admonished himself, don't loose control. She seemed unaware of his trouble though as she lowered herself on him, the sheet still between them. "I talked with Magma, and she said to tell you that it was okay." She said huskily as she breathed in his hair. Down boy, he thought desperately. Down you traitor ... Some hours later she kissed him whispering "I really need to get some sleep now Leonard. Would you mind?" He looked at her satisfied expression feeling as she had filled him with energy. "Would you mind if I stayed with you?" he asked, seeing her surprise he hastily added. "If you want to sleep alone it's quite okay with me, I would just like to look at you some more, that's all." Leoine whose first thought had been that he meant to dump his ladies for her couldn't help but feel a little disappointment at that but realizing how he in fact gave her a sincere compliment smiled back. "If you don't mind me snoring." She said. "Never." Said he, meaning it with every fiber of his body. It had been a hell of a ride this far he thought looking back. Magma, Loise and now Leoine. He just hoped he wouldn't disappoint them. He felt both relaxed and satiated as he studied her trouble-free sleep, there was a slight smile on her lips as he kissed her lightly one last time before he surreptitiously left her to her dreams to find a shower and some food. It was strange he thought as he stood under the shower, it was such a blend of old and modern.

A wooden ship, and a big one too, under sails but with a bathroom as big and modern looking as home. With a real shower cabin standing in a corner. Feeling refreshed he left the bathroom, he hadn't found a razor but maybe the girls would like that too? Never mind he thought as he made his way up to the foredeck. Coming up he found it to be a sunny day and quite still although the sails were filled with wind. Youre on a sailing ship idiot he thought, they move with the wind. Looking up at the bridge he saw to his surprise that Loise was at the wheel steering the vessel. He waved at her and she waived back smiling at him. He saw how happy she looked up there. I'm really a lucky bastard he thought as he looked around, to the windward he could see another ship and he guessed that it had to be the Captains, sleek-looking and dangerous it followed them just some hundred meters away. He tried to read the name on its bow 'the dancing furies' it was, but where was Magma? He hear someone laugh at the side, walking over looking down to the sea he saw her swimming in some kind of contraption looking like some netted cage lowered in the water. It was open at the top he noticed and sometimes the waves almost went over it but the net gave it a very little resistance and also seemed to create some kind of stillness inside the cage making it look quite inviting. Looking down he could see what looked like a roped stairway winding down to it coming from halfway down the side. It moved in the wind making it look quite unsafe but Magma didn't seem to worry. "Go down to the half-deck" she called. "I'm waiting." Undressing but keeping his boxers he tried to climb down the stairway. In fact it was more like some ladder but it had railings of a sort helping him to climb down. As he slowly lowered himself in the water she suddenly drenched him in cold seawater making him lose all control and fall in beside her. "Isn't it fantastic" she asked him breathlessly as he came up. "It's Leoine's own idea. She calls it her 'swimming pool', She's a real genius that girl." She declared proudly. "And we seem to be related too." She added more thoughtfully as they later sat on a small bench situated just under the water. "Not that she have said it in so many words, but I recognize a sister when I see one Leonard. Do you like her?"

Leonard didn't know how to answer that one, he tried to look at her but felt himself starting to redden. She smiled at him "Relax, I'm not jealous. I know that you're mine already." Leonard felt stupid. "I don't know how to handle it." he admitted to her. "I love you, but I feel for Loise and Leoine too. And its not the sex either." He hastened to add. "It's like they and me just fit together somehow? Like you and me, but differently somehow." Now he could see why the water was stilled, Leoine had what almost looked as a thin plow in front of the cage going all the way down the cage, it separated the waters force giving the pool a resemblance of restfulness. She looked at him and nodded. "Love can be strange." She said quietly. "It strikes without mercy, taking no prisoners. But if I had felt it wrong I would have told you. How would you feel if I found another too?" He stared at her, he hadn't really thought that far. Searching inside him he found that he had grave problems with that idea. "I'm not sure I could handle that Magma." He admitted. "Can't say why, right should be right. But I just don't know. Maybe I'm not as wise as you?" She smiled, she didn't mind his possessiveness, in fact she was quite satisfied with it. After all, which woman wouldn't want that. Only those that didn't care she realized a moment later, surprised. And I care, too much. She wondered, this thing called love seemed more complicated than she first had thought. Not that she minded sharing, those girls were her sisters and 'what's mine is yours' as the saying went amongst the sisterhood. But they had scare knowledge of the entrapment of love. She liked to compare it to the mundane idea of science, "We are mistresses of the lore of love." As she had expressed it at the last cove-meeting. "We know its science even though we do not fall under its mirage." But here she was, and as she started to suspect, as ensnared as Leonard. She studied him seriously. "And if you had to choose?" he looked at her. "You're my first love Magma, but I hope I never have to choose. I don't want to hurt any of you." She studied him some more as she thought of the briefness of the human existence. They were as butterflies she thought. Here one day, gone the next. She wasn't sure how she would cope with that. Shaking of her morbid thoughts she dived into the sea. "Catch me if you can." She called to Leonard as she dived under.

Later as they had gone up and gotten dressed she showed him to the galley where a burly built man stood frying fish. "Cook? Would you have some bread and meat for us?" asked Magma. The man looked at them weighting his answer. "So you're the one then?" he asked, just sounding curious, not meaning anything bad. "Do you like our Captain?" Leonard assayed the man as he thought about what to answer. Burly yes, but not without brains. He had a shrewd look about him and seemed clearly a man not to trifle with. "Yes, I like her, a lot." He answered calmly. The man seemed satisfied with his answer. "Good. I'm called Tiny but you my friend better address me as Mr. Cook." then he smiled briefly. "Or Tiny." Leonard who felt as if he just had gotten himself a suspended sentence smiled back. "Yes Sir, my pleasure Tiny, and my name is Leonard." "Leonard and Leoine? Hmm." The cook laid up three hearty meals for them. "Take on to the bridge too." He said. "I'm guessing the lass up there is starting to feel the pangs too by now." He sounded ruff about it but Leonard recognized care when he saw it. "Thanks Tiny, much obliged. If you like I could take one the Captain too?" "Nah, the lass needs some sleep, she'll come up on her own when it's time." The Cook answered turning back to his work shouting to a cabin-boy. "Put some wood in that stove you lazy son of a ... Pardon miss." Magma nodded graciously and taking the filled platter with food and drink he carefully balanced it up to the bridge. Loise smiled at them as they came up. "I missed this." She said a little later. "Boating, it's such a clean pleasure." She took a new bite of the apple. Boating? Leonard looked at her. She was right though, she looked even younger now, a happy wistful expression on her face. "sometimes I wonder if this isn't what I should do instead." She shook her head. "It's so seldom I feel free to do what I like those days. There are to many counting on me those days." She said a little lower. "To be free as I'm now is a rare experience." Leonard suddenly realized that she was for real. She was a 'good witch' whatever that meant, not some joke from the TV-screen.

"Loise? Can't you tell me what it is you do?" he asked. "I mean, I think I know, but I'm not sure?" Loise smiled at him. "Leonard I don't know where to start, I'm a little like a midwife but then again, there are so much more to it, I'm also the caretaker for quite a large province and in a way responsible for all living there." "So how come you're here?" he asked. "Well, Magma got curios and invited me." She smiled at her. "And I was lucky enough to have a replacement willing to take over. There is not really enough of us there but, this time there was. So one can call it a vacation I suppose. I will have to go back of course, but as the streams of time runs differently at this realm I will get my vacation and then some." She smiled happily at them both as she went back to take over the wheel again. "She has quite some responsibility." Said Magma. "Think of her as a sort of CEO for her realm. And she's not really allowed to be carefree there, but here she can be for once." She went over to give Loise a hug. "I'm happy for you sister." She whispered. "Me too." Said Leonard as he came up to them. "I'm free now. I just realized it listening to you. Like chains around my chest just broke. All because you girls." They looked at him and then back between them. Magma and Loise started to smile while Magma thoughtfully corrected him. "No pet, you're not free, you've just gotten yourself three new owners." Leonard took a step back. She was right, he thought surprised, but on the other hand? "And you lady's, you just got yourself a new master of the house." He said giving them his best courtly bow. "And may I say, to be owned by you is a pleasure fuller than freedom itself." Now the girls seemed to shy away a little, taken by his newfound brashness and for a moment he even thought he saw Magma blush, but looking again he guessed it must had been a trick of the light. But they seemed well pleased with him none the less. They sat there talking with each other for quite a while until Loise asked him if he could go down to see if Leo was ready to take her turn.

As he left he had taken the way pass the Cook so it was once more balancing a platter he went down the stairs to wake her up. Suddenly remembering he felt in his pocket, when he had bought the ring for Magma he had also found something for himself, but deciding that it would look better on her he put it on the platter beside her mug of beer, he had been quite happy to see that and had succeeded in wheedling a mug for himself too of the Cook. Silently opening the door he put the platter on the table beside the bed and then leaned down to kiss her awake. She opened her eyes, the first thing she saw being his, looking into hers as if she was the most beautiful thing in the world She liked that, a lot. She smiled lazily wondering why she couldn't wake up like this every day. "Hi." She said. "And hallo to you too." He answered. "Would madam want something to eat?" She looked at the table, smiling as she thought of Tiny, this time he seemed to have outdone himself she thought as she sat up to eat. Leonard had thoughtfully gotten a bathrobe with him from the bathroom to drape her with so they sat there beside each other, she munching on her food, Leonard taking slow swallows from his mug. Finally she found herself full, satiated she turned to Leonard. "Thanks Leonard, and thank the Cook too, will you." He nodded. "You know, I think he care more than you think about you." He remarked, she gave him a quick glance and then she said. "You're right. We go a long way back, him and me. In a way he's my mentor here. What is that." She had found the locker laying on the platter. "It's just a trinket." He answered. "But I thought you might like it?" She lifted it, it wasn't new but it was a very nice piece of work in solid silver. On the front it had a engraved leonine head growling at the viewer and opening it she found a little pearl hanging in a silver thread. "I bought because of the head, but I think it belongs to a you, not me." He said feeling a little tense. He had this habit of wanting to give nice things to his girlfriends but not all seemed to appreciate his taste.

He studied her nervously as she looked at it, then she lifted her head and smiled at him. "What a lovely way to wake Leonard, promise to this every time." He felt relieved as he answered. "Can't promise that, but I can try. Although I'm a little short on trinkets now." She started to laugh as she saw his face. "I was joking, but it is a lovely gift Leonard. I will treasure it." He raised from the bed still holding her hand. "I will leave you to your morning toilet then madam." He lifted her hand to his lips to give it a kiss and then left. She smiled thoughtfully as she started get dressed, if sharing was what it took, Perhaps? Leonard went back to the bridge feeling quite satisfied with himself. For once everything seemed to go his way, as if he was protected by some lucky charm. "Yes." He exclaimed. "This is life." Still smiling he came up to the bridge finding both girls seriously studying a chart talking with Captain Anwar. He shook his head. "No there is a way in, it's just that one have to wait until the high tide." Then he saw Leonard and slowly his weather bitten face broke up in wrinkles as he started to smile as he observed the young mans cocky walk "Ah, our adventurer have awakened then?" he said jovially to him. "You disappeared before we had a chance to make any closer acquaintance Sir. Wonder where?" he added thoughtfully. "Some new adventure's calling perhaps?" he asked sounding delicately interested. "Never mind." He said hastily as he saw Leonard starting to bristle. "I'm sure it was all for the good Sir. We're discussing our course, perhaps you want to partake?" Leonard relaxed a little. "Sure." He said as he went over to join them. Anwar started to explain. "We are discussing the shortest route to Maskar." he pointed to something looking more like some strange mandala than any part of land Leonard had seen. "And my lady." Here he bowed to Loise. "Have ever so gracefully lent me her expertise in those matters." Loise smiled back at the Captain looking ever so pleased and girlish. She really blushed a lot thought Leonard a little critically.

But then again, it was her vacation. He smiled at her. "I didn't know you were an expert chart-reader." He said teasing her a little. "You're full of surprises Loise, a cartographer too?" To his surprise she nodded shyly and Anwar jumped in to her defense for the first time sounding a little peeved with him. "Boy? Didn't you know? She's one of the foremost cartographer of the seven realms?" Now it was Leonard's time to redden, he kept forgetting that this little slip of blushing girlhood was quite older and more experienced than him. He went to her and gave her a big hug and whispered in her ear. "I was only teasing you Loise. Will you forgive me." She blushed furiously as he kissed her brow but smiled at him. "I'm sorry Sir, I meant her no harm." He told Anwar who seemed a little more mollified with him after that. "Nah, didn't think so." He answered a little gruffly as he cleared his throat. That boy was one crazy son of a gun he thought to himself, teasing one of the most powerful witches of the seven realms, as well as angering him. He had had men keelhauled for less, then he started to smile again as he remembered the pups cocky walk. He don't have any idea he thought to himself wonderingly as he studied the young man. Meddling with three of the most powerful women Anwar ever had known was he? Loise was no one you wanted on your bad side, and Magma? She had been there since the beginning he suspected and so had Leoine. Then he remembered Anna's words as she had calmed him as he wanted to shake some sense in the pup watching how he disgraced himself. "Stop worrying about him husband, he's well taken care of. They won't hurt him." He nodded briskly at Leonard as he turned back to the chart. "Yes, we're pressed for time here." He said curtly. "So I'm well pleased to take your advice Lady." He bowed at Loise as he rolled up the chart. "Give my regards to our lovely Captain." He said as he walked away to the small boat waiting for him. "No need Captain" came a voice. It was Leoine who had arrived unnoticedly as they had discussed.

"So we have decided then?" she asked him."Aye, madam. So we have, both you and Lady Loise recommend the same. The reefs it will be, may the grace of gods smile upon us." He made a small sign over his heart as he bowed at them, and then he left. Leoine smiled as she watched him leave for his ship. "Not a man of many words our Captain, but a good man all the same." She said quietly at his back. Loise nodded her agreement. "And Anna keeps his edge sharp." She said. Leonard felt quite consternated as he listened to them. They both sounded quite serious suddenly as if it was of some hidden importance. Feeling left out he looked atMagma. She came to him and whispered "I'll explain it later Leonard." Feeling slightly better he nodded at her. "Do that." He said still irritated. Suddenly realizing that his dreamland of bliss might be slightly more serious than he first had thought. "My watch." Said Leoine as she went to take the wheel. "Thank you Maam" answered Loise just as briskly, leaving the wheel in Leoine's hands. Leonard stared at them again, this was something new he thought, they had sounded as something from some old naval war-movie he thought. Loise came up to him too. "Leonard I know that you don't know what we were talking about. Lets go down and I will explain." Magma smiled at him and nodded. "And a good idea it is too." She declared. I'll stay with Leoine, I think we need to come to an arrangement here?" She looked at Leoine. "Am I right?" It was the second time this day that Leonard saw one of his ladies blush. Loise smiled as she took his hand, starting to lead him away. "Leave the girls to their secrets Leonard. A gentleman doesn't eavesdrop." Leoine blushed even more at that. Leonard would have loved to eavesdrop, gentleman or no gentleman, but by now Loise were leading him to their stateroom so he decided to be one after all. "You're right." He said loftily. "A gentleman, after all." Smiling condescendingly at her. "She stepped on his foot. "Awwh, did you have to do that?" he complained. She smiled sweetly on him. "Sorry Sir, I stumbled."

He muttered darkly under his breath as he followed her into their room but started to smile again as she turned and said. "Now sit down young man and let Mama explain." As he sat down she put herself in his lap and gave him a little kiss. "Leonard, Leoine and Captain Anwar are on what I would like to call a treasure-hunt, not for themselves but for some friends of theirs. They need a certain type of stone, very rare and quite valuable for certain uses. Theirs is journey of danger and I promised to help them with their navigating. You and Magma is not really needed but somehow we all thought, I don't know, I wasn't thinking to clearly there with the mijod and all. We couldn't wait for you to sober up, I can understand if you want of the ship Leonard." He shook his head. "Why would I want of Loise? I have you, I have Magma and I have Leoine. I would need to be pretty stupid to leave you three to your own. There's no telling what mischief you might get into without me. I'm the master of this household girl. And you better act it." he finished, feeling quite smug with himself. She leaned back to look up at him wide-eyed and respectful. "Yes Sir, Master. Sorry, will do." Then both started to laugh. "Seriously Loise. I can't leave you to take all the risks. Maybe I'm young but I'm not stupid. I know when I've found a good thing. And here I've found three, all good. I'm staying." He bent to kiss her and the lifted her to the bed where he carefully laid on it whispering in her ear. "Remember last time? When I left? Well, this time I'm gonna finish my work girl. You better prepare yourself." Some wild screaming, laughter and tears later Leonard came up between her thighs to get his breath back. "You okay." He asked a little worried about her even though he was sure she was okay. That last time she had seemed to try to drive his head right through her. "Leonard, I need you up here." She said in a weak voice, exhausted by her screaming. He knew how to drive her wild that boy. "I loved it, but cant we just huddle for a while?" "Sure thing." He answered as he took her into his arms.

"This is nice." she said after some time. "I've missed this." He wondered how long she had been alone. "Wasn't there any one for you at home?" he asked. She smiled at him her ice blue eyes looking pass him into her memories. "There was." She answered slowly. "A strong loving caring man, but people like us age slowly Leonard, while you age we just keep on." She stopped for a little while. "I promised myself that I never more would fall in love after him. "He started to speak but she stopped him. "No not for his sake, for my own Leonard. Watching a loved one die, and one you have lived with since youth is a very hard thing. Even harder for those that can't grow. I think that's the real reason why both me and Magma, and Leoine doesn't have anyone. We are very slow to love and when it once happens, it's horrible Leonard. Not the love, but the aftermath remembering it finding yourself alone and empty. But this time we are three. I don't know if they too have been through it but this time I will not be alone loving you." Leonard suddenly felt very aware of his own mortality. He shuddered involuntarily as he drew her closer to him. "I see." He said as he thought about it. "Well, I can't do anything about my life-span, but I can't find anything wrong about loving you three. It's through no fault of yours Loise. And I think I can understand the loneliness too. But you have me girl as long as I breath, and you will have Magma too. And I'm sure Leoine would say the same." He gently caressed her until he slowly felt her tense muscles unbend and her breathing relax. "let the sandman do his job now Loise, I'll be here when you wake up. And we have a long time still." He whispered to her as he felt her drift off into sleep. He still wanted to be alone for a time thinking it over. But he could tell one thing already, he wouldn't abandon them, ever. Magma came down some time later, she smiled as she found him holding Loise and then silently undressed to come into the bed spooning him. After a while they both drifted of to sleep, Leonard finding himself quite satisfied with his life for once.

As he woke he found himself alone again. Typical he thought. A morning woody and nothing to do with it, well, he could go to the bathroom of course but the idea of the crewmen meeting him on the way somehow made it less than desirable. I'll get catch up on my sleep he decided. One newer knew, perhaps there would be less later on. Then he would think back to this moment with envy. Proud over his wisdom he nodded of again to awaken to the girls arguing. It was Magma of course and the other one was Leoine. "You should tell him." She said in a low but intense tone as she warily checked to see if he was sleeping. "I know." Said Magma almost wailing. "But he's so happy, and me too." Then she looked at Leoine. "And don't you dare tell me that you're not girl." She said accusingly. Leoine was quiet for a little while, but then said. "And Stanislaw?" Magma sat down at a chair. "I know, I know. I will have to make something up. He won't stand for Leonard doing good. I could say that you're planing to rob, after all, you are pirates, right." Now it was Leoine who sounded whiny. "Did you have to remind me of that. Doing good you say, wish I knew better but they're my friends, and if I can help I have no choice, But yes, we are pirates. Do it, make something up. We will think of an solution still. Tell him that you introduced him to vice and depravity, buggery too thinking of it. Three girls and a whole male crew all doing it, together, everywhere. That should keep him happy for some time." Magma let her breath out with a sigh. "You're a genius Leoine, sister. It will be even better when he get the reports from the Marquise" she said. "If we're lucky he had spies there already, witnessing his lewd behavior." "Knowing Stanislaw I'm sure he had." said Leoine. "But he really surprised me. Such strong feelings for someone he just meet, and with you there beside him?" "Yes, he surprised me too." Admitted Magma.

"There are unexplored depths to him, perhaps he will become a suitable prince of darkness after all." What? Thought Leonard, now wide awake listening to their whispered conversation. Me? A Prince of darkness? "Pooh, Stanislaw will put a leash on him soon enough." Said Leoine. "That boy won't have a fighting chance, sister, he's just too soft." Magma sighed again. "There must be some way." She mumbled. "Yes sister, there will." Leoine promised. "I'll help and so will Loise." There was some more silence and then Leoine whispered. "He is cute though, curled up like that. Our little tomcat." Cute? Prince of darkness? Leonard couldn't make it come together in his head. Who the fuck had ever heard about a cute Prince of darkness? Not even in the rock business? It had to be a nightmare. "So he is Leoine, should we wake him?" "Yes, but let's do it properly." And now there came the whispery sounds of two women undressing. Ever so stealthily they came to be on each side of him crawling closer and closer. Oh woody, thought Leonard bitterly, why have you forsaken me. It was the last straw and he was definitely the camel, as they came down to kiss him he suddenly opened his eyes screaming "Booouh" making both girls fly of the bed, one on each side. With a feeling of mad triumph Leonard uncurled himself exalting in his result, better than he ever had dared hope. "Tomcat? You said sister?" came from one side of the bed. "He's no gentleman either." Came sourly from the other side. To his surprise the woody was starting to come back. Perhaps that was all he needed he thought. Taking control, becoming the master of his own ship? "Yes, my own ship." He said. "Awh," came from Magmas side. "Now he wants your ship too Leoine." "Well, he can have it." she muttered. "After I've killed him." Shit, thought Leonard, suddenly worried. Perhaps he had overdone it a bit? Leaning over at Leoines side he asked. "You okay Leoine? I was just jokinn..." Suddenly finding himself getting thrown down to the floor.

"Sister, the pillows, get them, victory will be ours..." Leoine screamed as she held on to him for all that she could. Suddenly Leonard's world only consisted of hands holding him and the pillows descending upon him. As one of them got busted under Magmas enthusiastic handling he couldn't help himself. "Look Mama, it's snowing!" the world stopped for a breathless moment and then everybody broke down into laughter. As he afterwards helped the girls sweep up the feathers Magma asked him. "So, how long was you awake?" Leonard felt tempted to lie for a moment but then figured he owned it to them to tell the truth. "Do you think I'll make a cute Prince Magma?" he asked, ducking under her swing but forgetting Leoine who treasonably jumped him from the back, landing him on the floor, again. Soon she sat on his chest in all her naked loveliness with Magma coming to crouch beside her. "My little tomcat." She purred as she leaned over him, her hair tickling his nose. He started to sneeze. "It tickles, doesn't it?" she asked. "poor little kitten." Shit, he had to get up, but her hair kept distracting him, coming into his nose making him sneeze more and more. With a sudden jerk he managed to topple Leoine and now it was his turn to attack. "Be still slaves, you are my prisoners." He declared as he finally had succeeded in getting them under his legs, not that they had fought that hard he had to admit but he was still proud over his achievement. "I will now decide your punishments." From his lofty position he smiled down at them. "You slave." And here he pointed to Magma. "will from now on called Itssy titssy Puttycat, and you wench." Here he turned to the other delinquent "Will from now on be known to all, and your crew as ... Pussy Galore." He guessed that he was the only one here that ever had read James Bond but that didn't make it any less funny to him. Smiling devilishly he stood up to sit at the bed. "Go to work Itssi Titsy, and you too PussyG." Whereupon both attacked him mercilessly. "Treason I say, Treason... " he shouted as they tried to fill his mouth with feathers. Spitting it out he gave up. "I surrender Ladies. I beg only your mercy." Leoine looked down on him, a predatory smile on her face. "Pussy Galore was it? Maggot." She growled, he nodded meekly. "Stirred not shaken." She said in a deep voice and then started to laugh. He stared at her in surprise. "What? You thought you were the only one that could read?" she asked sternly as she saw his face.

Now it was Magmas turn to bend over him, her hair tickling him again. "Itssy Titssy was it?" She asked as she tickled him mercilessly again "Putty cat, huh?" She smiled menacingly. "You my little friend, It's you that will be the putty when I'm finished with you." She finished dramatically as she shook her tits all over his face, not that he complained about it. "You want those, do you, do you? Well, say goodbye." She turned to Leoine, "Isn't it time to introduce him to the rest of your crew" she smiled cattily. "They will loove you." Now he started to get worried, this was getting overhand. Leoine seemed to feel the same. "Cool down, Magmalia. You're scaring him." Magma looked at him, suddenly waking up to her own words. "Oh, Leonard it was just a joke, and a bad one too." She muttred sheepishly, both to herself and them. "Must be my period." she muttered suddenly. Leonard stared at her. "You have a period?" he asked surprised. Leonine answered for Magma who now had disappeared to the bathroom. "Yes, all woman have them. Wherever did you think little babies came from?" She asked, instantly regretting it. Leonard smiled a little wearily. "Peace Leonine, peace. I know about it, but? Then you can have babies too?" Now Leonine seemed sad. "We can, but only a very few of us ever succeed. To us conceptions are rare things. We do not know why but it is so. And our temper is as every other woman when the period is on us." "How long is it?" asked Leonard cautiously. "A year of your time mundane." As she saw his face fall she started to laugh. "Oh, Leonard." She said. "Your expression, I wish I had a camera. I was joking, it's the same as with all mundane females. But so is our temper" she added. Magma came back just as she finished, looking very disappointed. "You're going to be alone." She told Leonard. He looked at her and she nodded miserably. He opened his arms and she came into them as if melting. "I'm sorry, but my temper is not." She warned him, still feeling chagrined over her words before. "It's okay. It was only a joke." Leonard comforted her, but then he couldn't stop himself. "It was a joke, right." Sounding very troubled putting his hands behind him.

Magma who first looked as if she was going to cry flared up again. "your jokes is worse than mine." She growled. "Leonine, perhaps we should introduce him?" Me and my big mouth thought Leonard. "You're right Magma, my jokes is worse." He said placatingly. He thought she looked a little happier at his apology. "Such is life." Said Leoine philosophically. "You know Leonard. It is a fact that when women are in close contact over a longer period of time their periods tend to synchronize. You're still sure you want us?" Leonard tried to imagine three novas going of simultaneously. After a while he pressed forward a weak but brave smile. "I'll just have to take my chances, won't I? It's either that or loose you." Magma seemed very touched and had to be comforted by Leonard again. Now he started to worry for real. If she would be going of like this at this smallest words? Heck, It would be like tripping over landmines, but then again mankind had survived worse, at least he thought so? The journey were coming to an end now, they had been on their way for twoo weeks now and there were only the reefs left to navigate and then it should be clear sailing all the way to Maskar, whatever that was? Thought Leonard remembering the lands strange contours on the chart. He was up at the bridge now watching the sun descending to the west. Yes to the west? That more than anything more had proved to him that he surely was at 'another' place, even though it felt as his own Earth, and most other things seemed the same. But the crew were an assorted blend of individuals though, men and women of all hues as well as races, some of them reminding him of that serving girl he had seen at the the Marquise with the same sort of vampire looking teeth, yes he remembered now. It had taken him some time to sort it all out though, and he had sworn to himself to be really careful with that mjiod the next time, but talking about it with Magma had helped it all come into focus.

She had told him to wait a little with explaining what he really had planned to do with Leoine though. As she thought it to be 'love at first sight' still. Then, in a way she was right he thought, it had taken him a very short time to start to love her, too. That was another problem for him, he had always considered himself a monogamous guy and he still felt that way, but now with three different 'wife's' to be monogamous about, life was becoming stranger for every moment. "Whale, There she blows." Came from the lookout, looking the way he pointed Leonard could see three dark shapes outlined against the horizon, coming up and down through the dark indigo shaded water blending into the sky. Magma who were by his side whispered 'lovely ain't it, they're magnificent creatures." Leonard could only agree as he saw them disappearing into the night, turning to the others he smiled and asked. "Anyone for supper?" The girls all seemed enthusiastic about his idea so they all went down together to persuade Tiny to let them escape with some of his good cooking. Back from the galley in the stateroom with their stash on the table and listening to the girls chatting he truly felt like the 'man of the house', with the possible exemption of him knowing them quite capable to make it on their own of course. Finally satiated he leaned back in the chair listening to them. It was Loise talking now. "Hell teeth's is dangerous of course, but we can do it if the tide is high. We are lucky to try it summer though. Wintertime I wouldn't think of it." Leoine agreed, "Yes, in the winter it would be impossible. But we will make it, and after that we only have to pass the sea of Younder." There she stopped talking for a moment seeming to consider her words and then kept on. "That crossing might be more difficult than we think though." "Yes, I've heard tales of the sea of Yonder too." Said Loise. "If they are true there are some strange anomalies there, and they do seem to have became worse lately?"

Loise nodded. "Well, we don't know if they're true yet." She said. "Hopefully they're exaggerated, as most seafaring tales." Thinking of the crews story's Leonard tended to believe them exaggerated too, according to them ships just disappeared there, never to be seen again, and there was also tales of strange sightings of both vessels and animals, not seen anywhere else on the planet. Some of them said that had seen such with their own eyes too. Leonard couldn't be sure but he had the feeling that the crew found it quite fun to fill his head with all kinds of strange stories, and he had fast given up sorting facts from fantasy there. Magma gave out a great sigh. "Listening to you makes me wonder what I've gotten myself into. Lucky for us that Stanislaw doesn't suspect anything yet. Otherwise we would have to worry about him too." The report she had sent him had apparently fitted perfectly with what he had heard from his spy's. She had gotten back a hearty message congratulating to her dedication to the 'cause' combined with a insistent demand to move up the tact so that he could take the next step 'training' Leonard 'personally'. Leoine smiled back. "Men." She said. "So predictable." Loise nodded. "At least those gone bad." and then all three looked at Leonard who now felt as if under a microscope by their combined glare. Magma smiled at last. "Don't worry Leonard. We promise to keep you good. Won't we ladies?" And then they giggled. It was really depressing, he thought, seeing grown ups, as they most assuredly were, acting like teenage bimbos. But he smiled back bravely. "I'm counting on that Ladies." He answered. The next morning they were making their way over the reefs. "Three famns and sinking." Shouted the man at the bow. "Two famns sixty three and sinking" If it went under two famns Leonard knew that they would get stuck. Then they would have to lighten her and put out the longboats to drag her free. "Two Famns thirty."

Leoine was at the wheel with Loise at her side, Leonard looked up at her but she didn't seem worried, yet, he thought. He looked out at the water. The reefs were more of sunken land he thought, there was real land on both sides he knew from the chart, continents in fact even though that he couldn't see them. And in-between those reefs stretching for miles any way, treacherous in the summer, impossible in the winter. They had been making their way through its maze for what seemed as an eternity but in reality only was some hours now, and looking down one could see the incredibly rich marine life blending in with the strongly colored reef itself in gleaming shades of pink green and blue, also there were a lot of yellow and white under its flora, not that they were any 'flowers' under the sea but it sure looked like it thought Leonard. Otherwise the water was very calm allowing 'the dancing furies' to follow just some hundred meters away. "Two famns seventy and raisingg." Well, we seem to have passed that too, thought Leonard relieved as he went back to study the marine life passing under the keel. By noon they were free from the reefs, and both Loise and Leoine were back down in the stateroom. Magma was taking a late dip in the cage and Leonard who felt lazy reclining on the bed. Under the weeks that had gone he had learnt a little of everything, amongst it making several types of knot for different uses. He was idly playing with a piece of rope as Magma stormed in. "Come." She said. "You won't believe it." Then she rushed up again. The others were not late to follow her up on the deck. Well there they went where she was standing staring straight down the side. Looking down they saw a whale, with child swimming beside them. The child seemed very attracted by the cage and was swimming back and through inspecting it.

"I was relaxing on the bench when there suddenly came a fountain of water over me." She told them. "The stench was terrific, and as I looked aside there they were. Just some meters away. It was awe-inspiring, like a mountain hovering over you. I just had to show you." They all agreed with her, it was a strange sight. "They can't hurt the boat?" asked Leonard a little worried. Leoine shook her head. "No, they use some sort of sonar, and have quite good eyesight too. They're just curious about our swimming pool. They are actually quite intelligent, smarter than their cousins where you came from, more like your dolphins." Leonard studied them with renewed interest, another thing that separated this place then he thought, but the similarities were still more than the discrepancies he could see. "It's so like Earth?" he said. Magma nodded. "The realms are all modeled after what life they contain. There are realms where you wouldn't be able to breath though. And there is said to exist others where the ships travel between worlds as we do continents." "Yeah, space." Said Leonard. "Yes, but a space where you can breath and where the worlds may be flat as well as round." Answered Magma. "There is portals to all kind of strange places, some of them deadly for us, not even us." And here she looked at the other girls. "can be sure to survive some of them, judge for yourself when we come to Maskar." Leonard thought he could understand the chart a little better then, Maskar wasn't really a land? "So Maskar is a 'portal' then?" he asked. Leonine answered. "In a way, but it is also a place made of earth with trees, animals and all. But you will understand it better when you see it for yourself." "Yes, wouldn't do to spoil your surprise." Said Loise with a smile in her voice. As they went back down Leonard asked them. "So how long until the sea of Yonder?" Loise smiled and shrugged her shoulders, her hair dancing as beams of light reflected on it in the darkness.

"Difficult to say, it's an area that moves with the season. We are sailing out on a very wide ocean now Leonard, bigger that any you ever heard of before. Think of it as something similar to your Bermudan triangle, with the added fact of moving. If we're very lucky we might never cross it. At times it's said to disappear, even though where no one knews." Well thought Leonard, it sure had been interesting so far. He wasn't sure he would mind that much if they missed that sea, afterall he used to preferred a life of solitude before. But this was better, ah well. "We will just have to wait and see then?" he said philosophically. "But how far is it? Maskar." Now it was Magmas turn. "Same with Maskar as with the sea of Yonder." She said. "It moves, some weeks? A month? We'll reach it eventually." Leonard decided to give up on understanding it for the moment, he thought he had better things to entertain himself with tonight, three actually. "Ladies, if you don't mind. My headache is killing me." He said as he was the first one into bed. The girls all gave him the same predatory smile as they simultaneously chimed in with. "But we do mind." Well, adapt and overcome thought Leonard as he readied himself for their assault. He could always try to sneak away if they got to physical, sometimes there were so many limbs moving that he doubted that anyone could know which one belonged to whom. Somehow they all seemed to recognize his though? They came into severe weather the week after. Leonard who had believed that he had no trouble with seasickness found that he had to revise his expectations somewhat as he philosophized about this new 'experience' bent double over the sink. To get up deck in this storm wasn't even to consider, at least not without a rope holding you so that there would be something keeping you too the ship if you got blown over the side. And in his condition? No way.

He heaved some more before he finally had emptied himself, weak as a kitten he crawled back to bed. What was even more humiliating in his view was the fact that the girls seemed to have no such problems. Sometimes it felt really hard to act a man he thought, but as sick as he felt he couldn't start to care anyway. It took all energy he had just to get back under the covers again. One good thing about it though was the way the girls pussyfooted around him, doing him favors and generally taking care of whatever needs he had. There seemed always to be one at his side he had noticed. In fact he had started to feel a lot better this last day or so, but he couldn't help enjoying their attention. "Awhh, Loise please make it stop." He whined satisfied watching her jump to instantly. "What is it dear, you want me to stop the ship? I'm so sorry darling. I will ask Leoine if she could steady her up a little if you like?" Leonard smiled. Yes, it worked like magic. "No, wouldn't want you to do that, it's dangerous up there." He said in a very brave tone. "It's my feet Loise, they're killing me. Do you think you?" "You want a massage, of course sweetie. Let me do it for you." Yep thought Leonard contentedly, just like magic, feeling her warm soft hands kneading his feet. It almost made it worth it, to be seasick. "Loise, you're the best..." When the morning came the second day the worst had blown over. Leonard who came up to for the first time in days looked out over a storm-swept sea, blown clean of everything, with frothy uneasy waves still pounding the ships sides and with the wind coming in gusts. Of 'the dancing furies' there was no sight, they lost contact with her the first day, and for guessing where they were? Well, Leoine had summarized it up. "Anywhere between here and there" measuring a wide area on the chart. "We will have to wait until the cloud layer breaks up. Then we can take our bearings" She had no doubt that they would meet up with 'the dancing furies' sooner or later. After all, they were still steering the same course and keeping to a common goal no matter where they were.

On the second day after the storm had broken they sighted land. "Strange." Said Leoine looking at her chart. "Shouldn't be anything here?" Loise studied the landmass still shrouded in darkness as they drew closer, her eyes troubled as if she seemed to recognize something untoward with it. "I don't like it." She declared. "Go around it Leoine. This is no natural land, it stinks of sorcery." Leoine gave orders to change course slightly so they would sail along the coast of the island. That it was a island was soon confirmed by the lookout and as he called down a description it became even clearer that it was no place to visit. "Strange one." He called "There is no trees and no grass. The only thing standing on it is some building overgrown with moss, hell, it's seaweed! We better stay clear Captain." Loise began creating a ward protecting the ship as Leonard fascinated watched. Magma was drawing hexes in the air, bold streaks flashing with colors and Leoine just watched, one hand on the wheel. "Whatever it is Leonard it won't touch us. We have to much power assembled on this ship." She said comfortingly. "By the way, welcome to the sea of Yonder." She smiled a little. The ward Loise had created took on a unearthly green color and grew to cover the whole ship, enclosing it in a bubble of stillness at the same time as Magmas hexes seemed to morph into winged beasts diving for the island. It wasn't late to react, the lookout saw it first. "The building, it's falling apart." He hollered. As they looked they could see something resembling a wide fat white snake slithering along the coastline, soon followed by more and all of them trying to reach the ship. "Lucky that we didn't come closer." Remarked Leoine coolly. "They won't reach us." Just to be sure she fell back a little more with the ship getting them some extra leeway.

"It's like being inside a remake of 'Godzilla attacks' part two thought Leonard as he saw the snakes stretching out for the ship. "A Kraken." Shouted the lookout. What Leonard and the others first had though to be gigantic snakes was the tentacles of a Kraken, they looked as thick wiry cables as they searched for them. "Bad news." Muttered Leonine as she quickly laid about her course, straight out from the Island. "They are stupid beasts, but tenacious. When they once have sight of prey they will try to follow." She muttered, the island seemed slowly to disappear under the waves and Leonard realized with a shudder that what he and the others had taken for an island in reality was the Kraken itself. "It's big." He said awed. "How fast can it be?" Loise answered. "Under water they can be quite fast for shorted distances. I think we better try to call up some wind. Magma, will you add to my efforts?" The girls joined hands and started to chant. It was a eerie sound making Leonard feel almost as if he was falling asleep, with the air becoming quite still and unmoving. Looking to where the Kraken still was diving he could see Magmas airborne beasts attack it, tearing great bits out of its grey hide with their beaks. The water was becoming colored with some dark ill smelling substance as the Krakens tentacles were busy picking the beasts out of the air, one after one. After what to Leonard seemed as an eternity the wind started to fill the sails again. "Set all sails." Hollered Leoine but she needn't had bothered, as soon as it had became apparent that it was a Kraken they had meet, the crew under Tinys command had started to set them on their own, The ship now started to move faster and faster, running away with the wind. "Leoine, isn't we going the wrong way?" asked Leonard. "We can call the wind but we won't change the weather Leonard. What wind comes will depend on what already was there. To do otherwise would create havoc with the weather-patterns and take a great deal of strength from us." Magma explained, still a little breathless after their chanting.

"Magic is like every other force. It works best if you adapt it to what's around you. The beast will tire in a day or two and then we can get on course again." "But why didn't you just kill it?" asked Leonard who now had started to suspect that this feat were well inside their reach. "One don't kill before one must." lectured Loise, sounding affronted. "to him this is his home, not to us, and we were just prey to him. Other than that he bore us no ill will. Better for all if we just leave him be, and him us." "The Kraken is hard to kill." explained Leoine. "They are resistant to magic and very sturdy, and also we don't know what else there is in those waters. There are worse things to meet Leonard than our devilfish out here. Count yourself lucky that you've seen a Kraken and live to tell." She continued "Magic leaves traces, and we don't need that now. Not in the sea of Younder." It was with a squeamish feeling Leonard studied how the dark stain grew upon the water. There were just some concentric rings left after the Kraken now, but the girls still kept up their vigilance as they studied the water, same as the crew were doing. Leonard thought that they had to make a strange sight, swept as they still were in that ethereal green net of a bubble, fleeing for full sails on a otherwise still ocean. He was sure that if it was him that spotted them like this he would stay well away. Leoine seemed to read his mind as she smiled and said. "A strange sight indeed we must be, sisters, a strange sight. We should let down the ward Loise, it won't do us any good if the Kraken catches up with us anyway." So what was it for then wondered Leonard? But he could guess, worse things indeed. Sorcery probably. Suddenly he wished he knew some more fighting, what little he knew came mostly from the schoolyard and he doubted that it would stand him any good if fighting one of those. "Magma, ladies" He said. He had noticed that Tiny used to train with a staff every morning and evening. "I'll just have a word with the Cook okay?"

The girls, still preoccupied with their search seemed to agree so of he went to find Tiny... "Ah Tiny, I have a request to ask? If you don't mind?" he started a little stiffly, feeling slightly dumb. "I'm not that good with any type of fighting but I've watched you with that staff, and it looks quite cool." Tiny looked at him surprised. "Cool? No its not cool? Why did you think that it would be cool?" Shit thought Leonard. "No, sorry I meant it looked interesting, would you mind teaching me some?" Now Tiny studied him appraisingly. "the staff isn't for all, my young friend. Some fit to it as water to the wheel, others will never learn." He studied him some more as he thought. Then he said. "Stay there." And went to his cabin, after a while he came out carrying a staff in some strange wood. "Thought I had a old one somewhere." He smiled. "Try it." Leonard caught it as he thew it to him. It was heavier than he had expected and very stiff. Tiny showed him some of the movements that Leonard already had seen him limbering up with. The staff becoming a blur as he slowly stepped up the tempo and as Leonard did his best to imitate it. After an hour of unlimbering his arms started to feel as jelly but he kept on as good as he could. Tiny had stopped and was now just watching Leonard commenting only when he found it needsome. "Not like an old lady Leonard, try to feel where it wants to go and follow it. There are two schools, one that put its trust in the right hitting another that puts its trust in the staff, I belong to the other one. You can come and train with me mornings, but in the evenings you're on your own. Then I want you to do those movements and search for the staffs wishes. When you find what the staff want's the rest will come naturally." Leonard who know felt as if his whole body was made of jelly stopped his movements to listen.

"And if you feel that you need to move with it, do so. Well, that's enough for today I think." Leonard made as if returning the staff. "No, it's no good at mine, you keep it, and practise." Leonard smiled, he had already started to feel a certain affinity for the staff. It was as if he recognized it somehow, or maybe the other way around, and he was glad to keep it. "Thanks Tiny, I will try to make it up for you somehow." He said. "No probleem." Answered Tiny drawling it out. "You will..." It sounded slightly ominous to Leonard but then Tiny smiled. "Relax boy, I've been thinking I'll need someone to help me in the galley, and you know what? You just volunteered." Leonard relaxed. "Yes sir, see you in the morning then?" "Do that." Said Tiny as they went their separate ways. The girls had watched Leonard from the bridge. "Not bad for a beginner." Said Loise sounding proud. Magma laughed. "At least it will keep him out of trouble." Leoine agreed. "Tiny is a master staffsman. He could do worse for a master." "We should tell Stainslaw." said Loise thoughtfully. "What?" said Magma. "That he had found a mate with a stiff staff." said Loise and then they all broke down in helpless laughter. When Leonard arrived they had composed themselves with the exception of Loise who still had small outbreaks of giggling. They looked at him and magma asked. "Are you going to make a fire?" Leonard answered slightly offended. "No Magma, I thought I might need it to keep you ladies away from me tonight." "Oh." Said Leoine. "So you will bring your stiff staff to bed then?" As they broke down in laughter once more. Leonard left them with as much dignity as he could muster, muttering under his breath. "We'll see who's laughing when I get my migraine." He had found the migraine a very simple device for getting extra attention, and it was a fairly new invention. It had came to him as he was seasick watching the care they took with him then. He dearly needed some leverage with them as it was quite overwhelming to be courted by those three at times, and it worked?

"I'll never understand them." He muttered as he went down from the bridge to practice some more. The next morning his arms were made from lead and his body seemed to creak as he moved. Slowly and painfully he made his way to the galley to find Tiny waiting basking in the early morning light. As they limbered up he hesitantly asked him. "Tiny, you've been around some, haven't you? I mean girls and stuff." Tiny nodded trying not to smile. Leonard was already beginning to be something of a legend with the crew. Two witches, and their Captain. That the boy could walk was a wonder. "Well." Said Leonard, even more hesitantly. "How do one do it?" Tiny stared, do it? Nah, he must mean? "Do what?" he asked. "Well, keep the peace? I mean I don't mind it but sometimes I feel as if I have no life, except for them?" he added. Tiny nodded again. He had at times felt the same. "Well, you have to be yourself boy, and tell them when you've had enough. It's as simple as that. And don't lie to them, it will only make life miserable." Leonard nodded. "yeah, I can see what you mean but..." Tiny thought he knew what the boy meant. It had to be like being to close to the fire, with those girls. They were both older and more experienced than Leonard. They could also do stuff he never would be able too. "Look." He said. "It's not as much what you do, it's more how you do it. Just be yourself and tell them. No more talk, let's practice." After the practice Tiny put him to work scrubbing the deck. "And when you're finished there're potatoes to peel." That was his parting words. Leonard who now felt as if his muscles was on fire wondered what he had gotten himself in this time. But he felt better for it anyway, he decided as he scrubbed that damn deck as good as he could, as Tiny said, you had to do the best you could with what you had. And let the rest sort it out for itself. The girls who surreptitiously had watched him was amazed over his stamina. "Well." Said Loise a little sourly. "No migraine this morning." Magma laughed. "And no fun tonight I think, he will sleep like a log, dead to us all." Leoine nodded. "All the better for him. I have a feeling he started to feel slightly useless here." The other two reflected about her words some time and then Magma said reluctantly. "But I liked him as he was?"

Loise seemed to agree with Leoine though. "Sister, she's right. We can't be all there is for him. That he loves us I don't doubt, but he needs to grow on his own too." Thinking of it Magma found that they was right, she could understand how he might feel slightly overwhelmed by it all. "Yes, you're so right sisters." She said. "I just hope that he will find some time for us." And there she smiled. They all smiled now. Leonard's 'migraines' might come and go but they all knew how to awaken his interest. There was no chance that the boy would get it too easy, not with them around. This ocean seems endless thought Leonard as he did his morning practice. There were just water all around him. Except for some dolphins and a few other fish there were no life to be seen. They had fled for two days before turning back to their original course and Leoine wasn't happy. "A nuisance." She had muttered. "We'll have to make up time somehow." They didn't want to use any magic here, not on this sea but she was still hoping for better winds. Unfortunately thae winds seemed to have died out. "Where's the tradewinds?" asked Leoine hopelessly. "There is always tradewinds out here?" But there were none. There had been no wind for over three weeks now, and the sun was gazing hard. Leonard felt as if nothing was happening. He was training and training and Tiny had introduced grappling tricks with the staff too. It was a lot more difficult than what Leonard had expected. "A staff is good for most techniques." Tiny had explained. "You have a greater versatility with the staff than with the sword, but some of the moves are very similar. So training like you do you will learn the sword too ultimately. Not in the usual way, but after finding the edge and balance you will quickly find yourself a swordsman too. We will introduce swords later." He tried very hard to learn now, and as his strength grew he gave it more and more time. But he still felt very clumsy as soon as it came to one against one. But he had bitten the bullet and kept on and he hoped that Tiny wouldn't give up on him.

Some of the others had been watching him and one of the guys, Lenard, had taken him aside to tell him that he thought he needed to work on his footwork. So now he had two teachers, one with the staff and another with foot and fist techniques. But he had to admit that he loved it, his body felt good and his temper were steadily becoming better. And the girls had been very supportive and appreciative when he had explained what he learned. Especially Magma seemed interested, she had even gone to watch him train and seemed quite impressed with him. But she was only a girl of course, so what she might be impressed by others lauged at. At least that was how he felt as he practised, four hours a day, every morning and evening. He had become quite adept on handling the ship though. The first time he had gone up to the lookout he had felt as if he was going to fall at any time, but now he didn't think about it any more, and as Tiny had introduced him to the work of a seaman he had started to feel more and more satisfied with his life. It was seldom he thought of his former life before Magma, and when he did it was with no great regret. He rotated the staff behind his back coming up in a low sweep aimed at Tiny's kneecap. Tiny moved away from it letting his own staff lightly touch his and following it just add that little extra rotation to it that it went straight up in the air. "I'll never learn." Complained Leonard. "You've done that so many time now but I miss it every time." "It will come." Smiled Tiny. Magma who was watching them said. "I thought you did good Leonard, it's not easy to go up against one as good as Tiny." "Girls." Muttered Leonard under his breath, but then he went over and gave her a hug. As he was doing it he felt something descending on him, quite sharply. It was Tiny's staff. "Never turn your back on a opponent." Leonard nodded sheepishly as he went back to the practice. At last they got some more wind, it was only a breeze but they were moving. Leoine seemed a little more relaxed as she walked the bridge, back and forth, and Loise who had taken to studying the charts and correcting them where she found them wrong also seemed cheered.

And Leonard had at last learnt to defend himself against that technique, it was quite easy actually, you just relaxed your wrists and let him move your staff to then take over the movement to finish it. Quite easy when you found it out, and it was his own. Nobody had taught him it, it had just been there one day. Magma had seemed especially proud as she saw it too, he was surprised that she could understand the accomplishment but nevertheless pleased with her recognizing his new skills. "You will become good." She told him afterwards. "You think so?" he had asked. "Yes, I know you will." And Leoine had let him up on the bridge to take turns too, and Loise had started to tech him to read the charts. And they all seemed to enjoy doing it too. Tiny had told him that if he kept on like this there were some weak hope that he someday even might start to teach him how to become a seaman. With a very straight and serious face, Leonard who first had felt rather insulted realized after a while that it was Tiny's way of telling him that he did good. So all in all, he had the time of his life. And as far as he was concerned this journey could keep on for ever. "I'm siinging in the rain." He sung as he moved with his staff, recently he had started to feel what tiny was talking about, it was as if his staff was the one leading and he just had to follow it. Strange but it was working and when getting into it was almost as if he was coming into some trance. And Lenard had seemed happy with his progress too, even though it was hard to keep the techniques apart. He was comparing the Judo falls he had done as a kid to what Lenard had shown him, his fallswas more like what he had seen at the circus than at any kung fu movie or judo when the lookout called out. "Ship to windward." After some hours it was confirmed to be 'the dancing furies' coming at them. That night they connected the ships to each other and had themselves a 'welcoming party' of sorts. It seemed they both had been waiting for wind but without spotting each other. But to find each other like this was a good sign declared Anwar who then became quite serious as he heard about their meet with the Kraken. "So he was up at the surface, not a good sign Leoine, I don't like that. It's only when the weather is very calm they come up. Let's hope it the wind will come again."

But the wind had died again, once more they were drifting, "Strange weather indeed." Muttered Anwar. "Yes. But it is the sea of Yonder." Loise pointed out. "So it is." He muttered. As they were tied together they even had a competition allowing the sailors to show of their skills. The staff competition had been the best thought Leonard. For the first time he had seen men using their skill for real and he had been very impressed with Tiny who had been the overall winner of the grappling and staff competition. He had created a 'certificate of winning' from a parchment that he had embezzled from Leoine's stash and gotten it signed by all that he could persuade. So the next day he straight-facedly had presented Tiny with "Tiny Kook. Sole champion of the grappling staff on the sea of Yonder". "Sorry for the slight miss-spelling, I told them that it begun with a ''C'. But you know, women, huh?" Then he had left as fast as he could, hiding behind the galley before starting to howl with laughter. He guessed he had some revenge coming to him, if not from Tiny then from the ladies, but it was worth it he thought, just to see his face as he read it. As they had let go of 'the dancing furies' he had been quite tired. There had been some mijod too, not that much, but enough for him getting a buzz. The next week found them much the same, with them drifting and no wind in sight. Leonard who had finally starting to get the hang on taking his bearings, with the sextant almost becoming familiar to him, was doing just that when he felt the sudden breeze coming. The wind filled slowly the sails and Leoine came up on the bridge smiling. "At last." She said. "So what's our position sailor?" Leonard went over to the chart and measured it out. "Here ... I think?" He added. She took the sextant and checked it over, then she shook her head and just as he decided he had messed up she smiled. "On the spot sailor." Yess, thought Leonard. I'm on my way. "Of course I am." He told her, trying to act as he had known it from the start. He came up behind her and gave her a kiss. "But it's all thanks to my teacher." He whispered, breathing on the slightly wet spot he had left on her nape.

He felt Leoine shiver and smiled knowingly. There was nothing turning her on more than him doing this as he had found out, she loved it. "Stop it." she said, not sounding angry though. "I'm relieving you as from now, Leonard, go get you something to eat." As Leonard was leaving the bridge she called after him. "Do you know why Tiny was so upset? He came to Loise complaining about some Diploma?" Oh shit, thought Leonard. "Really?" Leoine looked at him suspiciously. "So you don't know then?" she asked. "I'll ask him." He promised as he sneaked away as fast as he could. I'm not that hungry afterall, he thought contemplating if it wouldn't be better to go and get some sleep, but? Better get it over with. When he came to the galley he saw his diploma, now hung in a nice frame beside the cupboard. "You know." Said Tiny. "I went to thank them for it but no one seemed to know what I was talking about? Can you imagine?" He studied Leonard thoughtfully as he abruptly changed the subject. "I reckon we're ready for some real sparring soon." He gave Leonard a friendly smile. "That is? If you're up for it son?" He added in a offhanded sort of way, Leonard smiled weakly back as he got his plate. Pay-time he thought. "Sure." He said. "I sort of miss my bruises, you know, now that they're gone." Tiny smiled even wider. "That's the right spirit, me lad." He told him encouragingly as Leonard left. "That's the spirit. It will be soo fun" I shouldn't, really, shouldn't have done that thought Leonard as he went down to the stateroom but it was a little late to regret it. Ah well, tomorrow was tomorrow and today was today he thought as he opened the door, he found the room blessedly empty and so was left to enjoy his meal in splendid solitude.

Tiny decided to start to teach him the rudiments of cooking the next day, as he found out from Leonard how he barely managed to cook water without burning it. "You know." He told him. "The ladies all like a man that can cook. So, see this as a treat from me to you." pointing to the mass of potatoes in a corner. "And after that, I will teach you how to warm water properly." Leonard swore to himself as he stood there peeling potatoes, he should have kept his mouth shot, he thought. As if it wasn't enough with the bruises he had gotten in the morning practice. "You know, why don't you let me correct that miss-spelling for you." He asked in a cheerful voice. Tiny looked at him surprised. "What? That little thing? No, that's quite okay, me lad. Afterall, it's not as if it was made on purpose, right?" "Right." Said Leonard bleakly, suddenly seeing week after week of bruises marching on him with mountains of potatoes waiting at the horizon. But the bruising and cooking let up the next day, Tiny seemed to feel as if the payback delivered the day before was sufficient, and Leonard agreed wholeheartedly with that. The trade-wind was steadily pushing them forward now and everyone seemed more relaxed. Last week Leoine had told them that they could start to expect to see land any time now. "Even if Maskar is moving it's not gone. Keep your eyes open." So it had became a habit for Leonard to climb up as high as he could too see if he would spot it. There was also a little contest involved. Leoine had promised that the first one spotting Maskar would get a royal dinner especially made by herself with all the stuffing's one ever could wish for and the next day off. Not that Leonard wanted any day off, but he had a plan. Climbing up the mast he balanced at the top smiling down at the look-out that was watching him clearly frustrated. "Ohoy mate, and three bottles of rum." He sang, not expecting any response from the irritated man at the other mast.

From Leoine he had learnt that her ship 'blazing barrels' was a clipper ship, well not really but near enough, with three masts and built for swiftness. As he looked around he suddenly saw what looked as a low-hanging cloud at the horizon. Studying it he realized that it was unmoving. "Land." He hollered. "Land ahoy." Seeing the guy almost wanting to climb out of his lookout in a attempt to come to 'reason' with him he went down as fast as he could. He ran to the bridge where Magma stared at him, not looking as pleased as one might have expected. "Leonard, this reward was meant for the crew, not you." She quietly admonished him. "Yeah, I know." He answered unrepentant, then he suddenly smiled. "Give it to Tiny." He said. Leoine started to smile as she realized his motive. "So he's still sore about his diploma?" she asked. "Nah. I don't think so." Answered Leonard sheepishly as he found his scheme revealed. "But, you know? He won the competition, didn't he. And I don't think the crew will mind if he's the one?" Leoine was smiling as she called the crew up. "This young man have stolen your reward." And there she pointed at Leonard. Some of the crew muttered and Tiny seemed a little disappointed. "But it's my fault after all. I never said that it was only the crew that was the contestants here. But," She lifter her hand stilling their protests. "Recognizing his wrongdoings the young man have repented and asked if it would be alright with you if Tiny became your representative instead of him. After all, as he so rightly pointed out, he was the one keeping our ships honor unblemished at the competition. So? Is it okay with you?" the crew shuffled around a little looking at each other but then more and more started to smile. Hoisting up Tiny on their shoulders they brought him to Leoine. "Here's your lamb, ready for the pot." The sailor leading them said. "But who will cook when he's free?" another asked. Now Tiny pointed at Leonard "Let that be his reward, it will teach him not to interfere with the ship." He said and now everybody started to laugh as they watched Leonard's crestfallen face. It was painfully obvious that he hadn't planned for that.

The next day found Leonard at the galley, desperately doing his best to make something edible for the crew, the kitchen boy was captivated watching him in his efforts. "The bread Sir, shouldn't we get it out of the oven?" he asked mildly as he saw the smoke starting to build in there. "Shiit." Moaned Leonard as he tried to open the oven forgetting how hot it would be. His jumping around were interrupted by the arrival of Loise and Magma. "Smells good, doesn't it?" the kitchen boy asked them. "We're trying for a new type of bread here." He explained deadpanned. The girls looked at him and then at Leonard. Resolutely placing him beside the potatoes they gave him a knife and told him. "You better keep to this Leonard, we can't have the crew poisoned." With them helping the day went much more smoothly for Leonard, the only blemish being the kitchen boys ghoulish gurgles as he imitated what would have happened if they had left Leonard to do the cooking. That several crew-members passed by hearing it didn't help lift his humor any. But thinking of it he had to admit to that his punishment was bearable, he had both Magma and Loise there helping him, and as Leoine was relieved she came by chatting him up. "At least nobody's sore at you." She said quietly. "It could have been a lot worse Leonard. You're no crewmember, you came on as a passenger remember? But I think the crew is warming up to your ways, and this helps too." And there she smiled coolly, pointing at the mountain of peeled potatoes and said loudly. "We need to get them done, otherwise they will become inedible, so don't you even think of stop peeling them, cook." Then she parted with them. Leonard swore softly to himself but smiled all the same. She was right of course, those potatoes were singing on their last verse. At last the day was over.

As he came down the stairs he turned to the girls. "Thanks ladies, without you I think it would have been a real disaster." They smiled back and nodded graciously. "How did it go with Tiny?" he asked curious. Leoine smiled. "He had the day of his life." She admitted. "With his captain as his personal wallet. Don't you worry about him, Leonard." As they went to bed he tried to remember his life before and all those jobs he had held, as computer technician, brick layer, handy man and all. Comparing it to his peeling potatoes he realized that the potatoes won, easily so. This was interesting, well maybe not the potatoes but, this life felt like worth living somehow. He had heard that expression 'quality-time' used before not really getting it, but thinking of it he realized that he suddenly understood it. His life, the ship and the crew, but most of all, his girls. Not money, or rushing to a job he couldn't wait to be gone from. Just to be doing something that made him smile even if it just was peeling potatoes. "Remind me to tell you more often how I love you girls." He said as he snuggled down between them getting some enthusiastic kisses in response. The next morning they anchored up in a small bay imbedded in steep clifs and with a rolling green pasture opening up in front of them. "It looks nice, doesn't it Leonard?" Magma asked as they stood there together, his arm protectively over her shoulder sheltering her from the cold morning wind. "Yeah, it does." He agreed. "So, when are we going?" Magma smiled as she heard his impatience, there had been a time when she too had felt that way, as if every new day truly was new. Born for that first time bearing adventure and excitement. Nowadays she was more seasoned, and a lot more tired too she admitted to herself. Not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm she pointed to Loise and Leoine who stood discussing with Captain Anwar and his Anna. "Ask them." She said. "I'm only a passenger here."

Leonard studied her for a moment, watching how the soft morning light reflected from the sea caressed her face, he suddenly felt as if this moment was one he always would remember. "Sure, and I'm a ships cat. Seriously Magma, where is this place?" She noticed his intense gaze and couldn't stop herself from redden, just like some teenager in love she admonished herself but then she smiled. She couldn't remember when she ever had felt this way before and so admitting it to herself she buried her head in his chest. "It's cold." She complained happily. He opened his coat and swept it around her. "Better?" he asked. She sighed happily. "It will be." She answered. Loise who had observed their behavior smiled knowingly to herself. I bet this is Magmas first time, she thought to herself. The first fallen were weaned of love for all and throughout the times, so when it happened against all odds, they were totally unprepared. She remembered herself when she first had learnt to love, at first she couldn't even admit it to herself. We just have to take real good care of that boy, she thought dreamily as she turned back to the discussion. He's good for us all. Captain Anwar looked at her questioningly, she realized that she had missed his question. "Sorry Captain, could you repeat it?" Anna smiled at her. "A lovely sight, ain't it?" nodding to Magma and Leonard, then she looked at Anwar. "You know, why don't we join them?" The captain reddened slightly before he realized that she suggested that they should go over to them. "Why not." He said. "They will come too dear." As they went over he looked at Loise. "I was asking if you had any more knowledge where that portal might be?" Loise nodded. "Surprisingly enough I think I have Captain, I had a friend sailing here a long time ago. He came from Maskar, and used to tell me tales of it. amongst them his tale of 'the portal of the stones'.

Anna looked at her thoughtfully but said nothing. Loise continued. "I think it was at a place called Irmal and if that is it, it was inward, near the middle of the land. So I guess it will be the same wherever we anchor up Captain, if that was what you were thinking of?" Anwar nodded. "Correct lady, that was indeed what I was thinking of. This bay is well protected from the storms, but I can't help wonder if we shouldn't' seek a bigger settlement?" nodding to the small village resting on a hill. Loise smiled. "That will be your and Leoine's prerogative to decide Captain." She answered gracefully. "Perhaps we should introduce ourselves to them first though, and see how they are?" They had reached Leonard and Magma as they were talking and now Leonard enthusiastically jumped into the discussion. "Yes, what a good idea Loise. What do you say Captain?" Anwar studied the pup for a little while, reminded of how he himself had been once, in a more innocent time. "Well son, why don't we do that." He said at last nodding. "At last we may find some beer, and directions." So they went in the longboat, all of them together with the cook and a few selected crewmen and women. They were meet at the little harbor holding the villages fishingboats by a small delegation studying them nervously. As Leonard saw them he realized that the flags they were displaying might had something to do with that too. The nearest man seemsed to ease up some as he noticed their absence of weapons as well as the blend of people. "Welcome to Trouda honored guests." He bowed and those behind followed his example. "We hope you will enjoy your stay." Captain Anwar bowed back, no mean deal as he was standing in a longboat. "We thank you for your welcome Sir. We're not sure how long we might be staying though. Would it be that you have a taphouse where we could discuss it more pleasantly? The man seemed to relax. "Well sir, our village may be small, but we do have a tavern of sorts. If you just will follow me I'll show you to it." To Leonard's surprise everybody seemed to speak English. He had thought about it before too but somehow he had just taken it for granted on the boat. But this was different continent, on another world for Gods sake? "Magma?" he whispered. "Why do everybody speak the same language here?" She looked at him for a moment before she started to smile. "They don't dear. Think of it as India. Just as they use English, so do the folks here. But it's not what you think, I made a small hex as you were ah, sleeping that first night. Giving you the ability to understand, and don't ask me how dear, if you're not prepared to become a mage yourself?" "How?" asked Leonard. "Mage? Me! Come-on Magma."

He started to laugh as he climbed up the worn wooden ladder. The towns folk hearing him laugh seemed strangely reassured by his carefree laughter and the man acting as their spokesman smiled at him. "Allow me to introduce myself." He said as he bowed again. "I'm the nearest we have to a mayor in our community. Termylion Avstanger at your service, but please, call me Term." "I'm Leonard, and my lady you can call is Magma." Leonard answered bowing back. "Let's take the introductions where I can have a decent fill." Said Anwar and then started walk of the pier at a briskly pace, making the others hurry to catch up with him. Well inside the little tavern Leonard looked around interested. It wasn't what he had expected, with colored glass bowls, nets and stuff. Instead it reminded him of some really old country pub, with sawdust over a wooden floor and a big bar, polished by countless beverages being served upon it over the years. The Mayor showed them to a table near the fireside. He turned to the barmaid and started to order for them all, asking the ladies of their choice first. As everyone at last had been introduced and sat there enjoying the small fire burning he in the fireplace he turned to Anwar. "If you don't mind Sir, what brings you here? This is no place that gets visited by ships as large as yours?" Anwar took a deep draught on his beer. "Ahh, A good beer and a friendly welcome. Term, thanks for that. As for answering your question. It's no secret Sir, we are on a quest of sorts looking for stones of a very special property. They are said to bring healing even in such cases where nothing else can, Ever heard of such? The mayor seemed to be in thought for a while. "Well, yes I've heard of them. But they aren't here Anwar. To reach them you will have to go the 'portal of the stones' which is somewhere inland. Maybe our hedgewitch can help you with that? But that's quite a journey Sir, and where will you leave your ships?" Anwar nodded slowly as he studied the mayor, Anna smiled. "Well Sir, we were hoping you could give us some good advice there." The mayor seemed to grow a little as he thought it over. "Hrrm, well, there is Tarmi town of course. That is sixteen marches away, It's bigger than here and have a good harbor. It depend on what you need of course? Our bay is also quite protected, but we have little to offer in form of wharfages or dry docks. It depends?" Anna smiled again. "If we said that we're satisfied to be at anchor in the bay, would it be possible that you had some beds free for our crews free time and food perhaps?

The Mayor looked thoughtful. "how many?" he asked. Anwar answered. "Around a hundred, a hundred and fifty, men and women, willing and able to help too if that would be needed. We have all kinds of trades amongst us, from shoe makers to smith's, and none afraid of work. But not all at once of course, maybe forty at a time?" The mayor slowly started to smile. "We would much appreciate some help with strengthening our bulwark Sir. And some more commerce wouldn't hurt either I have to admit. But we're a peaceful kind of place here. How can we trust your sailors to be so?" Anwar nodded at that and Magma leapt into the discussion. "Well Sir, we will leave officers naturally, commanding the crews, also we would like to offer some reimbursement for our loan of your facilities." Now Leonard could see the mayor becoming truly interested. "A harbor fee? Not a bad idea if I may say so. that will go a long way to calm the citizens. Yes, I believe we can help you. But I will have to call a meeting first to see what folks will say, and that will take some days to arrange." He bowed from his sitting position again. "If you excuse me Sir, Ladies, I must leave to set up a meeting, I will try to send for the hedgewitch too, I can't promise that she will be here immediately though, she has her own work to see too." "Good enough for us Sir. We will stay here for the night if that's possible, and we thank you for your cooperation." Anwar said smiling. "And a good beer you have too." Leonard nodded at that, it was very good with a thick froth to it. "Our sailors will be happy here Sir. And they will be peaceable, I promise you that." Was Awnars parting words to the mayor before he left them with the beer and fire. "It's good to be on dry land again." Said Anna. "I always feel as if it was moving at first." Leonard nodded, he had noticed the same, as if the land wasn't still. "It's the body that's gotten used to the waves. It still wants to counter them even though there are none." Said Anwar. "Well, it seems we have found us a haven of sorts. Is that man readying for a song?" They looked to the bar, at the side of it the floor had a little elevation and there stood a man with what to Leonard looked as a oddly shaped guitar. As the man started to play he saw that it had six strings, just as a guitar but the sound was lighter and different somehow.

As the evening rolled on the barmaid helped them arrange some rooms for the night and the business became livelier as the townsfolk dropped in for a beer and get themselves a look on their visitors. The news seemed to have spread thought Leonard as he watched them giving him the odd look. After some whispered conversation Magma turned to Leonard. "Leonard, didn't you tell us that you played the guitar?" "Badly." Answered Leonard suspiciously. "So what can you play?" asked Magma patiently. Leonard thought. "I like Beatles." He admitted almost shamefully. "I know they could be my grandparents and all, but I like their songs. And they work acoustically." "Do you know 'come together'?" asked Loise. He just stared at her. She was a witch for goodness sake, they weren't supposed to be Beatles fans. "Yeah, maybe." He admitted doubtfully. "But." He thought of something. "How about 'Hotel California'? The Eagles, you know that one?" "I love it." she smiled. Magma went over to the troubadour who was easing his throat with a beer and asked him something pointing to Leonard. The man smiled at her and nodded and she came back with him. "So the Lady says you can play?" the man said. "I'm not sure." answered Leonard as he studied the mans instrument. "Would you mind me trying?" The man laughed. "Well, as long as you buy me a beer then." "Done." Said Magma as the barmaid arrived with a big frothy beer and some meat and bread to it. Leonard tried it and discovered quickly that it was tuned differently from what he was used too. "Would you mind if I tune it as I'm used." He asked politely. The man just waved him as he was filling up with food and beer. After tuning it as he was used to Leonard tried some chords. The sound was really different but still recognizable as he started to play.

Loise started to sing to it, she had a lovely velvety voice, and soon both was lost in the music 'On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair... ' When they finished Leonard found people standing all around them listening, and the troubadour had forgotten his food totally. Well, that seems a hit then thought Leonard as he saw them listening. He bowed and gave the guitar back to the man. "It's different from what I'm used too sir, but nice. Hope you can tune it back." He smiled at him as he took a swallow of the beer. The man tried the guitar and listened to the way it was tuned. "A unusual sound." He commented. "But quite pleasant, perhaps you can show me the song later, and the words of course." He bowed to Loise. Leonard nodded as he tried the sandwish someone had bought for him. Loise had gotten one too he saw. "You sing beautifully Loise." He told her. She seemed pleased. "Thank you Leonard, I've always enjoyed singing but it's good to hear you. And you played quite well too." Leonard nodded, he was surprised himself at how easy it had been. "Yeah, it's a good guitar." He said. He turned to the guy who had started on his food again. "Do they sell them here?" The man shook his head. "Don't think so, you're Leonard right? I'm Stengus." He took a swig at the beer again. "Thirsty work singing." He remarked. "But it so happens my friend that I have one for sale, if you're interested?" Leonard nodded enthusiastically. Stengus smiled and went to get it, it was a little bigger than the one Leonard had tried before and the sound was more metallic, almost like blues, at least that was how it sounded to Leonard and who can say that he was wrong? "How much?" Leonard tried to sound uninterested "Well friend, they don't come cheap, you teach me that song and we'll see."

Leoine smiled hearing it, oh yes, Stengus knew that Leonard wanted it bad. She decided quickly to make the deal herself. "Look Leonard, you've been to good help to us, the crew I mean, it's not more than right that I handle this. Look at it as a mall return of your work with us." Leonard cheered up hearing her. He had just realized that his US dollars might not be the easiest changeable value here. "Thanks Leoine." He said as he caressed it, tuning it to his taste. Stengus seemed pleased too, if it was that he thought her an easier prey that Leonard or if it just was the opportunity of talking with Leoine Leonard couldn't say, and he didn't really care either. The guitar was the last thing he had sold before running out of money and he had regretted that many times since that. He tried to play a blue and really found the sound great, he had kept his slide when he sold it and feeling in his inner pocket he found it waiting for him. It was just a round piece of hard glass but it sounded great. He had always liked the sound of it, and it became almost like magic with this guitar. "What do you call them?" he asked as he laid it down. Stengus smiled "My beloved." He said but started to laugh destroying his fib. "No we call them almost the same as you do, a guitra." Leonard laughed with him. "A guitra? Sounds cool." As the night came the conversation grew with a lot more people becoming involved in the singing and playing, there was that guy for example, having a pair of strange drums accompanying them. "What is that?" he asked pointing to a small drum he had, mounted on a stick with a thin crocked piece of wood used to beat on it. "It's a lavernt and the skin frame is from the blue-rattler, a very poisonous snake creating a very special sound." They were as much musician's as he ever would be, he decided as they jammed. It became a very late night before Leonard went to bed, and he felt as if he had made some new friends too. The girls were already sleeping as he undressed and went to bed with Magma. Leoine and Loise shared the other bed, they had a small fireplace that glowed and the room had a very pleasent homey feeling to it. The next morning he woke early filled with energy.

The girls were still snoozing so he went down to the pub alone, but taking his guitra with him. They had changed the sawdust and it smelled real nice, at the bar he found bread, cheese, meat and milk and some sort of tea. He took a little of everything with him to a corner table where he enjoyed his meal in silence. There were some strangers doing the same he saw, spread all over the place, all concentrated on their meals. As he finished he started to play quietly just trying it out. "It's got a nice sound." Said someone. Looking up he saw a young girl, no more than eleven or thirteen he thought, standing beside him. Looking closer though he realized that she had to be older, but it was hard to tell. She looked as human as he except her ears, they were slightly pointed giving her an elfish appearance, as something belonging to a fairy tale. He smiled back. "Yeah, I like it more the more I play it." he admitted. "I'm Leonard and you?" she sat down opposite him. "Alene, I'm the healer and hedgewitch here. The mayor told me that you wished to speak with me?" Leonard looked at her a little surprised and couldn't stop himself from asking. "Aren't you a little to young for that?" "Oh yes." She said. "Sometimes I feel as if I just arrived here, but I'm what they could get." She smiled again. "It's refreshing to hear it all the same, and yourself? You seems both hale and wise in years Sir?" Leonard nodded satisfied, she was right he thought. To someone as young as her he must seem a man of experience. The journey had put his marks on him too, looking in the mirror he almost didn't recognize himself. "Well child." He said in a deprecatory sort of way. "Not as old as you thought I'm sure, twenty-nine years. But the wear have been harder than normal recently." And here he nodded as if seriously contemplating his adventures surreptitiously studying the effect he had on the young girl. "The Kraken was hard on us all." He said reflectively. "A kraken Sir, and you survived it?" "Well." he said self-depreciatory. "It wasn't all my doing, though I'm not sure how it would have gone without me."

He smiled pleased as he saw her wide-eyed interest. "It's so seldom we meet sailors of your caliber Sir. You must tell me all." She begged him sounding well impressed with him. So he told her about it, if it happened that he embellished a little on the story, well, it was all for her enjoyment, afterall, art is all in the eyes of the beholder, right? As he lost himself in his crafting of his tale he totally missed the others coming down. As he finished he looked up to discover them standing silent around him, looking almost as impressed as Alene. He found himself quickly though. "Ah well, without the ladies though, I'm not sure I would have survived, it was their courage that helped me find the solution." They smiled sweetly at him as they studied Alene. Leoine asked. "Haven't we meet before?" Alene studied her back and then she suddenly nodded as if reminding something. "Yes." She said. "But such a long time ago, at the 'wheel of fortune'. You were studying with the healers there weren't you." She smiled sunnily at her. Leoine sat down beside her. "Sister, what are you doing here? Wasn't you a teacher?" Alene nodded. "At times the wanderlust takes me away Sister, and as it left me here I've been here since six years passed. I found I liked the village and the folks. And you?" As Leonard listened he started to realise that it was with her as with his girls. A lot older than what she looked. Thinking about his tales embroideries, even if ever so fitting to his tale he now found himself regretting some of them. The thing about having the Krakens eyeball mounted over his bed might have been a little much he realized, and one-handedly saving the crew? So okay, maybe he had allowed himself to get a little lost there, but it was a good tale. And if she had been honest with him from the beginning he wouldn... "You've seem to have had some unusual adventures." She said. "Tell me Leonard, isn't it a bit uncomfortable sleeping under that eye? As big as it is, four meters was it?" He looked at the girls for help but found that they all suddenly seemed preoccupied with other things. "Well." He said bravely. "Yes, you're right. That's why I throw it overboard. I tried to give it to the cook but it was to big for his pot."

She started to laugh and so did the others too. "Okay, okay, maybe I went slightly overboard with it." he admitted grudgingly. "But you seemed so impressed, I didn't have the heart to disappoint you." She nodded at that. "well, I was impressed. Such a tall seafaring tale from such a young man? Who wouldn't? Graybeard." Shit she's making me go all red, realizing it didn't help either, it only became worse. Desperately he started to tinker with his guitra as he tried to cool off. At last she seemed to take pity to him laying her dainty her hand on his. "But I did like it Leonard, perhaps I will tell it to some sick child, and they will be all ears, wanting to know what happened next." He relaxed as he heard her, smiling gratefully. "You know, it was just a tale, but we did meet a Kraken." He said.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic / Fiction /