Sisters of the Mists
Chapter 7

Copyright© 2007 by Darkniciad

Fantasy Sex Story: Chapter 7 - The threat of war looms on the horizon. Terrible prophecies of demonic intrusion in the world appear to be coming true. Few know more about the agents of evil than Danica and her friends. Do they have the power to use that knowledge to stop the growing darkness? The continuation of "Danica". I will add codes as the story progresses.

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Fa/Fa   Mult   Consensual   Magic   Mind Control   NonConsensual   Rape   Slavery   Lesbian   BiSexual   Heterosexual   Fiction   High Fantasy   BDSM   Rough   Sadistic   Group Sex   Swinging   Anal Sex   Cream Pie   Exhibitionism   Masturbation   Oral Sex   Petting   Sex Toys   Squirting   Voyeurism   Slow  

"Well done," Edna congratulated her victorious friends.

Ashley held up her red potion vial, letting out a sigh. "Rexxus wasn't there."

"Pshaw," Edna scoffed. "Soon enough, my dear. That one surely stands high on the side of darkness. You'll be drawn together, and the hellspawn will pay for the misery it has caused."

Danica glanced over at the hulking Iron Golem standing next to Marlena and smiled. "Unless you need some furniture moved around, I think you can send it back now, Marlena."

The redheaded illusionist reached out and caressed the Golem's arm. "I just can't believe it. I don't feel the slightest strain to maintain it. It's still an illusion, or rather a phantasm, but it's so real — so powerful." She sighed, "Oh well," and waved her hand at the golem.

The magical creation faded into translucence, then transparency, before finally vanishing from view.

"Well, three of us have used our gifts now. I think I'm going to use mine first thing in the morning. There are a lot of people I'd like to hide from the prying eyes of Zoraster's cronies," Danica revealed.

"And Meckataur's," Ashley added. "The Devil will not take the destruction of three greater demons and disruption of his schemes lightly."

"Every time I consider it, I think they're one and the same," Danica mused. "They may both be working for their own goals, but I believe the demon was part of Zoraster's plan. I just hope they double-cross and destroy each other."

"Not likely," Edna advised.

"I know," Danica admitted. "Do you understand your gift, Ashley?"

The witch shook her head. "I suppose I'll discover it in time. I have the feeling it's a passive power — something that will just happen."

A glob of demon goo dripped from Danica's arm and fell to the floor with a squishy plop. She wrinkled her nose in disgust and declared, "Bath time." When she yawned immediately afterward, she added, "Then bedtime."

Nods and murmurs of agreement from everyone quickly followed that statement.

The sound of a loud chime roused Devan from a fitful sleep. With a groan, she sleepily pulled a pillow over her head. The chime sounded again, the tone finally registering on her sleep-fogged mind.

Sitting up quickly, she tried not to jostle her partner in the bed. Only after she stood up did she remember that she'd went to bed alone. Once a rare occurrence, Devan now took her rest without a romp between the sheets far more often than not.

Running her fingers through her disheveled red hair and smoothing out her chemise, Devan walked toward the mirror, which chimed again as she approached. "I'm coming. I'm coming," she grumbled and whipped off the silken cover.

Devan scowled at her frightful reflection for a moment, and then shook her head with a sigh. Touching a jewel at the base of the mirror frame, the magic of the device sprang to life. Her reflection faded, the image replaced by the equally disheveled face of Alicia, Queen of Egoria. "What's wrong, 'Licia?"

"A demon just appeared in the castle and attacked the servants. Christi contacted me, and the same thing happened at Blackhawk."

"Is everyone alright?" Devan asked.

Alicia brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes and yawned. "Yes, the clerics banished the demon and then healed the poor girl it hurt. Ashtar destroyed the one in Blackhawk. The demon there didn't fare so well. I really wonder if we shouldn't train all our servants to fight like Christi and Cerebus do."

"It would never work here. Most of Blackhawk's servants had some sort of fighting skills to begin with. Yours are all pampered city people. I'll contact Darkni and do a little scrying to see if I can find out what's going on." Concentrating for a moment, Devan put together a few disjointed facts in her mind. "It may just be because of the night. There are some celestial events going on that can power demon magic."

"Nothing happened in your tower?" Alicia asked.

Devan shook her head in the negative. "I was sound asleep. I doubt a demon could get in here, and one certainly couldn't sneak in without me knowing. Go back to bed, Alicia. Everything is under control." Raising her voice a little, Devan added, "You too, Thakkor. I know you're back there. You have a Kingdom to run. Let those of us who understand magic handle this."

Devan smiled when she heard a chuckle from the King, confirming his presence just out of view of the mirror's magic. "I'll rouse some of the students from their beds to spread out through the city, and I'll ask Darkni to put some wizards on the streets in the rest of the country. You two get some rest, so you can keep your heads together for proclamations and such in the morning."

Alicia responded, "If you need anything, just let me know."

"I will," Devan said, and then dismissed the magic of the mirror. With a spoken word and a gesture, she sounded the alarm within her tower and the magic school in the city. Quicky weaving an illusion to disguise her frumpy appearance, Devan activated the magic of the mirror again.

"Spread out through the city, and be on the lookout for demons. One has attacked here in the castle, and in Blackhawk Hall. Report anything you find to the tower or the castle." Devan deactivated the mirror again, her message now waiting for the rousing wizards to view as soon as they reached their mirrors.

A transparent image of Devan's mentor appeared within the tower. The image of Darkniciad nodded and said, "I see you have been alerted. I am sending wizards now to gather information."

A knock on the door caused Devan to turn her head in that direction. With a wave of her hand, she opened the portal, already knowing who stood on the other side thanks to her magic. Turning back to her mentor, she said, "I'm doing the same. We'll put together everything in the morning. If I'm remembering the signs right, this will probably be going on all night."

Darkni's image nodded and winked out of existence. Devan turned toward her visitor and asked, "Did you find out something, White Stag?"

The red-skinned wizard looked uncomfortable within the stone walls of the tower, as he always did. Wizard magic was a rarity amongst the nomadic people of the plains, and few who possessed it made the decision to further their studies amongst the city dwellers. "I sense a great disturbance in the natural order. I feel my people are in danger."

"There's a lot of ground to cover out there on the plains, White Stag. Do you think demons are attacking the plainsmen?"

"This is stronger. I believe my tribe is under attack. I must aid them," White Stag declared anxiously.

"I know you well enough to trust your senses. Give me a moment to put on some clothes and I'll teleport you there."

White Stag glanced at Devan in confusion for a moment, bringing a smile to her lips. She snapped her fingers, dismissing her illusion to reveal her disheveled hair and light chemise. White Stag nodded in understanding, pointedly looking away from Devan's barely clad body to stare over her shoulder.

Devan rolled her eyes slightly at his modest action, turning toward her closet to fetch a robe. One of the few students whom she'd yet to bring to her bed, White Stag always perplexed her. She knew that he found her attractive, but he never reacted to any of her rather overt invitations.

Stepping into the closet, she selected a robe appropriate for the weather and wilderness conditions. She reached for the hem of her chemise, looking back over her shoulder as she did so. White Stag stood stiff as a board, staring pointedly at a spot on the wall. She knew that he could see her in his peripheral vision, as the size of the room made it impossible for him not to. Letting go of the garment's hem, she pulled the door of the closet shut before changing.

As she pulled on her robe, Devan shook her head at her strange new way of thinking. What once irritated her now intrigued her. White Stag's refusal to bow to her feminine charms sent a little tingle up her spine, causing her to shiver. Oh no, Devan — you're not even ready for that, she thought, quickly pushing away the troubling — but heart-warming — feelings creeping through her.

Straightening her robes, she realized that she'd selected one she rarely ever wore. The robe barely showed off her body at all, hiding nearly every inch of skin, and masking every curve. Deep in her heart, she knew why she'd chosen it.

Shaking her head to chase away the thoughts, she stepped out of the closet and said, "Let's go check up on your people."

No matter how hard she fought it, she couldn't help but feel the warmth spreading through her when White Stag took her hand in preparation for her to work her teleportation magic.

Oh, dear, she thought, and quickly chanted the words of the spell.

"Marvelous — truly marvelous," Ebonar remarked, gazing into the fiery portal at the demons wreaking havoc around the globe.

"I care not what mortals my minions devour, but you ask that they attack ally and enemy alike," Meckataur rumbled suspiciously.

"Actually, your wonderful pawns attack my allies in great strength, while the weakest make token assaults upon my enemies," Ebonar revealed, opening another portal for the host of snarling demons eagerly awaiting passage in the great hall of Nightmare Castle.

Memories of Zoraster's scheme resurfaced in the Devil's mind, snapping with crystal clarity into focus with the events of this night. I have underestimated you, mortal, Meckataur thought. You better understand the nature of sacrifice and power than I gave you credit for. I will not be so fooled again.

Ebonar chuckled. "Yes, you see the exquisite web I weave now. Mere appetizers, to set the table for the great banquet to come."

"It would be foolish to enact such against me, mortal," Meckataur warned.

"They are but fodder to feed our hunger, Demon Lord. We both benefit, as the only true players in this great game. The pawns live or die by our whim."

Meckataur growled, remembering earlier events of the evening. "What of pawns that change their colors."

"Ah — Danica. Yes, she and her circle have proven somewhat troublesome. In time, I will show you the means to gain retribution."

"Troublesome?" Meckataur roared. "Three of my greater demons vanquished. She must be destroyed."

Closing his magical portal before more demons could scurry through, he said, "That should prove sufficient for now, I believe." Bowing to the demon, Ebonar said, "Patience, Meckataur. Would you not rather see her tormented before she is destroyed? I assure you that you will find the means to do so most entertaining and enriching."

"You intrigue me, wizard," Meckataur rumbled.

"I simply need more time to prepare. Shall we gaze upon your children, and see how they grow?"

Meckataur's muzzle split into a grin, and his massive head nodded. Though he knew all his spawn experienced and learned, the Devil felt no need to reveal that to Ebonar.

"Excellent," Ebonar responded with a clap. "I find their growth pleasing, as I'm sure you will."

With that, Ebonar turned to the scrying portal to direct it toward the first of Meckataur's hellish spawn.

Appearing in the midst of the tepees of White Stag's village, Devan cursed as a demon swooped within a few feet of them. She activated a shield spell stored within a ring on her pinkie toe with a thought, just in time to stop an arrow from blasting through her shoulder.

Demons swarmed everywhere, attacking the members of the tribe gathered in a circle at the center of the village. The men surrounded the women and children, who huddled with knives and bows, ready to fight if necessary. White Stag gestured and spoke the words of a spell, sending magic missiles hurtling into a flying demon.

The creature barely reacted.

"We need to reach them," Devan warned as a demon opened a gaping wound in one of the defenders' chest.

White Stag nodded and pulled a wand from his deerskin vest, aiming it at a demon as he ran toward the center of the village. Devan followed, a demon bouncing off her shield as the hellish being streaked toward them both with wicked claws extended. She quickly spoke the words of a spell, sending lightning streaking toward a demon approaching the villagers. The creature fell to the side, but quicky regained its feet.

White Stag blasted another demon, the icy missiles from his wand giving the creature pause and causing it to shriek in pain. Both wizards skidded to a halt as they reached the villagers.

"Make them think twice about attacking," Devan said, handing White Stag a wand that mimicked the Cone of Cold spell.

White Stag nodded and accepted the wand, immediately discharging the magical weapon at the nearest demon. The creature's skin turned white with frost, and it fell from the sky with a shriek to writhe on the ground.

Devan quickly gasped out the words of a spell, her hands flying through the gestures. White Stag recognized the words of the spell, although the magic was far beyond his ability to yet cast. When she completed the spell, he dropped the wand.

Demons bounced off the globe of invulnerability, hissing and clawing at the invisible barrier.

"This is not good," Devan muttered. She'd fought demons before, but never any that resisted magic like these. Even as she thought about it, the frost-rimed demon White Stag had blasted regained its feet, flapping its wings to soar into the air once more.

Remembering some information she'd read in reports from the Duchess of Blackhawk Hall, Devan turned toward White Stag. "Keep that wand ready, but my shield should keep them out for now. I'm going to get some help."

"Our shaman lies dead, White Stag — slain in his sleep despite his charms," one of the villagers growled, eyeing the demons futilely attempting to breach the globe of invulnerability.

"I know someone who knows about demons. I'm going to go get them." Reaching into her bag of holding, Devan withdrew several healing potions. "These will have to do until I can bring a healer here."

Pulling another object from her bag, she handed it to White Stag. "Don't use this except as a last resort. It will teleport everyone here to Darkni's island, but the magic is really hard on the body. It could very well kill anyone who's injured, and may take some of the demons along with you."

"I understand," White Stag acknowledged.

"I'll be back as soon as I can." With that, Devan attempted to teleport to her sister's odd valley.

She let out a surprised exclamation as she appeared within her own tower instead, several feet above the floor. Her ring of feather-falling prevented her from falling, but didn't help her pride at all. "Okay, I guess I'll try the Hellgate," she muttered when she hit the floor.

Summoning up the magical portal, she quickly stepped inside and attuned the other end to Danica's valley. While the scene materialized, the portal wouldn't let Devan pass through.

One of the demons in the Hellgate pocket dimension walked up to Devan, reaching down to squeeze her bottom. Devan absently clenched her fist, causing several cries of agony to erupt within the Hellgate. She didn't notice, but the demon closest to her did not react like the others, although it did back away. "Go away, all of you. I don't have time for you right now."

Looking into the portal, she thought, This is so stupid. "Look, valley, I'm Danica's sister, and I need to get in there. She said to let me in — remember?"

Devan saw no change in the portal, but she reached out a hand anyway. Her hand passed through the portal. "Yes!" Devan stepped through and hurried toward the front door of the manor.

Danica felt the brush against her wards, the contact jolting her out of a sound sleep. Devan? She thought, accidently projecting her thoughts in her half-asleep state.

I need some help, Danica. I've got demons attacking one of the villages out on the plains. They're shrugging off lightning bolts and surviving cones of cold, Devan thought back, trying to remember how to find her sister's room in the manor.

Danica sat up and tossed on a night robe, crossing the room to open the door. Devan stood right outside it. "I'll wake everyone. We've already been through this once tonight."

"You already woke me," Celes grumbled, walking around the corner. "You've got to find some way to get a handle on your powers when you're tired. What kind of demons are we dealing with?"

Devan shrugged and said, "I don't know. I didn't have time to pay much attention."

"I'll get Marlena. You go wake up Andrea and Ashley," Celes said with a crooked smile.

Danica offered a confused look, but walked down the hall to Andrea's room. When she opened the door, she understood Celes' expression. I guess the two of you weren't quite as tired as I was.

Andrea and Ashley lay cuddled together on the bed, their clothing scattered around the room. Danica walked over and patted both of them on the bottom. "Hate to do it, but my sister needs our help. She's got demon problems."

Andrea let out a sleepy little groan, but the word demon caused Ashley to pop straight up. "Rexxus?"

"Devan didn't get a good look. She said they're shrugging off lightning bolts and cones of cold," Danica answered.

Celes appeared in the doorway. "There's people hurt. We need to go now."

That caused Andrea to pop straight up. Both she and Ashley scrambled for their clothing.

"I'll grab a bunch of the vanquishing potions we made," Celes said, and then hurried to find the potions.

Danica turned to walk out the door, back toward her own room. "I'll get ready."

C'seka hissed in irritation when Devan walked through the portal. He could still taste her exquisite flavor in the air — so similar to the first woman that had awakened his new power.

Shimmering back into Nightmare Castle, the demon huddled into his favorite corner to brood.

Appearing in a flash of light with Danica and her friends, Devan looked around and said, "Globe of Invulnerability held up."

Andrea immediately moved toward an injured and moaning plainsman. Ashley's eyes darted from demon to demon, quickly taking stock of the attackers. "Minor demons. They shouldn't be much of a problem. We won't be able to attack them with our powers from in here, though."

"We'll teleport out there and send them back to hell," Celes declared.

Ashley's brow furrowed in concentration for a moment. "Wait. We can't attack them with our powers, but maybe we can use a spell."

Ashley removed her hands from the healed wound of the plainsman. "We've never tried that before."

Celes shrugged. "No time like the present, but we need a spell."

Ashley waved her sister witches over. "I have one. It's a general vanquishing spell for minor demons. It should work on these, even if they're supplemented by Meckataur's power."

The three witches gathered around Ashley, listening to her say the chant. They repeated the words once, and then said them with the redheaded witch. After the second repetition, Celes and Andrea indicated that they could remember the words. All three witches joined hands, and spoke the spell.

Demon hosts that darken the sky

On black wings the demons fly

Heed our voice — heed our call

We witches three vanquish you all

Screams and explosions echoed through the night, demon ichor splattering against the magical globe protecting everyone. The slime slid down the globe, revealing only the moonlit landscape of the plains.

"Damn, that was pretty effective," Devan muttered.

Danica chuckled. "Marlena and I should have just stayed at home in bed."

Andrea looked around and asked, "Is anyone else hurt?"

"Most of the injuries were minor — easily healed by potions," White Stag answered.

"Everyone stand back. I'm going to drop the globe of invulnerability. I don't want anyone getting splattered," Devan warned.

When everyone moved away from the edges of the spell, Devan let it lapse. The remainder of the demon sludge fell to the earth with a simultaneous wet plop. "Single demons attacked Boldheart and Blackhawk, but there must have been over a dozen here. It doesn't make any sense."

Danica stepped toward Ashley, seeing her staring off into the distance and standing stiff as a board. "Ashley, are you okay?"

The redheaded witch didn't hear Danica, however. History flashed before her eyes, decades sliding by in a fraction of a second. When her vision reached the dawn of the plains tribes, she let out a gasp and returned to the real world once more. "I know why they attacked here in strength. Eons ago, the tribes formed as the human equivalent of the elven rangers. Shaman served in the same capacity as spellweavers." Turning toward the plainsfolk, she asked, "Do you have a shaman with great blessings in your tribe?"

One man hung his head for a moment and sighed. "Our shaman perished in the initial moments of this attack."

A woman stepped forward and said, "I sat at the feet of Eagle Soaring."

"He had visions recently, didn't he?" Ashley asked.

The plainswoman nodded. "He foretold the coming of the demons, though we did not understand the vision at the time. He knew of charms that would have protected us."

Walking toward the woman and taking her hands, Ashley asked, "Do you know those charms?"

"Yes," the woman answered.

"Use them, and share with the other tribes. The demons know your people are a threat. You have to use the tools of your heritage to protect them. You have to take on Eagle Soaring's mantle — now."

Bowing her head humbly, the woman said, "I accept my burden and my blessing from the Great Spirit."

Shaking her head in amazement, Devan said, "I think I went to the right place for reinforcements."

Picking up snippets of thought from the villagers, Danica said, "Let's give them some privacy."

Devan nodded in agreement and turned to White Stag. "If you want, I'll come pick you up sometime tomorrow."

"Thank you, Mistress Devan," White Stag answered.

"Just Devan — please."

Danica had to fight a smile. Both Devan and White Stag harbored feelings for each other that they refused to acknowledge. Devan's emotions were new, but White Stag's feelings were well entrenched.

Mastering her amusement, Danica said, "I'll come talk to you tomorrow, Devan. Right now, I want to get back to bed."

Devan smiled and said, "I'll hold you to that. The wards on my tower will let you teleport in. Can you look into my head and see my pattern?"

Danica closed her eyes for a second. "I have it. I'll see you tomorrow."

After a quick hug, the two sisters parted. A few words of magic later, the outsiders vanished to leave the people of the plains alone with their grief.

"Are our toys done?" Martina asked with a bright flush of color in her cheeks. The clone of Marlena turned to scowl at her siblings when they giggled at her.

"We've been a little busy, Martina," Danica responded.

"What if we helped with things?" Daretta, one of Danica's clones, piped up. Several of the other girls nodded and expressed agreement.

"Hmm," Danica mused. "Well, you could wash the dishes. That would give us more time to do grown-up things, like making your toys."

"We'll do it," Danielle quickly offered, the youngest clone of Danica standing to look at the rest of the girls, who agreed with her.

"Well then, get to it," Celes laughed. She added, "I'll keep Danica from getting sidetracked if you girls will keep me out of that kitchen sink."

The girls all cheered and then each gathered up a few things to take to the sinks.

Pursing her lips and trying not to laugh, Andrea asked, "Is this really a good idea? They may break more than they wash."

Danica shrugged. "We have plenty of coin. If they break something, we'll replace it."

Marlena chuckled and waved her hand in a slight dismissive gesture. "I'm not going to protest. I don't enjoy washing pots and pans any more than Celes does."

Edna let out a grunt of approval and said, "It will do them good to have some responsibility."

"I suppose I should go see Devan and get back here to get to work then," Danica stood up and said.

"Can I come with you?" Andrea asked. "I've never seen a really big city."

Danica smiled and said, "Sure. Just let me know when you're ready to go."

"Thank you, Danica," Andrea responded, and hurried to her room.

Celes twitched her eyebrows upward. "Hmm, what's that about, I wonder?"

"She probably just feels cooped up. You should get out too, Celes," Danica answered.

"I've been out," Celes protested.

"Fighting demons," Danica argued.

"Out is out," Celes laughed. "I just want to knuckle down on my studies. I still need to get a handle on my powers, and after seeing what Ashley's spell did, I'd like to study that part of my heritage too."

"I understand, but you need to come out with me some time," Danica said while waggling her finger in Celes' direction.

Andrea walked back into the dining room and said, "I'm ready."

Danica said, "Well, I guess we'll see everyone later then."

"Bring me back a bottle of white wine, if you don't mind," Celes asked.

"Okay," Danica answered. "We're off." She then cast her spell and flew on the wings of magic with Andrea.

"They revive the power of light wherever they go," Tam said to his unseen visitor. Few other mortals would have detected Illiciat's arrival, but the guardian of the stone was not just any mortal.

"As Zoraster awakens the darkness. Move and counter-move. Point and counter-point," Illiciat responded, walking up to stand next to the old man in front of the stone. "I don't know how you can stand that ridiculous singing all hours of the day and night."

"You will never allow the stone to open your heart, will you?" Tam asked with a knowing smile.

Illiciat pulled back the hood of his robe, smiling sarcastically and stroking his iron-gray goatee as he changed the subject. "One group of wayward elves, and a tiny tribe of plains barbarians. Meanwhile, Zoraster's influence spreads over the entire globe. He has escaped death and killed a god, taking the Lord of Murder's power as his own."

"Meanwhile, those who stand with us have caused the gods to accept that they do not control all. They have proven that the powers of this universe and that which was can co-exist to save us all," Tam countered.

"We should take the battle to Zoraster, before he discovers the truth of the obelisk, and the stone he seeks."

"In doing so, we would force the awakening of the Dark. For now, it slumbers. If we directly confront its unwitting agent, we will face its full power."

Illiciat let out a gasp of irritation, making a sharp, dismissive gesture. "With our full power. What point is there in this game if we are not evenly matched?"

"We are not ready. More specifically, they are not ready."

"We hang our hopes upon a group of women that don't even understand their powers or purpose — and their monthly cycles of emotional insanity." Electricity crackled around Illiciat's hand as he spoke.

Tam turned and reached up to place his wrinkled hand on Illiciat's shoulder. "I know you bear your mantle against your will. I also know how you hide your true feelings, old friend."

Illiciat stiffened, realizing he had relaxed from the touch of the old man's hand. "You know nothing, old man."

"Very well, Rogan. You know I speak the truth about Danica and the others. They must discover the truth of their purpose — on their own. Without them, we cannot hope to stand against the Dark. We have our place, and they have theirs."

"Meckataur has succeeded in breaching the curtain to the hells. What do we do about that?"

Tam fought the urge to smile, hearing the calming influence of the stone affecting the acidic Archmage's voice. "We allow The Witches Three to do what they are destined to do. Surely, you understand the power they have, now that they are joined."

The venom crept back into Illiciat's voice as he snorted and spun in a flurry of deep purple robes. "They did a fine job preventing Meckataur from attaining the virgin elves he needed to open the portal."

"They prevented him from attaining those that the Dark directed him to obtain. Even Meckataur does not understand what he would have unleashed if he had slain the three elves he sought. The fiends rise, but if Meckataur had truly succeeded, our world would not be invaded by the hells, it would have become one of the hells."

Illiciat sighed. "This game is infuriating. Even when we win a round, it is only the preamble to another confrontation. Am I doomed to play the pawn to a rock for all of eternity?"

"You know as well as I that things move toward a conclusion. Everything that is has prepared for this confrontation, for eons unimaginable even by those of us who count centuries as seconds."

"I am a man of action. This need to depend upon others to do what must be done sets my nerves on edge." Illiciat conjured up a chair and sat down.

"As I find it difficult to abandon my own predisposition toward passivity when I must act," Tam responded, calling upon his powers to create a chair next to the Archmage.

"Will we succeed?" Illiciat asked.

"Only time will tell."

"Morning, Sis. I'm in the bath," Devan called out when Danica and Andrea appeared within her tower.

"Your sister isn't very organized, is she?" Andrea asked, looking at the apparent chaos in the room.

Danica laughed. "Trust me, she can put her hands on anything in this room faster than you can ask for it. It only looks like a whirlwind put everything where it is now."

"Everything in the whole tower — thank you very much," Devan clarified in indignant tones. "Find a seat. I'm just rinsing off. I'll be out in a minute or two."

"Not that one," Danica warned at the last second — actually a second too late.

Andrea hit the ground with a cry of surprise, her head, arms, and legs sticking out of the illusion of a chair she'd tried to sit on.

"One of Devan's specialties — permanent illusions," Danica explained, offering her hand to the blonde to help her stand.

"But I believed it was real. I thought Marlena said that if you believe an illusion is real, then it may as well be real," Andrea said as she stood up and rubbed her sore bottom.

"Not all of them. This is what Devan calls a ghost image. The question is, what is she hiding under it?"

"Summoning protection circle," Devan answered from the other room.

Andrea pointed at another chair, raising her eyebrows to ask a silent question.

"That one's real," Danica laughed, pulling another chair over next to Andrea's.

A few minutes later, Devan emerged and said, "Sorry about the chair. I should have warned you."

"It's okay," Andrea responded with a shy smile.

Devan stiffened and cocked her head to the side as if listening to something. She paused in the process of sitting down, turning toward the doorway leading to the stairs of her tower. With a spoken word of command from Devan, the door swung open.

Danica and Andrea turned to see a willowy blonde woman climbing the stairs to the tower. Devan said, "What's wrong, Crystania?"

The half-elven woman reached the top of the stairs and said, "The King and Queen wish to speak with you about what happened last night. Duke Cerebus and Duchess Christi have come to the castle. The others will come soon."

Devan turned to her sister and Andrea. "You two want to come along? You probably know more about what happened last night than I do."

"To the castle?" Andrea asked with wonder.

Danica chuckled. "I think you may as well take that as a yes. You can hardly dangle the opportunity to visit the castle in front of her like that without following through."

Devan laughed even as Andrea's face broke out in a wide grin. Devan then asked Crystania, "Is Darkni coming?"

"Eventually. He and Ashtar are scrying and visiting various places. The events you experienced were not confined to Egoria alone."

Devan nodded. "Well, let's go tell Thakkor and Alicia what we know. We can count that as practice for when everyone else shows up. We'll end up telling the story every time somebody new arrives."

Andrea's eyes darted back and forth in amazement, drinking in the sights of the city as the four women walked the short distance from Devan's tower to Boldheart Castle. Danica couldn't help but smile, and the sights drew her eyes as well. The capital city of Egoria sprawled so far that it appeared to go on forever. The castle stood like a mountain near the edge of the city, a mighty, opulent fortress that served as the jewel in the crown of the nation. The sense of immensity the castle exuded only increased as they walked closer, passing into the shadow of stone structure. The size of the city reminded Danica of Osiramun, although the two cities were vastly different in appearance.

Soldiers opened the massive double doors of the castle as Devan approached, nodding politely to her. Neither Danica nor Andrea could help but crane their necks upward toward the fresco decorated ceiling high above, supported by the immense columns lining the great hall.

"Am I dressed alright? How am I supposed to address everyone?"

Seeing Devan turn and smile at the blonde witch's stream of questions, Danica interrupted Andrea by saying, "Things aren't any different just because we're in the castle. The nobility of Egoria haven't forgotten their roots — they embrace them. Just talk to them like you would anyone else. They leave the Majesties and Excellencies with their crowns when they meet together."

"Okay," Andrea responded with a smile.

Devan led them swiftly through the castle and up the stairs, straight toward the private apartments of the King and Queen. The soldiers within the castle simply nodded to the four women as they passed exactly as the guards at the gate had.

When the guards opened the door to the Royal apartments, the King immediately stood and gestured for them to enter. "A pleasant surprise. Welcome, Danica — Andrea."

"He remembered my name," Andrea whispered in amazement.

"Thakkor remembers the names of people he passed on the road when he was a teenager," Devan said and laughed. "That's one of the reasons the people love him so much. It's hard not to feel important when your King calls you by name as if he grew up next door to you. Doesn't hurt that he considers someone shoveling manure just as important as any noble in the Kingdom, either. He guides Egoria with the same skill that he used to lead us as an adventuring troupe, and as general of the army that pushed Draxnog out of these lands."

Thakkor's eyebrows twitched up. "Well now, that's a little unexpected, Devan. Is your sister having a bad influence on you? Where's the sarcasm we've all come to know and love?"

"Oh, go sit on your crown, Thakkor," Devan muttered with mocking disdain as she sat down. The smile on her face belied her tone completely.

"He's done that, you know," Queen Alicia laughed. "The look on his face was something I'll never forget."

Twin roars of laughter erupted from the Duke and Duchess of Cratel, seated together on a couch near the King and Queen. Danica and Devan joined in, with Andrea and Crystania adding their reserved chuckles to the merriment.

Thakkor shook his head and chuckled as well. He then sighed and said, "Unfortunately, we're gathered for serious business."

The merriment died down as those gathered nodded and settled in to reveal what they knew to each other.

The discussion paused a little over an hour later when transparent images of Darkniciad and Ashtar appeared within the room.

"We are still gathering information, but we certainly will have a great deal to report soon — all of it disturbing," Darkni revealed.

"Demons there have been appearing all across the continent. Most disturbing it is, I agree," Ashtar added.

"Let's take a break and get something to eat," Thakkor suggested. "We'll resume when Darkni and Ashtar are ready to add their input."

Andrea turned to Danica and said, "We should probably go back to the manor and help with lunch."

Danica nodded in agreement. "We could come back if you want us to," Danica said to the King. "Some of the others might want to come too."

"Your insight into the demons would certainly be welcome," Alicia said with a smile.

"I'll go one better," Thakkor added. "Go down to the kitchen. The cooks have been hard at work roasting pigs. We always make more than we need, and donate the excess to the temples to distribute to the poor. Take what you need to feed your extended family. I'll shame the temples into making up the difference from their own coffers for once."

"Thank you. That will help us come back sooner." Danica said with a bow of her head.

"You can teleport out from the kitchen. The defenses are one way," Devan offered. "Just remember to teleport back in through my tower."

Danica and Andrea stood to leave, and Alicia called out to a guard, "Show them the way to the kitchen, please."

A short while later, Danica and Andrea reappeared in the kitchen of the manor with platters of steaming meat and side dishes arrayed around them. Celes walked in front of the door a second or two later, smiling. She walked in and said, "There must be something to this bond Edna keeps talking about. I knew Andrea was here. I could feel her." Pausing to sniff the air, Celes added, "Whatever that is, it smells good."

"Roast pork, vegetables, and spiced apples," Andrea revealed.

Celes winked and said, "Whatever it is, we don't have to cook it, and that's fine with me."

"Well, they want us to come back and offer our input at Boldheart Castle. Who wants to come?" Danica asked as they finished eating.

"Ashley and I are right in the middle of something," Celes revealed. "We've found a way that we might be able to use my candles in our witchcraft. Mother put a few little bits of magic in my book using candles, but we think we're on to something big."

"Marlena?" Danica asked.

Marlena shook her head. "I'm trying something with my illusion magic. I think it's going to work, but I don't want to say anything until I'm sure."

"I guess it's just you and me, Andrea."

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