Heaven and Hell – Book 3: Angelique

Heaven and Hell III: Angelique

A (Hell) Maid’s Work Is Never Done

Book 3

by Maggie Finson


Chapter 1

Hello all. My name is Angelique, and as the title of this little story hints at, I’m a Hell Maid. And something more. Actually, my transformation from a mortal soul into who and what I am now resulted from a mix-up of sorts. Because not only am I one of those fierce and widely feared (hopefully) stalwart ladies who defend the borders of Hell, I’m also half Succubus.

That came about for reasons that I’ll get into later on, and don’t blame me for the confusion. A certain troublemaking and delightful little lady named Lorilei is the one you want for that. Although, come to think of it, a lot of folks would like to blame Lorilei for their troubles.

I started out as a human male born quite a while ago (by human standards) with the name Ricardo Esteban De La Court. I grew up in Mexico, and had a fairly normal and happy childhood. Except for the odd object floating through or hurled at walls around the house. Papa had some priests in to try and get the demon, or restless spirit doing those things to go away. None of the prayers or excorcisms had any effect, though every priest who visited tried mightily to get satisfactory results.

You see, I was the problem. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my potential for using magic was so high it knocked the scales with which most active magic users measured such things so out of kilter they were useless. All I knew until I was in my early teens was that I could see colored and textured lines in the air and on objects around me, and was able to nudge them into doing interesting things. Mentioning this little detail to anyone never occurred to me for quite a while, because I thought everyone could do that.

When I did finally mention it to Mama, I was twelve, she paled and shushed me quickly, then cautioned me not to tell anyone else what I had shared with her. At least, not until she could contact some friends of hers to see just how much potential I did have for that kind of thing.

Which is how I met Girard St. Thomas, a dour and frightening Englishman spending some time in our country to wait out a scandal of huge proportions in his homeland. You’ve heard about Girard before. He was the Black Mage that Lorilei killed, and from whom she got most of her potent magic when she did.

Girard towered over most of the men I knew, and was gaunt almost to the point of emaciation. But he was a friend of Mama’s for some reason, and had agreed to look me over and even test my abilities for her. I quite happily, and innocently, moved objects, shifted colors and shapes of other things, and generally played with the lines I saw everywhere I turned my eyes until the strange Englishman stopped me.

“Boy,” he growled in his deep, hollow sounding voice as he leaned over me while wiping sweat from his forehead with a silk handkerchief, “you have more talent for using The Power than anyone I’ve seen in a very long time. Without training, you’ll be a menace to anyone around you.”

So began my apprenticeship (more like slavery) to Girard St. Thomas, the black magician. I spent over twenty years under his tutelage and shadow, leaving my family and friends behind to follow him back to England, where others besides Girard would contribute to my education. Education in both academics and magic.

Finally, I became adept enough, and sick enough of Girard’s use of my abilities for his own dark purposes, that I was able to break away and begin making a life of my own. Our parting was not amicable, or quiet. In fact, I had to fight my way clear of his dominance with sheer willpower and guts.

Not to mention, clever use of my own greatly enhanced abilities. To say that my former mentor had become an enemy following that break would be playing the situation down. We both swore that the other would die the next time our paths crossed, though neither one of us managed to kill the other in numerous clashes we had before Lorilei put an end to the evil bastard permanently.

My estrangement from Girard and his darker practices also earned me a number of powerful enemies in the Guild of Mages. Those members allied with my former teacher, and others who practiced the same sorts of black arts, took my far from bloodless leave-taking from my teacher and one time mentor as a declaration of open hostilities toward any who delved into the darker side of magic. Yet, even with my youth and relative inexperience, none of those attempted to move against me openly.

I moved on, leaving England behind but taking full degrees from Oxford, and a less well known but equally important school with me. That other, the Hall of Mages, grudgingly accredited me as a full mage once I successfully broke away from Girard, and put me on the official Hall rolls as a Hazard Class Mage. That being the highest rating one with my youth could be given at the time.

Demonology was my strength, considering where most of my training had come from, but I began branching into other disciplines quickly. Alchemy, Transformation magic, Necromancy and Healing were a few of the arts I mastered on my own after leaving England. My new home, in the newly born United States of America, was safely removed from my former master, and the reach of those mages who ran the Hall and its school. At least, I thought it was.

I quite blithely tapped into the powers of Heaven and Hell to work my magics, so was acquainted with both Demons and Angels by the time I had reached my century mark in years. I would like to think that I had been a far gentler master for those I called up, or down, than Girard had been. At least I didn’t imprison those who answered my callings, or bind them to me with nearly unbreakable spiritual chains.

Life went on for another century, with my youth spells keeping me young enough to not feel the pangs of age but old enough to command respect from those around me. My ongoing feud with the Hall of Mages, and specifically Girard St. Thomas, had escalated into an almost open war during the last half of the Nineteenth Century, and the first three decades of the Twentieth. I lost track of how many Hall members I either killed or rendered incapable of using magic again, and my few allies had their numbers thinned drastically during that period. Akin to the war between Heaven and Hell, ironically, considering what happened later, our hostilities faded into something of an armed truce from the attrition. Girard and I still glared at one another across the Atlantic, and he threatened while I simply went on with my own business.

Then Lorilei came along. I’d always heard that the family of Succubae were powerful in more than seductions, but had no dealings with that breed of demon to know for myself. What that little beauty did to and with Girard made me see the truth in those tales. I know. I visited Girard’s gutted and burnt out citadel some weeks following that incident, and the almost absolute devastation I beheld humbled me. A power far greater than I had done this, and freed all the slaves my former master had collected. That those slaves weren’t hanging about or bothering the mortal realms, probably meant that the Succubus had taken them for her own, or actually sent them all home.

That kind of power frightened me badly, and I wasn’t the only mage feeling that way just then. Survivors of The Hall of Mages were uncharacteristically quiet even when I was walking their turf, so to speak, in Europe to examine the cataclysmic effects of his death struggle with the Succubus.

So I made one of the few mistakes I had committed during my long life. I relaxed and let down my guard. That mistake proved to be fatal. The Hall holds grudges as tightly as it does its wealth, and for as long. They took advantage of my relaxation with an ambush set up in one of my favorite places to meditate.

There is a small clearing in a forested area high in the Rocky Mountains just below the tree line. A clearing with signs of many old campfires, carefully built and just as carefully extinguished, but no trails leading to it. Isolated, quiet, and very comfortable, it was a place I had often gone to consider weighty matters or just to be alone for a time.

When I arrived there for the last time, my wards appeared intact and undisturbed (they were) and the surrounding forest seemed empty of all but the indigent life it always held (it wasn’t). Still, I was uneasy for some reason that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. My psychic senses were warning me of nearby danger, but that warning came a little too late. Just as I settled down to consider what I should do about the tingling of unease, a sudden series of psychic shocks rocked my quiet little world.

My wards collapsed with a soul rending wrench, and I staggered to my feet with a defensive spell on my lips and a powerful attack spell ready in my mind.

There were no less than fourteen adepts surrounding my little getaway, over half of the Hall members left active, and all were pouring magic into my protected circle with every ounce of power they could muster.

I cursed myself for not being more thorough in checking the surroundings before I ported in, or heeding my own psychic warnings sooner than I had. That was useless, and I rapidly stopped berating myself for something that had been done and couldn’t be changed. My first attack was a fire spell the crisped three of my attackers before they completed their first spells. Good and bad, that. The undirected magic exploded in a wild arching of unrestrained power that further weakened my remaining wards, even as it destroyed another two of my adversaries.

But there were still nine of them left, and I was weakening fast.

Five spells ravaged my already shrunken and depleted wards at once, shaking them to the point of shattering. I could either bolster them, or try a desperate counter to all of those spells. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given time. The other four combined in a single united death spell that penetrated my defenses and struck me at near full force. As I blacked out, at least I had the satisfaction of seeing my own spell go into wild magic, and destroy another four of the bastards. Then the darkness engulfed me.

Chapter 2

I regained consciousness slowly, groggy and still in shock from the massive death spell that had taken my life. I had no illusions regarding that, I was most definitely dead, but where had my consciousness, my soul, ended up after that? My dulled senses picked up a sickening stench of sulfur, a myriad of moans, screams, and hopeless shrieks mixed with cruel laughter and bellows of Demonic glee. All of which told me where I was. Hell.

I could have screamed in horror, terror, or just plain disgust. Instead, I hunkered down to rest and allow my depleted powers to begin replenishing themselves. One look at my hands, (odd that a disembodied soul should still have hands, isn’t it?) showed me to be pale and half gone, even as a soul. That would change in time, as my power regenerated, but for the time I was horribly weak and extremely vulnerable to anything around me.

I’d also made use of quite a few demons through my life, and though I hadn’t been cruel about it, I knew most of those temporary slaves had resented it, but put up with obeying my commands in the sure knowledge that one day I would die and find myself in their power. Well, that had come to pass, and I wasn’t all that anxious to begin my sojourn in Hell as a weak, pale caricature of myself. So I shrank back into the deeper shadows of the alcove I seemed to have exclusive use of and hoped my wait would be long enough to at least allow me to appear as something more than a washed out, soiled soul when my time came to be taken.

* * *

Such a thing was not to be. A rustling of paper at the entrance to the cubicle (hole in the wall?) I occupied alerted me to the presence of a demon that looked more like an old fashioned clerk in some catalogue pickup department. He waggled his overlarge ears (better to hear disparaging comments, I suppose), peered nearsightedly through a pair of pince-nez glasses perched precariously on the end of a rather long, skinny nose, and “Harrumphed!” loudly enough to get anything’s attention.

Comparing what he saw (me) with some papers on the very mundane looking clipboard he carried like a badge of office, he nodded in satisfaction and cleared his throat again before intoning in a voice that would have been the envy of every petty bureaucrat that ever lived, “Ricardo Esteban De La Court, it is my duty to inform you that you have been remanded to the precincts of Hell for an undisclosed period in penance for trafficking with demons, practicing black magic, and living well past your allotted span through the use of forbidden magics.

“As such,” he droned on, as if reciting by rote (he probably was, but I didn’t think it wise to point that out at the time), “There is no appeal other than a direct connection with the Heavenly Powers who have thus sentenced you. Do you wish to appeal this decision?”

“Uh…” I hesitated as the scrawny creature gave me a halfway expectant look, then questioned, “Just how long before my appeal would be heard?”

“Well,” he grinned, showing an abundance of crooked, gnarled teeth (with a severe case of halitosis tossed in for laughs) and shrugged, “the appeals list is pretty light just now. I’d imagine you could get in to plead your case in about eight hundred years, give or take fifty.”

“Eight hundred years,” I grimaced, then added sarcastically, “is that all?”

“Oh, yes,” my demon clerk nodded happily, “our new system is so much faster than the way we used to do things. You’d be held here, of course, until your turn came up.”

“Of course,” I agreed, dryly. “What if I choose to just take my chances down here?”

“Then I should tell you that the agent for your new owner is waiting outside to pick up her merchandise.” Giving out what could only be taken as a long suffering sigh, he added with some relish, “I don’t think she’s pleased with all the paperwork and protocol. Terrible, terrible mood she’s in. Been threatening all of us with horrible torments of Hell, as if we weren’t already suffering those.

“Truthfully,” he added in a confiding whisper, “I’d opt to take my chances, if I were you. Another eight hundred years of waiting won’t do a thing to ease her disposition, I can tell you that.”

“Lead on,” I said, waving to the outside. “If whoever — whatever — this creature would be is already in a foul mood, I suppose I’d better get this over with. Another eight centuries will only add to the trouble, once she gets hold of me.”

“A wise choice,” the clerk agreed sagely, before gesturing to the opening in my hidey hole. “Come along then, and meet one of your new mistresses. And get her out of our hair, while you’re at it.”

I followed him out of the holding area to stand behind — you guessed it — an old fashioned wooden counter with a bewildering variety of demonic types milling about on the other side. Most of whom looked at me very expectantly until the clerk droned out, “Pickup for Lillith is ready, would the Lady’s agent please come claim the package?”

The milling throng cast disappointed looks at me, and the clerk (along with numerous growls and curses) then parted as two very large and frightening beings approached the counter. One was a Hell Maid, tall, powerful, armed to the tips of her pointed white teeth, and appearing impatient. Once she stopped a few paces from the counter, something huge placed it’s clawed feet (paws?) on her shoulders, reared up on its hind legs while resting a scaled chin on her shoulder, and examined me with menacing yellow eyes. Its forked tongue lolled lazily, and a double pronged tail lashed back and forth with its interest.

‘Oh, wonderful,’ I thought, ‘a Hellhound. With a Hell Maid,’ waiting for me, obviously.

I lost some more of my soul’s coherence just then, trying to manage my trepidation at the sight of the creatures who were there to collect me. What kind of torments would the two of them come up with to amuse themselves while getting me to wherever I was supposed to end up? I really didn’t want to think about that too hard.

“All right,” a smooth, sensuous voice interrupted my daunted thought processes, and another creature saucily walked to the fore. She was voluptuous beyond mere mortal comprehension of the word, and so lovely my heart nearly froze before it melted while I took her in. Delicate appearing leathery wings in varying shades of blue furled then unfurled as a barb tipped tail thrashed with what looked to be a will of its own. At least she gave that member an annoyed glance and slapped lightly at it before turning her large, almond shaped blue eyes in my direction. Small, crimson nailed hands planted themselves on luscious hips, and her head cocked quizzically as she watched me watch her. “What’s wrong with you? Never seen a Succubus before?”

“No, madam.” I tried the polite approach, hoping that would mollify her and in consequence, her vastly amused, but watchful companions. “I never had the honor of dealing with your sisterhood before this.”

The vision of hellish beauty snorted in weary disbelief, but she accepted what I’d said at face value while lifting one high heeled, delicate hoof and fastidiously shaking something I’d rather not identify off it with a grimace. She then nodded briskly and motioned toward the Hell Maid and Hellhound with a wicked smile. “Well, you have now, bubba, so get your eye full, then get your poor excuse for a behind over here. Just remember that my two friends would really like to play with you before we get to Lillith. So take my advice and behave.”

“Advice taken,” I agreed, hurrying as best my depleted state would allow to do as she commanded. “I’ll be good.”

“Good doesn’t enter into it,” the Succubus actually laughed, a mesmerizing combination of pure bell like tones and velvety purrs, “considering where we are. I’m Lorilei, Syl, Helga,” she gestured gracefully at the Hell Maid, who grinned ferociously while stroking the blade of a large, sharp battle axe slung over her shoulder, then at the Hellhound, who gave me a cheerfully demonic doggie grin but remained silent.

“Now, let’s get out of here. I’ve really had enough of these damned bureaucrats for this century. You don’t look like much, De La Court, I sure hope you’re worth all this trouble.”

So did I. I sensed a vast reservoir of magical power in her, one that was surging with anger, frustration, and curiosity regarding me. I hoped she would rein that in as far as I was concerned. Happily, she did. Then led us straight back to behind the counter.

“Uh, Lorilei,” the Hellhound growled very carefully, then turning its awful head in another direction than the one we were heading, “the way out is over there.”

“There is a portal right over there,” she answered, pointing to a dark recess in the huge wall that my cubby hole had been hollowed out of, “and I intend to use it right now.”

“What if the clerks here won’t let you?” the Hellhound persisted, then winced as Lorilei hissed and grinned very evilly.

“I hope they try and stop us,” she grated out, still proceeding directly to a space well behind the counter and its milling throng of Hell’s minions. “I’m ready to give someone something to remember me by around here. A nice big hole in their precious wall where one of those idiot clerks was standing would do a lot to soothe my jangled nerves just now.”

“Hey, you there!” an officious clerk screeched as he barred our way to the supposed exit with a scowl. “This is for gate personnel and official business only. You’ll have to go the other way.”

“Official business?” Lorilei purred in growing pleasure, as the stubborn target to be insisted on blocking her path. “Shall I tell Lady Lillith that some numb dicked clerk held up delivery on a soul she specifically sent me to collect in all haste? Or should I just blow you to one of the lower slime pits and walk on through?

“Of course, you could just let us pass,” she grinned wickedly, and I felt the buildup of power in her small frame. Inanely, I wondered how such a petite, delicate frame could contain so much of it without sizzling, crackling, and glowing like radioactive waste on a dark night. Evidently, the clerk noticed too, because his normally bright red complexion went hot pink, and the bluster left him like a sailor leaving Saturday night’s love on Sunday morning.

“All right, go on then,” he grumbled, then straightened and attempted to glare at the diminutive hellion facing him. “But don’t think you’ve heard the end of this!”

“If I do hear any more,” Lorilei promised sweetly, “I’ll be sure to come let you know personally.”

The clerk blanched, a pretty good trick considering white was not a dominant color in his complexion, and scuttled out of the way.

“Okay, let’s go,” the Succubus said, glancing at the portal. It looked like just another cubbyhole to me; she nodded, ran a small, lovely hand across one of the stones, then gestured for the rest of us to enter the arch. “It’s set for Home. Move it, everyone.”

I shrugged (to myself, anyway) and walked into the arch. Darkness, multi-colored sparks and a feeling of disorientation took me in a maw determined to mix and shake me until my internal organs (if I had any just then) exchanged places with each other, then deposited me in the last kind of place I would have expected to see in Hell.

Chapter 3

I was staring in open wonderment and no little bemusement at a panorama stretching farther than I could see. What the place looked like was an immense, well tended park in the late stages of spring blossoming. After the sulfurous atmosphere in the receiving/waiting area I had awakened in, the sweet floral scents wafting to me on a soft, warm breeze were heavenly. But I knew I wasn’t in Heaven, unless I considered all the lovely, voluptuous ladies milling about and expectantly watching the very portal I had come out of.

“Move that skinny butt out of the way!” a strong female contralto bellowed in my ear, completely ruining any fantasies I had been conjuring. That was accompanied by a powerful shove from behind, and I stumbled forward to land in a tangled heap on the green lawn-like grass several yards beyond the portal.

The Hell Maid strode past me with a disdainful little sniff and an almost pitying expression on her lovely, if daunting face. The Hellhound loped up, stopped to sniff at me experimentally, then licked at my face before offering another doggish grin and loping off to join the Hell Maid, Syl.

A cute (?) little female imp clothed like a little girl skipped up with a wide smile marring the little girl image with its mouthful of wickedly sharp teeth and cheerfully lisped out in a sing-song voice, “Oh, boy, are you in for a BIG thurprise, thweety!”

Finally, the Succubus, Lorilei regally stalked to stand beside where I had tumbled with a shake of head that had her lustrous chestnut mane teasing suggestively at more parts of her anatomy than I couldn’t have described without going into instant lust. Letting out a long suffering sigh, she gestured for me to get back on my feet and follow her. “Come on, Meat, Lillith is waiting down there, and let me tell you, SHE isn’t one you want to have even a little upset with you. Especially not around here.”

Meat. She called me Meat, capitalized no less; I could tell from her inflections. Did that mean I was to be nothing more than a feedbag for the collected group of Demonesses? Calmer thoughts intruded with the notation to my frantic, fearful ape brain, that Lorilei wouldn’t have warned me to hurry so as not to irritate Lillith if I had been brought in as food. It wouldn’t have mattered if I angered Satan himself (well, maybe in that case…) if that’s all I was meant to be.

I jumped to my feet, showing more energy than I had up to that point, and regarded the amused, half surprised look in Lorilei’s gorgeous, vertically pupiled eyes. “Well, well, maybe there is more to you than I first thought, little one. Let’s get going. You have some people to meet and some things to do before you can get any rest.”

“Coming, Lady,” I replied, with some relief in discovering there had been plans made for me that didn’t include becoming food for what I knew could turn out to be a clan of ravenous Succubae. “Let’s not keep Lillith waiting.”

“Mother Lillith, to you,” Lorilei responded, then gave me a grin that was far from reassuring, but beat the you know what out of the scowl I’d seen her giving those poor clerks earlier. “And to everyone else here at Home except maybe Mama herself.

“Never mind,” she shrugged at my questioning expression while we approached the gathered group of female Demons. “You’ll find out soon enough.”

I wasn’t sure whether to be glad or worried about that. But the sheer awe I felt as the gathered beauties formed a ring of delectable female flesh around us soon had me forgetting any worries I might have harbored. Belatedly, I realized that I’d let some damned stupid masculine reactions blind me to what was actually going on, and I very reluctantly (really stupid male and masculine reactions) pulled my eyes away from the rainbow of colorful and luscious females surrounding me to find a slightly taller one with fiery red hair, powerful green eyes, and scarlet wings shifting at her shoulders regarding me with no small amusement.

“This,” Lorilei supplied formally (and needlessly; even if I hadn’t dealt with the Succubae as a mage, I had heard of Lillith, and had her described to me), “is Mother Lillith.”

Turning her lovely gaze toward Lillith, the lesser Succubus gestured at me with one small hand while the other idly held her tail, which seemed determined to insert itself into her exposed sex. “And this, Mother, is what was left of Ricardo Esteban Del a Court.”

“Hello, Senor Del a Court,” Lillith greeted me with a rich feminine tenor that had my nerve endings twitching with barely suppressed lust from my ears all the way to my curling toes. “Welcome to Home.

“This place’s name,” she supplied at my confused look, then returned her attention to Lorilei. “Well, there’s much more involved with this one than I expected to get. But you spotted that right away, didn’t you, dear daughter?”

“Yep,” Lorilei nodded, then fixed a predatory look and grin on me that made me shudder while longing to let her have her way with me. “That’s why I hustled everyone back here. He’s recharging at a pretty good rate.”

“Yes, he is.” Ignoring the lack of honorific from a lesser succubus (which had me rapidly reestimating the status of that messenger, or what I had taken to be a messenger and delivery girl), she continued, “Well, we may as well get this thing started. You do the honors, Lorilei.”

“Me?!!” The lovely, powerful, creature who had collected me at The Gates of Hell appeared surprised and a bit doubtful. “But I…”

“You’ll do fine, dear daughter,” Lillith assured her, with a fond smile. “Mama and Syl will help with some of the input you’ll need to get the results we want. Now, don’t argue, this is something that you deserve and can do with your eyes closed.”

“If you say so.” Lorilei shrugged, then nodded while favoring me with a soft, sexy grin that had my heart doing its best to hammer out of my chest and land in her pretty little hand. “Come on, Ricardo. Come to me. You’ll enjoy this part, I promise.”

Something else was working very hard to attract attention too, my manly rod was standing at attention so hard it was painful. Too late, I understood that I had lost caution, volition, and any chance I might have had to bargain my way out of whatever was planned. Let me tell you, a Succubus could stop a charging rhino in its tracks if she really wanted to, and the rhino was male. Every physical part of me (how could I have a physical being in Hell? No matter, I wasn’t worried about that little detail just then) strained toward the inviting, sexually charged embrace she offered with a seductive smile.

“Come to me, Ricardo,” she crooned, making my name into a musical wonder while gently beckoning with hands, eyes, and her very active tail. There was nothing at all gentle about my attraction, I had about as much chance of pulling away from her mesmerizing call as an iron filing has of running away from a magnet. Less, even.

Wearing a stupid grin that stretched out my mouth to unreasonable proportions, I quite happily went to her without a thought. Part of me, the cold analytical piece that had made me such a natural at sorcery, was screaming for me to run and hope for the best. The rest of me had no intention at all of running, but also hoped for the best. Getting laid by a Succubus in her home territory was an experience my animal instincts just couldn’t resist.

“I promise to be the best lay you’ve ever had,” she crooned in triumph as I eagerly embraced her while she was pulling me to lie on top of her lush, softly curved and incredibly inviting body. “This will be a lovemaking that you’ll never forget.”

Brother, was she right! Looking back, I sometimes curse myself for falling into her clutches so easily, but believe me, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it from happening. Not when every fiber of my being tingled with her mingled scent and presence openly inviting me to partake of the wonderful treasure between her wide spread legs.

Even now, I still go weak at the knees and find myself breathing a bit hard whenever I call up those memories. Now, I had been no virginal, monkish character in my life, and had experienced sexual play with some of the finest courtesans in history. Not one of those fine ladies could so much as stand in Lorilei’s shadow when it came to pleasing a man sexually, though given what my Hellishly gorgeous seductress was and how she fed herself, that should have been no real surprise.

Lorilei engulfed me, teased me, played me like a well tuned instrument, and so many other descriptive superlatives that I won’t bore you by listing them all. Hell disguised as Heaven, I had heard these creatures described as. Those descriptions were all true, if somewhat lacking the full impact of actually having a succubus give her entire attention to you. My Go…(Oops, Syl has told me not to swear like that anymore, or she would do her level best to beat me into a quivering pulp.) Anyway, you should get the idea by now.

Wrapped in her soft arms, legs, tail and wings, I felt her heat filling me with something equally powerful. So powerful, in fact, that I barely noticed what was slipping away from me each time I orgasmed and shot my seed into her ravenous belly. Or what was creeping in to replace what was being taken. I have no idea of how long our sexual gymnastics went on. It could have been eternity, a mere century, or bare moments. No matter, I was in pure, unadulterated ecstasy the entire time.

When we finally ran out of energy, (at least, I was drained) our wings pulled back and folded against our shoulders, our tails loosed their loving embrace and we reluctantly pulled apart. Exhausted, I recall wondering, ‘Tails? Wings?’ in plural, not as a single person’s, but was far too spent to have the strength to consider the implications of that.

“Sleep well, Sister Angelique,” Lorilei fondly smiled down at my still supine form. “You are going to be something to behold when you wake up. I’ll be here to help when you do awaken.”

The last thing I really remember about that time was Lorilei leaning forward to place a gentle kiss on my forehead. Then I floated quite comfortably into warm, soothing darkness while desultorily wondering who exactly Angelique was.

Chapter 4

My dreams were chaotic and uncomfortable during that sleep. I first saw myself wielding an old fashioned broadsword that was alternately red with flames or blue/white with the sheen of ice against foes that could be nothing less than Angels and their minions. They fell to my sweeping, potent strokes like grass to a lawn mower, and others scattered in fear. I shouted my victory scream, a piercing lovely warbling in a low soprano range, and slowed my breathing so the metal armor I wore wouldn’t chafe my heaving breasts through the tough but supple leather I wore under it.

In another I was flying. Really flying, using wings that beat strongly with the flex of muscles in my chest, shoulders and back. The sword, named Heaven’s Bane, was secured to my back, between the out-thrust of wings and I had no intention or need of using it then. Instead, I glared at the approaching phalanx of flying Angels, and mouthed the words to a spell. A darkly glistening sphere emerged from my outstretched hands to instantly enlarge and engulf the group of Angels who were my mortal enemies.

Their beauty died within that terrible sphere, unlike any spell I had ever used or been familiar with as a Human sorcerer. Withered husks rained upon the chaos field of heaving battle below as the hated enemies fell before me.

Next I saw myself naked and welcoming a Human male into my heated embrace, and self. I took something from him in our coupling, not enough to really harm, but very satisfying regardless. Sated, I pulled away from his relaxed, slumbering form and watched with interest as his nearly pure soul grew a little gray around the edges, while tinges of azure and silver shot through the darkening parts. I knew that male would be mine forever if I chose to claim him fully, and took familiar satisfaction in the knowledge.

“Angelique,” a firm, strong, but feminine voice interrupted my uneasy dreams. “It’s all right, sweet, don’t be afraid of these visions. Rest quietly now.”

I did. Until awakening to a plethora of unfamiliar sensations crowding my mind for immediate attention. My breasts were a little sore from being lain on while I was asleep, and their nipples tingled with the pain and pleasure of the feeling.


Wait a second here! My muddled brain searched for the highly unfamiliar feeling of two large, soft objects attached to my chest, quivering and moving with every small change of position I made. And found them.

A low moan escaped my swollen feeling lips as other areas of my vastly altered body began reporting in. My hips were broader, with thighs farther apart than my body memory allowed for. There was nothing at all between them, either. At least, nothing I was personally familiar with possessing. Thick, silvery strands of soft hair obscured my vision as I painfully forced myself to sit up.

Stars filled my vision as very abused body parts urgently complained about the motion. I felt as if I had literally been taken apart and rebuilt to very different specifications than the original. Everything ached, on top of feeling out of synch. Mentally uttering a prayer (I know, I know, no more cussing like that, but this is telling my story) I forced myself to look down at my chest. And beheld two huge, gorgeous mounds of creamy flesh tipped with erect azure nipples.

“Yep,” I told myself quietly, cautiously. “Those are female breasts, all right.”

My hesitant exploration continued with hands that were both smaller and stronger than mine had been before, running themselves down my slender waist and over the sudden outward curve of lush hips and bottom. “Hips and ass, too,” I muttered distractedly, while my hands slowly neared my crotch.

I gasped in involuntary and reluctant pleasure as the fingers of one hand parted fleshy lips between my legs, then pushed into a moist, warm recess. I yanked my hand away from something that burned my sense of self as if it had been a white hot coal.

“That can’t be what I think it is,” I whispered, noticing as I did that my voice sounded a great deal different, too. Higher, and lilting with a musical accent that was really very appealing. Hesitantly, I returned to what was between my legs — with the other hand that time, in case the first had been lying to me.

It hadn’t.

“Well,” taking a steadying breath, I considered things, after shifting to release a pair of attachments to my shoulders that pulled painfully while I was sitting on them. And a third part of me that sprang free in joyful abandon and began teasing at my crotch. The latter was a tail, flexible and ending with a barbed tip that was currently manipulating my nether regions with lascivious intent. I slapped it away, wincing as pain shot through my backside, but it left those foreign parts alone after I did.

“Hmmm,” I muttered in a breathy little sigh, while thinking furiously. “If it has tits, ass, and a warm slit between its legs, it must be a woman.” Something in that logic was very disturbing, until my frazzled mind recalled that I had been examining myself. The logic went from merely disturbing to traumatic.

“Which must mean that…I…Have…Become…A…Female,” my voice reluctantly acknowledged what my brain had already decided. “Oh, no they don’t!”

Briefly considering my options, I tried some shape changing magic that I had known as a Human. It worked. Sort of. I was different, but still apparently female, and when my concentration faltered I returned to what must have been my default body setting. You know, the one with wings and a tail.

Now, I ask you. What would you have done under the circumstances? The last thing I remembered was being male and having the most fantastic sex in my long experience. Then I awaken as a female. Be honest, here. How would you have handled such a thing?

Running over several options, I settled on the one that seemed to be the most productive of the weak ideas I had formed. Drawing in a deep breath (that caused my newly inflated chest to heave) I gathered myself for the effort, opened my mouth wide, and screamed bloody murder.

Then did it again, and again. And again, until I was getting a sore throat.

But kept going, anyway. I’d built up a head of very hysterical steam, and wasn’t about to let go of it until I subsided into mute inability to holler any more.

Chapter 5

My screaming got results. Fast.

“Calm down, Sweetheart,” a soothing, deep but feminine voice pleaded with me. I didn’t, and wasn’t going to do so until I had used up all the energy I had. The voice retreated with a near frantic, but half-amused call elsewhere. “Lorilei!”

Soon a pair of delicate hands that were much stronger than anything looking like they did should have been gripped my shoulders, and a familiar voice intruded upon my very satisfyingly berserk panic attack.

“Calm down, Angelique,” Lorilei’s voice soothed, while her hands stroked my back and outraged wings. “You’re going to wake everything in Hell, and trust me, some of those are far better left sleeping.”

“Uh, uh, uh…” My scattered train of thought faltered, as did my feminine cries of total, absolute anguish. I glanced at the succubus and flinched. “Get away from me! This is your fault! What have you done to me?”

“Tell me what you did to me!” Without thinking, I had reached my feet, and put my smaller hands to the very satisfying use of choking the very life out of her. Then realized she was already dead (probably) just like me, and that I’d likely never get more than an incoherent gurgle out of her with my hands locked around her slim throat and squeezing hard as I could.

Just as I was reaching that conclusion and beginning to release my grip, a wall hit me frontally. Hard. The invisible but very solid force threw me several feet, to land on my rump with a soft thud. But my shields had been up and active, I realized. A result of my raising magic to attempt the shape change.

Lorilei was warily watching me as that understanding came.

“You…you used magic on me!” I accused in a surprised voice.

“Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” Lorilei actually smiled, then offered me a grin.

“But you shouldn’t have been able to do that!”

“Well, I did,” was her simple, oddly pleased answer as I glared at her in stupified amazement.

“I was shielded,” I protested uselessly, since I was quite obviously on my bottom (which was complaining loudly at the mistreatment) and there because a force wall had been used on me.

“I know,” she answered half smugly, but with a note of wonder in her voice, before going on. “Besides, how in Hell did you expect me to give you any kind of answer with your hands around my throat? That wasn’t the best way to go about asking, you know.”


“That’s okay,” she smiled, while rubbing lightly at her shapely neck, “I guess. Have you calmed down enough to talk like a civilized being yet? Or should I zap you again?”

“Talk,” I assured her, not wishing to feel the force of whatever else she might do to defend herself. I had been right about the innate power in her small frame, and stood gingerly while rubbing at my shapely, but abused bottom with a wince. “I’ll be good.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Lorilei chuckled, while looking me over. “When I woke up this way, they tell me I just about startled Mama into Full Defense Mode.”

“Who’s Mama?” I questioned.

“Me,” the deep voice that had awakened me first joined in, though it spoke in my mind. “I’m this whole place, honey. I’m home, succor, love, and taskmistress all rolled into one.”

“Oh,” I rather intelligently responded. “What’s Full Defense Mode?”

“Never mind that for now, child,” Mama replied. “You just pay attention to Lorilei here, and keep in mind that she’s one of my favorites around here.”

“Uh, I will, Mama.” My response was a bit sheepish, and I felt the threat, veiled though it was. “Just chalk up my attacking her to post whatever trauma.”

“That would be Post Transformation Syndrome,” Mama chuckled, then was gone.

“Wow.” I shook my head, then abruptly stopped myself as the motion set up waves of sensations I was still not all that prepared for. So I tried changing the subject. “You wouldn’t be the Lorilei who got Girard, would you?”

“Yes, that would be me,” she responded with a heavy sigh. “Which is where I absorbed all this damned magical power. But we need to talk about you, and what has happened to you right now. Anyone here in Home could tell you that story, and I’d really rather not go into it just now, if you don’t mind.”

“Control problems?” She winced as I asked that, so I nodded and reassured her, “Not to worry, you’ll have that power sitting up and begging like a puppy pretty soon. It was a lot to absorb in one sitting; Girard was extremely powerful and very old. You can’t expect to master all his old power in a few days, months, or whatever.”

“Don’t I know it!” she grumbled, then gave me a halfway hopeful look. “Think you might be able to help me with that?”


“Good.” With a nod, she waved a hand and a beautiful full length mirror appeared right in front of me. “In the meantime, you may as well get used to seeing yourself as you are and will be for a very long time to come, little sister.”

“I…” I started, but became speechless at what that mirror showed me. The creature standing there was absolutely the most gorgeous female I had ever seen in my life. Present company and Mother Lillith excepted. “Oh, my…”

“Don’t say it,” Lorilei interrupted. “That name is a no-no around here, and would probably burn that pretty mouth of yours just now. At least it would until you get more used to yourself this way.”

I didn’t answer, mostly because I was unable to. What I was seeing was a succubus with glowing azure eyes set in a doll-like oval face and built to please. Men, anyway. Long, silvery hair very exuberantly tumbled around her slim shoulders, covered both luscious breasts (which weren’t nearly so huge as I had first thought, though they were by no stretch of the imagination small, either) and down her straight slender back to happily tickle her firmly rounded (and slightly bruised) bottom.

Gem-like azure tinted high heels graced her delicate feet, but closer examination showed them not to be shoes at all, but specialized hooves with a small cleft where a big toe should be divided from the other toes. The spur I had first taken for the heel was part of that hoof.

A pair of small, curved horns sparkled with silver highlights on my forehead just below the hairline and in line with the large, almond shaped azure eyes. Leathery wings unfurled and spread for examination once I thought about it. But the leather was very supple and soft in both appearance and feel. The edges were a dark, almost black shade of azure that gradually shaded to pale silver in the center, and a pair of very wicked spurs protruded from the second joints rustling softly above the level of my head. Those would be formidable weapons at need, I noted.

As would the inch long, sharply pointed silver colored nails tipping smooth, small hands. Upon close examination of her figure, I found that nothing was really disproportionate about it, just overly voluptuous and quite obviously designed for sex while being slim enough to hint at speed and agility that could be astounding if used.

I would have been in instant lust at seeing her. Only one problem held me back from that. She was most definitely me! “Damn! I’m a wet dream incarnate.”

“I said just about the same thing when I woke up the first time,” Lorilei grinned.

“But it couldn’t have been such a shock to you,” I groused, while taking in her unstudied feminine and feline grace of posture and presence. “Having been a woman before.”

“Me?!! A human woman?” Her laughter pealed out in richly musical amusement for a few moments, before she sobered and gave me a commiserating look. “Believe it or not, Angelique, I was just as determinedly male as you started out. At least I was until a cuckolded husband caught me with his wife and shot both of us to death.”

“You were a guy?” I questioned incredulously, while watching her ultra feminine gestures in response to my question.

“Yep, ‘fraid so, little sis,” wrinkling her nose and drawing in a breath, the lovely little succubus shrugged in dismissal of a past that couldn’t be returned to under any stretch of the imagination. “But all these wonderfully femme gestures and mannerisms just kind of grow on you real quick. You’ll see soon enough, trust me on that one.”

“So, I’m a succubus, too,” I mused, while still entranced by the vision in the mirror. That was, no matter what angle I chose to look at her from, me.

“Among other things,” Lorilei nodded as she agreed — with that almost guilty provision — with me.

“Other things?”

“Well, you see,” my companion/tormenter shrugged another time before telling me the rest. “What we needed from you was something unique in Hell, and probably Heaven, too.”

“I suppose that you’ll get around to telling me within the next century or so, won’t you?”

“Mother Lillith wanted a being with a succubus’ alluring qualities,” Lorilei continued, completely ignoring my little sally of bitter humor, “still able to use magic, and well versed in the spells she would need to have. Plus,” drawing in breath sent a very interesting surge of sympathetic vibrations through her delectable flesh, I idly noted, while also noticing it did nothing whatsoever for my libido, “we needed a strong fighter type who could just as easily handle a sword or other weapon as cast spells.”

“So,” I questioned with a lift of one eyebrow and a half despairing sigh, “what am I, exactly? Please use descriptions of two syllables or less when you explain this to me, I’m still in pretty heavy shock, you know.”

“About half succubus,” she rushed to answer, “and half Hell Maid.”

“Oh, okay.” I wished I hadn’t asked, but come to think of it, I was taller and broader shouldered in proportion to my body shape than she was. Flexing an arm revealed smooth, powerful, muscles sheathed in female fat. “So I’m the Amazon from Hell,” I muttered in disgust.

“Not exactly,” Lorilei grimaced. “The Amazon from Hell is coming to take you through some training workouts pretty soon.”

As if on cue, a voice I recognized as belonging to the Hell Maid, Syl, cheerfully interrupted our conversation. “Ho, there! Lor, is our new girl awake and ready yet?”

I privately thought I’d never be ready for that one, but wisely held my forked tongue (which, incidentally, had developed the embarrassing habit of tangling up in my prominent canine fangs) and let out a quiet little groan in anticipation of just what that hulking, female Hellion had in mind for me.

Chapter 6

Boy, did I ever find that out. I nearly wished I hadn’t, but rapidly changed that to wishing I’d never been born so I ended up getting killed and sent to Hell.

Weapons training, oh my. Swords, axes, and brawls, oh my. Bruises, scrapes, and aches in every part of my body. At least I was given my own sword. Sort of. Maybe I was given to the sword.

“This is for you,” Syl said as she solemnly handed me a sheathed sword. It nearly pulled my arms out of their sockets when I accepted it, and weighed what felt like a large, ungainly ton.

“Her name is Heaven’s Bane,” Syl continued, ignoring my difficulty in even holding the thing off the ground. “She was made specifically for you. Get to know her well, and she’ll be your best friend.”

I was privately skeptical of that. Being able to hold the damned thing up, let alone use it, anyway. Heaven’s Bane seemed to be skeptical, too. Don’t ask how I knew that, but I did. I knew it as clearly as if someone had whispered the fact into my shell-like ear.

“Great, thanks.” I attempted to heft the long, slender weight while putting on a smile. Much to my shock, the thing rose into the air with my hand still gripping the hilt and stayed there, with me on tip-toe, or more precisely, tip-hoof, trying to hang on without resorting to using my wings.

“Get back down here!” I commanded/pleaded with it, while trying to force it — her — back down so I could return her to the plain leather scabbard.

I glanced toward a highly amused Syl as I was struggling mightily with the recalcitrant thing while gritting out, “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this damned thing was laughing at me.”

“She is,” Syl laughed, as I continued to try bringing the thing down to at least hip level, without much in the way of results. “But don’t call her an it, hon. She was made especially and specifically for you, and holds enough of your own essence to be marginally intelligent as it is. You’ll hurt her feelings.”

“Oh, we couldn’t have that,” I gritted in mock horror, and the sword actually pulled me off the ground for a few seconds. “All right, all right. I believe you, HB, now would you please come down and behave yourself?”

I felt a distinct, if reluctant agreement, and Heaven’s Bane literally dropped into my lap with what I could have sworn was a girlish giggle of glee.

“Wonderful,” I muttered, while closely examining the gleaming surface and razor sharp edges of my own personal, and smart aleck, sword. “Now I have my own sword, only I’m going to have to talk nice to it just to do anything but look at it.”

A warning twinge in my lap caused me to amend part of that last statement. “Okay, okay, HER.”

Lucifer take me to the deepest slime pit of Hell if that thing didn’t start purring while laying across my lap. While I was feeling a strong measure of contentment. “I give up. Hello, Heaven’s Bane. Do you mind my calling you HB?”

Evidently not. The purring got stronger, and the warmth increased. Sheesh!

My training consisted of simple things at first. At least, they were supposed to be simple. I was told to stand and hold my arm straight out from my shoulder, with Heaven’s Bane gripped in my hand and supposedly as straight as my arm. Not to mention convincing HB that either adding or subtracting weight from herself was cheating while I was doing it. When the first arm felt like it was about to pull out of the socket, taking my shoulder, part of my rib cage and back with it in abject surrender, I was allowed to switch arms. Until that one felt just as bad as the other.

“Damn!” I muttered to myself, while wiping sweat out of my eyes during a too short break. “I thought we didn’t sweat or get aches and pains.”

“This is Hell,” Syl, hearing me in spite of my saying that under my breath laughed, good naturedly, “not Heaven, and don’t go deluding yourself, kid; Angels sweat and cuss just as much as we do.”

“That’s soooo encouraging,” I grunted, as the hand massaging my still numb left arm encountered a muscle with some feeling left in it. “I thought this body was supposed to be ready to go, and all that good stuff?”

“It was,” Syl agreed, with a ferocious grin that boded ill for my immediate future and sense of physical well being. “But even the finest instrument needs tuning up, off and on.”

“How wonderful,” I sarcastically retorted, “that my weapons teacher is a barracks philosopher, in addition to a sadist.”

“Time to go over the forms and positions again, Little Sister.” She arose gracefully, planted hands on generous hips, and cocked her head to the side expectantly. “I expect you to get at least some of them right this time around. If you don’t, it’s more straight arm exercises for you.”

“Oh, all right, all right.” My response sounded both glum and a little petulant. I was supposed to be some special hybrid minion of Hell, and here I was being subjected to near constant physical abuse in the guise of training. Painfully getting to my feet (Hooves, actually; have you ever considered practicing swordplay and hand to hand battle techniques in high heels? Take my well tutored and experienced advice, don’t.) I grimaced at my teacher. “Go ahead and hurt me again, you grinning torment specialist.”

“All those hang out in The Pits,” Syl equably replied, then laid into me in a blinding flurry of attacks with a long wooden rod she kept handy for such occasions, so quickly I automatically went into the proper defensive form. Just, not quite quickly enough.

“Better,” Syl said, nodding judiciously while I sorted my own form from the ground I’d been pounded into with a series of soft groans and loud curses that would have horrified a longshoreman. “You didn’t get knocked down for a whole three or four seconds that time.”

“Oh, great. Twice as long as last time,” I answered, with a wry and very pained grimace. I considered a sneak attack to get even, then discarded the idea upon thinking of how my bruises would feel if they got bruised.

“Yes, Little Sister,” Syl replied, then nodded with a grin that told me she had noted my impulse, and my quelling of it. “You’re getting the hang of it at last.”

“Glad to hear it.” With a sigh, I took the first movement’s starting position, and steeled myself for another beating. “Well, let’s get on with this debacle.”

Chapter 7

“Hi!” Lorilei greeted me, with a somewhat frazzled smile. I could tell she had been practicing some of the spell casting techniques I’d been showing her in my free time. “How did it go with Syl this time?”

“Am I missing any important parts?” I questioned sourly.

“Nope!” The little Succubus shook her head with a knowing grin.

“Then, I guess it went okay.”

“Great.” Stretching her wings to their full, glorious length, the beauty at least half responsible for me looking the way I did licked her lips and grinned at me. “Now it’s time to have some dinner.”

“Dinner?” Giving her a blank look, I shrugged. “I thought Mama was taking care of that for me.”

“WAS, DEAR.” Mama’s voice filled my brain so quickly I could have sworn I heard something inside rattle. “YOU’RE BIG ENOUGH TO FEED YOURSELF NOW, SWEETHEART. BE GOOD, AND GO WITH LORILEI. SHE’LL SHOW YOU HOW TO DO IT RIGHT.”

“Does that mean out of here? On Earth? Like this?” I questioned, gesturing at my sweat streaked and dirty body, disheveled hair, and bruised face. “I’m not ready for that yet.”

“Yes you are,” Lorilei responded, with a little giggle. “Just use our auto cleaning and healing function, and you’ll be ready for a debutante ball in no time at all.”

“I always seem to forget that ability,” I grimaced, concentrating on being clean and at my best in appearance. In a few seconds, I actually felt better, and smelled more like a flower garden than a sulfur pit with assorted noxious fumes thrown in for grins. I examined myself in the mirror that had obligingly appeared in front of me, and decided that what I saw was as good as it was going to get. Which was actually pretty damned good. (I know, I know. Vanity is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but…WAKE UP out there, where am I, already? Going to Hell isn’t exactly something to hold over my head as a threat any longer, is it now?)

“Okay,” I said, then with a final check of my appearance I grimaced and made a face at the image in the mirror, who quite cheerfully returned the gesture. “I guess if Mama isn’t going to feed me, I’d better get to know how we do it for real. Besides, I’m famished.”

“That’s the spirit!” Lorilei flashed me a wide smile, and gestured theatrically into the distance. “Let’s go eat!”

* * *

I savored the light breeze blowing into the alley we had emerged in, and let out a long, blissful sigh. It seemed like forever since I had set foot on Earth, or The Human Realms as both Demons and Angels called it. “Ah…Oh my…what’s that awful smell?”

“Pollution,” Lorilei grinned, then wrinkled her own nose in distaste. “Humanity is every bit as good, no better, at ruining a nice place than we Demons and Devils ever dreamed of doing. Kind of makes you long for the old sulfur pits, doesn’t it?”

“Almost,” I agreed, provisionally, while recalling references I’d heard to The Pits, and the creatures who ran them for the poor souls condemned to their care(?). “But give me a little smog any day over what I’ve heard about some other places in Hell.”

“Good choice.” Lor nodded with a grin that displayed her cute little fangs. “We really have it pretty good being Succubae, and even Hell Maids are favored creatures of His Satanic Majesty, Lucifer.”

“Oh, good.” My response was less than enthusiastic, which drew a giggle out of my companion. “By the way, is this sex changing stuff mandatory in Hell, or is just a fluke that you, me, and Syl used to be men?”

“You noticed that, huh?” Lorilei chuckled, then waved off my retort before it could get a good running start. “Not really, but some of us have been hand picked by Lillith to replace losses.”

“Losses?” I was interested, and a bit nervous at the mention of losing creatures like us.

“When the war was hot,” Lorilei sighed, as she began a lecture that she’d probably heard and used many times already, “Succubae were Hell’s messengers, magic users, and diplomats. Hell Maids not only patrolled the borders of Hell, they were Lucifer’s own elite cadre of battle lieutenants, who personally led some other elite troops from Hell in the battles with Heaven.

“As such, both Succubae and Hell Maids tended to be targets for every Angel or any of their allies who ran across us. Both cadres suffered horrible losses in the fighting before both sides ran out of troops,” she told me. “Syl lucked out, and actually killed a Hell Maid in hand to hand combat, so Lucifer grabbed his soul before any of Heaven’s spawn could, had him transformed to replace the Hell Maid he’d killed, then gave Lillith pretty free rein to pick any new souls she could find that would suit her own clan’s needs.

“Which takes care of explaining me.” Taking a breath, she went on slowly, “You were a special case; Lucifer himself gave Lillith permission to create you.”

“I suppose I should be honored, then.” I didn’t feel that way. In fact, I got a very distinct feeling of uneasiness as the idea bounced merrily around inside my transformed head. “But why me?”

“You,” Lorilei replied, then shrugged while sniffing the air coming in through the mouth of the alley, “could already use magic, had a large store of your own that could be maintained even once you were transformed, and had the temperament to be a fine Hell Maid.”

“Okay.” Turning to try and catch what she was sniffing at so appreciatively, I caught a sweetish, salty tang in the breeze that caused my stomach, or the equivalent of that which I now possessed to grumble with hunger pangs. “I’m a fighter type who can also use magic…what is that, uh…wonderful aroma?”

“Ambrosia,” my companion sighed happily, then tilted her head and winked at me. “For us, anyway. What you’re smelling is the scent of Human males blundering about and just waiting for beings like us to have a snack off their masculine energy.”

“I think I’m in the mood for more than a snack.” My retort seemed a little too eager to my intellect, but my sexual nature found it a bit reticent. I was starved. Almost literally. I knew instinctively that I badly needed to replenish my energy to replace what I had been losing in my training exercises with Syl. “I think a full fledged buffet is more to my liking.”

“It’s out there,” she said, waving toward the dim light spilling into our alley with a note of invitation in her voice. “Why don’t we go feed ourselves, dear?”

I didn’t require any more urging. With a nod that still seemed far too eager, considering some of my sensibilities as a Human, I motioned for my smaller companion to lead the way, while licking my full lips in anticipation of quelling the gnawing hunger I felt.

I won’t dwell on the details of that first feeding. I was sloppy, mostly because I was famished for the kind of energy upon which Succubae thrived. All I will say is that I latched onto my first victim with such a single minded intent that I hadn’t realized what was happening to the poor guy until Lorilei found us and interrupted me with a not so light tap to the shoulder.

“Huh?” I responded, with a great deal more intelligence than I thought myself capable of at that moment. “I’m not done yet, Lor.”

“I think you are, sweetie,” she giggled, and pointed to where my first real meal as a Succubus was twitching in his induced sleep. Or rather, her induced sleep. “You’ve siphoned off all that one’s masculinity and maleness. Shame, shame.”

“Uh oh.” I felt a pang of regret while looking down at the beautiful young woman who had been a very virile and physically powerful man not an hour earlier. “Did I do that?”

“Yep,” Lorilei nodded with a sigh. “You drained every bit of the food you wanted, but that didn’t leave anything for him…er, her. In the future, pay attention, and stop when you feel the man’s juices start to wane in your victim. Otherwise, they’ll all end up as pretty ladies when you’ve finished with them.”

“Oh,” I replied with a nod. I thought about something and glanced toward my companion. “Could I put some of it back? You know, make her back into a him?”

“Nope,” Lorilei said, as she shrugged while examining the newly created woman softly snoring at our feet. “You’ve absorbed it all, and your body is using it already. No going back for this one, but she’ll get used to it. We did.”

“Speak for yourself,” I grunted, then took one last look at my first victim, and shook my head with a wry grimace. “I may never get used to it, but anyway, welcome to the club, honey. Hope you enjoy girl stuff.”

“Don’t worry,” Lorilei soothed, “she’ll be all girl, and won’t be able to fathom how she was able to stand being a male for as long as she was. After the initial shock wears off, anyway.”

“Next time, I’ll be more careful.”

“Do that,” Lorilei replied, nodding with a frown. “This one was my fault, really, I should have stuck with you a little more than I did.”

“You had to eat, too,” I pointed out.

“True,” she replied, then brightened up. “Well, let’s get home for now. I think both of us are sated for this trip.”

“I guess we are, I know I am.” With one last parting look at the still sleeping girl I’d left of what had been a man, I shook my head one more time, and entered the portal Lorilei opened up.

Chapter 8

Once back, I started going over some of the ins and outs of using magic that doesn’t come innately to someone. “Now, tell me how you manage to conjure up a portal whenever you want one, no matter where you are.”

Lorilei gave me a momentarily puzzled look, then her expression cleared. “I just take the magic that’s hanging around doing nothing at the time, and tune it to what I want.”

“So you already have the skill for the fine manipulations needed for any spell you might want or need to use,” I pointed out with a grin. “Because you do it every time you use that portal magic.”

“Hey, that’s right!” She nodded with more enthusiasm for the magical abilities taken from my former teacher than I’d seen her show since I’d first met her. “I just never thought about things that way. I mean, all I ever did was to grab whatever was at hand — so to speak — and, WHAM! there it was, but only when I was in a hurry or trouble.”

“Which tells me, and should tell you,” I finished in satisfaction, “that you need to stop trying so hard to control something you already have control of when things are quiet. Just approach the magic with the casual aplomb you use when there’s something going on that requires its use.”

“You’re telling me to stop worrying about things and just do it, right?” She gave me a close look, then nodded in sudden understanding. If a real light bulb had gone off over her head like it does in cartoons when someone gets an idea, it would have blinded everyone on the nether side of The Human Realms with enough leakage to brighten up the nights there for a while.

“You got it, sis,” I agreed with a smile. I still loved teaching magic to a truly gifted student, and Lorilei was and is one of the most gifted and potentially powerful practitioners of the art that I have ever run across.

“Ummm, mind if I point something out?” the succubus, glowing with a faint faery light that came from a spell she had never managed to master before, questioned.

“Very nice job on the Faery Glow,” I approved, then nodded, wondering what kind of gem she was going to unload on me that time. “Go ahead.”

“You might take your own advice when you’re training with Syl,” I was informed matter-of-factly. “Syl says you have all the raw talent anyone would need, and could grasp the skills she’s teaching you in a matter of days if you’d just relax and let things flow.”

“Hmmm…” Running my tongue inside of one cheek, I thought that one over, then kicked myself mentally. I’d been drumming the same thing into Lor’s poor head for days, and it had never once occurred to me that exactly the same lesson might just apply to my own situation. “Right you are, my friend. Think I’ll go give it a try.”

“Good idea,” my student/teacher grinned. Evidently, my own light bulb was of high enough wattage to considerably brighten the surroundings, too. I was almost surprised that our mental circuits hadn’t gone into overload from all that output of ‘the pure light of understanding’.

So, with that new (okay, not so new, but really new and Hell shaking for yours truly) idea firmly in mind, I sought out my other teacher, and tormenter, Syl. Once I found her and started to tell her what I had discovered, she unexpectedly decked me one more time.

“Ohhhh,” my groan was muffled by the turf my face was buried in. My arms were numb from assorted blows, both delivered by Syl and given by yours truly. A surreptitious look at my left arm showed the cumbersome shield still firmly strapped to it, while my tingling right hand still held the hilt of Heaven’s Bane in a convulsive grip that I thought might never release. Of course, HB was hanging on as tightly as I was. There is something to be said, I suppose, about a sword with a mind of its own and the determination to stay close to her erstwhile mistress. Not that any of that kept the blasted thing from laughing in my mind and teasing about my becoming a vegetarian whenever I was working out with Syl.

“Bery vunny, HB,” I muttered through a mouthful of lawn and the soil that had held it a few minutes earlier.

“What was that?” Syl, short for Sylvanna, questioned as I began spitting out shreds of grass and chunks of the ground while cautiously getting to my scabbed and bruised knees.

“I said,” with a pause to spit another stalk of grass that had seen my tongue tangle in my fangs and thought it looked like fun out of my mouth, “Ouch! Dammit, did you absolutely have to hit me so bloody hard? Again? When I wasn’t even looking?”

“Yes,” Syl grinned in mischief, then seated herself on a nearby bench. “If it helps, you just about dodged my last little love tap.”

“Huh!” came my intelligent rejoinder to her barracks humor. “If that was a love tap, your lovers must be made of stone and be rooted firmly in the ground. I thought my brains were going to spill out of my ears there for a minute or so, and the final verdict isn’t in yet. They still might.”

Syl drew in a breath, then let it whistle through perfect teeth, providing of course, one was willing to put up with having a mouthful of sharp, pointed things instead of civilized teeth, while muttering something about damned pleasure loving succubae under her breath. “That was a love tap, compared to what some Angel might deliver to you, without you seeing that one coming either, I might add.”

“I know.” With a grin of my own, I laid a thundering slap to the side of her head with the flat of Heaven’s Bane. Then watched in satisfaction as my tormentor/teacher did a tumbling flip as she went ass over tea kettle to land in a half stunned heap some feet behind the bench. “Consider us even, Syl.”

Working her jaw back into place, Syl paused long enough to give me a gimlet stare that usually meant trouble for her half reluctant student. But that suddenly changed to a satisfied grin as she slowly got to her feet. “Almost even, sheling,” she chuckled before beating the daylights out of me.

An indeterminate time later, I reluctantly came to, while wondering if the damned Hell Maid I had for a weapons tutor had managed not to break at least one bone in my aching body. I also noticed that I was soaking wet, and the water had been cold.

“Now, aren’t you two a sight?” Lorilei’s amused voice penetrated my still fuzzy consciousness. “Have another fight, did we?”

“Don’t know about you, Lor,” Syl’s voice came from right beside me, at ground level. “But we sure did. Bloody Gates of Hell, did we EVER!”

I vaguely recalled hitting back for a change. Along with biting, clawing, and actually trying to use the edge of my sword on Syl. Not to mention doing my level best to run her through with my built in spike heels.

“Is she ready for action, then?” Lorilei inquired in a deceptively calm voice, while seating herself gingerly on the remains of the stone bench Syl had occupied before I’d walloped her and started our latest brawl.

“Oh, aye, that she is, little one.” Syl sat up, evidently a painful procedure for her, too. I knew I was still gritting my teeth every time I attempted to do more than simply sit close to upright. “Held her own against me in a real brawl, she did. And the little snot started it!” Syl’s voice held both admiration and humor as she said that. “With a sword in her pretty hand, I’d rather stand right in front of her just yet, but she’s got the basics down pat. Along with the wiles of a sneaky little succubus to help her along. Those wings are just about an unfair advantage. If I hadn’t netted her, she would have staggered away from the graduation test while I was out cold.”

“Graduation?” I straightened even more, and immediately regretted the idea, as bolts of pain shot from the base of my spine to the tips of my wings.

“That’s right, Angelique,” said another voice. Its owner, an imposing Hell Maid in full regalia, sauntered into my line of sight and offered me a hand up. I saw another giving Syl the same assist. “Duly witnessed and approved by a squad of your peers, I might mention.


“Welcome, Sister!” the as of yet unidentified Hell Maid thundered out, and was answered by a chorus of similar voices. “Proud to have you with us, even if you’re a bit on the scrawny side.”

That last had been delivered in a whisper I hadn’t been meant to hear, but I diplomatically ignored it. Mostly because it was true. Next to a full Hell Maid, I appeared at best to be half grown, even if I did tower head and shoulders above the Succubae who also claimed me as a sister. “Thanks…er, I think introductions must have been made while my bell was still ringing.”

“While…? Oh, indeed, little sister!” the Hell Maid chuckled, and gave me a companionable pat on the shoulder that just about sent me sprawling on my face all over again. “Forgive me, I just haven’t seen such an entertaining graduation exercise in millennia! Ruatha Head Splitter, but my friends just call me Rue.”

“Glad to meet you, Rue,” I answered shakily, while carefully holding to my still uncertain balance. “I hope we can be friends.”

“Me too, wingling! Me too,” Rue chuckled, as she gave my form an appreciative and critical look at the same time. “Those wings and the ability to use them make you a very formidable opponent for anyone. Once you come into your full skills, I would very much rather call you friend than enemy.”

Another hand reached to grip my arm in a friendly manner. It belonged to the other Hell Maid, a beauty as all of them — us — were, and in full fighting regalia, as well. The other hand still supported Syl as she grinned and gave my arm a squeeze. “Brekke, here, little one. Happy to have you with us.”

I nodded agreeably, while noting that Syl appeared at least as battered as I felt. That one flashed me an encouraging grin, and nodded in silent agreement as the other dozen armed and armored figures who had been hovering on the periphery converged to greet, congratulate, and rattle my bones with solid thumps to parts of my already tender anatomy.

My introduction to my peers was nearly harder on me than the “graduation” fight had been, but I didn’t really mind all that much, seeing as how most of my body was numb, anyway.

Chapter 9

“Okay, Lor,” I said, turning to my sister succubus with a tilt of my head to emphasize the fact that I was getting ready to ask an important question. “Just what did you mean by asking if I was ready for action?”

“Ever hear of Shen-Dai?” she questioned in return, with a very deliberately neutral tone of voice.

“Yes,” I responded slowly, then grabbed the little sexpot before she was able to dodge out of my reach. “You aren’t, by any chance, trying to tell me that I’m going to be involved in going after a Rogue Angel, are you?”

“Uh, not that I’m happy about it, but now that you ask, yes.” Lorilei gave me a troubled look, then sighed in resignation. “Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be in the forefront of that confrontation. I am. As bait, no less. Not only has this one gone rogue in a big way,” she continued in a rush, probably so I would put her down on her dainty little hooves, “he has designs on the Human Realms.”

“Neither Heaven or Hell would tolerate that,” I replied, setting her down carefully, mindful of the power she really possessed in spite of her diminutive form. I gave her my best ‘I’m waiting for the punch line’ expression.

“Neither one would be able to stop him if Armageddon was called, now would they?” she frowned, and winced at a word that was considered obscene in both realms. “And this damned Rogue, Shen-Dai, is planning to start just that. He’s even had his agents foment incidents that could ignite The Final Battle between Heaven and Hell. Fortunately, neither side believes the other would allow such a stupid stunt to be pulled by any of their minions, so The Powers in both realms started to investigate. They found Shen-Dai and his merry band of disaffected Angels, Demons, and Humans, but haven’t been able to penetrate the bastard’s defenses without unsettling the whole of The Human Realms doing it. Unless one of us can get inside and act as a key,” the petite beauty shuddered before going on, “and the boneheads have decided in their infinite wisdom, that I’m just the key they need.”

“But Shen-Dai holds you personally responsible for the destruction of one of his more important Human underlings.” I shook my head in wonder that stupidity wasn’t confined to Humans alone. “Girard was an integral piece in his plans, and the Rogue isn’t likely to be very forgiving toward you for killing that one.”

“But I have power,” she spat out, as if reciting something she had heard from elsewhere, “and beauty. Two things this Shen-Dai covets and admires in others. The bosses tell me that I’d be the perfect bait; that the motherless son will either try to destroy me on the spot, or force me into some sort of union with himself that will benefit from my abilities and raw power.”

“Not a pleasant prospect either way, is it?” My question drew another wince from my friend, and I added another question to at least divert her from one of her infamous tantrums. “So, how do I fit in all this?”

“You,” Lorilei managed to get out between tightly clenched teeth, “and Syl, along with selected members of my growing family, are going in with me. Since I have to show a convincingly disillusioned anger at both Heaven and Hell for ‘using’ me the way they already have, I’m supposed to be in total disgrace, and hunted by Hell for disloyalty and a whole list of other offenses. Which means that I’m going to be chased, harried, and otherwise flushed out of any cover I might find by minions from both sides in a cooperative effort to keep me from joining with the Rogue out of spite, and desperation just to survive.”

“Plausible.” I thoughtfully nodded my head, then shrugged. “So your loyal family members are going to follow you into exile and outlawry, right?”

“That about covers it,” Lor answered, with a grimace.

“Okay,” I agreed cheerfully. “Sounds like fun. I’ll come along.”

“Fun?” Muttering under her breath about stone brained Hell Maids, and idiots in charge of Heaven and Hell despite efforts by both Realm’s leaders to delegate things to level heads instead of bloody dreamers, Lor glared at me for a moment, then gave in to near hysterical giggles. “Leave it to you and Syl to define the most outrageous, dangerous path we could possibly take in a very dangerous existence, and call it Fun!”

“Well,” defensively, my response sounded a bit lame, even to myself, “it might be. Besides, Hell Maids are supposed to be eager to stand in harm’s way, aren’t we?”

“Whatever,” my mentor/student grumbled between hiccups resulting from her giggle fit. “But I most certainly am NOT all that eager to put myself in the direct line of fire here. But I haven’t been given any choice in the matter,” she finished with a fatalistic sigh. “Damn, I’ve only been a succubus for about eight months subjective, and I might just end up finding out what happens when a good, or bad, little demoness bites the big one.”

You know, I couldn’t argue with that point at all. In fact, I was kind of thinking along the same lines myself.

* * *

Well, I got the details on the fly, so to speak, as Lorilei and I made a hasty flight toward one of the several gates Mama allows to be open between Home and Elsewhere. Elsewhere being anywhere that isn’t Home; ie, the rest of Hell, The Human Realms, and especially Heaven. We stopped long enough to pick up Lorilei’s strangely assorted group of so-called family, scooped up Syl along the way, and paused long enough to get my real battle armor.

Now, that was an experience. Getting my battle armor, I mean, the other things get pretty mundane after a few hundred times, if you know what I mean. Anyway, we all flocked, trooped, loped, pranced, and whatever else that bunch does, into an area of Hell I hadn’t been to yet. For good reason, it turned out.

Chapter 10

The place was kind of gloomy except for the homey, sullen red glow coming from the forge crouched inside a squat stone structure that only Dimona, Lorilei’s personal Imp could have gotten into without going into pretzel imitations just to get through the door.

“Hallloooo, THE FORGE! Anybody Home?!!” Syl inquired in a moderate shout that only shook the closed door of thick oaken planks bound in heavy iron. “We’re here to pick up a special order!”

“Well, ye don’t have to shake the house down now, do ye?” a low, ominous grumble worked its way between the cracks between planks in the massive if diminutive door, soon followed by a figure wider than it was tall. “And which order would that be that ye’re lookin’ fer, so loudly?”

I could only stare at the creature. I think it was male, but between a tangled mass of thick hair, what was presumably a monstrous mustache, and a beard that was so long I wondered how the poor thing even walked without tripping itself, I was hard pressed to tell for certain, even with my succubus instincts and senses. Three feet of gnarled, stumpy limbs and granite-like skin stumped through the unlikely door and regarded us with beady red and yellow eyes. “Well? I got no time fer visitors, so state yer business and let’s be done wit it.”

“Quite right, Giruduir, old fellow,” Syl nodded cheerfully, while completely ignoring the volcanic rumbling from the creature she was addressing. “We’ve come to pick up my sister’s new battle armor.”

“Oh, the runt’s?” Giruduir, or whatever it was really named, grumbled with a deep chuckle. “Aye, I have it ready for the final fittin’, but why in the name of once blessed Odin did you have me make it with those gods be damned slits in the backside? No decent armor has holes in it, mind you, but I make to order, as advertised. Where’s the filly what’ll be wearin’ it?”

“Right here,” Syl grinned, while pushing me forward. I managed not to stumble (too much) from the thunderous pat on the backside that propelled me forward, and got my progress halted within inches of the creature. Barely.

I could have sworn I heard creaks and pops as the dwarf looked me over critically, then broke into what would have been a wide grin on anyone else. On him (it was a he, it turned out) the grin looked more like a display of stained gravestones jutting out of diseased ground in a haunted churchyard. “Well, why din’t ye say it was armor fer a Valkyrie? That be explainin’ the slits in the backside, now, don’t it? Fer her wings!” He gleefully hopped from one foot to the other while bobbing forward in what I belatedly understood was supposed to be a bow of respect. “Welcome to Giruduir’s Forge, Lady! It be an honor to fit this armor special to your lovely body, and it will protect ya…Aw shit.”

He dropped the yokel accent all at once, and really bowed to me. “Lady, it is a privilege to serve you. I haven’t seen a Valkyrie in over a thousand Human years, and you are a sight to behold, you are!”

“Thanks, I think,” was about all I could get out.

“Old Luke stealing Old One Eye’s designs now, is he?” The being I now recognized to be the fabled dwarven smiths who had forged many of the Norse God’s most powerful weapons glared at Syl while waiting for an answer.

“Oh, come on, Giruduir,” Lorilei sighed, then chuckled. Two acts that positively delighted the gnarled Dwarf. “You know we got the rights to that basic body design once The Aesir and the Storm Giants beat each other to bloody pulps at Ragnarok.”

“Aye.” Giruduir gave a sigh every bit as hot as his legendary forge, then gave out a rumbling chuckle in response. “Ahh, but what a battle that one was…”

“Yes it was,” my succubus sister nodded with a wide smile, “and I promise to come let you share the story with me once we get this other business finished up. Now, do you think we could get on with what we came for? I really don’t mean to be rude, but we’re facing our own Ragnarok if something doesn’t get done soon. I don’t think you’d really enjoy the aftermath of Armageddon any more than we would.”

“Been there, done that, sweet lassie,” Giruduir chuckled, then turned very serious as he looked me over again. “Well now, I can see a few little adjustments will be needed, but that shouldn’t take too long. Come inside, and I’ll get you fitted in armor fit for a goddess, Lady Angelique.”

“Uh, inside…” Giving the extremely short and broad entryway a dubious look, I caught the unkempt Dwarven smith grinning mischievously at me, and giving me a rapid wink of one eye. “Well, why not?”

I followed him inside, expecting to be cramped from the start. Surprise, surprise! I found my stooped posture with wings carefully (and tightly) furled at my back to be completely unnecessary. The entrance was a tall, perfectly formed arch of red and white granite that left feet of space over my head, and was wide enough to accommodate my wings fully spread. That was shock number one. (You’ll recall that I did use surprise twice, right?)

Number two was a dandy. Giruduir was no longer a squat, ugly rock-like creature. Inside his carefully maintained and scrupulously clean forge area, the Dwarf was both clean and very well groomed. With an obviously ready welcome showing through his leather pants. Okay, he was still squat, kind of ugly, and still very short. (In height, anyway. The bulge I more than idly noted at his crotch promised to make up for a lot of other potential deficiencies I had noted. My own nether regions tingled and became warm and moist as I noted the fact with some anticipation.)

Shaking out his heavy blonde mane and grinning from ear to ear, he regarded my shocked expression with obvious amusement. “So? You were expecting a real Rock Gnome or something? My kin and I, those of us who survived Ragnarok, have been banished under pain of dissolution by the present Powers in Heaven and Hell, but we still have our uses. So long as we don’t flaunt our presence too much in the eyes of Mortals, Demons, or Angels, we can pretty much carry on as we like. Which is how I met that delightful creature, Lorilei — carrying on. But that’s another story for another time, my Lady.”

“I suppose it would be.” My answer was a bit wistful, but then I caught sight of a glittering set of chain mail so intricately wrought that it was difficult to see the individual links. It looked more like some bright, metallic fabric than true battle armor, but something about it told me in no uncertain terms that it was indeed battle armor. A finer suit of chain than had been forged in thousands of years, in fact.

“Shouldn’t we get on with the fitting?” I questioned, barely able to tear my eyes away from the beautiful things. Heaven’s Bane grumbled, then actually growled as I was doing that.

“Actually, Lady,” Giruduir chuckled, with a quick glance to the entrance, then to my still grumbling sword, “no fitting will be needed at all. This armor will fit itself to you like a second skin on the first try, I promise you.” He winked. “No, I brought you in here so your rather remarkable sword could get acquainted with the armor,” he finished, quite seriously. “And to discuss the payment required for you to take the product of my efforts out of here.”

“Payment?” I knew the legendary Dwarven smith reputedly demanded very high prices for his work, and got what his greedy little soul wanted if the buyer wished to have the results of his work. (Except for the time Loki jogged his elbow as he was forging Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, and the trickster refused to pay because the equipment didn’t meet specifications. Giruduir was still pissed off about that one, even after all those intervening years.)

“That’s right, Lassie,” he replied. Continuing to stare at me with open greed and lust, the stumpy little godling (?) nodded so gleefully his upper torso joined in the motion. “In Payment for the armor I have forged for you, I get visits from your delectable friend, Lorilei, whenever I want to see her, and perpetual connubial rights with you.”

“Uh,” I mumbled, planting a hand on each hip, an unconsciously feminine gesture that had become so ingrained in me lately I didn’t even notice it other than that I was bit put off at the idea. “Isn’t that only if the armor fits, and functions as specified?”

“Aye,” the dwarf nodded, with another lascivious grin for my benefit. “But my work always meets the standards of the deal. Go ahead and try it all out, sweet one, then we have a deal to consummate.”

“So, let me get this straight,” I mused. While taking in our surroundings, most notably, the rather large and new looking bed, the now very interesting bulge at my host’s crotch, and racks of weapons and armor that warmed my Hell Maid’s heart, I went on, “If the armor fits, and doesn’t impede any of my actions, plus whatever else it was contracted to do, I live here, with you, when I’m not off on some of Hell’s work?”

“Correct, Lassie.”

“Oh.” With a broad grin of my own, I shrugged, giving him a very good look at what he had demanded in payment and amused at his near school boy reactions to my shimmying flesh. “Well, it’s warm and very homey in here… All right, let’s get on with the fitting. Didn’t you say something about letting Heaven’s Bane be introduced to the armor?”

“Aye.” All business again, Giruduir briskly gestured toward the magnificent armor draped on a stand off to the side. “Since the sword is sentient, as is the armor, both with your own delightful essence, there shouldn’t be any conflict, but it would be wise to let them get used to each other before going into combat with them.”

“You know, that makes sense to me.” With a sigh, I shook my head. Well, I had a sentient sword, uh broadsword, actually. Why not sentient armor to go with it? But HB wasn’t all that happy with the proposed meeting. Not at all. She actually pulled away from the waiting armor on its stand, jerking my arm, then me toward the entrance. I yanked back with all the physical force I could muster while chiding the damned jealous thing. “Oh, no you don’t, HB. You are going to be at least polite and let Giruduir introduce you to that armor. Clear?”

I got the equivalent of a sigh of resignation from HB, then a grudging agreement. In more sober moments, I still find myself laughing at the image of a silver haired beauty arguing with a sword about meeting a suit of armor. At the time, I just kind of let the flow of things take me wherever the currents wanted to drag me.

“Are you telling me,” I carefully looked from Dwarf to the gleaming armor resplendent on its stand, “that this armor is alive, too?”

“That’s what I said,” the grinning fool of a smith to the old gods replied, barely hiding his mirth at my discomfiture.

“Okay, fine.” My voice sounded a little weak, but still game. Why not? After my own transformation and training as both a succubus and Hell Maid, then being presented with a broadsword that had a mind that was definitely its own, I could see no reason at all to balk at the idea of even fully sentient armor. “Now what?”

“Just walk over to the armor stand,” he instructed, “and set Heaven’s Bane, in her scabbard, mind you, in the loop made for her. Then stand back and watch.”

I did. I almost didn’t stand far enough back. Whenever I hear the expression ‘sparks flew when they met’, I think of that particular time. Only, sparks isn’t nearly descriptive enough. Try lightning, with rumbles of thunder and a few whirlwinds thrown in for variety, and you might come close. Almost. When Heaven’s Bane met Hell’s Defenses (the armor and wickedly horned helmet) I was almost knocked right off my feet.

Truthfully, if it hadn’t been for my wings, I’d have been bouncing off my shapely butt. As it was, I ended up in Giruduir’s brawny arms. “Hmmmm, not such a bad place to be, my good smith. Mind if I stay here awhile?”

“Not at all, Angelique,” he grinned and groped, or maybe it was groped and grinned. I should have been really outraged, having been a very long-lived male before getting sent to Hell after I had been foolish enough to die at last. Old, ingrained male sensibilities raised their heads for about thirty seconds, then retreated in abject defeat as my body took control of the situation.

I was right in the middle of wondering if I’d spent several centuries as a repressed transsexual or had been gay without realizing it when ***ZOWIEE! POP! BANG! FIZZZZZZZZZZZ! BOOM!***

“Oh, myyyy………….” I trailed off as he kissed me again. Trust me on this one, folks. When a being like Giruduir, even an old, publicly discredited and banished one, kisses a gal, she damn sure knows she’s been kissed. Whether she’s really quite ready to be a gal or not. My brain went into temporary overload from all the input mixed with the quandary I had been so briefly worried about earlier. I was pretty sure my toes were sizzling from the heat generated in my suddenly warmly wet crotch, and my poor nipples were standing out at attention so stiffly that they felt like getting ready to launch and leave my breasts (heaving, of course) with a shower of sparks bright enough to light up the deepest, darkest pits of Hell.

I wasn’t sure which one of us pulled the other toward the huge bed in one corner, but it was pretty well clear that Lorilei had been awhile between visits with the very horny old dwarf I was entangled with. I won’t go into gory details just now, but we sent out a storm of our own that must have overawed the armor and my sword, because when our smoke (literally — I was and am a Hell-spawn, and Giruduir is still master of a powerful magical forge, after all) cleared enough to see, armor and sword were quietly waiting for me.

“Ohhh,” I breathed, as we disentangled from each other with pauses for more appreciative stares mutually traded. “I think I’m in love.”

“Do I still have it, or do I still have it?” Giruduir chuckled, then gave me a humorously leering grin. “I sure know you have it, and in an abundance that would have kept Asgaard plenty busy through those long winter nights. Where have you been hiding all these long, lonely ages?”

“Places you’d have never thought of looking,” I answered coyly, then chuckled as a ludicrous image of my old male self and the dwarf trying to reach the ‘inner me’ flashed across my mind.

“What?” the old, but definitely not worn out smith questioned.

“Oh, nothing,” I grinned, and tickled his nose with part of his beard, which drew a snort out of him that sent sparks flying from the banked coals in the forge. “Just a girl thing. You wouldn’t find it funny at all.”

“Well, you might be surprised,” he responded, then gestured toward the armor. “Best start getting into that. Your companions will be wondering what’s going on. Except for Lorilei, probably, but she’s a smart lady and won’t tell anyone how you paid for your new armor.”

“Not that I’d care!” With an internal sigh of loss, I moved away from my lover and neared the armor on its stand. “Now, I’d better start getting into this stuff.”

“Not before you put on the padding,” he cautioned. “One good strike by an enemy without good cured leather between your delectable flesh and that chain would have you tattooed forever.”

“Oh,” my chagrined agreement changed to pure pleasure as a sheathing of the strangest leather dyed in an azure tint appeared on my body, covering me from knees to throat, to wrists in supple, luxuriously soft layers of thin leather with small metal disks sandwiched in between. “Ohhhhh, that’s nice. What kind of leather is it?”

“Dragon hide, cured and softened with the scales turned inside then covered with a liner of gryphon hide,” came the proud answer. “I spent far more time working that leather than the armor itself. About a century on the leather, then fifty Human years on the armor.”

“Oh.” Thinking of wearing something a smith to gods had spent so much time and effort making was nothing short of awe inspiring, then I wondered who it had originally been intended for.

“You, my love,” he smiled, then grinned lasciviously at me in nothing but the skin hugging leather, my wings and tail. “Being akin to gods, even banished ones, still has a few perks. I knew you were coming long before your human shell was even born.”

“Are you telling me that you foresaw my coming to you for the armor, and uh, well, everything else?”

“That’s right, Hell’s Valkyrie,” Giruduir nodded soberly. “The weirds showed me my promised beloved well in advance of the first true meeting. Now, to get you into Hell’s Defense.” Changing the subject without so much as flinching, he gestured to the glittering chain mail. “Just call it, and you’ll be ready to go.”

“Call it?” Skeptically, I gave the assorted pieces a looking over, then shrugged. “Ah…Hell’s Defense, come to me!”

I was stunned by the volume and power in my voice as I called out a summons I’d never thought of using. Then was amazed to discover that the crazy idea had worked! I was clad in glittering chain mail that was as flexible and light as if I was wearing regular clothing. The heavy looking helmet, with its wickedly curbed and sharp horns, was firmly on my head, and Heaven’s Bane quite comfortably across one hip on a beautifully tooled leather belt and equally lovely scabbard.

“Wow!” My barely breathed reaction was hardly enough to do the event proper justice, but I didn’t have a full symphony orchestra in my back pocket at the time. The horned helm sat comfortably over my head while doing nothing at all to impede either sight or hearing. “This is great!”

“Magnificent,” my recent lover amended, whether for me in the armor, the armor itself, or something else altogether (Involving me, of course. Sure, I’m vain about that, but you try being sanguine when a being like Giruduir specifically tells you that you are the true love he has been waiting through generations to meet.) “Truly magnificent, my Lady.”

“Well,” reluctantly I turned back to the doorway, “I suppose it’s time to get going, isn’t it?”

“You’ll do fine,” he assured me, then made a shooing gesture that finished in a thrown kiss.

I could have sworn I felt my cheek burning in exactly the pattern a pair of male lips would have made as I left The Forge to rejoin my friends.

* * *

“Very impressive, Angelique!” Lorilei grinned at me as I emerged, and I could tell from the twinkle of mischief in her eyes that she knew all too well I hadn’t gone inside for a fitting. At least, not for the armor, anyway.

Helga stalked forward, sniffed at the armor, then gave a low growl. (Hell’s Defenses, both of them, with HB thrown in growled back.) The Hellhound drew back with a doggish grin and lolling of her tongue that showed she was laughing. “I like it! That stuff’s alive and has an attitude. Old Giruduir must really like you, sweetie!”

Like wasn’t quite the word I would have used after that sizzling, mind numbing experience I’d had in the forge itself — with the dwarf gleefully helping me along — but I didn’t bother to correct the Hell Hound. “I guess so, Helga.” She grinned, seemingly quite knowingly.

“Now what?” I questioned a vastly amused Lorilei, while shifting the straps of my too-sentient armor to relieve the breasts it seemed determined to caress until I started moaning and cumming all over again. Then added quietly, “You and I need to talk.”

“About what?” she questioned innocently, which was actually a pretty good trick, considering what she was.

“About the price for this stuff!” Gesturing at the armor and shield, I grimaced, then gave her my best gimlet stare.

“What, you didn’t enjoy the first installment?”

“That doesn’t matter, but yes, I did!” With an internal sigh of satisfaction, I had to force myself into a more belligerent mood. “You could have at least warned me!”

“Oh, don’t worry so much,” Lorilei grinned. “Giruduir is expecting some kind of double dealing out of us over all this. Just stick to the bargain, and he’ll soon discover that living with a Hell Maid who is also a Succubus is a bit more strenuous than even that randy old misfit can handle.”

“I don’t know about that,” I responded doubtfully. “He seemed quite pleased with the first payment.”

“Of course he was, dear,” my smaller sister grinned wickedly, “but future installments will show him what a handful he’s taken on with you, along with some pretty frequent visits from yours truly to spice up the action and leaven the connubial bliss.”

“Ahh,” I giggled in understanding. (I will never, never, never get used to giggling like some school girl, but that’s part of the Succubus schtick that I’m stuck with.) “We’re going to suck the old dear dry, aren’t we?”

“Sucking that old reprobate dry isn’t possible,” Lorilei answered, with a giggle of her own. “But we sure can wear him out, if you know what I mean.”

I did, and had to laugh at the thought of that randy, greedy old dwarf begging the light of his life to leave him alone so he could get some much needed rest.

“I see that you do get it,” Lorilei responded, with an evil little grin.

“I sure do!”

“Now we go to the Human Realms, to meet the others involved with this idiotic scheme,” the tiny, but very powerful Succubus responded with something less than enthusiasm, but more aplomb than acknowledging a death sentence. “Ready?”

“Nope,” I replied in perfect honesty. Not that it helped, since the little tart had already turned away, waved her slender arms around a bit (theatrics, but Lor always has been one to draw out the show if she can) and muttering in a sing-song voice, and had opened a portal right in front of the assembled group.

“No sense in delaying the inevitable,” she grumped once that was finished, and gestured toward the yawning black hole in the air with a wicked, and nervous grin. “Let’s go.”

Chapter 11

I won’t bother describing where we came out in The Human Realms. That has already been done. All I’ll say is, the only one of our party who liked it was the Hell Hound. Got the picture? If not, don’t expect me to elaborate. It was smelly, nasty, and very, very dirty.

I sat on a dead rat (very dead, and indescribably noxious), swore, and threw it violently away from myself. The noisome missile landed right in front of Helga’s nose, so I made a permanent friend right away even if it had been by accident. Seeing (mostly hearing, it was really dark down there) the Hell Hound chew, slurp, and snort while consuming that morsel nearly made me ill. If I’d had anything resembling solid food in my stomach, I would have thrown up all over my feet. Happily, I didn’t have the first, so I didn’t do the second. But it was a close one.

Helga protested mightily when we had to literally haul her out of that horrible sewer. But those protests were nothing compared to the howls of indignation she let out when caught in the general cleaning spell Lorilei cast on the group.

“Oh, quit it, Helga!” the Succubus chided in a small fit of pique, while the Hell Hound whimpered as if bereft of her favorite chew toy. (Its name was Girard — which pleased me to no end, by the way.) “There is no way either we or our allies in this venture in pure stupidity will put up with you smelling like the bottom of some sewer.”

“I happen to like smelling that way!” a still miffed Helga retorted, sniffing hopefully for anything the cleaning spell might have left behind while grumbling, “You could have left at least a little whiff for me to enjoy.”

“Just stick your nose in that garbage can over there,” I suggested helpfully. “That should hold you over for awhile.”

“Hey, yeah!” The morose Hell Hound brightened immediately, then bounded over to investigate a whole collection of noxious items beside the back door of a Chinese Restaurant. “Oh, yum! Fish and cat guts! Oh glory, oh glorious, lovely scents…”

Any further comments from her were lost in a series of sickening slurps, chomps, and disgustingly ecstatic sighs echoing from inside one garbage can or another. The others exchanged long suffering glances, then glared at me.

“Hey,” I defended myself, “at least she isn’t howling like a puppy that just lost its mother any longer.”

“Got a point there,” Dimona agreed with a giggle, while the others grudgingly agreed with the imp.

“All right, then.” Lorilei gave me a halfway amused glance that shifted to the happy Hell Hound. “You can drag her out of those cans, since it was your idea to get her interested in them.”

It finally took both myself and a laughing Syl to detach Helga from her gustatory treasures, and we both ended up carrying one end of a very indignant Hell Hound. (Guess which end I got? I’ll think carefully about suggesting anything regarding garbage or trash to that demonic canine again, I can tell you that much.)

“Bite me, and I’ll pull that forked tongue out far enough to tie your mouth shut with it,” Syl warned, as Helga gave her arm a thoughtful, still hungry and slightly vengeful look.

“And don’t even think about…Aack!” I found that dodging the products of a Hell Hound’s nether regions while carrying that end of said Hell Hound is not possible without being a better contortionist than I am. If you think the stuff was nasty going in, I won’t go into how it was coming out. (Use your imaginations, okay?) Brushing the disgusting deposit off myself with my free arm, I grumbled in halfway amused chagrin, “Someone find me a cork. A big one, please.”

That time I did throw up. There was ectoplasmic goo spread all over Helga’s hindquarters. So I suppose I got my little bit of revenge, didn’t I?

Lorilei took my end on the way up while I finished cleaning up and searched in vain for a large cork.

* * *

Once outside, and cleaned up, we found the ones we were supposed to meet. Helga’s hackles raised at the sight, and if you’ve never seen a Hell Hound with raised hackles — all sharp scales and looking like some insanely deadly flower with a canine pistil, I wouldn’t advise going out of your way to see it. Trust me, that sight was truly daunting, even to me, Syl, and the Angels that had caused the reaction.

One of those Angelic personages nodded in our direction with a scowl while muttering something about ‘the princess finally showing up’ while not bothering to hide his distaste at associating with minions of Hell.

Lorilei smiled very sweetly, (a danger signal clear as a red flag going up a flagpole in the middle of a flat plain to those of us who knew her at all) and replied with her usual flippant panache. Then she vanished. To be replaced with a vision of Angelic feminine beauty blatantly mooning the offending Angel. Who then had the effrontery to become even more offensive: so much so that he went to the point of drawing his impressively flaming sword and moving toward my shape changed friend with clearly bad intent.

Hell’s Defenses hummed like some kind of dynamo, and I was suddenly flooded with energy, while I found Heaven’s Bane, complete with icily glittering blue flames to counterpoint the Heavenly Fire of the Angel’s weapon, firmly in my grasp and myself instinctively moving to place myself between the boorish Angel and Lorilei.

Syl was ranged at Lorilei’s other side while Helga, hackles still impressively rampant, bounded to stand defiantly in front of her mistress. I thought Dimona had simply departed for less troubled climes, until I caught a brief glimpse of a stealthy little figure brandishing a wicked looking wavy bladed weapon directly behind one of the other Angels. (Remind me to never, ever piss off an imp. Those little suckers are not only sneaky, they can fight if they have to, and fight very effectively. It’s really hard to hit something you can’t see.)

Lorilei defused the brewing brawl with what I was to learn to be her usual aplomb in tight situations by grinning cheerfully at the angry Angel and telling him, “Oh, chill out. You were thinking the very same thing that I just showed you. How would your wife feel about you having those kind of fantasies about her?”

“She wouldn’t mind at all,” the Angel grated out grudgingly, then took a wary step back when he noticed the not inconsiderable force arrayed against his intended assault on our diminutive leader.

“Then what harm was done?” I swear, Lorilei had to have been absolutely insane. She never even flinched when that one was moving in her direction with clear intent to skewer her delectable little ass, and other parts of her anatomy, and even seemed amused by all of it. “The rest of you calm down, too. Nothing is going to happen here, right?”

“Uh, right,” the Angel responded, with a sheepish expression on his rugged face, while carefully sheathing his sword.

All of that gathering gave out a chorused sigh of relief as the snick and rasp of weapons being returned to their resting places filled the area. I noted a powerful, but fading glow around Lorilei and idly wondered how she managed to gather that much power in such a short time, let alone dissipate it without catastrophic results for the surrounding real estate. Or the people inhabiting it. Not that I was complaining, neither was anyone else who had noticed the phenomenon. That little thing is irreverent, saucy, attracts trouble like a bowl of raw meat draws the neighborhood dogs, and also happens to be scary as all Hell let loose for a holiday rampage without any limits being set on the mayhem that would result in.

The one non-Angelic member of the other group vented his own sigh while covered with sparks from a very subtle, but dangerous spell he had been preparing being harmlessly dissipated into the pavement. That one, I immediately recognized without knowing exactly how I did it, was one of our opposite numbers in Hell’s Legions, an Incubus. He wasn’t as flamboyant as the female version, but subtlety has its good points. That one, by the way, was powerful enough to cause the trio of Angels more than a little unease in his presence.

“My apologies, Lady.” The one time belligerent Angel offered a low bow to Lorilei. “And my compliments to your companions. A very formidable group you have traveling with you. I am called, by the way, Septham.”

“Well, I see you haven’t lost your touch, Lor.” Another Angel, larger and more regal than the other two, bowed almost formally to our leader, then grinned irrepressibly. “You manage to draw more emotion out of beings who should know better in mere moments than others have managed in centuries of trying.”

“Nice to see you again, too, Ariel.” Lorilei nodded at the Angel with a smirk, then returned her attention to the Angel who had called himself Septham. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

“Septham, and Tiand here, were both prisoners of Girard,” Ariel informed her with a chuckle. “Both were among the surly lot of Angels you so kindly, and generously, handed over to me after you killed the mage.”

“Oh, Hell!” Lorilei laughed at the further dispirited expressions on the other two Angels’ faces, then softened that with a genuine smile that would have warmed the reaches of the deepest darkest void in Hell, or anywhere else. “I couldn’t figure out what to do with over a dozen Angels, anyway. I literally caught hell for that one, by the way. Seems that Hell did have use for them, until I so blithely gave them away. But they had been a long time away from home, and I just couldn’t haul them down to the pits, you know?”

“For which Heaven is duly, if reluctantly, grateful, my dear,” Ariel replied. “The Hosts aren’t used to being in the debt of a Hell Spawn, but we’re slowly getting used to the idea.”

“Stranger things have happened,” the ebullient little Succubus replied as she shrugged, causing no small amount of muffled groans and drooling from the male members of the party.

“Mostly around you.” Ariel gave the undulating flesh that shrug caused an appreciative look, then shrugged himself. “But some of us are not destined for a quiet existence, and you seem to be one of the noisier ones among that company, milady.”

“Oh, you noticed?”

“Everyone in Heaven, Hell, and other realms have noticed, my dear,” the Angel responded with a mild chuckle. “You do not go anywhere quietly.”

“Quiet doesn’t seem to be one of my talents,” Lorilei grumbled, then drew herself up to her full (unimpressive in the company of Angels and Hell Maids) height to give the trio of Angels a long, calculating look. “And I sense a change of plans here, don’t I? One I’m going to like even less than the idiotic idea of playing worm to our Rogue’s fish, unless I’m wrong.”

“Perceptive, as usual,” Ariel agreed with her assessment, without really agreeing. “Please come over here, and I’ll outline the new game plan.”

The rest of us were left sizing each other up from our various positions, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when a rich baritone quietly reached my ear, from close enough to let me feel the heat of the breath that drove it. “You must be Angelique.”

I turned to see the Incubus giving me the usual male once over, and nodded once. “That’s me. Now, who might you be?”

“Forgive me.” Slightly abashed, he drew back a pace and gave me a deep, formal bow with his glorious spread of leathery wings adding gravity to the gesture. “I am Richard, Lorilei’s former lover when we were mortals.”

“That either means Lor was gay as a male, or…” I trailed off with the sour thought that changing sex was becoming a common denominator among my new acquaintances and associates in Hell.

“I was a woman,” Richard finished for me. “Which was the case.”

“I’m not surprised.” My response sounded a bit weary. “Given everything that has happened to me since I had the poor judgment to let myself get killed, not much surprises me lately. By the way, that was a fine piece of spell weaving you did earlier.”

“Thanks,” he acknowledged my praise with a small, endearingly quick smile. “You didn’t do so badly yourself. I thought His Honor was going to piss his Heavenly Pants when you jumped out with that sword glittering like ice.”

“Thanks, yourself.” I returned the smile, liking this one for reasons I couldn’t really describe to myself, and it wasn’t the usual Incubae power over females. Succubae were immune to that, as he was to the more subtle blandishments of my kind. “That’s the kind of reaction a Hell Maid is supposed to engender when she is ready for a fight.”

“I particularly liked the part where you lifted yourself off the ground with your wings,” he continued. (I do not remember doing that!) “Most impressive.”

“YOU WANT ME TO WHAT??!” Our conversation was cut very short by Lorilei’s screech of absolute, indignant, amazement. “SEDUCE an ANGEL?!! That means getting a whole LOT closer to him than I like!”

That outburst lowered in volume, and we heard the soothing, conciliatory tones of Ariel’s beautiful voice murmuring something to her. Not that it calmed her down much, if any, but at least she didn’t rattle the nearby windows any longer.

Chapter 12

“Lor,” I quietly informed my smaller sister after she and Ariel had briefed us on the new and improved plan, “no wonder you’re scary. You are INSANE!”

“Kind of helps in our line of work, hon,” she responded with a half-hearted grin. “Besides, if you think I’m in love with the idea of being the entree on Shen’Dai’s matrimonial table, you’re the one who’s out of her mind. Trust me, I’m not happy about this at all. And someone is going to hear about it if I survive. TWO some ones!”

That last was spat out with a glare for Ariel’s benefit, who had the grace to appear both embarrassed and upset over the whole thing. The Angel only shrugged in reply, with an unhappy expression on his face.

“So, what are we supposed to do here?” I questioned acidly. “Hide our eyes and count to a million, then shout, ‘Ready or not, here we come!’?”

“Just give us an hour’s head start,” the lovely little Succubus answered. “That should be enough for me to really muddy our trail for you hunters.”

“All right.” I gave up, ignoring Syl’s snicker at my disgusted tone of voice. “So you, the Hell Hound, and the Imp run like Heaven, Hell and some unnamed third party is hot after your pretty tail, and we just hang out with the Angels.”

“I’m no Angel,” Richard interposed almost mildly.

“We really aren’t such bad sorts, you know,” Septham added carefully. “Look at it as an interesting exercise in balance, and a new note of cooperation between our two conflicting sides.”

“Supernatural Glasnost,” I muttered, then, letting out a defeated sigh, I accepted the inevitable with something like good grace. “We see if we can avoid chopping, frying, or otherwise killing each other until you manage to give us a link we can use to either gate in or break through his defenses when He’s occupied with cute little you.”

“That about covers it.”

* * *

Lor and company hightailed it out of there, and those of us remaining behind dutifully argued about what we should do if and when we caught up with them, and who was in charge. Naturally, we Hell Spawns disliked the simple idea of taking orders from an Angel, even if Ariel was a friend of Lorilei’s and had seniority on all of us.

The Angels, for their part, absolutely refused to accept one of Lucifer’s minions as a commander, and were more than a little vocal about that point. The discussion nearly degenerated into a pitched battle before Syl and Ariel got us sorted out. Mostly with freely delivered slaps, punches, and bellowed commands to get the participant’s attention.

“THAT IS ENOUGH!” both of then roared at the same time, as Ariel slapped Septham’s sword arm down and Syl actually gripped my own with enough force to bruise me through the armor.

“Now,” Ariel glared at all of us and lowered his voice, “that’s much better. We have to work together here, and neither I nor Sylvanna will tolerate so much as a raised fist from one of you to another. Got it?”

“We’re waiting for an answer,” Syl grated out, giving us all one of her own very effective hellish glares.

The rest of us, caught between Heavenly Wrath and Hellish Fury, drew in deep breaths and grumbled out acknowledgements.

“I will be in overall command,” Ariel informed us while wearing an expression that was both amused and pained all at once. “Sylvanna is to be my second. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who fails to follow one of her commands without a direct countermand from me is going to be doing gate duty sorting out the new souls for a very long time to come. Understand?”

We did.

“No more arguments, no more fights, and especially,” Ariel growled, “No. More. Dissent. From. Any. Of. You. We are a team, and by the Heavenly Hosts, we’re going to act like one.”

I gave Septham, Tiand, and Richard each a glance accompanied with a small shrug, as they did much the same with the rest of our quartet. “I’ll be good, at least as good as someone like me can be.”

The others put in their own separate agreements, to Ariel and Syl’s satisfaction.

“Now, I think our quarry has had enough of a head start,” Ariel grinned, as he waved to the teeming streets that had been oblivious to the near battle in an out of the way alley.

* * *

Tiand was spending a lot of time watching me, which wasn’t all that comfortable a feeling. Well, you try bearing up under the detailed scrutiny of a full fledged Elohim for hours at a time, and see how well you handle it.

Finally, I’d had more than enough of it. Turning to face the Angel with hands on my hips and a nearly belligerent expression on my face, I demanded, “What!?”

“Uhmm,” the Elohim cleared his throat without averting his beautiful hazel eyes from my own azure ones. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, uh…Angelique. I was just wondering how you ended up with a name more fitting for an angel, then got to thinking that you’re every bit as beautiful as any female angel I’ve ever laid eyes on. More so, even.”

Uh, oh. I was still new at this girl thing, but could already recognize a come on when I heard it. “Thank you, Tiand, the name was given to me, I didn’t choose it, but what’s your point with all this? Your staring has made me more nervous than a cat who fell out of a tree and landed in the middle of the dog pound.”

“Look,” he let out a long, drawn out sigh while gathering his resolve to finish the conversation with at least a modicum of dignity, “I know we got off to a bad start, with the drawn swords and all…”

“And?” I questioned, with a lift of one fine eyebrow and a devilish little shrug that had his eyes even wider open than they had been. (Okay, okay, I couldn’t help it, all right? I am half Succubus, after all, and Tiand is a very good looking male, even if he is part of the opposition.)

“Well…” I could see him decide to plunge into the potentially hot water this was likely leading to. “I’d like to have the chance to make it all up to you, the animosity when we first met, I mean.”

“Oh?” This was leading to something that could be at least fun, but had some pretty dangerous repercussions if not handled correctly. The get of an angel and a demon was not something to lightly consider, if things went so far as a real sweaty palmed wrestling match in bed. Neither side was very pleased with the resulting half breed, and life for those unfortunate beings was more miserable than the worst sinner condemned to the nastier parts of Hell. “What, exactly, did you have in mind?”

“Maybe a little get together here in the Human Realms once all this is taken care of,” Tiand answered, a bit hesitantly. “You know, dinner, a show, maybe a little dancing. There aren’t really any Rules against fraternization with the opposition, you know. At least, not any major ones.”

“That’s something to think about,” I replied, giving him a very good thousand watt type smile. I pursed my lips in a way that I had already learned drove most males to near insanity. “I suppose we could try that. Once all this mess is over and done with, that is.”

“Great!” Tiand was giving me a smile that had my insides all squirmy, squishy, and wet. This was a two way street, and both of us were on a collision course at higher speed than was entirely safe. “I’d like that.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“IF you two are done flirting,” Ariel interrupted almost acidly, but with a knowing grin, “I think we’ve located our pigeons.”

“You’re as bad as Lorilei.” Syl grinned at my near embarrassment over the fact that I had actually made a date with an Angel. “Now pay attention to business. We have to make this look good without doing any really serious damage to anyone.”

“Now, that should be a challenge,” I retorted.

“Be good, Little Sister,” Syl cautioned me.

Sheesh! First a lecherous dwarf, next up, an amorous Angel, and then I had to help stage a faked fight when all my training and instincts were aimed at doing all the damage I could possibly inflict. I’d need all my concentration for that, and gave the other Hell Maid an understanding, chagrined little nod of agreement.

“Let’s go then,” Ariel commanded, as he finished a similar conversation with Tiand.

Chapter 13

The three hares in that farce of a chase were very well disguised, blending in very well with the Humanity and pets they were mimicking so successfully. Lorilei had the appearance of a young Human female with a small child (Dimona) in tow, complete with the harassed expression a young mother often wears while trying to control an active little girl in public.

Helga wasn’t helping matters, disguised as an overly frisky pup on a leash that constantly got tangled with Dimona’s little legs, much to the pair’s delight and Lor’s exasperation.

Lorilei turned her dark haired head toward us and let out a short, pungent curse, returning to her normal form as both Dimona and Helga did the same. The Humans around all of us went on about their business, or lack of it, without a single glance for either party readying themselves for a fight. I made a quick mental note to ask someone why that was, then plunged into the fray.

Lor threw a very nice (nasty) confusion spell that swirled around all of us like a localized tornado of misdirection, purposelessness, and forgetfulness. I countered with a quick dispel, that sent the thing spinning off harmlessly to dissipate in the air over our heads.

Ariel pulled out an impressive mace that flickered with lightning and flame, and rumbled with the intimations of thunder, moving toward Lorilei in a short arching flight with upraised weapon. The attack missed, but left a very large whole in the pavement where the target had been moments earlier. Syl walloped Helga with a glittering arc of metal that was her sword. The sweeping attack was turned by Helga’s natural armor, but the Hell Hound yelped in real pain, and sank her own teeth into Syl’s left calf.

Dimona managed to trip up both Septham and Tiand with a diabolically active bolo that kept wrapping its cords around legs, arms, and the occasional throat.

I managed to get off another quick spell, (I hoped Lor would forgive the scorching of her tail and pretty bottom later on) and the fracas was over as quickly as it began.

Lorilei and company had vanished again, right in front of our noses, so to speak, and we were unable to pick up their trail from the tangled mess of traces left over from the fight.

“Well, wasn’t that entertaining.” Syl chuckled while massaging the calf that Helga had bitten.

“I guess you could call it that,” I grumped, while massaging aching temples. “That was one nasty confusion spell she threw at us. Getting it diverted gave me an awful headache.”

“At least you managed to do something useful,” Tiand ruefully put in, as he disentangled his legs from Dimona’s bolo. “That damned Imp had me and Septham so tied up all we could do was manage not to trip and fall over.”

“It was a good fight, though,” Ariel said, as he repaired the gaping hole his mace had battered into the pavement by the simple expedient of waving his hand over it. Then the blasted thing obligingly filled in and smoothed itself. “Good work, everyone.”

“How did you do that?” I questioned him in genuine curiosity mixed with a lot of professional interest.

“I’ll show you sometime,” he promised. “It isn’t all that difficult, really, once you get the knack.”

“Hey!” Tiand, finally untangled, looked at our group, then searched the surrounding area with his eyes. “Where’s the Incubus?”

“Ohhh,” a groan emerged from a jumble of smashed crates against a wall to our left. The wreckage began heaving and tumbling out of the disorganized heap it was in to become the beginnings of an equally disorganized tangle of broken wooden slats and plywood spreading in a semi-circle from the wall.

“Oh, never mind,” the Angel brightly added. “There he is.”

A head emerged from the mess as Richard let out another groan. “Remind me to never, never, get Lorilei angry with me again.”

“What happened to you?” Septham questioned, with a small grin at the Incubus’ discomfort and decidedly mussed up appearance.

“I tried to distract her with a little seduction magic,” he answered, getting to his feet very slowly, stretching his back and arms carefully as he did to the accompaniment of creaks, cracks and pops. The Incubus grimaced at one particularly loud pop. “It didn’t work. She TK’d me into the middle of those shipping crates, then piled the wreckage on top of me. None too gently, either, I might add.”

“Had to make it look realistic, didn’t she?” I smirked at the disheveled Incubus as he continued working out the kinks in his back and shoulders.

“Look?!” Richard actually appeared a little outraged. “She was damned at me, and wasn’t fooling around.”

“You haven’t seen her in action, or at least practicing what she is capable of doing magic-wise,” I offered, without the least remorse for seeming to pick on the fellow. “She could have done a whole lot worse to you.”

“Oh, dark gods,” he muttered, “I don’t even want to think about that right now.”

“What now?” Syl asked Ariel. “We’ve had ourselves a nice little running confrontation, and are licking our wounds. Do we hunt her down again?”

“Not just yet,” the Angel replied thoughtfully. “First we make sure all of us are fit. Then probably cast around for a trail, and wait to see if Shen-Dai invites her in. If he does, someone is in for a very unpleasant surprise, and I don’t think it’s going to be that little Succubus we all know and mostly love. But we’d better be ready to jump in and help her when it’s time.” Obviously thinking about the sheer, unadulterated power our supposed quarry had just displayed, he shook his head in near bemusement before going on. “Because even that little dynamo won’t be up to handling the Rogue, all his minions and hangers on with only an Imp and a Hell Hound for backup.”

With that pleasant thought, we all forced ourselves to relax and allow our natural, if vastly accelerated, healing functions to do what they were supposed to be there for.

* * *

“Umm…” Lyle, the latest addition to my menu, let out a very contented moan as I sucked his still rigid member dry of its contents. Not to mention enough of his essence to supply my own needs from healing that had been necessary after that brouhaha with Lorilei.

“Damn!” I sat up in mid swallow at the insistent tugging on my awareness from the direction the others were hiding out in what sounded like a cell phone insistently calling for attention. Evidently Lorilei had worked a whole lot faster than any of us had hoped, or was in more trouble than I cared to think about. Either way, it was time to go, and the fight I would be getting into next would be no sham. “Got to go for now, lover. Things have come up.”

“Can’t it wait until we’re finished?” Lyle, a fairly good looking young fellow with the build and constitution of a professional linebacker, grumped at me.

“Nope, ‘fraid not, hon,” I replied with real regret, as I kissed him lightly, getting one last taste of his delicious essence, and incidentally, tying his soul to myself so I could find him later. “But I’ll be back. You can count on it, sweets.”

Following that final, for the time, kiss, I slowly went through the door of his bedroom, then wished myself back to where the others were waiting. I even remembered to simulate the sound of his apartment door closing quietly behind someone leaving.

* * *

“It’s about time,” Tiand groused, as I popped into our staging area. “I hope you fed well.”

“Well enough.” My reply was a bit arch, but the Angel had actually seemed jealous when I had told everyone I needed to feed so my recharge would be complete. “Enough to get my batteries charged. Is it time to go in?”

“Aye, Lass,” Syl nodded grimly, then ruined that with a quick grin. “Don’t get your plump little behind killed in there, all right? I’d hate to think of all that training being wasted.”

“Bruises and broken bones, you mean,” I grumbled, then checked to make sure Heaven’s Bane and Hell’s Defenses were ready. All of them hummed in thrilled anticipation for an answer. “Hope it was all worth it, Syl.”

“It was,” she responded, as a swirling, technicolor vortex opened up in front of Ariel.

“The Gate is open,” that one shouted over the howling winds in the vortex. “Let’s go!”

We all dove into the thing almost at the same time.

Chapter 14

Our group emerged to see a very busy Imp trying to avoid being skewered, pulped, or just grabbed by a motley assortment of armed Humans, one sorceror, a cursing Angel, and several creatures that appeared to be hybrids of either angel or demon and human.

The badly overmatched Imp nimbly danced between her foes, ducking between legs, dodging around blows that would have split her in two if landed, managed to strike several successful blows of her own, all while laughing maniacally and howling with Impish mirth at her opponents’ clumsiness. Glancing our way, Dimona shouted, “A little help here would be appreciated!”

“Grrrllrowww!” Helga added, unable to speak with a mouthful of screaming flesh that looked to be a cross between the worst of demon-kind and Humanity.

With a shouted out, “Harrgh!” I left the ground and drew Heaven’s Bane to intercept a rather filthy looking Angel angling to take the Imp from above and behind. Obviously, I hadn’t really considered what I was doing up to the point where I was looking into the burly (and smelly) chest of the Angel I had meant to attack. My mental note to be more careful about judging the speed and distance of a target next time was cut short by my helmeted head impacting on his breastbone.

I couldn’t tell if the loud crack was from his breastbone or my poor neck, but my bets were on the breastbone since I was still conscious and the Angel dropped to the ground like I’d poleaxed him. On later reflection, I may as well have done that to him. The gaping wounds in his chest made by the horns of my helmet were sizzling and smoking like a gutted computer under a water sprinkler, and he was making no effort to move, or even appear semi-conscious.

Ariel was plucking (literally) a Human/Angel hybrid with one hand while his other gave a squat demon-like creature a solid whack with the mace it held. The creature went down in a haze of what passed for its blood and a cloud of feathers from the half angel.

Tiand had gotten himself backed into a corner (figuratively) with three armored and well armed renegade Angels doing their absolute best to surround and hack him into bite sized bits for their less fastidious comrades to chew on later.

On my way down to give him some help, my armored foot landed on one of the renegade’s heads. Then kept right on going until I was standing knee deep in a very much ex-Angel. That one’s fall pulled me to the ground as well, and my flailing for balance (with Heaven’s Bane, of course) took the head off one of the others. Okay, accidents sometimes make a girl look really good at what she does. Besides, who am I to quibble over Murphy giving me a break for change?

Tiand finished his remaining opponent off, then gave me a savage grin of appreciation. “A bit unorthodox, but well done!”

“What in Heaven was that supposed to be?” Syl walked up while watching me extract my foot from the Angel’s chest, by pulling it out of the gaping hole his head had become. A quick look around let me know that the fight was over with.

“Worked, didn’t it?” I grumbled, while shaking the excess gore off my dainty foot and well turned calf with a grimace of distaste.

Syl grumbled something about beginner’s luck, then stared at me with hands planted on her hips. “And just what was that Harrgh you let out at the start of things?”

“Uh, a battle cry?” Giving her a hopeful look, I could see she wasn’t buying that. “Oh, all right! I was trying not to piss in my panties, and that’s all I could get to come out without screaming in terror at what I was thinking of doing.”

“We have got to work on your battle cries and fighting songs,” Syl replied as she shook her head in near disgust, then chuckled. “I don’t think Yuck!, or Gaagh!, no matter how musical they come out, make an appropriate battle song for a self respecting Hell Maid with two dead Angels on her score card after her first fight.”

“You sing what you want,” I grumped, “and I’ll holler what I want.”

“Must be the Succubus in you,” my martial mentor grumbled almost to herself. “Makes you a little squeamish about spilled guts, and mushed brains.”

Picking an especially noisome gob of something from between the joining of my armored boot and bare calf, I grimaced. “I’m wearing a good part of one of those Angels, Syl. It’s nasty!”

“Is any of that blood and gore yours?” she pointedly questioned.


“Then don’t be so damned school girlish about it, all right?” Syl admonished, before giving me a careful looking over to make sure none of it was mine. “And be glad its theirs instead of yours.”

Well, I had to admit, she had a pretty good point there.

Helga scampered up, still chewing on something I preferred not identifying. “Mmph! ‘Bout time you guys showed up. Me ‘n Dimona were just about to finish those idiots off ourselves.”

“I noticed,” Ariel said, his deep voice joining the conversation with just the slightest hint of sarcasm in it. “Now, where is Lorilei?”

“At the castle,” crunch, crack, slurp, slurp, “or palace, whatever.”

“Would you mind too much leading the way, O mighty appetite on four legs?” the Angel questioned acidly. “We are here to help her and destroy that Rogue, after all.”

“Oh, yeah.” Helga raised her head, slavering dripping jaws, glowing eyes, and mouthful of sharply pointed teeth and pointed her red-stained nose toward a path not far from where we were gathered. “Place is all lit up like Vegas on a good night. Can’t miss it.”

“You mean that place with all the lightning, smoke and loud booms coming out of it?” I questioned the hound.

“That’s it.” Helga gave me her best doggy grin, and began trotting toward the pyrotechnic display that I just knew had to have dear little Lorilei at its heart. “Come on, she probably needs the help really badly by now.”

Richard rejoined the group, dusting himself off and shaking a bit of gore from his own booted foot, glanced in the proper direction once, then announced matter-of-factly, “Oh, there she is. Are we going or not? You look really good in red,” he also informed me, almost nonchalantly.

“Thanks, I think.”

He grinned, then our conversation ended as Ariel began running toward the scene of what all of us knew was probably a very nasty fight.

* * *

An Angel bent on reaching a specific point on foot, and in a hurry, is something to see. Ariel, with Dimona perched on his left shoulder, thundered down the path, sweeping any opposition out of the way as if it were rubbish in the road that needed to be moved from the right of way.

Of course, the rest of us, trailing along at our own individual best possible — and varied — speeds, were left to clean up that rubbish. Don’t ask how many of what I tore my own way through during that frenetic charge. I couldn’t tell then, and I couldn’t tell you now. All I did was whale away with Heaven’s Bane whenever something I didn’t recognize as friend got close enough for the coldly flaming blade to reach. And kept running.

A clawed, scaly hand gripped my shoulder and the base of my wing in an attempt to pull me down. Hell’s Defenses really got into the fracas then. I felt energy flow outward, heard a crackling, hissing sound that reminded me of frying steaks on a hot grill, along with a ululating scream of agony as the offending member crisped to the consistency of well fried bacon.

My wings were undamaged. Wings… Damn! I’d forgotten all about those in the meelee. Not only could I keep up with that battering ram of an Angel up front, I could leap frog him directly to the now crumbling palace. I had the awful feeling that a certain little Succubus needed some extra help right away, as I leaped into the air and began using those appendages. Shortly after that, my brain decided to join in and I began analyzing the things I was seeing from my new vantage.

Chapter 15

The palace had once been a pretty nice place. It had gone to, pardon the expression, Hell since it had been put up, though. Pretty recently, too, and appeared to be continuing its downward journey as I watched in near awe.

Two towers were nothing but stumps spewing smoke, sparks, and pieces of masonry like some demented roman candles that refused to run out of gunpowder. An intact minaret was swaying back and forth as if trying to decide on where the best place to fall would be, the marble walls were cracked and beginning to crumble in spots, and the roof was entirely gone in enough places to allow a horde of Angels or winged Demons easy access from the air. If it hadn’t been for all the magical energy roaring through and around them.

The closer I got, the more all that swirling energy menaced anyone idiotic enough to try entering the wreck of a palace through the obvious openings. I detected the feel of one very angry, frightened, and desperate little Succubus intermixed with others I didn’t recognize, but who were equally desperate and angry.

With all the energy spewing and clawing its way upwards, it was suicidal to attempt an entrance through what was left of the roof. Anyone short of the Big Guy upstairs, and probably Lucifer himself, would have been torn to tiny, well done pieces if they had tried. Only one set of doors appeared at least halfway safe to get near, and the windows were non-approachable, too.

Oh, yeah, there was one Hell of a fight going on at the front and only doors otherwise safe enough to enter.

Some non-human magic user with traces of both Angel and Demon in her was pressed against the heavy metal reinforced wooden doors, throwing all kinds of nasty spells at a crowd of renegade Angels, disaffected Demons, half breeds of both descriptions, and a few Humans. She was almost holding her own, too.

Almost. The gathering of baddies were gradually wearing her resistance to their approach down, and she was beginning to lose the fight. Putting up my own shields, I approached the whole mess with an idiocy I seldom displayed as a Human, and never again have as the cute little Hell Maid/Succubus I am now.

Well, to be honest, there wasn’t any other way to do it. I tried figuring out an alternate approach in the short time I had, even considered letting the unidentified Magic User wear the opposition down a bit more before getting involved. Instead, I jumped right in. Literally.

I used the tried and true ‘land on their heads and the fight goes right out of them’ method again. Two Angels went down, but this time I also kicked my way free before they fell. Messy, but very effective. My feet had barely touched the ground when I began screaming out, “Lorilei! I’m with Lorilei!” at the top of my voice.

Which gathered me a lot more attention than I thought was healthy, but did keep the magic user from trying to zap me. Either or, you know how it is sometimes. I formed a ring of very impressive Hellfire around me that actually did crisp three Humans and one of the nastier hybrids in the bunch. At least that cleared the immediate vicinity around me.

Heaven’s Bane gleefully arced through the air with a mind of her own, slicing, dicing, and chopping with an abandon that would have warmed Popiel’s heart. Hell’s Defenses made sure that no one touched me physically with anything but weapons, and my protection spell had magical attacks fizzling off with relatively small results. Only, there were a lot of all the above coming at me, since I had landed right in the middle of the group trying to get to the doors. Did you know that a lot, an awful lot, of negligible hits can add up to several very big ones?

Believe me, they can. They did. I was scorched, bleeding, and had a miserable headache within seconds. But did that stop this intrepid idiot? Oh, no. I kept wading through the opposition and (thankfully) the hits lessened as I did. By the time I reached the magic user at the doors, there were only about half the bad guys left standing and capable of giving a fight to either one of us. Unfortunately, that would have been more than enough to overwhelm both of us.

I gave my as of yet unnamed companion a quick grin and salute with that manic sword, planted my feet, and prepared to make the nasties pay very dearly for getting past or over me.

Who knows? With her help, I might just have done it.

Never found out, though. Because just then, a living bulldozer named Ariel plowed into them from behind. Now, take a second or two to put yourself in the bad guys’ place. First, one magic user had held them away from the only clear access to reach and help their boss for almost ten minutes, single handed. Then, just as they were beginning to wear her down, some insane Hell Maid literally drops on two of them, fries another bunch, then chops up another ten or so. The odds are still about fifteen to two, but the two are obviously tiring. Then, an Angel with a cackling Imp on his massive shoulder, closely followed by a slavering Hell Hound, another Hell Maid, two more Angels, and a male Demonic magic user crash into them from the back.

Demoralizing? Damned right. What would you have done?

Run? Give that contestant the prize, Jack.

They bolted like the Gates of Heaven and Hell had opened up and were turning a ravening horde apiece loose. Which, come to think of it, was a pretty accurate description of things just then.

Helga cheerfully bounded off after them, with Tiand and Septham on either side of her. Now, THAT was a strange sight. A pair of full fledged Elohim in full battle dress, running with a Hell Hound. After a group that still had a few other Angels in it.

Ariel flashed a brief grin, shouted a hearty, “Well Done!” and promptly crashed through the doors we had been fighting to protect.

Among all that, I heard an Impish cry of glee. Dimona, securely perched on Ariel’s shoulder, was brandishing that wicked little wavy blade and cackling — well — demonically.

“Interesting friends you have there,” the magic user commented a bit breathlessly, as Richard charged past us, too.

“Yep,” was my intelligently sparkling response.

“Well, thanks for the help,” she went on, with a weary grin. “I was inside when the fireworks started, managed to take out some of the opposition in there, then thought it might be a good idea to watch the door for help coming.”

“And ran smack into a rescue party for the Rogue,” I finished for her.

“That’s right.” Nodding her head, my companion flashed a smile that would have shamed the world’s finest courtesan, and no few Succubae. “But I got some payback for the way they treated me here, and in the Human Realms. I’m Adrianna, by the way.”

“Angelique,” I returned, then stopped cold as Adrianna pulled her concealing hood back. Even inexperienced as I was, it was very clear that the lady was the result of an Angelic and Demonic coupling. The demon part being Succubus, the Angel being a pretty highly placed individual. And she had all the best features of both.

Her expression soured at my openly frank expression. “Got a problem with what I am?”

“Who am I to have a problem with what anyone is?” My response was quick, but not quick enough to seem like I was grasping at straws to keep from telling her the truth. “I’m a cross between a Succubus and a Hell Maid, and wasn’t even female until Lorilei got hold of me in Hell. No way am I going to quibble about someone else’s antecedents.”

“Thought you were a little scrawny for a Hell Maid!” Adrianna’s expression lightened, and she offered me a grin. “Which you are probably as tired of hearing as I am about what an abomination I am.”

“You got that right,” I grumbled, then grinned back.

“Well, you sure saved my butt.” With a sigh, she glanced inside, where a lot of pyrotechnics were still going on. “Thanks. By the way, you make up for lack of size with sheer ferocity.”

“That was pure terror!” With a grimace, I turned to stare into the palace. “I suppose we’d better get in there, huh?”

“I suppose.”

With the introductions over, we walked in side by side.

* * *

Our entrance was greeted with a group gathered around what looked to be the catfight of the century, maybe the millennium. Lorilei, swearing like a longshoreman, was rolling on the floor with someone who appeared to be a human magic user.

“I’ll show you a real mage bane, bitch!” she screamed so loudly we could hear it from a distance of fifty feet. “And I’ll — gack! — do it the old fashioned, hard way! With my bare hands!”

“Hell Bitch!” the other hollered back. “I’ll send you back to where you belong- aawwk!”

The magic had pretty well subsided, except for some residue floating around looking for something to attach itself to. I brushed aside the inquisitive, hopeful strands of what remained of a pretty nasty binding spell, and it went to sniff at Adrianna with the same results. Disappointed, it wandered off in search of more amenable prey.

A cracked and tipped over throne of crystal with a rather large body draped across it kind of hinted that the Rogue had been taken care of. I didn’t recognize the weapon still imbedded in his chest, but it was definitely alive, humming with contentment, and determined to keep the lifeless form it had pinned to the stone floor right where it was.

A male figure, obviously an Angel, but one I had never seen before, limped to the prone form, grasped the weapon, a long pole with a curved blade at its end, and basically argued it loose from the pinned body.

“That would be Jedidiah, Lorilei’s personal Death Angel,” my companion offered as an aside, while we continued giving most of our attention to the fight still in progress.

“Death Angel?!” I questioned, once the information had soaked into my poor, overworked brain and introduced itself to my remaining consciousness. “Lor’s?”

“Uh, huh.”

“You know,” I half mused, “somehow, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“She is a collector, isn’t she?”

“You can believe that.” Moving up to get a closer view of the fight, we could see that both combatants were showing signs of hard use. Lorilei was covered with blood, cuts, scrapes, burns, you name it, the injury was probably in there somewhere. And the Human was in a lot worse shape.

“Don’t you think we ought to separate them?” Syl idly questioned the gathered audience at large. “Oh, never mind.”

The human had learned the hard way what it’s like to run head on into a certified mage bane bent on physical mayhem. I casually snatched her soul as it tried to flee, and stuffed it into my utility pouch for a later presentation to my little sister. She’d earned that one.

“Okay, everybody,” Ariel announced, after checking the little Succubus over to make certain no permanent damage had been done, and repairing the worst of it as he did, “good job. Let’s go home.”

Leaving a Death Angel I had yet to be introduced to and Adrianna deep in conversation, I nodded with a weary happiness. “Sounds good. Though until recently I wouldn’t have thought going to Hell would.”

“Good fight, little sister,” Syl congratulated me, with a resounding clap to the back that nearly had me sprawling face first on the floor. “We have things to do now. Say your good-byes, and let’s get going.”


“Just what I said,” Syl grinned evilly. “We have another assignment, since Lor is going to be laid up for awhile.”


“We just finished this one, I know,” Syl answered with a stream of air out of puffed cheeks. “And a fine job it was. His Satanic Majesty wants us to check out what a certain goon named Baal, who happens to be Hell’s overall military commander, is up to. There have been some unsettling rumblings from that direction recently that His Hellish Majesty wants checked out.”

“With no rest from this one?”

“Sorry, little one,” she replied, with a sigh of her own that actually seemed commiserating. “But you have to learn this sometime. A Hell Maid’s work is never done. We just get an occasional break or some soft duty like hanging out with Lor. Now, come on.”

Grumbling to myself and anyone else that might have cared to listen, I made my farewells, promised to meet Tiand whenever I had enough time, and watched Ariel lift both the body of the Rogue and Lor, then vanish into a portal.

“Damn it, Syl.”

“Aw, come on, Little Sis,” she grinned, again the irrepressible demon I had come to know. “We’re going to work with some more Hell Maids. It’ll be fun!”

“Define fun.”

“I’ll surprise you.”

“Oh, boy,” I grumped, as we entered a different portal leading to Hell knew what. “I can hardly wait.”



© 1999 The above work is copyrighted material. Anyone wishing to copy, archive, or re-post this story must contact the author for permission.

Reposted with permission


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