Chapter 2

“You’re back! How’d it go?” Damiya said, her voice bright, almost artificially cheerful as the she looked at Emonael anxiously. The elf still wasn’t comfortable in her disguise, which Emonael truthfully couldn’t blame her for. It took even most succubi time to get used to shapeshifting, let alone humans, though she did think that Damiya looked nice with the current shade of platinum blonde hair, and the bright blue eyes.

“You might say it was a smashing success.” Emonael replied, a smile playing across her lips as she took off her cloak and hung it on the cloak rack by the door. “Earl Elwyn didn’t make it to shore, and it’s going to take months for them to clear the harbor. Unless they have earth magi on-hand, which I’m quite sure they don’t.”

“Ah. Well, that’s good!” Damiya said, smiling warmly as she leaned in to hug Emonael, and the succubus pulled her into a deep kiss, still in the elven shape she’d adopted for infiltrating Tethlyn. Damiya relaxed a little as the kiss went on, but Emonael could tell there was something wrong, so she broke it off after a few seconds.

“You’re concerned about something, and it obviously isn’t my safety. What is it?” Emonael asked, relaxing slightly as she stared into the other woman’s eyes.

Damiya couldn’t hold her gaze for more than a couple of seconds, averting her gaze as she looked at the wall of the inn room, hesitating. Then she spoke quietly.

“What… what about the other people aboard the ship?” Damiya asked softly. “There was an entire crew, wasn’t there?”

“Ah, of course.” Emonael replied, resisting the urge to sigh as she pulled back, shifting her position so she had a hand on each of Damiya’s shoulders. She looked at her, then continued. “About half the crew died, at a guess. Many of them were toward the bow of the ship, but some doubtlessly drowned. I’ll remind you that they were the elite crew of the earl’s flagship, so they were hardly innocent.”

Damiya nodded slowly, but then she pulled away, turning to look out the narrow window of their room. It wasn’t the best inn room, but Emonael had chosen the place for the fact the owner asked no questions and it wasn’t frequented by spellcasters who might detect her wards, not for how nice it was.

“I just… she wouldn’t want us to kill people. You know that.” Damiya said, her voice so quiet that even without the wards no one would have overheard her. Yet what she’d said… it caused mingled feelings of shame and anger to rise in Emonael.

“I know. That’s a large part of the reason why this entire country isn’t already in flames.” Emonael replied, the anger winning for the moment as she took a deep breath. “That, and I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of being immortalized in history. If I’d gone with my instincts, though… oh, the palace would have been the first thing to go. I really wonder if Marin was right, that someone could cause a volcano to burst from the earth via high magic? I’m not going to, though. I’m going to keep my vengeance more… precise. Perhaps not precise enough for you or her, but I promise, this is far less than I’d have done otherwise.”

“Thank you. I’ll admit, I was a lot angrier at first, it’s part of why I didn’t panic when you told me what you were. Hearing that Marin knew as well… it did help a bit, but I’m not… just not willing to kill everyone for what a few people did.” Damiya admitted, turning back to Emonael as she asked. “Who’re the ones left? I know you’ve gone over them before, but…”

“As you like. There were nine people in total who I consider responsible for the attack.” Emonael said, her rage cooling slightly as she thought about the information she’d gathered. “I believe that High Mage Northwood perished with Marin, I can’t think of any other reason the pompous fool would have stayed quiet for this long, and Earl Elwyn is gone, now. That leaves seven people at fault, possibly eight, depending on Northwood’s status.

“First and most important, King Artinious Besar and his heir, Prince Vindi Besar. I have confirmation that both of them were neck-deep in the plot to conquer Pharos, as well as the assault on the association.” Emonael explained, resisting the urge to pace, a habit she’d picked up from Marin. “Duchess Appleglen has been a strident supporter of gaining new lands, and her army is the largest of all the nobility, beyond being the closest duchy to Pharos. Some of the nobility below her aren’t nearly as happy, likely because they’d be the ones taking the brunt of any counterattacks, and their dissatisfaction has grown ever since the attack.

“Then there’s Grand Bursar Nantiar, the man who not only takes care of Tethlyn’s economy, but who also functions as the king’s spymaster. He’s the one who arranged for the attack on the town, and has done far more than I initially believed. I need to investigate further.” Emonael continued, tapping her leg now, her anger flickering again at the thought of how the spymaster had delayed her, and thus had kept her from saving Marin. “The last three are minor by comparison. Ysklia the Golden, a merchant, Baron Jade, and Marshal Drake. Each supported the attempt and provided resources, but they weren’t the masterminds.”

Damiya nodded slowly, her worry easing as Emonael spoke. She was drumming her fingers against her side, thinking hard. When the mage spoke, her voice was soft. “Good. I just worried that you were going to expand the list again. I don’t even know how you learned all of that in barely over a month.”

“It’s astounding what people will tell courtesans to impress them.” Emonael replied with a smirk, which caused a bright blush to stain Damiya’s cheeks.

“What?” the young woman demanded, her eyes widening in shock. “You… you didn’t… but you were staying with me most nights!”

“Of course not? You think I’d bed the very people I intend to destroy?” Emonael asked, clicking her tongue chidingly. “Oh, if it was the only way I’d do it, but I have plenty of options. No, I found those who they’ve visited.”

She also left unsaid that she’d summoned a few succubi to help gather information more directly, but Emonael didn’t want to shock Damiya. The mage was technically Emonael’s summoner at this point, which meant that all of Emonael’s actions were metaphysically considered Damiya’s choices. That’s why Emonael was keeping the succubi on a short leash, to keep them from doing any more damage than they had to.

“Oh. That’s… I suppose that’s better.” Damiya said, letting a relieved breath, embarrassment practically written on her face. “I’m surprised that you were able to convince them to talk, though.”

“I can be very convincing.” Emonael replied primly, a smirk playing across her lips. “I doubt you’d like to hear the details.”

That caused the blush to return to Damiya’s face, and it was even more impressive than it’d been before. The woman coughed, turning away quickly as she asked. “So, um… how are you going to deal with the others?”

Emonael paused, looking at Damiya’s back for a moment. A smile grew on her face, and she stepped up behind the woman silently. When she wrapped her arms around Damiya’s waist the elf jumped, and Emonael leaned in to whisper in her ear. “You’ll just have to wait and see, hm?”

Then she nibbled on Damiya’s ear tip, causing the woman to whimper softly, to Emonael’s amusement.

Vengeance could wait. For now.

Chapter 3