Andrea barely noticed Magister Tallet’s rage through their faint link, and the faint explosions from upstairs were only faintly noticeable, primarily due to how they brought dust down from the ceiling above, thus imperiling dinner.
Grabbing a towel, she swept it over the mixing bowl and scowled at the ceiling, murmuring. “Get it over with, already. Some of us have work to do.”
Instead the conflict continued, and Andrea let out a sigh of annoyance. Still, it seemed like the majority of the dust had been dislodged in the opening stages of the battle, so once it’d mostly settled she got back to work on the meat pie. The battle would likely go much like the previous dozen had, so she wasn’t going to get her hopes up.
A sudden surge of fear shot down her link, causing Andrea to stiffen a moment before there was a shattering sensation and the link to the Magister broke. It was so sudden and complete that Andrea swayed in place, almost dropping the pie rather than slipping it into the oven. She paused for a long moment, then slid it into the oven anyway, not entirely daring hope that the sensation foretold what she thought it did.
“Is he actually dead? That’s…” Andrea murmured, but the faint hope was quickly quashed by fear, and she swallowed hard, looking down at her hands. “Oh, crap.”
Her hands were a deep, nearly blood-colored crimson, and her nails extended outward two inches and were black, looking like nothing less than obsidian shards. They were as sharp as knives, which was useful at times, but they were simply the most obvious of the changes that had been inflicted on her, and Andrea swallowed again, and quickly took a moment to concentrate.
As she concentrated, her hands rippled and shifted, her nails shortening to a more reasonable length and shape, even as they took on a human tone that matched the soft, pale skin that replaced her crimson coloration. Andrea felt the changes wash over her entire body, and let out a faint breath of relief. She still wasn’t happy, but at least she wasn’t afraid of being killed on sight!
“Alright, if they killed Tallet, they’re probably here for me. That’s both good and bad… so let’s try to start this off on the right foot.” Andrea murmured, nodding to herself. “First, wash up.”
She washed in the nearby washtub, wishing that she’d known what was coming today. As things stood, things would either go very good, or very, very badly. Pausing a moment, Andrea listened carefully, hearing what sounded like metal-shod boots on the stairs, so she decided to stay where she was rather than dressing up.
Standing well away from the door, Andrea took a moment to unhook her dagger and set both it and the sheath on the counter, then raised her hands and waited. The wait was short, as the door suddenly burst open, revealing a handsome man.
The human was wearing shining silver armor marred by the faint residue of soot, and from the size of him he was both broad-shouldered and muscular, standing nearly half a foot taller than Andrea. The visor-less helm revealed hints of his blond hair, blue eyes, and a chiseled, handsome face that tickled at Andrea’s memory. He was holding a longsword in one hand, the blade glowing with blue sigils, and Andrea didn’t pause.
“I surrender.” She spoke clearly, keeping her hands raised in the air as she looked at the surprised man.
“What? P-princess Andrea?” The knight asked, blinking in confusion. “Why are you in the kitchen? I expected a servant, not you!”
“Sir Calvin? Is something the matter?” Another voice came from behind him, and a moment later another man appeared in the door, this one an elven man of more moderate height, with shoulder-length brown hair and in the turquoise armor of an elven warrior-priest.
The elf’s eyes lit on her almost in the same moment, and Andrea’s heart sank as another woman appeared in the doorway, this one another elf, wearing the white armor and winged helm of a paladin of the White Host. The woman’s sword was sheathed, unlike the man in the lead, but the angelic motif was obvious and Andrea felt her chances of survival drop precipitously at the sight of her calm silver eyes.
“I am Andrea, but I’m afraid that the title of princess is no longer one which I may lay claim to.” Andrea replied, nodding ever so slightly as she tried to place who Calvin was. “I must admit that I’m somewhat surprised by your apparent success in killing my captor, but I welcome his death.”
“What are you talking about, Princess? You’re alive and well, and just as I remember you!” Calvin protested, stepping into the room and sheathing his sword. “Your family feared that you had been killed, but that you’re safe will leave them elated!”
“Sir… Calvin, is it? I’m afraid that you’re a touch mistaken.” Andrea replied, slowly lowering her hands and giving a helpless shrug. “What’s the law of Esren say about what happens to noble titles when a bearer dies and is raised from the dead?”
Calvin paused, tilting his head to think for a moment.
“It states that unless the bearer is the only heir to the title, and the royal council agrees to grant the title to the one who has returned from the grave, all titles are forfeit, and the deceased is removed from the line of inheritance.” Calvin finally answered, and his eyes widened in horror as he asked. “Are you saying that the traitor killed you and raised you from the dead to remove you from the line of succession? That bastard!”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Andrea replied carefully, swallowing as she worked up her nerve, then continued softly. “In actuality, he used me as the sacrifice for a ritual… which then transformed my spirit into that of a lust demon which he bound as his familiar.”
She allowed her transformation to end with her explanation, and Andrea couldn’t help flinching as Calvin abruptly recoiled, suddenly going pale. The two elves twitched slightly, the man swearing under his breath, but the most telling comment came from the woman.
“Well, this certainly is an unpleasant surprise.” The paladin murmured, her voice strangely gentle as she shook her head. “It’ll complicate matters greatly.”
As the woman hadn’t unsheathed her sword, Andrea felt her hopes rekindle slightly. She couldn’t agree more with the woman’s words.