Raela Silversworn wanted to pinch the bridge of her nose and curse as she looked into the near-immaculate kitchen. Still, with other people present she didn’t dare actually do it, not with the prestige of her order on the line. Prince Calvin Hovar looked like someone had hit him between the eyes with a mallet, and Raela honestly couldn’t blame him. What the princess, no, the former princess, had just told them was… unpleasant and unexpected both.
Andrea was simply standing there, her hands spread and having taken a carefully defenseless stance, Raela noted. The former princess had looked like a beautiful if normal human at first, with pale skin, bright crimson hair, and sparkling green eyes, and stood a few inches shorter than Raela, at about five and a half feet tall. Now her skin was a deep crimson, her eyes literally glowed like emeralds, and there were the strange runic black markings of a demon trailing down from her neck. While her hair hadn’t changed colors, there were a pair of small obsidian horns jutting from her brow that rose to delicate tips, and obsidian claw-like nails at the end of her hands. It was an incredibly odd look, considering that the demon was wearing a maidservant’s outfit of homespun cloth, with an apron spattered with dough and dust.
Come to think of it, Raela could also smell something cooking in the oven, which was something of a surprise. She also found herself intrigued by the young woman, as she’d never even heard of a demon actually surrendering before. Most demons didn’t have much of their previous personalities either, though, which changed things.
“That… that’s not possible!” Calvin suddenly snarled, breaking the silence as his sword cleared its scabbard with a ringing sound. He took a step toward Andrea, threatening her both physically and verbally. “What has been done with the princess, demon?”
At his approach the demon flinched, shrinking back ever so slightly. Raela could practically see the fear in her eyes. Raela didn’t wait to see what would happen, though. To wait would be to violate her own oaths.
“Sir Hovar!” Raela exclaimed, her voice cracking like a whip as she stepped into the room, bringing him to a sudden halt. As he looked at her, she continued. “She surrendered and has not made a single threatening gesture toward us. You will not violate your oaths as a knight.”
“I… but what about her? What about the princess!” Calvin protested. “She has to be lying about what happened! She has to be a doppelganger or liar!”
“That may or may not be the case. Even so, you are better than this, Sir Hovar, and we have other methods of finding out the truth.” Raela replied sternly, then glanced at Mindeth. “Mindeth? Your order has the ability to discern truth from falsehood, does it not?”
The elf paused for a moment before nodding and relaxing slightly, slinging his shield and letting out a soft laugh. “Oh, yes. I almost forget about that gift at times, it’s so rarely used, but I possess it. I will warn that it requires those I wish to check to allow it to function, but if they resist I’ll know.”
“Excellent.” Raela nodded and turned to Andrea, who hadn’t moved. She studied the demon for a moment before asking, her voice still stern. “Andrea, are you willing to allow Mindeth to use his ability to read the truth of your words?”
“Of course!” Andrea replied immediately, looking relieved as she wiped her hands on her dress nervously. “There’s a reason why I opened with surrendering, and told you immediately. I don’t want to die again. It was bad enough the first time around!”
“I suppose that’ll work. But if you’re lying to us, I’ll cut you down myself!” Calvin threatened, his eyes narrowed.
“Mindeth, if you’d deal with this before tempers flare again?” Raela asked politely.
“But of course.” Mindeth replied, stepping closer and taking a deep breath. Pulling out his holy symbol, a small silver sigil of an eye with turquoise for the irises, he murmured a prayer. Raela felt a surge of power in the moment before he opened his eyes, and when he did they were blazing with sea-green light. He looked at Andrea, and spoke firmly. “Young lady, explain thyself that we may know the truth of matters.”
“I am Andrea Esren, second child of King Gavin Esren. I was kidnapped by former Crown Magister Marcus Tallet, who then sacrificed me as part of a ritual to turn me into a lust demon.” Andrea replied, her voice trembling slightly as she looked around the room nervously. “He then bound me as a familiar and has kept me as a servant ever since. I’m happy to hear he’s dead, and feel that my mind is effectively unchanged by my transformation.”
Mindeth looked at the demon for a long moment, long enough that Raela began to wonder what he was doing. Much less patient that she was, Calvin spoke first. “Well, what is it?”
“Unfortunate as I find it, she merely speaks the truth.” Mindeth replied with a sigh, banishing the glow from his eyes and shaking his head. “She truly is Andrea Esren.”
“What? B-but…” Calvin protested, staggering backward, seeming almost stunned.
The reaction caused Raela’s eyes to narrow slightly. Calvin had gone on a grand pilgrimage to the High Temple of the White Host, all to petition for their aid in defeating Tallet the Black and to retrieve the woman that he claimed to love. The journey to the tower where he’d taken the refuge in the Wastelands had been difficult, and along the way he’d sung the praises of Princess Andrea, leading Raela to believe that his feelings were sincere. However, his reaction just now had caused her to suddenly doubt that.
“She’s Andrea, and she’s been the unwilling servant of the dark mage you were chasing. Is that not enough?” Raela asked, keeping her voice severe. “Or is there something else that’s wrong, Sir Hovar?”
“How do we know that, though? Her parents asked her to be retrieved safely, and she’s been turned into a demon! I don’t know how that’ll affect her, or anything else.” Calvin replied, his tone almost defensive. “I don’t know what to do now! I never expected anything like this!”
“Ms. Esren will have to be checked for any fell influence on her mind, that much I will readily admit. However, that can come later.” Raela replied firmly. “First, we must deal with the remainder of the dark magic in this tower, and get out of the Wastelands safely.”
“An excellent point.” Mindeth agreed, exchanging a knowing glance with Raela. “It should be much easier with Magister Tallet out of the way, but it’s hardly a safe journey.”
“As you say. I’m just… surprised. I apologize, Ms. Andrea, my manners were unbecoming of a knight.” Calvin admitted, finally composing himself enough to bow to Andrea. “I do hope that you’ll forgive me?”
“Of course I will. My initial fear was that anyone who came in might kill me out of hand, which was why I was in my human shape when you came in.” Andrea replied, relaxing and nodding toward the counter. “I know it isn’t perfect, but I put my eating knife there to be safe.”
“Thank you. Do… do you know who I am?” Calvin asked, looking a little awkward as he shifted from foot to foot.
“At first I didn’t, though I thought you looked familiar. But since you were called Sir Hovar, I’m guessing you’re Calvin Hovar, second prince of the Hovar dynasty?” Andrea asked, tapping her chin as she thought. “You were…seventeen when I was kidnapped, so you should be twenty-two now, yes?”
“That’s right.” Calvin agreed, and was about to say more when Raela cleared her throat.
“As much as I would like to let you go on, we have a tower to clear, with unknown traps and magic.” Raela reminded him, resisting the urge to tap her foot.
“Ah, right. Sorry, you’re right.” Calvin agreed, almost seeming back to normal.
“If… if you want, I can try to lead the way?” Andrea spoke up hesitantly. “I know where all the traps are, and they’re keyed not to hit me. I know where he keeps everything, too, since he was too lazy to actually clean it himself.”
“Is that so?” Raela asked, and glanced at Mindeth as the young woman nodded. He shrugged slightly in return, so Raela turned back and smiled. “Thank you for your offer, Ms. Esren. If you would?”
“Right, then… what would you like to see first?” Andrea asked, straightening slightly.
“Whatever he valued most.” Raela said firmly.
“Right, the vault it is.” Andrea agreed, and headed toward the door. “This way!”