Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 8

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7


Chapter 8: Meetings and SCIENCE!

“Your Highness, Ezekiel of house Apollo is here to see you.”

“Tell him to come back later,” Diana had arrived at the castle and promptly summoned her Grandfather and the council of elders. They needed to prepare for this threat and mobilize to stop the current invasion.

“He insists it’s important.”

“I don’t care. Unless it’s about the current demon invasion, it can wait.”

Pushing his way past the courtier and into the war room, Ezekiel said, “Yes, it does.” He stood there red with frustration wearing a shirt and underwear but not pants or shoes. He had nice legs.

“Come in then. Can we get him some pants?” She smirked as his anger turned into a blush.

The six council members and the King all looked at him with expressions that varied from scandalized to annoyed. “I was visited in bed. Which is why I have no pants. From a demon. He told me to give this to the Champion of Light and Life.” He lifted a small box no bigger than a shoebox.

“And who is this champion?” asked the King sounding exhausted.

“It said the princess would know who it is.” Ezekiel sighed.

One of the council members suggested, “Must be the King’s Champion” only to be laughed at by the rest of the council. The King’s Champion, Eldric the Elder, had just celebrated his one hundredth birthday and only fought at tourneys. And even then people mostly yielded before there was a fight.

“Let the Princess and her alchemists take care of the box and let’s finish this battle strategy.” The meeting went on for another half hour as they argued. Finally they finalized plans and sent out the troops.

It seemed like they had forgotten about Ezekiel but as he tried to sneak out, Diana ordered, “You. Meet me in my lab. The courtier will direct you. And for the goddess’s sake please put on some pants.”

She hated that the soldiers, monks, and civilians were out fighting, what she thought, was her war. She felt she should be out there with her devices of war, helping people. Unfortunately with Fred helping the citizens, the only person she trusted to find a poison to stop the demons’s healing was herself.

She changed into more casual clothing but didn’t disarm. She made sure her explosive pistols were loaded and that her sword was on her side. Everything else was soft, easy to move in, and comfortable. She didn’t look like a princess, she looked like a scientist.

In the lab, someone had finally gotten Ezekiel pants. As she walked in and said, “See that chest made of stone and metal? Put the box in there.”

“Why?” he asked, obviously confused by both her orders and appearance.

“The box is made of stone and metal but the inside is lined by a crystal so hard it had to be grown in the chest. It’s also spelled against all magic.”

“But I thought we had to give it to the champion?”

“Right. I’m going to hand an unopened box given by the enemy to our best hope to defeat them.”

Ezekiel blushed, “Oh. Right.” To his credit he accepted his mistake and moved on instead of arguing the way most men did when she corrected them.

“I need your help. I can’t deal with this thing alone. Follow my orders exactly and we might be able to save the city. Maybe the world.” She put him to work draining the blood from the demon and putting it into beakers while she experimented on it. She was convinced that the secret to the demons’ regeneration powers were in their blood.

Periodically soldiers came in to tell her how the fighting was going. It seemed the demons were holding back and mostly causing havoc. They were also avoiding the castle.

After a long frustrated time, she agreed to stopping for lunch.

“Have you found the magic that causes them to heal?” Ezekiel asked between bites of chicken and cucumber.

“Why do you think it’s magic?”

“It reminds me of the self-healing hydrogen balloons that my friend Dee designed, and she said she had used a magic that encouraged them to heal themselves. I didn’t understand.”

Diana looked at him, marvelling at the fact that despite her not wearing glasses, she wore nearly exactly what she would as Dee but he still didn’t recognize her. She was starting to think that his disinterest in magic and confusion wasn’t an act but that he was genuinely not that bright. However his idea was a good one. Maybe she should be looking for something mystical and not biological.

Looking at the blood under a spelled microscope she saw the structure of the spell. It was simple and beautiful and it wasn’t just similar to the spell she designed for the airships; it was the same design. There was only one other person who could have known her spell so intimately.

“I have to see what’s in that box,” she said with such vehemence that Ezekiel took a few steps back and didn’t react when she recklessly opened the chest and pulled out the box.

Opening it let out the spell it contained. A doorway spell. A beautiful blue and green light formed a doorway of magic and through it stepped a man with the same dark brown skin as hers and the same jet black hair. He wore a royal formal suit with a sword on one hip and a gun on the other. On his head he wore a crown made of warped and malformed bones. Behind him was a massive army of demons.

“Hello Sister,” he said smirking smugly. “I knew you couldn’t resist opening my present.”

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Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 7

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6


Chapter 7: Autopsies, Cranky Physicians, and a New Assignment

Demon blood is green and acidic. Artemis stood in shock after being sprayed by what had been a demon before the princess had efficiently shot two large holes into it. Her monk’s robes started to sizzle and that’s what shook her out of the stupor.

The robes were comfortable and loose, they hid her shape and any indications that she wasn’t a man; and they were disintegrating. Between that and the burning on her skin she ran for the well.

There was already a monk at the well splashing people with water to wash off the demon blood.

“Take off your clothes, it’ll limit the damage,” The monk said.

Artemis had to make a decision at that point to either expose herself, in every way possible, or risk permanent scarring or damage. She started taking off her robes. Becoming a master wasn’t as important as protecting the world and the princess.

“All of you idiots stop what you’re doing,” The voice was gravelly and sounded annoyed. The man they came from had dark skin and a grey close cropped beard. He was shorter than Artemis by a head and was thin. Despite his size, he had no problem ordering, and being obeyed by, the fighting monks.

“We need to take these clothes off to avoid burns,” the monk at the well said. He was one of the older monks and didn’t take orders from anyone.

“Unless you neutralize the demon blood, it’ll soak into the ground and contaminate our water. I can both do that, clean, mend, and heal your monks with a simple spell. I don’t need to see their naked bodies while I do it.” He looked over at Artemis and waved his hand. The pain disappeared and her robes looked better than when she’d put them on that morning.

“Thank you Royal Physician,” Artemis said.

“Don’t be so formal, Master. Just call me Fred.”

“Thank you, Fred. But I’m not a master yet.”

He made rude noise and said, “You’re more qualified than these shmucks. Come with me,” They walked back to where the body of the demon was slowly melting. The Princess kneeled next to the body with thick gloves and appeared to be dissecting it. “Couldn’t help yourself Diana, huh? Had to get started?”

“It’s a darn good thing I started. With the pace you move, old man, the body would have dissolved by now.” The Princess looked up at him and they both smirked.

“Good. What have you found?” He bent down and picked up a set of gloves that matched the princess’s and they both started to rummage around inside the demon’s corpse.

They said a lot of science themed words but it might as well have been Troll for all she could understand. As they worked they put things in jars, took things out of jars, and scooped things back into jars. There were a lot of jars.

“Not a master. What do you think?”

“Don’t tease the poor boy,” the Princess said.

“My name is Arty and I have no idea what either of you was saying.”

“Arty huh?” Fred winked at her and continued, “We think that the acid in their blood is a by-product of the magic that lets them regenerate… heal.”

“Okay?” Arty didn’t understand how that was relevant.

The Princess explained, “If we can stop them from healing we’d have a better chance of defending ourselves. Fred thinks he can isolate something that we could tip our arrows with. I want you and,” she pointed at two guards, “you two, stay with him and protect him.”

Arty wasn’t sure if she should or if she could be assigned to the mage but when she questioned a senior Master, he told her to follow the princess. There was an odd avarice in the master’s look.

“Why the long face youngin?” Fred asked as they headed back to the castle. She’d expected some sort of fast transport but he was just walking.

“I’d rather not say.”

“Ah. You’re uncomfortable with the Monks gaining favour with the princess and even more so with you helping that along. I understand.”

“How did you know that?” He was right. She loved the fighting monk’s technics and they had some unique methods, but their pseudo religion based on emotional suppression and misogyny made her uncomfortable.

“Child. I’ve been a healer for three of your lifetimes. I’m very good at my job.” He winked at her. “What I don’t understand is why someone like you would want to become a monk. You started ten years older than most and have almost reached master-hood in less than a year. Frankly, you’re better than they are.”

“I… I’ve spent my life learning how to fight. I’m very good at it.” She smirked at him. “But there are countless orders like the monks that are renowned for excellence. I want to learn from them all.”

“You’ve done this before?” Their conversation was cut off by a scream. “Looks like the monks weren’t so special and the serum will have to wait.” He pointed at a guard, “Get a platoon and tell the princess that I’m going to help the villagers.”

“Sir, I was ordered to escort you to the castle.” The soldier stepped forward to grab the healer.

Artemis was going to block him but the healer said, “Touch me and I’ll make sure you die slowly, in the dungeons, and I’ll use your skull as a flowerpot. Do what I say or go complain to your major. Either way, deliver my message and leave me.” The man’s posture was almost comical. He was two heads shorter than the guard, wearing no armour but his scowl. It was effective. The guard turned and ran.

The royal physician and his now two guards headed towards the screaming.

“A flowerpot?” Artemis couldn’t keep the laughter from her voice.

His only response was an aggressive, “Bah,” and a smile.

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Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 6

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5


Chapter 6: No pants and a special delivery

The concert had been a wild ride from beginning to end. The performance had been one of his best. The upgrades Di had made to his leg made switching the pedals so much faster. He could control the pedals so fast that he could make completely unique sounds with his guitar. It was both invigorating and everything he ever wanted.

After the concert was pretty awesome too. Arty had come to visit him backstage. That man was amazing with his hands. They were strong and sensual, a lot like the rest of him.

Thinking about the fighting monk made Ezekiel smile and wish it hadn’t been so short. He’d offered to have the man back at his place but he’d refused.

Now Ezekiel was lying in bed in nothing but his underwear, enjoying the early morning breeze. The morning was already warm and it was only going to get hotter. He was happy that he had the day off. He was looking forward to lounging in his apartment and playing around with some song ideas. If there were any emergencies in the office, he lived on the fourth floor and they could easily get him.

He was just contemplating getting out of bed when someone knocked at his door. He lazily got out of bed and attached his leg as the knocker got more insistent.

“I’m coming!” He shouted as he put on a shirt that smelled clean.

The knocking went from insistent to violent. He picked up his pants but dropped them as his door was knocked down. A large muscled green humanoid with four arms stood snarling. He stood seven feet tall and wore nothing but a belt, with a nasty looking sword, and a backpack.

“Heir of Apollo,” the voice was deep raspy and oddly sharp.

“Yes, how can I help you?”

The large semi-naked demon, Ezekiel was certain it was a demon now, pulled a package from its backpack and gave it to him. “Deliver this to your champion.”

“Who?”

“The champion of light and life. Bring it to him.” The demon looked at him with disdain.

Ezekiel couldn’t help but notice the demon’s nakedness. It was impressive in size but any inappropriate thoughts were quashed by the barbs. Shuddering he asked, “You’ll have to be more specific.”

“No I don’t. Your princess will know.” The demon gave him the package and he took it automatically. Then the demon picked him up with his four strong arms and threw him out the open window.

As a child he’d hated his family’s obsession with landscaping. Every branch of Apollo Shipping had to have the same lush plants and trees.

He managed to grab onto a vine and slow his fall. He landed comfortably in a patch of cushy grass. Looking up he saw the demon, in all its naked glory, walk into some sort of portal.

He decided that this needed to get to the princess, but first he needed pants.

It was a good plan, but a scream cut off any further thought. He stood up and looked around to find three fully armoured demons, with only two arms each, attacking random people. The guards were converging but it was bedlam. People were running around and he could smell smoke. It would be near impossible for him to get to the castle fast enough to deliver the package to the princess.

“Oh no…” he moaned having a really bad idea.

The best way to get to the palace would be to avoid the streets and take to the air. There were no airships docked, which left Didi’s glider-cycle. He hoped she’d perfected it because the last time he’d watched her try it, it couldn’t go down or turn left.

Running for the back entrance, still wearing nothing but a loose t-shirt and his boxers, he avoided the panicked crowds.

When he got to the back door he was thrilled to find it unlocked, since his keys were still in his pants, in his room, and on the fourth floor. He wasn’t as thrilled to find that there was a demon running amok inside.

The demon saw him and grinned. Unlike his muscular friend, this one just looked like a square brick of flesh, with gangly arms topped with fists that were bigger than Ezekiel’s chest. He was glad to find that not all demons looked like runway models.

“Pretty!” hissed the demon.

“Stop! I’m the delivery person for this!” He lifted up the package and the demon recoiled and ran through the closest wall.

Scurrying to Didi’s workshop, he met no one on the way and was relieved to see that the glider-cycle was all in one piece. She hadn’t taken it apart, again, and left it all over her lab.

The glider-cylce was a steam powered bicycle with glider wings and a small airship balloon. The balloon doubled as the frame and seat making it look like you were riding an odd bird.

Getting the thing out proved harder than getting to it. He had to pull up the wings and push it through the halls until he was finally out of the building. Maybe he should upgrade Didi to a roof-top lab?

Once outside, he put the package in the basket and strapped it down, then he started the magic. The magic should last two hours. He then started boiler and the glider lurched forward.

The city looked small from the air but the fires were everywhere, as were the specks of green that were the demons. He aimed the glider at the castle and picked up the small radio, “Castle Cillian, this is Ezekiel Apollo requesting emergency landing. I have a package for the princess. Authorization Sigma Papa Golf.”

He didn’t hear the reply; a large winged demon flew straight at him and hit the bike. It destroyed the radio, and worse, broke the magic sigils that helped it fly. He was going down and fast.

“I wish I’d worn a helmet… and pants,” he said to the air as the glider headed down towards the castle.

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Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 5

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4


Chapter 5: Green With Jealousy and Demon Blood

“…and together with Ezekial the four shall stop the dreaded army of demons from destroying all of Cillian.” The words of the Oracle echoed through Diana’s head as she tried to sleep.

What she was avoiding thinking about was how Ezekiel was pretending to be Zee. She’d recognized the leg she built for him during the concert. He was good, she wished he’d trusted her enough to have told her he was a musician. She had to admit that he looked good up there. The pure joy of performing made his beauty ever more prominent. She wondered if Arty knew about his double life.

Demons are coming, she reminded herself. What had the oracle meant by an army of demons? Wouldn’t they have heard about something like that? She decided to send out a few scout ships just in case. Just to reassure her that nothing was coming.

She had wanted to reassure Ezekiel after the concert but when she’d gotten to the dressing room she found Zee and Arty attempting to exchange tongues. She’d left as Arty had started to take off what little clothes Zee was wearing.

The Oracle was terrible at seeing through disguises; Arty was certainly not Ezekiel, Zee was; Zee was certainly not her Brother, she’d know him instantly; and Arty wasn’t Diana… obviously. She did have one thing right however. They were all pretending to be something they’re not. Ezekiel being Zee, her being Didi, and Arty being a Fighting Monk. The order was dedicated to purity and chastity, two things that were not happening early in the night. Maybe Arty wasn’t even a Monk?

It was petty and hypocritical, but Diana decided to schedule an official visit to the Fighting Monks of Dumas for the next day. That way she could find out for herself if Arty was parading as a Monk or just going against his training.

The army of demons still worried her. Her dreams were filled with waves of angry red demons being led by her brother Paul. She woke up, much too early, in a cold sweat.

***

What am I doing? Diana thought as she inspected the Fighting Monks. What she said was, “Your men are impressively trained.”

“Yes they are, Your Highness,” The senior Master was completely hairless and muscled beyond reason. As he spoke a vein over his left eye bulged offbeat with his words. “Our Masters are always searching for both inner peace and the best way to be of help to others.”

“How many Masters are in the city?”

“We currently have eight Masters in residence and six who are either questing or wandering.”

“And students?” she asked.

“We teach the local boys self-defence and discipline every Saturday. As for apprentices and journeymen we currently have thirty-eight. They we be along shortly for your inspection.”

“That is wonderful. It has always been an honour for the city of Cillian to host the fighting monks. You do us honour.”

His vein pulsed and he almost smiled as he replied, “The honour is ours. You know during the reign of King Castelmore we were the King’s personal guard.”

“Yes and during his son’s reign, your order attempted to take control of the crown.” She smiled at him trying to show amusement instead of annoyance. It was much easier after he sputtered an apology.

The Masters ran through some drills and feats of skill and moved to the side. Then was the time of the students. She easily spotted Arty with his wiry frame, high cheekbones, full lips, and cocky smirk. Her heart fluttered as he was tossed into the air and clashed swords with another student. It was all acrobatics and shows of perfected timing. She heard one of her four royal guards gasp in awe from behind her.

Was she jealous of Arty or of Ezekiel? Or of both? She had spent her teen years working next to Ezekiel and had a crush on him for almost a decade. She’d just met Arty. Maybe it was just lust? She felt foolish about the entire situation.

“Do we pass inspection, Your Highness?” The Master’s vein pulsed and Diana realized why he looked so stressed.

“This isn’t an audit. You have nothing to worry about. I wanted to see how the monks were doing.”

“That’s good to hear. Thank you.” The master relaxed.

A green claw appeared out of nowhere and slashed the master from his neck to his lower back. The master’s eyes rolled back into his head and he fell forward.

A seven foot tall green being in a perfectly pressed suit stood there smiling a sharp toothy smile. “The Prince of Demons says hello.” He lunged for Diana but her guards jumped between them.

As if a spell had broken, the yard was thrown into panic. The observers ran from the space while the monks formed ranks around the demon and the princess.

Her guards fell one after the other but it bought her time to reach into the special folds of her large skirt and pull out her newest model of pistol. These shot large calibre rounds that exploded into alchemist fire on impact.

The monks, in their eagerness to defend her, got in the way of her shot. “Move out of my way!” she yelled but to no avail.

Somehow Arty had fought his way to the front of the pack and was managing to go hit for hit with the large demon. He fought with a mixture of styles that Diana had never seen before and neither had the demon. After four or five blows the demon fell to the ground and someone stuck a sword into it’s chest.

The action over, the monks moved away and started to take care of their wounded. The master was still alive, and with the help of a good doctor, would live.

Looking at the royal pages who had stood useless during the fight she barked out orders, “Get me four soldiers to move this thing. Alert the guards that they need a detachment to protect the monks. Tell the royal physician to get here as fast as possible, we have wounded and I want him to dissect this thing and tell me everything about it. And tell my grandfather to convene a council of churches.” When they didn’t move she shouted, “Go!”

She moved towards the green corpse and shuddered. It had taken out a dozen monks, four royal guards, and injured twice that many. There was no way they could stand up to an army of these. When she was an arm span away, it jumped to a standing position and howled. She shot both pistols at its chest. The rounds penetrated his hard skin and it looked at her like it had tickled.

The rounds exploded and took most of its chest with them, spraying everyone around it in green blood. It died with a surprised look on its face.

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