This is a horrible idea. My wound has pretty much healed, enough so that Rand removed the spirit thread. Still, I’m not at full power and don’t like the idea of being ambushed.

I also don’t like the idea of Rand dealing with demons. Lesser demons are borne of negative human emotion, while stronger demons used to be human souls themselves. They represent a deep corruption of everything The Presence had made. And Rand cuts deals with them like nothing.

Rand went inside the building, while I sat on top of a neighboring roof looking down. We can’t risk any of them being strong enough to sense me, so I hide inside the false body. He gave me a little radio to listen to him inside, his silly gadgets proving useful for once.

It crackles on, his voice coming through a little grainy.

“If you’ll just step out here, we can talk.”

“This is very annoying Garrow! Why couldn’t we just speak inside?”

And there’s Rand. He was exiting the back of the building with what looked like a normal human. But I knew better. The slimy aura coming off him was unmistakably a Shame Demon. As Garrow leads him outside, I start my descent. I jump from the roof and grab on to a fir escape on the opposite building. I slide down a little before jumping back across touching on a windowsill and pushing off to take a few steps off the wall. I’m behind the demon, hopefully keeping myself hidden, and overhear their conversation.

“Well, you see Dumah, we have a bit of an issue.”

“I have no issue.”

“You weren’t part of the ‘we’ I’m talking about.”

Oh, thank you, Rand for setting up such a perfect introduction. I take another leap off the wall, close enough that I can land. While the false body replicates being human, it’s a little more durable. I land behind Garrow, hoping to spook our friend.

Instead, he is thoroughly unimpressed.

“What do you want, host?”

I was really hoping for a bit more cowering, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

“You don’t seem surprised?”

“Your power flows through the air, even when you think it concealed. Took me a minute to figure out what it was, but I understood once Garrow here started acting suspicious.”

“Aw, and here I was thinking I was so sneaky.” Rand has a weird smirk on his face. He knows something I don’t. Hate when that happens.

“So, what do you two heavenly warriors want with a worm like me?”

I guess Dumah doesn’t have too high an opinion of himself.

“Well, my lovely winged friend here was wondering if you’ve heard of anyone wanting to escape the pit.”

Dumah’s face barely changes, registering our query. He’s thinking, probably wondering if we’re deadlier than a higher demon. Maybe we aren’t but we’re the ones who can kill him right now.

“What, in particular, are you referring? Plenty have schemes for what they’d do if they escaped, not realizing you would send them to the void if they did.” He gestures to me. “So, if you could narrow it down for me, I’ll see if I can be of some service. And make it quick, I have customers waiting in there.”

This time, I take the initiative. “How about something along the lines of three demons with enough power to warrant me willing to talk to you and some unknown way to hide their power while possessing a human?”

Dumah’s eyes go wide. Almost afraid they’ll pop out of his head.

“Ah, shit…”

“I take it you know something, then?” Rand is far too pleased with himself. I can’t blame him, it’s good we have someone who knows something.

“We can’t talk out here. I have a sealed private room. Come with me.”

He leads us inside the club, the security guard inside giving me a dirty look until Dumah waves him off. While I got some better fitting clothes, I still don’t think I’m properly dressed for a night on the town.

Walking through this place makes me sick. It’s not just demons. It’s vampires, werewolves, sirens. A chill in the air tells me a wendigo is somewhere among them. These perversions of humanity were just here, pretending to be human. Hell, some people might actually be human and unaware of what stands around them, but most of the humans have to know.

There’s a private back room, spiritually sealed from attack and eavesdropping. I’m rather impressed. I can’t sense anything through it. I suppose this is why Dumah wanted to bring us in here.

In the private room, is an office, set up with a private bar on an opposite wall.

Dumah walks behind and pulls a bottle out.

“Drinks?”

“I’m fine.” I quickly state. By now, Rand has noticed me fidgeting.

“I’ll take a shot of whiskey.” Really?

I shoot him a dirty look.

“What?” he says. “If I’m going to be stuck with your bad mood, I may as well enjoy myself.”

“Surprised you don’t drink around me more, then.” I turn my attention back to our demon. “Tell me, what do you know about the demons I’m hunting?”

Dumah sits down and slides Rand’s drink over. The demon is drinking what looks to be pure Everclear.

“You two are a little in over your head.”

Rand downs his shot and wipes his mouth. “So we’ve gathered. Skip the warning and get to what we’re here for.”

“I’m going to need more than some idle threats.”

“I can make them less idle if you want.”

“Quiet, Alli.” Rand shoots me a dirty look before turning back to the demon. “What are you looking for exactly?”

He glances at me before addressing Rand. “I need assurance of protection for myself and my establishment.”

“Like hell we will!”

“Aluma…”

“No! I refuse to protect this slimeball-“

“Well thanks. I’m right here…”

“-and this horrid place he operates! All his clientele are the worst kind of scum in that they not only commit unspeakable acts, but lie through their teeth to escape retribution!”

“I’m sorry Dumah, please excuse us.” Rand gets up, grabs my arm and leads me out the door. If I weren’t trapped in this damn doll I’d make him pay.

“Alli, what are you doing?”

“Chewing out a demonic being. See how I didn’t slice his head off? I think I’m showing a lot of restraint.”

“We need his information.”

“And I need to kill some demons.”

“You agreed to go about this the smart way, did you not?”

“…yes”

“Now, can you do me a favor and let me do the talking?”

“You know I’m bound by my word. And I don’t want to protect this piece of-“

“Then don’t! We’re here to bargain. So bargain. Make your own demands. Set your own terms.”

I pause. I guess that makes sense.

My look of confusion must have given away my thoughts.

“Have you seriously never considered that?” Rand asks, incredulously.

“I’m a warrior. I’m not often in situations to bargain!”

“I can’t believe you’ve lived for millennia and never considered…” He trails off, but quickly comes back, “Let me do the talking. I won’t make you agree to anything you don’t want to do.”

“Fine. Just don’t expect me to not come back here when this is all over and wipe out every monster here.”