The witch strode down the long twisting stairs with ease, the irregular and jagged steps meant to stumble and trip having no effect on her. By her side a daintily dressed service doll tip toed with her movements, humming a soft melody as it darted from one stable service to another with a litheness that seemed impossible from its frame and weight. The two had been doing this for nearly half an hour now, descending deeper and deeper into the earth, with no end in sight or any real indication of progress. Just more cracks, more misplaced stones, more dried moss lining the walls.
The witch had lost herself in the doll’s melody by the time they arrived; her vision focused to find the two of them standing in front of a door, a hulking beast of a demon standing in front of it. It wore the tattered shreds of whatever poor suit had been squeezed onto it, easily standing two feet or more taller than her in height, and looking down at the with an extremely unimpressed look.
“You’re not welcome here,” it rumbled at her, sounding at once eager and irritated. She imagined it didn’t get many visitors.
“I have an appointment.” She replied, blankly as she could.
“…Appointment?” It seemed confused.
“Yes. An appointment, with the demon currently calling himself Amaros.”
“…The Lord does not take… appointments.” It snarled, still confused. “Leave now.”
“There must be some kind of mistake, then.” Her face was unmoving, her doll still humming its little melody beside her. “I have an appointment.”
“The Lord does not take-“
“Yes, you already said that. But I have an appointment, and I know your Lord Amaros doesn’t like to be kept waiting. If he’s upset at me for being tardy, I’ll have to tell him why I was, and who it was who kept me from being timely.”
The demon stared at her a time, rolling the consequences over in its head, before finally growling and opening the door.
“Thank you.” She gave a slight curtsy, walking through the door as her doll smiled blankly at the guard, before remembering where it was and continuing to walk with her. The outer den of this demon sanctum was abuzz with activity, though far more subdued than others she’d visited. Creatures of all circles flocked around bars and lounged at tables, enjoying the delights that could be found this close to the mortal realm. A few twisted their heads to watch the two walk by, whispering in hushed tones about why and how she could be here. She was probably the first living witch any of them had ever seen; she would need to move quickly, before her presence caused too much commotion.
She parted a set of curtains, revealing the inner den. The noise of the outside immediately stopped, an eerily tranquility coming over the air. Wide and spacious, she could see groups of high-order demons grouped around tables, a haze surrounding them as contraptions emitted a sickly-sweet odor into the room. She looked to her service doll, who was already presenting a rebreather to her. A moment later and she could breath clean air once more, and the two continued even deeper into the den.
At the end of it, she found her quarry: a large and muscular, if nonetheless still humanly-proportioned, man was sprawled out on a lush couch, smaller demons in similar states of unawareness flanking him on either side. A miniature wyrm lay coiled at his feet, its blackened fur and scales gently rippling with every long breath. Silent TVs played behind them, a mix of news and music channels showing the latest goings-ons of the world above them. A shockingly still scene to find a heir to the Fallen in, the only sound in the room the quiet melody of her doll.
“Lord Aramos,” she spoke, magic lifting her words and filling the room to stir the sleeping demons. “I need to talk with you.”
The demon lord grimaced, eyes still closed, fingers stretching out as he roused. “You don’t sound like entertainment.”
She steeled herself; even a hint of weakness could be catastrophic at this point. “Lord Aramos, your servants intruded into territory under the supervision of the Sisterhood. You violated treaty-“
“Oh, you’re a witch.” He opened one eye, grumbling as he pushed himself up on the couch. “How’d you get in here? I don’t see witches down here, not live ones anyways.”
“You violated treaty obligations and endangered humans under my protection. I’ve come to demand reparations and your word this won’t happen again.”
“Mm. Treaties.” His companions had awoken as well, half a dozen sets of eyes now watching her intently. “Did you kill my guard?”
“I did not.”
“Would have spared it the misery.” He searched around in front of him, eventually finding a drink that hadn’t been completely finished and taking a sip. “I don’t know what you expect, witch. I don’t barter like my predecessors, I’m not interested in it. Beyond that… I can smell your magic, the pitiful amount there is. You’re using your little toy there as a battery just to keep from succumbing to the lures in this place. You’re no matriarch, you’re barely even a witch. You deal with the servants of my servants, not me. Not a fucking demon lord.”
“You violated treaty obligations Lord Aramos. I have come to collect what I am owed.” Not a hint of weakness. “Your refusal is grounds for the taking of it by force.”
“By force?” His laugh filled the entire chamber, billowing past the curtains and to the end of the entire lair. Moments later, a crowd had begun to form, lesser demons finding their way in to witness what was sure to be a spectacle. “This is insulting. You intrude into my space, presume to be my equal in rank, and then also my equal in power? I am your better, witch, your superior in every way. All magic that humanity meddles with comes from me. I am the mountain river of that magic, and the dam that breaks its flow. You’ll be taking nothing by force, welp of a witch, because raising a finger against you is beneath me. Leave while you still have the means.”
“You are a demon lord, I can’t and won’t deny that.” She stiffened her back, her doll’s melody filling her mind, keeping the distraction of the growing horde at bay. “But you’re not the Aramos that the first mother made a pact with. You are a successor to a successor to a successor. You’ve claimed the seat of Aramos and let it grow stagnant. I am owed payment and an oath under the treaty between Aramos, the first Aramos, and Eve, the first mother. You will honor it.”
“I don’t have to honor anything with a waste of magical ability.” The demon scoffed, a booted foot giving the dozing wyrm a light kick. “Defend yourself, witch; don’t be a disappointment in death as well.”
The wyrm’s eyes opened, an electric light illuminating the empty void behind them. It uncoiled itself, revealing to be at least twenty feet in length, more than enough to rise itself into the air not unlike a footed snake, a deep and ravenous growl escaping its now open jaws. She looked up at it, her hand twitching as she struggled to keep her composure. No weakness. No fear. Only the confidence to do what had to be done. The arrogance to know that it would be done. The certainty that she would succeed, no matter what.
“Come forth, my Weapon,” she murmured.
The service doll’s melody stopped, a look of contentment on its face as reality rippled behind it. A hand reached out, grasping the doll’s neck and breaking its head clean off. The magicks of the doll’s body seeped into the ripple, a strange display of purples and blues, until a shape stepped out from it. Another doll, not much larger than its witch, emerged, gleaming blades in both of its hands. Its body was an amalgamation of iron and flesh, trophies of dozens of kills adorning its armor, the stench of massacre heavy on it. The gathered audience recoiled from the sight and smell of it, but she approached it, looking up at it with a smile and putting a hand on its cheek.
“My lovely Weapon,” she whispered softly to it, acutely aware of the confusion and disgust of the demon lord behind her. “It’s Miss has a task for it.”
It looked down at her, an inquisitive smile on its face.
“Kill him,” she pointed a finger to the lord, her tone turning sharp enough to cut. “Kill anyone who threatens me.”
“What the fuck is that-“
The scene turned a wash of red, the Weapon darting out from beside its witch with impossible speed. The wyrm, who had previously been preparing to lunge at her, found itself eviscerated a dozen times over, collapsing to the ground in pieces as the doll stood where it had previously, the blood at its feet rippling as it snarled something unintelligible into the air. Maybe a prayer, maybe a warning; either way, the audience was now attempting to flee, even as the curtains to the inner den sealed shut, held in place by an invisible force. The Weapon gave a horrific laugh as the once quiet room erupted into panicked screams, pointing one of its blades at the demon lord and beckoning it forward.
The demon didn’t step forward, instead growling as his companions stepped forward to shield their lord. The Weapon shrugged, looking over to its witch before lunging forward once again. A half dozen demons, embered swords and shields in hand, clashed against its impossibly sharp blades, attempting to overwhelm it from every angle. Its speed was fierce, but even it couldn’t keep up with so many foes from so many angles, its blood and mechanical fluids splattering with every successful blow. Even as it skewered one of the honor guard, another plunged a sword through its chest, causing the doll to shriek and stumble, the rest of the demon companions seizing the opportunity to close in, stabbing and slashing at the rapidly collapsing Weapon.
As it fell to the ground, and as the demon lord began to laugh again, a faint crackle emanated from the doll. Focus turned to her, once more, standing in the center of the room and clutching the still-intact core of the service doll in her hands. Cuts had appeared down her body, matching the attacks on her Weapon, blood now thoroughly soaking her once pristine robes. She gritted her teeth, the core glowing brighter as she reached out a hand towards the bloodied doll.
“Kill them, Weapon!” She screamed, forcing the words out. “Kill them all!”
The Weapon’s eyes lit up again, its face now in a pool of the wyrm’s blood. A split second later, the room exploded in a surge of lightning, the honor guard surrounding the doll evaporating from the raw power of the display, while the lord and audience were all thrown back against the walls of the den. Slowly, painfully, it stood up, seizing its blades once more as it limped its way to the dazed Aramos, standing over the demon in its full height. The lord began to say something, the start of a plea, but the blades came down before a full word could leave his lips. A thud, and then, a return to the stillness of the room before.
In the daze of it all, she crept forward, pulling herself along the ground with one hand, clutching the doll core in her other. She whimpered as she approached the dead body of the lord, blood of all kind now mixing on the floor, her Weapon sitting next to the overturned couch and breathing rapidly. She grabbed onto a piece of its tattered uniform, dragging herself into its lap, head against its chest, clutching the core tight.
“Good Weapon,” she murmured, stroking its leg and lifting the core to its hand. “It did very well… keep the little one safe…”
The Weapon grasped the core, nodding the space around it rippled, a content smile blooming across its face as it shimmered into nonexistence, leaving its witch behind, sitting next to the lord’s corpse.
“Your Lord is dead,” she spoke up, pained but confident, picking up a blade her Weapon had left behind and pointing it at the demon’s head. “I bested him in rightful combat, witnessed by the nobles and attendants of this den. I am owed payment, and the oath of his successor, to honor the treaties between the Seat of Aramos and the Sisterhood. Ensure that whoever replaces him is honorable, and brings glory to their Seat and its allies.”
A murmur came over the crowd, but in time, the demon nobles amongst them stepped forward, surrounding her in a half-circle, until one in the center bowed with a sweep of its arm.
“We recognize your victory, Madam Witch. You have our oath, as the nobility of this den, that you will receive what you have asked.”
She nodded and sighed, collapsing back onto the floor with a half-hearted smirk on her face. One less lord to worry about.