Miss Kizzy

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Miss Kizzy is a FNORD-winning series of short stories chronicling the rise and fall of Kizzy Drakland. The stories follow Kizzy from humble beginnings as a prostitute who became queen-mayor of Demonsfall, and eventually became Kaiseress of Shireroth.

Miss Kizzy's Fantastic Journey

Kizzy read the letter from Queen Mira and was filled with hope. "The Sword of Fire is in Lyhigh, that's quite the distance. And its in the possession of the undead Lyssansa." Questions swirled through her head as the jumble of mythologies bounced around her mind, "The distance of the Sword to Demonsfall, and it being in the possession of an unliving person... Perhaps, perhaps it meant that-"

"Miss Kizzy," said a strong voice from beyond Kizzy's chamber door, "Oh, Miss Kizzy open your door!" She stood up, thoughts of demons and swords and undead momentarily melted away from her mind, she recognized the voice, her bodyguard, Dek.

One would assume the terms "rakish" and "roguish good-looks" would be overused in Demonsfall, and one would be right. Every sleazy, sweaty, desperate, man that couldn't get licensed by Papa Dreampie repeated those descriptors ad nauseum to lure in some hapless tourist hoping to be swept away by some dangerous bad boy.

Dek, however, was the first man Kizzy actually thought the terms could objectively be applied to. He was hired by the Guilds in Congress as Kizzy's first bruiser, and now, he was effectively her last one too as the others were bribed away by the very guilds they were hired by. Out of all the bruisers that came and went, she was secretly glad Dek remained loyal, she... enjoyed his company but dared not show it. She worried that a relationship would weaken her position in Demonsfall, open her to any number of sexist accusations that would slowly degrade her role as queen and urbruiser of the city.

Kizzy had not disclosed her plan to Dek. He was a native to Demonsfall and although he did not demonstrate much outward sign of moral corruption (Kizzy's heart sank when she first heard of how popular he was with Mama Dreampie's girls), Kizzy still suspected the daemon had a grip on his mind to some extent. Kizzy quickly closed her books, rolled up the scrolls and placed everything in a trunk piled with parkas, wool undergarments, and all manner of gear. She walked over to the door and let Dek in.

"Miss Kizzy, I'm so sorry but, you're running late! The hired car is here to take you directly to Timothea's riverport." He walked into the room and grabbed one of the handles of Kizzy's trunk, then looked up and gave Kizzy a wink, "Mind helping, me?" Kizzy felt her heart race at that wink, she was never the type of woman to respond to traditional displays of machismo and romance, and bristled at the thought of men lifting heavy bags for the 'little dainty ladies.'

They both carried the trunk to the car in silence (it actually was quite heavy) and Kizzy got into the back seat. "Well Dek, I'm sorry I can't tell you where I'm going, but I do need you here to maintain some semblance of order with the guilds-" at that moment, Dek looked into her eyes and gave her an understanding half-smile and nod and something light up in Kizzy's head a moment of inspiration. "No, wait. Dek, the city is falling apart, while I know you'd do well its too big for you, its too big for me... its too big for... us... us the remaining hired bruisers of the guilds that is." Dek tried, and failed, to hide a smile.

Kizzy's face brightened up, "Pack your things Dek! We're going on a fantastic journey!"

Miss Kizzy's Riverfront Brawl

Dek insisted on sitting up front with the driver for the ride from Demonsfall to Timothea. Although Kizzy wanted him to sit with her, she was grateful she had the backseat to herself. She used the ride to read through some more documents and histories. When they arrived at Timothea's riverfront district it was already late afternoon.

"Miss Kizzy," Dek spoke between heavy breaths as he and Kizzy carried their trunks into the Riverview Hotel, "I understand you need to get somewhere in Lichbrook, but why don't we just fly?"

Kizzy gestured for him to be quiet as they approached the clerk's desk, "Hello, I had a reservation for one, Miss Kizzy Drakland, but I have a last minute travel companion, is it possible to get two adjoining rooms?"

The clerk scanned his logbook without looking up, "No, I'm afraid we're all booked. Miss Drakland, your room is a suite and the couch does pull out." The clerk then looked up and glared at Dek and then looked down his nose at Kizzy, "Oh I see. I'll inform housekeeping to deep clean the room after checkout."

"How dare you! This is my bodyguard which is why I needed an extra room, as the Queen of Demonsfall I-"

"Hey, miss, this ain't Demonsfall, you ain't my queen. And I don't care if you wanna... enjoy... your bodyguard, we already assume that's whats happening," the look of indignation and frustration was growing on both Kizzy and Dek's face, "It ain't about you, its him! He's a Demonsfaller, and they always mess the place up, they're dirty, filthy street rats all of em! And remember, we have an inventory of everything in that room and you WILL be charged for any and all damage. So just a warn-"

The clerk was unable to speak anymore because Dek had bloodied his knuckles on the man's jaw and he crumpled to the ground.

"Dek! No no no, why did you do that! We could have just stayed somewhere else!"

"Sorry, Miss Kizzy, I don't know what got a hold of me, I just, I just can't stand people bad-mouthin' my city, I know its not that great, but its home. I don't mess places up, I'm not dirty! I mean... I know a lot of dirty people... but not me!"

Kizzy put her hand on his shoulder, "I understand, Dek, really I do. Well, regardless he did deserve what he got. But we should probably find somewhere else to sleep tonight. Our river cruise leaves tomorrow morning and we cannot afford to miss it!

After they found another hotel downtown, they settled into the hotel's lounge for a few drinks.

"Miss Kizzy, why'd you bring all these books down to the bar?"

"Well that goes along with why we're taking the river cruise. There's something very important in L-, where we're going," Kizzy was unsure how specific she could be with Dek, if other Demonsfallers came to Timothea and made bad a reputation for themselves, it was likely that the demon could still reach into Dek's mind. She didn't want to reveal her plan to the demon, she didn't know for sure that's how this demon worked, but her studies proved that demons can manipulate with the smallest amount of knowledge and she was worried.

Kizzy continued, "It's very important, very old, and very complex. It is, quite frankly beyond all of my training and experience, not being a demonologist, or theologian, or historian, or arcanist, or anything... just a simple former working girl. I'm trying to figure something out, but so many sources are vague, some contradict, some have been disproved, some have been re-proven... it's... so...much."

"Well sounds like you need a break," he gestured to the bartender, "Two glasses of Rosa Airle, please... 5649 if you have it," he then turned back to Kizzy, "It's almost midnight anyway, we'll be on the river all of tomorrow before stopping a Tyrelwynn. You can study then. Here, just relax," he raised his own glass to her's and they made a faint tink before both took a sip. The warmth of the wine filled her face, making her blush even more. Dek smiled, "Miss Kizzy, tell me about yourself."

"Oh, no... not much to say. I was born in Klaasiya, to a family of New Dracoheim farmer idealists. I hated that farm. They followed Ludwig Drakire in his revolution... I lived in Hoffenheim from age 5 to 14. That's when Drakire was exiled to independent Elwynn and the entire area of New Dracoheim fell back into poverty, ignored by the Klaasiyan and Imperial governments as punishment for the revolution. My people were now twice deprived of a homeland. I drifted between cities, Mehlville, Borders City, Butter Cow City for most of my youth before Ludwig Drakire, now going by the Elwynnized name of Luix Rakira, managed to get himself elected kaiser as Sehml. Despite most Draconians blaming him for losing the Natopian civil war and abandoning his responsibilities to help rebuild we still flocked to Shireroth, hoping a new land would improve our lot. Fortunately for Shireroth he was killed, and fortunately for my people we've been better off. We are much more welcomed here than in Natopia, old prejudices die hard there. You see, this is why I am so devoted to Demonsfall and to you," Kizzy accidentally caught Dek's gaze and realized what she said and corrected herself, "to your fellow residents. We need Demonsfall... its, its the last chance we have." Kizzy took a big sip of wine, finishing her glass, and steeled herself with one of her best smiles from her working days, "Now, what about you Dek?"

Dek looked down at the empty glasses in front of them, "Another?" Kizzy nodded, and the bartender poured them a new glass. They both took a sip, and then Dek took a deeper one. "Me? What's to say about me. I grew up in The Family, an orphan from the day anyone can remember. They set me up in a moldy bassinet on street corners with some older kids acting to be siblings. Apparently I brought in a lot of coin, I was liked. It's not common for infants to enter The Family. They fed me well, better than some of the older kids who were constantly one meal away from death. The Family knows their begging, and they know that when people are presented with something so malnourished and abhorrent, they instantly turn off empathy. I was a chubby little baby, made people think I was newly abandoned, newly orphaned from a loving family thrown into the harsh world of the street. As I grew out of that I was trained as a pickpocket, I was pretty damn good. The Family was all I knew, and they loved me, and I loved them." Dek took a big sip of the wine, "Of course, now I know they loved my money-making prospects and my devotion. When I was a teen I was basically the third in charge, Big Brother they all called me, Mom and Dad let me plan missions, assign streets, everything. I was on my way to taking over The Family when Mom and Dad died, and they were in their forties already so it was just a matter of time before they OD'd on something. They knew they weren't long for this world either, and tried to force my 'sisters' on me. I was repulsed, sickened. They couldn't understand anything except that I needed to take someone in The Family to be the next Mom. When Dad got stabbed by a dealer one night and didn't come home, Mom got desperate. She sent some of my brothers out to the tourist part of town and they kidnapped a pretty girl, around my age. I didn't know about it until a few weeks later, that had been torturing her, breaking her will, molding her into a member of The Family,to be the new Mom," Dek drank the rest of his wine, half the glass, a tear down his cheek, "I don't know how people can be so cruel and calculating, so... evil," he then turned to look at Kizzy, "But then you came along! You enacted those reforms! 'No young orphans in The Family,' it doesn't seem like much but, it... my life would be so different... if I had been turned over to the ducal government? I might... I might be somewhere else... somewhere... better."

Kizzy let the solemnity of the words hang in the air before Dek tried to cut the tension, "So why'd I punch that asshole clerk for insulting Demonsfall, the city that ruins children's lives?"

"I know its rhetorical, but I would like to know," Kizzy said in a soft voice.

"It's all I got, it's home, it's... me. I ain't got much to show for myself except my city." Then Dek thought for a few seconds, as if he was trying to organize and understand his feelings for the first time, "I think its because of you, you and your people aren't evil, but you live in Demonsfall. I decided to stick by you, no matter what, turning down the bribes because I wanted to see if you could do something to fix this city. And I think you know how so I'm trying to help."

Kizzy smiled back at him, not one of her professional, working smiles. A genuine smile, a smile that felt good, a smile that felt warm. "I'm certainly going to try."

It was now past 1 in the morning, and the bartender called porters to escort them back to their room. In the suite, Dek was futilely trying to unfold the non-sleeper couch before giving up and collapsing on the bed, smiling and laughing.

Kizzy watched as he took off his shirt and shoes, tossing them casually across the room, she desperately wanted to ask him to share the bed tonight, despite her better judgment. Almost as if in response to her unspoken prayer for moral guidance, she heard Dek start to snore. She sighed and then smiled before falling into the soft bed and falling asleep.

Miss Kizzy's Riverboat Jamboree

Kizzy was awakened only a few hours later to loud thuds rattling the door in its frame. She bolted up and stumbled around the bedroom in a groggy, adrenaline-fueled panic. She walked into the main room of suite, Dek wasn't on the couch anymore. Voices behind the door were shouting, "Open the door, Miss Drakland!"

"Dek! ...D...Dek! Where are you? Someone is trying to break in!"

Dek appeared at the door to the bathroom; wet, a towel loosely tied around his waist, hair still lathered and dripping water on the carpet, "Sorry Miss Kizzy! I'll get it."

As soon as the door unlatched the person on the other side pushed it up, nearly ripping the chain-lock off the wall, "Mr. Dek! This is the Timothea Municipal Constabulary! You are under arrest for assaulting a Mister Yoren Malferous IV in the lobby of the Riverview Hotel! Open this door immediately!"

Kizzy gestured for Dek to go quickly dry off and get dressed as she tousseled her hair and dropped the shoulder strap from her night gown and peeked though the door crack at the constable. "Officer, please do me the favor of letting my associate get dressed first. You have my word, as the Queen of Demonsfall, that you'll get what you came for, just wait for us in the lobby, there's no other exit, right?" before the officer could stammer out a protest Kizzy closed the door on him and twirled around to see Dek, trunks packed and clothes for her laid out, "We've got a few minutes before he gets suspicious, I assume there's no way down from the balcony?"

Dek shook his head, "Miss Kizzy, I'll go with the officer, I deserve it, I did punch the man."

"No way I'm leaving without you Dek," she held up a polka dot skirt and plaid blouse and shook her head at Dek, "Honestly? These?"

"Sorry, I-I- panicked!" Dek's face turned red.

Kizzy let herself laugh and walked to the balcony, "We're only on the second floor, we could probably repel down with bed sheets, a bit cliche but..."

The door slammed open and was filled by three constables, "Mr. Dek, Miss Drakland, you're coming with us. Now."

"This cell is disgusting," Kizzy nudged a dead rat with her boot into a corner.

"Not that bad, considering some places I've been," Dek said with a devilish smile that confused and exhilarated Kizzy.

At that moment a jailer walked by with a clipboard, "Miss Drakland, Mr. Dek, the Guilds in Congress of Demonsfall posted your bail with the stipulation that they... well it seems they withdrew the money directly from your personal accounts and then charged you the overdraft fee as well and will charge you interest to pay them back," the jailer's eyes' were wide and then said under his breath, "what a shitty place."

After being processed and issued court dates they were out on the street with their trunks. "Miss Kizzy, I am so sorry, I won't punch anyone every again I swear!"

"No! Dek, that's sweet but don't make that promise, one never knows when someone needs to be punched. But, the fact of the matter is we missed our river cruise and we need to make Mesior by tonight to stay on schedule, I can't keep Lys... can't keep our contact waiting much longer."

The two had been absentmindedly walking toward the river landing when they stopped at one of the docks and slumped down onto their trunks, both feeling dejected. Dek pulled out a harmonica and began to play a jaunty tune which brightened Kizzy's face.

"Why Dek, you are musical! Does that tune have lyrics?"

Dek's face scrunched up, "Sure does, I've heard it sung all my life in Demonsfall," he took a deep breath and began to sing,

"A prudent thief should never drink so much that he becomes bold. Because a thief who boasts and brags will rarely live to grow old. For silence is a thief's best bet and if he breaks this etiquette. Undoubtedly what he will get...will be more trouble than gold."

Kizzy giggled, "Oh Dek, that's such a charming song. Wise too!"

"Thank you Miss Kizzy! I'm sure you know some songs?"

"Well, Draconian songs are a bit more... involved. I'll sing- Wait a minute, what's going on over there?"

A troupe of musicians were hastily unloading their instruments, costumes, and equipment on the nearest dock. As Kizzy and Dek moved closer they overheard the leader of the musicians shouting at the captain of the riverboat, "You filthy communist Elw! You've cheated us out of pay for the last time! Don't bullshit us about some barter-currency and lecture us about the decadence of compensation! We need erbs you cheap bastard! Good luck finding replacements to match us!"

Dek and Kizzy looked at each before running over to the riverboat captain, "Captain! Let us come aboard! We can entertain your passengers!"

The captain looked at these unwashed, haggard looking people, "Uh, well normally I wouldn't but what can you do?"

"Well," said Kizzy, "He has a harmonica and we can both sing."

The captain's face was expressionless for several seconds. "Fine, fine, get on, but you're getting kicked off when we make port in Mesior."

That evening Kizzy and Dek took the stage, after Kizzy taught Dek the song she would sing and he knew both the tune and his back-up lines. Fortunately the riverboat captain had a few spare instruments so Dek didn't have to rely on his harmonica only.

Kizzy walked up to the microphone, "Ladies, gentlemen, I know you were promised a comedic musical farce tonight, but my companion and I would like to share something else with you. This is a song sung by my people, we have been wandering for generations. Many things that others take for granted, we struggle with. Although we have found peace, hopefully, the darkness still lingers. One thing that we know to be true, one thing that can almost take the place of a home, is love. Draconians do not love easily, but we love deeply. This is a song sung by my people, in our most ancient tongue from the eastern foothills of Mt. Dracon in far away Tapfer.

"L'amour est un oiseau rebelle Que nul ne peut apprivoiser, Et c'est bien en vain qu'on l'appelle, S'il lui convient de refuser. Rien n'y fait, menace ou prière; L'un parle bien, l'autre se tait, Et c'est l'autre que je préfère; Il n'a rien dit mais il me plaît.

(L'amour est un oiseau rebelle) L'amour... (Que nul ne peut apprivoiser,) L'amour... (Et c'est bien en vain qu'on l'appelle,) L'amour... (S'il lui convient de refuser.) L'amour...

L'amour est enfant de Bohême, Il n'a jamais, jamais connu de loi; Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; Si je t'aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!) Si tu ne m'aimes pas, Si tu ne m'aimes pas, je t'aime; (Prends garde à toi!) Mais si je t'aime, si je t'aime; Prends garde à toi!"

As Kizzy ended the final note, she glanced over at Dek but he was turned away, soon the crowd was on their feet, filling the clear night sky with applause as they drifted down the inky black river.

Miss Kizzy in the Grove of Lovers

After a few days of drifting down the Elywnn, singing and entertaining nightly, Kizzy and Dek disembarked at Mesior.

"Miss Kizzy," Dek frowned as he looked at the tourist map of Mesior, "this city was designed by someone who doesn't mind taking the scenic detour to cross the street."

"Don't judge, Dek, after all, our town was designed to get you mugged as you cross the street. I find it very refreshing... invigorating... romantic even. Let's wander around for a bit, our boat to Twoggle won't depart until tomorrow morning and I'd so like to experience this beautiful coastal city."

After an hour the pair had indeed gotten hopelessly lost, but luckily found themselves by the Distillery. After a few free samples and a whole bottle between them, they were back on the streets, wandering towards the outskirts of town. Their tongues were loosened but, being Demonsfaller and Draconian, handled their liquor well.

"Mish Kishy, if we flew we'd be there by two days ago."

"I know, but I needed time to prepare, and I didn't want to arouse suspicion, we were supposed to be on a leisurely cruise down river before the trouble in Timothea."


"Don't apologize, what's done is done. And, really, it was quite noble what you did, defending the honor of an honorless city."

"Thank you?" Dek flashed a half-grin and winked at the same time, resulting in an expression that Kizzy couldn't help but laugh at.

"Oh Dek, you almost make me forget why I need to go to Lyhigh," she smiled a soft smile and the moonlight twinkled in her eyes.

"The moon seems a lot brighter down here, Miss Kizzy, you look..." Dek swallowed a lump in his throat, "You look very beautiful."

"Th-thank you Dek. Please.. you can call me Kizzy."

The two walked in silence until they entered a wooded area, Dek looked down at their map and determined that they were in the Grove of Lovers.

"Grove of Lovers? Really?"

"Yes Miss... er, Kizzy. Says here there's a cedar tree in the middle that might date back to Raynor's time. Whoa."

"All of my studying, and I almost forgot the reason I choose Mesior as our halfway point. What an idiot I am, I almost let myself drink the night away and mess up our chance. We have to find that cedar tree, its imperative I get there before the moon reaches... whatever high noon of nighttime is... high moon?"

Dek led them towards the middle of the grove, and there was the towering, gnarled mess of a cedar. A few dozen people were lined up, pilgrims who sought its alleged restorative powers in exchange for heartfelt confessions, the deeper and more corrupt the secret was the more healing was granted. Kizzy hoped to be purified by Raynor's Cedar before coming in contact with Raynor's Sword of Fire in Lyhigh.

"Dek, I don't want you to hear my confession. Please stand over there," Dek gave her a puzzled look but nodded and retreated to a further distance.

Kizzy walked up to the cedar tree and placed her hand on the rough bark, she couldn't tell if the faint glow was her imagination or the Zemlyan vodka they just drank. The moon was nearly overhead now, and she began to hear other pilgrims recite their confessions aloud as prayers to Raynor. Kizzy closed her eyes and cleared her throat, but her voice still quivered:

"Raynor, I stand here, by your tree, at least I hope it is yours, and ask you to purify me so that I may be able to come in contact with your Sword of Fire and glean some inspiration from it and demon trapped within it. I hope to cleanse Demonsfall, as best as mortals are able, and I require some insight into the demon's mind who corrupts the people there. They know nothing but corruption and it saddens me, it wears at my very soul to see these people dragged down. But you require my confession and my confession is atrocious, unforgivable, and I regret every day of my life since. Before the death of Kaiser Sehml, before he so easily dismissed his people from Shirekeep, I came to know him very well, very intimately. I carried the child to term and gave birth in Demonsfall. Although Sehml was dead by the time of the child's birth, the infant reminded me so much of the miserable embarrassing drakspunk failure that was his father that I abandoned him. I abandoned my own baby to the cruel world. After I realized what I did, I wrote the Demons' Honor Code to force all infants to be turned over to ducal orphanages, hoping that my baby would be cared for, but I have no way of knowing. And now, with Dek, an orphan himself who sees me as a heroine for protecting orphans, if he were to know, it would destroy him, his faith in me, his hope in a better Demonsfall."

Kizzy opened her eyes, her hand's glow from the Zemlyan vodka had subsided but it had caused a thick piece of bark to fall off the tree when she removed her hand. She picked it up, "This might come in handy." She walked back to Dek, unable to look him in the eyes anymore.

"Did it work?" he asked.

"Did what work?" Kizzy snapped back in a paranoid tone.

"The pamphlet says you're supposed to confess something to get a blessing from Raynor, I was just wondering if you felt blessed."

"Not at all."

Miss Kizzy Makes Landfall

Don't do it, its a cliche, Kizzy thought to herself, you know you want to, but do not do it! She and Dek were disembarking the boat that they've been on since Mesior, they were blown off-course many times, nearly got smashed to splinters on the Skyla Isles, and all the while Kizzy was violently sea-sick. When she reached the end of the boarding plank, she flung herself down to the ground and wept, her hair fell down around her face and she broke her promise and bent further and kissed the ground.

Dek had his hand on her back, rubbing it gently, it filled her with a sickening mixture of guilt and comfort. "Thank you Dek, I'm fine" then under her breath, "I deserve this punishment."

Dek helped her up and let her hang on his elbow as they walked from the docks, "Your letter from the Queen says we should hire a translator. I've never been to this part of the continent, I wonder how different they really talk?"

"I assumed it was more for cultural reasons, I'm sure we can understand their words just fine, but the culture gap might be the real issue here. We should find lodging, spend the night, inquire about guides that can take us to Lyhigh."

The difficulty Kizzy and Dek had arranging accommodations told them the Queen was right to tell them to get a translator. The night clerk provided them a list of tour guides that could be hired and available by morning. They chose the first name, Cornelius Aberworth.

"'Lo the' lady and lad, Cornel Ab'worth 'ere. Tourin' ta Lyhigh eh?" Cornelius tipped his hat and bowed deeply to Kizzy and Dek.

"Yes Mister Aberworth, we're grateful for your coming on such short notice. We've been delayed from our meeting with Princess Lyssansa so long I hope she hasn't forgotten about us. We really must get there as soon as possible."

"T'ain't no thing lady, we leave now, ya? Drag yer things to my van, it's far ours 'way, fiver if traffic outa town."

"Oh we're just going to drive there?" Dek said incredulously.

"Ya how else lad?"

"Oh, I just assumed, with everything else we've done to get here I assumed we'd be backpacking up a foggy mountain with lightning cracking in the background."

Cornelius switched into a Standard Shirerithian, "Now why would you assume that? We're not all ghouls and goblins here you know. Don't be disrespectful, especially if you're meeting one of the Lichqueens herself."

Dek's mouth was agape, "I didn't mean... I just figured... I had no idea... but everything else we've done..."

Kizzy put her hand on Dek's arm, "Now now Dek, let's just be glad we can relax... look his van even has monitors in the headrests, we can watch some movies."

Miss Kizzy At the Gates

Kizzy, Dek, and Cornelius drove in silence on their way to Lyhigh. He drove them to the outskirts of the city centre, "Obviously can't drop you off at her front door, so you walk the rest of the way."

"Thank you again for the ride Cornelius, will you join us for the last leg of our journey to the Queen's residence?" Kizzy sweetly inquired, trying to smooth over any previous awkwardness between he and Dek.

Cornelius grunted, "My rates were for the drive, you want more you pay more."

Kizzy cleared her throat, picking up on the cue, "Ah yes certainly. Thank you. Please invoice the Demonsfall Congress."

Cornelius grunted again but sat in the driver's seat as Kizzy and Dek dragged their luggage out of the trunk. As soon as Dek slammed the door, the van sped off down a narrow street.

"Well that was fun," Dek dropped one of his bags on the ground in frustration, "Me and my big mouth, messing things up again Kizzy."

Kizzy put her hand on his shoulder, it felt tense, "Never mind Dek, we're here, our destination! It can't be a far walk to Lyssansa's palace."

Before long they were at the gatehouse speaking with the guard on duty.

"Sir, my name is Miss Kizzy Drakland, Queen of Demonsfall. I humbly request an audience with Queen Lyssansa. I wish to study a relic she has in her possession, the Sword of Fire, it could hold the key to my city's salvation!"

"One minute Mistress Drakland, I will see if she is available..."

Kizzy's optimistic hopes for a short walk were soon to be dashed.

The old city of Lyhigh, at whose main gate Miss Kizzy and her companion now found themselves, was a curious sight to behold. A prominent hill overlooking the plain had been carefully sculpted into a series of concentric tiers, with the outermost houses of each level forming an unbroken ring of brick and stone; the overall appearance so created was reminiscent of a gigantic wedding cake.

After a short delay, the guard reappeared from the interior of his little booth. "M'apologies for the delay, Madam," he replied with the stiff formality common of unliving soldiery. "Her Majesty has agreed to receive you, but first you must convey your persons...to the Palace of the Winds."

He half turned, gesturing with an immaculate gloved hand. From the rear of the gate, a single main street corkscrewed its way up the hill, soon disappearing between the tall rows of buildings. If the tight, curving dimensions were anything to judge by, this was a pedestrian only zone. The guard's hand continued, upwards, to the very summit of the city where a lofty gilded dome shone like second sun in the clear morning light.

It looked like a very long walk.

By the time Kizzy and Dek had got to the Palace of the Winds they were themselves quite winded.

"Is that why its called that Kizzy?" Dek asked between gasps of air.

"I'm sure that's not why.... unless their sense of humor is drier than a creek in Babkha."

A guard was standing at the palace's entrance, listening to their belabored conversation. "Her Majesty is waiting for you, milady, and your... attendant. Please enter. A porter inside will guide you to the Queen's presence."

Kizzy and Dek thanked the guard as the porter appeared at the slowly opening doors. "Queen Kizzy, Mister Dek, welcome to the Palace of the Winds, Her Majesty send her regards and awaits your meeting," he looked at the two travelers, still hunched over, gasping, and sweating, his nose ever-so-slightly crinkled, "Oh right, I forgot you did... that. I'll take you to freshen up first."

After being refreshed Kizzy and Dek were ready to be introduced to Lyssansa. The porter led them through the palace twisting and turning until Kizzy was certain they could not find their way out until they arrived at the library. "Her Majesty understands your reason for visiting her are arcane in nature so she will meet you here at her convenience. She as been informed of your entering the palace and will see you shortly.

Miss Kizzy, What Happened in Lyhigh?

Kizzy Drakland had spent the last several months going blind and insane in a dim chamber under the Palace of the Winds in Lyhigh. The Sword of Fire, and the demon within, teased her for weeks before teasing her with a vision of a 'good' Demonsfall. No more pickpockets, not as much prostitution, fewer adult cinemas. She was lured in by the demon she was trying to control. Weeks went by without any more progress.

Every night Dek came to fetch her and carried her up several flights of steps to her room, laying her down and watching her sleep. He saw her toss and turn, he saw her face contort and her teeth flash. Every morning he asked her if she had any dreams. "Oh yes," Kissy always replied, "Delightful dreams!"

By the third month Kizzy finally made a break through. She had been hoping to imbue the piece of bark from Raynor's tree in the Grove of Lovers with the essence of the demon in the Sword of Fire. She had been reciting all of her secrets, hoping to activate the tree bark and create some sort of bridge.

As she laid her head on the table, she heard Dek come in to the room with her lunch. Every time she looked at him she felt her stomach churn, or was it butterflies? She desperately wanted to be with him, especially now, staying in this castle so far from home. The two sat silently as they ate, Kizzy's mind racing with desire, playing out dozens of scenarios where she takes Dek right then and there---- But then she felt another mind in hers, a grainy voice: "I don't care about your secrets. Tell me someone else's secret, and I'll give you what you want. It has to be big though."

Kizzy's eyes opened wide, of course. Betrayal is what a demon wants. Her demonology studies showed her that demons require something of great value before they will even speak with you. This demon wanted a secret... a big secret. What was the biggest secret she knew?

"Rrakanychan," Kizzy said aloud, "Here is a secret. It is a secret a Kaiser of Shireroth held til his shameful death. Sehml, a man I shared a bed with in his final decadent days. He shared things with me in confidence, and because no one would believe a whore if I tried to say anything. This kaiser knew of the coming Apollonian succession, and this 'man' was such a coward that he preferred to die than handle the situation. All Shireroth should know what a despicable man Sehml was for heaving the burden of Shireroth's greatest crisis upon the shoulders of his Steward, Duke Ryker Everstone."

The Sword of Fire burst into flames and Dek and Kizzy heard the demon's voice, "You have entertained me! A secret, not yours to share, of the highest level of cowardice and betrayal! You may take my essence with you in that dirty piece of bark you stole from Raynor's tree. Kizzy Drakland, you are not so innocent, you are not so noble, you are not so high minded. You are just as bad, and no better, than that filth you mated with. You birthed a lovely boy, and you abandoned him to the harsh world."

The demon's voice went silent and the Sword returned to it's normal state. The bark from Raynor's tree now had a soft glow, as if embers were lit inside it, The Emberbark.

Dek stared at Kizzy, "You... you abandoned a child... possibly to die. And you never thought to tell me? I myself am a foundling..."

"Dek, I ... I know, it wasn't supposed to happen this way..."

"Yes, Miss Kizzy, I'm sure it wasn't. I'm sure the lie was supposed to keep going. You're an awful person Miss Kizzy, you won't help Demonsfall, you'll make it worse if that's possible. I don't care though, I've seen the rest of this great land, I know there are better places. I'm leaving now Miss Kizzy, good bye."

Dek turned and began to walk out of the room. Kizzy called after him, "Dek no! Please... I... I love you!"

"I could never love you Miss Kizzy," Dek said without even turning around.

Kizzy's eye opened wide and her mouth began to quiver, she felt the hilt of the Sword of Fire in her hand, "YOU WILL LOVE ME!"

A deafening boom echoed in the chamber and then a thud followed by some sizzling as Dek's charred remains fell to the floor and began disintegrating into ash.

Kizzy placed the Sword of Fire back on its pedestal, grabbed the Emberbark, calmly collected her things, and stepped over the pile of ash on her way out, "Everyone will love me... whether they like it or not."

Miss Kizzy Does Demonsfall

Kizzy had spent several days buried in paperwork in Shirekeep, Goldshire Hamlet, and finally Syrelwynn before she was able to get back home to Demonsfall. Her home in the city was quite modest by Goldshirian standards, but large for the inner city of Demonsfall. As Urbruiser of the Guilds she was able to afford a staff of two: a maid and a cook. Of course, now she would likely want to move.

"Your Highness, welcome back to Demonsfall!" the maid said as she curtsied as Kizzy dropped a few tenth-erbs at the woman's feet, "I'll tell cook to put dinner on! OH how we've missed you Miss... err.... Duchess Kizzy!"

"Don't bother maid, I won't be eating here. Send a message that I'll be meeting with the Guilds in Congress now."

"Now Mi-m-Madam? It's nearly midnight..."

"I can tell time you worthless drakspit, now do as I say or I'll hire some other toothless, humped, broken creature to do it for me."

"Yes'm," the maid mumbled as she shuffled out of the room.

"Gentlemen and ladies, thank you for meeting me here in the congress hall at such late an hour."

Murmurs erupted from all in attendance:

"Of course Duchess!"

"Our lives for you, m'lady!"

"Anything for the sovereign of Goldshire!"

"We obey only you, our golden Queen!"

Kizzy walked around the large table, pacing very slowly, stopping behind each guild leader as she spoke, "I'm so pleased you are all so willing to serve me. I really must apologize for my absence from my duties here in Demonsfall. Although, could you really blame me? You all bribed away all my bruisers. You slipped between the few rules we had," she slammed her fist down on the table, "YOU MADE A FOOL OUT OF ME!"

The room fell silent.

Kizzy composed herself, "Excuse me, I'm ever so sorry. It's been such a long few weeks. I'm afraid I must be simply exhausted. Why Mr. Mudd, be a dear and pour me a cup of your Shameless Brew? I started a pot earlier on the table over there... my my... I must sit down."

Kizzy sat in Mudd's vacated seat, in between "Mother" of the Family and Vincent Forcello of the Syndicate, "Mother, how are the Children?"

"Healthy, Your Highness," Mother swallowed hard, "All, all over age, that's for sure!"

"Naturally," Kizzy said while looking at Vincent, "And Vinny, how is tourism these days?"

"Up and up madam! Everyone wants to come to Demonsfall these days, we got our pickpockets switched over to doing real authentic, finger-in-their-jacket-pockets muggings now!"

"How wonderful," Kizzy's words left her mouth as her eyes laid on Mr. Mudd setting down a steaming cup of coffee in front of her.

She picked it up and held it under her nose, "You know, Mr. Mudd, your coffee really is terrible," she tossed the cup, coffee and all, over her shoulder directly into Mudd's face.

Mudd's shrieks filled the room, no one dared get up to help him.

Kizzy stood up, stepped over Mudd's crumpled, writhing body, "I think I over extended myself tonight, honorable guild leaders. I am ever so sorry for wasting your time tonight. I feel just awful for getting you all out of bed for no reason. Please, have your drivers send me an invoice for time and fuel costs. Good night!"

Miss Kizzy Comes for a Visit

Kizzy Drakland was delighted to accept an invitation from The Crown Duke and Duchess of Klaasiya to visit them in their home. She arrived with only a small entourage, which for someone of her station and celebrity, was only about three dozen people. She hoped to take part in the blossoming cultural scenes of Klaasitya and Borders City while she was up north so she had most of her wardrobe brought with her just in case. After she was greeted by the Ducal couple, she retired to her room to get ready for dinner.

"Frek, come lace up these boots for me."

"Yes milady!"

"You know Frek, north-south tensions in Klaasiya have always been difficult. This country has been simply too big to be governed by a single person in the past. Even the great Nathan allowed Klaasiya to erupt into civil war. I feel like the current arrangement with the Anguses will provide a firm and guiding grip, while still allowing the vastly different peoples of Egale and Dracoheim flourish on their own. I know they are amenable to securing certain rights for Draconians, and I hope they will accept my proposal with that promise in mind."

"Yes of course, they will, I'm sure. It is most sensible."

Kizzy sighed, "You just don't have the same spunk that Dek had, I'll probably fire you after we get back to Hoffenheim."

"I'd rather be fired than burned to ash, Kizzy my dear!"

Kizzy's eyes widened as she looked down as Frek, who was still lacing up her knee-high boots, "WHAT. DID. YOU. SAY."

"N-nothing milday. I'm sorry you are displeased with my services, it was truly an honor to serve you for the short time I was able to."

"It was me, Kizzy. Remember? The man you murdered."

"Frek, leave. Now." The man stood up and backed out of the room quickly. "Now, who is speaking. I have not murdered anyone."

"Lies! Kizzy, you murdered me with the Sword of Fire!"

"Dek! You... you forgave me! Why are you speaking to me now again."

"Kizzy, this is the first time I've been able to speak to you. My soul was infused into the Emberbark along with the power of the Sword of Fire. However, while you stay in Ynnraile, the voice of Rrakychan is too strong for me to speak over. He was misleading you, pretending to be me."

"And how do I know the demon isn't speaking to me now?"

"The demon remains buried under Ynnraile. We are far from demonic corruption on this continent. My soul is embedded in the Emberbark, although its other powers are weakened and unusable, my soul remains intact. For now."

"Oh Dek, what do you want from me."

"I wanted to make sure you knew that I do not forgive you, I do not love you, and your crimes will catch up to you."

Kizzy began to sweat as the voice of Dek trailed off in her mind, he was done speaking to her. "Frek! Get in here, I'm not firing you, finish dressing me, please. Dinner is almost served and I don't want to keep the lovely couple waiting. I must ensure the protection and longevity of New Dracoheim."

Miss Kizzy and Son

Miss Kizzy and her son Kyle were making forced small talk and exchanging fake pleasantries for a photo op in the meeting room of the Demonsfall Congress. She had invited him to the Guilds in Congress to learn how she, as the Urbruiser and boss of the city's guilds, had reformed the city and made it slightly less troublesome for residents and visitors. The people of Ynnraile were excited to meet their future duke, and so the press had been following Kizzy and Kyle around for several weeks while they toured the duchy.

Kyle was also in Goldshire for a fact-finding mission for his new duties in Neridia. He had established himself in Marmont, a city settled by Lunatics from Mesior. He wanted to make sure the city's redevelopment plan was in line with the original settlers. He also knew his mother had spent some time in Mesior and wanted to question her too.

As the mother and son walked through the halls of Congress, reporters asked Kyle more questions.

"Your Lordship! This is your first visit to Shireroth! How does it feel to be the son of a former kaiser and kaiseress!"

"As you know, ladies and gentlemen, I never knew my father. I've studied the history books and have come to the conclusion that his suicide was catastrophic for this country. My mother... was adequate. Despite our recent reunion, I still find her as a stranger. Regardless, I am thankful for their tenures, as it means I have imperial blood in my veins, even if that imperial blood was cast off by my mother who dumped me in an orphanage. Needless to say, on my own right I have made a name for myself in Neridia. A nation that parallels my own life... it was also cast off and left to die. Now it is pulling itself back up. I have earned my own life there and consider my Ynnraili inheritances as a bonus, as restitution for my past."

The reporters hurriedly scribbled these callous remarks as Kizzy glared at her son, "Oh Kyle! He has such a deadpan sense of humor, as I'm learning. His life was rough! And I'm sure this is reflective of that. I am immensely proud of his individual accomplishments. And, as my son, and the son of the late Kaiser Sehml, it is his birthright to inherit what I have. The Line of Drak began with Sehml and me, and continues with him!"

Later that evening Kizzy was sitting alone in her room. She stared the swirling, gentle flames of the Emberbark resting on the end table.

He's going to ruin it all for you. I can only expand your life for so long.

"We're getting used to each other. I'll have a real discussion with him. Mother to son."

You're not a mother, you gave birth to him but you're not a mother.

"No, he... he wants to know me. He came all the way here."

To take advantage of you, wait for you to die, put in face time so the people don't outright revolt. But you know they won't accept him. He'll tarnish the name of Drakland and Drakire that you built up. He doesn't even use your last name.

"Understandable. No reason he should."

He's here to kill you. He's restless. He needs to move on with his life and he can't while you're around. You were always a burden on him. He hates you. He will take your duchy, your wealth, everything, and erase your name from them. His is the House of Kilynn, not the Imperial Line of Drak.

"No, no, he's opportunistic, yes, but not foolish. The Line of Drak is valuable, kaiserial, links him to powerful families. My Line is secure."

Your body is old and barren now, but not if you ask me. I can restore your fertility. You can make a new heir to raise that child correctly. They will love you, cherish you, adore you, hug you... and cry for you on your deathbed. Kyle will do none of these things.

"You, you can make me have another baby?" Kizzy's eyes teared up.

When you used the Emberbark to kill Dek, your one and only love, his soul was imprinted on it. Now I can use that information to impregnate you with his child.

"I could.... I could have Dek's child... I don't believe you! You've made me do awful things."

You've done them on your own accord. I've only ever offered suggestions.

"I have a child... Kyle.... will come around."

He won't! He's a liability! Kill him! Use me! Vaporize him into ash and dust! I leave no physical evidence. As soon as he is dead, the spark of new life will grow in you! A... daughter!

The door creaked open and single beam of light fell on Kyle's sleeping face. He stirred slightly and turned over.

Kizzy, Emberbark in hand, crept slowly up to his bed.

Wake him, he needs to see you kill him! It will calm him, he'll know his life was meaningless, utterly without point. It will give him closure.

"Kyle!," Kizzy muttered, then cleared her throat and spoke louder, "Kyle dear!"

Kyle rolled over and opened his eyes, "Mother," his voice was alert.

Kizzy held the Emberbark up, "Have I told you about this?"

Kyle sat up, reached a hand under his pillow, "I've heard stories of what it is. I know what you did in Mesior and Lyhigh, studying artifacts there."

Kizzy closed her eyes, "Good. Then you know it's blessed by the demon under Demonsfall, it's how I control the city, it's how I silenced Sintan, it's how I killed Dek, it's how I built my legacy. In death, you will love me!"

Kizzy focused her mind to activate the Emberbark, but instead felt indescribable pain. She looked down, and saw a dagger in her lower abdomen.

"Fitting, isn't it, mother? Your life ends where mine began."

She clutched her hands to her belly, feeling blood rush between her fingers. She held the Emberbark close to the wound. "Do something demon!"

You've served your purpose.

Kyle watched her writhe on the flow, blood pooling all around her until her body was motionless. He tossed off his covers, grabbed the recorder from under his pillow, and called for the guards.

Miss Kizzy's Caper

Kizzy was livid. She had been betrayed by her son and by Nostalgia who fled the country. She had hoped to go after the relic under less dubious circumstances but she had no choice. The day of Kyle's disastrous Lichbrook decrees Kizzy knew she had to leave Lichkeep and left for Citadel by train, to Fortis by hired car, to Jugensk by chartered jet, and finally to Lyhigh by train, all under various aliases.

Kizzy remembered the first time she was in Lyhigh, with her companion Dek, looking for the relic that she was driven to acquire. She held it in her hands back then, and it instantly seduced her. Had she not been trapped in the basement treasury with Lyssansa's guards crawling all over, she would have taken it then. But the city of Lyhigh had not seen its queen in nearly 15 years.

There were still a few aimless peasants still wandering the streets... she couldn't tell if they were undead or not. She asked around who maintained the Palace of the Winds, but only one bothered to respond to her. "No one, that place was ransacked years ago. Nothing's left inside."

Kizzy would not accept that answer. There is no way the relic would have fallen into the hands of a common thief, they wouldn't know to take it. Kizzy then smiled at herself and said out loud, "Well I'm not common," leaving the peasant with a quizzical look.

The long winding path to the castle was unguarded, the gates were indeed hanging off their hinges. She was surprised she could retrace her steps down into the treasury. She entered the room, and she felt the former presence of the Sword of Fire. She vividly remembered holding it in her hands, she remembered the awesome power it had, when she used it... she still doesn't remember if it was an accident or not.

She began searching for the relic, she knew it had to be here. Finally, under a pile of rubble, she found it. Dek's charred remains. She only needed one bone, the sternum, the point of impact from the Sword of Fire. She stepped on the rib cage to break the sternum free, the ribs shattered like dust, leaving just the charred and fire-hardened sternum in her hand.

Ahhhhh yes, I feel the residual power, still inside this bone, my Sword did this, I can feel it. The most recent victim of the Sword of Fire. This room is drenched in the power of the Sword.

"Daemon, are you recovered enough? You will take me to the next relic if you want me to continue to serve you or so help me I will plunge myself onto the Sword of Life in the Temple of Mors and destroy you along with me!"

The voice was silent, then Yes, very well. I can see inside your intentions, and I know you will. You have nothing much to live for anymore. I will tell you where to go...

Miss Kizzy's New Crew

Boomwatch was experiencing something of a boom of its own. Being one of the closest cities to the unfolding instability of Minarboria, ithad become an important staging area for expeditions, adventurers, opportunists, carpetbaggers, rogues, highway robbers, all sorts of people hoping to personally profit off the unfortunate state of affairs in the Shrublands. She needed to hire some help, if for no other reason than to have another body around to carry things, or be used as barter later down the road. She hired two men that she overcharged for a double night, she assumed if they could pay her exorbitant price they could buy provisions, as Kizzy was currently cash-poor. Kizzy promised them a salary of 5000 erb each for each full week they accompanied her. The men knew she was a former kaiseress and just assumed she had that kind of money.

No one knew what exactly was happening across the border, Shireroth had already laid claim to eastern and southern Minarboria while waiting for Minarboria to formally collapse. Kizzy was heading for Sansabury, the capital. It was a good chance for her relic to be there, where the Empress lived. However, she informed her companions that they would first be going to Merensk, to check on the stability of Lachmeren.

"The Tellian Mandate has no Minarborian or Shirerithian settlements," she began explaining to her men, "So we can't be certain of any stops, refueling, food, shelter, anything. We will not be entering Tellian land. Make sure our SUV has enough extra gas tanks to get us at least 1.5 times the distance to Merensk. It's a long drive and we'll be going through the old Minarborian half of of the condominium."

One of the men raised his hand slightly, "Why don't we just fly there?"

"Good question... um.. you,"

"My name is Luke."

"Yes right. Of course. We can't fly there because I don't have a legal identity anymore, remember. I told you I was dead."

The two men looked at each other in shock, they had not noticed last night, but now in the bright sun, they saw how sunken and gaunt her face was.

The other man, Piter, spoke, "Pardon me, but you don't look too dead. Not like these lichs what walk around these parts."

Kizzy let out an exasperated sigh, "I told you this last night. You even paid extra after I told you. I'm not a lich, I'm a demonically possessed, preserved, and reanimated corpse. My soul was fused with a demon's and now he and I share this body."

Both men were quite confounded now so Kizzy slapped them and told them to keep loading up the truck, she wanted to leave by nightfall, it's when she felt safest.

Miss Kizzy and the Shadows

Merensk was relatively stable, it had been claimed by Shireroth rather quickly with no local opposition. The people of Lachmeren saw Shireroth as the lesser of two evils, the greater evil being left to the Green or other foreign powers.

The only sign extraordinary activity was a gathering in the city square, advertised by leaflets all over the city. Kizzy and her companions went to go check it out and they found a huge crowd of people listening to a man speak at a podium. Kizzy instantly recognized him as a Bovic bosarch, preaching about the goodness of Bous, especially focusing on the benevolent Butter Cow, playing to the crowd of the jolly Shrub worshipers.

Kizzy spat on the ground. She hated Bovics, the religion of those who led an attempted genocide against her own people the Draconians. Still, she thought, Bovinism is simplistic and highly interpretative. Simply convince a Bosarch to say something and the Herd will follow. She looked at the preaching Bosarch, tall, young, handsome, obnoxiously proud and self-assured. He'd be easy. She smirked, then began muttering approving phrases as she moved among the crowd, 'Yes yes, that makes sense.' 'Praise the Butter god, I hear other Bovics get free butter each week.' 'It's not even that foreign of a religion, the Butter Cow was carved in Shireroth.' 'Although a bit snarky, the Butter Cow seems nice and positive, almost... jolly.' 'I hope they build a church here, I think I'll try it out for a few months.' 'I hear that Bous is not a jealous god, we can still pray to the jolly Shrub!'

As she left the crowd, now humming with a bit more excitement, a hooded figure approached her, "Yral'tesh, I see you."

Kizzy was shocked, instinctively tried to reach for her Emberbark before forgetting that she had given it away, "How do you know that name?"

"I can see his face, etched into yours, and I know why you've entered these lands again. I've been sent from the highlands to make sure you are on the right path. We're interested in you."

"Well, then tell me where is it?"

"Where were you planning to look for it?"

"I was going to start in Sansabury."

"That seems logical, practical, sensible. You will be on the right path if you go there."

Kizzy glared at the cryptic figure, trying to look under their hood. Now she knew what she wanted was definitely not in Sansabury, but perhaps she'd find clues or allies along the way, "Perhaps we'll see you there, then."

"No," and the figure turned around and disappeared into the crowd.

Kizzy gestured to her companions, "We leave for Sansabury at dusk. But first we need to stop at Rothaven on the way."

Miss Kizzy's Abduction

Kizzy and her companions arrived in Sansabury to find the city in ruins as a result of the collapse of its surrounding empire.

"We should make our way to the Shrubbery Hill, try to look for clues as to where the relic may have been, see how close we can get to the First State Arbor, it will probably be a little tricky, but once we get past---" Kizzy's field of vision got dark as she felt arms around her, she had been bagged and felt herself being dragged along the ground.

"RELEASE ME!" she yelled, "Release me, a Kaiseress-emeritus! You shall have the full force of vengeance brought down on you!" Her voice then dropped several octaves and began to repeat an unintelligible phrase."

A voice, from a figure who had just grabbed her legs and picked her up, "Those words don't affect us, Mistress. We're sorry about this, we have a great deal of respect and interest in you. Please understand that." Kizzy felt herself get lifted up and then, weightless for a brief moment, fell down on a hard surface.

"Did you just toss me in a van!? Is this how you show respect?" Kizzy heard the doors close and latch. "Damn. Luke? Piter? Are you still with me?"

She heard the two men moan, obviously not as tough as they acted, but they probably won't die. Kizzy heard the van engine start, and they began moving.

Soon the sounds of the city were gone. They were in the countryside now.

Miss Kizzy's Trial

After driving for what seemed like days, Kizzy, Piter, and Luke were finally unloaded from the van. The air felt thinner, and Kizzy assumed they had been taken into the central Benacian mountains. They were led into a cave, carved from the living rock. Down they went, further and further, darker and darker. A candle every ten feet was the only illumination they had. Hooded figures marched before and after the trio, keeping them in line and on pace.

Many minutes passed before they entered a cavern, large and voluminous, illuminated by large chandeliers. An altar, caked with dried blood, was in the middle.

"You better not even think about sacrificing me!" Kizzy yelled, and then quickly added, "Or my companions!"

A hooded figured turned to her, "This is an ancient site, used by the primordial tribes of Benacia. The first civilized people to live on this planet. The very same people who fought against demons and suffered their wrath, Yral'tesh."

"You will address me as Your Niftiness. Or Kaiseress. Or Queen."

"You are Yral'tesh. A demon wearing this corpse like a suit. An ill-fitting suit."

"How dare you! I am Kizzy Drakland! Yral'tesh has provided me with life again and we serve each other's goals."

"Maybe. But, without Yral'tesh, Kizzy Drakland is a corpse. Without Kizzy Drakland, Yral'tesh is still a demon."

Kizzy remained silent, then spoke, "An ineffectual demon that happened to luck into possessing me at the right time. He may be a demon, but he is a weak demon, and if it weren't for me he'd still trapped in the Sword of Fire. He was a lesser demon, slayed by Raynor as sport on his way to slay the true Demongod. If you were to pry him from my body, can you even guarantee he wouldn't just cease to exist?"

The hooded figures moved away and began to talk among themselves. One came back and spoke, "So are you and Yral'tesh permanently bound to each other?"

"As far as I can tell. He provides me with certain insight. He acts as the conduit between my own will power and my body. So, he cannot physically control me."

"What if you displeased him and he left you for another host?"

"He entered me through the Emberbark that I clutched as I died. I suspect only a similar mystical transference would allow him to leave again. And I gave the Emberbark away for that reason."

The hooded figure returned to the group and they whispered again, the whispers echoed in the cavern. "Why are you here Kizzy Drakland?"

"I search for a relic. A relic that, while powerful in mortal man's hand, would be incomparable when wielded by... someone like me."

"The Sword of Fire, the emblem of our late Empress. You would remove it from its sacred lands?"

Kizzy laughed, "Oh! It's already been stolen from its sacred lands!"

"It was already wielded by something greater than a mortal man, our immortal Empress."

"Not immortal, just undead. There's a big difference, obviously."

"Why should you have it?"

"The Sword of Fire only reached its full potential when it was used by Rrakanychan. Only a demon can transcend the petty morals that hinder humans. And for as haughty and stoic as the liches were, as much as they pretended to be above it all, they still had morals, they still had some fondness for mankind, because they were from it."

"You were human too, you would possess the same weakness you accuse the lich queens of."

"Yes, I was human. I do possess a fondness for humans still, as these two men standing behind me will tell you. But I also possess Yral'tesh inside me, and he is a demon, a true demon. Can you imagine the power of the Sword of Fire, wielded again by a demon! It's full power on display again!"

"It sounds terrifying."

"Yes! Yes it does! Terrifying and glorious!"

"You would destroy the world."

"Could. But won't. I enjoy the world too much."

"Then why do you need such a terrible relic?"

"To correct a mistake I made long ago. If I have the Sword of Fire I'll have the obedience of the people of the former lichlands! They will accept me as their new queen. I will lead them back out of the land of death they were trapped in, and show them life. Pure life in all its chaos, pleasure, pain. For what are demons but agents of disorder? Purveyors of disobedience. Enablers of decadence. Demons do not seek to destroy life. They seek to destroy the shackles that the gods placed on humanity! Demons are the true friends of man, and I will remake the former lichlands into their image. And the Sword of Fire will give me the independence to ensure my rule for eternity."

The hooded figures began to talk again, whispering louder, seemingly arguing.

Kizzy interrupted and shouted at them, "Well are you going to give it to me or not?"

The hooded figures returned, and one of them produced a sword, with flames etched on the blade and rubies in the hilt, from their robes, "We must be sure your independence is maintained. And we cannot allow anyone to know about us," the one carrying the sword pulled back his hood, and glanced somberly at Luke and Piter, then made eye contact with Kizzy.

Kizzy nodded, held out her hand for the sword, "I accept the sword."

Luke and Piter began muttering to themselves, excited for the fortunes their newfound coattails will lead them to.

"I'll be a duke, I bet," said Piter.

"I'll be a prince, she likes me more," said Luke hopefully.

Kizzy turned to both of them, expressionless, "You'll be neither," and plunged the sword deep into Piter's gut, pulling the sword out quickly just as Luke began to turn around and run, she swiped at his back as he tried to flee, scratching him deep with the tip of the sword, he collapsed.

"No, no! I swear I won't tell!," Luke pleaded.

"I know you won't, and I did like you better," Kizzy then took a big swing of the sword, and Luke's head fell onto the cave floor. Kizzy tossed the sword aside and turned to the hooded figures, "Satisfied?"

The group nodded.

"Good, now give me to the real Sword."

"Oh, we don't keep it down here."

Miss Kizzy Returns

Modan Hamlet, an ancient city. Royal city to the long-dead kings of Khaz Modan. Royalty has returned to this city in the form of Miss Kizzy Drakland, wielding the Sword of Fire. On her way home from the mountains of Kalgachia, she passed through Lynik, Merensk, Fatehpur Sikri, and Lyhigh, announcing her presence and intentions to the former subjects of the lichlands of Lichbrook and Minarboria. She instilled in them a terror they could not comprehend, and demanded their obedience to her. She promised them personal glories and indulgences like they could not imagine. She demonstrated the awesome power of the Sword of Fire in each capital, destroying now-vacant structural remnants of the previous regime. With unnatural precision, rays of fire shot out of the Sword, burning down the structures, leaving adjacent--even adjoining--buildings, un-scorched.

As she stood in Modan Square she demonstrated her powers by selectively burning down several lich-affiliated agency offices that were situated nearby. "Where ever I see fire, I can control it," she told those assembled to witness her, "And where ever there is air, I can conjure fire." Some of the villagers began to run from her, she caused a wall of fire to manifest, trapping everyone inside the square.

"I don't want to kill you. I want you to appreciate life, having lived under the yoke of death for so long," the walls of fire began to slowly move toward the center of the square, causing the crowd to converge into itself, panic began to take hold as people began to press inwards, trying to get away from the flames.

"I don't want to... remember that. But I could, and I will. If I need to. If you fail to appreciate life, I'll take it away from you." The walls of flames were now only mere feet away from the crowd, and they began to scream in terror.

"Don't take your lives for granted... if you were to die today, do you have any regrets?"

The crowd kept screaming.

Kizzy raised the sword and the flames grew taller, her face appeared in the flames, "I ASKED A QUESTION!"

People in the crowd began to weep, shouting yes, asking for more time, listing off the things they still wanted to do, or never could do.

"That is life here now. Embracing life at all costs," Kizzy lowered the sword and the flames rushed in, enveloping the crowd, people screamed, certain they were dead.

When the flames died down, the crowd was still there, physically unharmed. Kizzy had lowered the temperature of the fire as it rushed across the crowd leaving them unharmed. The assembled crowd began to bow down to Kizzy, just as they had done in the other cities.

"Rise up, people of Modan Hamlet. For it is in your city I will found a new dominion. I have returned the Sword of Fire to its homelands and so from here I shall rule all the former lichlands! From Raynor Point to Kasterburg, from Gloomburg to Riolani, all will embrace our fanatical devotion to LIFE!" Kizzy's fury was now visible, as the air around her caught fire and she was encased in a fiery vortex, "We will cast off the heresies of the Cedrists, and worship the TRUE saviors of mankind... those who show us the value of life. The demons! And I, as your demonic sibyl, will protect your new way of life!"

Miss Kizzy and the Missionary's Proposition

Kizzy's advisers had been pleading with her to assemble some resistance. The initial reports of the Southern League as 'disgruntled drunkards' with rioting confined to taverns had been proven false, or outdated, or perhaps the work of double agents. Either way, Kizzy could no longer ignore the invasion force marching towards her. Fearing for her and her daughter's life above all else, she recalled every demon from their posts throughout the Domain, and instructed each to march to Rhodondra with whatever militia they could assemble (by any means). With her Sword of Fire, she would meet the Southern League head on.

As her demon lords assembled in Rhodondra, the chaos in the command center allowed a foreign visitor to sneak past her guards, claiming to be a emissary.

"Actually, I'm a missionary," the stranger said when he was able to convince Kizzy to listen to him.

Kizzy rolled her eyes, and muttered to herself, "These dumb peasants out here are useless."

The missionary continued, "I am a missionary for Goetia, and while I normally recruit wayward demon worshipers who seek a homeland, I have been living here in Malarboria since your takeover. I had high hopes for Malarboria becoming the new safehaven for the worldwide demonic community. I almost recommended that my fellow Goetics emigrate here en mass. But continued inference from Shirekeep, and general Shirerithian hatred towards all things demonic has convinced me that neither you nor your demons or their followers can live here safely anymore. Come to us, take your daughter and demon lieutenants, and you will be welcomed as gods in Goetia, given free reign and unencumbered by traditions or imperial oversight. Bring your demonic paradise to life in Goetia and we will be your worshipful servants until the end of our lives."

Kizzy was clearly excited by this prospect, "I've never heard of that place. Why would there be a secret community of demon worshipers. You're not very good at worshiping if you all had legitimate demons and a demon-goddess ruling an entire Imperial State and you never made yourselves known until it's almost too late."

"We have been secretive for generations. We of course had heard of your great feat here in Malarboria, and we worship you from afar. Our nature is to stay hidden, and bring people to us. It has protected us for generations. Besides, Madame, I know your secret."

Kizzy arched her eyebrow, "Which one?"

"The one that, if revealed, will end in your destruction. The Vigiles Arcani will not allow you or your daughter to exist once they learn the truth. The truth that she is not sterile, and that she is in fact pregnant by one of your demon-lieutenants and you plan to create a new ruling caste of demi-demons."

"How did you possibly know that Andrea was pregnant."

"I have studied demonology my entire adult life. As have all my Goetics. We know that the spawn of a demon cannot be infertile. As you have said in your own propaganda here, demons represent life and its excesses."

Kizzy grabbed the hilt of the Sword of Fire, raised it above her head and it burst into blinding, unholy flames as she swung the blade down toward the neck of the missionary.

But she stopped. The Missionary was not fearful, he looked almost blissful, "Why aren't you afraid?" she asked.

"I have lived a full and exciting life. To have it extinguished by the demon-goddess herself would be pure joy for me. You know, if you were to move to Goetia, you would not even need the Sword of Fire to rule through fear. You could rule through love. We would love you unconditionally."

Kizzy's eyes began to drip. She felt transported back to Lyhigh, on her very first adventure, with her companion Dek. All she ever wanted was someone to love her the way he did. Before she betrayed him, and then murdered him.

She returned the Sword of Fire to its scabbard, "I will consider this."

Miss Kizzy on the Run

Highpass had been lost to the invading forces from the north. Kizzy had all but given up before a single shot was fired. To her consternation she learned that Amarr had been flipped as well, in the wake of two landings carried out by Khaz Modani forces answering to the Vicereine. This, combined with news of the uprising in Modan-Hamlet, had drained the once formidable Daemon-Queen of the last semblance of resolve. Kizzy, and her coterie of demon servitors, had slipped across the county line into Shimmerspring. It was a strange place, with an eerie tranquility about it. It unnerved her. She hoped its strangeness would hide her for awhile as she attempted to escape Malarboria, and make her way down to Twoggle where the Goetian missionary had promised safe passage on a boat. Once she got to Twoggle she would leave everything behind and start a brand new life with the true demon-worshippers of Goetia.

Miss Kizzy Makes a Dark Bargain

Kizzy Drakland was called into an emergency meeting by the Conference President, John Babbit, he was panicking about the Community's safety being at risk. "Oh Miss Kizzy, there you are! What do we do? Our location has been revealed and now we are exposed. Everything was planned so carefully. The timeline, the schedule... the..."

Kizzy sat down in the chair that John Babbit stood up from, "Fret not, my pet. You are the most uptight demon worshiper I know. I liked Alfred better, perhaps he would be a better President next year. After all, you failed us so spectacularly, its almost comical. But it is not of consequence. We have remained untouched until now, and we shall remain untouched going forward. Our land and numbers are small, but you forget that I have tool at my disposal that can wreak fiery revenge upon all who dare oppose us..." Kizzy reached for the sword at her hip, to find nothing, "Oh... right. That tool, of course, is an old demonic shrouding spell." Kizzy stood up and walked outside and began to draw an intricate symbol in the dirt.


She stood in the center and began to chant in an obscure demonic dialect unknown to John.

"Mwen rele sou chèf yo anba pou nou ka jete yon lonbraj sou peyi sa a ak pwoteje li nan mond lan pou yon ane plen." Clouds began to swell over Gathering Place, stretching beyond the horizon towards the other family compounds. She repeated her chant, "Mwen rele sou chèf yo anba pou nou ka jete yon lonbraj sou peyi sa a ak pwoteje li nan mond lan pou yon ane plen." the clouds became black and she started over once more, "Mwen rele sou chèf yo anba pou nou ka jete yon lonbraj sou peyi sa a ak pwoteje li nan mond lan pou yon ane plen!" The clouds disappeared and Kizzy kicked away the dirt symbol, "There, we are shrouded. No one will bother us, but I did promise this demon a lot of rum, so please pour about a liter of rum on this spot every day for the next year or else he can take your feet. Literally. An odd bargain I know. I don't get it, but he seems to like yours."

Miss Kizzy Leaves Again

"Andrea! Andrea my dear please come in here!" Kizzy Drakland called sweetly to her daughter as she lay on a pile of pillows and sleeping human worshippers, "Come here right now, dear!" Andrea pulled one of the satin curtains and looked into the room, slightly annoyed, "Yes Mother?"

"I want to talk. About the vote the conference just held."

"Oh?" Andrea pretended to be surprised, "Which vote in particular?"

Kizzy shot her daughter a mean look, "The vote, you child. I know that you lobbied them to vote for it and exile some of our brothers and sisters."

Andrea knew this conversation would happen, she knew her mother would sacrifice everything to keep the demonist faith united under her, "I had to Mother, those people were bad. Objectively bad. They did not respect the concept of individual liberty that we hold dear. How can you even defend them when they practiced forceful recruitment?"

"Some people, my dearest and most favorite offspring, need to be convinced of their actual needs. We know the guidance they really need. We know the reluctance and hesitation they show is just the byproduct of being raised to hate their demonic beliefs. Although they say no, we know they want to say yes, that is why we recruit them, persuade them. "Those people, the people we called our brothers and sisters, were assaulting people, Mother. They were targeting new people in the community, people in emotional crisis, and anyone dissatisfied with their lives. They promised answers! Freedom! Power! Sex!"

Kizzy nodded as she stroked the long, dark hair of a woman underneath her and petted the thigh of a man next to her, "Your point? I am a demon. So are you, dear Daughter. These people worship us. They want this, they want what we want, and what we tell them to want. That is the way it has always been."

Andrea's voice began to break , "It's wrong! It was wrong then and it's wrong now!" her fists began to tremble as she spoke, "I may be a demon, but I'm not like you! These people worship us for a more personal reason. They want something they can't find out there, we can help them! We should help them explore, but once we start controlling them, we... we deserve to be stopped."

Kizzy stood up, a gust of wind somehow swirled her hair, and her eyes began to glow red, "I will not tolerate such... such... disrespect! Kneel before your Mother and your Queen and recant, now!" Andrea stood her ground, "I won't, Miss Kizzy. Your work as a prostitute was more noble than anything you've done lately. People won't tolerate you for much long, you're old, you have no more ideas. You didn't even build this community, these people built it and you moved in and starting living off them. Did you have a few good years? Sure, you coasted off the goodwill of these people and used them as fodder for your urges."

Several worshippers in the heap took the chance to leave the room, Kizzy raised her hand and began an incantation to summon them back. "Stop Mother! Let them leave! I cannot let you get away with this anymore. I should have stopped you a long time ago," Andrea stretched out her wings and drew her father's sword, "I can match you, blow for blow, until the land around us turns to dust. The people that willingly follow me already vastly outnumber those who would stick by you without coercion. I'm my father's daughter too, I'm even more pure demon than you are, corpse puppet."

Kizzy's eyes grew large at that slur, her lip began to curl up for a fraction of a second before she instantly switched to her seductive smile, "You win. I wasn't have fun here anymore anyway." Andrea's wings retracted slightly, "What?"

"Did I stutter, dear daughter? I'll go."

Andrea's wings extended even farther now, "Worthless woman! Coward! You've abandoned everything you've pretended to care about in your life: your firstborn son, the Draconians in Demonsfall, your lover Dek, the people in Malarboria, and now these people and your daughter!" Andrea lunged towards Kizzy and thrust her father's sword into Kizzy's abdomen, "I wish killed you on the way out!" Kizzy collapsed on the floor, and Andrea walked out of the room.

Kizzy slowly stood up, putting her hands on the wound and holding in the rotting bits of flesh. She scooped them out and dropped them on the floor, "Time to go," she whispered to herself.

Miss Kizzy's Journey's End

Two years. Two years of bitter fighting. Her followers dwindled. The Gorillas chased her across the Ynnrailli countryside, but she was always one step ahead. Every once in awhile a Gorilla would defect to her and she would hear about the dwindling resources back in Goetia. Recruits for the paramilitary Gorilla Family was nearly zero. Kizzy was hopeful, that by merely waiting this out, she and John Babbit would be able to escape and start over with whoever survived, including the children born while in hiding.

Kizzy commanded the other women in the group be treated as breeding stock, and either by accident or on purpose, she had also bore two of John's children. Kizzy and John used the weaker offspring form the group as bargaining chips when cornered, threatening to kill the infants unless the Gorillas let them escape. It only took one dead infant before the Gorillas believed Kizzy would kill again. The once-honorable Queen of Demonsfall, who wrote the code of laws that protected children and women and other disadvantaged people was now an enemy to all.

Ray, leader of the Gorillas Paramilitary, was at the end of his rope. His last recruitment group arrived with only 6 new members. He started out with over 500. However, once Kizzy was chased out of Demonsfall and the city firebombed, most of the Gorillas returned back to Goetia. Now he only had 34 men and women, chasing after Kizzy and John, a dozen followers, and about 3 or 4 innocent children. One of the newest recruits was a passionate, man named Lukas, a former devotee of the demon Bifrons and just released from his demonic contract, he signed up for the Gorillas. He brought with him news of troubles back in the Community, lack of leadership and direction, splintering of the demonists in the wake of Kizzy and John's departure. Distrust among the Goetics was rampant, as no one knew who truly supported the inclusive New Way and who still harbored beliefs in the abusive Old Ways.

Kizzy and John heard reports of massive mobilizations to the south, toward Shirekeep, "The scouts say one of the antikaisers has returned to the capital," John told Kizzy.

"Perfect, I think its time to flee. We'll use the distraction to go farther east, into Ransenar. We can easily become lost and forgotten there and plan accordingly. It's been several months since my last birth, you may now perform your duty to our Family and give us a new child. We will be safely in the Ransenari country by the time I begin to swell."

"No. No Kizzy, I won't. The children we've created are sickly abominations. I'm certain they were stillborn and you are keeping them alive with demonic powers. I will not do th-" John couldn't finish his sentence because his throat had been removed.

Kizzy held the trachea in her hands, looked at it as John made gasping and gurgling sounds on the ground, she whispered to it, "Gòj ou ap anpeche ou mouri" then shoved it back in. "Oh, I didn't mean to interrupt, go on." John Babbitt's body performed the duty requested of it now that his soul had left it.

After the deed, she informed the rest of the group they were breaking camp and moving north immediately. The body of John Babbitt silently began to pack things up.

"Can I talk to you?" Lukas peeked into Ray's tent.

"Sure, come on in," Ray gestured to a tree stump.

"As you know, I was a devotee of Bifrons," Lukas showed Ray the inside of his left forearm, where the name BIFRONS was seared into the flesh, Ray nodded at the proof of service, "He was lord of Lachmodan and a big deal when the liches were around since he could sense them. I chose to devote my service to him for artistic purposes. I've never seen a lich or undead or anything like that. But I sense something, off. I feel a great hatred and disdain for something... somewhere. I think it might be a resurrected corpse. Would that be Kizzy's precense? Is she nearby? Maybe we can find her camp."

Ray shook his head, "She's not a resurrected corpse, remember? A minor demon possessed her dead body and then her original soul overpowered the demon," Ray almost rolled his eyes at his own beliefs as he said them out loud.

"But I know Bifrons would whisper into my ears during my service that he hated undead, he'd ask me every night to go to the cemeteries and look for them. He said to me, 'I may not be able to sense them in this land, but I could on my native soil. I need you to look for me!' We're close to Demonsfall, Bifrons' home, the home to all of the powerful Cedric demons. I honestly think we're close to Kizzy... I ... I just feel such intense hatred all of a sudden. And I almost never hate anyone, I want people to live their lives how they want to, who am I to judge? But I've never felt this way before, I want to kill it, whatever it is that is making me feel this way. Then I know my hatred will stop."

"That could be true. Is it possible Kizzy resurrected one of her followers and you sensed it? This could be our biggest chance to find her in two years. We really don't have any other leads... we've been camped here in the wilderness for weeks to avoid the Confederation patrols... we've really overstayed our welcome in their land. Alright, take a small group with you and go hunt. Now! We will pack up camp and get on the move too. Radio back to us and guide us. Go!"

Lukas jumped up as Ray called out the names of seven people, ordering them to go with Lukas.

Kizzy and her followers had been on foot for several weeks. They were, as best she could determine, about halfway between Airle and Sintan.

"We can rest here a few days," Kizzy said out loud, to no one in particular. John Babbit's body began to unpack tents. Several of the women escaped, and one of the men died. She laid down on a cot in her tent and felt her abdomen. It would be a boy, she knew it. She let her mind wander for awhile, thinking of places to escape to, it would just be her and her son, the followers would be cast off if necessary. Her mind wandered to consider the fetus inside her, she began to talk to it, "You'll be a good child. You'll listen to and love your mother. Not like Kyle, not like Andrea. You'll be a good to me, John Junior. Your father may not have been obedient at the end, but he was obedient after his end," Kizzy's eyes shot wide open, she looked down at her stomach, "Oh no. NO! Kizzy you foolish whore. I'm dead, John was dead... but you're not dead."

One of the followers came into Kizzy's test, "Mistress, are you ok?"

Kizzy slapped the poor sickly man in frustration, "No I'm not! There is an UNDEAD fetus alive inside me. My most prestigious demon, the Lord of Drakland Manor, was a lich-hunter! He could have dozens, if not hundreds, of former devotees out there... some of them could be hunting me now, in that Gorilla paramilitary," Kizzy grabbed the nearest sharp object she could find and without any hesitation plunged it directly into her abdomen, dragged it along her papery dusty skin, and pulled out the weeks-old fetus, and threw it onto the ground. She looked down at it and whispered, Latè a pousyè ap kenbe ou soti nan yon sèl ti kras lanmò. I'm leaving. Alone."

Lukas and his group knew they were on the path. The skilled trackers were confident that they were only one day behind Kizzy's group. Eventually, they found Kizzy's camp. Lukas could feel the hatred for something growing so strong he was almost blind. The camp that they found was a squalid pit of decay and sickness. Only a dozen followers remained, including John Babbit's body, lumbering around without a command, and the tiny fetus of John Junior, demonically and unnaturally preserved on the ground. Lukas saw John Babbit and lunged at it, plunging a dagger into its gut. It collapsed. His hatred did not subside, and he saw the fetus, squirming on the ground. It was undead. He put his boot over it, to put it out of its misery, but he couldn't. He bent down to pick it up, and it turned to dust in his hands. His hatred was gone. "Damn it! She's not here."

One of Lukas' men walked up to Lukas, "You killed John Babbit, you are the Master Demonist now."

Lukas shook his head, "No, no no. She's the problem! She must die! Her betrayal shattered our community! We cannot heal until she is dead, as an example to all who still follow the Old Ways."

One of the followers approached Lukas, "She did not leave too long ago. You are about 2 hours behind her, that a way," and he gestured toward the forest.

Lukas and his men ran off in that direction.

Kizzy was now alone. Absolutely, totally, alone. She just kept running in the direction she thought was east. She'd make it to the coast, beguile some merchant, and be off somewhere soon. When was the last time she was alone?

She couldn't even remember. In her youth she was almost always entertaining older and fatter gentlemen. She prayed to be alone then. By a miracle she survived long enough to become a mistress, and choose her clients, and create a reputation for herself. She became the best prostitute in Shirekeep, the most powerful city in the world at the time, and was concubine to the Kaiser. She became Kaiseress and spawned an Imperial Bloodline and then became a queen. A friend to the dear boy-Kaiser Vida. A mother. A goddess and point of pride for a downtrodden community of outcasts. And now, due to her greed and disaffectedness, she was totally alone. Running in tattered clothes in the wilderness.

She stumbled and fell. Her knee had broken. She looked at the dry bones and sinew inside her leg... it had been centuries since any blood had been in there. She crawled to a tree and leaned against it. She felt a voice intrude into her thoughts, a voice she remembered all too well.

"Kizzy Drakland is a corpse, now more than ever."

"Yral'tesh... it's been some time. I'm... I'm almost glad to hear you."

" Now that your physical form is useless and weak, and now that you are on the divine continent, my essence can return to Balgurd when you are dead."

"Don't count me out Daemon. I came back from the dead once. This is just an inconvenience. "

"Kizzy Drakland is a corpse."

Kizzy felt herself get angry and afraid. She was alone. She let out a scream. A blood curdling scream. She sat there, crumpled, depleted. She sat there for about an hour, "Maybe it is time to go... I should end it..."

She heard some rustling in the woods. It got louder and louder until she saw a man with a machete approach her. The man had a determined look on his face, intensely confident, in another life she would have made him her lover.

He sprinted over towards her, drawing the machete back as he shouted, "Kizzy Drakland, you are convicted of heresy and treachery and sentenced to death in the name of the Community of Goëtia!"

Kizzy opened her mouth to object to the gall of the man, and that was her last thought as the rusty machete severed her throat.