Wren and Hess
Hess eyed the suspect. His frills went rigid. “I don’t trust her.”
“She’s a demon,” replied Wren. “Of course you don’t trust her.”
The demon, tall and thick, like an over-muscled barbarian queen from the icy Norths, sat in the summoning circle that contained her. Her long horns curled outward, but aside from those, her orange complexion, and that her face resembled a skull, she might’ve passed for human.
Wren and Hess turned their back on the demon. Wren knelt beside the warlock’s corpse. His face was frozen in a grim rictus of terror while his body was a contortion of splayed, twisted limbs. She closed his eyes and mouth, only to have the expression snap back into place.
“Summoner’s shock,” said Hess.
“I didn’t do it,” said the demon.
“Didn’t say you did,” said Wren without turning to face the demon.
“But you were thinking it. Don’t deny it.”
“We’ll be with you in a moment,” said Hess.
The demon paced the confines of the magic circle that contained her. “Never fails. Blame the demon. Case closed.”
Wren said nothing, wondering how difficult it would be for the undertakers to get the knotted warlock into a coffin. They’d probably have to saw off a limb or two.
“He was like that when I got here,” said the demon. “I didn’t kill him. Couldn’t kill him if I wanted to.”
Wren approached the circle. The demon towered over her.
“You’re a suspect. Everyone is until we get more information, but this looks like just another case of an overzealous magus exceeding his limits. They gaze into the abyss, thinking to see power and only find things they were never meant to know. Things they can’t fathom. Killed by the very mysteries they sought to unravel.”
“So you believe me then?” asked the demon. “I’m innocent.”
“Do I believe you’re innocent?” said Wren with a smile. “No, but do I believe you killed this man? No, I don’t think so.”
“Then can I be released?”
“Most warlocks don’t have the strength of will and physical fortitude to bring forth demons. Most give up on anything beyond an imp or two. But sometimes, they end up with something more and if the effort kills them, we wind up with a demon on this side of the abyss with no master. With no master, you have no obligation to fulfill. With no obligation, you have no way of completing your task and returning home.”
The demon scowled. “Well, that’s shitty news. I’m stuck here?”
“Most probably,” replied Wren.
The demon held the warlock’s soul, forfeit upon her arrival, in her hand. The smoky, gray bauble hardly seemed worth the trip. And definitely not worth being trapped in this place. There was a pleasant scent of sulfur in the air, but it was a bit humid for her liking.
“So what now?”
Hess said, “Do you have any useful skills?”
“I can debone a hellghast with one hand. Two hellghasts at once with the right tools.”
“We don’t get many hellghasts around here,” said Hess.
“Shame,” said the demon. “They make good eating.”
They’d find a job for her. There were ways for a demon to make a living in this city. Most of them legal. Some of them quasi-legal, but nothing the city guard fretted over. She would most likely end up a constable, where a demon’s disposition and abilities were often most useful. Neither Wren nor Hess considered what that said about their job.
A green imp sauntered past the guards posted at the door.
“My, you’re a tall glass of blood, aren’t you?” said the imp. “I trust you haven’t attempted to coerce any confession from my client, Gendarme Wren.”
“You know me better than that, Gouger.”
The imp nodded, adjusted his spectacles. “Indeed, I do. A pair of honest constables are as rare as an innocent demon these days.”
He chuckled as Wren and Hess left him to council the newest demon to call the city home.