Chapter 63 – Lady Trisiagga


“This cannot be happening,” I heard Ceria moan behind me. I didn’t have to warn my companions.  They recognized what sort of opponent we were facing.

The first one to appear was the same opponent we had last seen disappearing over the outcropping behind us. I never sensed him come past us to return, so he had found some other way back. He still had that peculiar mottled look, with patches of corpse-grey scattered over healthy flesh, and he carried a new sword, this one with a shade that suggested elven steel.

The level of expensive weapons in this cave was a little ridiculous. Although, I was answering them with a mithril sword, so I had no room to complain.

He wasn’t the reason for Ceria’s despair, though. He had been using his stealth magic to cover up a companion. Someone I had met before.

Two of the demoness’s hands held a spear as before. The third gripped her sword as before. But in place of the magic staff, which had disappeared into the Evidence Vaults of the Justice Ministry, the fourth held a large folding fan. And her outfit had radically changed.

“After what my dear little Jurmat told me, I knew it was you,” she announced, continuing to move forward at a slow walk. Despite the distance, her voice came to me as if she were merely a pace or two away. She had employed some transmission magic to move her voice closer to me. “When Jurmat claimed he met a strega, I knew it had to be my little dragon slayer. You really do look like one, you know. I owe you even bigger now, my pretty meal, after what you’ve done to me, and what you’ve done to my servant.”

Her words erased any possibility that this was a different asura. The demoness who previously ambushed me on my way back from school had claimed to be the master of the dragon we killed, and had called me ‘little dragon slayer’ then, as well.

The headdress of golden horns from back then was gone. Its absence left her mane of golden hair wild and unfettered. It seemed to be decorated with flowers, of all things. I knew that particular shade of crimson, though. I wondered if natural flowers were ever quite that exact shade of fresh blood red.

The most striking change was her sheer silken sashes. When she ambushed my carriage, they had festooned her body, in sufficient layers to provide a minimal degree of modesty. Now, with only three of them remained, she barely qualified as clothed. A single sash, tied in a bow between her breasts, made a futile attempt to cover her bosom. In practice, it did nothing to hide the abundance beneath. Her rosy tips were clearly visible through the diaphanous cloth, as were the formerly unseen gold rings that decorated them.

The stripes and swirls of her skin were now on full display from head to toe, except in the brief span where the remaining two silks worked together in multiple winds to wrap her hips and serve as a breechcloth. She had used her longer sashes for the more vital region, as the silk serving as her top could only wrap her body once. There was still a hint of visibility around the thighs, but she had managed to layer just enough silk to keep it only a hint.

Her chains of gold were largely gone as well, although the bands on her wrists and ankles remained. Only a pair of chains encircled her waist now, instead of the dozens that had wrapped her there and around her neck and shoulders, and the bejeweled chain that had wound around her leg was also gone.

“Forty years, little dragon slayer,” she stated, with her mouth full of shark’s teeth bearing a predatory smile. “To survive long enough to grow a new heart after you destroyed my old one, I expended the life blood I had condensed over the last forty years. Because of you, forty of this exalted one’s years were wasted!”

The line up of demon and demonic beasts was getting too close now for my liking. Unlike the monsters before, these beasts would never fall for a vampire command to run while they were under the control of the asura, so I wasn’t going to waste my time on such a thing.

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While materializing my wings at nearly full spread, I summoned up the dark mana as before, and laid out a command.

“Halt!”

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The skirmish line halted. The eyes of my male counterpart grew wide. The asura’s lips curled and peeled back into a wide, toothy grin. She wasn’t intimidated by my display. She had seen me in winged form before. She had probably halted only to stay with her underlings, not due to the command working on her.

Her words made no acknowledgement of it. “Forty years of hard work lost, and I was even forced to revert to a fiendess for a while! I had to trade my crown and most of my chains to Lord Durash just to receive enough of his condensed blood to recover my lovely body, and I had to agree to allow him to enjoy that body for a dozen nights as well, once I was restored! I still owe him ten nights, you cruel girl!”

She raised the fan and waved air at herself, “Well, to be honest, having Durash ravish me isn’t actually all that bad, but he sent me to trade my silks to Lord Zagolig for this fan, and Zagolig bound me and forced me to pay him the same way I paid Durash, for two entire days without rest! My hatred of you grew with every hour that filthy animal enjoyed this treasure, little dragon slayer! And then he took almost all my silks, before he would agree I had paid enough!”

Then she actually folded her fan so she could pretend to wipe a tear with her knuckle. “(sniff) So it’s your fault I have to run around half naked like this!”

“Buy a damn dress!” I retorted. I guess Robert took over for a moment there.

She looked affronted. “As if common fabrics could ever adorn this Lady Trisiagga! Only the most transcendant of materials is fine enough to touch my flawless skin! My silks are woven only from the cocoons of bomber moths that feed only on  magically cultivated silverwood leaves! The fabric is rich with mana absorption potential and precious beyond your imagination!”

Her eyes narrowed as she gave me a sinister smirk. “I’ll tell you, little dragon slayer, during every second I suffered as Zagolig debauched me, I imagined your life blood condensing and flowing into me as I drained it from your writhing body as repayment for my losses and shame. I salivated as I anticipated the lovely fragrance in the air while awaiting my dinner, as my servants roasted your body! Rest assured, you’ll be sleeping in their oven tonight, little dragon slayer!”

She pointed with the fan to her companion, my male doppelganger. “It was clever of you, frightening off my underling with your tricks, taking advantage of your chance resemblance to a strega. You aren’t even a real half-fairy, isn’t that right? You and I both know you are nothing but a dhampir, little dragon slayer. My underlings in Atius did wonderful research for me. How does the official story go? The claim is that your father died at the hands of his fairy wife, hm? Then she sent his baby to Atius accompanied by a superior mage for a foster mother? And the king gave that mage your father’s duchy so she could support you? But it’s clear to anyone who sees that mage and you together that you are mother and child.”

Tipping her head back and laughing, she opened her fan and waved air at herself. Her gaze leveled on me again, with twinkling merriment in her eyes. “You are a lie. No terrifying fairy hides in the wings to catch you should you fall. The fairy mother doesn’t exist. That mage seduced the duke and made a baby with him herself, then killed him, then seduced the king to protect herself. The kingdom made up the fairy so the mage couldn’t be charged with his murder.”

The official story of Duke Pendor’s death was indeed that Mother was my adoptive mother. Very few people know she’s a fairy and my biological mother. Uncle Owen made the story up to give Mother cover from prosecution without causing the unrest which having a fairy for a duchess might cause. Except that Trisiagga’s decoding of the story had one detail flipped. The fiction was the human mage foster mother, not the fairy.

Raising her head in pride at her brilliant deduction, she then delivered what she believed to be her most damning argument. “Your bluff works because there are so few dhampirs. You would have to be my age to know that they occasionally resemble the ancient stregas, the way you do.”

Turning her head, she ordered, “Jurmat, take her but do not kill her. For me to extract good value from her body, you must capture her alive.”

- my thoughts:

Just a reminder. I'm doing a Q&A at the end of volume 2. Deadline for getting questions to me by DM on Discord or left in comments is July 25.

There's that 'strega' word again. But you and Tianna have to wait several more chapters to get an explanation.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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