“Damn it! Does the Demon King understand how important this treaty is to the demon realm? We can’t afford another war.”
“Be careful, Typhon, or your words might be misinterpreted as disrespect for our Lord.” A dark, scrawny man spoke up.
“Is that a threat?” Typhon looked darkly at the man as if he wanted to pull his sword and strike the man down in an instant.
The man held out his hands and gave an innocent look. “I’m merely pointing out the harsh reality. It has always been my job as a Truthsayer.”
“Truthsayers…” Typhon almost spat as he said that word. “I’ll never understand the tradition of hiring your kind.”
“It is your refusal to use my kind that is the very reason you have no real power outside of the army. The demon King commands, it is only your job to figure out how to carry out those commands.”
“I have always gotten the job done. Do not try to accuse me of insubordination.”
The dark man grinned. “I wouldn’t dream of it. You have earned your place in the military. Your command of the army has always been explementary. The Demon King wouldn’t have promoted you to Lord General of his armies otherwise. However, let us worry about treaties and diplomacy. You can worry about what to do if diplomacy fails.”
“Hmm… part of me thinks you want a war…” Typhon turned his head away in disgust.
“Even if the Demon King does, your only concern should be… how to win it!” The dark man snorted.
When Typhon remained standing in front of his planning table without another word, the Truthsayer merely nodded and turned to leave the tent. As he reached the entrance, he noticed me standing there, having stayed outside while they discussed things. Had this been something I wasn’t supposed to hear, likely the guards wouldn’t have let me be so close. The man was deathly pale, his skin white with an almost bluish hue. His eyes were also completely red. As to what race he was, I couldn’t even guess. There were several hundred types of demons in the demon realm, and I hadn’t made an effort to identify all of them yet.
“A human slave… disgusting.” When the man’s eyes caught mine, he immediately looked away and muttered those words.
My charm and looks seemed to hold no sway over the man, at least if I allowed the expression on his face tell me so. However, I was a woman adept at deception, and the truth was my appearance had greatly startled the man. I had the sense that the only reason he looked away is to stop himself from pushing me down. With just that brief interaction, I could feel that this was a man used to power and being able to use it however he wanted. He was a man who would flick his fingers and rape a farmer’s daughter just because she aroused him in passing, likely in front of her own husband. As much as he had browbeat Typhon in the tent, the truth was Typhon did hold a great deal of power, and this man was deeply agitated and threatened by Typhon. Whether Typhon knew this was how the man felt, I didn’t know.
It seemed like the longer I stayed in camp, the more I started to remember all of Nova’s teachings. The Cambion lifestyle had been almost suffocating with how upfront and honest everyone was. This sort of subtle subterfuge and politics actually allowed my abilities to thrive much better.
“For a Truthsayer, he seems to lie quite easily,” I muttered to my side.
The man immediately stiffened and stopped his step without turning back. His shoulders shook in a suppressed rage. However, the guards on either side of the tent actually put their hands on their blades. I was Typhon’s girl, and if this man turned to strike me, these two men would defend me until the moment Typhon ordered otherwise.
“Hahaha!” The laughter breaking out from my side was from Fanreek, who let out a barking laugh, slapping me on the shoulder.
Where my comment was jabbing, Fanreek’s actions were flat out disrespectful. It actually took some of the man’s anger off of me, and directed it all on Fanreek. I suspected Fanreek had done this intentionally, for which I was thankful. My words had came out unintentionally and I didn’t expect the man to stop.
“Fanreek, come in… and bring my slave with you.” A voice interrupted from within the tent.
With us being called by Typhon, the Truthsayer could only sniff and head the rest of the way out. His back was still shaking with agitation and he clearly was embaressed. I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but my mouth got the better of me. I know I was a slave, but after listening to him talk down to my master, a strange part of me felt the need to bite back.
“Hey… Fanreek, what is a Truthsayer?” I whispered to him as we entered the tent.
Fanreek shot me a wondering look and then let out another laugh.
“Demon King’s and their council members typically higher Truthsayers.” It was Typhon who spoke up. “On the surface and to commoners, they act as representatives. They spread the truth of their lords to the masses. They deliver decrees, spread commands, and even negotiate on behalf of their masters.”
“On the surface? So, what do they really do?” I knew the words were unbecoming of a slave, so I immediately coughed. “Ahem… if master pleases…”
Typhon gave me a look out of the side of his eye, but I couldn’t read if it was a pleased or displeased look. “Truthsayers tell the truth. They’re the one person in the kingdom that can tell a King exactly what they think. King’s and other people of power end up living in a bubble surrounded by yesmen. Most people are either too afraid to tell a Demon King what they truly think of his decisions and methods. Truthsayers are a protected group designed to counter that. Harming a Truthsayer is equivalent to treason, even for a Demon King. They force leaders to question their actions, putting pressure on them to truly consider their actions. Well, good Truthsayers work that way. The worst of them become just another aristocrat using the power they borrow from whichever noble they keep on a short leash.”
“And who is he?” I asked.
“He is a Moroi. Truthsayer of Tigon. Tigon’s second only to the Demon King in power. Tigon’s been opposing the Demon King in actions since before you were born. He believes in demon purity and has an extreme hatred for humans. Letting his Truthsayer lead the negotiations is like throwing oil on fire. You need not worry of such things.” Typhon shook his head, giving me a stern look.
“Should we not worry?” Fanreek spoke up. “The demon’s bane is a very real problem. I side with you, my lord, we can not afford another war. Every year the humans grow stronger and we grow weaker.”
Typhon poured a drink and took a sip before responding. “Some would argue that this is why we should strike now. If we can wipe out the humans, or at least subjugate them, we should do so before we become too weak and unable. Besides, it is the Demon Castle’s official position that the demon’s bane is a myth.”
“Pah!” Fanreek almost spit. “It’s no secret that the demon line weakens with every generation. It’s because of all these purebred lines. They keep their monster blood in the family so desperately that the monster blood grows thin. Soon, we’d be little different from humans ourselves.”
Typhon gave a wry chuckle. “The same people would make the argument that the purebred lines are the only reasons we have any demon blood left in the first place.”
“It’s those damn purebred families not wanting any new families to be made! They kill off the progenitors themselves when the humans don’t do it for them. Don’t tell me they don’t!” Fanreek seemed surprisingly impassioned by this conversation.
Meanwhile, Typhon merely held up his hands and sighed in resignation. It seemed to me like this was a conversation the pair had shared many times. Fanreek was well respected in the army and was one of the few people who would talk to and talk back to Typhon. In some ways, he was almost like Typhon’s Truthsayer, although neither man would appreciate me making the comparison, it seemed.
In truth, the men rarely talked. Fanreek kept to himself and his whores, and Typhon remained as a leader. It might have been arguments such as these that kept the two men from being closer.
“You can’t have come here to have this conversation,” Typhon finally sighed. “What do you want, old friend, and what does it have to do with my slave.”
Fanreek sniffed, shaking himself and letting go of his building anger. “I’d like to take your slave into town for a few nights. She’s been a slave for a while but has mostly had to fend for herself. She needs proper livery and other goods that can’t be found in the camps.”
“Very well, take her.” Typhon waved a hand.
Fanreek stopped for a second and then shook his head. “I was expecting an argument. You really do treat her more like a daughter than a slave.”
“Damn it, Fanreek, what do you want? You made the request, take the girl!” Typhon slammed his hand on the table.
Fanreek held up his hands. “Easy, easy… Aria, why don’t you go outside for a second. Typhon and I… Ahem… have things to discuss.”
I gave the man a frown, but when Typhon nodded I knew I couldn’t ignore their order. I turned around and left the tent. The men watched me leave until I was well outside the tent and earshot. There was no way for me to continue listening to their conversation. Correction, there was no way for me to listen to their conversation without the use of my skills. I immediately activated my Stalker, and soon I was back in the tent. Typhon had sat down at the table, and Fanreek was getting a drink. I took a steep breath, but a moment later it looked like the two didn’t detect my skill. I let my breath out in relief.
“What is the slave girl to you?” Fanreek asked.
Typhon remained silent for a few moments before letting out a sigh. “Do you think she’s a human spy?”
Fanreek stared stiffly for a bit before he shook his head. “Not a chance. It’s been almost a month now since she’s joined the camp. I’ve observed her that entire time under your request. I don’t believe that slave collar works on her, but other than that, I don’t sense any treachery. It’s almost like the heavens crafted a perfect woman and dropped her right into the Cambion tent.”
Fanreek… that’s a bit much. Even I felt a bit like blushing at those comments. It only disturbed me slightly that Fanreek’s association with me was an order. I had suspected as much, but this only confirmed it.
“Hmm… she talks back, and she looks her superiors in the eye. These are not the acts of a slave.”
Fanreek shrugged. “You didn’t ask me if she made a good slave. In truth, she makes a terrible slave. Frankly, half of her behavior would’ve gotten her killed ten times over if you weren’t protecting her.”
I frowned. I really thought I had been doing a good job. What does he mean I’d be killed? I had the whole camp wrapped around my finger!
“Given her beauty,” Fanreek continued, ”her abilities, and her demeanor… she’d make a useful ally.”
“An ally… hm…” Typhon seemed to be contemplating the words.
“What are your plans for her, really?” Fanreek asked.
“No!” Typhon shook his head. “At first, I was just going to give her to Seris to play with, but after seeing her, I’d rather want her to join Bradrick.”
“Bradrick? Isn’t he the one who insists on doing the- ahem…”
“Yes.. given her skillsets, perhaps this Aria could keep him safe. Better yet, he can put a baby in her belly and decide to stay home and stop gallivanting around.”
“You really do see her as a future daughter-in-law?” Fanreek’s eyes rose widely at that, clearly very surprised.
Typhon waved his hand. “I don’t care about this purebred crap. To me, the demon’s bane is an inevitability. Yet… although this slave looks to be human, I somehow have the feeling that her demon children would be no weaker than a purebred. This is all just a maybe, anyway. If she becomes a mistress, or a companion, or even a guard, it matters little to me.”
Fanreek nodded as if agreeing with that strange sentiment. Meanwhile, I touched my stomach and shook my head. I had no desire to be popping out babies! I was a girl who was up for many things, but being pregnant was not one of them. I immediately started making plans to stock up on anti-pregnancy herbs and smuggle them around at all times. If I had to secretly take herb to keep this son of his from knocking me up, I was prepared to do it. Whatever loyalty I felt for his family ended at that line. I’d not going to mother his grandkids!
By the time I recovered, I found their conversation was coming to an end. I could only pull out as quickly as possible. When Fanreek came out of the tent, I was still a little flushed.
“What is it?” Fanreek asked, then gestured with his head. “Come on, let’s head to town.”
I gave a nod enthusiastically and stood up, running ahead of him. Now, I knew the first thing I planned to get in town, a lifetimes supply of anti-pregnancy medication! No matter what happened, I would never become a mother!