Imp Forsaken Online - Debra Dunbar Page 0,1

that I currently had a heart. I’d been undecided whether it would have been better to be found by demons or elves. Demons didn’t tolerate weakness and would have probably killed me outright. Elves would normally be a better choice, but I’d pissed off almost every High Lord in Hel. My only hope was that they somehow couldn’t recognize me, that they’d think I was a strange slimy being, and just dump me back in the woods.

But then, I wasn’t sure that was a better scenario. Maybe in time I’d be able to form something more mobile, but if not… well, this pretty much sucked. I really didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as immobile ooze, unable to communicate. The only good thing about my return to Hel was that the excruciating pain I’d felt in Aaru had dulled to an achy throb. Something in my spirit-self was scabbing over and recovering. I just hoped it was the parts I needed to survive.

“What should we do with it once we get to Chime?” one of the scouts said. I couldn’t tell which one had spoken, since I was deep inside a bucket.

“Let’s put it in a cell for a few days and see what happens.”

Great. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to live in a dark stone cell. And Chime? That name sounded familiar. I dug through my memories and realized with dread that Chime was in the elven kingdom of Wythyn. Of all the elven kingdoms, that was the absolutely worst place I could have found myself. This past winter I’d cursed at the high lord, Feille, refused to do his bidding then had Gregory yank me out of his grasp. If that wasn’t enough, I’d returned to threaten him, blown the top off his fancy-dancy throne then stole my horse back. I could only hope Feille never realized it was me in one of his dungeons, and that I somehow managed to regain the ability to escape before any of these elves discovered who I was.

Eventually we must have reached the city of Chime. Even from the depth of my bucket I could hear the city gates open, the greeting of the guards, the ring of footsteps on stone. Murmured voices grew louder, and I could make out the conversations of those bartering for goods. The noise drifted away, and eventually all I heard was footsteps and the opening and closing of doors.

“So, we just stick it down here? What do we tell the guards?”

My bucket shifted, and I assumed the elf carrying me had shrugged. “That we need a secure place to hold it until we figure out what it is?”

“Riiiight. I’m not about to become a laughing stock. I’ve got an idea.”

I heard a crash, and the elf not carrying me berated someone.

“I’m sorry, sir! I’m so sorry!” The voice was high—either a child or perhaps a young woman.

“Stupid human. A few days in the dungeon should make you less clumsy.”

The human gasped and the sound of soft crying accompanied us down another long set of stairs. The temperature dropped noticeably, and I sensed a dusty dampness.

“We’re punishing this clumsy human,” the other scout told someone.

A new voice replied. “Fine. Glad to see you brought a bucket to clean up any of her—holy Goddess! What is that nasty stuff in there? Ugh!”

I felt my container shift. “Part of the punishment.”

We were quickly ushered down the stairs, and I felt the thunk of my bucket hitting the floor. There was the sound of shuffling feet, a soft thud and a whimper.

I was unceremoniously dumped out of my bucket onto a filthy stone floor. The two scouts jumped back and clanged the cell door shut, locking it quickly. Huddled in a corner was a young woman, her scant wrap clothing smudged with the thick dust that lay everywhere. Her terrified eyes looked from the elven scouts to me.

“What… what is that?” I could hear the fear in her voice and see the emotions flash across her expressive face. No doubt she thought she’d need to eat me, or clean me up, or smear me all over her body for the amusement of the elves.

“It’s a demon,” the taller elf told her smugly. “We’re feeding you to it. First it will encircle you with its poisonous form then slowly creep up your body, searing your flesh bit by bit. Eventually it will cover every inch of you, drowning you as it pours down your nose