Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.
Written by Chaser
80 Days B.N.D.
The old man shook with the force of his missive. "You will find out that you have special powers in the upcoming nights. Find each other. Flee Synilas. Survive. They do not take kindly to magical fol--"
Purple flames clawed their way up Paimon’s torso, subsuming her head in hot hazy magic. Paimon kept her eyes wide open, and saw the room shift and burn away, turning inside out itself as the fire patterned itself the surface of her eyes. It shifted and grew until it felt like it was cleaving her in two, and Paimon thrashed as violet dimensions upturned.
Her fist flew down and struck clay shingles. Paimon’s eyes focused on the light blue sky. She lay flat on her back atop a roof. She’d scratched her hand on the masonwork when she hit.
Paimon turned over and looked on the pipe clutched in her other hand. The sunweed was still glowing softly. “What the hell did that guy sell me?” she marveled aloud.
Still, the pipe was a worthy purchase. It was a long, serpentine item, with the payload nestled in the jaws of a dragon, complete with ceramic whiskers. Even if it had cost her the day’s profits, and a bit of her sunweed store, and however much effort it took to get up on this roof - she hardly remembered doing it - she’d given herself some premium rest and relaxation. She couldn’t wait to see the look on Mogul’s face when she strolled up and offered a hit.
“Hey!” Paimon looked down to see an old man peering up at her from beneath a brimmed leather hat. “Get out of here, you,” he snarled. He had a brick in his hand, poised to throw.
Paimon pushed herself to her feet and dusted herself off. “Alright, alright,” she muttered as the old man continued pouring out insults. She slid to the edge of the roof and shimmied down the stone wall, landing awkwardly in front of the street. She stumbled for a moment, before catching herself, spreading her hands wide to the man. “See? I’m gone.”
The old man grumbled something else, and noncommittally lobbed the brick at her feet. He huffed past her and into the house, slamming the door.
Paimon took the last drag of her pipe and let it burn out. This wasn’t the first rooftop eviction she’d faced, and damned if it’d be her last. She stowed the pipe in her bag, the bag under her cloak, and most of her body with it. A wry smirk spread on her face, and her conical form fluttered as she took off, looking for new prospects all around.
The bells tolled the hour. Paimon raised her head at the familiar sound.
“It’s not a bong, it’s a pipe,” she said to herself, then chuckled. “That’s stupid. That’s so stupid. Ooh.”
She smiled to the high heavens. “Find the others. Collect them all. We’re in grave danger!”
Syna’s streets ran twisting up and down like a corkscrew spiderweb. Magic users were known for their inscrutable minds, so Paimon thought they must have been writing in cursive with the city streets. It was the late afternoon now, and people had begun to move about, some from their work to home, some from their work to more work. They looked upon Paimon and frowned for a moment, before shaking their heads. It’s easy to be happy when you’re that helpless, they thought. She’s content to be a bum.
You’re right, Paimon thought. Not gonna stop me, though. Because when people convinced themselves not to be happy, they were just going to be preyed upon. Guilt too, was overrated.
The sphere popped perfectly out of the cobbled street, as Paimon’s foot fell directly on top of it. Suddenly the ground burst beneath her, the stones impacting and shattering like teeth crowded together by a new growth. Paimon’s vision was overrun by the seal on the stone, crossed slashes looking so much like an eye, or an open head wound.
The stones that pushed up now crumbled to dust. Paimon was left with her foot raised above a pothole of crushed stone. The people passing by had heard the resounding crunch, or seen the gravel shoot skyward from her feet, and were now looking directly at her. Their jaws hung open.
Paimon spread her hands weakly. “Ta-da.” Pivoting on her other foot, she hightailed it down an alley before anyone could say anything else. She headed for the church.
“Sanctuary, sanctuary,” she sang beneath her breath, though taking refuge in a church probably wouldn’t protect her from the law. Better to just hide there and make things easier for everyone.
The church loomed up before her, a distinctive slate grey, a circular stained-glass window depicting something or other high power. The bell hung in its same spot, waiting to be rung again. The stone stairs were wide and tapered up to a humble wooden door, a simple entrance to the holy something-or-other. They were also empty. The old man must have gotten treatment. If not that, a home to rest. Something.
“Get out of the way!”
Paimon hopped aside, looking in confusion as two men in heavy coats barreled past, carrying between them an animal-skin stretched on a wooden frame. On that skin lay a woman, staring up at the sky, her mouth frothing with spittle.
The door opened inwards, the priest standing at the door, covering his mouth with his robe as the woman was carried past. His aging face was grim with fright. As the priest went to shut the door, his eyes met Paimon’s. “You’d best stay away for your health, child,” he said. “There’s more where she came from. So many more.”
The door closed. Paimon was left standing in the road in front of the church. Groans escaped through the wooden door.
Her bag felt helplessly light. She’d sold all of her ingredients for hybroth potion. She stood there until she felt like she’d snap in two, like her cheap flea-market pipe.
Paimon looked down. A blue-grey cat with wings folded to its back brushed lithely past her leg and headed for the step. It hopped up to the door and looked around, searching for a way in.
“Pspspspspspsss,” Paimon said, beckoning with her fingers. “Hey, hey. Kitty. C’mere.”
The cat looked at her, and Paimon could swear it rolled its eyes. It hopped off the step and walked around her. She stretched out to pet it as it passed, before losing her balance and toppling over. She landed on her back, splaying out on the street.
“Puah.” Paimon reached backward for the cat; her hand wrapped around someone’s ankle. She looked up.
Standing over her was a man dressed as an angel. His robes flowed around him, rippling a shadow into the twilight. His face was a bit darkened but somehow, Paimon could see his eyes shining.
“Hello, kitty,” Paimon said. “You looking for some medicine?”
“I don’t need to buy anything,” the man said, almost reflexively. He smiled awkwardly, then shook his leg.
“That’s fair. I’m out of hybroth potion anyways.” Paimon released his ankle, rolled over, and stood up. “I could offer you some peoda seeds. Wouldn’t cure you. Might just help with the opposite, in fact.”
She circled around him, getting a better look at his face. As he turned to the light, she could see the rashes trailing down his neck. “You really ought to see someone,” she added. “The apothecary on Razel Main should have some curatives.”
The man shook his head. “I’ll be fine.” The cat leapt onto his shoulder, and he petted her absentmindedly as he looked at the church. “The cures should go to the people who need them.”
“Except no one short of the Idora family could afford that much cure,” Paimon said. “This outbreak is really unprofitable. I mean, unfortunate.”
She waved her hands around, smiling. The man leaned forward, raised an eyebrow. “But you’ve got a way of selling hybroth?”
“It’s what I do. Paimon Fel, freelance apothecary,” she said, jabbing a thumb to her chest.
“Elidyr var Ardys,” the man replied.
“And I used to have a supply, but it’s all run out now,” Paimon continued. “Hybroth, by the way, is just pell leaves and root of riander, ground up and dissolved. I tell everyone that, but the method to getting them is secret.”
Elidyr glanced at the church. “Too secret for this?”
A low moan sounded from inside the church, whirring pain from a torn-up throat. Paimon cringed.
“I’m just maintaining my business,” she huffed. “At least my prices haven’t gone up. You look around and you see clinics marked up double, triple. The nerve of some people.” She withdrew the pipe from her bag, packed in a bit of sunweed.
Elidyr stared at her through the smoke as she exhaled. “If it’s money you need, I could--” he stopped, amended, “--I might be able to get it to you.”
“Well, it’s not really the money either, it’s just, I, damn it.” Paimon thrashed her hair with her free hand. “Why’re you doing this, anyway?”
The orange light caught in Elidyr’s eyes, glowing up his face. “I don’t want to just wait around while people die.”
“That’s so freakin’ noble. You remind me so much,” Paimon groaned, looked skyward and slapped a palm to her forehead. “Alright.”
“I’ll get the ingredients.” She held up a finger. “If you come with me to help collect them. And,” she added, and smiled at Elidyr’s shoulder, “I get to pet the cat.”
Elidyr and the cat looked at each other. Paimon could have sworn that they were battling it out in stares. Elidyr’s gaze remained tender, but strong, and eventually the cat’s head drooped. Elidyr turned to Paimon.
“Her name is Lady,” he said. “And she says you’d better hold up your part of the deal.”
“I definitely will,” Paimon said, and reached up to pet Lady. “My dear dealer apprentices.”
Elidyr peered out of the alley, looking around for the watchmen in the night. When he saw nothing, he looked again. “Are you done?” he asked.
“Shh, this is a character moment,” Paimon said, further down the alley in the darkness. She was holding her cloak open to display her wares. “It builds character.”
“A drug deal builds character?”
“Builds your patience,” Paimon called back, then looked forward, “And mine. Are you gonna pick an ingredient, kid?”
“I’ll pick soon,” retorted the client. “You can’t afford to rush me.” He was a young man with blond hair, a stiffly upturned nose and lip. His gaze flitted to every part of the alley, taking in Paimon as a source of unbridled danger. Eventually, he pointed to a bundle grains by her breast pocket.
“Buckflower,” Paimon said, handing over the bundle, “a smooth and pleasant ride. That’ll be seventy Gildar.”
The client sniffed and reached into his coat pocket. “I’m overpaying for this, so you’d better be grateful.” He withdrew a belt buckle from his pocket. It glinted in the faint streetlight, the clasp set into a small medallion with an octahedral sapphire into silver metal.
“It’s a Hextech gem,” he said, dropping it into Paimon’s hand as she passed the herbs. “You’d activate it by twisting the stone.”
“Is that so.” Paimon weighed the buckle in her palm. She glanced over at Elidyr. “You can heal me if this thing explodes, right?”
Elidyr shifted his feet. “Maybe. Just hurry up, please.”
“Some things can’t be rushed,” Paimon said, uncoupling her belt. She held her pants up with one hand as she fastened the new buckle, trying to ignore the revolted stare of the client. Soon enough she had the new belt buckle shining around her waist. She grabbed the sapphire in the center, trying to loosen it. “Okay, so I just twist it, this way.”
Suddenly her body jumped inward, sucking most of her with it. Paimon staggered, looked down, and saw her body compressed to centimeters wide. “Whoa.”
The client nodded. “It’s a corset. Though I think you twisted it a little too far.”
“This is cool. This is really cool,” Paimon said. Her spine had become thinner than a pole, the rest of her body sucked inwards towards it. She jumped up and down, feeling the weight of her entire body, but the near vanishing of her torso and chest.
Elidyr looked a little pale. “You shouldn’t play around with magic like that.”
“Oh, but this isn’t magic,” Paimon said, rippling her body like a wire. “It’s just diet and exercise, with a side helping of good ol’ prayer.”
The client seemed annoyed. “Is that fine?” he asked. “Good. I’ll be off now. Don’t follow me.” With that, he spun on his heel and disappeared down the alleyway.
“He seemed pretty eager to get that off of his hands,” Elidyr noted. “You don’t think he-”
“Kids steal from their parents when they think they wouldn’t notice them.” Paimon waved her hand. “What people want to do with their money isn’t up to me. It’s what they’re feeling that really matters.”
She patted the belt buckle. “And right now, I feel pretty amazing. Let’s find a place to sleep, and we can head out first thing tomorrow.”
Elidyr nodded. “We’ll have to find transport too. It might take a while.”
“All of that is fine and good!” Paimon said, twisting herself into a rail-thin spear. “No use discussing it any further. Let’s go save Syna!”