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Chapter 1. Nightmare
Tandy tried to sleep, but it was difficult. The demon had never actually entered her private bedroom, but she was afraid that one night he would. This night she was alone; therefore she worried.
Her father Crombie was a rough soldier who had no truck with demons. But he was away most of the time, guarding the King at Castle Roogna. Crombie was fun when he was home, but that was rare. He claimed to hate women, but had married a nymph, and tolerated no interference by other males. Tandy remained a child in his eyes; his hand would have hovered ominously near his sword if he even suspected any demon was bothering her. If only he were here.
Her mother Jewel was on a late mission, planting orange sapphires in a stratum near the surface. It was a long way away, so she rode the Diggle-worm, who could tunnel through rock without leaving a hole. They would be back after midnight. That meant several more hours, and Tandy was afraid.
She turned over, wrapped the candy-striped sheet about her in an uncomfortable tangle, and put the pink pillow over her head. It didn’t help; she still feared the demon. His name was Fiant, and he could dematerialize at will. That meant he could walk through walls.
The more Tandy thought about that, the less she trusted the walls of her room. She was afraid that any unwatched wall would permit the demon to pass through. She rolled over, sat up, and peered at the walls. No demon.
She had met Fiant only a few weeks ago, by accident. She had been playing with some large, round, blue rubies, rejects from her mother’s barrel—rubies were supposed to be red—and one had rolled down a passage near the demons’ rum works. She had run right into a rum wrap a demon was using, tearing it so that it became a bum wrap. She had been afraid the demon would be angry, but instead he had simply looked at her with a half-secret half-smile—and that had been worse. Thereafter that demon had shown up with disturbing frequency, always looking at her as if something demoniacally special was on his mind. She was not so naïve as to be in doubt about the nature of his thought. A nymph would have been flattered—but Tandy was human. She sought no demon lover.
Tandy got up and went to the mirror. The magic lantern brightened as she approached, so that she could see herself. She was nineteen years old, but she looked like a child in her nightie and lady-slippers, her brown tresses mussed from constant squirming, her blue eyes peering out worriedly. She wished she looked more like her mother—but of course no human person could match the pretty faces and fantastic figures of nymphs. That was what nymphdom was all about—to attract men like Crombie who judged the distaff to be good for only one thing. Nymphs were good for that thing. Human girls could be good for it, too, but they really had to work at it; they fouled it up by assigning far more meaning to it than the nymphs did, so were unable to proceed with sheer delighted abandon. They were cursed by their awareness of consequence.
She peered more closely at herself, brushing her tresses back with her hands, rearranging her nightie, standing straighter. She was no child, whatever her father might choose to think. Yet she was not exactly buxom, either. Her human heritage had given her a good mind and a soul, at the expense of voluptuousness. She had a cute face, with a pert, upturned nose and full lips, she decided, but not enough of the rest of it. She couldn’t make it as a nymph.
The demon Fiant obviously thought she would do, however. Maybe he didn’t realize that her human component made her less of a good thing. Maybe he was slumming, looking for an intriguing change of pace from the dusky demonesses who could assume any form they chose, even animal forms. It was said that sometimes they would change to animal form in the middle of the act of—but no human girl was supposed to be able to imagine anything like that. Tandy couldn’t change form, in or out of bed, and certainly she didn’t want any demon’s attention. If only she could convince him of that!
There was nothing to do but try to sleep again. The demon would come or he wouldn’t; since she had no control over that, there was no sense worrying.
She lay down amidst the mess her bed had become and worried. She closed her eyes and remained still, as if sleeping, but remained tensely awake. Maybe after a while her body would be fooled into relaxing.
There was a flicker at the far wall. Tandy spied it through almost-closed eyes and kept her small body frozen. It was the demon; he really had come.
In a moment Fiant solidified inside the room. He was large, muscular, and fat, with squat horns sprouting from his forehead and a short, unkempt beard that made him look like a goat. His hind feet were hooflike, and he had a medium-length tail at his posterior, barbed at the tip. There was a dusky ambience about him that would have betrayed his demonic nature, no matter what form he took. His eyes were like smoky quartz shielding an internal lava flow, emitting a dull red light that brightened when his attention warmed to something. By diabolic standards, he was handsome enough, and many a nymph would have been deliciously happy to be in Tandy’s place.
Tandy hoped Fiant would go away, after perceiving her asleep and disordered, but knew he wouldn’t. He found her attractive, or at least available, and refused to be repulsed by her negative response. Demons expected rejections; they thrived on them. It was said that, given a choice between rape and seduction, they would always choose the rape. The females, too. Of course, it was impossible to rape that kind; she would simply dematerialize if she didn’t like it. Which might be another explanation for Fiant’s interest in Tandy; she couldn’t dematerialize. Rape was possible.
Maybe if she were positive, welcoming him, that would turn him off. He was obviously tired of willing females. But Tandy couldn’t bring herself to try that particular ploy. If it didn’t work, where would she be?
Fiant approached the bed, grinning evilly. Tandy kept her eyes screwed almost shut. What would she do if he touched her? She was sure that screaming and fighting would only encourage him and make his eyes glow with preternatural lust—but what else was there?
Fiant paused, looming over her, his paunch protruding, the light from his eyes spearing down through slits. “Ah, you lovely little morsel,” he murmured, a wisp of smoke curling from his mouth as he spoke. “Be thrilled, you soft, human flesh. Your demon lover is here at last! Let me see more of you.” And he snatched the sheet away.
Tandy hurled the pillow at him and bounced off the bed, her terror converting to anger. “Get out of here, foul spirit!” she screamed.
“Ah, the tender morsel wakes, cries welcome! Delightful!” The demon strode toward her, the blue tip of his forked tongue rasping over his thin lips. His tail flicked similarly.
Tandy backed away, her terror/anger intensifying. “I loathe you! Go away!”
“Presently,” Fiant said, his tail stiffening as it elevated. “Hone your passion to its height, honey, for I will possess its depth.” He reached for her, his horns brightening in the reflected glare of his eyes.
Desperate, Tandy wreaked her ultimate. She threw a tantrum. Her body stiffened, her face turned red, her eyes clenched shut, and she hurled that tantrum right at the demon’s fat chest.
It struck with explosive impact. The demon sundered into fragments, his feet, hands, and head flying outward. His tail landed on the bed and lay twitching like a beheaded snake.
Tandy chewed her trembling lip. She really hadn’t wanted to do that; her tantrums were devastating, and she wasn’t supposed to throw them. Now she had destroyed the demon, and there would be hell to pay. How could she answer to hell for murder?
The pieces of the demon dissolved into smoke. The cloud coalesced—and Fiant formed again, intact. He looked dazed. “Oh, that kiss was a beauty,” he said, and staggered through the wall.
Tandy relaxed. Fiant wasn’t dead after all, but he was gone. She had the best of both situations. Or did she? He surely would not stay gone—and now they both knew her tantrums would not stop him. She had only postponed her problem.
Nevertheless, now she was able to sleep. She knew there would be no more trouble this night, and her mother would be home the next few nights. Fiant, for all his boldness when he had his victim isolated, stayed clear when a responsible person was in the neighborhood.
Next day Tandy tried to talk to her mother, though she was pretty sure it wouldn’t help. “Mother, you know that demon Fiant, who works at the rum refinery? He—”
“Oh, yes, the demons are such nice people,” Jewel said, smelling of mildly toasted sulfur. That was her magic: her odor reflected her mood. “Especially Beauregard, doing his research paper—”
“Which he has been working on since before I was born. He’s a nice demon, yes. But Fiant is another kind. He—”
“They never make any trouble for me when I have to set gems in their caves. The demons are such good neighbors.” The sulfur was getting stronger, beginning to crinkle the nose; Jewel didn’t like to hear criticisms.