A creature could’ve crawled in her wall and died.
The smell turned glowing landscapes into fields of dry grass, trees so shriveled and charred one touch turned them to dust. People became frozen by the smell— a stench associated only with a rotting corpse. A green cloud drifted into one ear. Their brains dripped out of the other.
Again. Why wouldn’t they leave her alone?
Lil sat up in bed. Her room smelled like decaying flesh wrapped in human waste—a truly murderous scent.
Raking her fingers through her short hair, she imagined her mind had hands. They reached for her paladin who lived miles away.
“Cinereal,” she said.
The paladin’s aggressive presence rushed towards her.
“Who’s in my apartment?” Lil asked.
She hoped it wasn’t what she thought it was.
“One Fera, weak, but determined.” Cinereal Niklay spoke to Lil’s mind.
Lil wanted to dig her fingers into her eyes. This was the first night in weeks she’d fallen asleep and not merely passed out for eight hours.
A sharp stake drove through each temple. Felt like some bastard was slicing through her head. Felt like she had gained a hundred pounds over night. Her arm was in the right place. Why didn’t it feel like it? On top of that, she had to fight some damn demon.
She struggled from her blanket, then groped under the bed. Her hands slid across her dusty wood floor, scattering shoes and containers full of things she no longer needed. Finally, she felt the cool handle of the steel pole she’d modified. Lil had spent hours sharpening the end. It wasn’t the best place to keep her weapon.
She put it there in hopes she wouldn’t have to use it often. It stood almost as tall as she was. Lil had wrapped rubber around the middle to improve her grip. She could fight the demon bare-handed. She’d rather not. The stench stayed with her longer. How she missed her bone knife.
She didn’t bother getting dressed. The demon wouldn’t care what she wore— or wasn’t wearing.
Lil shook her head. It only made her dizzier. Grogginess blurred her vision. The floor seemed farther away than it should have been. Her room looked longer.
Like she needed this.
She cracked her shoulders and neck more to stall than for any muscle benefit.
Lil closed her eyes to focus on the putrid scent that sullied her apartment. The soft creak her wood floor made under that beast’s weight.
The Fera, the bottom-feeder of the demon race, wasn’t moving in her direction. From the sound of it, the beast was sneaking about her living room. It wanted something she had. Why would it come here? She wasn’t stupid enough to store important items in such a vulnerable place.
Keeping her weight off her feet, Lil crept out of her bedroom. The narrow hallway on the other side led to her living room. She couldn’t see the beast. Still, its creaking footsteps didn’t approached her.
Her frantic heartbeat didn’t improve her vision. She took several deep breaths. This wasn’t the time to be afraid. Only humans let their emotions dominate their senses.
“Remember your training, Lil.”
Her paladin’s usually soothing voice lit her brain on fire. A swear, sweet in its obscenity, balanced on the edge of her tongue. Lil swallowed before it jumped off. The great distance didn’t stop conversation between them or stop Cinereal from seeing what Lil saw.
She stalked on. Why couldn’t she see the demon? More of her living room came into view as she approached the end of the hall. Where was it?
She stopped. Maybe Cinereal was wrong. A human could’ve broken into her apartment. The person could’ve been living on the street for years, which would explain the smell.
“I’m not wrong.”
Cinereal didn’t like her abilities being questioned. She was never wrong.
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