Niath sprung into the air and the long trip back began. As before Asmodan watched faces form in the madness that was the red sea as they passed over it. After some time he decided to try and feel what might be down in the red depths and as he focused on it he noticed that a face began to appear more frequently. It was his face he realized finally. The more he concentrated on the liquid and what might be hiding below its surface the more detailed his face in the frothing churning liquid would become. After a time he began to attempt to focus on doing things to the liquid. It was responsive to his thoughts after all. He began with basic shapes, circles and triangles, squares and rectangles. He would focus until he could see the outline of the shape amid the chaos of the red liquid and then he would drop it and watch the shape disintegrate into a thousand crashing waves. As they glided from one sheet of heat to another Niath noticed the circle that was beneath her in the water and grew weary thinking that some form of hostile magic was about to be unleashed on her and she began to look for another island to land on to check on her surroundings. The circle vanished and as she kept glancing down she would see the other shapes that the Warlock was practicing with but had no idea it was her cargo that was causing them. Finally she spotted a place to land and headed for it. It was narrow maybe fifteen feet across at its widest point and it was elliptical in shape tapering off to nothing at its far sides. Once she was down and had let go of the human she began to move about the platform looking all about at the sky and the sea. Asmodan finally had to ask her what was going on.
“As we traveled there were many times when I saw shapes in the sea beneath us several of them were circles. I am making sure that I am not being targeted at least not by anything near us.”
Asmodan smiled to himself and began to focus on the Sea to his left and began to pull into shape the likeness of Niath. She spotted it almost instantly and pointed down at it.
Asmodan couldn’t help himself anymore and started laughing at her. Being a demon her initial response to being laughed at by a mortal was to stick him with her tail many times while carving her name and a slew of insults into his flesh while doing other things to him. But she got a handle on herself quickly. He had proven that he was faster than her once already. The Warlock noticed that she was mad at him and apologized. He explained how he noticed that he could affect change on the sea and what she had seen was him practicing with it. He didn’t want to disturb her in flight so didn’t mention it to her. She still wanted to disembowel him for laughing at her but she let it drop. The took the break as a chance to stretch out before they set off again and did not stop until they were well past the coastal edge of Red sea and were far inland.
Once they were clear of the Red sea the Miasma became dense again and they could not see some cliff faces until they were about to slam into them. Niath was a nimble pilot though and even with her added weight they never actually hit anything. Eventually they stopped at for another break on a ledge set before a cave entrance that seemed semi familiar to the Warlock. He stuck his head inside and was reassured that it was the cave that he thought it was. He could make out the lines on the floor where he had stashed the remains of the two Casaganoth he thought to open it the compartment and check on them and decided instead to check mentally. He sent his mind into the shallow hole and felt the mind he expected as it recoiled from him. The Warlock thought back to the things that they had done to him and how it recoiled from him in terror now and smiled to himself.
“You enjoy the terror of your victims. You do have some things in common with us.”
Niath pointed out when she noticed the smile on his face. It was just a guess on her part but it was a good one. Asmodan just stared at her blankly for a second as if deciding something. She did not like the detached look in his eye. Mortals don’t get that particular look in their eyes not normal ones. She knew he was working something over in his mind she did feel threatened by it even though she had no idea what it was. Then like a cloud in the breeze the look was gone and the feeling that came with seeing it seemed to pass just a quickly.
“I’m ready to go when you are.”
Niath nodded and moved to pick him up. Again they were off this time it was maybe only fifteen or twenty minutes until they reached their destination. She placed him on the ground exactly where she had picked him up when their trip began.
“I have a bargain to make with you, a simple one. I want you to take this down into the gathering place down there and trade it or sell it or whatever it is you have to do with it and get me a hooded cloak.”
As he spoke the Warlock began cutting a crystal knife blade from the wall beside him. When he was done he had an Athane fit for a high priest out of the crystal. It had a slightly larger handle than a human would need but he did that to accommodate a larger number of hand sizes that the thing might encounter. It had a long triangular blade and a circular hilt that had two long thin sides that reached out towards the blade of the thing. He carved it to the point of near perfection using his mind to envision what it was to look like and ignoring the mechanical movements of his hands. All total the Item was almost three feet long. It was closer to a gladiator’s sword than a knife for him and Niath but he knew what it was worth to even a common demonic thug if Catabasch’s responses to the crystal work weapons was any indication. Once he was finished with it he held it out for Niath. The Demoness looked from him to the Athane and back to him.
“Only a hooded cloak?”
“If there is an exchange for currency keep whatever change profit there is to be had as payment for your services after returning with the cloak.”
Niath didn’t have to think about this one. She knew the worth of the blade much better than the Warlock thought that he did. She accepted the blade and dived off the side of the cliff for the settlement below. Asmodan sat down and waited, after what felt like half an hour passed he decided that he would try a variation on fishing. He mentally stopped whatever it was that stopped the crystal from glowing in response to his presence. The Warlock then leaned back against the Cliffside and got as comfortable as he could. Not long after he had started his experiment there was a wide circle around him in bright color. It was like he had painted a large bright bull’s-eye and sat himself in the center of it. He was hoping to gain the attention of something out there but the only demon to approach was Niath and she had with her a rolled up piece of purple material and a bag tied at her waist. As she landed she handed him the cloak. He unrolled the thing it was not at all what he had expected when he said hooded cloak.
“What is this?”
He asked as he unrolled the long purple garment. It was a deep purple with Abasseth script in black running up and down it. Asmodan understood some of it, they were wards against types of magic and he saw the word for pierce and hoped that it was a ward against being pierced and not a charm to help make it happen. It had long sleeves that flared out at the ends and a deep hood that came well forward of his face. If he fit his head to the very back of the hood he couldn’t see out of it. All of the trim and hemming was done in dark almost tarnished silver. It was much more than he was looking for. This would get attention he was hoping to move about and have his appearance be ignored. The Warlock glared at the Demoness and she returned the glare with a confused look.
“This is a very fine cloak.”
“It’s flashy I was going for invisible not hey look at the fancy mortal walking around over there.”
“You did not specify what you wanted of what it was for only that you wanted one and I have retrieved for you one of the finest to be found below.”
As he put it on he noticed that the material was heavy and very thick. It was smooth on both sides and fell to his feet with no smoothing out required.
“Is this some kind of leather or something?”
“I am sure it is some sort of demon hide. The color is similar to Imp or Morganoth that has been tanned. Either would make it fire resistant. You should be happy to own such a garment.”
“It’s demon hide? You guys sew with your own skins?”
“Of course not. We take from others. Some make a living of skinning and selling skins. There is no wild life here mortal there are no plants if one wants to eat one eats what is to be had. If one wishes to make something then one uses the materials at hand. That blade that I took with me was one of the only ones like it seen in that market ever. What is normally at hand is bone. Demon bone.”
Niath explained like she was explaining to a child, which was common for her when she was explaining to Asmodan. This human though an adult for its species was in infant in the life span of even a young demon and she explained things accordingly. Asmodan again thought about how unlike his own teacher that was. He decided then that it was another mark against her. Niath was using him for something he just hadn’t figured out what yet. He had the cloak on and turned to her.
“I will not need anything else thank you for fair dealing so far. You should go before I double cross you or in some other fashion stab you in the back.”
“And thus I am dismissed.”
Niath smirked at him and took wing. Once she was up a few feet she turned to look down at him.
“I guess some things are free. As I was leaving there was an Imp carrying a load too large to fly with heading along the ground that way. He had four horns growing in a crown like pattern atop his head. He seemed to be in a hurry.”
“I will choose a favor to repay you with at some future point. Lady Demon.”
With that she was gone. She did not look back. She headed up and away. Once she was sure that she was well out of any range the warlock might have she darted back down towards the far side of the gathering place and went in to spend the remainder of her earnings from the selling of the Athane. She wondered if Asmodan would find the large knife in the belongings of the Imp if he managed to kill the thing, Niath hated Imps. But for more important things she had a sack full of chips and a whole undersea tower to furnish.
Asmodan watched Niath leave for a second and when he was sure she wasn’t going to stop and give him anymore little tidbits he stepped off the side of the cliff and began the slow decent afforded him by his newly learned trick. He was at the floor in a little over two minutes when normally he would have spent what would have been close to forty-five minutes climbing down. Once he was on the valley floor he began a slight jog. His mind he sent as far out as he could to give himself as much forewarning as he could. He knew that he could not take the imp in physical conflict if he got close its tail would end him with venom. He also knew that as far as magic went Imps were the ones you wanted least to run into. It was cultural for them they prided themselves on being some of the most powerful magic users in the Abyss. The Warlock kept his pace and as he was reasoning things out in his head he was deciding that maybe going back would be the better choice. Taking on a few brutes with magic was a simple matter but taking on someone who could in all likelihood bounce back whatever he had to throw at it was a bad idea. His pace had slowed and he was almost at a complete stand still he was considering his chances of bartering for what he needed back at the settlement. Finally he decided it was probably better he went back that way.
Asmodan had just turned around and began to make his way back towards the settlement when he realized what had happened to him. It was so subtle the Imp must have felt him searching and began to work on his resolve. He stopped and turned back around in the direction he was heading to catch up with the little demon. He took a few steps and stopped.
“That was masterful. If my own tutor wasn’t an Imp I might not have ever noticed what you had done. I’d be well on my way towards the meeting place back there.”
“You were trained by one of us? Your master was a simpleton had you been one of mine it would never have worked in the first place.”
“Well I did notice so I guess you are both pretty close in skill.”
Asmodan was thrilled that the Imp was using telepathy he had already learned to use it to focus his mind’s eye and seconds later he knew exactly where the Imp was hiding he could see the space but not the Imp. It was using its invisibility and the trick worked much better in the abyss than it did in the material realm. There was no distortion like heat waves there was absolutely nothing to give it away.
“Maybe we could make a deal.”
“I have made many deals; I do not need to make more deals.”
“But I need something and you have it and I cannot continue without it.”
“And what is this most important thing that you need and are sure that I have?”
“I need a formless prism gate.”
“Ah you have been misinformed I do not have one of those.”
“Well I have a skull that I acquired. I also have a few horns but you see I am a few short too.”
“You are too short but you cannot make them with bartered horns you have to use horns that you have taken. They need the blood still on them.”
“And here we are. I need to get home I need some more horns to do it and you so I have been told have a few spares on head.”
There was silence and Asmodan was sure that the Imp was putting the situation together in his head.
“I am the Warlock Imp I have a need and if you comply with it I will take favor on you in the future. Volnam has explained to me the station and general standard of life for Imps in the Abyss. I will not have things continue this way for my teachers Caste. I will have what I want one way or another.”
“I know your teacher Warlock. I am amazed that he managed to finally find you. It is a shame that he sent you here without warning you to not cross me.”
Asmodan smiled a little to himself, he knew that for some reason Imps ended up with ridiculous sounding names. They were all self-named. Most demons took a name for themselves and over time as they established themselves gained their truer names true names took a very long lived demon to establish which is why they were the ones that got abused in the material realm if a mortal actually stumbled upon one. Asmodan kept smiling as he finally asked.
“And who is it that I am about to cross?”
“I am Pipzic!”
The Imp declared with all the power and might that a four foot tall winged rodent could muster. Asmodan noted that his physical voice was much squeakier than Volnam’s. Asmodan was sure there would be some sort of an attack with the declaration he would use the pride he had in himself to give a little extra umph to whatever attack he decided on. It did come as expected as he yelled his name the Imp dropped his invisibility spell and apparently a sac that was a little larger than he was and pointed two fingers on his right hand at the Warlock. There was a second’s pause as the purplish light built and then Asmodan was diving to the side out of the way of the blast of dark lightning. The Warlock was being pressed hard he had hardly had his feet before he was diving again it wasn’t something he was good at and the solid ground was starting to beat at him as he dived dodged and rolled to avoid a small lightning storm that was being thrown his way. When Asmodan was sitting there listening to Volnam go on and on about magical combat he pictured his first battle to be more of a give and take exchange until one of them give in or died. He did not see it as him dodging and rolling around on the ground like a kid in a bouncy castle. He was glade that Volnam wasn’t watching the Imp would probably laugh at him.
“So this is the great Warlock? The student of Volnam? Rolling around on the ground to save his life. Hey is that the cloak I sold to the Succubus?”
There was a pause as he asked. Asmodan did not wait for the Imp to start up again, he had been hoping for something like this. At once he began his counter attack. As soon as he was up on one knee he began his small fire in the Imps mind as soon as it was there he threw a kind of quick shot of the black energy he had grown so comfortable with. As soon as the ball of dark power was in the air he waved his hand and splashed a massive wave of liquid fire at the Imp. As the mind fire started the Imp began to laugh. It seemed like he was about to begin to taunt again but he must have made the novice mistake of closing his eyes to deal with the mental flare because there was a scream as the ball of Dark energy hit him. The liquid fire splashed on and around him but seemed to hang in the air as it struck whatever barrier he got into place.
Asmodan stood and began to send volley after volley of Dark energy into the shield. He didn’t know what the Imp was using to power it or how long it would hold but he was in the embrace of the Miasma again and he was in love with it the cold power flowed over every inch of his body and seeped into his soul washing and invigorating it. Finally he decided that throwing one blast after another was not making enough headway and instead decided to try a page from a favorite video characters playbook and he slammed both of his wrists together with his palms facing outward and his fingers slightly curled and mentally he created a circle the diameter of his fingertips and that circle he filled with his Dark energy and when it couldn’t hold anymore he allowed the power to break loose on the side away from him. Once the power had broken loose and the rough edged blast of power came tearing out Asmodan just opened himself to the power and became its conduit. The raw power of the abyss filtered and refined as it moved through the Warlock as it transformed from something that just was and had always been into something that he wanted it to be. Pipzic screamed something but the Warlock missed what it was at first the Imp screamed again and this time Asmodan focused enough to hear it. The Imp was still inside his dome but begging the Warlock to stop and that a deal would be made. Asmodan didn’t want the Imp holding any delusions that he still had a chance and kept on his deluge of power until the shield shattered in an explosion of red sparks and the blast caught the Imp and slammed him into the Cliff wall. Before the Imp could recover Asmodan darted forward and had one foot on the Imps tail which he then burnt off. He held his hand over the nasty little poison dispensary and let liquid fire poor down onto it. The Imp cried out but did nothing else to stop it.
“Ah… master Pipzic was it? That was wonderful and I thank you for it. You have just shown me a powerful lesson. I will reward you for it.”
The burnt, smashed and partially blown up Imp looked up at him. Dread in his eyes. Asmodan pictured Volnam with the same look and realized that this was the lot of most Imps in the abyss. How shameful it would be for this imp he had just been beaten with magic by a human. As Asmodan looked the Imp over he noticed that the two horns on the right side of his head had actually been smashed off against the cliff in the impact from the… he didn’t know a name for what he did but he was damn sure he was going to come up with a cool one for it. He felt great he was riding some kind of high he had to be. But it was more than a mental high, his body felt great all the bumps and bruises that he had picked up avoiding the lightning were gone. Finally the Imp spoke up.
As he reached down and picked up the horns he had located on the ground.
“I will be preforming a ritual in the future. When the time comes for me to preform it I will contact you and bring you into the material sphere to help with it. If everything goes as I want it to. Then when the ritual is finished as long as you vow to not cause harm to any humans I will look the other way if you were to head off into the world instead of go back with the others. Would you vow not to harm humans and help with a successful ritual in exchange for a chance to roam free?”
The Imp was silent aside from the occasional gasp of pain. Then he finally answered.
“That is not a reward that is a bargain for a service.”
“So the answer is no then?”
“The answer is yes I am fine at ritual I will probably find any mistakes that you will make before you make them. Humans are horrible at ritual you have the patience and focus of…”
He didn’t finish the insult he remembered where he was and what had happened a few heartbeats ago. The Imp stared at the Warlock, waiting.
“OK then your reward is this I’m sure you know that I can pretty much do what I want with you at the moment. I just totally kicked your ass, and you never landed a spell on me. You have been completely shamed by a human. Your reward is that you can go and keep your stuff although I am sure you have trinkets in that bag that I would enjoy getting my hands on. I’m keeping the horns I knocked them off your head fairly enough. OK you can head out.”
With that Asmodan headed off towards the opposite cliff this was a wider section of the floor and it took him a few minutes to get to it. Once there he began his lift to the top. He found that since when levitating it generally took him in a straight up or down manner. And since most of the cliff walls were tilted slightly he now and then had to step out onto the wall and begin again so that he didn’t reach the top and find himself ten feet from the edge. It took him much less time to make his way back to the cave than it had to find the gathering place the first time.
Asmodan stepped out of the air and onto the ledge that served as the caves front porch. He entered and moved to the bar that was keeping the remains of his Casaganoth trophies in check and pulled them out. The one that was still alive began to spasm and push away from the Warlock when it realized it was him. The dead on was dead so it didn’t do anything at all. He gathered the horns propped the body of the still living one up against the wall and together they unwillingly went over the process of building Asmodan’s way home in great detail. As they concluded the Warlock went about forming a few tools from the wall of the cave. A knife that was very similar to a scalpel and a very fine toothed saw. Once he was finished he turned back to the mutilated goat man and smiled.