“I know that the daemons ever seek to invade and influence our world,” said Claudia.

“Yes, but do you know that all too often that influence takes the form of, shall we say, tainted children?” Miss Tiberia said. “I presume that I need not go into further sordid detail.”

Claudia nodded. “No, Miss Tiberia,” she said.

“Good. Tainted girls are brought to us from all over the countryside, just as tainted boys are sent to our sister school at Illumoor. Our job is to see that the taint is extinguished.”

“You’ll pardon me for saying so,” said Claudia, with a nervous glance upward as her words echoed into the Gothic rafters of the ex-cathedral, “but how do we do that, and how do we know it’s done?”

Miss Tiberia harrumphed a bit. “It is intuitively obvious, is it not, that the daemons are reliant on lies and illusions in their dealings with mortals?”

“Yes, Miss Tiber.”

“Then it ought to be equally obvious that the girls in questions will be protected by the very same.” Miss Tiber reached into a pouch on her chatelaine belt and produced what appeared to be a set of reading spectacles. “But with the diopters, all becomes clear.”

She unclipped them and handed them to Claudia, who donned them. Suddenly, the scene before her was awash in a yellow glow; it took a moment’s adjustment to see that the glow was coming from the girls in their dormitories, perfect silhouettes visible even through walls and fading only with considerable distance.

“They…they are aglow!” Claudia whispered.

“Indeed so,” said Miss Tiberia. “They are aglow, each of them, with a daemonic taint from their ancestors’…intimate…dealings with the unholy. It is our charge, Miss Withers, to diminish this glow through discipline, rigorous virtue, and moral certitude.”

Claudia was still agog from the view before her. “So when a girl is no longer glowing, she will be released from St. Gaius’s?”

Miss Tiberia nodded. “Naturally. But if the glow remains, or strengthens, it is our duty to see that the taint is contained.”

“So the girls remain here?”

“That they do,” said Miss Tiberia. “Forever.”

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“Ed Boneshredder,” said the muscled mercenary. He bore many tattoos on his unarmored torso, from a wiry spread devoted to “Ed Bonecrusher” that suggested he himself was not quite sure of his proper appellation to a heart on one bicep devoted to someone named “Peter.”

“I know that,” said Iffy the mage. “But why are you so angry at me?”

Ed Boneshredder,” replied the mercenary through gritted teeth, spraying saliva on the demon bartender as well as Skeletonio the Skeleton Mage seated nearby.


Ed BONEshredder!”

“Does anyone have any idea what he’s trying to say?”

Adenan the halfling, who had an affinity for languages, piped up: “He’s saying you insulted his friend and must pay for your crimes at the hands of the Threadbare Gang.”

“How in blazes did you know that?” spat Tinuviel the rogue, nearly choking on her raisin wine.

“I’m good with languages,” said Adenan, “and I spent some time with the Nisiar of Lehsir, who can only speak their own names due to their religion.”

With the bar clear and his meaty group of shirtless Threadbare Gang pals matching the adventurers blade for blade, Finnegen Funderberger IV strode up to the bar with a supremely confident swagger. Bearing a ritual Nisiar Revenge Katana, he seemed unmoved by Iffy’s rant about his prowess in bed and the length/hardiness of his shillelagh.

“I will have my revenge!” he cried, adjusting the wig on his head to cover up a spot of stubble from where the adventurers had shaved him bald on their last encounter.

His revenge started, it seemed, with a savage attack, lightning-fast, on Iffy. Or, rather, on Iffy’s hair. In a flash of steel and burst of keratin, Funderberger lopped off 18 of the 20 inches on Iffy’s head.

“My…HAIR!” cried Iffy. “That’s it! You must die for your crimes!”

Seeing that the battle had gone ill, and with their leader dead and de-wigged, the remaining two members of the Threadbare Gang attempted to flee.

Droog McPhereson, who had spent most of the battle passed out thanks to the vivid clashing hues of a Color Spray spell, tipped his jaunty hat and starched collar (unattached to any shirt) before disappearing up the steps. His getaway was eminently roguelike: quiet and efficient.

Ed Boneshredder, for his part, ran for the front door of the Demon Arms. The direct approach seemed to suit him best, after all. “Ed Boneshredder!” he cried over his shoulder, the words having the affect of “I’ll get you next time!”

However, Tinuviel the rogue had retreated to the door in a failed attempt to pepper the Threadbare Gang’s archer, Daniel Midland, with arrows. She stuck out a stubby, hairy leg and tripped the man-mountain as he tried to pass.

The human-tibia axe that Ed Boneshredder used shattered and buried itself in his chest as he went down. “Ed…Ed…Boneshredder…” he gurgled before breathing his last.

Chanel the cleric pulled the wig off of Finnigan Funderberger IV’s dead head and placed it on the countertop in front of Iazgu the Slayer, demon of the Demon Arms. “There you go,” she panted. “For your bald head.”

Iazgu looked at the wig with a distasteful expression, as if a dead ferret had been slapped down on his bartop. Then, with an air of humoring the bloodied adventurers before him, he doffed his chambermaid’s had and placed the bloody, dripping wig atop his hairless demon head.

“…thank you…” he murmured. “Just what…I have always wanted…I’m sure.”

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“I just…I haven’t seen her in so long,” bawled Vakt the Rosy into his cups.

“There, there. Tinuviel’s just not feeling well after getting scratched up by a jackalwere in the middle of a cavern infested with gibberlings,” said Iffy the elf. “She’ll be down soon enough.

“She’s just so short…so sweet…so tiny…so…so…” Vakt began bawling again.

“I think you’ve had enough,” deadpanned Chanel the elven cleric. “How much have you had to drink already?”

“It’s just root beer,” Vakt sniffed. “House blend. Iazgu’s still making my first tequila slammer.”

“Maybe you should go a bit easy on the tequila slammers,” said Adenan the halfling.

“HEY!” barked Iazgu the Flayer, demon of the Abyss and chambermaid/bartender for the Demon Arms Inn. “I’ll not hear a word said against my tequila slammers! It’s a recipe of the abyssal realms, strong enough to stun a quasit, and it’s the only thing close to a real drink that’s been served here in 10,000 years!”

Creeping up on the clearing, they saw Mercury the bulldog in the midst of a crowd of howling gibberlings, not unlike the ones they had fought in Ransack Cavern earlier. He was being ridden bareback by a gibberling while the others hooted and cheered at the spectacle. For his part, Mercury seemed rather resigned to this, accepting it as just a fact of life: the sky was blue, the trees were green, and he was ridden by tiny hyperactive monsters.

Adenan grabbed one of the scruffy horrors by his hair and yanked him backwards. “What do you think you’re doing?” she growled.

“Riding! Fun!” squeaked the thrashing gibberling. “I know you! You killed Gus! And Gus Two! I’m Gus Four!”

“Let the bulldog go,” Adenan continued, as menacingly as any halfling could, “or I’ll squash you into jelly before I throw you in the river.”

“No! Not jelly! Jellied gibbs can’t get into gibberheaven!” The gibberling seemed to steel himself a bit. “But dog is ours. Has been forever.”

“No he isn’t.”

“Is too! Used to guard cave! Hatched him ourselves!”

“No you didn’t.”

“Don’t know where dogs come from!” the gibberling wailed.

The library golem was impassive. “You must return the stolen book and pay the fine, or your life is forfeit. The fine is 50 gold. Pay or die.”

Iffy raised her hands. “But my library has an interlibrary loan program with the Elderbrary,” she said in her most convincingly scholarly tone. “We don’t have to pay any fine if we return it!”

Clicking and whirring as it processed this, the golem demurred. “Very well. Surrender the Monster Manual and we will consider your hold lifted.”

Longingly, reluctantly, Iffy gave up the tome. The library golem inserted the volume into its book drop slot, whirred some more, and departed.

A moment later, Iffy the elf turned on Mr. Funderberger IV, who throughout the conversation had been trying to back into the tick copse of woods surrounding the meeting spot. “YOU!” she roared. “THAT BOOK WAS STOLEN!”

“I gave you a good deal,” he whined.


“What exactly did you have to do?” said Chanel the elven cleric. “You still haven’t told us how much sugar you had to give.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny a specific amount of sugar given!” Iffy roared. “But he’s gonna pay!”

Mr. Funderberger IV had quite enough; he made to bolt. Iffy, in an uncharacteristic show of physical prowess, tripped him with her staff.

Then, she proceeded to pummel him senseless.

“Let’s see how you like THIS sugar!” she screamed, drawing her dagger. Casting Phineas’s Phun Phoam on Funderberger’s head, she used her dagger to shave off his carefully coiffed locks. Then she took everything of value in his pockets, even down to his phony tin sword.

“I think you’ve gotten your revenge, Iffy,” said Adenan.

“Hardly!” Iffy continued. “Mercury! Bulldog! Get over here and piss on Mr. Funderberger IV! We’ll see how much sugar you get after that!”

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In order to manifest itself upon the mortal world, Iazgu the Flayer had forced the artificers of Beamcog to craft a soul-gem housing its true essence. When its schemes fell apart, and its bid to take control of Beamcog by subtlety and force failed, the soul gem was captured by the canny hero Gora.

Soul gems being what they are, Gora had a choice: she could shatter the gem and banish Iazgu to the Darkness Beneath for all eternity, or she could issue it a single, binding command. The choice had to be made in an instant, as the demon raged at her in an attempt to reclaim its lost soul.

Gora’s solution?

She opened up an inn with the proceeds of her adventures, but like all inns it had need of hard labor in turning down sheets, serving drinks, and the like. Now, people come from miles around to the inn in order to watch, and mock, the once-mighty demon that is now condemned to serve as a chambermaid for all eternity.

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“You’ve got to believe me!” shrieked Forrester. “That clicking sound behind the door is a Demon Bomb! Don’t you see?”

The officers who had responded to the call shook their heads in a mixture of disgust and pity. Forrester Might once have been a respected member of the community, but his recent actions had made it clear to them–and clear to the judge who had issued the order–that he had suffered a psychotic break. They wrestled him to the ground as gently as they could in order to get him to psychiatric help.

“The Demon Bomb will unleash the wailing hordes of the damned upon the world!” Vorrester continued, struggling to get to the nondescript loading door in the side of a downtown building. “Those who aren’t blasted to Hell by it will be posessed and spread misery amongst the living!”

“It’s just a faulty door motor,” one of the officers said. “It needs an electrician, not an exorcist.” With great difficulty, they carried Forrester away from the loudly ticking door, and his cries were drowned out by the wail of sirens and normal street traffic.

Behind the door, Hazdrupal the Scourger exhaled in relief. “Continue with the countdown,” he barked. “We drop in 24 hours.”

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Gaero walked past the gates with her heady words echoing in his mind: “Never again.” He had finally managed what he had been working toward for twelve years and finally, finally he was free. He had finally pissed off Mother Theresa so badly that she had told him to get out and never come back.

“I am the greatest sinner ever to live!” he said very softly, gleeful grin at odds with how low he kept his voice. He knew his mutterings had often discomfited the wondrous Mother, even if she had never expressed that distaste until now, but he was no angel–why sing if he could murmur mysteriously instead?

With that, his ejection from the Vatican by order of Pope John Paul II, the fatwa against him pronounced by Ekrima Said Sabri the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and the scar where the Dalai Lama had bitch-slapped him, Gaero’s quest was complete. But where was his promised reward? where was the chorus of demons to shower him with gold and gift cards?

“Never again,” Gaero repeated. He began to wonder, as he wandered the streets of Calcutta, whether Mephistopheles had lied to him. Even demons couldn’t break contracts, right? So where had he gone wrong? He doubted that he’d been forgiven by any of the four figures he’d been told to piss off, and he was sure he hadn’t missed one. So he began aimlessly searching for the prize he had been promised, ignoring the Indians staring at the strange Italian in their midst.

“I thought my reward was supposed to be instant,” he said to himself. Instead, there was just urban nothingness, and Gaero began to tear up in fury. He would never trust anyone or anything again; he was done making any kind of deals with anyone. He’d steal the money for a plane ticket and fly to Jamaica, where he could sit on a beach, ripping off tourists for margarita money, with no other problems in sight.

Gaero’s plan worked quite well; after all, one doesn’t get to Rome, Jerusalem, Calcutta, and Lhasa inside of six weeks without some skills in that area. He had been in Jamaica a week, in a hotel room reserved in the name of a man whose wallet he’d pinched in the Kingston airport, when there was a knock on his door.

“Room service, sir!” said the voice beyond the door.

“About bloody time,” Gaeno said, opening the door. He’d put that feast on the stolen credit card ages ago.

The busboy was not a busboy. The busboy was, in point of fact, a horrifying humanoid blob of jelly with tentacles. Bits of gold and plastic gift cards, the leavings of previous victims, were suspended in the colloid structure of the…thing.

“Here’s your promised reward,” it burbled. “Gold and gift cards. Enjoy!” Gaeno was seized before he could lift a finger, and devoured whole.

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“All right,” said Qrglr, Feaster of Souls. “This is your Soul Cube.”

I looked inside. “It looks like a normal cubicle to me,” I said. “Doesn’t really scream ‘Department of Infernal Affairs’ to me, you know?”

“It’s true, we have had great success getting Soul Cubes adopted as an industry standard, but the idea was ours first!” snapped Qrglr, burbling what smelled like lighter fluid from the largest of his maws.

“Sorry, sorry!” I said, holding up my hands. “It was probably more impressive in 1965, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Interns are confined to their Soul Cubes unless called for,” said Qrglr, gesturing into the space with one slimy, horrific psuedopod. “There, they will work in advancing the cause of the Other Side. This includes both inflicting and receiving suffering.”


“The terminal is equipped with a computer and telephone. Annoy people, steal their personal information for your own gain…use your imagination. As long as somebody somewhere suffers, and every action is detailed in triplicate Form #97-32b, it’s acceptable. Just be sure to meet your quota, or you’ll be slain and consumed by the Beast of Revelations.”

I took a step back. “The Beast is here?”

“It’s a species, not a single organism,” sighed Qrglr with a gout of flame and a belch that sounded like the distant wailing of infants. “Naturally, being in the Soul Cube will also subject you to torment. This torment is used strictly locally, to maintain lower-level and supervisory demons without taking resources from the Great Stream of Agonized Souls that we send south every day on a dedicated fiber optic line.”

I was already beginning to regret my decision to intern the Infernal Affairs. “What kind of torment?”

“Triplicate forms to use the bathroom, lunches stolen from the fridge, random Soul Cube invasions by Glrktr the Taker of Hostages, and of course no pay,” said Qrglr. “Also the coffee sucks. But it’s what you’ve got to do if you want to sell your soul in a buyer’s market.”

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