The sunset reflected off glass towers into a street busy with people. The air was wet with energy. Kris climbed out of the cab and pulled her luggage from the trunk.
Sparks arched from the stone on her ring as she checked her watch; the gate was still leaking at seven pm, Thursday the fifth. She’d been sent to investigate the leak and to contact the witch responsible for leaving the gate open. This kind of carelessness is how entire neighborhoods end up haunted.
She had the authority to send a report and she could request backup to make an arrest, but that was about it. She was, after all, just the first wave of action by the Department of Paranormal Activity. She handled the accidents and mistakes, hardly ever criminal intent.
The local Office of Paranormal Security was on the sixth floor, room eleven, listed as a Psychic on the directory. She got in the empty elevator and spun the ring on her finger.
Kris: “Stranger, you there?”
The ghost appeared, smoking as usual.
Kris: “Anything to report?”
Stranger: “There’s a place near here where the veins of the Earth meet. The druid went to check it out.”
Kris: “Tam’s out of his element. Are you sure that’s wise?”
The elevator stopped and a young couple walked in, the girl assessing Kris with a superior look and adjusting her short skirt. Kris moved to the very back of the elevator, closer to Stranger. Back and forth, the couple whispered and the girl laughed.
The girl, pointedly loud: “I need to lose weight! My fat’s poking out!”
Kris refused to pull her shirt down to make sure it covered where her sides poked out above the waistband of her size eighteens. If she though she’d get away with it, she toss the pair down the elevator shaft.
The elevator stopped just two floors up and the couple stepped out.
Stranger: “How rude.”
Stranger flicked a cigarette that vanished into air in the hallway behind them.
Kris, mumbling: “Get that bitch a sandwich.”
She didn’t care about the girl’s dress size, really, but out it came. The elevator stopped next on the sixth floor and Kris stepped into a dark hallway with unnumbered doors and paper covered windows.
Kris: “That’s odd. I don’t feel any magic here.”
Kris counted the doors. There were only ten. She walked down the hallway, checking the doors as she went. There was no room 611.
When she turned around, the Elevator was gone. In its place was a door like the rest but the window was uncovered. White light filled the hallway.
Kris opened the door and stepped inside.
Sunny with wildflowers, room 611 didn’t match any psychic’s tent she’d ever seen. The reception desk was abandoned without so much as a bell or notepad on the counter. Around several tables, floral chairs were gathered in the waiting room.
Kris opened her purse and found the little box with her jewelry inside. On top a tangle of silver charms and chains was a small, gold pendant shaped like a magnifying glass. She lifted the piece and set it around her neck.
Kris: “Rocky, you can come out now.”
Skittering across the receptionist desk, the demon appeared at the edge of her vision.
Stranger: “How do we plan to find the witch?”
Kris: “It’s a leyline crossing, the gate will be linked to the witch’s energy. We’ll just trace it back to the source.”
Kris circled the receptionist desk and checked the phone for a list of extensions. No luck. Through the door behind the desk was an office as empty as the waiting room.
When she turned around, Tam was waiting.
Tam: “You aren’t gonna like this.”
Start with the most likely scenario.
Kris: “The gate ruptured?”
She didn’t need an answer. The wave of spirit energy had followed him back to the office building.
Kris packed her purse and ran out the door. Down the stairs, passing a well meaning “good for you” near the third floor, she hurried. When she got out to the street, cabs were already lined up along the curb.
Tam: “Nolan state park.”
She got in the cab and told the driver who took off at a leisurely pace.
Tam: “Pick up your phone.”
Kris pulled her phone out of her pocket and pretended to dial a number.
Kris: “Hey. I’m on my way. What’s up?”
Tam: “I traced the energy back. It’s a little girl.”
Kris: “Then we can’t just go get her.”
She could feel a headache coming. Now she had to worry about Child Protective Services on top of a ruptured gate. Oh, the joy.
Tam: “So what’s our other option?”
Kris: “Seal the gate ourselves.” Obviously.
Tam: “You’re a social worker. You’re not really qualified.”
Kris: “There’s a gate vomiting demons.”
She got quite the look in the rear view: “I’ll be there soon.” She put away her phone.
The closer they got to the park, the thicker the air became. The cab pulled over and charged her ‘for two seats’. She didn’t have time to argue so she paid him his blood money and rushed into the state maintained woods.
Tam disappeared. Kris caught glimpses between the trees on the path ahead and uphill to the edge of a cliff where the mulch stopped. Sunlight splashed through the canopy onto howling creatures that flew down the hill and into the city. The sky was hazy with wandering spirits. Atop the cliff, a gaping wound in the sky bled crawling creatures, bugs like Rocky, onto the Earth. Kris grabbed the pendant around her neck.
He brushed her hand.
Kris: “I’m gonna have to use you.”
She approached the hole and drew all the power she could from her demon. She pulled one side of the hole over the other, like she’d seen many Gatekeepers do before. She pressed down on the fold and weaved the seal tight. The air sparked around her hands. Still, a darkness radiated along the cliff but at least winged beasts and crawling demons no longer spewed forth.
On shaky legs, she flicked the dark energy from her fingertips like dirty dish water.
Kris: “That should buy us some time.”
Stranger: “The seam is already starting to leak.”
Kris: “I don’t do this every day!”
Stranger: “It shows.”
Kris looked over her handiwork, her seal unraveling and the seams poking out. The power she’d put into it was burning off the ends. It wouldn’t last much longer and Rocky didn’t have any power left to give. She didn’t have any power left to give.
Tam: “We should get off the cliff.” He was already on his way down and into the woods.
Kris rushed down the hill, pushing with her feet to keep from toppling forward on the decline. Rocky tugged at her from the cliff.
Kris: “Rocky?” She stopped herself against a tree. “Why is Rocky still up there?”
She climbed as fast as she could. Admittedly, not very fast. When she got to the top, the seal was swollen and leaking.
Kris: “Rocky?” Holding the pendant, she felt for him.
He was holding the seal.
Kris: “Rocky, come!”
Demon summoned, Kris watched as the last strength of the seal gave out. Rocky fell, a small and insignificant little scorpion, into her hands and she weaved him back into the pendant.
The gate exploded with demons. They filled the sky and crashed down the hill. It was all Kris could do to get out of their way as they descended on the city, marching, flying, crawling.
But then they stopped.
Kris watched them for a moment as they pulled back. The flying monsters falling from the sky, the bugs dug up from the rock, all were sucked back in. Rocky’s pendant pulled but she held tight.
The last of the demons had been sucked up. The air was clear and the sky was bright as it ever would be. She watched the blemish opening wider as it pulled harder on Rocky.
Kris: “You can’t have him.” She backed away from the cliff.
She backed away from the gate and grabbed hold of one of the trees as a vice encircled her throat.
Stranger: “Let it take him.” He leaned against a tree, the smoke of his cigarette undisturbed by the gate’s efforts to suck her in.
Kris: “I’m not gonna let him go!”
In deafening wind, Stranger stood untouched.
The tether pulled harder, tightened. Kris sacrificed her grip on the tree to loosen the grip on her windpipe. Her feet slid on the broken shards of rock and lifted from the Earth as she was pulled in.
The gate closed behind her.
Kris pulled herself off the ground and looked around. The sky was dark, the air cold, smelled like smoke. There was fire: it gave neither light nor heat. Must be Hell, then.
She took hold of the pendant; it was empty.
What little she could see, there was a wall nearby. She walked forward and placed her hand against it.
And it burned like hot grease. She pulled her hand back and held it close to her core. She could hear crying and howling of all sorts of creatures around her. Could they see her better than she could see them?
She took a tentative step forward. No wall. Another step. Still no wall. She kept scooting her feet in front of her, careful not to touch anything. She listened and held her breath.
Her foot touched something. She tapped along and rolled it against the ground. She reached down and touched it with one finger. It didn’t burn. In fact, it felt like ordinary wood: a bark covered tree branch. Picking it up, she felt it over. Just a regular stick, long enough for walking. She dragged the tip across the ground and touched the wall with it.
That could work.
A ghosted breath across her neck: “Mortal.”
Kris jumped and swung her stick at whatever demon had approached her.
Him: “Your stick is not going to hurt me.”
She kept the stick between herself and where she’d heard the voice.
But now he was behind her: “You smell delicious.”
Kris swung the stick around again. She hit the wall, hard enough to crack the stick in the middle. The surrounding air was still.
She stepped forward, tapping her stick in front of her. Still, she tripped on a rock and hit her head on the burning wall next to her. She wasn’t very good with the stick.
He was directly in front of her, now: “Would you like to see?”
Kris: “I’d like to be left alone, thank you.”
Him: “You’ll stop burning yourself.”
Kris touched the burn on her forehead. It wouldn’t be much worse than a curling iron, surely. She rested the stick on the ground and listened to the demon moving around her.
Him: “Just let me claim you.”
Teeth nipped at her ear. Sharp teeth. Vampire teeth.
Kris lowered her stick. There was no way she could get away from a vampire. She couldn’t see, and with no assistance, she would be his dinner.
Him: “Or I could just eat you.”
Kris slapped him away from her ear: “Just claim me, already.” It was better than having her living flesh ripped from her bones.
The teeth sunk in where her neck met her shoulder. A long tongue lapped at the wound, healing and tasting. She would have scars; he would have bragging rights.
He laughed: “I think my cholesterol just went up.”
Kris’s elbow landed soundly in the Vampire’s mouth. His rows of sharp teeth split the skin of her arm, sure, but her elbow left him spitting swears.
Now that she could see, she took a good look around. Lots of buildings, none particularly impressive. The souls of creeping things lingered about them, but the streets were remarkably empty.
Kris: “Where are all the demons?”
The vampire righted himself: “They’ve been summoned.”
Kris: “All of them?”
He approached her: “At the same time, yes.”
That’s not good.
Whatever the demons were doing, Rocky would be a part of that. The Department would never let her keep a demon once it’d had a taste for Human blood. She had to summon her demon back before that happened.
Kris: “How do I get out of here?”
Him: “You’ll have to ask a Demon Lord. They’re the only ones with that kind of power.”
Kris: “Then how do Vampires get back and forth?!”
Him: “We don’t. I’m not even really here.” He faded a little and came back solid again. “I’m out of my body.”
Kris touched the marks on her shoulder. She’d never expected Vampires to be able to bite from outside their bodies. But it didn’t matter; if he couldn’t help her, she’d have to find a Demon Lord. Vampire in tow, she started walking down the nearest road into the city center.
The main streets and alleyways were mostly devoid. Far from what she would have expected the demon city of Hell to be. Souls, crawling like caterpillars, were all the infested the streets. The longer she walked, the more of them she saw. Without demons to devour them, the souls would infest, unchecked.
The vampire coughed: “I can take you to him.”
She wasn’t falling for that. There was no seeking out a Demon Lord. You had to just bump into them and that would only happen if they wanted you to.
Him: “You’re headed right for one and there’s no others in this area of the city.”
Kris wasn’t sure, but the vampire took her by the wrist and led her quickly through the streets anyway. When he finally stopped, Kris was winded and dizzy. He put her on a bench and fanned her off with his large hands.
Him: “You’ll need to clean up a bit. You can’t attract him all amess.”
Kris was too tired to fight: “What… do you mean… attract him?”
The vampire quit fanning and pulled Kris’s hair out of the messy bun. He let it fall to her shoulders. A few more adjustments and he stood back to look her over.
Kris: “What makes you think he’ll be interested?”
Him: “You’re a human. And not the fake succubus kind we usually get around here. You’re exotic.”
Kris: “So he’s rocking a fetish?”
The vampire pushed Kris against the wall and took hold of the part of her belly that went over her jeans. He bit her ear, drawing blood. Damn vampires.
Him: “I would mind myself, if I were you.”
Kris pushed him away.
Him: “You’re still pretty sweaty. Hope he likes that.”
The vampire grabbed her by the arm and tugged her around the corner to the door of a building: “Be confident! Be charming! When you stare-” When Kris tried to interrupt, he put his hand over her mouth. “You will. Try to look more pleased than repulsed.”
With vampiric strength, he launched Kris inside.
The room was empty except for the gorging Demon Lord, large and pink. His skin covered in knots and bumps, eyes beady, his nose and mouth gigantic. He licked his bowl clean as she reached his table.
The Demon Lord, reaching for a bowl further away from him: “Refill my cup.”
Kris lifted the pitcher sitting closer to her end of the table and poured the wine. He paused his frantic eating and downed the cup in one swallow. He slapped it down on the table and, again, she refilled it. He paid her no further attention.
Kris put the pitcher down on the table: “Mr… Demon Lord?”
The Demon Lord tapped the table: “Bread. Hand me that bread there.”
Kris handed him the basket: “Sorry to interrupt your dinner, but I need to talk to you.”
Stuffing roll after roll into his gaping mouth, the Demon Lord ignored her.
Kris raised her voice, just enough to not be rude: “I need your help.”
He washed the bread down with wine and slapped it on the table for Kris to refill.
Kris didn’t refill his cup: “Please!”
The Demon Lord paused, looking over his table covered in empty dishes. Only one dish remained untouched; maybe he was expecting company.
The Demon Lord looked at her: “Bring out more food.”
Kris put her hands down on the table: “Please. I need your help. I got pulled through a gate by mistake, my demon’s been summoned, and I can’t get back to my world! Please help me!”
The Demon Lord tapped the table: “Serve me more food.”
Kris stared at the plate untouched by the behemoth. He slapped his wide hand on the wood of the table, harder than before, and Kris fled through the double doors into the kitchen.
Pans were still on, some boiling over. Just like all the other demons, the chef had been summoned. Kris turned off the boiling pans and looked for anything salvageable.
The only thing unburned was a stew left to simmer. She bowled up the entire thing and took it back out to the table.
Kris: “The chef was summoned, too.”
The Demon Lord took the bowl from her and poured it into his mouth, barely a bite for his size. He tapped the bowl on the table. Kris took the bowl and he slapped the glass on the table. She filled it with more wine.
The Demon Lord shot the wine and grabbed for the bottle: “Bring more food.”
Kris relinquished the wine: “There is no more food. The chef is gone.”
He slapped his hand on the table again: “More.”
Kris raised her hands: “There’s no more!”
He stood, more massive than she’d expected: “Serve me!”
Kris was against the wall: “I’m not here to serve you! I need your help!”
An empty bowl flew across the table and into Kris’s face. She threw the bowl aside as her only chance to get back to her world started to round the table.
A plume of fire exploded between them and left a paper hanging in the air. The Demon Lord read as it burned in his hands. Kris took the chance and snuck back out the door. Inside, the demon lord discarded the ashes, pulled the plate of cold meatballs to himself, and began to eat.
The vampire was nowhere to be seen. Nevermind. She just had to get away from the Demon Lord before he finished his meatballs.
By the entrance, in the shadows, there was a voice: “You probably should have served him.”
He was a tall man, taller than any human or Vampire could be; another Demon Lord most likely. Kris kept her distance from him.
The Demon Lord approached from the shadows: “His demons are summoned too, then?”
Kris backed away from him: “Yeah.”
The Demon Lord smiled and it was creepy: “What were you doing in there?”
Kris wasn’t happy to admit: “Trying to… woo him, I think… I have to get back to Earth.”
The Demon Lord chuckled: “Why him? He’s not your Demon Lord.”
Kris backed a bit farther away, just in case: “So I have one of my own, then?”
He closed the distance in one movement. He was handsome, but not in a human way: “Everyone has a Demon Lord. I’m surprised you didn’t know what. I thought you knew everything.”
Kris shuddered: “You’re a Demon Lord, I presume?”
He teased a strand of her hair in his fingers: “Pride.”
Kris held her ground under his scrutiny, though she might admit to a weakness in her knees.
Pride’s smile went away: “You haven’t actually enjoyed eating in years. Gluttony is certainly not your sin.”
Kris thought for a moment: “So it’s like that, is it? Can you tell me how to get to Envy, then?”
Pride circled behind her and grabbed her by the belly: “I don’t think so. Envy’s the lord of thieves. You’re no thief. You’re better than that.”
Why did people keep grabbing her Belly? Kris swatted his hands away: “Well if you know so much, who do you think would help me?”
Pride finally backed out of her space: “You’re having plenty of luck with me.”
Kris, incredulous: “I’m not proud.”
She didn’t move away when he approached her again: “So you want me?”
Pride spun her around and pulled her against him: “Not really. “Do you want me?”
Her body felt good pressed, comparatively small and fragile, against his: “Not really.” She was lying.
Pride laughed again: “You’re definitely one of mine.”
Kris, impatient as she was: “So will you send me back?”
He reached out and punctured the air with his pointed finger. Dragging it down, the air folded away like silk. Kris was lifted up and placed through the rift, onto the soft grass of her own world. He followed, standing beside her to look over the city.
Pride: “Every devil in Hell and every spirit on Earth.”
Kris watched as fast moving clouds gathered around the towers of metal and glass, sparks shooting from the masses to the sky.
Pride brushed her arm: “Let’s find this summoner.”
He started toward the city, Kris following as quickly as she could. His strides were far too long for her to match and he was not taking his time. She gasped for breath as she jogged behind him, wishing she’d worn a better bra.
He stopped ahead and waited for her to catch up, kneeling with his back to her.
Pride looked at her over his shoulder: “Hold on to me.”
Self-conscious, she crossed her arms over her stomach: “No.”
Pride looked ready to launch: “Get. On.” It was an order.
Willing herself lighter, she wrapped her arms around his neck as he lifted her legs up around himself. It was a little awkward, her legs wrapped around his ribs, but he leaned forward to ease the strain and carried her into the city.
Pride griped the whole way, of course: “You’re lucky I like you. Fearsome Demon Lords don’t usually carry fat chicks on their backs.”
Kris nearly slipped and tightened her grip: “Why are you doing this anyway? Don’t Demon Lords usually encourage their demons to attack mortals?”
Pride bounced her farther up his back with a growl: “They were summoned without so much as a rat sacrificed to my glory.”
Yeah, she could see that: “Bad move.”
Kris welcomed the moment they finally reached the city, even if the sky was dark with spirits swirling about. Pride let her down in an alleyway and straightened his jacket.
Kris pulled her shirt down: “So what’s the plan?”
Pride was already on his way out: “I’m going to kill the disrespectful little bastard.” He stepped out into a street or stampeding people. “But first, a little fun. I’m going to slay the demons and save the city.”
Kris didn’t follow him out into the rush: “What? Won’t the Demons hate you for that?”
Pride smiled: “I’m the first and most powerful of the Demon Lords. Let them hate me.”
The Demons began diving to the streets. Attacking, they were finally visible to the panicked humans.
Watching Pride breaking the wave of his fleeing audience, Kris jumped out of the alley and into the crowd.
Might as well be helpful: “Lord Pride’s come to save us!”
Some of the crowd cheered, finding shelters to hide, while some saw the eight foot tall monster and just ran even faster.
Like Superman and John Wayne, Dirty Harry and Scarface, the Demon Lord stood against the horde with claws bared. Evil vanished into smoke at his touch. The crowd ran from the swooping demons, cheering the victories of their mysterious savior. Praises and pleas filled the air; Pride’s story would be told for generations.
Kris smelled a very specific brand of smoke in the air: “Stranger?”
Wind blew the scent away from her as Ghosts passed through the crowd and down the street. Kris followed them.
A few blocks away, streams of moaning spirits gathered. Static filled the air and an abandoned building trembled. Ghosts disappeared through the dilapidated walls, demons crawled the grounds. Bugs scattered as she stepped onto the porch and something crunched beneath her foot. She looked down and saw a demon clawing at the wood to get away.
She’d never been able to physically touch them before. Kris lifted her foot: “That’s new.”
The demon crawled off as fast as its remaining legs could take it. Inside, a voice screamed.
Kris pressed against the door and listened through the wood. All she could hear was a murmuring of voices in a hurricane of wailing ghosts. Something smashed into her chest, throwing her onto her back as ghosts came spilling out of walls and into the sky. The clouds were building.
She pushed herself back up from the ground and forced her way inside.
A young man, couldn’t have been older than fourteen, was standing in front of a sloppy, makeshift altar. Every item looked like it came from a novelty smoke shop and it all sat on a side table covered in a bed sheet. He turned around, his eyes were surrounded by globs of black eyeliner.
Kris looked around at the ghosts still swirling in the room: “Seriously?”
Stranger was among them.
Kris reached out for him: “Stranger!”
He did not respond.
The boy walked awkwardly into the middle of a pentacle he’d drawn on the floor (a completely unnecessary, cosmetic effect in the summoning of demons), a black stone pendant dangling from his wrist.
Kris walked right into the cheap circle he’d created: “It takes more than a scented candle and costume jewelry to summon every devil in Hell, you know.”
He was silent.
Kris pushed a little further: “Are you really in control, here?”
His fist tightened on the chain. Kris came closer. Social Work to the rescue.
Kris: “What’s the plan? Kill everyone? Then what? They’ll start with the city, sure. Then the dead will rise to join them. They’ll spread.”
He looked out the window, ghosts and demons were circling a skyscraper a few blocks away. Glass shattered and unrecognizable debris was pulled from windows to fall to the streets below.
There was a bit more pressure than she was used to: “I can stop this.” She wasn’t sure.
The boy stepped back away from her.
Kris reached out towards him: “The Demon Lords will kill you. We have to send the horde back.”
He stepped back again and touched his altar, reaching for a fair quality, homemade firearm that took the place of a wand. From the side, she could guess the poor accuracy, but she was not a small target.
The walls of the building groaned as wind pounded against it. The windows shattered and the door swung from its hinges.
Kris froze: “Give me the stone. Let me help you.”
The boy pointed the gun at her. Wooden planks split and ripped from the walls, disintegrated under the pressure, as the roof ripped away. The swirling demons, many she’d seen Pride reclaim, surrounded them, launching glass and splinters into Kris’s flesh.
Kris didn’t budge. The gangly teen, however, clung to the floorboards. The pendant shook heavy on its chain.
Pride shouted over the noise: “You! Fat girl! Get out of the way!”
Kris knelt down under the brunt of the wind and ran for the boy. He lifted the gun and shot.
Somehow, maybe luck or intervention, the shot missed.
The chain broke and the pendant flew into the horde. The boy tried to catch it and was blown a ways before he grabbed hold of the floor again. Kris let herself be pushed forward, her back to the wind, and pinned him down.
The boy: “Get off me! Fat bitch!”
The demons slowed as they searched for the pendant. They kept surrounding, but the breeze died. Beyond their orbit, she could see the swirling clouds of ghosts growing. She grabbed the remainder of chain around the boy’s wrist. It had no power left.
A hand cupped Kris’s chin. Pride’s forehead pressed against hers.
Kris’s stomach clenched: “The stone’s gone. He’s not controlling them anymore.”
Pride shook his head. It wasn’t enough.
Kris held tight to the teenager: “No. I’ll get him to close the gates. We’ll take his powers away.”
Pride put his thumb over her lips: “Close your eyes.” Another order.
Reluctantly, she obeyed. A moment later, the boy stopped struggling.
High above them, clouds of ghosts dispersed.
Kris sobbed: “Don’t take him. Please.”
Pride let go of her: “What would you have me do?”
Kris didn’t know. She’d never released a soul. She couldn’t do it herself. Was it even possible to cross over when you’ve been killed by a Demon Lord? She didn’t know.
Stranger’s smoke filled the air, silence heavy outside the wreckage.
Kris shook but got up: “I’ll take him.”
Pride scoffed. Kris met his gaze.
She couldn’t let this child be taken: “He’s mine. I claim him.”
Pride narrowed his eyes but backed away: “I concede.”
Kris sat with the boy and watched Pride, the first and most powerful of the Demon Lords, simply walk away.
There was a shining at the corner of her vision. The cheap stone pendant lay on the splintered wood only few feet away. Kris got up and took it in her hand. There was power still inside, clearly the boy’s.
She looked over the body, soul still trapped inside. He was just a child, but one summoning demons and nearly leveling cities.
She put the pendant back on its chain and watched over him, waiting for someone better to come for him. It was strange how quiet the city was now that the storm was over. The boy’s lip twitched, dust stirring beneath his face.
She turned him over and put her ear to his chest. Soft babumps of his heart beating, but just barely. She fumbled through her pockets for her phone and called for help. She listened to his heart until the EMT arrived.
Kris got out of the way and sat on the remains of the wall. The boy was loaded into the ambulance and taken away. No cops appeared, strangely.
Stranger returned to her side: “So. A Demon Lord.”
Stranger: “And a Vampire?”
Kris: “He never told me his name.”
She weaved Rocky back into the pendant. Her feet were sore and blistered and her hair was sticky with sweat. She would probably just toss most of this outfit. The jeans were torn at the knee and her shirt had a rip across the shoulder. But she’d definitely had worse damage.
She would be happy to get back to pushing papers. This hero nonsense was too much.
The sun was set well before she got back to her hotel. She stepped out of the cab and let a couple take it. Everyone had forgotten, it seemed.
So no one would know how she saved the day. What a drag.
As she was walking up the steps, she heard a familiar growl in her ear.
But when she turned to look, the Demon Lord was gone.