“You’ve used all my hounds?” Glacia asked Darien. They spoke in an alley near Darien’s tower. That Glacia had one of her secret bungalows nearby, was common knowledge among the demons of the region, its precise location was not. She could be seen in the area without arousing suspicion. Entering Darien’s tower, however, would raise eyebrows.

“The boy who has the key is resourceful. He has friends who have adapted to expecting them.” Darien said. “Is there other assistance you could provide?

“I’ll have to think on it,” Glacia said. “I have some ideas, but I’ll have to be sure you won’t again squander the opportunities I provide you.”

“I have plans in motion that will succeed, but it’s going to be a very ugly solution,” Darien said. “We’re not going to be very popular with the gods of that world. Anything more elegant would be preferred.”

“You won’t be popular,” Glacia said. “I’m not involved, remember.”

Glacia pulled a hood over her head. It was made of thin gold mail, and didn’t hide her identity, but it let people know she didn’t want to be identified, which among demons scurrying for the favor of any lord had the same result. She walked past Darien without any parting pleasantries, though she did allow her tail to flick in front of his nose.

The alleys wouldn’t hide her forever, so she went out to the main thoroughfare and walked. The demons parted in front of her, some looking away, others bowing, but none let her pass without reacting to her status. She smiled. Making lesser demons appease her was one of the small pleasures of Demia. When she entered another alley, she was sure no one would follow her.

Bored of walking she opened a portal back to her palace; it would have been a three day walk from Darien’s Tower and she couldn’t think of enough entertainment on the way. She had no need to stay at her bungalow that night.

Her Hound master was waiting for her in her throne room. She gestured for him to approach as she stopped in the corner of the room from which sound did not carry. She suspected none would dare spy on her, but prudence dictated she not fully trust any demon.

“Report,” Glacia said.

The Hound master said, “I took hound form more than half a dozen times and each time projected to the mortal realm to the locations you dictated. Each time I found the boy and attacked, careful not to injure the boy or his companions, at least not beyond superficial scratches. Also, as ordered, I made sure the Key was still present. Darien believes that I sent a pack of hounds, one at a time, but only I made the projection to Mealth.”

“You performed perfectly,” Glacia said. “As a reward, I grant you the territory that used to belong to Qexeq. It’s a small territory, but you’ll need to establish yourself. I’ll lend you a dozen of my high guard until you can recruit your own.”

“And what stipend should I send to you, and how often?” The Hound master asked.

“I require none,” Glacia said. “Just your loyalty, if I should ever need it.”

“Thank you, Lady Glacia,” The Hound master bowed and walked away.

Glacia walked over and sat on her throne. Her seneschal approached and asked if she would be taking audience that day.

“Yes, send in the petitioners,” she said. She enjoyed every opportunity to manipulate the affairs of others. Demons seeking charity and assistance often seemed to be the most open to manipulation-almost as open as those looking for a leg up in the eternal battle for power. Little did they understand that the most assured way to lose that battle was to be the manipulated, while the surest victory lay in being the eternal manipulator.