Chapter 5: Conspiracy and Chocolates

The walk was long and winding through the town that surrounded Damien's castle, the path frequently looped back onto itself for whatever reason, to not be followed, Ashley supposed, though what soul would follow this odd pair as they wandered through the dead of night (probably night, it was darker than usual, but there was still no sky to speak of) around in what seemed to be circles, the whole time Ashley questioned why the hell they couldn't just teleport there.

After about half an hour of winding travel, Draesyn led Ashley to a small house made of stone, or at least it appeared to be made of stone, one could never be too sure when they were in Otherworld. Nevertheless, the house that might have been made of stone was small and run-down looking, it looked to only be one room, and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned or otherwise upkept in many, many years. But there was still a solid roof and 4 walls, so it could still be classified as a 'house'.

"Go inside." Draesyn said once they arrived at the door, she showed no intention of going in on her own.

If that's the only entrance, then I'm trapped- or at least, I will appear to be, a simple spell of Black Magic or a simple teleport spell and I'm as good as free, so there's no real danger. Ashley thought confidently, nodding and entering the stone structure, closing the wooden door behind her- if the information that Draejin had for her was indeed so careful and important, there was no desire for casual eavesdroppers to drop on by.

"Welcome, my lady." Draejin greeted warmly, he was sitting comfortably in a small wooden chair that was almost literally the only furniture in the house, there was also a small table supported on 1 leg that had a box of chocolates on it with a few already taken.

Ok, that's certainly not suspicious at all... Ashley thought as her eyes glanced over the chocolates, not spending too much time on them, of course, no need to let Draejin know she was on to... whatever he was trying to do.

"Hello Lord Draejin..." Ashley said cautiously, making her way to roughly the center of the room.

"I'm sure you want to get right to business, but first, would you like some chocolate?" Draejin said without getting up, Ashley shook her head quickly.

NO WAY! What kind of moron WOULD!? Though if he's up to something, I doubt he's going to give up that easily, so I should be on my guard... Ashley thought warily. To Ashley's surprise, Draejin seemed to relent immediately, politely setting the chocolates aside and returning his attention to Ashley.

Hmm... maybe he's not plotting something... maybe he just has a sweet tooth and was being polite by offering me some of his chocolates..? Still, I don't think I should take any... something about being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by a little girl with a bag over her head and being led to a run-down stone shack and meeting a strange spirit doesn't exactly whet my appetite for chocolate... so I think I'll pass...

"I have come up with a plan to gain you the freedom you seek. It is quite simple in design, but it will require very careful execution on your part, and it will be very dangerous, in many ways." Draejin said in a very serious, very straightforward tone; no evading the point, no small talk to get in the way- right to the point, and certainly not making it seem easier than it is, whatever 'it' is.

"I'm listening." Ashley said, now more eager than ever- if it was really as dangerous and precise as he said, it must be very exciting! Ashley's blood quickened as she hung upon every word.

"It's quite simple really, you just need to assassinate an enemy of Lord Damien."

Ashley's blood ran cold for a moment. Assassinate? Like that thing that assassins do? Ashley never saw herself as an assassin by any means, nor had she EVER thought she would actually take part in one.

"I- I'm not sure about that... I don't think I can perform an... assassination." Ashley said shakily, the mere act of speaking the word sent chills down her spine.

"I understand that must seem a tall task for one so new to Otherworld as you, but it is precisely that fact that makes you ideal for this task." Draejin said.

Ideal..? How does that work? Wouldn't inexperience be a BAD thing? Ashley thought, so she made a 'go on' motion, Draejin nodded and elaborated what he meant by that.

"Well, it's a very well known fact in Otherworld that human magicians like yourself come here regularly, mostly for studying purposes. It is also a well known fact that the various demon lords of Otherworld like to... 'purchase', shall we say, the abilities of said magicians to further their respective agendas, as there are few spirits in this world that have the power to match that of a full-fledged witch or wizard like yourself. Since you are new to Otherworld, you are an unknown human witch and as such, you would be a prime target for recruitment into the service of a demon lord. So really it would be child's play for you to enter the service of a rival demon lord, enter his private circles and eliminate him in whatever fashion you choose."

"But... what about Damien? Will he know about all this?" Ashley asked almost immediately.

"It is best if he does not. The fewer people that know about this plan, the better. Besides, you know of that old human saying 'To truly fool one's enemies, they must first fool their allies' or something of that nature. Plus, Damien's upset over your leaving will add to the evidence of your leaving- everyone will think it's genuine."

"But then everyone has to deal with angry Damien. Especially me." Ashley said, the very thought of the upset this would cause Damien... it unsettled her. Already she could imagine his furious screams upon her return.

"Well... all the more surprise when you return with the news of a slain adversary? It's a gamble, to be sure. But then, what have you to lose?" Draejin posed.

Damien, of course. No matter what, I don't want to lose him... And that promise we made... this might convince him I'm too reckless to be here and he'll send me back, and that's assuming I even come back at all! Plus, he'll have to come back with me, but there's no saying he'll stay with me once we get there, especially if... this doesn't work out... but still, I can't leave things the way they are... it may be selfish of me to do this, but... but if he would've just listened to me, I wouldn't have had to even CONSIDER this in the first place!

Ashley took a deep breath, she could feel the blood rushing to her face as she grew upset with Damien. Once calmed, she returned her thoughts to the plan.

It's a solid enough plan, but I can't help but feel that there's something important getting in the way...

"But everyone knows I'm associated with Damien. He made that grand announcement when we arrived here, remember? So how can any other lord trust me if they know I'm associated with Damien already? It'll be much too obvious." Ashley said after a silent minute of thinking.

"Hmm... that's true..." Draejin paused, though he quickly came up with a work-around. so then you say he tricked you into it. You came to Otherworld to study, Damien found you and invited you to his castle to study, then he tricked you and tried to make you his wife by making that announcement and by intimidating you, so you ran away the first chance you got. Simple as that."

That's... pretty clever... but am I a good liar to begin with? Well, if I think about it a certain way, I'm not really lieing, since I would technically be running away... well, I'll worry about that later...

"Well... not that this plan is a bad one, but... I'm not much of a spy-slash-assassin, you know?"

"You think you aren't, you mean. What makes you think so? What can a 'spy-slash-assassin' do that you can't see yourself capable of doing?"

"Hmm... I just don't see myself as having that kind of cunning... I'm not like you, lord Draejin."

"Hmhmhm... cunning, yes." Draejin chuckled, then he picked up the box of chocolates, and in a quick burst of blinding flames that caused Ashley to turn away a bit, her eyes being used to the darkness by now; they vanished into ash. "Did you know those were poisoned? If you ate even a single one, you would have died instantaneously."

"Wh-WHAT!?" Ashley balled her hands into fists and gathered magical energies around her in preparation for a fight.

He tired to KILL ME!? I KNEW those chocolates were suspicious! He must think I'm stupid! Well he can't say he caught me off-guard, I was suspicious of this from the very beginning! I'll turn him inside-out for that!

"Calm down, calm down; I didn't try to kill you, if I did, do you think I would have told you?" Draejin said calmly.

"Good... point..." Ashley said as she gradually relaxed, also releasing her built-up magical energy.

You know what would be nice right now? Sleep. That's one activity that I'm pretty sure I can do without humiliating myself...

"So why DID you poison those chocolates and then offer them to me if you weren't trying to kill me?" Ashley asked once she had calmed... a bit.

"I thought you might be uncomfortable with this task- as you seem to be- so I devised this little test. I, someone you know and trust well enough to follow his daughter-"

Yeah, that's what I figured. Draejin, Draesyn? Preeeeeetty close right there... and neither of them have a face, so that's kinda... unique... don't see that every day...

"-on a midnight journey to a suspicious and unknown location merely by my word. Once here, you placed yourself within my power; though I'm sure you had a backup plan, I severely doubt you would allow yourself to be placed at such a disadvantage-"

Oh, he's good... I certainly did that...

"-so easily. Add to that, I offered a welcome of chocolates for you. I know nothing of human foods, but lord Damien tells me that women such as you like chocolate, so I conjured up some and got rid of a few to make it seem like I had already eaten some, giving you the illusion that they couldn't be poisoned if I had eaten them-"

Alright, now he's just overestimating me... the fact that the chocolates were THERE AT ALL kinda creeped me out too much for me to think like that...

"-but you still refused them, that tells me that you wouldn't even trust someone who has, thus far, shown trustworthiness-"

And creepiness... EXTREME creepiness... you and your daughter are VERY CREEPY AND UNUSUAL TO ORCHESTRATE THIS!

"-that shows you have cleverness, cunning, and skepticism in what appears to be the kindness of others; seems to me that those are prime traits for a 'spy-slash-assassin' to have." Draejin finished finally.

"Th-that's... quite the conclusion... are you sure you're not overestimating me just a little?" Ashley responded, largely without thinking as she was caught off-guard by Draejin finishing suddenly while she was thinking.

"Maybe a little, some of it is based on my own assumptions, but all the evidence that can't be refuted points to you being quite capable to handle this task quite handily." Draejin answered honestly.

I'm not so sure... how can refusing chocolates that are VERY OBVIOUSLY SUSPICIOUS be seen as 'clever' or 'cunning'? Does HE think this was a clever test? Damien said Draejin was clever, but after THIS... I'm not so sure... though if he's a 'clever' spirit, I must be a once-in-a-millenia super-PRODIGY to them then, because this little ordeal was just ridiculous!

Brimming with confidence- probably over the line of over-confidence- Ashley felt she could take on this trivial little challenge, if Draejin was the best adversary that Otherworld could offer. Besides, after all that, it seemed a pretty safe gamble to take, if Ashley was really so capable... though some little nagging doubt in the back of her mind told her this was all a REALLY bad idea that she would probably REALLY regret later, she pushed that into the deepest corners of her mind.

Paranoia, that's probably normal for a spy/assassin. People are always out to get them and such... Ashley told herself.

"Alright, I'll do it. But you'll have to give me details of who, when and how this is going to happen, I'm still quite unfamiliar with Otherworld." Ashley said confidently/

"Of course, my lady, I expected this answer..."