"Brr, this place is empty," Phanna said to a passing tomatoman. The ruined temple in Northtown was even creepier than the one in Pandora. She almost missed the cultists. They weren't any easier to talk to, but at least they were human.
The tomatoman blinked its black, buttonlike eyes. "Rabite?"
"No thanks?" Phanna shrugged, then hurried past it. The tomatoman followed after her.
"Silktail?" it chirped. "Sliiiiiime? Green!"
Phanna quickened her pace into a sprint. To her distress, the creature sped up as well. It continued to chirp and, after a minute or two, started to sing in a warbly little voice. She wasn't sure exactly what it wanted and she intended to keep it that way. Usually, the monsters didn't pay her any attention.
Suddenly, the tomatoman screeched. Phanna looked over her shoulder and saw it float off quickly in another direction. She stopped and sighed, relieved. She heard someone approach.
"Ah, Phanna," Thanatos said.
Phanna nodded as she caught her breath. "Is it gone?"
Thanatos chuckled. "Was it pestering you?"
Phanna nodded again, embarassed. Thanatos patted her on the back.
"Come with me, then," he said. "They don't bother me. Besides, there's someone I want you to meet."
"Okay," Phanna answered. She fought the urge to flinch away from his touch. There was something genuinely creepy about the sorcerer, but she couldn't figure out exactly what. She allowed him to lead her through the ruins, until he opened the door to one of the rooms. She scooted inside, glad to be free of his hand against her back.
Dyluck was seated at a table, head tilted down. Phanna thought that he was asleep until she saw that his eyes were open. A red-haired woman leaned against the wall, her arms folded at her chest.
"Is this the kid?" the woman asked with a nod towards Dyluck.
"Yes," Thanatos said. "Phanna, this is Lieutenant Fanha. Fanha, this girl is the beloved of General Dyluck."
Phanna giggled. "How funny! We have the same name!"
"Yes," Fanha said stiffly. She looked past Phanna to Thanatos. "I should leave. Sheex is waiting for me at the cafe."
"Phanna," Thanatos began, then laughed when both women looked at him. He placed his hand on Phanna's back. "My dear, would you mind if I escorted the Lieutenant out?"
Phanna shook her head. "No, go ahead."
"Thank you," Thanatos said. "I'm sure you and the General can keep each other suitably entertained in our absence. Fanha?"
"Yes, Thanatos," Fanha said and walked out of the room. Thanatos followed her.
"They're gone now," Phanna said to Dyluck. "Did Fanha seem weird to you, too?"
Dyluck looked up at her. His eyes were glazed and unfocused.
"It was nice of Thanatos to let us spend time together like this," Phanna added. She giggled again, then sat down beside him. The chair shifted its weight from one side to the other, before settling forward. Phanna stood up before the polterchair could buck her off.
"Don't," Dyluck said. He sounded sleepy. "It's okay, Phanna."
Phanna sat back down. The polterchair didn't move.
"I hope Purim doesn't bug us this time," Phanna sighed. "She can be so annoying."
"I know," Dyluck said.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," he answered. He blinked, but his eyes remained unfocused. "You're so pretty."
Phanna giggled. "Prettier than Purim?"
"Much prettier," Dyluck told her. "I don't know what I saw in her. You're better. You're perfect."
"Perfect," Phanna echoed quietly. She savored the sound of the word. "I hate these ruins, but I like being with you."
"I think I like it here."
"Oh," she said, then brightened. "Because of me?"
Dyluck nodded. Phanna giggled again.
"I think I'm starting to like it better now," she said shyly. "Even though it's creepy and filled with monsters." Phanna attempted to scoot her chair closer to his, then stood up to move it. The polterchair sidestepped away from her until it had backed itself into the corner of the room. "Even the chairs are monsters! It's ridiculous!" Phanna tried to drag the polterchair back to the table. It braced its legs and refused to move.
"The polterchairs are a type of minor demon," Dyluck said. "They cannot survive on the Surface without a host, but they're too weak to possess living things."
Phanna let go of the chair. "How did you know that?"
"Thanatos told me," Dyluck said.
"Oh," Phanna said. She cast a hateful look at the polterchair, then walked quickly over to the table and perched on its edge. "I thought they were magic or something."
Dyluck didn't answer.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she asked him.
"Yeah," Dyluck finally said.
There was a knock at the door.
"Phanna?" She heard Thanatos say from behind the door.
"Yes, Thanatos?" she said lightly.
The door opened and Thanatos entered the room. "I hope you weren't bored," he said.
Phanna shook her head. She glanced towards Dyluck, who stared blankly at the table.
"He doesn't talk much, does he?" Thanatos said. "Do you?"
"No, I don't," Dyluck said flatly. He stood up and bowed stiffly to Thanatos. "By your leave, sir."
Dyluck lurched out of the room. Phanna watched him leave. She felt a strange heaviness settle over her, like a presence inside her brain.
"I'd like you to help me," Thanatos told her. "Your blonde-haired friend wants to take Dyluck from you. I want you to stop her."
"Yes, Thanatos," Phanna said numbly, her eyes glazed.
"Good girl," Thanatos said. "You can go for now."
Phanna's eyes focused and she felt the heavy feeling go away. "I'm going to take a walk around Northtown," she said. Earlier, she had intended to spend the day with Dyluck, but shopping in the capital city sounded much better all of a sudden.
"Good idea," Thanatos said. "The monsters won't bother you, as long as you don't bother the monsters. By that note, I would recommend staying out of the cafe. Lieutenant Sheex is a demon."
"I don't trust demons," Phanna admitted.
"Which is why I'm warning you," Thanatos said smoothly. "You know that I have your best interests at heart."
"Thank you, Thanatos," Phanna said gratefully, then left.