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Meeting Some Daemons (of a Sort)

Meeting Some Daemons (of a Sort)

“You know what? I honestly don’t know what else I expected.”

Cindy sighed audibly, shaking her head as she continued staring upward. Cowell had said that he had a place in mind for them to stay, but it had still really caught her off-guard when they’d turned a corner onto a tucked-away side street and she’d come face to face with a very familiar neon sign.

The building itself was different, if barely. It was larger, though it looked less so from the effect of being squished between two other buildings that were both leaning into it, and it was made of old, blackened bricks. The sign, however, was exactly the same. Two horizontal pupils stared down at her smugly, a tall pint of beer somehow held in between cloven hooves. And there, of course, right under that, was the name.

The Smiling Goat.

Even Tommy looked surprised. “...How…?” he asked.

Cowell, halfway up the indented steps turned and blinked at them, confused. “Well, it is a franchise, you know.”

“It is?” Niko’s eyes widened.

“Nah, I’m just pulling your leg,” Cowell grinned. “I am the proud owner of several drinking establishments throughout the cosmos, however.”

“And they’re all called ‘the Smiling Goat?’”

Beaming, Cowell looked sickeningly proud of himself. “Every single one. Though I’ve always had a particular soft spot for this one. It’s the absolute ideal Smiling Goat, everything exactly how it should be. The blueprint, the primordial Smiling Goat, if you will.” He paused for just a moment as the rest stared at him blankly. “But you don’t really care about that. Come on in. There should be rooms all set for you on the second floor. I usually rent them out to travelers, but I told my manager to hold onto them for a few days. I had a feeling they might be needed.”

Cindy decided to set aside the question of how he knew that they’d be here several days before they did, because frankly she just wanted to sit down for a minute. So the three of them trooped after him up the well-worn steps and through the heavy wooden door that stuck slightly as Cowell wrenched it open.

Inside, it was just as dimly lit as the pub back home. However, this one was much larger, with space for a deeper bar along the right side of the room, and several wooden tables surrounded by mix-matched chairs in between it and the booths that lined the back and far side.

Currently, it was pretty empty, though it had the air of a place that didn’t often find itself in this state.

Even so, Cowell grinned broadly and called out, “Hullo all,” to the two people who were there.

The woman, who had been sitting at one of the tables with some papers spread out in front of her, stood in surprise, before a deep frown spread across her face. “Well, look who finally decided to come waltzing back in here without a care in the world.”

Short, curled hair bouncing aggressively, she stomped across the creaky wood floor towards the grinning daemon. “‘Watch the bar, Flora,’ he says. ‘It’ll only be for a little while,’ he says.”

“And did I lie? You watched the bar—and it looks like you did a fabulous job of it, by the way—and I came back. Brilliant how that all works out, isn’t it?”

“Six months is not a ‘little while,’ ya goon.” Even though she was several inches shorter than him, the woman—presumably Flora—was shouting with such force that he leaned backwards, sticking his hands up in surrender.

Despite all that, Cowell still wore an amused expression. “For the sake of full disclosure, it was a wee bit longer than that on my end.”

“And you say that like that makes it any better,” she threw her hands in the air, exasperated.

Cindy thought she might have been looking into a mirror. As she should have known by now, Cowell, it seemed, confounded absolutely everyone who came into contact with him.

Flora was about to continue railing into him, when an odd, chirping sort of laughter came from behind the bar. She turned to the source of the interruption and narrowed her eyes.

“What?” the dark-haired man who had previously been fiddling around with bottles behind the counter asked in response to her glare. “I was laughing at him.”

“Well, at least someone’s on my side,” she huffed.

“Still, I might think you’d want to speak a little quieter. We do have guests, after all.”

He pointed to the others standing awkwardly behind Cowell, and as soon as she saw them, Flora turned bright red. “Why didn’t you say anything?” she asked, backhanding him.

“In my defense, you didn’t give me much of a chance,” Cowell countered, rubbing his ribs. “But if you’ll let me…” He paused, and she nodded her approval. “This is Tommy, I guess he’s sort of your co-worker. An old hand at the whole cosmos thing. This is his sister, Cindy. She’s a witch…? Magus…? Warlock…?”

“Uh, undetermined,” Cindy supplied.

“She burns shit with her hands,” Niko quickly put an end to that.

“And the blunt one is Niko. He’s the heir to a mob family, so he thinks he’s very important.”

Niko frowned. “And you’re implying that I’m not?”

“I never said that,” Cowell merely grinned in response.

Flora cleared her throat loudly, and Cowell turned back to her, confused. “Aren’t you going to introduce us back?” she asked.

“I thought you already did a pretty good job of that yourself.”

She sighed. “I’m Flora. This is my bar. And that there’s Kuro,” she gestured back to the bartender.

Cindy had a sudden thought. It mostly arose because no one had mentioned one way or another. “I don’t know if this something I should be asking. Is it rude?” She turned to Tommy, who seemed to pick up her meaning and shrugged. “Are you two… both daemons?”

Chuckling, Flora glanced over at Cowell. “Where did you find her?”

“In a little backwater reality tucked away in a small corner of the cosmos.”

“Sorry,” she said, seeing Cindy frown. “Most people around here don’t ask. You get an eye for these things pretty quickly, and in the end it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

“I guess not…”

“But if you must know, yep, I’m your average run-of-the-mill daemon. And Kuro, well, Kuro is…”

“My situation’s complicated,” he supplied, and shifted his shoulders in an odd sort of heavy way.

Cindy’s eyes widened. For this action finally draw her attention towards something that the gloom of the bar had somehow caused her to overlook. On Kuro’s back were a folded-up pair of jet black wings. As he caught her looking, the corner of his mouth tilted up just a little, and he emerged from behind the counter, briefly shaking them out to not quite their full width.

“Ugh, it’s always so cramped back there,” he complained, stretching.

“Hey,” Flora pointed. “What did I say about shedding in the bar?”

Kuro glanced briefly at the few feathers that had drifted down onto the warped wood floor. “I never agreed to anything. And it’s not like I can really help it.” He shot her a somewhat bitter smile.

Then he saw the identical looks of surprise and confusion on Cindy and Niko’s faces. “As you can see, I’m not quite the same as those two,” he gestured back to Cowell and Flora.

“Call him daemon-adjacent,” the former supplied. “He’s a Tengu.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Niko said.

Surprisingly, it was Cindy who responded. “Tengu’s a… crow demon. From Japanese folklore, I think.”

“Hence the wings,” Niko nodded, to which Kuro responded with an oddly unpleasant smile.

“Well, now we’re all acquainted and comfy-cozy,” Cowell clapped his hands together, “let’s get you lot up to your rooms.”

“Wait, that’s what you wanted them for?” Flora interjected. “You could have just said. I was so confused when I got your message.”

After more fully explaining the situation to the two daemons, Cowell led Tommy, Niko, and Cindy over to the stairs tucked on the far side of the bar. Niko grunted a little from foisting his bag over his shoulders, but before Cindy could grab hers, Kuro reached down and picked it up instead.

“Careful,” Tommy smirked a little. “Old-fashioned gentlemen are kind of her type. You’ll make her blush.”

Kuro raised a singular eyebrow.

“Shut up or I’ll sick my vampire on you.” Much to her chagrin, Cindy was indeed blushing. Even if it was Tommy’s comment more than anything Kuro had done.

“Sorry,” Kuro chuckled a little, and handed Cindy her bag.

Down the narrowest hallway imaginable, Cowell opened up a door for her and placed an old, metal key in her hands.

With zero hesitation, Cindy dropped her bag and face-planted on the bed. It smelled a little musty, and the old springs complained from her sudden weight, but the mattress was surprisingly firm, and the pillows were actually of a normal size, and weren’t threatening to suffocate her at any moment like whatever was going on with the pillows at hotels.

Just a few short weeks ago she’d found herself in a different, strange bedroom, oddly enough, under equally bizarre circumstances. Yet this time, despite the exhaustion of walking and the over-stimulation of such alien surroundings, Cindy wasn’t really scared or worried at all. Well, alright, maybe a tiny bit, but compared to whatever she’d already endured, coming to Discord was almost like a vacation.

Unfortunately, this was not a vacation, and Cindy was on a mission. Of course she was worried about the Atlanteans, but more than anything, Cindy needed help with her magic, and who better to go to than the source. She needed to sit down and have a lengthy conversation with Gilveidan.

At the moment though, she needed a couple of minutes of quiet. It wasn’t a matter of processing everything around her. Thanks to Cowell she had no trouble believing what her eyes were telling her. That didn’t make it any less overwhelming. In fact, it might have been even more so. Alas, there was no cell service in this alternate reality, so Cindy ended up just laying on the bed and shutting her eyes for a few minutes. The room was small, but clean at least. It would make a decent home base for the next… well, however long she would end up being here.

She trusted Cowell about as far as she could throw him, which was to say not at all, at least not with her own hands. But at the very least she didn’t think he meant her any harm. She figured with Tommy and Niko around as well, she was probably safe here.

That still didn’t prevent her from jumping a little when a knock came from her door. She saw who was on the other side immediately, as in her haste she had forgotten to shut it all the way.

“Mind if I come in?” Niko asked, absently running a hand through his hair. “Tommy’s already downstairs, so…”

“It’s totally good,” she chuckled, realizing that he was too embarrassed to admit he needed someone to talk to. “Come on in.”

Even as he stepped over the threshold, Niko didn’t go very far inside, instead opting to lean against the far wall. He’d ditched his suit coat and vest, and with just a white button-down shirt, he looked a little more his age.

“So, this is all really weird, right?” he asked after a couple seconds of silence.

Cindy laughed out loud. “Oh yeah,” she said. “Hella weird.”

“Thank god I’m not the only one,” genuine relief spread across his face. “Between Tommy acting like this is all entirely normal and Cowell being, well, Cowell, I thought I was going insane.”

“Well, if you’re going insane then I’m right there with you. But, I think the sooner we just try to accept all of this, the easier it’ll be.”

“And by ‘we,’ you mean ‘me,’” he shook his head a little.

Cindy smiled, a little sad. “It’s pretty impossible for me to not take things as they are. But, just because I can’t really question any of this doesn’t mean I’m not just as lost as you are.”

“I think we’re gonna have to rely on each other a bit for this one, cuz it’s not like we’re gonna get much help from anywhere else.”


Niko held out his hand, and Cindy tilted her head. “I don’t like to make agreements without a handshake. It’s not real otherwise.”

Cindy laughed a little, as he looked embarrassed, but she took it and shook firmly.

“Alright,” he said, clearing his throat awkwardly. “I’m gonna head back down and see if there’s any food around. Ya comin’?”

“In just a minute,” Cindy said. “I need a little more quiet time.”

“Sure thing,” he turned back towards the open doorway. “Just don’t let me swim with the sharks for too long, yeah?”

“I won’t,” she promised. “Oh, and Niko?”

He paused, and pivoted back to her.

“Thanks for coming with,” Cindy looked down at the floor. “I know you’ve been dealing with a lot lately, and this wasn’t the ideal way you wanted to end your day I’m sure. But I feel a lot less… nervous with you here.”

“Don’t mention it,” he waved. “Besides, you need someone in this operation with some brains. You don’t think Tommy or Cowell is gonna be able to track down two Atlanteans in a city full of freaks, do ya?”

“Probably not,” Cindy admitted, and waved back as he left for good, shutting the door behind him.

Niko walked down the hall, smiling a little. Stupid, bull-headed pride had prevented him from saying it, but he was glad that she was here too.

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