The Shriveltongue Demon

by Lydia Bengston

the nicest demon in the worldThe demon had been very nice. Sincerely nice. It was truly upsetting.

Everyone in the temple was perfectly comfortable with your standard slavering demonic presence. But this one was sweet, even doe-eyed, and one of the priestesses swore that she’d seen freckles on its cheeks.

Nobody knew what to do about it.

It had walked into the temple on a cloudy afternoon, smiled sheepishly, and asked if it could join them. As a cleric. Sister Fiona had told it to wait by the Holy Image of the Moon, which it did. It sat down politely, folding its demonic red hands in its lap. It never stopped smiling. After Fiona had gone, its foot tapped out an anxious rhythm.

Sister Fiona consulted Mother Superior Claire, who felt it necessary to pass the discussion to Priestess Amy, who knew it couldn’t be left to someone as lowly as she. On and on the referrals went, and the demon had the look of an excited child as the sisterhood’s murmurs echoed through the temple. Eventually, High Priestess the Nameless strode down the aisle and steeled herself for the most baffling conversation of her life.

“You’re SURE you meant to join the Sisterhood of the Lady of the Phases? We don’t do sacrifices, summonings, or light candles. Only the annual orchid show, and there’s the jumble sale every fall. Nothing very… occult, you understand. That’s for the Order of the Excessively Supernatural. They do all our Exorcisms at a discount.”

She emphasized the e-word pointedly.

“Really? Well… I think I should like to grow flowers, yes. Very much,” said the freckled demon. “What’s a jumble?” it said after some deep and difficult thought.

The high priestess sighed.

The demon couldn’t have been more thrilled with its new — new to it, anyway — holy icon. High Priestess the Nameless had even said that the battered wooden statue probably wouldn’t explode while the demon had it. It might, however, turn to ash after a week or so. This certainly meant it was a very good holy icon. Probably with extra Holy Bits.

It had been given a special job, too. The sisterhood had declared the demon to be far too… what was the word? Striking! Too striking for the temple, so it was to go forth into the world on a mission. They must have had great faith in it, since they only said to go as far away from the temple as possible.

The demon took a deep, proud breath and set off down the lane on a mission to bring… whatever clerics brought to the people. The holy icon would help, in any case.

Its first visit onto the people would have to be in a sandwich shop. Missions must go through a lot of sandwiches.

Lydia Bengtson spends most nights twitching, hallucinating wildly and then wakes up to an alarm she’d rather ignore. When she can be bothered, she writes stories, makes things out of glass and makes other people look good. You can find evidence of her existence at ManifestFoundry.com.

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