The Harvest Festival had been held at nightfall, and now it seemed as if it had happened years ago, or in a dream. Despite her fear, Vera’s eyes began to close of their own accord, and she began to realize how long it had been since she last slept. She went to the corner of the room and pulled her knees up to her chest, allowing her back to rest against one wall and her head to rest on the adjoining one. Soon, she was asleep.
Much later, she was woken by a familiar clang and the sound of the door opening. It took a moment for her to gain the fortitude necessary to open her eyes, but once she did, a sudden bolt of adrenaline assured that she was completely awake. She pushed herself onto her knees and bowed deeply before the prince.
“Rise,” he said.
Vera swiped a bit of dirt off of her cheek, then stood, being careful not to further sully her silken dress. She stared at her feet.
The prince chuckled, though there was no mirth in it. “Look at me,” he said. “I want you to see.”
Confused, she looked up. The prince looked the same as ever; same handsome features, same raven hair, richly appointed clothes…but something was wrong.
He chuckled again, and this time he slowly looked her over. She could feel his gaze on her, as if it were caressing her, and it felt for all the world like the gaze of…Achossebein.
The Demon laughed. “I’m afraid the king has fallen ill," he said in the prince's honey voice, "and all guests of the palace are being detained shortly, asked about their business, and then being sent home. You will have to leave.”
Vera tried not to tremble. She had faced Achossebein many times, but never without the barrier of glass between the two of them, never with him unbound and at full strength. Part of her wanted to leave as soon as possible, but she also felt an obligation to do something, anything, to stop what was about to happen to her kingdom, her home, and her family.
“You didn’t fulfill your promise…” she whispered.
“What do you mean? You are being allowed to go free, your virtue intact…if, indeed that is what you wish.” His eyes offered more.
“My dinner. Before the Harvest Festival, you said I’d have what I desired.” She was grasping at straws and she knew it, but she pushed forward anyway, brazen and mad. "You must fulfill your promise, Demon."
“Do you still wish to sit at the king’s table? I could arrange that, if not tonight, then soon. Perhaps you would like to be my concubine, and sit there every night?”
Vera shook her head. “No.”
“Then you are free to go.”
She raised her chin. “This is not over, Achossebein. I will call on you, and when I do, you must fulfill your earlier promise and grant me dinner with the king. You cannot let him die until this is done. I will not release you from your oath.”
His eyes narrowed. "You will not release me?" He took a menacing step toward her and reached out--she shrank away from him and he laughed. "My dear, I am already released."
"No," Vera said. "You must obey your word, even if you twist those words to breaking. You promised me that I would have what I desired, and that promise is yet unfulfilled."
"You would give up your chance at freedom in exchange for a dinner in a Demon's palace?"
"I plan to have both," Vera said.
The Demon's lips curled into a leering grin. “Very well,” he said. “I will look forward to it.”
“As will I,” Vera answered. "We will have our day of reckoning."