Place: In Hell, Palace of Princess Ashtaroth
"Ver?" Shax kicked his boot heels against the rock ledge where he'd perched. His squad of troll guards stood out of earshot, watchful, wary. Maybe riding out here to the Cliffs of Lunacy hadn't been the best idea but it wasn't as if the cliff bats would dare bother a Prince of Hell. Besides, the view was fabulous.
Verin, lying on his back with his eyes squeezed shut, grunted a non-committal response.
"What do you think it's like? The human world?"
"Don't care. Humans are assholes."
Shax chewed on a bit of candied manticore heart from the supply in his belt pouch. "I bet it's interesting. They have towns and markets and wars. Greed and lust and vanity in these weird combinations. They have sunlight. And oceans."
"We have oceans."
"Of water, not lava."
Shax belatedly offered a candy to Verin. "Want one?"
"Gross. No. Don't know how you eat those fucking things. Too sweet."
Verin's horns were finally coming in, fully curved black rams horns that would be devastating in a fight. Shax envied him a little but the horns had grown faster than Verin, imposing a heavy burden on his still-slender adolescent neck. Gave him nasty headaches sometimes. Shax flexed his shoulders fretfully, trying for the thousandth time to see if wings were coming in. Mum had wings. He should get wings. Being an almost-grown demon was irritating.
"One of my cousins told me the humans do festivals."
Verin snorted. "What in all fucking pits is that?"
"Seems to be something like an orgy. Sometimes. But with music and dancing and offerings where they give things to beings they think are gods."
"That's stupid. Why would they do that?"
Shax nodded. "I suppose it's a little odd. But it's all part of worship. If the humans worship you, they want to please you. Sitri says they even offer themselves." He chewed on a thumb claw, unable to let go of the idea now that it had taken root. "I want to go, Ver. I want to see the humans. Not souls, but living, flesh and bone humans."
"You're gonna get us in fucking trouble again, aren't you?"
"Come on, Ver. It was completely worth it to sneak into Uncle Asmo's last orgy. Even if we couldn't sit down for a week."
Verin grumbled something about strips taken out of his ass but they had enjoyed themselves until Mum caught them. It wasn't that she objected to her little princeling buried under a pile of attentive imps but she had expressly forbidden him to attend orgies until his formal presentation at court. She would not be disobeyed. As to the matter of traveling topside, she hadn't said not to. It was just generally understood that immature demons didn't. Restless anger had become his companion more and more. They were nearly grown and still treated like hatchlings.
"Oh, shit." Verin covered his face with both hands, smoke curling between his fingers. "We're doing this, aren't we?"
"Yes." The fever had Shax now. It had to be done. "Tonight."
Later that night, or rather bugfuck early the next morning when Hell parties had ended in stupor and occasional slaughter and the workday had yet to begin, two teenage demons climbed down the side of one of the high towers of Princess Ashtaroth's palace. The one used a rope and the other used his claws to descend the mirror-sheen obsidian. The stone wasn't quite as glass-perfect by the time they reached the bottom.
"That left more of a mark than I thought it would." Shax cringed.
"Yeah, well, too late now, genius," Verin growled. "Your idea to go together so it'd be faster."
They only took Shax's own nightmare, riding double, in a hushed and hurried escape from the stable before the gremlin grooms could wake and ask questions. They galloped to the Cave of Expedition where all points in the human world linked to Hell in some mysterious, arcane way. The narrow mouth opened into a vast cavern where the ceiling vanished into blackness. Shining, shifting surfaces with constantly changing jagged edges, too strange and unsettling to be called windows, stood in a rough circle at the center of the cavern.
Verin touched a surface gingerly with a single forefinger. When his digit didn't sink through, he knocked on it with his knuckles. "What the fuck, Shaxy? How do we get through?"
"Ah, my dear Verin, one needs a key." Shax grinned as he pulled a shard of black crystal from his pack. "And not every demon has one."
"Um…" The color drained from Verin's face. "Did you steal that from your mom?"
"Pfff. Of course not. Do you think I'm stupid?" Shax glared when Verin opened his mouth to answer. "Shush. No. I took it from her secretary."
"Don't know if that's a shit ton better," Verin muttered.
"We just need to find a fun spot to go through." Shax began searching the surfaces, fascinated by the sheer variety of humans and their activities. "Oooh, they're fighting in this one. Ow. No. That looks painful. A night scene. That's what we want. All the fun things happen at night up there, don't they?"
"Don't look at me. Nobody tells me shit."
Which wasn't precisely true. Higher-level demons tended to talk around Verin since he was 'just a minion.' They'd learned some juicy stuff that way.
Shax rounded the curve and came upon an intriguing scene—young humans, naked or mostly so, danced around an enormous bonfire. They wore garlands of leaves and flowers twined in their hair and they swayed as they leapt and turned, chanting wildly.
"This one. Definitely this one." Shax reached out a hand. "Come on, Ver. Hang on tight."
Verin clutched his arm with both hands, claws digging in. With a deep breath, Shax stepped forward with the crystal in his free hand, letting the black shard touch the portal surface first. There was a moment's resistance, then the portal spat them out with unseemly force so that they tumbled in a heap onto a broad moonlit meadow.
They had landed downslope from the bonfire, outside the circle of light, so Shax rolled off Verin and stayed flat in the grass to observe. The humans had food and wine piled up on a wooden, flower-strewn dais. It all looked so festive and inviting…and lithe naked humans…
Shax stood slowly, even though Verin hissed and cussed at him to get down.
"They'll fucking see you!"
"That's the idea." Shax left his pack on the hillside and after a moment's thought, his shirt and his boots as well. Then he walked boldly into the firelight.
The nearest humans gasped, their drums and pipes petering to a ragged halt as the dancers spotted him, mouths open, eyes wide. The frozen tableau only lasted a moment until one young man flung his head back and let out a crazed bellow. This seemed to be some kind of signal. The humans rushed toward him.
"Pan! Pan has come!"
"A young god! Pan come to us as a young god!"
"Pan has heard us!"
"He's brought a satyr too!" This came from the gleeful group of celebrants dragging Verin up the hill.
Humans fell to their knees in the grass before Shax, they leapt and danced around him in joyous celebration, laughing and whooping.
"Shax! They're…touching me!" Verin called out in panic as the humans pulled him down to the grass.
Shax laughed and pulled a young man close for a teasing kiss. "Relax, Ver. This is worship. You're fine."
"Oh. Huh." Verin had ended up with his horned head in a lovely young man's lap while another fed him some small round fruit. A third had shoved Verin's kilt up and was licking at eager demon cock. "Oh…fuck yeah."
The young humans surrounded Shax, touching him, stroking him. One lovely with golden hair brought him a goblet. Another brought him a bowl of little…somethings. Shax took one delicately in his claws. Hard. Teardrop shaped. Oh. It was delicious. Nuts, he decided. He had heard of those.
"Which do you choose, oh, Pan?" A youngster with beautiful black ringlets knelt before him, one hand on his thigh. "Which of your virgins would you prefer tonight?"
Shax's wits scattered and lay in little ecstatic balls around his feet as the youngster reached up under his kilt and did wicked, wicked things. "Mmmm…I do like you. You're not really virgins, though, are you?"
The youngsters laughed in delight.
"No, my lord Pan. It's a ceremonial title. What fun would actual virgins be?"
Shax relaxed back in the arms of his supplicants, stroking and kissing languidly as he pleased but letting them do the work. And, oh, it was glorious, all those hands and mouths and cocks everywhere. He thought he would shatter with pleasure. Everything was going--
"Shax, you fucking little pile of goblin shit!"
A frighteningly strong, clawed hand reached into the dogpile of humans and yanked Shax out.
"Ah. Um. Hello, Sitri." Shax swallowed hard as he blinked up at his cousin's face. His purple with rage face topped with the sharp goat horns. "Nice evening for a stroll, isn't it?"
"What the fuck do you think you're doing with those humans?"
"I wasn't really doing much of anything. They were doing the, ah, doing."
Sitri breathed out a short gout of fire and turned his back on the worshippers. "Those are my worshippers, you little git. And you're poaching."
"Maybe you should arrive to your orgies on time then, Si."
The blow Sitri gave him was so hard, Shax tumbled all the way back down the hill. He lay there dazed until Sitri came stomping down with Verin under one arm. He scooped Shax up with the other and tossed them, rather rudely Shax thought, back through the portal into the Cave of Expedition.
"Fucking pits, Shax," Verin muttered. "Why the fucking fuck do I listen to you?"
It was three days later, with their scurrilous deeds discovered and their rather nasty punishments over, that the adolescent demons were back in Shax's room. Verin was missing an ear. Shax was temporarily devoid of thumbs. But they were mostly whole, the missing parts would grow back, and hadn't been fed to Leviathan or anything. Yes, Mum had been furious, mostly about the damage to her lovely tower.
"It could've been worse." Shax picked at his dragon stew. Such a bother eating without thumbs.
"Shut up." Verin snarled from where he curled in a ball on the bed.
"Ver, come on. It was wonderful until Sitri came."
A steam-laden sigh drifted through the bed curtains. "I guess. Yeah."
"When we're grown and I have my own palace, we'll go to the human world whenever we want. Wherever we want. Worshippers are nice but I'm sure there are a million amazing things to do there. We'll have so much fun."
"Maybe." Verin grunted, shifting around on the bed. "For right now? I'm gonna be lying on my one fucking ear so I can't hear you anymore."