image of fogo, the burgundy ammunition

Buyer Beware

You are a WITCH with cunning beyond measure. You are an unrepentant trickster, resting on rainbows and conning chumps out of their coin. Your magic spawns from an eye all-seeing. You are held in high esteem by demons and false gods. LET'S TRANSFORM!

Have you ever desired to know the honeyed taste of a childhood dream, or the acrid bite of a nightmare as it snakes its way through your gullet? Have you ever wanted to adorn yourself with the terrible splendor of a collapsing star, or move with the preternatural grace of a tiger’s pounce, or see the world as the birds do in a thousand nameless hues? Perhaps, as many do, you hope instead to capture the memory of your first love in a crystalline cage, untouchable by the decay of time and regret?

All that and more can be had at THE DEMON MARKET, for those bold and wily and enterprising enough to make it worth their while. It has been so for generations past, and it will continue to be for generations to come.

Yet there was a time when even the market was young and the bones of its foundations had not yet wormed itself deep into the earth outside THE CITY OF MIRRORS. In those days the art of demonic deal-making was not widely known except to certain secretive packs of OCCULTISTS in the most forsaken parts of the wilds, and the stall-keepers and merchants of the market were less vigilant and duplicitous than they are today, complacent as they were with their ill-gotten gains and stolen power.

It was in those days that the WITCH Fogo, equal parts curious and wary, first ventured into the market to see its wonders for herself. She was not the first of her pack to walk its myriad paths and alleyways, and so she knew well the pitfalls of making a deal one cannot keep. Nevertheless, the sights and sounds she encountered were even more enticing than she could have imagined. One shopkeep was hawking bottles of gilded porcelain, so delicate she could see the shape of her fingers through them, alongside strange vessels wrought of what might have been stained glass - except that they seemed to glow from within. Another stall had neat rows of masks ornamented with hornet antennae or oryx horns or pockmarked skin, and the squamous DEMON lounging in front was announcing in sibilant tones: “Faces! All kinds of faces! Insectoid and bestial, eldritch and humanoid, we got them all! Now with genuine hair follicles!” Fogo did not linger to assess the veracity of its claims. Every few feet merchants beat gongs or waved colorful pennants, proclaiming the superiority of their shrieks or the excellence of their entrails. She smelled roasting meats and nuts, crisp ocean air and scorching desert winds, burning metal, and the exotic ambers and chypres so loved by the ENCHANTRESSES of THE TOWER.

A handsome cypress-and-sunstone stall near the heart of the market caught her attention. Spread across its burnished counter were bones. Stumpy thick bones, delicately curving bones, slim segmented bones laid out like macabre eating utensils, sun-bleached bones radiating from gaping rib cages in unsettling patterns. Fogo was smitten. She traced an admiring finger along one osseous masterpiece involving a mouthless skull embellished with seven sprawling spines, already cataloging the DEMONS she knew of who might covet a more corporeal form.

She traced an admiring finger along one osseous masterpiece involving a mouthless skull embellished with seven sprawling spines, already cataloging the DEMONS she knew of who might covet a more corporeal form.

“Anything catching your eye?”

Fogo glanced around, saw nothing and no one. Then she looked up. Lurking in the sallow rafters of the stall was the stall-keeper, peering down at her from several feet above. All she could make out was a pale cartilaginous face, curiously frozen in a wide-lipped grimace like a stingray’s; the rest of its body was draped in shadows. “Come, come,” it continued, “no need to hide your true appearance here. After all, OCCULTISTS are some of my best customers.”

Fogo was a little surprised, but took care to hide her reaction. Here, any sign of carelessness or ignorance could be taken for a sign of weakness. Two by two, she unfurled nigh-invisible eyelids from cheekbone and forehead, until her full set of eight void-black eyes were blinking in the early afternoon light. “Not many of my sisters have more eyes than one would expect. What gave me away?”

“A certain… strangeness in the proportion, you could say.” The DEMON leaned down, tapped the counter with one undulating arm that emerged from the darkness like smoke made physical. “Do my skeletons intrigue you, o monstrous one? I would be willing to part with it… for a price.”

Even Fogo knew better than to get baited into that one. “You have a price? Name it.”

“Hum… for that particular work?” The DEMON made a show of being lost in thought, rubbing its chin with almost-fingers stained iridescent with ichor. “I believe your eyes would be a fair price.”

Fogo’s cheeks flushed hot, first with shock and then with fury. She slammed both palms on the counter, not caring that the shoppers behind her turned to stare. “You dare insinuate that I would share the source of my sisters’ power for such a paltry thing? Our birthright?”

“Oh no no no, nothing of the sort,” the DEMON said, wagging its head. Its face remained immobile, but Fogo thought she saw the slick surface of its outstretched forelimb ripple with glee. She shouldn’t have let slip that information so freely. “You misunderstand me. I meant the eyes that belong solely to you. And I’m not even asking for all of them, simply a pair.”

Slightly mollified, Fogo drew back. “A pair?”

The DEMON nodded. “Just a pair. It’s not much, is it? After all, you’ll have six more perfectly good eyes after we conclude our deal.”

“Not all my eyes are made equal, you know.”

“Perhaps,” the bone-keeper acknowledged. “I shall leave the choice of eyes to you, o dreadful one, for only you could decide if you’d prefer not to see the shape of a man’s soul, or if lacking night-vision is of little consequence. Ah, but for me and others like me, the eyes of a WITCH would be a great treasure. A great treasure, indeed.”

Fogo remained silent a short while, pondering. The bones of the seven-spined skull seemed to reach for her, whispering a strange melody just past the edges of her hearing. “I’ll consider your offer,” she said at last. “If I decide to accept, I shall seek you out here again.”

The arm withdrew into the rafters reluctantly, like an eel slinking back into its lair. “Very well. But do not consider too long. I have business to conduct, and others may be more decisive than you.”

After the bone-keeper’s stall, few others in the market could keep Fogo’s attention. As the day drew on into dusk she left the seething masses behind and wandered to a small pond near the edge of THE WOODS, where some of her brethren occasionally washed the blood from their nails and the ash from their hair. Even now the sickly-sweet musk of THE DEMON MARKET clung to her skin, so she slipped out of her linen shirt and waded in, welcoming the goose-pimples erupting across her arms at the water’s chill. She stared up at the apricot-and-umber sky as she soaked off sweat and lingering scraps of WOE, turning the merchant’s words over and over in her head, hunting for hidden meanings or potential loopholes.

Lost in thought as she was, Fogo did not realize that she was not alone until the marshweed at the pond’s edge shivered a warning. Intruder, shrilled a nearby crake. Intruder. Intruder. Fogo scrambled to shield her exposed chest and scanned the surrounding vegetation. There. Barely concealed behind a rock outcropping, the heat signature of a man crouching only a short distance away.

Rage made Fogo’s limbs grasping and pincerlike, her jaws drip with venom. She surged out of the water and confronted the spy, an unattuned man in hunting leathers. His piebald hound took one look at her and tore free from its leather yoke, yelping in terror as it fled. “You dare,” she snarled. She took one step forward and the mud snaked viscous ribbons around the man’s boots, miring him in place. Another step, and the air compressed and deadened, making him gasp for breath. “You dare watch me bathe?”

The hunter collapsed at her feet. “Forgive me,” he cried. “I meant only to slake my thirst! Had I known these lands were claimed by a WITCH, I never would have approached.”

“And yet you saw me here, and did not avert your gaze,” she hissed. “I should slay you for your insolence!”

“Mercy!” the man pleaded, but Fogo had none. She could smell his fear, sour and metallic, and his blue eyes were blank with panic.

His eyes.

She stared down at the man cowering in front of her. “Perhaps death shall not be your fate today,” she said, and the hunter trembled at the weight of her words.

The following day at dawn, Fogo returned to THE DEMON MARKET. The bone-keeper gurgled with pleasure when she accepted its terms. “A wise choice, one that you will not regret,” it said, swapping out the seven-spined skull with a small place card that said “SOLD!” Other shadowy appendages readied diaphanous sheets of wrapping paper and a large shopping bag emblazoned with the stall’s emblem. One reached out towards Fogo’s face, but she stepped out of its range.

“One small request, before we conclude our business,” she said. “I would like to take care of this step myself. Not because I doubt your talent in plucking out eyeballs, you understand. But as I don’t have much more time to enjoy the use of my eyes, I want to see the sunset with them one last time before you take them.”

The inky flesh surrounding the DEMON’s face spiraled up and back with irritation. “You would add conditions to our deal at this late of a juncture?” It shook the gift-wrapped skull at her. “This is highly irregular!”

“The deal remains the same. My eyes, your skull. And my eyes will be yours by the time the sun sets, you have my word.”

The DEMON hemmed and hawed, but Fogo knew from the way its torso pulsed with greed that it had already made its decision. “Have it your way. But then I demand a condition of my own.” One arm reached behind the cypress counter, produced a small liquid-filled jar with strange sigils scratched into its surface. “Before day’s end, place your eyes within,” it said, dropping it into Fogo’s palm. “This jar and its contents will be transported back to me. If it is empty, then so too will your purchase be transported back to its rightful place.”

She nodded. “Done.” And with that their pact was made and sealed, and she felt the thorns of their agreement sink into her flesh and coil around her heart.

She nodded. “Done.” And with that their pact was made and sealed, and she felt the thorns of their agreement sink into her flesh and coil around her heart.

Fogo spent the rest of her day sampling delicacies from the market, watching players and musicians performing on makeshift stages, and even exploring the outer districts of THE CITY OF MIRRORS. Just an hour or two before twilight she returned to the pond in the wilds and sat at its marshy edge, turning her face up to feel the last bit of the day’s warmth on her skin. When the sun had dwindled to a sliver of molten gold on the horizon, she pressed her palm into the mud. With a strange sucking sound the wet earth yielded up two small round shapes, ivory and cornflower blue and connected by something pink and fibrous. She dropped them into the jar, allowed herself a smirk of satisfaction as they floated and swirled sluggishly like pale waterlogged dumplings. In another few minutes the jar winked out of existence, and in that same moment Fogo felt the binds of her contract relax and fall away.

After all, the DEMON had never specified which of her eyes it preferred as payment.