Phil had always hated exams. It didn't seem to matter how much revision or prep he did, or how well he knew the subject. He'd sit down, stare at the question sheet and then his mind would go blank, or worse, a million different facts would start careering around inside his head like drunken dodgem cars. And that was for normal non-daemon-world exams. Here, at Wargsnouts, if you failed a test there was a chance of dying or worse.
Phil didn't even know what the test was on. The Scrote had neglected to inform his students. Phil shuffled through his notes. Hellscape Topology... Rites and Rituals... Extra-Dimensional Daemonology... anything? It was impossible.
Phil was surprised when Darvill breezed up to him and spoke. The other student had plenty of cause not to be friendly with him, when you considered it was his succubi that were responsible for killing Darvill's friends. Sort of.
"I wish I knew what this test was about," Phil said. "I heard something about attunement, but that could cover anything we've studied in the last year and a half."
Darvill didn't seem to be bothered about it. Or the upcoming exam. Darvill was the sort that didn't seem to get fazed by anything.
"We're on the fast track because we contracted our first daemons earlier than most other students. I imagine The Scrote wants to check we understand what those contracts mean."
That was fine and all that, Phil thought. He shuffled miserably through his notes.
"I was kinda hoping we'd be taught this before they tested us on it," he said.
"Daemonic contracts are the test," Darvill said. "Look at the ones that came through."
Phil looked at the members of staff Darvill pointed to and didn't understand. They were a mismatched bunch. Cartifax Brion Jacks could pass for a P.E. teacher. High Magus R. L. Conley looked as though he'd just stepped out of an old horror movie. There was no pattern, no connection Phil could see.
Was this something Phil was supposed to know? Some lesson he'd missed?
Even Verdé seemed amused by his bafflement.
"It's not his strongest suit," she responded to a question Darvill asked her.
Everyone seemed to know more than Phil.
One of The Scrote's succubi, resplendent like a star showgirl, opened the door and looked around the room. For one heart-stopping moment Phil thought it was his turn, but then the succubus called out Darvill's name instead.
That gave Phil another half hour to shuffle through his notes in a last-ditch effort to cram for a test he didn't have the slightest clue about. He wondered if it might have been better if the succubus had called out his name instead, if only to get this damn exam over and done with. And now he'd mixed his notes up. They were an incoherent jumble. He didn't think this extra half hour or so was going to change anything.
He lifted his head and turned to Verdé. "Hey wait. Darvill spoke to you directly."
When Phil had first met Darvill, the other student had ridiculed the notion of talking to other warlock's daemons.
"Yes," Verdé said. "It's been quite pleasing to observe his personal growth. There's a lot of promise there. I think he'll develop into a fine warlock."
"You sound like you'd rather have been summoned by him instead of me," Phil said.
Verdé laughed. "Oh no. We're perfectly happy with the master we have."
She rested her head on Phil's shoulder and his nose was filled with the scent of fresh meadow flowers. His cock stirred in his pants.
Great. As if it wasn't difficult enough to concentrate already.
Phil's last-minute cramming was going so badly he was even glad of the interruption when another fellow student approached him. It was Adriana Mayall, but Phil had to do a double take as she'd changed so much since the last time he'd seen her. The skinny mop with a pale face hidden behind scraggly curtains of blonde hair was gone. Instead Phil found himself looking at a pretty young woman dressed very neatly in a business suit as if she was about to take an interview in the city. Even her posture was different. Phil hadn't realised it before, but she was taller than him when she stood up straight. There was an easier smile on her lips and she actually looked at Phil while talking to him rather than staring at the floor.
Her imp, Mr Buggeritall, was still present. He sat on her shoulder and puffed away on a foul-smelling stogie. He was different from before in that he was no longer naked. Like Adriana he was dressed in a suit right down to a miniature tie. Okay, not everything was different. He still leered at Verdé like a dirty old lecherous uncle.
"You look different," Phil said.
Adriana shrugged. "They told me there was no way to get rid of him, so we've come to an arrangement."
"She stops being a whiny little bitch feeling sorry for herself all the time and I stop embarrassing her in public," Mr Buggeritall said.
Adriana gave a little roll of her eyes that indicated she was not that far removed from the awkward girl she'd been before, despite her drastic change in appearance.
"Don't be like that, toots," the imp said. "It was for your benefit. I did it to toughen you up."
Adriana gave Phil a goofy little smile. "It is better than before."
The imp stood up and puffed out his chest. "I'm her personal trainer now."
Adriana suppressed a giggle. She looked down at Phil's notes.
"Revising for Magus Stine's test?" she asked.
"Yes," Phil replied. "Have you already taken it?"
"What's it on?" Phil asked.
"It's odd," Adriana said. "Magus Stine wasn't present for the test, nor were any of the staff. It was just his succubi, three of them. They asked me some fairly straightforward questions about my background and Mr Buggeritall. I thought they were trying to put me at ease before the test began, then they told me it was over and I was fine."
"Maybe after all the recent deaths, accidents and students going missing, they're taking some extra precautions to try and keep us safe."
Mr Buggeritall suddenly moved from Adriana's right shoulder to her left.
"Oi, what are you up to, Greenie?" he asked Verdé. His prominent lower jaw jutted out like a bulldog's.
to be continued...
I wasn't sure how to post this chapter. The serialisation plan was mainly to keep me moving on the story. Then I stalled. Then I wrote virtually the whole thing one night while waiting at the airport. I think I'll put it up here anyway. It gives me a final chance to correct things for the ebook/novel version if it turns out I flubbed the ending.
The new parts will be posted a little more frequently than weekly (one every two days at a guess) and I'll return to the H-space Monster Girl Bestiary stories once I've finished up with Phil's current arc of adventures.