"Are you sure you won't even have a nibble?" The demon asked as it lifted a dismembered leg and offered her a toe.
Jasmine fought down the bile that rose in her throat. "N-No thank you," she managed to get out before gulping hard. "I, I'm not hungry."
The demon watched her out of the corners of its serpentine eyes and smiled with a mouth that had too many teeth. "Good manners are so rare these days," it said as it tore a strip of flesh from the leg and slurped it like a piece of wet noodle. "It's refreshing to meet someone who still has some. You'd be amazed at how many virgins I've met who could curse like sailors when the mood struck them. And," it said with a roll of its eyes, "weren't really virgins." The demon's laugh was an oddly high-pitched sound that echoed off the temple walls like a series of little bells.
"So, you've met many . . . non virgins?" Jasmine asked, hoping to keep the demon distracted.
"More than you can imagine." The demon tossed the leg over one shoulder and picked up a hand. "Oooh, pretty," and it plucked a jade ring from the third finger. Jasmine tried to remember the priest who had worn that ring. They had all been vile men but they had at least been men.
"Hardly," the demon said, as if reading her thoughts. It now wore the ring on the tip of one of its talons. "At best they were opportunists. At worse they were fools. In either case they could hardly be called men. A man wouldn't waste a beautiful girl by feeding her to a demon. Even the most bestial of your kind would have had more interesting ideas than that. Now him," it said pointing a finger at the still unconscious form of Khor who lay sprawled at Jasmine's feet. "Now HE is a man. The way he came charging in here thrusting and slashing with his sword. Killing at least a dozen priests till he stood over your bound naked body (taking only the slightest peek) and declaring loudly that he would not let me harm you. Now THAT is a man." The demon stared down at Khor appreciatively. "And a virgin to boot."
Jasmine blushed at hearing the demon's assertion. "You can tell?"
"Honey," the demon said still staring at Khor. "If you can muster the courage to break into a heavily fortified evil temple, find the strength to hack your way through dark passageways and smoke-filled rooms, only to find yourself staring into the eyes of the mother of all nightmares (which I am) and still find enough . . ." the demon hesitated and a look of wistful appreciation crossed the creatures face, "desire to sneak a peek at a beautiful woman â€“ then you ARE a virgin. And that," the demon said with a snap of its fingers, "is why I'm a strict predatarian."
Jasmine's perfectly plucked eyebrows came together. "Excuse me?"
"I'm a predatarian," the demon assured her. "It's the reason why I'd rather dine on some depraved old sinners than on your tender young beauty. It's the dietary choice that has spared your life."
Jasmine was stunned. "You don't want to eat us?"
The demon cocked an eyebrow. "Oh, I never eat virgins. Why should I? You're nothing but vegetable chomping do-gooders. Where's the fun in it? I am Evil incarnate. I am the Scourge of Creation. I am . . ." the demon fought for the right image. "I'm the thing that makes the dark so scary. And I'm supposed to be satisfied by a couple of salad-eaters? Hah! As the top of the food chain I reserve the right to prey on the predators. Besides, priests are tastier: generally fat, some pickled with wine, others seasoned with herbs that even now have me seeing sounds and tasting colors. (You don't even want to know what that's like.) No, I figured out long ago where to find the best eating."
Jasmine wasn't sure she understood what she was hearing. "But, they were your priests, they worshipped you."
The demon purred like a self-satisfied cat. "And they served me well. I will sleep comfortably for the next hundred years. You and your hero are free to go now." The demon turned as Jasmine rushed to help Khor onto his feet. "Of course, there is one condition," the demon added.
Jasmine hesitated. She knew it wouldn't be that easy. "And that is?"
The demon grinned. "That you tell the world that pretty-boy here saved the day. He slew the priests and vanquished the demon."
Jasmine frowned. "And why would you want me to say that?"
"Cause in a hundred years I'll be hungry again," the demon said as it lay down upon its alter, tucking its limbs underneath it. "And so long as there are fools I will have priests and so long as I have priests I will eat well. But if you should tell the world that I haven't eaten a virgin in over 600 years, well," the demon shrugged, "some of the fools might wise up."
Jasmine swallowed hard. What she'd witnessed â€“ the slaughter, the death, it was so horrible -- but the priests had brought it upon themselves. "Agreed," she said firmly.
The demon sighed and closed its eyes. "Smart girl. Now be a dear and close the temple gates when you leave. And Jasmine . . ."
Jasmine paused at the portal to the inner temple and leaned Khor against the door. She could move quickly when given the opportunity. "Yes?"
The demon cracked open one luminescent eye. "I'd marry that one if I were you. Beautiful, foolhardy, virgin heroes are hard to come by. Don't waste the opportunity."
And as Jasmine fled the accursed place she made herself two promises. First, that she'd marry Khor and second â€“ that she'd never look at her meals the same way again.