The Countess was stunned at the demeanor of this stranger, so exquisitely dressed and oblivious to the forest fire raging outside the mansion. She could only nod as she stared in disbelief.
"I'll take that as a yes. Thank you." The heavy door swung closed by itself with a slam that echoed through the home. "Now, Countess Eve, as I'm sure you must realize by this point, your husband was dabbling with powers far beyond his ability to control or understand."
He turned to peer out the window. The glass was nearly opaque from the smoke, but the orange glow of the inferno still shone through.
"This is a lovely island you have here. I was admiring the water tower, brand new by the looks of it. And the brewery! Belhaven's claim to fame." He turned and approached the Countess again, leaning in uncomfortably close as he stared her in the eye. "The flames haven't reached it yet...but I can spare it and what's left of your island..." His smile widened. "...for a price."
She turned her face away. "What sort of madman are you? I'll not spend my final moments suffering the advances of..."
"Let me get to the point," he hissed, "since you are rapidly running out of island to save." He pulled a crumpled parchment from his pocket, still glowing around the edges. She had ripped it from one of the unholy books and cast it into the firestorm outside. Again she stood dumbfounded.
"Your husband tried to summon a demon..." He pointed to the outline of the red winged humanoid hidden in the intricate designs. "...who existed for thousands of years but very recently met his demise. Magic is a very fickle Art, dear Countess. The gate has been opened, but there is nothing to summon." He threw open the door again, the fires outside too bright for her to stare at as she hid her eyes.
"So the gate remains open!" He shouted over the roaring flames. "And Belhaven is now officially Hell's Doorstep! And coincidentally you opened it to a war zone...a burning crater where the center of a kingdom used to be!"
The thunderous roar shook the earth, ending in a reptilian hiss that frightened Eve to the depths of her soul, even more than the fire. Even her guest seemed to be unnerved as he adjusted his cravat.
"That thing you just heard, Madam, is something far more dangerous than what your Count tried to summon. It is too large to squeeze through the gate, but it will batter its way through, and then the Earth is doomed! Unless..."
The countess sank into a nearby chair, and covered her red weeping eyes that smarted from the smoke.
"What must I do? What?"
"I am a mortal descendant of the demon you tried to summon. That is why I am here. By signing a contract with me that will fulfill the spell your husband cast and shut the portal!" He hastily pulled a scroll from inside his jacket unfurled it on the table beside her. His eyes met hers, and she shivered as she felt him stare into the depths of her soul.
"You must consent to my hand in marriage!"