Shadow Games

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Chapter 5

Persephone squeezed her eyes shut as she was ripped from the mortal world and dragged into the shadows. It hadn’t hurt other than being roughly grabbed but the sudden displacement of one’s body into an ever changing world could be disorienting. She’d started to kick and scream as hard as she could. To which she was rewarded with a violent knock on the head. That had been the last thing that she could remember other than seeing the shadows pulse and change around her. Persephone wasn’t sure if she had been knocked unconscious or dazed but she couldn’t remember the trip to the demon world. But now she sat in that looked dilapidated but lived in. Silently, in her dazed state, she wondered if it was abandoned and her kidnappers left her to rot.

You know they’re coming back for you.’

She thought to herself and shivered. She didn’t have to guess who ’they’ were, she already knew that Nicholas had one of his henchmen come after her. He may have played cool when she refused to give up but the man could hold a grudge. He was cold and calculating so it’s defiantly not a leap to believe he’d seek his vengeance for her rebuff so soon.

She let her eyes roam over the dark room as they became accustomed to the low lighting. The more she examined it the more she saw that it was inhabited. Maybe not this room per se but the home that the room belonged to. She could hear people going about their day outside and she contemplated screaming for help.

That would be useless here.’ Her subconscious whispered to her and she frowned. As much as she’d hate to admit it, it was right. She was in Nicholas’ domain now and she wouldn’t make it far before she was dragged back. No doubt with a fresh knot on her head. As she thought this she felt the sore spot on the back of her head and cringed when it sent shooting pain through her. Once her eyes stopped wanting to burst from her skull she opened them again. She tried to stand but her vision swam causing her to stumble and she noticed her ankle was shackled to a ring that was attached to the wall. She sighed and sat again. Things seemed more and more hopeless as she tested the chain with a halfhearted tug, only to find it was more durable than it looked.

She wanted to cry out but she bit her lip and stopped herself mid sob. Crying wasn’t going to help her any more than pulling on her restraint. So instead of submitting to her despair she examined the room more closely. The way it was set up looked as though someone still used it on a regular basis. It was clean but the bedding and furniture had been well used.

Maybe it’s some sort of storage room.’ She wondered to herself then almost laughed hysterically. ’What could they be storing? Kidnapped demons that make stupid deals?’ She shook her head again causing more of the vertigo she’d experienced earlier.

Before her vision could clear, Persephone heard the door open slowly. The hinges creaked but not as much as one would expect in a seldom used room. She backed against the wall as far as she could, instinctively trying to wrap the shadows around her but when they failed to shield her, she held her breath. She sat there, wide eyed waiting for someone to come into view. The light from the hallway hurt her eyes and forced her to shield them as the silhouette came into view. It wasn’t what she was expecting. Instead of the hulking figure of one of Nicholas’ henchmen or his own lithe figure, this one was shorter, thinner and more feminine. The girl still hadn’t seen her as she went about her business in the room. Persephone guessed that this might be her room, the way she went about putting things away and getting out clothing for herself. The room came to life when she flipped on the little lamp that sat just feet from where Persephone sat. Persephone watched her closely.

As she moved around the room, oblivious to the woman shackled to the wall she hummed softly to herself. Which, to Persephone, seemed out of sorts with the sad expression that tainted her beautiful features. She was a little taller than Persephone, which wasn’t hard to do since she herself was shorter than most. The way she moved seemed practiced and graceful yet stiff. She had her short blonde hair pulled up from her long neck and her dark green eyes stayed down cast, watching her hands as she moved them. As she turned her back Persephone leaned forward to get a better look. The girl was wearing a sheath type dress that exposed her bare back but it only emphasized the long scars running down it. She turned suddenly her eyes wide and they stared at one another.

“Oh.” Was all she breathed then picked up the material that had slipped through her fingers. Persephone sat frozen, unsure what to do.

The girl didn’t seem like one of the demons that Nicholas employed but there were different tiers. The big uglies were the muscle and then there were different, more subtle ones. The ones that infiltrated and double crossed. The ones you’d never expect. From what Persephone had heard, Nicholas had his hands in a little of everything. This tended to range from politics to petty family grudges. Nothing was too good or too bad for him to want in on, he just loved the mayhem it caused. Of course he never personally was there to help in a downfall or an uprising. He simply employed and dispatched what his ‘client’ would need. It was amazing how many people, mortal and immortal alike, still made deals with the devil. Not that he was thee Devil, but pretty close in her opinion.

“I didn’t know I’d be getting a roommate.” She murmured as she set aside the clothing she’d been picking out for herself.

“I wasn’t aware I was your roommate.” Persephone answered as she looked down at the shackle on her ankle.

“Well you’re chained to the wall, in my room. I’m pretty sure that makes us roommates whether we like it or not.” She said as she sat on the bed and crossed her legs. Her full lips curled in a friendly smile that was far from reaching her eyes.

“Well, I guess it does.” Persephone said warily as she sat back against the wall again. The girl laughed quietly as she watched Persephone back away from her.

“I assure you I’m not to be feared.”

“I’m pretty sure that most of the worst people would say that. Ya know, to put their victims at ease.”

The girl considered this for a moment and nodded.

“I can’t argue with that. I’ve known too many of the worst people to be that naive.” The sadness came back and she brushed it away before it made her face change too much. There was only a momentary fall in her smile before she picked it up again. She shrugged her shoulder before crossing her arms over her chest.

“Where am I?” Persephone asked quietly.

“Well, it can go by several names. Underworld, Otherworld, Demon world. It really is your choice, but the main thing to know is that we’re not in our own world anymore. We’re on the other side of the shadow realm.” The girl ticked off the names and her explanation quietly as her expression became serious.

“So defiantly not in Kansas anymore.” Persephone joked weakly. The girl quirked her eyebrows and smiled again.

“No we’re not.”

Persephone gave a ghost of a smile as she brought her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. She winced at the harsh rattle and scrape of the chain across the wood floor.

“Well, if we’re to be roommates you might as well know my name. I’m Persephone.” The girl lowered her eyes and smiled genuinely.

“It’s very nice to meet you, I’m Kylia. Although it would be nicer under better circumstances.” She whispered as she looked around the little shabby room that Persephone now knew was this girls only place in the world, this one or the mortal one.

“Well this is the only circumstance I know so despite anything it is nice to have someone to finally talk to other than those I serve.” Kylia murmured as she stood and walked to the other side of the room where she grabbed a brush and let her hair down. Persephone’s interest was piqued and she sat forward again so she could see Kylia.

“Those you serve?” She asked trying not to sound too curious. Kylia nodded as she started brushing her hair out.

“Nicholas, and those he loans me to.” Her voice had gone flat as well as her eyes that were reflected in the cracked mirror hanging on the wall. Persephone frowned as she tried to puzzle the meaning behind her words and why her tone changed.

“What do you mean ‘those he loans you to’?” Persephone found herself holding her breath and Kylia stopped brushing her hair.

“When Nicholas tires of me or he needs to even out a debt, I’m loaned out for services that his other employees can’t accomplish.” Persephone stared at her wondering what that could mean. When it dawned on her, her mouth fell open and her revelation was confirmed by the fleeting sadness that passed through Kylia’s eyes again.

Persephone knew that demons could be barbaric and beyond cruel but not only was owning a slave horrific but loaning her out to please your friends was so unthinkable that she wanted to vomit. Her own sadness for this girl must have showed on her face because Kylia lowered her eyes.

“It’s the only life I’ve ever known so it’s not like I’ve known what it was to be normal.” Kylia murmured as her cheeks turned a deep crimson.

“Haven’t you ever tried to leave?” Persephone asked quietly. Kylia stretched her arm over her shoulder and pointed to the lines of scars, they were whip marks.

“The big one on my shoulder was from the first time, and then from there on it was every time I tried. I’ve lost count but I’m sure it’s somewhere in the teens. I’ve been beaten more times than I care to remember and each time I’m sure I have a scar to remember it by.”

Persephone frowned as Kylia looked at her reflection blankly, trying to make herself numb to the memories. But she was failing miserably, as Persephone watched her she could see the numbness fade and her eyes become haunted.

“I didn’t mean to upset you.” Persephone said quietly and hugged her legs tighter. Kylia shrugged and turned around with a pleasant but forced smile.

“I’ve just never had anyone ask about me before. Usually the girls he brings here are for his employ are locked up in… less hospitable surroundings.” Kylia gave a halfhearted smile. “You must be special to him to be put with me. Not that that’s much comfort.”

Persephone nodded her understanding and rested her chin on her knees.

“I made a deal with him.” She admitted quietly. “I said if I couldn’t do something I’d willingly come here… to serve him.” Kylia’s eyebrows shot up.

“Why would you agree to such a thing?” She asked flabbergasted.

“It wasn’t exactly like that.” Persephone said defensively. “I had a friend that needed help and I thought I could save him. But he wasn’t making it easy for me. I thought I could do it if I had more time, but Nicholas felt I had enough time. Now I’m here.”

“And he owns you…” Kylia added. “It’s not something I’d do willingly, knowing what will happen.” She said quietly as she lifted the side of her dress to expose her upper thigh near her hip. There, below her panty line was a mark burned into her skin. As Persephone examined it she noticed that it was a crest she’d seen before, one that marked the contract she signed.

“Nicholas branded you…” She murmured as Kylia dropped the hem to hide her scarred skin.

Kylia sighed and nodded as she stood and scooped up her clothes from the bed.

“Yep. When I was five actually.” She said as she stepped behind a dressing screen and removed her dress, hanging it over the screen.

“Five?” Persephone asked in amazement as she pushed up to stand, wobbling as the room spun.

“Yes.” Kylia said so quietly that Persephone wasn’t sure she’d heard her. When she stepped around the screen she was dressed in pajama shorts and a camisole that hung from her frame.

“You’ve been here that long?” She asked as she averted her eyes, trying not to stare.

“Younger actually, that’s just when he made me his.” She breathed as she flopped down on the lumpy bed and pulled the covers back.

“I don’t mean to pry, really, but how old were you when you were taken.” Persephone asked as she crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the bed post, noting the scarred wood looked suspiciously like many of people had been tied to it. That thought made her shiver and want to back away but she needed the post for support to prevent herself from stumbling or falling. Kylia turned and sat Indian style without covering up and looked at Persephone for a moment.

“I was three when my village was ransacked and all the children were taken. Nicholas was on a collection binge, taking what he could from where he could.” She grew quiet as she tucked her hair behind her ear and for the first time Persephone noticed they were pointed.

“Where… where are you from?” She asked after her momentary distraction and Kylia shrugged her shoulders. Persephone watched as Kylia bit her lip.

“I was too young to remember and all the trauma of being taken from my family… All I remember is watching the smoke block out the sun with how thick it was.”

“Oh.” Persephone murmured as she looked around the room again, wondering where she was going to sleep, providing she was actually able to sleep.

“You can sleep on the bed if your chain will reach.” Kylia offered as she watched Persephone glance around the room. “If not I can give you pillows and blankets to try and make yourself comfortable.”

“I should be fine.” She smiled her thanks as she sat on the edge of the bed. Kylia watched her with a tired but friendly smile. “I guess it’s late if you’re going to bed.” Persephone said, trying to sound conversational.

“It’s not too late, but I have to be up early to start my chores before Nicholas wakes. It’s never good to be busy when he wants you.” Kylia muttered as she slipped under the covers and settled her head on the pillow.

“Ah…” Persephone said quietly as she kicked her feet up and leaned her back against the post. “Do you know what will happen to me?” She asked, afraid of the answer. Kylia raised her head and looked steadily at her, the haunted expression returning.

“I honestly don’t know, but I know you can’t prepare yourself for it.”

Persephone nodded as she swallowed back the lump in her throat. Kylia laid down again with a sigh and closed her eyes.

“But you’ll need your rest.”

***

Persephone slept fitfully, so when Kylia gently tapped her shoulder she jumped awake. Unfortunately to the detriment of her stability. Her vision swam and she crashed to the floor, fully awake.

“Oh! Are you ok?” Kylia exclaimed as she leaned over the edge of the bed, wide eyed.

“Yeah… I’m good, I think.” Persephone muttered as she rubbed the back of her head.

“Well… I’d say get dressed but, Nicholas didn’t send clothes for you yet. He will, once he decides a place for you.” Kylia was saying as she hopped behind the screen and redressed in her sheath dress from the night before. As she walked out she was sweeping her hair up from her neck again and putting it in a loose pony tail that looked like she’d spent hours on it. Persephone could tell she’d been doing this every day for her entire life. She sat at her vanity and Persephone noted that she was fresh faced and looked around seeing an open door that lead to a bathroom. Kylia began applying her makeup with a practiced hand.

“Make up for a servant?” Persephone asked as she pulled herself up from the floor and perched on the edge of the bed to keep from getting dizzy again. Kylia gave her a blank look from the mirror.

“If you think Nicholas is satisfied with just a servant you must be younger than you look.”

Persephone flushed and lowered her eyes. She knew how Nicholas had leered at her, she couldn’t imagine what he’d do to someone he considered his property.

“I really didn’t think about that, but it’s painfully obvious with how he acts.” Persephone gulped down a whimper that wanted to escape.

“Well I doubt you’ll be going anywhere with that chain on your leg.” She said as she pointed to Persephone’s ankle.

“Maybe he’ll forget about me?” She asked without hope and Kylia responded with a flat look. Persephone knew that she was definitely not forgotten and Nicholas would be coming for her, or sending for her. Whichever it was she knew it wasn’t going to be a good day, and it was only the start of eternity. Her shoulders drooped heavily and she sighed. Hopelessness was tugging at her and she thought to let herself drown in it.

“I’m doomed.” She said more to herself than Kylia and the Elf scoffed.

“No offense, but you did put yourself in this situation.”

“I know.” Persephone snapped as she pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged her legs tight. “I had a good reason.”

Kylia left the conversation at that and swept up her stuff for her day and glided out of the room, only glancing back to give Persephone a sad smile as she closed the door. Only then did she realize that she hadn’t wanted Kylia to leave. She didn’t want to be left alone with her thoughts, awaiting an unknown fate. That wasn’t entirely true though, she’d found the Elf interesting, attractive even. She sighed quietly and stared at the wall opposite of her. It wasn’t the time to start developing a crush, it was never the time to do that. Persephone rested her chin on her knees and tried not to cry, even biting her lip in the process to hinder a sob. The waiting was tearing at her psyche, she wondered if that was part of Nicholas’ plan. To make her wait until she was so fraught with anxiety that she’d be thankful for something to do. Well, that wasn’t her. Persephone bit back another sob and blinked her eyes. She wasn’t going to let the images popping up in her head get the best of her. She knew when she made the deal that there was the possibility she’d fail. Not only did she agree to this but she’d done so without a second thought. That’s what had made Kylia’s accusation so upsetting.

With a sigh Persephone laid back, careful not to hit her bruised head too hard on the bed. Staring at the ceiling provided no more comfort than the wall did and she closed her eyes. She went through the images of what Vin had done, even relived taking just a little taste of his darkness away and what went wrong. She had tried twice, the first time he’d completely blocked her at every turn but the second time. The second time he’d felt a little more open, a little more like himself. That was until she was snatched into this hell. All she could see was Vin’s back as he tried to deny her help, and the look of horror on Blinx and Scarlet’s face as they saw her disappear into the shadows. It had all happened so fast that no one had time to do anything about it as the portal slammed shut behind her. She pushed those thoughts out of her head as she tried to pick out shapes in the plaster ceiling. Inevitably her thoughts turned to her past, as they always did when she was trying to not think at all. It had been years since she’d thought about it but, as always, the memories were as fresh as if they’d happened yesterday.

Persephone sat on a park bench in another city. She was on assignment. When she thought about the word ‘assignment’ it made her think she was part of some super-secret mission impossible mission. She giggled to herself as she licked the melting ice cream from the cone she’d bought from the street vendor. She had been following her mark but he’d stopped to talk to someone and she needed to look busy instead of just standing there staring at him. Although it had been quite easy to just stand and stare, he was beautiful. So she sat there, trying not to be obvious as she twirled the end of her silvery blonde hair and ate her ice cream. The man, Lukas, was not exactly a good man. He’d been involved in a lot of shady deals. But that was her job, integrate, gain trust, offer second chance. It was her mantra that she repeated over and over as she had gotten ready that morning. That was until she saw her mark and somehow her knees turned to jelly. She never thought she’d have a weakness for the bad boy type, hell she’d offered second chances to a million of them over the centuries. For some reason this one was different, he had piqued her interest on first sight.

Ice cream dripped down her thumb and she was pulled from her thoughts as she tried to lick it off. It was too hot and she was too distracted, so she dumped it in the trash and sat, pretending she was taking in the scenery. Lukas was talking to another man Persephone didn’t know but she could see the darkness that followed both of them. Their conversation wasn’t about the weather, they were making, planning or completing a transaction. She didn’t know which and it wasn’t really any of her concern, all she needed to do was somehow introduce herself. She had to act quick, simply by the body language the meeting was ending. She rose to her feet still unsure what she was going to do. Persephone spun around looking for something, anything that would spur some sort of inspiration. She turned quickly again to check if Lukas was still in the park and hit something solid. When she opened her eyes she was staring at a faded green t-shirt inches from her nose. Slowly she let her eyes travel up to see her mark staring down at her with wary eyes.

Persephone took a step back as his icy eyes followed her and she could have sworn she made an audible ‘meep’. He looked angry as he stared down.

Why are you following me?” He asked, his voice rumbling deep in his chest. Persephone tried to think of something, anything as an excuse but nothing came to mind.

Um…” Was all she could manage and her gray eyes tried to look anywhere but his piercing blue eyes. She knew she couldn’t keep her calm and she fidgeted nervously.

Um?” He prompted as he waited. Finally an idea came to her, and it might have seemed ridiculous but it was all she could do.

I saw you walking and… and I thought you were cute.” She stammered out and blushed crimson when he blinked in shock.

What?” He asked.

I… well…” She couldn’t speak so instead she gave him what she hoped looked like a shy smile.

I’m flattered…” He started as he backed away another step. “I’m just going to go now.” Persephone was well aware that he was looking at her like she were crazy, but all she could do is stare at him. Hopefully closed mouthed, but she wasn’t sure she was entirely in control of her body and it was a new sensation for her.

I’m Sephie.” She blurted out as he turned to walk away. He paused and turned back to face her.

Lukas.” Was all he said then turned and walked away.

Persephone sighed as she pulled herself from that memory as quickly as she could. Remembering how she met Lukas wasn’t the bad part, it was what followed that was always followed by tears and sometimes broken objects. But that was a thought for later, right now she had to sit and await her fate.

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