Her Fated Haunting

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Chapter 17

Night settled over the the capital like a shroud, giving free reign over its demonic denizens to walk freely among the unaware humans. Under the promise of the darkness’ veil, many such creatures sought destruction.

Yet, there was one that sought love.

Down a lonely street, within an orphanage’s rundown walls, the usual giggles of daylight have been replaced by the slumbering silence of its residents. Yet, the sleeping orphans were not alone. An apparition roamed the orphanage’s now empty corridors, black coils of smoke shifting purposefully towards the dormitories.

As if following a well practiced ritual, the figure drifted through the keyhole’s rusty opening, deftly glided over the hardwood floors and finally settled at the edge of a bed. Situated near the window, with some forgotten knitting needles underneath its metal frame, the bed itself was not indicative of anything special, yet the the shadowy demon loomed over it for long moments. The sleeping occupant in it, covered by thick layers, remained unaware of the creature’s attention, even as it hovered closer.

However, the creature was still not content: the blankets completely hid the orphan from view. Astonishingly tenderly, so as not to disturb and wake the girl, the apparition lifted the covers quietly, only to drop them roughly at the sight revealed before him.

An empty bed.

Pillows had been cleverly arranged to resemble a persons’s silhouette. The apparition stilled.

Abruptly, the black shadows forming the demon expanded dangerously, devouring the moonlight streaming through the window pane and reaching for the ceiling, until they threatened to swallow whole the entire chamber of sleeping orphans around him. The darkness pulsed with a nearly tangible malevolent energy, sign that the creature was gravely displeased. Some of the other girls tightened the covers around them as a menacing chill settled in the room. The silence around the creature became oppressive, the heart he had never possessed beating harder with something akin to concern.

Where was she?

With a hiss that might have awoken a few of the orphans, the demon abandoned the dormitory behind, in frantic search of his blue-eyed Mistress.

Not a night went by without him visiting the girl. Now that his powers allowed it, he would cross the boundary between their worlds and often come stand guard at her bedside, banishing away any sign of nightmares.

Just like he had done when she was only a wee babe.

Never had he been able to stay away for too long anyhow; not even when the marks on his back mocked him and spoke of distant times he thought forgotten. An age-old shame had stopped him from fully answering her recent tentative summons, for how could he begin to explain?

For how could she ever accept him if she knew the bare ugly truth?

His grasp on his incorporeal grew more tenuous as he passed through yet another vacant chamber bearing no sign of the girl.

Where was she?

The demon forced his way though the last remaining door blocking his away, no longer patient enough to find a crack and slip through an opening like a weak wraith trapped between worlds. He was a Prince of darkness. No door would stand in his path, much less one hiding his escaped bird.

If she had run away, he would find her and...

The shadows stilled, no longer shifting madly and finally gaining more stability in the light of his discovery.

He found her. And she had not run away after all.

His heart, the one he repeatedly told himself he did not possess, slowed down its anxious galloping pace. The smoke he was made of solidified until only a tall red-haired man passed the threshold. The male’s vivid green eyes were pinned on the sleeping young woman sprawled on a chaise lounge, piles of books messily aligned next to her, a pair of crutches in sight.

Strange, he had never pegged her for a bookworm. He smirked at the askew pair of spectacles perched on her nose and moved to remove them, planning to carry her back to her chambers afterwards. He would have loved to see the confusion on her face in the morning when–

A hand grabbed his without warning.

A hiss escaped his lips, before before becoming aware of the accusing, wide awake blue eyes watching him. So the little minx had not been sleeping.

“I had been worried,” Elyse said gravely, standing upright and facing him with her full glare. Perhaps the look was meant to be scathing, meant to make him cower, but the demon could not help but be spellbound by the raw emotion behind her words.

She had been worried. She had been worried. For him. With disbelief, he repeated the phrase in his head.

“Azrael, where have you been? You would not answer my summons, my dreams...I was concerned,” the girl shook the arm she had grabbed earlier.

There it was again. That foreign word of concern. He never thought he would... Azrael memorised her words, her tone, her very expression, for later scrutiny, tucking them away in a part of himself where no one could touch, safe from the rejection that would surely come.

The question was whether he would be able to let the little bird go afterwards. Probably not – demons were not renowned for their nobility after all.

Despite his turbulent thoughts, an easy smile painted his face. “Oh, little bird, you forget you are talking to a predator at the apex of the food chain.”

Elyse let go of his hand as if burned. “Do not treat me like a child.”

Red eyebrows raised in insolence, Azrael purred “Do you want me to treat you like a woman then?”

The blonde huffed in annoyance, drawing her legs closer to her chest, laying her head on the knees. An uncomfortable silence settled over them. She seemed...sad. Because of him. His smirk dropped.

Azrael took the empty seat next to her, thankful for once of the small chaise lounge that eliminated the physical distance between them.

“I could not stay away,” he started slowly.

Elyse angled her head towards him, waiting. Figuring he would not talk without further prodding, she nodded encouragingly. “And I am glad you finally came,” she said. Elyse nodded in the direction of the stack of dusty manuscripts piled on the ground. “These books are no good for aiding one in summoning a demon from his dimension. I wonder why,” she smiled as her foot accidentally knocking the books over.

Not such a bookworm after all, Azrael thought with hidden mirth.

The grin on the girl’s face died as a more solemn expression crossed her face. “Still I tried,” she whispered. “I tried to call for you. It’s been more than a fortnight.” Even though her tone was no longer chastising, the demon felt the weight of his mate’s displeasure with him. It did not feel right and he would see to amending it. He often forgot how easily time could trickle by in a mortal’s lifespan.

The hollowness in him grew.

“I have heard your calls...,” he whispered. The ghost pain of the scars on his back burned. “...But, I was ashamed.“ The chasm in him had torn apart and there was no turning back now.

A soft gasp filled the silence of the night. "Ashamed?" Elyse grabbed the blue scarf around his neck, trying to get him to look at her.

The demon did not turn. Instead, he took her small hand in his, as always mindful of his sharp claws against her skin.

Let the beginning of the end commence. Laying one more feather light kiss on her flesh, the demon began his story.

Azrael held on to his black cloak as he passed a long corridor, the farthest chamber at the end of it his destination. He found himself yet again in the servant's quarters and not surprisingly these little moments had become the highlight of his long days. Soon enough, he would grow strong enough in this realm to prolong them.

Until then, the demon could only satisfy the insatiable longing in him with these too short encounters. Like a starved man being fooled by the promising scent of warm food.

Until that fateful day, he would bide his time.

Distantly, perhaps upstairs, he could hear the murmur of other servants talking about him while cleaning the guest rooms in the old hag's manor. Behind his back, the mortals were comparing him to death's manifestation in their realm, their hushed gossip always turning to a grave's silence when he walked stone-faced among them, his black cape trailing behind him, leaving a shiver down their spine.

Of course he would not do anything to clear their grim convictions. He had grown rather fond of the comparison.

The demon hid a devious smirk as he turned the metal knob. If only the foolish humans knew what he now hid in his black cloak.

The last door opened and there, sitting quietly in her cradle, Elyse gurgled in acknowledgement, trying in vain to lift her head to identify the newcomer.

"Little bird," he called out, watching the baby greet him with her adorably silly dance each time she saw him, wiggling her tiny arms and legs around. The demon liked to believe that she did it only for him and that perhaps, somewhere deep down, her soul realised just who he was to her, despite her unsharpened mortal senses.

"Look what I brought you," he unbuttoned his cape and revealed a blue cashmere blanket, the material soft for her baby skin and perfect for the coming winter months. It was a colour he looked for to resemble the shade of her eyes.

As expected, the little bird showed little enthusiasm for the practical gift and viewed him with confusion in her big eyes as he uncovered the cheap material serving as her bed covering and replacing them with the blue blanket. Azrael contemplated throwing the raspy covers into the fireplace or shredding them with his claws, but decided against it. Her grandfather was a poor man, even by servant standards, it would not do to cause damage to Elyse's second caretaker. It went without saying that Azrael was her first.

"I knew you would not appreciate it, little bird, so I have a second present waiting for you," he winked. He made a show of looking in his cape, pulling silly faces to make the baby smile. Gods save other humans who might witness this embarrassing spectacle from his wrath.

Finally, he pulled out a fuzzy teddy bear from his cloak's hidden pockets. To his utter delight, Elyse squealed happily at the sight of the toy and the creature sighed in relief at his choice.

The baby extended her chubby arms to get the toy and he gently lowered it into her cradle. The little bird energetically pulled at the teddy bear's ears, making him wince slightly, and then proceeded to viciously throw the poor toy out of the cribs's enclosure.

Jaw-slacked, the demon stared at the giggling baby before walking to retrieve the abused teddy bear.

"You don't like it, Elyse?" he asked, handing her the toy with caution again. The babe stuck her tongue out and hugged the toy to her small body. His heart warmed at the adorable sight.

She proceeded to throw the teddy bear again.

And again, and again, her aim always surprisingly far for a few months old baby. Or perhaps it was just a misplaced sense of pride having him think so.

On the fifth time, the demon was now convinced that the little bird was enjoying watching him run after the toy than the gift itself. It did not matter as long as she enjoyed herself.

Elyse was currently watching him with drowsy eyes, the teddy bear lying safely next to her and not on the ground. Azrael could not resist the temptation and lifted the little soul our the bed and cradled her to his chest. He inhaled deeply and let her sweet scent and heart pulse lull him into a sense of peace after a day spent away from her.

A pang of pain shot inside him, almost making him double over. Only the knowledge that his little bird was in his arms stopped him from giving in to the agonising moment.

Swiftly, before another pang came, he arranged Elyse back into her cradle, pulling the new blanket to protect her while he could not. The babe raised her arms, her sign she wanted a hug, but before he could respond, pain enveloped his body yet again.

Gods damn that hag. He was all too aware of this pain's signature – it was a summoning call. One the old hag had perfected to have him suffer should he not respond to it. It would only amplify in intensity the more he waited. He knew from his own stubborn experience. Sadistic bitch.

Throwing a sorrowful glance to his little bird who was now fussing, an unhappy tremble to her lips while she stared back at him, the demon whispered goodbye and dissolved into shadows.

Back into the Mistress's bed chamber, an opulent room with high walls covered by golden embellished tapestries and hanging jewelled candelabras, dark shadows morphed into the demon. The creature was furious for having his time with his mate cut short, but he bit his tongue hard until blood was drawn. He could not afford to his real feelings sleep through.

Not now when he was so very close.

The old hag was facing the window, her back exposed to his deadly claws – her expensive velvet dress, let alone her weak mortal flesh, would stand no chance. He wondered if she would still ignore a demon of his ranking should she know of the dark scenarios running through his mind. His inventivity had always reached new peaks when it came to ideas concerning her death.

Still he kept his head bowed in mock respect and played his part. He was not yet strong enough for the witch.

"Azrael, you are late. Again," Constance's lazy tone grew louder as she approached him. Her leather shoes now stood before him on the polished wood floor.

"Apologies, Mistress."

"Hm, words need to be backed by actions, demon." A hand clamped on his jaw, her frail fingernails biting into his skin, leaving bloody crescent moons in their wake.

"Lift your head," the demon made sure his eyes were no longer fiery red with anger. Satisfied, Constance continued in the same slow cadence that belied only malicious intent. "Though I am not one to listen to petty underlings' talk, there's a rumour in the household that has peaked my interest. Something about one of my servants' newly born granddaughter and my demon."

She paused for dramatic effect. "Are you familiar with that rumour?"

He felt his power surge in him at the slight threat in his Mistress's voice. "No, Mistress."

"There is no smoke without fire, Azrael," Constance played with his red hair as if she was not discussing about an innocent baby's fate.

"These are the same servants that reckon I am the Grim Reaper for wearing a black cape," he pretended to smirk. "You know I am only yours."

The old hag bought his act hearing the last words. Her eyes gleamed possessively – her sense of ownership of him would be her downfall. He belonged to no one.

Or he had not until a few month ago. But being Elyse's was something he was looking forward too.

"Take off your cape, let me see you, Azrael," the old hag whispered, a disgusting heat in her voice that chilled his skin. He was a creature of sin, a creature of carnal desires that had never missed the chance to suck the energy out of his willing bed partners. But ever since meeting his mate, he could no longer find it in himself to take any woman to bed.

The robe pulled to the floor, his ivory chest on full display. The feel of Constance's devouring gaze sweeping over him made him feel dirty.

"My bed had grown cold without you for the last months." Azrael stilled at the words. "However, there is something that I enjoy almost as much, if not more than fucking," the hand Constance had been caressing his back with turned its nails on unprotected skin.

The demon clenched his teeth. He was all too aware of what was coming.

The old hag pulled out the leather whip tied by a garter to her thigh in a spectacle that was meant to be arousing. He tasted the bile in his mouth.

Before he could prepare himself, a line of fire was drawn on his back, the whip having already made its first mark for tonight. "You never scream for me, Azrael."

And he never would scream for the bitch.

"Perhaps this time I can change your mind," Constance cackled before letting her whip fall again on the demon.

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