These bad demons were horrible, disgusting creatures. Zarcar and Lixar were like angels compared to the vile, foul breathed soldiers of this Hellfire army. It’s like the demons seeped sweat that smelt like rotting flesh, as if the dying of mortals somehow strengthened them. Reyn’s Vampyres piled into camp after the fighting was over. They ripped into the injured soldiers and drank them dry.
The Rey I knew was extremely controlled if he kept most of his victims alive, because these Vampyres in this army were drinking as if their thirst could never be quenched.
The Hellfire army didn’t stop moving, it was always quietly approaching Swendula, following the river. And sentries I saw posted, were killed ahead of time by centaurs. The half human and half horse beasts had precise aim almost every time with a bow and arrow.
As for my capture that stopped the attack, Reyn had already made a comment about the two pin prick scars on my neck to one of his council. He made a joke about Rey being the only Vampyre for a time, which marked me as important since he drank from me, giving away my VIP status.
Reyn had left Rey behind after retreating into the ground, something about Torrent.
I was still confused if Rey was our enemy or ally. I was torn. He was either awaiting his father’s arrival back from Hemon to join him, or Rey hated Reyn’s guts. The day his father left, Rey killed a hundred thousand lives in Arkraxy, the Old Swendula. He became a Commander of Hellfire like his father. Who would kill that many just for strategy? He must have been full of hate… for that to happen. I don’t know for sure.
Rey was an enigma.
As for his father, Reyn’s flanking soldiers expressed many times their desire to torture me for information, while Reyn had concluded confidently that I was mute. He was satisfied that I was worthy of being a powerful hostage. He obviously didn’t care much about a whore’s knowledge. What did a whore know anyway?
Undetected by Reyn’s instincts, while a centaur carried me tied to the saddle, I was taking in everything. I was near the front lines. I was always seeing the soldiers being sent ahead to set up markers as well as sent back to set up camps. Reyn’s attack was obviously designed to cover his tracks. He was leaving behind small groups of demons to cut off travellers from reaching Swendula. And everywhere we travelled, steam from the ground cut us off from the vision of those looking ahead.
Some unsuspecting groups were slaughtered within seconds if we came across groups of mortals along the paths. I had already heard enough screams from the dying to last a lifetime.
Reyn was ahead of me now, slowing down on his horse, while speaking loudly to his council of head demons that led each kind, fae, goblin and centaur, “We rest here throughout nightfall. Then we begin the attack on Arkraxy just before sunrise. The place we abandoned, is the place we return to mark our Hellfire Kingdom, our law, our way. It couldn’t have gone smoother. It’s Lucifer’s hand helping us.”
As Reyn turns in his saddle and the army stops to set up a temporary camp, he happens to catch my eyes steady on his form.
I look away, down to the Earth, but for some reason Reyn now trots to my side. His hand grabs my hair, lifts my head up and he assesses my face.
“I know you care for Rey,” he smirks, “I see the desperate fight in your eyes. A woman’s love is so pathetic. It consumes you and leaves you with nothing. Real strength is the ability to kill, but a whore will never understand that. You’d never have the strength for it anyway. Though, the irony, is your treatment in war. Gently beheld. Symbols of pleasure and cheap beauty. Yet you can cage hearts. I do find your kind intriguing. Perhaps you’ll enjoy gazing into the eyes of your lovers who came to protect you, for one last night, before your bitter end,” Reyn smiles, speaking in a weird comfort-a-whore language, as if he’s speaking to a helpless baby animal. My eyes tear up, with absolute fury, but I’m sure to this King of Hellfire that they appear as just tears of terror.
Reyn unhands my hair and unties me from the saddle, speaking to his favourite flanking soldiers, “Tie her up near the Highborns, I want to see how they react when we cut off one of her hands later in the night to send to Rey in advance. With a white rose. He’ll know to surrender if he wants her and the others alive. It’s the only negotiating we’ll consider.”
The soldiers are some form of goblin, with long ears and large fat teeth that stick up from the bottom, as if their canines are reversed. The two guards hold an arm between them, dragging me through the camp.
They head to the middle, while I’m silent, my eyes are frantically searching for Zarcar and Lixar.
I don’t recognise them when we stop near them, I’m looking over heads, still searching, even while they’re at my feet.
I only notice when I’m dropped. Lixar is collapsed, half naked, his top burnt off, bite marks along his neck, he is so pale he looks almost as worn out as the first time I saw him in that dungeon. Zarcar is beside him, barely conscious, his head swelling from being punched repeatedly. He has an arrow sticking out of his shoulders.
I’m dragged across the ground towards a wheel attached to a carriage that held war supplies. I’m tied to it with my hands above my head. I’m watching Zarcar and Lixar, but Zarcar doesn’t look at me.
I know what he’s doing. He’s pretending he doesn’t care, he knows the demons will hurt me more if he shows an ounce of love.
I try to get comfortable, but not before a foot collides with the back of my head and my forehead smacks forward onto the wood, knocking me out cold.
I have a lucid dream before I wake up, where I’m standing in the camp, while sexy nurse female Vampyres fawn over Zarcar and Lixar, healing their wounds with cloths and kisses.
I’m watching, like a ghost, while familiar faced females walk through the camp.
We’re on the edges of Swendula, and I can see everything. I can hear everything. All the while, I focus the majority of my attention on those females.
The sun priestesses who were burnt at the stake.
They walk through the camp, their eyes glowing white. Like martyrs. I think they’re angels from heaven.
They touch weapons and caress the hands of the demons they walk by.
They don’t speak to me, but they do their invisible work.
While I’m frozen to my spot, I feel a vibration from my feet and the earth cracks apart. I look down from a burst of steam and I see two slender hands reaching up, for my ankles. I don’t walk backwards, I watch as those hands desperately grasp onto my toes, then the soles of my feet and then my shins.
Andoll pulls herself up from the earth, hissing and spitting while her body is covered in welts and burns.
She’s crying into my knees and I can’t talk, or move. I just listen and see.
“Queen Chyronex,” she sobs into my legs, “I am resisting death. I want to be a ghost. I want to be a spirit. Please. Don’t go. Help me?”
If you want her to travel as a ghost, you’ll have to promise me one thing, Draconess.
I look down and I see red eyes coming from a face I can barely make out.
Lucifer? Oh. Hell.
Offer yourself to Torrent over his little brother. And you’ll allow me to grant Andoll the ability to traverse the Spirit Planes. You will be able to communicate. All I require is a trade.
I thought the devil bought souls, I speak fluidly, through my mind.
You’re a Draconess. You’re already tied to hell.
Smart question. That’s the second part of my deal, Chyronex. You’ll convince Torrent to return to Hellfire over Eden. You’ll do so and then I’ll grant Andoll full resurrection. For now, I can only promise one thing at a time to a young spirited demoness such as yourself.
Don’t you favour Reyn?
Accept my terms or Andoll’s mine for eternity.
Lucifer grabs Andoll’s ankles, pulling her back down. She lets out a blood curdling scream and her eyes, her soul, clasp onto mine through our locked gazes.
I just nod. I agree to the terms.
It’s just a dream, after all.
I wake up, and I feel a cold chill run through my spine. I see, in the moonlight, a quiet camp, rowdier noise emanating by the centre bonfires. Beside me, I see a grey ghost. Clear as day. Andoll sits, breathing heavily. She grins and I simply turn and witness Zarcar and Lixar, with bandages around their wounds.
My Mystifyers are both awake and watching me.
And I’m watching them, trying to process that the dream that I just experienced was real.
“What are you looking at?” Lixar asks me, “Why is there light in your eyes?”
“I just –” my voice is back, and Zarcar jumps in on the fact my tongue has returned, almost immediately.
“Quiet,” Zarcar hisses, “Shut up.”
I know what he means.
“Oh, if only we had a moon priestess who could spell aloud,” Lixar kicks his heel into the dirt, “We’re… with… you… just get these damn chains… off… our wrists,” he whispers each part, quietly.
“No. Morning, wait till morning,” Zarcar sounds panicked.
I feel a chill on my shoulders and I look over to see Andoll clutching me from behind. At least I think it’s a hug, until I feel my ropes slacking around me, they’re still tied but I can wrench my wrists out if need be.
Thank you, Andoll.
They come with a flaming sword for your hand, Chyronex.
“Can you not hear or see her?” I whisper to both my Mystifyers.
“Who?” Lixar asks.
“Stop talking,” Zarcar snarls at me again, warning me.
“Mystifying scum, turning on their own kind?” I jerk when I hear a centaur trot forward into view. She’s the female commander of her kind, and by her side I see a baby female centaur, who’s clutching onto her mother’s front legs, “Stop bickering. Now, you watch what happens next. Same for you, Zest, watch how Mystifyers break.”
“But, mama,” Zest shakes her head, “I don’t want to –”
“We will also break your idiotic innocence before you cry again, do not embarrass your mother. You will laugh when you see grown men cry,” the mother is brutal, Zest is hiding behind her front legs, and I’m confused until Reyn’s favourite soldiers come into view.
One is holding a flaming sword.
Andoll was correct.
Reyn himself waltzes forward, wearing nothing but leather pants, grinning down at all three of us.
“What the hell are you doing?” Zarcar asks Reyn, boldly, “You got what you need –”
“I’m sending my son a gift,” Reyn squats to my level, watching me.
I’m trembling and it appears as if from fear. But in truth, it’s pure adrenaline.
I was ready.
I look to Zarcar and Lixar, my eyes wide as I hold their gazes for three seconds each.
They both understand.
“Look at me,” Reyn grabs my chin, and turns me to him, “Which one, left or right?”
I nod to my left hand.
“You’re right handed, are you darling? Okay. Right it is.”
I try to kick the King in the balls, just to show I’m a ‘stupid useless whore’ who doesn’t know any better moves.
You know, just for the contrast that was about to happen when my Venatores was unleashed.
“Don’t harm the whore,” Lixar gasps, “King of Hellfire, you handsome devil, don’t maim her pretty body, she’s Rey’s prized whore. He’ll consider her useless if you take her best wrist and ruin it –”
One of the Goblins approaches Lixar, preparing to back hand him across the face.
Reyn stands up and stops his soldier.
“Leave him. I do enjoy the words that flow past the mouth of Highborn men. There’s always something useful to hear from a man who’s about to die before the sun rises, when they anticipate their excruciating end, they always think… strangely,” Reyn turns to Lixar, “Any advice for war? Your own army was so talented back in that first battle,” the sarcasm is deep but I see it hurts Zarcar, who instantly goes red in the face, “They were so weak, did you train them, Warlord?” Reyn smirks lastly at Zar, rubbing in the defeat.
I instantly notice that Zar is about to explode with passion.
I decide to change the tide.
While I can. While I have the advantage of surprise.
“Why did you abandon Rey, your son?” I speak for the first time to Reyn, loudly, clearly and confidently.
It does the trick, Reyn spins right around and faces me, his eyes popping.
He’s caught so off guard and he’s furious for it.
“You were simply silent this whole time?” Reyn snaps, curiously raising a brow, “…the resilience of a whore does astound me sometimes…” he takes a step forward and kneels beside me instead.
“Why leave your son behind, making him the sole Vampyre in the realm for over a century?” I repeat the question, pretending to be the curious and caring lover of Rey, only interested in his welfare.
I needed to know, before I shifted, who’s side Rey was on.
I needed to know what happened between father and son.
“I will delight a whore with a whore’s love story, shall I?” Reyn smiles as he recounts, “…well, you see, there is a thing on this earth called a Draconess,” Reyn catches me off guard, and for a second, I believe he knows what I am, but I keep a straight face and I pretend to listen in, intently, “A Draconess knows no bounds. They seduce who they will. They’re very good at it… breaking hearts, and all…” I’m spellbound yet confused, and Reyn’s snarl grows on his face, “A Vampyre, a Hellfire Commander, slays those creatures of the Moon. Without thought. One day, I decided to think a bit too much. I thought I could play with one first. A horrible mistake. She seduced me, took my seed, ran and had my bastard spawn… he’s kind shouldn’t exist. He doesn’t belong anywhere. She was a loner, that one, and dropped off her babe at my feet. Why, oh why would I tolerate the company of a bastard that belongs nowhere? It’s shameful. I let him live. Until he was a young adult, he was my splitting image… a tad endearing… but his views were different to mine. He was outspoken. I banished him. Simple. The last Vampyre on his own in this realm, for a time… funny… that he is now a King. I didn’t expect that. I guess he had more of me in him than his mother,” Reyn stands, smiling down at me, “Did you enjoy that tale? It’s time, I’m afraid, to lose your hand, whore.”
“Watch, Zest,” The mother centaur grasps her child’s shoulder so she cannot run, “Don’t make a sound. Just watch and be proud of your King.”
Before he swings downward, launch and punch into his right ribs, he has soft flesh there and will collapse for a time, time enough for you to shift, I hear Andoll whisper into my ear, My Queen, I will taunt the Goblins. I will whisper terror into them. Rip them in two. Rip them all in two.
I glance to Zar and Lix, and they’re both as shell shocked as I from Reyn’s story.
But at least we now knew whose side Rey was on this whole time; and it wasn’t with his father.
I understood Rey’s need for vengeance. His conflicted soul. Draconess blood tainted Rey’s veins, and made him uniquely one. A chosen one.
For Rey, it was a Venatores to keep? Or a Venatores to join?
Rey was on our side. I glance to Zarcar and Lixar. The three of us were Rey’s only hope to beat the Surge of Hemon and his father’s appetite for cruelty.
And it started with a Venatores, under a Vampyre’s reign.