Demon Wastelands pt. 3
By the time they got to the end of the treeline at the foot of the mountain, everyone seemed too tired to continue. Helena collapsed on the ground and stared at the swirling clouds that looked like a tornado. If they could, her legs would fall off.
“I…can’t…go…on,” she said between pants.
“My dear, what happened to the training the hunters put you through?” Lucious asked, amused.
She sluggishly lifted her head off the dirt. “What happened to your vampire superpowers?”
He sat beside her. “We get tired, too.”
Maya dropped her bag and settled in next to a tree. She looked at the two of them with confusion riddling her face. “I don’t get how you two can be peppy about this whole situation.”
“It is not that we are happy about it. I simply believe that it is pointless to complain because we are alive and well.” Lucious lifted Helena’s head onto his lap and stroked her hair.
“Gross,” Maya hissed.
Helena rolled her eyes. “If Ben was here, you’d want to do the same.”
“If Ben was here, I would be marking the perimeter and doing squats,” Maya replied.
“How romantic,” Lucious said.
Maya stuck out her tongue. “I don’t want to hear about romance from a dead guy.”
“I do hope we never see each other after this ordeal.”
“Why? Scared I’ll dust your ass?” Maya mocked.
His hand stopped its relaxing combing and his expression became guarded. “I would watch what you say, hunter. You may wish to kill me, but I am not the only one you will be hurting.”
Maya’s eyes narrowed. She popped the magazine out of her gun and pretended to check the number of bullets in it.
An awkward silence fell between them, and Helena sat up. Her muscles ached. She stifled a groan. “Does anyone know the time? It’s hard to tell with the sky never changing.”
“The time has stopped when we passed through the gate,” Maya said.
“I didn’t see you check your watch,” Helena replied.
Maya winked at her. “It’s the first thing we do in a new area to see if there is any interference with the tech.” She yawned and stretched out her legs. “Let’s get some sleep. We have a demon to kill tomorrow.”
“I will keep watch,” Lucious said. “Rest while you can.”
Helena tried shuffling away when he caught her and lifted her into his lap.
“This would be the safest place,” Lucious whispered into her ear.
She struggled not to laugh at his excessive possessiveness since last night. Relaxing against his chest, she permitted him to wind his arms around her. She closed her eyes. The smell of his musky cologne soothed her, and she felt like a cocooned butterfly.
Worry came knocking on her peaceful existence, bringing out a frown.
“Do you think Andrew is alright?” she asked him through the link.
He stroked her hair. “I do not know, my dear.”
She hated the uncertainty in his tone. They couldn’t speculate if Andrew or her father were alive somewhere in the Demon Realm. What she did know was that the demon was close. The mark on her shoulder ached as if it wanted to separate from her. Even if the demon wanted their souls, she would do anything to make him regret taking her friends away. She huddled closer to Lucious and forced her mind to accept the much-needed sleep.
Lucious held her sleeping form close. Being apart from her was harder than he had anticipated. For some reason, when he touched her, the thirst within him subsided, lifting the fog from his mind. He expected her to push him away or run. She did nothing of the sort and remained buried in his arms. He stealthily planted a kiss on her forehead when the hunter’s breathing evened out.
He could not tell Helena that he sensed Andrew being alive. If his childe was possessed, he would eradicate the threat to her, regardless if she wasn’t for the notion. A vampire youngling possessed by a demon would bring the Council’s watchful eye closer to their door, and he could not let Eliza discover his change in blood type preference.
There remained no way to keep her out of this situation, which was why it was his task to eliminate the demon and keep the two humans out of it. Helena was too fragile to undergo any torture the demon had concocted, and the hunter, although she pretended to be tough, her mind remained with her partner. She was not ready to fight. It was evident by the way she snarled at him at every turn like a petulant child. She could not stop her fears from clouding her judgement.
However long he sat there, plotting out every possible outcome, his eyes began to close, and he rested his chin on Helena’s head. If only she knew how much he wished to keep her safe. His hands balled into fists. Somehow, he needed to prevent her from seeing the demon. Lucious furrowed his brow and opened his eyes to see her relaxed, sleeping face.
Careful not to wake her, he sighed.
Lucious watched as the hunter’s eyes flicked open, and she assessed the environment with alertness. Disappointment filled her face when she saw him instead of her partner or that was what Lucious assumed. As long as Helena remained safe by his side, it did not bother him.
He nudged Helena awake, and she stirred. It took a few seconds for her to realise she was on top of him before she tried to scramble out of his hold. He let her.
Climbing to his feet, he stretched. His legs had healed after the long rest, and he was almost as good as new. The thirst remained like a hidden predator at the back of his mind, always urging him to drink more. He ignored it and glimpsed the surrounding area as he made his way out of the treeline and to the foot of the mountain.
The mountain looked like Swiss cheese with caves going into it at every corner. Even with his improved vision, he could only make out impenetrable darkness beyond the entry points.
“Any thoughts?” Helena asked.
“They have not changed. I should take you from here and abandon this quest.”
“We’ve already come this far. We owe it to everyone to finish this.”
“Your motivational speech is not very encouraging, my dear.” He adjusted his jacket. “I believe it would be best if I go in alone.”
Helena grabbed his sleeve. “I won’t let you do that!”
The hunter joined them. “I have to agree with Helena. Lazarus wants us apart. It’s easier to eliminate us one by one instead of all at once.”
“We do not know what powers he may possess. What are you going to do when it is possible for him to kill the three of us?”
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Helena replied, and started climbing.
Lucious closed his eyes and prayed the Gods would give him enough patience to not tie her to a tree here and go in alone.
“You know, I feel sorry for you,” the hunter next to him said low enough so only he could hear her.
He glanced at her with a raised brow. What was a mere mortal pitying him for when she was frightened enough for her heart to beat louder than a drum?
Maya smirked. “Never thought I’d see the day when a vampire was whipped into submission by an amateur witch.”
“And I never thought I’d see the day when I did not tear the throat out of a hunter who talked too much,” Lucious retorted and followed Helena.
The climb did not affect him as much as it did the women. They had not recovered after the long journey, and he noted Helena’s legs shaking every once in a while when she paused to take a break. The air grew heavier, and he released enough hold on his shields to see the realm. The same dark miasma clung to everything around them like a disease. He slammed his shields shut. Helena’s words from the cemetery surfaced in the back of his mind. It was best not seeing certain elements of this world for what they truly were.
At the first cave’s entrance, he peered inside. There was no light beyond what he could see. Shadows seemed to shift from one place to the next.
Helena’s puffing drew his attention. He grasped her upper arm and pulled her to his level with ease. Although reluctant, he helped the hunter also and waited until the two women were no longer winded.
“It is dark beyond this point. You will not see anything,” Lucious said.
Maya let out a snort. “Yeah, that’s fine. I came prepared.” From her bag, she pulled out a torch. When she flicked the small switch on the side, the bulb blinked and died.
“Well, shit…” Maya said. “Nothing works here.”
“This proves that I was right. It is too dangerous for you two to follow me in,” he said.
“You don’t know the direction, and we can’t see. So, tell us where to step and what to do, and we’ll be fine,” Helena replied.
“I’m supposed to trust him not to drop me into some bottomless pit?” Maya asked, outraged.
“It’s that or you can wait here,” Helena said.
Maya rolled her eyes and shoved the torch back into her bag. She handed Helena a protein bar as she devoured one and stuck her head into the cave’s entrance. With her mouth full of food, she mumbled, “I’m waiting for some demon to pop out.”
Lucious looked away, waiting until both of them had finished eating. He took Helena’s hand. She clutched Maya’s, and he led them into the cave, one measured step at a time.
Nervous heartbeats of the humans prevented him from listening out for any movement. As he guided Helena to avoid a large enough hole to fit a person, he squeezed her hand.
“Stick to the wall,” he said and resumed walking.
“Is anyone else getting cold, or is it just me?” Maya complained.
“I don’t think so,” Helena replied. “If anything, I’m a lot warmer.”
Lucious’ lips tugged into a smile. “It is because the hunter is frightened.”
“Wait until I can see again…” Maya grumbled.
His amusement did not last long. Lucious’ throat constricted, and he clasped his hand over it. An overwhelming urge to feed consumed him. He slammed his back against the wall hard enough to knock the air out of his lungs.
Helena tapped him on the shoulder. “Lucious, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing…” he forced out through gritted teeth and covered his nose and mouth. His fangs sank into his lower lip and blood trickled into his mouth.
“Are you sure?”
Lucious caught her hand and tugged for her to follow. “I am fine, my dear.”
The stench of sweet blood invaded his senses. He licked his lips, struggling to get a hold of his restraint.
“Lucious, you’re shaking. What’s wrong?”
He sought the wall next to him, trying to find balance. And, when he looked back, both women gasped.
“Why are your eyes glowing red?” the hunter snapped.
“I smell a lot of blood ahead.”
“Don’t start assuming that we can be your snack in the meantime,” Maya warned, pointing her weapon at him.
He had to give it to her. She couldn’t see a thing in the dark, but her gun was pointed directly at his chest. If she grew to be more experienced, she may become a threat.
Lucious faced away and, with wavering steps, led them out of the tunnel and into a large cavern. A stretching opening above facilitated entry of the dispersed light from the outside to filter in and push some of the darkness away. Once his eyes readjusted, and two gasps echoed by his side, he muttered a curse.
His childe hung above a large pit with his arms tied above his head and his feet bound. Over a dozen small demons clawed at the sides of the pit they were in, attempting to reach him. Andrew’s skin was shredded in many places. Thigh muscles and abdominal muscle tissue was exposed for the world to see. Blood dripped from his feet onto the demonic muzzles, and Lucious massaged his throat.
“Welcome to the party, my guests,” the demon’s slithering voice echoed around them as his seven-foot tall frame emerged from the shadows on the other side of the cavern. “Today, you are going to make a few life-changing choices.” Lazarus’ thin lips spread, revealing his needle-like teeth.