The doors to the throne room burst open as I sat with my legs crossed, my chin resting in the palm of my hand with my elbow upon the armrest. Leviathan and his guards entered the space as the room grew colder with his rage. His eyes landed upon me and his face contorted with anger. Standing his ground in the center of the room, I chose to sit up in my seat, looking down upon him with disdain.
His presence no longer intimidated me as his massive chest heaved with each breath. It was the person who stepped out from behind him that had fear racing down my spine, although I dared not reveal it. Dr. Melchom stood with his long black cloak brushing the floor behind him as an evil grin spread across his face. My grip tightened at the end of the armrests as resentment and wrath flooded my being.
“Ms. Angelov, it’s been a long time,” Dr. Melchom said.
“Where’s your wife?” I asked, curious as to where she had gone.
“She’s well,” he replied. “Thanks for your concern. We gave birth to a son if you haven’t heard.”
“Enough,” Leviathan growled at us. “You’ve been a pain for us to find, Kasdeya, and now here you are, for the world to see. Take her.”
His guards moved forward as I stood up from the throne. They stopped in their tracks, glancing around at each other, unsure if I would attack.
“I won’t hurt you or any of the others. I will come quietly,” I began, “but I was under the impression I would be tried for my crimes. Under the laws of this realm, as royalty and as long as I’m willing to cooperate, I may remain within the castle walls until said date of my trial as well as request an audience.”
“An audience,” Leviathan grumbled.
“She is quite right,” an ancient voice said from behind the growing crowd. Mammon appeared as the gathering parted, bowing in respect to the Archdemon. “She is entitled to a public trial before all her subjects. Kasdeya may not hold the crown as of yet, but that doesn’t diminish the fact she is the child of our once-great King Lucifer.”
“She murdered our King! That should forfeit any right or claim she has to rule our realm,” Leviathan hissed, his rage boiling over as the cracks within his gray skin glowed a brilliant red.
“Let me refresh your memory, Leviathan. I was present at her ceremony and witnessed the destruction firsthand. I am unsure of what I saw when it came to the altercation between Lucifer and Kasdeya. All angles of the story should be represented, and we have yet to hear hers,” Mammon replied, his gaunt face revealing none of his genuine emotions. “Each witness will have a chance to relay their accounts of the events. Kasdeya has willingly come to us. The trial will commence tomorrow morning among the people in our square.”
Mammon turned around, his black cloak swirling around him as he disappeared in a cloud of mist. My heart was pounding as the guards approached me. Stepping down the stairs to the same level as Leviathan and the others, they watched me intensely, their trust as thin as ice when it came to me.
“I assume I have a room prepared,” I said, tilting my chin up towards Leviathan. A low growl emanated from his chest as I brushed past him. He didn’t deserve my respect after everything he had done, especially to Penelope.
“Allow me,” a woman’s voice said from the doorway. I saw Mrs. Melchom standing there with her hand, outstretched motioning for me to walk with her. As much as I didn’t want to accept her invitation, I currently had no other option.
Walking towards her begrudgingly, I stepped through the arched doorway and into the main hall. Mrs. Melchom closed the doors behind me as her heels clicked against the stone floor down the intricately ornate hallway. I followed a few steps behind, watching her. Her station within the demonic hierarchy had been elevated along with her husband due to their loyalty to Leviathan. I was sure of it.
“I assume your time within your realm has been eye-opening,” Mrs. Melchom said. I knew she wasn’t trying for pleasant conversation, but to throw me off my game.
“You’ve been helping Leviathan track me down,” I hissed. “How does it feel to be a traitor?”
“I assure you we’ve done no such thing,” Mrs. Melchom replied. “We knew you would come to us. By what methods, we were unsure, but here you are. It was only a matter of time.”
“Where’s your son?” I questioned.
“He’s safe,” she smiled at me over her shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll meet him at some point. He’s been making a name for himself in the world.”
Her words confused me. “What do you mean? He’s just a child.”
We stopped in front of a door as she opened it, stepping in. I followed her and stared at the space with its cathedral ceiling and tall windows overlooking the city below the castle. Paintings hung from the walls, many of which showed the beauty of Earth. The large four-poster bed sat against the wall with a canopy of burgundy drapes hanging around it. A fireplace roared at the other end of the room, opposite the bed, with a large sitting area.
I walked over to the windows placing a knee on the window seat and leaning forward to get a better look at the rest of the castle below. The building had wings extending out in a square with a courtyard in the middle with fruit trees and flowers. I saw several demons walking among the grounds. Whether they were patrolling the area or servants to the royal families, I had no idea.
“Do you like it?” Mrs. Melchom asked from behind me, pulling me from my entrancement, an unwelcomed distraction.
“Why are you still here?” I asked, annoyed by her presence.
She closed the door behind her, locking it. “Where are my children?”
“Why would I tell you? You never loved them—”
“On the contrary, my dear, they are very much loved,” she interrupted coldly. “While they may not have been born for the best of intentions, they are still a part of me.”
Mrs. Melchom moved over to the sitting area, planting herself on the velvet sofa, waiting for me to join her. I stood behind the armchair, my hands resting on top as I listened. The last time I had spoken to Gabriel’s mother, she had told me she had no qualms disposing of him if he didn’t sign his contract to my father. Hearing her words now led me to believe she had an ulterior motive.
“I don’t believe you,” I said. “Your children want nothing to do with you or what you’ve done here. You’re helping our enemy, and Gabriel and Penelope will never forgive you for it. Do you know what they did to Penelope?”
Mrs. Melchom bowed her head, wringing her hands in her lap. “I am well aware of what they did to my daughter. I am also the only reason she was still alive when you rescued her.”
My eyes widened. “You lie—”
“Then destroy me if you must, but I never wanted that of my child!” she shouted before composing herself. “I may be ruthless, but I am not heartless.”
She quickly wiped a tear with her hand, sniffing while straightening herself and smoothing her skirt. I had never thought I’d see the day when Mrs. Melchom shed a tear over the twins. Had Leviathan’s tactics frightened her so much that her loyalty was wavering? Or was this one of her own ploys to pull on my heartstrings?
“How did you save Penelope? I didn’t see you free her from her imprisonment while she was being tortured to within an inch of her life,” I spat.
“And I will have to live with that for the rest of my life,” Mrs. Melchom declared. “I know my children will never forgive me, but if I’m called upon the stand tomorrow, I must relay the truth.”
“What truth?” I asked.
“You’re not the true Antichrist,” Mrs. Melchom revealed.
Chuckling, I walked over towards the fire and leaned over the mantle. “I see. So, you know who it is?”
“My son,” Mrs. Melchom admitted. “While it doesn’t make him the heir of Hell such as you, your subjects may like to know that their Queen is not the leader they thought you were.”
“Are you threatening me?” I snapped. “Who would believe you?”
“The Archdemons and the prophecy,” Mrs. Melchom stated. “He was born under a rare and extraordinary blood moon that soon after disasters occurred worldwide. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.”
I thought back to the blood moon that appeared over Vatican City and the hailstorm shortly after. While those phenomena were rare, they weren’t unexplainable. However, my fear had been confirmed, and I owed Callan an apology.
“So, you think this information will convince my people to turn against me, to follow your son?” I hissed. “What is your game here?”
“To prepare you with this information in case you need a new plan,” Mrs. Melchom replied. “I wanted to rule Hell alongside my husband, not eradicate the realms. Samael will ultimately fulfill the prophecy doing just that if you don’t stop him.”
“Wait…Samael? Sam? The kid who’s been on the news?” I questioned, turning to face her. “That kid is my age. How is that possible?”
“His birth was unnatural,” Mrs. Melchom explained. “With the aid of sex magic and your blood, we were able to create a being inside of me. I was simply a vessel. The energy we siphoned from the transference ritual aided in his rapid growth.”
“Wh—why?” I stammered, appalled that something so evil could be created. “You wanted this realm that much?”
Mrs. Melchom remained silent for a moment before speaking. “You, of all people, should understand what power does to a person.”
“And yet, here I am, trying to save this world while you and your husband are hellbent on destroying it,” I growled.
Mrs. Melchom stood up from her seat and headed towards the door. Opening it, she turned around for another moment, looking at me with sadness in her eyes.
“I hope you can forgive us for what we’ve done,” she said. “Stop Samael before it’s too late.”
With her last words, she closed the door behind her, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I flopped down on the couch, leaning forward and rubbing my face with my hands as I stared into the fireplace’s flames. Standing up, I walked over to the window, opening it.
Holding my hand out, I caught the flakes of ash in my hand as they left black marks upon them. The temperature within the city walls was cool but not frigid. A slight breeze flowed throughout my room, the first of its kind since I had been down here. I wondered how my father was able to stay here for so long.
I suppose he couldn’t stand it, which was why he decided to seek more power to stay on Earth. It all started to make sense to me as I sat along the window seat. I wondered if Hell had ever been great, but I supposed that if it were like Heaven, it wouldn’t be much of a punishment to those condemned here.
The Archdemons made do with what they had, and upon further inspection, it appeared they did their best to make this place a home to all their people. Then to have their King betray them all by slowly poisoning the well they had so carefully dug. Convincing these people that I was worthy of their worship was proving to be a daunting task.