I should’ve been resting before my trial, but instead, I was out of my room, sneaking through the hallways. In a time like this, I couldn’t stay still, and with the new information Mrs. Melchom had provided, I needed to know more about what was going on. The only people who I assumed knew more than she was her husband and Leviathan.
I peeked around the corner with my back flat against the wall as I saw two guards walking towards me. They were distracted by idle chit chat, tired from their long day of work, and now having to endure a night shift. I saw them pass by without turning down the hall I was hiding on, much to my relief. There weren’t very many hiding places within the castle’s corridors, and unfortunately, I had no idea how to get back inside the tunnels from here.
Racing around the corner, I ran down the hall before stopping at another door. I opened everyone I came across, trying to find my way back to the one I thought I had been near within the tunnels. Grabbing another knob, I peeked around the edge of the door. The whispers of guards alerted me to their presence as I weighed my options.
I decided to take my chances and entered, closing the door softly behind me. The room had floor to ceiling bookshelves on either side with a tall row of windows in the back overlooking the courtyard. It was dark, and I dared not turn the lights on unless a guard was walking outside and saw. A large wooden desk sat in front of the windows facing the doorway. Two armchairs were in front of the desk with another chair seated behind it.
I stepped forward, stopping in my tracks as I saw shadows dance around the wall. Crouching down, I waited for the guards outside to pass before making my way around the desk towards its drawers. The guards employed around the castle, while numerous, were utterly oblivious to intruders. Leviathan sure knew how to pick them.
I figured I was in some sort of study, meaning it must’ve been a place of importance to someone long ago. Whoever it was, I was determined to learn their secrets. Taking a letter opener from the top of the desk, I used it to open the locked drawers, jamming it between the locks and the wood. They opened one by one, revealing various paperwork and files inside.
Sliding them open, I glanced at the papers, pulling them out and scattering them over the floor to read them by the light of the sky from outside. The documents were old, none of them talking about any current events. Picking up one of the tattered pages from the floor, I leaned against the desk. Running my fingers over my father’s signature, I sighed, not knowing what I was looking for anymore.
Turning around, I went through the drawers again, knocking along the sides. Unfortunately, my father would’ve been smarter than a simple false bottom. I shoved the papers back into the drawers and leaned against the desk, trying not to be discouraged. Glancing over to the chair, I ran my hand over the intricately carved leg before pulling it away from the desk. Laying on my back underneath the desk, I peered through the darkness at the faintest outline of Lucifer’s crest carved into its underbelly. The design of the crest glowed as I touched it.
“Blood magic,” I whispered as I snatched my hand back. Placing my hand back on the crest once more, the glowing light illuminated the outline until I heard a click from beside me. A small compartment opened to the side of my head underneath the desk.
Reaching inside, I took out a leather-bound journal. Unwrapping the leather string from around it, I opened it up to see my father’s handwriting inside. It dated back to his first years in Hell.
“The consequences of my actions against God have forsaken me. This desolate land created by the hands of demons is to be my fate,” I read. “The only light that brings me warmth is the smile of my dearest Lilith. Her perseverance to reform me is admirable, but there is no redeeming quality within me, not after what I have done—”
I slammed the notebook shut as the lights in the room came on within the study. Sliding underneath the desk, I heard footsteps enter, walking around the room and towards the desk. Another person entered as the footsteps stopped short of turning the corner of my hiding place.
“Leviathan,” the voice said, “I thought I’d find you back here. Have you found it yet?”
“What do you want, Melchom?” Leviathan asked. “My patience is growing thin with you and your wife.”
“I’m here to make sure you honor your agreement,” Dr. Melchom answered.
Leviathan chuckled. “I’m a demon, Melchom. We always deliver on our deals, and once I do, you better make good on yours.”
“Samael will be sure to bestow upon you the highest honor in Hell. He’ll rule the world, and you’ll rule Hell. It’ll be good for both of us,” Dr. Melchom insisted.
“Forgive me if I don’t put much stock into a boy,” Leviathan replied.
“Ah, but you will once you see the magnitude of his powers. They surpass even that of Lucifer,” Dr. Melchom assured.
“What about those of Kasdeya? Aren’t you worried he’ll be overthrown by her?” Leviathan mocked.
“Kasdeya will be no more after the trial tomorrow. Once the people of Hell discover she’s not the true Antichrist, they’ll be clamoring to have Samael reign over them. We just need to find that contract,” Dr. Melchom replied.
“Perhaps, it’s Lucifer’s will for Kasdeya to succeed. I don’t believe he would’ve made that deal with her during her ceremony if he thought he would lose. She seems rather resilient, and she’s made it this far without detection,” Leviathan mumbled.
“I was able to control her before, I can do it again,” Dr. Melchom shouted with anger.
“You were able to control a child who hadn’t yet grown into her powers. Do you think that makes you special?” Leviathan challenged. “And now, you hide behind another child of yours, hoping that your plan will succeed. You seem to place a lot of stock in children.”
“Even now, Samael is garnering attention on Earth. People are already comparing him to Christ. It’s only a matter of time before the Vatican take notice—”
“And they will notice,” Leviathan hissed. “Your son can’t even enter the churches. How do you expect him to meet with the Pope in Vatican City?”
“We’re working on that dilemma,” Dr. Melchom said harshly. “Very soon, we’ll have a solution to that problem.”
“Of course, you will,” Leviathan scoffed. “Why Lucifer chose your bloodline to manage his ritual, I will never understand.”
“Lucifer was a fool! He placed more stock in Norwood’s fortune-teller than he did in his own councilors,” Dr. Melchom revealed.
“Well, look at you. Outsmarting the devil himself,” Leviathan scorned. I heard him walking away from me. “When I find Lucifer’s contract, I’ll let you know.”
“Don’t let Mammon catch you,” Dr. Melchom warned. “I doubt his loyalty to our cause.”
The door closed as I heard the footsteps of Dr. Melchom come further into the room before turning around and leaving, cutting off the lights behind him. Sliding out from under the desk, I opened the window to the study and crawled out into the courtyard, clutching the journal to my chest. A guard was coming down the walkway as I dove behind some bushes, lying flat against the ground.
As I did so, he stopped as another guard came from the opposite direction. They stood on the walkway in front of me, making my attempt to escape useless. One of the guards turned towards the bush and stuck a sword through its branches in my direction. I stood up slowly from my hiding spot as the sword followed my chest all the way up.
“Seth?” I whispered as he lowered his sword and sheathing it back.
Seth smiled from underneath his hood as Trista eyed me from beside him. I breathed a sigh of relief at seeing my allies back at the castle.
“You’re not very graceful,” Seth said. “While you disguised your scent well, I could still hear you.”
“Are you going to escort me back to my room, so I don’t have to sneak around now?” I asked, grateful for the help.
“Of course, Dark Lady,” Trista answered as I stepped over the bushes out of my hiding space and onto the walkway. They guided me as we made our way through the halls and back upstairs to my designated bedroom. Seth and Trista sat in the sitting area as I closed the door, leaning against it, exhausted.
“I can’t believe you haven’t changed clothes yet,” Trista said. “I would’ve figured you would’ve wanted to take a bath.”
“It’s not my top priority at the moment,” I said, holding up my father’s journal.
“Where did you find that?” Seth asked, surprised as I threw him the book.
“I found it in a study in a false wall within a desk. Leviathan has been searching for it, but Dr. Melchom keeps interrupting him every chance he gets even though it seems to be important to him,” I replied.
“Have you read it?” Trista asked.
“Not all of it, but I’m planning to. Apparently, my father hid our final contract. We made a verbal deal before our fight, but I wasn’t aware it was being transcribed. I thought Mammon was in charge of that,” I stated.
“He is. Unless Lucifer employed someone else without his knowledge,” Trista stated.
Seth thought for a moment. “It does seem odd. Do you think Lucifer knew he was going to die?”
“It’s possible,” I sighed. “I have more questions than answers at the moment. If he knew he was going to die, then why make a final deal allowing me to rule?”
“Maybe this journal will help you answer that. Until then, we need to find that contract. It may be the only thing we can use to ensure your ascension,” Seth declared.
“I don’t have time to go searching the castle for a piece of paper,” I stated. “I’m being placed on trial tomorrow morning.”
“Then we’ll do it,” Seth replied, standing. “We’ll search the castle for the document while you prepare.”
Seth handed the journal to Trista, who quickly read the last few pages of it for any clues before giving it back to me.
“You might want to read this,” Trista said. “It gives us a lead, and that’s all we need. Take care, Kas.”
“Just tell me one thing before you go,” I said. “Are the others okay?”
“They made it through,” Trista revealed, a small smile on her lips.
The pair left my room as I laid the journal on the bed before heading into the bathroom. Trista was right. I hadn’t even contemplated taking a shower or changing clothes. The room had been stocked with elegant dresses tailored to a size that actually fit me. It made me wonder whose room this had been before.
I drew a bath in the large clawfoot tub. Steam rose from the surface as I peeled my clothes off, flinging them to the floor. Once the tub was filled, I stepped into the water, moaning as the heat hit my skin, relieving my aching muscles. Sliding down into the water, I felt it touch the charred skin of my wings. They had yet to fully heal the flaming arrows, thoroughly putting them out of commission for the time being.
I sat up as my wings melded back into my shoulder blades while retaining the rest of my demonic form. Leaning back with my arms resting on the tub’s side, I looked up at the vaulted ceiling. The voices in my head returned as I closed my eyes, listening to their woes on Earth and within the realm.
It was getting easier to decipher them, allowing me to answer them even. While I wasn’t a miracle worker, the power came from their contracts with me. There was never a specified time when these prayers were answered, but I assume they were eventually, otherwise they would stop believing in the devil. It was a question only Mammon could answer as he transcribed and kept all the contracts.
I had much to learn, and it frustrated me how unprepared I felt. Sinking underneath the bathwater, bubbles escaped my nose. The voices were still strong, no matter where I went, even underwater. I stayed there until my lungs felt like they were going to burst from the lack of oxygen. Shooting myself above the water, I slicked my hair back and rubbed my face with my hands.
Finishing my bath, I got out of the tub and dried off before wrapping myself in a thick, white robe. Drying my hair with the towel, I walked into the bedroom and glanced at the journal still upon the bed. Dressing in a nightgown, I picked it up and crawled to the bed’s center, laying the book in my lap.
I hesitated, not sure if I wanted to know what Lucifer thought of my mother or me. I had barely known him, and here I was, with his most personal possession. Opening the book, I began to read:
“Lilith gave birth to a beautiful baby girl today, our miracle child. I instructed her to take the child far away from here. At first, she protested as she always does, but after explaining to her that my enemies would not hesitate to strike Kasdeya down, she obliged. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that was only part of the reason I needed them both gone. I am going to die, and I can’t bear to have them see me wane.
“I visited an old woman near my prodigal school where Lilith and Kasdeya will be safe. She told me the rest of the prophecy and gave me a choice. My choice will inevitably haunt me till my dying day, but I must do what needs to be done in order to save my daughter…”
“What?” I said aloud, flipping a few pages ahead.
“The fortune-teller has promised to keep my secret knowing that Kasdeya will one day seek her out. Kasdeya must think of me as a monster to do what is necessary. I will see her one last time at her coming of age ceremony before she takes my life, fulfilling the transference of power to her. She will need it to defend our home and our people. I fear that my enemies are closer than I think.
I skipped ahead a few more pages to find mention of these enemies my father kept referring to.
“I trust no one. While Leviathan directs his troops to recruit more innocent souls, Mammon forges the contracts. I have reason to believe this conspiracy was bred when Kasdeya was born in hopes that she would be unfit to rule, but they know not of my plans to see to it that she can lead—and she will. By God, she will.”
“By God?” I scrambled off the bed, the journal falling to the floor in front of me as my head spun from my father’s secrets. The ceremony, the lies, had all been because my father knew about what was happening to his realm. He wasn’t trying to destroy it, he was trying to save it, but his powers weren’t strong enough to take on Leviathan because of me.
It was the perfect opportunity for him to swoop in and kill me. I thought back to our battle. Leviathan had gone after me first, but Lucifer had called him off, claiming the fight as his. I thought he wanted to be the one to kill me, but he was putting on a show for all of them. He let me win.
Tears streamed down my face as my legs buckled beneath me. I picked up the journal from the floor and flipped to the last page.
“My darling Kasdeya, if you are reading this, then I am no longer. All the evil you have been made to believe, while some of it is true and deeply regrettable, know that the evil done to you was not my intention, but my obligation. While it is true, I have loved the power I have held ruling over this realm, my love for you was always stronger, and I am truly sorry for never having the chance to tell you that in person.
“Unfortunately, you have inherited my enemies, but I believe you can sway them with your wisdom, love, and compassion. It’s an ability I have never possessed, uniquely your own. I am so proud of you, and I have entrusted my final contract to an ancient friend. Someone Leviathan would never have the pleasure of meeting unless he is being ended. While the prophecy may have kept us apart, know that we will meet one day again because of it. But until that time comes, remember, you are my daughter, descendant of angels.”
I hugged the journal to my breast as my sobs filled the room, tears spilling upon its cover. All these years, I felt broken for still craving my father’s love, and now, those emotions were finally validated through his words. I hated him for so long for abandoning me for hiding away in Hell like a coward.
I reread his words, wondering if, at any point, they would change in meaning. Was there something hidden here? Something I was missing? Grabbing the side table, I lifted myself from the floor, regaining my composure. I had to remain strong for the trial tomorrow, and I had survived more than this.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, I sat the journal down on the nightstand and pulled back the bed covers. Diving underneath the covers, I tried to calm my mind as I picked at the poster on the bed by my pillow. As I did so, I felt a carving on the surface. Lifting myself up, I pulled the pillow back to look at the carving, discovering a name.
Tracing it with my finger, I smiled to myself. “I miss you, Mom.”
My mother’s name was etched into the wood as I replaced my pillow, flipping onto my back to stare at the canopy. The fire died in the fireplace, plunging the rest of the room into darkness as a gray glow shone through the windows. Closing my eyes, I thought about my father’s words.
He gave his final words to a friend, not even Leviathan would ever meet. Seth and Trista seemed to know who this person could potentially be. I just hoped they found them in time.