Ashlin fawned over my closet as I sat patiently on the cushioned seat within, waiting for her and my mother to pick out my coronation dress. I wasn’t expecting to be up this early, but according to them, fashion took time. Ebony and Penelope were hard at work on my hair, styling it in flowing waves down my back, with half of it pinned back into a complicated braid pattern. They placed small pearls throughout my hair as they weaved in fine strands of gold and silver.
“This is the dress,” Ashlin declared triumphantly, laying it across my lap.
“It’s huge,” I said while admiring the jewel work of the floral style encrusted bodice and skirt. It was floor length with a ballroom style bottom layered with chiffon ruffles of a midnight blue. It reminded me of the night sky ablaze with splashes of gold and silver.
The girls helped me into the dress, zipping up the back of it. While the dress itself was strapless, my mother chose a necklace of sapphires and diamonds along a golden chain. It hugged my neck while draping off my bare shoulders in a way that made me look as though I was dripping in jewels.
Ashlin circled back with a pair matching heels. They stood in front of me to get a better look as they gushed over my gown.
“You look like a true Queen, Kasdeya,” my mother said, giving me a hug. The others came forward, embracing me as it turned into a massive group hug. We strode out of the wardrobe into my room, where Jinx was waiting for me, a blue bow tie attached to his neck around a collar.
“Gabriel should be here any moment to escort you to the Hall of Sorrow,” my mother said, beaming with pride.
“This all seems like a dream,” I replied, staring at myself in a floor-length mirror hanging upon the wall. A soft knock sounded at the door as Ashlin opened it for the boys. Gabriel made a beeline for me, stopping short as he gazed upon my royal dress, his eyes taking in every inch of me.
“Kas—you look stunning,” Gabriel said, holding his hand out and bowing towards me. As I placed my hand in his, Gabriel lifted his head, resting his lips over my knuckles before straightening. Pulling me toward him, he smiled as our fingers intertwined together.
My mother came forward, putting her fingertips up to my face as she smiled, her face turning red from the sudden flush of emotion. “It’s time.”
Gabriel held out his arm for me as I took it in, grabbing his forearm with my hand. Penelope and Ebony came out after us, along with Josh and Ashlin. My mother walked up to Callan, who graciously offered his arm to her. She took it as he escorted her along the corridors behind us.
“Are you nervous?” Gabriel whispered to me as the guards lined the walls. Security had been enhanced for this particular occasion.
“Extremely,” I answered. The butterflies in my stomach were more like whales performing somersaults.
He squeezed my hand on his arm. “You’ll be great.”
The heavy wooden doors opened for us as we stepped into the Hall of Sorrow. The others behind us took their stands with the crowd around the pathway towards the throne. My mother came up from behind me and held out her arm as I placed my hand on top of hers. We walked side by side down the carpeted pathway and stopped before ascending the stairs.
Asmodeus stood at the top peering over us. “Halt! Who goes there?”
“It is I,” my mother began, “Madam Lilith, Queen of Hell, Ruler of the Underworld, Voice of the Lost, and Mother of the Damned.”
“What do you seek?” Asmodeus asked, eying me.
“To restore our rightful ruler to the Throne of Blood and Bone and the balance within our magnificent realm,” my mother declared.
“And who do you offer?” Asmodeus inquired.
“My daughter, Kasdeya Lucilia Angelov, heir to the realm of Hell,” my mother stated, her tone regal in every word.
“Come forward,” Asmodeus declared, backing away so I could ascend the steps. “Kneel.”
I kneeled to one knee upon the plush crimson cushion, my head bowed to the Archdemon. My mother came forward from the side and handed Asmodeus a golden crown inlaid with diamonds in the form of flames rising from the base. Rubies danced between the brilliant stones making it appear as if the crown was indeed on fire.
Asmodeus held the crown high above his head. “With the Crown of Flames, I pronounce Kasdeya Lucilia Angelov, Queen of Hell. All hail the Queen!”
“All hail!” the room shouted together, repeating the phrase over and over again. Asmodeus gently placed the crown upon my head as I rose from my position and turned towards my subjects in the Hall of Sorrow.
Charon handed me a golden scepter with a silver snake twisting around the handle. A large blood-red ruby was placed in its mouth, symbolizing the forbidden fruit of long ago. Grasping it, I made my way through the path of demons towards the doors as they bowed low before me.
My mother came beside me, and we led our procession into one of the banquet halls where we exited onto the balcony that overlooked my Kingdom. Thousands of demons gathered in the streets, cheering from the city below to get a glimpse of me as I approached the edge. With my family and friends gathered around me, I held my hands up as the crowds below fell silent, waiting for a speech.
“It is I, who is the loyal subject here,” I shouted. “Your faces bring me warmth, strength, protection, but it is I who has the pleasure of serving you all. Through our continued efforts, we will restore the balance to our realm. We will rebuild our temples, reclaim our lands, cherish our brothers and sisters, and we will rise. Hell will be an honorable place; the work we do isn’t easy, but that’s by design.
“We are the chosen people to handle the hardships, the suffering, the vile, and the wicked. It is our strength and conviction that keeps this realm from collapse in the face of adversity. If not for us, there would be no Earth, there would be no Heaven. We are the light that blinds evil, we are the flames that burn the wicked, and we are the spirit that keeps the wheel of the universe turning.
“As your leader, I will punish the vile, I will hunt down the corrupt, and I will bring forth justice. All of this, I promise to you, in the name of peace and prosperity! For Hell!”
The cheers that erupted were deafening. My smile widened as the others around me hollered and clapped, raising their fists in the air. I watched as the crowd mimicked the others, humming together an ancient tune created by our founding Archdemons. The beautiful sound filled the air as I was overcome with emotion and pride for my people.
A guard ran towards me through the crowd gathered behind me, frantic as he vied for my attention.
“Your Majesty,” he said with a quick bow, “I come with grave news!”
Before he could utter another word, an explosion’s rumbling sound hit our ears as I watched a plume of dark red smoke rise into the air in the distance. It appeared to be coming from the labor lands near the mines.
“Alastor!” I called for him as he quickly made his way over to me, his hands placed on the balcony’s railing.
“It’s the mines,” Alastor confirmed.
“What’s happening?” I asked, as my subjects turned to look towards the mushrooming cloud.
“It’s Leviathan,” he growled low. “The colored smoke is a declaration of war.”
“Your Majesty,” the guard said again, pulling my attention away. “Archdemon Mammon needs to speak with you urgently.”
“Kas, what’s going on?” my friends asked as I started to walk away.
“Mom, take over,” I instructed as I handed her my scepter. I allowed the guard to take me away as the crowd parted for me. We walked briskly along the corridors and headed down a spiraling stone staircase towards the dungeons.
Several guards stood at attention along the dark tunnel as we finally found our way outside Mammon’s cell. Another guard unlocked the heavy metal door, leading into a cold, stone room with the flicker of a candle upon a table the only source of light. Mammon was seated at the table as I took the chair opposite him. The guard lingered, but I waved him away for some privacy.
“What news do you have?” I inquired gruffly.
“I know that it will take me a thousand lifetimes for you to ever trust me again. However, I must tell you what Leviathan has done,” Mammon replied.
“Out with it,” I commanded, growing impatient.
“While it is true that I deceived your father while I was under his employ, I did so without fully understanding the consequences, a dire mistake on my part,” he began. “I was naïve in my younger years and along with Leviathan, didn’t think your father worthy of his rule over us, a realm built on the backs of demons. To be ruled over by a celestial was the ultimate betrayal. We were not alone in our thinking.
“As time went on, your father proved himself on more than one occasion, even taking the brunt of the anger caused by our conspiracy to weaken Hell and overthrow him. The lesser demons who engaged in violent acts against innocent souls were under our employ, and while those souls were in Hell, we slowly corrupted them, like we tried to do with your father.
“Those souls now belong fully to Leviathan, and there are certain demonic species and creatures that have devoted themselves to his cause. We’re on the edge of civil war, and you’re the only one who can undo what I’ve done,” he finished.
I stood up from my seat and walked towards the open cell door. Glancing over my shoulder, I turned towards him and said, “We’ve been pushed over that edge.”
“Then it has been broken,” Mammon sighed.
I turned to face him fully. “What are you saying?”
“The second seal,” Mammon answered. “He who rides the flame-colored horse will take away the peace of this land and all others. He’s coming, Kasdeya.”
Spinning around, I raced out of the cell and up the stairwell. Catching my breath as I reached the corridor, I saw my friends dashing towards me. Without a word, they grabbed my hands and pulled me with them back towards the balcony as I looked over the sky.
Flaming balls were falling from the sky above, igniting our lands on fire as my subjects scattered for cover within their homes. We watched in horror as the attack laid siege to our Kingdom. My heart wept for my realm as the screams rose above the ashen sky.
“Your Majesty! What are your orders?” Alastor asked from beside me.
“Gather your men,” I said forlornly. “We’re going to war.”
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