It took Ga'briyel and his family four days to reach the first village. It was the same village where Ga'briyel, Tero, and Dinton had replenished their supplies the first time they had headed south. But something was different this time. Something evil had taken residence in the village, and Ga'briyel knew before they were three leagues from it. As they entered, Adama spoke to him.
Baba, there is something very bad here. I do not like it.
I know, my son, but that is what I am here for. I will protect you and your mama, I promise. Nothing will touch you.
Someday I will protect Mama as well, Baba. Someday soon, I hope.
Ga'briyel let Adama's voice fade as he rode Kumar along the main street of the village. He could feel the fear of the occupants surrounding him, crushing him. He stopped his horse at the inn and stayed astride him as Sophyra pulled the cart up next to him.
"What is wrong, Ga'briyel? You look upset," she asked softly.
"I do not know what is wrong yet, my heart. Get Adama and come with me so that I may find out. I am feeling something I have not felt before."
"Yes, my love." She reached into the cart, picked up the baby, and climbed down from the seat with Ga'briyel's help. He held onto her hand as they entered the inn, and the terror that hit the Anmah almost dropped him to his knees. It was the same terror that he had felt in Difeld, but there was no Daitya here. No, this was something else entirely. He seated Sophyra at a table, kissed his son softly, and walked to the bar where the innkeeper was standing, wringing his hands together.
"May I help you, sir?" the man asked.
"What is your name, innkeeper?" Ga'briyel inquired softly.
"Mitra Ranga. I would welcome you to our village of Aldea and to the Known Wolf Tavern, but there is no welcome for strangers here. If I were you, I would leave this place immediately and not look back."
"You and the others here are scared, Mitra. Of what?"
The innkeeper glanced at the stairs and then at the front door, and his fear increased tenfold. "There is a creature here, stranger. An evil creature who has been tormenting the men of this humble village. She comes to them in their dreams and..."
"And has relations with them."
It is a kosmar, Baba. A female demon who tries to get human males to create a child with her.
Do you know where she is, Adama?
Yes, Baba. She is asleep upstairs. She must sleep during the day since her nights are so active.
Ga'briyel turned from Mitra and stared at his son. How do you know these things, Adama?
The baby smiled at his father. Yisu has given me this knowledge, Baba. Now is the time to kill her. While she sleeps.
The Anmah nodded slowly, unsheathed his sword, ignored Mitra's gasp regarding the glowing, white light, and made his way toward the stairs. "Stay down here, Sophyra. No matter what you hear, stay here with our son."
"Of course, Ga'briyel."
He could feel her worry slithering around him, but he shrugged it off and climbed the stairs. The sensation he felt from the kosmar was heat. Heat like Sophyra's passion, but with a darkness woven into it. He knew the instant he was outside the door behind which the kosmar slept, and he slowly turned the handle and pushed the door open. He was surprised to see the demon sitting up in bed, her black eyes fixed on the Anmah.
"Come in, Sainika," she purred, and Ga'briyel felt the undeniable urge to do as she said, but he pushed that urge aside. "Come to Devina's bed and let me pleasure you."
Ga'briyel just grinned at her and raised his sword. "I think not," he snarled. "I will make sure you do not torture the men of this or any other village again."
The kosmar smiled sweetly. "But I am with child, Sainika. You would not kill an innocent baby, would you?"
"Innocent? A baby who is half demon is not innocent! I will do it a favor by killing it before it is born!" Ga'briyel took one step toward the bed, his sword ready to be swung, when he felt something holding him in place. The door behind him slammed shut, and the kosmar got out of bed. She was wearing a diaphanous gown that left nothing to the imagination, and Ga'briyel forced himself to keep his eyes on hers.
"Now, now, Sainika," Devina sang softly. "No need to be so violent." She stepped up to him and dragged her finger around his neck, her nail scratching him slightly. The wound immediately healed, and the kosmar frowned. "How Sainika? How do you heal like that?"
"I have several abilities that protect me from creatures like yourself, kosmar. A Debaduta friend of mine made sure I could not be harmed anymore." Ga'briyel grinned at her even as he tried to free himself from whatever was holding him.
Devina smiled sweetly. "You have no idea of my capabilities, Sainika." She waved her hand in front of Ga'briyel's face, and he abruptly fell asleep, still standing stiffly in his invisible bonds. "Now, my darling Anmah, you will create a child with me. The combination of Sainika and demon will spawn such a baby!" She effortlessly moved Ga'briyel to the bed and laid him down before stretching out over him. "You may not be able to move, my dear, but that makes no difference. None of my partners can fight me when I desire to mate with them."
Unknown to the kosmar, Ga'briyel was fighting her in his mind. When she stripped him and herself bare, he battled with the vision of her and forced himself not to react. Devina noticed this and growled softly. She tried everything she could to stimulate the Anmah, but he struggled through it all and kept Sophyra in the forefront of his mind. With his wife's face emblazoned on his subconsciousness, he was able to resist everything Devina did to him. She became more and more frustrated as time went on, and then Ga'briyel slowly became aware of a voice in his mind.Baba! Wake up! Fight her, Baba!
At that, Ga'briyel opened his eyes, and Devina jerked away from him. When he slowly stood, she backpedaled until she was against the door of the room. "How?" she asked softly.
"My family," Ga'briyel said quietly. "They protect me. Even from myself sometimes." He walked toward the kosmar until his sword's tip was at her throat, and then he grinned without humor. Devina's eyes went wide, and she raised her hands as if to fend him off, but he deliberately pushed his sword forward through her flesh until it hit the wood behind her. Then he twisted the sword violently until it took off her head. Amazingly, there was no blood as the body crumbled to the floor, and Ga'briyel stared at it briefly before moving to his clothing and dressing. He shuddered as he thought about how close he had been to giving in to the kosmar's attentions. When he was dressed, he moved the body away from the door, opened it, and walked down the stairs with a frown on his face.
"Ga'briyel? What is wrong?" Sophyra's voice was laced with concern, and without speaking, Ga'briyel went to his wife, dropped to his knees, and laid his head on her lap.
"I am sorry, my heart. Please forgive me."
"Forgive you for what, my love?" Gently caressing his head, Sophyra tried to keep her thoughts to herself, but Ga'briyel saw them clearly. She thought that her husband had given in to the demon's attempts to mate with him, and he raised his head to look at her.
"No, my heart, that did not happen, but it was close. If Adama had not spoken to me when he did, I think I would have surrendered to her. Please forgive me for my weakness."
Sophyra took his face in her hands. "If nothing happened, my love, there is nothing to forgive." She kissed him softly, and he groaned. When she pulled back, she smiled at him. "She was a demon, Ga'briyel. She had powers I can only imagine, and you withstood those powers."
"For you, my heart." He laid his head in her lap again and took her hand in his. "Only for you."
Just then, Mitra entered the main room of the inn, and Ga'briyel stood, still holding onto Sophyra's hand.
"It is finished, Mitra. Devina will no longer bother the men of this village. They will be able to go to sleep without fear, but you may want to get a few men to remove the body from upstairs."
"Body, stranger? You killed her?"
Ga'briyel nodded before sitting down and laying his head on the table. "And I am exhausted, my heart," he whispered as his eyes closed. "It is as if I fought a thousand men in the last few minutes."
"You did more than that, my husband," she answered, rubbing his back. "You fought off a demon." She looked up at the innkeeper. "Is there a room where my husband can rest?"
"What?" Mitra shook himself mentally and then nodded vigorously. "Of course, Mistress. I will show you to a room." He moved toward the stairs, and Sophyra held Adama with one hand while she attempted to get Ga'briyel on his feet with the other.
"Come, my love, sleep in a bed, not on the table."
The Sainika groaned but stood slowly. "I would ask that you join me, my heart, but I know I will not last long." As he had predicted, as soon as Ga'briyel removed his boots and lay down on the bed, he was asleep. When Sophyra shut the door behind her and went back down to the main room, there were several large men standing by the front door. Mitra went to them, said something quietly, and they moved to the stairs. When they came down again, they had something wrapped in a sheet slung between them, and Mitra nodded, his mouth pressed into a thin, tight line. The men left the inn, and Sophyra sat down at the table again, her son on her lap.
"Mistress? May I know the name of Aldea's savior?" Mitra asked as he stood at the end of the table.
"Ga'briyel Mistri el'Adama."
"And your name, Mistress?"
"Sophyra Mistri si'Adama."
"You are his wife, yes?"
Sophyra nodded. "And this is his son, Adama."
Mitra wrung his hands together self-consciously and glanced at the stairs. "Do you mind if I ask how he killed her? Several men have tried in the past few moons, but none have succeeded."
Sophyra looked up at him with her violet eyes and asked, "Do you know about the Anmah, Mitra?"
The man sank into one of the other chairs at the table. "Anmah? Of course, Mistress. They are a children's story."
"No, innkeeper, they are not. I am Anmah, Ga'briyel is Anmah, and our baby is Anmah. We are immortal. If we die, we will live again at first light of the next day." Adama took her fingers in his hands and pulled himself to his feet on her lap.
"Anmah are real? Can you prove this, Mistress?"
Sophyra smiled. "The only way I could prove it is to die and live again, Mitra, and I have no desire to do so. Dying is incredibly painful, and I do not wish to feel that kind of pain again."
"Again? You have died already?"
"Only once." She looked at the stairs with a deep frown. "Ga'briyel has died eighteen times. He has been through more agony than any man in history. All for the people of Duniya."
Mitra followed her gaze to the stairs. "Why has he done this for us, Mistress?"
Sophyra looked back at the innkeeper. "He is Sainika, Mitra. He is Duniya's savior and Yisu's champion. He does not like to be reminded of that, but it is his destiny to bear the pain and hatred of Sayatan so that we do not have to." She stood up and walked to the stairs. "We will be back down later to eat, Mitra." The innkeeper nodded, and Sophyra climbed the stairs slowly. Adama reached up a tiny hand and patted his mother's cheek, and she kissed his forehead. "Your baba is so very tired, my son," she whispered. "So tired of fighting and being what he is. I wish he could rest for a while without coming across Hellspawn or daemons, but it is not to be. His fate is to fight and to save the people of Duniya, but I do not know how much longer he can stay true to himself if at every village he must kill someone."
Adama rested his head on her shoulder, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and slowly fell asleep. Sophyra opened the door to their room, set her son on the bed next to his father, and laid down next to them. "I love you, Ga'briyel," she said softly, and in response, he rolled toward her, draped his arm over her back, and pulled her to his chest.
"No more than I love you, my heart," he mumbled, and then he was silent, his breathing calm and steady as he slept.