In the Shadows

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Chapter 26

Iselora gasped at the sight. Flames danced around her, blackening everything it touched. In Iselora’s own panic she tried to flee the room, but Asmodeus stopped her. “The flame does not affect us.” Iselora looked around and realized that he was right. She did not feel the heat radiating from the flames. “Margaret!” The couple turned to see the King, terror lacing his features. “Margret, where are you?” The King collapsed to his knees in front of Iselora, racked with coughs. Hands reached for the man, pulling him up. The memory of Asmodeus working to carry the king from the room. “Where is she Asmodeus? Where is Margaret?” The memory did not speak, simply continued to pull the limp man towards the door. Iselora began to follow but a familiar laugh caught her attention. She turned to see two figures emerge from the smoke. Maude and Gillian strode forth as if they were enjoying the sunlight.

“Maude, shall we retrieve our prize?” Gillian croaked, her black eyes reflecting the chaos that played before her. Behind them lay a woman showing no signs of life. Iselora felt her breath catch in her throat, the woman was her mother. The Minders must have killed her. She moved to intercept the haggered old women but they easily walked through her. Rage filled Iselora’s body so much that she did not react when the memory shifted. They had returned to the nursery, smoke had not reached the room as of yet, but they could feel the heat and smell the burning inferno that was taking place below. Shouting could be heard through the window. “Where are Svila and Cerberus?”

Asmodeus simply shrugged, “I was a little preoccupied.” Beside them the crib held the sleeping child, unaware of the danger. “Why is no one coming for me?” Before Asmodeus could answer, the door burst open and was quickly shut. Asmodeus gently laid the King on the carpet and quickly gathered supplies. Iselora turned her attention to the man on the carpet, he was barely breathing. ’Asmodeus…” Iselora covered her mouth, fighting the tears that stung at her eyes. Asmodeus reached a supportive hand towards Iselora. “You do not have to look. This is a harsh memory.” Iselora shook her head as she took his hand. She had to know the truth of what happened.

The baby began crying, startling the memory. The couple watched as Asmodeus began to frantically calm the child. The King let out a horrid cough, blood splattering his lips. Split between choices, Asmodeus ran to the dying man’s side, taking the King’s hand. A short exchange was had before the King let out a long last exhale. The memory became visibly distraught. “What did he say?” Iselora turned her face towards Asmodues, not knowing whether she wanted the answer or not. “He said that he was glad I was in his life, that he trusted you in my care”. Iselora turned back to the tragedy that was playing out before her. The memory slowly stood, turning his attention to the still crying child. A shadow from the window stopped his movements. Everyone turned to see an angel perched on the window sill. It was the same angel that had cursed Asmodeus centuries before, but something was off about him. His wings that were once sparkling white were dirty and a few feathers seemed to be missing. A dark smile spread across the unwelcomed guest’s face. “Looks as though you are nothing more than a glorified babysitter Asmodeus. What happened to you?” The angel’s voice was musical, almost alluring. “I could say the same for you. You are looking a bit rough these days. What happened? Daddy push you from the nest?”

Asmodeus had positioned himself between the child and the angel, unsure of its intentions. A cackle broke from the angel. “I do not wish for the bastard child. I only wish to right a wrong that was committed during our last meeting. I wish to simply kill you.” The angel launched itself at Asmodeus, who quickly dodged the attack. The angel fought more like a wild animal than the majestic being it was. Asmodeus maintained his protective position by the child. “Who is this brat to you? I thought demons only went after maidens, not children. Unless that is wh-” The angel was unable to finish his statement as Asmideus grabbed his throat. Shadows began to seep from his skin. “I would not say such things if I were you. You do not have his favor anymore. In fact you are starting to smell like me.” The memory was now fully covered in shadows, his eyes glowing red with murderous intent. The angel began wriggling in Asmmodeus’ grasp, “Get your filthy hands off me! I am an imperial angel -” Asmdoeus laughed, interrupting the angel’s babbling. “Not anymore.”

The angel’s face widened with shock and fear. Asmodeus smiled in return and threw the angel through the window. The hysterical cry of the child did not seem to register with the smoking demon as he ran to follow the angel. Iselora and Asmodeus were left alone with the screaming child, unable to comfort it. With a heavy sigh, Asmodeus faced Iselora, “I failed to keep my composure and protect you. I was so focused on killing him that I lost myself.” Before Iselora could respond, the door slowly creaked open. Shrouded in their cloaks, Maude and Gillian entered the nursery, quickly making their way to the baby. A chill ran through Iselora.

“It is ugly.” Gillian announced over the crying child. Maude looked over towards her counterpart lightly brushing a loose strand of hair away. “She will serve our needs well enough.” Both women cackled as a pained scream erupted from the crip. Gillian had pricked the baby’s leg with a pin, drawing blood. She brought the silver needle to her mouth, the tip of it glistening crimson. In one smooth motion, she licked the needle clean. Iselora covered her mouth in disgust, Asmodeus began shaking beside her. The transformation took a few seconds. Gillian’s skin became taut, her hair darkened, and her posture straightened. She had transformed from an ancient being to resembling a middle aged woman. “The child’s blood is potent”. Gillian remarked as she stretched her shoulders. Maude smiled as she followed her partner’s actions. Once both women had undergone their transformations, they looked at each other taking in each other’s appearance. After a few moments, the Minders returned their hungry gaze towards the child, “Should we keep it?”. Maude turned her face towards Gillian as if she had misheard. “Keep it? We are not nannies.”

“True, but the blood’s potency cannot be ignored. We could stay young like this until the child is no longer required. Then, we simply kill it”. Gillian never took her eyes off of the whimpering figure in the crib. Maude pondered the thought before nodding in agreement. With a flourish of their cloaks, the Minders had gathered the child and began making their exit, not bothering to close the door behind them. Iselora attempted to follow them but was blocked by an unknown barrier. “Why can I not get through?’ Iselora whipped her face towards the still trembling Asmodeus. “Asmodeus?”

A shadow consumed the room. Standing in the window was a multi- headed beast, eyes flickering with rage. Iselora stared at the monster as it’s gaze fell on the empty crib dotted with fresh blood. The beast immediately went to investigate, sniffing the air. With a deep breath the beast howled. The howl was full of pain and sorrow. Within moments Svila and Cerberus had arrived in the room. Feathers stuck out of Cerberus’ fur. He looked to have been fighting with a chicken. “Asmodeus?” Svila’s sweet voice attempted to reach through his pain. “Find her. Kill whoever has her.” The order was quiet but solid. Both figures bowed and immediately set forth in their duty, Svila by air and Cerberus by land. Asmodeus set forth in destroying the nursery. Flames began to crawl its way into the room as the memory shifted, leaving Asmodeus in his wreckage.

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