At the present time
Incessant drops of water were falling on the face of a slayer, a woman seeking to settle a debt. Those who once made a pact with a demon and could not honor it feared they would be found by her. That nightmare was now hiding in the shadows, waiting for the next target. Her body was covered by leather trousers and boots and a black shirt, all sheltered by a heavy cloak that hid her figure, even more, projecting an altogether menacing aura.
Only she could pray that her next assignment would not be as disconcerting as the previous one. It had taken two weeks for Daphne to recover from a spell that made her continually hallucinating. And thanks once again to Rothvaln, she was able to escape from such agony. For it was not easy to watch her James die in every possible way.
Daphne looked again at the door of what seemed to be a house, or rather a crumbling hut judging by its condition. A dim light, possibly from a candle, was the only thing that illuminated the interior. Thunder and rain were her companions this afternoon. The Kingdom of the Witches seemed even bleaker, especially in this part of the realm, where only those who did not fit into Evanora’s elite society remained.
“No One’s Place” was what they called this piece of land. There was no splendor, mud instead of roads, houses that looked like huts, old wagons, witches, and sorcerers that looked ragged. The difference was tremendous between them and those of high rank.
Daphne adjusted her cloak once more, hiding her features even further under the dark hood. Her steps began, getting closer to her target. Her fingers took up that grotesque stone ring that Agate had given her years ago before she disappeared. For some reason, the jewel piece gave her the comfort she needed when she was most anxious.
The muddy water splashed with every step; the smell of rot had temporarily disappeared due to the storm. The narrow, swampy road was guarded by houses with shabby roofs and crumbling walls. A chilling atmosphere, considering how dangerous this place was.
Fear could be the most rational emotion she could feel now, knowing what happened last time...however, she had no other way out. Years of clearing debts have been her task since she made a pact with the King of Demons himself.
She climbed the two deteriorating wooden steps, regardless of the noise betraying her presence. When the Slayer of Rothvaln was coming, there was no way for anyone to escape. Many years of hard training, blood on her face, wounds that never seemed to heal, hundreds of tortures that seemed never to end, that was the hard training that made her who she is today. Rothvaln made sure that she was adequately suited for this work.
Without knocking, she opened the door, and with her characteristic threatening grace, Daphne finally entered. Her eyes inspected the place. One candle almost melted on a table and the other almost new on the edge of a window. The dark green cotton cloak revealed the face of danger. Daphne’s gaze rested on a back covered with rags that once seemed to have been white. A body hunched over in a corner; the hair looked golden, young arms supporting a hidden face. Barely audible sobs came from the strange figure. The light inside became even dimmer when the almost melted candle finally went out.
Daphne approached her target cautiously. The dagger, which had been guarded on her thigh, was waiting to be used at last.
“Filix Wood,” Daphne began to say.
The woman’s body trembled, sobbing frantically.
“Conspiring against a demon is high treason to the Kingdom of Rothvaln...”
A crazy smile made Daphne stop talking. The woman was still hunched over, her head hidden between her arms and knees.
Her hysterical laughter alerted Daphne.
“Rothvaln...?” a face began to emerge from those laughs. A look as young as her arms. Green eyes and thick lips. “I know what nobody knows...” The woman continued to laugh in a frenzy. Daphne looked at her without a hint of emotion. Her cold face did not give away her curiosity about what this witch was talking about. “Antequrom,” she said again with laughter.
Antequrom? What does that mean? It was the first time she heard that word.
“What is Antequrom?” Daphne asked.
The woman’s face, who was still sitting on the floor, turned to her. Her crazy laughter stopped, and a silent smile without showing her teeth was what Daphne saw.
“No one knows... no one knows... everyone will die... he will die... everyone will die... ingrates...” The woman began to repeat herself over and over again. When Daphne was about to ask another question, the woman’s young face threw itself at her. Where once there was a pair of arms and a youthful complexion. Now there were only wrinkles and skin worn away by the years. The witch fell on Daphne, trying to gouge out her eyes with her long, dirty nails.
A punch in the nose made the witch retreat. Daphne took advantage of that moment, standing up. Her right hand locked onto the witch’s neck, strangling her tightly as she lifted her off the floor. The witch tried desperately to free herself from that grip, and Daphne squeezed even more challenging. The moaning stopped with the sound of a broken neck.
The witch’s body fell to the ground. Daphne looked at her from above, without any expression, without any remorse. It had been a long time since she had overcome those emotions, those feelings of guilt.
At first, she suffered for every victim that fell into her hands, but James’ face was the only thing that made her get up every morning and fulfill her purpose. She couldn’t throw away everything she had achieved so far, abandoning James? not when she was delighted to see him happy, living all these years. She had never regretted her decision at that time.
As the rain continued to fall, Daphne pulled out an object that hung around her neck. Its circular, black iron structure bore the insignia of the Realm of Demons. Waves of iron formed wings holding a symbol in the center that appeared to be a rhombus, but on the fourth point of it, a sort of dagger descended, or at least that is what it seemed to be.
Daphne brought the medal close to the witch’s face. The wrinkled skin began to burn, shaping the object. Every being that did not abide by the deal would receive this last punishment. All of them would encounter the inglorious destiny, and all, without exception, would receive the mark of a debtor from the Kingdom of Rothvaln.
She put the medal back on her neck, leaving a lifeless body and a scar on that face. Everyone knew what it meant. The witch had made a deal with a demon and did not honor it.
Daphne’s eyes settled on the small crystal vessel hanging from the lifeless body’s neck, a red liquid inside. She pulled it out of the neck. It was not the first time she had found this type of container filled with blood, the one called Daemon Touch by the witches when it was nothing but demon blood, as lethal as a Fae kiss.
Adjusting her cloak over her head again, she turned around and left the place, transporting herself to the Realm of Demons.