The washed-out leather trousers were tight-fitting, and the old long-sleeved cotton shirt was loose enough to let her arms move easily.
Avina had lent her the clothes. Daphne pulled her hair back into a simple bun. A resolute face stared back at her from the other side of the mirror. Lorcan wouldn’t be around for a couple of hours; Avina would see to that.
She would soon disappear from there, without saying goodbye, not even to James. She could not arouse any suspicion. Daphne reached again for that small, round, torn green, metal object that the Dragon Queen had given her. An item that would help her to succeed in her plan.
After that night, where Agate broke into her dreams, Daphne searched for the Queen of Dragons once Lorcan finally left her alone to meet with his Lords.
“How can I help you, my dear?” Queen Avina asked as she smelled one of the flowers in the garden located at the top of one of the gigantic towers.
And that question was the key to confessing the future. Avina listened attentively. Never showing any kind of emotion.
“And you trust her?” The Dragon Queen alluded to the witch.
“I must. The witch will have her own reasons for helping me. What would she gain by deceiving me? If I die, the pact is gone. Rothvaln won’t help her, and no way would Lorcan. She would need a demon powerful enough to live as long as she wants. And none of The Lords would sign a pact with the cause of Lorcan’s disgrace.”
Avina, though wary, understood her argument perfectly well. And she was well aware of Rothvaln’s efforts so far to keep Daphne.
Back to the present, Daphne took the long black cloak, hiding her face in the hood, and disappeared from the Dragon Realm.
The Ancient Land welcomed her once more. With each confident step she took, her wariness increased. Daphne’s face looked cautious as she passed through those demons who were staring at her and knew very well who she was.
Daphne believed that by not teleporting directly to the palace where the false King waited, her intentions would be more convincing. For, in all the time she had worked for Rothvaln, she had never appeared before him just like that.
Murmurs rang around her, and she continued forward with eyes fixed on the main entrance, unaware that one of Rothvaln’s henchmen had spotted her and gone to alert him.
The doors opened as she stopped in front of it. Passing down those long, almost dark hallways that led to the throne room, Rothvaln was waiting for her, disconcerted at the sight of her. He was no fool. The relationship between Daphne and Lorcan did not seem as nonexistent as he had thought. He had witnessed it when Lorcan had obeyed Daphne back then. And now she had come of her own free will. Intriguingly.
Rothvaln surveyed from his chair the face of the mortal who had seduced and then betrayed him, or so he thought. Daphne’s rosy, fresh countenance may have captivated him, but it was her luscious crimson lips that had immediately captured his attention.
Seeing her in simple clothes and with the same face he found alluring, Rothvaln felt the urge to own her. Daphne had always belonged to him, only to him.
“My King.” He felt satisfaction as he sensed a particular fear in Daphne’s voice.
“Why have you come?” he asked with interest.
“Here I am.”
“Here you are. Does Lorcan know you’re here?”
“Liar! Surely he has something in mind by sending her here!” shouted the one who had now become Rothvaln’s right-hand man, the demon who had whipped her.
A half-smile broke out on Rothvaln’s face. “No. Of course, he doesn’t know.”
“My King.” Daphne dropped to her knees. “I know I committed grave faults and betrayed your trust. And I also know that you have no reason to ever trust me again. But I have decided to return because-” Daphne’s voice cracked at last.
Rothvaln leaned in, curious about her strange attitude, watching as a tear descended down her cheek. “Why?”
“Neither Lorcan nor the Lords seem willing to help me with my friend Eve. That’s why I decided to come on my own. Please, my King, I implore you to release Eve, and in return, I will stay with you.”
Rothvaln saw sorrow written on her face, but he was wary of how much of the truth there was to it. Daphne could well be acting in front of him. Only one thing he was convinced of about what she had told him. She had come of her own accord. Because Lorcan would never have let her come on her own.
She waited, teary-eyed, before him.
Rothvaln wasn’t about to believe her words so easily.
He needed proof. He needed to think.
And with a nod, the False King’s right hand gripped Daphne tightly and pulled her into the very prison of rocks and blackthorns. Dragging her across that filthy floor and surrounded by that same mist, Daphne produced no words.
The demon hated her with infinite force. Opening the dungeon door once more and throwing her with brutishness to the floor.
“Rothvaln may believe your lies. But not me, whore. I can clearly see your intentions. And when the time comes, I will be there to finish you once and for all.”
The demon closed the prison, leaving her alone in that ill-fated place. Now she had to wait.
In the Kingdom of Dragons.
“Where is she?” Lorcan was still shouting furiously, his eyes red and crazed by the sudden absence of his demoness.
Myron was still recovering from the attack. And Teias was in Lorcan’s grip. “We don’t know,” Teias said with difficulty, as he tried to pull himself out of his grasp.
They were all now in Daphne’s room, completely wrecked. Sunnia, Maret, and Stelios stood still, expectant at the prospect of being the King of the Abyss’ next targets.
“I told you, you had to protect her!” Lorcan kept saying to Teias. “Where is she?”
“Maybe she went for a walk.” Stelios dared to speak and was thrown hard against the wall, creating cracks in it.
Lorcan let go of Teias and drew Stelios with his power to him. “A walk? Take a good look, you fucking fool,” and Stelios’ body was forced to stand in front of those in the room. James was there, terrified at the thought that his sister might have been kidnapped by Rothvaln. Raven was there too, with a perpetual scowl on his face. And Avina, standing there with all her elegance and an unsmiling look, was the only one who knew the truth. And as much as she felt sympathy for the Demon King, the future was at stake, and she had decided to trust Daphne. In the end, she sensed Daphne’s unconditional love for the demon.
“She’s not in this Kingdom,” Lorcan said, releasing Stelios from his power.
“Where do you think she could have gone then?” James asked.
“I can only think of one place.” Was Lorcan’s reply. With a single-minded expression, the red-eyed demon vanished from the room.
Meanwhile, in a distant, secluded place surrounded by giant trees, Bossurk waited impatiently. The damned woman had not changed. She was always late for each of their encounters.
“You’re always early.” The witch appeared behind him. Turning around, Bossurk was speechless. The beauty that was once part of the woman’s face had become a wrinkled visage. Her hair, long black and shiny, was now grey. The arrogant woman, proud of her physique, was gone.
“And you are always late,” Bossurk replied. “You’ve changed since the last time we met.”
“What did you think? Time forgives no one.”
“Why did you want to see me? After what you did, you dare to look for me?” Bossurk was annoyed.
“I understand why you feel that way. I had no choice back then.” The witch continued to say.
“Yes, you had it.”
“Bossurk, dear, do you think I would miss the chance to help that bastard in exchange for staying alive? You seem to have forgotten who I am.”
“No, I haven’t forgotten. I should tell Lorcan about you.” Bossurk tried to threaten her.
“But you won’t. Do you think the Demon King will forgive you?”
Bossurk narrowed his eyes. “I have never betrayed my King.”
“No, it is true you did not. But you hid from him who I was. You never told him you knew me... and very well.” The witch laughed cynically. And Bossurk glared at her, remembering how intimately they knew each other.
“What do you want?”
“I need your help.” Said the witch.
“After all this time, all the things you’ve done, you expect me to help you?”
“Bossurk, if you don’t help me, I won’t be able to save your Queen.”
“What are you talking about, Nebula?”
Agate, aka Nebula Barclay, decided to confess her conversation with Daphne and what Daphne needed to do to ensure Lorcan’s return to the throne. But what Daphne never knew was the end that Fate had in store for her. The witch had hidden it well.
“Lorcan must know what’s about to happen.”
“No!” The witch blurted out in alarm. “He must not know. If he learns of Daphne’s plan, he can never get his throne back, especially not Sorana. Bossurk, you know me very well, and you know I don’t play with the future.”
“But he will lose her.”
“Not if you help me. When the time comes, I need you to take me to the Abyss.”
“Nebula, tell me the truth. For the offspring we share, tell me the truth this time. Will she come out of this unscathed?”
The witch eyed him carefully. Deciding whether or not to tell what she knew. And with the truth in her answer, she said. “I don’t know. I did not see her, beyond what was revealed to me.”
Disconsolation sank into Bossurk’s heart. “Then...”
“That is why you must take me there. All is not lost, Bossurk.”
“Why do you want to help her? What’s in it for you?”
“I don’t have to tell you, do I?”
No, there was no need.
“So, will you help me or not? It also depends on you that the Demon King does not end up beset by madness.”
Bossurk nodded, though still hesitating.
“Good. I will contact you again once the time comes.” The witch was about to leave. But Bossurk’s question stopped her in her tracks.
“Won’t you ask me how your son is?” For a moment, Agate felt melancholy at the memory of her little boy.
“I know he is well.” She said in a gelid voice. “I am reassured that he is well with you.”
“Will you ever show yourself to him?”
“Has he ever asked for me?”
“No,” Bossurk replied.
The corners of Agate’s wrinkled lips lifted slightly. “Then everything had better stay as it is. He has you.”
“He doesn’t know I’m his father,” Bossurk confessed.
“Why?” There was anger in the witch’s voice. She abandoned her son, but she always thought he would be in good hands with the demon.
“Why do you think? At that moment, I couldn’t even look him in the eye. His face reminded me of you. At least Lorcan let me keep him in the Kingdom.”
“Does Lorcan know who his mother is?”
“No. He knows the mother is a witch, but he doesn’t know it’s you.”
“So you’ll never see him again?” Bossurk asked again, feeling remorseful.
“I know I will see him one day. Teias will seek answers once his powers are unleashed.”
“I must go now. Remember, you must not tell anyone about what we talked about today.” And the witch left.