Home At Last
MAYA HATED BEING A DEMON. From the time she had stabbed Lazarus with that cursed Arcanae Mortum dagger and merged with his demonic body, she wished to end her miserable existence. She could no longer return to the Human Realm where her friends and hunting partner were. She was alone, pretending to be strong on the outside.
According to Amaenagh, daughter of the Demon Queen Baal, Maya was lucky to be the one to surface instead of Lazarus’ darkness consuming her soul.
Who would have thought I’d become friends with a demon princess?
And contrary to what Maya was taught when she was part of a hunter clan, demons weren’t all evil. They were a different race of creatures that existed in one of the parallel realms that touched the Human Realm. But, that was not how humans would see her. They would run for the hills if they saw the disgusting red irises that stared back at her in the mirror or the sharp horns that protruded from her skull. Her mortal clothes were gone, too. She was covered, top to bottom, in a shadow that shaped a gothic gown around her. The only cool thing about it was that she could conjure any type of outfit she wanted without having to spend money on it.
Being a demon saves money, I guess.
Sitting behind her glass desk in her office in the large penthouse that once belonged to Lazarus, Maya rubbed her temples. She also hated the trade system in the Demon Realm. They exchanged souls for commodities and favours. The older the soul was, the more it cost.
There go the baby sacrifices out the window.
Yeah, old people had it worse. They were constantly hounded by Soul Collectors to make a deal with them and perish peacefully into the night. Most grandmas and grandpas were religious still. So, it was funny listening to some of the stories Soul Collectors came back with. They even had to dress up as fictional angels to strike a deal.
She snorted. Demons dressing up as angels… If she had her phone and a shred of reception here, she would post snapshots on her Instagram feed.
The glass orb on her windowsill flew off its shelf, smashing against the hardwood flooring, and the windowpanes quivered in their frames. Maya felt the aftershock of what seemed to be an explosion, but she didn’t hear one take place. She got up from her seat and strode to the window, looking out at the wastelands beyond the energy dome that kept the savage lesser demons away from the Golden City.
From one of the gates that led to the Human Realm, a bright red light emanated like a beacon. Whatever was going on had to be serious. She morphed her outfit into jeans and a tank top, then summoned her shadow weapon—a pistol. Each demon got their shadow weapon when they were born, or reborn in her case. And, Maya was no different. Though, she was a little jealous that Amaenagh had a massive scythe. It looked cooler than a simple Beretta M9 that was made entirely out of her demonic energy.
Maya dematerialised into her shadow form and reconstructed herself at the city’s main gate. She wasn’t the only one who had found the events at the Demon Gate interesting. Hundreds of demons, everyone from lordships to paupers, were huddling together to try and get a better look at the gate that was three miles from the city. The guards were busy pushing the crowd back.
Squeezing past them, she made her way to the head guard who bowed his head in respect on her approach. She couldn’t get used to being part of some High Council. Lazarus was one of the most respected members of that gang, and now that Maya had assumed his position and recovered his memories, the other members decided to pile paperwork on her. Which was why she left half the paperwork undone at all times; just to piss them off.
“Report,” she ordered the guard.
The demon with long black hair and penetrating black eyes straightened his posture and folded his arms behind his back. “There was a forced opening of the Blood Gate from the Human Realm. Judging by the size of the portal and lack of stability of the shield around it, we believe that the Archdemon Tanatos has passed through to the other side.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No, High Councillor.”
Maya rolled her eyes. These demons never understood her way of talking. They were stuck in the olden days, labelling women as ladies and men as knights or lordships. And here she was hoping that by now they would have their own version of space travel. Too bad the Demon Realm was tiny in comparison to the Human Realm. They had only one city with the population of five thousand, plus or minus a couple of hundred demons. The number of the lesser demons, or lessers as other demons liked to call them, roaming the wastelands was triple that. She knew Queen Baal liked to banish those who disrespected her rule. If one of them remained without eating a soul for a few centuries, they would eventually become lessers as well. A tragic and cruel fate since demons had no expiration date. She would rather eat salads for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day than be faced with such a terrible fate.
“High Councillor, where are you going?” the guard shouted after her as she marched past him to the edge of the energy barrier that protected the city.
“Obviously, I’m going to check it out,” she informed him.
The guard seemed worried and trailed behind her. “It is too dangerous for you to go alone.”
Maya halted right at the edge of the barrier. She smirked and raised her shadow weapon. “It’s the perfect time for a hunt, don’t you think?”
They weren’t the only ones going for the gate. The black bodies of the lesser demons were piling on top of each other to get through the portal as if it was Black Friday shopping spree in the U.S. She hated seeing those things. They were a reminder of what she could become if she didn’t feed on souls. Those scaly, and sometimes furry, starved bodies were nothing short of a walking nightmare on four legs. Though, some could still walk on two. But what disturbed her in that sight the most was that on the other side, the Human Realm was being invaded by those monstrosities. And, if an Archdemon got loose, the gate would soon collapse.
Beside her, the guard summoned his shadow spear, holding on to it tightly. His eyes darted from one lesser to the next, his nerves visibly taking over.
Maya peered at him over her shoulder. “You can go back if you’re scared of being dismembered.”
“But, High Councillor…”
“Call me Maya, will you? I’m sick and tired of people using that damn title that I didn’t earn.”
The guard bowed his head, making his long black hair slide over his shoulders. He was kind of cute, but he was nothing compared to the man Maya wanted to meet again. Ben was waiting for her on the other side of that Demon Gate, and she wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to see him.
“We need to find a way to close this gate and bring the Archdemon Tanatos back,” Maya told him and fired off a few rounds at the cluster of lessers.
A group of them split off from the main mass and started advancing towards her and the guard.
Maya took two steps away from him to better manoeuvre if they lunged at her. She wasn’t fully used to dematerialising and reassembling herself. God forbid she put her eyes on her forehead or make her boobs even smaller than they already were. Though the first time she tried it with Amaenagh, she did manage to put her left arm in the wrong place. It hurt like hell until she calmed down enough to try again, and again… Yeah, she despised the demon version of teleporting with a passion.
The guard readied his spear, striking the first lesser in the skull as he ran at it. The demon whimpered, using its claws to slice at the shadow weapon.
Maya rolled her shoulders and started firing off more rounds into their heads while she backed away to match their advance. Ranged weapons were great when she wasn’t fighting up close and personal.
Five demons collapsed onto their sides, breathing heavily. She couldn’t understand the demon immortality and how it worked. No matter what punishment they went through, the demons didn’t die in the Demon Realm. They could be taken apart in the torture chambers and reassembled if given enough time to heal. Whatever she was now, she was not human. Though, she did possess the weapon that could kill a demon for good. Too bad she had lent it to Helena to take care of her own demon problem.
She spared a look at the guard. He was struggling with the lessers who were clawing at his legs. If she left him now, he would be a good enough distraction for these demons while she made her way through the portal. But, her damn moral compass hadn’t changed after becoming a demon. She wanted to protect those in need and shoot the vampires who had killed her family.
A conundrum for sure.
Maya shouted at him, “Go back to the Golden City, pal. It’s too dangerous for you to stick around any longer.”
“It is my duty to protect the High Council,” he replied and dematerialised once another demon was ready to pounce on him. His shadow form moved to stand in front of her. He quickly reappeared and took on a defensive stance, protecting her.
She rolled her eyes. “Look, guard, you need to go back. I’m going to jump through the portal and see what’s happening on the other side.”
The demons regrouped, their jaws opening and closing, exposing their sharp teeth and the drool that dripped from the split tips of their tongues.
She cringed. Would I need an anti-rabies shot if one of them bit me?
“I will wait to retreat until you pass through the gate, High Councillor Maya,” he told her, readying his weapon again to strike the oncoming lesser.
“Fine!” Maya grumbled, stopping for a second to ask, “What’s your name, guard?”
“It was nice meeting you, D. Don’t forget to get yourself treated once you retreat. That’s an order.” With that, she took on her shadow form and waded through the demons that fought to get through the glowing red portal. Even as particles in the air, it was a tight squeeze.
Emerging on the other side of the portal, she took in the sight before her. The Vampire Council members were fighting among themselves, Eliza—their leader—had the scariest eyes ever and a soul blacker than soot. It was only then that she took a closer look, seeing that Tanatos had crawled inside of her. He was struggling to get out of the portal’s outline because the chain that linked him to the Demon Gate remained intact. But, Maya knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Quickly separating from the mass of moving limbs, she passed the portal’s edge and felt as heavy as lead. It took a lot of energy out of her to reassemble her form. At least, the vampires who were running around the cemetery, which was encircled by a wall of fire, could not see her while they screamed and fought one another. Much like the lessers, she needed a vessel in the Human Realm. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to have a physical form since her human body was destroyed when she merged with Lazarus.
She spied a bunch of unattractive men, a couple of female vamps who needed a massive makeover, and finally one hot blonde with legs to die for. That woman was about to be attacked by a lesser when Maya shot him in the side with her gun and wrapped her arms around the woman. She forced her energy into the vampire, pushing at the woman’s mental shields that were struggling until the pressure.
“Come on, you know you want to let me in…” Maya cooed.
The vampire sank to her knees, clawing at her scalp. “Leave me alone, demon!”
“Sorry, I can’t do that.” Maya had to use most of her energy to shatter the vampire’s wavering mental shields. Once she had direct access to her soul, she took it into her hand and murmured an apology. “This may not be a contractual agreement, and I might get shit for this later if Baal finds out, but it will have to do for now.”
She spread her darkness inside the body and consumed the soul to replenish her energy. The vampire’s memories started playing out in her head as she browsed through her two-century-long existence. Once Maya finished, she no longer felt bad about stealing her body and consuming that vampire’s essence. No one was going to miss the bitch who murdered her husbands to inherit their money and estates.
When she opened her eyes to assess the situation, she found her friend, Helena, hiding in the treeline. A smile played on Maya’s lips. As always, Helena had a knack for being present at the epicentre of disasters. Her luck was terrible when it came to choosing a man to love, a path to take in life, or an event to attend. Helena might even cause a tsunami in a desert.
I should get her a rabbit’s foot, or ten.
Maya sped around the edge of the cemetery using vampire speed to avoid being attacked or hit. After taking over a body, she could no longer use her shadow weapon. The vampire she had possessed was craving blood, and she cringed.
Would I need to drink that crap, too? Just great…
She was getting close to Helena. Putting a huge smile on her face, she snuck up behind her and placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Feeling lonely, Sis?”