Unedited 3-chapter excerpt from my shelved WIP.
The Great War between heaven and hell had come to a tentative end. There had been no clear winner, but the thousands of years’ worth of battles and torment had caused both sides to lose many faithful warriors. Aeshma-El stood overseeing her spoils. Just days before the leader of angels had met with her, reaffirming Earth’s ownership to the demons that roamed the planet.
Aeshma as she was more often called, was not foolish enough to believe that her father Lucifer wouldn’t seek to take back this claim at some time, but for now reveled in her victory. He had forfeited his claim on the human realm a century earlier and the demons had fought to repossess it ever since. Aeshma smiled thinking of how pleased he would be with her. How he would dance and celebrate and feast upon the raw flesh of a fatted calf. If of course, he was not imprisoned.
The queen of demons turned, hearing footsteps approach her on the gravelly rooftop.
“My lady Aeshma,” the man said, kneeled and bowed. It was London, so nicknamed after the havoc he wrought during the Great Fire of London under Lucifer’s rule.
“What is it?” she asked, her hand gesture urging him to stand. Aeshma was not unaccustomed to these small chivalries. She was the only one of the king’s children that had been allowed to sit at his right hand at all times. He doted on her in a way only a demon king could. Bestowing her with gifts of countries, slaves of the underworld and humans to do her bidding above. She had given him council in times of civil war and had fought by his side diligently against the angel horde.
Yet the fact that it was her who they now looked to for guidance, who they now expected to lead, was something Aeshma would have to adapt to. She never would have expected to be queen of all the under realm and even now, with the title and power set firmly in her hands, the unfamiliarity of it made her uneasy. This though was something no one else would know. She listened to London’s report.
“Five hundred have been lost and there are thirty of theirs captured, what would you have us do with the latter my liege?”
Aeshma pretended to ponder on a decision under the steady gaze of London’s impenetrable gray eyes. The terms regarding the prisoners of this latest battle had already been determined, but Aeshma could not raise suspicion. It would lead to more questions and then the mutual agreement that had won her the crown, would be called into question.
“Release them,” she said quietly and after some time, watching London’s reaction closely.
“My lady, if I may speak freely,” Aeshma was not surprised that London had decided to question her decision, she had in fact expected it.
“You may,” she replied,
“They have taken our king as their own prisoner, yet we release these angels that are worth nothing in the eyes of Lucifer?” Aeshma smiled at London, her dark eyes filled with mischief as she answered,
“You speak truth. Take one limb from each, clean cuts only and fresh meat for those who would have it.” It was obvious that London still did not understand her lenient ruling, but he sought to challenge her no more. Aeshma’s wrath could be unrelenting, an honour to her namesake.
“Grant me leave, so I may carry out your order my lady,” was the next thing London said, a request she allowed with a slight incline of her head. She watched him walk away for a moment, his cloak of black shrouding him in the already dark night.
“London,” he stopped as she called to him, turning expectantly, “Use only Lilith and Targo for this task, have no others approach the prisoners.” London bowed again before continuing on. It was impossible to have complete trust in the dwellers of Aeshma’s realm, many would sooner drive a knife through the heart than shake a hand, but the three she had chosen for the task would have to do.
Aeshma had gone into battle with them often, had bled by their sides, had been protected by their sworn swords for longer than she could remember. London and Targo, were of lesser houses, the kin of soldiers born of demons that aspired for nothing more than glory on the battlefield. Lilith her older sister, had bent the knee to Aeshma immediately after their father’s capture. Her four other acknowledged siblings were yet to do so. Aeshma understood their resentment of her position. They had always been angered by their father’s preference. However, it seemed that Lilith was cut from more loyal cloth and it was for this reason that Aeshma relied on her now.
When London had been enveloped entirely by the darkness, Aeshma focused her attentions on the city once more. It was late and from tiny windows only a few candles still burned. She watched and listened, the dim fire-light of little consequence. Seeing and hearing what only demons could. Aeshma could see their dreams; their thoughts. It was easy to let her mind travel from home to home, person to person, life to life, taking all and anything that she could from them without their knowledge.
This ability was one of the first her father had ever taught her. He’d often said that a demon’s power lay in the souls they could consume. While many came from those humans who had died and passed on, bits and pieces of live souls could be taken just from experiencing what they did. The inner thoughts of humans, their dreams and hopes, all their passions, were where their souls lay waiting. Waiting to be plucked, a fount of energy that Aeshma loved to drink from and get drunk on when time allowed.
Not every demon could take from the living, something that Aeshma had always seen as a great pity for them, even though she understood the importance of this. This knowledge, imparted to her when she was just a child, was the same that had allowed her father’s bloodline to reign supreme from the beginning of time.
Many had been born of the devil’s loins, far more than the six he had deigned to acknowledge. Over the centuries Lucifer had not found any worthy to follow in his footsteps, to lead the underworld and control the above. That is, until Aeshma. Though none would have thought she would take up the mantle so soon, here it was and Aeshma was prepared to rule with an iron fist in his stead.
She sometimes thought about him and wondered what suffering he was enduring at the hands of their enemies. Pangs of sadness sometimes overtook her as strongly as she could feel the energy that she was gathering just from standing on the rooftop.
Trying to ignore them now, Aeshma walked to the edge of the rooftop not once pausing before taking a leap into the air. She fell as if stepping off a sidewalk, landing without issue and moving gracefully into a steady walk. She didn’t want to think of Lucifer, knowing it would achieve nothing but interrupt the euphoric feeling that had possessed her as she achieved all she’d wanted. Sooner or later Aeshma knew she would get over the initial excitement of new ownership, but for now, she was content to travel through the grungy streets and take in the faint smells of old fish, piss and baking bread.
The wind picked up her hair, which fell well past her shoulders and covered her back like dark soot. There was a time when it was brown and short, cropped closely around her ears. For Aeshma that felt like another life ago, in another body, in a different time. Looking down at herself, she smiled a little at what she was wearing. No doubt if any humans see me they’d wonder which planet I was from, she thought amused.
She’d always liked the style of the Mesopotamians and never strayed far from it with any of her own selections while travelling in the human world. This time, she’d conceded to the full skirt that was expected of all respectable modern women, but her bodice was a made of rich brown leather, with rubies adoring the neckline’s edge.
She reached absently to her back, feeling her preferred battle axe still strapped securely in place. An assortment of knives and swords were also fastened securely to her waist, thighs and ankles, cold and deadly against her porcelain skin. They were like old friends to Aeshma. Weapons that never failed her, the only things she could truly believe in.
None of this was unusual for a demon. Battles with angels were commonplace and one had to be prepared. This time however, it would take some time before Lucifer’s soldiers came at them again. Not to mention that the return of their captives would be a nice touch as a seal on the deal.
Aeshma had given them what they always wanted but could never attain. The rulers of the upper realm had scoured the Earth and the places below to find and recapture Lucifer after they’d lost him, with no positive results. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Aeshma’s deal had given him to their greatest enemies and in the process, she had deceived the one who had done nothing but favour her from the time of her birth.
Her betrayal caused a constant struggle to rise up within her and as she walked the streets, the darkness deepening as street-lamps gave up their fight, for the second time she tried to forget the past; to think only of the future. It had had to be done she knew, yet her regret was unrelenting. Aeshma refused to give into the weakness, she knew her actions could not be undone and could they, she would have it no other way.
She paused. Her feet separated slightly, hands tensing at her sides.
“What is it that you want?”
Aeshma turned to face the two that had appeared behind her. Their approach had not been masked and the expression on the faces of these demons showed her that they had not come in friendship.
“I asked you a question,” she said slowly, watching as they stood blocking her escape, one before her and another behind. Her hands tensed more as she prepared for the inevitable, mind flickering quickly with images that showed her the best options for her victory.
“We don’t answer to you lass,” said one. He was heavily built and his misshapen nose added to his lack of eyebrows, would intimidate a lesser being. Aeshma instead found herself wondering if his face had always been this way or if he’d gotten his scars in battle. It was possible that he’d liked the look of the corpse he’d taken and kept it as it was, but this was rare among demons. The feeling of nostalgia or holding keepsakes dear to them was not part of their make-up. The speaker’s friend was of a similar look, his body flawed.
“I am queen of the underworld, of course you answer to me,” Aeshma replied quietly, growing weary of this stand-off. Her attackers it seemed felt the same.
“This isn’t a monarchy lass!” shouted the speaker glaring at her, “You don’t become queen because daddy was king,” then, menacingly, “At least, not the part of hell I come from!” With that he lunged, his big burly body crashing towards her like a bull released from its cage. Aeshma sidestepped his clumsy approach, feeling arms grab at her as the other tried to take hold.
He caught and pulled her towards him leering at her, his tongue snaking its way out of his mouth as he did. When he’d dragged her a hair’s breadth from his chest, Aeshma struck. She moved quickly, with speed that would be indiscernible to the human eye and some of her own people. Pulling two daggers from the sheaths at her waist, Aeshma brought them close to the flesh of his neck for only a moment before she cut open his throat. His body fell, the blood gushing from the wound but Aeshma tensed all the more.
The bodies demons inhabited could be killed, but their spirits could not die so easily. The one who had just lost his, pooled in the air and like slow dripping molasses, fell into the open mouth of the speaker. Aeshma watched the one that remained, fully aware that he was now much stronger than before as he had taken another’s essence in his host body.
“Who sent you?” she asked. She was answered with a sword flying towards her head, missing her completely when she ducked. Before she could respond in kind, shurikens came gunning for her next. Aeshma dodged most and those she didn’t she caught, pushing them cheekily into her bodice. “Now,” she said just as quietly, “Who sent you?” The speaker looked at her with unbridled hate.
“When I bring back your head, you can say hello to the master,” He grinned a wicked grin and Aeshma smiled.
“Very well.” Then she was on him. It happened so fast that as her hand reached in and pulled out his beating heart, he was still standing, eyes open wide, the grin now almost grotesque, but Aeshma wasn’t quite finished. Her hand, still bloody from the heart that now lay on the floor, she placed on the corpse’s forehead. She could feel the terror coming from within as the demons cowered at her strength, unable to escape while she held them in place.
“In nomen Aeshma-El, te sunt exsules ad altum,” her words rang out with a finality that only those of the under realm could understand. Aeshma had sent her attackers to the deepest depths, a prison that was unlike any other place in any realm. There was no hope of pardon there, no hope to ever feel the gentle caress of a human’s hand on the skin after a body had been taken, no hope of walking among their kind again.
The screams that invaded her mind on the quiet street were like music. She could hear them beg as they were forced out of the body they had inhabited, but she was relentless. This was not the time to show mercy, especially to those who had so willingly decided to fight her. Who, in their terrified state at the prospect of eternal prison had forgotten to be loyal. She’d heard the screamed name of the one who had ordered her death. Heard it just before the demons were nothing more than wisps in the wind and their voices had stopped. She smiled.
“I am Aeshma-El, named for the Lords Aeshma and Eligos, born of the great father of demons, keeper of Solomon’s vessel, caretaker of the lands above and ruler of the realm below.” Aeshma had never liked the rituals associated with her heritage. She’d always found them boring and an utter waste of time. Her father had enforced them though and it was for this reason that she was taking part in the Revelation. It would be strange to her people if she suddenly changed all the rules after only just assuming her position.
The Revelation was used to present and ordain those of the under realm to positions of power. Usually they were small gatherings as lords or ladies were named, that lasted little time. In this case, it was a new queen and not something to be taken lightly. Aeshma had been readied in the old way. She had bathed in the blood of fine oxen killed with the Blade of Naberius, one of those still trapped in Solomon’s vessel, marked the previously unblemished skin of the corpse she wore with a ram’s head — the sign of her house, had her hair brushed and styled so that her veil of tiny emeralds could easily sit upon it and been dressed in the traditional black silks worn for the ritual.
Having presented herself with a declaration of title and lineage, Aeshma sat. Before now she had never dared sit upon Lucifer’s throne. It was blatant disrespect to do so and Aeshma had always tried to obey her father, in everything. Now, as she felt the cold of the iron seeping through her dress and fingered the silver horns of the rams on both arm rests, it was hard to contain her excitement. Sitting there was like the final confirmation of who she was and where her position in the world was — at the top.
“Kneel!” she ordered now, following the rites that she had seen thousands of times. Those who had sworn fealty knelt to the dusty floor of the Gorged Plains. The red sands were dotted with what seemed like many ants, who had come to see their queen officially revealed. They were hundreds, rows upon rows falling to their knees as the order reached them. The Gorged Plains were ideal for occasions like this, it was neutral ground in the under realm, a place where few would dare defile with strife. It was here that the first battle between the warriors from above and the demons had taken place and it was said that the ground had turned red with the blood of their ancestors.
London had already told her which clans were not present. Some she had expected, while others, who had served her father from the beginning and Aeshma thought would not abandon her, had. Yet she dwelled on none of this. They were all small issues that would be dealt with in time.
London, Targo and Lilith knelt at her side. They were her ordained guardians, bound to her by oath and with their lives. Her brothers and sisters knelt at the steps leading up to her throne and Aeshma could feel the fire rising from them as they tried to control their rage. Still, they knelt and that was what was important. Aeshma stood, holding her arms out as if in an embrace.
“Upon your knees, you swear your loyalty to me, as you did to my father before me,” Lilith offered up a golden dagger to Aeshma, who took it, holding the blade high for all to see. She held her right arm up, pricking a vein in her wrist with the dagger’s edge. “With my blood, I pledge to honour your loyalty and lead only as would befit you all!” On her last word Aeshma sliced the raised hand. As the blood ran down her arm to the nape of her neck a cheer arose. It was loud, ringing out across the host. Aeshma sat again, not yet allowing her body to heal, enjoying the revelry that had come of her bleeding herself.
“Queen?” Came a voice from below. It was icy cold and Aeshma didn’t have to look to know who had spoken. Her eyes descended and landed on her brother Kashi.
“Yes, my brother? Won’t you, won’t all of you, come closer?” Aeshma smiled sweetly, her gaze drifting over Kashi, Degus and Zadio her younger brothers and Ri, her sister. They nodded curtly, accepting her offer.
“Is this wise my lady?” Came a whisper from Lilith in her ear, subtly so it went unnoticed. Aeshma inclined her head, a sign that told Lilith to be still. She continued to smile at her other siblings as they made their way up. When they had, she said,
“Leave us,” directing her order to her guardians. The three bowed, saying nothing more as they disappeared down the steps. Aeshma turned to her siblings, still smiling, though she knew she would probably loathe whatever it was they wanted. “Now beloved brother, what is it I can do for you all?” Kashi often spoke for them. He had been from the time they were little. Lilith and Aeshma had almost been fully grown when their father had recognized the four babies of the family and from the time Aeshma could remember, Kashi had been their collective voice. His dark eyes grew colder still as he spoke,
“We bow to you now as this is what our father would have wanted, but you know full well that each of us had an equal chance at the crown Aeshma-El.” Aeshma stifled a laugh, but could not contain the mockery as she replied to him.
“Having an equal chance says little about our equality beloved, you know full well there is no one better.” The others said nothing, as usual leaving Kashi to do the talking, but could their looks kill, Aeshma would have been a puddle of blood and bones seeping into the stones beneath their feet. Kashi’s eyes narrowed,
“How dare you?,” he asked, almost hissing in anger, “We were never given a chance to prove ourselves, if father had let us, we too could do all you can!” Aeshma grimaced. She made her jokes calling them ‘beloved’ when this was so far from the truth, but now, with Kashi acting like a spoilt child and the others hot on his heels defending him with their hateful stares, it was all she could do not to slap his face hard enough so his neck would break.
“Kashi,” she said first, then looking at the others, “My beloved, why must we fight this way? We are all of the same blood, of the same father, our strife within gives our enemies the upper hand they need. Lilith and I have made our peace and she serves me well, why can it not be this way among us?” Aeshma smiled, softer this time, hoping that her pretense at caring would be enough to shut them up. Instead Kashi’s eyes blazed red, as he became even angrier.
“You would compare us to Lilith? Your lap-dog, who does as you command as if she was not once a queen herself?!” Centuries before Lilith had been leader of all vampires who roamed the Earth and the under realm, Balthazar had taken her title away so she could be free for what he saw as a more worthwhile avocation — serving at Aeshma’s side. Lilith’s title had fallen to Ri, who’s grey eyes told Aeshma that she would never willingly do the same. Kashi was not finished,
“Is that what you would have us all do? Give up our positions of power, so we might dress you and adorn your hair sister? Is that what you would want from the children of Balthazar?”
Aeshma was silent. She looked at each of them individually, making them hold her gaze for a few moments before moving onto the other. Between the four they ruled every clan in the under realm. With the snap of their fingers they controlled legions of behemoths, incubi, banshees, imps, succubi, shifters . . . the list was endless.
Despite their obvious power, Aeshma knew they would think hard to come against her. She and Lilith were the only pureblood demons of her father’s acknowledged and Aeshma was the one he had always groomed to lead. Growing tired of the exchange, she asserted herself.
“If I wished you to surrender your power beloved, it would be so.” Your obvious distaste for my position is of no concern to me, I am queen of the under realm and you will do as I say, when I say it,” she paused, letting her words sink in, “We will speak of this no more, be gone from my sight!” Kashi’s lips folded together, but the look Aeshma gave him dared him to speak. He bowed, as did the others, before they disappeared from her sight.
It had only been a little while since her siblings had taken their leave of the Revelation, when Targo came running back to Aeshma. He bowed, awaiting her order to approach.
“Come Targo, do you not wish to sup with the others?” It was not often that the lords of the under realm came together in one place and when they did it was either to fight or join in celebration. The awe of the Gorged Plains and the fact that Aeshma had made it clear even before the ritual had started that she would banish any who took part in the former, especially on the day of her Revelation, had kept opposing factions to themselves. Targo approached, coming close to Aeshma’s ear before speaking.
“Clan Sanguine has come my lady,” The music had started now and Targo had to shout over the noise rising up to Aeshma’s seat. “They are being held in the dungeon as ordered, what is your command?” Aeshma leaned slightly back to answer Targo,
“Drain their blood and give them nothing until the ritual is concluded. Then I will come.”
“My lady,” Targo said with a bow. He ran down the steps and disappeared into the crowd. Aeshma wished she could see the looks on her prisoners’ faces as they endured their torture. The damned Revelation prevented her from leaving until its time had passed and that was still a few days yet. Aeshma would have to watch over her people as they revelled, ate, used each others’ bodies for pleasure, drank and slept. It was a sign of solidarity, a sign that said she was truly the one that would protect them above all others.
Aeshma would much rather be conducting the torture on those who had ordered the failed assassination herself, instead she had to play the role of the all-seeing-mother. It was really enough to make her scream!
Her father had been the one who enjoyed these things, who would do anything for a celebration. Aeshma on the other hand had spent most of her time plotting and planning. She was young in the eyes of her people, just a thousand years old in the human realm, yet her prowess in battle had earned her respect among many of the clans, something that her younger siblings lacked.
They had been given their titles and had not earned them. Dwellers of the under realm talked and Aeshma knew that while their loyalty to her siblings was beginning to grow, it would still be some time before they could even consider rising against her. The only one who could — Lilith, whose strength surpassed even her own, was at her right hand and as far as Aeshma could see, that didn’t seem to be changing.
Ignoring her misgivings at the ritual the queen smiled graciously at any who approached and accepted gifts of gold, silver, magical potions and body parts of fallen angels as gifts. Her smile widened at no one in particular when she recalled a delicious fact. Though she would not have the pleasure of hearing their screams of pain, her punishment was ideal for her prisoners. After all, vampires seldom survived without blood.
“So it is to you I owe my thanks?” Aeshma’s black skirts flowed around her as she walked into the dungeon. After ensuring she’d seen the back of her last visitor she had wasted no time making her way to Black Gate. It was the official residence of the ruler of the under realm, the guard, servants and was open to any acknowledged who swore fealty. It was within these halls that Aeshma had grown up, the name derived from the iron gates that rose high into the air surrounding the castle, that were not black, but where vicious ravens as big as hounds, perched day and night, silent protectors of the dwellers within.
Targo was busy filleting a hanging body with a silver dagger. An act that caused the vampire attached to it to shout out with each cut. Still Targo’s large frame shadowed his body, cutting without remorse, ignoring the noise.
“Thanks?” asked another, confused at my statement and hoarse from his lack of drink. They were four in all, hanging upside down from thick silver chains, their blood pooled and congealed beneath them. Aeshma stepped gingerly over a hardened puddle before answering.
“Yes of course, the combat practice was appreciated.”
“Queen, we were only following orders, I swear, please, do not harm us!” Shouted another, shivering with pain. Targo had done a number on this one and with no chance of healing, the gashes that covered her body festered and rotted. Aeshma pressed her lips together, crouching to look the female vampire in the eye. She pushed the woman’s dark hair away from her face and soothingly wiped the fresh red tears. Whispered,
“The only orders that count vampyr, are mine.” With that Aeshma held her prisoner’s head in her hands, turning and breaking the neck with a quick movement. “Targo. Weapon.” Targo obeyed immediately, handing a sword to Aeshma. The queen stood now and pushed the blade through the vampire’s heart, stepping quickly back as she dissolved into a mess of blood, bones and hair, before turning to dust. “Let them down Targo.”
“My lady,” Targo said bowing before carrying out her order. The vampires fell one by one to the floor, their bodies already withering from the torture they had endured. Aeshma was not fooled by this though, a few drops of blood and they would easily become just as virile as they ever were.
“Stand!” Aeshma took a seat on a wooden throne that was placed in the large dungeon room. It was a room where high profile prisoners were usually kept before they were banished. The group before her were of a lesser house she knew, the insignia’s on their garments bearing a black sword, the mark of their clan. Still, she was certain their decision to kill her had come from a higher order and Aeshma had every intention of finding out which. She watched as they struggled to stand, even the one Targo had been working on when she had first entered dared not trifle and forced himself up, his skin hanging perilously from the bone.
“I trust you have found your accommodations satisfactory?” This was a little joke Aeshma liked to use to lighten the mood, playing with prey for her was almost as good as eating it.
“We are not like the one you killed, we will remain silent no matter what you do to us.” The filleted one found his voice, a gravely sound that came from somewhere in his chest.
“He speaks for all of you?” The others remained silent, heads trained to the floor. Aeshma took a different approach. She stood now, walking slowly between them, pausing every now as if contemplating something. “You know, I have no intention of banishing you.” This time, another with rotting cuts spoke, looking up at Aeshma with eyes brightest blue, shining with hope.
“How can we believe you? You so easily killed our sister.” Aeshma, standing in front of him, touched his face. She could feel his lust for her blood even as her warm skin caressed his, which was just as cold and lifeless as all vampires.
“Make no mistake,” she said, stroking his face, watching his eyes flutter as he fought himself from trying to sink his teeth into her arm, “You all will die, I just see no reason to overflow my prisons with rift raft.” His eyes opened wide with fear and Aeshma dropped her hand, returning to her seat.
“First you dangle hope, then you take the reason for us to speak away from us, what kind of leader is so foolish?” The one who had been quiet for the entire exchanged looked up at Aeshma with loathing. “Why should we speak if you will just take our lives?”
“Ah I see now,” Aeshma said unflinching, smiling as if in recognition, “You precede these two? It is you whose orders they follow?” He looked up at Aeshma angrily, his words biting as they came,
“If I am, what does it matter? Soon I will join those that have died at the hands of you and your shamed father and . . .” She did not let him finish. Aeshma moved so quickly that he could not react before she had plunged her fingers deep into his neck. He fell dead as she pulled them out, and was nothing but dust before she had finished wiping the residue into her silks. She was tiring of this cat and mouse game and the vampire’s mention of her father had driven her over the edge. Aeshma had no intention of letting anyone disrespect his memory. Though she knew she had wronged him most, her love for him was undeniable. Lucifer was her father, his name would not be sullied by the tongues of lesser beings.
Aeshma turned to the others now, the expression in her eyes deadly. She spoke quietly, standing before them, wielding the power of life and death.
“You both know what I want to know. Tell me and your deaths will be painless. Disobey and I will unleash my wrath upon you.” The filleted vampire spoke, less confidently now,
“Our brother was right, if we are to die, better to stay silent than be cursed.” Vampires believed that loyalty to their superiors was paramount. They felt that disloyalty was met with a curse that even the immortal could not outrun, one that followed them even as they went onto their final rest.
“Your fairytales have no place in the land of demons!” Aeshma said sharply, “I know your clan, I know where your home is, I know your people, do you want their deaths on your heads too?”
“What do you mean?” asked the one with rotting flesh,
“Your curse may follow you, but I will follow them should you not tell me what I want to know. Follow and kill them.”
The fear in their eyes was unmistakable and Aeshma knew she had finally hit the right nerve. They would never put their own clan in danger. Lesser vampire houses were always on the verge of being overthrown. Their lands were often taken as stronger clans tried to expand their own empires. This clan would be no different and these two, despite all their hesitation, would not jeopardize it.
“Very well,” said the filleted carefully, “You will swear, no harm will come to our house?”
“On my word.” Aeshma said quietly and waited,
“Scierio,” he said looking up at her sadly, “It was he who ordered us to find assassins to kill you. He told us which House to approach of the Berserkers and where we could find men willing to take on our task.” Scierio was the leader of one of the Head Clans among the vampires, dangerously ambitious. It would seem his eyes were now set on Aeshma’s throne. The other spoke now, his words tumbling carelessly over one another,
“We only did it to protect our clan, Scierio said he would give us more land, raise our status and pledged his own clan to our protection!” Aeshma almost laughed at the irony of this and said so,
“Had you come to me, I would have seen to all they have. Had you believed in your queen, instead of the words of foolish, power-hungry, lords, you would not be meeting your end at Targo’s blade.” She nodded her head. Targo did not wait to be told and with one swing, took both their heads with his sword. They fell, rolling across the floor, the bodies not yet realising what had happened, frozen still for a moment before they followed. Aeshma watched as they were reduced to dust before saying,
“Take a small group of soldiers to Kashi’s lands Targo. Kill every last member of their clan, make it a spectacle, I want news of it to reach me long before you return.”
“And Scierio?” he asked,
“His time will come.”
“Queen,” Targo said, nodding with approval and vanished. He would gather his men and be gone soon Aeshma knew. Her justice was often swift and meted out by cruel hands. Aeshma had learnt early that this was how she would be feared. As for her word, the word she had given to the prisoner before his death. They were nothing but letters, scrambled together and sounded out with a voice. A demon’s true oath was made with blood. Aeshma laughed. Any self-respecting creature of the under realm should have known that.
London braced himself for impact. Being Queen Aeshma’s guardian was not without its perks, but tasks like these were not among them. He was in the middle realm, fighting in a war among humans, an order that had come from the queen herself. The clash of swords, banging of shields against shields coupled with the screams and shouts of dying or victorious men, rang in his ears.
His movements were methodological. He had nothing invested in this battle other than a victory for his side, and that was only because his queen had willed it. As caretakers of the middle realm it was the demons’ duty to ensure that leaders they wanted in charge were raised and in this time of war and carnage, the battle-field was where these decisions were made. London’s blue eyes darkened as he plunged his sword into an opponent’s stomach. The flesh grabbed at the blade as he pulled it back out and seeing the residue, he flung the blood from the blade to the ground. The fight had gone on for hours, beginning just before dawn and now, as the darkness threatened to come, casting shadows on the earth it was showing signs of slowing down. London, along with a few others of his kind, were lending their power to the soldiers, bolstering their defenses with every move.
Demons could transfer their powerful energy to other beings, enhancing the receiver’s natural abilities ten-fold. With just a few on a field of thousands, the scales were still easily tipped. The soldiers had no clue why their movements were faster, why their punches hit harder or their bodies felt stronger. They thought it was adrenaline, pumping them up and making them get through what would otherwise be a terrifying and difficult encounter. A horn sounded.
“They’re pulling back!” shouted someone close to London’s ear. He turned around, making a full circle before coming to a stop, realising that the shout, which was being added to by those around him, had been correct.
The ground was littered with entrails and limbs from both sides, but London saw nothing but victory for his Queen. He had no real feelings or compassion for the humans. These were a people who raised up religious men that sought to destroy his kind with their misunderstood translations of old texts. They hailed those in the upper-realm and held them in places of respect, while demons were trampled upon.
Some pagan faiths had come to understand the truth, but, their truths were nothing more than misguided elements of knowledge used for their own personal gain. It was for these reasons that London remained indifferent to the humans, a trait that made him a valuable asset to his kind.
“We have won!” Was the next cry to take flight and soar. London sheathed his sword and spoke to the other demons. His rank allowed him to speak telepathically to his subordinates, but this was not a trait all demons possessed. All could use this ability on humans, but few were capable among their own kind. He didn’t have to wait long before they had gathered around him, about thirty, their gathering unnoticed by celebrating soldiers as they awaited further instructions.
“The queen wants us to move onto the Ottoman Empire. She requires it to fall. Negus,”
“Yes sir,” said the one London spoke to in answer,
“You will act as an emissary from the Russian Empire, carrying this,” London reached into the breast-pocket of his coat and pulled out a scroll, “It contains a list of demands from that country, demands that Ottoman will have no choice but to decline.” London looked hard at Negus, his eyes boring into the other demon’s, emphasizing the gravity of the situation as he spoke, “You must not let their refusal go unpunished.”
“Sir!” Negus said and disappeared from their midst. The small frame of the body he used was a distraction from the real power he held within and it was for this reason that London called on him now. This little act of string pulling would be the catalyst for the war Lady Aeshma wanted.
“The rest of you, with me.” Together they disappeared, moving through the middle realm in a way that would baffle humans. All they needed to do was think it and they could appear anywhere on Earth. Had he the choice, London would visit his namesake. He quite liked it there, he did after all have quite a lot to do with the changes in the city’s landscape. Overall though, he found it interesting, it was the grit and dirtiness of the place. The accents that ranged from raw to refined. Even the human women and men selling their bodies and anything else they could for an ‘honest’ penny in the district seemed less repulsive there. He wouldn’t mind at all if he was going to that fair city, but for now, he was headed to Russia.
This one is definitely rough. Thing is I enjoyed the story and still know where I wanted to go with it, just got sidetracked and never got back.
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Queen Aeshma Quotes
Take one limb from each, clean cuts only and fresh meat for those who would have it.
I am Aeshma-El, named for the Lords Aeshma and Eligos, born of the great father of demons.
I will follow them should you not tell me what I want to know. Follow and kill them.