Through the Dark

Michaela Elkins

I could feel a group of travelers enter my domain. The shaking in the air of nerves on edge, the absolute stink of humanity. They’d know that I was aware of their approach, such is the nature of my territory, yet, they continued towards my palace.

Ugh, they probably wanted to make an offering to me, a trade, something to ensure I wouldn’t destroy their village. I cast a spell to see through the eyes of my shadow minions waiting outside. Pitiful dark beasts from the depths, forms like dogs shrouded in inky black tendrils of smoke. Existing only to serve.

It seemed as though the travelers were angry at me for something. May as well listen to them, not much else to do. Having decided to allow them entry, the obsidian doors sealing my stronghold creaked open in response to my thoughts. I downed the stairs from my chambers to the vast entryway and settled onto my throne, looking down the steps below at the now open door. I rested sideways in a lounging position. I could smell the sweat of fear.

As I couldn’t really be bothered to care about human concerns, I rested my eyes while they approached. At last I heard footsteps as they finally entered and I opened my eyes. They seemed to have been trying to impress me by dressing in their best armor, but it clearly wasn’t all theirs as it was a close, but not perfect, fit for several of them at best. Why would they send their best men to their possible slaughter after all? I couldn’t help but yawn with displeasure. Of course, this insulted them.

One of them spoke, “Pardon us Lord Vikrus, but a devil sanctuary has appeared near our village.” This intrigued me, as no proper devil would challenge a demon such as myself without proper orders to. So unbearably organized. Though we would share the depths of the realm of suffering and death, such a lawful counterpart to the chaos of my beautiful domain could never offer me any form or feelings of kinship.

“Is that so?” I flapped my wings and let my tail drag behind me, floating down the steps from my throne to the black marble floor of the entrance hall below, letting the light slowly show off my horns. It was a thrill to see them tremble. “Well I suppose you want me to do something about that. Or has he offered a better deal?”

The man who spoke before, though the only one who looked to bear any form of strength or skill, stepped back a bit in fear, pitiful. Another man, shorter and in poorer fit of his armor, spoke up, “If you can prove you will continue to protect us and that the devil would do no better than you, we offer to you a pure being for personal use of corruption to increase your power sire.” He bowed his head, clearly anxious about having spoken over the others. Good for the group that SOMEONE showed me some respect. I had been waiting for a reason to blast someone all day, but a corruptible creature, now THAT was worth withholding my halberd.

Not only would this work out too well in my favor, but taking out a devil would make these whelps cease their painfully worthless negotiations. Seeking to change the layout of territory and lessen their obligations to me in exchange for the pitiful souls of their village to remain unharmed. I turned to the man who spoke. He was a village guard, dressed in light armor with a sword on his belt. “What sort of being?” I asked in a slow voice to incite a bit more fear.

“A-an angel sire, we found her weakened and managed to get her into magical restraints. She won’t be able to fight you, but we have restored her health. She will grant much strength and hopefully you will spare our village in exchange, though we have challenged you.” He knelt, which prompted the others to apologize for disrespect and kneel as well. Wait. What did he say…

“IMPOSSIBLE!” I could hardly contain my rage. “Disrespect, then lies?!” I could feel my breath starting to freeze up my throat, my anger was about to be uncontrollably expressed by my magic. A burst of icy breath that could easily encase the lot of them. I flew upwards to avoid blasting them into frozen statues and I released my built-up frost breath. They huddled themselves and covered their faces, chilled and shivering, dusted with flecks of ice. “How DARE you!” Although I could still gain a blessed statuette of some deity from them. Something smaller would be of much less use to me despite still increasing my power, so maybe killing them isn’t the best option. I summoned my halberd and slammed the wide ax blade of it into the floor “I’ll handle your devil problem. If you whelps bring me something useful.”

“Yes, sire!” The guard rose and spoke again, “But I assure you it will be an angel, sire.” I waved my hand for them to leave and to my minions to shut the door. I pulled my halberd out of the partially shattered marble and swung it, dissolving one of my minions and allowed him reappear near the stairs. Stupid creatures, if only they were useless I’d banish them all back to the depths with my will.

I handed it to my minions. Of course, them being so small, it took several to carry it. I flew down a few corridors to gather my armor along with some other gear. I caught myself in a reflection of a mirror in the armory and held up my mithril armor. It contrasted in an awkward manner against my dark hair, though it was the strongest in my possession. Devils may be easy, but never too easy. I gathered it up with a small bag of enchanted crystals for healing, moving swiftly back through the hallways and set it at the base of my throne so I could quickly access it when I was ready to leave, to fight. I turned to look around for a moment at the many doors that led deeper into my palace, considering if I would require anything more.

Through a window I saw the group returning up the road to my stronghold with a caged wagon. It was covered but it seemed like there was something alive inside it. It couldn’t really be an angel, could it? I lounged on my throne again awaiting their entry into my fortress. My minions opened the door again and I heard gentle cries of despair.

“Please, please let me go,” a woman’s voice called. “Please don’t let him do this.” I could feel that she was crying, the aura of her angelic magic shaking with her breath, drawing my own power to her as though it were magnetic. It seemed appropriate as we were, in no uncertain terms, perfectly opposite.

They pulled the cloth off of the cage and there she was, as pure as a cloud, glinting with sunlight in a deep azure sky. A true angel. Gorgeous, fair, and perfect. Her sheer light made my skin feel slightly numb as I got close. I reached into the cage to feel the soft white feathers of her white wings, she shuddered, fearful that my claws would snap off a feather. I told her if I wanted her feathers I would pin her down and pluck them myself, though rather gently. She shuddered again, she was so weak a few feathers fell out on their own. She must’ve been a lesser angelic being. I was much too overpowering for such a light force of energy, though the greater angels could rival even those above myself, some respect was in order.

I took one and held it near my face. It was soft and smelled lovely, like roses, gently coated in a soft summer rain. Or the dewdrops on a spun silk spider web in a cherry blossom tree. I tucked it away and opened the cage, letting her out. She was in a strong set of enchanted manacles, which kept her magic from manifesting. She set her feet on the floor and stood in the dark throne hall, sticking out like stone-scale spots on a molting dragon. Her energy glowed despite her being so powerless here, a mellow white light emanating from her body, cast faintly against the light of the blue flame torches lining the walls and the chandelier.

She was so pale, her glow growing dim from the surrounding darkness that was draining her. She went unconscious, collapsing from being so weak for so long and began to fall over. I caught her in my arms and picked her up. “Minions!” I said handing her to a small cluster of them, “take her to the atrium. Let her rest comfortably in the light. DON’T, HURT, MY, PRIZE.” They nodded and carried her fragile looking body up the great set of stairs and back through a passageway behind my throne.

I shut the doors for the final time and decided to relax and groom myself for a while. Tend my claws, my horns, the scales on my thick dragon-esque tail, and my hair I had let grow wild since it was last shortened. A length of it was singed off in a battle between myself and my father many moons ago. It seems only right to render his efforts to destroy me and reclaim the throne, though the hair trimming was unintentional, completely in vain, and without a trace of it being a very trying fight.

After I finished improving my appearance I decided to check on my… “Guest.” When I arrived at the atrium, I could see her seated, facing away from the door. The room was designed after a bird cage and she, the elegant resident, perched on the hanging seat in the center. She was still cuffed but had managed to summon a few light minions in the forms of woodland creatures. They were fixing her hair, grooming her wings, and mending her damaged clothing. Two small rabbits were braiding her long blonde hair.

“How are you feeling now? That cage must’ve been uncomfortable.” My deep voice scared the rabbits, making them hide behind the angel’s wings. She turned around and I could see tears rolling down her face, her manacles jingled as she moved. “Don’t cry, it’s unbecoming of you.” I cast a spell and released her manacles. Sitting in the light so long, her magic instantly replenished. She summoned a deer minion to try and break the gate. The second it hit the wall it dispersed and its aura glowed and floated around the atrium before reforming behind her.

“Sorry, but I can’t let you leave. It would be embarrassing to me. Also, since I already have you I don’t need to go after that devil. He can overpower the village surely but he can’t overpower me. Especially not with you. I won’t make you a statue but I can’t let you go unrestrained in my fortress.” I ran my claws along the bars as she approached me.

“Why did you agree to help them just to turn back? Is it perhaps that you are lazy? Or simply a coward.” She turned from me. I casted a black fog to darken the room and hovered in front of her.

“DON’T PRESUME TO KNOW ME!” My voice boomed, shaking the room. She fell to the floor. I released the fog and stood on the ground, “And don’t presume that I am nice in any form just because I won’t hurt you.” I left the atrium and went down to the dining hall.

I summoned a few minions. “Bring her down to eat. I can’t have her unmonitored with those manacles off. Not only that, but I’ve noticed something appearing on my neck, and I know she needs to be in the room to complete it.” The minions brought her to me, warping through the shadows. She looked frazzled and afraid.

“A blood contract? What makes you think you can handle something like this with a demon?” I grinned at her and she frowned, looking irritated. If we entered a blood contract, we would be forced to protect each other. Neither of us could die without killing the other, and, had I been weaker than her, she could manipulate me into granting her freedom. I released my spell lock on it and a small stream of blood came out of the marks on our necks, the glow of her magic vanishing. Mine an angelic sigil, hers shifting from a mark matching mine to the sigil of demons. It crossed together in the air and went back into the marks, traded. I could hear my blood searing in her as she collapsed to her knees and was writhing on the ground. I was clearly far stronger than she if this was her reaction. This allowed me to alter the contract with my own will, while keeping some distinct factors. She wouldn’t be in command of me as she intended, but we still could not bring harm to each other now.

“Why…” She cried, “Why must you torture me like this?!” I flew to her and helped her to her feet, she still looked beautiful when disheveled. I held her in my arms, lifting her. She felt so light and warm. Her skin fair and flawless against my rough weathered hands.

“Because I need you. Eat something and go to the armory to be suited. We are going to fight, I would like you to assist should something go wrong.” She nodded and remained silent. She spoke up and finally told me her name, all it did was add to her loveliness.

It didn’t take long to get to the devil’s palace. The size of the corrupted territory could only have been mustered by an ambassador. A being of equal strength to me, a demon lord. Although he was expecting me, his domain wasn’t heavily guarded. How cocky. Akrisa and I flew into the wide chamber. It had a red tinge to the walls and a foreboding atmosphere. Much too quiet for such a fortress.

“Oh my,” I heard his voice but couldn’t see him. He appeared behind Akrisa and plucked one of her feathers, she yelped. It hurt me to see though I didn’t understand why. I lost control of myself and instinctively flew to her side, swinging my halberd at him. The dark enchantment I had placed on the blade split and dissolved the feather. My corruption was too strong for such a small piece of her angelic being to withstand.

“You shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to you. And I won’t let my prize be tarnished by your filthy hands!” I swung again and struck him back, my black fire enchanted blade scorched him and he howled before laughing wickedly.

“You’ll soon regret denying me, you pretty thing,” He looked right past me to Akrisa, smiling wide, eyes unblinking. I flew a bit higher, my wings protecting her from his gaze. “Fine. Azbech!” A white devil golem appeared and struck Akrisa. She began to fall, her wings shot open and shut as she sent herself back upwards to face her attacker.

She summoned a light war hammer with ribbons streaming down its handle. “You handle the ambassador. Go!” She flew forward striking the golem’s chest. The ambassador swung at my wings, I flew up and gave him a swift kick in the face. He finally took his gaze from Akrisa to focus on fighting me. We exchanged blows and he struck me with precision at a weakened point in my armor between the breastplate and shoulder. I yelled.

Akrisa struck a final fatal blow to the golem, it burst into pieces and fell to the floor. She flew to my aid and healed me. I saw the devil’s hideous grin again. “Get away! Don’t—!” But I shouted too late, chains appeared and pulled her away from me, trapping her, defenseless. She began to turn to stone, screaming in agony. I rose, I could feel my power rising with my rage. I looked at her, sending a warning of what was about to happen. With the last of her strength she wrapped her wings around herself and summoned an Ursa Minor to protect her.

My rage engulfed me with black, blue, and purple flames. I wailed on the devil ambassador, not stopping for anything. My unrelenting breath blast spells, swinging my enchanted halberd, burning away his flesh. I refused to let him make a move against me, or hurt her again.

He dissolved with my fire, but my rage continued. I began to tear the cursed place apart. The stone released her and the chains broke with my rampaging blows. She flew to me and I stopped, unable to see her through my blinding anger, but I could feel her light. I planted my boots on the floor just below me and the fire faded from me. I could feel the trickle of her blood leave me; we were unbound.

“Let’s go home,” she said. I told her that I would summon a transport carriage when we got back to my fortress. “No. Your fortress is the only home that I have to return to.” Once she said that, several of her feathers turned black as my horns, and I knew then my darkness wouldn’t hurt her anymore. I could be the one to keep her safe.