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Warrior Demoness Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1

 

DARK CRIMSON AND bright orange rivers flowed across the Neutral Zone like a plague...only worse. The unnatural brew created a deadly combination of toxic gases, turning the Zone into a vast wasteland void of all life — with the exception of those of the Overworld and Underworld.

 

Demon and Angel blood were never meant to be mixed. The two races could interact with each other for short periods, but coexistence was impossible. Demons required the heat from the Hellfires to replenish their energies, while Angels needed the cool, crisp environment of the Overworld to nourish theirs.

 

For this reason alone, the Great Battle could only take place in the shadowy realm that separated Heaven and Hell, and many from both worlds questioned their masters’ judgment for continuing a war that had ceased to have meaning. Few, however, dared to voice such doubts.

 

*  *  *

 

The warriors were exhausted. Both sides refused to give an inch...and so the Army of the Overworld and the Legions of the Underworld struggled on. Only their masters could stop the bloodshed, and few believed that it would happen. Neither Dis nor his Twin was willing to concede to the other, and so the battle continued as it had for tens of thousands of years.

 

Many brethren and sisters had succumbed to the continued onslaught of a campaign that no longer served a purpose. The survivors grew weary of carrying their destroyed comrades home...at least those that could be found. There were some who simply vanished, leaving no bodies to mourn. That emptiness left the living unsettled. Life deserved the finality of death and the honors that went with it. Immortality was no longer a reality once the Great Battle had begun.

 

*  *  *

 

Dis stood on his balcony, staring into the distant eternal fires of the Underworld. They danced and swayed almost magically as their orange and red flames leapt upward, seeking to embrace the iridescent blue sky. Aware that he was being watched by the remaining commanders of his Legions, Dis chose to ignore them awhile longer. As Underlord, he knew the value of patience – their patience.

 

The last hundred battles hadn’t gone well. Many of his Legions had been destroyed and several of his dead had vanished.

 

Vanished, he thought. The best of my best and even I don’t know where they have gone. Death pretends to know nothing. I find that hard to believe. Shaking his head, he turned to look at the small group who waited for him to speak. Mentally taking an inventory of the twenty-three demons, he felt a momentary remorse at the loss of those who were missing.

 

“Alocer,” he called out, motioning for the lion-faced demon to step forward.

 

“My Lord,” Alocer replied, respectfully bowing his head. His golden mane fell forward, concealing the bright, reddish-brown eyes.

 

“It’s good to see you,” Dis said, grasping the demon’s shoulders with his massive hands. “How is Plorax? Has she fared well in the battles?”

 

Alocer raised his head and smiled. Dis forgot nothing, including the name of Alocer’s white horse. As a demon knight, Alocer was proud of Plorax. The mare was brave, intelligent, and fearless.

 

“She is well, My Lord, and anxious for our next battle.”

 

Dis laughed. “Good! And your Legions?”

 

Again Alocer bowed his head...this time in shame. “Of the thirty-three, only seventeen remain.”

 

“Seventeen is better than nothing, Alocer. Return to them. Tell them of my gratitude for their sacrifices and loyalty. As a reward, I am granting them a few days off to celebrate their victories.”

 

“But the Battle, My Lord. They are needed–”

 

“A few days won’t affect something that has been going on for so long. The rest will invigorate them. Now go!”

 

Bowing at the waist, Alocer turned and walked away. It wasn’t for him to question his master.

 

“Berith.” Dis called the next commander forward. A large, red demon with two horns protruding from his forehead snapped to attention and then stepped in front of the Underlord. No one could mistake the family resemblance. Only the descendants of Dis grew the distinct horns of their sire.

 

“Father,” he replied, not making eye contact with Dis.

 

“You look well, Berith.”

 

“I am.”

 

“How many Legions do you now govern?” Dis asked.

 

“Almost twenty-one. I trained them well,” Berith proclaimed proudly.

 

“I would expect nothing less from my offspring,” Dis chastised. Berith was ambitious. Dis had no doubt his son would one day challenge him for the position of Underlord. It would be disappointing if Berith didn’t. Like those before him, though, Berith would fail. There could only be one ruler of the Underworld and it would always be Dis. Still, ambition made Berith a good leader and Dis appreciated good leaders. “Go! Ready your Legions for the next battle.”

 

“As you command, Father.” Berith turned and marched out, his head held high. As one of the oldest of Dis’ children, royal blood ran hot through his veins, making him both arrogant and competent. It was a deadly combination.

 

One by one, Dis called his commanders forward to ask about the Legions and to mentally calculate how many remained. When all had left but the last, he motioned for her to sit. Tall and graceful, she strode to a nearby chair and lowered herself onto the seat. As always, Dis was impressed by the demoness’ confident demeanor and beauty. Had she not been one of his best Legionnaires, he would have seduced her a long time ago. Dis never questioned his sexual prowess. No one would refuse the advances of the Underlord.

 

Except Lilith, he thought and mentally chuckled. Noticing the black orchid tattoo below the commander’s left eye, he was reminded of Orchidrina.

 

“Do you still mourn her, Sabnock?” he asked.

 

“No, My Lord. I only regret we have never found her body. She deserved better.”

 

“As do all who have never come back. You have honored her well, though. No other Legionnaire has earned thirteen Flames,” Dis said, referring to the tattoos on her arms and legs. Each one represented the destruction of twenty-three Battalions of the Twin’s Army.

 

Sabnock had personally led the attacks. Few of Dis’ senior officers liked to command from the front lines, and with good reason. Archangels were tenacious fighters, willing to sacrifice everything for the Twin. “Perhaps one day we’ll discover what happened to those who have vanished.”

 

“Perhaps, My Lord.”

 

Dis’ eyes narrowed slightly. Sabnock was never one to waste words. It was a trait he both admired and appreciated, though he sometimes wished he knew what she was thinking.

 

Why is it only the females I find so unfathomable? Dismissing the thought, he decided not to waste any more time.

 

“The battle isn’t going well,” he stated calmly.

 

“No, My Lord. We have lost sixty-three Legions. Nineteen alone belonged to Ronwe.”

 

“Ronwe was an idiot. I never should have put him in charge of so many Legions.”

 

“True,” Sabnock agreed.

 

Unused to criticism, Dis glared at the demoness, his reddish-brown eyes burning brightly as orange flames danced in their depths. When she refused to cower under his gaze, he gave her a faint nod of respect. Sabnock was an anomaly amongst his commanders. She wasn’t ambitious, and she spoke the truth, no matter what the consequences. Others would often tell Dis what they thought he wanted to hear.

 

“You have never feared me, have you, Sabnock?”

 

The demoness’ stoic expression was expected, although Dis was sure she was surprised by his question.

 

“Why would I fear you, My Lord? You’re a hard taskmaster, but fair to those who serve you well.”

 

Dis’ eyes gleamed with a suppressed humor.

 

“Then I must be getting soft,” he mused aloud. “Tell me, what do my subjects say about the war?”

 

“I don’t understand the question,” Sabnock replied.

 

“Come, Commander. You know exactly what I mean. What do my people have to say about the war? Many of their comrades have been destroyed. Others have disappeared. Do they blame me or Lilith for this?”

 

“Your subjects are loyal to you. It’s not their place to blame or question their master.”

 

“Said like a good soldier. But, that isn’t what I want to hear. Come, Sabnock, you have never been shy about the truth.”

 

Sabnock shook her head. “There are grumblings, but they mean nothing. Merely venting. As your mate, Lilith is highly respected and feared.”

 

“And if she wasn’t my mate?”

 

“She would still be respected and feared. Lilith has adapted well to the Underworld. She takes an interest in everyone and everything here. Her curiosity is insatiable. Her powers are intimidating. Because of you, she has access to areas that normally would be difficult for an outsider to enter. Lilith knows how to take advantage of her resources.”

 

Dis wasn’t surprised. Since he had spirited her away from the Twin and transformed her from human to demoness, Lilith’s first passion was knowledge.

 

There once was a time when it was passion, he thought. Her lust had always been insatiable, making her the perfect mate for the Underlord. For that reason alone, he wouldn’t have tolerated anyone disrespecting her.

 

“Is there anything else you wish to know, My Lord?” Sabnock asked, interrupting Dis’ thoughts.

 

Leaning back in his chair, Dis crossed his right leg over his left and glanced down at his foot, a shiny, red hoof.

 

“Your thoughts,” he replied, and hesitated a moment before continuing. “You’re an excellent commander and strategist. You have lost only two Legions in over seven thousand years. No one else has been as successful as you in winning battles. I can think of no other more deserving of my respect and gratitude.”

 

“I serve, My Lord,” Sabnock said.

 

For Dis, the answer epitomized everything he knew about the demoness. She was loyal, dedicated and performed her duties without question or doubt. The “without question” part was her greatest attribute because it had nothing to do with Dis or his expectations.

 

Sabnock understood exactly what he wanted from her. She had never asked for his permission, nor sought his council. It wasn’t necessary. Her skills were legendary and feared by enemy and ally alike. It was too bad there was only one Sabnock. The Great Battle would have ended eons ago.

 

“Well said,” he responded. “And because you do, I now seek your thoughts on a matter.”

 

Sabnock’s eyes widened slightly. Dis knew he had surprised her and was pleased. It always felt good to shake her normally controlled persona.

 

“Lilith believes it’s time to end this war. She has asked that I offer a truce. What do you think about this?” Demanded is more like it, he thought, remembering her threat if he didn’t.

 

“It’s not my place to question my Mistress,” Sabnock said.

 

“I’m not asking that you question her...only your thoughts. As one of my most respected commanders, do you think it serves a purpose to carry this war any further?”

 

“Many have been destroyed on both sides, My Liege. The cause was just, but...” Sabnock hesitated.

 

“But...”

 

Sabnock straightened in her chair as if preparing for battle.

 

“But was it worth the loss? If you’re asking for my honest opinion, then it should have ended a long time ago...that is, if you and the Twin could ever agree on the terms of a truce. Even now it may be impossible.”

 

“Nothing is impossible. My twin is arrogant, stubborn, and unreasonable. Nonetheless, he values his servants. They are important to the welfare of the Overworld. Their ranks are diminishing as quickly as mine.”

 

“Perhaps more quickly,” Sabnock added. “Soon your twin may have to call upon his hierarchy to continue the war.”

 

“It would almost be worth continuing the fight to see the Seraphim getting their chaste, unsullied hands bloodied,” Dis said. The thought of his twin’s highest caste fighting was laughable. “Is there anyone you can contact on the other side that can carry a message to the Overlord?”

 

“Possibly. I believe Chameil would be willing to carry a message. She is the most reasonable of the Seraphim and has a special relationship with him.”

 

“I’ve heard of her. Her honor is almost as legendary as your battle skills. Few have dared to challenge my brother and yet I hear she refused to order his followers into battle. It’s rumored that she supported Lilith’s decision to leave Paradise.”

 

“So it is said. Chameil would be too respectful to challenge her master publicly, and too honorable to go against her beliefs. I have no doubt there is truth in the stories,” Sabnock said.

 

“Good. She’s just the one I need to present my offer. I’ll prepare it. Return tomorrow...” He paused. “Sabnock. This must remain between you and me. It will be taken as a sign of weakness if rumors reach the ears of some.”

 

“I understand, My Lord. I will be discreet.”

 

Nodding, Dis stood.

 

“Walk with me and I’ll tell you my plan. Even in my own home there are ears that hear too much.”

 

Rising, Sabnock followed Dis down a corridor and into an enormous garden filled with plants, statues and brilliantly colored fire-fountains. Waves of flames flowed down white marbled tiers, their journey ending in pools of swirling, glowing lava. Known as the Garden of Fire, it was one of the few places the Underlord knew to be free of prying eyes and ears.

 

Motioning for Sabnock to be seated near a smaller fountain, he told her what he wanted. Minutes later the demoness stood, bowed her head respectfully, and left. Dis watched her disappear through a gate on the far side of the garden and then he returned to his quarters in search of Lilith. She would be pleased — and a pleased Lilith was an exciting Lilith.

 

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