Book Two of Blood Royals
Niflheim, Land of the Dead
Pahele watched as Grant and Jerdin crept into the room that protected the Book of the Dead. This time the boys would find the room empty. But they weren’t after the book. They were opening the door set in the opposite wall, the door to the Secret Chamber of the Nine Realms. After several thousand years on the trail of their foolish quests, they actually held all nine keys needed to open Sadrina’s cell.
Because of his aid, the boys would finally succeed. Because of his aid, Sadrina would soon escape hell.
And he would be left here without her.
The Book of the Dead flipped open on the table behind him, drawing Pahele’s attention to the revealed pages. The Book of the Dead often shared its secrets with those it deemed in need of such knowledge. This time the open page offered a flowing poem.
Under the sun, among the flowers,
The Queen with freedom shall fill her hours.
Without your Queen, Niflheim will suffer.
She who remains will tear hell asunder.
Flowers fade and time shall pass.
She will return to you at last.
~Reclaim her Heart~
The Book often spoke to him but never before had it given him a personal order. Reclaim her heart… Was it even possible after so much had come between them? It wasn’t a question of love. Of course he still loved her. She was everything to him.
But Sadrina might never forgive him.
When the mistress of hell, also called Hel, the half dead, had demanded he imprison Sadrina, Pahele had agreed. At the time it had been the better of two terrible choices. He had allowed Hel to lock Sadrina into the Chamber of the Nine Realms, believing it was for Sadrina’s own good. Damn Hel with her plots within twisted schemes. The dark mistress had known that once Sadrina was within the chamber there was only one way for her to be freed.
The Book, too, had betrayed Pahele that day. Its only advice had been to allow the deeds to flow. Its promise that all would be set right had not referred to Sadrina at all. He had sorted out the truth too late to keep her free. With all his power, he had still failed her.
Surely Sadrina would never forgive him, and if she were wise, she’d never return to hell.
Pahele closed the Book of the Dead and returned to watch for the boys. Any second they would come through on their way to offering Sadrina freedom…
Jerdin entered the hallway first. He was well grown now with his dark looks and a burning desire to control his own fate. He would understand her need for freedom.
Jerdin turned his cold blue eyes directly toward Pahele. “I see you, Uncle.”
Pahele nodded to acknowledge his silent challenge but did no more than that. He’d told Jerdin to call him “uncle” as a child, but at some point, the honor had become an insult. He had never been Jerdin’s enemy, but the boy couldn’t see that. The only one Jerdin trusted was his companion, Grant.
As usual, Grant followed Jerdin. He was in demonic form as if he expected a physical confrontation. Grant slowly moved forward while supporting Sadrina with one arm around her narrow waist. Sadrina looked so fragile. Her petite frame was almost hidden from view by her son’s bulky muscles.
Their likeness marked them as kin. Their black skin was typical of the royal demon blood. Pahele’s skin showed that same midnight hue. At some point Sadrina had hacked her long black tresses off into short limp hunks. Once it had flowed down her back in long thick waves just as Grant wore his now.
Sadrina’s eyes flashed in fear as they began to cross the room. She cowered against her son’s frame. Without hesitation, Grant raised her into his arms, carefully tucking her long limp wings around her like a protective blanket.
“Now, Jerdin. We must go, now.” Grant’s voice was firm, but his gaze constantly scanned for potential threats.
Jerdin nodded once before gripping Grant’s shoulder. The surge of the boy’s powers sent a tremor out through the realm. The ancient spells should have kept them from leaving. None could travel into or out of these chambers without permission. Without Pahele’s permission. Even with it, Jerdin had torn a hole in the fabric of the realms that would take considerable energy to repair.
But none of it mattered.
Sadrina was gone.
Pahele sagged against the rough wall, adjusting to the feel of hell without Sadrina. There was an emptiness he had never felt before. Even with her imprisoned, he had been as aware of her as his own body. Now, he would live a half-life.
She deserved to find her freedom. Perhaps out there among the mortals, she might also feel her missing half. Perhaps her escape might bring her back to him, in time…
Sixty-four years, three months, two days, six hours, twenty-one minutes, and sixteen seconds later
Niflheim, 1625 AD
Pahele shuddered as his realm of Niflheim shifted and came into balance once more. The returning balance could only mean one thing.
His queen had returned at last.
“Master?” Sadrina entered the throne room and knelt before him in absolute submission. She was more beautiful than ever. Her sensual presence filled his senses. The mere fact that she knelt before him in the realm she had once called home told him she was desperate.
Hell simply wasn’t the same without her, but what had finally brought her back to him? He reined in his physical response and opened his mind to her. As always, the connection supplied all that was lacking in his soul. His essence pulsed with power. He couldn’t let her leave him again. No matter what had brought her back, he would bind her here, to his side.
Her love, hate, and fear crossed their tendril-thin bond and filled him. She came for the sake of her son. The boy dominated her thoughts, filled almost all of her mind. Almost, but not quite.
She also feared being enslaved. Her fears filled him with regret. Not much of a surprise considering that was exactly what he had allowed to happen.
Another slippery fast thought crossed her mind. This one gave him hope. She liked his hair long. Her thought about his hair caught him by surprise. If he had known that, he would have grown it out long ago.
“Sadrina, finally you’ve returned to my side.” He reached toward her and used his powers to pick her up. She should never be forced to kneel, not even to him.
She allowed him to draw her into his arms.
What had changed this time? In the beginning she had welcomed his touch, but in more recent millennia, she’d flinched away from even mental contact. And the part of her mind that might have explained the mystery remained silent.
Her skin was warm and scented like the flowers he’d long dreamed of her dancing among. His body hardened while he wrestled for control. She felt so good pressed against him.
She struggled slightly, succeeding only in rubbing against him, arousing him further. His powers surged, and her human clothing melted away. Sadrina should take her true form here in their home. Her skin darkened from olive to bluish black. Her silken wings flowed the full length to the floor.
She needed something only he could offer. Why else would she return? He pushed through her mind’s defenses and found the truth.
“If you wish for my help, you must convince me of your desire to please.” He stroked his hand down her back, his fingertips trailing under the softness of her wings. Would she ever accept me without being forced? Perhaps someday, but not yet. “Please me, and your son will know the truth.”
She would do anything for Grant, for the son that should have been his. Damn the politics of the gods. And damn the Norns and Fates who played them all like pawns. They had kept him and Sadrina apart long enough. Sadrina was bound to him by destiny, and nothing they could do would change that one truth.
For now, the child, Grant, would be his hold over her, but soon she would be given a choice. He begged the Creator that this time she chose him.
He was demon lord over all the Tascryn demons, holding more power than most gods. Yet, staring down at the woman who had always been the second half of his heart, it all meant nothing without her. Their immortal years had been passages of pain while a world of misplaced loyalties separated them. Perhaps this time they would be allowed the love he’d long yearned for.
He tipped her chin up, forcing her shuttered gaze to meet his. “Your weakness does nothing to please me.”
Sadrina’s eyes flashed fire-bright red. “You know why I am here. Nothing but desperation would bring me back to my prison.”
He wanted to apologize for his mistakes and beg her for forgiveness, but he bit back those words. Instead he offered her only the truth. “You will never be imprisoned again.” He would see to that promise.
“What is a place but a prison if I cannot leave or do as I wish?”
He closed his mind to her wasted anger. He could not afford to let her leave him again. Her years of freedom had cost him too greatly. “Then, for now, call it a prison, but before you choose your path, be aware that I can use any being in my realm without question. I have no need for an unwilling partner.” In a way it was the truth, but it was also a lie. He had no need or desire for any other. Only Sadrina’s body held the promise of ultimate satisfaction.
“Bed partner you mean?” She tensed, and he felt her sudden fear.
He relaxed his dark expression. She didn’t yet understand his needs, but she soon would. Her disdain for sharing his bed cut him, but her fear tore him to shreds. Both drove his anger. “Bed, floor, or any other surface we find appealing.”
Her eyes closed, hiding their beautiful smoke shades. “I want to be free,” Sadrina whispered.
He swallowed a sigh. Her despair pained him. Anything that caused her pain would do twice the damage to him, for above all else, it was his duty to protect her. “I need you here with me.” She would take her place as his queen. The time for patience had passed.
“I only returned for Grant.”
She hadn’t come for him. She didn’t want to be with him. “I will accept that for now. If it is a barter you offer, then I accept for as long as the merchandise pleases me.”
“What about Grant?”
Grant, always Grant. How different would their lives have been if they had bonded before and Grant had been his son? “I will see that he comes to no harm.”
“What drives his thirst?” she persisted, her quiet voice demanding he fulfill his part before she even considered hers.
Pahele closed his eyes and expanded his senses to all the realms they touched. Grant held onto a human woman, his soul filled with devotion and, indeed, love. “His heart does.”
“What does that mean?” Sadrina caught his hand in her fear. The contact sizzled through Pahele.
Finally, he could offer her pleasing news. “Your son is in love with the girl. The more powerful his emotions, the more he will yearn to be with her in every way.” Pahele knew those desires very well indeed. Love led to desire and desire to hunger. Together, they were the magic that bound the realms.
She gasped. “But his cravings are dangerous. He would be destroyed if he harmed her, even by accident.”
Such was the truth. The boy would need more control than his mortal form held. Grant was unique in all nine realms. He was half demon by his mother, but his father had been a mortal man. He had unfortunately inherited his father’s mortality. For Sadrina, Pahele had fed the boy a sip of royal blood and, with it, a few vampire-like tendencies. Both Grant and Sadrina believed the blood had been from a Cyvampis demon. They were wrong. It was his own powerful blood that sustained Grant.
Pahele strengthened the connection to Grant and drew off the hunger. For now he would control the boy’s need to feed and keep it gentle enough to allow him this woman.
“I have dampened the draw of his hunger. He will have full control of his desire to feed.”
“Thank you.” Sadrina’s fingers tightened over his hand. He ached to open his palm and accept her touch as an equal, but it was not yet that time.
“It was nothing to do so little for the one you hold most dear.” He cared for Grant as well and had done this much and more to see to the boy’s happiness in the past.
“I leave my gratitude, but I wish to return and meet his bride.”
If she left, how long would it be before she had reason to return? “No.” Regret washed over him with the rejection. He would give her anything but not her freedom. Not this time.
“Please, let me go.” Her plea almost undid him. She was royalty, from the eldest, strongest blood and should never beg.
“No. If you attempt to leave, I will withdraw my control from your son and allow him to deal with the craving however he must.”
“You are still a cold bastard.” She pulled away from him and would have fled farther if he hadn’t grabbed her wrist and shackled her at his side on the dais.
“I do what I must.” He restrained another sigh. “You will stay here with me.”
“Here in the throne room? That could prove interesting.” Her cutting wit, which was always such a pleasure, rose once more to the surface.
Now she would fight him, and he couldn’t wait for the battle to begin. “You will share my chambers and serve only me. All others will serve you as is proper for your rank.”
She stared longingly toward the door-less exit. “So I will be a slave, your slave.”
He caressed the soft flesh of her arm, allowing one of his claws to scrape over her pulse point. “You have never been and never will be a slave. You are the rightful queen here whether you take up that position or not.”
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