I’ve been on a roll with the writing, so I’ve been able to post the early chapters so often. I’m trying to keep a few chapters in between what I’ve written and published so I have room to wriggle if anything needs to be re-written or added.
I’ve gone over this chapter more than twice in editing, there’s still some parts that sound bit iffy, but I’m a bloody arse even to myself so I try not pay myself too much attention.
Anyways, hope you enjoy, this is the start of longer chapters~
Demon Lord’s Little Bride
An abundance of noise woke Adriel early in the morning a few days later. He opened his bleary eyes to see several servants who probably had early morning duties hurrying around like headless chicken, uncaring of anyone else in the room who might still be trying to catch some shut-eye.
Adriel grumbled a little, and pulled the thin scratchy blanket over himself, ignoring the commotion. He had always been a bit of a sleepy-head, so getting up early in the mornings had always been his biggest gripe with his work as a servant.
In truth, his previous quarters had also been a dorm, but since the status had been higher, there had been a little bit more privacy.
The situation here, on the other hand, was much more cramped to say the least. The dungeon did not have a lot of servants allocated to it, but all them lived in the same comparatively small servant quarters a level above the dungeon. Most of the other rooms on the level were used for storage, since this level was still technically underground. Their room was somewhere in between the entrance to the dungeon and the stairway that led to higher quarters and the kitchen. In the room, each servant only had a bunk bed and a chest to keep their personal effects. It was pretty much bare minimum.
Considering all this, it wasn’t such a surprise that there was always somebody making noise in the room, though most tried to keep it on the down-low.
Adriel tried to return to sleep, but not a second went by before he was awoken by the sudden realization that today was the day he had to go serve the Demon-Lord for the first time. The thought made him spring up from the bed like was being chased by a pair of hellhounds, and run to his chest to start getting ready. He rushed through all the morning procedures as fast as he could as he felt no desire to irate the large demon that could snap his neck with his bare hands on the first day by being late.
When he was done, he finally remembered to check the time, and saw that he actually still had quite a bit of time left, he’d been so anxious it seemed, so he slowed down his steps as he exited the servant quarters and walked towards the kitchen that was located a level above this one.
His first task was to pick up the Demon-Lord’s breakfast.
Technically, Adriel could not be called that most infamous prisoner’s personal servant. It was more like he was part of the serving staff in the dungeon, whose extra duties just happened to include catering to an ancient demon.
As Caleb had explained it after they had left the dungeon, there were seven boys, excluding Caleb who was the manager of all the servants in the dungeons, who were assigned to serve as the Demon Lord’s attendants – one for each day of the week.
The reason for this being that it minimized the amount of time each servant spent in the company of the Demon-Lord, and as such was considered to minimize the death count among the servants.
As for the rest of the week, they were given the normal duties of the dungeon servants, such as delivering food and items to the guards, or the prisoners, as well as cleaning the dungeons, and delivering messages.
That was what Adriel had been doing the past few days. He’d learned his way around the dungeon alongside an older servant, and had helped in his duties, so he could learn the difference between the work upstairs and down here.
Adriel thought there actually had not been that much of a difference, if only in the glamour of his surroundings and the people he served. He was still expected to act like a proper choirboy of his Lady’s, so the degree of politeness he had to keep was only a smidgen lower.
But now was his first day on the main, or the punishment, part of his job. However, strangely enough his first impression of the Demon-Lord hadn’t been that terrible – he looked like a man who wasn’t above giving people some lax, so he just hoped he would survive the day with minimal injuries, physical or emotional.
Once he arrived at the kitchen, he was given his breakfast, after which he picked up the covered tray that the kitchen staff pointed out to him, and straight away went back down towards the entrance of the dungeon.
The breakfast tray was heavy, and the amount of food was bigger than Adriel’s as well, as far as he could tell not seeing it, but there was nothing to be surprised about, given their difference in size.
Soon, Adriel was already walking down the stairway into the dungeon. It was still as gloomy as the first time he had descended it, but his tense mood seemed to be adding onto the sense of destitute this place reeked of.
He passed through the guards standing in the central room of the dungeon with a nod of acknowledgement, and entered the hallway leading to the cell of the demon.
It took a few minutes to reach it, though Adriel felt like it had only been seconds as he did not at all feel prepared to face the infamous Demon-Lord again. As the guards opened the door to the cell, Adriel felt his limbs tremble in fear, though he tried his best to suppress it, least his tray fell and he became known as the servant who got offed by the Demon-Lord on his very first day, and used as a horror story to scare the new servants.
Adriel felt his brain was going on a ramble, so he hurried inside before he started imagining the faces of his old co-workers as they gleefully exclaimed that they knew this was how Adriel was going to end up from the start.
His brain, that had been overactive just a second ago, also curiously came to a standstill.
He’d forgotten how…awe-inducing the Demon-Lord was. The man, for really he did not look like a beast, was lying on a settee that was pushed against one of the walls in the demon’s sitting room.
There was a book on the man’s lap, but it seemed he had not been particularly engrossed in it as his eyes had immediately risen to meet Adriel’s as he entered the room. The look in those eyes was neither cold nor hot, but it still felt intimidating to him.
“You’ve brought my breakfast?”
The deep voice made Adriel return to his senses, and he realized he’d been standing still for far too long.
“Ahh…yes.” He stammered, and hurried to place his tray on the sturdy wooden dinner table in the middle of the room, and set the meal up. Once that was done, he immediately backpedalled from the table, and took the appropriate posture of a servant.
“Your meal is served…sir.”
Adriel did not really know how he was supposed to refer to a Demon-Lord, but preserved on the side of caution after a minute of thought.
The demon did not say anything, just stood up and took a seat at the table.
Adriel felt nervous, but when he saw the man just casually start to eat, his nerves relaxed, and he gave into his hidden desire to observe the demon a little bit more, as he had not had a long enough chance last time.
The man was just as tall as he remembered, and Adriel was sure if they stood facing each other he would most likely reach only till about the demon’s shoulders. This time the man was also wearing a shirt, a black baggy one that had some fine embroidered patterns done along the sleeves. Even so, the definition of his muscles could not be missed. Adriel was really curious how the demon kept himself so fit locked in a small prison cell, but he supposed the man did not really have anything else to do anyway, so it might help him pass some time.
The dark red hair was also braided again, though the braid looked to be on the verge of coming completely loose. It did add to the man’s aura of repressed wildness.
But what really caught his attention was the tail. He had not seen it last time, but there it was – as thick as his own arm at the base, and tapering down to a small point topped off by what looked like a spike. It was quite long, and the same colour as the demon’s skin, a darker grey.
Suddenly, the demon’s eyes turned towards him again, and Adriel felt himself blush, caught peeping. But he could swear that, again, he saw the corner of the demon’s mouth lift up in what had to be a smirk of amusement.
“Your name was Adriel, right?”
“So, what got you stranded down here?”
The Demon-Lord had abandoned his meal, and had instead turned his attention towards Adriel as it seemed. He did not know what this questioning was aimed towards, but except for saving himself some embarrassment there really was no reason to hide the reason he’d been demoted to the dungeon, and, really, he felt he no longer had any face to save anyway.
“Umm…I trimmed Her Ladyship’s favourite rosebush incorrectly, and apparently ruined it…”
Unexpectedly, the Demon-Lord started snorting, and then he downright laughed as his shoulders shook in what had to be mirth.
“That has got to be the silliest reason I have yet heard, and I’ve been here for more than a thousand years. Pettiness thy name is Hosanna. I’d make an innuendo about the other sort of bush you could have been trimming, but you really don’t look like Dear Hosanna’s type.”
Adriel was shocked by the use of the Holy Maiden’s first name, and even more so by the dirty insinuation, but the most shocking was how easy-going the Demon-Lord’s reaction had been. Like this, the man did not seem nearly as imposing as he had before, and Adriel relaxed by just a smidgen.
The Demon-Lord did not ask him anything else, but the rest of the meal went by in a much more relaxed manner. Adriel could not help hoping that this meant he had broken the ice with the imposing demonic being if at least a little bit.
After breakfast had been finished, the Demon-Lord had gone into his bedroom and had told Adriel not to bother him until it was time for dinner.
Adriel had remained rooted on the spot as the door closed, a bit baffled. It felt like the man had gone back to ignoring his existence. Adriel supposed it was better than the Demon-Lord taking an active interest in him, but for some reason, it stung his heart like a relentless bee.
He had never considered himself particularly interesting, even amongst the servants. It was hard to when all of you looked quite similar, and were actually hired for those specific features. His hair was maybe paler than the usual golden hue of the other boys, and maybe he was a bit on the shorter side, but other than that you really could not pick him out in a crowd of the servant boys if you tried.
His personality? He really could not say much about it, but he felt he would fit right in amongst a den of mice.
So really, why was he surprised that the Demon-Lord would mostly treat him like an inanimate object as well? It was his own folly. It’s just that…from what he had heard the Demon-Lord had been locked up in these rooms for more than thousand years, which to Adriel sounded like an eternity, so aside from the perpetual sense of fear, he had also felt sympathy since it seemed quite natural that the demon must be feeling very lonely, cut off from almost all contact.
Apparently it was not the case, or maybe it was just because Adriel was a new servant. He could easily imagine The Demon-Lord not being particularly trustful of the people that had imprisoned him.
The thought kept whirling in his head, and Adriel felt his mood getting gloomier by the minutes, so he shook it off, and took a look around the room he was in.
He was not entirely sure what he was supposed to do with himself, now that the frustrating demon had locked himself in the bedroom.
Other than the few things he was obliged to do like delivering meals, his duties were not that specific really, and could be summarized as ‘do whatever the demon tells you to’.
He knew he could clean, but the room was in as much as a pristine state as a stone cellar could ever be.
That was when his gaze was caught by one of the bookcases that lined the entirety of one of the four walls. There were no books on the many shelves of that particular bookcase, but a mishmash of knick-knacks. Adriel approached the bookcase, and with a triumphant smirk exclaimed, “I knew it!”
He had thought the things on the shelves had looked a bit grim. There was quite a layer of dust on all of the figurines and other small objects that were put on display on the shelves.
For a second, the thought that it was quite strange that only this shelf had been left undusted for so long flashed through his mind, but it immediately was taken over by his enthusiasm at having found something to do.
He immediately began to look around for a piece of cloth to dust the items with, and ended up finding one in a bucket that was lying around in a corner of the room. There was also a broom in there, and a few other things. Adriel supposed these were all the cleaning supplies that there were in the cell. He took the bucket and filled it with some of the water that was left in the carafe on the dinner table. He then wetted the piece of cloth, and squeezed out the excess moisture. And then, he got to work.
Starting from the lowest shelf, he removed each item, carefully dusted it and then placed it on the dinner table for the time being. At the same time he took the chance to observe the various objects.
He could not help it. Adriel’s curiosity was piqued by the thought of where the Demon-Lord had obtained these items, locked as he was. There were too many of them to have been the man’s original belongings, if he’d had any at the time when he’d been captured.
Although most of it did seem like junk. Random pieces that Adriel could make no sense of.
There were several wooden carvings that looked half-finished, and had vague animal shapes. Then there was a bowl full of marbles, and a few chess pieces.
Surprisingly, on one of the middle shelves he found was a stack of papers with charcoal sketches. They looked quite old as the paper had that old, yellowed look, but the drawings were still nice. Most depicted some outdoor scenery or still life, but there was one that was clearly a sketch of this room. At this, Adriel could not help but wonder, did the Demon-Lord draw these?
Adriel really liked art, always had. His favourite hobby while he had been working in the gardens had been to draw all the various flowers and plants that grew there. Unfortunately, his art utensils had disappeared during his move to the dorm for lower servants.
He carefully organized the drawings and found an unused binder to put them in so that they would not deteriorate further.
Other than that pleasant surprise, one of the more interesting things Adriel took note of was that amongst the more exquisite items there was actually a traditional figurine of The Holy Maiden that was used in prayer. It was made from a white stone, and Adriel knew it must be quite old as it had a design that was bit different than the ones that were commonly seen these days. Still, he could not imagine what it was doing here, as the thought of the fearsome Demon-Lord using the figurine for its intended purpose honestly seemed quite preposterous.
However, there was something that attracted Adriel’s attention even more than the Holy Maiden figurine. It was a collection of figurines made from what appeared to be a cold, black stone, maybe obsidian. All of the figurines were cut in the shape of what had to be hellhounds. Adriel, thankfully, had never seen an actual hellhound, but he’d seen drawings, and these seemed to match the impression of them he had.
There were seven such figurines, all in different sizes and poses, but all of them looked ferocious. And each had eyes of a different shade, made of various types of gems inlaid in the eye sockets.
They were all impressive, and Adriel couldn’t help feeling that the tiny hellhounds were about to come alive and attack him. So he took each of the seven beasts and dusted them with special care, making sure not to be too rough. Afterwards, he arranged them on the dinner table in what he himself thought was a pretty awesome battle scene.
By this point he had cleared out the lower shelves, and all that was left was the top one.
Unfortunately, he had quite the trouble reaching it, and he once again felt like lamenting his lack in height. Usually, he did not really care how tall he was, but it really was annoying during moments like this.
Like this, he had no other choice but to take one of the chairs and stand on top of it. The chair was sturdy, so he was not afraid it could not take his weight, but he still felt queasy.
As he reached for one of the items on the shelf, an ancient looking vase with a scene of a battle pictured on it, there came a sound like that of an animal howling behind him.
Adriel was so shaken by it that he fell backwards, along with the vase he’d been holding in his hands. The vase fell on the ground and shattered into a million pieces right before his eyes as Adriel himself landed on the floor on his back.
Before he had the time to react or start fearing for his life, the door to the bedroom opened and the Demon-Lord stepped inside the sitting room.
Adriel made no move to get up – his bum hurt – but turned his head to the other side, too scared to try to gauge the Demon-Lord’s expression.
A voice came from above, and when Adriel finally turned his head back, realizing he could not play ignorant, he saw the demon kneeling next to him. He gulped. That handsome, masculine face was right above him. The man’s long hair was now completely undone, and the ends of the dark red strands brushed against Adriel’s cheek. It felt soft.
It took a second for Adriel to realize he’d actually been asked a question.
“I can see that.” The demon’s reply was quite dry.
“Umm…I was dusting the shelves…and…”
At this the Demon-Lord turned his eyes towards the shelves, and raised his eyebrows.
“I don’t remember asking you to dust the shelves?”
There did not seem to be any admonishment in his voice, but Adriel still felt embarrassed as he replied, “You didn’t…but I had nothing to do and the shelves were the only dusty place in the whole room for some reason so I thought I should do something about it and…”
Adriel stopped as he noticed the Demon-Lord was blinking at him.
He really was blabbering, it seemed. Then he recalled the vase.
“Ahh, the vase!” He tried to get up, but a throb of pain came from his back and he groaned. At that moment he felt hands slipping underneath his knees and back, and his body being lifted up. Suddenly he was in the air, held in the Demon-Lord’s arms. The surprise of it left Adriel breathless, and he was sure his cheeks were the colour of pomegranates.
The Demon-Lord did not tarry around in place, but sat him on one of the dining room chairs. The man poked his body a few times like he was asserting Adriel was not hurt too badly, and then stood in front of him with his arms crossed.
Adriel looked at the remains of the once pretty vase on the floor, but did not say anything. The Demon-lord’s gaze followed his. There was, however, no change in the man’s expression as his gaze alighted upon the same sight.
“How did that happen?” The demon inquired at last, his tone curiously level.
Adriel, however, sprang up hearing the question and began to stammer. “Umm…I was standing on the chair since I couldn’t reach the top shelf, and then I think I slipped,” he tried to explain when he recalled the most crucial detail, “Oh, there was actually a howl, and that was what scared me so much I lost my balance.”
The Demon-Lord’s expression became doubtful, so Adriel hurried to add, “I swear there was howling! I don’t know where it came from, but it sounded like something those things would make.” Then he pointed at the hellhound figurines on the dinner table.
The man glanced at what Adriel was pointing to and made a surprised noise. The he began to laugh merrily. Adriel couldn’t help thinking that, for an infamous terror-inducing demonic being of legends the man was uncharacteristically prone to laughter.
“I see,” the ancient demon said finally, when his laughter had calmed down. There was still an amused twist to his mouth, however.
He took one of the figurines in hand, and gently ran his hand over its back like he was petting it.
“They are quite mean, aren’t they? They probably wanted to play a prank on you, even though it looks like you dusted them so nicely.”
Now it was Adriel’s turn to blink. The Demon-Lord spoke of the figurines like they were alive, but hadn’t that been the feeling they had given Adriel as well earlier? Were they actually alive?
But, that was nonsensical. There was no such thing as living statues. Because, as he saw, none of the figurines had changed their poses since he had last seen them. Which meant they couldn’t have made the noise. The mystery made Adriel’s head buzz. He considered asking the man to explain what he meant, but he really did not dare to utter a sound.
The demon was still petting the biggest of the figurines that had eyes made of rubies. His expression was strangely gentle. He then placed the hellhound statue down on the table and faced Adriel again. This made Adriel recall his current situation, and a shiver ran over his back. There was nothing for it but to try to beg for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry about the vase. You can punish me however you want, just please don’t kill me,” he entreated the demon with tears in the corners of his eyes, and his hands placed on his knees. It was only his first day of serving the demon, and he’d already fucked up.
The Demon-Lord was silent for a moment. Then the man approached Adriel and placed his large hand on top of his head, and petted it like you would a child’s.
“I’m sure you’ve heard all the rumours already. It’s true I don’t like incompetency, but this was an accident. Even I’m not so cruel to kill you on the first strike.”
“Also,” he continued after a moment, “it seems these guys have taken a fancy to you. They don’t usually pay any attention to the other boys. So who am I to argue with them?”
That, apparently, made him laugh again. Adriel had a feeling that was a sound he would be hearing a lot in the future. But his words did make Adriel sigh in relief. Even if his professed saviours were a bunch of sort-of-inanimate objects.
“Thank you.” Adriel expressed his gratitude to the man instead.
The demon did not reply, but Adriel did not expect him to. He lowered his head, and wondered what to do now, since he had been let off the hook.
The Demon-Lord solved that problem for him.
“Now that this is done with, you should rest for a bit. You don’t seem injured, but I’m sure it was a bit of a shock for you. Don’t worry about dusting the remaining shelves; just put the things back in them.”
Having given his orders, the Demon-Lord picked up the seven hellhound figurines and returned to his bedroom leaving Adriel alone again, but with a bit of warmth in his heart.
The rest of Adriel’s first working day went by without any incidents. After he had rested and cleaned up the mess he had made, Adriel had brought the Demon-Lord’s dinner, and they had gone through another mostly silent, but relaxed meal.
After that, the Demon-Lord had returned to his bedroom, but had left the door open. Adriel had spent the time minding his own business in the sitting room, occasionally being asked by the man to bring him this or that item. Adriel did not try to peep in the bedroom to see what the demon was doing, but the few times he had needed to enter it, he’d seen the demon laying on the bed sideways, propped on his elbow, with all the hellhound figurines placed right in front of him.
Unbidden, an image of the fearsome Demon-Lord playing with the little hellhounds had come to Adriel’s mind, but he had not dared to let even a sound escape, let alone start giggling as he had really wanted to do.
By the time evening had come and Adriel was about to excuse himself from the Demon-Lord and make his way back to the servant quarters, he was resolved that it was imperative that he think of something to do to pass the time down here, before his next round of ‘demon duty’ came around. Else he was sure he would go mad from the tedium. It also further amplified his amazement that the Demon-Lord had not gone bonkers, living like this.
Adriel stood in the doorway to the bedroom with his hands placed in front of him, and gave a bow to the man.
“Sir, it’s getting quite late. May I excuse myself?” His voice was more nervous than he would have liked, but taking initiative like this was not really something he was accustomed to.
As Adriel had kept his bent pose, he missed the strange glint that shone in the demon’s eyes as the man glanced upon him. Or the accompanying smirk he wore as Adriel thanked him and left the man’s prison quarters.
Donesies~ I’d draw the cute hellhound figurines, but I’m crap at animals. Think something like the Pokemon Houndour/Houndoom.
Next chapter should be out soon as well, but it’s a beast one (7k), so editing that will take me a while.
Thanks to everyone, who has liked this story, it means a lot since it’s the first thing I’ve written I’ve ever published~
See ya next time~