Yo! Here it is finally. I got pretty stuck writing chapter 11, so this ended taking so long to update. Classic writer’s block.
But with this we’re officially half-way through this story. This chapter is pretty important and exciting, so I hope you enjoy it~
Demon-Lord’s Little Bride
Even after having engaged in such carnal acts and having spoken of such treasonous plans, life, unsurprisingly, went on as normal for Adriel.
He slept, ate and worked – rinse and repeat.
There was now just the added bonus of a lover in the form of an ancient and irresistible demon. For really whenever the man tried to entice Adriel into fooling around for a bit instead of working, Adriel found himself powerless to resist.
Due to this their art lesson had also suffered. It was hard to concentrate on drawing when someone stared at you like you were a particularly tasty cut of meat and they were a starving beast.
Which the Demon-Lord did…constantly.
Being the focal point of such naked desire was embarrassing, and intimidating. The demon never outright dragged him to bed, though Adriel could swear he’d seen the thought flash by in the maddening man’s eyes more than once, but preferred to tempt Adriel into giving up himself.
A touch here, a caress there, and Adriel was turned into putty.
There, however, had been no progress on the escape front. Truth be told, Hador had said to Adriel that it wasn’t something he had to worry his head over with; he should just leave all that escaping business to the demon.
Part of Adriel was irritated by that. He knew he was no genius, but he still wanted to help the Demon-Lord, even if it was just by listening to him hash out the plan.
The other part was aware of the secrecy with which such a plan should be made, and knew that there was danger he’d let something slip out unintentionally. Any such mishap could be lethal.
Especially for him. The Demon-Lord held worth to the Holy Maiden, but he was just a simple servant – replacing him wouldn’t require the Holy Maiden to even raise a finger.
So in the end he’d shut his mouth and had kept his complaints at bay. He was sure the man would tell him if there was anything really important he had to know.
But still the standstill was making him antsy. In the pit of his stomach, a feeling of foreboding kept rearing its ugly head. Everything was going well, but he couldn’t help thinking that something was about to go amiss.
“Good morning, Adriel.”
“Haaaa…good morn…Jesse,” Adriel murmured in return, hiding a yawn behind his hand as he took a seat opposite Jesse and put down his breakfast.
Hador had wrung him dry last night, and if it wasn’t for the fact he had an early shift, he’d still be burrowed in his pillow, sleeping away the exhaustion.
Damn demon! Is what Adriel wanted to curse out, but that would be pointless. It was his own fault that yesterday he hadn’t even given a moment of consideration to the fact he had to start work early the next day.
Though in hindsight, he really couldn’t see the evening ending any different even if he had remembered.
“You seem pre-occupied?” Jesse enquired, making Adriel return to reality. He shook his head.
“I’m fine. Just tired.”
“You were with the Demon-Lord yesterday, right? It’s usually a pretty laid-back duty, did something happen?”
Adriel twitched. Damn. What was he supposed to say to that?
“No, not at all. I just didn’t sleep well last night,” he blustered, waving his hand.
He hoped he sounded casual enough. Jesse seemed to believe him “That’s good, then. But take care to go sleep earlier tonight.”
Adriel nodded wholeheartedly, and they started on their meals.
But halfway through, Adriel was interrupted by another question from Jesse.
“How are you doing, though? The dungeon is not the most pleasant place of work, and it takes its toll on all the boys, especially ones who also serve the Demon-Lord.” Jesse inquired good-naturedly.
“Umm…” Adriel started a bit flummoxed, “It’s fine, I guess?” Then he tried to throw in a joke at the end “I am still alive, aren’t I?”
It fell flat, but Jesse did give him a smile for trying. “You’ve adjusted better than most then. Which I’m glad for, this place sees too much turnover.”
That brought back a faint memory.
“Right, you’ve been here for a pretty long time, haven’t you?”
The question made Jesse stop, and put his spoon back into the bowl. A serene look crossed his face.
“Yes, Caleb is the only servant with more seniority than I, though that is to change soon.”
Jesse gave him a surprised look “You didn’t know? Although Caleb has been in the dungeon for the longest time, I was a palace servant even before he was hired. I’m almost 25. In a few months my contract with the Palace ends and everyone knows that the dungeon servants are always let go rather than being retained somewhere else.”
Adriel was surprised by that. He rarely paid attention to gossip, so it wasn’t that strange he hadn’t heard, but it would be extremely difficult to guess that Jesse was 24.
But then all the servant boys were like that, so in the end it shouldn’t have been that surprising either.
It made Adriel curious, however.
“How did you end up in here then?” he asked.
Jesee blinked, seemingly once again surprised.
“You really don’t get around much, do you Adriel? Not to mention down here, I’m sure they still mention it among the servants from time to time even upstairs.”
The assessment made Adriel flush in embarrassment. Jesse saw how distraught he’d made him, and hurried to soothe him.
“I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing. It speaks very well of you that you do not engage in all that pointless chatter.” He then hurried to answer the previous question. “Before I ended up here, I was one of Her Ladyship’s personal mage servants.”
Adriel’s eyes went wide. That was a really high position.
“My crime, if it can be called that, was that I accidentally injured the Holy Maiden. I was checking the wards in Her Ladyship’s bedroom, when I messed up and the thing activated. It made one of her magic rings go crazy and blow up, slightly injuring her. She sent me down to serve in the dungeon. Comparatively speaking, I was let off pretty easily, since at the time some were suspicious that it had been an assassination attempt.”
“Wow. You were really lucky,” Adriel exclaimed in wonder. He was stunned that the Holy Maiden had been so lenient. Jesse must have been a very good servant.
“Yes, and I’m thankful for it every day.”
“But, her ring blew up, how is that even possible?” Adriel enquired, trying to seem as casually curious as possible.
Jese gave a nod in affirmation. “It’s quite simple. The wards can supress and interfere with the use of magic items, I just accidentally activated and amplified the effect.”
“Are all wards in the Palace like that?”
“Why do you ask?”
Adriel stammered. “Umm, just curious, you know. I have a bit of magic aptitude, but I’m not very well-educated, so I don’t know a lot of things.”
He seemed to have convinced Jesse as the youth gave him a sympathetic look.
“I can understand that. I was really fortunate to have had the means to study magic, but not all have the opportunity” he then continued, “as for the wards, yes, I think essentially they are all the same, since they were originally put in place when the Palace was built. But I’ve only ever interacted with a few of them, so I cannot say it with complete certainty.” He finished that in an apologetic tone.
Adriel shook his hand. “That’s good enough, it’s not like I’ll ever come across a ward, I was just curious.” He then hurried to change the subject.
“What are you going to do once your contract is up?”
A serene countenance returned to Jesse’s expression upon the question. He seemed to ponder it for a few moments before answering.
“I’ll probably return to my home town, the White Blossom village.”
“Where is that?” Adriel asked in interest.
“Oh, it’s very much in the South, near the border with the Dark Marsh. In the old days it supposedly served as a popular spot for travellers to stop at when going between the Empire and the Marsh.”
“Then does that mean, you’ve seen demons before?” Adriel wondered. Demons were explicitly forbidden from stepping foot into the Holy Citadel, and even outside of it in the other regions of the Holy Empire demons were very rarely seen as they were heavily ostracized.
“On occasion, yes. Most demons do not stray far from the Dark Marsh, but some do come to the village to trade.”
“So you were probably less shocked when you saw the Demon-Lord for the first time,” Adriel concluded.
That earned him a smile. “I suppose. But the Demon-Lord is quite special. There are no other demons like him, are there?”
Adriel nodded, though it had not really sounded like a question.
Afterwards, they continued their meal, exchanging stories of their hometowns, and growing up with magic aptitude.
“Hador, are there wards in your cell?”
Adriel asked out of the blue a week later while braiding the demon’s hair. He could not see it, but he clearly felt the man’s brow rising as he replied.
“What do you think?”
Adriel blushed. He just wanted to make sure.
“Do you know where they are?”
“Why do you ask?” Hador asked instead of answering.
Cautiously Adriel told him of the conversation he had with Jesse over the breakfast table. After he finished, the demon crossed his arms, looking pensive.
“I had…never heard of that.” He started, “but then, the wards here are very ancient, it stands to reason they would not be so simple.”
Hearing that the Demon-Lord had not outright rejected him, Adriel continued.
“Do you think it might mess up the Holy Maiden’s ring as well?”
The Demon-Lord gave him a thoughtful look.
“It…might. The thing is malfunctioning as it is, so a little magic impulse could make it backfire.” He sounded unsure, but Adriel took it to mean it was possible.
“Would that work, to create an opportunity?” he pressed on.
Hador laughed. “The damn ring blowing up in Dear Hosanna’s face? It sure would.” But then he turned serious again. “But that would not deal with the others – there are still her bodyguards, and the two mages that stand outside the door.”
Adriel’s shoulders dropped in disappointment. He hadn’t thought of that.
The demon saw that and gave him a pat on the head, while his other hand sneaked around his waist.
“Don’t be discouraged. This idea is still great. I’ll think of something to deal with the other people.”
He then began to kiss Adriel’s face, starting from his forehead moving down to his eyes, nose and cheeks. Adriel giggled and entwined his hands behind Hador’s neck.
Following that exchange, Adriel started to often run off to the library in his free time. If the wards had to be manipulated to release Hador, the only one who could accomplish that would probably be him. They had no other allies.
So as discreetly as possible he read his way through all the books on magic and especially wards that the library had. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t much.
The first floor – the only one he had access to – was meant for casual public, so the collection of books that dealt with magic was quite small and very basic. All the more advanced stuff, Adriel suspected, was kept on the upper floors and one needed permission to enter those.
Nevertheless, Adriel dug through what he had, but even that gave him a monumental headache. Magic theory was a convoluted subject that was difficult to grasp even for the talented, let alone Adriel who was not exactly the biggest fan of books in general.
Still, he persevered.
When he’d informed Hador of it, he’d been treated with amusement. And several pats on the head. He dutifully informed Adriel that it would take years of intense training for him to be able to interact with the wards to the level necessary to cause the effect they needed, but he really appreciated the effort.
Really really appreciated it. Which he showed. Physically.
Even after that Adriel did not completely drop his studies. It would do no harm for him to better his magic knowledge, in contrary, it may even come in handy at some point in the future.
Adriel went over what he’d read yesterday about shapeshifters, a very rare magical being, as he carried a lunch tray to the dungeon. It was actually his day-off, but one of the other dungeon servants had unexpectedly fallen ill, and Adriel had been assigned to replace him.
It meant he wouldn’t be able to spend the day in the library as was his plan, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it.
He descended the stairs as normal, and found himself in the main hallway. But just as he had handed over the tray to the guard in charge of documenting visitors, in the distance there was a sound of an explosion.
And then howling.
The guards expressions fell, and dread settled in the pit of Adriel’s stomach. That sound had come from the direction of Hador’s cell.
All the guards that were stationed in the hallway stood in attention, and they were joined by several more nearby ones that had been attracted by the noise. They all looked towards the corridor leading to the Demon-lord’s prison, but none dared to take a step closer.
During this, Adriel unconsciously almost took a step forward, but caught himself in the last moment, and took several steps back, colliding with the stone wall.
He had no idea what was happening, he must not act so rashly.
Then he heard one of the guards mutter “Didn’t Her Ladyship come today?” The guard next to him nodded, and said something, but Adriel could not hear him, there was a buzzing sound in his ears.
The Holy Maiden was down here? That…couldn’t mean anything good.
The feeling of dread grew stronger, and Adriel could feel his fingers trembling.
Finally, the guards had reached an agreement, and several of them went through the barrier that separated that corridor from the hallway, and others went upstairs, probably to gather back-up.
Adriel was left in the hallway with two other guards, though nobody was paying him any attention. He desperately wanted to follow the guards that had crossed the barrier, but he was afraid of causing suspicion. He prayed that Hador was okay.
Seconds ticked by.
All of a sudden, a guard came flying through the barrier and landed in a heap on the floor. Adriel could not tell if the man was dead or alive, as he did not move, but his armour was visibly scorched.
Like it had been burned.
The source of the charred clothing became apparent right away as a ferocious beast tore through the barrier, visibly shattering it as the magic faded.
It was a hellhound. And not just any hellhound, but one with ruby red eyes. It was more than half the height of the guards , brawny with coal black fur.
It growled aggressively, but did not make any move. The two remaining guards wavered for a second, before one of them abandoned caution and moved to strike the beast, his silver sword glinting as it was drawn from its scabbard.
The hellhound was not intimidated by that. Its mouth opened and a ball of flames came bursting out, aimed straight at the guard. The man barely managed to avoid it as it narrowly passed him and hit the wall, even burning the stone for a minute.
But that manoeuvre cost the silver armoured guard heavily as in the next second the large beast jumped at the guard, and pushed him on the floor.
Without any hesitation the hellhound tore into him with his sharp fangs, severing the man’s life.
Adriel gasped, and immediately put his hand over his mouth in terror. He had an inkling towards the identity of the hellhound, but that did not mean he was not afraid of it, especially as he witnessed something like that.
The dog raised its head at the noise, and looked at him, its bright red eyes intent, but made no move.
The other guard did not dare to make a move, probably all too aware that he would probably end up just like his partner.
“Mars, stop fooling around and come here.” A husky voice called.
Adriel recognized that voice. With hopeful eyes, he focused his gaze on the hallway. After a moment his hope was rewarded, as Hador stepped into the hallway.
He was dressed as always, but straight away Adriel fearfully noticed that the man was injured. The demon had his left hand pressed against his right bicep that was visibly dripping blood. The red liquid flowed downwards – reaching the man’s hand that was entirely covered in blood but held a sword, a silver one. He had obviously liberated it from one of the guards after a fight.
Seeing him, only one thing flashed through Adriel’s mind – relief. But then anxiousness welled in heart again.
Had the Demon-Lord been trying to escape without telling him about it? And did it go wrong?
Adriel did not know what to think.
Once he was fully in the room, the hellhound came running towards the demon, and quite cutely for such a dreadful beast brushed against the man’s legs. It then ruined the cute image by starting to lick the blood that was on the man’s hand.
It took a moment for Hador to notice Adriel, but even then there was no outward reaction as their eyes met. Adriel, who was still leaning against the wall, wanted to call out, to rush to the demon, to check on him, but his body was frozen stiff.
But that seemed to be for the better as Hador’s eyes turned away, and the sound of countless feet making their way down the stairs caught both of their attention.
A large group of soldiers burst into the room and immediately stopped, probably in shock at seeing the Demon-Lord outside of his cell. The befuddlement did not last long, however, and almost all of them fell upon the demon.
Adriel shrank back, his hands crossed as if he was shaking from cold. But it was fear, not cold that tormented him. There were too many men for Hador to deal with.
The gold collar was still on his neck, which Adriel only now noticed, so he had no idea if the man’s magic was still being supressed.
If it was this would only make the situation worse.
But Adriel had underestimated Hador – those muscles were not just for show. And the hellhound, as it had previously demonstrated, was not a herbivore either.
The hound cleared away a good chunk of soldiers with another blast of fire, this time even bigger, while the Demon-Lord used his large stature to overpower his opponents. Demon skin was naturally tougher than a human’s, so it took more force to damage it, which left the guards open to counterattacks from the demon.
The man did not hesitate to deal killing blows, but some of the guards seemed unsure. Prisoners were to be contained, not eliminated. But who could contain a Demon-Lord?
During all this Adriel had carefully slid along the wall outside of anyone’s notice, aiming to get closer to the demon without getting mixed up in the fighting.
Currently, he was standing next to one of the corridors leading into another part of the dungeon, and watching in trepidation as the demon finished off another man, who’d recklessly attacked him, by using so much strength it pierced through a weak spot in the man’s silver armour.
In a detached part of Adriel’s mind, he huffed – that’s what you get when your armour is more decorative than practical.
The guards fell back, and a stalemate between the two parties ensued.
The Demon-Lord took a look around the room, seemingly at random, but Adriel had a feeling the man was looking for him. That guess was almost certainly proven, when the demon’s gaze passed over him and stopped, and Adriel’s knees shook at the ferocious intensity in that gaze. It was not lust, but something far more demonic, it was bloodthirstiness that was shimmering in those eyes. It was like Hador had let go of his shell of humanity, and let out the demon.
That image was not helped by all the blood that coated the demon and the floor surrounding him, let alone the corpses.
The demon took a step towards him, or more like, towards the corridor Adriel was standing next to, when something unexpected happened.
A flash of blue light came from the hallway behind the demon, and right in front of Adriel’s eyes pierced Hador’s chest.
Adriel’s mouth opened in a silent scream as blood spilled from Hador’s mouth, and he fell down to his knees. Another piercing ray of blue followed, hitting the same spot and the demon collapsed on the floor.
None of the guards reacted, but the hellhound’s fur was raised as it immediately began to protectively hover over the demon, and growling in the direction of the hallway.
From which a woman stepped out. It was the Holy Maiden. But she looked – haggard.
For one, she was not wearing the veil, and her face was visible to all. That made several of the guards panic and try to cover their eyes before their fellows scolded them for acting stupid. Secondly, her dress was torn and smeared with blood at the hem like she’d been battling.
But the worst was the malicious smile that was on her face as she looked down at Hador on the floor.
The demon coughed, a little bit of blood pouring out, but he still greeted her in an amused tone.
“I see that you’ve finally joined us, Dear Hosanna.”
The woman laughed, the sound of it malicious seeming to Adriel’s ears.
“Oh, yes. It was finally time to put down the dogs. It was a nice attempt, very elaborate, but it would take more than one of your fuckboys to take me down.”
“Cough…ah, how mean…I didn’t know that the exalted holiest woman knew how to use such vulgar words.”
The Holy Maiden didn’t dignify him with another reply, but crossed the room, stopping in front of the guards.
She commanded, frostily, “Drag him back to his cell. I injured him, it won’t be enough to kill him, but it should immobilize him for a while.”
“But the hellhound, Your Ladyship?”
The Holy Maiden’s eyes narrowed. A ball of light formed in her hands, and she sent it towards the dog. But before it reached the hound, the beast vanished. All that remained was a figurine sitting on the floor, the Demon-Lord’s hand perched over it.
“Now…that isn’t nice, is it? Attacking…a…a…defenceless animal like that?” the demon said, though his voice wavered. He looked to be in pain. Adriel’s heart cried out in pain as well, seeing that.
A sneer came from the woman.
“An interesting trick.”
She then returned her attention to the guards “It should be fine now. Just drag him back. I do not have the whole day, and I will still need to fix the wards that hold him.”
All at once the guards saluted in compliance, and a few brave ones hesitantly approached the demon. They were just a few steps away when another figure rushed out from the corridor, and slid down next to the demon, grasping his hand. The figure smashed something that had been in his hand, and a deep purple, almost black light began to enclose the two figures.
The Holy Maiden cried out.
“Stop him! He is trying to teleport away!”
The guards hurried to intervene, but before they could, the dark vortex rapidly expanded, and just as rapidly shrunk, leaving behind it only emptiness.
The guards were stupefied, and the Holy Maiden let out a shout of anger combined with a few choice swearwords one did not use in polite company. Her face was red, and her hands were clenched so tightly her nails pierced the skin, letting a few drops of blood land on the floor.
Meanwhile, Adriel was being led down the corridor he had been standing next to in a daze. By Caleb. As the teleportation had been occurring, his hand had been grabbed, and he had been pulled into the corridor.
He’d been surprised, but Caleb had immediately shushed him, and commanded Adriel to follow him. Confused, he’d obeyed.
The manager of the dungeon servants led him through several empty passageways till they had reached a mostly secluded corner. Then he stopped. And turned to face Adriel.
His voice was graver than Adriel had ever heard.
“Now, you will tell me everything that just happened there. And I mean everything.”
His severity made a cold shiver run over Adriel’s back, but he nodded, and began to retell the events, of course, excluding all of his own suspicions. Once he finished, unexpectedly, Caleb also cursed out.
“Damn…I always suspected that there was something more to Jesse. I should have kept a better eye on him.”
He’d suspected Jesse? Really? Adriel had been shocked out of his mind when he’d seen Jesse run into the main hallway, and reach out for Hador.
“You’ve kept an eye on him?”
Caleb’s face was expressionless, except for the slight narrowing of the corners of his eyes.
“I keep an eye on everyone in the dungeon, and above, at least as much as I can. The Demon-Lord like to be well informed.”
Caleb must have noticed his confusion, because he immediately explained. “Didn’t you realize? I work for the Demon-Lord. Always have.”
Adriel really felt like the state of shock he was in would never end. He had numerous questions for Caleb, but there were more pressing matters.
“Then what about Jesse?”
“I’m not sure. Could be someone in the Capital with a grudge against the Holy Maiden, or maybe he was sent here by someone from the Dark Marsh. It would not be the demons’ first attempt to rescue His Lordship.”
“Will he be all right?” Now that he knew Caleb was probably aware of their relationship, Adriel did not hold back his worries.
“He will. The Holy Maiden might be able to injure him while he was distracted, but she in no way has enough power to kill him. Hopefully Jesse teleported them somewhere they can rest.”
Caleb reassured him, but his expression was clouded.
“But that is not what worries me. I have no idea what will happen now. The Holy Maiden’s temper is unpredictable. The last time one of the Demon-Lord’s servants committed a crime, all of us suffered a bit. But this time the crime is quite enormous. Who knows what she will do with us to regain some semblance of petty revenge.”
Adriel paled. He hadn’t thought of that. The Holy Maiden shall surely take her vengeance on them. He felt his body shake in terror. And if she learns that he was the Demon-Lord’s lover…
Hands took hold of his shoulders, steadying him. He raised his head and met Caleb’s cool blue eyes.
“Don’t panic. I will make sure nothing terrible happens to you. If I don’t, His Lordship will definitely rip me limb to limb.”
There was a cold, but firm assurance in those words.
They couldn’t have hid in that secluded corner forever, but once they ventured back into a busier part of the dungeon, they were taken into custody by the first guards they stumbled upon.
There were no explanations; the guards had just declared that the Holy Maiden had ordered all of the dungeon servants to be gathered.
For a moment Adriel had been afraid that they were looking for him, for he’d been present at the event and now that the dust had settled, some of the guards might have recalled that there had been a servant boy in the room as well. Images of himself being interrogated flashed through his mind, making cold sweat drip down his back.
But luckily for him, it seemed not one of the surviving guards had paid him the least amount of attention for he was not the sole target of their search.
They were just rounding up all the remaining six boys, plus Caleb, that had served the Demon-Lord. Unceremoniously, all of them were shoved into a cell, and left there.
What’s going to happen next? Find out in the next exciting chapter of Demon-Lord’s Little Bride~ Next one’s gonna be a very special chapter as well..he…he
Don’t know when that’s gonna be up though, this summer heat is killing my brain cells.
Also, here’s the promised character art. It’s Jesse this time, since he plays a pretty big role this chapter~
A cute little bumble-bee, ne?
Anyways, see you soon~