I decided to upload the rest of this story I’ve written, in hopes it’ll inspire me to finish it.
Demon-Lord’s Little Bride
Underneath the Palace of the Holy Citadel, there was a dungeon. Far and wide it was well known that it was where the greatest threats to the Empire’s rule were imprisoned to rot away for eternity. Nobody had ever escaped from there as the Holy Maiden herself oversaw the prison.
Well, that had been the story up until the escape of the infamous Demon-Lord.
The event had irreversibly damaged the prison’s reputation, and ever since then the Holy Maiden had been on a crusade to try to restore it, enforcing stricter and stricter rules.
Adriel has been experiencing that desire for control on his own skin for a year.
Still, he had it better than other, more treasonous prisoners.
The Holy Maiden’s reason for imprisoning all of the remaining servant boys had been more pretty revenge and a means to comfort her fragile ego than a desire to torment them.
Adriel still recalled the day he and all the other boys that served the Demon-Lord, including Caleb had been pushed into a cell without any explanation and left to rot for almost three days.
All of them had been confused, unsure of what would happen with them. Some of the older boys had screamed about lashes and whippings, and Caleb had been obliged to shut him up so he would not agitate the others more.
They expected interrogations, and they had come, day after day they were grilled about every single thing that could be related to their work, Jesse or the Demon-Lord. The Holy Maiden had, it seems, been suspicious of another spy, and had tried to find a scapegoat for this incident, but in the end she’d been unsuccessful.
Adriel had kept his mouth shut and answered everything as vaguely as he possibly could, and helped by the fact he was still a new servant and that his magic aptitude was below mediocre, he’d managed to avoid arousing the interrogator’s interest. At that time he’d breathed a sigh of relief since this would probably mean that they should pass through this relatively easily.
Until they all had heard the verdict.
It had been delivered by the Holy Maiden herself. It was most likely she had wished to see their dejected expressions as she coolly declared that they are sentenced to a 10 year imprisonment in the very dungeon that they had worked in for their negligence.
And that had not even been the end of it.
They were also to be lashed. Like one of the boys had warned.
After that they had been moved into their permanent cells, in a dusty little corner of the dungeon that was out of the way of even the most patrols, like the Holy Maiden wanted to tell them that not only were they actually no threat, they were so insignificant guarding them would be a waste of resources and it would be better for them to be forgotten.
The cells were tiny, with two people assigned to each. Adriel had no idea how Caleb had managed to achieve this, but he was assigned as Adriel’s roommate.
The first few days it had almost felt surreal, being on the other side of the bars, being the one imprisoned, rather than the one walking the corridors freely.
Adriel had sat still on the stone bed, in a state of shock, unable to cope with the fact that this was reality. He kept feeling like this was all a dream and if he tried hard enough he would wake up in the Demon-Lord’s bedroom, having accidentally fallen asleep like he was prone to do.
But he had no such luck, and the days passed with him wavering in such a state until reality came crashing down when the second part of the servant boy’s punishment came around.
Thankfully, the Holy Maiden did not make a public spectacle of their lashing like she sometimes did for her own amusement.
She herself was present, however, in the large dungeon room where all the boys were dragged to so to bear witness to each other’s suffering.
One by one, each boy was dragged to the centre of the room, his head and arms locked in place, so he could not squirm away, and ten lashes were struck against his back by the chief torturer.
Adriel was sure one of the boys had peed himself watching the process; there had been an acrid smell in the air.
He himself, well, he had not been far away from it. Adriel had never been the bravest, and though his father had belted him once or twice in his childhood, he had never suffered though pain like this.
The leather whip the torturer had wielded had been a thick sturdy one, and it left bright red marks on his spine. Adriel had screamed like all other boys, screamed and cried at the burning pain. There was no doubt those would leave a mark.
The only one who had born it better had been Caleb. His stoic face had only grimaced, and only grunts had come from his mouth.
Adriel had not dared to take a glimpse at the Holy Maiden’s expression during all this, but if he had to bet he would say the woman’s ill temper had probably been pleased by this.
After the lashing, all the boys had received some basic treatment so that the wounds would not get infected and dragged back to their cells.
But once they had been back, Caleb had for the first time since their imprisonment taken a proactive approach towards Adriel and had insisted to recheck his wounds.
His justification – apparently Hador would be most displeased when he came to rescue them if Adriel had become scarred.
Adriel had laughed miserably at that, it had seemed like such an insignificant thing to care about in the greater scheme of things.
Like surviving in this place. But in the coming days it had proven a moot concern. It appeared that with the physical punishment having been doled out, the Holy Maiden had lost any interest in them and had all but forgotten of their existence.
Caleb had theorized that although the Her Ladyship had been considering the possibility that there might be more than one spy, she had probably pushed it away in the end as Jesse’s act had looked like a solo scheme. And other than that, they did not really have any other worth in her eyes.
It was both a blessing and a curse.
It was good because they did not need to fear any further pain to come, but it also meant that aside from meals, they were left alone to rot their cells for the whole duration of their prison time.
And rotting was really the only thing it could be compared to. With each day that had passed Adriel felt like a little part of his soul had died away. Periods of numbness intermixed with periods of intense despair and sadness.
His only saving grace from this madness was, surprisingly, Caleb. The other youth did not willingly speak of his origin, and association with the Demon-Lord, but he never failed to assure Adriel that Hador had not forgotten him and would come for him. Even as days stretched into weeks and those weeks in turn stretched into months.
Adriel did not know what to think.
His heart hoped, but his brain told him to be reasonable.
Adriel did not doubt Hador’s feelings for him, but, even if the demon wanted to save him, how could he?
The security of the prison had been increased tenfold, and it would take a miracle to sneak him out of here. Otherwise an assault on Holy Citadel would be needed, and that would take an army. Hador was out there, yes, but the man had nothing. The demon would only be risking offering himself for easy capture, and Adriel did not wish that.
Hador had been imprisoned for so long, he deserved to enjoy freedom.
Maybe, when his imprisonment ended, Adriel would try to find him. “A year had already passed, what was nine more?” he thought, like he was desperately searching for a silver lining.
Blood soaked the dirty stone floor. Hador laid on it, face-up, still as stone. The Holy Maiden stood over him, a triumphant smile on her ice-cold face.
Adriel desperately crawled towards the Demon-Lord’s still figure. He knew Hador had survived this, he was out there, in the world, he was not dead.
“He is not dead, he is not dead…” like a mantra, Adriel repeated these words as he shook the demon’s still body, praying it would move.
But the flesh under his fingers suddenly became scorching hot, and Adriel was forced to remove his hands as Hador’s whole body erupted in flames. Tears filled his eyes, and Adriel raised his head to meet another pair of blue eyes.
There was only cruelty in the Holy Maiden’s gaze as she looked at him. A flame burned in her hand, the same one that was burning the Demon-Lord’s body. Adriel could see the intention in her eyes.
She was coming for him next.
With a scream, Adriel shot up from his stone bed, his body wracked with shivers and cold sweat.
It took a long a long moment for his heart to calm, and his breathing to return to normal.
That dream again…
During this long year in the dungeon, the only two types of nightmares Adriel ever saw was this and memories of the lashing, twisted to make the experience even more painful.
He did not see these dreams often, but every time it left him feeling exhausted and worn out. Like his body, mirroring his emotional state, was on the verge of breaking.
A cup made of metal and filled with water was put under his mouth and he was guided to take sip. He followed the practiced motion easily, and the cool water, chilled by the dreariness of the dungeon, helped to sooth him a tiny little bit.
Once he’d had his fill, Caleb took away the cup and let Adriel gather his thoughts.
Few minutes passed before Caleb judged it appropriate to begin to speak.
“Are you feeling better?’
Adriel nodded meekly. This was not the first time this has happened, and it surely would not be the last.
“Is it morning already?” Adriel asked. In this forgotten corner of the dungeon, it was even harder to tell the time of day.
“It’s mid-morning already. The servants brought breakfast about half an hour ago.”
Caleb never tried to wake him up in the mornings, but always let him sleep as long as he wanted. Probably because it was the only luxury they had.
“What’s happening out there?”
Maybe because of his previous position, Caleb was always able to garner titbits of information from the servants that brought them food. Otherwise, they were completely clueless about what was happening outside in the world.
“Nothing good. Tensions with the Merchant Guild in Mung are on the rise again. Everybody is afraid that we’re about to launch into a war.”
Ever since the Demon-Lord’s escape the Holy Maiden had been increasingly hostile to the emerging power player, as if looking for a reason to invade. And as her search for Hador grew more futile, her aggression grew. It was as if she was planning to use the potential crusade as means of regaining her prestige that had been ruined by this failure.
“And the Dark Marsh?”
“Who knows, the boys did not know anything, said the situation was still the same as ever.”
They heard very little of the demon’s homeland here, but even they knew that something was going on. The Dark Marsh had always been isolated, and pretty much only demons inhabited it, so the news were scarce, but there have been talks of rebellions raising up all over the vast territory.
Caleb was quick to declare that it was the Demon-Lord’s work, but Adriel had his doubts. Hador had confided in him, more than once, that he held little interest in ruling over the demons as the only remaining Demon-Lord, if he ever got free. It would become, in his words, just another type of prison.
But he did not mention that to Caleb, as in reality Adriel wished it to be true, if only just as proof that Hador was out there in the world, and not daring to hope this would lead to Hador gathering forces to free them.
They had a silent breakfast as always.
Although he and Caleb had grown closer during this year, the youth still was not overly fond of speaking and Adriel respected that.
In any case Caleb was pretty much his only human contact, as the other servant boys cells were not next to theirs, so there was no way for them to communicate. And at best he only ever managed to exchange a few words with the servants who delivered them meals.
So it was important to maintain a good relationship between the two of them. But that was not hard, as Caleb treated Adriel with utmost respect. He had the sneaking suspicion it was due to his position as the Demon-Lord’s lover, since Caleb had once confessed the demon had threatened him to keep Adriel safe.
And in Caleb’s mind that seemed to translate to treating Adriel like a master.
Pushing around the breakfast gruel in the bowl, Adriel sighed. If he was not wrong, today marked the one year anniversary of Hador’s escape, and their imprisonment. No wonder he’d seen that dream.
A cloud of melancholy settled over Adriel at the thought of that name. It had been so long, did the demon even remember him anymore? Right in this moment Adriel desperately wanted to see Hador again, and be held within the demon’s powerful arms.
That warmth had been what he had missed the most.
But it was just wishful thinking.
“Your hair is getting quite long, would you like for me to cut them?” Caleb asked out of the blue. It brought Adriel right down to earth and made his fidgeting fingers stop.
“Eh? No, it’s fine. I like them long.”
The year in prison had not only resulted in emotional changes, but also impacted him physically. He’d thinned out, the food being even worse than the one given to servants, and his skin had become a shade so pale it might be considered unhealthy. His hair had also grown quite a few centimetres longer, but that bothered him the least. Although the pale long strands probably made him look even frailer than he actually was.
They finished breakfast, and waited for someone to come collect the dishes.
However, minutes went by without any servants making an appearance.
Caleb uncharacteristically snorted at that. “Sloppy. When I managed the dungeons nobody dared to shirk off their duties.”
But when a whole hour passed without any signs of life, Caleb grew restless.
Adriel was not sure why. It could just be that there was some mishap up in the kitchens, and the servants will collect the dishes when they bring dinner.
He suggested that to Caleb but the stoic youth’s brow did not loosen one bit. He looked deep in thought.
Then, suddenly, everything began to shake as if something gigantic was moving the very earth itself. The crystals that light the corridors rattled in their holders, and it felt like even the rocks beneath them were shifting. It lasted more than a few moments before everything finally stilled.
“What was that?” Adriel cried out.
There was a well-hidden spark in Caleb’s eyes “I don’t know. But whatever it was it has to be very powerful indeed to manage to impact even us here underground.”
Adriel didn’t even manage to ask Caleb what he meant by that, before the both of them caught sight of several guards running through the corridor.
Surprisingly, the men stopped not far from the cells, and the one who appeared to be the leader gave out an order to the others.
“The servants are in the cells up here. Gather them up, we have to be out of the dungeon before that blasted thing gets here. Understood?”
At first Adriel did not understand what was happening, but when he saw a guard coming and unlocking the door of his cell, he realized the guards were here for them. All the boys were dragged out, their hands locked in chains, and a guard was assigned to the two servant boys in each room.
“Why are you doing this? What has happened?” one of the other youths asked, his face ashen. “Is it because of the earthquake?”
The guard assigned to him gruffly spit out as he pushed the boy forwards “That was no earthquake. We’re under attack. Now move on.”
Chained, the seven of them were dragged through the whole dungeon in the direction of the stairs up. What surprised Adriel, however, was how few guards there were in the dungeon, he’d only seen like two. It was like the whole guard of the dungeon had been summoned.
Was it because of the attack?
And who could possibly be attacking?
Adriel thought of one man, but did not dare to bring up his hopes only to be let down. The Empire had numerous enemies, although none should be as daring as to attack the Holy Citadel directly. But the fact they were seemingly involved in this was suspicious…
There were no incidents on the way, and no more earthquakes either, and before long they had ascended the two stairs up and had entered the palace proper.
Adriel couldn’t stop himself from taking in gulps of fresh air, and he saw the other captives doing the same. However, they were not really given any time for respite, and dragged even further. Through more passages and corridors, and grand doors and as they proceeded a ball of fear gathered in Adriel’s stomach. He could guess where they were going.
And he did not like it one bit. The guards were taking them to see the Holy Maiden.
And he was not wrong as they were lead into Her Ladyship’s sitting room, the one that had a balcony that overlooked the whole front part of the Palace.
The Holy Maiden was not there, and they were made to stand in place and wait. Adriel could feel sweat running across his back in nervousness.
A terrifying growl came from the direction of the balcony, and a moment later the doors leading to it burst open and the Holy Maiden made her way inside. Even under the white veil, her furious scowl could be seen.
And it only got worse when she noticed them standing there.
“Which one of you is it?” she asked in a chilling voice. She didn’t stop to wait for an answer to her vague question and actually made the situation clearer with her next words.
“That beast has finally made an appearance. He has landed in front of the Palace and is threatening to raze as much of it as possible unless we give him back his old servants. Apparently, that animal misses his little harem.”
There were gasps, and Adriel froze. It couldn’t be? Surely, she didn’t mean? Had he really come?
However, Adriel was not able to focus on that for long as the Holy Maiden snorted in disgust, which brought his attention back to her.
“I do not for a second believe his words. That demon would not for second care for a mere bed-warmer or two. One of you must have something on you that he is actually after.”
“So I ask again, which one of you is it? You better confess or else I’m going to deliver you all straight to him in a slightly damaged state. I’m sure the beast won’t mind as long as he can still stick it in.” The Holy Maiden intimidated them.
None of them dared to say anything. Adriel himself could feel his body trembling; he did not doubt the veracity of Her Ladyship’s words.
One of the Holy Maiden’s aides seemed to notice the negative effect the woman’s words seemed to have on them, and interjected.
“Your Ladyship, it is possible that the boys themselves do not know. The demon might have given them something without explaining what it is.”
The High Priest then turned to them, his lips twisted in a way to imitate a soothing smile.
“Boys, has the Demon-Lord ever given you anything? Maybe as a gift? Something he made you promise to always keep on your own person? Is there anything like that?”
“If you confess, I will not let him have you,” the Holy Maiden added on, seemingly changing her tune.
Still there was no answer.
Until, to everyone’s surprise, including Adriel’s, Caleb stepped out.
He took to his knee in front of the Holy Maiden, and hanged his head downwards.
“I apologize, Your Ladyship. I did not think…the Demon-Lord gave this to me when I was promoted to head of the dungeon servants. I have no aptitude for magic so I thought it was just a pretty bauble…”
“Show it to me!”
The Holy Maiden interrupted Caleb without hesitation. With a timid look that seemed very out of place to Adriel on the youth’s face, he pulled out a pendant from under his shirt. He took it off of his neck, and extended his hand that was holding the pendant towards the woman.
Her Ladyship snatched it out of his hand immediately and examined it with a shrewd look. Adriel was too far away to see the pendant, but he knew what it looked like anyways.
It was golden and quite ancient looking, with various runes carved unto its round surface. it was the type that could be opened, but Adriel had never seen Caleb do it. He had also never felt any magic coming off from it.
The High Priest also gave the pendant an interested look, but soon his brow twisted.
“It really doesn’t seem to be magical…” he started, but the Holy Maiden did not let him complete his sentence before exclaiming in irritation.
“Of course, it’s magical. There’s some sort of seal on it, though. It would take time for me to crack it.”
Then the corners of her full lips rose in a sly smile. “This should be it, though. If that bastard came for it, this thing must be very powerful no matter what it is. Finally, we are a step ahead of that demon.”
Then she clasped the pendant in her hand tightly and gave the guards a stern look.
“In a few minutes bring all these servants down to the front of the Palace. We’re going to exchange them. It’ll be a fitting punishment to have to serve the beast again, and we can’t let him know we have discovered his real goal.”
She gave the pendant to her aide.
“I’m going out to negotiate first, so keep this safe.”
She said to him, and then strictly told Adriel and the other youths to keep their mouths shut about this, after which she exited out on the balcony.
That left Adriel and the other boys standing around in the lavishly decorated sitting room in a state of mute shock.
One of the guards grabbed Caleb by his chains and made him stand up. Nobody spoke but the gazes of several guards were almost pitying.
Adriel was just as numb as the rest of them. But the cause of his shock was different.
The Holy Maiden was just going to hand them over to the demon who could only be Hador? Just like that? He was about to see Hador again?
Tears gathered in the corners of Adriel’s eyes, while he furiously tried to supress them. The guards surrounding him might mistake them for tears of despair, but he was not willing to take that chance.
In reality Adriel could not even begin to guess at the emotion that was gradually swelling in his chest. But it did make him feel…good.
Finally, the guard captain broke the silence.
“Okay, it should be time. Let’s get this over with.”
He directed his men to take hold off all the boys. The command seemed to bring some of them back to reality as they began to protest vehemently, while other’s followed along numbly. Adriel imitated the second batch, and tried to draw as little attention to himself as possible as they descended down several grand staircases towards the front courtyard.
He tried to steel his heart for whatever awaited him there on the other side, to not scream out and run into Hador’s arms immediately.
But when the grand doors leading outside were opened, Adriel’s mouth went agape and all his previous worries vanished from his mind.
He’d almost forgotten about the earthquake that had started this whole event. But now it’s apparent source was right in front of him.
At first Adriel had thought it to be a dragon, but a second glance dispelled the notion, as the creature had no feet.
It was instead a gigantic snake. With several sets of scaly wings. The beast was hard to get a good look at as its scales were a bright, glittering silver and under the mid-day sun it made people looking at it feel like they were about to go blind.
Adriel had never seen anything like it.
The snake sat in the courtyard with its lower part slightly curled up and its head up in the air, on about the same level as the Holy Maiden’s balcony.
It became obvious how the Demon-Lord had taken the Holy Citadel by surprise. He’d just flown this thing right in.
Adriel stealthily moved his eyes around, trying to catch glimpse of Hador, but the man was nowhere to be found. There was just the snake.
Then a voice came from up above.
“Here they are, as you demanded. Now will you leave this place?”
“Of course, Dear Hosanna. Just as soon as I see that you’ve given me the complete set.”
It was the Holy Maiden. And Hador. Adriel could not mistake that voice.
He raised his head as high as possible, and gasped when he finally caught sight of a figure standing atop the snake’s head.
“Hador…” Adriel’s heart cried out.
The Holy Maiden said something, but the words escaped Adriel’s ears. He just stared at the man atop the snake.
Until someone pinched him, and he was obliged to lower his head, upon which he noticed movement from the lower portion of the snake.
Three people descended from the snake, and made their way towards them.
This time everyone gasped.
Because walking in between the two sturdy-looking demon warriors there was Jesse.
He was probably there to make sure the Holy Maiden did not cheat the Demon-Lord. But it was still a great shock to see him again.
Especially since the feeling he gave off was completely different, or at least it seemed like that to Adriel. There was no trace of the warmth that once characterised Jesse.
When the two groups met, there was no pleasant exchange of greetings. In truth the guards and several of the servant boys stared at Jesse with quite venomous expressions.
Their once compatriot, however, did not pay the group any attention and after his gaze briefly went over them, he called out in the demon’s direction.
“They are all here, my Lord.”
“Good. Take them with you, then.”
A swift reply.
Up above there was another exchange of witticisms between the Holy Maiden and Hador, while the exchange took place. Now that it had come to this, the servants that had protested earlier had also grown quiet, probably realizing the futility of the action.
Once Adriel and the other boys were in the demon’s hands, the two warriors took place behind their little groups and Jesse took the lead to take them back to the snake.
They got unto the snake the same way the group had descended earlier – they levitated. The magic surrounded them like a bubble, and before they knew it, they were standing atop the scaly surface of the snake, surrounded by even more demons.
The snake was so wide more than ten men could stand in a line across it, so it was spacious enough to hold all of them.
Standing there in silent amazement, Adriel was about to open his mouth, when Jesse cut him off “I’m sorry. All explanations will have to wait till we’re out of here.”
Then he roped a necklace around Adriel’s neck.
“This’ll make sure you don’t fall off.”
Then he felt it. Apparently, Hador and the Holy Maiden had concluded whatever other talks they might have, and the Great Snake had started to take off. Its numerous scaly wings moved, causing fierce winds to arise, but Adriel did not feel them.
It was probably the magic of the necklace.
In a moment, the snake had risen in the air, and Adriel could see the Royal Palace getting smaller and smaller in his vision. Before long, the snake was flying away in if Adriel had to guess the Southern direction.
At that moment the realization that he was free finally hit Adriel, his body quivered and tears sprang free from his eyes. He clutched his chest to try to still himself, and his other arm reached out to wipe his tears, but he was interrupted by a familiar voice.
“Why are you crying, darling? Shouldn’t you be happier to see me?”
Adriel raised his head.
Now, with our lovers united once again, what exciting (and dirty) things are going to happen next? We’ll see.
Until the next time then~