Monthly Archives: March 2021

Science Experiment: Success. (Journal Entry #35)

Cormac Jareth looked at Ambrea and Kellis. “Leave us. We have questions for your sister.”

Kellis bristled.

“I don’t think Jume needs to be alone,” Kellis said hotly. “I’m staying. As her representative. To protect her interests.”

“She doesn’t need a rep unless she’s done something criminal.”

Like abduct a young, deaf human and keep her as his captive mate? Like Cormac had? Mickey’s cousin—Cormac’s new female—was deaf, after all.

almost asked it. I don’t know where the impulse came from. But it was there.

Maybe demon-spirin loosened a Dardaptoan’s tongue, so to speak? 

This Equa was a good friend of Theo’s. He’d been involved in the taking of the Taniss Four. I had no doubt that he—actually Kellis’s boss, along with Aodhan Adrastos—was about to interrogate me like I was a criminal.

I’m trying not to be nervous. But it’s hard. I’m not a criminal. I’ve not done anything wrong. 

The worst thing I have ever done in the past ten years was sneak out of class to go to the bathroom and wash my face this afternoon. If that’s a crime, lock me up and throw away the key.

I do not feel up to this. Not at all. 

“In the event of a medical incapacitation, a familial representative is allowed and required by section 1.345b of the Dardanos City Code.” Kellis shot back. “Remember that…sir?”

I was getting the strange feeling that Kellis didn’t like this guy at all.

Well, I don’t blame her. He’s terrifying. I don’t like him much, either.

He’s the best Predatoi our Kind has ever seen. The Demon Hunter, he has been called for centuries.

Demon. No wonder he was so intense. Those things…I never want to see a demon again.

“I’m n-not sure why the d-demon came for me,” I said as Ambrea scooped a sleeping Alleah into her arms and my sisters left me. 

Kellis stayed. 

Like I had known she would. She settled on the bed next to me, her hand going around my uninjured one. She’s smaller than me, she and Alaun both, but Kellis can be fierce.

Especially when she’s as afraid as she is now. I can feel her fear as strongly as if it were my own.

The healer, Barlaam, brother to our king, started pulling the tape from my other arm.

I tensed, even more than I already am. I am not certain I wanted to see what the demon did to me. 

“Why are you doing this?” I asked quietly. “Am I going to be ok?”

Barlaam smiled at me reassuringly. I have met him many times before. He and Thadd are good friends and colleagues. Plus, he was in and out of Theo’s office on a frequent basis. 

He brought me roses on my sixtieth birthday. And to tell you a secret, he caught me under the human mistletoe hung in the hotel lobby when I was fifty-nine. He gave me my second kiss that day. Short, sweet, a memory I will always cherish, though, of course, he meant nothing by it. He was the only male to have ever given me flowers.

Until Mak.

Mak. 

I had forgotten Mak. I looked at Kellis. “Where’s Mak? Is he ok? Was he injured?”

Kellis squeezed my hand. “He’s fine. He’s with Aodhan Adrastos in the prison cells now. He asked to be allowed to…participate…in the interrogation of the demon.”

She’d hesitated. I knew what an interrogation meant. They were going to get the answers out of the demon. Even if it meant beating them out of him.

Sometimes, Dardaptoan laws could be exceptionally archaic. Especially when there are threats to our people. Theoretically, I can understand the how and why of that, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.

I had heard Mishja and Theo arguing about that hundreds of times over the last few decades. 

Barlaam finished with the bandages. 

He swore. My attention jerked to him immediately. “What is it?”

I was terrified to look. What if Thadd had been wrong? What if the demon medication had failed? What if it just prolonged the inevitable?

I was afraid to hope.

“Barl?” Cormac asked. 

“It’s…healing.” He shot me a look, one filled with amazement. “Kindara was right. She’s done it. It’s healing.”

Ok. So I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found something to help our people heal. But…it is my arm they are oohing and aahing over here. 

That deserves some decisive action on my part.

It is time I look for myself.

In search of answers… (Journal Entry #34)

“Not yet.” Kellis hesitated. “They caught the demon. Mak kept him alive. They are going to be questioning him soon. Theo asked to be included in the interrogation specifically. You aren’t the first to be attacked by demons in the last few weeks. His female has also been targeted. Demons don’t want her daughter to be born. She will be exceptionally powerful someday.”

“But why did they target me? That is what I don’t understand. H-he said something to me: The queen must never live. I have no idea what that m-means.”

Ambrea’s face paled. She stepped closer to the bed. She wasn’t an exceptionally strong seer, but she saw enough at times. “It means the future is coming, Jume. I don’t know enough of what your part will be. Just that it is going to be our time when it does.”

“What do you mean?”

“There have been legends. Passed down through the Woald. It has something to do with the creation of our people, with the war with the Lupoiux, with the goddess and how she is to be freed. What it will set into motion. And it will involve so many of the Woald. I was hoping it was far in the future. That we would have time to prepare more fully,” Ambrea said softly. She sank to the bed beside me. “I will have to find the journals Mama kept. She was a far more gifted seer than I am. The Sebastos blood was stronger in her.”

We are Theo’s cousins through our father and his mother, but somewhere back in the line, there was another female Woald who found her male in the Sebastos line. I’m not sure of it. That was one reason I signed up for History of Families. 

I want to know more about being Woald. But that is for later. 

For now… “Am I going to die young?”

It was the hardest question I have ever asked my sister.

And now I waited for her answer.

“I don’t know. I can’t see your fate. Or Julea’s, or Riv’s, or Kellis’s. I can see hints of Alaun’s. None of my own. I know Alaun—she will be happy, but she will hurt first. And Alleah’s is still in flux, while she is so young,” Ambrea said quietly. “I suspect that a lot of us get hints about what is going to happen to us. Feelings. But are those premonitions or just some vague instinct, or something we’re imagining? I don’t know yet.”

“I don’t have a Rajni.” I said it. Probably because of what had happened. I just can’t keep the secret any longer. 

“What did you say?” Kellis asked, slowly. 

“I said: I don’t have a Rajni. Maryin Sebastos told me years ago. And she likes to rub that in whenever our paths cross. So that means…I’m fated to die before I find him.” I looked at my sisters, a rush of love flooding me. They are my world, my family. My everything. “I’m fated to die. And I just know it.”

“Then so am I,” Kellis said bluntly. “Because I don’t have a Rajni, either. And that bitch Maryin didn’t have to tell me that, either. I have known since the moment I came of age. But that doesn’t mean I’m fated to die young, Jume. Any more than it means that you are. It’s just…we have a different destiny waiting for us out there. I don’t know what it is, but it’s out there. And it terrifies me.” 

“You just have to find it,” Ambrea said, tears flowing unchecked down her cheeks. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“Because I was ashamed at first. I have seen how those without fated mates are treated. Maryin Sebastos—”

“Is nothing more than a dried-up, pruny bitch,” Kellis said bluntly. Those two had never liked one another one bit. “She is jealous of you. And always has been.”

“Why on earth would she be jealous of me?”

‘”We’ll talk about that later,” Kellis said. “I think we need to get back to the issue at hand. Why in the three hells was a demon after you?” 

“I have no clue.” I leaned back against the pillows once more, suddenly exhausted.

Someone knocked on the door, cutting off Kellis’s next question. My sister was extremely good at interrogation, after all. I just didn’t feel up to answering her questions. Not when I don’t have the answers myself.

I looked up. 

Just as the Jareth Equa and the Second Healer, Barlaam, entered the room. 

Lead settled in my stomach. They would have questions for me. Questions I definitely cannot answer…

Because I don’t have those answers for myself.

Not yet. 

I’m not certain that I ever will.

Am I still demon bait? (Journal Entry #33)

My normally stoic, brave, totally kick-ass big sister burst into tears right next to me. 

Someone moved near Kellis’s shoulder. I turned more fully then. I still hurt, but it was starting to dull. 

There was my eldest sister, Ambrea. Alaun, Riv, and Julea were right behind her. Alleah, a tiny version of us all, was sleeping in a big chair behind them. 

I pulled myself up to sit, probably more quickly than I should have. “You’re all here.”

“Yes,” Ambrea said. “How do you feel?”

How do I feel? “L-like I was almost killed by a demon. And he said something… about a demon q-queen. I have no clue what it m-means.”

“We’re still trying to figure out what it means,” Kellis said, after getting herself together. Riv had her arm around Kellis, comforting her. But there were tear tracks on Riv’s cheeks, too.

“I’m sorry for scaring you. Um…I’m not dying still, am I?” I looked down at my arm. All I saw was a mountain of white bandages. “Did the demon potions work?”

“I can’t believe you let them use demon stuff on you,” Julea said. “That was incredibly brave, Jume. Especially since it was a demon that attacked you.”

“It wasn’t brave. It was hope. I am just not ready to leave you all yet. Not yet.”

“Well, you won’t be leaving us at all,” Kellis said, so fierce I looked at her to make certain she wasn’t angry. “The demon brews Thadd gave you worked.”

“He gave me an actual painkiller. And it worked.” I looked at my sisters. We all knew what that meant for our people. I fought tears and a grin and shout of joy at what it meant for our people. Our people, painkillers. Something the other Kinds took for granted. And now…we have one. For all of us. “And he put something called an ointment on my arm before he stitched it together. My arm was starting to turn green. From poison.”

“You were so lucky,” Kellis said. “Had Mak not been there, and had Kindara not recently returned from the demon world, we would have lost you.”

“Has anyone figured out why the demon came for me?” I started shaking as the memory of that horrible monster flooded my mind again. 

I now have something else to add to my nightmares. Demons coming for me. Maybe he was just the first? Maybe there are more out there somewhere? 

I don’t know what I am supposed to do now…

Alive! I am not demon food, after all! (Journal Entry #32)

The room was spinning around me. There were purple lights above my head. They were moving. The sense of falling sickened me. 

I’ll admit it: an undignified whimper escaped. 

I know where I am right now. I’m in the middle of the nightmare. I hate the nightmare. 

It’s dark. Terrifying here where I am. 

He’s here. I can feel him. 

Watching me. 

I whimpered again. Why do I keep having these dreams? 

He stepped closer to me. I wanted to run, but there was a strange lethargy coating my body. Especially my left arm. It felt like lead. And fire.

Always the fires. 

Every night I have the nightmare, I wake up smelling sulfur. Hellfire, some of Alaun’s books call it. 

But why would I dream of demons? 

Demons.

Fire increased in my arm. And that’s when I remembered.

Demon. I was attacked by a demon.

I bit back a scream as I forced my eyes open. I must have died. 

My soul must have moved on. To the first of the three hells. Where the nonwarriors and the nonroyalty go. The common people of our Kind. 

For my soul to stay in eternal waiting.

I want to cry. I can’t cry. I can’t. 

What would Kellis say if she caught me crying now?

Thought of my big sister had that urge just doubling. I’ll never see Kellis again…now.

I did cry out then. I called my sister’s name. 

At least, I thought I cried out.

It must have come out with a whimper.

“Jumena Kyrann. You open those eyes and look at me. Right this minute,” a bossy female voice said right next to me. Someone squeezed my hand. Right next to me, but I couldn’t see her.

My eyes did fly open then.

To see the bright lights of the Healers’ Hall above me. And Kellis right there next to me. Kellis, with her hair just like mine and the same freckles she shared with Alaun. She was so beautiful. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in that moment. I was seeing Kellis again. For real.

I didn’t die.

“Kellis! I’m alive!”

I am Thadd’s Science Project. (Journal Entry #31)

Thadd spread a thin layer of the “toothpaste” on the first of the cuts. “It’ll sink in and act as a cleanser, I think. It’s made from a common plant in the demon world. They even eat it at times. How does it feel?”

“Weird. It’s like a toothpaste but thinner.”

“Humans have what they call ointment. We sell some in the gift shop downstairs. I studied some once. I’m not sure what this one does, exactly. It cleanses and fights bacteria. At least, that is what we are hoping. It worked well on Aureliana when she was injured in the demon land. But she wasn’t poisoned.”

“So you don’t know if it works on poisoned wounds or not?” It was tingling. Not exactly hurting, but it wasn’t exactly a pleasant feeling, either. 

“No. In theory, Phelius, the chief demon healer, has said that it works against ninety percent of the poisons of his world. He said his cousin Sinrik—a gifted seer, I have been told, though how he compares to Theo I can only guess—recommended that we keep this on hand from the first. He said a young female might have need of it. I am hoping he meant you.” He opened the vial and handed it to me. “You’ll need to drink it before I begin the stitching process.”

Now I did bite back a whimper. I’ve had stitches once before, when I cut open my foot on a piece of glass in my father’s field more than fifty years ago. It had been the most painful experience in my life, and I will never forget how my strong, stoic father had panicked at the sight of my blood that day. 

It wasn’t an experience I am eager to repeat. 

“How does it feel now? It might take a good fifteen minutes for the demon-spirin to work. Kindara has named it after a basic human painkiller and anti-inflammatory.”

I had a sneaky suspicion I was acting as Thadd’s latest science experiment, here. 

Still…if I die today, maybe I can do some good for my people before I go. Who knows? Maybe they’ll name it Jume-menophen instead of demon-spirin in my honor someday? Being the first Dardaptoan it didn’t work for had to mean something, right?

“Tingles. Burns a little but not as bad as his claws did. It’s almost a cold burn, if that makes sense?”

“It does. We’ll watch. See if the poison recedes. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I can to boost your body’s natural healing process.”

This at least was something I was familiar with. I held still. Thadd sent his healing gift into my body through the connection he had established with me through the hold he had on my wrist.

Then…everything went numb, and the lights around me blurred together. “Th-Thadd? What is…happen…ing…?”

“Shhh, cousin. It’s the painkiller working. I think…it’s actually knocking you out. Go to sleep, little Jume. That is probably best; I’ll handle the stitches while you are out. Then you won’t have to feel a thing.”

“Tell my sisters…if I don’t wake…up…again…just how much I…love…them. They m-mean the worlds to me forever.”

“I’ll do that. I promise. I’ll be right here when you wake.”

Demons got me. (Journal Entry #30)

Mak wasn’t the only warrior in the sitting area. Thank the goddess. They were younger warriors, but they were strong enough to fight, on Mak’s orders.

I just kept thanking the goddess for that as Mak carried me toward the small office in the basement where the campus healer worked. 

It was just a young female there, but she patched my arm where the hideous, eight-inch gashes bled and bled. I was still bleeding. 

I knew that I could die if the bleeding didn’t stop soon. 

The junior healer, Mada, looked at me. “You need to get to the Healers’ Hall, as quickly as possible. The blood loss is significant. And I don’t know enough about demon wounds to get it to stop.”

“We’ll go now,” Mak said. “Have the Adrastos and Jareth Equa meet us there.” 

I wrapped my uninjured arm around his neck, fighting the urge to cry. 

I’m not a weak female. I’m not. 

I wasn’t about to let myself cry. I’m stronger than that. Crying wouldn’t help anyone get through this. Not Mak, and definitely not me.

Mak carried me to his truck, two of the security warriors trailing after us. To guard.

Against another demon attack.

Demon.

That’s what Mak and the healer had both said that creature was. I started shaking even harder.

“He didn’t look like the demons in Alaun’s books,” I said for no reason at all. I didn’t know where the words came from, but they were something. I had to say something.

“No, I don’t suppose he did. He was an askasodreno demon. They are mercenaries. Hired killers.”

“I thought that was over. Theo said I was going to be safe.”

“Well, Theo was wrong.” I didn’t miss the fury in Mak’s tone.

“That’s never happened before.”

“Always a first time for everything.” Mak pressed a hard kiss against my lips before lowering me to the passenger seat of the truck. “Keep the arm elevated. I’m going to get you to the Healers’ Hall as fast as I can, baby. I promise.”

Kindara wasn’t there, even though Mak carried me in, demanding the best healer our tribe had.

Thadd was there, instead. Big, strong, warm honey-brown hair, and thick glasses, he had always been one of the calmest, most reassuring males I have ever known. 

He, unlike his brother, has always been one of my favorite cousins.

My father and his mother were first cousins. He is family.

I always felt safer with my family.

“What happened?” he asked, unwrapping Mak’s now ruined hasha from around my arm. Hashas came in handy for so many things.

I just hissed as pain radiated from the wounds marring my skin. Nothing had ever burned more. 

“She was attacked by a demon. Askasodreno,” Mak said. “On the college campus.”

“Good Goddess, are you certain that’s what it was? I’m going to need to clean it. I won’t lie. This will burn. Greatly. I…” Thadd pressed against the worst wound gently. “I can try something. If you are willing. But I have no idea what will happen, and no guarantees.”

“What in the three hells are you talking about?” Mak asked. I heard fury in his words. I looked at him quickly. There was so much suspicion in his gold eyes as he hovered over me protectively. 

“Something Kindara and Barlaam are experimenting with now. Kindara has theorized that the demon chemical that Incubi demons are capable of creating actually can act as a pain-killing agent for our people. And this herb here, a common leaf from the demon world, acts as an astringent in Relaklonos. We met with the chief demon healers just this morning. No one except for Kindara and Aodhan, and Aureliana, have used it yet.” Thadd met my eyes as he pulled a dark vial of bright-purple liquid out of a nearby cabinet, followed by another jar of what looked like a strange red toothpaste. “I don’t know if they will work. And if this gets infected or if that demon had poison barbs in his claws, I am not certain you will survive, Jume. We have two options—we can clean it and pray to the goddess that’s enough, or we can try demon cleansers and demon blood.”

“These demon scratches just might kill me, won’t they?” An icy calmness surrounded me as I looked my cousin straight on. Thadd wouldn’t lie. He was one of the most honest males I know. Nor would he sugar-coat it. I trusted him to tell me like it is. 

“Yes. Askasodreno are usually armed with poisoned claws. And from the green spreading over your forearm here, I am convinced this one was as well. It’s only a matter of time. It will be fatal unless we neutralize the poison straight away.”

I know I am fated to die early, but I am not ready to die today. “Then there is no real choice, is there? Just…do it, ok? Before I change my mind. Give me the demon potion.” I pulled in a deep breath and looked at the male warrior holding my other hand. “Mak? Will you go? Bring my sisters to me? Just in case…I need to see my sisters again. One more time. Just in case this is the last day I have.”

He nodded, then left without saying a word. But I could see the panic in his eyes. And I know. I most likely am going to die today.