Alaun’s Biggest Fan. (Journal Entry #60)

The guard caught up with me in the library. He put one warm hand on my shoulder and turned me. “Are you ok, Jume?”

He very rarely spoke to me. Mostly he just followed me everywhere, silent and strong. I had almost gotten used to his presence by now. He and the other two male warriors from Kierce’s force. I am just a job to them, of course. 

Talking is not a big job requirement for a guard, after all. I do think it was odd that the first several weeks I was here in the hotel I never noticed guards. I don’t know how long they’ve been following me around, not truly. 

I will ask Theo or Kierce that very question the next time I see them.

But I would like someone to talk to right now. I am not sure where the Boltier sisters are—something to do with the Taniss family and what is happening to them. I haven’t seen them in two days. 

“I…I am ok. It was just an accident.”

“Was it? Do not forget that there is a fifty-thousand-dollar price on your head. You cannot trust anyone you do not know in this hotel. Not yet.”

I looked closely at him; he reminded me of Mak. “I…I—how long do I have to live like this?”

“I do not know.”

Well, that was reassuring. “I…I need to look up some things in the library.”

Alaun had me a list of fifty-three types of demons. I am supposed to create her an index of those demons, so she can use them later. 

Alaun is a bit of a list maker. But it would serve a dual purpose. 

If I can find out what kind of demon had sent assassins after me, maybe I could find out why?

“If you will allow it, I will be happy to help.”

I allowed it. And I learned a great deal about him. He wasn’t as arrogant as Mak—but he also wasn’t an Adrastos. He was from the Thurgis line. His name is Juxtolos, but his family calls him Tol. 

He has hunted demons before. 

At first, he was hesitant about sharing that information with me, but when I told him that I was my sister’s research assistant, he was more willing. 

Apparently, Tol is a closet romantic. He’s read all of Alaun’s books. He does admit that she gets some of the demon details wrong, but he is willing to help me find the information she needs. 

It is nice to have made another friend.

Even if he was just paid to be there with me. 

He sees me. I’m not invisible at the moment.

Lions and tigers and werwolves! Oh, my! (Journal Entry #59)

There are werewolves everywhere. 

Even in the hotel. Most of the Dardaptoans that I pass are talking about of them. They are part of the Taniss pack. Theo’s brother-in-law Rand Taniss leads them. But they aren’t a hereditary pack. I learned all about Lupoiux last week helping Alaun with her next book. They are a more animalistic, instinctive Kind than Dardaptoans. 

Very scary, too.

I ran into a Lupoiux male on my way to the library yesterday.

I mean I literally ran into him. His arms wrapped around me and he almost sniffed my hair. When he looked down at me there was a decidedly wolfy grin on his face. A hungry predator had me in his arms. “Hello, little bloodsucker.”

My guard—who I had finally noticed following me, I can’t believe I’ve been so blind!—stepped closer. “Hands off, wolf.”

The wolf stepped back and bowed slightly. Arrogantly. I bit back a shiver. 

He was hungry; I felt like the wolf’s next meal. “Pardon me, miss. It won’t happen again.”

Pardon me, dear wolf. I’m getting away from you! 

I was still shivering when I got away from him. 

I didn’t hear what words the guard said, but I did hear slight growling when I rounded another corner. 

What were they thinking, letting a bunch of Lupoiux males run around the hotel as if they weren’t the Dardaptoan females’ greatest enemy? 

Maybe they were a part of the Taniss pack, but that didn’t mean they were safe for Dardaptoan females to be around.

Of course, it is probably just my wimpy Jume-ness sliding out again. It was a harmless accident.

Nothing said that wolf was out to get me or anything like that, right? 

Tennig’s Story… (Journal Entry #58)

I tracked down Tennig, the young healer who now lived in the hotel with her male. He is a higher-ranked Lycurgus warrior and scholar. And healer. 

I know they used demon blood on her as well. I want to know if it had caused some changes for her, too.

She was busy snuggling up to her male. She is so young to have found him. It seems like Rajnis are being found at younger and younger ages—for the females. Older and older for the males. That was something Kellis and I had discussed a few weeks ago. 

No one knows why this is happening.

I certainly don’t, but…I feel it may be important. 

The nightmares have gotten stronger over the past few weeks. I see more and more of him each time. Never enough to see his face.

Probably because he isn’t real. I know he isn’t. 

Logically, I think he is my subconscious manifestation of the male I do not have. My soul may be making a mate for me, just in my dreams.

That doesn’t explain why I wake up terrified each time, though.

I sat in my bed last night, just shivering. 

I could hear something outside the lone window of my suite. Tapping on the window, a voice saying to let them in.

I didn’t, of course. 

There are beings in this world that needed invitations to enter. Once you brought them into your home, they could kill you.

They can’t escape. They are another type of bloodsucking Kind. Bleschauma vampires, I think. Evil, evil creatures. 

Alaun found mentions of them in her research a few years ago. I’d asked Theo if they were real the next day.

He had been hesitant, but then he had told me all about them. And to never, ever let them in. 

He made me promise if something ever tapped on my window to never, ever open it.

Well, I’m not stupid.

I wasn’t about to let it in.

NOTE FROM CJ: Jume is referencing the events that take place in The Healer’s Find, the story of healers Tennig Thurgis and her male Jouk Lycurgus. Get a free copy here: The Healer’s Find

Speakin’ Demon… (Journal Entry #57)

Blaire visited again. I was there to see her reunite with her sisters. Her demon guards followed closely behind. They still frightened her, but Blaire wasn’t letting that show.

They frighten me, too. Rall, he’s the taller brother, wanted me to sit with him on the balcony behind the Boltiers’ suite. 

Just to talk, he said. To talk, he promised.

I’m not sure what his definition of talk is, though. 

I almost fell for it, almost went with him. 

I probably would have been his lunch—if Aida hadn’t pulled me aside and told me I had been speaking to him in a demon language known only to the royal family, for a good five minutes. 

I certainly hadn’t realized. 

I’d tried to learn human Spanish my first go-round in college. It hadn’t gone well. Neither had my high school attempts at French and Latin. Apparently, according to the poor instructor who had taught me both at the high school and at Dardanos University and had gotten stuck with me each—I have no ability for foreign languages at all. 

Had my parents not spoken English to us as children, that instructor had said almost spitefully, I would most likely not have learned that language either.

He wasn’t a very nice professor. At least not to me. Especially to me—he’d wince every time my stutter emerged. Which made it come out all the more frequently.

He certainly liked those females of the Jareth and Dardaptos and Lycurgus Houses, though. Probably because they had vestis in the latest, lower-cut fashions. Something we Woalds most definitely do not.

I don’t know why I can speak demon. 

I don’t even realize I am doing it until someone points it out. 

Perhaps it has something to do with the demon blood they used on me in the Healers’ Hall? 

That makes the most sense. Next time I see Iahanna, the sister of my Equa, I will ask her. She’s a wonderful healer—one of the few we Woalds have—and she’ll tell me straight. 

Demon blood has to have left some kind of mark on me, right?

More Sisters than I can count? (Journal Entry #56)

Blaire was gone. She had been taken to the demon world by Kindara, and the other handful of healers Kindara wanted to help her in whatever tasks she was doing in the demon world a week ago. 

Coty and the rest of the Boltier sisters were terrified. It was all that Kellis and I could do to console them. I admit it: I wept for them many times. I could only imagine how I would feel if my sisters and I suddenly found ourselves in the demon world. 

Demons were…utterly terrifying. 

There was another attack. 

I don’t know the details yet.  

The entire hotel was in an uproar. 

I’m not sure what happened, but up here in the land of the forgotten, that’s not all that surprising. 

I’m delving deeper into demon legends. Studying them for Alaun. She wants to do some more realistic novels this year, now that some rumors about demons are starting to trickle through.

Did you know that a gamata bond is ties like a Rajni bond for us, but the demons get to choose who to be involved with? 

I think being allowed to choose one’s own mate would be a very dangerous thing. I know humans do it—but look at how many of them divorce each year. 

I don’t know of any Dardaptoan pair that has divorced. 

I’m making notes now on the Demon King’s official family tree and his advisers. So far it’s Rathanolus (his name is spelled differently in every book I have), Renakletos, Joru, Serimok, Quorok, Lachial, Rallostolos, Akronos, and more than three hundred others. 

Three hundred and eighty-three brothers, and eighty-six or eighty-seven (the book said there was a question of the youngest’s paternity) sisters. Most of them were half siblings, with many different mothers among them.

The Demon King’s father must have been a real dog. 

I can’t imagine it. 

I love each of my sisters so much—how could a demon with that many siblings even know all of their names? 

The demon world kept sounding stranger and stranger.

The Epic of the Three Hells (Journal Entry #55)

I kept flipping until I came to an entry of one paragraph. That was it. One measly paragraph.

“D-dardaptoans. Found in the realm of Gaia, they are descendants of an Evalanedean goddess of mysterious past. Dardaptoan females are exceedingly weak compared to demon females, and most cannot s-stand up to the rigors of mating with demons. It is best to avoid, to prevent damaging such frail beings. It is believed that the Three Queens of the Three Hells are possibly of Dardaptoan origin. Then it references Epic of the Three Hells.”

With some more flipping, I found that listing.

“It’s a ballad.” I handed it to my sister. 

Kellis began to read aloud, her voice soft, beautiful, and lilting. She had a hauntingly beautiful voice. I loved listening to her sing.

I listened closely as she spoke, reading over her shoulder for myself. 

Epic of the Three Hells

Also known as the Story of the Queens…

Great Palos, Beskre, and Phrymos,

Eighteen thousand and one years, 

Three hells these brothers once ruled,

And all creatures small or vast

would go to the hells upon their rest.

To take the Three Hells of the kings for his own,

Adril—the envious, greedy, and uncrowned—

Twin kings Paleos and Phrymos,

Adril locked within the ground.

Eighteen thousand and one years, Beskre,

Their younger brother, searched, relentless and loyal. 

The twins of the hells, Beskre said, will be found.

But eighteen thousand and one, they decreed,

Those Four Fates of whom we rarely tell—

Half sisters of the brother kings—

So envious, spiteful, and cruel,

Declared their honorable half brothers will never rule

Prophecy, declaration of fate, 

Or the product of jealousies, cruelties, and hates

The Fates confined their brothers 

—until they were to meet their mates.

In Relaklonos, land of demons all,

Adril—the Weak and Cruel—

locked them in the ground.

It is in Relaklonos where the kings of hells

Will soon each by their queen be found.

For after eighteen thousand and one.

Their incarceration in earthen graves now done,

The time to find their queens has finally come.

The earth will quake on the first resting place—

First Phrymos, eldest, bravest, and the great king,

Phrymos, the strongest, will rise—to claim his queen.

The queen of the Phrymos demons will be kind.

Young and fair and more than humble,

All will follow this former servant and never once stumble.                                                                   

Next Paleos, younger twin to the first,

From the earth—he will soon burst.

His soul of empathy guides him still.

Yet for his queen, Paleos will gladly

and mercilessly and swiftly kill.

Young and frail and weak, frightened and quite brave

—The great sword of hells this smallest queen with curls possesses.

She will find Paleos buried deeply in a cave,

And it will be the darkest crimes of evil this pair addresses.                                                                   

Last will be he who scoured the earth.

Resolute and loyal to his brothers, all will still say.

This one king who still rules the hells even today, 

He is known only from legend as the Beskre.

His queen is one so soft, and frail,

None know how this queen with golden curls he will meet,

But with her at his side—

kind, fair, almost silent, and sweet—

The king of Beskre demons prevails, 

This third brother who has always ruled the hells.

With their queens joined close,

Their swords they now possess.

And all demon worlds will reunite, 

True seers of their Kinds do foretell,

This is what the ancient bards with stories tell.

It is once the three queens are loved and well

It is the dark sorcerer, you three kings of hell—

Phrymos, Palos, and Beskre, it is Adril,

Who you will once and for all finally quell…

When she was finished reading, we just looked at each other. “H-how are we supposed to know what that means? Explains why that demon liked your h-hair, though. All curly and queen-like.”

“No clue.”

“It was weird.”

“No kidding. And we are the only Dardaptoan females I know who have these stupid curls. Other than some of the Tanisses. If they’ve not met many Dardaptoans, maybe we look magic to them or something.” Kellis shot me a wicked grin. “Who knows, maybe they’d be willing to let us do some research for Alaun? Field research? Find out what it’s like to feed a demon?”

“I’m more i-interested in the legend.” The last thing I would want was to feed a sex demon. Anywhere. “I don’t want my first affair to be with a sex demon.”

“I know what the three hells are. And I know that there are demon Kinds called Phrymos, Paleos, and Beskre. But Adril? Never heard of him. If he’s at war with a bunch of demons, I don’t think I want to.”

“M-me either. Still…this doesn’t explain why they were staring at us like that at all.”

“Maybe it does,” Kellis said slowly. “This line here, queen with golden curls and what it said about Dardaptoans, maybe they just thought one of us was this legendary queen. Here’s another about curls and a smallest queen. Maybe demons don’t have curly hair?”

“Maybe it’s us? D-demon queens. And Alaun is the third…She always has been obsessed with sex demons.”­­

Kellis and I just looked at each other.

Then we burst out laughing, like total loons.

The idea of one of us being legendary queens, well…

We were Woald. The very idea is preposterous. 

Before the night was through we thought we’d figured it out—the males we had met tonight were all part Incubi.

Sex demons had their reputations, after all. We were unattached females. We probably looked like we would make great snacks.

Alaun’s books made that very clear.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Alaun’s own sisters fed demons? Fun to think about, but it was never going to happen.

What is with all the demons? (Journal Entry #54)

”What kind of demons were they?” I asked Kellis long after I had left Blaire and Coty in their own suite. Kellis had declared that she was going to stay with me tonight since the demons were staying to help Kindara with something. Kellis didn’t want me alone in the hotel—with demons. I didn’t argue. I wasn’t exactly ready to be alone in a hotel with demonic guests, either. “The one…he just kept staring.”

“They are at least part Incubi. I don’t know that much about demons. Definitely not as much as Alaun or you do, for that matter.”

“I have a book in my room. About the different types of demons. M-maybe we can find him.” 

Rall, the taller brother had given Blaire the right amount of attention—but he had kept looking at me and Kellis. Intently. Enough that I had wanted to run and hide before he made a snack out of me.

“He looked fascinated,” Kellis said bluntly. “And he looked fascinating. Let’s admit it: he was a sex demon. That carries with it very real stereotypes. Probably for very good reason. If he wasn’t a demon capable of eating us, I wouldn’t have minded taking him around the hotel. Or spending all my savings on a little private room just for the two of us. Just to see what would happen.”

“You have always been a bit weird.” I may be joking with my sister, but I hadn’t missed the male’s expression. And I hadn’t mistaken the way his brother had almost reached out and touched Kellis’s long, curly blond hair when he had thought no one was looking. She wore it in a ponytail most days, but it was obvious that it was very curly. Just as curly as mine.

But my sister was right. They had been gorgeous males—no matter what Kind they actually were. “We know the one is a Beskre.” 

“So let’s get out that book of yours. Find out just what kind of demon that is.”

It took us a few minutes to find him, but there he was. Described in full detail, with several example illustrations. Even the tattoos matched those on the male warrior. “Kellis, I think this illustration is actually him. I wonder how old he is?”

“I heard Kindara say her demon king is well over eleven thousand. This one could be just as old. Look, here is a painting of ‘Rallostolos Malickus’. But no age is listed. It does say he’s half Beskre, and he’s the king.” 

(I’m not the artist in the family, but I sketched out a rough pic of this demon for you!)

I looked at where my sister pointed. Then I read aloud: 

A Beskre warrior is fierce. Descended from one of the six most ancient of demon Kinds, the Beskre are fierce warriors, great scholars, and extremely protective of females. More so than any of the other demon Kinds. They make excellent guards and protectors, both for their fierceness and for their gentleness with females and spawn. The Beskre brother who created the Beskre Kind still is rumored to rule the Three Hells even to this day. Beskre is very loyal to his brothers, and understands the bonds of family greatly. Cross-reference: See the Legend of the Three Queens and…Gaian Dardaptoans.

At the last, I looked at my sister. “Huh?”

“Well, let’s look and see what demons have to say about Dardaptoans. I bet they like to eat us. Nom, nom, nom.” 

Kellis has always been a bit weird.

I was already flipping through the book.

Demons, demons, and more demons. (Journal Entry #53)

He kept looking between me and my sister. He looked almost confused—or like he recognized us. Finally, his expression cleared. Then, he dropped into an odd bow—first to me, and then to Kellis. 

I shared a look with my sister. 

This is a demon, and a very powerful, royal one—why would he be giving us the most profound gesture of respect?

Kellis shifted in front of me, just as I shifted in front of my human friends. Protective, of course.

Kindara was watching him, an odd look on her own face. But she said nothing.

It was the demon king who spoke. “My brothers have volunteered to guard. We just need to pick the ones who make you the most comfortable, Blaire.”

“It’s entirely up to me?” Blaire asked, almost whispering. I could feel her terror. Coty’s, too.

I wrapped my hand around Blaire’s. So young to be so frightened. If it was Julea…

My younger sister was quiet and shy and timid. She wouldn’t be able to face demons like this very well, either. I stepped closer to my new friend, just to let her know that I was there for her. No matter what.

I listened as Blaire interviewed the demons. When she was finished, there were two demon males left who I suspected would be perfect to guard a human in the demon world. Rall, and a fierce-looking demon who had told them he was a Beskre warrior. 

He’d said it so proudly.

Not that I knew what that meant.

His name was Akronos.

Rall and Akronos would be assigned to guard Blaire during her waking hours. When she slept, the demon forces controlled by Renekletos, the first brother of the demon king, would guard her. 

She wouldn’t be completely risk-free, but it was as safe as anywhere else, I think.

Of course…my cousin Bronwen had been carried off by a demon king from another region—right out of the Demon High King’s castle. 

Not exactly reassuring.

Coty wanted to go with her sister. After the demons and Kindara left, Coty and Blaire argued. Coty wanted to protect her sister—but Blaire wanted her sister protected. 

Blaire got her own way by pointing out that the rest of their sisters would need Coty more.

I totally understood that. I wouldn’t want my sisters accompanying me to the demon lands. The mere idea is enough to terrify any sane female with sisters, after all.

Demon Princes are everywhere! (Journal Entry #52)

Blaire was just as nervous as I was. Coty had insisted on going with us. No surprise there. But Kellis was also there. She’d shown up this morning to visit with me—and with Grayce, who she had seriously seemed to have adopted—and heard what was happening. 

The four of us were a united front, although except for my sister, none of us were exactly good at protecting ourselves. 

As the first of the demon brothers came in I started shaking. They were huge. Just as big, if not bigger than the more average-size Dardaptoans.

We all know that not every Dardaptoan male is a warrior. Some Dardaptoan males are just bigger and stronger. 

Well, apparently some demons are just as big, just as strong, just as muscled. Kindara was there, her demon king next to her. He is the sexiest male I had ever seen. His brothers were equally as gorgeous. But they were extremely terrifying. 

Kellis stepped forward, putting herself between the rest of us and the demons. 

I certainly hadn’t forgotten why we had been exiled to the sixth floor of the hells. But…these demons didn’t look like the ones who had attacked me. There was one who had a slight orange cast to his skin, with dark-black hair and yellow eyes. He was strong and fit, and terrifying. 

He studied me just as much as I studied him. 

There were others who watched us. 

Kindara stepped forward. She held out her hands to Blaire. “Don’t be frightened. Any of you. Rathan’s brothers have made vows to protect the Dardaptoans.”

“Well, I’m not Dardaptoan,” Blaire said wryly. “Where does that leave me?”

Coty stepped closer to put her hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Where does that leave us? I’m not letting you do this alone.”

There was approval in the yellow eyes staring at her. The demon bowed to us. “I am Rall. Fifteenth brother of the king. It will be my honor to protect one who serves my new next-sister in her quest.”

I stepped closer. Close enough to whisper to Blaire that I sensed the demon meant it. She looked at me out of fear-filled green eyes. I just nodded. “I-it will be ok.”

The demon jerked as soon as I spoke. And then he was looking at me, surprise on his beautiful face. 

I just stared at him, unsure what I had done wrong.