Statues and Demons? (Journal Entry #65)

I need to stop making assumptions. Ryrk is…a good hero, I think.

I know, the exact opposite of what I was saying in my last post. But without Ryrk, I’d probably be dead. Tol, too. 

I was in the courtyard—the private one, looking for an ancient statue of one of the ancestresses of the Woald. I hadn’t even known it existed, but I found mention of it in Alaun’s research, and I wanted photos of it—since my family is very unlikely to ever be given access to the private gardens at the hotel. 

An ancient Woald had had the statue commissioned more than five hundred years ago and brought to Colorado all the way from South America, back when Dhar Rydere led us north in the Dardanos Great Migration. 

My parents came north then. They were always filled with stories of the Woalds that came before. One day, now that I am getting more comfortable writing things out, I am going to write their stories down. For the Woalds that come after.

Maybe that will be my gift to the world. My contribution, so to speak. My name will go down in history, just like Alaun’s. Wonder what old prune-faced Maryin would think about that?

When they left the old tribe, the Woalds numbered three hundred and forty-two. My mother and father were not found by one another yet. They found each other in a moment of horrible danger for my mother—on the journey. 

I have always loved the story. I will tell it to you sometime. It is so beautiful. 

Every last Woald left the old tribe for the Dardanos Great Migration then. The former dhar was an Adrastos, and everyone said he was not well liked. Mother had said he was almost cruel—especially to those humbler tribes. Woalds have always epitomized humble in so many ways.

Definitely arrogant. 

That is a trait that most Adrastos share, as far as I can tell. 

I have met many Adrastos in my day, after all. 

I miss my parents tonight. It would have been their anniversary today. I will never stop grieving them. 

I have digressed, haven’t I? I should tell you about Ryrk. 

He is an arrogant wolf. Of that, I am one hundred percent certain. 

But without him, I would have been killed. 

Demons attacked in the private courtyard today. The instant I touched the statue of Aerim that I found in the middle of the courtyard. 

There was this horrible wailing sound—it almost sounded like a real beansidhe.  

The sky overhead clouded instantly. It went pitch-black. It was like something out of a Harlos Trianu novel!

(In case you’ve never read him, he’s that horror author who thinks his books are soooo much better than Alaun’s. He’s made all sorts of comments about romance that is extremely rude. He’s good—but Alaun is worlds better. I mean, the demons in his book eat Dardaptoans! Not exactly something I want to consider…especially today!)

Anyway, I screamed. A demon was right there in front of me, hideous and fanged. He had actual horns and wings! Then there were others. 

They seemed to be coming from the statue. From her heart.

I screamed and tried to run. 

Then my cousin Uruses was there. He and Tol battled back the six or seven demons. One was coming for me. 

I tried to pull myself to my feet. The demons weren’t super large. I managed, somehow. 

Tol shouted at me to run. To get inside and go straight to the main security office. 

I tried. I truly did. 

But they had him on the ground. Uruses hit them with a garden hoe, but it wasn’t enough. 

I couldn’t let them kill Tol. I couldn’t.

I had no real weapon, but there was a rake right there. 

I did what I could. 

Then…a dark wolf ran right by me. 

A Lupoiux. 

The battle was over within moments. Then the Lupoiux shifted—not even two yards from where I stood. Ryrk. It shouldn’t have surprised me that it was Ryrk, but it did.

He had blood streaming down his muscled chest. He staggered. 

I moved to him quickly, ignoring Uruses’s hiss to stay far from such an animal. 

It wasn’t an animal in front of me bleeding, but a living, breathing male who had risked his own safety to save me and Tol. And Uruses as well, for that matter—grumpy old goat that my cousin is. 

I didn’t listen to Ryrk’s protests that he could walk. I know Lupoiux heal exceptionally quickly, but… “L-let me help you to the healers. And…thank you. You and Tol saved my life.”

I looked at my guard. He was wounded, as well, but in far better shape than the wolf. He was brushing dirt off his Thurgis-olive pardus.  “Are you ok, Jume?”

“Bruises. Terrified. But I will be ok. It’s the Lu—Ryrk who is the most injured!”

Couldn’t they see that? Ryrk was leaning heavily on my shoulders, and he was a big-enough male that I was feeling it. But I tightened my arm around his waist. 

The Healers’ Hall was just off the justice hall. I knew the back way. “Hurry. W-we’ll get him to the healers.”

My hand landed on his strong chest. His heart beat against my palm. 

Wildly.

My eyes met his. “The healers here are the best.”

His hand tightened on my shoulder, and he pulled me closer. I’m not certain if it was because of weakness or because he was taking advantage of the opportunity.

To be honest, I think it was the latter. 

By the time we made it to the hall, he was walking more or less unassisted.

Uruses was trailing behind us, muttering about dirty dogs the entire time. I turned to him and told him to go away. That his prejudice wasn’t helping the situation at the moment, and it was inappropriate and rude. And painted him as completely bigoted and ignorant. 

I didn’t stutter even once. Uruses had made me so angry.

Ryrk had fought to protect me, the least Uruses could do was treat him with the respect he was owed. That all beings were owed, regardless of what Kind they were.

“My little defender,” Ryrk whispered near my ear. “Thank you, little kitten. You will not ever be forgotten.”

Tol walked with us to the Healers’ Hall, though his own wounds were negligible. I didn’t have to ask—he wasn’t about to leave me to my own devices. Not now.

I still haven’t processed what had happened. 

But…those demons had seemed to come straight from a statue. How could that have anything to do with me?

Life is nothing like fiction. (Journal Entry #64)

That werewolf is still here. I was carrying books back from the library, and Tol got caught up in a crowd behind me. I’m not even sure how the humans got to the floor with the private library. They shouldn’t have been in there at all. 

Kierce’s mind-clearers were probably busy for hours. 

Anyway, I had just rounded the corner that led into the main lobby, where I’d have to cross to get to the private family wings, when I once again came up right in front of that same werewolf. 

His hands went around my waist. Instantly—and without invitation. Unlike our Dardaptoan males, apparently, Lupoiux touched females freely. “Steady there, little kitten. The big bad wolf might be around somewhere, just waiting to gobble a golden Dardaptoan like you right up.”

“I…” I finally looked into his face. And stared. I couldn’t help it. He was beautiful. Strong and muscled, though not as tall as the average Dardaptoan warrior. 

And there was a look of real hunger in his blue eyes when he stared down at me. 

I shivered and stepped back. I didn’t want to be a snack for a werewolf, either. 

Since coming to stay at the hotel I have been exposed to Dardaptoan warriors, Druids (there are a few wandering around the place), and more demons than I care to remember. 

And Lupoiux. 

I am definitely earning my pay as Alaun’s researcher—her field researcher at that.

His hands were still on me. “I…I…excuse me.”

I tried to step around him. He wouldn’t let go of my arms, and I had the books in my hands. 

I was pretty well stuck. I tried not to be a real wimp. What could he really do to me right here? 

I mean, there were security guards and humans right there behind us. “P-please let me go.”

“Maybe I don’t want to. You intrigue me, little female. I think it is the curls. I have always loved curls on my females. And you…are the first I have seen with them here.”

He had an accent. Ancient European, I think. I’m not good at those kinds of things. “Wh-who are you?”

“I am Ryrk, alpha of the Misham Pack. I’m here to speak with Rand Taniss about…shared interests.” He finally let go of me, then deliberately stepped back as Tol got closer. Ryrk gave a mocking bow. “Lupoiux females of my area are very rarely blond. I am sorry if I frightened you.”

I just nodded like an idiot. 

I am not stupid. He was a very dangerous male—no matter what Kind he was. 

He didn’t care one bit that I was frightened of him. I rather think he liked the idea. 

No doubt, this werewolf has killed many of our Kind.

How do the dhar and his board of advisors honestly expect the rest of the tribe to forget that?

Tol was there, anger in his golden eyes. He put his big, strong body between me and the wolf. 

We both watched as that werewolf strolled away—almost as if he owned this place.

I just shivered.

Tol broke custom and put his hand on my back and pulled me closer. Much like Mak had done time and time again. “Are you ok, Jume?”

I just nodded. 

I’m beginning to think Alaun is insane. Demons and Lupoiux did not good romance novel heroes make!

The more I learn… (Journal Entry #63)

They caught the tapper! Well, Tol and another of the guards did. Tol had taken me to dinner in the midrange dining room, where some of the more well-to-do staff members and royal families liked to eat on occasion. The dhar and dahnwere in there. I watched them for a few moments. 

Just to see. She looked happy, thankfully. And very much like Blaire. 

Tol took me to dinner, and we were seated no more than fifteen feet from Maryin Sebastos. She just shot me the evilest of looks. 

Probably because I was there with a handsome warrior and she was just there with her parents and her younger sister. Again.

Maryin hasn’t found her Rajni yet. And her father has a reputation for being very, very controlling.

I hope she doesn’t find her male anytime soon; I wouldn’t wish Maryin on my worst enemy.

Well…maybe Olietus Black. 

They would deserve each other.

Anyway, there is a female staying in the room next to mine. She saw the tapper last night after I had gone to bed. Apparently, she has the ability to see incorporeal creatures.

She reported the tapper to security, and they set a trap for the creature. 

The tapper didn’t have a real form. That made it a bit difficult for security to trap, but they finally did.

It was a type of demon from a realm I have never heard the name of. Galbrohn, I think. I’m going to look up that place in the restricted portion of the library tomorrow.

If I can get in there without the clerk seeing. 

Riv works at the public library; she could probably find me some things. If I ask her to.

But to be honest—I don’t want my sisters to know just how deeply I’m researching demons right now.

They would just worry. Say I am inviting trouble. 

Especially now that I am in a hotel that seems to have a demon prince—usually a brother of the High Demon King, who is mated to Kindara—on every floor.

I swear, the more I learn, the less I know. About anything.

Sometimes, things just don’t feel normal. (Journal Entry #62)

The wolf was behind her, cloaked in the scent of the night surrounding them. Kuma kept running. If the Lupoiux caught her, she was as good as dead. She knew that. 

Everyone knew what Lupoiux werewolves did to Dardaptoans. Especially the females. They had been enemies for centuries. Millennia. The war between their Kinds wasn’t going to end in one night. 

If it ever ended at all. 

Kuma kept going, her chest burning as she dragged in what ragged breaths she could. The claw marks across her chest could prove fatal. 

Had she not been a healer, they probably already would have.

She’d end up as just another statistic—a dead Dardaptoan, victim of the Lupoiux.

That would destroy her family. Her mother and younger sisters, especially.

No. She wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She wasn’t.

Kuma pulled herself to her feet when she stumbled. 

She just had to make it to the highway. She could hear the traffic. She was close. 

She’d be safe there.

**

Aristolos Sechulus, high prince of the demon realm, heard a female’s cry from where he stalked through the Gaian woods outside the human city of Finley Creek, Texas. It was a good place to hunt. Especially for Incubi demons. 

He had spent most of the day following a family of redheaded human females around, just watching them. Getting accustomed to the ways of the Gaian world again. There had been one female who walked with the aid of a crutch who he had found particularly delectable. Only her mate and his bevvy of human guards had stopped Aris from getting better acquainted with the female.

It had been centuries since he had been forced to enter such an archaic place. It always took him time to assimilate. He returned to Gaia every two hundred years—to pay his mother’s final resting place his respect. 

She had been murdered and buried near the sea at the hands of Dardaptoan vampires more than three thousand years ago.

He had always despised the frightened little beasts. 

Had they not been so afraid of a Easchuan demon female, his mother would still most likely be living. Enjoying the grandspawn his siblings had created.

Aris listened.

There was that sound again. 

A female in distress.

He was part Incubi. He would never leave a female unprotected. 

With barely a thought, he flashed to the female’s side. 

When he was able to see again, he recoiled in horror. The female who had called for rescue wasn’t a mere human like he had expected.

It was a female Dardaptoan.

And she was almost dead at his feet.

Thunder shook the building, scaring me. I dropped Alaun’s latest printout and yelped. I thought it was the tapper back now.

I’m curled up in my bed, as a storm unlike any others rages around the hotel. It doesn’t feel normal. Far from it. Kellis was supposed to spend the night with me—she’s taken to staying at least two nights a week—but she had been called out to deal with a young half-Nellana/half-Dardaptoan healer who has been taken by a demon to another realm.

No one really knows what happened, other than that demon involved is yet another brother of the King. 

Kellis didn’t seem too concerned; she had met the brother and said he appeared to be honorable.

I’m still here, alone, shades pulled down—the strange tapping at my window and the voice of doom calling me have never stopped—trying to distract myself again.

I’m reading Alaun’s latest manuscript to see if the demon details line up with my research. 

So far I’ve found a few things—but I am not an expert on demons. 

Tol knows far more about them than I do. He is my favorite of the guards. Mostly because he is so kind. 

I’m going to ask Alaun if he can read it, too. I’m sure she’ll say yes. She is all about having her books be as accurate as possible after all.

Anyway, I’m going to crash. The tapping seems to finally have stopped for tonight. 

Kellis will be here tomorrow night. 

The tapping never happens when my sister is here.

I almost think the tapper is afraid of her.

I’m feeling a bit lonely tonight… (Journal Entry #61)

Ok, so my demon research has turned up more Kinds of demons than I want to think about. Fortunately, Alaun only wants me to focus on the most Dardaptoanistic as possible. Not all demons can mate with Dardaptoans (although, as far as Kindara knows, there has been only one pair of gamata featuring a demon and a Dardaptoan. Give you one guess who????). 

Some are of completely different physiologies. 

Some kinds are mere animals—literally, they have doglike features and look like a cross between a beagle and a mini-goat. (There is a drawing in one book.) They are called Grackle collies and demons of higher order keep them as pets. (Alleah is fascinated by them. Alaun told her all about them. Alleah drew this one for me. Isn’t it sweet?)

So Alaun’s list has been expanded to ninety-two types of higher-order demons. It was going to take me longer than I expected to compile her database. But I have to admit I don’t mind.

Knowledge is power, and if I can recognize a demon when I see one—some look just like us Dardaptoans, or can change their appearance to mimic ours—then I have a better chance of getting away, right?

Tol worked with me on the database for three days. I enjoyed having him around. He is very handsome and very kind.

The kindness is what draws me to my new friend the most. 

His female will be one lucky female when he finally finds her. ­­­­­

I also saw that werewolf again. I’m not sure what he was doing on the sixth floor. He wasn’t a guard. He wasn’t a prisoner. He really had no business being on the sixth floor.

I know Tol reported him to Kierce. What happened after that, I do not know.

I’m trying not to think about it. To be afraid. 

I can’t be afraid of everyone new I run into—whether literally or figuratively, or what—I just can’t live my life that way.

But as Tol pointed out, this is just a season in my life. I will get through this and be stronger from it when I come out on the other side.

I am just not sure I believe that.

Maybe it is time to speak with Theo again. Find out how long I am supposed to stay here?

Coty and her sisters are finally settling in with their family. Their real family. 

Mickey and the others are making a point to visit them, to get to know them. 

I know that is important. 

But I am not a part of that family. I have to remember that. 

I miss my own family so much.

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.