I left you hanging yesterday, and I’m sorry. There was a massive storm again, and it knocked out the hotel’s entire electrical system before I could finish the post. It took hours for it to… More
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
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.”
“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 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 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.