Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 17 Snippet

Only one chapter to go and it'll be a fairly short epilogue. Sad to see this one end but excited to begin working on the new projects.

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 17

“Where the fuck were you?” Alicia hissed. Her talons clicked together as she stifled the urge to wrap them around her father’s neck. “You swore you’d be there and then you just fucking walked away. You never called or explained or nothing. Marie’s legs stayed permanently open which eventually brought Markus into the picture.”

“Alicia…” Johnston stepped towards her but she flashed her dual sets of fangs and launched into the air out of his reach.

“Did you know what he was doing to me? Did you even give a shit?” Huge tears rolled down her cheeks as she vented over a decade of hurt, anger, and frustration. “For years, I tried to figure out why you hated me so much. What did I do, what was so wrong with me that you’d leave us like that?”

“No! Honey, no, no, no,” the newly-appointed General of the Seventh Circle held his arms out to his only child in desperate entreaty as fiery tears rolled down his cheeks. “You did nothing wrong, pumpkin. Nothing! It was never your fault, Alicia.”

“Then why? Why didn’t you come back for me?”

The dark fire of her wings dimmed and she drifted to the floor. Though Johnston ached to take his daughter in his arms and comfort her, Blake shook his head. The vampire stepped forward and pulled her against his chest in a warm embrace, noting absently that her fiery wings neither burned his flesh nor gave off any discernible heat. He slipped her arms into the sleeves of his ripped shirt and covered some of her nudity with the thick material. It fit oddly, backwards as it was, but at least she was partially clothed. Regardless of familial attachment, the presence of the demon near his naked mate sat poorly with his beast’s possessive nature. The shirt eased that instinctual reaction somewhat. Running his hands soothingly over Alicia’s back, he brushed his lips over the shell of her ear but remained silent. She deserved her answers.

“He wouldn’t let me.” Johnston growled harshly. His human form wavered with his struggle to remain in control. “I’ve spent the past fifteen years trying to tear myself away from Malphas’ will in order to come back to you. I fought him, and suffered for those fights, until he swore that you were being cared for.”

“And you believed him? A demon?”

“Yeah, I believed him. I believed him because he hadn’t lied to me until then. He explained about the changes. He helped me manifest the wings. He kept me sane down here in this Godforsaken place! How was I to know it was only a means to an end? He wanted it hurt when I discovered the truth. He wanted me to hate him. Hate feeds a wrath demon like nothing else, and my hate fed more than just myself; in some strange way, it fed him, too.” Johnston paced the oddly changeable floor, tugging on his hair in frustration. His path was meandering but managed to be one step ahead of, or behind, the columns of fire that periodically shot into the sky. The more agitated he grew, the more frequent the geysers until it looked like a fiery fountain at a casino.

“You were bound to him by blood, Johnston. That’s why your anger fed him.” Blake’s eyes carefully followed the demon lord’s path. They were uneasy allies at best, and he wouldn’t let down his guard when his mate was involved.

“He said as much. Rejoiced in it, even. He said the connection of our bloodline gave him greater control over me. I would have believed that until I learned he’d sent the Marquis. It didn’t matter what kind of pull he had over my will, I wasn’t about to leave my little girl in the hands of a fucking lust demon.”

“You did,” Alicia hissed, burrowing in her vampire’s embrace and surrounding herself with his scent.

“When I heard about the Marquis, I stormed into his tower ready to take his fucking head. He batted me aside like a kitten and then he laughed. He fucking laughed, Alicia, as he strapped me into that damn frame and forced me to watch that bastard touch you and my Marie.” Flames shot from the floor as his rage soared.

Johnston’s human form melted away to reveal the demon lord in all his glory. He stood over nine feet tall with spiraled horns jutting from his bald head. His wings unfurled twice the length of his height before draping over his shoulders like a leathery cloak. A black loincloth tied around his waist covered his genitals but left his trunk-like thighs bare. Unlike his predecessor, he bore no trace of feathers above his cloven hooves – instead, a layer of coarse fur covered his legs from knee to hoof. The fur was the same color as his hair had been when he’d been human.

“I spent ten human years in the Pit, Alicia.” The demon’s voice was little more than a growl as he continued to pace the cavernous chamber. His hooves echoed in the silence. “Ten years of constant torment and torture. Ten years of having the skin flayed from my body only to have it grow back just so they could do it again. Ten years of fighting in the arenas, pitted against the foulest of infernal creatures. Ten fucking years of being screwed by any demon who pleased the General, castrated and forced to eat my own dick, dismembered with dull blades… only to be put back together just so they could do it all over again!” Flames shot from the walls and floor and the entire building shook as he stomped around the room. He reached the metal frame that had recently held his child and ripped it from the floor. The metal bent and twisted as easily as a wet noodle before melting into slag at his feet. Outside, the mephits and lesser demons that had been preparing to test their new General’s strength cringed and slid out of range of his fury. They would challenge him another day.

“Oh, God.” Alicia’s swirling eyes widened with horror and she eased from her vampire’s embrace. How could anyone have survived such torture? How could he care for her that much?

“So do not tell me that I did nothing!” Johnston snarled, sending foul magic to strike at one of the slowest of the mephits. The creature shrieked as it slowly burned away. The rest flew much faster to avoid a similar fate. “My only reason for survival was you, Alicia. My only shred of sanity concerned you. My final, wavering scrap of humanity centered solely on keeping you safe.”

“And in the end,” Alicia walked cautiously towards the demon lord, “you did. Daddy, you kept me safe. If you hadn’t brought Blake with you, I’d still be strapped to that cage. You succeeded, Daddy.”

“Did I?” His blood-red eyes met her swirling crimson-and-black ones as he reached a tentative hand towards his child. His fangs had pierced his lip where he’d bitten through them to hold back his tears and the blood dripped from his chin to sizzle on the stone floor. “Did I save you or did I just prolong both of our torment? You’re not a demon; you’re not even a tiefling anymore. You don’t belong here but I can’t bear to let you go. Not yet. Please, pumpkin, not yet.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 16 Snippet

No warnings or comments this time (which is kind of a lie since I commented, but oh well...). Enjoy!!

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 16

Malphas and Alicia barreled through the portal and onto the charred stone floor of a cavernous chamber. The impact sent the tiefling tumbling off the demon lord’s back and jarred the sunblade from her hands. It bounced and skittered across the floor to rest in a far corner of the room, well out of her reach. Alicia slammed her fist into the floor and released such a string of vulgarity that she was certain she’d pay for it later with her ass. Her fangs lengthened at the thought of her vampire’s discipline before she wrestled her mind away from her delectable mate.

She glanced around the room in search of the celestial sword and was struck by the strangeness of the building’s materials. The smooth walls looked to be worn away by years of friction rather than tools, and stretched upwards until they faded from sight. A closer look at the stone showed black and dark-red waves undulating just beneath the surface, breaking through in unexpected bursts to shoot geysers of fiery lava into the air.

“Once more you meddle in things of which you know nothing, Tiefling!” The demon growled his pain as the severed wing began to heal. The one she’d sliced with the glowing blade showed no signs of repair. Her lips curled into a cruel smile.

“Yeah? Well, consider it a character flaw.”

“I will do more than that.” Malphas chuckled evilly as he rose to his full height and stretched his newly grown wing. “I will ensure that you will be unable to make such foolish choices in the future.”

“You think so?” Watching the infernal’s every move, Alicia rose into a crouch and matched his steps to maintain the distance between them. “Blake hasn’t had much luck with that, you know, and I adore my vampire. Can’t really say the same for you, Gramps.”

“Your insignificant feelings have no bearing here other than the joy it will bring me to watch them crumble to my will.” Malphas’ tail stabbed from the left, causing her to roll to the right to avoid the deadly appendage. The floor opened up beneath her and she barely managed to avoid a burst of fiery brimstone that shot almost two feet into the air. The demon’s grin of delight was terrifying to behold.

“You really need to see someone about that god complex you’ve got going on. You’re never gonna get a date that way.”

“Foolish child, haven’t you learned, yet? Here, I am a god! This is my domain and all here bow before me or face my wrath!” His bellowing voice echoed in the large chamber and a cacophony of wails and cries of agony and terror rose in an answering chorus. The sound chilled her to her very core and she gazed longingly at the celestial sword. “Since you gave up your humanity for that blood-sucking parasite and ruined plans centuries in the making, I will drain the vampiric blight from your soul and create a pure creature of the Seventh Circle. You will become mine for all eternity, tiefling. Mine to keep or destroy. Mine to cherish or ravage. Mine,” he stabbed again from the left, moving her further and further away from the softly glowing sunblade, “to command and control.”

“Good luck with that, asswipe. I checked my to-do list, and nowhere did it say ‘relocate to a place that smelled like an egg fart factory’.” She hesitated for half a second to gauge the distance to the sunblade and the third jab from the demon’s tail sliced through her thigh, drawing a hiss of pain and anger from between her fangs. Instead of dodging to the right as the demon anticipated, Alicia dived between his legs. While he was off-balance in the midst of a right-handed grab at her former location, the tiefling placed both her feet on his upper thighs and kicked hard. Though it was like kicking a Sequoia, her vampiric strength enabled her to affect the demon lord’s balance. Malphas struggled to remain in place but had to stagger forward to stay upright, giving Alicia the time to move towards the blade. She checked the cut on her leg as she rose and was pleased to see that it had already begun to heal.

“Deny it all you wish, but it’s already begun, tiefling.” Malphas chuckled and slowly turned as Alicia scrambled for the glowing sword. “Pick up that blade you’re so anxious to get to, hellspawn, and feel the pain as it burns away at your very nature.”

“The fuck?” The scent of burning flesh mingled with the sulfur and brimstone already present in the hot air. Though she gritted her teeth to ward off the pain, Alicia couldn’t maintain her hold on the celestial blade for more than a few seconds. Hissing in frustration, she allowed the sword to drop from her fingers. “It didn’t burn before. Why do you always have to fuck with shit that’s not yours, demon?”

“I’ve done nothing to the blade, tiefling.” The demon lord’s triumphant grin was a hideous display of vicious fangs and cruel triumph as he approached. With her back now against the wall, there were few places for Alicia to go and, though it burned, she was still unwilling to abandon the sword that seemed to inflict permanent damage on the infernal. “It is you who are changing. Just being here is leeching away all but the demon inside you.”

“You’ve finally snapped, haven’t you?” Alicia’s eyes darted around the room looking for something to wrap around her hands so she could pick up the glowing sword at her feet. “I mean, I’ve heard that some humans get a bit delusional as they get older so I can only imagine how totally bat-shit crazy you’ve gotten over the centuries, Gramps.”

“You already feel it. Don’t you, tiefling? How much stronger the demon within is growing. How much weaker the blood-sucker has become. The pull of my will increases, influencing, forcing you to obey me.”

“In your dreams, you overgrown bat,” Alicia sneered, but inwardly she trembled. She did feel the changes and they terrified her. Where would that leave her vampire if Malphas had his way? Would he think she had died and abandon her to her fate? Would he discover her altered form and abandon her still?

“That’s it, tiefling. Give in to me and you shall be stronger than the vampire who’s enslaved you. He’ll leave you like all the others – all but me. I have never abandoned you, tiefling. I have watched over you from the day your worthless father broke his promise and a young child’s heart by walking away without a second thought.”

 Hissing in fury at her lingering doubts, she steeled herself for the pain and reached for the sunblade. In an awkward move borne from desperation rather than skill, Alicia grabbed the hilt as she rolled to the demon’s left side. The celestial blade sliced through Malphas’ calf before she flung it away with a cry. “I will never be yours, Malphas,” she ground through her clenched fangs as she cradled her injured hands to her chest. “I’ll fight you for all eternity if I must, but I will return to my mate.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 15 Snippet

A/N: This snippet is entirely unedited by anyone but me so don't blame Archangel for my goofs :)

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 15

Blake stalked the encampment coiled and ready for battle. Far from settling his mind, the brief mental contact with his mate had driven his beast into a ravenous fury. He needed to see and touch and verify for himself that she was well. He needed to know why the bond had formed now and not the day they mated or in the days since. He needed her back by his side where he could keep her safe. All who stood between him and satisfying that need took their lives into their own hands, regardless of which side of the battle they favored.

It was the waiting that was driving both his human and beast insane. Though his human side understood the need, his beast chafed at the vast amounts of daylight hours spent amongst the humans who pestered those setting up the encampment. He and Elizabeth dodged questions from the local police, dismissed reporters, and oversaw the growing arsenal that would outfit and arm a small Third World country. Though his beast urged him to drain the curious and concerned locals to corpses and leave them for the packs of stray dogs and other vermin, and Blake saw the advantages to having such peace, the greater attention that would garner wouldn’t be worth the transient pleasure.

Elizabeth had worked alongside him for several hours after he’d communicated with Alicia but even their centuries of friendship couldn’t withstand his peevishness and simmering violence. The only one who appeared unaffected by his mood was the tiny pixie, Sapphire. She sat upon his shoulder, chattering about this or that or singing in her lilting voice, until he threatened to rip off her wings and use them to plug his ears against her inane babbling. Where others cringed at the barely contained menace in his voice, his minute companion merely tsked in disapproval as she faded away. She promised to return only after he’d regained some semblance of control.

They’d heard nothing from the Royal Advisor, Lysavar, or the Celestial, Camael, since their meeting in the ruined Simons Building. The silence from the pair served to further degrade the vampire’s foul mood. Even though Sapphire and Opal had reassured him that his friend would return in time for the assault on the church, Blake scowled any time the elf’s name was mentioned. Devereux’s faith in Camael wasn’t as solid and the normally flamboyant vampire was unusually somber. He wanted to believe his extra-planar mate’s promise to return and join the fight but their bond had yet to be firmly established and the Celestial didn’t have the best track record.

Meanwhile, the Others began arriving early Wednesday afternoon. Most came by car – a large caravan of black SUVs escorted by a choice number of enspelled or nonhuman members of the state and local police forces. Before the sun had fully set, the 20’x30’ canvas structure contained over sixty nonhumans from nearly half a dozen races. Such a disparate group was rarely found together outside the annual Summit and they each eyed the others with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. None were aware that a tiny pair of spies flitted amongst them.

The vampire covens sat in distinct clusters, sipped glasses of <i>Sangue Vino</i> from Elizabeth’s private stock, and contemplated the advantages of potential political maneuvers. Occasionally, one of each group would stand as if choreographed, glide elegantly towards one of the other covens, and sit to exchange names, business cards, and tentative promises. The Russian and Persian covens were especially keen to establish mutually beneficial ties while the New Orleans coven watched it all with amused, and affected, ennui. They all made a grand show of checking and loading their weapons as if there was a prize for who could conceal the greatest number of pistols and knives in the most creative of ways. Opal rolled his eyes at their posturing but flitted amongst the vampires to ensure their plotting wasn’t against their host.

Along the back of the tent, six of the Eurytion Herd’s finest Hunters checked buckles and retied cords while awaiting the start to the meeting. The centaurs carried enchanted lances, sheaths with short swords resembling Ancient Rome’s gladius, and a horseman’s bow with quiver slung low on their withers where their human torsos melded with their equine bodies. Each warrior wore modified horse barding crafted from a combination of metal and leather to maximize both protection and maneuverability that melded seamlessly into a metal breastplate to protect their vulnerable chests. Their tails were braided and bound to avoid tangling in the branches and underbrush surrounding the desecrated church on the hill. They ate little and spoke less, preferring to hydrate before the coming battle to offset the humidity that still lingered in the muggy autumn air.

The Shifters filled the rest of the metal folding chairs placed in the tent and performed their own rituals before battle. Scents were gathered and memorized so that recognition during battle was swift and instinctual. Craig Leroux, the alpha’s younger brother, commanded the Pack’s fighters and was eager to exact some measure of vengeance for the haunted look that remained in the eyes of his favorite niece. After speaking with Kazeem Obasanjo, the wolves and tigers began working out fighting tactics that utilized their particular skills. Sapphire perched upon the back of a chair as they planned herding and ambush strategies. While their tactics were sound for land-based prey, they were close to useless for the flying creatures they would encounter like mephits and demons. Clearing her tiny throat, she decided to point out the flaws in their plans and how she might be of use to them.

When the sun began to sink into the horizon, Blake and Elizabeth stepped into the tent, followed by Augustin, Johannes, Devereux and the young Karen Walker. The Investigator’s crimson eyes scanned the impressive number of nonhumans with cold satisfaction. He wasn’t foolish enough to believe that the battle would be easy, but he was now more confident that the battle could be won. As the small band of friends and compatriots moved through the crowd, a slim and regal elf entered the tent and awaited the vampire’s notice.

“Lysavar.” Warmth colored his voice as Blake moved to greet his elven friend. “I’m pleased to know I won’t have to kill you after all, elf.”

“You could try, vampire,” the Royal Advisor chuckled softly and gripped his friend’s forearm in welcome. “I come bearing good news, bad news, and surprising news.”

“Not the time for games, Lys.”

“If this is the not the time, it never will be, my friend. We laugh or else we cry and no one wants to die with tears on their cheeks.”