Sataniel stood on a balcony at the top of his tower, looking down upon his kingdom. He enjoyed standing here, feeling as if nothing could bring him down. This whole tower belonged to him, from the dungeons deep below the earth, to the very top. Of course, technically, this whole region belonged to him. But why get greedy?
His fortress, though cold and bleak on the outside, was actually
a cheery place. Despite being full of demons, they had dances and
feasts like any other kingdom. There was one such feast tonight,
complete with a ball. Sataniel sighed, leaning on the railing of
the balcony. Here, his nobles would once again parade their unwed
daughters past him. He couldn't stand the creatures.
Most were succubae, and he had enough of those already. Besides, Sataniel already loved one. And she had scorned him. Not the mother of Dante, of course, but the hated angel that he had wooed for nearly half a century. Of course, he also still loved Dante's mother, but the boy thought the woman was dead. He couldn't ever know the truth.
That was for the better. Dante was a disgrace to the family. He
was a disgrace to the kingdom. The child simply did not act like
a demon. He refused to torture the prisoners, he thought that
fighting was boring, he didn't hate angels, on and on with all
this nonsense. When Dante had finally saved a unicorn from a
royal hunting party, the king had banished his son from the
Satan turned around as there was a knock on the door. He grimaced, pushing his white hair back from his face. "If it's about the ball tonight, then go away!"
The door opened and a boy, who also had white hair, walked in. He wore silver armor and black pants, with a white cloak. His eyes were a light grey, almost a silver, and they gleamed in the candlelight. Nuaane, known as Null for his ability to disappear quickly, was Satan's personal servant.
"Master," Nuaane said as he bowed to the king, "Lili sent to me tell you that you need to get dressed for the ball." The boy closed the door behind him, not about to let Sataniel order him out of the room. "It does begin in one hour."
"Everyone in the ball can fall to the Abyss, for all I care," Sataniel sighed, not turning around and continuing to stare gloomily out at the sky. "The nobles will parade their virgin daughters in front of me. I'll have to decline marriage to them. It will be exactly the same as any other night."
Nuaane walked over to the balcony, looking up at Satan. "Taniel," he said, using the nickname that only Satan's closest advisors or servants were allowed to use. "It is your duty as king. You must marry again and give the country an heir."
"I don't want an heir!" Sataniel whirled on the boy, a hand raised as if to strike him. "I already have one and he turned out to be a disgrace. I can wait another hundred years.. A thousand years. If that will make him come to his senses, then I shall wait for him."
"There's as much chance of Dante coming back as there is of
Narsarilla falling in love with you," Nuaane said coldly, his
eyes meeting Satan's as he spoke the name of the angel who had
rejected the demon king.
This time Taniel did hit him, an open-handed blow that threw Nuaane to the floor. He stepped over to the boy, placing a bare foot on Nuaane's throat, pressing down so it was painful for the boy to breath. "I told you that you are never to speak of that woman around me." His voice was calm, but deadly. Stan leaned on Nuaane's throat, driving his foot down even harder into the boy. "I thought that even my closest servants would have even some loyalty."
Nuaane struggled to breath, his eyes half-closing as he was deprived of air. If he had predicted the effect his words would have had on the king, he would have taken a breath before, but Stan had moved to quickly. He was too chaotic. And… Nuaane hadn't really thought about what he would say. "I'm… sorry…!" he choked out, gasping. "Never… again!"
"I thought so," Sataniel watched him squirm for a few moments, then released the boy, stepping back and smirking. "So, Lili wishes for me to get ready? Fine." He turned away, heading for his wardrobe.
This power struggle was a daily occurrence in the demon lands, so he thought nothing of it. If he allowed his subjects to break his rules, then they would think that he was a weak ruler. He wasn't but it was so aggravating to deal with an uprising. So many lives were lost. Then, he'd have to behead a few of his nobles.
Nuaane stood slowly, touching his throat with his left hand. The hand started glowing with a soft white light that soothed and healed his injured throat. Null was something of an oddity among demon kind. He wasn't as disgraceful as Dante, and wouldn't disobey a direct order, but he did not have the lust for blood and death. He was a healer. However, that was in his human form. As a full demon, he was a dangerous and effective warrior.
Despite his soft-spoken ways, he was very efficient and a fast runner. Any message that needed to be sent out was given to Null. He could get from one end of the kingdom to another in less than a hour. The kingdom was around two hundred square leagues. In human measurements, that was 6,173,827,200 square meters. No one knew how he could run that fast, since they never saw him using anything but his healing magic. It wasn't important, though.
"Master," Nuaane said, his voice having a hint more respect than before. "Lili says you must wear a shirt this time, as well as some boots."
Last time, Sataniel had just gone shirtless, with a red vest that had the crest of his family on it. Actually, that was what he was wearing at this very moment. That darn Lili… She always was so picky. Ardat Lili was Satan's main advisor, as well as the woman who kept everything around the castle running smoothly. Lili was also an oddity among the demons. Her human form had a pair of bat-like wings that didn't appear in her demon form. It was strange, but again, it did not matter much.
"Fine," Satan grumbled, opening the doors to his wardrobe. He pulled out a silk shirt and pulled it on after taking off the vest. Then came a long black cloak with the crest of his family decorating the silver clasp. The crest was simple, a full moon with an eye within it. "Would this be acceptable for the esteemed mistress Lili?" A tinge of sarcasm colored his voice.
"Yes," Lili herself answered from the doorway. She looked him up and down, her eyes narrowed. "Well, it will have to do for tonight." She let out a disgusted sigh. "Honestly, marriage isn't the end of the world! You're acting like a spoiled toddler."
Ardat Lili had short blue hair and bright red eyes, that reflected the inner flames that were the base of her magic. She normally dressed very casually, but tonight, Satan's chief advisor wore a short white dress that had black flowering designs on it. The top was like a corset and ended just below her wings. The effect was quite stunning.
Sataniel turned to her, his eyes narrowed. "This realm does not need a queen. I am enough for the people. I am the only ruler they need." He crossed his arms, lifting his chin. "I shall refuse whatever demoness that prances around in front of my throne hoping to gain my favor."
"What about a human queen?" Lilia suggested slyly, walking across the room. "Did you forget that Princess Sythria and her father, King Rayeth were invited?" Of course Satan had forgotten. A guest list did not interest him, so she had taken care of all the invitations. "The girl is young, though wise for her age."
Taniel nodded slowly. "If she is willing to make an alliance to unite our kingdoms, then I shall think about it." He turned towards his wardrobe, grabbing the heavy doors to shut them. "But only if she's willing! Don't get any ideas."
He'd play the part of a suitor to appease Lili, but he had no interest in the human, even if she were a princess. Most of what Sataniel did or said to Lili was to get her to shut up about it. Though, to be fair, she made very good decisions about the running of his kingdom. It was almost a pity that she didn't have noble blood. Lili could make a good queen.
"Whatever you wish, my king," Lili said with a bow, just short of making the title sound mocking. "By the way, some of your guests have arrived already. Draquelyn is in the library, and the Lynnis family are waiting in the entrance hall."
Satan shuddered as he thought of the Lynnis family. They were a clan of demons who controlled water, led by Aquit Lynnis. Aquit had five daughters, all of them quite beautiful. They were also did not give up easily. Aquit was dead-set on having one of his daughters marry Sataniel, even going so far as to spreading rumors of a courtship between Satan and his eldest daughter, Narcis.
"I'll meet with the Lynnis clan first," Taniel sighed, grimacing. "If I get them dealt with sooner, then maybe they won't be as persistent during the ball." He paused, hearing muffled giggles him. He whirled, seeing Lili laughing behind her hand. "It's not funny! Water demons can be so aggravating!"
Lil lowered her hand, still smiling cheerfully. "Of course, they are, Your Highness." she replied, clasping her hands in front of her. "Do you wish for me to tell Draquelyn that you'll get to her as soon as possible?"
"Thank you, that would be great," Sataniel calmed himself. "Do you know when the others shall arrive?" If more guests arrived early, then he'd have to meet with them personally, when all he really wished for was some time to himself. This ruling business could be awfully boring.
"They shall arrive when they arrive," Lili replied unhelpfully as she opened the door. "Fare thee well, King Sataniel." Lili left, walking down the spiral staircase that led to the rest of the castle. It was a pain to walk up and down the stairs all the time, but that was an easy price for privacy.
Sataniel looked over to Nuaane. "What are the chances of me getting away with shoving Lord Aquit out of a window?" He sounded like he was joking, but one really couldn't be sure about the demon king. After all, he was infamous for his unpredictability.
After thinking for a few moments, Nuaane said, "Depending on the reaction times of his family, you have about a seventy-eight percent to eighty-three percent chance of staying alive. If his wife and daughters also try to attack you, not just his sons, then it is an eighty-four percent to ninety-seven percent chance. They would just get in the way." Lord Lynnis also had three sons in addition to his daughters. "There is a sixty-two percent chance of them being unwilling to help Aquit, since that would mean going against you. The height and positioning of the window is also important. Any of the entrance hall windows are barely a meter off the ground, except for that one overlooking the cliff-"
Taniel raised a hand, signaling for Nuaane to stop talking. "Okay, enough, I get it."
"-which would make for a serious fall." Nuaane paused, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry, I got carried away. And I don't think that it would make a good impression on any of your other guests. Besides, think of what Lili would say!"
"She would probably try to kill me, again."
"She could do worse."
"Scream at me until my ears bleed?"
"You do realize that she does most of your paperwork, right?"
Sataniel nodded. "And she isn't obligated to do that, which means she could leave it to me at any time." He threw up his hands in despair." How did I ever let a woman like that gain so much power?"
"I think that's something only she knows. It has been many years since she became your advisor, after all."
Taniel headed for the door, Nuaane on his heels like a puppy following his master. "Someday I shall regret this." The king sighed as the door closed behind him. "But for now, I must grin and bear every single moment of this torturous day." He was getting out all his frustration now, since he would have to play the kind and courteous host for the next few hours.
He and Nuaane reached the bottom of the stairs and walked through the halls of the castle. Servants bowed to their king, averting their eyes with respect. The halls were well lit and had soft red carpets. The walls and ceiling were made of stone, though they were painted cream with gold edges. If Satan didn't look out the window, he wouldn't even know that he was in a demon's fortress.
They reached the great doors that led to the entrance hall and stopped. Sataniel took a breath, closing his eyes. "Go and make sure all preparations are finished. If there are any that shall not be done within ten minutes, make a list and give it to Lili." As the boy ran off, Satan opened the doors of the hall to face his guests.
"My Lord Sataniel," Aquit Lynnis stepped forward, bowing. "I am honored to be here in your splendid home." The water demon straightened, gesturing to the others with him. "My wife and daughters, Elena, Narcis, Shara, Kellian, Jiri, and the youngest, Natira."
The row of daughters curtsied elegantly, their skirts spreading in pools around them as they dipped. They looked identical but for their height, and the youngest who had raven hair rather than golden. Lady Lynnis also curtsied to Satan, her black hair tied up modestly. Her daughters looked like her, with similar cream skin and blue eyes, but they were blond like their father.
"A pleasure to meet you, Ladies of Water," Sataniel said grandly, bowing slightly. "I hope this evening is enjoyable for all of you." By all the Realms, how they sickened him! He masked that behind pleasantries and smiles, but he wished he could flee. The eldest daughter, Narcis, gave him a simpering smile that made him nauseous. As dumb as an imp, no doubt.
Narcis had opened her mouth to reply to him when there was the clatter of boots from behind them. Lord Lynnis whirled to face three men, hardly more than boys, who skidded to a stop in front of him. They had looked like younger versions of Lord Aquit, but for their black hair. Hardly pausing for breath, they bowed low before Sataniel.
The demon king nodded to them, an eyebrow raised. "Your sons, I presume?" he asked, looking to Lord Lynnis. They could not have been more unlike the formal water demon. Sataniel would rather one of them be the head of the Lynnis family. Much easier to manage.
Aquit's smile faltered. "Yes. These are Tyrin, Kaleth, and Ren." He did not seem pleased to have his sons present themselves in such a manner. "I would have expected that you three would behave yourselves here, at least!"
"Sorry Father," Tyrin, the eldest, said. But he was grinning, clearly not fully meaning his words. "We were left behind when we passed some maids. You didn't wait for us."
Aquit paled, glancing at Sataniel. "Watch your mouth! Do you realize-"
"It's all right," Sataniel said calmly. "They are young and carefree. There is nothing wrong with that."
"-that this is the palace?" Aquit halted, staring at his king. "Eh?"
Sataniel smiled coolly. "Would you all care to join me in the library?" He offered his arm to Lady Elena. She placed her hand on his arm, following him across the room.
They followed him through the hallway towards the library. Sataniel was chatting with them when suddenly, a servant bumped into him. The servant was carrying a pitcher of wine which splashed onto Satan's white shirt, staining it a deep red. Sataniel stopped abruptly, staring at the man.
"M-m-my Lord!" the servant stammered, taking a step back. "Forgive me, I was not watching where I was going!"
Sataniel looked at the man calmly, his eyes narrowed. What to do…? He couldn't have things like this happening in front of his guests without proper punishment, yet he did not want to expend too much effort. If Nuuane were here, Satan would have ordered him to deal with it, but life wasn't that easy.
The servant paled and attempted to go backwards, to kneel, anything! He could not move and looked down, panicking further. A glowing red circle had appeared at his feet, and the carpet was smoking slightly. With a dull roar, a wave of flame burst out of the floor, incinerating the helpless demon. Sataniel turned to his guests, smiling at their shocked expressions.
"Good servants are so hard to train these days," the king said cheerfully. "He was new, from just beyond Delrin." That was a little town in the south. "Do you ever have problems with the common folk?"
"Ehm…" Lord Aquit paused, almost unsure. "Some. We don't normally use such an instant execution for minor inconveniences."
That was true. For the Lynnis family, the standard punishment was to be confined underwater in the normal form for three days. Water demons could stay underwater for almost a week, but it grew very uncomfortable for them after a few hours. For serious faults, the offender would be tortured for days, then crushed by the pressure of deep underwater.
Satan's way of dealing with insubordination was nicer. No pain, no fuss.
He continued walking through the hall, leaving other servants to clean up the ashes that he had left behind. His face screwed up in a grimace as he regarded the stains on his shirt. It would have to be destroyed.
The doors to the library were made of a dark oak with gold runes upon them. The designs continuously shifted, forming new letters in a language only a few knew. Sataniel could read it, as could Lili and Draquelyn, but the Lynnis could not. Though noble, they were not directly related to royals in any way. They had no reason to know the Ancient Speech.
Sataniel placed a hand on the wood and the runes swirled to spin around his hand. The great doors opened, swinging silently inward. The few people in the library looked over to greet the king and his guests. A woman with long auburn hair and a deep scarlet gown stood, walking towards Satan.
"Taniel," she said warmly, taking his hands. "It has been so long since we have last spoken. Are you avoiding me?"
"Lyn," Sataniel kissed her hand. "I would never wish to decline your divine company. Unfortunately, these past few years have been dreadfully eventful. I apologize for the distress I must have caused you."
Draquelyn smiled, her amber eyes twinkling. "You still have that silver tongue that got you in so much trouble, I see."
"And got me out of trouble."
"Of course." Draquelyn nodded to Aquit and his wife. "Lord and Lady Lynnis. I am glad that you have arrived safely. Have your border dispute been resolved?"
The Lynnis and the Kali families had been squabbling over their own regions. The Kali claimed that a mountain had been stolen from their territory. The Lynnis claimed that the mountain had been there since the borders had been established. Neither side had receded.
"No, the Kali still hold on to their ridiculous idea." Aquit walked over to a chair, sitting down. His daughters had disappeared among the bookshelves, and his sons were speaking quietly near the door. "I've been trying to negotiate with Lord Kali, but he's not standing down."
Draquelyn nodded, frowning. "Perhaps I could speak with him about a compromise. He would not say no to me."
Thinking that over, Satan agreed. No one could say no to Draquelyn, as she was very persuasive in certain aspects. She was a dragon, one of the last few living in the Realm. She used this humanoid form out of respect for Sataniel, so she would not destroy his castle.
In her true form, however, she was a gorgeous creature of scarlet and maroon. Her scales gleamed in the sunlight, and her eyes were as golden and fiery as the sun itself. Draquelyn was young for her kind, but she carried great authority within her race. Her alliance with the demons was one reason why.