"Because I worry about you!" Felinea screamed, her voice hoarse and raw from arguing. "Though the way you are acting now, I have no idea why I bother!" The urge to shake him until reason returned coursed so powerfully through her that her hands ached. "You should have enough common sense to know that no matter how well-trained and prepared you are there will always... always... be someone out there who is better, faster, stronger, more skilled, or just plain luckier than you. Someone who will kill you with no thought, no remorse."
Hours had passed since they had retired to their chamber and they were no closer to a resolution. When Fairborne's old friends arrived Felinea had been ecstatic to hear more of the events that formed the man she had married. Her heart leapt with anticipation, as her husband introduced her to his old buddies, but her skin crawled as the first of the three men gallantly kiss her hand. Something was deeply wrong; something she could not quite puzzle out. They were congenial, conducting themselves graciously through dinner and after when they adjourned to the sitting room. Felinea smiled politely, listening as they wove grand stories of their past, but every time one of them met her eyes her flesh would go chill and her instinct screamed that something was not right.
She convinced herself that she was simply over reacting. It was the pregnancy; it does strange things to a woman's moods. Fairborne was enjoying himself so much, how could she ruin his evening with silly, hormone driven paranoia? She withdrew from the conversation, playing dutiful wife, but observed their guest closely.
As the fire dimmed to embers, the conversation waned. Ever the good host, Fairborne showed his friends to their rooms, before joining his wife in their own. He clamored on about his past with the men and what a good night it had been, as Felinea grew more edgy. "Stuart needs some help, and I have promised to go with him for a while." Felinea's heart stopped.
They had spent plenty of time apart, during their marriage, so it was not the few weeks of separation that worried her. This was different. Panic welled up inside of her and caught in her chest. "Please," she whispered, "please do not go."
Felinea was normally the hotter headed of the two, but it was Fairborne who fervently snapped. Do not go? Who did she think she was? How dare she try to control him?
The argument escalated from there.
"I am not a child that needs to be protected behind your skirts." Fairborne spat vehemently, baring his teeth in her face. "I have trained my entire life as skilled warrior!"
"I would never deem to suggest you were anything but a fighter of the highest caliber. Richard was equally trained as you, more so, since he was the eldest, yet that did not keep him from meeting that one person who could best him. Would you have your parents mourning the death of another son?" Her reaction was intense and impassioned. She needed to keep him here, at all cost. "Will I be forced to tell our children the reason that their father died, before they were even born, was because he was too stupid to know when to stay home?".
"Too Stupid?" Fairborne hissed. Two years of bitterness and rage had been seething deep within him. It bubbled up now, spewing forth like lava. He locked eyes with his wife, opening his mouth, knowing his words would seer her. "I would rather die stupid with honour than let my children grow up thinking that daddy is no more than a weak, pussy-whipped coward, like their mother has always believed."
The fury left Felinea instantaneously, as her brow furrowed in confusion. "What?"
"I am sorry that I am not a magnificently powerful wizard or hailed as a god by anyone! I am not king of some massive kingdom! And I am not some fearless, overly handsome, muscle-bound barbarian that will sweep you off your feet! I cannot be Uncle Derhan. I cannot be Tameron Chatten. And most of all, I cannot be your ex-lover Bryon. I am Fairborne. Poor, weak, stupid Fairborne."
Felinea eyes narrowed dangerously. A low growl rumbled unbidden deep in her chest, causing her words to be spit out stiltedly between clenched teeth. "I-thought-we-were-over-that."
"You emasculate me, control me, compare me to other men and deem me unfit, and you expect me to get over that? You considered me inferior when you left me and you consider me inferior now. Too weak to handle a simple trip with my friends." He closed his eyes, breathing deeply, trying to re-center and calm himself, but there was no sanctuary within him. Anger still roared in his eyes when he re-opened them. "Perhaps you are correct that I can never compare to either of your fathers, nor to your drunken, dim-witted savage, but I suppose there will always be greater men than me in the world. The knowledge that truly eats at my soul is that you believe I am weak and pathetic because," his face contorted into a mask of horrific ire and his words echoed off the walls of their chamber and beat back onto her as he finished the sentence, "I will never be strong enough to stand up to the great and power Felinea Chatten!"
She stared at him with icy disdain, until the residual echo of his words was eaten by a thick, heavy silence. Her voice was an emotionless whisper. "IronWolfe-Chatten."
"Pardon?" He asked snidely.
Shaking her head ruefully, she closed her eyes to him. "If my power bothers you so much, so be it!" She turned swiftly, a tempest of dark seething fury, storming toward the door.
"Where the hell are you going?" He yelled after her.
She stopped, not turning to look at him. "To see my father!" She boomed.
"That's right!" He yelled. "Go running back to the great wizard Derhan! The man to whom I will never measure up!"
Felinea turned on her heels. "I am not running back to Derhan. I am going to my other father. My biological father."
It was Fairborne's turn to be confused. "Tameron Chatten? Why? You do not even much like him."
"Because he is the only one I know that might have the spells and the power to suppress my magical ability and he is definitely the only one that can renounce me as heir to his kingdom."
Fairborne's brow's knit together just as Felinea's had a few minutes before. "What?"
"If you are so intimidated by my magical and political power, then there is only one thing to do ... get rid of them." Tears were streaming down her face in hot rivers of stinging salt. "I would rather lose large parts of myself, than have to bear losing you." She crumpled to the floor racked with sobs. Fairborne's anger bled out of him, as he walked over to his wife. Dropping to his knees, he gathered her into his arms. She sobbed for a while longer, before calming herself enough to continue. "I need you, Fairborne. Do you not know how much I need you? I cannot survive without your strength or your love." She looked up into his eyes, her hand caressing his cheek tenderly. "You are the most powerful man I know."
He chuckled without humour. "What power do I have?"
"You have the power to utterly destroy me, simply by walking away." She nestled into his chest, the tears returning. " I need you. I need you."
"I am sorry," Fairborne whispered, holding her tight. "I did not mean to upset you like this."
"You cannot go. I do not know what it is, but something feels wrong about this journey. If you go ... you will not come back. I can feel it." She put his hand to her chest, over her heart. "Do you understand? I have a very bad feeling about this." Felinea took his face gently in her hands and looked deep into his eyes. "It scares me to death."
Fairborne was starting to feel frightened himself. Felinea, the woman who had fought in long, bloody battles with a smile glinting in her eyes, faced down a demon god, destroyed empires, and could call to her powers and forces that defied comprehension, was trembling under his embrace, like a small child. "I - I will not go. I will tell Stuart in the morning that I will help him anyway I can, but I am needed here." As soon as he said it, he could feel her relax in his arms.
"Thank you," she murmured, hugging him desperately. "Besides," she said through sniffles, "I need you here to protect me."
He smiled wanly. "Me? Me, protect you? Woman, you are the strongest person I know. You hardly need me to protect you."
"Yes, I do," she said, "and even if I did not, our children do."
"They have you to protect them, Love." He smiled.
The silence thickened again and he could feel the tension returning to her body. "I failed last time," she murmured, the shame a palatable entity in her voice.
"What are you talking about?" Fairborne asked.
"When we were first married. I got pregnant right away."
"I remember," he said. "But what does that have to do with now?"
"Our baby never had a chance to be born. I miscarried our baby, because I was too stupid to know when to stay home."
Fairborne lovingly smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead. "It was not your fault."
"If it was not my fault, then why did you start hating me after that?" She asked.
His hand froze, stunned by her question. "I did not hate you."
"You did. You stopped talking to me, avoiding me as much as possible. You became intimidated by everything I did and shrank from the simplest displays of my ability. I did not think you loved me anymore. That hurt..." he could feel her body's intense reaction as she struggled to finish her sentence, "... it hurt more than I could ever express. My soul was torn asunder. That is why I ..." She trailed off.
"That is why," he continued for her, "you tried to hurt me by running off with Bryon."
She laughed, half-heartedly. "It all seems rather childish now."
"So does this argument." He smiled. "I thought we had grown beyond yelling, screaming, and trying to hurt one another."
"So did I," Felinea said. Tilting her face up to his, she leaned in and kissed him gently. "I will do anything to make you happy.
"I am very glad to hear you say that, because there is something I need from you right now," Fairborne said earnestly.
"Anything you want, my Love," she stated.
"Could you move?" My legs are falling asleep in this position."
She laughed and shifted her position. Fairborne stood, shaking the blood back into his extremities, then helped his wife to her feet. Embracing, they lovingly kissed their apologies to one another, before retiring to their bed.
With his wife close to him, Fairborne drifted off to sleep quickly, followed soon by Felinea, who slipped into a contented slumber, cuddled happily in her husband's arms.
Restfulness was not to stay with Felinea this night. Dreams overtook her, rapidly darkening, filling with devouring shadows, mocking demonic faces, and tattered-fleshed wraiths, whose putrid entrails oozed from pus-engorged, maggot-filled orifices. Claws tore her flesh asunder, ripping it to shreds, leaving gaping hemorrhaging holes. Cruel, twisted, horrendous faces came at her from the enveloping blackness, attacking and retreating in blurs, one melting into the other, until she could no longer differentiate between them. They swirled around her faster and faster until they coalesced into one face. A vision from her past, forever branded into her mind. The demon god of Kechlier-Hel grinned maliciously, his massive maw opened, stretching until it engulfed her entirely, his fetid breath washing over her and teeth like jagged swords spearing her body.
She awoke with a start, shaking with the lingering sensations of fear and pain. Fairborne reached up and caressed her cheek.
"Are you alright, Beautiful?"
Shaking off the remnants of the nightmare, she smiled at her husband. "Just a bad dream, my love." Settling back into his arms, she tried to relax. There was something about that dream that seemed all too real. Her mind rushed to figure it out, until she forced herself to let it go. She was safe, for now, in her true love's arms. Her worries could wait till morning.
Felinea chuckled, as her daughter stared disconcertedly at hands stained a kaleidoscope of blue, red and purple. Sheila furrowed her brow at her amused mother. "You have a horrible sadistic streak," she said, looking back at her hands. "I don't think it will ever come out.
"Taking you out to pick berries is hardly sadistic," Felinea smiled.
"It is when you make me wake up before the sun to do it," Sheila insisted. "And why aren't your hands stained?"
"Cooking oil. I rubbed it on my hands before we started.
"You could not have told me about that little trick before we started?"
"What fun would that be?" Felinea asked.
Sheila rolled her eyes. "Why did we have to get up so early? The berries will still be here later and maybe not nearly as wet. My dress is soaked."
"The preservation spell only works right if the morning dew is still on the berries when I cast it." Felinea said, as if it were obvious.
"You know most people just make them into jam." Sheila pointed out.
Felinea blinked at her daughter for several moments, as if she did not understand. "I do not know how to make jam."
Sheila opened her mouth to respond, but then thought better of it. Her mother had spent her entire life training as a sorceress or honing her warrior skills, so it was quite likely that she really just did not know how to do things in a more conventional way.
"Besides," Felinea continued, "I like fresh berries in the middle of the winter better than I like jam."
Sheila had to admit that did make sense. A comfortable silence settled between the two women, as they focused on the task at hand. Despite being awoken so early, Sheila really enjoyed having this time alone with her mother. She has spent most of her life believing that she did not have a mother. She blushed to think that she had believed her father when he told her that she was born of the blood and tears of his worshipers and brought to him as a offering of their devotion. She believed every word that ever spilled from his sweet lips. She believed with every fiber of her being, until the day her mother showed up and shattered that reality. It had been a long, hard, painful trip, but Sheila had finally been brought out of the darkness and into a world filled with people who loved her. This place, with these people, was finally starting to feel like home.
Her brow knitted in worry as she remembered something that had been troubling her. She looked over at her pregnant mother, squatting down and looking very serene as she picked berries from the lower branches of the bushes.
Felinea raised one inquiring eyebrow, giving her daughter a sidelong glance. "Yes, Sheila?"
"You and Fairborne were fighting last night," Sheila stated.
"Yes," Felinea said, awaiting a question.
"It seemed a rather nasty fight."
"One of our worst." Felinea sat her basket down, shifted from her squat, so that one knee rested on the ground and tossed her hair back. She looked straight into her daughter's eyes. "What do you have on your mind, child?"
"I was just wondering," she began timidly, avoiding her mother's gaze, "I was wondering if the fight was over me."
Standing, Felinea reached out and gently turned Sheila's face toward her. Smiling tenderly she said, "Of course it was not about you. Fairborne has no problem with you being here. It might have taken a while to get used to the idea that his twenty-two year old wife has an eighteen-year-old half-demon daughter, but now that he has had time to adjust he loves you just as if you were his own. What would make you think we were arguing over you?"
"It is just," Sheila worried her lower lip, "while you were arguing I got very scared. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that you would not be arguing if I were not here. It was like ... like..." her face contorted with her effort to put what she felt into words. "I felt like there was some all devouring shadow surrounding the two of you, waiting anxiously for the chance to move in and rip the two of you to shreds and somehow I was the one that had allowed it in. It terrified me."
Felinea's face dropped. "Come. No. Leave the basket. We do not have time. We have to find your step-father, NOW."
She grabbed her daughter by the wrist and began to run as fast as she could back to the manor. Sheila stumbled more than once as she struggled to keep up. Midway there, Felinea released her daughter's wrist and shifted into half-feline form. She was back at the manor before Sheila could take another ten paces, nearly running over a couple of kitchen maids, as she bolted through the kitchen door. The house was swarming with people, who had been hired on to help with spring cleaning and one order from Felinea had ever single one of them searching frantically for Fairborne.
An hour later, Sheila was sitting on the stairs in front of the main entrance, staring down the cobblestone road. She jumped as she heard a loud bang and blood-curdling scream from behind her. She threw herself down, covering her head, just before the iron doors exploded into hundreds of pieces. When she was relatively sure that no more fragments of metal were going to come hurling at her, she looked up. Felinea was standing beside her, massaging her bloody fist, eyes glowing like jade fire, fangs gleaming through a pained grimace.
Sorry, did not know you were sitting here."
"It is alright," Sheila said quietly. "You did not find him."
"No." Felinea replied.
" I did not think you would, " said Sheila.
Felinea felt weight of her frustration as a physical force pulling her down. Sitting heavily beside her daughter, Felinea closed her eyes and buried her face in her hands. "I reached out to him, but there was nothing. I can always feel his presence. Always. I reached out, but he was gone. Gone. Just gone."
"You cannot blame yourself," Sheila said. "She is a powerful master of deception. Even if you had been able to puzzle it out, she would have found another way to take him. She is very single-minded in her determination." The young blond woman's voice was hollow and her eyes had grown distant.
Felinea slowly lowered her hands, turning her head toward her daughter. A tone of worry crept into her voice. " She? She who?"
"His mother." Sheila said emotionlessly.
" No, not Fairborne's mother. His mother," Sheila stated.
Felinea looked at her in confusion until realization dawned with frightening clarity. "You mean the Demon Empress? Your father's mother."
" Yes. I - I don't remember much about my time there, but I seem to recall that few in Kechlier-Hel had any ability to open trans-dimensional portals, and those who could only had very limited talent. That is why he needed to find women like you to impregnate, hoping to spawn one that could rip him into other worlds without being expelled. She must have found someone to open a portal, which does not bode well for us. Whoever this person is does not have enough power to rip a new portal, through your wards, into your castle. I think they had to wait until Fairborne could be lured out to where there was a weakened spot. I imagine a lot of portals have been opened by you and your family at your doorstep, so the residual energy was already here. I am guessing Fairborne's friends were just minions in disguise. She might have even used her blood ties with me to find where he might be. This," Sheila patted the stone she was sitting on, "was where she took him."
Felinea could feel the flames of hatred engulfing her. "I want to hunt that fucking hell bitch down and excruciatingly rip her piece by damnable piece." The more she seethed the darker the day grew, reflecting the intensity of her anger. She hung her head in frustration and the sunshiny day returned. "But I cannot do that."
Sheila shook her head, as it throwing off a dream. She turned to face her mother, concern on her face. "Why not? Do you know what she will do to him? She would torture him for not better reason than her own pleasure, but he will be her revenge on your for what you did to her son!" She shivered convulsively. "I cannot even imagine."
Felinea put her hand to her belly and sighed. "I have others to think of now."
" You cannot just let her have him!" Sheila's voice was beginning to become frantic.
"I do not plan on letting her have him. I said I cannot do it. I happen to know a lot of powerful people and two in particular that could both cross the inter-dimensional barrier and take on a demon of her standing."
" Who are ..." Sheila never got to finish her sentence. Felinea dove to catch her daughter as she fell screaming into the gaping hole that opened beneath her, but it swallowed her up before Felinea could move the few feet that separated them.. She found herself pounding the now solid ground, screaming profanities. Gradually she realized there was something beneath her fist other than the stone. She picked up the parchment and read:
I did not forget you. You cannot be allowed to escape punishment for your deeds. I now have what is dearest to you. To show that I am a reasonable woman, I will allow them to go free, if within forty-eight of your hours you surrender yourself to me as a replacement. If you are not at my doorstep by then, I will kill them both. And do remember that time in my world passes faster than in your world, so every hour you let pass without your surrender will be weeks, or is it months, that I will have to torture your loving husband and precious daughter.
Dechial, Grand Empress of Kechlier-Hel.
Felinea stood, balling up the letter and threw it down, where it burst into flames. Anger radiated from every pore of her being. Breathing in deep she screamed, "FATHER!"
Her voice echoed into the quiet day and she stared down the road, her fury growing exponentially with every passing moment. It seemed forever, but in only a several short minutes a blue portal and a green portal to rent reality before her, a man emerging from each. She nodded politely to them, burying her anger so deep that her words came out as tranquil resolution. "Derhan. Tameron. Thank you for coming," Felinea said with a pleasant smile. "We are going to Hell."
Dee-lyZah looked down at the unconscious girl at her feet. She had not meant to beat the girl about so much, but she was still fairly new to manipulating the portals between dimensions and it was not a gentle experience. There was a part of her that was still Drakkanna, who felt sorry for participating in the Demon Empress' plans, by bringing the human male and this other half-breed here, to be used as bait. But the part that was Drakkanna grew more and more distant the longer she spent in her father's realm.
Dee-lyZah was the product of her father ripping through the fabric between realities, long enough to rape a female with the power to manipulate the portals. He could not stay long in any alternate plane, before that reality forcibly ejected him. In the case of her home world it had only taken fifteen minutes and had left him weak enough that he had never tried to return. It would have done him little good to return, anyway. Her mother had been the only one on her home world with the power he sought and, as is the case with most non-demonic females spawning demonic children, her birth had caused the death of her mother.
The blue blood of the Higher Demons grew stronger when mixed with it's own line, so her father's mission had been to create daughters that could not only walk between the worlds without being expelled, but become his mates, so that he could have offspring that could freely move between the portals and even create new ones, giving the Demon God's line the ability to take over all the worlds to which they led.
Dee-lyZah had been the only spawn to show any ability at all, therefore she had been chosen. She would be groomed to be a subjacent mistress to her own father. Her nights were spent indulging in every desire and lust her demonic heart and imagination could dream up. Her days were spent tortured, subjected to punishment beyond the ability of mere words to explain. During the times in between, when she was allowed to sleep, she was healed, so that she could indulge, again, in the seemingly forever night of vices. She was the daughter of a Demon God, Ruler of this vast Realm. She took place above all other daughters, wives, sisters and concubines, because she would give him a son with power greater than any that might rival his bloodline. A thousand succubae and a thousand more minions waited upon her. A thousand incubi serviced her and any demon of lesser rank was subject to her. Her humanity slipped away piece by piece. The tortures of the day became empowering and the decadences of the night became all consuming. She lived to please her father and longed for the day that she would finally be deemed worthy enough to start sharing his bed.
She never even noticed when this one's mother had crossed into their realm and been raped by her father. She did not notice when this one was born. It was just another child without the talent, who would either become a servant to her greatness or be discarded. The mother escaped somehow, but she could not stay away. She showed up much later begging the Demon God to have her back, to be allowed to be blessed with his child again. Dee-lyZah thought for sure that her father would simply kill the woman outright, but instead he chose to take her to his bed once again.
Dee-lyZah was among the first to hear her father's death scream. She rushed to his chambers, only to find the cat bitch mounted on him, a green flame enveloping them both, slowly turning her father into a drained husk. Dee-lyZah ran forward just as the sword was plunged into her father's heart and Felinea fell sideways into an open portal. The Demon Empress raced into the room and screamed in anguish at the sight of her son. She recovered herself quickly as she shut the door and locked it, hurrying over to examine him.
"Quickly, Child! Do not stand there gawking! He still lives. We must get him from this place before the others realize what has happened and finish him off."
Soon Kechlier-Hel was in chaos. All believed the Demon God to be dead and the battle to replace him ensued. In the confusion, her father's supposed murderer grabbed her child and the two born of her friend and once again escaped.
Dee-lyZah looked across the room to where her father's body still lay inert. In order to keep him where his rivals would least detect him, but still in Kechlier-Hel where his power is strongest, they had to move him to the remote outer reaches of his Realm away from his power source. His healing would take much longer, but it kept him safe from his rivals and gave his mother plenty of time to prepare her plan for revenge. Once the cat bitch was here, willingly surrendering to being magically bound, she would be sacrificed, her blood used to feed the Demon God and expedite his return. All the better that she was currently pregnant and the blood of the innocents would be spilled with hers.
"Well, don't just leave it sitting there! Throw it in with the other one."
Her attention shifted briefly to her grandam then back to the half breed on the floor. She looked so weak and innocent in her current state, but that would not last. Now that she was back in her birth realm, her demon self would begin presenting itself. Shee-Lah would emerge and there would be no hope, for the man trapped in the room with her, when the long suppressed demon needed to feed.
Once again, Drakkanna was completely buried, as Dee-lyZah tossed her half-sister over her shoulder.