Sloane meets the Demon Prince.
Meandering through the tunnels for what felt like hours, but what must’ve been less than ten minutes, we ended up in front of a shabby, wooden door. Francis knocked. It creaked as it opened into a room darker than the tunnels lit by torches. The skeleton held up his lantern, gesturing for me to go on ahead.
With a hesitant step, I went in. My eyes adjusted to the darkness. I saw the outlines of a desk, chair, and weird shapes attached to the dirt wall. The room smelled of smoke, as if a fire were in the room. Except I saw none.
A movement in the room captured my attention. My eyes settled on the buff figure stepping out of the darkest corner in the tiny chamber. I wondered why I didn’t notice him as I stepped through. He was a hulking man.
“And who is this?” His voice made my knees tremble. I was too scared to move. Green eyes glowed in the dark with an amused look in them.
“That is the Soul Collector’s assistant, the soul carrier.” I jumped as the Candileja, for it couldn’t be anyone else, responded. One second, darkness took over the room, in the next, a burst of light emanated off the fiery woman standing behind the desk, illuminating the room as she spoke. She had a ghostly figure made of fire. No specific human features showed when her body lit up.
That’s a spectral for you. The Candileja vanished, leaving the room in its cold, damp darkness. Spectrals had no human form, just flickering smokes in the air when they spoke or moved.
“Ah, Sabine, I presume?” The demon’s eyes crinkled with devilish delight. He held out a hand to shake, and I forced myself to take it. Refusing would’ve been rude, and angering a demon was the last thing I wanted to do. His touch was cold and rough; hands big enough to engulf mine and nails sharp enough to cut my wrists with a simple twitch. The demon stood several feet taller than me. “You have a spine, young one. I’m impressed.”
I didn’t like the looks of this demon. My soul told me that he was tainted. Born and raised evil, worse than the average demon. The thought made my hair stand on end. “And you are…?” I questioned, taking my hand back and wiping them on my jeans.
He laughed a low and thunderous sound. It racked my bones together. Outside the door, I could hear Francis’s bones rattling. “You are an inquisitive young girl, aren’t you? My name is Samael. I am the Prince of Death and Demons.”
My blood turned cold at the realization. He was ruler of the Underworld. Amarian’s master. My master—in a way. Nevertheless, I didn’t apologize for my questioning. I wouldn’t let him intimidate me, no matter who he was.
“Sabine,” the candelija called. Her fiery form appeared again, flickering in and out as she spoke. “You will lead Samael to Amarian. He will be with us for some time.”
This time when she spoke, I saw more of the room. The desk and chairs were made of bone. The objects hanging on the walls were skeleton bones of all kinds of animals, demons, and humans. My soul didn’t respond to them. They’ve been dead too long to be saved. Somehow, Samael stayed in the shadows where the burning glow couldn’t reach him.
“Shall we?” Samael gestured for me to lead the way.
I met Francis outside. Without a sound, he began to lead us back to the Pool of Souls, where I would take the lead back to Amarian, since I was one of the few who knew where he would be.
During the quiet trip, I studied the Prince. He had blue skin stretched over buff muscles, with a crown of thorns sticking out of his curly black hair. His feet were monstrous, resembling the hind legs of giant wolves. Golden armor covered his shoulders, wrists, forearms, hips, thighs, and calves. A bare chest and stomach revealed a tight body. Along the side of his waist hung a scabbard.
“Admiring the goods, I see?” Samael chuckled.
“No.” Just comparing you to a giant Smurf, I teased in my head. Before he could comment, we entered the main cave. Francis left. I was alone with Samael.
“The Pool of Souls,” he muttered. He lingered by the Pool for a while, observing the murky black water of death. “A remarkable thing, isn’t it?”
“It is,” I said without thinking.
Samael grinned, showing the tips of his sharp teeth. “I forget how unsympathetic humans can be.”
I frowned. Samael wasn’t the type of demon to forget. “You also forgot how perceptive soul carriers are,” I said with heavy sarcasm. I saw in his soul that he was lying.
The Prince chuckled. “I can tell that this will be an interesting stay.”
“Please, feel free to leave whenever.” I forced a smile and pretended to be the good guide. “Shall we continue? It would be rude to keep Amarian waiting.”
“It would be rude to rush me, Sabine. I’d think twice about what you say.”
Continuing down the east tunnels, I tried not to think how close I came to being demon food.
Reaching Amarian’s chambers, I raised my hand to knock politely on the wooden door, but Samael shoved me aside and entered of his own free will. I followed behind with hatred burning deep in my chest. Amarian stood in front of an oval mirror, watching the streets in the human world, searching for his next soul I’d steal. At our approach, he cleared the scene in the mirror and bowed his head. “Greetings, my Prince.”
“Greetings, Amarian. How comes the souls?” Samael took a seat on one of the bone-made chairs, propping is wolf-like legs on the wooden table in the middle of the chamber.
Amarian’s hood was down. His white-blond hair covered his forehead. I could see how annoyed he was with the Prince’s behavior, but said nothing about it. “They are fresh and miserable. This is a good year by far.”
“Excellent. They will be ready to harvest in time?”
I couldn’t help but shiver with excitement at the reminder. The collected souls were to be harvested during All Soul’s Day, November 2, which was two weeks away. The celebration of souls being fed to the demons to make them more powerful was an event I’d lived with for centuries.
“Yes, my Prince. We are a little short on schedule, but Sabine will have every soul ready on time, I assure you.”
Both men turned their heads at me. “Yes,” I muttered. “I’ll do what’s needed to be done. On time,” I added.
Samael smiled at Amarian. “She’s a feisty human, Amarian. I believe her to be a handful. A demon-ness on her own standards, perhaps.”
I scowled at his words. They both ignored me.
“She is intuitive and stubborn, yes. But she is reliable and does her job well. Or else.” His eyes flickered towards me and away.
I bristled at his nonchalant tone and unsaid message. I knew if I didn’t do as he said, my soul would be his forever. By binding my blood to his, our deal was that I’d work for him until he found another soul carrier, or else he’d kill my family. Centuries later, here I was, still working for him, unable to find another human being like me. My family was long dead, their souls in Heaven or another place rather than the Underworld.
“I’ll be in my chambers if you need me, Amarian.” I turned to leave, anger seeping from me as I walked away.
“Sabine,” he called. I paused in my step, but didn’t look back. “After your rest, return to my chambers. I have found your next assignment.”
Raising my head, I spat, “Yes, Amarian.”
“She does not call you master?” I heard Samael question as I continued walking.
“We have come to an understanding. I am lenient towards her. I enjoy letting her express herself. You never know which way the tide may turn in the end.”
I rounded a corner and hurried to my chambers. My room was made especially for me, as average as a human room could get. I didn’t deal with bone-structured furniture or torches. I had a real bed, with clap-on lamps, a dresser, bookcases, closet, and a desk piled with makeup. My floor was carpeted and my cement walls held famous pictures of Picasso, Van Gogh, Kahlo, and others.
As soon as my head hit my downy pillow, I fell into a deep sleep.