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Daughter of the damned, p.1

Daughter of The Damned, page 1

 part  #10 of  Knights and Demons Series


Daughter of The Damned

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Daughter of The Damned

  Daughter of the Damned

  Knights and Demons - Book 10

  Greg Dragon

  Copyright © 2016

  Thirsty Bird Productions

  This is a book of fiction. Names, characters, and situations are of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to people, places, or crimes is purely coincidental.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted without the express written consent of the author.

  Chapter One

  The towers of the Ert palace stretched high into the heavens, fading as they went up into the white clouds. The apex—if there was one—was hidden from any lowly Ert that wasn’t an angel. This always bothered Ambriel Ilyse, and she thought about it as she marched across the glass floor towards the Stairs of Ascension.

  It was finally her time. After three hundred years of fighting, she had finally been invited to receive her wings. She was to become an angel, a high lord of Ert. Access to the towers was one of the lesser perks, as she would also be able to travel to any world and live on as an immortal.

  She inhaled deeply and put her boot on the stair. The glass rippled like water from the contact and the step glowed with a dim, yellow light. She took another step and then another, climbing the stairs, and the higher she went, the clearer her head seemed to feel. The clouds were about her, a mist that dampened the skin, and her wounds no longer nagged at her.

  As the hall fell away from her ascent, she almost missed the commotion that was right below her. Syphert, her brother, was struggling against several other knights, and his screams revealed that they were hurting him. The timing, she thought, whatever can go wrong goes wrong.

  She ran down the stairs and pulled one of the swords from her side.

  “Back away and unhand him,” she announced, and the three men holding him did as they were commanded. There was once a time when they would have simply laughed at her, but she had proven to them several times over that she was not one to be trifled with. “What’s the problem, now?” she asked a slender, brown-skinned Ert, and he looked around at his fellows and kept his mouth shut.

  “Ambriel, I’m sorry,” Syphert said, and got up off his knees and dusted himself off. “It’s Adrica, they … caught us, and now they’re sending the V’Kosha. I came to stop them, but they overpowered me and—”

  Ambriel looked annoyed, and walked up to her brother. “Adrica? The human girl? What do you mean they caught you?”

  “We caught him misusing a portal to visit this Adrica to make with her,” one of the Erts said. “Syphert knows very well that this is prohibited by the council. What if he gets her pregnant? What sort of creature would that child become?”

  Ambriel was still staring at the man she had adopted as a brother, and her eyes took on a look of pity. “Oh, Syphert, what have you done?” she whispered to him before considering what would happen to him and what she would be willing to do to stop it.

  He was a seasoned Ert, who had fought as long as she, and he was one of the best swordsmen she knew. They would remove his portal access, and send the V’Kosha to Adrica’s world. It was what the high council tended to do when one of their knights revealed himself and jeopardized the separation between the worlds.

  Humans who saw Erts normally mistook them for ghosts; the portals were imperfect and sometimes they would appear on a world invisible and confused. But Syphert had not only appeared to a human, but formed a relationship with her. He had probably told her about Yalem, and that more than anything would warrant the destruction of her world.

  Shaking her head, she took the stairs while telling Syphert to wait. She ascended them beyond the misted clouds, until she reached the crystal floors of the dawn light balcony. There they stood, the seven—

  Alysia awoke with a start. She had rolled out from under her warm pelt blanket and was face down in the grass, with the blue strands tickling her nose. She snorted like a bull and looked around. Amarah was pacing the perimeter of their camp, playing around with a bit of magic, dancing a purple spark around a blue one, oblivious to anything else. Bortex was snoring loudly, and Cyrio was up poking at the fire while Orwan slept peacefully, as if they were in the safest place in the world.

  She crawled back over to her skins and rolled into them, staring up into the sky and trying to reason if what she dreamed had been a memory or if it was fantasy borne from the past that Lancert told her about.

  The memory of those heavenly halls made her wish that the dream would return. Everything was translucent and bright, as if they were giant wineglasses that held candles, planted around a floor of glass.

  She had felt light and powerful as Ambriel Ilyse. When she climbed the stairs she felt as if she could fly, and when she waded in amongst her fellow Erts, there was something about the way they avoided making contact with her.

  The only thing peculiar had been her swords. Euphoria and Bliss were on her hips in that dreamy memory, but they were foils—the type of swords that fencers used—not the infinitely folded, Japanese-styled steel that she now had.

  “Hey Cyrio,” she whispered, and the slender man regarded her. He seemed sad and lost until she called him, but when he looked up at her, a smile found its way to the surface of the pool of melancholy that was his face.

  “There she is,” he said softly, and he looked genuinely happy to see her.

  “Did I miss something?” she asked, surprised by his reaction. She began to wonder if she was within another dream—no, a nightmare—where Cyrio smiled at her mockingly as he waited for the opportunity to bite her head off.

  “No, you didn’t miss anything, Lady CeeCee. I was close to death, you saw it. Then you chased the beast off, whisked us back to Lorus, and pulled all the secrets out of that V’Kosha spy. You impress me, and I don’t say that lightly. Not many people impress me, and you, you’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

  “Well if I am this reborn, Ert badass, then nothing I do should be surprising. The jury’s still out on that whole theory, by the way, but even if it’s a lie, there is something different about me. I’ve felt it my whole life … say, Cyrio, I’ve been wondering. I haven’t been here long, but everything I’ve seen of Yalem has been rural, multicolored landscapes and villages filled with people using ancient tools. For a central world that is older than even ours, how come you all are stuck in a twisted version of our 1800s? Do you not have cities, motorized vehicles?” She chuckled. “Running water?”

  Cyrio seemed to think a bit before answering, but the smile never left his face even as he spoke. “We’re in the badlands, CeeCee. Yalem is an endless stretch of land that holds people and places that are as different as night and day. The badlands are rural, yes, and people rely on magic for everything, foregoing technology and science. In the Circe Valley, however, they couple magic with their machinery. The cities there will take your breath away, and the technology is so far beyond what you’re used to, that, well, you would probably never want to leave.”

  “It’s so odd that one world could have so many different places,” Alysia said, and she found that it made her feel less anxious for being stuck in the demon world.

  When it was all said and done, she could retire to the Circe Valley. She could purchase a home—maybe a loft on the hundredth floor of a high-rise—and make friends with her neighbors, living every day like a sophisticate, going to parties and drinking spirits.

  “Don’t let these days of darkness, hard ground, and old, edged weapons and teeth sour our world to you, CeeCee. I could take you to places where you would swear that it was paradise. We Erts travel a lot. It’s one of the perks of the job.” He winked. “I do hope you stay with us once the
war is over. You would be able to see Yalem the way it was meant to be seen.”

  Alysia covered her mouth quickly as a strong yawn caught her off guard. Her eyes watered, and the fur beneath her felt warm and welcoming all of a sudden. “Good night, Cyrio,” she said with a smile, and he made a mocking bow before slipping down to make for sleep once more.

  Alysia was glad for their chat, now that she had learned more about this world of Yalem. Hearing about the different locations gave her something to fight for. She wanted the right to see all of it, and she was willing to cut into anything that would stop her from doing that.

  Sleep came quickly and without event. When next she woke, it was to Amarah nudging her to pack up her things.

  They set out across the wilderness that separated Lorus from Wildemont. Orwan had recovered the wagon, and she sat up front with him while Amarah and the brothers took to the back to sing songs and tell jokes.

  The sun was hot and beaming down, but Alysia was rested and feeling good as she exchanged a quick glance with Orwan.

  “It’s going to be a long hot one today, CeeCee. We’ll have to stop by the river and refill our water supply, but beyond that it will be these beasts pulling us through the dead mountain until we find a good place to camp for the night. Are you sure you don’t want to be back there with the singers?” he teased, all the while plumping up the cushions where she would sit.

  “Go back there to sing and miss out on more of your stories? I think that the dragon from earlier must have hit you too many times in the head.”

  They both laughed and she swung up into the seat while he toyed with the horses, who seemed to really like whatever it was that he was doing to their bony ears.

  Orwan leaned in to both of them and whispered some words, and the animals looked at each other as if to consider it, then nodded at him rapidly. When he came back to the carriage and assumed his seat, Alysia eyed him questioningly.

  “You don’t want to know,” he said without looking at her. “Those two right there, they always want something in exchange for their service.”

  “What sort of thing would a horse want from its master?” Alysia asked, and Orwan flashed her a look as if she had said something stupid.

  “First off, they’re not horses, sweet CeeCee, they are Ki’bara, and they happen to like cider, the strong kind they serve in the cities. And that one right there wants to swim in the river whenever we stop to refill.”

  Alysia didn’t have anything to say but smiled all the same. She liked the Ki’bara; they seemed like real party animals.

  ~ * ~ * ~

  While the journey to Lorus had been smooth and uneventful, the trip away from the town seemed to be cursed. First as Orwan and Alysia pushed the Ki’bara through a misty swamp, a swarm of flies the size of baseballs swarmed the cart and attacked them. The bites from these creatures felt like shots from a syringe, and to fight back Alysia was forced to swing Euphoria about her head.

  Every fly that touched the blade exploded into ashes, but the survivors redoubled their efforts and bit her in the face, neck, and exposed thighs. Cyrio was in the back swinging his sword as well, and Amarah put up a protective field that made the insects move slower when they got within it.

  All through the bog the flies attacked, but the party fought back as if their life depended on it. When they got through the mists the Ki’bara collapsed, flies flew from out of their gaping mouths and nostrils, others through their anuses and eye sockets. Orwan leapt down and bawled his eyes out, his grief raw and painful to witness.

  Alysia, Bortex, Amarah, and Cyrio, finished off the rest of the swarm until there was nothing left but tiny wings all about them. Red marks and swellings were all over their bodies, and Alysia bent over and retched.

  “We’re going to need salve to rub on these bites,” Bortex mumbled to himself.

  “We’re in the woods, go get some,” Amarah commanded, and the big man nodded and strode off. He was rubbing his arm where the bites were plentiful and despite her own pains, Alysia felt sorry for him.

  Orwan, on the other hand, was devastated. “Years we have traveled together ... and now they’re gone,” he finally said before turning to the wagon as if to consider toting it himself. He had more bite marks than anyone else but didn’t seem to notice them at all.

  “I’m so sorry, Orwan,” Alysia tried, but he merely shook his head before wiping his face.

  “No, the fault is all mine. I chose this path, knowing that it would be slightly rougher than the main road. I will make idols of my friends, for this sacrifice, to remember. We will meet up again on the other plane.”

  Amarah looked distraught. She hadn’t ordered anyone around before, and the tone she’d taken with Bortex earlier had not been lost on Alysia. She stood behind the carts with her hands on her hips and looked out into the misty trees as if seeing beyond them somehow. Alysia walked by Cyrio and touched his arm reassuringly as she made her way over to her friend.

  “You okay?” she asked, as Amarah exhaled with frustration.

  “The freaking Twilight bog, Alysia?” she said under her breath. “Why would he take us through here when he knows the things that live her?”

  “He was doing it for me,” she replied. “He was doing it to get us back to Lenorela as quickly as possible. None of us could have predicted this, and he ended up losing those awesome animals.”

  “You’re right, CeeCee, but I’m tired.” She walked away from her and disappeared into the trees.

  A few minutes after Amarah disappeared, she reappeared, walking briskly back to where Alysia stood.

  “Run,” she whispered, grabbing Alysia’s arm and then Cyrio’s. “Damn it Orwan, grieve later. Turn around and RUN!”

  The sound of trees being roughly shoved aside joined the harmony of wet mud being trampled by hundreds of feet. The forest seemed to dance from whatever was coming, and the ground felt as if it was going to split open.

  Alysia’s legs went weak at the prospect of another attack. The bugs had done more damage than any giant demon she had fought, and with the way Amarah had changed out of the fear of this bog, she just knew that “run” was a prelude to another round of hell.

  She started to jog and then broke into a sprint, catching up with Amarah as she tore through the wet leaves, slipping past Orwan to keep pace with Cyrio. She couldn’t tell if the pounding in her ears was the fear of what was behind her, or if it was her heart threatening to give out, or the sound of the hundreds of feet, thundering on the ground.

  They ran for a while until they ran past Bortex, who took the hint and gathered his healing plants to run after the rest of his friends. When they broke past the trees they faced a large expanse of murky, olive water. Cyrio didn’t hesitate to dive in, so Alysia followed and immediately regretted it. The water stank of dead fish, and there were massive eels that scattered when they dove in, but reconvened on them once they started swimming.

  One eel bit Alysia in her arm, and it took every ounce of willpower she could find to bear it, just so that she could make it to the other side without drowning. She could tell that her Ert friends were being bit as well, but they were strong, and used to the terrors of Yalem, so they pushed on, determined to reach the far bank and get away from their pursuers.

  Alysia was the first to make it to the muddy shore on the far side of the lake. She pulled herself out and slapped several leeches off of her skin before pulling Euphoria in anticipation. She scanned the line of trees on the far side of the water, and saw that they were still shaking from whatever was coming. Amarah, Cyrio, Bortex and Orwan came out of the water and removed the parasites. Then Amarah began to chant and wave her hands, and an intense heat took to the air, drying the water and sweat from their skin, and killing the parasites that were not leeches.

  The trees broke open and Alysia’s eye grew wide. No less than a hundred kreples came pouring out of the forest and into the water. Kreples, those armless, nearly blind dinosaurs th
at had destroyed New Jersey back on her Earth, and terrorized her school so long ago. She had always wondered why it was that she hadn’t seen them on Yalem—where they were supposed to be plentiful—but now she knew that it was because they lived in the badlands.

  Her shock and awe at the numerous predators lasted only a second as Amarah stopped her chanting to run again and the rest of the company followed, Alysia following suit after sheathing her blade. They ran for the better part of the day as the kreples chased, and it was only when they made it to an open plain that seemed to go on forever that their pursuers gave up, not really wanting any part of the sun.

  When they were sure that they were no longer being chased, they stopped, and Amarah hugged Orwan and held him close. Everyone was out of breath, but Alysia watched them, wondering if there was something more to the hug, or if she was consoling him about his animals. Bortex fell to his knees and reeled back, breathing loud gasps as if it hurt.

  “Welcome to the real Yalem, CeeCee,” he joked, and his brother scoffed and popped him in the head. The spry Cyrio did not seem at all fazed by the running, and was wearing his customary smile as he paced the area, looking everywhere as if to spy for any signs of danger.

  “This isn’t the real, Yalem, CeeCee,” he said. “The real Yalem is laughter, ale with friends, and very friendly company willing to share a bed at night.”

  “Oh boy,” Amarah remarked, her hug with Orwan over. She was on the ground, sprawled out in the dirt.

  “I’m sure CeeCee has dangerous places in her old world, Bortex,” Orwan said in a dry, dismissive tone. “She could fight like a master before she got here. A world that has fighters of her caliber is a world that has things that are worse than kreples.”

  “Orwan’s right,” Alysia said. “We have our share of crazy animals and blood-sucking parasites. Nothing’s more dangerous than a cruel man with followers, though; that’s the worst of my world. We have leaders that set others on a path to wipe out cultures, they brainwash those that love them, and cause a whole lot of damage.”

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