Black Syndicate – Part One

Part one, because I don’t do chapters. Somewhat mature content follows, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted an excerpt on my blog. Over two years even . . . So, since it’s NaNoWriMo, here’s something that may or may not be a garbage beginning to my novel. Enjoy! Or don’t . . . Your call.

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There are certain perks that come with being Katania Morningstar, Thirteenth Princess of Hell. Having servants to tend to my every whim; getting preferential treatment from the other demons; being able to do whatever I want. So, to find myself standing before Father’s throne, on what can hardly be described as a trial, for the most absurd of reasons, there isn’t enough havoc in the world for me to wreak.

“Obscene and disgraceful behaviour,” they had said. “Actions unfit for a demonic princess,” they had said. I am a goddamn succubus! What purpose do I have in life besides being obscene?

“This is insanity!” My voice bounces off the dark walls of the throne room.

Black ropes bind my hands. If all they did were cut off the circulation, that would be irritating enough, but they tame my flood of magic from crashing down on each and every being in this chamber. I take some pride in knowing they do not snuff it out completely. But with guards lining the circular wall of the room, their Earth-inspired, but vastly superior rifles locking dead on to me, surrounding me in an execution waiting to happen, I wonder if it would take much of my magic to eradicate them all, and still have some left over to burn this palace to the ground.

There is an unmistakable kissing of teeth to my side. If I try hard enough, I can feel the chilling gaze of my eldest sister boring into the side of my head. I would sink my claws into her, and destroy her too, if not for these cursed restraints. But I hold back the urge to snarl at Vasilisa. I hold back to the urge to glimpse out the corner of my eye at any of my twelve sisters, looking on from the balcony around the back half of the room. They are spread out across it, and in the very corner of my vision, it’s impossible for me to block out the vague shape of Vasilisa, to my left. But I dare not look away from father, and break my unmoving, fettering glare.

At my outburst, Father merely droops his head some, red eyes barely open. With him slumped back against the blood red throne, his legs hanging over the ornate golden arm of it, the boredom practically exuding off him, I can only hope that this is some kind of sick and twisted joke. Something simply to infuriate me for a little while, and then care little about before the day is done. I wouldn’t even put it past the damned demon.

“What do you say I just banish you to the Earth realm for a little while, and we call it a day?” Father, Lucifer, the Devil, and the Lord of Hell says.

If not for his red eyes, and cracked, ashen grey skin, he could pass off as an angel. He has the large feathery wings to mark him as one of  God’s most loyal soldiers, but the inky black of them marks him as one of God’s strongest adversaries. He would look at least vaguely intimidating, if he wasn’t wearing one of those suits the humans like to wear, to appear important. It makes him look about as threatening as a common fiend who snatches babies out of cots.

“For what?” Father just opens his eyes slightly more, at my screech that would certainly put a banshee to shame. “As long as I continue to corrupt the souls of man, who cares how I choose to do it?”

“Your family cares,” Vasilisa says, her haughty voice surprisingly not making my ears bleed. “And when how you choose to conduct yourself brings shame to the royal family, banishment is far too tame a punishment.”

I dig my claws into my charcoal black palms, the black blood dripping on to the obsidian tiles. I focus on the sharp stinging in my palms, so as to keep my eyes forward, and not look up at the balcony and bring down my words of wrath. I don’t need to see the disappointment on the sisters I actually like.

“Dearest sister,” I hiss the words, pushing them out through grit teeth, “I suggest you silence yourself before I come up there and truly bring shame to you.”

It is no empty threat, but it could have far more weight without all of the precautions preventing my imminent rampage, and the ensuing grovelling and begging for my forgiveness.

The war hammer at my back is a mere deadweight.

The magic screaming in me to be released is but a caged animal.

My claws, always at their sharpest and ready to rend and shred, lack all lethality, bound in front of me.

Unless I want to get up close and personal, my venomous tail, and ram-like horns are completely useless, too. My sisters all have far more years of training on me, anyway; my father is just unfairly powerful; and there’s still the trivial issue of the guards.

“If you can manage that in this state,” Vasilisa says, in a tone that is far too close to one she would use on a peasant who disgusts her, “I might just show a small bit of pride for you. Anything to wash your shameful behaviour from my mind.”

Father’s gaze flicks up to Vasilisa for a moment, before returning to me, with his previous, ambivalence and boredom. I know he doesn’t care about me, and the feeling is mutual, but a lump still forms in my throat. The only thing keeping the tears from falling from my silver, irisless eyes is knowing how much more harm it would do, than good.

So we stare at each other. Vasilisa’s stupid comment hanging in the air, as neither Father nor I speak. I don’t mask my feelings, at all. I know I can get away with throwing my dirtiest snarl at him, like the filth he is, and I know I would be a pile of ashes, were I anyone else.

“You would banish your daughter to the realm of man, where halfbreed nephilim dwell, and vindictive angels oversee, for the mere fact that I like to play with my food?” I narrow my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. I fully expect someone to shout that this is all just a ruse, and a stupid jest. But my heart thunders in my ears, and as no one meets my expectation, I wouldn’t doubt that it’s the loudest thing in the room. “Have you grown senile after such a long existence?”

“If all you did was play with your food—” Vasilisa starts.

With all that Vasilisa has to say, it’s clear to me that she’s the only one with any real problem. She’s the only one who can’t grasp the simple fact that I, as a succubus need to feed off humans. She’s the only one who disapproves of how I choose to have fun, during the process.

Well, I don’t care, and I’ve had enough of her shrill, infuriating voice. Instinct strikes, and not even the inconvenience of my bindings can contain the pulse of death that I send out, enveloping every being in the room. All the ropes can do is dull the effects. Instead of eradicating every last one of the lesser demons Father passes of as elite guards, they merely collapse onto the cold obsidian. Most are unmoving. Some try and fail at rising to all fours, like the worthless beings they are. To his credit, Father at least lifts his brow, in acknowledgement of my power.

Good. Let him know what I can do to him.

“Dearest sister,” my voice is quiet, my tone is poison, “unless you wish for me to tear this palace apart, whilst we fight to the death, then I suggest you shut your harlot, scum-hole of a mouth.”

Only now do I look up to the side, at my eldest sister shaking, as she holds on to the golden railings, her wide-eyed fury just as evident as mine.

“You little—!” She has the audacity to even open her mouth?

I delve deep into my infinite abyss of magic, feeling the unnatural resistance, trying to push me back. But I push on, and dig deep, and with far too large an amount for the task at hand, summon a flaming bow to levitate in the air in front of me. But just as the string of it pulls itself back, and a flaming arrow materialises, the form of the weapon falls to pieces, as it goes up in a small plume, and vanishes in black smoke.

Watching my needlessly proper sister duck behind the glass barrier of the banister would make me cry with laughter, any other time. If I actually managed to strike her, I may very have laughed, despite the situation. Around me, my other sisters look equally rattled, some on one knee, others using the railing as support. Once I get through this, I’ll make sure to apologise. But now, with the unconscious ‘guards’ no longer a hindrance, I turn back to my father, my back straight, head held high.

I delve into my pool once more, but not as deep, aware of the few recovering guards, and I send out one final, concentrated pulse of death. This time, focused on the guards, finishing them off. None of them struggle, as they become lifeless husks on the ground. If nothing else, they’ll have the privilege of being the first beings to survive one of my magical attacks, laced in absolute lethality. Even if they were dulled.

The corner of Father’s mouth quirks up ever so slightly. This is all just entertainment to him, isn’t it? He doesn’t bat an eye at my two attacks. I even managed to affect my sisters, even though I am the youngest . . . But then I am the strongest.

I take a deep breath in, through my nose, and race through all the scrambled thoughts in my head. I’ve talked myself out of worse situations before, I could talk myself out of this, too.

“Father . . . Majesty,” I force out, almost choking on the word, “think this through.” The thought of begging and grovelling before Father makes my stomach churn, but I am out of options at this point. “How would it look to banish a princess— your daughter, no less— over something so trivial? Demons would think of you not as an overseer who leads them, but a tyrant who . . .”

I can’t finish the rest. Not when a lazy grin works its way on to Father’s face. Not when he sits up, and leans forward, eating up my words, but I know it is not in the way I had intended.

“Go on, sweetheart,” Father drawls, in a way that sets my skin crawling. “A tyrant who what? Rules with an iron fist, and cares not what the scum of Hell think of me?” Father rises to his feet, and I curse my body for shivering. He starts down the dais, arms spread wide, as if showing me the scope of his reign, his control. “Let them call me tyrannical.” Another step down. “Let them curse my name for everything that goes wrong in their pitiful lives.”

His feet reaches my level, and with every step across the floor, the closer he gets to me, the urge to run grows stronger, deeper, and more unbearable. But I refuse to show it. I meet his smug grin, with my deadly calm, if only because a temper tantrum at this point has ‘exile’ written all over it. A good seven feet away Father stops, and raises his right hand; with a simple, echoing click, the guards I made sure I killed rise up once more, like clockwork, and point their rifles straight at me, like good little puppets.

“Father—”

“With the greatest of sincerity, I care not how you choose to please yourself in your own time.” I doubt he’s ever been sincere for a second in all his many days in Hell, but I dare not move a muscle. “But I am always welcome to the opportunity to teach my kin some respect.”

And then it hits me. My very core freezes. I’m positive my heart stops, if even for a second. The flames in my blood go out, and in a swift wave of panic, I no longer care about keeping up my bravado.

“It breaks my heart that my own daughter truly despises me, with her every waking breath.”

This is not a hearing.

“I dream of the day you will hang on to my every word, like a good little girl.”

This is not a trial.

“Perhaps some time away from me will teach you just how much of a loving, caring father I am.”

This is an excuse.

“Father,” I breath out, the breath stolen from me, “you can’t be serious.”

A circle of fire surrounds me, the edge of it just before Father’s feet. Within it, a five-pointed star, with me dead in its centre. This is his answer. And despite the flames, I have never felt colder.

I’m frozen in place, and not just out of the real, genuine, foreign fear coursing through my veins. My eyes bug wide, my mouth remains slightly ajar, and I can’t keep my bottom lip from quivering. A flood of thoughts invade my mind, and I can’t think straight. My heart feels like it will burst out of my chest, and I feel like I’m falling through Hell, to some place, even further down. And then I blink, and my father comes into my vision again.

No.

No!

“I’m sorry!” It pains me. “I’m truly deeply sorry!” Father’s face lights up in delight. “I’ll be loyal!” I want to kill myself. “I’ll be respectful!” I want to throw up the contents of my stomach. “I’ll be a good girl and do everything you tell me!” I didn’t realise I was crying, but as my voice cracks, the blurry vision and the wetness riding down my cheeks make sense. I’m crying. I’m crying in front of my father, and my sisters, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Nothing matters except staying here. “I’ll beg! I’ll get down on my knees and beg!” Dignity is a small price to pay.

“Oh, darling,” Father says, his eyebrows arched as he stands at the edge of the flaming pentagram, “you’re making me want to change my mind.” He shoots me an apologetic smile and for the briefest of moments, I allow myself to hope. “Well, okay.”

Through the wall of tears and shame, my lips start to pull up at the corners.

“Beg.”

I know I suggested it, but even so, where my blood was ice moments before, it now burns hotter than the fiery pits of Hell. I clench my jaw tight, keeping the words locked behind my fangs. Father’s grin, though . . . Those perfect white teeth just begging me to rip them out . . . The bastard is enjoying this. Making his daughter suffer. I know I can be difficult, but this is just wrong. Even to a demonic level.

But I have to. Damn it all, I do. I abandon the last tiny shred of pride I have, and slowly fall to my knees. I am only vaguely aware of my sisters watching this farce, from atop the balcony, but they don’t matter in the slightest right now. All there is is me, Father, and how low I have to go to appease his sick amusement.

A dark, soul-breaking chuckle escapes from him, and I can only look to the floor. Heartless, I can’t help but think. Heartless filth. But it would save me the trouble of ripping it out, myself, when I get my revenge. As if to prove the point, an invisible force pushes down on my shoulders, pushing me down to all fours, like a goddamned hellhound.

This is a lesson.

“I don’t hear begging.”

I want to snarl at the floor. I want to let out  a growl so bestial that even Father would think twice about punishing me. Considering my position, I’m glad I hold my tongue. “Please Father,” I can barely croak out, “I beg of you; allow me to stand at your side, and serve you as your loyal daughter.” I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him, and feed his remains to the hellhounds!

“Damn. If only you had meant that, I just might have listened.”

“I do!” I shut my eyes tightly, trying not to curse his name, and everything else about him, even in my head.

Damn him!

“I pledge my life to you!”

Damn him! Damn him!

I clench my teeth. “I won’t ever question you again!” I scream at the top of my voice.

Damn you, Satan! Damn you, Lucifer! Damn you, Father of Lies!

I sob, tears falling on to the obsidian floor. As if tugged by the strings of a marionette, I’m pulled up straight, my heart jumping near out of my chest, as I find Father standing barely an arm’s length away from me, inside the pentagram with me. I only just reach his shoulders. I was always the smallest sibling, but I’ve never felt as small as I do now.

He looks down at me, fire flickering in his eyes. I can see how he wants to break me, destroy my ego, and replace it with a loyal hound, just for his amusement. Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I can only feel undiluted, unrestrained hate for him, with every fibre of my being.

He leans down, and whispers in my ear, “How does a thousand years sound, precious?”

Fear courses through me, making my black heart beat faster, and my voice catch in my throat. This is happening. This is really happening. He pulls back, ruffling my head of blood red hair, that falls to my chest, dancing with the flames. I’m just a child in his eyes. Maybe even in the eyes of my sisters, despite the many centuries I have lived, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe they have all been punished for absolutely nothing, in such a cruel way.

“Actually, we’ll make it two thousand,” he says. I don’t have the will or the energy to register the words. I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. “We’ll miss you.” With a wink, he steps through space again, reappearing just outside of the pentagram.

“Father,” I move my mouth, but I don’t even know if any sound comes out. It doesn’t matter, anymore.

The flaming lines of the pentagram erupt in flames, and the last thing I see is Father’s smug face, just beyond the wall of flames, waving to me, before my entire world is engulfed in a sea of orange, blazing hot hellfire.