I must say "THANK YOU!" to everyone who has encouraged me to continue this story. I know at this point most of my readers are just wanting to know how this ends. I will not reveal that, but I will say that yes, I have an ending in mind. Is it happy or sad? Will things work out? Dear readers, you will just have to wait and see.
For all those who have asked about the possibility of publication, I am happy to say that there IS a very distinct possibility. If this novelette should happen to go up for publication, I will have all the information on my personal website.
I once again ask that you pardon any grammatical errors. I try very hard to catch those that I come across, but I usually do not do any heavy proofreading and editing until I have actually finished a story.
Thanks again to all my readers. I hope you enjoy this latest installment.
Time had very little meaning to me without windows to the outside world in which to see the sun rise and set. I had fallen asleep a few times. And twice now I had lost control of my bladder after holding the urine until I simply could not do so any longer. Yet still I remained shackled to the whipping block.
"Disssgusting human!" I jerked at the sound of the voice. Had I fallen asleep again?
I mumbled around the gag which had long since become saturated with my saliva. I thrashed against the chains that bound me, rattling the entire X-shaped contraption.
"Sssilence!" Dante hissed at me. I heard a sharp crack while instantly feeling a line of liquid fire snake its way across my entire back. I screamed, but thanks to the disgusting piece of rag in my mouth, the sound was little more than a muffled moan.
"I sssaid sssilence!" Once again the whip rained a line of fire down my back. I tried hard to not make a sound this time. My success at keeping my agony secret seemed to only infuriate my brother-in-law. The whip landed on my back three more times in quick succession.
"Now, my dear sssister," he said, coming up behind me to smooth the hair from my eyes. I had started crying again as soon as the first blow had landed on my tender flesh. Dante's tongue flicked out to lap up the salty liquid from my face. I shuddered in revulsion. I half expected a trail of slime to be left behind on my cheek. His tongue was warm and moist, but not nearly as slimy as his personality.
"Your husssband lays dying upstairs as we ssspeak. Sssoon hisss life will passs and then I will be crowned King of thisss land." He pressed his lips close to my ear, the warmth of his breath caressing my skin as he spoke.
"It is Nedella Creed that the king only wed a virginal human female, as you well know. I do not wisssh to marry the pathetic vessels of flesssh that constitutes the human body in thisss world. It isss my desssire to have a human from your realm as my bride."
Dante moved closer to me, his chest pressing into the raw tissue of my back. I moaned as the saltiness of his skin caused the open wounds to burn. My brother-in-law chuckled quietly at my misery.
"I will make a deal with you, my sssister. I know that my brother brought you here against your will. What if I were to let you go back home?" Dante moved slightly, the dried blood that had our bodies glued together breaking apart, sending bolts of pain through my back. I groaned, a sound that Dante must have mistaken for a sound of agreement.
"I want you to open up the rift between our worldsss and bring forth to me a virgin female of your race. You do thisss for me and I shall reward you."
Dante reached around and plucked the soggy rag from my mouth. I audibly swallowed a few times, trying to get some much needed moisture to my parched throat. "What did you have in mind?" I managed to ask, my voice dry and cracking.
"Mmmm, to return you to your own world, sssister dear," he purred, once again smoothing the hair from my cheek. "Isn't that what you want? To return to your land, carry on with your life?" He continued to stroke my hair, his actions almost tender. I resisted the urge to shudder in disgust.
My mind raced. Was it possible for me to open up the rift? No, it was not. Only a pure virginal female, a human female, with great powers of wizardry would be able to command such a deed. But I dare not tell Dante this fact. I knew that Dante would not let me live. He was merely dangling the promise of freedom in front of me so that I would do his bidding. I was not about to go quietly like a lamb to the slaughter. If I could get my hands on that book again, I was certain that I would be able to find an incantation that would save my butt from certain death.
I licked my lips. "What you ask would take very powerful magiks." I chose my next words carefully. "I can do what you ask. But I will need the great book that Vindictus has in his private library. It lists all the ingredients that the spell requires."
Dante took several moments before he answered. For a brief second I thought he would not give me what I asked. Finally he said, "You ssspeak of the hidden chamber in the royal bedroom chamber."
It was a statement, not a question. "Y-yes." I cleared my throat, my nerves on edge. "The chamber is enchanted. Only Vindictus and I have access to the room." Goddess help me, I prayed he would not figure out my ruse.
"Now, sssister, do you think I would believe sssuch a thing?"
"I can prove it," I said quickly.
"I would very much like to sssee that," he said, reaching up to unshackle my arms. He wrenched my left arm behind my back, tying it securely to my waist. He picked up the filthy bit of cloth he had previously used as a gag and stuffed it back into my mouth. Dante then grabbed hold of my right arm and held it tightly as he guided me through the castle towards the bedchamber. He was taking every precaution to keep me from casting any spells.
I looked anxiously over at my husband as we entered the bedroom suite. His wound had been dressed, but he was still unconscious, his body lying still and pale upon the bed. His breathing was so shallow that I could hardly see the rise and fall of his chest.
Dante steered me over to the wall beside the bed. As soon as the rag was removed from my mouth, I parted my lips to ask how Vindictus was doing. Dante grabbed hold of my face in his hand, the claws digging into my hairline as he twisted my head around. He glared into my eyes as he said, "You will not ssspeak one word other than to anssswer my questionsss. Do you underssstand?"
I nodded my head as best as I could, shaking in fear.
"Good. Now I want you to ssshow me how to open the chamber." He released my face slowly, keeping his green-gold rimmed eyes glued to me.
I cautiously placed his hand against the wall in front of him, being very careful to place his hand just slightly below the secret switch. I then whispered the incantation to him. Two Sumerian words that would no doubt decide my fate where I stood.
He looked at me for a few seconds after I stepped back. I returned his stare with fear in my heart. My eyes did not waiver, though. I did not want to give him any reason to doubt that what I was saying was truth.
Dante turned back to the wall and said the incantation. Nothing happened. I let my breath out slowly in relief. It was as I suspected. He did not speak Sumerian. It was all I could do to hold back the hysterical laughter that threatened to bubble up from my throat.
Stepping away from the wall, Dante took hold of my arm and yanked me in front of him. "Now, sssister, prove that only you and my brother have accesss to thisss chamber."
I reached up with my unbound right hand, placing my fingers gently on the hidden mechanism. I pressed the tiny bump with my finger as I repeated the two Sumerian words that I had whispered to Dante. Open sesame.
The door fell back silently. Dante stood there for a brief moment before picking up a candle and my arm. He held onto me tightly, but allowed me to lead the way to the back of the chamber where I had left the great text. Dante picked the book up, securing it in his robes before dragging me back to the door. He seemed almost surprised to see that the door had closed behind us.
He let go of my arm and pointed to where the door should have been. "Open thisss door."
I nodded my head and placed my hand over the secret switched, repeating the same words as before while simultaneously pressing the lever. Once again the door opened without a sound, appearing as if by magic.
Dante took me and the ancient book back to the bedchamber that he had secured for himself. He shacked my ankle to the wall and left my left arm bound behind me. He also secured the upper part of my right arm to the rest of my body. The only portion of my arm left mobile was from the elbow down. One thing about magic, the user had to have full operation of both limbs to be able to do any conjuring. Dante was taking no chances.
For twelve hours I looked through the book, picking out the three incantations that I hoped would save my life. I gave the list of ingredients to Dante's captain and explained to The Council what they needed to do to get the Altar ready for the ceremony. I also wrote down the parts of the Sumerian chants that they would have to repeat during the incantation. I was terrified that someone would catch on to what I was trying to accomplish. It would seem, however, that there were only a few spells in the ancient book that anyone was allowed to have knowledge of, aside from Vindictus. And, as I had suspected earlier, no one inside the castle could speak or read Sumerian besides my unconscious husband and myself.
I told them that the ceremony had to be performed at exactly eight pm the next evening. The chosen time had little to do with the magic and everything to do with my plans for escape. I had specifically chosen a night when the waning crescent moon would be at its smallest. A target was much harder to find in the dark.
The next evening could not come fast enough for me. I had finally been given food, but I was too anxious to eat very much. My body felt like a bundle of raw nerves. Every little sound had me jumping like a frightened rabbit. I half-expected Dante to come swooping in at any time and kill me where I sat.
At seven-thirty that evening the door swung open to admit my brother-in-law. Dante was dressed in satin brocade of red and gold, the long robes billowing out as he walked. For the first time I noticed the gold piercings through his nipples. The intricate design perfectly matched those that Vindictus wore. Thinking back to that day when I first awoke in the throne room, the jewelry that the female demon had approached me with had held the same design. The piercings must be some sort of status symbol reserved only for the royal bloodline.
"The time isss near, sssister," Dante announced as he glided into the room. He was much more agile than I would have guessed, given he was a demon with hoofed feet.
My brother-in-law unlocked the manacle from my ankle. Taking my arm he whispered to me, "Do as you are told and you will earn your freedom once my marriage is consssummated and I am crowned King of the Nedella Outlandsss."
I merely nodded as he maneuvered me through the castle and out into the courtyard. The Council had everything prepared just as I had asked. Dante lead me to the Altar where he placed the great book on the ornate pedestal. He quickly unbound my arms. My arms were incredibly sore from being restrained for so many hours. I massaged my left shoulder, trying to get the joint to move more freely so that I could work the magic.
Suddenly I felt the cold blade of a dagger being pressed against the flesh of my throat. I froze. Dante stepped in close to me, his lips only a few centimeters from mine. "If you try anything other than what I have asssked, I will kill you where you ssstand," he said under his breath. "Do you underssstand?"
I looked up at him with frightened eyes. "Yes," I whispered.
Dante removed the blade slowly and stepped back, nodding his head towards The Council. My hand went automatically to the stinging wound underneath my chin. I touched the sliced skin gingerly, pulling my hand away to stare at my fingers. I had half expected to see the digits stained with blood. It appeared that Dante stopped just shy of drawing blood.
The Council began chanting the incantation that I had copied down from the great book. I warily approached the Altar, opening the book to the correct page. I began chanting with them, adding the ingredients to the gold-toned chalice that sat before me. I picked up the tiny ceremonial dagger and slit my arm, adding the final element to the mixture.
A bolt of electricity flared through my body. In my mind's eye I could see the blue halo of light engulfing Vindictus' body. I saw his attendant look up and smile as the blue light faded. The spell had worked. No one and nothing would be able to physically touch Vindictus. Only my blood would break the spell.
I did not stop to question my motives for trying to protect the demon king. All I knew is that I could not be returned to my own realm. For better or worse, I was not only stuck in this world, but I was officially married to the king of this land. Right now that king lay unconscious in his bed, fighting for his life, put there by his own brother. That brother was now trying desperately to rip the throne from Vindictus' dying hands. I had learned long ago through word of mouth that Dante was not someone you wanted having any power over the people of this land. Vindictus may be ruthless, but he ruled with love. Dante ruled with fear and malice. No, if I was going to be forced to live out the rest of my life in this land, I was most certainly not going to bow down to Dante Invectus.
The Council continued to chant, everyone oblivious to what I had just done. I quickly turned to the next incantation. This spell did not require any ingredients, only the utterance of the words. I spoke the sacred incantation, tossing the contents of the chalice onto the ground in front of me, pretending it was part of the ceremony. Seconds later a tiny stream of light appeared above the ground. The ripple grew and grew until it was six feet long, growing brighter as it hung in mid-air. Tiny points of light that resembled stars began shining through the rip. The beam was growing so radiant that some of The Councilmen were having to shield their eyes.
While everyone watched the light with anticipation, I turned to the final spell. I quickly mixed the ingredients for this incantation while saying the sacred words. I picked up the chalice and held it to my lips. I had to time this just right. And as the bolt of light grew brighter and brighter, I swallowed down the entire concoction held inside the chalice. As the last drop of elixir slid down my throat, I grabbed hold of the ancient book.
The crease in the fabric of space that I had created suddenly unfolded, creating a thunderous boom that echoed through the courtyard. The subsequent sound wave knocked everyone off their feet. The windows in the lower floor of the castle exploded inward, filling the air with tiny shards of glass. Some of those in attendance screamed, scrambling for cover as the air around them grew heavy with smoke.
At the precise moment that the fold erupted, my body was sucked into the small wormhole that the spell had created. The air was knocked from my lungs as I was teleported through space. A split second later I was forced out of the wormhole, my body landing heavily on the leaf strewn ground. A wave of nausea hit me hard, my stomach heaving up the awful fluid that I had just drank down. Spots danced before my eyes.