It was freezing. Azazel blew into his hands while he waited for the wooden doors of the castle courtyard to open. The wind burned his cheeks and he couldn’t get his teeth to stop chattering no matter how hard he clamped his mouth shut. He had half a mind to burn the doors down if they didn’t open soon. Crossing his arms and sticking his hands up into his armpits, he leaned his weight from one foot to the other.
“Open the bloody doors,” he yelled to the guards manning the gate.
The human body he was possessing didn’t tolerate the cold well. And that was just one of many downfalls of having this type of host. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much of a choice. Very few beings had the ability to see demons in their true form. If he wanted to interact in this realm and be more than a wisp of air, he needed a corporeal form and that meant he had to possess a human.
He hated humans. He couldn’t access all of his powers when he was in a flesh suit and their damned bodies wore out far too quickly, lasting a mere 40 or so years before it fell apart. The one he wore now was quite nice, though. It belonged to a strong and fierce warrior with a lust for blood and death that any demon would be proud of. But even this body wouldn’t last much longer if he didn’t get out of this weather and find some food.
Finally, the doors opened wide enough for him to pass. Slipping through the gap, he ran to the far side of the courtyard and jogged up the stone steps leading to the inner passages. Once inside, he shook himself and stomped the icy dirt off his boots. At least he was out of that biting wind. He slapped at his cheeks a few times before he continued down the passageway.
The torches perched along the walls burned at full height, their flames flickering back and forth in the slight breeze. He shook his head. This blasted place had more drafts than an open carriage pulled by galloping horses. He’d never get this body warm enough to stop shivering. He needed a fire.
A lone servant bustled towards him down the hall. He raised an eyebrow. If he lit the man on fire the stench of burning flesh might stick in his nostrils but it would be worth it to feel some heat.
A scream from further within the confines of the castle caught his attention. He pressed his lips tight and gave a slight growl.
“You’ve no idea how lucky you are,” Azazel said when the servant walked past him. Pulling his cloak tighter, he chuckled at the confused look on the man’s face and moved in the direction of the scream.
He paused when the hallway dumped into another passage. Right or Left? These castles were like mazes; he needed a map just to get around them. Looking back and forth in both directions, he tried to remember which way to go when another shriek lit the air.
“Left it is,” he said aloud. He rubbed his hands together for warmth and headed toward the left tower where the entrance to the underground dungeon was located. Hopefully, this wouldn’t take long and he could settle in for the evening. The thought of a fire in his chambers made him pick up his pace. He smiled when he noticed the stairwell ahead and another wail let him know he was close.
His boots clomped on the stones as he descended. The further down he went, the stronger the smell of musk and blood became. Such a welcoming aroma after his long trip visiting his other territories. It made him feel at home.
Deep laughter reached his ears before light reached his eyes in the dark stairwell. He smirked. The guards were having fun with the prisoners again. As long as their tormenting didn’t get in the way of his plans of creating more children, the guards could do as they pleased. His only concern was bringing in more souls for his boss.
Orders were orders. Lucifer wanted souls and it was Azazel’s job to find them. Swaying humans to live in sin had become harder since those damned angels became mortal and mated with them.
Fortunately, he’d come up with a solution to that particular problem. If the angels could spawn with humans, so could demons. And better yet, his demons could breed with the offspring of humans and angels. Not only would it taint the celestial blood running through their veins, but it provided a larger pool of potential powers. It was a two-for-one opportunity. And he so loved opportunities.
Finally, he stepped into the dungeon underneath the tower. The stone walls were black with mildew and mold. Even the torches along the walls couldn’t hold back the damp, darkness this room held.
A servant with her arms full of bloodied clothes and sheets hurried out of one of the cells. Azazel stopped her before she scuttled past. “Have one of the others prepare my room. I’ll be staying.” The girl nodded and started up the stairs but he grabbed her arm again. “Make sure there’s a fire in the hearth. Oh, and food. I haven’t fed this body in days.” He let her go and headed to the cell she had exited.
Before he reached the doorway, a buxom red-head emerged. “I thought I sensed your presence.” She curtsied, her brown robe barely concealing the ample curves beneath it. A slow smile spread on her pink lips.
Lenore. His favorite witch. If he could ever get this damned body warm, he might entertain himself with her tonight. She was always willing to please him, in any way he needed. He just hoped she had better news for him about his birthing project than the other territories did.
“What’s the status?”
“Not good. We have a few that made it, but most don’t last more than a few hours,” she said.
“Dammit.” He rubbed his face between his hands. “Do you know the cause?”
“No. The ones who survived seem to be pure luck. We’ve tried everything, even using the same type of parents for breeding, and nothing works.”
“I’ve heard the same story from the other locations. You say you’ve been successful a few times, though?”
“Yes. We have a couple. And,” Lenore tilted her head back toward the cell she had just come from. “I have one due any minute now.”
“Have you performed the ceremony on any of them yet? Have they swallowed the blood I provided?”
“One of them.”
“And it worked?”
“So far. He’s still a little young to show any signs one way or the other. Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll raise him and find out what we get. I’m sure we can bring the evil out to control him.”
“Have we had any trouble from the mothers? No celestial temper tantrums or anything?” Azazel walked to the closest cell. He peeked through the small barred window in the door and then moved on to the next cell.
“No. No trouble at all. Matter of fact, every time the baby lived, the mother died. It’s like the little beasts just sucked the life right out of them.”
He faced the witch, “Interesting.”
Just then a scream echoed through the room.
“Ah, here comes the next one. You’re more than welcome to watch, if you’d like.” Lenore hurried to the back corner cell. He followed her into the small chamber.
A pale brunette in a ragged gown stained with blood and dirt lay panting in her straw bed. She was a petite female making her belly look much larger than usual. Of course, supernatural beings grew quite big in the womb, but this one looked like it was going to be a rather large one.
Contractions raked through her body and she cried out again. Azazel felt a small jolt of power roll over his host’s body. He shivered and the hair on his arms stood at attention. There was only one being that could create such a reaction in him, Fae.
Immortal and powerful, the Fae were the strongest of the children of Angels and humans. That made them more of a threat than other supernaturals, but they usually kept to themselves. Having one in captivity was a real prize. He’d have to find out who captured this one and reward them.
Another rush of power flowed over him as the woman’s contractions increased. Even sedated, this little Fae woman was strong. Her pain was allowing her powers to push through the binding spell.
He stepped back into the corner of the room as Lenore barked orders at her nursemaids. They scurried about bringing fresh towels and refreshing the hot water in the tub beside the bed. He smiled. Soon he would have another soul to taint. If it lived, then he’d be sure to reward Lenore for her efforts later.
After chanting another spell over the mother-to-be and rubbing a balm over the woman’s rounded belly, Lenore positioned herself on a stool at the end of the bed. The petite Fae writhed and whimpered louder. The witch leaned between the pregnant woman’s legs. “Yes, yes. It’s coming. Give her this to bite down on.” She handed her assistant a round, wooden stick. “Maybe it will shut her up some.”
A few pushes and the child was almost out, but tears rolled freely from the mother’s eyes. Fear and pain were plainly etched in her facial expressions. Azazel licked his lips. The suffering of this Fae creature aroused him in ways he didn’t expect. He must sit in on more childbirths.
The mother grimaced and pushed once more, passing her child into the world. The energy drained from her body and she fell back into her straw mattress. Her eyes closed as she let out her last breath.
“Hmph. She’s dead,” Azazel said. “Does that mean the child will live?” He took a step forward and stopped when he saw the look on the witch’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s not right with this one.”
“What do you mean? Let me see.” The nursemaids scampered out of his way and cowered in the corner where he’d been. What was wrong with the servants around here lately? They were all so twitchy. He looked back where the child was being cleaned and swaddled.
“It didn’t cry. Its breathing, but it didn’t cry.” Lenore turned to show him the child. “And her eyes…”
Azazel looked down at the child in the witch’s arms. Even though she was wrapped tight in a white sheet, the infant’s skin looked extremely pale. He tugged on the sheet to get a better look and a pair of deep red eyes glared back at him.
“It’s like, there’s recognition there. I’m not sure how, but this child is aware. Of everything.” Lenore said, fear catching in her voice.
“Don’t be foolish. It was just born.”
The child squirmed in the witch’s arms. “I get a bad feelin’ from this one. I think we need to put it down.”
“Nonsense. You will raise it with the rest. Give it the blood after its first feeding. We need every soul we can get.” He moved toward the door. Another success. He smiled and turned back to the witch.
“And Lenore, come to my chambers when you’re through here.”