Growling in triumph, Darrow shot to his feet, nearly knocking over the plates of food. "Come here, Girl!"
Faster than lightening, his hands lashed out and gripped her hips, spinning her around and rolling her onto her back. She cried out in surprise, then laughed as he moved around the bed to face her. Gripping her ankles, he hauled her hips off the bed, raising her body until only her shoulders remained on the bed. He hooked her ankles over his shoulders, his hands sliding sown to grip her slender hips. With one strong thrust, he buried his cock deep inside her.
Claire arched her back, biting her lip as a fresh wave of pleasure whirled through her. The new feelings of ease and acceptance startled her a bit. She'd changed so much since her first day. Where she once was a scared, frightened little girl who knew nothing of Hell or her own sexuality, she was now a strong, proud woman who held a freedom and knowledge that could shake the world. She didn't care which demon had his way with her. She didn't mind that others stared at her body or touched her skin. All she cared about was staying with her lovers and being happy with them.
Darrow's hands slid under her back, lifting her body completely off the bed. She dangled in his grip, tossing her head back and he tested his grip on her. Satisfied, Darrow pulled back and thrust in again, the new angle making sparks of fire bolt up her spine.
"Hold on, little girl," he growled. "I'm about to break you in half."
* * *
"Selfish, lazy, goddamned motherfucker!" Tarrin raged quietly to himself as he sat in the dark, cavernous hallway that he had claimed as his own. "A girl like that...doesn't deserve her at all." He sat there in the shadows, surrounded by cold and buried in his own jealousy.
Darrow's new prize was incredible. Young, virile, with hair the color of chestnut and warm grey eyes that silently invited him in. Her body was slender and warm, enticing him with every twist of her hips and swish of her hair. The taste of her flesh had nearly knocked him unconscious when he had his first tried to claim her of her. So delicious, so inviting...The thought of her nearly drove him mad. How Darrow and his hoard had managed to claim something so beautiful as that had stumped him.
Their attempt at thwarting his plan had been a clever one: claim her virginity before he could. Tarrin shrugged to himself, scoffing at their quick maneuver. It was a small setback, nothing that would ultimately divert him from his course. He would just have to find another way to tempt her to him. A shiny bauble, a low whisper in her ear... something to catch her attention enough to drive her away from them. The girl was far from foolish -- and, unfortunately, extremely loyal - but he guessed that even she could be tempted away with the right bait.
Still, he felt a small twinge of pity for his new obsession. No doubt she knew the effect she had on himself and other demons. It wasn't her fault that she smelled so incredible or that her looks were so captivating. The poor thing had been blessed and cursed with a beauty that would have demons hunting her for centuries. It was only by luck that his old friend had managed to wrangle her.
His fury boiled under his skin. He'd watched from the shadows as groups of other hellions eyed her with interest. They knew what he knew: the girl was a gem in a world of gravel. None of them were worthy of that woman's' beauty and charm. Even as a human, she outranked them all. How dare they eye the prize that was so rightfully his! He should crush them all, show them who truly deserved her.
Another thought sent a shiver down his spine. The mist had its eye on her as well, a death knell for her spirit if there ever was one. That vicious cloud would break her in half, making her into a mindless servant to fulfill whatever demented desires it had. It would corrupt her easily, despite her strength and determination. It could find her easily as well. No doubt it knew her owners, where they hid her and how they would fight for her. Around them she was an easy target, despite Darrow's infamous resilience and possessiveness.
Despite the horrid possibilities, there was a glimmer of hope. The mist could not claim her itself. Banned from moving beyond the walls for eternity, there was no way it could possibly catch her without help. It would need was a vessel, something it could control and use as a tool to capture the girl.
His resolve hardened. He must get her away from Darrow and the others, must find somewhere to hide her where the mist could not reach. Not an easy task since the damned clouds knew nearly every stone that surrounded the castle itself. But the mist knew nothing of the hallways and corridors inside the walls surrounding the marsh. It knew even less of his hiding places and the secret pathways he used to maneuver around. Kept inside one of his chambers, she should be safe until the lockdown ended.
Tarrin moved quickly, flitting through the pools of dark shadows until he came to the main corridor. He pressed himself against the wall, remaining in shadow as groups of guards passed by. Her room was a few doors down the hall. Hopefully she and her companions -- he grimaced at the word -- would be asleep. Having to capture her while Darrow was awake was not his idea of a good rescue.
He slipped past the guards, moving silently as he slid from one pool of darkness to the next. He stopped at the shadow beside her door. The guards had passed, and it would be another ten minutes before the support group came. Plenty of time to take the girl and hide her. He stepped forward, preparing to slip inside while the coast was clear.
A soft sound, like the quiet hiss of a snake, stopped him in his tracks. A sound unmistakable to the ears of any demon. He didn't need to look over his shoulder to know the danger. He'd know the mist needed someone to use as a puppet in order to claim the girl; he hadn't guessed it would have picked him.
"Damn you," he whispered.
Quicker than lightening, a tendril of silvery mist speared up from the swamp and looped tightly around his ankle. Crying out, Tarrin dug his claws into the rock to anchor himself. The mist was strong, though, and slowly pulled him back towards the wall, his fingers leaving behind deep gouges in the floor.
"Come," a thin, whispery voice echoed through his mind. "I need you. The girl is very precious indeed. I need you to gather her and bring her back. The two of us can share her after she's broken."
"LIAR!" he roared. "You share nothing. You can only steal and devour!"
"We can share this one," the voice cooed. "She's gifted, beautiful, and delectable. You've watched her from afar as I have. You've even had the chance to taste her, a delicacy I have yet to know. We can both devour her endlessly. All you need is to capture her and bring her back."
"No! I know you too well, damned fog! You'll break her then kill me!" With a colossal effort, he managed to pull himself forward an inch, then another, slowly gaining the upper hand. "The farther away she is, the safer she is from you!"
The voice hissed loudly, infuriated at his impudence. "Very well, then. If I cannot have your help, then I will have your mind."
With a final tug, the strand of silver jerked him back, pulling him over the wall and into the feather-soft pool of mist below.
* * *
Claire sat at the end seat of the table, chewing mindlessly on a slice of beef. She stared out the small window Thaltos had carved earlier, watching as rolls of silvery mist swirled around the barren trees of the marsh. Her lovers were at the other end of the table, lost in conversation. Claire ignored their presence, her eyes still staring unfocused out the window. Her mind had been spinning about the mist and her close call for days, though she still couldn't help but admire the beauty hidden within the danger.
The silver clouds seemed to watch her, gazing at her with a ravenous intensity. A shiver raced up her spine and she twitched instinctively. She scooted her chair back an inch, trying to put a bit more distance between herself and the window.
"What's up with you?" Silthos' finger brushed the length of her spine. "You're staring out that window like you've seen a UFO."
Claire inhaled sharply, snapped out of her trance. "Nothing. Just watching the people."
He moved his chair beside hers, taking a seat next to her. "It's more than that. Ever since that strand of mist...ah, I see."
She looked up at him, trying to hide her fear. "See what?"
Silthos stared out the window as well, his eyes narrowed in concentration. "Well then... you do have a reason to worry."
She swallowed sharply. "Really? It's that dangerous?"
He nodded slowly. "For most people, the mist is relatively harmless unless they fall in. Otherwise; it stays on its own side of the walls and keeps watch over the souls of the marsh." He paused, his features hardening. "But for it to actively lash out and try to drag you in... that's not a good thing."
"Why not? I understand it's dangerous, but what does it mean when it attacks someone?" She set her plate down on the table and turned to face him.
"It means the mist likes you, and not in the normal, let's-be-best-friends way. It wants you for some reason. I'm not sure why, but it can't be just because you're the new girl. There's something about you it find interesting, which means it might come after you again if you're not careful." His twilight eyes slid to her, a mixture of fear and apology in their fiery depths.
Her own eyes widened. "You mean it could chase me down?"
"Not exactly. The mist itself is forbidden -- unable, really -- to cross the walls of the fortress. So if you stay on this side, you should be safe from getting pulled in. But, if it can capture another being, it's possible the mist could seep into their mind and use their body to maneuver around here without any restrictions."
She shivered slightly. "So all it needs is for some wayward creature to come too close and it has a body to capture me."
Silthos hesitated for a moment, then sighed. "Well...yes. If it could capture a physical body, the mist could use a type of mind control to move them around."
"Would that person know what was going on? Could they fight back?" Her gut twisted into a knot, dreading the answer.
"Unfortunately not. Once under that damned mist's spell, a person no longer has control of anything they do. The best guess we have is that the mist puts the person's mind into a state of deep sleep so their body is still useable."
"How do you know all this?" She stopped, her heart plunging to her feet. "This has happened before, hasn't it?"
Silthos hung his head. "Only once. That time it wasn't motivated by the desire for a person, but for vengeance against the Salonthi."
"What happened?" Her eyes grew wider as the seconds passed.
"The mist is known to have a vicious territorial attitude towards the souls it watches. The Salonthi is an appeals board for souls sent here by accident. Back when this happened, the mist was closer to the buildings, practically seeping onto the hallways and into rooms. It was allowed to do this as long as it never tried to capture any creature outside the marsh. There was a moment where a soul that had spent years in the mist was granted a reprieve and was released. The mist took over the body of a guard and used it to storm the Capitoris building."
"The poor man." Pity stewed in her heart, mixing with the anger she felt towards such a manipulative being. "What happened to him?"
"Originally, officials thought he'd gone rogue and ordered his death. But when they saw that the weapons they were using damaged his body but never slowed him down, the realized the guard wasn't in control and changed the order to a simple capture. A few good spells later, the guard was released from the mist's influence and was cleared of any charges they would have given him. The mist was pushed back into the marsh and more spells were set up to keep it from coming through the walls."
"So it's behind the walls because it went berserk. Well, I suppose that's a fair reason to keep it back." She pulled her legs to her chest, wrapping her arms around her knees. If the mist was capable of tearing through Hell just because one soul was released...she shuddered to think what it could do to her small body.
"Hey." Silthos' strong arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her close to his chest. "You're acting like we'd ever allow that damn cloud to get you. Trust me, all three of us would fight tooth and nail to keep you safe."
Claire smiled and inched closer to him, pressing her cheek against the warm flesh of his chest. Here, she felt safe and warm, protected on all sides by three intimidating hellions who would rather die than let her go. She sighed and closed her eyes, letting her fear of the mist slip from her mind. She was secure here, and there was nothing to be frightened of as long as Silthos and the others were near by.
The harsh grind of a chair moving across the floor snapped her awake. She looked over her should to see Darrow standing at attention facing the pool of shadow that acted as their door. His eyes were focused, narrowing in anger and suspicion.
"What?" Thaltos stood to join his partner. "What is it?"
"Something's coming." His voice was low, deadly. "And it's not a guard."
Thaltos' stare turned cold as well. "What do you feel?"
Darrow's eyes narrowed as a low growl rumbled in his throat. "Silthos, shield Claire. Whatever's out there, it's not here to say hello."
Silthos nodded and stood, scooping her up in his arms and stepping back to the far wall. His grip on her tightened, a signal to her that he was fully prepared to race out of the room with her if things got too rough. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on tight, pressing her face into his shoulder.
"It's coming closer!" Darrow warned.
Peering over Silthos' shoulder, Claire noticed she could stare out the window down to the marsh. The mist seemed more animated, almost joyful. It twisted and twirled, lashing thing tendrils around in a frenzied dance of enthusiasm. As if it was excited about something...
Her eyes widened as her heart hit the floor. Acting on instinct and fear, Claire whipped around to stare at her guardians. "Darrow! The mist!"
"Shit!" Darrow threw the chair across the room, taking an offensive stance. "What the hell has it used?" He stopped, frozen in place, a look of pure shock and fury on his face. "Fuck."
"What?" Thaltos looked worriedly at his friend.
Darrow's face contorted into a mask of pure hatred. "Tarrin."
Thaltos sighed to himself. "I see. So it's using someone who knows what to look for and where she is. Clever thing."
The shadows that lined the walls began to shift, signaling the arrival of an intruder. Claire clung to Silthos' shoulders, fear twisting deep in her gut.
Finally, the mass of blackness stopped squirming and parted to allow the newcomer in. Tarrin stepped though, his hulking form slipping away from the soft tendrils of shadow. His posture had changed since she'd last seen him. His shoulders hunched, his head hung low, the spines of his back and shoulders still sharp but lacking any ferocity. Even his breathing seemed to slow down, coming out in harsh puffs as his body struggled to inhale.
His eyes were the most shocking change. Once a deep blood red, they had turned a sickly pure white. Those orbs, absent of any color whatsoever, made her shiver. Those were the eyes of a lifeless being, a creature that had lost its soul completely. He stared at nothing, saw nothing, his mind and body completely hollow from the mist.
"Holy fuck," Silthos whispered.
"Tarrin," Darrow groaned. "What happened to you?"
Tarrin remained silent, only the sound of his breathing confirming he was still alive. His massive head turned towards her, his lifeless eyes gleaming in the light of the hoops of fire. She shivered again, knowing his intent even before he moved.
Darrow sidestepped to move in front of Silthos, his enormous form now a barrier between them and his lifeless former friend. He set his footing, preparing himself for the fight that they all knew was coming. Thaltos copied Darrow, becoming yet another barrier to Tarrin.
The huge demon growled low, his lips pulling back to bare sharp teeth. He stepped forward, his hollow eyes narrowing in anger and concentration. Claire could almost see the gears turning in his head, watching the movements in his mind as if she were watching a movie.
Step to the right...fake left...dodge attack from Darrow and counter with a strike to the gut...holy shit.
Claire was momentarily stunned. In all her life, she'd never been able to see into another's mind. She'd never really wanted to know what others were thinking, so she left the fantasies of telepathy and mind control to the exiles of her school. Her heart raced from panic, her mind gawking at the idea of invading another's most private actions, even if it was Tarrin...
She paused, feeling around the new mind for any sign of emotion or sensation. She found nothing, not one passionate idea or heart-felt belief. Her feeling of invasiveness decreased steadily as she searched deeper. These weren't Tarrin's ideas at all. His mind had fallen into emptiness once the sinister clouds claimed his body. What she was reading were the thoughts and plans of the mist itself.
Realization slammed into her. That was why the mist wanted her so desperately. It had known, long before her own mind caught on, about her ability to decipher its enigmatic ways. For centuries, it had remained silent about any plans or intentions it may have held; its mindless, soulless form immune to any type of demonic interpretation. Now, with her around, its secrets could be voiced to millions.
Claire's resolve hardened. She would never allow that disgusting mist to capture her, let alone harm the three people who loved and cared for her. Swallowing her fear, she focused her mind to search for its next plan of attack, determined to protect her lovers even at the cost of her own sanity.
"Darrow! He's going right and dodging to the left!" she called out.
He peered over his shoulder at her, confusion marring his features. "How the fuck-"
She shook her head. "It's in his head! Just trust me!"
At that moment, Tarrin rushed forward and slid right. Darrow, now prepared for his attack, stepped in front of him and delivered a crushing blow to the intruder's face.
Yes! It worked!
Tarrin stumbled back, roaring in rage. He cupped his face in his hands, his eyes narrowing in anger. Both he and the mist that controlled him hadn't expected to be countered so easily. His blank eyes scanned the room, searing for anything that could have led Darrow to guess his attack. Finding nothing, he roared again and braced for another assault.
"Claire..." Silthos whispered in her ear.
She inhaled deeply, cleansing her mind. "I don't know how or why, but I can and I will. Let me focus."
She silenced the flurry of emotions in her head, regaining control of her mind and reaching into Tarrin's head once more. Anger, along with confusion, whirled through his mind. Still, she could catch glimpses of his next move, making a small smile slip onto Claire's face. They might actually have a chance to win this.
"He's moving left! Thaltos, left!"
Again, her lover was able to dodge and counter his attack, stunning the spell-bound Tarrin a second time. His opponent stumbled back again, his eyes against scanning the room for the source of their information. His pale eyes settled on her, narrowing as he realized their informant. He growled again, the intensity of his anger now focused solely on her.