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Daphine lived on Earth, in an alternative dimension where women were expected to be totally subservient and docile. She always knew there was something wrong with her existence, but what was the alternative? To be exiled, to live among the hunters outside the safety of the cities, where life would hard and comfortless, and where, if she did not fit in to this society either, she might well end up as no more than bait to trap wild animals.

And yet, Daphine was certain there had to be something more. She had to find it; she had to run. But even in her wildest dreams, Daphine could never have imagined that her destiny, her love, waited for her far across the Universe in another Realm altogether. And even in her most terrifying nightmares, she would not have dreamt that her partner would be a demon… no, not just a demon: her partner was The Demon King.
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The Demon remained silently gazing across the desert landing field; across the shuttles he had been awarded to build a fleet, towards the cavern that contained his vault and riches of nelam gem befitting a king, and towards the palace built deep into the side of a solid vichan mountain.  Desolatia’s orbit matched their own, blocking them from the sun. Palacia remained in eternal night, with the light from its three small moons reflecting off the desert sands and the black vichan nelam found in abundance on the Eighth Realm world.  The Demon’s eyes rose to the naturally formed spires rising from his palace.  “We have accomplished much, Magistrate.”

Victorel touched his arm, drawing his attention away from his kingdom. “Will she do it?”  Their eyes met.  “All these riches and power mean nothing without her.  I know this.  I know your pain when your Dark Queen withered.  I see the anger deep in the depths of your eyes as you try to rejoice with those of us who are mated.  We have no secrets, Marcerell.  Will she do it?”

The Demon’s attention drew to the Third Realm shuttles departing the surface.  “She says she will try.”  The Celestial’s Commander was aboard one of the vessels, carrying a vial of his marker in her pocket.  Rue could be trusted with his secret.  Both he and Victorel knew she was his only hope.  “She is not pleased.  I could see it in her eyes and hear it in the evasiveness of her words. She fears me, and balks at the task and thought of leaving a woman with me.”  The Demon sighed.  “If my mate is found among the primitives of her world, she may never bring her to me.”

“This Ark they speak of…” Victorel began.

“Is the same vessel that was commanded by Tirella.  The Demon watched as his own newly acquired shuttles departed, delivering the disgraced former commander and his crew to exile on the small world orbiting Palacia between the second and third moons.

“Commander Isari says the ProcurerEthram now commands the Ark.  He has spent nepits with the Gardeners learning their scrolls. His experience and knowledge will overrule Rue’s fear.  His only concern is for the marker.  If he finds one that matches, he will see she is brought to you,” Victorel reasoned.

The Demon gripped Victorel’s arm, almost breaking the bone.

Victorel remained calm, though wincing under the pressure.  “I did not tell Isari.  I merely asked who would command the Harvesting Fleet now that Tirella was relieved of the duty.”

The Demon released his arm. “I should have known you would not divulge my weakness.”

“It is not a weakness to desire a mate.  I remember my depression before I met Vistasa.”  Victorel avoided mention of the Demon’s despair since the Dark Queen withered.  His King had not rebuilt his nest, and spent many nights sitting in his chair beside the empty space in his chamber, drinking Vulturian wine or liquor until sleep claimed him and tortured him with dreams that turned to nightmares.  Victorel’s guilt lay in the way he studied the Demon’s eyes and the shadows beneath them, searching for signs of regression.  As long as the King remained hopeful a true mate would be found for him, he could hold the darkness at bay.  “She will bring her, Marcerell. Ethram will find her, and Rue will bring her to you.”  I just hope it is in time.

The Demon King nodded, and walked towards his chamber, leaving his Magistrate to join the celebration already underway in the banquet hall.  Marcerell could hear the distant voices of his people echoing off the nelam walls of the corridor as they rejoiced another success towards reclaiming their reputation after the disgrace Vulchana had brought upon them.

Alone, the Demon sat in the darkness, once more letting drink enhance his weariness and desperation. His thoughts turned to dreams of a new mate; a true mate.  A slight smile smoothed his brooding expression as he searched for her face and tried to envision her.  Her features sharpened, and soon the pleasant dream turned into the nightmare that had become his Dark Queen.  His glass slipped from his fingers.  “Damn you,” he murmured.  Even on this night, with a vial of hope being carried across Realms to the Ark, the creature would not let him go.  Her talons clawed at his memories, spinning him back in time as they always did.

He watched her closely… the way her hair fell over her shoulders and trailed over her small breasts, her pale skin slickened with sweat shining in the torchlight and causing the wispy dark strands to stick to her skin like dozens of thready snakes.  Her thin arms showed no contoured muscle as she hung limp in her chains, her hands no longer able to grip the links.  Her small wrists held all her weight as her toes curled backwards towards the soles of her feet, refusing to support her.

She had been captured two days ago, and it had taken Marcerell that long to free himself from his King’s petty tasks to visit her cell.  She looked wasted and defeated by her isolation in the stone chamber.  The guards had done little but strip and secure her in their haste to leave to the safety of the corridor and lock the strong door behind them.

The reason was clear; for the woman, the creature, represented the darkness that threatened to consume all who fell into the lustful depravity and excesses Vulturia offered.  The emaciated form did not struggle in her chains.  She had already succumbed to the reality of her fate.  She was but another regressed citizen, too frail and fragile to curb her desires.  A sad representation of what was becoming a more regular inhabitant of the Demon’s dungeon.

Here, in the black vichan catacombs that made up the Royal Prison, Marcerell was a god.  The King had no presence in this place, preferring the luxuries of his palace and to leave this unpleasantness to his High Guard.  Their ruler turned his back on the truth of the darkness sucking the light and life from his citizens.

Traveling the passages and corridors since he was a child, Marcerell needed no torch to light the way as he followed his father, the High Guard before him.  And Marcerell learned the tenuous line between erotic fulfillment and regression.  His painful ministrations to prisoners became legendary and caused fear in the village beyond the palace walls.  It was there, in Vulturist, he first heard the frightened whispered voices call him ‘Demon’.

The moniker suited him. He could emerge unnoticed from the darkness of the shadows with only the dim light from distant sources reflected in his pitch eyes.  Silently striding through the corridors, his black hair hung past his shoulders and rested on his spine between his luxurious span of ebony quills.  His muscles were honed to perfection, kept taut and lean through the continual exercise tormenting and torturing prisoners with the pleasurable devices at his disposal and the leather whip coiled at his side.

It was this shining coil of pleasure resting against the man’s thigh that caught the woman’s attention. Her eyes fixed on the whip, and she wailed a pitiful, yearning moan.  And as the Demon removed his vest and allowed his wings to spread open in a frightening display, Marcerell stared at her and felt his stomach clench and his shaft respond.  Her form had not changed from the wasted mongrel he had seen when he first entered her cell.  Ah, but her eyes.  The black soullessness shone with a subtle green flare in the center.  She licked her lips in a mixture of fear and anticipation.

She goaded him. Encouraged him to whip her. Promised him the erotic pleasures denied to him because of what he represented and who he was.  And as his whip lashed out she responded in passion, climaxing as the leather stroked her skin and moaning with her need.

She promised him everything for the kiss of his whip, long past necessity.  For at this first meeting, perhaps when her eyes first looked into his, the Demon knew he loved her.

When the new King ascended, Marcerell left the dungeon.  He retired to his apartments on the outskirts of Vulturist, securing his creature in the darkness of his rooms.  Marcerell spent years watching the shadows engulf the village below, scheming a way to stop the regression.  The King he had served ignored the warnings and now neither the new ruler nor the Demon’s successor as High Guard had ambition to issue or enforce laws to keep the darkness at bay.

Though far removed from the palace, Marcerell knew what transpired behind the vichan walls.  It was soon after he moved to his apartments that a boy knocked on his door.  The Demon could see the terror in the young man’s eyes, but there was a burning commitment and knowledge in his wide stare. His name was Victorel and he swore allegiance to Marcerell, offering to help him try to return Vulturia to the light. He became the Demon’s spy.

Nepits passed with the inky blackness of corruption leaching through their world and grasping at the last of the light.  When Vulchana became Queen, the depravity and excess was encouraged.  Though few knew her secret, the Demon was fully aware that the Queen, herself, was regressed.  She was the first child born of the darkness, inherited from the sexual exploits of her parents.  Victorel became her confidant and Magistrate, insinuating himself as her lover until her erotic tastes became too dangerous and dark.  By then, she relied on him and allowed him to keep his position, as long as he provided her with lovers and the ‘other things’ she needed to satiate her desires.

Vulchana’s ambition threatened their world as her needs grew from merely encouraging Vulturia to embrace the shadows, to sucking the very light from the worlds surrounding them.  Her manipulations and deceptions began Ninth Realm’s Chaos Wars that raged for almost a nepit before she was defeated.

And while she conquered world after world, striving to capture the light from Allustaria, Victorel remained faithful to the Demon.  He stole some of the nelam from each successful battle, hiding it far into the Wasteland beyond Vulturist.  Victorel waited only long enough to see the Dark Queen plummet from the sky, shrieking as her wings burned.  Vulchana’s fall from the throne left her singed and blinded on the surface of the ice-world of Allustaria.

Returning to the safety of their shadowed world, the warriors left the warship, spreading their wings and flying to the surface of Vulturia to commiserate the loss of their Queen by drowning in erotic debasing excess.  The time to end the dark reign had come and Victorel met with the Demon.  With regressed citizens in frenzy over Vulchana’s defeat, it was easy to collect the fearful citizenry that had not succumbed to darkness.  From the hidden place in the Wasteland, they shuttled the pilfered nelam needed to power the warship and left Vulturia to sink into the fathomless pit of depraved lust and shadows the creatures craved.

And the Demon brought his lover.  In his eyes, she had calmed and tamed with his careful training and was returning to the light.  Marcerell named her his Queen.

Victorel carefully masked his horror, realizing Marcerell had not only kept the creature from the dungeon as a toy to vent his anger at the darkness, but also that the Demon could no longer see her regression.  During his visits to the Demon’s quarters, Victorel shivered when the new Dark Queen spoke to him.  Her raspy guttural lisp enhanced the insanity of her words.  But if the Demon thought it unusual that his Queen remained in chains, hanging in the corner of his warship’s compartments, he gave no indication.

A seeping, anxious dread filled Victorel as he realized the further they traveled from the darkness of Vulturia, the more the Demon’s lover wasted in her despair.  By the time they settled on the surface of Palacia, the creature could barely stand.  Within a year, Marcerell took her down from her chains and placed her in the nest in his chamber.

Victorel sat with him, quietly sipping whiskey and realizing the Demon understood that by removing her from the darkness, he had killed her.  It was only when she lay curled and decaying in the black feathers of his nest, no longer enticing him with her gaze, Marcerell could see he spent his years with her talons gripping his heart.  To all but Victorel, the Demon concealed his anguish over her loss as he built his new kingdom on Palacia.

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