Chapter Seven: Nightly Temptation
They pushed the horse hard to make up for lost time, in order to reach Bainbridge before dark. Night fell before they made it. They rode the last few miles with a conjured ball of blue light leading the way.
“I understand now,” Bandric said, “your recent interest in the histories of demons. Neesa’s cunt!”
He immediately looked embarrassed at the curse and apologized.
“I feel the same way,” Jalissa said, waving away any offense.
“You can feel it, even now?” he asked, his voice both frightened and curious.
“I always feel it,” she said. “Right now, it’s... asleep, I guess. It’s the best way I can think of to describe what happens after it feeds.”
“I have to say that, before that happened, I’d have never guessed that you were… possessed,” he said.
“I told you there were things you didn’t know about me.”
“Well, most people have secrets,” he said, shrugging. “Most aren’t as poignant as yours.”
“Do you think I’ll find something at the College that can help?” she asked.
Bandric drove the cart on, the lamplights of the town now in view ahead.
“I suppose if there’s anywhere that would, it would be the College. I have a colleague that may have some ideas. Most think he’s bat shit, but he’s quite convinced that the demons were a real thing. Getting a look at an actual demon chain would likely be the high point of his life.”
“What if something… happens. You know, like what happened back there. I don’t want to hurt anyone,” Jalissa said.
“There are more wards on the College than anywhere in the world. The mages are manipulating so many different magics that it’s probably the most well-protected place on the planet. If that little ward of yours,” he nodded to the coin tucked beneath her shirt, the chain having been repaired with a flick of his finger, “can keep it at bay, then I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
Jalissa shook her head and said, “It does to an extent, but if it really wants to make me do something, this thing won’t stop it. I’ve seen it happen. When it wakes up, it will be stronger now.”
Bandric shuddered next to her, likely recalling the horror of watching her punch through a man’s chest with her fist and crush his heart.
“We’ll rest tonight and press on more quickly in the morning. There’s a mage’s guild in Bainbridge that can shelter us. I’ll leave the books with them. In the morning, we’ll take fresh horses and make haste for the College. Fear not, lady. No demon shall take you from me.”
Jalissa slipped her hand into his and squeezed it gratefully. He looked at it, not with terror, but with surprise. He did not recoil from her touch, even knowing what she was.
Just before crossing into the town, Bandric stopped the wagon.
“The necklace was a fine idea,” he said, looking between her breasts. “If it’s all that’s keeping the thing in, though, it might be better to have it more permanently attached.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I have a simple binding spell. It will keep it in place against your skin. That way, it won’t come off. The binding is a trivial thing. Even the lowliest mage will be able to remove it if you need.”
Jalissa nodded and said, “Do it.”
“I’ll… need to see your chest,” he said bashfully.
Jalissa grinned and asked, “Do you use that line with all the ladies?”
“What? No! I didn’t mean… I’m sorry. It’s just how it works.”
She tugged down the front of her blouse, showing him the coin and her cleavage. It might have been a simple spell, but it took him two attempts to focus his concentration enough to cast it. When he was finished, the coin adhered to her skin like it was burnt into her flesh.
“Thank you,” she said and kissed his cheek.
He spurred the horse on.
The guild provided rooms for the two of them. Jalissa found hers to be more lavish than anything she’d slept in for years. Apparently, mages valued a good night’s rest. And a comfortable one. The bed had a down-filled mattress and even the pillows were feathered, rather than straw. As exhausted as she was, she didn’t look forward to sleep. If the last two nights had told her anything about how her remaining time in this world would be, it was that those nights would be filled with temptation and terror. Soon after she’d closed her eyes, this one was.
Jalissa had just crossed over into sleep when the whispers began, and the dreams this time were no longer hazy. They were brilliant, crisp, and detailed. The demon’s power was growing. They were not the same as on the previous evening, though.
The demon had both time and power now, and it had not been idle. It had been in her thoughts and her memories, ingesting them in the same way that it had those stolen lives. It had also taken the memories of its victims. Now, it knew her weaknesses, and her wants.
The visions tonight showed her power once more, yes, throngs of subjects willing to worship her. But they also showed her Bandric, seated beside her on a throne as terrible and black as her own. He wielded magics so potent that no practitioner of the arts could have turned them down. And he loved her.
His eyes were as worshipful as the rest, but only his were a love that was born of something more than fear of her. It was a love and an acceptance of her for who she was, and what she had become. It was not a love of the power she had, but a desire to follow her wherever she went, to be at her side through the endless centuries of conquest. That love was pure and real, and it could be hers.
I will make him yours. He will be wholly devoted to you, a true king, immortal, eternal. Not a slave, but a partner in our power.
The demon showed her the two of them, writhing in pleasure together whenever they chose, and he was not frail. He was strong, his body lean and hard, vigorous as he made love to her in ways that no man ever had, or ever would. Untold millions served their whims. The two of them were like gods, nothing beyond their reach. All the secrets of history were theirs for the knowing, and the future was theirs to shape. It could all be hers, theirs, together if she just gave in.
That isn’t him.
The demon did not care for that answer. She felt it slide across her mind like a sludge, wrapping its tendrils into her and taking hold. Her hand flew to the ward and touched it. The demon growled and hissed, but it dug in. She could feel its pain, like Bandric’s green fire, burning it as it exerted its will against the magic ward.
Her hand fell away, and she sat up in bed and swung her legs over the side. She stood and wobbled on her feet, fighting against the demon, but no match for it. The effort came at a cost to the power it had gained. Jalissa could feel that power slipping, drying up like rain in the summer heat. The thing held onto its control, though, sacrificing that power in order to make whatever example it was going to make.
Her hands straightened the thin nightgown the mages had given her and then she padded softly to the door. Her hand opened it, despite her will that it do, otherwise. Jalissa fought it every step of the way down the hall, and with more fury as it put her hand on Bandric’s door. She could feel some sort of magic in the door, but the demon whispered a word and the magic faded. The door opened.
She stepped into the darkness and approached the bed, then looked down on Bandric sleeping off the day’s exertions. She pulled back the blanket. He looked frailer than ever in his thin, cotton sleeping robe. Jalissa’s body slid into the bed next to him, pressed against him. He blinked himself awake.
“Jalissa?” he hissed in the dark.
“It’s me,” she said.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Her hands slid over his chest, moved to his neck, and she drew him in. Their lips met and he gasped into her mouth in astonishment. It took him only seconds to melt into her kiss, but only seconds more to pull away roughly and scoot back. His hands came up, glowing blue, casting shadows over her features.
“You aren’t her,” he said.
“I am,” the demon replied. “We are… will be one.”
“I... I won’t let you have her!” he stated with more confidence than he felt.
“I already have her. But she can be yours, as well. She fights, but she cannot win,” it said, and Jalissa’s lips curled up into a mocking smile.
“Let her go,” Bandric commanded.
“Or you’ll kill her? You and your weak magic?”
The demon spoke a word and the blue glow in his hands blew out like a candle. It held up Jalissa’s hands and twisted the air, sending Bandric sliding back across the bed and pinning him to the wall. She crawled across the mattress like a cat and drew up against him, inhaling the scent of him like an animal. Her breasts pressed against his chest, and she purred with desire as she caressed his cheek.
“She begged me not to kill you,” it whispered. “And so, I won’t. I can take her, anytime I choose. But we can be stronger together, she and I. Her strength is admirable, worthy of a true host.”
Jalissa threw her tears and her pain against the demon’s hold, willing its power to drain more quickly. Fighting the ward and her together, she could feel, was weakening it, but not quickly enough.
“She longs for you,” it hissed in his ear. “I can make you strong enough for her, powerful enough to be a god among your kind. Join us and take your place, mage. Rule this world and all those beyond. You… cannot… stop it.”
The last words faltered and then the demon withdrew. Its retreat gave Jalissa control and dispelled the magical bonds holding Bandric in place. He collapsed into her arms. Then, he was holding her as she trembled, tears pouring, soaking into his robe.
“I can’t…” she sobbed. “I can’t fight it.”
He embraced her and held onto her like the most precious treasure he’d ever laid eyes on.
“You’re not alone,” he said. “We’ll fight it together.”
*** Chapter Eight: Pleasure or Pain
Despite her protest, and her fear of the demon coming to take her again, Bandric held her through the night. In the morning, she awoke with gratitude.
“Thank you,” she whispered as he held her. “You kept the dreams away.”
“Whatever strength I have, I’ll give it gladly,” he said.
They made ready for the journey together. Bandric left the cart with the guild and appropriated two horses, the fastest that the mages had available. With fresh supplies, they set out just as the sun rose.
With only a brief stop for lunch and to rest the horses, they pressed on through the day and arrived at the town of Hilmont by nightfall. They took their lodgings at The Crossroads, a speck of an inn in the speck of a town. Saddle sore and weary, Bandric paid for baths for the both of them.
While the heated water eased the tension in her body, Jalissa watched the demon watching her. It was a sickening feeling, having the thing in her thoughts, lurking there like a shadow. Now that it had rested and soaked in the power of its kills, she could also feel its strength. And her own weakness against it. The ward would not be much of a barrier for long.
I did not wish to give you their pain.
Jalissa sat up in the bath at the sudden whisper.
That’s why you made the others fuck me?
Yes. You lived through it. Others have not. I wish only your pleasure.
Then go away. That’s my pleasure.
The demon laughed.
I am that which is, and yet can never be. You will give me yourself, or you will receive only the pain.
Jalissa shuddered coldly, despite the hot water. Even now the memory of those deaths and the tortured emotions made her sick.
“Then… the pain,” she whispered, out loud.
It was a small defiance but the only one she could muster.
The demon crawled across her mind and sank into her thoughts, taking hold. She fought it, just as she’d done every time, but the strength it had gained only made her own tiredness and weakness more apparent. The ward flared but the monster only hissed as it pushed back against the magic and commanded her to rise. She walked to the door and opened it.
Just outside sat an attendant on a stool, waiting for Jalissa to finish her bath so that she could clean the place. The woman was young, perhaps nineteen, and the look on her face showed confusion and shock at the sight of Jalissa’s naked body, wet, standing in the doorway.
“Is… is there something you need?” she squeaked, looking away.
The demon used Jalissa’s mouth to whisper a word and the girl looked back. Her expression now was the same as that on the dead Reacher’s face. Her eyes were hollow but worshipful.
“Come,” the demon commanded, and crooked Jalissa’s finger.
The girl abandoned her post and followed Jalissa inside. The pain of the ward was more an annoyance to it, Jalissa could feel, and even her own efforts to fight it did not have the same effect. The demon shut the door, locked it, and rounded on the girl.
She’s very pretty.
She will die. Will it be in agony, or will it be in pleasure? The choice is yours.
The demon used Jalissa’s hands to strip off the girl’s clothes as she stared back at her with those empty, black eyes, enthralled.
You told me you wanted their pain. Is that true?
The demon retrieved Jalissa’s knife from her nearby clothes and brought it back. It placed the point of it an inch from the girl’s eye.
She’ll suffer and her pain will give us life, just as her pleasure will. Will you make her suffer, Jalissa? Are you so cruel as to make her death an agonizing one, merely to spite me?
Please! Don’t! Let her go.
Dither not, or I’ll decide for you. My control is limited, for now. You know this. Soon, though, I’ll have you.
The thing chuckled in her head and pushed the knife closer.
The knife stopped. The demon tossed it aside and it clattered to the floor. The girl still stared back stupidly, enrapt. Was the girl trapped in her mind, watching herself become the demon’s prey?
Does she know what’s happening to her?
The demon smiled with Jalissa’s mouth.
No. She dreams her most erotic dream. But at my whim, I can make her aware. Shall I?
The demon hefted one of the girl’s breasts and put Jalissa’s mouth around it, while it used her hands to caress the girl’s sex. Jalissa could smell the day’s sweat on the girl’s skin and hear her excited breathing as she lost herself to whatever fantasy the monster had put in her head. It put the girl on her back on the floor and followed her down, then kissed her with all the passion of a true lover. The girl moaned into her mouth and her body trembled with arousal. Jalissa’s hand worked between her legs, stimulating that arousal.
Jalissa fought back all the harder, desperate to weaken the thing enough to make it relinquish its hold on her. It had a well of power to draw on now, however, and the combined power of the ward and her own pitiful flailing drained only a small bit of that power. The demon was not in the mood to draw this out, though. Jalissa could feel it weighing the power it had against the battle it waged, and it would only sacrifice so much. She saw it calculating and knew that the girl’s life was going to end in a matter of minutes.
The demon slid down the girl’s body and lapped at her pussy, bringing a squeal of surprised pleasure from its victim. She bucked against Jalissa’s mouth, surrendering herself to this new sensation. The demon drank from her body, just as it would soon drink from the rest of her, and there was nothing Jalissa could do to stop it. Within a minute, Jalissa’s tongue had brought the girl to a leg-quaking climax that had her writhing in ecstasy. Then, her whimpers of pleasure turned to gasps as her flesh grew pale.
The color drained from her as the demon devoured her essence, drawing in everything she’d been. Her slender legs ceased their quaking and then her pert breasts stopped rising and falling with her passion. Those breathy sighs of pleasure ended, and then the girl was nothing but a shell that crumbled into gray powder on the floor. The monster rolled onto her back and let the energy of its latest kill course through Jalissa’s veins, bringing with it the final pleasure of the dead girl’s life. Jalissa did not want to indulge in it. She wanted to feel the sorrow, the horrible pain of what she’d allowed the demon to do. Her will, however, did not matter. Succubi had proven that to her again and again.
The pleasure rushed through her, feeding the demon and refilling all of the power it had spent in its fight. The well grew even deeper, brimmed with the girl’s energy, and pooled inside of Jalissa’s soul. The orgasmic explosion that came with it rocked her to the core, just as it did every time, leaving her a trembling, twitching thing as the demon withdrew with its latest stolen life. In that flash of heaven, she watched the dead girl’s appropriated life become a part of her and she wept through the pleasure.
She felt the girl’s love for a young man. They had so little and yet so much. She saw laughter and kisses in the dark as they made love and the dreams of their youth. That man would never know where she’d gone, what had happened to her. His love would ache and tear at his heart. Jalissa’s weakness had destroyed more lives than that one tonight.
The pleasure faded. The twitching stopped and slowly the euphoria faded away, leaving only the sadness and the guilt. It was too much. Her own life wasn’t worth this. It couldn’t go on. She fumbled on the floor, found her knife, and put it against her chest. The point drew a bead of blood that ran hot down her breast.
The demon stirred, watching. It felt amused. Jalissa gritted her teeth and pushed the knife through her own heart. The pain was horrific and her mind struggled to comprehend what she’d just done. She felt the blood well up and pour from the wound as her life drained out, just as those stolen lives had poured into her.
She shut her eyes and waited for death, but it didn’t come. Instead, there was a tingling, and then the feeling of the demon taking her again. It felt annoyed. Her hand pulled the knife from her chest and, to her continuing horror, the wound closed.
You are mine.
At those whispered words, the demon withdrew again and went back to sleep.
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