Malachi groaned painfully and banged his head against the wall angrily. This wasn’t fair damn it. Anger built in his chest, shaking the daemon’s control. Defeated, Malachi threw back his head and howled out his grief.
In the silence that followed, soft footsteps padded towards him. The soft rustle of cloth and Delaren pulled him against his chest. Malachi sighed and leaned closer against his master. Delaren huffed into his hair and pulled on his arms until Malachi straddled his lap.
“Oh my poor baby…” Delaren’s voice was soft, just a whisper against Malachi’s forehead. The daemon just closed his eyes and curled a fist into Delaren’s shirt, head resting under his master’s chin, seeking the comforting scent of his master like he’d done as a cub. Delaren chuckled gently, nuzzling the top of Malachi’s head.
“On my pet, what will I do with you? You sound like you’re grieving for Nenuki you howl so loud. My little cub… the day you hatched, my two little cubs, my two little beauties. Miracles in that you didn’t kill each other in your egg. I love you so much… maybe too much. My little Mals you’re all grown up now, just like Nen.” Above him, Delaren sighed. “You know Mals, maybe you should think of taking a mate. I think I’d like having cubs around me again. Nenuki’s settling down, maybe you should too.” Malachi froze, pulling away until his eyes were level with Delaren’s.
“Do you no longer want me as your first, Master?”
“What… no! That’s not what I meant little fluff. Only, maybe coming home to someone who loves you would do you good. A nice little daemoness. No?” Malachi’s eyes fluttered down and then back up, he frowned slightly leaning forward to place a kiss on Delaren’s nose.
“I love him.” The statement was simple and his master nodded, a small smile playing his features.
“Dazriel then, I thought it might be so, you light up when he enters a room… and how you react now is more than a confession.” Delaren smiled at him. “Oh well, no cubs from you then. I’ll just have to work harder on Nenuki.”
Malachi snorted at the comment and lowered his lashes.
“I’m glad you don’t mind.” He whispered. Delaren gave a soft huff and stood up, pulling Malachi with him.
“Tansear’s working on getting where Dazriel and Makoto are from the prisoner.” He paused at Malachi’s wince. The younger daemon wouldn’t have changed places with the prisoner for anything… well, maybe except for having Dazriel back with him. The fact that the angel was with Makoto was a small comfort. “Mals? You still with me, fluff?”
Malachi smiled at that, Delaren hadn’t called him that since he was a cub.
“I’m still here… once we get it out of the prisoner, then what?”
“Then, for lack of better words we send out a search party. Makoto being who he is, we’ll have to include a couple of muses, maybe Rojan, Tansear and the Dragons. And don’t give me that look Malachi; you know they’re the best trackers we have.” Delaren frowned and lifted Malachi’s chin. “You look dreadful Mals. You need to sleep… oh, I sent Oreo to your rooms by the way. He’s so wound up even you’ll calm him down.” Malachi smiled at that.
“What about Nenuki, Master? Won’t she be coming with us?”
“No fluff, I don’t think so. Her egg’s near to hatching and she’ll want to be here with her mate when their cub’s born. Now to bed with you, or do I have to take you and tuck you in like when you were a cub?”
“No Master, but I want to check on Tansear first. See how he’s doing.” Delaren nodded, knowing better then to argue with him currently. The daemon turned to leave and his master caught his arm.
“I do love you, fluff.”
“I know.” Malachi smiled sadly and padded out of the room. The guards lining the corridors glanced at him sympathetically. Malachi glared back in response. It wasn’t good to have the people under your command sorry for you. The daemon walked down the stairs to the dungeon. The walls were coated in moss and slime and Malachi frowned at that, making a mental note to send someone down to see to that.
The second he pushed open the heavy oak door, screams rent the air around him. Tansear stood behind the prisoner. The man had been chained to the ceiling so only his toes brushed the floor. Blood flowed freely from his wounds and Malachi drew the scent in happily. The blood was deep red meaning he was either Muse, Shifter or human. Since the latter couldn’t enter the second planes, that cancelled out that option. Muse-born was an unlikely option, but you never knew.
Tansear nodded at him and walked over to the younger daemon, kicking the mans feet from under him as he went past.
“He’s a damn Shifter by the way.” The older daemon muttered, gesturing at the scratches running the length of his chest. “I got a holder stone on him before he could run though.”
“You get his name yet?” Malachi asked.
“Yeah, but that about all that I’ve got from him, that and the fact he wants his mother. I’ll get it from him all right Mals; it’ll just take a while.” Tansear glanced at him. “Now take some advice and get to bed, you collapse down here and I’ll string you up next to the Lord-be-damned Shifter.”
Malachi nodded and headed for the door, pausing with his hand on the iron ring pull.
“One more thing Tan, you were there when Delaren adopted Nenuki and I. You any idea why?” The older daemon frowned, chewing his lip for a second.
“He just seemed to take to you. Seeing how your sires had died during the last fight, and none of your sisters were old enough to provide for two newborn cubs, it just seemed right. I don’t think Master ever thought about it… anyway I’m serious now Malachi, off to bed and out of my way.”
Malachi sighed wearily and nodded in agreement. The door was hard to pull open and the muscles in his arms protested angrily. Dungeon doors were always heavy; it helped to prevent the escape of prisoners.
The daemon groaned at the sight of the stairs looming before him, silently cursing coming down them. Malachi trudged back up them, his shoulders slowly sagging as he did. He had to pause and lean against the wall at the top of the stairs. The guard beside him caught his elbow as his legs gave out.
“Fuck!” Malachi ground out from behind clenched teeth. The guard gave him a smile and helped him to his feet.
“You okay my lord?”
“Yeah… I’ll be fine just a bit tired that’s all.”
“Maybe you should get some sleep my lord.”
“So I’ve been told.” Malachi stifled a yawn and leaned slightly against the guard. The daemons chest was vibrating slightly with laughter and Malachi glared at him half heartedly. The guard just smiled and steered him in the direction of his rooms. Malachi wondered if Delaren had sent him, it wasn’t normal to find one of the guard who’d risk angering him.
The guard helped him into his bedroom and Malachi flopped down onto the bed face first. The guard gave a soft huff of laughter and then the door clicked shut. Malachi sighed into the blankets and then sat up long enough to pull off his boots and shirt.
The daemon slumped back onto his bed, feet scuffling in his blankets in an attempt to pull them down. It didn’t work and Malachi growled into his pillow. Someone had changed the sheets whilst he was gone and to add insult to injury they’d sprinkled lavender water on them. Lords below he hated that smell.
The daemon snorted in an attempt to banish the scent and rolled over, right onto the furry form asleep beside him. Oreo squeaked in surprise, sinking small fangs into Malachi’s arm. The daemon yelped and dragged his arm away, clutching it to his chest before falling off the bed.
Oreo’s furry face gazed down at him, his eyes wide and ears flat against his scull in fear.
“Master Malachi, you scared Oreo. Didn’t hear you enter, no sir.”
“Kinda guessed that Oreo, lords you teeth are sharp!” Malachi commented, tongue flicking out to lap at the blood flowing down his arm. Oreo wrinkled his nose at the act but the daemon didn’t really care. It helped to stem the flow and besides it wasn’t like he could taste it.
Twins were rare among daemons, the young usually killing their sibling or more commonly both twins killing each other whilst still in their egg. In Malachi’s case both he and Nenuki had survived, though strangely each with one sense missing. In Malachi’s case his sense of taste and in Nenuki’s her sense of smell. They still hadn’t figured out why.
Malachi inspected his arm carefully for any stray drops that might stain the new sheets. Finding none he climbed back onto the bed. Oreo had retreated to the other side and sat watching the daemon as he settled down for the night. Malachi lay down on his side, hands curled into the sheet. He closed his eyes and sighed gently, wiggling deeper into the mattress. Warmth blossomed over his stomach as Oreo curled up next to him.
The smell of lavender invaded his nostrils and Malachi sneezed. Annoyed, he grabbed the offending pillow and tossed it across the room. Oreo whimpered at the abrupt movement and Malachi shifted into his beast form in an attempt to calm him. The daemon curled around Oreo. So his body formed a rough U-shape, the tom tucked protectively against his belly.
Malachi yawned and placed his muzzle onto his outstretched paws. The tip of his nose brushed the fur on top of the tom’s head and Malachi breathed in the scent of cat happily. He nuzzled the furs head gently and then closed his eyes, slipping into sleep with the vibrations of Oreo’s purring against his belly.
The dawns weak light woke him and Malachi opened his eyes to find Oreo’s amber ones gazing at him reflectively. The daemon uncurled himself and stretched, hind quarters razing up into the air, his front paws clenching and unclenching. Effectively shredding the sheets before he realised what he was doing.
Malachi settled back down onto the bed, trying very hard to look like he meant to do that. Oreo, being a cat and one of the masters of graceful innocence, just grinned at the daemon’s attempt. Malachi growled at him which only made the tom cat grin wider. The daemon huffed and stood up, head held high, chest puffed out he stalked past Oreo, the image of hurt indignity. This was promptly ruined when he fell off the bed, landing painfully on his muzzle.
Oreo burst into a fit of the giggles and rolled off the bed to land on the daemon. Malachi growled and shot to his feet only to fall back due to his paws being tangled with furs. The daemon stood up, shook the tom cat off him and stalked off to sulk in a corner of the room. Something told him it was going to be one of those days.
He was proven right as the door to his room slammed open and strait into his muzzle. This was too much for his already bruised ego and Malachi stood up stiffly and crawled back under the covers of his bed, ignoring both Nenuki and Oreo, whose giggles only increased at the sight.
The covers to his bed were ripped off him and Nenuki frowned down at her brother. Malachi glared up at her then slipped down from the bed and crawled under it. He sighed dejectedly and curled up slightly. The soft rustle of fabric caught his ears as Nenuki crawled under the bed after him. The daemoness smiled at him reaching over to stroke down his muzzle.
“Are you still depressed little bother?” She asked, playfully stroking his fur the wrong way. Malachi hissed at her gently and then sighed.
“I’ve had a bad day, and I’ve hardly been up!” The daemon winced at the whine in his own voice. Annoyance flooded his chest. A roar ripped from his lungs as he reared up. The bed slammed into the wall, splitting itself in two and showering them with wood fragments and wool. Malachi screamed and dragged his claws through the stone of the wall, scouring them deeply.
A yowl broke from his throat and he sunk to the floor, shifting form as he did so. The daemon whimpered and slumped over. Arms wrapped around his shaking shoulders as Nenuki held him close.
“Hush, little brother, hush. Oh my Mala-chan, it’ll be all right, you’ll see. Hush now, I’m here. Here now, just let it out. There’s no-one here you have to be strong in front of. Let it out my second soul, let it out.” The daemoness hummed into his ear, hands rubbing his back in small circles. Malachi sat stiffly in her embrace and then with a soft sigh gave in, whimpering his grief into Nenuki’s shoulder. His sister held him until his whimpers and growls quietened; she lifted his chin dropping kisses into his cheek. “There, there, all better now. Everything will be better, you’ll see little brother.”
“The sooner your cub hatches, and you can mother it, the better.” Malachi replied, voice rough.
“You don’t like being mothered?”
“Not dislike, it’s just weird. I’m not used to being treated like a cub.”
“Ahh… the problems of having Delaren as a foster father.”
Nenuki grinned, and wrinkled her nose. The daemoness stood up and stretched.
“Well you’ve got me for the day, so what we going to do?”
“The day? What about-“ Nenuki placed her finger against his lips.
“Thoren is watching the egg, he’ll send for me if anything happens. Though just between you and me, I don’t think its going to hatch anytime soon.”
“What makes you think that? It’s almost fourteen months on, it should be done.” Malachi shot his sister a confused look.
“Eh… call it a mother’s intuition. And wipe that smirk off your face Malachi Kish!”
“What you going to do about it ‘Uki?”
“Argh! Don’t call me that!” Nenuki glared at him.
“’Uki, ‘Uki, ‘Uki!” The daemon grinned at her roar of anger. Laughter bubbled out of him as the daemoness pounced on him. The two rolled on the ground, fingers finding the most sensitive areas to tickle. Finally with laughter tears prickling his eyes Malachi sat up, with Nenuki still gnawing on his shoulder happily. Muffled sounds of joy were coming from her and Malachi left her there as he caught his breath.
“Nen, where’d Oreo go?” He asked, tapping the back of her neck to get the daemoness’ attention. Nenuki sat up and blinked in confusion.
“Eh... oh you mean the little fur right? He darted out the room as I came in… come on Mala-chan; let’s go see how Tansear’s done.”
That sobered him up and the daemon stood and headed for the door. Something occurred to him and he froze eyes wide. Nenuki, her mind elsewhere slammed into him.
“Ouf! Oy Mala-chan, what gives?”
“I just realised something.”
“Heh, sounds like a party’s in order.” Nenuki grinned at him, dogging swiftly as he swiped at her.
“Oh hush! Only… if you and Thoren are mating, wouldn’t that make Tansear my brother-in-law?”
“This could be interesting…” For some reason he appeared to be getting slightly light headed. Nenuki sighed in annoyance and grabbed his arm, pulling him towards the dungeon steps.
“Come on; let’s go visit your brother-in-law.” Nenuki smiled evilly at him and Malachi growled, swiping out at her. The daemoness laughed, shifting even as she started running. Malachi paused and then followed suit.
The dungeon door squeaked open as they walked in. Tansear turned to meet them a pleased smile curling his lips. He looked like the cat that got the cream, or in this case the daemon. Blood coated him from head to foot and he’d ditched his shirt somewhere along the line. His eyes were feverishly bright and it was obvious he was on a high from this.
“Malachi, got some news for you.”
“Oh?” The younger daemon asked, swinging himself up into a window ledge. The prisoner hung limply from his chains, breath barely moving his chest. A cruel smile twisted Malachi’s features at his scream as Tansear drew the red hot knife down the shifter’s back.
“Yup, shifter boy here gave in. Spilt his guts so we wouldn’t hurt him no more… pathetic really.” Tansear hissed. Malachi hopped down from the ledge and padded towards them.
“And you know where they took them?” The younger daemon placed a hand on the shifter’s neck.
“Aha, even know why.”
“Good… I’m gonna go tell Delaren. You have fun now Tansear, you earned it.”
The grin on the older daemons face was plainly predatorily. Malachi smiled at him, his fingernails sinking deep into the flesh of the shifter’s neck. Bright red blood welled up underneath the nails of his fingers, sliding haphazardly down the shifters neck. Malachi watched one bead as it slid, then leaned forward to lap it up.
“You feel good shifter, nice against my tongue. Maybe if you’re a good boy for nice mister Tansear until I get back, I’ll play with you. Hmmm, how about it?” The shifter had frozen and Malachi watched from under lowered lashes as Tansear lapped at the blood coating his hands. “Well?” He purred into the shifters ear. The prisoner shivered against him and, suddenly tiring of the game, Malachi pulled away, finger nails leaving gouges in the prisoner’s neck the daemon stalked from the room.
Nenuki caught up with him on the stairs and, slipping her arm into his, the two twins padded towards the council room. Delaren met them on the outside, relief flooding his face at the sight of them. Malachi had a moment’s confusion before the reason for his master’s relief hit him dead centre in the chest. The air left his lungs in a sharp jerk and Malachi sat down hard, the daemoness still clinging to him.
“Malachi! You came!” Brilliant candy pink eyes blinked up at him and laughing, Malachi hugged Jarene back. The second of the ‘dragons’ gave a happy purr and then broke off to attach herself to Nenuki. Her hair was red, but that didn’t mean much, Jarene changed it regularly. Normally daemon black, not to mention her pale complexion would’ve clashed horribly with hair like that, but Jarene was the kind of person who could make anything work.
Soft giggling could be heard from behind them and Malachi smiled, turning around to face Wyer. The muse smiled back at him, her mismatched green and blue eyes screwed shut. Her hair was green and her dragon wings folded and unfolded in her laughter. From the waist up Wyer appeared human, be it a human with patches of emerald green scales and horns. The bottom half of her was more drakt in appearance, her scaled back legs ending in clawed feet.
“Hi Wyer, you two haven’t been bugging Delaren again have you?” Malachi placed his hands on his hips and grinned over at her. Wyer snarled playfully in reply, forked lizard tongue flicking out at him. The daemon huffed in reply and turned towards his master.
Delaren looked amused at their antics and he smiled warmly at his first.
“I take it you know where they are?”
“Pretty much, Tansear’s just finishing up and then he’ll be right here.”
“Good.” His master clicked his fingers and two guards approached them. “Have the muse Rojan brought here immediately.” The guards nodded and then, spinning around, left.
Delaren settled down on his throne, pulling Malachi down into his lap so he could nuzzle his neck warmly. Nenuki laughed at their antics and settled down beside the two.
“My little babes.” Delaren purred into their ears hugging them to his chest powerfully, before letting them go. Nenuki giggled and clapped her hands in amusement as Malachi fell off the chair, landing in a heap on the floor, hips the same level as his head.
“Oh shut up.” The daemon growled, unmoving. Jarene crouched down beside him, poking him with one finger playfully. Malachi snarled and snapped at her finger, causing the daemoness to swat his shoulder and then flee to hide behind Wyer. Malachi smiled at that, even he wasn’t fool enough to face down a female drakt. Drakts were one of the few races where the female was more powerful then the males of their breed.
“Ever the comedian, Malachi.” Rojan’s voice brought him back to the present and Malachi stood up sheepishly. Wyer’s mouth was open as she stared in amazement at the other muse. Rojan was well known among the muses, mainly because of his incubus heritage. Muses had no set breed or form; they could pop up in any race of beings, with the exceptions of angels or daemons. So a muse was always of two races, muse and in Rojan’s case incubus, not a common mix.
Wyer nudged her friend, leaning over to whisper into Jarene’s ear. The daemoness studied the muse with a critical eye before turning to whisper something else to Wyer. Malachi made a mental note to see that the two were kept away from each other during nightfall. He somehow doubted that Makoto would be greatly impressed if his lover was claimed by another whilst he was gone. For that matter, he somehow doubted Rojan would be greatly impressed.
Nenuki was still curled up in their master’s lap and Delaren seemed to be enjoying spending time with his foster daughter.
The muse grinned at the sight of them but was interrupted from saying anything by Tansear’s appearance. The daemon had obviously washed before he came as his skin was still damp from the water. Jarene went to hug him and then, seeing the glint in the older daemons eye, thought better of it.
“They were sent to one of the backwater planets. A place called Bowenrth. I got the coordinates of the shifter and the technicians already plugging them in. Everything’s ready to go.” Tansear didn’t even wait for the question to be asked. All eyes in the room turned to Delaren, and the first daemon stood up. Neatly depositing Nenuki onto the ground, the daemoness sprung back up instantly.
“Well, lets go then.”
They were led out to the main courtyard where the daemon’s riding lions stood ready to go and the two muses had horses waiting for them. The large travelling portal stood open in the courtyard, its inky blackness contrasting with the noon sunlight.
Nenuki hugged Malachi to her quickly, knowing the portal wouldn’t stay stable for long. Delaren ruffled the daemon’s hair as he vaulted up on to Nenuphar. His travelling companions stood ready to go and Malachi started his lion forward, pulling Nenuphar to a halt as he remembered something.
“Nen! Do me a favour and look after that damn wolf pup Rai that Dazriel’s so attached to for me!” He yelled back at her, his sister nodded and then Nenuphar stepped into the portal.
Malachi groaned and opened his eyes on the other side. He stopped in shock at the sight of the giant dragon gazing down at the party. A moment of perfect silence reigned and then the dragon opened its maw, a roar bubbling out of it. Malachi yelped and dove from the riding lion as Nenuphar started backwards. Rojan landed beside the daemon as his horse reared and galloped off. Rojan’s head slammed into a rock and the muse passed out. Malachi cursed and pulled the muse under him.
< Damnit, Nenuphar get after the damn horse! > He yelled at the riding lion. Nenuphar looked at him, and then set off after the horse.
A growl rent the air and Malachi turned to watch as Tansear shifted to his beast form, leaping powerfully towards the dragon’s throat. The older daemon’s teeth sunk into the scaled throat, paws resting on its shoulders as he jerked his head back ripping the dragon’s throat out. Blood spurted over them and Malachi coughed as the acrid smell of dragon blood invaded his nostrils. Under him Rojan whimpered as he came around.
The death cries of the dragon and Tansear’s triumphant roars filled the air. Rojan’s amber eyes blinked up at him and the muse’s breath was coming in soft pants, a moan broke from his lips.
“Rojan?” Malachi asked, fear tinting his voice. The muses eyes closed with pain and the daemon watched as red spread from the back of his head. Another whimper broke from his throat and Malachi shot up. Snarling the daemon kicked out viciously at a nearby tree stump.
“Shit! Shitshitshitshitshit!” Malachi moaned and ran his hand through his hair. Nope hadn’t helped. “Fuckingdragonsonofabitchhowdareit! Aaaaaaargh!” The daemon took a deep breath calming himself enough to slump down beside the muse. Carefully, not wanting to cause pain he lifted Rojan’s head and settled it down in his lap. Jarene and Wyer settled down next to him.
“What’s happened?” Wyer’s voice was worried and Jarene was clinging to her, eyes wide.
“Rojan’s hurt bad, gonna try and fix him.” Malachi murmured, lowering his forehead until it touched the muses. Warmth spread out from him and Malachi gasped at the feeling. Power ran through him into the muse. The daemon watched as the wound pulled closed. Rojan groaned and opened his eyes to look into Malachi’s, smiling in relief.
“Doubly so.” Rojan grinned at him then pulled away, he reached up to touch his head gingerly. Grimacing as they came back red. “Oh great. This is just fucking perfect.” The muse sighed and stood up. “My horse ran away…”
“I sent Nenuphar to fetch it.”
As they spoke the riding lion came padding back, holding the horses reins in his mouth. Malachi smiled and took them from Nenuphar.
“There’s a town a couple of miles away, we could probably get there before nightfall.” Tansear stood before them, covered once more in blood. Malachi wrinkled his nose at the smell of rank dragon blood.
“You are not going into a town looking like that Tansear! You can find somewhere to clean yourself off and then catch up with us.” Malachi turned and vaulted back up onto his riding lion, carefully ignoring Tansear’s mutterings. Jarene giggled at them and the group set off for the nearby town.
Malachi groaned and slumped down on his bed face first. Rojan snorted in laughter and reached out with one foot to poke at him.
“You dead, Mals?”
“Heh, ever the charming one.” Rojan stretched out beside him. The group had booked into a tavern. Malachi, Tansear and Rojan in one room, with the ‘dragons’ in another. It had been a busy day and Malachi was no closer to finding Dazriel at all, a sore point for the daemon.
“Come on daemon, lets go downstairs and meet the girls for dinner.”
“All right, you win.” Malachi dragged himself up, following the muse downstairs.
Wyer and Jarene were already sitting at the bar, munching away at their dinner. Malachi sat down next to the daemoness, gesturing for the waitress. A plate of what he really hoped was meat was placed before him along with a tankard of beer. The daemon sighed and poked at the meat on his plate. Lords below it didn’t even smell good! Jarene seemed to like it well enough, but then with Jarene you never did know. Nose wrinkling in detest at the smell, Malachi bit into a piece. He forced it down, doing the same two steps until there was nothing left. Nenuki would be so proud of him, finishing his meal like a good cub.
A hand touched his shoulder and Malachi turned to smiled at Tansear.
“Hey! Grab a plate and sit down!”
“Don’t forget it.”
Tansear gave a gruff laugh and sat down with the. Malachi grabbed his beer, taking a gulp before setting it down again. The five sat in silence, watching the people in the tavern as they went about their business. Malachi ordered another round of drinks, smiling at the sight of Wyer drunk.
Rojan leaned against Malachi; he turned to the daemon and raised a finger.
“I’ve always liked you daemon. In fact-“ The muse pitched forward and toppled of the seat. Malachi blinked at him, and then shrugging went back to nursing his drink.
“Guess he can’t hold his beer.” Tansear muttered well into his seventh drink.
“Funny thing is, Rojan hasn’t drunk anymore then on all night.” Jarene murmured.
Malachi froze at that, warning bells ringing trough his alcohol hazed brain. He glanced over at Wyer and groaned. Sure enough the muse was flat out on the floor. Great, fucking great!
“Shit!” Tansear’s half lidded eyes shot open as realisation dawned on him.
“Is this starting to sound like a cheap soap opera script to anyone else?” Jarene asked just as Malachi’s vision blackened and the drug finally took hold of his slower metabolism.