"Smell good, like fear," something suddenly growled beside Kadence. "Mmm, hungry."
Startled, she gasped. Geryon tried to pull her behind him, but she resisted. This time, she wouldn't sink into the background, forcing him to do all the work, take all the risks. This time, she fought. "Move away or die," she told the demon.
It frowned at her. "Look like me. Why you smell so good?" It licked its lips, saliva dripping from the corners of its paper thin mouth. It was covered in yellow scales and only reached her navel. And while it appeared lean, she suspected unyielding strength rested underneath those scales.
A tremor moved through her. Remember who you are. Remember what you can do.
It stepped closer.
"You were warned," she said, bracing herself.
"Wait outside, Kadence. Please." Geryon tried to move in front of her.
She blocked him, not facing him. "No. You will not fight them alone."
As they spoke, the demon continued to inch toward them, its claws lengthening.
"Please, Kadence." Geryon tugged at her. "I need to know you're safe. Otherwise, I'll be distracted and a distracted warrior is a defeated warrior."
"I cannot act the coward. Not anymore. Besides, if this works, you will not have to fight him at all." She was hell's warden; it was past time she acted like it. Past time she ruled rather than merely observed.
"If isn't good enough. Not when it comes to your safety."
Any moment the creature would cease its stalking and spring. She knew it, felt it. Kadence reached inside herself as she angled her chin to stare deep into its eyes, surprised to find her power easily accessible. She shouldn't have been surprised, though. She might try and suppress it, but it was always there, never silent, a churning sea inside her.
"Stay," she said, and the creature locked in place, its mind still active but every part of its physical form hers to command.
For a long while, she simply drank in her handiwork, amazed. I did it. Not once did the fiend try and approach her again - even though murder gleamed in those beady eyes.
"Something's happened," Geryon said, sounding confused.
"I happened," she said, proud of herself. "Watch." To the demon she said, "Raise your arms over your head."
Instantly, it obeyed, shooting both arms into the air without a word of complaint. But then, she had possession of its mouth, as well. Clearly, it had not wanted to comply with her demand, for its gaze continued to translate its hatred of her.
Joy burst through her. For once, she had used her ability for good: to save someone she greatly lo - admired. Dear gods. Did she love Geryon? She loved being with him, loved the way he made her feel: cherished, protected. But did that mean she had given him her heart? Surely not.
"Look, Kadence." Geryon pointed to the slab. "Look what's happened."
She followed the direction of his finger and gasped. Every demon had frozen in place, their hands in the air. Even the spirits had stopped writhing. There was no laughter, no cries. Only the sound of her own breathing could be heard.
"You did this?" Geryon asked.
"I - yes."
"I am amazed. Awed."
Her joy intensified. "Thank you."
"Can they hear me?" When she nodded, he slowly grinned and shouted to the creatures, "Hear me well. Go forth and tell every Demon Lord the guardian is here and that I plan to destroy them." To Kadence he added, "Release them."
Though she wanted to protest, Kadence did as he'd asked. In less than a blink, the creatures were racing from the building as fast as possible, leaving her and Geryon alone. "Why?"
His grin widened. "Now we wait. They will come to us."