- The Darkest Fire
They stopped at the first building they came to: a tavern. An actual, honest-to-gods tavern, where blood was served rather than alcohol. Kadence had known such things existed down here, but it still struck her as odd. Demons, acting as humans.
They'd had a two-mile trek from the pit's entrance to here. A two-mile trek she had spent remembering Geryon's earth-shattering kiss, cursing him for stopping it and fretting about his reasons.
Throughout her endless life, she had welcomed only those three lovers into her bed, and all three had been gods. If gods had not been able to handle her, there was no way Geryon could. But she had hoped. For once she'd had no thoughts of controlling her nature, only enjoying. Yet Geryon had walked away from her, just as the others had. Am I so terrible? So horrible a person?
More than the others, she had wanted Geryon to find pleasure with her because he meant more. She liked who she was with him. Liked how she felt when he was near. Instead, she had...disgusted him? Repelled him? Failed to arouse him in even the slightest way?
"Stay by my side," he said as he shoved open the tavern's swinging double doors. They were the first words he had uttered since reminding her of their quest. "And keep your hood over your head. Just in case. Actually, are you versed in glamour?"
His voice was deep and rough and caressed every one of her weeping senses. Surely she did not disgust him. Surely she did not repel him. He had held himself back during their kiss, had stopped it, but when he looked at her, he made her feel as if she were the only woman in the world. The most beautiful, the most desired. A treasure, something to cherish.
He paused before entering. "Kadence?" Cleared his throat. "Goddess?"
"I will glamour myself and stay by your side," she told him, though inside she beseeched, Tell me why you continually push me away.
He didn't. He nodded and stepped forward. She stayed close, as promised, mentally projecting the image of bones and scales. Anyone who glanced in her direction would think they saw one of their own. She could only hope her fear was masked as well.
Taunting laughter and pain-filled cries immediately assaulted her ears. Gulping, she sent her gaze around the room. So many demons...they came in every shape and size. Some were like the image she projected, bones and scales. Some were half man, half bull. Some were winged like dragons with snouts to match. Yet all of them crowded a stone slab. A moving slab?
No, not moving, she realized, horror claiming her in a bruising grip and nearly crushing her lungs. Human spirits were atop the slab. The demons were ripping them apart, eating their insides. Unfortunately, there was no peace for the damned. Only endless torture.
"Gods," she couldn't help but breathe. "How can we defeat a horde of these?"
"Over here." Geryon edged them to the side and out of the way, and she knew it was so that they could observe the happenings without drawing notice. "The creatures you see here are minions, soldiers and servants. They are not what we will be fighting."
That's right, she thought, stomach sinking. Violence, Death and the like were Demon Lords. While minions enjoyed their prey's agony, their main focus was the fulfillment of a basic need: hunger. The Lords cared only for the agony. Prolonging it, increasing it to the depths of insanity. And the more agony they inflicted, the more screams they elicited, the stronger they became.
Oh, yes. They were far worse than anything here.