Tag Archives: Book VI

Nihil : The Things To Come : Hope ~Fin~

“You haven’t told me what part you want me to play in this, my Lord.” Lilith sat in front of Lucifer letting the mist of magic he had called envelope her.

 “The parts you always play so brilliantly.” Lucifer smiled in the darkness that surrounded the two of them. “Friend, Mother, Wife. Most importantly, I need you to be as always my patience. I’m letting Tsuriai suffer to help its protectors learn their place. It is painful and infuriating.”

 “My Lord, I know that you would not risk any of it if you did not believe there was hope in it.” Lilith took his hands. “You believe in them.”

 “In some of them.” Lucifer laughed as he pulled the magic he had called into himself and his always loving bride into his arms. “That you still have such faith in me…”

 “It must be nice to have the trust of the one you love.” Kage hissed as he crouched beside them and glared at Lucifer. “I am not even worthy of the gifts I’ve been given.”

 “De kosh sek, Kagami.” Lucifer grinned and wrapped his fingers behind Kage’s neck. “Sek sesa det truk”

 “And your frequent insults.” Kage looked away.

 “I can’t show you favoritism.” Lucifer ran his thumb over Kage’s lips. “Stop sulking.”

 “I have to quiet Nexus and find suitable guardians to aid Gabriel.” Kage started to excuse himself but Lucifer’s finger’s that barely rested on his neck kept him from standing. “Enchubi fiket, det Vasun?”

 “Kaka de kesek sek kosh de.” Lucifer smiled and pulled Kage so that he fell over them.

 “Mave vat enonsa.” Kage braced himself against the floor and Lucifer’s shoulder as he kissed him. It was true. More than anything. All else could fade and Kage would move on. He felt Lilith’s hand on his neck and tried to ignore the warmth of her fingers on his skin. He understood Lilith’s unending faith in Lucifer because he shared her blind devotion. They were both slaves to it. “Now, let me go and prove myself.”

 “You’ve already done that, Kage.” Lucifer licked the edge of the collar at Kage’s wrist as he held him a moment longer. “Stop being a pest or I’ll insist that you mentor Nikolai.”

 “I’ll kill that twit.” Kage snapped at him.

 “Just behave, Kage.” Lucifer laughed and let go. “I wouldn’t do that to Nikolai.”

 “I’ll check on the half-breed before I return.” Kage shifted from the room leaving a small page on the floor beside them to give his quiet ‘I love you’ without admitting he was flustered by Lucifer’s taunting.

 “Since he brought it up.” Lilith smiled. “Maefyl did well.”

 “He did, my love.” Lucifer lifted her as he stood and took them into one of her quiet gardens. He sat against a fountain at its center with a journal and a quill and patted the ground beside him. “Come here and spoil me for giving you such a wonderful son.”

 “Tea and cake?” Lilith sat close beside him as Lucifer opened the journal against his knees. “Or wine and grapes.”

 “Tea.” Lucifer sat his quill against the page and grinned. “We’ll save the wine until Kage comes home and I’ll make him feed us both grapes.”

 “So wicked.” Lilith giggled.

Breakseal

I am wicked. It suits me well. It is a part of my nature that helps me cope with the difficult matters at hand.

 Maefyl’s growth is worthy of note and his progress worthy of both my praise and pride. Unfortunately, the joy I should feel in seeing him embrace power and take initiative is soured by circumstances.

 My decision to let my protection wane has been more costly than I anticipated. Even one dragon dead at the hands of mortals again sickens me; to see several children lost is heart-breaking. Allowing this to continue makes me feel wretched. If it takes such tragedy to wake Zakesalek and unite the Council of Lord the sacrifice must be made, but the cost is a painful burden that I will carry forever.

 My lapse in protection has cost other creatures as well. The tender fairies that I have no way to ever repair. My only peace is that the greater races have learned to defend themselves and remain unaffected and that the pixies still repopulate on their own, but my guilt in the numbers they lose will still haunt me always.

 Please, my treasures… Pass this test and show me this Council is worth the price I pay.

 Nihil’s call on the Council may have been a saving grace. Vikarr may have been a choice made out of convenience, but one that may be of more benefit than Samael realizes. Vikarr has an eagerness to please not only myself and his kin, but also his young bride. It makes him both cautious and inventive. He, like the Wyrms, has also recently realized that he can accept the company of others without losing himself and has been making friends quickly. My hope is that as he forges his new friendships, it will start to pull the others together. Something has to bring these stubborn fools together; if it takes the unpredictable antics of the Jester, so be it.

 There are a few loose ends I need to look into… Gabby was unusually quiet today. I think it may be time to see what he has been up to.

Tsuriai6Nihil

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Nihil : The Things To Come : Facing Fears & Building Bridges

Raziel fell limp in Brig’s arm feigning death after he had attacked him in a thirst he had let build a little too long and Brig was not so certain he liked the game any longer. Knowing what Raziel would suffer, had suffered, for the ones he loved made Brig feel guilty for putting him through any more humiliation for something so trivial. He pulled Raziel into an awkward hug in his lap and managed to keep himself composed, but only just barely.

“You don’t need to do that.” Brig grabbed one of Raziel’s ears. He was still bothered that they were so similar to the Wyrms. “Are you making me go to this meeting?”

“If you aren’t ready to face them; I won’t make you.” Raziel adjusted Brig’s fingers on his ear. “Gently, if you don’t mind.”

“Sorry.” Brig had no idea what he was doing. He started to wish he hadn’t left Demise in his office with Cid and Tali. He leaned back against the wall stroking the edge of Raziel’s ear and just hoping for a knock on the door to save him from his uncertainty. Raziel sat up and startled Brig. “What?”

 

“You’re under no obligation to stay and hold me like this if it is painful for you.” Raziel hung his head. “I will be leaving shortly anyway.”

“You always manage to latch onto the wrong thing I’m thinking.” Brig grabbed Raziel by his shirt and kissed him. He was uncertain, frightened, but not because he wasn’t sure of his feelings only of what to do with them. Raziel was everything he shouldn’t want; his superior, a demon, married, and a man. He was also his friend and the last thing he wanted to do was lose that. But now against all reason, Raziel was his husband and Brig wanted him. He just didn’t have the slightest idea how to turn something he had always found so horrifying into what it should be between them. “We’ll go with you.”

“Thank you, puppet.” Raziel stood and pulled Brig to his feet and was surprised to see the vampire smile and hear the sudden thought that caused it.

“When we’re through with this shit can I take you out?” Brig almost laughed at the idea. It just popped into his head as an easy way to get over some of the fears that were holding him back. As close as everyone had gotten in Vex, he still knew very little about Raziel’s time before they met. “I mean if everyone else wants to wander off shopping or something and you get bored.”

“A date?” Raziel tilted his head slightly. “We’ve already wed.”

“Yea. Never mind.” Brig shook his hair out of his face as he reached for his cigarettes and turned away to head for the door. “It was a stupid idea, I’m going to go get Shana and the kids.”

“Brig.” Raziel grabbed Brig by his arm as he took the lighter that refused to light and provided another. He could see the frustration as Brig blew the smoke away and kept his gaze averted. Raziel pulled Brig’s free arm around him. “I’d love to.”

Raziel sent Brig off to collect Shana and the others and he saw to a few last messages as he waited for Van and Galik to return from errands of their own. Vex did not have its own reserve to care for, but many of the surrounding areas were home to creatures that should have been in the gardens. When they returned it was with news he had feared and proof that was painful to see. Galik laid the broken remains of two pixies in Raziel’s hands. One nearly crushed to an unrecognizable state and the other missing limbs.

“This wasn’t close.” Galik explained. “Not even on the island. We didn’t find anything like this near Vex.”

“Even half way around this rock, this is unforgivable.” Raziel explained. As much as he would like to complain about the simple fact that every beautiful moment he had with Brig had either been interrupted or inspired by or quickly followed by tragedy, but he couldn’t spend the time wallowing in the self pity. This was beyond tragic; whatever was motivating the attacks had to be stopped.

“What are they, Razzy?” Van hung on Galik’s arm sadly. “They don’t look like Demise and the others.”

“Pixies.” Raziel told her. Pixies had been one of the only nether races of fairies to thrive because they were born so frequently. They were abundant and did little more than flitter about giggling, but they were no less precious for their numbers and no less grand for their lack of strong magic. “Smaller, frailer. They know only the laughter they are born from. Which makes these attacks all the more horrific. Each of these marvels was a breath of a child’s first laugh.”

“That’s just awful.” Van sniffled.

“Lord Raziel will put an end to it.” Galik assured her.

“Is there any way we can help?” Frakk offered his assistance.

“Yes.” Raziel patted both him and Frikk on their heads. “Go into the realms your children have made their homes. Tell them to stay there in safety and to spread that advice to the other creatures. The less children that wander Tsuriai in these dark times, the less will be lost.”

“Will do.” Frikk nodded as she grabbed Frakk and shifted to Hell to start making themselves useful.

“The two of you will say nothing to the Wyrms or their bride.” Raziel gently caressed each of their faces as they looked at him with a sad understanding. “The trouble is over with. No grudges need to be held over it.”

“Yes, Lord Raziel.” Galik leaned his face against Raziel’s hand and closed his eyes. “I won’t make trouble for you.”

“Okay, Razzy.” Van pouted. “But I don’t like them.”

“Neither do I, puppet.” Raziel admitted quietly as Brig returned with Shana. “You’ll learn as I have that there are times it is wise to set aside emotion and do what has to be done.”

“Also times when that is completely stupid.” Brig muttered before he gave Raziel an obnoxious smile. “Don’t get preachy. We already know to play mute.”

“If they start to bother you.” Shana hugged Raziel tightly. “Just remember we all love you.”

“I love you all as well, puppet.” Raziel left a small kiss on her lips before gathered them all discretely to him and took them to Lucifer’s audience hall. They arrived just as the doors swung open for the arrival of the Council’s newest member and Raziel stepped defensively in front of his puppets and waited quietly as Vikarr approached them.

“Vivi, please be nice.” Eliza tugged at his sleeve. His grin made her nervous and she was worried he had not let his jealousy over Brig go. Vale followed them quietly; content not to interfere in the business of her masters. Eliza quietly pleaded for Vikarr to show a bit of mercy after all that had happened. “I’m with you. You don’t need to prove anything.”

Vikarr winked at her as he stopped close to Raziel and smiled as he offered his hand. Raziel stared up at him coldly and made no attempt to accept the offer, not even a sign that he recognized it.

“Accept my apology, Keeper.” Vikarr laughed. “I won’t make it twice.”

“I don’t believe it to be sincere.” Raziel answered quietly.

“It is.” Vikarr grinned. “At least in regards to the suffering I caused the ones who love you. I had never experienced jealousy and regret that I let it make a decision that I would not have made in a more rational state of mind. We are to work together. We should at least begin with some sort of…”

“I know he’s obnoxious.” Eliza interrupted. “But can we at least try to get along. Even if he is a bit of a shite, I’m sorry about what happened.”

“For the sake of those we love, Jester.” Raziel took Vikarr’s hand. “I have no intention of giving you my friendship, but as Brig and Eliza are already friends I may as well tolerate you.”

“I thought we weren’t allowed to talk?” Eliza smirked.

“I owe Brig this trust.” Raziel explained. Brig honored Raziel’s request for distance in public but he could hear the gratitude in his mind and the desire to embrace him for the understanding. “Of course you will need your own Master’s consent.”

“If it makes you happy, lovely.” Vikarr rolled his eyes. “Just keep your hands where they belong.”

“Hands are all yours.” Eliza pulled Vikarr by his tie and kissed him. “Thank you, Vivi.”

“Who is the other chick?” Van clicked the stick of her lollipop across her teeth as she crossed her arms in front of her and glared at the quiet, winged companion with Eliza and Vikarr. “Another girlfriend?”

“Vivi doesn’t have any girlfriends, pinkie.” Eliza sneered at Van. “Vale is my friend.”

“One of my most talented creations.” Vikarr smiled as he pulled Eliza to his side as Vale bowed to introduce herself. “A fitting gift for my bride.”

“Hey! You guys maybe want to stop fucking off and get in here?” Maefyl yelled from the door to the Council hall. “Some of us are here to work.”

“Sit down, half-breed.” Kage’s hiss could be heard from the hall. “You have no business lecturing anyone one work ethic.”

“So much for not being late.” Eliza whispered to Vikarr as they headed inside.

“He wasn’t late.” Lucifer tapped the table in front of him. “But as you are all here now, kindly quiet your playthings. There is much to be discussed.”

“Come on in, pretty.” Maefyl stood aside and invited Vale to join them. “No one else in here seems to follow any fucking rules. Just keep quiet.”

“I intend to follow them.” Vikarr grinned.

“All of you sit!” Lucifer screamed and stepped up onto the table. “This is no longer amusing.”

“It never was.” Maefyl mumbled as he claimed his seat and tapped a cigarette on the table.

“Six months I’ve given this Council reign and the only thing you have proven yourselves capable of is behaving like spoiled children.” Lucifer ranted as he paced the table. “I have for more than a thousand years kept Tsuriai in relative peace, kept harmony between science and magic, kept humanity from rebelling. In six month with you imbeciles in power I have murdered dragons and butchered fairies. You are all too preoccupied with your own petty quarrels.”

“Correction.” Maefyl interrupted. “You halted the advance of science in favor of magic.”

“Not the time, Maefyl.” Gabriel hushed him.

“Just think he should get the facts straight if he is going to slander everyone.” Maefyl grinned as he lit his cigarette. “And it should be noted that not every Circle is having these problems.”

“Those sitting at this table are responsible for more than any one Circle.” Lilith scolded. “You’ve done well in Osore, Maefyl. You have also served well on this Council. This reprimand is not meant for you, but do not be arrogant. We have all failed.”

“I haven’t failed at fuck all.” Maefyl laughed. “I’ve been plenty busy cleaning up other peoples messes as usual. I haven’t had time to fail.”

“You I will deal with later.” Lucifer glared at Maefyl. He was not the problem at the moment. In fact, there was truth in his arrogant claim. He had been busier than most of the Council since it was formed. “It was Zakesalek this Council was created for, the failure lies with them.”

“Zakesalek?” Vikarr quietly voiced his curiosity. “I don’t mean to be a pest, Lord Lucifer. I’m not familiar with…”

“You wouldn’t be.” Lucifer cut him off. “Nikolai, Asura and yourself are at a disadvantage in that respect. Even Sanguine and my Lilith have little understanding of it. You’ll deal with it.”

“Lucy, you understand that some of us have been overwhelmed.” Gabriel defended himself for any negligence. He had been left not only with his responsibilities in Osore, his duty to Itami, but had the realm of Heaven left in his care. He also had the distinct pleasure of being married to Maefyl who had more talent for getting into trouble than most.

“I’m well aware of your responsibilities, Gabby.” Lucifer sighed. “I also know that you and Eidolon were the least interested in accepting your place at this table. All things considered, the two of you have probably been the only ones worthy of it.”

“Kesek saba ise sulesa.” Azrael jumped to his feet and shouted at Lucifer. “Sek zame kosani ken. De faka sabuzaki`at.”

“I doubt that.” Maefyl smirked. “Gabriel isn’t afraid to get his feet dirty.”

“Devek!” Azrael screamed down the table at Maefyl. “Shidakava kalu.”

“Sek kaat ze isa chaset’tach ek ise kalu.” Lucifer slapped Azrael across the face and kicked Samael back into his chair when he rose to defend him. “Ze nat elt sek shent fanet en leshuvi.”

“Did you catch any of that?” Vikarr grinned as he leaned to Nikolai.

“Not a word.” Nikolai shook his head and answered quietly. “Generally I assume that I am better off not knowing.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you.” Vikarr took Eliza’s hand in his and pulled her a bit closer. She was staying sweetly quiet and clinging to Vale’s hand for confidence as she listened to the Council arguing. He thought he could afford to give her at least some of his own comfort as he saw the others fawning over their loves in varying degrees.

“I’ve tasked the Circles to seek out some of this trouble.” Lucifer continued angrily. “If you are all through tripping over your egos, it would be marvelous if you could use the power I’ve given you for something other than an excuse to pick fights. It was a mistake to leave Tsuriai in your care, but I am going to give you a chance to prove me wrong. Fix this mess.”

“Tsumi has been unaffected.” Kage hissed. “Kryss and his pack see to our reserves and have prevented any problems.”

“Osore is likewise clear.” Gabriel added.

“All of Nippon is.” Maefyl corrected. “I don’t do as little with my free time as you all assume.”

“Vex is clear but Van and Galik ventured beyond the isle and found these.” Raziel carefully laid out remains of the pixies on the table. There was silence for a moment and a trail of tears fell across the table as Sanguine flew away from the sight and sought comfort in Maefyl’s hands.

“Nihil has not been as fortunate.” Vikarr called his computer into his hands and sent over full reports from Mala and Donovan and sent them to the others. “Regretfully, the humans in our care seem to be among those that will need to be reminded of their place. After our efforts to protect them from one race, it saddens me to discover they are terrorizing another.”

“I’m impressed, Vikarr.” Lucifer grinned. Vikarr was eager as ever to please and had not only gone beyond his expectations, but had chosen a perfect time to break a painful silence and prove his usefulness. “I went to Mala directly because I expected you to be happily distracted by your bride. You seem well-informed.”

“Mala and Donovan do not act in Nihil without my knowledge.” Vikarr smiled. “I take my place in Nihil very seriously; I intend to give my place here no less attention. I do not let my personal life interfere with my work, Lord Lucifer.”

“That will be a refreshing change in this room.” Lucifer laughed before he crouched in front of one of the quietest of his Council and dearest friends. “Eidolon, I’m about to make your life difficult. For that I apologize.”

“I assume this has to do with the sudden disappearance of my Third?” Eidolon had expected some sort of retaliation over Nexus’ behavior eventually; this was just unfortunate timing. “Could this wait?”

“No.” Lucifer cast a cruel glance down the table at Kage. “The woman is unbearably useless. Choose a replacement.”

“Give me time to consider it.” Eidolon had not expected the choice. Lucifer had chosen every member of his Circles himself. Only Dove had been placed by recommendation.

“What have you done with my mother?” Shiroi clenched her fists beside her.

“Devana, Welak Isa.” Samael instructed and she hung her head and backed down from her question.

“Figure out this mess on your own and get it under control.” Lucifer walked the length of the table as he gave his last orders. “If I could manage it single handedly, the twelve of you should be able to do something. It took you six months to ruin things, I’ll give you that long to fix it.”

“Are you suggesting these attacks are in someway…?” Samael started to laugh at the idea that he could be blamed for anything the humans did.

“Not in some way, Samael.” Lucifer shouted. “In EVERY way. YOU are at fault for the losses your dragons mourn. YOU are to blame for the broken wings Raziel laid on my table. I left Tsuriai to your rule, to your guidance these last six months. The tranquility I have upheld I left in the hands of the Council. Instead of watching after the world you wanted power over; you decided to play games with one another. Clearly you don’t have the attention span to do two things at once. Until you do, leave the games to the me.”

“Hak, kosha.” Samael grabbed Azrael’s arm to prevent him from attacking. Samael smiled up at Lucifer as he stood and pulled Shiroi and Azrael to him. “We will restore Vasun Lucifer’s trust in us. Our shadows will be able to reach us. I’ve had my fill of the rest of this Council for the day.”

“Bite your tongue, Maefyl.” Lucifer cautioned the vampire that readied a sharp comment over the Wyrms sudden departure. “I don’t need your nonsense as well.”

“We could do without yours.” Maefyl stroked Sanguine gently as he held her. “Help us fix this.”

“Put in the effort and I will.” Lucifer grinned at him and vanished.

“That’s spectacular.” Asura pouted. She felt like the weakest link. Powerless and without resource. “How am I supposed to help with any of this? I would like to be more than a mascot here.”

“At least you’re cute.” Vikarr grinned.

“Do you mind?” Eliza pinched Vikarr’s neck before she remembered she shouldn’t be talking and quickly covered her mouth and mumbled her apologies.

“I think it’s okay to talk.” Asura smiled at her. “Uncle Lucifer left.”

“Asura, you’re most adept with the system you created.” Kage sought to put an end to pointless banter before it began. “Put your skills to good use. Coordinate information from the Circles and keep all of us informed.”

“Raziel, I don’t mean to volunteer you, but you and I have the best chance of finding out the point in all of this.” Maefyl was not looking forward to more time away from home or away from Gabriel, but he knew they both had to put their skills to the best use. “Unfortunately, you know we can’t treat this like a picnic. Galik and Brig need to stay in Vex, Gabriel is going back to Osore.”

“Agreed.” Raziel nodded. As reluctant as he was to leave any of them behind, he knew they would take care of Vex and each other in his absence.

“I’ll have things to tend to in Tsumi, but afterward I’ll aid in any I can.” Eidolon looked across the table at Nikolai. “It may be time for you to join Asura in her lessons.”

“I’m not suited for battle, Eidolon.” Nikolai smiled. “I appreciate the offer, but your time would be better spent elsewhere. I’m not certain I’ll be of any use at all in this matter.”

“Then, you’ll join me.” Raziel suggested. “My work will be safe enough, observation and discovery. The experience will do you good.”

“If the choice is mine, I decline.” Nikolai held Azazel and Bezer by their wrists. “I don’t plan on abandoning Golod or my pets to travel with some one I have no reason to have any trust in.”

“A compromise.” Lilith suggested. “There is no need for any of you to abandon your Circles or the things you love for any prolonged amount of time, or to be alone for it. We have two Keepers. So two shifts. Maefyl has Sanguine to accompany him and they can return to Gabriel’s company when Nikolai accompanies Raziel for the experience that I have to agree he needs.”

“I may be able to help narrow your searches.” Vikarr offered. “I have an army of treacherous beauties at my disposal that are very skilled at getting information. With Gabriel’s daughter able to provide areas of interest, my succubi can fan out and bring you answers.”

“I’ll coordinate further protection for the reserves.” Gabriel sighed. “It will mean loosening a few leashes, but I know which ones to keep the tightest.”

“I’ll see to it you have equal assistance from Hell’s loyal.” Kage offered. “I just have a few distractions to see to first.”

“Then we all have work to do.” Lilith headed for the door and gave Kage an evil grin. “I don’t like disappointing my Lord Lucifer.”

“Rest up, Raziel. I’m taking first shift.” Maefyl kissed Asura on her cheek and sat Sanguine on his shoulder before he shifted between Gabriel and Kage. He spoke quietly as he leaned close to Kage. “Where is she?”

“Alive for the moment.” Kage whispered his reluctant reply. “I’m trying to keep her that way.”

“Call if you need me.” Maefyl squeezed his shoulder before he slipped his arms around Gabriel. “You; I will see soon.”

“You’re taking this well.” Gabriel sighed.

“No, I’m really not.” Maefyl kissed him softly. He wasn’t taking any of it well. He still had no answers. He was still furious over what the Wyrms had done and what Shiroi had become. Now species he loved and protected for so long were being brutalized, Brig was terrified of the one he loved, Asura was doubting her own worth, Sanguine was in a state of shock and he was watching the world fall apart for the sake of Lucifer trying to prove a point. He wasn’t taking any of it well. He just wanted to fix all of it before he put Gabriel through any more misery. “I’m just trying to stay out of trouble like you asked.”

“I’ll give you notice before I come to collect you, Nikolai.” Raziel stood and offered Nikolai little chance to respond. “Let’s go, puppets.”

“Later, E.” Brig waved and they were gone.

“Bye, London.” Eliza smirked at Vikarr. “You know, you are all kind of rude. Any chance I can talk to your friend Eidolon before he pulls a Houdini, too?”

“Make it quick.” Eidolon sighed. “I have a Third to replace.”

“It can wait.” Eliza smiled. “It’s just to torture Vivi anyway.”

“Then I will be sure to make the time.” Eidolon slid a card across the table to her with his number and laughed as he left the hall.

“That wasn’t very nice.” Vikarr giggled. “I thought Lord Falcon liked me.”

“Nobody likes you.” Eliza kicked his shin. “You’re a freak. I thought his name was Eidolon.”

“I’ll explain later, lovely.” Vikarr winked at her. “For now we need to go introduce you to a few more of Vale’s sisters.”

“In the interest of working together; can we go with?” Asura asked hopefully. “If I’m going to be the information hub I might as well see where the information is coming from.”

“Certainly.” Vikarr smiled. “As long as your Master approves.”

“Let’s just get this over with, Master Nikolai.” Azazel purred as he clung to Nikolai.

“Lead the way, Vikarr.” Nikolai held Asura’s hand and the back of Azazel’s collar as they walked. He had spent little time in Hell that was not in the confines of Lucifer’s or the cubs’ estate and the unfamiliar scenery made him as nervous. Vikarr’s bride had bright green eyes that he knew were a weakness for Azazel and he gave jealous tugs on Azazel’s collar that made him purr. He had no reason for jealousy, but the attention thrilled Azazel and made Bezer giggle as she clung to his back.

“Where are we going?” Asura asked as she swung Nikolai’s hand in hers.

“My estate.” Vikarr smiled back at her.

“Lord Vikarr is calling us there.” Vale explained.

“I’ll gather those available, send them off, and have them report to you.” Vikarr was confident in the unique abilities of his creations. “Many of my kin are more likely to use force to achieve their goals. I’ve always found it more amusing to convince others to give me what I want. My little pretties are very good at convincing people to give up their secrets… and anything else they want. I’ll be sure to make them behave for this work.”

“Azazel!” Dozens of the gathered succubi winked and waved as they entered a large garden of Vikarr’s estate. “Come play with us.”

“Oops.” Azazel flushed and looked up at Nikolai nervously. “Don’t be mad. It was before I knew you.”

“Long time no see, Bezer.” A particularly well-endowed succubus flipped out of the branches above them and blew Bezer a kiss before she winked at Asura. “I was heart broken to hear a man had stolen you away, but it’s good to see you still enjoy a softer touch as well.”

“Both of you are so punished.” Asura pouted.

“Very.” Nikolai agreed and shook his head as he smiled. He knew the cubs had been adventurous and he was lucky to have their devotion. “Give them your orders, Vikarr. Before your army of temptresses give me any more reasons to scold my pets.”

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Nihil : The Things To Come : Common Goals

“Dan sek truk Vikarr?” Azrael pouted. “Dan sek stava truk Nikolai?”

 “We are in no danger from the shadows we keep on Council.” Samael stroked Azrael’s back as he hugged him. “Vikarr has enough sense to follow the example of his superiors. Nikolai is not only cautious but highly favored by most of the Council and Lucifer himself.”

 “You will have them all on guard now.” Shiroi sighed as she stepped out of the bath. “You have likely damaged the friendship with Nikolai. Even if he is forgiving, Asura will take her Fathers’ side and hold a grudge. Nikolai caves to the desires of his pets.”

 “There are other distractions that will keep any ill will from settling.” Samael took Shiroi’s fingers and dressed her. “We all have common goals at the moment.”

 “Bulbenu’al shiga kaat keka’tach det dragons.” Azrael rubbed his face against Samael’s shoulder. His hatred of humans was once again justified by their heartless slaughter of his creations. “De shok dekehaki saen.”

 “We promised to be fair to each race, Azrael.” Samael comforted him. “We can not lash out at many for the actions of the few. Those responsible will pay.”

 “None from Parasek have been lost, have they?” Shiroi asked naively and received a rare look of disapproval from her Masters that crushed her spirit. “I only ask because I can’t see involving yourselves when the rest of Council has reason to act against you.”

 “We care for all dragons, Welak Isa.” Samael sighed. Any plans for revenge would be on hold until tensions calmed anyway, these troubles would be a perfect chance to improve their position. He kissed Azrael’s face knowing he understood the need to set grudges aside for the sake of their creations. “We have little time before the Council meets, kosha. Take Shiroi and go see Kranen. Keep the creatures of Parasek wary. I want to smooth a few things over with Nikolai.”

 Samael saw them both off to Parasek. He wanted to be sure the creatures there avoided Tsuriai until the mortals once again understood that violence against the Watcher’s beloved creations would not be tolerated. In the meantime he had a friendship to nurture that had likely been left in need of pampering. He chose to make his journey to Golod alone in hopes of avoiding the tension between Shiroi and Asura. There would inevitably enough anger directed toward him and he thought it best to keep them calm. He knocked on the door to Nikolai’s apartment and awaited the unpleasant reactions.

 “You could have gotten Master Nikolai in a lot of trouble with that stunt you pulled.” Bezer scowled at Samael as she opened the door. “You are supposed to be his friend.”

 “No harm came to Nikolai.” Samael smiled. “But I apologize for any risk. Am I no longer welcome here?”

 “You shouldn’t be.” Azazel growled as he pulled Bezer aside. “Master Nikolai says otherwise, so you can come in.”

 “I wouldn’t have let anything happen to your beloved.” Samael explained as he walked inside. His tail narrowly avoided the door Azazel slammed behind him. “He was perfectly safe.”

 “Which is more than can be said of Raziel and Brig.” Nikolai sat behind Asura as she drew at the table. She was furious to have Samael visit so soon after what he had done, but was patiently distracting herself and letting Nikolai deal with things. Nikolai watched her scratching angrily at the page and was amazed that even frustration didn’t damage her skill, though he had to laugh at the slightly darker subject matter of her drawing as she sketched the corpse of their guest at her fathers feet. Nikolai turned his attention from the page and looked up at Samael. “I asked you not to force me into a position that would force me to choose between friendships. You attacked not only the friend of someone dear to me, but a young friend of mine as well.”

 “We all make mistakes.” Samael grinned.

 “Mistakes are not intentional.” Azazel sneered as he passed Samael and crouched beside the table. “Council or not, you are messing with my friends and family.”

 “I came to apologize.” Samael sat across from Asura and smirked a moment at her drawing as she made an effort to quickly turn the page and hide her silent opinions. He was amused by her depiction of an impossible victory, but worried her anger would influence Nikolai eventually. “I failed to realize that my quarrel with Raziel was going to cause so much grief for any of you. He was not always so well liked.”

 “That makes you sound like an even bigger bully.” Asura snapped at him. “It wouldn’t have made it any better if you had taken someone no one fought to get back. It would have just been more pathetic. You have no business taking anyone.”

 “You were quite content with the first acquisition I made.” Samael grinned. “You are quite the hypocrite Lady Asura.”

 “Samael, if your intention is to remain friends I suggest you consider your words more carefully.” Nikolai grabbed the side of Azazel’s collar and wrapped his arm around Asura’s waist. “I won’t have you insulting my bride in my own home. None of us approve of what you did. I am having difficulty even finding a way to forgive it.”

 “Raziel may be creepy, but we like Brig and Shana.” Bezer sat close beside Asura and Nikolai as she finished half a bottle of vodka. “More importantly we all love Maefyl, and you have pissed him off.”

 “I’ll be sure to give him my most sincere apologies.” Samael smiled at the way they supported each other. Each one of them so loving and adoring. So loyal to one another and the extended family of friends their years of experience had earned them. “Until then, I offer them to you. I don’t want any misunderstandings between us causing trouble in our work together. When Council gathers it is over far more important matters.”

 “That is a matter of opinion, Samael. If you want my support in anything there are a few things you should remember. There are many things I can forgive and many misunderstanding I will overlook, but my devotion and loyalty stands with those who have earned it. I will not stand against my dearest friends and family.” Nikolai smirked. “And there is nothing more important to me than my pets.”

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Nihil : The Things To Come : Loving Lucifer (18+)

“Don’t turn away from me.” Lucifer pulled Kage by his hair and kissed him.

 “He’s attempting to hide the pain of his pest.” Lilith laughed as she dragged her fingernails down Lucifer’s back.

 “That’s no excuse.” Lucifer grinned and leaned back into Lilith’s arms. “Go deal with her, Kage. You have one hour. If I beat you to Council…”

 “I can deal with Nexus after Council meets.” Kage sat up and embraced Lucifer. He generally avoided touching Lilith when possible, but he folded his arms around the two of them to make his devotion clear. “I swore to you it would not interrupt our time together.”

 “But it has.” Lucifer sneered. “Your love for the gift I gave you is touching, but I’m growing impatient with your attachment to useless toys. If you intend to keep it, you may have to consider returning her to your estate permanently. Expect my suggestion for a new third in Tsumi.”

 “Tek, det Vasun.” Kage dressed and rose from the bed. He left to tend to a task he knew was inevitable. It was surprising it had taken Lucifer this long to suggest it.

 “He’ll be bitter about this for a while.” Lilith kissed the crest on the back of Lucifer’s neck as she held him in front of her. “Are you certain it wouldn’t be simpler to just kill her?”

 “She is Shiroi’s mother.” Lucifer sighed.

 “I don’t need the reminder.” Lilith pouted. “It only gives me more reason to want to see her destroyed. It disgusts me that Kage brings her scent to this bed.”

“Eidolon will not be thrilled with another change to his Circle.” Lucifer decided it was better to deal with more technical problems involving Nexus. “Despite her irritating qualities, she does handle the busy work capably.”

 “There are plenty more capable.” Lilith crawled around him and sat over him as he laid back to the sheets smiling. “Plenty who will cause less trouble and show more respect. She is useless to Tsumi if she is constantly trying to steal the Viper’s attention from you. Demand her replacement tonight.”

 “As you wish, my love.” Lucifer let Lilith have the small victory. It was true enough that as Tsumi’s Third, Nexus was easy to replace. Unfortunately she would still be a nuisance as long as she lived. Even confined to Kage’s estate she would vie for attention.

Breakseal

“What have you done?” Kage screamed as he pulled Nexus from the pool of her own blood on the floor of her office. She had clawed into herself deeply until her body became so badly damaged it had exhausted its will to heal. It would take her hours on her own to regenerate the strength to stand. “You realize I feel this pain?”

 “Forgive me, Lord Kage.” Nexus whimpered. “I have been so alone.”

 “And because of this your loneliness is going to increase a hundred fold.” Kage hissed and shifted her to his estate. “I hope you’re satisfied. You’re being removed from Tsumi.”

 “I don’t care about Tsumi.” Nexus gasped as he threw her across the room onto the bed. All too familiar chains coiled around her wrists that would keep her confined to the room, but she panicked as they pulled her violently to the headboard. “My Lord, I only wanted to be with you.”

 “And now mine is the only company you will keep.” Kage hissed and sat beside her to heal the damage she had done to herself. “Your impatience has cost you any freedom. Until you learn to stop tearing your own flesh, even your movement here will be limited.”

 “I would gladly give up any freedom to have more of your time.” Nexus cried weakly. “I know I am second to Lucifer in your heart, but do I mean so little?”

 “He has suffered to keep you alive.” Kagemusha scolded her. “Lord Kage has done everything he can to give you every minute he can spare. You selfishly assume he spends every second avoiding you for the benefit of Lord Lucifer. Kage still caters to the needs of Tsumi and its reserve, he now how a place on a Council that oversees all of Tsuriai. He has relationships to uphold that are not only dear to him, but also important to keeping a peaceful balance among the Watchers. While he toils, you torment him with these selfish pranks. You have wasted centuries of his time and now you insult him. It is heartbreaking to know my sister has wasted her time looking after you. You’ve learned nothing. You appreciate nothing. You don’t even deserve to be a slave to Lord Kage’s bed.”

 “Malice, I can not in good conscious confine you here.” Kage hissed angrily. He glared at Nexus as he addressed the fairy he had parted from her sister to give Nexus a constant companion. Nexus had taken it for granted and he could no longer watch the fairies suffer. Kagemusha’s words were harsh, but the truth in them was evident. “You can return to my side with your sister. Your obligation to look after Nexus is at an end. She will not be leaving the estate.”

 “I’m sorry, Nexus.” Malice fluttered off and joined Kagemusha on Kage’s shoulder. “But I miss Kagemusha, and Kage has always been our Master.”

 “I am exhausting Lucifer’s patience.” Kage leaned to her and lifted Nexus’ face to his. “This is my last chance to save you.”

 “You’ll be the one to end my life.” Nexus smiled as tears ran down her face.

 “I’ll come to you when I can.” Kage kissed her and left without another word. Kage stopped in his office and sat quietly at his desk and Malice and Kagemusha kneeled on in it front of him. “Malice, if you wish to stay with her…”

 “Lord Kage, I have stayed with and loved Nexus for you.” Malice took Kagemusha’s hand. ”I have missed you both terribly. I want to be at your side.”

 “Then I welcome you back.” Kage leaned back in his chair. He was going to lose this battle. Lucifer was not going to tolerate much more and Nexus’ grief was becoming unbearable. “I hope your time with Nexus has not dulled your talents or your understanding of my expectations.”

 “I live to serve you, Lord Kage.” Malice bowed gracefully.

 “I have to return to Lucifer.” Kage stood. “I expect your silence and discretion.”

Malice nodded and they both joined him in his return to Lucifer’s estate. Kage imagined Lucifer was entertaining Lilith and there was another presence to see to.

 “You realize the contents of those journals was only offered to you, half-breed.” Kage poured himself a glass of wine and another for Gabriel.

 “Does it look like he is reading?” Maefyl looked up from the page and smiled at Kage. Gabriel was sitting by his feet and accepted the offered glass. “Where is Lucy?”

 “With Lilith.” Kage paced as he drank. “I had something to see to. I’m surprised to see you partaking of Lucifer’s thoughts after your recent quarrels.”

 “The recent quarrels give me a good reason to skim these page for some decency.” Maefyl muttered and returned his eyes to the book. There was more than decency in Lucifer. In every page the honesty of emotions so pure they were heart breaking. He confessed doubts and dreams to his journals that most could not even understand. He had an unfathomable capacity for love that drove most of his other emotions. Even at his cruelest; Lucifer was upholding all of creation to protect the things he loved. Among the things he held most dear, was the one he allowed to pry open theses pages. Maefyl sighed and sat the book aside. “I’m going to go take up space in the Council hall. Coming Sany?”

 “Sure.” Sanguine laid on his shoulder as he stood.

 “I’ll join you in a moment.” Gabriel kissed Maefyl as he headed from the room.

 “What is it, Gabriel?” Kage finished his glass and slid it onto a table in the corner. “You’ve been glaring at me since I arrived.”

 “I have not been glaring.” Gabriel chuckled. “I wanted to thank you properly. I know you have been looking out for Maefyl.”

 “He is my Lord Lucifer’s son.” Kage sighed. He hated to admit anything beyond obligation. “I’m also fond of him. I consider the half-breed a friend.”

 “I know.” Gabriel smiled. He had noticed Malice. Heard and saw the growing frustration over Nexus and knew Kage was at risk of suffering a similar loss as Maefyl. “He would want you to know that he feels the same. You’ve protected him, he is just as willing to be there when you need him.”

 “The two of you are infuriating.” Kage grabbed the book Maefyl had left behind and returned it to the empty place on the shelf. “I have no need of pity from either of you.”

 “Friendship is not pity, Kage.” Gabriel headed for the door. “We will both be there when you have need of it.”

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Nihil : The Things To Come : Itami

“Nikumu you shouldn’t have waited this long.” Maefyl stroked the scales of the great dragons snout. “Even one death is too much.”

“We know you have had troubles of your own, Maefyl.” Nikumu answered sadly. “We had hoped the incidents were isolated.”

“I should have been more available.” Maefyl leaned against Nikumu. “Forgive me.”

“This will be dealt with.” Gabriel assured the dragons. “Every reserve in Tsuriai will have more protection and we will find and punish those responsible.”

“All those lost will be avenged.” Maefyl vowed. “I promise you that.”

“You still have worries, Maefyl.” Fukushu sighed. “It has been too long since you came to enjoy Itami. Before you rush off for violence, rest here. Renew and calm yourself.”

“An offer I gladly accept.” Maefyl bowed his head to Fukushu. “I need some time with Gabriel without the distractions of Tsuriai. We’ll be by the falls until we go to Council.”

Maefyl found himself a cozy place in the grass by one of the smaller falls and laid there quietly until Gabriel sat beside him. Sanguine and Gory flicked their toes in the water nearby and left their Masters to finish their discussion.

“I still don’t get it.” Maefyl spoke quietly with his eyes closed. “What is this magic he has been guarding so closely. Why start forcing it on me?”

“I’ve been able to draw on it. It is potent, but I don’t have many answers.” Gabriel admitted he was at a loss. “I sought it out after Samael’s emergence, but I’ve been barely scratching the surface. If Lucy guards this power, he’ll notice if I go to far.”

“We both keep one foot in the chaos, how have neither of us ever noticed?” Maefyl was just as much scolding himself for his ignorance as he was seeking answers. “I don’t want to go digging through Raziel’s memories, but at this point I don’t know that dear old dad is going to give me an honest answer.”

“Can I ask that you wait a little longer before you dig much further?” Gabriel leaned over Maefyl and pushed his hair back from his face. “We have enough to deal with, and prying is no doubt going to lead to more than either of us have the time for.”

“Tell me to wait and I will, Gabriel.” Maefyl sighed. “Make this easy for me. Tell me to let this go and move on.”

“Will you listen?” Gabriel laughed. “You don’t any other time.”

“So make it stick.” Maefyl smirked at him. “It isn’t as if you can’t.”

“You’re asking me to hurt you.” Gabriel closed his eyes and shook his head. “I can’t.”

“I’m asking you to keep me from doing anything stupid so I don’t hurt you.” Maefyl slid his fingers around Gabriel’s neck and pulled him closer. “I love that I’m yours Gabriel. I hate that it means you suffer with me.”

“Then do as I ask.” Gabriel laid beside him and ran his finger over the band of red around Maefyl’s neck. “If I have to, I’ll save you from yourself.”

“Whatever he did; it is going to take some time to get it in check.” Maefyl had developed of habit if calling a consistent flow of chaos to him, covering himself in it, but now without the slightest beckoning the steady flow became a raging torrent and it was not just chaos that enveloped and infused him. “Every time I think I have it settled it’s like it calls itself.”

“I’ve noticed that as well.” Gabriel sighed. “Not just in you. Once I pulled from the fount, it seems to find its own way when it’s needed. It almost forces its way.”

“Hello.” Hikari landed on Maefyl’s nose and interrupted their conversation.

“Hey there.” Maefyl smiled. “Have you been staying out of trouble?”

“More or less.” Hikari sighed and fluttered to the grass beside them. “Not a whole lot of trouble to get into. Nikumu has asked most of us to stay in Itami. He says the humans can’t be trusted anymore.”

“They are just like anyone else, Hikari.” Sanguine fluttered over to defend Tsuriai. “There are the good ones and the bad ones. Nikumu and Fukushu just want to keep everyone safe. It’s probably best that everyone stay in the gardens for a while.”

“For most of us that isn’t a problem.” Hikari sighed. “Unfortunately everyone that has been lost is young. The children are playful and trusting, they wander off exploring once they learn how to jump realms and they all find Tsuriai’s mortals eventually. The humans are as exciting to baby dragons and such and we are to humans. For so long the mutual curiosity or indifference has been peaceful. The sudden violence is scary.”

“And fairies?” Gory asked. “Have we lost as well?”

“Not any of the great races.” Hikari sighed. “But yes, some of the nether races have been targeted as well.”

“Just keep as many in Itami as possible.” Maefyl was near weeping. “We will figure this out and give your freedom back.”

“I just don’t know how they could turn on us so suddenly after all his time.” Kanpeki trotted over to add her concerns. “Lucifer gave humans peace, there has been harmony among most species for so long. What have any of us done to deserve such rage?”

“I doubt it is anything so well thought out as vengeance.” Gabriel sighed. “Humans never needed a reason to be cruel in the past. The very harmony we worked so hard for has made many of us complacent. A few hundred generations of establishing peace and order is now about to break under the weight of human boredom.”

“Maybe we’ve just been to lax with the rules.” Maefyl hated to admit it but all of them had grown softer and more tolerant. First letting simple crime go unnoticed. They let pity release criminals that had loved ones; to spare the innocent grief by sparing the guilty “Might be time to tighten the reigns again.”

“We should be going.” Gabriel would much rather spend the rest of the day in the tranquility of Itami beside Maefyl, but for once he saw the need for the Council of Lords. “I want a moment with Lucifer before the Council meets.”

“You’re the boss.” Maefyl sat up and checked his pockets for gloss and eyeliner and crawled over to the waters edge for a decent reflection to work with.

“Try and avoid another argument with the Wyrms this evening, Maefyl.” Gabriel watched Maefyl lying in the grass and fixing his make up. Even as troubled as they were, he always made some of the simplest things a priority. It was a consistency he loved about him.

“How much time do we actually have?” Maefyl hopped to his feet satisfied he wasn’t going to get any prettier. “I’m going to abuse a privilege for a bit.”

“What is that?” Gabriel asked as he waited for Sanguine and Gory to join them.

“Raiding Lucy’s library.” Maefyl waved to Hikari and Kanpeki. “You two help keep things in order here.”

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Nihil : The Things To Come : The Jester’s Beauties

“Before I take you inside I should warn you; many of my creations dwell here.” Vikarr paused at his door. “With a meeting so soon it may be better to postpone this and take a walk.”

“The girly kind?” Eliza laughed as he grinned at her. “Why am I not surprised? How many of them have you slept with?”

“All of them.” Vikarr admitted playfully. “And you have no reason to be jealous of a single one of them.”

“You’re awful.” Eliza pouted a moment, but quickly became excited by the idea of meeting the creatures Vikarr had created. “I want to see what they look like.”

“Just remember this visit will be short.” Vikarr let the door swing open in front of them. “We can return later if you would like.”

Vikarr’s entrance hall was enchanting. Eliza had expected more of the black and white that seemed to dominate his every facet of life, but while the walls were white and the floor glistened in the darker hue, the walls were draped in soft colored trails of thin wispy fabrics that fluttered against the floor. The ceiling let in the gorgeous, deeply colored sky and paintings of grand landscapes hung on every wall. They looked real enough to be windows to the worlds they depicted. Eliza was captivated by more than the décor. As soon as they entered beautiful creatures ran down the grand staircases and in from other rooms to greet their Master.

“Lord Vikarr, it has been so long.” One of the many succubi who kept his estate kneeled among the others. There were dozens of them, with skin and hair in every hue. Some were remarkable human mimics and others had wings and tails that set them apart as demons. Some were naked, some draped in simple beautiful gowns, some scantily clad in suggestive outfits that would entice any man. Each one was more beautiful than the next and they all kneeled and lovingly addressed their Master and his guest. “Welcome home.”

“It is good to see you all well.” Vikarr bowed gracefully to his beauties and Eliza marvels over their sweet smiles as they bowed from their knees. He righted himself and took Eliza by her hand. “This is my bride, Eliza.”

“She is beautiful, Lord Vikarr.” One of the winged women smiled tenderly between them. “We will be delighted to serve our Mistress as we serve our Master.”

“They are all so pretty.” Eliza couldn’t even find the will to be jealous. That he had created such beautiful things, That he could have taken any of them as his bride, That he would give up his right to have such amazing women in his bed and take her as a bride instead was beyond astounding. “You are pretty amazing, Vivi.”

The succubi all giggled and Eliza flushed.

“Lady Eliza.” One of the succubi approached on her knees and took Eliza’s hand. She had skin like white chocolate and deep blue eyes that peeked out under the blue lashes that matched her gorgeous mane of hair. The small, creamy, white chocolate bat like wings that sprung from her slender back and the arrow tipped tail that matched were tipped in a rich blue that matched her eyes. “I am called Vale, if Lord Vikarr approves and if you accept. I will be your personal servant.”

“I think they like you, lovely.” Vikarr grinned. “You can have her.”

“Have?” Eliza looked at him troubled. “But she’s a person.”

“It would be an honor to serve you, Lady Eliza.” Vale laid her head against Eliza’s fingers. “To serve our creators greatest love would bring me immeasurable pride.”

“Can we get you some clothes?” Eliza crouched down and hugged the sweet creature that offered herself so eagerly. “And maybe not so much bowing and kneeling. It makes me nervous.”

“As you wish, Lady Eliza.” Vale stood proudly and her small wings fluttered as she dressed in a pale blue dress matching shoes. “You will let me stay with you?”

“When it’s appropriate, sure.” Eliza smiled. She just couldn’t say no the desperate expression. “I don’t know how things like this work. Be patient with me, Vale.”

“Don’t look so sad girls.” Vikarr addressed the others. “You will all serve her as necessary.”

“Having her with you will make it easy for you to come and go between here and Nihil with ease. It was not an offer I expected, but there are few gifts as grand.” Vale stood beside Eliza and humble accepted the adoration of her sisters. Vikarr brushed Eliza’s face softly with his fingers. “I know you will be a kind Master.”

“I think I would rather aim for friend.” Eliza smiled and turned to the smiles of the others. “That goes for all of you.”

“What are those?” Eliza grabbed Vikarr’s coat and pointed to the stairs. Tiny pointed eared critters looked over them curiously. They were like boy fairies. Though they were dressed and wingless.

“Curious little creatures.” Vikarr smiled. “Brownies. Fairies of a sort. Though don’t tell any fairy that. I’ve forgotten who created them, they were meant to be companions to the fairies, but they were ill received. They take shelter from the winged beauties that taunt them in the homes that allow it. For simple gifts they will get up to all sorts of mischief for me.”

“They are so cute.” Eliza grinned. “I’ve seen fairies since I was a girl, but never those. They could be leprechauns!”

“They’ll take longer to win over.” Vikarr leaned and kissed her cheek. “But that they’ve shown themselves to you is amazing. They don’t generally like to be seen.”

“So can I take Vale to your meeting?” Eliza asked hopefully.

“She’ll have to wait in the throne room, but yes.” Vikarr smiled at her. “She can walk there with us. It will be my first meeting, I don’t want to be late.”

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Nihil : Nihil : The Circle of Nihil Pt.2

“Wow.” Donovan leaned into Mala’s office. “Those two are something else.”

“I think they work pretty well.” Mala smiled as he dropped a stack of papers to the floor and grabbed a handful of pretzels from the bag on his desk. “Did you bring me coffee?”

“I did.” Donovan walked in and sat the cup on the desk. “I’m going to have a chat with Caleb later. Vikarr’s lovely wife might be willing to partner up and turn that garbage heap into something I don’t want to burn to the ground.”

“I vote for adding a kitchen!” Mala smiled and grabbed his coffee. “What else have you been up to?”

“Suffering my way through places I like about as much as Sordid.” Donovan wandered behind Mala’s chair and ran his fingers through the soft dark hair he had loved since they met. “I got you something.”

“More snacks?” Mala looked up at him hopefully.

“No, you goober.” Donovan laughed and pulled the gift from his pocket. Mala lit up as he unfastened the fancy locking clasp on the thin leather strap. “You better like this.”

“Put it on.” Mala bounced in his seat and smiled as Donovan slid the soft leather against his neck and tightened it until it sat perfectly centered on his throat. “Still pretty?”

“You are always beautiful, angel.” Donovan winked at him and fished the thin silver necklace out of his shirt collar to dangle the key over Mala. “And all mine.”

“Nicely done, Donovan.” Lucifer clapped from the chair in front of Mala’s desk.

“Hello!” Mala smiled and ran his fingers over his neck. The collar was soft and the thin silver ring at its center was cool against his skin. He was thrilled with the gesture and the fact Donovan had found something that had a piece he could keep with him made Mala tear up. As he greeted Lucifer he grabbed the thin silver chain and key Donovan wore and pushed magic through his fingers into it and his own collar to ensure they would never break, never fade, never deteriorate as human creations tend to. He wanted Donovan’s gift to be everything he knew it was meant to be. “Did you need our company at tonight’s gathering as well?”

“No.” Lucifer grinned. “I just wanted to congratulate the two of you properly.”

“Thanks.” Donovan started to straighten a mess of pages on the desk.

“Don’t.” Mala took his hand. “I’ll forget where everything is.”

“I hate to add more work when your head is adjusting to a new position and breaking in his bride.” Lucifer laughed at Mala’s interesting system and how he guarded his mess against his helpful husband. “But Nihil is responsible for the reserve in the north.”

“I check on it.” Donovan defended. “That place does not like me. If Mala isn’t with me the critters scatter.”

“I wasn’t accusing you of negligence.” Lucifer realized it must seem almost haunted to Donovan. Most of the creatures in Tsuriai’s reserves were bolder than those that stayed in more detached realms like the gardens of Itami and Parasek, but they were still leery of any but the demons that were meant to protect them. “I just want it monitored more closely. There have been disturbing reports of humans attacking delicate species.”

“I’ll increase my visits.” Mala frowned. “I don’t understand why anyone would attack them. None of them leave the reserve, they’ve never harmed anyone.”

“You just keep them safe, Mala.” Lucifer rose to his feet. “The Council will look into ‘why’.”

“I guess you’ll be going to see Caleb on your own.” Mala pouted after Lucifer left them as quickly as he had arrived. Mala finished his coffee before he stood and slid his arms around Donovan’s waist. “Give him a big hug for me.”

“Going to try this out first.” Donovan slid his finger through the silver ring on Mala’s collar and pulled him close to kiss him. He hated to admit it, but there was a perverse pleasure in it. He had always been gentle with Mala, but a little controlling as well. This was never a step he would have considered, but he felt Mala smiling when he kissed him. “I can see why the guy with the stripy husband likes this.”

“Stripy?” Mala giggled. “You mean Azazel?”

“Whatever.” Donovan shrugged and pulled out a part of the gift he wasn’t going to bother with. He hooked it through the ring and wrapped the length of the thin strap around Mala. “Caleb can wait. I’ll go play in the woods with you.”

“Unfortunately, this will not be playtime.” Mala shifted them both to the reserve and gave Donovan a gentle kiss and Donovan unwrapped the playful gesture when he smelled something off.

“Follow me, guardian.” A bold and sullen centaur approached the pair. His relief at seeing the demon was soured somewhat by the arrival of his vampire companion. Vampires were once human, and the creatures of this forest had no love for the mortal race. Especially now.

“It smells like death.” Donovan had visited this forest hundreds of times. With Mala the creatures were warm but skeptical of him, alone he was avoided but never felt threatened. Today it was not just uncomfortable to walk through the trees; it was misery. The creatures here were not wasteful enough to ever leave such a vulgar stench of decay. The reserve had been tainted and Donovan felt responsible.

“A pungent reminder of our losses.” The centaur explained as he led them through once lush foliage that lay broken and damaged in the path. That alone was enough to inspire the agony of loss for creatures so in tune with the nature around them, but there were deeper troubles here.

“Why did you not call for me sooner?” Mala’s eyes were already glossed with tears as the smell of rot became more powerful. “I am meant to protect you.”

“Do not weep demon.” The centaur hung his head as they walked. “This place has seen enough tears and we do not blame you for what has happened here. Many of us are still in mourning; we were not ready to burden you with these troubles. We took time to let the sting of these tragedies wane; we did not want to call on you in anger.”

“No.” Mala turned his head to Donovan’s shoulder and wept after seeing what had been done. “It was a child.”

“Unable to enjoy even a month of his life.” The centaur added sadly. The creature lying in a bed of trampled flora had been cornered, beaten and crudely butchered. Smaller creatures still gathered to offer songs of sadness and filled the ground around the fallen with tears. “He came to play and found fear and death. We are all guilty of failing to protect the child and others like him. We have had rare human visitors, but avoidance that usually prevented trouble has cost us dearly.”

“Why would anyone do this?” Donovan was disgusted and furious. The creature had been mutilated and left to gather the tears of hundreds. “He was so small.”

“At his age, he was easy to overwhelm.” The centaur was joined by one of his kin that explained what was beginning in Tsuriai. “The humans have begun to hunt the defenseless for sport.”

“This is abhorrent.” Mala shouted and drew a lance from the chaos. He was almost never quick to anger, but to see a child brutally murdered for nothing more than the brief entertainment of cruel humans brought out a long silent part of the angel and he was ready to run off for vengeance. “Unforgiveable. I will see the filth suffer for this!”

“Calm down, angel.” Donovan took Mala gently by his shoulders. He was no less disgusted. No less angry. Still he wanted Mala to be reasonable before they made more trouble than necessary. “First we need to make this place safer. We’ll hunt down the guilty once we are sure this is the last creature to fall here.”

“Thank you, Donovan.” Mala inhaled and lowered his weapon. He wiped the tears for his face and was thankful he had brought Donovan along. Alone he would have let fury steer his course. “I will call on lessers to secure the borders, and a few friends in Heaven to guide them.”

“I will more frequently come to monitor things.” Donovan offered humbly as he looked to the noble centaurs that were guilt stricken for failing to protect such a creature. “I know I am not as welcome here, but I am just as responsible for your protection. I am appalled by what has been done here and saddened to see the humans we protect dishonor this place.”

“We will see to it the forest accepts you warmly, vampire.” The centaurs bowed their heads. “If Lord Lucifer puts his trust in you, we will as well.”

“This is vile, Mala.” Donovan sighed as the centaurs trotted off. He watched Mala silently kneel beside the carcass and lay his hands against it. His fingers swam with magic and he let the earth claim the ashes and use them to build its lush memorial to the fallen.

“This is a problem.” Mala wept quietly as he noticed and lifted from the ground the broken remains of another more tender creature. His hands trembled as he held the broken wings. “These are the wings of a pixie, the most vulnerable of the fairies. They have no magic capable of defending against such cruelty. Itami’s guardians are going to be enraged.”

“Who guards Itami?” Donovan kneeled beside Mala and put his arm around his shoulders.

“Maefyl, Lord Gabriel.” Mala leaned against Donovan. “And Lord Lucifer.”

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