The Candy King
(A/N: I'm back! :D Read and enjoy.)
... my darling, let me tell you the tale of the man who devoured the ninety-nine and the one and became one of the damned...
His mother's voice wove around him like cloudy ink in a memory long past, a remnant of his childhood. She used to love telling that story to him, especially on nights like these when the luminous crack in the black sky of the Underworld shone brighter than normal. It gave the air a sleepy haze, which was quite perfect for storytelling.
Royce chewed on his cinnamon stalk, feeling the spice roll around his tongue. He turned from the stained-glass windows, moving his gaze across the dimly lit hall. This was the part of the Keep that they called the Forsaken Corridor, a place he'd only heard about in stories before today. It was said that the hall was spelled, and Royce could attest to that. Outside, it appeared to be the size of a small ballroom, but from where he stood it seemed endless. It probably was. He could feel the spatial distortion as a distant vibration in his thoughts. Towering glass windows stood all sides around the hall, illuminating the thousands of statues scattered throughout the area.
The one that stood nearest to him was of a harpy, her wings thrust behind her. Rage contorted her once-beautiful features as her mouth opened in what was most likely her dying scream. He touched the tips of her wings, wondering how soft her feathers must have been before the obsidian overtook her.
A slight shift in the air alerted him to a presence nearby, familiar, but making no move to come closer. His lips quirked slightly, and he said, "Good evening, Kin-shara."
His companion snorted before moving to stand a little ways behind him. "Not particularly. But you already know that."
Royce glanced at the aelf. He was draped in the rough spun robes of the King's slaves, though it didn't do much to hide the lithe figure underneath. Silvery-blond braids escaped the hood he wore, loose about his face like plaits of the finest silk. His elongated ears were embellished with all sorts of rings, from onyx to the purest silver, painful reminders of his stature as a slave. Royce tipped his hat to him.
That set his lips in a thin line and Royce almost snickered. It amused him greatly to see how much Kin-shara detested him, although he wasn't quite sure why. It didn't matter. Pissing him off was curiously funny and Kin-shara was just so expressive, something rare for one of the ylfe. They were usually quite skilled at masking their thoughts.
"What happened to a cloaking spell?"
Royce shrugged. "It does not matter."
Kin-shara paused, as if he were about to say something, but scowled instead. "The mistress is waiting. We must go." He told the demon, rather irritably. Royce nodded and followed when the aelf turned on his heel.
They moved through the dark halls of the castle, a maze of rooms and halls designed to confuse even the most skilled of thieves. Royce had never lived in the Keep, but even those who did would never be able to navigate through it on their own. It was widely known that a spell had been placed over the castle, one that shifted the rooms and the corridors from time to time and would make anyone lose their way without one of the lanterns keyed to the spell, like the one that Kin-shara held. It made the castle both a prison, and a near-impenetrable fortress.
Even if it seemed deserted, it wasn't. One would expect the central structure of the Underworld to be bustling with activity, but ever since the ascension of the current King, the Keep was almost always silent. Occasionally, they'd hear a sound; a stray giggle or the faintest of whispers from some of the rooms, but more often the mournful howls of the hellhounds guarding the exterior of the castle would permeate through the stone walls. The only lights filtering through the corridors were of the candelabra set alternately along the walls, casting orange glows along the carpeted floor. As Royce and the aelf walked further along, though, the fires began to dim, seemingly swallowed up by the endless shadows that lurked along the corners of the structure.
Kin-shara could feel the demon's footsteps behind him as they moved through a room with large, windows to the left, illuminating the gardens. It came to him as ripples: long, soft... and the bastard was walking right where anyone could see him through the glass. Kin-shara suppressed the urge to growl. The damned demon was more trouble than he was worth. He honestly couldn't fathom why the mistress tolerated Royce's lack of discretion.
Kin-shara swiveled his head to glare at him and hissed, "The objective, demon, is to not be seen."
"Yours, perhaps," Royce replied without even turning to look at him. "But I? Oh, I live to be seen." Then he gave Kin-shara a wide, slow smile, chocolate eyes bright with a predatory gleam that made the aelf step back a little. "After all, what's the point of wearing tight leather if you have no one to admire you for it?" he laughed, turning to look out the window.
Kin-shara tried to muster up a retort, but found that nothing came to him. He held his tongue and continued to lead the demon to the apex of the stone fortress.
By the time they reached their destination, the fires had all but disappeared, and the air became freezing. Ice decorated the surrounding area, powdering the roughly hewn stone walls with alabaster flakes. Royce watched his breath turn visible, frowning slightly.
"I detest the cold." he mused and turned to Kin-shara. "Don't you?"
He wasn't listening to Royce. His eyes were on the small, onyx door standing before them, a cluster of black spikes decorating it on each side. It was the only thing around them that wasn't frosted over. There were no handles or locks on the door, only a rusty plate sitting directly between the barbs.
Kin-shara brought up his hands and Royce watched as he impaled them on the spikes, though the fair-haired aelf didn't so much as flinch. Silver blood began flowing from his hand, coating the needles in it.
The fluid drained into the plate, which slurped noisily as it drank. A multitude of lights flashed beyond the door, like a sudden aurora, before fading into a dull hum. Slowly the ice began to recede, pulling back until it disappeared behind the door.
Drawing his hands back, Kin began mumbling a string of croons and hums. Royce watched as the wounds began to stitch back together, smoothing over until only flawless skin remained. He'd seen their healing ability before, but it never ceased to amaze him.
"What a wonderful ability." Royce remarked. The aelf stiffened at his words, and Royce just laughed. "Don't worry. As coveted as that is, I have no intention of taking it from you."
Kin remained expressionless, but Royce could tell he was relieved. Just slightly. The door creaked open then, letting out a burst of icy wind. Only darkness reigned beyond the entrance.
"I will stay here." Kin-shara suddenly said, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. "I must keep watch. Hurry up." He breathed deeply and closed his eyes.
"As you wish." Murmuring a soft farewell to the aelf, Royce stepped into the black abyss of what lay beyond.
The moment Royce stepped into the room, the door swung shut, enveloping him in a blanket of darkness and frost. Despite the cold, the air was thick, laden with some viscous aura that climbed into his nose and mouth. So this was the prison his mistress was being kept in. He felt like he had stepped into his own personal hell.
The sudden, clear tinkle of metal tore him out of his thoughts.
"Royce, darling." The familiar velvet tone of his mistress washed over him like a ray of warmth, allowing him to let loose a breath he had been holding in. "What took you so long? I've missed you terribly."
A smile crept up his face, and the heavy feeling lessened at the sound of her voice. "Forgive me, my lady. I will try to be more punctual the next time you get placed under confinement."
"Confinement? Oh no, dear, don't say that, it will upset my little cousin," she cackled. "Who thinks he can keep me in here. But anyway," He heard her snap her fingers, metal clinking against each other.
A globe of light began to burn, softly illuminating the darkness. Now he could see her figure outline behind a curtain of silk, her long body stretched out on the canopied bed. His mistress's hands gently cupped the sphere.
"You do know what this is, don't you?"
"Yes." he replied, sobered. She brought her hands through the soft curtain, the lights dancing on her tanned skin. The gold bangles encircling her wrist chimed together as she handed it to him.
Royce took the glassy ball from her hands, cradling it with his own gloved ones. The light, like an electric bulb, flickered when he touched it, fading to a very soft glow. Suddenly, the chill of the room fled his skin, and warmth began to seep into his bones.
"Remember, Royce. It must be one of the purest intentions."
"Good. You better go before the hellhounds realize you're here," she said, switching the topic. "While I rot away in this hellhole. Oh, and try to visit me sooner next time." A pause. "Well, at least until I get really, really bored and decide to leave."
"Don't worry." Amusement tinged his tone. "I will. Until next time, my lady."
"Bye-bye, my dear Candy King. 'Till next time."
It was a clear dismissal. He heard the door open once more, and Royce gave a bow before he left, carefully carrying the sphere in his left hand. The obsidian gate closed behind him, like a vacuum that sucked in all the heat from the air. Ice began to form over the walls and the flooring, sealing the door shut once more.
Kin hadn't moved an inch from the time Royce had entered the room, and now he observed the demon with his cloudy eyes. An unreadable expression had crossed Royce's features, pulling a slight curiosity from Kin. Just what had happened inside the room?
"How is the mistress?" Kin-shara asked. Royce could see the worry that passed through his features, a rare emotion for one such as Kin-shara, though he knew that the mistress was more than deserving of it. She'd saved the aelf when he was at his deathbed, earning his unwavering loyalty and devotion.
"She is well enough to spite the King." Royce answered, his lips curving a little.
"Good. If we are finished here, you must leave."
Royce nodded. Taking his top hat, he popped the sphere into it then set back atop his spiky, bubblegum pink hair. Kin-shara saw a dark look cross his face, but it flashed through the demon's features so quickly Kin-shara wondered whether he imagined it or not. "Farewell." The Candy King opened up a dimension rift, its inky depths reaching out to him with little tentacles. It didn't matter if he used his abilities now; he did what he was supposed to do, and he wasn't returning. Even if he left traces, the dimension rift would cut off any other trails, so they wouldn't be able to track him.
The words of his mistress rose in his thoughts once again. Remember, Royce. It must be one of purest intentions.
He knew, and it made his head ache. Not that it mattered. It was already too late to turn back. Royce allowed the rift to pull him into its fathomless depths with just one destination in mind.