"Don't talk, ask your questions later. For now, I must explain exactly what is going on without losing any train of thought." Hel's words were said in much haste, the troubled feelings she had were showing in the most obvious of ways as her voice trembled. It was like the very depths of the netherworld were breaking apart.
"My brothers Fenrir the wolf and Jormungand the serpent have disappeared from Hel. They left many weeks ago. Normally, we can only leave for one day a year, during the Samhaine celebrations. And, Melanthe, you know as well as I do that those celebrations are at least a mortal month away. At first, I thought that they snuck away to do the bidding of one of the Shades, sort of like hired help in exchange for more souls to feast upon, and more souls to scream in pain.
"But they never returned, and in that time, the power in its own essence has started to seep from the very veins of Helheim and… and now, where it once held fire, has become so cold, and as desolate as can be possible. It is as though every ounce of energy and aura that my home has ever held has now vanished. It is then that I left my home, alone and unguarded from attack of the other Heim, in search for my brethren. But, I can not stay outside for very long, my own energy resides inside Helheim, and I cannot leave things to their own doings for equal time. So, I must be brief in my ways.
"Though, finding my brothers proves to be far more complex than I had ever thought possible. I have been from my home, barrelling into Heaven, catapulting into Valhalla, scouring the mortal world of Earth, back to Helheim in the possibility that they had returned to home, all to no avail. As of yet, I have secretly searched in every nook and cranny possible for Fenrir and Jormungand. Everywhere, every solitary place, except here in the grand home of you and your father, except here in the Palace.
"Melanthe, I need your help. I did not search everywhere I did thoughtlessly, instead I followed the scents of my brothers, the residue of their auras. It guided me from Helheim to Valhalla, and stayed there for many days. Suddenly, it jumped into the mortals' world and yet, I could not find them anywhere. It was them that my powers were dwindling so much that I could not stay out any longer, and I returned after verifying that neither was there. Back in Helheim, I was told that neither was yet to have returned. And that very second I left, still very weak; I followed my senses to Heaven's gates. They denied me access, but agreed to scan on my behalf. Still nothing, my brothers by this time will have less than any energy, especially not enough to move as much as they have been. If I, who is stronger than both combined cannot leave for such a great amount of time, then surely something must be wrong. I suspect a kidnapping now, and as to who I suspect…
"That was when I decided to come here, though their spiritual energy had not shifted. I came to you, Melanthe, because I knew you were not the one to blame for my brothers' disappearances. Even as the Princess of Darkness, you still live unlike the rest of us who dwell here in these other dimensions. And, no matter the denial you hold in your heart about being a Devil, the magic inside of your blood is a million times more potent than any normal Devil.
"You alone can help me find them, and right the unjust wrongs placed upon my home, my Helheim." Hel's voice was on the verge of cracking in tears. If there were anything I was sensing from her, I could tell that she was far too weak, and her powers were nothing like Father's. Hel could not throw around her power and pretend she had none.
I didn't even have to think, channelling the air's humming energy into her. Without it, the goddess of the netherworld would have been too weak to search for her wolf and serpent. Then, when she was well enough, I asked her if she suspected who I thought she suspected. It wasn't hard to suspect that person when you reviewed the facts. There was one other thing I needed to know about why Hel was here.
"Does my father know?" She knew what I meant, because she didn't even ask, just shook her head and smiled. "Stay here then, I won't let my servants in. Rest, Hel, because if I have any common sense at all, I know that something wicked this way comes… with a great deal of fiery at its back." Then I left.
Aggie growled back at the wolf, then hissed at the serpent. She had stumbled upon the animals in the depths of the dungeon laboratory, where the snake-headed guy did stuff. She doubted that Melanthe knew about the laboratory, because she never went there. But, little Aggie only stumbled upon the lab by accident, falling through one of the cell walls. She never found the door into the lab, and then came to wonder if there was a door, until he came in. Not the snake-headed guy that she suspected walked through walls, but the other one. Within the windowless room, he looked like someone she never saw before, but he seemed familiar in some way. Aggie just couldn't remember exactly where she saw him.
But, he brought in the two beasts a few weeks ago, and had since come in once a week to check vitals and feed them. Still, Aggie knew that there was something wrong with the two beasts. Even though they ate, they seemed to weaken, and it made the little girl wonder if she should bring Melanthe in to give energy to them. He sure had no idea how to treat a pet. She also wondered why since the beasts came in, the snake-headed person didn't come in, not once.
Before Aggie left, she petted there heads, even if they might not have felt it. There was only one reason Aggie still lived, even in the slightly spirit form she held. Because Melanthe believed that she still existed. It was the only reason the other dimensions existed. Belief. The mortals of Earth believed that Helheim and Hel existed and that Heaven existed. They were the ones to believe that Valhalla existed. And the Devils were the ones that created the very essence of the Palace.
When the humans started dying, the Guardians and Betweens cast souls back to Earth, and like a cycle, belief kept the balances within the dimensions of mankind. The dimensions of the animal and the plant where each different, a different cycle, though still a cycle.
Little Aggie wondered down the corridors, watching the demi-mortals go about their day. After a while in the Palace, the demi-mortals seemed… complacent.
Something was going on, and it was up to me, and me alone to stop it.
… Or at least that was how I felt. I mean, ever since Nate came here, strange things have been happening. Nate was some sort of catalyst. But, there was nothing exact about his ways that would have made him like that. At the moment, I just hope that there was not going to be any more trouble, or headaches. Did spirits even get headaches?
"Hel, are you okay in here?" I asked Hel. But, she was sleeping, her body trying to absorb the energy I gave her. My energy transfers made everyone and everything fall to sleep. The energy I use isn't always compatible with beings. Even after countless times, I was still unsure of the reason why, it being raw and all, but it still made people sick. At least… my energy and the power I collected was supposed to be raw, there was no way to absolutely tell.
I smiled and closed the door. She would need a great deal rest for the amount I gave her. I turned at the sign of movement in my peripheral vision. "Aggie, you scared me," I whispered. Talking to the little girl in the halls of the Palace was a risk I did not often take. But in this one occasion, where she looked so frightened, I didn't dare be quieter than the whispers louder than wind. "Aggie, child, why have you got such a strange –" But I never got to finish that question, because the next thing I knew, a hand clamped over my mouth, and a rush of air made a hushing noise against my struggles.
What the hell was Nathaniel doing? I knew it was him by the husky tone in the air, and the colour of his skin over the large, strong hands that covered my mouth. I stopped my struggles and he released the hand over my mouth, but there was still another one around my waist. "Nate, what in blazes are you thinking, restricting me this way? Have you lost your mind?"
But a guard came down the hall before he could answer. The way he was holding me seemed strange, so he released me as the female demi-mortal nodded at us and said, "Your Highness." When she left, Nathaniel asked if we could go into my rooms to talk, and I shook my head. I couldn't explain to him the other strange phenomenon mucking about in the Palace as it was. Nathaniel and Hel had to be kept separate. Then there was Aggie.
"Me, you have to come with me, you need to help them, and these animals… they are in pain…" Aggie kept pleading, paying no attention to Nathaniel.
"Melanthe, please, we must talk, it's about Aggie…" Nathaniel just kept pestering me about Aggie.
Then there was the other interruption into my attention, as if I didn't have any already. "Princess, your father had requested your presence, as well as your demi-mortal's presence. It is time for another Devilhunt."
"You don't kill people on these Devilhunts, do you, Melanthe?" Nathaniel seemed generally perplexed at the idea of Devilhunting. I sighed; this would be the fifth time explaining it to him. We didn't kill on the hunts directly, just teased, taunted, and tormented the weak and unknown Devils. If they died, we reaped the souls and sent them through the gates to the other dimensions. The only way they even died was by suicide. On the Hunts, there would be about four or five that couldn't take it anymore – the mental anguish we inflicted with our version of fun. It wasn't our fault if they chose to die; they were stupid enough to think that we were only part of living horror. Truthfully, they could even ignore us, and almost go about their regular days if their levels of concentration were high enough, balanced, of course, only with the at least half blood of normal mortal. Blood and magic of the Devils was odd. It was like magical sickle-celled anemia, where you could have it, partially have it, or not have it at all. We target the partials, because they are so weak, and simply the most fun to toy with.
He sighed with a strange inflection in his voice. "Nathaniel, you said before that Devils had a power over us that made us come back here. In my eight years of Hunts, I've never experienced that, nor have I ever even heard of it before you came to tell me. I'm curious now. What exactly does this power entail?"
And, he told me to call him Nate… again. But, it didn't have that demi-mortal ring in it, so even though I tried, I gave up a while back. Then he never answered, and I knew that it was something that I needed to discover on my own if we encountered any on the Hunts. Sometimes I didn't like how people were so high handed, especially towards me. The Great Beings gave us free will for a reason – to make our own decisions and not have other people making them for us.
Binne and Bane brought my Hunting robes and started to undress me, ignoring the very fact that Nathaniel was there in front of me. But, before they pulled my dress off, I remembered Aggie's birthmark, the one that he would know about, the one that was on her stomach, and on mine. It was a strange thing, the mark, because countless times I tried covering it with powders and creams, but to no avail. Aggie thought it was the mark of her power… once she realized she had the power. I wasn't so sure. It was shaped almost exactly like a baby's hand, a permanent bruise from touching herself there as an infant. Still, I had to cover it as best and as discretely as I could with my hand and arm so as for him to not notice it. Then the dress came off, and I realized I didn't really need to worry about the whole thing. Nathaniel must have been too preoccupied with trying to keep his mind blank, because he was oh so inconspicuously looking up at the ceiling. I giggled at his obvious childishness.
Aggie looked down at me from the top of an armour cabinet. "When we get back from the Devilhunt, you have to come help them. They're going to die if you don't help them, Me! Please say you'll help them." I didn't know what little Aggie was blabbering about, but I couldn't ask her verbally… at the very least without the consequence of another infamous title under my dress hoop. All I could do was raising an eyebrow so that she would actually fill in some information. "There are beasts in the dungeon, and they look like they're dying from lack of power. Their nutrition and water is fine, but they don't have much power left, and if you don't help them soon, they may face the Devouring One." If Aggie feared lives and the facing of the Devouring One, then it was imperative to go soon.
Then I was suited up for the Hunt and Binne and Bane started to change Nathaniel. I turned to face the amour case full on and mouth a question at Aggie, expecting her to reply with what she replied. Something awfully strange was occurring, and whatever it was, the Palace was its base and headquarters. Hel was here because whoever was doing this, and I thought I knew, was foolish enough not to draw her here, and thereby placing suspicion on my home dimension. Stupid was the name I would call that person if it didn't make me sound so undignified and rude. Then, Aggie giggled as something behind my back, and I turned in time to see something that only before in my eyes had appeared in anatomy drawing books. Ugh, if Aggie weren't already a spirit in a spirit realm, I would murder her.
It was after Binne and Bane finished that my father came into the readying room, more so that mine and Nathaniel's combined. Father grinned at Nathaniel in a way I didn't comprehend, which was normal for Father – not wielding the ability to understand him. "You're a lucky demi-mortal. My girl only beds the most handsome of 'em. Mutton, you should come join us at the high table for dinner some time." Father didn't have the courtesy to learn my 'lovers' names, so he just made them up like a little child. Little did my father know, Nathaniel would soon… well, not quite so soon, but soon… make a very, very large impact in his life and that he would have been wise to know the name of his downfall.
Laughing as I mounted my Devil Steed, which was actually my short name for their 'proper' name Steed of the Shadowed Devilhunt, was no easy task, but I still managed it. Nathaniel seemed to be quite dumbfounded at the funny name that Father called him. Really, who could blame him? He was called Mutton after all. Even Aggie and my Devil Stead were chuckling, though Nathaniel could only hear the latter of the two. My father must have wondered what the lot of us were finding humour in, but when he asked I just shook my head and stopped laughing.
"As witness to another Devilhunt, the Palace rides tonight. Our mission is to wreak havoc to those unjust of the great powers they may wield! It is our time! Hunters of the Devil, bring forth another bountiful reaping!" My father's words echoed in the excitement charged air, and then the twenty Devil Hunters cheered wildly. Apart from recently, the Devilhunt is the least boring, and most lively event of the Palace beings. The Hunters were composed of at least twenty-eight beings of the Palace including demi-mortals, shades, darkling beings who wanted nothing but supreme order, lightling beings who wanted nothing but supreme chaos, the occasional gremlin, my father, and me. "Steeds of the Shadowed Devilhunt let us ride tonight! Onward, Hunters," my father finished the chant. Then the steeds created their own noises and we were off, through the dimensional portal that carried us to the home of the living corpses, vessels for souls in that one realm.