Read Demon Lord 6: Garnet Tongue Goddess Online

Authors: Morgan Blayde

Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction

Demon Lord 6: Garnet Tongue Goddess (2 page)

BOOK: Demon Lord 6: Garnet Tongue Goddess
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TWO

 

“I’m not Death; I don’t work for free.”

 

                                                 —
Caine Deathwalker

 

 

I dressed in black slacks and shirt, no tie.  My new belt had
Punisher
long-toothed skulls along the length, superhero-y in a Goth kinda way.  Marvel’s
Punisher
went around killing crooks because someone had to do it.  I really identified with this character; in many ways we were similar, though he had no magic tattoos.  And he worked for free. 

Sinful.

A leather jacket and unshaved face completed my “look”. 

I no longer needed to strap on my PX4 Storm Berettas.  Like my demon sword, I could now summon them to my hands from my armory, sending them back and forth for magical reloading. This made it seem like I was vulnerable.

As if.

I could fly on an airplane if I wanted.  If I weren’t on the no-fly list—under numerous identities.  There were a number of covert and not-so-covert government agencies that got nervous when I leave L.A.  It’s why I do a lot of driving.

I left my suite after breakfast.  Teresa marched along with me, her heels clicking on the floor.  Her tight little red dress matched her fresh coating of lipstick.  She clutched her purse, half tucking it under the arm opposite me—as if I were going to steal it.  I didn’t take her attitude personally; women were a suspicious lot, being prey and all.  I mean, look at her, she made very attractive bait.  It certainly got her laid last night after a lot of free drinks. 

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“To see my father.  He might have some work for me.  And he gets cranky if I ignore him too long.”

“You have a job, remember.  I have a contract.”

I stopped and turned to her, my best smile in place, the ice carefully kept from my gaze.  “Can I see this contract?  I really don’t remember what I committed to.”

She’d stopped as well, her eyes narrowing.  “Oh, no you don’t.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  This contract is going straight to my company’s legal department.”

I started walking again. 

She hurried to catch up.

“What company would that be again?” I asked.

She was distracted from answering as one of the clan demons passed us in the hall.  He had hoofed feet poking out from buff-colored coveralls.  His forearms were hairy.  And he was new.  I didn’t recognize him, just the type.  Forest demon, Celtic or Germanic.  He was stag-horned, buff, at least six-foot-six, with rusty red hair.  His eyes had golden irises with horizontal pupils.  In passing, he offered us an easy grin and a nod.

To look at him longer, Teresa rotated without stopping, coming around again to face forward.  Her voice went whispery, climbing higher in pitch.  “Is he real?”

“Define real.”

“A real demon.”

“Looked real to me, but it could have been CGI, I guess.” 

We reached the main building, the hallway opening into an antechamber lined with black marble pillars carved into demonic shapes, memorials of clansmen who’d gotten themselves killed in the line of duty.  Near the main entrance, four guards loitered, coming to a rough attention as they saw me.  In the clan house, their living masks and cloaking spells were cancelled out, forcing them to look like the demons they were.  The house magic didn’t allow subterfuge from members, or anyone trying to infiltrate. 

Teresa had seen all this last night, but had probably been too drunk to really remember.

The two guards on the right were humanoid and reptilian: one a cobra demon from India, the other possessing blue-green elements of flying fish.  The two guards on the left were mammalian.  One was a minotaur, man and bull, easily eight feet tall, not counting the massive horns that added another two feet.  Instead of street clothes he wore full armor plate, not at all burdened by the weight.  The last guard had baby-goat horns barely poking out of his forehead.

“Carry on.”  I flicked fingers at them, letting them know they could go back to chilling.  As long as they did their job, I wasn’t a ball-buster.

We passed several of the carved pillars. High-gloss lapis lazuli walls supported a thirty-foot ceiling of the same material.  Teresa stared at the etchings on the walls, murals of the bloody history of House Lauphram, going all the way back to the sinking of Atlantis.  The walls tingled my senses with the magical equivalent of CGI.  I made a point of not staring and engaging the magic, but hadn’t warned Teresa.  Her attention triggered their animated side-show.  She froze, captured by the drama.

“I’m leaving you behind,” I warned, not slowing as I crossed the foyer.

She broke away and ran to catch up.

We crossed to the double doors of the Great Hall and entered.  Five-tiered chandeliers hung overhead, casting down a dazzling white light. This was my throne room now that the Old Man had retired—with plans to marry my cousin, a full-blood dragon. 

The high ceiling and parquet floor—intricately designed with exotic woods from Africa and Brazil—made the place an echo chamber where whispers and footfalls carried far.  The side walls were incised with the name symbols of every clansman, living and dead.  There were only few demons passing through, most of them being out and about, busy with clan business or guarding the grounds of the island compound. 

I crossed the huge space, passing the coral throne with its half-shell backrest.  The Old Man liked it, but the thing wasn’t comfortable.  I planned on having a new throne made, maybe something constructed of mammoth bones, encrusted with precious stones … nothing too pretentious.

At the far wall, we entered another hallway.  I expected the Old Man to be down in the War Room.  He still handled a number of chores for me, especially dealing with the witches, vamps, and fey consulates in L.A., an “open” city, an international hub for supernaturals.

The War Room guards gave me a quick glance, their gazes skittering on to Teresa, then coming back to me—as if asking if I was really bringing one of my whores into so sensitive an area. 

“Relax,” I said.  “Apparently, she’s a client.”

We went inside the round chamber.  A bank of plasma screens showed graphic displays of the L.A. territories.  Ours was highlighted in Mediterranean blue.  Blood red indicated vampire strongholds and nightclubs.  Ginger-ale green marked the areas claimed by magic-users like the “cleaning services” we sometimes employed to keep the preternatural community secret from humankind.  Amber marked werewolf territories and those of other shifters. 

The fey weren’t represented. They visited, but kept no official presence here. They preferred Under-the-Hill, which hadn’t been part of Earth for thousands of years now—not since steel railroad lines had disrupted the ley lines in the ground over so many continents.  The Irish called these mystical connections
Fairy Paths
.  The Chinese called them
Dragon Lines. 
Peruvians used the term
Spirit Lines
.  The Australian Aborigines referred to them as
Song Paths
.  What it all amounted to was a magical transit system and a source of power now considerably weaker than in times past.

Across the room, a raised dais projected a wan moon glow into empty air, its dormant phase.  When engaged, the magic-enhanced holo display provided a link to L.A.’s Council of Lords.  In their distant War Rooms, they had the same dais set ups, allowing real-time conferencing in cases of emergency.  Things were quiet, with the Old Man using a station to play on an online role-playing game.

Teresa stared.  I didn’t blame her; the Old Man always impressed.  He sported a shaved, powder-blue head.  One of the last pure-blooded Atlantean demons, Lauphram was blue everywhere.  He wore a stretched-out polo shirt.  His pants were desert camo.  When standing, he loomed a solid seven feet.  Built like Mr. Universe, fluid scars and nautical tattoos sprawled across his exposed skin, forming the basis of his shadow magic. 

“Crap!” he roared.

The cussing was surprising for him; respectful as a demon, he followed a skewed code of honor—chaotically good instead of deliberately evil.  I didn’t see much difference really.  Having adopted me, the Old Man was the closest thing to a father I’d ever had. 

He slammed his meaty fist onto the desk in front of him, glaring at the game screen.  “Damn, I’m dead again.  And being carnally pounded by a zombie goat!  How does that even happen?”

“You can say
fucked
, Old Man.  You
are
a demon.”

He stood, trembling with rage.  “I’m going to hunt down the designer of this game and make sure he gets up-close and personal with some real zombie goats.”  He turned, coming around the chair, arching his eyebrows and flashing very white teeth.  “Ah, we have a guest.”

“This is Teresa Monet,” I said.  “She claims to be a client.”

Old Man stared at her.  “Any relation to the French painter?”

“No,” she said, “but I do like water lilies.”

“Close enough.” I said.

“What is it you are hiring my lazy, disreputable son to do for you?” the Old Man asked.

I let the insults go because I really wanted to hear the answer to that question myself.

Still clamping her purse under an arm, she advanced into the room, her gaze lifting to stay centered on the Old Man’s face.  “I’m in TV entertainment, producing a reality show dealing with the paranormal.  Maybe you’ve heard of it: Celebrity Haunted Mansion?”

“I don’t watch reality shows,” I said.  “They’re overly scripted.”

She shot me a dirty look over her shoulder.

The Old Man’s face exploded with excitement, glowing a brighter blue.  His grin widened unnaturally.  His eyes flamed red with interest.  It was painful to watch.  “Oh, I love that show!”

I muttered.  “Why am I not surprised?”

“We’ve had some trouble on set.  Apparently, the estate we rented for the series really is haunted.  There have been inexplicable accidents, strange sounds in the night, and sightings of a monstrous figure prowling the grounds.  This show’s my big break.  I can’t let it go under.”

“You’ve made a wise choice in bringing this to us,” the Old Man said.  “Hellfire must be fought with hellfire.”

“I’m not taking the job,” I said.

Teresa had her purse in front of her.  She pulled out a bundle of papers that were stapled and folded three times.  She opened the papers and showed them to the Old Man.  “Caine signed a contract.  He’s getting fifty thousand dollars to resolve matters in a week.  And there are penalties for failure to perform.”

Staring at her lovely ass, I felt myself harden, and adjusted my package.  “I never fail to perform.”

The Old Man looked over the contract.  “This appears to be legally binding.”  He looked down on me like Zeus from Olympus.  “You signed it in blood?  Who does that anymore?”

I scowled at him.  “I was drunk.  And I couldn’t find a pen.”

He folded the contract and gave it back to Teresa, keeping his eyes on me.  “You’re going to have to do it.  If we get dragged into court, there will be bad press.  We try to avoid
all
press, remember?”

I shrugged.  “So we kill her and burn the contract.  End of problem.”

She turned to me, eyes glittering, a smile of sly triumph distorting her face.  “Except I’ve already photographed the document and e-mailed it to my lawyer.  It’s been filed with the studio by now.”

“So we burn down the studio, too.  It’s less trouble than fighting ghosts.”  My palm itched for the weight of a PX4 Storm Beretta.  One thought and I could summon the weapon…  One squeeze of the trigger, and both the weapon and I could get off.

“If you kill me,” she said, “you won’t be able to sleep with me again.  Or do you take after zombie goats?”

“Damn zombie goats,” the Old Man hissed.

“And my show will go off the air.”

“Can’t have that,” the Old Man said.

I sighed in defeat.  “Fine.  Let’s go deal with your monster.”

“You’re the head of the clan now,” Lauphram reminded me.  “Take a couple soldiers to watch your back.”

“I don’t need babysitters,” I said.

“Do it anyway,” he said.  “You’re a demon clan lord and a lord of Fairy.  Your life isn’t yours to lose any more. 
Noblesse Oblige
.  Because others extend privilege, you have a duty to survive as you serve.  Live with it.”

We clashed stares.  Seconds crept by.  My natural defiance battled with a lifetime of giving in to his bullshit.  Habit won—and the knowledge that he was right. 

Damn, I hate growing up.

I sighed.  “Fine.  But if I have to be protected, they need to be smoking hot.  I have an image to maintain.”

The Old Man slanted a glance at a tech dude across the room.  “Jimmy, put out a call to all warriors currently on duty, but not guarding the grounds.  They are to report to the throne room for an opportunity to serve the clan.”

BOOK: Demon Lord 6: Garnet Tongue Goddess
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