Home > Elijah (Nightwalkers #3)

Elijah (Nightwalkers #3)
Author: Jacquelyn Frank

PROLOGUE

Whosoever wishes to know the fate of Demonkind must consult these prophecies…

…as magic once more threatens the time, as the peace of the Demon yaws toward insanity…

…it will come to pass that in this great age things will return to the focus of purity that Demonkind must always strive for. Here will come the meaning and purpose of our strictest laws, that no uncorrupted human shall be harmed, that peaceful coexistence between races shall become paramount…

-Excerpts from The Lost Demon Prophecy

…it is therefore forbidden for any of Demonkind to mate with creatures who are not their equals, not of their nature, not of their strength and power. Those lesser creatures are ours to protect from ourselves, not to be violated in impure sexual abomination. This is the law and the will of nature. The dog does not lie with the cat; the cat does not lie with the mouse. Whosoever breaks this sacred trust must suffer under the hand of the law…

-Excerpts from The Original Scroll of Destruction

Elijah fell to his knees, clutching at his chest as warmth spread between his fingers, staining them and his white shirt a bright crimson. He looked down at the blossoming picture of his life's essence spreading over the material, almost with the fascination given to the sprawling, artistic circlets of a tie-dyed shirt.

The warrior Demon was astounded.

He had been injured repeatedly over his centuries-long lifetime. He was certainly no stranger to it. Everything from mystical electricity to wicked blades made of the brutal, burning iron that was so toxic to his kind had cut into him in one way or another over the ages. Some wounds had been serious enough to leave scars in spite of his remarkable innate healing powers, some had not. But never had he been injured in a way he would consider a truly mortal wound. Mortal to others was not mortal to him. Mortal to the average Demon was also not mortal to him, if only because of his stubborn refusal to succumb to something so passe as death.

However, in this case it was not simply because a hole was torn through his chest and very near the vital workings of his heart that his life was threatened, but because he was in the middle of nowhere, too weak to call for help, and surrounded back and front by enemies. Even if he could somehow find the stamina to survive this rending intrusion into his body, these enemies would not let him live any longer than they wanted him to.

Elijah was immediately furious with himself for ending up in this predicament. He was Captain of the Demon warriors, the elite army at the beck and call of the great Demon King. He was the most skilled fighter of all Demonkind, a Nightwalker race renowned for its awesome abilities in battle. He had lived all the centuries of his life honing his craft, learning everything there was to know about battle, war, and the weapons and strategy required for success in those situations. Jacob, the Demon Enforcer, and his liege lord, Noah, the Demon King, were the only ones he would have considered his equals in battle prowess. He was not supposed to be so stupid as to fall into even the best laid traps, nor capable of being bested once caught by said trap.

Even without training, at their hearts all Demons were essentially battle-ready beasts. He believed that-it was a personal philosophy-and he strongly felt that no matter how heavy the veneer of civilization within their race, or within the individual, there were instincts that could not ever be denied. Sure, Demons looked human, although taller and tanner than average, but they were considered extraordinarily attractive when in human circles. Elijah knew this was because the elemental and animal genetics within them allowed for heightened pheromones that called out to the opposite sex, a predatory sense of awareness that exuded attractive danger, and the extraordinary eyes behind which settled extraordinary cunning and intelligence. All the qualities of natural-born hunters, always seething just beneath the surface, waiting for someone to make themselves prey. Demons were capable of behaviors as untamed as the elements they claimed their great powers from, behaviors they had embraced and integrated into every skill they cultivated in their long lifetimes, making them formidable opponents to those who managed to get on their distant bad sides.

Thus, even the most juvenile of fledglings could have avoided his current predicament, the warrior thought crossly to himself. So to be caught like this, like a weakling mouse in a trap, was shameful and enraging. How had the act of doing his duty suddenly turned on him? He was the Warrior Captain, the stalker of all Nightwalkers with a price on their head, those who were not of the Demon race who had committed egregious acts and sins against the Demon people, a direct challenge and insult to the Demon King. He was the specialist in all those species, an anthropological strategist. If anyone wanted to know the true ways of how to destroy Vampires, Lycanthropes, and most every other Nightwalker species, Elijah would be the best source of information. War and peace were, unfortunately, transient things, and it was his duty to be prepared for all possibilities, in case friends became enemies or enemies threatened friends.

Elijah fought off a passing cloak of dimming consciousness and the spinning of his immediate surroundings. It was he alone who belonged at the head of his monarch's armies when needed, and he who must train the spies and assassins who would slink through the cloaking shadows in the face of threatening intrigue. Therefore, he knew everything anyone could currently discover about the humans who dabbled in the perverse arts of black magic. The same kind who stood around him that very moment, circling him like vultures awaiting the end to a victim's final death throes.

The use of this corrupt power turned these foolish human men and women into necromancers, staining their souls with the inky dye of evil and embedding a stench so foul into their flesh that no Nightwalker with a clean soul could bear to breathe the odor of it. They were powerful, capable of growing even more so the more they studied and practiced their vile arts, but they were not powerful enough to capture him, never mind kill him. No, only his stupidity could have provided that opportunity to them.

He must have looked like a holiday turkey, breaking through the tree line and stepping into their trap, necromancers all around, as well as the human hunters who spent time chasing down myths so they could torture and kill them. Mortals who took it upon themselves to not only uncover the existence and locations of the hidden Nightwalker races, but made it their personal quest to eradicate them from the planet armed with little more than myth, legend, and ignorance.

Demons were one of the least exposed Nightwalkers in human mythos, but species like the Vampires and the Lycanthropes were not so lucky. Stories of them abounded, whether accurate or not, titillating the avid hunter into stalking them, looking for proof and personal vindication, occasionally getting lucky in their bloodthirsty quests. For the hunter, it was a victory, a mental trophy. Mental only. The body of a dead Nightwalker would often look very little different from that of a murdered human being, so it was not exactly one of those treasures a hunter could mount on his wall and tell stories about. At least, not to anyone outside of his own secret society of deranged heroes.

It was becoming far too common an occurrence lately, finding the ashes of Vampires left staked in the sun, Lycanthropes shot and stabbed with the silver weapons that poisoned them, and even Demons impaled by weapons made of scorching, disfiguring iron. That was, of course, when the Demons were not instead being Summoned into the mutilating destruction of the necromancers' tainted pentagram traps. Murder upon senseless murder, and between these two groups of humans, the list of victims would go on.

It was a painful betrayal. Demons had always held human mortals in such precious esteem, much in the way a parent protects its young, developing child. They and the other civilized Nightwalkers fiercely protected these humans, perhaps instinctively knowing that though they were not empowered themselves, left to grow and develop, they might someday become so. It would be a beautiful evolution to watch in the centuries to come. Though Demonkind knew it was only a comparative handful of mortals who sought to harm them, it still stung bitterly. And now, with hunters and necromancers joining forces, the danger had doubled for them all.

Tripled, the warrior thought dryly.

Elijah knew he was close to death in that moment, with that thought. The warrior within him would never indulge in reflection during a battle that required all of his attention. But this battle was all but over, so it left him a few precious seconds to reconcile the thoughts in his head. It seemed ironic that these badly informed humans, who sought to destroy the empowered races they so thoroughly feared, would not feel threatened by the black magic they now consorted with. What, Elijah wondered, in their minds, was the distinction? What made a Demon, born and gifted of the clean and beauteous elements of the Earth, so reprehensible to these humans? And yet, the embalming of evil magic that bled through necromancers was suddenly being lauded and accepted by the very same self-righteous groups?

Was it as simple as the fact that the average human mortal was too outbred, in evolutionary sixth sense particularly, to feel or smell that innate evil? Were they really such a child race that they did not have the instinct to determine good from evil, right from wrong, on a purely intuitive level? Certainly, the moment they stepped on the path, there would be no recognition of the error as they were pervaded and overrun, but was there no forewarning at all within them?

These were answers Elijah did not have and, it seemed, would not find in what was left of his lifetime. After over five centuries, thousands of battles, and thousands of victories, it seemed Elijah's so-called immortality was about to come to a decided end. He had finally caught the wrong tiger by the tail.

Or should he say tigress?

Elijah lifted dark, forest green eyes, full of malice and contempt, to his attackers, who were all standing so proudly in their defeat of him. The hunters and necromancers surrounding him were all women, part of an all-female sect the Demons had recently become aware of. What burned his emotions with the intensity of a wildfire, however, was the presence of the two female Demons standing at the forefront of these murderous feminine forces.

Traitors.

The Demon on the right, the one known to him as Ruth, was a very powerful Mind Demon. In fact, she had been the firstborn female to that youthful element, which had existed in the Demon culture for only a little over five hundred years. She was an Elder, formerly a Great Council member, who had helped form the very roots of Demon society and law over many, many years. The magnitude of her defection was immeasurable. Elijah could barely wrap his mind around the concept.

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