Excerpt from “The Night With No Relief”

Hello all. Once again it has been forever since I’ve posted here so I thought I’d share a little bit of a story I’ve been getting ideas for lately. It comes from a novella series I’ve decided to revamp and give another try. I’ve actually started releasing the first novella, “Dirty Synth”, on Kindle Vella but, if I’m honest, it hasn’t gotten that much attention and I’m not entirely sure I like the format.

Anyway, now for a quick overview of the world and general story. The setting is post-apocalyptic fantasy. Eighty years ago, all hell broke loose. Literally. When the rift was torn wide open between Hell and the material plane, a demon horde ravaged the planet. When the rift closed it left the demons trapped above world. The remaining races have since made shaky peace with one another to coexist on what little of the world can support life. Everyone except the demons. Hell blood threatens to destroy the rest of society as the throne fights to save it.

The idea behind making the series novellas is to tell it from different characters’ POVs. The shorter pieces allows for more characters to speak and expand the world and setting. I also thought it would be fun to take votes from readers on who they would like to hear from. Maybe some day if the project ever gets enough attention. If it doesn’t, I’ll still have fun writing it. Just a heads up these novellas are also NSFW though this particular excerpt is.

The second novella is told from Niko’s perspective, who you meet in the first story. Since no one has read it, I’ll give a short intro to the character. He’s an elf and demon half breed, a product of the fall that ravaged the planet, and an exile from the elven nation because of his dirty blood. He used to work for the demon-run mob but currently works for the throne as an informant and, if need be, assassin.

With all that having been said, I make this disclaimer. These words have not been through an editor. They are raw and fresh. I do hope you enjoy my boy as much as I do. Cheers!

From “The Night With No Relief”:

I came to with a jerk and a groan, except my body didn’t move. It did hurt a lot, though. My head was instantly pounding. My mouth was dry, and when I pulled my eyelids back the light shot a lance of pain through my temples. That’s when I realized I wasn’t alone.

Another twitch that would’ve put me on the defensive instead made me realize I was bound. A glance downward told me it was chain. I was in an upright position, sitting, and apparently not going anywhere any time soon. Then I remembered how I got here.

I felt my eyes get wider despite my instinct to play it cool. They also lifted to really take in the figure standing several feet in front of me. My heart took a long fall to the pit of my stomach. This was bad. Maybe even the end for me.

He was more wild than I had ever seen him. His silvery, silky hair that used to brush his ribs was done in a shaggy and jagged cut that fell across his impossibly dark-blue eyes. Those eyes used to remind me of a nighttime sky with no stars. They were hard to forget though now the whites of them were bloodshot.

He was wearing a loose-fitting black jacket that draped around his slender shoulders, the zipper undone so the jacket was dangerously close to sliding off of him. A black chain hung around his neck bearing a large arcane symbol with a red jewel in it. It rested against a white shirt that had fresh red smears on it.

I almost wouldn’t recognize him if it weren’t for the faintly-glowing familial tattoos that rimmed beneath each eye in silver. There were metal plugs in the bottoms of his long tapered ears and multiple hoops through the pointed tips of them. He looked like some kid who just wandered out of the club I guessed was now above us by the faint thumping of the music. His face was the same ageless smooth it always had been but now there was a gleam of madness in his regard. Maybe a lifetime’s worth of infernal influence would do that to any psyche, but he seemed to have taken to it.

He was staring at me in a way that made me wonder if he even remembered me. He was standing utterly still, rolling a joint between his thumb and forefinger like maybe he had forgotten he was holding it. One end was lit. The smoke drifted between us. I knew the smell right away. Elven Redleaf, good shit by the potency of the tang in the air. It wasn’t a drug that could be safely consumed by the general population, anyone who didn’t have elf blood. The problem was I did.

My muscles relaxed in a wave. I couldn’t help it. The smoke filled my nostrils and I couldn’t move to stop it. All I could do now was hope I had enough concentration to keep my head straight and enough constitution to resist the rising tide of pleasure that I knew would be coming any time.

This time when the joint moved against his fingers it was captivating. He lifted the thing to his lips with a patience only old elves could achieve, so unhurried and deliberate it threatened my own madness. The way the smoke rolled into then out of him was a force of nature. The cloud hit me in the face in slow motion.

For the elves across the Southern border, the ones who turned me out as a child, Redleaf was a contemplative trancing substance. For me, it silenced the hell blood that was always at war for my self-control. It drew out a side I hadn’t found anywhere else but him because he was the only elf I had ever known after my exile.

A’Meko, my old boss. More than just a boss. He taught me damn near everything, got me set up in the ranks of the demon overlords I eventually betrayed. He was the biggest enigma I had ever met. He didn’t leave the elves because he had to. He did it because he wanted to and he fell in naturally with the hell bloods. He never would tell me why they accepted him so fully, but he was basically family when it came to the big three who ran the entire underworld.

“Where’s your dog?”

I thought I sounded pretty convincingly unconcerned that I was bound to a chair by enough chain to stop an army, staring down the man I did dirty, and his right-hand man who was never far away didn’t seem to be here. I thought I was doing a great job pretending I wasn’t still panicking even through the ebbing euphoria that threatened the edges of my composure. The lines in my vision were starting to blur.

The question didn’t even come out as bitter as it could have considering he took Go’Ren as his student even before I left. A’Meko’s decision to do so had always rubbed me raw because Go’Ren was arguably more exotic than I was. Shifters were about as common as demon-elf mixes, and he was a fox. I never did like to be outshone.

A’Meko didn’t answer. He just crossed one arm across his chest and cradled the elbow of his smoking hand. The smoke curled around his delicately featured face and, though his expression didn’t change at all, there was a quiet menace in his attention. I damn well knew there was no mercy behind that impassive expression.

It was my own fault I was going to die in that room. I got sloppy, wandered into enemy territory with a confidence that I wouldn’t come face to face with one of the bosses, secure in my old knowledge of how they operated. And I was wrong. So wrong.

I could hear my heart beating in my ears. The Readleaf was in my bloodstream and it seemed to make my pulse hammer in time with the music that now felt like it was pressing against me like a tangible shadow. The room was hot suddenly, impossibly so. Sweat immediately rose to my surface and made my black button-up stifling. Right, how could I forget that A’Meko effortlessly wielded heat and light magic? Maybe because magic was so rare it was easy to forget it even existed. Ironically, he was also one of the few who could use healing magic, but I had only ever seen him to do it to extend the suffering of someone by his hands.

A’Meko took a languid step toward me that had all my other trigger responses failing in the face of the fear that took over. He did it as slowly as he did everything else, unbothered by the rest of the world’s definition of urgency. He simply wouldn’t be rushed. I used to find the trait fascinating and even enviable. It wasn’t a state I could achieve for the impetuous nature of my demon half. Just now, I didn’t find it anything but terrifying.

It felt like a year watching him approach me, like time just distended and broke around him. Even though he had fully embraced Hell his movements were still the pure grace of the elven race. It was a stark contrast to the brute force of demons and it was almost enough to distract me from the way my breaths were speeding up.

The Redleaf had a firm hold by then. I felt like I was floating above the floor. The chains and the pain felt far away. The fear became a distant cloud in my chest. Everything looked fuzzy except for him as he stopped just inches away from me and looked down. It was another eternity before he spoke.

“How many of my ranks have you killed, Niko?”

It took me a moment to realize he was speaking Elvish to me. The cadence and the slow perfectly-pronounced syllables sounded like a song that nearly lulled me into a trance that would usually have been impossible for me to enter. The moment prodded at memories that had been locked down for years, quiet moments spent with A’Meko, smoke listing between us just like now, with him guiding me in meditation the likes of which I had never known.

I shook my head to try to clear it some. It wouldn’t help. The hand holding the joint was too close to my face and I couldn’t help but breathe in more smoke. I would face down any one of the big three no problem but there was something inherently different when it was an elf with endless patience and no qualms with making someone suffer.

Then it occurred to me that he asked me a question. He didn’t really expect me to answer that, did he? Like I had a concrete number anyway.

He lifted the joint to his lips and took a long draw without taking his eyes off of me. If I could move I’d have been squirming under his scrutiny. He blew his smoke at the ceiling this time, not that it mattered, I was already high.

Then he said, “You have managed to do so with a ruthlessness and efficiency that impresses me. You’ve applied everything I taught you with great efficiency. However, in the end, you have become a rat, lesser than all the trash that populates this city, and for a throne that would put you down as quickly as any wounded animal. You have become my greatest disappointment. And you have served yourself to me so readily.”

He reached down with his free hand and tilted my chin up with the gentlest touch. My nerves turned to static at the contact and coherent thought went skittering into chaos. My breath was hanging painfully in my chest. His fingers were so hot they scalded my skin. The steady way he met my gaze told me there would be no taking this gracefully.

“Si’Krey suggested making you the next feature upstairs, and while I quite like that idea, the public shame to go along with the torture, this is a rather more personal matter that I choose to handle myself. The bare truth here is that you betrayed me after I gave you the world.”

The Redleaf had disconnected the speech center of my brain by then, but it also gave me an insight I could’ve done without. By engaging my deep elven center of awareness he had assured that I would see my own pain from new heights. It would be a brand new level of agony.

The realization, the very real fear, all of it must have been plain to read in my eyes because he made a tiny smile, glaring in its modesty, that gave me chills despite the heat that radiated from him. I knew one thing for certain, none of the demons, not even the three bosses could rival A’Meko’s zest for cruelty and knack for exacting it at an excruciating pace. I was about to have a very bad time.

Published by ajthewordwitch

Writing is in my bones, my blood, and my heart.

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