by Yamila Abraham
“I must ask you–with greatest respect, Lord Demon…” The general looked up with eyes maddened by fury. "Why do you drape your arm around the Divine Emperor with such intimate familiarity?“
Rodukjo stared down his nose at the general. "Your emperor has but one thing of value to offer in exchange for my fealty. The pleasures of his body.”
Newly crowned Emperor Dianese needs the power of the lascivious demon Rodukjo to solidify his authority. The mighty demon asks for a dear price in exchange for his aid, one Dianese has no choice but to accept.
The emperor expects a life of suffering at the hands of the demon, but as their partnership evolves something more profound develops.
- A FULL-LENGTH novel presented in its entirety–not a series.
- Intense erotica with elements of bdsm.
- A fantasy realm more typical of anime than fairy tales.
- The well earned HEA comes after numerous twists and turns!
- The author’s longest and most satisfying work to date.
- Fans of Yamila Abraham’s Vanquished Series will love this book!
Emperor Dianese exited his coach where the road ended in Farravie forest. He could hear the waterfall, though it was at least a mile off, as well as the trilling of cicadas. The forest had dense overgrowth that allowed only a few blades of sunlight to crack through. Dianese filled his lungs with a long draw, then exhaled with a slump of his shoulders. He hoisted a large leather satchel onto his shoulder. His attendant, Tessai, lunged for it in protest.
"Let me carry that, Divine Emperor."
"You're not coming with me."
Tessai eyes bulged. Though a sword cut had rendered him too lame for battle, he was still dense with muscle. His shoulders were broad enough to easily handle the bundle. On Dianese's delicate frame it looked as though he were an ant carrying twice his body weight.
"Divine Emperor, you shouldn't go alone. There could be assassins."
Dianese ignored him to make his way through thickets that threatened to destroy the fine silk fabric of his robes.
Tessai stayed planted beside the coach behind him, as he would never disobey a command, yet still cried out to the young emperor.
"Divine Emperor! Why will you not let me help you?"
Dianese turned to meet his servant's eyes. "I must do this alone. If I don't return in two hours time, you may come to look for me. But if you come sooner than that, Tessai, I will demand your suicide."
Tessai's eyes bulged once again. "My Lord..."
Dianese gave a gentle smile to ease the sting of his threat. "I'll be fine, Tessai." He continued on until his servant was no longer in earshot.
His silk curl-toed shoes with ivory soles had no traction on wet leaves. Dianese had to scramble on hands and knees to get over even the shallowest gully. His burden made it feel as though a fire had been lit between his shoulder blades. Then he grew aware of his labored breathing, and how his sweat caused some of his feathery tresses of blue hair to stick to his forehead.
A toppled great oak offered a tempting place for him to rest in a clearing. Dianese didn't have to check his pocket watch to know he was already taking far too much time to reach the waterfall. If he rested then he risked coming back after dark. Even if he could find his way back to the road, their coach would likely fall prey to blockades on the way back to the city. He thought it fine to pay a few unscrupulous tolls, but Tessai would rather coat himself in their blood than suffer such disgrace. If one got the better of his attendant, then what would Dianese do? He could never make it back to the castle without a guardian. Even his mile-long trek with a bundle of bones was proving a greater challenge than he'd imagined.
The air became electrified with the cleansing aura a massive waterfall produced. Dianese came around two ancient trees broader than houses, and then spied the clearing. A roaring waterfall poured into a misty crater that led to the underworld. The spraying water had drowned any grass growing near the hole, leaving a bare circle of sodden peat.
Dianese ventured as near to the crater as he dared and let the bundle drop from his aching shoulders. He dropped as well, getting muck on the shimmering silk of his green dressing gown. For a while he could do nothing but gasp and wait for his pain to abate. Then he settled back on his bottom to behold the glistening water as it disappeared into the abyss.
He had to look wretched. He'd dressed for a royal ceremony, the kind he should have been carried to in a pristine litter so that his dainty feet never touched the ground. This was to give a good impression to the demon. He wanted to be sure he knew the highest manner of noble was summoning him. Lack of experience had caused him not to anticipate the rigors of his journey.
Dianese wished to wash his face, since his powder had certainly been ruined by sweat, but he dared not get near enough to the crater to scoop some falling water into his hands. He instead drew out a handkerchief and wiped his face clean. This renewed his confidence. Even without make-up he knew his face was incomparably beautiful.
He forced himself to his feet to dump out the bones: a gozz-hound's tooth, the leg bone of a giant tortoise, the lower jaw of a giant, the finger of a tangador bat, and, wrapped in cloth, the skull of a virgin queen whose eye sockets had been filled with jewels.
Each relic brought him back to the time and place when his father had obtained them. Two thousand brave men had died to battle the gozz-hound. Not a one of them understood what their sacrifice was for, or why they hassled the reclusive beast who was a threat to no one. Then the tortoise, so beautiful a creature and over 1,000 years old. None understood why the former emperor Ryuinto had ordered that its species be made extinct. The giant was simply a man who had grown to gargantuan proportions due to reasons of ill health. No one claimed he was cursed, as they might have done with someone who was less well-liked. He had a wife and a large brood of children who all relied on his income as a carnival sideshow act. He'd committed no crime, yet was still slaughtered at the whim of Ryuinto. The final relic had to be obtained through war, two hideous years of it. Fanterah suffered famine and poverty at levels they'd never known before, and a generation of children would now be reared without fathers. Their enemy had been a valued trading partner who'd never crossed them. Emperor Ryuinto first killed the king and then his only daughter, who'd become queen at the age of 13 after her father's death.
Dianese scattered the bones around the perimeter of a circle large enough for him to sit in. He took his place, and then felt a cold in his middle so profound he hugged his arms close to his body to warm himself.
Dianese's lower lip trembled. He swallowed, closed his eyes, and whispered a soft oath.
"You must. You must. It's all that matters. You must, Dianese."
He gave a deep sigh to still his rioting nerves, then bowed as low as an envoy from a lessor country might bow to him. His forehead rested on his hands, which rested on the earth.
"Come forth, Rodukjo." His voice was weak even in his own ears. He cleared his throat. "Come forth, Rodukjo. It is the Divine Emperor Dianese Diancanchi who summons you."
Dianese's pulse thundered in his temples. He'd not only heard the deep voice, but now sensed an encompassing presence mere feet from him.
He lifted his head slowly. Seated on folded legs outside his circle of bones was a demon twice the size of his large attendant Tessai. His flesh, mostly bare, was intricately colored in red and yellow. Red on the rounds of his massive shoulders, and carving accents over the rippling muscles of his arms. Yellow on his bare chest and bulging abdominal muscles, though surrounded by red on his flanks. His face had red markings over yellow skin in an aesthetic manner. Dianese was at once reminded of the masks used in battle hundreds of years ago. He now beheld the demon these soldiers sought to imitate to add to their fearsomeness. While those masks were grotesque, the source was indelibly regal. His red and yellow face was handsomely boned with a broad masculine chin and enticing full lips. His eyes, though pure white and without pupils, bespoke both confidence and serenity.
Dianese felt emboldened by what he sensed in the demon's eyes. He sat up in full to continue his examination. Rodukjo had a long mane of thick black hair. On the top of his scalp were six horns, two of gold in the up-curling shape of a bull's, two in silver, in the shape of a ram's, and two coming from the peaks of his hairline, short and black like onyx. The demon's feet were bare, revealing toes tipped with sharp black claws. His hands rested on his lap and were also accented with fearsome black claws. He wore metal gauntlets on his forearms and similar guards on his calves. Besides this, his only garment was a skirt of brown leather with tassels of softer leather dangling before it from a braided belt.
"How pretty you are," Rodukjo said.
Dianese fixed his gaze back on the demon's eyes. There was now the touch of a smile at the corners of the demon's lips.
"I thank you," Dianese said, forcing the words past a building lump in his throat.
"Speak, Divine Emperor who has summoned me." Dianese glimpsed the demon's sharp white teeth as he spoke. "I'm so eager to hear what you have to say."
Dianese nodded. "Honorable demon, unimaginable efforts were taken to procure these gifts I've laid about me."
"I have no interest in any of that garbage. Why would your father kill the last giant tortoise in existence?"
Dianese's heart resumed its thunderous beats.
"And you bring me the skull of a virgin instead of the virgin herself? That sickens me."
"I don't understand." He gazed at the hard-fought treasures about him. "My father was convinced these items had merit for you."
"The fool probably spoke to a witch who sent him on an impossible quest rather than admit her ignorance."
Dianese's stomach squeezed. He recalled the conversation about a witch his father had consulted shortly before adopting him.
"I beg you to forgive my ignorance, honorable demon."
"Call me Rodukjo."
Dianese bowed his head in consent. "There's more on offer than these regrettable items, Rodukjo. We purchased twenty of the finest courtesans from nineteen brothels in seven regions."
"I most recently aided a warlord who granted me sixty courtesans."
Dianese believed the ground was spinning. He realized it was only an illusion caused by the churning waterfall in his peripheral vision--as well as his collapsing situation.
"I could provide you with a hundred."
Rodukjo smirked. "Ah. But then they would not be the finest."
Dianese mouth was growing dry. He sealed his lips and tried to draw up some spittle.
"Never mind the courtesans, sweet emperor. Twenty, sixty, or a hundred--it matters not. My appetites could be sated with but a single bride. It's your kind who deems me a glutton."
Dianese's voice lowered to scarcely above a whisper. "Forgive me for my ignorance once again."
"You're more ignorant than you know. I desire no courtesans. If I were to grant you aid it would be for you, Dianese. You, personally, grant me compelling enough a reason."
"Tell me what you wish, Rodukjo."
"I have told you."
Dianese lowered his gaze. "Then I don't understand."
"First I'll take your body."
Dianese looked back at him.
"I've been a glutton on these courtesans, as I said. My palate can endure no more rich desserts. I desire the finer meat of a half-fey emperor."
Dianese felt a terrifying pang within him, as though frozen metal were pressed against his tender abdomen. "How did you know that I'm--"
"Next I'll take your authority. You must accept me as your master. Oh, you may continue to perform your duties as emperor. I care little for mortal minutia. However, you'll truly be no more than a viceroy henceforth. My will shall supercede yours, particularly on matters of war. When I choose to rule you shall be as my puppet and carry out my wishes over your domain."
Dianese's lips were parted. He shook his head slowly. "You've asked for two things I can't possibly grant you."
Rodukjo laughed softly and without malice. "My sweet emperor, you have no choice."
Dianese kept his gaze fixed on him. Fear had evolved into cunning, as it always did when he felt cornered. He remained calm and listened.
"I've no need to threaten you. You already knew the only two possible outcomes for a meeting with Rodukjo."
"You either help the summoner," Dianese said, "or kill them."
Rodukjo nodded. "But the threat of death is not why you will come to accept my terms."
"It's because...you must. You must. It's all that matters. You must, Dianese."
A chill dripped down his spine at hearing his words parroted.
"You're desperate. I'm your only hope. You've already conceded to my wishes in your mind as you sit there. You're inwardly celebrating that I've agreed to help you--regardless of my terms."
Dianese considered while staying fixed on the demon's white eyes.
"I have conceded. But I'm not celebrating."
Rodukjo smiled. The sharp-toothed grin portended no cruelty. The demon was merely pleased.
"Shall we go, then?" Rodukjo said. "Your attendant grows mad with worry."
"Would you humor me a moment longer?"
"Of course. For the rest of your mortal life, I shall."
"How did you know that it was my father who gathered your gifts? How did you know of my desperation? And...how did you know of my half-fey blood?"
Rodukjo laughed through his nostrils. "Which of those three questions is the most pressing to you?"
"My blood. How did you know?"
"I knew it was that." He braced himself with an arm and rose to his feet. "I'm going to fuck you and take you as my slave."
Dianese cringed both within and without. The demon was too blunt for him to stifle it.
"Yet what troubles you most from our meeting is that I know who your mother is."
Now Dianese crumpled forward and buried his face in his hands. "You know...as much as that? Who was she? I beg you to tell me." He began to weep against his will. His reaction repulsed him. The demon already had control over him to cause such emotion.
"Wipe your tears and rise, sweet emperor. I'll answer you in your coach."
Dianese lifted his red-rimmed eyes.
"Dark approaches fast in these months after harvest. Your domain belongs to me now, and I should like to survey it in the daylight." He offered Dianese his clawed hand. "I should also like to hold you on my lap as we ride. I wish to fathom your delicate form enshrouded in your silk layers. The look of you is like a bird, lighter than one would expect, fragile and easily crushed. I've not held anything truly delicate in centuries."
The speech granted Dianese time to collect himself. He wiped his tears on his sleeve and accepted Rodukjo's hand. The strong demon lifted him with little effort.
"Before I bring you to my home...no one can know of my heritage."
Rodukjo's smile returned. "Have no fear."
"Nor of our terms."
"We'll discuss that further."
"Nor that I shed tears just now."
Rodukjo bellowed with a laugh. "You're troubled by such foolish things!"
Dianese scowled. "You are not familiar with my plight."
Rodukjo pulled Dianese against him. He closed both thick arms around him so that the small man was pressed against his body. Dianese kept fixed on his eyes with determination.
"I am familiar." Rodukjo moved his lips very close to Dianese's face. "I know who your mother was. I know who your father was before Emperor Ryuinto adopted you."
The determination drained from Dianese's face. His lips parted. "Then...you know everything."
"Everything you wish to hide." He brought a large hand up to stroke the blue tresses of Dianese's hair. "Indeed, my sweet emperor."
Dianese swallowed. He looked back into Rodukjo's eyes. "It's good that you know...if we're to be allies from here on. There should be no subterfuge between us."
Rodukjo smiled with one side of his mouth. "Yes. Save your cunning for the rest of your court. You can't deceive me. I know the roots of your soul."
Dianese nodded after a moment's hesitation. "Then you must know that I wish for you to release me now."
Rodukjo's smile grew tender. He wove his fingers through the long strands of Dianese's hair. "I know that very well, sweet emperor. It's just that I don't care." He forced their lips together.
Dianese made a nasal scream. He bashed both clenched fists against the demon while wrenching his body to struggle free. Rodukjo pulled back and dropped him. The emperor tumbled to the ground. He remained where he fell, panting while glaring up at Rodukjo.
The demon's white eyes were wide. "What do you think you're doing?"
"What do you think you're doing?"
"We have an agreement."
Dianese climbed up on shaking legs. "And this is how I intend to serve that portion of our agreement. By resisting with every fiber of strength I can muster." He dusted his robes with furious swipes.
"I--I can overpower you easily."
Dianese turned his back to him. "I'm aware. I'll still resist."
Rodukjo's voice lowered. "We are meant to be allies, Dianese. An ally is what you need."
Dianese crossed his arms.
Rodukjo grunted through his nostrils. "This won't do. And I've no wish to kill you now, despite you violating our terms."
Dianese turned back to face him. For several moments the demon looked him up and down. A stitch formed between his dark brows.
"Perhaps I could take the time to court you in some manner--and then seduce you gently. Will you cease your resistance then?"
"What you suggest is despicable."
Rodukjo flared his sharp teeth. "There can be no alliance between us if I have to rape you! You must yield on this. I don't owe you any compromise. You're my possession now."
"I don't wish for there to be strife between us any more than you do. I've enough strife to contend with. But...what you seek, that was never meant to be our bargain."
Rodukjo's white eyes narrowed. "The deal is already done."
Dianese drew a breath and then shuddered as he exhaled. He uncrossed his arms and bowed his head. "I will compromise."
Rodukjo's one-sided smile returned. He strode ahead of Dianese to lead him back to the road. Once he'd passed, Dianese allowed his own sly smile to form.
"You needn't act like it's a death knell," Rodukjo said. "I'm the greatest thing to ever happen to you, and you're getting almost all the benefit from our arrangement. You should admit that this is the beginning of a magnificent partnership."
"I admit that without reservation."
He paused at the bones before following. So much time wasted, so many sacrifices, so many lives lost--and now it was just litter on a forest floor. Dianese shook his head and sneered. What a fool his father had been.
Tessai placed his hand on the hilt of his broadsword when the demon broke through the woods ahead of Dianese. Rodukjo looked the large man over with a placid expression.
"Hold, Tessai." Dianese emerged, once again winded from his journey. He maneuvered himself between his demon and attendant. "This is the great demon Rodukjo, Master of Ten Thousand Armies."
Tessai gasped with his mouth opened wide enough for his uvula to show.
"He has graciously joined our cause. Grant to him as much respect and consideration as you would me."
Tessai dropped to the dirt at the demon's feet. He bowed as low as Dianese had when first greeting him.
"Lord Demon, I am without words."
"Oh, you have words." Rodukjo smiled down at him. "Let me hear them."
Tessai's large form quivered. "For...for ten years my former master sought your tributes. He had me lead my men in so many directions...chase so many phantoms. No sacrifice could be too great to one day summon you. Once we had you...we would be invincible. Now that day has come. If only...if only Emperor Ryuinto were alive to see this."
"If it were Ryuinto who'd summoned me I would have killed him."
Tessai lifted his head.
"You were a commander of soldiers once. How is it you're now the handmaiden of the Emperor?"
Dianese's brow rose.
Tessai's face grew marred with pain. "During the war with Yowscot--I was wounded. I could manage the rigors of the battlefield no longer."
"He's still a most able servant to me." Dianese exchanged a glance with Rodukjo. "I needed a guardian as well as an attendant."
"Of course you did, sweet emperor. You can not even lift the sword your man carries so easily on his lame hip."
Dianese heard Tessai gulp.
"Yowscot was the land of the virgin queen, was it not?"
"Yes, Lord Demon."
"We still suffer the consequences from my father's insane quest," Dianese said.
Rodukjo looked down at Tessai. "How would you feel to know that I desired no such thing as wretched as a young woman's skull?"
Tessai sat back on his haunches. Tears streaked his reddened face. "It...it was all for nothing?"
"No, there was merit in the war games, the battle training. No simulation of war could serve your soldiers better than actually going to battle. But your former emperor was a deranged lunatic. He should have measured the cost of his folly and sought to win my aid by other means."
Tessai closed his eyes, allowing more tears to fall. His voice was now hoarse with emotion. "He had us convinced that nothing short of the ultimate sacrifice would do."
"You are not to blame for that. Be glad that your master replaced him before I was summoned or it truly would have been for nothing. I would never serve one so despicable as your former lord Ryuinto."
Tessai nodded slowly with fierceness in his eyes. "Lord Dianese is the more worthy emperor."
Rodukjo fit inside the coach despite his horns cutting the satin fabric of the ceiling. Dianese accepted Tessai's help to climb in since his limbs had scarcely any trace of strength left. The door of the cab was closed and they were lightly jostled as Tessai climbed onto his seat outside to steer the giant stag that pulled them.
Dianese sat across from Rodukjo. He was unsure of whether to be angry at the demon. His expression and voice was neutral.
"Why did you discourage Tessai like that? He nearly lost his leg and his life in the war. When he saw you he thought he'd finally had validation for the sacrifices he'd made in order to obtain your tributes. Now you've told him it was all a waste. You may have destroyed him."
"Did you hear his words, sweet emperor?"
Dianese kept an unblinking stare focused on him.
"When he said, 'Lord Dianese is the more worthy emperor.' He was telling this to himself. It was the first time he'd come to realize that. Tessai was only loyal to you because you were the son of his cherished Emperor Ryuinto. Today, in that moment, he has finally shifted his devotion to you in earnest. This is what you need from your closest attendant. I could not proceed with him in our inner circle until he made that leap."
Dianese touched his chin in consideration. Then he bowed his head one time to the demon. "You are more insightful than me...something I thought impossible. I won't question your judgment again."
Rodukjo smiled. "Wonderful, my sweet emperor."
"But will you expose my father's folly to the rest of our soldiers? I fear the discouragement this will cause them. Morale will plummet--don't you agree?"
Rodukjo leaned back into the satin cushions. "Have no fear. There's no need to tell them. They will become loyal to you when they see my own fealty. When they know there's no way they can have use of my armies without Divine Emperor Dianese leading them, then they will bow to you with the greatest devotion." He smiled gently. "You'll still need to make amends for your father, without exposing his folly. Let your troops discover what a fool he was slowly and for themselves. This will be long after they've come to appreciate your rule. They'll realize they've lost nothing, for they have a far better lord to serve."
Dianese smiled back at him. "Your wisdom humbles me."
Rodukjo patted a spot on his lap.
Dianese lowered his eyes. "I'll come into your arms, if that's what you truly wish, but I'm caked with filth and sweat. You shall find me most unpleasant right now."
"The sweat was clean as it poured from your freshly bathed flesh. The dirt was clean as it soiled your perfumed garments. You're not unpleasant at all. This is a chance for me to absorb the true essence of you. I find it erotic."
Dianese's face grew paler. Rodukjo merely smiled.
"If you do more than hold me I will scream for Tessai. You'll be forced to kill him--and he's valuable to us."
Rodukjo reached out and took Dianese's finely boned hand. "I wouldn't fuck you here, my sweet emperor. Such a thing shall happen on a bed, and at that time you shall relinquish yourself to me like a dutiful bride on her wedding night."
Dianese stood in the rocking coach since he was small enough to do so. He let Rodukjo help him onto his lap. The demon cradled him in his large arms as though they were lovers. Dianese's aching limbs and shoulders strained with tension. The demon soothed his hair.
"This is most distasteful for me."
"Struggle past your distaste in order to please me. Am I not entitled to that? Breathe deeply until your muscles grow slack, then cuddle your body against me. Amend your heart to pleasing me, even with so small an offering."
"This isn't small to me."
"But it should be, for it's merely an embrace. It's but one step on a mile long journey."
Dianese closed his eyes and his chest swelled with a deep breath. He exhaled slowly, allowing his shoulders to slacken as he did. Then, with his eyes still closed, he rested his cheek against the demon's massive chest.
Rodukjo caressed his throat with one clawed finger. "How sweet you are."
"I value you--and our partnership."
"Indeed. And you think I'm not aware of your manipulation."
Dianese's eyes opened.
"You would take all that you can from me and give nothing in return. You're already aware of how your charm will grant you everything you wish from me."
Dianese waited. He did not yet feel the anxiety the discovery may have warranted.
"You think I can't seduce you--that you're entirely in control. In truth you're just enriching my challenge. I'm exhilarated. I've never sparred with so worthy a partner. Taking you without resistance shall be one of the most glorious triumphs of my existence. Not just the first time you yield, but each time I bed you. You're a treasure I'll savor precisely because you're nearly as cunning as I am."
Dianese thought for a moment in the silence that followed.
"Alright. I accept that I can't manipulate you unless you abide my manipulation. I will speak to you as plainly as I'm capable. I could never give my body to you without reservation because you are a monster whose endowment will tear me in two."