Vala Eminence, page 1part #4 of Vala Series
By J.F. Jenkins
Published by Astraea Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2013 JF JENKINS
Cover Art Designed by FOR THE MUSE
My soulmate and destiny.
My father is alive. Denver Collins thought. His breath caught in his throat as he thought of all the possibilities. If his father was still alive, then what about his mother? Did he have any other family he didn't know about? What was the truth behind his ancestry to begin with? Too many questions and not enough answers, and no clue where to begin searching for them either. That, and he was pretty sure his demonic boss wouldn't approve of him digging for the truth. After all, if Denver was only a mindless puppet, then he could be of more use to Lucien. Not to mention, Lucien was trying to take the throne that in fact belonged to Denver. As the heir to Hades, Denver would have full control of the underworld, a realm Lucien wanted to claim for his own.
One thing was certain; Lucien couldn't know Denver had an inkling of the truth, not yet. Denver needed more time to process all of the new information flooding into his mind in the first place, as well as what to do next. A whole lifetime he hadn't even realized he'd lived was locked inside of his memories and just starting to spill out.
My father is alive! Then he noticed a tear had trickled down his cheek. He wiped it away, scoffing quietly. Pathetic. I don't cry. His last memory of tears was from when he was a child. One of the demons had decided it'd be a fun game to torment Denver during one of his visits to the underworld. It had scared the crap out of him, literally, and he had cried. Lucien had told him to never shed another tear or he'd make sure Denver had a real reason to do it.
“Jerk,” Denver muttered as he stood.
For a number of hours Denver had been hiding in the dark, deep prison of the underworld's black castle, the black castle where he had been born, apparently. He'd spent a good portion of his life inside of it too. For whatever reason, the castle called to him, and he found himself unable to stay away. It was his favorite place to be during his free time. While it disturbed most individuals, to him it would always feel like home. Oddly, it was the one place where he could roam undetected by Lucien and the other demons. At least, he had thought it odd up until the moment when he'd learned the truth: that the castle was his true home. So of course he could wander through it as he pleased — another perk to being of Hades’ lineage. Something he had only just discovered a mere hour before, and all because he happened to be in the right place, at the right time.
Lucien, the head demon, the one falsely claiming to be the heir to Hades' throne, had captured Anj Willam, a teenage boy who attended the same boarding school as Denver. Anj was born with the gift of foresight, hindsight and just about every other kind of “sight” in-between. Something Denver thought ironic since the kid was blinder than a bat — he was also annoying like one too. The correct term to call people like Anj was “Fate”. It was a special position of power given to a select few individuals on the planet to help keep balance in the Divine circle. From what Denver could understand, the Divine were a political group of mythological and magical beings, taking on the names of the ancient gods and goddesses. They made laws and kept order in the world of the bizarre and unknown — all for the sake of protecting the poor, powerless humans.
It was through Anj's gift that Denver learned the truth of his heritage. For as long as he could remember, he had been raised by the demons and lived by their ways. He'd even been told he was part of the demonic family and similar to one of the higher ranked demons. Blindly, he believed it because he never felt remorse, or anything considered good inside of his heart. If he could do evil and not care, then that meant he must have been one of them too, right?
While Anj was imprisoned, he dreamed — vividly and loudly. The boy never shut up when he was awake, and it was even worse when he was asleep. Denver wouldn't complain too much. He was able to witness many interesting things from those dreams. One dream of particular interest was of his own past where he learned that he wasn't a demon, that he did have a heart capable of loving, and that he once had a family who would do anything to keep him safe — even suffer in the same prison cell as Satan himself.
As a way of expressing his gratitude over being told the truth, Denver freed Anj from Lucien and erased his memory of the entire experience. He didn't want Anj to remember a number of things from the visions. The more people who knew the truth about Denver, the more difficult reclaiming his throne would be. He'd let Anj go less than an hour ago. Hopefully, Anj was awake by now and having a happy reunion with his brother.
Denver was Hades's true heir, and Hades ruled over the underworld no matter what Lucien and the other demons said. They could try as hard as they wanted to overthrow the Divine lord of the dead. But until the current Hades, Denver's father, willed it to be so, they would not have his power. That power was destined to be Denver's, and he would rather rot in one of the cells in the castle's prison than give it away to the demons. Anyone with half of a brain would understand why giving demons more power than they deserve was a bad idea. Denver wasn't a rocket scientist, but he did have half a brain.
Shaking off his nerves, he ventured down further into the prison. It had hundreds of floors, and the lower one went, the closer one came to the horrible monster, the Devil. Hope gradually dissipated, leaving the prisoner to wallow in self-pity and eventually go insane. Denver himself had yet to reach the bottom, but every visit he got closer, as if some unseen force was willing him to keep gaining the courage to press on.
It's because my father is down there with that creature, with Lucifer himself. He's locked down in that cell, no doubt going out of his mind and suffering. Somehow I have to get there and help him. Why else would he feel such a strong pull to go someplace so dangerous? The only reason Denver knew any of that was because of what he had seen in Anj's dream. He almost laughed at the idea of putting so much faith into something so fragile. A dream was supposed to only be fantasy or psychological insecurity after all.
Denver had the sneaking suspicion that Fates were not allowed to fabricate lies in their visions. They saw pure truth. Regardless of whether they were enemies or not, Denver would trust Anj far more than he ever would Lucien. Anj and Denver may have hated each other equally, but the guy didn't have a malicious bone in his body.
As Denver descended further into the darkness, the echoing of his footsteps became louder. The crying and moaning of the prisoners became less and less. Surprising, since the more tormented souls and creatures of the underworld were locked deeper in the castle. He assumed they would be in far more pain than those who were on the upper floors. There was something soothing about the near pitch-black lighting, however. Denver didn't even bother to turn on one of the lights or to conjure fire, he enjoyed it so much. There was no need. He could feel his way down the stairs with ease.
The more powerful prisoners do not wail because they feel no hope. Why plead when you know it's worthless to try? All they do is grow more bitter and cold with the acknowledgment of their separation from all things good. He could feel that separation too, regardless of if he was being h
She was his goddess, both literally and figuratively, regardless of what anyone else thought. Lucien seemed to think she belonged to him as his bride, even going so far as to force her into a wedding ceremony to save the life of her ex-boyfriend Zes Willam, Anj's twin, also thought he was in love with her for a while. Zes and Cheyenne lived in a bubble of fantasy. Despite her nuptials to Lucien, Cheyenne did not accept the demon as her husband. The act had been out of convenience and politics. For the time being Lucien was letting their lack of intimacy slide, but Denver wasn't so sure Lucien would always be okay with it. The demon would eventually make a move on her.
None of that mattered though, because from the first moment Denver laid eyes on her almost six months ago, he knew she was made for him and him alone. He didn't even believe in love, yet somehow he loved her. She had a strong wit to match her strong will. Hardly anyone could put him in his place and make him feel… much of anything. His cold, emotionless state of mind shattered. He even loved when she annoyed him, for the simple fact that he was, in fact, annoyed. The more emotions he experienced, the more he wanted to explore them.
A whole new world was opening up in front of his very eyes. He wanted to do nice things with her. While his hormones drove him crazy, he found himself wanting to care for her more than bed her. In fact, he was ready and willing to wait until the timing was just right for that step in their relationship. He actually had a relationship with her. Cheyenne wasn't a fling; she was his first girlfriend. Never before had he ever committed himself to a woman. He'd also never longed for someone so much when they were apart. It wasn't something he'd ever admit to of course, but he felt emotionally dry and alone without her near him.
Ugh, I've become one of those clingy people I hate so much. He couldn't suppress his groan, a noise that stirred whatever creature was chained into the nearby cell.
“Who's there?” a low, rumbling, voice demanded.
He rolled his eyes. “None of your business. Don't talk to me again, or I'll be sure your master hears of it. No one wants to see you, anyway.”
There was a growl, but no reply. Whoever was locked inside was an obedient little minion, or at the very least, a smart one. He pressed onward, and noticed the soft glow of fire up ahead. That was new. Usually, there was only more darkness the further down he went. He'd never seen anything more black before, and didn't think it could possibly be any more intense, but each visit he was proven wrong. Fire was new.
Up ahead, the number 150 was ablaze inside the stone walls of the stairwell. Had he really gone down so many floors already? The fire provided just enough light for him to see the sleeping monster in the cell — a massive minotaur. Denver had seen some strange things in the underworld, but never one of those. The giant, brown, furry beast breathed deeply as it rested. Its warm breath landed on Denver each time it exhaled. He wanted to gag at the stench of rotting fish.
Denver hurried further down the stairs, noticing the trail of lit torches above him. Stop! Something inside of him urged. A jolt hit his stomach and he stumbled forward, missed his footing, and tumbled down a number of stairs, rolling as he did so. He protected his head with his arms. One of his feet caught hold of what felt like a large rock, there was a loud click as he continued down, and then the ground shook underneath him. When he finally landed on the next floor, he stared up at the ceiling in a daze.
“What… was… that…?” he muttered. He waited for the dizziness to pass, before lifting himself slowly from the hard, cold ground. What he saw caused his jaw to drop.
What used to be the stairwell was now a wall of rock.
“Booby traps,” he mused. Standing, he felt the stone. It was thick and heavy. There was no way he'd be able to lift it or move it out of his path so he could ascend. That didn't trouble him. What did was the fact that there were traps. No one had told him any of this before, and he couldn't help but wonder why they were even in place to begin with. Even if a creature happened to escape from the castle prison, there were only so many places one could hide in the underworld. Only living humans, magical or not, and a few high ranking demons were allowed to leave the premises of Hades’ domain. Spirits and mythological monsters who had been banished to the underworld were more or less stuck.
Unless they're trying to stop someone from going down to visit a certain captive. His fists clenched at the thought. Were the traps in place to stop him from seeing his father? Or were they there to keep curious demons from visiting their master? Either way, he'd have to be more careful moving forward. Without the voice telling him to halt, he would have probably been crushed into a pancake. That had him the most curious of all. Denver didn't hear voices. That was not his brand of crazy.
One thing was for sure; he wasn't going to be continuing any further until after he did some more research. Adventure he liked, but he wasn't stupid either. Continuing on would probably result in a potentially painful death. Inflicting pain was fun, receiving it… not so much.
“Time to make like a baby and head out,” he said. With a simple snap of his fingers he dissipated from the underworld and reappeared in his dorm room back at the Vala School and Seminary, a boarding school for all creatures magical and mythological. Creatures like him, though Denver didn't quite know what he even was. Add it on to the mysteries of my past that I need to figure out. He kept a list and he could cross one thing off of it: find his parents.
His mother was still missing, but he wasn't even sure if she was alive anymore. Something in his gut told him she had died a while ago. That left his father as his only living relative. His father, Hades. Denver was Divine, information that was hard to wrap his mind around. How could he be Divine? He was way too cool to be a political snob. At the same time, the job did kind of appeal to him. Where else would he get the power to make some changes in the magical world? It could be a lot of fun.
My father is alive. He kept going back to that one fact. All of the speculating and day-dreaming brought him full circle to his dad once more. And he couldn't help but smile every time. He was feeling things again. Happiness, excitement, anger — especially anger. Lucien had overthrown his father's reign in the underworld and brainwashed Denver. At least, that's what happened in the vision Anj had seen. Denver witnessed it as well. Anj's gifts were great, so he was able to project everything he saw for whatever audience was around to watch.
Denver reached over to his desk and grabbed his cell phone to call Cheyenne, wanting to tell her the good news. But I can't. She's married to Lucien. I don't think she'd betray my trust, but I don't know what kind of black magic he uses to have power over her either. There are things he does to her that make her not act like herself. Or he might be able to comb through her mind for information. The marriage drove him nuts. It was one of politics and convenience, not love. The whole purpose of it was to fulfill an ancient prophecy between Hades and Persephone. As the heir to Persephone, Cheyenne was Lucien's desired wife so he could use her to gain political advantage with the rest of the Divine Council while he paraded around as Hades.
Denver sighed and dialed her number anyway. It'll still be good to talk with her. Hearing her voice was always relaxing for him.
“Hey,” Cheyenne said. Her voice sounded groggy and slurred, like she was disoriented.
He frowned, but tried to hide his worry from his tone. The goal was to have a good conversation with her, not a fight. “'Sup?”
“I just woke up from a nap. What about you?”
Just came back from a trip to the underworld where I freed your ex-boyfriend's twin brother from the chains your husband put on his soul. He laughed sourly. “Homework.”
“You're actually doing homework?” She gasped.
“I do homework,” he said. “When I feel like it, and I felt like it since I kind of have to or I'll get expelled.”
She made a quiet,
“I'd have no problems getting a job or anything, sure.” He lay down on his couch and stared up at the ceiling. But the wards on the school keep me safe from the demons. Maybe now that I know my heritage, I can tap deeper into whatever magic this is inside of me. I'm stronger than them; I know it. I just have to build up my power.
“So why do you stay?” Cheyenne asked.
“My life wouldn't be complete if I couldn't torment you all day with my presence.” The words slid off of his tongue easily. It wasn't a lie, but he had intended for his message to be a bit more sweet and suave.
She laughed, at least, so that lessened his concern. Cheyenne always seemed to appreciate his quirky, sarcastic, offensive sense of humor. Not to mention, she was good at reading between the lines. Somehow she'd understand him until he figured out how to do the schmoopy thing better.
“I know, you can't resist me,” she said. Then she sighed, and he imagined her lying on her bed, gazing up at the ceiling much like he was. He would have gone to her room to relax with her if he thought he could get away with it, but she probably wouldn't like it. Halyn, her roommate, definitely wouldn't.
If you only knew how much I can't resist you, he thought. What would she think if she knew the truth? The reason he was so drawn to her from the beginning was because he was Hades’ heir and she was Persephone's. It was written in the stars for them to be together, or something cliché like that. Denver usually wasn't one to believe in prophecies or in his destiny being in the hands of someone other than himself. However, he did believe the one about Persephone and Hades.
Supposedly his many greats-grandfather fell in love with Persephone and wanted to marry her. She declined because he wasn't exactly the most good-looking man on the planet, nor did she want to be associated with the underworld. Their connection was deep, however. And neither could deny the attraction they had to one another. Secretly, she had longed to be with him, but knew she had to stay away. Eventually, she had married another man who wasn't good enough for her. She'd made up for the mistake of denying Hades instead of pursuing her true love for him. A vow had been made after the wedding, and Persephone sealed her spirit away to be released in the future when she could once more be with Hades. The two had made some kind of a binding covenant, keeping their love pure and alive forever.
J. F. JENKINS SERIES:
Other author's books:
- AgendasVala EminenceLegend of the TribesControlBattlefieldA Slow Burning FireVala HeritageLegend of the Forbidden
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