Twenty-Five Years Ago
The thunderous explosion hit the Underworld at seven in the evening, just before the sun was about to set. The walls of the ten-century old castle rumbled down to the sub floors, four full stories below the earth. Chunks of mortar and stone crumbled when the second explosion hit just inside the perimeter walls.
Everyone in the path of the tumbling stones and debris ran for cover while their main goal was to ensure that King Samal, Queen Karina and their year-old daughter, Princess Calah, were safe. Safety felt like an elusion as firepower came from every direction.
The warriors of the Underworld surrounded the castle trying to fight off the onset of rogue Demons and other creatures that entered through an open portal. They fought to the death to take over the castle and kill the king's family. Demon blood gave many of the intruders the same advantages; they were tall, ranging from six-two and up and built like tanks. Some were lean, while others were thick but all of them had more muscle mass than they even needed. Their shear strength and magical abilities ensured a demon on demon fight could last for days. It was hard to win when you knew each other's strengths and weaknesses, especially when they were equal. The only hope of defeating your enemy was to behead the demon which proved to be harder than it sounded as they anticipated their enemy's aim for their necks.
Blood and death littered the soil as the fight raged on, seemingly no end in sight.
But it was their hearts and sense of honor that set them apart. While the King's army had no qualms about fighting to the death, they also believed in peace, they craved it. They had to save the Underworld to save Earth. The tasks went hand-in-hand. If the Underworld was in constant disarray, then the Earth would follow and visa-versa. It had many times before including the most recent wars in history; the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Desert Storm. The humans were led to believe the human military saved the day. But what their government had kept a secret from the population was demons of the Underworld took control when the shit hit the fan. They were hired as mercenaries, and they were okay with that. And now, assholes like Hitler and Hussein rotted in a small cell in the pits of hell, courtesy of the Kings Elite Warriors, General Elijah Alexander, Roman and Damien and Jacin.
The sweat rolled down Elijah's face, into his eyes as he yelled out to his men. "Get the family below! Now!" As the General, if he lost the King and his family he'd never forgive himself. And if they did die and he managed to live, he'd most likely be executed. He wiped at his forehead with the back of his arm, smearing blood smeared across his face.
As many of his warriors followed his orders, he stayed, trying his best to get a hold of that asshole Caleb and separate him from his head in the most vicious way he could imagine. There was no doubt in his mind that King Samal's oldest son Caleb was behind this attack.
But as the hours dragged on, Caleb had yet to be seen. The only thing Elijah had to be rejoice about was they had slaughtered at least two-thirds of Caleb's followers. But Caleb got away. He would live to fight another day and Elijah only hoped that he'd be the one to remove the bastard's head and shove it on a pike for the entire Underworld to see.
Elijah drew in a shaky breath as he entered the underground chambers of King Samal. "Fuck," he whispered as he rushed to the Kings side where Queen Karina lay bleeding from a gaping hole in her stomach. It appeared half of her torso was missing. The blanket she laid upon was soaked with her blood, dripping to the floor at a rapid pace.
He knelt beside his queen and took her hand as he gave the King the briefest of a nod. Queen Karina offered him a weak smile. "Do not blame yourself for this mess I'm in, young prince."
Elijah shook his head. "Then who should I blame?" He hissed, his face filled with pain and sorrow.
"You will get the perpetrator. I have faith in you even if you do not." She squeezed his hand with what little strength she had, her eyes seeming to say more than her lips.
Elijah looked up at Prince Jonah Samal, the king's second son. "Where is the fucking healer?"
Jonah served under him occasionally for special missions for the past five years. The King believed every future leader should be a warrior, know how to fight and follow orders. Jonah seemed to be an apt student. But he was more of a politician than a fighter.
Before Jonah could respond, his father answered for him. "We have not been able to locate one yet. Many of the warriors are looking for one now." The king's lips pulled in a tight line while he held their year-old daughter, Calah.
"Where is fuck Jacin?" Jacin, their medic, traveled everywhere with Elijah's Elite Warriors.
"We can't find him either." Jonah answered.
"Love?" Queen Karina reached for her husband, daughter and Jonah as he stood solemnly beside his father. King Markum Samal knelt beside his queen as his son Jonah knelt next to him.
"You and Elijah must promise me something." They both nodded, knowing there was no hope of her survival when they couldn't locate the healer. Her life slowly slipping away, breaking their hearts. "You must make sure that Calah is taken somewhere safe, so she may have a chance to grow up and become a strong woman. She cannot survive here with me gone and-"
Markum softly touched her cheek. "Sweetheart, you're going to be fine. You'll be here to watch this little one grow to be as fearless and beautiful as her mother." Markum gave her a weak smile.
"Markum, you forgot to say I'm not stupid, which means I realize I won't be here to aid our daughter. Please, take her to Earth to my friends, the Gilham's. Let her live for me, Markum. Please." She whispered labored words, as tears filled her lovely green eyes.
King Markum Samal placed his lips to hers and said, "I vow to you she will be safe."
"Jonah." Karina looked at her stepson. "Your father will need you more than ever. I trust you won't let me down, my son."
"No mother. I would never let you down." Jonah leaned in and placed a soft kiss to his step-mother's cheek, the woman who more of a mother to him than his biological mother ever thought of being.
Karina then turned to Elijah. "And you general, warrior, Prince Elijah. You will wait for Calah to grow into a woman of twenty-five and at that time she will belong to you. She was born to be your mate." Elijah clamped his jaw as she continued. "You will love her and protect her and give her babies to love as she loves you with all that she is." She smiled softly. "I see the distress in your eyes General, not so fearless after all."
"My Queen, I would not make a suitable mate for such a precious gift as Calah." He saw a frown form between her eyes and corrected himself. "But it would be my honor to take her as my mate when she grows up."
Again, the Queen smiled at him. "I knew I could count on you, warrior, and friend. I just ask that you love and honor her as you have me when she is of age. I only trust you with her. Only you."
Elijah frowned at her last statement, then raised her delicate, cold hand to his lips held it there before he placed a kiss on it. His heart shattered in so many directions he didn't know what to do. He was losing his queen. "I will never let you down, my queen, my friend. One day, I will make Calah mine. I will love her and protect her with my life. That I promise
Elijah washed all signs of battle from his body, his blood and sweat along with every other fucking creatures blood that splattered him. Caleb brought vampires, nearly as many as he had demons.
He dressed in his usual black cargo-combat pants and snug T-shirt, this time he picked red, for all the blood shed. His combat boots were laced up. He didn’t need to place weapons on his person since their magic allowed them to pull their weapons out of thin air. It was a blessing not having to weighed down with an arsenal.
Elijah paused at the door as he picked up his favorite dagger that sat on a table. He looked at it and threw it into the wall to his left, burying it up to the hilt. His chest constricted, a sensation new to him. As a warrior, a general, he wasn't supposed to have these feelings. Regret, sure, but pain and anguish? And as the feeling intensified, he turned his back to the nearest wall and slid to the floor. He rested his elbows on his knees, dropping his head as the anxiety overwhelmed him.
She was born to be your mate. I only trust you with her. Only you.
Those words echoed in his head so often in the past few hours, it made his head throb. Why had the Queen never told him this before? Or the King for that matter? A part of him felt betrayed for their silence on this matter. He wanted no mate, nor did he have time for one. Women needed to be doted on, coddled, and brought stupid things like flowers, candy or jewels. And Prince Elijah Alexander was not a coddler dammit! He was the Prince of Darkness, a nuickname he hated, yet earned. He was a general of an army of demons and he did not want to be anyone's fucking mate and have children.
No matter how much anger he had for the King and Queen keeping this tidbit of information from him until she was on her death bed, he knew in his heart he would never let either of them down. He promised her he would be there for Calah when she grew up. He would take her as his mate and see to all her needs. He'd give her children, if that's what she wanted. He'd even get goddamned flowers for her now and then if need be.
Elijah picked up his head and banged it against the wall. "Well, shit. I have twenty-four years to get used to this asinine promise I made. She'd better turn out like you my Queen or I'll ring her pretty little neck." And with those words Elijah felt better. He got up to go round up his men; they had a trip to Earth to deliver Princess Calah to the Gilham's.
"Lije." A quiet voice said from Elijah's doorway.
"Roman." He narrowed his eyes at his friend, his warrior. Roman's face looked pained, even more than it should after the shitstorm they just walked away from.
Roman paused as though he was searching for the right words. "I-uh. Shit, Lije. I don't know how to say this."
"Just spit it out Rome. We need to get the Princess to her guardians."
"It's your family. Your family… is… fuck, they're dead." Roman's dark chocolate brown eyes had tears in them. Elijah's family was his family too. They grew up together, they caused trouble together and they got scolding by their parents together.
The color drained form Elijah's face. His body trembled and heat rose from his fists, threatening to explode with fire that he carrid in his body. "What? No. They should have been in the safe cell." Elijah caught himself before he swayed.
"I'm sorry, Lije. The safe cell's door was blown off the hinges and your parents and Anya were found inside… dead."
His eyes held Roman's, his jaw clenching. "How?" He needed to understand what happened to them.
Roman shook his head; he didn't want to tell Elijah what he and Damien had found. It was too gruesome. Too horrifying.
"Dammit, Roman! Tell me now!"
Roman swallowed hard. "They were beheaded, and their bodies burned."
Elijah couldn't hide the pain or the tears in his eyes. "Even Anya?"
"Yes, even Anya. I'm so sorry, Lije."
Elijah's hands balled up, heat emitting from them, flames threatening to burst free. He couldn't speak anymore of this, his heart bled. His soul gutted. "How many casualties?"
"A few dozen. But the odd thing is, is that some people seem to be missing, including children. Anya's friend Dana is missing." Roman knew Elijah needed a few moments alone to absorb this. "I'll go get Damien and we'll meet you at the gate with Princess Calah. We'll be there when you're ready. Again, I'm so sorry, Lije." He turned to leave Elijah to deal with his pain.
For several minutes Elijah didn't move, hell, he didn't even breathe. Then suddenly he fell to his knees and cried. His parents and his baby sister were gone. They were dead. Beheading adults was one thing but murdering a ten-year-old little girl that way was incorrigible.
Elijah finally wiped his eyes and stood. "As soon as I carry out this mission, I vow to you mother, father and Anya, I will avenge your deaths. I will hunt them down and rip them apart piece by piece and burn what is left. I will give them the same mercy they gave to you. This I promise."