The Last Unforgiven - Cursed
Raim, the Grand Master of Western Council of Incubi, rose from his seat in the meeting room at the Base in Yukon. The old armchair groaned as if relieved to be free of his weight.
“The Council is yours, Stolas.” He refused to address the demon by his human name, Andras. Instead, he preferred to call all Incubi by the names they got at the time of their creation, lest they forget who they were and where they came from.
“Lead it wisely,” he added, not even attempting to hide a sarcastic smile.
As intelligent and resourceful as Stolas had proven to be, Raim doubted he had the necessary ruthlessness and ingenuity to balance Incubi’s interests with The Priory’s demands.
For a moment, Raim considered telling Stolas about the soros stone urn, the only one that survived the journey to this world intact and had been in the possession of The Priory for the past six hundred years. Then decided against it.
The Elder would no doubt let the new Grand Master know about the true source of human power over the Incubi. So far, Stolas and The Elder seemed to get along splendidly in their common goal to unite humans and demons.
A sting of resentment pierced through Raim. They all went against his own efforts to prevent the integration of the demons into the human society, crushing his control over his own kind.
He refused to remain their Grand Master on current terms.
Still, the centuries-old habit of looking after the interests of this ungrateful bunch of demons was hard to beat.
“Beware of the Priory,” Raim couldn’t hold back the warning before exiting the room. “They are the ones with the real power.”
Not that it mattered anymore. Nothing did. Incubi were doomed from the moment Sytry broke the rule of silence and spoke to that Source last year.
“Where are you going?” Stolas called out behind him.
Raim didn’t dignify him with an answer. Wasn’t it enough that he was leaving the Council he had ruled most of his existence, giving up everything he had built and failed to preserve?
Stolas could have it all. Raim owed him nothing more.
The white silk of his robe streamed in the air behind him as he swiftly walked along the corridor, then up the stairs. Out of habit, he turned right at the top of the stairs but stopped, having taken just a couple of steps. There was nothing he needed from his room, not a thing he would miss if left behind.
Resolutely, he spun on his heel and headed to the exit instead.
The door at the Base had not been guarded for months now, and Raim walked out without having to say a word to anyone else.
Crossing the property towards a number of vehicles parked by the wall, he yanked free the jewelled clasp that held his robe closed at his shoulder, and tossed it into the snow. The wind caught the silk, his robe flew open, and he let it slide off his shoulders and flutter to the ground, without slowing his pace.
Left dressed only in a pair of black pants and a thin white tunic, Raim felt the winter chill seep through just one layer of cloth. The sensation felt invigorating as he climbed behind the wheel of a truck.
Fishing the keys out of the glove compartment, he started the engine and drove off the property where he had spent most of his time during the past few centuries.
His phone rang, and he yanked it out of his pants pocket. Without glancing at the screen to see who was calling, he rolled down the window and tossed the phone into the snowbank on the side of the road.
The Incubi had doomed themselves, rushing out there like a pack of eager puppies wagging their tails, to claim the first female who would allow them to come close enough.
Once tasted, the sweet energy of a human female was impossible to resist for his kind. It took over a demon’s mind and soul like poison, eventually destroying both.
He didn’t need to stay and watch as the Incubi whom he had tried so hard to protect learned the true, treacherous nature of a female heart. And they would fall, the way he had fallen—crushed, ruined, and destroyed for an eternity.
Driving along the snowy road, Raim rubbed his forehead, wincing at the painful memories that tortured him every hour of every century.
“God did not curse me with the centuries of torment, Olyena. You did.”
Raim took the cover off the gramophone he had on the sidetable in the spacious living room of his mansion in Switzerland, and set a vinyl disk with Beethoven Symphony number seven on it.
After several decades of owning the device, he still marvelled at human ingenuity as the sound of the orchestra filled the room.
Raim had heard the symphony performed live once. He knew this music was the result of the perfectly coordinated work of many people in conjunction with their instruments. Yet all of that was now compacted onto a black plastic disk that spun on the gramophone, a device that modern humans would already find extremely obsolete, even though he had it for less than a century.
That applied to human civilisation as a whole. They wasted their genius and their short, fragile lives.
Suddenly, Raim felt the movement of air at his shirtless back and realized he was no longer alone in the room. He had heard no sound of any door or window opening anywhere in the house, which meant his visitor was most likely a demon.
Then, the tendril of sweet perfume reached his nostrils. As flighty and capricious as the Succubus was, her taste in scents hadn’t changed much.
“Evening, Caryss,” he greeted, without turning to her.
“I’ve been Cynthia for the past four decades now, Raim.” Her voice, thick with seduction, wrapped around him before her slender arms circled his waist from behind. “Not that you care.” Even without seeing her face, he could tell she was pouting—her plump bottom lip would be slightly extended in a move practiced to perfection.
Her firm, full breasts pressed against his back, her long silky locks tickling his skin.
“You change your human names a few times a century. Remembering them all would be a waste of energy.” He turned in her arms to face her.
Caryss’s emerald gaze greeted him.
“You remember everything.” She shook her head—her thick chestnut tresses caressed his arms and chest. “You just don’t bother talking about any of it.”
“You didn’t come here to talk about my memories.” He picked up a lock of her hair, absentmindedly twisting it around his finger. “Just as you don’t care what name I call you.”
The seductive expression slipped off Caryss’s face, replaced by that of calm indifference that Raim knew the Succubus only allowed herself to display in his presence.
“True. I don’t care about my name, or anyone else’s for that matter, as long as they feed me.”
“How did you know where to find me?” He freed himself from her embrace and strolled to the armchair by the fireplace.
“I figured you’d be either here or on the island since rumour has it you quit the Council. I checked the castle first, but you weren’t there. So, here I am, finding you alone like always, with your music and chocolate.” She pointed at the silver tray with pralines by his chair. “Why did you quit?”
She came closer to stand over him.
He considered her question for a moment.
“I believe I’m tired, Caryss.” He lifted a dark-chocolate praline off the tray, but waited to eat it, simply holding it in his fingers. “It was exhausting, fighting for the survival of a race that is dead-set on its self-extermination.”
She arched a perfectly groomed eyebrow. “Life would have been so much simpler if you went through it completely alone. You’d have no one to worry about but yourself.”
“But I am alone. And I don’t care for others.”
“That’s what you say.” With a nonchalant little shrug, she knelt in front of him, placing her elbows on his knees. “It is a shame that you and I cannot feed off each other. Some human lives would have been spared if we could.”
Raim scanned her, searching past the expensive dress and the luscious body underneath. The unappetizing echoes of emotions of the men Caryss had fed off floated inside her—nothing he could or would take. He was sure she didn’t see anything enticing inside him, either.
“It is a shame,” he agreed, leaning back in his chair. The praline began to melt in his hand, and he placed it back on the tray, licking the smudge of bittersweet chocolate off his finger. “Anything new? Or is your visit here simply because you’ve missed me?”
“Ooh, I always miss you, honey.” The pout came out again. Centuries-old habits weren’t easily hidden or forgotten. “You will be the only one I’ll miss when I leave here, too.”
“You’re leaving?” The restless nature of the Succubus had taken Caryss around the world a few times during the centuries he had known her. “Where to, this time?”
“Out of here.” Rising to her feet, she took a seat in the armchair next to his, facing the fire, too. The high slit of her skirt parted, displaying her long, shapely legs as she crossed them. “I’m leaving this world, Raim. I’ve come to say goodbye.”
“You are?” He laced his fingers in front of him. Something akin to regret tugged at his heart.
Since Caryss had found him, lying on the bottom of a ravine in the Alps, with every bone in his body broken and flesh gnawed off his bones by wolves, she had been the only one he had ever spoken to openly, not as a Grand Master, but as an equal.
“Are you sad about me leaving?” She gazed at him with curiosity.
“Parting from someone you knew for a long time always carries a certain amount of sadness, doesn’t it?”
Her ample chest, draped in the rich green satin of her dress, rose with a deep inhale as she seemed to think about his words.
“Not for me.” She shook her head. “But that’s the difference between us, Raim. You’ve never been a true demon. No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape your angelic nature.”
“Angelic?” he scoffed.
He knew Caryss was referring to the place where all Incubi came from. Still, the word seemed ridiculous, for he felt nothing of the Divine in him anymore.
The only thing that remained of that nature was the ability to feel the emotions he consumed. That was the reason why during his early centuries on Earth he fed mostly on the aggression of human males he fought in battles. Aggression didn’t hurt as some of the other human emotions did, it ignited him from the inside instead.
“Why are you leaving, Caryss?”
She shrugged a delicate shoulder, bare from the silk of her dress.
“Many of us have left. The times have been changing. Men are more likely to get at home from their wives now what they used to come to me for—”
“Maybe, but that wouldn’t mean a shortage of clients for you. There will always be plenty of men in this world willing to feed a Succubus.”
Even if feeding one carried a real chance of dying—Caryss wasn’t known for her self-control around humans.
The Priory had long abandoned their hope to rein in the Succubi under their control. Even arranging for a meeting with them had proven impossible. Whatever representatives the Priory had sent to hunt, capture or even talk to a Succubus had never returned. The true demons that they were, the Succubi refused to be controlled by any kind of an agreement. The Priory had nothing to force them with and had no choice but to let them be.
It helped that there were too few Succubi in this world to cause devastation on any large scale. Restless and easily bored, they moved between worlds freely, rarely staying in one for longer than a few centuries at a time.
“The taste of human men is turning stale, Raim,” Caryss complained. “Their stamina is not what it has been. Besides, some of them end up falling in love, which is simply pathetic. Honestly, sometimes draining them feels like an act of mercy—simply to put them out of their misery.”
“I hope you’ll find what you’re searching for in the next world, Caryss.”
“I don’t think I will. That must be my curse, Raim, to always be looking for something I am not meant to find. Well . . .” She got up in one fluid motion, smoothing the skirt of her dress over her thighs. “Who knows, I might be back in a few centuries to find you here again, listening to Beethoven and eating chocolates.” A smile ghosted her lips, subtle enough to be genuine.
“Maybe not.” He rose from his chair, too.
For the first time ever, Raim realized he was faced with uncertainty about his future. He sensed there was a change coming. However, he wasn’t sure when and what it would be.
“Are you hoping for Forgiveness, too?” She tilted her head, with another flash of curiosity in in her green eyes.
“No.” That hope had long died, provided he had ever had it in the first place. “The only way for me to end my existence in this world is to be banished to another.”
“Would that be something you’d want?”
“It absolutely doesn’t matter what I want, Caryss. Here is another difference between us. Unlike you, I cannot move freely between the dimensions. I have been sentenced to this world against my will. Leaving it is also out of my control.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, I hope you’ll find what you’re searching for, Raim.” She came closer, wrapping her arms around his neck. “Goodbye.”
He met her lips in a kiss, perfectly executed and void of any true passion on her part, then watched her depart through the wall, the way she must have arrived.
Left alone again, he sank back into his chair. Sadness grew stronger, filling in the void left by her departure. For a while now, Caryss had been the closest to what one would call ‘a friend’ to him.
That was a curse on its own. At that moment, Raim envied Caryss’s absolute indifference.
‘You’ve lost the bliss of Heaven but never gained the true apathy of Hell,’ she told him once.
Throughout his life, he often mourned the loss of the former. Right now, he really wished for the numbness of the latter, as the agony of longing intensified, encompassing everything and everyone he had lost over the centuries.
He took a bite of the dark chocolate from the tray and let the morsel melt and coat his tongue with sweetness before swallowing. With the sweet taste slowly vanishing, the bitterness was all that remained.
“Just like a woman,” he muttered. “A brief moment of sweetness, followed by an eternity of bitter regrets.”
Leaning his head back, he let his mind float with the music filling the room, and unleashed the memories. He could never deny the craving to relive them, bracing for the pain they brought.