Daemon, Daimon, or Demon
1. a divinity, spirit, or supernatural being considered part god and part human.
2. An inner, attendant, or guardian spirit; inspiring force.
3. Ancient Greek and Latin for “godlike”, “power”, “fate”
I gripped the silver dagger, La Dame d’Croc tighter. Like droplets of blood across the blade, my eyes reflected my desire for its destruction. The ornate hilt’s laughing skulls and vines dug into my palm. Tilting the keen blade, a long-forgotten language made itself known. This is the tool for the rite of passage for the next generation of bloodeaters. It was my duty, the next in-line to be King of The Court to protect it with my life. I didn’t care to inherit the wretched thing. Tonight, in my honor, a masquerade party whispered from the lower levels of the manor. The sense of jubilation resonating from the guests was a growing friction of heat against my soul.
I intend on ending the centuries-old tradition of bloodeating with my abdication from the throne. My father’s advisors would likely imprison me if they knew of my intentions. They would claim the pacifist daemons of The Court or even human ideals from The Tower were to blame. The truth is simpler. What little historical records survive amongst the royal library tell me the story of betrayal and ascension to a never-ending civil war. The House had turned on those it had promised to protect and devoured them for their power. Thus, the tradition of eating the blood of humans was born with the use of the magical blade in my hand and I wanted nothing to do with it.
“Are you not joining the celebration, Dante?” The voice belonged to Viceroy Falco, a sinister bastard who was also a revered war hero. “Ah, I see they handed the La Dame d’Croc over to you. Mmm, The Fanged Lady, such a wonderful name for a blade.”
Glancing over my shoulder, his lips were tight and a scornful flare in his eyes told me what I already knew, “I’m sorry my father didn’t hand it to you, Viceroy Falco.”
By human standards, Viceroy Falco was in his mid-twenties, but he had been walking this world for at least two centuries. He had fought in the front lines when the civil war reached a peak pressing for territory. They pushed The Court and its non-bloodeater daemons to the mountains over a hundred years ago. It was obnoxious how he towered over me, despite my superior ranking. He was broad-shouldered, carried a sword, and the white strands of his hair looming across his maroon eyes added to the deceitful atmosphere that never left him. With each step, Viceroy Falco’s armor clacked as the golden devils and chains knocked against the black lacquer of the ceremonial armor on his shoulder and chest. It was more of a fashion statement than practical for battle when he wore the black steel equivalent.
“It’s only because you’re the king’s last surviving son,” he snorted, stepping closer to inspect the skulls on the hilt. “You are still too young and naïve to wield such a sacred artifact. A mistake, no offense, my dear prince.”
“Twenty-eight is old in human terms.” It earned me a sneer, his fangs clenched as I covered the blade with its black silken cloth. “I’m old enough to know not to misplace this into the wrong hands.” He stiffened feeling the verbal stabs aimed in his direction. “As its protector, no one is to touch it.”
Despite my age, I appeared to be nothing more than a young boy of eighteen. Besides the fangs hidden behind my lips and the ever-present maroon eyes of a daemon were the signs of what I was; not human. Earlier in the war, it’d been a malicious tactic to send out younger daemons to use their childlike appearances to infiltrate various noble households serving The Tower. Many hadn’t come home after being discovered, including a few cousins and a sister far before my conception. Daemons that young had no power, not yet come of age to join the ritual of the blade where cutting of flesh and their first feeding unlocked a lifetime of thirst.
The first blood must be taken from a cut brandished by La Dame d’Croc or face the Madness. A curse which drove human and daemon into insanity of wanting to devour the meat of their fellow men and sometimes, themselves. When the Madness peaked, they would foam at the mouth, eyes rolled back in their heads, berserking until their hearts beat themselves to death. The magic ritual passed down to The House cleansed both vessels, bloodeater and prey, allowing the art to be feasible. Viceroy Falco had sent many humans and opposing daemons in battle into the Madness with relentless bites, earning him the title of Le Chien Enragé or The Rabid Dog.
“Watch your words,” Viceroy Falco hissed. Turning on his heel, tugging his mask back on, he paused as if regaining his composure. “If I didn’t know better, you were accusing me of being a thief, Dante.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Falco.” I didn’t fear the monster standing before me, my eyes hitting his own with knowing supremacy. “If I wanted, I could end your life here. We both know you’ve stolen enough from me, but you will not have this.”
“A lot of talk for a daemon who has fought one tiny battle and has yet to drink human blood.” Gripping his sword, he finished his warning for me, “I had slain armies of men before your conception. A day will come, and I will take what’s rightfully mine.”
“And I will be there to watch you fail.” He marched away, the sway of his fourteen-knot braid reflecting his position as a Viceroy.
“The scorned lover look doesn’t suit you, my dear prince.” Laughter rolled from him as he vanished down the hall.
I glared at my braid laying across my shoulder, sixteen knots marked me a prince of Glensdale, one of three kingdoms in Grandemere. Only kings held eighteen knots and queens seventeen. From there, the caste system continued ending with the braidless servants and the bald shaven heads of slaves. Cutting one’s braid was distasteful, a sinful way of disrespecting your status and birthright, whether you served The House, The Court or even The Tower and Church. It had been this way for a long time among humans and daemons.
I will not become one of them, I will not become the Blood Prince they expect me to be.
Tucking the dagger into my white leather tunic, I gripped the cold marble railing of the balcony. Looking down, it was two-stories high. Snow lay heavy across the ground and topiary. Winter was at its peak, the days more dark than light and the icy air a reminder of the harsh desires held by The House. With little effort I hoisted myself over the railing, falling through the freezing bite of the wind. Landing in silence, I peered at the lights and shadows from the nearby ballroom. A great weight was lifting, and with no remorse, I surged into the forest, leaving nothing but the shattered mask of a prince in the snow.