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~:: Endgame ::~
Chapter II

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"Lady Naimah. Approach me, my child." The massive demon Xandaros beckoned with a taloned finger as his burning gaze met the soulless eyes of his daughter. "From whence have you come?"

"I have come from carrying out my duties upon the Earth. I have found the one who I have convinced to eliminate the female child and help us to break the prophecy so that our foes may be defeated and our lord Azazel might be freed."

His voice echoed across the span of the smoldering cavern like the sound of a multitude. "What makes you think that this human can succeed at a task where demons themselves have failed?"

She pursed her full lips and stared down at the steamy stones beneath her feet. Drawing a deep breath of the familiar sulphurous air, she leveled her gaze and answered her sire. "He is an assassin and is quite skilled at moving among his kind undetected. I believe he can accomplish what we seek."

Xandaros nodded. "I hope you are right. Our master grows impatient." His lips curled in a sneering grin to reveal his massive fangs. "I assume you have persuaded this human to support our cause?"

"Yes, my father. He proved most difficult to seduce, however by entering his mind while he slept I was able to finally overcome his resistance."

"You do well, my daughter. You have been training at the hands of the Succubi."

Naimah nodded. "Yes, I have, my father."

"Carry on, my child. There is much yet to do before we can accomplish our goals. Once the meddlers are eliminated and Azazel is freed so that he can lead the legions of our master into battle, we can crush the humans once and for all, and take back what should rightfully have been ours."

Naimah hesitated and looked up into her father's glowing eyes. "Father," she began, in a faltering voice, "I have a favor to ask of you."

He knew what she was going to say before the words could form on her sensuous lips. "You are not yet a formidable enough opponent to take on Azazela. She has grown in power and in skill even since the last time you did battle with her."

"Perhaps," she intoned darkly. "But perhaps I shall too grow in power enough to defeat her once and for all."

"Tell me," he asked with a hint of sardonic amusement in his voice, "why is it you want to go up against your mother?"

"I wish to punish her for her weakness. She could be here now with us, like she was meant to be. She was destined to free her father and to do his bidding. She has turned her back upon us and upon her heritage. And for what? The ingratitude and disrespect of these pathetic humans." She spat the word as if it were the most despicable term she could have used.

Xandaros nodded as he produced a flaming ball of energy and tossed it at his nearest underling with a dark scowl. "I myself offered her much. She spurned me and our ways in favor of an impoverished existence among these vile creatures." His voice lowered, taking on a truly venomous tone. "Do as you wish my daughter. I will grant you the right to face her when the time comes for us to once again meet in battle. I would suggest in the meantime you spend your time training in preparation."

A malicious grin lit up the pale visage of the wickedly beautiful demoness. "Thank you, my father," she whispered, as she bowed before the massive demon. His daughter had indeed grown in power, he thought as he cast a lustful gaze over her prostrate form. Given over to the evil overlord Deathwynd, her cruel master had released her from her mortal bonds and instilled her with a hatred for the weakness of the humans. She would prove to be a most powerful asset in the battle for supremacy, of that he had no doubt.

With a wave of his hand, he dismissed her as she closed her eyes and willed her presence to once again manifest itself upon the Earth.

The slamming door reverberated throughout the apartment. With a loud sigh, the frustrated mother called to her daughter through the hollow wooden barrier.

"Sheken, I meant what I said. I do not approve of this, and I forbid you to go."

"Mom, it is perfectly safe there! There is no fighting allowed," Sheken yelled as she flung open the door to face her mother.

"Sure. Tell your aunt that. She was attacked there once."

"That was a long time ago, mom. It hasn't happened since. And you go there."

Dawl shook her head. "That is different." The small demonic half-breed looked at her only daughter with a scowl. "I am not the object of a dire prophecy regarding my evil brother and his sinister associates."

Sheken growled in frustration. Why did her mother have to be so paranoid? "Mom, I can't spend the rest of my life holed up in this apartment. I have to have a life, you know."

"I want you to have a life. That is why I have to make sure you are protected from your brother, and from those who are his allies."

The girl threw herself across her bed and pulled a pillow over her head to muffle the sounds of her mother's voice.

Her mother threw up her hands and stormed from the room, back to the kitchen where her mate was preparing himself a sandwich. He met her troubled gaze with a sympathetic look.

Dawl answered with a growl. "Why does she have to be so stubborn and willful? She is SO much like her father."

Before the words finished rolling off her tongue she regretting bringing up the subject of Sheken's father to her partner. Her tryst with the angel had been a bit of a point of contention between them and this was like tossing virtual salt into an old but never quite healed wound.

"You were the one who chose to sleep with him."

She winced visibly as Keres' words hit her like a hard slap. He saw pain darken her eyes, and instantly wished he could take them back.

He reached out to her as she turned her back to him with tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, sweets. I shouldn't have said that." He pulled her into his arms and rocked her gently as her welling tears turned into a full-blown torrent.

"I don't know what I am going to do with her. She's just so...so..." she sobbed against his strong chest.

"I know," he told her soothingly. "But she is growing up. You can't keep her under lock and key, as much as I know you want to protect her."

Dawl lifted her eyes. "You are right. But what can I do? I can't let her walk blindly into a dangerous situation."

"Dangerous situations exist all around us," a soft voice spoke up from behind them.

"Hi, Az," Keres said, as he turned to face the statuesque blonde.

"Greetings, Keres," Azazela said with a nod, as she crossed the room to pour herself a tall glass of water. She paused after a moment and turned to focus her gaze on her tiny sister. "Dawl, I know it is not my place to raise your children, however, I believe you are going to have to let Sheken become an adult on her own. Eventually, we will all face the consequences of the prophecy. Imprisoning her here is not going to change that."

"You're right, Az," the diminutive redhead answered quietly, as she dabbed at her wet cheeks with the end of her cape. "But I still do not think allowing her to go to Pocket D by herself is a wise idea. And Keres and I are going away for the weekend. He's taking me to the Shadow Shard." She grinned sheepishly.

Az smiled and shook her head as she prayed silently that the explanation of their weekend plans would go into no further detail. "I agree that perhaps she should postpone her curiosity about the club until you can remain nearby. I, too, have some business to attend to this weekend with Cale. We are taking Adara shopping."

Keres hugged his little demoness tightly to him. "Az is right, baby. You can't avoid the inevitable by keeping her here."

"I know," Dawl answered glumly. "I just want to keep her safe. That is the desire of any mother towards her children."

"I understand, and you know I love the children just as much as you do, and would never let any harm come to them if it is within my power to prevent it." Keres had been there for her since they met what seemed like an eternity ago. Even though only one of the children, her firstborn, was biologically his, he'd stayed by her side helping her to raise all of them.

Azazela looked at both of them. "I must be going. I dropped some books in the den for Zakai. You might wish to look through them too, Dawl. Enjoy your trip to the shard." Saying that, she hugged her sister, nodded politely to Keres, and quietly made her way towards the door to return to her flat in Kings Row.

"We need to start packing. Is Zakai coming home to stay with Sheken for the weekend?" Keres asked her.

"Yes, he should be home later this afternoon. We can discuss this matter of the club with both of them when we get back from our little getaway," she giggled as she gave her mate a playful slap on his well-shaped rear.

He returned the swat and winked. "You'd better watch it. You keep that up and you will have little time left for packing after spending most of our afternoon on your back in our bed."

"That," she retorted, "sounds very doable."

He laughed loudly, "As do you..." as he picked her up and carried her up the stairs.

To Chapter III