Hello everyone! I'm so happy to get this story out, and very grateful to my awesome co-author, Tori Hamlin. The Demon Chain is a collaborative title between myself and one of the best dark, reluctance erotica writers I know. It combines the gritty, dark world of a Tori Hamlin tale with a poignant, tragic love story. I hope you'll enjoy this combined effort and I know I'm looking forward to more of them in the future.
Thousands of years ago, seven ancient demons of incredible power were sealed away within seven magical artifacts. The demon chains were forged to contain their evil powers, but even the greatest of magic couldn't harness them fully. In time, the chains passed into legend and were forgotten by most.
In the ruins of Dar'Kasha, Jalissa hunts for lost treasures. She's a pilferer, a scavenger, wandering the world in search of artifacts to sell. When she uncovers a hidden chamber, the treasure she finds within is one that will exact a terrible price on her, instead.
Within this forgotten room, in the dusty fingers of a desiccated skeleton, is a gem-laden chain that glows with its own magical light. The thing seems to sing to her, to call to her, urging her to bear it from the darkness. What Jalissa doesn't realize, is that she's just carried forth an ancient evil. And it's one that's begun to consume her soul from the moment she touched it.
Now, she's in a race against time, fighting the demon's compulsions and her own temptation. She finds herself in the company of a less-than-competent mage, with the demon's power growing as it uses her body to feed. Before it can consume her, she'll need to find a way to free herself from its vile hold or perish in the attempt.
Chapter One: The Ruins
Jalissa stumbled into the ruined stone building, desperate for cover from the storm. Three days of dry weather had made poking about the jungle-covered ruins an excellent foray, but eventually, it had to end. The storm came up with little warning and blinding speed, dumping a deluge of rain and deafening thunder down on her within seconds.
None of the other crumbling heaps of ancient buildings had anything resembling a roof, but this one did. It was a godsend in the sudden downpour. Only a few dried flakes of what must have been a once grand set of gigantic doors lay strewn across the entrance, which was growing darker by the second.
Jalissa set her pack down and fumbled inside. The contents were blessedly dry. She set aside the carefully wrapped gems she’d been able to find, as well as the two little idols that would fetch a good price at the market in Canilia. This latest scavenging hadn’t been the most profitable, but at least it wasn’t a total loss. She located her catch-flint, flicked the little metal box back and forth until it sparked, and then lit one of the tallow torches from her pack.
The flickering glow threw menacing shadows across the old, weathered stone floor and walls of the place. The little bubble of light didn’t reach far. She replaced the items in the pack, shouldered it, and made a quick circuit of the room. On the walls, faded artwork was mostly unrecognizable. What was left didn’t provide much of a clue to the structure’s purpose. Since it had a well-constructed stone roof, which had remained intact over the centuries, she supposed that it must have been a place of some importance. Little remained of the rest of the city but broken rock, swallowed by the jungle.
On the far wall, she found the only remaining piece of evidence, and it was valuable. Inlayed in the stone was a pattern of gems, laid out in the symbol for infinity. The gems glittered red under the dancing flame of her torch, and they were breathtaking. All the centuries gone, yet these beautiful stones remained? It seemed impossible. Surely other adventurers and looters had picked this place clean through the years. How had no one managed to find this?
Torch in one hand, she slid her knife from her belt and tested the edges of one of the gems. The stone around it flecked away against her work. She carefully dug at the edges of the gem, sweat beading on her brow in the suffocating heat of the enclosed space. Finally, the first of the red stones came free. She nearly dropped it as it popped out with a crack. She shoved it in a pocket for the moment and went to work on the next. This one was lodged in tighter than the other and she had to work delicately to get enough of the surrounding stone wall away to get her knife under the edge.
She managed it after a time, but as she began to work the blade around the edge something clicked in the wall. She stepped back and then turned to run back out into the storm as the building began to vibrate, and then began to shake.
“Shit!” she cursed and darted, certain that the place was about to collapse.
She hadn’t gone ten paces before the shaking slowed and then suddenly stopped. She paused, one hand on the doorway, as the rain and thunder pelted the world outside. Looking back, she could feel a rush of stale air buffet her face, blowing back her hair. It carried with it the scent of… death, she thought. Still, she took a step back toward the wall, and then another, until the torchlight fell upon an even darker opening. Where once the back wall had stood, cradling the red gems, now there was an empty hole where the wall had slid back and away to reveal an entrance. Or an exit?
She thrust the torch into the portal, watching the licking flames beat back the darkness, but there was naught therein but more blackness. Jalissa hesitated, waving the torch back and forth, but no answers were forthcoming. She gave the stormy entrance behind her another look, and then stepped inside. The darkness within was like a cloying thing, clinging to her skin, devouring the light of the torch like a hungry kithrok that had been denied its kill.
The light in her hand barely broke through it, but she took another step. The feeling of the place made her skin crawl and the sweat on that skin made her itch with the instinct to turn around and run. One didn’t go ruin hunting by being easily scared, though, and she wouldn’t allow herself to be now. The greatest treasures often lay in the darkest places. But then, so did vamprats, lich spiders, and willow vipers.
She took another step and her foot kicked against something soft. A moment later a cloud of dust struck her face and she coughed. She leaned down, bringing the torch to the ground. The thing was a skeleton, dressed in ancient rags. Her intrusion had turned the rags into dust. She was breathing in the remains of ancient clothing and of death.
The torchlight showed her something else, though, something that glittered as none of the red gems had. Wrapped in the bony fingers of the corpse was a heavy, silver chain, and all along its length were gems of onyx and red. The stones seemed to shine from the inside with their own pale light, which was magnified by that of her torch.
“Holy shit,” she whispered and even the small sound echoed around her in the darkness.
She touched the chain and the brittle fingers fell apart, as though offering her their prize. A prize that this lost adventurer had died for. What had prevented his escape? Impossible to tell after all this time. He could have been injured before he entered, poisoned, betrayed. So many possibilities.
So many ways to die.
She picked up the chain and held it up to the torchlight. No stranger to hunting ruins, Jalissa had seen her share of ancient treasures. She’d held gold coins from the ancient kingdom of Li’ath-Kit-Kenan. She’d retrieved crowns and tiara’s from Silith Brele. Gems, weapons, parchments, scrolls, even a vial of death magic that she’d sold to a black-robed mage. The little chain and its gemstones, though, were something wholly new. Looking at the stones was entrancing, as though they were singing a song in her head.
It was with an effort that she pulled her eyes away from them and stuffed the chain into her pocket as she stood. She slowly padded in one direction until she came to a wall, then followed it around, measuring off the space. The room was small, barely twenty paces square. The only other thing of note was a hewn altar of solid rock, placed at the center. On the altar were shards of glass that didn’t seem to hold any value.
Jalissa made for the muted gray light of the room’s entrance and felt like a weight had lifted off of her the moment she was back in the main room. She examined the wall around the entrance, but couldn’t find any way to close the portal and retrieve the remaining gems. She shrugged off the pack and removed the contents again, wrapping the single red gem and the silver chain, then placing everything back. Outside, the vicious storm seemed to be blowing away.
She stood by the entrance, watching the dark sheet of rain as it swallowed the sky, moving into the distance. Eventually, the sun broke through, low in the sky now. For a moment, she considered camping here, but a glance back at that dark portal changed her mind. Something about it just made her uneasy. Better a night in the jungle than next to that. She shivered and left the ruin.
Need to know what happens next? Pick up the finished book in my shop today. The complete story contains ten chapters, nearly 30k words of dark, fantasy erotica, adventure, and tragedy.