Achilles heel: Unknown. It is impossible to learn anything of use from this disgusting liar.
Objective: Capture this demon once and for all and rid the world of his offensive presence. Also, continue with experiments of the removed limbs, using them to hopefully create our own immortal warrior.
Hair: Long, black
Butterfly tattoo: Lower back, wings spreading around to both hips
Other distinguishing marks: Her voice is enough to make you want to kill yourself. Earplugs are needed when around her.
Preferred weapon: Semi-automatic, long-range rifles
Demon culpability: Misery is responsible for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The fact that both are reported at higher rates today than ever before suggests that the demon’s reach is increasing.
Notable background: Subject causes profound emotional anguish in everyone around her. Additionally, subject was, until recently, believed to be the lone female Lord of the Underworld. New events suggest that additional female Lords might in fact exist.
Achilles heel: Subject is believed to have a relationship with Torin, keeper of Disease. Subject will be closely observed for any physical or emotional vulnerability that might pave the way for an opportunity to capture her. But because of the supposed relationship with Disease, protective gear will be needed when apprehending her.
Objectives: Recon team is exploring ways to force subject to use her voice to our advantage.
Butterfly tattoo: Right calf
Other distinguishing marks: Dark skin
Preferred weapon: Things of an exotic nature.
Demon culpability: The demon of Secrets fosters a lack of communication that contributes to individual issues such as the breakdown of marriages and global problems such as breaches of national security and the inability to achieve world peace.
Notable background: Subject is unable to speak without the secrets of the world pouring out of his mouth—as I regrettably experienced first-hand at our Chicago facility. Also of note, when he speaks, you hear the voice of the person whose secret he is revealing.
Achilles heel: Subject’s fear of speaking might be utilized to our advantage.
Objectives: Capture and interrogate subject in the hopes of discerning the secrets he keeps and using them against the Lords.
Butterfly tattoo: Left hip
Other distinguishing marks: Subject was created, not born, yet has a birthmark on the right side of his buttocks. Small, brown and jagged at the edges.
Preferred weapon: Subject embraces all weaponry.
Demon culpability: The demon of Defeat is determined to win at all costs and will do whatever it takes to ensure victory. Defeat has brought about the downfall of athletes worldwide due to its encouragement of illegal tactics like steroids to obtain a win.
Notable background: Subject cannot lose an argument or battle without succumbing to intense physical agony and prolonged sleep.
Achilles heel: Subject’s inability to lose gracefully.
Objectives: Issue a challenge the demon cannot refuse, one that leads him straight into a trap.
Hair: Mixture of brown, black and gold
Butterfly tattoo: Right hip
Other distinguishing marks: We are still searching.
Preferred weapon: Rifles and other long-range weaponry
Demon culpability: Disaster can be held accountable for everything from traffic accidents to construction site fatalities to plane crashes. It is harmful, often lethal, to anyone and anything it comes into contact with.
Notable background: Subject is unable to move without causing ceilings to collapse, vehicles to explode and other assorted catastrophes to occur. Miraculously and despicably, subject seems to escape injury from such incidents, but those around him are less fortunate.
Achilles heel: Unknown
Objectives: Recon team is exploring ways to isolate and capture subject and channel the incidents he causes into a strategy that will be advantageous to us.
AT ONE TIME, HE’D BEEN a man. A warrior. A king. His enemies had trembled in fear, and his lovers had trembled in ecstasy. Both had begged for the sweet release only he could give: death or pleasure. A slash of his blade or a caress of his hand. Life was sweet, so sweet.
But one night, everything changed.
A woman came to him, the most beautiful he’d ever beheld. Seductive, seemingly guileless. Legend would one day call her Pandora. He would one day call her Witch.
The first time she visited him, she wore a white virgin’s robe, and the hem danced around her ankles as if the very air around her could not help but touch her. Know her. She had hair as dark as a raven’s wing, a face so delicate it almost hurt to gaze upon, and eyes so deep a violet that looking into them was like peering into a never ending abyss.
No one understood how she’d entered his fortress, only that she’d demanded an audience with him. He’d granted her one, certain she was one of a thousand others who wished to know the taste of a king. He’d meant to scold her for such daring and send her on her way. Now, seeing her…
“You may speak,” he told her, waving his royal hand through the air.
“I come to offer you the world, King Maddox. This one, and any other you might desire.” Her voice was lilting, pure enchantment. “Magic will be yours to wield. Time and space will bow to your every whim. Power beyond your wildest imaginings will flow from your hands.”
Seated on his throne of gold, Maddox laughed in disbelief. The strongest of his men surrounded him in a half circle and they, too, laughed at her words. Such things were impossible in this dark world of war and sacrifice. Magic and power belonged to those beyond their reach, the gods and goddesses who rarely ventured here. Still, the claim certainly gained his full attention.
Females lied to him constantly as they fought for a place in his bed and at his side. In this, the beauteous creature was no different.
“What do you ask in return for this gift, sweet?” he asked dryly. “Marriage? To become queen? The right to bear my child?”
She raised her chin, proud, beguiling. “I ask only that you and your army hide my greatest treasure.”
He nearly snorted. Her greatest treasure, in his mind, was her body, and he was more than happy to hide it in his bed. “I accept,” he said, grinning. “My men, however, will have to decide for themselves.”
One by one his brothers-in-arms stepped forward, each mimicking his acceptance. They, too, were smiling widely.
The woman licked her lips in anticipation. “May I kiss you, great king, to complete our bargain?”
He arched a brow. “I would be most disappointed if you didn’t.”
Slowly she climbed the marble stairs and onto the dais, her gown still flowing around her like a phantom, alive, separate from her somehow. When she stood before him, a fragrant breeze wafted to his nostrils, a breeze of midnight tempests and…power? The magic she’d sworn to bestow upon him? No. Surely not.
“Your lips,” she said.
“Take them.” He didn’t shift from his reclined position, forcing her to bend, to come to him. She did. Closer. Closer still. And then her lips gently pressed against his. She opened for him, but didn’t sweep her tongue into his mouth as he expected. No, she uttered a single word. His new prison. His downfall. His sole reason for existence, he would learn.
“Violence,” she said. A gust of wind burst from her mouth and into his, down his throat and into his stomach, his bones. He was suddenly unable to move, locked in place as the brutal wind invaded every corner of his body, attaching itself. Becoming part of him. His muscles shook and burned. His stomach quivered. Pain, so much pain.
He wanted to curse, to fight. To kill. What was happening to him? The wind was solidifying, becoming a…no. No! It was becoming a living entity, another consciousness inside him. He could hear the savageness of its thoughts, could feel the darkness of its desires. He gritted his teeth so forcefully, blood filled his mouth. Grab your sword. Attack! But he could not. He was still trapped, helpless to the wind-creature as it ravaged him.
The woman moved to the man at his right, and there was nothing Maddox could do, nothing he could say to stop her. Her lips descended upon Baden, a scarred, battle-hardened man with more integrity, more honor, than anyone else Maddox had encountered.
“Distrust,” she whispered, and Baden, too, was frozen in place, shaking and under siege.
Over and over, she approached the warriors, kissing them, uttering a different word each time. “Pain.”
After a while, her voice faded from his ears and he knew nothing except darkness.
When she left, he didn’t know. He only knew that when he awakened, he was stronger than he’d ever been, faster, better. The creature, the second consciousness, lay dormant now, so he tried not to concern himself with it. But magic, he learned, was indeed his to command. Time and space did bow to his every whim, and power beyond his wildest imaginings did flow from his hands, just as the woman had claimed.
He reveled in his new abilities, embraced them, enjoyed everything about them—until the beast inside him awoke, no longer content to endure his rule. The beast inside all of the men awoke.
That’s when the woman began to call upon them.
The beasts were her servants, so in turn, they became her servants. When she was angered, it was Vrede she commanded to wreak destruction. He killed without mercy, forced by the beast inside him to unleash a torrent of wrath upon whomever she desired. There was no way to stop it, no way to fight against it.
Challen she called for fucking. Torin she called for plague. Lucien she called for death.