Demon’s Prey by Kala Aster

1

KURSE

It was barely daybreak when Kurse removed Flappy, his loyal and faithful vampire bat mount, from his stable. Flappy stared at his owner with concerned eyes, the light of the sun sneaking into his pen. Kurse strapped the saddle on tightly and pulled Flappy by the neck to face the morning. He knew the day would be unlike any other. Flappy grunted, disagreed, yet reluctantly gave in when his 400 pound owner mounted him and cast off into the sky.

The orange clouds parted, and Kurse looked over his dominion. The planet Kell in the Hell dimension of Kortanth was a land of blood and violence, but from up here, it almost looked…peaceful.

The Oracle would not be expecting him, but Kurse did not give a shit. As a demon king, he had waited too long to identify his mate. He was horny, strong, and capable. Why had no mate emerged for his pleasure? They had questions to answer, and Kurse was going to force it down their throat if he had to.

Kurse pulled at the reins and slightly choked Flappy, forcing him into a rough landing. They stopped at the heights of the Tower of the Oracle, which sat at the center of a gothic landscape crafted by the most ancient demon kings. At that moment, though, he did not give a shit about its historical significance. Instead, he leapt off Flappy and ordered him into the shadows.

“The sun will rise soon, so you better stay put,” Kurse grunted at his stead.

Flappy curved his mouth downward, frowning as much as a bat can frown, but descended into the dark, knowing that any other choice would be his demise.

Kurse breathed in profoundly and stroked his scales. They were as red as the blood he’d shed of his victims. And the blood he would be more than willing to shed again to find his fated mate.

Kurse tramped to an entry doorway. He used a single giant foot to plow it open. Behind it, a minor demon in an Oracle uniform stood stunned with his eyes wide.

“You can’t be in here!” The little man proclaimed.

Kurse snorted. “And you’re going to stop me?”

The man held a spear in one hand, which he glanced at briefly. Kurse watched him assess the threat and then challenge the giant demon king anyway.

He ran toward Kurse with one hand shot backward, holding the spear and ready to launch. Instead, he attempted a roar and sprinted, sounding like a lion cub rather than the dominant father. Kurse placed his hands on his hips, leaned back, exposing his sharp fangs, and launched his head forward. He caught the thin arm of the tiny demon in his mouth, then chewed down relentlessly.

The little man bellowed like a child.

“AHHHHHHHHH!”

Kurse grinned as he clenched his teeth, digging deeper into the immature scales. He felt bones crunch and relished in the sound. He shook him like a lion shakes its prey, loosening skin and muscle, then tossed him to the cold hard ground. He was still screaming when he hit the stone.

Kurse rolled his flesh around in his mouth, considered swallowing, then spat out the remnants of the pathetic being. He picked his teeth with his sharp nails. “Tastes like chicken.” He muttered to himself.

Kurse considered leaving, then decided to take one last shot at the little man writhing around on the ground. His forearm had been mangled, redness and meat hanging from the bone like mini curtains. This satisfied Kurse. He pressed a giant foot down onto the wrist that trembled, hanging onto the ligaments by a string.

“FUCK!” The man bellowed. Kurse hoped that the Oracle was hearing all of this agony being expelled.

Kurse let up, then stepped over the boy… “Never challenge a demon king, son.” Kurse boomed before entering the Oracle’s lair. He hoped it would be a lesson that the boy would never forget.

He’d have a missing limb to attest to the power and fury of Kurse.

The Oracle had her door open, and she sat on the top of the desk. The desk was tall and made of the most sought after iron of Kortanth. She leaned back, her bare, sleek legs reflecting in the candlelight. The Oracle wasn’t gendered but could appear in whatever form they saw fit. When Kurse met them, they were a thick and voluptuous red-headed human sporting a beautifully fitted charcoal black blazer and skirt.

“The Iron King, wonderful to meet you.”

Kurse clenched his claws and entered the room, noticing the decorum of iron. Kurse was agitated, knowing that Oracle had intentionally manipulated the space to appeal to his iron-bending abilities. “You’re a fucking joke. You know that, right?”

“Wow.” The Oracle exclaimed. “That’s not the way to address your fate.”

“I have no fate so far, so spit it out. Where the fuck is my mate?”

The Oracle sighed, her giant breasts heaving. She cast her hands in a circle in front of her, conjuring a dark mirror only she could peer into. She squinted her small human eyes to give him his reading. “Kurse, The Iron King, your fated mate is human. She traced your sigil with her body thirteen times in a row. She then twisted herself into your personal sigil.”

Kurse was getting excited. His irritation was melting away like ice in the fires of hell. He unclenched his jaw and let his fangs hang out the side of his lips. “A human? Are you sure?”

The Oracle flicked her blue eyes up to the king. “You know who I am, right?”

Kurse waved his curled claws in her face. “No need for your wit! Is this a guarantee, or am I being sent on some duck chase?”

The Oracle threw her head back and laughed while Kurse growled. “I believe the human saying is ‘goose chase.’”

“Who the fuck cares! Is this definite?”

The Oracle sighed and crossed her arms. “It is decreed so, Kurse, Iron King. Go find your mate.”

Despite his annoyance, Kurse felt driven. He turned and allowed his epic tale to whip into the Oracle’s office and slam her ornaments off the wall. They clanked roughly onto the floor. He leapt onto Flappy, who was cowering in the shadows, to head to the crossover into the Earth realm. The Oracle appeared in front of him before he could depart. She was holding something in her hand. “You forgot this,” she tossed it at him, and he caught it in his claw. It was small to him, golden, and strange looking. “This is how you will find her.”

Kurse merely roared and leapt away into the sky. There was no time to waste.

He knew he had to get to Jerry’s so he could let him cross into the earth realm. He had everything he needed—the dowsing rod and himself. But, life in the demon realm was getting lonely, and bending iron wasn’t the only thing he wanted to fulfill.

The demon portion of Jerry’s wasn’t hard to find. Kurse parked Flappy in a nearby shadow. He entered the bar and found himself traveling to Earth—something he had never done before—quickly and easily through a dark hallway. His head spun a little, but he could regain himself without vomiting.

When he moved into the Earth realm, he came upon Jerry. He stood near the portal that would take him to New York City. He had met Jerry before, but he had never been so desperate to pass him.

Jerry was leaning on a cane when he approached him. Jerry was tall and lean but muscular. His eyes were grey and filled with wisdom. Kurse came to him with heavy feet slamming against the floor. “Let me through Jerry. I’ve got fated mate business to attend to!” Kurse snorted through his fangs.

Jerry blinked, never wavering on the stool he sat on. “Have you ever been to Earth, King of Iron? Have you dealt with these humans or their metahuman progeny?”

Kurse waved his hand in front of him and shook his head. “No need to play games. Just let me through!”

Jerry sighed. “You know that’s no way to talk to the demon with all the power. One word from me, and you will never enter this dimension again, Iron King.”

Kurse grunted, feeling warmth rise in his chest. He showed Jerry the dowsing rod, appearing like an ant in his enormous hand. “I’ve seen the Oracle; the passage has been approved.”

Jerry stood up from his stool, pushing the curtain to the side. “Pass through the next door. There will be a bright light; just follow it.”

Kurse chuckled. “I’ve heard that before.”

Without another word, Kurse passed through the portal, feeling his large body spinning and shaking. Then, finally, he emerged on Earth to the smell of shit and something sour.