New to the Misery series? Let’s get you all caught up.
- A Demon Lord is Here and He Wants to Interview Me
- Nulli On My Mind – Misery, the Demon Lord Returns
- Misery Sends for Nulli
- Misery Loves Company – Nulli Pays a Visit
- Misery Loves Company – Nulli Pays a Visit Part 2
- Misery and Yuri Have a Chat
- Misery Loves Company: Surprises All Around
- Misery Loves Company: Date Night
- Misery Loves Company – Date Night Part 2
- Misery Loves Company – Yuri Raises the Bar
- Misery Loves Company – Yuri Raises the Bar Part 2
- Misery Loves Company – Change of Plans
- Misery Loves Company – Change of Plans Part 2
- Misery Loves Company – Search and Destroy
- Misery Loves Company – Where’s Nulli?
- Misery Loves Company – Visitations
- Misery Loves Company – Confrontation
- Misery Loves Company – Lead the Way
As always, thanks to Yuri Bellamy for collaborating with me on these posts!
“How the hell do I get back to the living world?”
Stephen stared at me with wide eyes as his lips slowly parted. “The living world? I’m sorry, Ms. but there’s no going back. Once you’ve died, you’re stuck here.”
“I didn’t die!” I clutched the amulet at my chest and tried to calm my racing heart. A head rush left me gripping the table, but I managed to keep myself upright.
Stephen changed his voice to something more soothing and ran a hand through his hair. “I guess you missed your greeter. Look, the only way to hell is through death. I know it might be hard to accept, but this is it. You’ll live out the rest of your days here.”
Was he for real? “Damn it Misery, what the hell am I supposed to do now?”
“Misery?” Stephen stepped closer to the table. “You know, Lord Misery?”
“Yes, and Yuri too.” Granted, the last time I saw them wasn’t the most pleasant, but right about now, I’d give anything to see a familiar face.
“I do not recognize the name Yuri. How have you heard of Misery?” Stephen raised an eyebrow.
He didn’t believe me.
“I’ve been to Misery’s mansion. He has very nice gardens and a large maze on the property. His assistant, Mesa arranges correspondence between us from time to time. If you know how to reach her, I’d be happy to talk to her.” I latched onto the hope that he wouldn’t dismiss me as a crazy person. After all, every other human he’d ever seen had died. Even he’d died.
“What you say is unlikely, but if it is true, the magistrate is the person you’ll need to speak to. I’ll cook your meal and then we will visit him. He might be able to help you get an audience with the demon lord if you truly know him.”
Okay, that was a step in the right direction. I think. I hope.
Stephen served my meal and watched as I ate. He chewed on his index finger relentlessly. That’s when I realized I’d been shoving food into my mouth nonstop, barely slowing down to breathe. The veggies were delicious, and when I told him so, he relaxed, smiled, and brought out a chair to sit with me.
We talked about the world of the living, but I didn’t discuss Misery’s uncle or the amulet. Stephen was nice, but a demon with my former captor’s power probably had far-reaching influence. That, and I didn’t want anyone trying to snatch the necklace to prove it was fake. So I kept things light, asked him questions about his life in hell, and when I’d eaten every scrap of food on my plate (no, I didn’t lick the dish clean you savages), we were on our way to see this magistrate.
Stephen walked by my side as we meandered through the narrow streets. Unlike the grandeur of Misery’s home, the buildings here were more like a collection of small apartments. No displays of finery, no manicured lawns or sprawling gardens. The bare necessities appeared to be the main focus, leaving me to wonder just how many demons shared the opinion of humanity’s lowly state.
“We’re here.” Stephen pointed to a building slightly larger than those surrounding it. A dark wooden placard hung outside the door and as we entered, the thick scent of hot wax greeted my nose.
Another man welcomed us and after Stephen’s brief explanation, we were taken to see the magistrate, a short, portly man with a receding hairline and a stern visage. Stephen told him of my “claims” of knowing Misery. I explained myself without giving over too much information, and thankfully, the man agreed to contact Mesa.
I nearly chewed my bottom lip off as I listened to the one-sided exchange. I wanted to grab the phone and ask Mesa to come to the town. I was more than willing to say whatever it took to convince her to take me home. Instead, I held my place, kept my mouth shut, and listened. Play by the rules, right?
When the magister ended the call with the words, “I’ll be in touch.” Anticipation was swiftly replaced with burning frustration. He didn’t tell her where I was, or that he’d bring me to meet her.
“Is Mesa on her way?” What was this guy playing at?
The magister strode to his chair with slow steps and sat behind a wide desk. “It seems you do know Lord Misery. It’s a rare thing for a demon lord to associate with a human. When I described you, the woman on the phone was very interested in coming to get you.” He interlaced his fingers and offered a wan smile. “You must be important to him. Did you steal something from him? Do you know a secret?”
Before I could answer, he waved his hand. “Please. I’m not interested in those details. Though, I am curious.” Eyeing his fingernails, he leaned back and chuckled. “How much do you think a demon lord will pay to get his hands on you?”
“Where is she? What have you done?” Misery knew his uncle wouldn’t be able to answer his questions, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking them. He was just so damn frustrated. He had actually let himself believe he was close to seeing her again…
“What have I done?” Efrayim scoffed and stopped short of Misery, looking from the young man on the bed to his nephew and back again. His violet eyes chastised Misery as surely as a slap to the face. Whether in anger about the insinuation that he’d hurt Nulli, or in irritation due to her absence, Misery didn’t know, and frankly, he didn’t care.
“Your human attacked my servant and took off. I was ready to hand her over to you.”
For once in his life, Misery believed his uncle. As he took several deep breaths, he began to think past his frustration to the realities of the situation. His uncle had seemed just as surprised to find Nulli gone as either him or Yuri. The odds were good he wasn’t lying about that.
He looked Efrayim in the eyes. “You are right—and I was out of line. May Yuri have permission to speak?”
The demon in question was still staring at the bed with a more or less shell-shocked expression on his face. His fists were tightly clenched at his sides, and his entire body was vibrating with what Misery presumed to be anger. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to Misery or Efrayim, or if he was, he showed no sign of it.
Efrayim spared a glance at Yuri. “Why? You will need me more than you need him to find your woman. I’m the only one who can track her, but I’ll need to retrieve an item from my bedroom to do it.”
Yuri seemed to jerk out of his reverie. He turned to watch Efrayim.
“You can track her?” Misery asked. “How?”
“Through the amulet she’s wearing. The item I’ll retrieve from my bedroom will allow us to determine if she’s anywhere within a one mile radius. If she’s not, we will know she has escaped my mansion.”
Misery sighed. “Then we will do it your way.” If only because I see no other options. “But I still want Yuri to be able to talk. He wants to find her as much as I do.”
“I do not know what one thing has to do with another, but fine.” Efrayim waved a hand at Yuri even as his thin lips curled into a sneer. “I give you permission to talk as long as you don’t irritate me, you piece of shit.” He looked back at Misery. “If your friend offends me, I will punish him as I please. I have no patience for little boys who throw tantrums–and that includes you. Is that understood?”
Misery inhaled sharply. He had to throttle back ugly thoughts of ending his uncle’s reign as duke of the sixth circle in the most permanent of ways before replying. His fingers even started clenching and flexing as he spoke. “Yes, Uncle. Now teleport us to your bedroom. I want to find Nulli as soon as possible before someone she can’t handle does.”
“I think there’s a lot of people she can handle,” Yuri muttered, his purple gaze moving briefly to the man on the bed, “but I agree we have to find her. If she gets hurt–”
“She is not going to get hurt,” Misery snarled, before checking his temper. He caught his uncle watching him with interest and turned away. “We will find her before then.”
His uncle surveyed them both. He had his usual teleportation gem in his hand; he must have pulled it out of his jacket while Misery was looking at Yuri. “If you are done getting emotional over your lunatic of a woman–who I might add has knocked unconscious at least two of my men that we know of–we will be going now.”
Yuri opened his mouth as if to say something, but ended up closing it. Misery was glad for that, in spite of wanting to yell at and possibly kill Efrayim himself. He didn’t want to end up regretting his decision to ask his uncle to let Yuri speak.
In an eyeblink, Misery and the other men stood in a large, lavishly decorated bedroom he had only rarely visited during his childhood. Startlingly little had changed in the last several decades–the bed was still veiled in thick blue drapes, the carpet was still black, and the walls were made of extremely expensive, polished redwood. Efrayim pocketed his stone and crossed the room to a gigantic walk-in wardrobe located in the corner of the room near his bed. He opened the wardrobe and pulled out a glass funnel which looked unremarkable except for the fact it was sealed at both ends. He gave it a shake.
The interior of the funnel turned blue as if suddenly filled with smoke. Efrayim let out a sigh and put the funnel back in the wardrobe. He turned back to Yuri and Misery. “She is outside of a one mile radius for sure. You can either go hunting for her on foot with a handful of my men–which could take hours or even days since she could have gone in any direction–or we can try to determine where she went before making our next move.”
Without question, Misery knew the best route to take, even if an irrational part of him wanted to scour the lands surrounding the mansion for her. They would have to approach the task of finding her logically to have the best chance of locating her in a timely manner–and that involved looking for obvious clues as to where she went. “We will try to determine where she went before we do anything else. I want people searching around every exit to the mansion to look for footprints or any other signs of a trail she might have left–and since there’s only three exits, that shouldn’t take very long.”
Yuri spoke up. “And I’m going to guess she didn’t go out the front door, since that would lead to the gates and more guards. So I vote for checking the other exits first.”
Efrayim snorted. “You don’t get to ‘vote,’ you twit, but I agree. You won’t know where these exits are, however, so I suggest you stay with Misery. You two can search the exit leading toward the woods behind my mansion while I take a head count of which servants are still functional and get one of them to search the small servant exit for me. This division of tasks between us will save time and effort. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Misery found himself agreeing with his uncle. He still felt to the push to find Nulli now, but couldn’t see any faster way of searching for signs of her. He couldn’t be in two places at once. “But why are you suddenly so willing to help us?”
Efrayim removed his teleportation gem from his suit jacket again and performed a more graceful version of a shrug. “I just want this girl found and if not killed, at least out of my hair. She has caused me far too much trouble already.”
Misery stiffened when he heard “killed,” but his uncle’s line of thinking made sense. He said nothing as Efrayim teleported them to the exit leading to the woods and left them at the doors there, which weren’t ajar but were unlocked. It had started to rain since Misery had arrived at the mansion, but he barely paid attention to it as he began to search the area around the doors and inside them. He could think of nothing except Nulli.
He’d never forgive himself if her amulet was somehow removed and she died here before he and Yuri could get to her. There was no telling what would happen if a technically living human died in hell, and it was entirely possible she could be lost for good, either in hell or otherwise, if that were to occur.
Misery grew increasingly frustrated as his and Yuri’s search continued. The rain had washed away all hope of finding footprints, and there were no unconscious servants close to the back doors to the mansion. He could only conclude Nulli could have escaped through this exit and gone into the woods, but there was no way to be sure.
His phone vibrated in his pants pocket. Expecting it to be his uncle, he ducked under the eaves covering the wide stone steps below the back doors and took the call. “What is it, Uncle? Did one of your servants find evidence of her whereabouts?”
“This is Mesa. I got an interesting call from the magistrate of a small human town just west of your uncle’s mansion.”
Misery swiped some damp hair off his forehead and sat down on the stone steps. “An interesting call? What? Why?”
“The magistrate asked if you or I knew a human woman fitting Nulli’s description. When I said yes and expressed interest in coming to get her, he quickly ended the call.”
Mesa sounded calm as she spoke, collected. Misery felt anything but.
Did he dare hope Nulli was alive and well in the human town? Surely a magistrate wouldn’t hurt her. “When was this?”
“A moment or two ago. When the magistrate hung up, I immediately called you.”
Yuri sat down beside Misery and interjected, “Where is this town?” He spoke loudly enough that Misery knew Mesa would hear him clearly.
Mesa gave the name of the town and started to give directions, but Misery stopped her. “I know where that is. I will get my uncle to teleport us there now.”