Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14
Chapter 15: Her Imperious Condescension
Dirk ==> Wake up
“Wake up, lil’ man.”
“Five more minutes…” you murmur into your pillow.
“Don’t think so. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us.” Suddenly you feel the blankets being cruelly ripped away from you.
Ugh, such a dick move, Bro!
Wait, no, not Bro. Where are you again?
You awaken to your father tearing away your blankets and roughly shaking you awake. The light of the morning sun is streaming in through the cracks in the windows, and you gaze at him blearily. You don’t remember dreaming, but that’s probably for the best.
Suddenly you remember what he did last night. “Did you influence me to sleep?”
He cracks a smirk at you, “works every time.” Then he lowers his voice and murmurs, “and it keeps the little you asleep until I want to wake up. Trust me, it’s a handy trick.”
“Isn’t it bad for him to sleep that long?” you grumble, groggily sitting up and pressing your palms to your eyes. You wipe the sleep away and quickly put on your shades.
“Not so much as you would think. Dirk is a growing boy,” Dave remarks. “Guess I have a thing or two to teach you about incubus influence. You can influence more than just the mind. You can make the very soul decide to sleep. Shut down their body entirely for as long as you want.”
“Holy fuck, did you just do that to the little me?” you ask incredulously. As an afterthought, you amend, “and to me?”
Dave chuckles, “Hell no. Rose would have a fit if I did that. I only told your mind to sleep. Do you feel rested today?”
You think about it. You’re actually feeling pretty good. “Better than usual,” you admit. Though you wouldn’t mind feeding your incubus side. You were starving for far too long before Jake fed you. It was enough for you to get by but not enough to fully satisfy you.
Dave reads your thoughts and sighs. “I was worried about that. No time for you to take care of that right now. Besides, in this era, feeding your particular compulsion will be difficult.”
“My compulsion? You mean, because I like dudes?” you ask. As an afterthought, you add, “that doesn’t bother you, does it?”
“You only like men, whereas I happen to appreciate both genders,” he says in a matter-of-fact way. There is no doubt in his mind, likely because he has already peered into yours. “Why would it bother me?”
You hadn’t even bothered to consider that homosexuality might not even be an issue in the past. Was there truly a time when people didn’t discriminate? When people didn’t care?
“Yes, and that time would be now,” Dave muses thoughtfully, responding to your unspoken words. “It is a shame to hear that things take a turn for the worse in the future. But in any event, that is not what I was referring to. Did you forget that there is a war between humans and monsters happening right now? Any human found with you will be ostracized and executed.”
Your brows furrow as you ask the obvious question, “what about you and mom?”
“My eye color makes them suspicious, but I hide myself well. They have yet to come after me,” Dave explains. “Besides, we live far enough away from the village that we are often out of sight and out of mind.”
“That still seems a little risky,” you comment doubtfully.
“It does not pay to life forever in fear,” he responds. Then, he offers his hand to you and says, “here.”
When you take it, clasping the bare skin of your hand to his, your father suddenly passes you at least two meal’s worth of energy. You gasp, recoiling a bit from the unexpected shock. All of that, just from a handshake? You never knew that was possible.
“Never underestimate a Strider,” Dave says, grinning at you. Seeing that you’re fully awake now, he turns to leave. “Rose made breakfast. There is a bath drawn for you in the next room.”
Your father leaves you with your mind reeling. Bro was never able to give you that much energy from just a handshake. Is that one of the differences between your father being a full incubus and you and your brothers only being half? You decide that it must be.
Before heading outside, you check your shades again, hoping in vain that AR might have come back.
He hasn’t. You sigh. What did Bro do to him? For once, you could really use the distraction of his aimless chatter and his advice about Jake.
Something in your stomach tightens at the thought of your boyfriend. Rather than let yourself fall down that rabbit hole, you instead throw open the door to your room and walk out.
Instantly, you are assaulted with a chattering hyper whirlwind.
“Hey! You! Who are you? What are you doing here? Are you going to stay for breakfast? Eat the pancakes! Mom makes the best!” The little you exclaims excitedly, jumping—literally jumping in circles around you.
“Holy hell—” you draw the word out into another when you notice a glare from Rose. “—llo. You have a lot of energy, kid.”
“Hahahaha!” he laughs, smiling widely and happily at you. “Mom says that too! So does dad! Hey did you try the pancakes?”
You pat him on the head, ruffling his hair. “Not yet lil’ man. Gimme a sec.”
Rose sets a stack of pancakes in front of you when you sit at the table. It’s a simple wooden table and chair set, but it gets the job done. She sits down beside you and asks, “did you sleep well?”
“Yeah, Dave made sure of it,” you murmur staring down at the pancakes.
They look a little bit different than the pancakes you’ve become accustomed to. They’re darker, but somehow they’re a little less burnt. They’re undeniably pancakes.
Jake used to make you pancakes.
You inhale sharply, taking in the familiar and comforting scent of the cedar-wood home and the pancakes that your mother has so kindly prepared for you this morning.
No. No no no.
You won’t let thoughts of your boyfriend ruin this moment. And you’ve already promised yourself that you’ll get him back somehow. You just aren’t entirely sure how you’re going to do that.
“Are you eating the pancakes with your MIND?” little Dirk asks loudly in your ear. He’s climbed the chair beside you and is leaning on the table, putting his tiny face right next to yours.
You wince, “kid, you’ve got a thing or two to learn about volume. And personal space.” But you are thankful that he’s pulled you from your own self depreciating thoughts. You dig into the pancakes and make a hum of approval. Your mom’s pancakes really are good. Jane still holds the record in your book, but these are nothing to sneeze at.
Rose smiles knowingly at you then comments offhandedly, “would you like to see him truly get riled up?”
“No. Please no,” you murmur between bites of pancake.
Rose doesn’t listen. Instead, she turns to the little you and says, “Dirk, today is December the first. How many days is it until your birthday?”
“TWO!!!!” He shouts loudly, jumping in the chair. He wobbles a bit, before grabbing onto the back of the chair to right himself back up.
“And how old will you be?” she prompts again.
“THREE!!!!” He exclaims, jumping up onto the table in excitement. He jumps on the table twice before he is suddenly swooped up into Dave’s arms.
“That is enough of that, lil’ man,” Dave chides. “Feet on the table is a no-no. Remember?”
“I remember,” little Dirk says, pouting.
“What do you tell your mother?” Dave asks.
“Sorry mother,” little Dirk says and continues to pout.
“Good boy,” Dave says, finally putting the child down on the ground. Then he turns to you. “See what I have to deal with? When you are finished, come meet me outside.”
You finish the pancakes and find a nice warm bath waiting in another room. This room also has its own chimney and fireplace, making it toasty and warm. You could see how it would be relaxing and divine, despite the lack of a shower.
Speaking of shower, you have never felt so filthy in your life. How many weeks has it been since you were able to shower? You’re shocked that Jake wanted to have sex with you despite how disgusting you’re certain you were.
Oh no, you did it again. Jake.
You remember the last time you took a bath with Jake. In the fairy forest. It was the first time you two really had sex. The first time you actually heard his thoughts and knew he loved you back as much as you loved him.
Speaking of hearing thoughts—you can kind of do that now, can’t you?
Again, you push the painful memories of Jake out of your mind and instead try to focus on other people’s thoughts.
Outside the door, and you mean literally outside the door little Dirk is jumping and shouting as he plays with some blocks.
Tower tower TOWER!!! Coolest best TOWER!!! All the blocks. ALL OF THEM!!
Ouch. That thing you told him about volume control? His thoughts don’t have any.
You try to focus on Rose next, but try as you might, you can’t hear any of her thoughts.
Finally, you extend your reach outside, to where Dave told you he was going.
About time. I need to teach you about mind reading too. This is a two way street, kid. Like love.
Yikes. You startle a bit in the tub, your arms and legs both twitching from the shock of hearing his thoughts so clearly. Thoughts that he was clearly aiming at you.
You get the feeling that today is going to be very difficult.
* * *
Dirk ==> Have a difficult day
Ugh. You can say that again.
When you leave the bathroom, you nearly trip over the tower little Dirk made with his blocks. Your mother hands you back your clothes, which she laundered while you were in the bath. Magically, they are both clean and dry.
When you walk outside the house, you are just barely able to parry the sword your father swings at your face. Nice to know Strifing runs in the family.
“Strife, is that what you call it?” He smirks, holding his blade down. “Well done. You have excellent reflexes.”
“I’ve had a little practice,” you mutter. “So what’s on the menu today?”
“Today there is someone you must meet. She is the ruler of the monsters of Derse, and the leader of their side of the war,” Dave says cryptically.
“Oh, you mean Betty?” you ask.
Dave looks at you blankly. “I would not call Her Imperious Condescension that name. Come, we have quite a journey ahead of us.”
“Don’t we always,” you sigh.
Your father isn’t lying. Despite your flashstepping abilities, it takes you both an hour to reach the portal to Derse. The swirling dark circle is situated in the middle of an inconspicuous grove, nestled within a dense copse of pine trees. The needles prick like a bitch. You can see why normal people would never want to come this way.
But then you’re through the portal and into the familiar darkness of Derse. This particular portal leads right into the interior of the Derse castle. There is a separate room set up for it, in fact, and Dave easily leads you through the corridors lit with a purplish hue. It’s clear he has walked these stone corridors many times. When he comes to the throne room, the guards do little more than nod at him, permitting you both to enter.
You’ve seen the interior of the throne room a couple times. Bro’s taken you here before when things got tough. But he never left your side. He knew it wasn’t really safe here. Part of that reason is sitting on a massive throne, staring at you with predatory eyes and a smile full of sharp gleaming teeth. Her hair falls in impossibly long dark waves around her, pooling by her feet on the floor. Like the rest of Derse, she is dressed in black with bold hot pink lines traversing her body like a poorly drawn road map.
“Dave Strider, what a pleasure,” Her Imperious Condescension coos in a voice rich as silk. The familiarity of her voice would be a comfort to you if you didn’t hate her guts so much.
Because you know what happens in the future. You know that this monster is the one abusing your older brother.
Bro’s secret lover. The alien queen of Derse. Her Sadistic Imperious Condescension.
Dave glances at you once quickly, in question, but he doesn’t dare say anything. Not in her presence. Instead, he makes his way up to the ebony throne where she is lounging in wait. She presents him with her right hand, which he lightly takes by the fingers. Then he kneels down and kisses a flashy bling-like ring sparkling on her finger. “My queen, we have come as you summoned.”
“I summoned only you, but this boy a yours… he looks delicious,” she croons, eyeing you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. She grins again and offers you her hand.
You take her hand—and shake it. You do your best to be polite as you stiffly greet her. “Dirk Strider.”
The Condesce continues to smile, but now it’s taken a more deadly connotation. She looks at Dave and says, “he has gall, this one.”
“Of course. Dirk is mine,” Dave says, and you would swear that there is a warning tone in his voice.
You aren’t entirely certain what your father has just declared, but the Condesce does seem to back off a bit. She snorts lightly, “you incubi are all so –possessive.”
Dave doesn’t say anything. He just continues to stare into the bright fuchsia eyes of Derse’s queen.
Eventually, she cackles but relents, “Dirk Strider, someday you will be mine.”
“Very unlikely, Betty,” you respond instinctively.
A muscle in Dave’s jaw flickers.
The Condesce does nothing for a few seconds, completely shocked. Then, she throws her wild mane of dark hair back, her throat contorting visibly in the air as she laughs high and loud. Slowly, she brings her gaze back down and murmurs in a far too sultry way, “oh Dirk, I am goin’ to enjoy breakin’ you.”
“As I stated, Dirk is mine,” Dave growls, stepping in between you two. “Now, do you have a task for us, or have I wasted this trip?”
For a few moments, all she does is stare at him with her eerie smile.
Then, in a rush of wind, she’s behind him. Her hair takes longer to catch up with her body, flying behind her as she holds the pronged end of a gleaming golden trident up to Dave’s neck. You’re not even sure where that came from, but you do recognize it as her prized weapon.
You grit your teeth but don’t move. You’re pretty sure this wasn’t how your father died.
“Do not forget your place, Strider,” she says, her voice somewhere between sultry and a growl. She leans in closer to him, licking the side of his cheek with a long pink tongue. “He may be yours, but you are mine. So what does that make him, hmm?”
Dave grits his teeth, choking back his answer.
Do NOT touch him. DO NOT FUCKING TOUCH MY SON!!!
Dave’s thoughts are loud in your mind, as he contorts his face at the floor, biting back his words.
Her Imperious Condescension’s lips are full and painted in hot pink. They hover just behind your father’s ear as she whispers, “mine.”
She doesn’t wait for him to respond. The Condesce pulls her trident away from his neck and shoves him forward. Dave catches himself before he hits the throne.
The throne that the Condesce is already sitting on again. She grins at him, her expression oddly amused and simultaneously annoyed. Like a sack of hot shit, she drops the previous conversation and moves along.
Suddenly, she looks less like a lecherous sadist and very much like the ruler queen of Derse.
“But enough of the chatter. Lord English,” she finally hisses. “He has been causin’ trouble for us all. The humans have never waged a war so fierce. If it were just the mortals, I would not be concerned, but English is a problem.”
“I know. What do you want us to do?” Dave asks. Though you are certain he is still livid with her, his ability to wipe his face clean of emotion is impressive.
“Kill him,” the Condesce orders offhandedly, her expression growing less annoyed and more angered. “He is killing humans and demons. And not just in a friendly let’s have a chat back in Derse sort a way. When Lord English kills a demon, he consumes its soul.”
You are a little shocked, but you don’t show it. Strider skills for the win. You never knew that the Condesce hated Lord English this much. Then again, until two days ago, you thought Lord English was a fairy tale Bro made up to scare you at night.
“The demons English kills are never reborn again. They die permanently,” the Condesce growls, her fists balling in barely contained rage. “Lord English must die.”
“I understand,” Dave says. “Where can I find him?”
“Follow the trail of bodies,” she suggests. For a few tense moments, you actually believe that’s all you will get from her. Then she murmurs, “you should not have to look very hard. The war follows him. He is coming to you.”
Dave stiffens visibly. “Your warning is much appreciated.”
“I know. Also, I am certain you have felt it too. The discord in the mortal world. The monster is tearing the very fabric of reality with his existence. He has not done that in the past,” the Condesce muses darkly. “Either English has become more powerful than before, or—”
You wait as she continues to muse. “—or there are two of him in the world right now. English is a master of time. Certainly this is not impossible.”
Strider mask. Strider skills. Don’t let anything on.
The Condesce doesn’t seem to notice your apprehension. Instead, she murmurs lowly, “kill that mothafucka.”
“It will be done,” Dave says, nodding to her before turning curtly and walking away.
“Strider, you are Derse’s best. Do not fail me,” she says in a solemn and definitive way that makes you wonder what the repercussions would be if you did fail her. Fortunately, you know for a fact that you won’t.
She doesn’t say anything else, but the way her eyes linger on you makes you feel increasingly uncomfortable.
You’re more than ready to get the fuck out of Derse.
* * *
Dirk ==> Save Jake!
You really want to. More than anything. But you can’t do that right now. You’re not even sure where Lord English, and thus Jake, is.
Fuck, you miss him.
Dirk. You are getting distracted.
Your father’s voice is in your mind, conversing with you silently as you both sit in the bell-tower of the church in the center of the village. You aren’t entirely thrilled with the holy charge seeping up from the stones, but your father insisted that this was the best place to practice. The sun hangs cheerfully overhead, and the villagers stream by down the main rutted dirt road, blissfully unaware that their thoughts are being picked up and read.
Yes, Dave has decided to train you to read thoughts. It’s still difficult, but so far you are pleased with the results. You can hear far more than you expected. Thoughts, feelings, emotions. They all come swirling at you in one giant mess.
Dave reassures you that it will become easier to pick apart these things with time. You wonder just how long he has lived. He doesn’t grace you with an answer.
For the most part, the villagers seem preoccupied with their own mundane lives. But occasionally, they have thoughts that make you frown.
You glance at your father. Knowing he can hear your thoughts, you think at him, “Why do the villagers hate Rose?”
Unlike the humans below, Dave is very practiced at directing his thoughts. When you attempt to read his, you receive his thoughts and little else. Occasionally a bit of his inner emotions bleed through, but he is remarkably adept at suppressing those. He thinks back to you, “because she can do things they do not understand. They have labeled her a ‘witch.’ They fear her. It is part of why we live on the outskirts of the village, which I prefer actually.”
“And they don’t fear you?” You think back.
Dave smirks, “Strider skills, as you call them. I cover my trail well. And those who become suspicious become—influenced.”
You grin at him and get back to practicing.
By the time the sun is setting on the horizon, you are exhausted. Reading thoughts is far more draining than you had imagined it would be. Bro always made it look so easy.
“It is easy,” your father thankfully says to you instead of thinking, giving your telepathic abilities a much needed break as you walk back home. “Give it a year or two and it will become second nature. Then, the issue will become learning how to not hear thoughts. I would gladly teach you that as well, but—”
Your father’s words trail off and his expression stiffens. You don’t have to read his thoughts to know what he is thinking about.
He knows that his own death is on the horizon.
“Yes, I have come to accept that fact,” Dave responds to your thought. “Training your telepathy is the most useful gift I can give you before I go. With it, you will have insight to the inner-workings of the mind. The key to the psyche, human or demon, is within the mind. Control that, and you control everything.”
“I thought incubus influence was the most powerful ability we have?” You ask.
“Manipulating souls is indeed powerful,” Dave agrees. “You seem to have a decent grasp on that ability already.”
“I’ve had a little practice, yeah,” you agree, thinking back on the times Bro taught you to use your influence. To truly contain and control it.
“The ability is not one to be taken lightly, nor is it to be abused,” he says, turning to you with a grave expression. “Did you know that you can rip souls out of the body?”
“What?!” you exclaim. Bro never told you that one.
“It is true. At the very core of our influence is our ability to affect souls,” Dave explains to you. “Again, it is not an ability to use lightly. If souls that you tear from the body become lost, they can wreak havoc on both humankind and demonkind.”
Your father is one of the most informative and interesting people you have ever met. You smile softly at him, despite his grave words. “I understand. And thank you.”
“Do not thank me,” Dave responds. He nods towards his house, which has finally come into view through the trees. “Until this is a world safe for children, the torch must be carried.”
You blink at him. Usually, you consider yourself decent at picking apart obscure metaphors, but this one has left you in the dust. “Care to rephrase that?”
“The fight against evil must continue,” he explains, looking at you gravely. “Whether it be against demons, sending those who have lost their way back to Derse, or against humans who have become too blighted to recognize morality. Rose and I fight for Her Imperious Condescension, not because we like her, but because she is aware of where the greatest evil resides.”
“Mom fought too?” you murmur.
“She was not always pregnant, you know,” he says, looking at you wryly. “And given the opportunity, I am certain she would continue to fight. Did she not threaten you when I brought you home yesterday?”
“She did,” you agree. Then, you think of the other bit of information your father told you. “And the Condesce, how does she know where to find the greatest evil?”
“She has informants everywhere, but even if she did not, she would still know,” Dave says, pausing before he continues. “Betty, as you call her, is not of this world. She is not truly of Derse either. Her Imperious Condescension is the most powerful being in existence, but I believe that Lord English is even more powerful. Today, when she spoke of the monster, she reeked of fear. Did you sense it?”
“No,” you admit.
“Do not feel bad, she hid it well. You will become better at reading these things with time,” Dave reassures you.
“I don’t want to learn to read her better. I don’t ever want to see her again,” you mutter lowly.
“That wish is very unlikely,” Dave says. He glances at you, and you think you sense a twinge of pity from him. But before you can examine it any further, it’s gone. “Let us go inside. Rose probably has dinner ready.”
She does. Little Dirk greets you with a wide smile, pulling you by the hand to the table.
“You have to try the apples you HAVE TO! It’s the BEST!” he shouts happily, dragging you over to the seat you sat in for breakfast earlier.
Rose’s cooking really is good, especially for the era. She has prepared a delightful dinner of fresh bread, rabbit stew, and baked cinnamon apples.
When it gets late, Dave heaves the little Dirk up into his arms and carries him over to the bedroom. “Bedtime,” he says. The child whines a bit but doesn’t put up too much of a fuss.
Rose continues to sit with you at the table. She eyes you knowingly and asks, “so how did your meeting with Her Imperious Condescension go?”
“I hate her,” you respond easily.
She chuckles. “Most do. You are certainly not alone.”
“Dave said you worked for her too?” you inquire.
“I may have helped your father take down a demon or two,” she agrees. “Or maybe a few thousand. We are a fantastic duo, he and I.”
“You both certainly seem to get along,” you respond politely.
“Why thank you, though that is not what I meant!” Rose laughs, then her expression softens. She stares at the candle burning in the center of the table wistfully as she recalls, “we met that way. We were partners for years before deciding to be something a little more. And then this war started. There is so much work to be done.”
She looks at you, and there is a sadness in her eyes that is immeasurable. You haven’t told her the future, but somehow, you think that she knows. Your mother may not have your father’s ability to read thoughts, but she is wiser and sharper than anyone else you know.
Rose knows that she is not going to survive this war.
“Dirk,” she murmurs, glancing at the slightly cracked door to the child’s room. “Please make sure they are safe. I know you are here, and that you are well, but a mother’s intuition is nothing to be taken lightly. This war is no world for a child. They will not—no, they cannot survive on their own.”
“They won’t be alone,” you assure her. Bro was always there for you. You know that he won’t let you down.
She smiles softly at you. “Thank you.”
* * *
Dirk ==> Sleep
Dave steps into the room shortly after you pull the covers over yourself. “No nightmares for you, buddy. We have a busy day tomorrow.”
“Before you influence me to sleep, can I ask you something?” you murmur, completely ok with letting him do that. You want to sleep too, and you have a feeling you won’t be able to without his help.
“Yeah, go for it,” he says, sitting by the foot of your bed.
“What are you hiding from me?” you ask.
“Excuse me? What am I hiding from you, Mr. I-am-from-the-future?” Dave snorts.
“Yeah, earlier when you talked about the Condesce, you seemed like you knew something I didn’t,” you explain.
“I know a lot of things you do not know,” Dave says, earning an eyeroll from you.
“Not what I meant,” you mutter.
Dave is silent for a few moments before he reluctantly begins to talk. “That woman is powerful but her intentions are not pure. She may do what is best for the mortal world right now, but make no mistake, everything she does is for her own benefit. She does not truly care for the mortal world at all, nor does she fully care for Derse.”
“But she’s the queen of Derse,” you murmur back.
“I am aware. She is queen because she forcibly usurped the throne from her predecessor. Derse is a world based on power, thus the Condesce rules,” Dave explains. His voice lowers and his tone becomes darker. “She is a necessary evil, but do not make the mistake of trusting her. Ever.”
You furrow your eyebrows at him. “Obviously I hate her. Why would I ever trust her? Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I have seen what is in your mind,” Dave responds curtly.
You are about to say more, but he quickly and definitively speaks first.
“That is enough questions for tonight,” he says.
His captivating crimson gaze focuses on yours, and suddenly you aren’t worried about the Condesce anymore. Or Jake. Or anything really. Your mind is filled with a pleasant sensation akin to being wrapped in an infinitely long warm blanket.
“Sleep, Dirk,” your father murmurs.
Moments later, you fall into a pleasant unconsciousness.
* * *
Against all odds, somehow I managed to update during Finals Week! No idea how that happened. Hope you liked this chapter! =)