I tore my gaze away and settled it on Conah. “Uri saved me, though.”
“You’re not human,” Mal reminded me. He pulled a chair out, turned it around, and then straddled it, arms resting across the back. “And the sooner you accept that, the better. Fuck the human life. That isn’t yours anymore.”
Anger flared in my chest. “I have friends.”
“A ghost and a snake? Whoop de doo.” His tone dripped with sarcasm.
What the fuck? “Have you been spying on me?”
“Due diligence, baby. You join the gang, you get scoped out, simple.”
“Cut it out, Mal,” Conah warned.
“No, you cut it out with the softly, softly approach. Just tell it how it is.” He fixed his cutting emerald eyes on me. “No, you can’t go live in your human house, and no, you can’t take up a regular job in Deadside, and you know why? Because you’re a fucking reaper. You have a sacred duty as old as time to reap souls, kill bad shit, and protect the weak little humans from the various big bad monsters that lurk in the dark.”
Wait a second, had he just said various monsters?
“For fucksake, Mal, you’re scaring her,” Conah said.
Mal was watching me carefully. “On the contrary, brother, I do believe our curvy ass reaper is intrigued.”
I smiled sweetly at him. “There’s definitely a huge ass in this room, but it doesn’t belong to me.”
Conah choked on a laugh.
Mal shrugged and sat back. “Think what you want, but know the facts.”
A woman wrapped in a silk robe popped her head around the door. “Malachi, baby, what’s taking so long?” She pouted.
Malachi? That was his full name. It sounded like a villain’s name. Yeah, it suited him.
Mal leaned back in his seat but didn’t take his stunning emerald gaze off me. “Be right there, luv. Why don’t you get the others warmed up for me?”
He stood and padded over to the huge fridge freezer and pulled out a silver container that I recognized as an ice holder.
He winked at me. “Laters.”
“Mal.” Conah stopped him in the doorway.
“What?” Mal sighed.
“Nera will be back tomorrow to collect Peiter’s things. Pay your respects, and keep your harem out of sight.”
Mal’s body rippled with tension. “I’m not a fucking idiot, Conah.”
He pushed past his brother and out of the room. Conah leaned against the doorframe and took a deep breath. “Okay, where were we?”
The meal was delicious, the bread was perfectly baked, and the lamb tender and flavorful. I couldn’t help but have two helpings, and by the time I was done, I was stuffed.
By the time I was done, I knew that mouths and Dread weren’t everywhere. They were drawn to Necro City and the surrounding areas. Conah believed it was because the bridge to the Underealm was closest to Necro City. This meant that although the Dominus had regions they were responsible for, they worked collectively to keep Necro and the surrounding areas free of mouths and subsequently Dreads. I learned that Dreads were a bitch to kill and that thus far, only a handful had been brought down by the reapers. I learned that if confronted with a hive of Dreads, you ran.
Information swam in my mind, so much information, and Conah was still speaking.
“Mal collects the lost souls, the malignants, and the rippers.”
“You mean the ones that were evil in life?”
“Lost souls aren’t evil, just confused. The malignants and the rippers, yes. Those are dangerous. The lost souls used to be Vale’s responsibility, but Mal took them on when Vale … when he was gone. Purgatory is his main region, and from what I’ve heard, it’s not a pretty place.”
“You’ve never been?”
“No.” Conah spooned more rice onto his plate. “As a descendant of Adam, I’m barred entry.”
“Adam … as in Adam and Eve, Adam?”
He chewed and swallowed. “Adam was one of Lilith’s lovers. Not a favorite, and to be honest, I think she only lay with him to piss off Eve, who, from what history tells us, had a thing with Samael.”
Whoa, this was getting juicy. “Samael, the love of Lilith’s life and Peiter’s ascendant?”
“Good, you remembered.”
“I have an excellent memory.” I sat forward. “Do tell me more.”
He sucked in his cheeks. “Really? You want gossip?”
“It’s the most normal thing that’s happened since I got here.”
“And my cooking isn’t normal?”
“Nope. I’ve never had a guy cook for me before, so not normal.”
He studied me for a second and then topped up his water from the carafe in the center of the table.
“Lilith is a magnificent woman, powerful and intelligent, but over the years, her grip on the Underealm has slipped. The western regions are her biggest threat right now. Mammon, the demon of greed, is the ambassador in that region. Last I heard, she was on a diplomatic visit. Lilith is working to neutralize the conflict.”
“And how would she do that?”
“I have no idea. Lilith’s methods are all her own. We don’t question our liege, and we keep our heads.”
That much power? No one should have that much power. But maybe that was what this Mammon was thinking.
“So, you’re Adam’s descendant, Peiter was Samael’s, what about Mal and Azazel?”
“Mal is descended from Asmodeus’s bloodline, the demon of lust, and Azazel is the son of the leviathan, the blind dragon and Lilith’s oldest friend and ally. He was her first lover before she fell for Samael.”
“It reminds me of the seven sins. Mammon is greed, Asmodeus is lust, what about Samael and the leviathan? Do they have a sin?”
He smiled, looking impressed. “You’re right. It’s where the idea of the seven deadly sins came from. The leviathan is associated with envy, and Samael is linked to pride, gluttony, and the sin of wrath.”
Greedy much? “We’re missing one …” I wracked my brain, coming up empty.
“Sloth,” Conah provided. “Belphegor rules the regions on the other side of the wailing river. He would be your sloth demon, and his region lives up to his name. The place is disgusting.”
“And Lilith had children with three of these demons?”
“Yes. Three demons and the first man, Adam.” He shrugged. “She got around in her day. History says that the Underealm was formed with celestial power. It’s no secret that Samael is a fallen angel, but some believe that Asmodeus, Mammon, and Belphegor are also fallen angels. Myth says that the underworld was once the home of a species called daemons, and Lilith and her fallen angels made their home amongst them. It would explain why some demons look more human than others. The daemons were said to have hooves, horns, talons, and scales. But over time, the celestial blood has eliminated most of these traits.”
“You don’t know for sure?”
He chuckled. “Do you know if human history is for sure?”
He had a point. I took a moment to absorb it all. Thank goodness I was used to processing a shit load of information in a short time.
He’d covered a lot, but we’d gotten sidetracked. “Mal covers purgatory, but what about you?”
“I’m responsible for the Academy where we train our reapers. I teach there once a week and make sure the admin is doing their job.”
“There’s an Academy? How come I don’t get to attend?”
“Because you’re a Dominus.”
Well, that was a relief because the thought of going back to school made my stomach hurt. “Good. What about Azazel?”
“Outlier liaison who deals with the outlier souls.”
“The supernaturals, right?”
He nodded, looking impressed at my memory. “Yes. Outliers are supernatural … preternatural creatures. There are several breeds that have been living amongst humans for as long as humans have existed.”
“Please, do not say werewolves.”
He winced. “The Rougarou, also known as the loup-garou or werewolves, are actually one of the most prevalent outliers in the surrounding areas. There are two main packs in Necro. Then you have the various types of fey, the elvin, the Danaan, the Tuatha, but they keep to themselves, preferring to fly under the radar.”
“Werewolves and fey. Okay, I can deal with that.”
“There are also the bastardized sons of Lilith, a hybridized breed of demon that humans seem to love to romanticize.”
“You call them vampires, and it’s our job, by royal decree, to hunt and kill them. They’re a parasite.”
“But they’re demons?”
“A long time ago, demons from Lilith’s bloodline procreated with humans, and the result was vampires. We’re now forbidden to do so.”
“So, other demons can procreate with humans?”
“There’s nothing stopping them from doing so, but like I said earlier, the offspring usually don’t have any demonic powers. You seem to be an exception.”
I took a moment to absorb all of this, the fact that I’d been living in a world much more seeped in the supernatural than I could have ever imagined, surrounded by more than the dead and oblivious. It was both terrifying and thrilling.
“And then you have the psychics, the witches, and the warlocks,” he continued.
I took a sip of my water. “I feel like I’ve stumbled into a fantasy novel.”
“Our world is much stranger than fiction. Azazel is the liaison for the outliers, and he’s responsible for their souls. Most are long-lived or immortal. He has a small team that helps him to keep the peace.”
“And where does that leave me? What will I be doing? You mentioned Deadside?”
“Yes. Deadside was Peiter’s domain, and now it will be yours. His second is taking care of things right now, but I’ll take you over in a week or so, once you’ve had the basic training.”