“The secret wears on him,” Gavin sighed peacefully in Marrok’s arms. The demon lord nodded, but did not add anything. Gavin could see Marrok’s glowing red eyes dim as he lost himself in thought. Gavin’s squire discovered his secret affair with the demon lord, but his loyalty was to Gavin, not the crown. For two years, Squire Christoph did his best to maintain the secret. However, having a third party cover their tracks only made the secret couple bolder. They took more chances leaving Christoph to make excuses for why Gavin needed to confront Marrok alone for several hours at a time. Gavin noticed Christoph’s growing resentment and realized his mistakes. He brought it up to Marrok in hopes that they would start being more discreet again.
“I’m tired of hiding,” Marrok said. He sat up in bed suddenly, Gavin was forced to sit up too. “I love you,” Marrok said. “How much do you love me?”
“Completely,” Gavin replied without missing a beat. Gavin often wondered if he was under the demon’s spell, but he took it as a good omen that he took time to wonder. He trusted his feelings and there was almost nothing he wouldn’t do at Marrok’s request.
“I have an idea. You might not like it at first, but hear me out,” Marrok said. Gavin nodded.
“I’ll always listen,” he replied.
“While I explain it, I’d like you to consider something. How attached are you to Christoph?” Marrok asked. A streak of worry shot through Gavin’s mind, but he took a deep breath to calm down. He promised he’d listen.
“What’s your plan?” he asked. Marrok grinned and the red glow reignited brilliantly in his eyes.
“Is it safe?” Christoph asked at mid-afternoon the next day. He and Gavin rode toward Marrok’s tower at Gavin’s request.
“You’ve seen me return from visiting him countless times,” Gavin replied.
“Yeah, he likes you,” Christoph chuckled.
“He LOVES me,” Gavin corrected him a bit too eagerly.
“Yeah. You, not me.” Christoph said.
“Marrok is… not strictly evil,” Gavin replied as the tower neared. “As a matter of fact, it was his idea to reward you for your loyalty. We both know it hasn’t been easy for you to keep this secret, and we appreciate you.”
“Well.. if you say it’s okay,” Christoph nodded. They dismounted upon reaching the tower. Christoph headed for the door and he was surprised to notice Gavin grabbing his sword and shield. He always requested that Christoph deliver his equipment. It tickled a note of unease in the back of his mind, but he chalked it up to standing at Marrok’s tower.
They stood at the entrance for several extra moments. Christoph certainly did not want to go first, but Gavin seemed to wait for a moment hoping he would. Finally, before it dragged out, Gavin stepped forward with a slight sigh. He led Christoph up the spiraling staircase to the top of the tower.
Christoph felt his knees weaken when he saw Marrok in the flesh for the first time. He was a tall, lean, pink-skinned man. He sat shirtless on a dark throne, blood-red horns spiraled out of the top of his head. His face was angular and handsome. Christoph had no trouble seeing what Gavin found so appealing. He rose from his seat and walked to greet Christoph and Gavin.
“Thank you for coming,” he said with a broad smile. “I’m so honored to meet Gavin’s faithful squire, you’ve been faithful to me too and I cannot express my gratitude in words.” He stopped before Christoph and bowed low to the brown-haired squire.
“Though, it is unfortunate that we met only to say goodbye,” Marrok replied. While Christoph wondered what that meant, Marrok looked at Gavin with a twinkle in his eye.
“Did you say goodbye?” he asked? Christoph’s eyes went wide, he looked at Gavin in time to see his knight nod at the demon lord.
“I did, my love. To everyone except, Christoph,” Gavin placed a heavy hand on Christoph’s shoulder. It was a gesture that had happened hundreds of times before, but this time felt different; colder.
“Goodbye, Christoph. I hope you’ll understand,” Gavin said as he raised his sword.
That night, the captain of the royal guard whispered in the King’s ear. The noble court stood around the edges of the hall while a battered, bloody Christoph knelt before the throne. Gavin’s sword and shield rested next to Christoph; Marrok’s head lay atop the shield. After the captain passed on his information, the King nodded, then rose from the throne.
“Such is the nature of heroes. As one falls, another one rises to protect our kingdom. Marrok’s tower has burned to ash and Gavin’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.” The king stepped forward with a ceremonial sword to knight Christoph.
“It is just that our hero’s squire continue his service to the crown in Gavin’s death. You have vanquished a terrible demon lord and ensured prosperity for generations to come. Arise, Knight Christoph, Slayer of Demons.”
“You know, that could have gone better,” Marrok reprimanded Gavin as they sat together on a beach watching the sunset. “You made that poor boy faint just because you didn’t tell him the plan ahead of time.”
“I didn’t think about it,” Gavin nodded to himself. “He just trusts me so much, I never thought he would think I betrayed him.”
“How hard is it to say, ‘Marrok and I are running away together, you get to fake our deaths and keep the rewards’?”