Roghi couldn't believe he was looking at the same Demon Prince he had been following since his sudden accession in 1997. Prince Furfur was nodding to the Lilim and Impudites in the nightclub. The music was passionate but hardly hardcore, even as Prince Furfur climbed the circular stairs up to the rooms he had claimed in the building. Roghi followed, quietly.
The Prince looked around the rooms. They were tastefully appointed -- Impudites of Destruction -- generally recruited from the War's deserters who Furfur had accepted -- had decorated. "Not bad," he said. "Not bad at all. Not gaudy, the way Belial's used to me, do you think?"
"It's much more... subdued, Lord Furfur," Roghi murmured.
"Prince Furfur," the Prince said sharply. "Our Majesty has decreed that it is not fit to use 'Lord' in place of 'Prince.' It distracts from the order of things. Anyone can be someone's lord."
"My apologies, Prince Furfur."
The Prince glanced back, eyes narrow. "Do I detect a hint of dissatisfaction, Roghi?
Roghi looked down. "Why should I ever be dissatisfied with my Prince, Highness?"
Prince Furfur snorted. "Look at me, Roghi."
The Balseraph looked up at his Prince.
"When did you enter my service?"
"I was the first you accepted from Belial's service to your own, Highness."
"That's right. You're my oldest Servitor. With my Promotion, I've made you a Count. I'm thinking it's time you have a Word. So if you've got some kind of problem with me, I think probably it's best to hear it right now."
Roghi looked away. "This place isn't exactly Hardcore, Highness."
Prince Furfur laughed. "In case you hadn't noticed, neither am I, Roghi."
"I've noticed, Highness."
Prince Furfur's voice dipped slightly in tone. "Meaning what?"
"Meaning you're dressed like a fucking Impudite dressed you. Respectfully. Meaning you're just... accepting. Accepting authority. Giving in. Selling out."
Prince Furfur's face twisted into a smile. "Selling out?"
"Well... yes. You've bought in. 'The Order of Things.' 'Our Majesty doesn't approve of 'Lord.' Taking a fucking Techno club as one of your new residences. Hardcore stood for something in Hell, Highness. You didn't have many Servitors, and Christ knows they weren't pretty, but they had a loyalty to you and your cause that no other Prince could boast."
Prince Furfur shrugged. "And after I got taken in and Word-promoted, they came along with. You came along with. You saying I didn't take care of my own?"
Roghi snorted. "Over ninety percent of the former Hardcore Servitors are in the forward legions fighting Fire, Death and the War in Sheol and Abaddon. They're getting chewed into fucking hamburger."
Prince Furfur arched an eyebrow, and turned towards his desk. "They're the best we have."
Prince Furfur paused, and turned to face his Count again. "Excuse me?"
"You've gotten the absolute cream of the militant defectors. Lilith's tits -- they've--"
"Don't blaspheme against the Queen," Prince Furfur said, very quietly. A shiver went down Roghi's spine.
"Sorry... Highness." He looked away. "You've got badasses from Death, Fire, Gluttony, the War, the Game...." he shook his head. "The other Princes in the Queen's Court aren't violent concepts, Highness. You've got the destroyers. You've got them in droves. And a lot of the defectors are way older and stronger than the Hardcore demons who stuck with you. You're repaying their loyalty with--"
"Destruction?" Prince Furfur asked, softly.
Roghi looked away.
Prince Furfur walked closer. "Yes, Roghi. I'm throwing them right into cannon fire. Yes, most of them are going to be soul killed. I need to send someone to die while the Civil War continues, and to be honest they're an embarrassment."
"An... embarrassment? Highness?"
"They tore into Shal Mari like a hurricane after I switched sides -- convinced it was going to be one big fucking party," the Prince said. "The old organization needed to be destroyed, so I could reforge the fragments into something better. It's what I am, Roghi. The Civil War will beat some couth into the survivors, and I'll make them into honored Destruction Servitors. And the rest will scatter on Gehenna's winds."
"They believed in you, Highness," Roghi whispered. He didn't say 'I believed in you.' He didn't need to.
"That's their own lookout. I didn't even ask Lucifer to be the Prince of Hardcore. I asked for Rock and Roll. I wanted to make something of myself beyond mosh pits and barbed wire wrestling matches. He kept me down. The Queen has exalted me, Roghi. Hell, I'm Eli's opposition now. I need something more than gang bangers and metalheads setting fire to the drapes. You got me?"
Roghi paused, and nodded. "Of course, Lord."
Prince Furfur nodded slightly. He smiled a bit. "That took balls, Roghi. You challenging me like that. You demanding of me, like that."
Roghi took a deep breath. "Hardcore's highest rule was to tell the brutal truth, Highness. No matter the consequences."
"I know." Prince Furfur smiled a bit more, and leaned forward. "And do you know what that means?"
Roghi arched an eyebrow. "What, my Prince."
Prince Furfur's expression didn't change at all, even as a shudder went over Roghi's body. The Baseraph twisted, as suddenly his scales and wings began to prickle, and tingle, and hurt. By the time the Count had started screaming, his Forces had already started to burn and combust and shred. By the time his scream's echoes had died out, there was literally no sign the Balseraph had ever existed.
"It means you just didn't learn in time," the Prince whispered. He turned away, the scent of brimstone and cooked meat in the air, and picked up the telephone on his desk. He pushed a button on it. "Tefia? I need a new aide sent up. Someone formerly from the War, please. And have him bring up a martini -- I think this is going to be a good night."