Sussex was a sleepy county at best, but there was something to the sleepy counties that lent themselves so well to simmering an intoxicating stew of ego, rapacity and resentment. He'd visited there so many times for a new morsel, taken his fill time and again from dusty taverns and well-smoked hovels, and this time he expected no different.
It would be an easy take; the farmer was well known for lust and gluttony that paled next to his sloth, drinking his chestnut ale in the dappled sunlight while his son spent their money in town and his wife sweated in the fields or hollered to rein in the drunk and sleepy farmhands. She was the main meal, but he would be the perfect seasoning.
Like a charm, the farmer pointed her out without wasting a heartbeat. Shock flickered on her face before settling into a fierce rage that was intensely satisfying, wanted as she was for the wrath and the harsh words that she beat out on the hands. She was younger than his tanned and weathered face, but still not young, and the years of doing his work had tempered her muscles and made her as stubborn as any work-horse and fearless to boot.
Good, the fighters were the best ones. He would be given the pleasure of wearing her down, of gently prying that spirit from her tendons and broken teeth until she learned fear, and while her punishment was being carved into her skin her husband would be basking in the sunshine, safe and sound with no concept that his betrayal had made his eternity far more bitter and hot than it would have been. The Devil laughed at the thought of his reception, and the sweet moment of anticipation burning out as he found himself before the rust-red gates.
She pounded and tore at him all the way back down, cursing him in all the language of the country boys that a demure wife should never know. It never bothered him; he'd made this journey laden with knights and kings, strongmen and wily beggars and his broad back had been played like the most tattered minstrel's drum as he heaved them down into the depths.
Hell opened for its master and he revelled in the smell of blood, brimstone and agony in the dry air; it was more alluring than all the green forests and rolling hills. Across his shoulder the wife screamed one last raw howl of anguish as the light faded behind them, and it was all set.
Her cell was nothing spectacular, a standard layout with a few attendant imps already tending to the braziers by the rack, pokers whitening in the heat. Everything was the ordinary busywork of torture, but as soon as she was off his shoulder and her back touched the wood she was alive in fury. There was but a second, afterhis hands left her sides and before the imps could begin to tie her down, and she wrenched herself loose in one swift twist, her hand already reaching for the handle in the flames. She'd waited, braced herself for the moment she needed, and struck.
The blows were quick against his head, too quick to defend against, and he crashed to the flagstones. His vision was blurred and his head ached as he slumped, the world spinning as it had not in eons.
When his senses returned there was screaming; a dull shrieking that echoed down the halls towards him and the well-known grease of immolation in the air. One of the imps had suffered the same braining, pink ooze slipping between the cracks in the floor, and the other had been kicked against the bolted-down brazier and held there so that now it dangled grotesquely against the coals, meat grilling and smoking.
He rose slowly to his feet and made his way into the hallway. It ran with blood, corpses draped against the walls or left where they'd died crawling along the floor. It was well done, that he could appreciate, the other lost souls still restrained and attended only by the dead, left to cry out.
She was in her element, painted red and black in blood and ichor, the only gap her bone white grin as she slew them left and right. She danced between the minions of hell as though she was created for the carnage, crushing one demon's skull against the wall before catching the next in her hands, pulling its head against her knee with a crack as its jaw caved and one eyeball slithered from its socket. Jaws tore apart between her hands, thick sinews stretching and snapping as blood spattered against the thick clots on her skin. A hatchet was torn from limp and cooling fingers and swung in a vicious arc to slice through flesh and bone, deep into the chest of an incubus. A dribble followed after it when the edge was pulled free, flying to carve through the neck of the next interloper in a slick slice.
It was unlike anything he had ever seen from a human, and even demons would have been incapable of the purity of her wrath. The sprays of blood were beautiful, bright red from arteries and patterning the walls in delicate curves, and there was a similar artistry in the precise breaks of limbs and tendons pulled free from muscle in clean white lines. She was perfect power and fury, an addictive destruction that was impossible to look away from as he followed mute after her. If the children hadn't cried for him he would have been watching her still.
He would never have caught her if her hatchet had not lodged itself deep in the meat of one of his lieutenants, and he pounced as she had to strain to pull it free. With both arms under her own to lock behind her neck she was subdued, her rib cage heaving against his own as she screamed loud and full of bloodcurdling hate. One quick leap and they were back, the dawn chorus a strange herald to the King of Hell and a woman too fierce for his kingdom.
The blood was hot on her skin but cooled quickly in the cold morning air, and he was back to his throne before it had clotted in her hair.
He watched her through his arcane arts as she panted in the humid air, then gathered herself and walked back into her cottage with a straight back and clenched jaw. In three strokes her simpering husband's head was cracked open to stain the straw red, the fury as resplendent in the light of the sun as it had by hellfire. She shed no tears as she bade farewell to her son and then she was gone, hair cropped short and life in her own hands at last.
Let her use the strength of the farm to hone her anger and take her justice from the world, and he would pass the time toying with her slug of a husband; she would inevitably be back with him once her death arrived, and she would be given reason to stay.
She would make an excellent demon, and there was room still for a new Queen in Hell.