Chapter 21: The demon's heart

Chapter 21: The demon's heart

A Chapter by Gosia

The chase after the witch continued, having taken its toll on the members of Aedain’s group. Eren couldn’t hold his eyes open and was napping on Meirch’s saddle. May had to use all of her willpower to keep herself awake so as not to fall from the beast’s back. Meirch lost its usual playfulness and even Baltar was less talkative. The only one who showed some signs of motivation was Aedain �" he stubbornly was looking for Lavena’s trails and scent. However, the witch seemed to evaporate somehow and the demon was going in circles, traveling even at night.

“Baltar, do you think we could stop for a couple of hours?” May whispered to Baltar.

The demon scowled, glancing at the two tired hostages on Meirch’s back.

“It’s up to Aedain. We stop when he says so,” Baltar said firmly and set his gaze on Aedain’s back.

“Please, say something to him. We can’t ride much longer,” May tried to convince the bald demon, pointing her chin at Aedain. She swayed in the saddle and blinked several times, struggling to keep herself awake. The tall demon smiled lightly, marching without any signs of weariness.

“I’m not the one who wants to sleep. Ask him yourself,” he responded. May snorted.

“I’m not suicidal. Please do it for me, just once,” she pleaded. The huge muscled demon arched his eyebrow and smirked like an unruly kid.

“Hey, Aedain, May wants to rest!” Baltar yelled to his superior, shamelessly setting the girl up.

May sent him her poisonous glare. Aedain looked at both of them coldly over his shoulder.

“Tell that lazy woman to stop complaining, Baltar,” the long-haired demon said, gracing May with his trademark, malicious glare.

The girl furrowed her brows, frustrated by the arrogant, high-and-mighty tone.

“Baltar, tell that rude jerk to stop bossing me around.” May retorted.

Baltar opened his mouth to pass her words, but Aedain interrupted him.

“If she irritates me further, she will regret it. Tell her that, Baltar,” he hissed out.

“Neither of you needs me, right?” The bald demon sighed, his eyes wandering from Aedain to May. Baltar rolled his eyes when he saw the girl readying herself to confront his ill-tempered comrade once again.

“Oh, and what possibly could you do to me? I mean, you plan to murder me after you find your Spear, so I don’t care about your threats anymore!” May raised her voice, losing control over herself. “All I asked was to rest for a while. We’re exhausted, don’t you see it? My butt is sore from sitting on this damn saddle for so many hours!”

May drew a breath, trying to calm down after her tirade. Aedain said nothing in response to her words. The muscles of his jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth. Calm and composed, he walked over to Meirch and grabbed May’s knee. Before the girl had a chance to voice her protest, he yanked her leg, making her fall of the beast’s back. Aedain snatched her in the last moment to prevent her from slamming onto the ground and made sure she was standing.

“Now your backside will no longer have to suffer the inconvenience of ride,” he said, giving May a mocking smile.

“W-what?” May stuttered, realizing what it meant. “You want me to walk?!”

Aedain shrugged his shoulders, grabbing Meirch’s reins and leading the beast forward.

“Better watch to keep up with me and Baltar. I won’t be saving you from any more Laismarans,” he called to her.

May clenched her fists, wanting to scream from frustration and anger.

 “You know what? You’re a monster with no conscience!” she yelled after Aedain. However, the demon didn’t even turn around or look at her �" he just kept walking as though she was just a buzzing, annoying mosquito. Muttering further offensive words describing Aedain, she jogged after the demons.

May’s shorter legs and lack of stamina didn’t make it easy to catch up with her captors. Over the time distance between her and the group grew, but now came the time to change it. The girl took a couple of deep breaths, trying to convince herself that her whole body isn’t aching and stiff form exhaustion. Ignoring the blisters on her feet, she ran to Aedain and the rest of the group.

Panting, she reached Meirch and grabbed the saddle, wanting the beast haul her for a while.

“May, did you hear that?” Eren suddenly woke up and sat straight, looking at May from above.

May tilted her head listening �" the boy was right, it seemed like some noise was coming from behind the next hill, exactly the direction they were heading.

“Voices?” she guessed. As they got closer, she became entirely sure that that were people. It seemed that it was quite a commotion over there �" someone was screaming in a high-pitched voice, others were shouting and laughing. It seemed like a quite a celebration… one of the worst sort.

Surprisingly Aedain didn’t decide to take a detour and avoid the gathering, but headed straight towards it.

“Aedain, let’s just go ahead,” Baltar muttered, but his comrade ignored him. When he saw that Aedain’s pace only quickened, the bald demon muttered a curse in the Laismaran language and reluctantly followed his superior. “Great. Here we go again.”

May craned her neck, observing the scene with curiosity. The source of the noise turned out to be a gathering of some peasants on a fairly spacious clearing, right outside the village. They were so busy outshouting each other that they didn’t even notice the arrival of the demons.

“Burn them, burn those filthy changelings!” one voice yelled and the rest roared in approval.

May developed a nauseating feeling in her stomach when she noticed that the villagers built a pyre, like the ones used for burning witches in Middle Ages. When the girl climbed on her toes she saw who was supposed to be tied to the wooden pole in the middle of the pyre...

 “Show your true self, monster!” one of the men exclaimed, whipping a small figure with leather belt. May gasped, when she saw that the victim was a little black-haired girl. She screamed as the tool of torture ripped skin off her back and yellow light engulfed her form. Golden winding lines covered her body like snakes and she transformed into a mermaid-like creature, with fish tail instead of her legs, fins where her arms where. Once in her true demon form, she got brutally tossed onto the pyre next to an infant which looked like her, probably her younger brother.

May stared in horror at the cruel scene that was playing before her very eyes. Children… Those men wanted to murder little children. Her instincts told her to stop this bestiality. May’s fists clenched, blood begun running faster through her veins as the flame of her anger was lit within her. Without thinking much, she made a step towards the crowd, wanting to save the poor kids somehow, but a heavy arm fell on her shoulder. May turned her head to see that it was Baltar who didn’t let her move.

“Easy, girl,” the huge demon muttered and pointed with his chin at Aedain. May looked at the long-haired demon as well.

To tell that Aedain was angry would be an understatement. The Laismaran prince looked like a fury incarnated �" his pupils turned vertical, betraying his dragon heritage. It seemed that an inextinguishable fire was raging in his golden eyes. He clenched his teeth, but May could clearly see the twitching jaw muscle. The girl understood why Baltar stopped her �" she wasn’t the only one angered by the execution and the other one was a better man to get the job done.

“Unforgiveable!” Aedain hissed out, rushing forward.

He reached for Sholais and Dorreach, swiftly drawing the both blades. May winced when the demon literally cut his way through the crowd, striking down the peasants without a word of warning.

“What the…” one of the executioners uttered, staring in disbelief at the newcomer and the bloody corpses of his neighbors who died without even having enough time to let out a scream.

“It’s a demon!” some plump man from the crowd yelled, pointing a fork at the armored demon. “Everyone, kill him like the rest of the changelings! Avenge our people!”

Aedain looked down on him, sending the villager a look which usually was reserved for worms.

“I would love to see you trying,” the demon replied, smirking. Without any prior warning, Aedain advanced on the villagers. The peasants were armed with weapons frequently used by angered mobs �" farming tools like forks and scythes. They stood no chance with a trained warrior like Aedain. The demon effortlessly disposed of the men standing nearest to him with one accurate kick and finished the work with his swords. Having seen the power and skill of the Laismaran warrior, the rest of the peasants dropped their weapons and tried to save their lives by escaping. Aedain followed them, methodically killing off the slowest of the crowd.

Observing Aedain skillfully making a pulp out of the cruel villagers was most enticing, but May saw with the corner of her eye something the long-haired demonic warrior didn’t �" while he was busy slaughtering the peasants, fire from a torch made its way to the pyre where the two Laismaran children were laying.

The dry wood quickly started burning, the flames dangerously nearing the poor victims. With fish tails instead of legs the children couldn’t even escape.

“Aedain, the pyre!” May shouted as she shoved Baltar’s hand off her shoulder and darted forward. The demon immediately withdrew his attention from the villagers and looked at the pyre; the flames shoot up, engulfing the wood. He bit his lower lip and looked with disdain at the escaping peasants �" they were getting away.

“Haign,” Aedain cursed, abandoning the villagers.

He rushed to the screaming children. The fire was burning his hands, but he didn’t seem to mind it. First he pulled out the girl and tossed her onto the ground. Then he reached further for the infant.

May nearly landed flat on her face as her legs got tangled in her skirt. By the time she made it to the demon girl, Aedain already had the wailing baby in his arms.

May kneeled by the girl and took a look at her �" the scales and skin were covered with blisters in certain places, her back was bleeding, torn by the whip. She was breathing rapidly, her fins shaking uncontrollably.

“It’s okay, you’re safe now,” May tried speaking to the child in a soothing voice.

The girl stared at May blankly as though she wasn’t really noticing her presence. When the mermaid’s gaze focused on her face and green eyes, she shrieked and tried to crawl away from her.

“No, no, don’t kill me,” the child was pleading. May was startled by the reaction, but she was surprised even more when the little mermaid crawled towards Aedain and gripped his leg tightly, as though searching for his protection.

 “We are going back to the river,” the demon glanced at the mermaid children. Then he looked at May. “Are you planning on standing there like an idiot, woman? Take this infant.”

May bit her tongue, not letting Aedain’s insult affect her. Instead she stepped forward and took the Laismaran baby from the demon’s arms. Aedain placed the child delicately in May’s embrace, careful not to worsen its burns.

When she saw what Aedain was doing, the mermaid girl panicked.

“What are you doing with my brother? Don’t hand it over to her, she’s a human! She’ll kill him!” the girl was screaming as she tugged the warrior’s plate armor.

“She will not harm your brother, you have my word for that,” Aedain said and sent May a warning look as though he was half-expecting her to do something nasty to the infant.

May returned a hostile glare, but then her face softened when she smiled gently at the mermaid girl.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of your brother,” May assured the girl, but the child didn’t seem to be convinced by her honest words. The little mermaid kept glancing at May with suspicion, but she seemed to trust Aedain. She showed no signs of fear when the demon lifted her.

“Baltar, help the woman get on Meirch,” Aedain commanded.

Baltar muttered something under his nose, but obeyed.

May focused on not dropping the baby when the bald warrior helped her get back on the saddle. Eren craned his neck and curiously looked at the little child in May’s arms. Like his sister, the baby boy had a fish tail covered in silver scales. However, they looked greyer now for the scales were far too dry. The child flailed its fins weakly and let out a quiet whining sound. May rocked the baby, trying to calm it down. She felt terrible seeing the bruises, blood and blisters from fire on a body of such a small child. How could the villagers do such thing to the baby? Maybe it wasn’t human, but it was so innocent…

The girl clutched the mermaid infant tighter when Meich jumped into the air. May locked her thigh-grip, squeezing the demonic horse with her legs from fear of falling. Thankfully Meirch was an intelligent beast and flew very low so as not to scare his passengers unnecessarily. May looked at the two demons flying ahead of Meirch.

It wasn’t long when the shimmering waters of Eral River were in sight again. Aedain chose the place where the water level was low and the riverbank wasn’t steep. He and Baltar landed and hid their wings, but Meirch made another circle over the landing site, approaching the ground slowly. The beast touched down very delicately, so that May didn’t even feel a thing. Once it stopped, Meirch let out a self-satisfied neigh.

“Good job, Meirch,” May praised the demonic horse.

Eren jumped off the saddle like a monkey, but May waited for someone to help her down. She could have jumped off the high demonic horse, but he didn’t want to give the baby a concussion. She observed Aedain walking towards the water and further, till he was waist-deep in the river. Slowly, he dipped the mermaid girl in the cool water. The child winced, but when she got used to the temperature change she smiled, feeling relief.

“Do you feel better now?” Aedain asked with gentleness which seemed to be so unusual for him.

The mermaid girl nodded and relaxed in the demon’s arms. Aedain’s gaze lingered for a while on the child, but then he looked over his shoulder straight at May who was still sitting on Meirch’s back.

May nodded, guessing what he meant �" the children would probably feel better if they were in water. After all they were fish-like demons.

“Meirch,” May whispered and the beast eagerly rushed towards its master, trotting into the river. When the steed stopped its belly wasn’t even touching the water. May swung her leg over Merich’s back and bit her lower lip, preparing herself for the contact with cold water.

“Get in here,” Aedain hurried her, ordering her around as always.

“All right, I know,” May looked at the still, injured demon baby in her arms and slid off the saddle right into the cold water.

“Gah!” She yelped, when the feeling of coldness overwhelmed her senses. She lifted the mermaid baby so that it wouldn’t drown and shivered. Her teeth were chattering when she uttered: “How long do we h-have to s-stay here?”

“Till noon should be enough for the young ones to recuperate,” Aedain replied calmly as though the water temperature wasn’t affecting him at all.

“Till noon?!” May squeaked, realizing with horror that it meant standing two or three hours in the freezing water. She glanced at the silent baby in her arms �" the little fins began moving. “I’ll die of hypothermia till noon. Besides, won’t you catch cold too?”

Aedain looked at her with a mix of annoyance and pity reflecting in his golden eyes.

“My race does not go down with human ailments,” the demon explained.

“How about infections?” May asked, worriedly looking at the bruises and burn marks on the mermaids’ little bodies.

 Aedain’s face expressed earlier pity for May’s ignorance, now he was looking at the girl like she was mentally challenged.

“Laismarans who spend most of their lives cannot be affected by infections from water, it heals their wounds. Do you think I would make you stand here for my amusement?” he answered her query with a question.

May winced, trying to stop her body from shivering and convincing herself that the water isn’t that cold anymore.

“It sounds like something you’d do,” she muttered. May considered adding one snappy remark more, but changed her mind when the baby stirred in her embrace, slowly regaining its strength. It opened its eyes and looked at May with childish curiosity. The girl smiled when the little creature entwined its tail around her arm. The infant kept observing her, the innocent golden eyes surveying her short damp hair, her facial features. When the baby boy looked at May’s green eyes its friendly attitude vanished. The child screamed loudly, frantically flailing with its delicate fins. May yelped when the surprisingly strong fish tail slapped her face.

“What are you doing with my brother, human?!” the mermaid girl yelled at May, outshouting the wailing of the baby.

                “Nothing,” May gasped as she tried to calm the frightened infant down. She was barely able to hold the little Laismaran as the baby kept wriggling in her arms and smacking her with the tail repeatedly. “Shhh, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Ugh!”

                May groaned when she got hit squarely in the face again. She looked at the mermaid girl.

                “How are your parents coping with you two?” she asked the rhetorical question while attempting to get the baby to lie still.

                The mermaid girl shifted uneasily and averted her gaze from May.

                “Humans killed them both,” she whispered. “We lived near their village, pretending to be humans, but they saw my brother. When we are little we can’t transform yet.”

                May bit her lower lip, almost feeling guilty of being human after hearing the girl’s tale.

                “I’m sorry for your loss,” she murmured, knowing that those words couldn’t possibly bring comfort for children who just got their parents slaughtered. The mermaid girl sent her a trustless look as though she thought May was misleading her.

                “You humans are never sorry,” she said, her golden eyes fixated on May and voice trembling with barely contained emotions. “You think it’s fine to kill us, because we’re Laismaran, because we’re not of your race. All my life I’ve been scared of humans, all this time hiding… And you dare call us monsters, demons. You are ones who are true demons!”

                The mermaid girl gave May one last look full of hatred and snuggled closer to Aedain, instinctively searching his protection. May averted her gaze too, suddenly feeling bad. It was not only because she pitied the Laismaran orphans �" it was because she saw today that the little mermaid’s words were true.

                “It is rare to see you speechless,” Aedain suddenly spoke up. “Usually you are very eager to call us monsters and beasts.”

                May’s head snapped up and she looked at the demon. She felt a mix of shame and anger surge through her mind, because when she wasn’t answering  a mocking smile graced Aedain’s smug face.

                “These children are no monsters,” May said as calmly as she could. “But you are.”

                Aedain snorted, as though he considered the insult amusing. Surprisingly for May he didn’t continue the spat. The demon looked away, the mocking expression leaving his face and strange sadness filling his golden eyes as he stared at the distant mountains in the north.

                “Someone has to be if the Laismarans are to reclaim what was taken from them centuries ago,” he said quietly, addressing no one in particular. His gaze lingered on the tiny silhouettes of the Digerholm Mountains for a longer while before Aedain suddenly looked at May, as if he just remembered that she was standing there the whole time. The demon arched his eyebrow, observing the shivering girl and shifted his attention to Baltar and Eren, who were standing at the riverbank.

                “Boy, come and switch the woman!” Aedain called to Eren.

                The blonde child sighed and nodded, making his way to the icy-cold water. Once he made it to the place where Aedain was standing, Eren looked curiously at the mermaids.

                “Are they alright?” he asked, his teeth chattering.

                “They will live,” Aedain responded shortly as he stepped closer to May. Ignoring her protests, he snatched the mermaid infant out of May’s arms and made Eren hold it. “As for you, woman, get out of the river.”

                May blinked, surprised, but let out a sigh of relief as she couldn’t feel her fingers and toes anymore.

                “Okay,” she said and got to the riverbank after checking if Eren was holding the baby properly.

                When she got to sit on a dry, warm rock, May closed her eyes and smiled to herself �" she wasn’t freezing anymore and her sore legs were resting. She stretched her poor, aching limbs and purred, feeling much better than when she was jogging after the demons.

                “He went soft on you.”

                May’s eyes snapped open and she saw Baltar seating himself next to her. The bald demon removed his heavy axe from its place on his back and relaxed, observing Aedain and the Laismaran children.

                “I thought Aedain was going to let you freeze for at least another hour or so,” Baltar said with a carefree smile.

                May’s gaze wandered to the long-haired demon who was just delicately encouraging the mermaid girl to try to float on her own. Aedain looked strangely different when he was with those demon children, as though he was a separate being than the cold-hearted cruel killer she knew.

                “Maybe even Aedain has a heart,” May came to the conclusion. Baltar sighed, removing his heavy boots.

                “His father was like that too,” the bald demon said. “He cared for every single Laismaran. He used to say that we need to look out for each other because there are so few of us left. It seems that Aedain thinks that way as well.”

                “Aedain must have admired his father,” May said. Baltar smiled humorlessly.

                “Admired? He hated his father,” the demon explained. Then Baltar winced and let out a disgusted sound when the stench of his bootless feet reached his nose. He hastily dipped his huge feet into the water as though his life depended on keeping them there. “Damn, what a smell! I never thought that my feet can stink like that.”

                “Me neither,” May said, covering her nose.

 

 

               

               

 



© 2013 Gosia


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Added on October 1, 2013
Last Updated on October 1, 2013


Author

Gosia
Gosia

Poland



About
Hello, my name is unpronounceable for most of humankind, but fortunately it can be shortened to Gosia. I’m an university student in my twenties, about to face the real life very soon. I’ve.. more..

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