Humans would wound and maim demons, but rarely could they kill them. Well, until recently. As time went on, and humans became more sophisticated, they experimented with new and dangerous weapons. The humans were becoming a threat to the Fallen Lands, and this was why Kaesler and others like him existed. Kaesler's duty was to serve the Queen, and protect the Fallen Lands from the would-be human conquerors.
In truth, he had nothing against humans, even though his scarred body was a just argument that the humans were dangerous and a threat. To him, they were just creatures that were trying to survive in the world they had created through turmoil and suffering. But, the humans were the enemy. What they didn't understand, they destroyed. This is the way it had always been, and this is how it would always be. Kaesler wanted to change the course of their future, and had even suggested to the Council how this should be approached. Unfortunately, with the Queen in stasis, the Council had their own goals and beliefs. The one person that had the power to change the Fallen Lands had been asleep for the past four hundred years. No one knew when she would awaken again. Without her, Kaesler could accomplish nothing. He could argue with the Council all he wished, but they remained unmovable. They would do what they thought was best for the Fallen Lands, even if they were wrong.
"Kaesler!" A harsh, demanding voice intruded upon his thoughts. With an irritated sigh, he turned to face the withered old man whose colorful robes bustled around him. The Queen's High Chancelor, and the Voice of the Queen while she slept. "Aren't you supposed to be on your way to the Human Lands?" He demanded, thumping Kaesler's hand with his cane. "You were supposed to leave this morning, and here it is already noon!"
"Oh, yes." Kaesler replied thoughtfully. "To hunt a human girl, before she acquires the ability to kill us. I know very well, High Chancelor Torseth."
"Then why are you stalling?"
"Stalling? Well, I suppose I am. I think it would be more interesting to see what happens when she Awakens. Killing humans has become too boring."
"Kaesler!" The High Chancelor's voice shook with rage, and his face turned red. "Are you actually refusing the orders given by our Queen?"
"Our Queen lies sleeping in her Crypt. The orders do not come from her, but rather the Council. In another words, you, and those fools who think they rule the Fallen lands in her stead. My duty falls to the Queen; not to the Council."
"I could have you imprisoned for your insolence!"
"And when the Queen awakens, I can have you and the other Council members destroyed for attempting to seize power while she sleeps. I may not be a Council member, but I do have the ear of the Queen. I am the only one of her blood relations who still lives. By all rights, I should have control of the Fallen Lands while she sleeps. However, she chose you. Why she did so, only she knows. I think you're all just a bunch of ancient idiots who refuse to listen to good advice."
"Obviously she thought you incapable of rational decisions!" High Chancelor Torseth yelled at him. "Someone has to take control of the Fallen Lands, or we'd fall into chaos! Kaesler, you know why she didn't give you the power to rule in her stead. If she had, you would be noticed by the other Nobles. Your existence remains a secret to keep their minds elsewhere. They would not dare to attack the Queen in her Palace, but they would eliminate you to prevent the bloodline from continuing. If something happens to the Queen, the Throne falls to you. The Nobles want it for themselves. Why the hell are you being so rebellious suddenly? You've never questioned an order before."
Kaesler looked out across the Palace walls. "High Chancelor, have you ever given thought to your own existence? We call ourselves demons, but is that all we really are? Is our lives truly meant to be lived as a neverending fight amongst the humans and our own kind?"
"This again? Kaesler, when are you going to grow up? You know it's always been this way."
"But why? Who has told us that the humans are our enemy?"
"They have told us this! The humans are violent, and incapable of understanding creatures such as us. We must kill them, before they kill us. Our primary concern is protecting the Queen. Imagine if the humans came to the Fallen Lands, and managed to find our Queen, fast asleep and vulnerable. Those who serve her are her only defense, and we must take preventative measures. Killing one human girl should not be a problem."
"That's not the problem." Kaesler retorted. "I don't care about that. Instead of war, we should attempt a treaty. In exchange for them leaving the Fallen Lands alone, we can supply them with resources that they can't find anywhere else. If we do this, they will longer see demons as a threat, but a valuable ally."
"You're a dreamer, Kaesler. We need the blood of humans to survive in this world. Without them, we would merely dry up and fall into a deep sleep. We'd still be alive, but our lives would be meaningless. Is that what you want, Kaesler? Do you hate us that much?"
"There's other ways."
"Like what? I'd like to hear what you have to say. If you know another way, tell me! If we can stop living off the humans, then maybe your suggestion would have merit."
Kaesler drew himself up onto the edge of the balcony, then turned to face the High Chancelor. "Right now, I know no other way." He admitted. "But while I'm in the Human Lands, I'll find it. There's something out there, I know it! Some kind of secret that no one bothered to tell us."
"I go now to hunt the girl. When I return, I will have found a solution. Until then, promise me that you will make no more wars upon the humans. Defend the Palace, and our Queen." He jumped off the balcony, and rushed for the stables. The High Chancelor looked down from the balcony, and shook his head.
"Kaesler." He said softly. "I hope you're right, but I fear that you may not find what you're looking for. As long as we need the blood of humans to survive, there can be no peace."
A few moments later, the High Chancelor watched as Kaesler rode out of the stables on a black demon steed. Kaesler's voice whispered through his mind. Torseth, my dear friend. Believe in me. I will bring peace to the Fallen Lands. When the Queen awakens, the Nobles will be put in their place, and I can take my rightful place at her side. Don't give up hope.
"Hope." Torseth said thoughtfully to himself. "Kaesler, make a speedy return. I think that perhaps you are the only hope that remains to us. Without the guidance of the Queen, we are lost."
Torseth wasn't certain if Kaesler had heard him or not. Demon horses was very fast, and he was already halfway across the desert to the Gate that separated the Fallen Lands from the Human Lands. Torseth sighed in defeat. As we walked back into the palace, the Council was waiting for him. The Council consisted of five members; three men and two women. All of them were old and broken down, due to the constant strife of the Fallen Lands. "He's gone." Torseth told them as he walked passed.
"Will he do it?" Besnai, when of the women asked.
"He'll try. Whether he succeeds or not is up to him. He's determined to see his dream a reality."
"And what do we do while he's gone?" This question came from Pocot, one of the men.
Torseth glanced over his should, but kept on walking. "We wait. That's all we can do."
As he rode towards the Gate, for the first time in four hundred years, Kaesler felt the Queen's consciousness brush against his. She had no message for him, yet her touch alone was enough. Her touch was comforting, like that of a mother's. He wondered if he would ever see the Fallen Lands again, for the Queen had seemed to be saying farewell. Her touch was already gone, yet he could still feel it through the core of his body. Closing his eyes, he could feel her slow, steady heartbeat while she slept. One day, she would awaken. Would he really be here to see it?
Am I going to die in the Human Lands? He wondered as he reined in the horse. He'd come to the Gate already. The guards greeted him with cold expressions. "The demon horse stays in the Fallen Lands." One told him. "Dismount." This was just procedure, but he couldn't help but feel as if there was a finality about it. I'm not coming back, am I?
Despite his misgivings, he walked through the Gate, and stepped into the Human Lands. He glanced back to see that the guards and the gate had vanished. This too, seemed more final than the numerous other journeys he'd made outside the Fallen Lands. He clenched his staff, and began to walk north, towards his objective. Whatever happened to him in the Human Lands, there was no avoiding it. He had a job to do. Besides, he wasn't a Prophet, and there was no telling if this odd feeling was right. Fear of the unknown had never stopped him before.
With his transition into the Human Lands, the desert had become forest. Here, wildlife teemed around him; deer, rabbits, birds. Kaesler ignored them all. He didn't have the time to marvel at their beauty. Somewhere up ahead was a young woman whose fate was to die by his hands.
Around nightfall, he came to a small human village. A group of children were playing at the edge of the forest. A small white ball was being passed back and forth between them. Of course, he knew their parents would be keeping an eye on them from somewhere. Some demons hunted children, as they were easy prey. Kaesler did not. He preferred a challenge. At the moment, he was content to simply watch from his postion. He had no reason to approach the humans, and if he remained where he was, the adults wouldn't notice him. Or so he hoped. He didn't want any trouble.
"Hey, Mister!" A boy with bright red hair called. He was just short of adolescence, and his wide brown eyes were still filled with the innocence of youth. "Can you throw the ball back?"
Kaesler glanced down at his feet, and saw the small white ball resting against his boots. He picked it up, turning it in his hand. The ball was made hard, wrapped in cloth and stitched carefully by someone's loving mother. Gently, he tossed it back to the waiting boy. "Thanks!" The boy said, catching the ball easily. He turned back to his friends, already forgetting about Kaesler.
Kaesler leaned against his staff, watching until the parents called their children back. The red-haired boy approached him, looking over his shoulder at a woman with auburn hair. She nodded her consent. "Do you have a place to stay for the night?" The boy asked. "My mother doesn't like me in the forest after dark, but I told her that a nice stranger was out here. She said I could come talk to you just for a moment."
"You shouldn't trust strangers so easily." Kaesler told him. "Didn't your mother teach you that?" Kaesler walked passed the boy, avoiding the village. The boy's mother had seen him, but the others hadn't. At least not yet. If he was quick, he could leave without leaving a lasting impression on any of them. However, such a thing was not meant to be.
A child's scream pierced the night. Without a doubt, he knew that it was the red-haired boy. He hesitated only for a split second before running back the way he'd came. He slid to a stop as he saw that a wolf had cornered the boy against the same tree that Kaesler had just vacated. The wolf was scrawny, hungry, and very underfed. Obviously, it hadn't been able to find enough meat in the forest, so now it was attempting to find food in the human village.
At Kaesler's approach, the wolf's hackles raised, and it began to growl low in its throat. Animals feared demons, and this one was no exception. The wolf turned to him, forgetting momentarily about the boy. Kaesler's grip on his staff tightened. "Walk away." He said to the boy. "Don't run. He'll chase you. He's more interested in me right now."
Cautiously, the boy took a step. When the wolf didn't notice, he took a couple more. The villagers had come out to see why the boy had screamed, and now carried makeshift weapons from shovels and sticks. They knew better than to try to attack the wolf when it was too close to one of their own. They wouldn't do anything, until they knew the boy was safe, and they would probably stay away to see what this stranger would do.
The woman with the auburn hair wrapped her arms around her son protectively. With the boy safe now, Kaesler relaxed a little, but not enough to let his guard down. The wolf was hungry, and while it was afraid of him, a meal was a meal. He stared into its hungry yellow eyes. Do you really want to tangle with me? He asked it.
The wolf growled, and Kaesler raised his staff. Well, come along, then. If you're that hungry. It howled, then rushed toward him, leaping for his throat. Kaesler waited patiently, until the wolf was almost upon him, then struck the wolf in its head with his staff. With a whimper, the wolf fell to the ground, dead.
With the villagers there, Kaesler didn't dare to take its blood. He'd brought too much attention upon himself as it was. The villagers had seen him, which was exactly what he'd been trying to avoid. He could pass for human, as could most demons, but there was always the possiblity that they would notice that something about him was a little off. He sighed, watching as a couple of the villagers rushed passed him, tying the wolf's limbs together with thick rope. He leaned against his staff, as they took it away.
The auburn-haired woman walked up to him, her boy clinging to her waist. "I'm Cailie." She said. "Thank you. Thank you for saving Wez."
"What are you going to do with the wolf?" Kaesler asked.
"Skin it, then we'll have a feast. Unless you want it. You're the one that killed it, after all."
"You're going to eat it?" He asked in disbelief.
"Meat is meat." She replied. "You take what you get when you get it. You're welcome to eat with us, stranger."
"No, thank you. I'll be on my way, then."
"You're going to travel at night? Don't you know that spirits haunt these woods? You'll be killed, before you ever reach your destination. And, I noticed that you're wounded."
"Wounded?" He stared at his bandaged hands. "No. I'm fine. Excuse me. I have a long way to go."
"Well, at least let me give you some medicine for your hands."
"I don't need any."
"Let me repay you in some way. You saved my son's life, and with that wolf, the village can eat for at least a day. We'll even have a wolf skin to trade for supplies. What, you don't think I'm grateful? I love my son, Mister! He's all I've got!" Tears had formed in her big brown eyes, and were spilling down her cheeks. The sight entranced him. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. She wasn't going to let him leave, until she was satisfied with some kind of solution. Killing her was out of the question, and he didn't want to, anyway. He noticed then that her fist was clenched on his shirt, next to his heart. A human's touch. Should he feel revulsion? Humans had always been the enemy, and direct contact from one of them was forbidden. But Cailie didn't know who and what he was. All she knew was that he had saved her son, and had given the village meat.
"Please, Mister." Cailie said, gripping his shirt even tighter. "It's our custom to give something of ours in return for your help. If I do not, my soul would be forever tainted."
Kaesler regarded her silently. "Please." She begged. "If you don't want medicine or somewhere to stay for the night, what do you want?" Her eyes closed, and whispered, "It's been awhile. My husband's dead. But--"
"No!" He exclaimed, backing away from her. His movement was so quick that his shirt ripped where she'd grasped it. She looked at him in astonishment. "I'm sorry that I gave you the wrong idea." He said, using his staff as a barrier between himself and Cailie. "That's not what I'm after. I'll take the medicine."
She sighed, and he wasn't sure if it was relief or disappointment. Perhaps a little of both. "Come to my house. It's just over there." She pointed to a small dwelling with thatched roof. "I'll rebandage your hands for you. The cloth is getting a little worn."
"I'll deal with that myself. Just give me the medicine, so I can be on my way."
She looked down, but gave him a small jar. "It's mostly for burns, but it should help with whatever's wrong with your hands. It must be pretty bad, if you don't want anyone to see them."
He shook his head, mystified. Why a human would care about a 'wounded' stranger was beyond him. He could be anyone, or anything. He knew what he was capable of, even if she did not. Just because he'd saved a boy from a wolf, she didn't think he was dangerous. Humans were certainly a strange breed. If she'd known what she truly was, she would have ran from him, and rightfully so. Be that as it may, he'd finally seen something of humans other than war. These people deserved a chance at life as much as his own people did. This was why he must bring peace to the Fallen Lands. And he would do anything to see it happen, even if it meant killing a young woman, before she became a threat to his race.
Cailie and Wez followed him to the edge of the village. "Are you sure you won't stay the night?" She asked. "I would hate for anything to happen to you before you reached wherever you're going."
"I'll be all right." He assured her. "The creatures of the night fear me more than I do them. The next time you offer yourself to a man, make sure he's worthy of you. I am not." He touched her cheek with his bandaged hand. "Farewell, Calie." He started to walk away.
"Wait!" Wez called.
Kaesler turned back to see a white ball flying towards him. He caught it, and stared at it in his hand. "To remember us by!" Wez told him. "Come back this way again, and maybe then you'll have time to stay for a night or two."
Even though Kaesler knew he'd never see them again, he said; "I'll try." He smiled to himself. Humans were indeed a curious race. He only hoped that one day demons and humans could live together peacefully. However, until such a time, he must be content with knowing that at least two humans had thought of him as a friend. Good-bye, Calie. Wez. I will not forget you. It's for people like you that I desire a united world.
"Take care!" Cailie called to him as he walked away. "And I could think of no man worthier of me." She said softly, but he heard her, even if she hadn't intended him to.
If circumstances were different, would he have stayed with them? That was something he couldn't answer right now. As much as he would have liked to have a normal life, that just wasn't what fate had in store for him. Even in the Fallen Lands, he had never been able to admit who he really was. The Queen and her Council had always kept his identity a secret, as he was the Queen's sole heir to the Throne. Their thought was that if they kept him visible, the Nobles wouldn't notice the resemblance. So far, they'd been right. No one outside the Council and the Queen knew that he was the Queen's great grandson. Everyone thought that he was just another of the Queen's Nobles. This put him in danger, but not necessarily a direct target. He went along with the farce, as it was really the only way he'd ever known. It's been this way since birth.