The King gave me clothes, before leaving Hiku and I to sleep in the study. The next morning, I was awake and up before the rest of the castle. I slipped out the door and found no one guarding us from leaving. I wandered the halls a little before spotting a garden outside the castle. I ran around, trying to find a door outside and after about ten clicks, I lucked out and found one.
I walked outside, looking up at the sky. The sky was a light red as the sun rose above the horizon. I found a path that weaved through the garden. Soon, I realized, it was a labyrinth of wild flowering bushes and trees. I enjoyed the walk, listening to the wind rustle through the leaves and the birds twittering in the trees. I found statues of beautiful women and men, but quickly realized they were all demonic.
I stopped at one statue in particular. It was a statue of a Lady and a Demon. The Demon’s horns twisted and spiraled, as a look of what could be taken as love on his face, as he looked down upon the Lady at his side. He looked kind and loyal; a wistful look of longing was unmistakable from the dark obsidian from which he had been carved.
Sitting by him, holding onto him, the Lady was pleading for him. I have seen that look in many a Ladies’ eyes when they grew attached. Though the white granite used for the Lady was tinted in the morning sun, I saw that she was still pure. She did not have the look of having been used for most of her life, though she looked to have been my age.
“Beautiful, are they not?” The Demon King’s voice came from behind me.
“Very. But who are they?” I looked to the side, as he stood next to me.
“This is the fate of those who are Kings and Queens of the Demon realm. If you noticed, all of the Kings chose a human bride. These two are the last King and Queen before me.”
“What happens?” I looked up at him and I realized that he has to be about six and a half feet tall compared to my five foot eight inches.
“Demons do not die, like humans do. The Kings choose a Queen who is young and when the Queen dies, she is buried and her statue is carved from the white stone. The King then steps down from his place, after naming an heir. He then goes through a painless process that changes him into the dark stone.” He looked down at me.
“Why does he not get another Queen?”
“Demons mate for life. That is why I am skeptical of making you my bride. I want a woman who can keep up and be powerful enough to rule in my stead, should we go to war.”
We both looked to the statue. I reached up and touched the woman’s face, “She used to be a Lady.”
“You would be correct.” He began to walk towards the center of the labyrinth and I followed him. “Father found her wandering the streets when he was visiting your kingdom. She had been pure when he found her, but he chose her when he learned she had been broken by your king’s thrice great grandfather.”
“That would have made that over two centuries ago.” I looked to him, “How old are you, exactly?”
He smiled, “Older than you think.”
He chuckled, “Since when my domain is holy, I would not know.”
“Sorry. But if he is your father, is she your mother?”
“No. Only full Demons can take the throne, but she did give birth to both of my siblings.”
“You have siblings? What are their names?”
“It does not mater now.” His face was sullen.
“What do you mean?” I felt as if I had hit a heart note.
“They were both killed by humans.”
“Oh no…” I felt bad for him. He had no more family to be there with him. “I am so sorry.”
“Do not worry yourself over it, do not apologize for what you had not done.”
“I do not know what I would do if I did not have Hiku or if I lost him. I do not have a true family, but Dyne, Hiku, the children and the castle servants have always been there for me. Must have been lonely.”
“It was.” He looked down at me, but I continued to look forward. “Demons are a lot like humans, but most do not see it that way.”
“That is because we are taught from birth to hate you.” I spoke automatically, not thinking. “We are taught that Demons are the scourge of the world and it is up to the knights to destroy all traces of them.”
“And yet you choose to be here instead of with humans why?”
“Like I told the Prince, I have seen more in my nineteen years than most humans would in a lifetime. I have seen humans at their darkest when they kill, but also at their brightest when they give life.” I looked up at him, “You showed mercy with Hiku and the Prince, which tells me that you are not all as bad as we are all taught. You were different that what is told. I figured that if you were different, most other Demons must be the same.”
He thought about my words for a tick before mumbling, “Very intelligent.”
We reached the center of the labyrinth and there was a fountain facing a bench. He went to the bench and sat down, as I went to the fountain. The water was dark red and thick. I put my finger in it and lifted it to my nose. It was not blood, but I could not quite place where I had seen this before. “What is it?”
“The water was contaminated by humans during the last war. They put belladonna in it.”
“Does it connect with the natural water supply?”
“Yes, they killed many creatures with this water, after just trying to kill Demons.” He sat forward and folded his fingers together.
“Belladonna… Deadly nightshade…” Words whizzed through my mind as I tried to remember something from long, long ago. I put my fingers into the water and closed my eyes, “Purify this life spring; gnirps efil siht yfirup.” The water close to my fingers became clear and clean. I opened my eyes and saw it, before smiling a little. I concentrated on the words and I felt coolness rise through my body, filling me with liquid ice, “Purify this life spring! Gnirps efil siht yfirup!”
A blue flash shot down my arm and the water cleaned as it went through the fountain. The flash went from the bottom tier to the next one up, purifying the water as it went. It went into the next tier, before going into the fountain spout itself. The water stopped flowing, and I opened my eyes. The Demon King stood up and looked into the water. Water came from the spout again, but instead of being the dark red poison, the water was clean and pure.
I took a step back and pulled my finger from the water. I started to shiver uncontrollably, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not stop. The Demon King saw me, wrapping his arms around me. He spoke softly to me, “You are soaking wet. How did you do that?”
“I-I-I-I do-o n-o-o-t-t kn-n-o-o-w.” I felt myself grow colder.
“What in the hell? I summon fire.” The Demon King said clearly. Fire sprang up in front of us. I felt him grow warmer behind me, “Are you okay, child?”
The cold started to slowly melt away, “Y-y-e-e-s-s.”
“Good. Do you now what you just did?”
I shook my head. I remember looking into the water and him telling me about the belladonna but I could not remember what happened after that until the cold came.
“You just purified a demonic water source. I do not know how you did it, but thank you. We have been trying for the last century to cleanse it and nothing worked.”
I felt warm and safe against him. “Do not mention it. I just could not imagine why someone would destroy innocent lives to kill just because of their ignorance.”
“That is why wars are fought, child. All of it stems from ignorance and prejudice.” He held me close to him.
“Sorry for getting you wet and for ruining the clothes you gave.” I apologized to him.
He stroked my hair, “It is ok. But we best be going. It is time for you to escort the army back to your kingdom.”
“It’s not my kingdom anymore. I belong here now.”
He sighed slightly, “I guess you do.”
We reached the castle in no time, to find the army of humans surrounded by the demonic army. I would have never been able to tell the difference, except from the darker skin color, the eyes and or course, the horns. The human army was shackled and looked horrible. “What in the sevens hells?”
“They were held in the dungeons for the last months now. What did you expect? For them to be prim and proper?” The King asked.
“I guess not but holy hell.” I saw some familiar faces among the army and they all gave me looks of disgust.
I saw Hiku in front of the rest of them, along with the Prince. The Prince’s glare bore through my body and the hatred in his eyes gleamed in the morning light. I went up to him, “You look like you want to say something to me.” It was not a question.
He spat on the ground at me, “You chose this monster over me?”
“No, I chose this kind and caring King over a monster like you. If it was not for the fact that killing you would cause another war that these people do not need, you would be dead by my hand. Do you understand me?”
He snarled at me, “I will destroy you.”
The Demon King came over, “You touch her and I will rip you from limb to limb and serve your entrails to the hell hounds.” He grabbed me by the shoulder and led me to a pure black fire-breathing horse. “This is HellFire and he is aptly named for both his temper and his fire breath.” He lifted me up onto the horse’s back before hopping on behind me. He looked to his captains, “Let us go.”
We went through a town, and I saw Demons watch the precession below. There was no cheering, no banner waving, nothing that reminded me of a human town. It was silent save the footsteps and horseshoes.
I saw a few of the knights look at me, some knew what I had done, others considered me a traitor. I looked over to Hiku and he was relaxed, knowing I was safer here than at the castle. I looked up to the King, but he was looking grim and forward. We reached the end of town before beginning the long trek towards the border between Ancial and Hell.
We stopped a few times, for the walking armies to rest. I hopped off the horse and walked to Hiku, “How be you doing?”
“I am doing just fine. It is the more badly wounded that I am worried about.”
“What do you mean?”
He pointed to carriages that followed the armies. “Those who are in those might not make it. The Demons have done what they can to keep them alive, but they can not heal.”
“I will see what I can do. Promise me that you will convince the king to not go to war with Hell.”
“I understand.” He went to check on some of the other knights, as I went to the carriages.
A woman Demon was inside the first one I went to. “Excuse me, can I help you?”
I answered her quietly, “I am Twilight Dawn, and would it be okay if I checked on all of the wounded? I want to see if I can help any of them.”
“You may, but please be careful. I do not want them to get too excited and risk hurting themselves further.”
“I understand.” I climbed into the back of the carriage. I found two men lying on the floor, both heavily wounded. “Do you know what happened?”
“I can tell you that we did not do this, if that is what you are implying.” She growled.
“It is not. This looks like a wild animal attacked them.” I pointed to the scratches that pierced their chain mail. “Let me see your hand for a tick.”
“Please? Humor me.” She gave me her hand and I compared it with the claw slashes. “That is how I know Demons did not do this. Your claws are not big enough to have done this.” I let her hand go. “What kind of creature could have done this?”
“It looks like a Ska claw mark.” She answered me.
“What is a Ska?”
“They are winged creatures with poisonous claws, a mane-cat’s head, mantis claws, and a serpent for a tail. They roam wild at night, which was why we could not leave last night. There was a pack of them near the gates.” She looked at me, her eyes a light orange. “Our army found their camp decimated, we did not attack them at all. They fought the Ska off them when we arrived. We helped them, but they were all out of supplies for the last few days, making them weak and easy to capture. We have done all we can to keep them alive.”
“Why did you try to keep them alive? If it had been the other way around, they would have slaughtered you all.”
“Please understand, human. We are not as evil as everyone seems to think we are. We are mostly a peaceful culture and even though we cannot, we have tried to learn the art of healing. We have mercy where humans do not.”
“Okay, thank you for helping me understand.” I looked at the wounded knights, “Their wounds are healed… It is the poison that is killing them.”
She nodded, “Yes. And since we did not have any clean water source until this morning, we could have cleaned the wounds properly.” She looked at me, “Do you know why the water became clear?”
I shook my head, “I honestly have no idea.” Technically, I was not lying to her. I did not know how it happened; it just did.
“I was told by the King that you might be able to help get rid of the poison. Could you try?” She held my hands in hers, practically begging.
“I will see what I can do.” I smiled. I had no idea what I was going to do. I placed both her and my hands on the wounded knight. “Rid him of the poison that taints his blood; doolb sih stniat taht nosiop eht fo mih dir.” The Demon girl repeated after me, and a wave of warmth and light shot down our arms and into the knight. She and I threw our hands out of the way as the light went to every part of his body.
She looked at me, “How did…”
I tilted my head to the side, “Did what?”
She looked at me flabbergasted, “How can you not remember what you just did?”
I was confused. “What did I do?”
The knight coughed and opened his eyes. He looked up and saw me, “You… Saved my life.”
I shook my head, “I did nothing of the sort. She did.” I pointed to the Demon girl.
He looked over to her. “That can not be possible…”
“Please, sir, choose your words wisely. She saved your life, when she did not have to.”
The girl looked at him and he up at her. He shook his head, “I did not believe it was possible. I was always taught that Demons came from the darkness and they could not use light magic.” A small smile played on his lips. “Thank you, Lady…”
The girl smiled, “Kell. And it is best if you get some rest. We are about to reach the border to Ancial and you will need your strength to go home.”
“Home? But we were captured.” He was confused.
I tried to clear it up, “The king sent me in exchange for all of your lives. You are all going home today. Now, rest.”
He closed his eyes, “Thank you. To the both of you.” He was out within the minute.
Kell looked to me, “Why did you tell him that I did it?”
“Because you did?”
“No, actually you did.”
“I cannot have done it. I am just a normal human.”
“I think you need to heal the rest of them. I mean if they know you did it, maybe it could change their perceptions of Demons and maybe they could start changing minds in Ancial.”
“You are right, I guess.” She looked down. “Will you help me?”
I smiled, “Sure.”
We went to the next knight and after a flash of light; the next knight was fully healed. “Wow, you are good at this.” I told her smiling happily. “How many more?”
“There were only two.”
“Who are in the other ones?”
“Those are the ones who did not survive the encounter.”
“How many Skas were there?”
“The plural is Skae, deary.” She grinned at correcting me. “You know what, human? You are not too bad.”
“Thank you.” I smiled to her. There was a knock at the door. I went over and opened it, “Hello?”
The King stood outside, on his horse. “I see you made a friend.” He looked to Kell, “Hello, milady. Was she of any help?”
Kell nodded, “Yes, but I do not think she remembers any of it.”
I looked at her confused, “Remember what?”
“I see what you mean. Well, we have to get started if we are going to reach the border by nightfall.” He held his hand out for me.
“Thank you for healing them.” I smiled sweetly to Kell. “I will see you later?”
She nodded, “Of course. There is so much for you to learn.”
I grabbed the King’s hand and hopped onto the ground. “Do I have to ride?”
He looked a bit confused, “I cannot allow that. Please just get on the horse.”
The look in his eyes told me to listen to him. “I guess I will.” I hopped onto the horse, behind him, with ease.
He led the horse towards the front of the procession. “Onward.” We led the armies through the forest, and I had to look around. The trees twisted and turned around each other.
My mind wandered, as I thought about everything I have learned from the last few days. I felt the horse canter along the forest trail. I thought about my family in Ancial, about Hiku, and about the children. Hiku… Well, I guess we were never meant to be… Then again… Though I was adopted in, he is my brother… I then remembered about my blades. “Oh no…”
The King turned to face me, “What is it?”
“My stuff… My father made me a set of twin blades and I do not know where they have gone…”
The King smiled, “Were they representational of the Day and Night?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I found them outside the cell this morning. I will give them to you later.”
He smiled, “Honestly, truly.” He looked up ahead, “Look at that; we are here.”
I looked at Ancial from the outside and I realized, that in all my memories, I had never left the town. “I have never seen it from the outside. It is beautiful.” I looked down at the space between the King and my body. I would never see it again and I did not want to see them leave into it.
I saw Hiku come next to me, “Twilight, it is time.”
I shook my head, tears welling up again, “No…”
The King looked down at me, “We had a deal, human. Honor it.”
I glared up at him, “A deal with the darkness of night when the light of day breaks…” I got off the horse and hugged my brother. “I will see you again. Tell Dyne I will miss him and tell the children that the princess is off becoming a knight. They will understand.”
Hiku hugged me tight against him, “Be safe, Little Wanderer.” He said my nickname from when we were little. “And I will hold you to that.” He let go of me and walked up to the Demon King, “Please take care of her. She is truly a wonderful person who needs to be shown the paths.”
“Do not worry for her, but be sure to keep your end of our deal. Tell your king I want nothing but peace with Ancial and that if he wishes for it too, then to send you.” The King told him.
Hiku let me go, placing his fist to his chest. “Good bye, Twilight Dawn, sister of my soul.”
I put my hand to my chest and bowed, “Good bye, Hiku Reme, brother of my heart.”
He turned and left me standing beside the Demon King. I had a sudden urge to run after him, but the King grabbed me, hauling me onto his horse. “Do you wish to see them off?”
I saw the sun begin to set on the army marching away. The Prince turned and gave me one last glare, “This is not over. I will have my revenge on you, Twilight.” He turned and went into his father’s kingdom with urging from the King’s knights’ swords.
I looked down at the horse’s mane, “No… You kept your end of the deal, now it is my turn.”
He whipped the horse around, “Then we shall go.” He looked to his knights, “Saddle up, we must get back to the city.” I watched as he threw a ball of fire onto the ground, as horses like HellFire appear from the flames. They were all saddled within ticks, and he kicked HellFire as hard as he could. The horse rose on its back legs before speeding off towards the demonic city. I turned to see Hiku’s tears as he turned to return home. I touched the ring on my finger, Someday… I will come home… I promise…
I heard his voice echo through my soul, I know… And I will hold you to that…