Birth of A Daemon
“I Will Teach You”
by Ruth Davis Hays 2009
The sky embracing the countryside of Verdaillia was a black sapphire reflecting millions of sparkles masquerading as stars as the midnight hour crept upon the reluctant residents of Heliacon Prison; though none could revel in its beauty. The sprawling institution yawned with the heavy fetid misery of thousands of souls scraped from their lives of disrepute in the three adjoining regions to shrivel and fade; disregarded and abandoned by the rest of society. In the dark, moonless tunnels, four beings moved about as the rest slept or curled against each other in desperate filth and silence.
The prison guards that had gathered D’harromarrie’khiall from his bed in the Healer’s room, spoke in soft tones with a gentleman that stood at the door to this cell as casually as if they were at the door of his home. The human gave the guards a few coins as they glanced once more back at ‘Khiall and then exited the heavy door. His unknown host was well-dressed and held himself with a posture of importance. The almond-shaped eyes of the fae changeling watched the human carefully; the awkward moments of silence between them stretching interminably; until turning, the fellow looked at ‘Khiall’s wounded, naked form and smiled politely.
“You’re safe now. Relax. My name is Scotlan.”
D’harromarrie’khiall fidgeted in the shadows, glaring thoughtfully at the man. “You’re not one of the guards. What are you?”
“You might say that I’m a long term resident here.” He chuckled. “I’m a Saeissin, and I’m being held here until my execution.”
“One of the guild assassins? What do you want from me?”
“Friendship.” The man spread his hands mildly.
“And nothing else?” Khiall surveyed the human, doubtful as to the extent of his intentions. He had tasted the bitter consequences that the lure of his dark fae blood produced in other races- especially humans- many times in his life, and surviving among the criminals here had proved to be sorely hard.
The man grinned; his mature, brown eyes surveying the physique of the young fae with approval. Then he shook his head. “You do have a fine arse, Khnyghtsyde, but I don’t care to have a power play right now. Besides, I’ve money enough to have whores brought in when I am in need.”
He saw ‘Khiall relax a bit, although the youth was still hovering near the far corner of the wide cell. The room, which boasted a solid metal door which opened onto the barred outer door, was decorated with rugs and modest furniture. It looked more like a sparse office with a bed than a prison cell. ‘Khiall’s night-blue eyes explored the details of the space with the scrutiny of a wary badger; each gentle thrust of air against his skin making them dart. He knew that he had been brought here for a reason and was anxious to know its specifics. Scotlan quietly watched him with an amused smirk on his rough face.
“What are you in for, Khnyghtsyde? Something interesting, I hope.” The human queried casually.
The fae stated in a hesitant breath, “I was arrested for raping a human woman.”
“You don’t strike me as one that would have a woman resisting you.” Scotlan smiled wickedly.
“Ah good, something to tell then. Please, share with me.”
He patted an invitation on the mattress beside him, but ‘Khiall silently let it go unaccepted. The fae was indifferent over the lack of clothing on his pale, smooth flesh and the slight chill in the room seemed to have no affect on him either. But, he was in no hurry to draw closer to the scarred, leathered human.
Scotlan shrugged and stood to remove his coat. It was finer than any article found in a prison and the cut was designed to accommodate his wide shoulders. He was not a tall man, but he was strong, with an aura of confidence and danger about him. Though ‘Khiall had not seen him raise his hands to the other inmates, they all seemed to back down from this man. The influence and power he benignly wielded over others was something that D’harromarrie’khiall craved to possess.
“Her husband trapped us.” The young fae continued tentatively. Telling a stranger the details about his life felt awkward, but as he offered this, Scotlan turned back to him with renewed interest and politely sat down again to give over his full attention to the fae.
“We had…been together before and he found out. He brought the city guard when he knew that we would be alone together. She is a weak and frightened ‘saphien’, so she claimed that it was forced. I didn’t protest the charge. I didn’t care to be taken to court. And, that’s all there is to tell.”
Scotlan tapped his lip with one forefinger in thought. Then he nodded with concern. “You may have been wise not to protest the charge, especially in the current political environment; but, if there is a jealous husband in the mix, he could make things hard for you. Either way, you will not be in here long, I’ll wager.” He sighed the last despondently, which caught ‘Khiall’s attention.
“Why do you say it like that?” he asked uneasily. The room began to feel more chill on his bare skin. Edging closer to the human, he rubbed his own arms, gingerly avoiding the healing cuts and dark bruises. He watched as Scotlan moved languidly to the desk. Pulling a small bottle of Cornvic, a strong clear liquor made from distilled juice of the cornack berry, from his bottom drawer, the man poured two glasses as he spoke his thoughts to the young fae.
“Well, as you said, if you had protested the charge that would have most certainly led to a long, drawn out court hearing with witnesses and paperwork and the inevitable –and unfortunately intensive– procuring of a certified confession.”
“Torture, you mean.” Khiall’s smooth face darkened as Scotlan nodded.
“Yes, a few years ago, there were several complaints brought to the royal attention that individuals from the prison had been executed for crimes based solely on witness information, only to have definitive proof of their innocence provided too late. Well, this could not continue; so, now by royal decree all penalties must first have an undisputed confession extracted from the accused and certified before their conviction. That way, if any family member has issues with the innocence of their departed loved ones, the prison has only to wave the signed confession of guilt in order to be held blameless.”
“But, I didn’t dispute the charge. They don’t need to ‘extract’ a confession out of me.” Khnyghtsyde sounded as if he were trying to reassure himself.
Scotlan held out the second glass to him. “Here, this will warm you.”
As ‘Khiall approached the glass like a wary dog that is used to being beaten, the Saeissin went on, “That may not save you from interrogation. You will still have to sign a written description of your crime; which will mean you will be asked for the truth. Truth that will be gained by any means the Judges deem necessary. They can ‘ask’ several times to ensure that your story does not change, and then once more before your penalty is carried out. Not a pleasant thought at all, I’m afraid. Now, if this husband does not care for his wife, he could argue against the rape charge. Which would throw doubt on your confession. Which, in turn, would lead to further interrogation. You see? How long you are held on a charge of rape or subjected to excruciating torment is entirely up to the man you wronged.”
Sipping from the liquor, D’harromarrie’khiall shivered and swore a faerlish curse lightly under his breath. This seemed to amuse Scotlan.
“Her husband is a mean-spirited, grease-faced saphien.” The fae spat angrily. “He would love to see me tortured, I’m sure.”
“Then you may be in a dilemma, my friend.”
“What dilemma? And, why would he have to not care for his wife if he wished to punish me by protesting the charge?” His dark brow creased in confusion.
Scotlan sat back down on the edge of the bed with the crystal glass perched in his fingers elegantly. “Because the charge of adultery carries a heavier penalty than that of rape.” He stated plainly.
“Since when?” The warmth of the drink was giving Khnyghtsyde courage again. “Adultery is a private crime, not a civil one. It is merely the breaking of a contract.”
“Not these days.” Scotlan sighed. “You see, the Duke of Culetan Province has recently had a change of heart on the matter of infidelity. His first and third wives were stolen by a rival nobleman from the southern states after a rather extensive, and public, affair between the three. Then, his second wife disappeared in the middle of the night leaving only a note saying that she did not love him…ever. Though there were rumors around the Noble Tables recently that she had become infatuated with some handsome, raven-haired faery-boy she had met in town.” The human slowed a bit at this thought as he surveyed Khiall, and then he continued. “Well, this hurt his pride as well as his heart, so he now deems adulterers as high criminals that are equal with thieves or murderers.”
It had seemed impossible for the fae to grow paler, yet he did. “Bollsulech.” He swore in a whisper.
“So, let us hope that the charge holds at rape, for both you and your lady friend’s sake. Either you risk the torture or the rope for you both, if adultery is confessed. Though rapists are not held in high regard behind these walls.”
“I’ve noticed.” Khiall murmured, sipping at the Cornvic again. He winced each time it hit the cut on his lip. After a moment’s thought, he asked, “Has the penalty for it changed?”
Scotlan shrugged nonchalantly. “Last I heard, it was public castration and then release from prison. But, any following arrest is counted on top of that charge, which usually leads to execution.”
“They’ll finish what Solomen began.” D’harromarrie’khiall muttered to no one, though Scotlan caught the low utterance.
He gestured with his glass and asked ‘Khiall, “Are you referring to that rather rough-looking scar there?”
The young fae self-consciously covered his genitals with one hand and stepped back into the shadows of the large, comfortable prison cell; his dark blue eyes keeping a level hold on Scotlan.
“Sorry,” Scotlan said sympathetically. “I’m not judging. I noticed it, that’s all.” As the changeling forced his guard down again, the human went on. “I just hope that the prison judges don’t assume that scar is a sign of a prior rape conviction. Then your stay will be very short indeed.”
“There’d be no record of one.” The dark-haired fae snapped rather challengingly. “I don’t force women. They come to me.”
“I’m sure they do.” Scotlan smiled. “But, that really doesn’t help you in here, unless you bewitch the resident nurse. She used to give me private examinations, at no extra charge. I’m sure she would do the same for you.”
As they both took a moment to sip their drinks, Scotlan’s heavy eyes surveyed Khnyghtsyde once more. The fae boy, suddenly unabashed under his stare, began to move about the cell as if flaunting his graceful physique. Scotlan smiled and shook his head. His golden brown hair fell in uneven layers over his neck and shoulders as he leaned onto one arm and stretched out on the bedcover.
“I predict that you will be seeing the nurse a lot, no matter how long you are in here,” he chuckled as his eyes went from one large discoloration to the next on the younger man’s body. “You should really consider my offer of friendship. I could teach you how to fight.”
‘Khiall stopped and glanced over with a flare in his blue eye. “I know how to fight.” He growled.
“Ah, that much is obvious.” The Saeissin countered. “I’ve seen you fighting the Toughs off before. But, I could teach you to fight more efficiently.”
The changeling stormed towards him baring his glistening fangs. “I would have torn them apart if…” he paused, his savagery stifled by the memory.
Scotlan finished his sentiment for him. “If you hadn’t gotten outnumbered?”
The fae fumed and backed off as the seasoned human continued to make his point. “Ah, but you see, I know ways to use your enemies’ attacks to your advantage. You, my young friend, had several things working against you yesterday in the Pit.”
He waited for ‘Khiall Khnyghtsyde to argue, but seemed encouraged when he did not. Scotlan went on. “First off, you’re fae…of some sort; and a fae of any kind doesn’t hold well with the Toughs down there.”
“You speak like you’re not in the same prison,” Khnyghtsyde sneered. “You were in the Pit with the rest of us.”
“No, no.” Scotlan corrected gently. “I am not one of the detestable Pit Stew. I only visit there once in a while with a few of my guards, for purely entertainment purposes. We bet on who is going to get shanked and who is going to get corked. And, you very nearly got both this last time.”
As the ruffled ‘Khiall fought with his ego and mused on his near subjugation, Scotlan was bereaved over another aspect of the event. Remarking with a shade of scolding in his voice, the human said, “Pity, I thought for sure that you would beat the odds and win that fight. You cost me three hundred pents. But, no matter, you’ll make up for it I’m sure. Anyway, that brings me to my second point. You don’t fight multiple opponents very well. Against one or two, you can beat them to the ground, yet when faced with say…ten or more–like the ones that jumped you–not so much.”
“They just wanted revenge because of what I did to Fat Cal.” Khnyghtsyde grumbled as he moved to sit on the bed and ease his sore muscles. Scotlan made room for him. Admiring the sheen of the fae’s black hair as it trickled upon the strong, pale shoulders, he continued to discuss his theory.
“Yes, I heard about Fat Cal and I saw his throat. Which means that they will not stop at one attack, especially an interrupted one.” Scotlan pointed out intently. “I bet they will be on you like stink on buckshat now that they know your weakness.”
“What, being outnumbered? That’s hardly a personal weakness.” He sounded offended.
“No,” Scotlan was serious; his amused smile vanished. “Even if you learn well the art of defending against numerous enemies, you will still suffer from this…” Reaching up suddenly, the human flicked hard on the half-faerlin’s tall, tender eartip. ‘Khiall flinched back with a cry and covered his ear; his brow creasing in irritation. “The third point comes back to the first. You are fae. Not many humans know how sensitive a faerlin’s ears can be. But, now Fat Cal’s gang of Toughs do. You can believe they will exploit that knowledge every chance they get. This time it was a fluke accident that they hit you in the ear, but next time…”
“Fine,” Khiall jumped up to pace the room again. His goblet of half-finished wine he slapped rather brusquely on the desktop as he passed. “I’m a walking target for abuse. What interest do you have in it? Why do you offer to help me?”
Scotlan shrugged. “Perhaps for the same reason that the ladies come to you; I like you. Or perhaps for the fact that when I lost that wager, I am out a whole month’s expenses and I want you to pay me back for them. Or perhaps you remind me of myself when I was still young enough to have something to prove. I don’t know. All I do know is that I have very few companions in my life, and as that life draws to a close, I want someone congenial to talk to. Your passion for violence and your strength, your beauty are enough to make me want to spend my last months with you; but there is more. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience that will vanish with me when I step up to the headsman’s block. And, perhaps I am unwilling to let that die as well. You show the spirit and promise for being an excellent saeissin, if you so wish to become one.”
The man watched D’harromarrie’khiall carefully as the offer was considered. His pacing came to a halt, and the fae stood so still that he was a marble statue with a flow of ebony hair. His blue eyes turned to Scotlan slowly and a new chill lit them. The look in those azure depths sent a burn of delight down the Saeissin’s spine and he could not help but smile at the dark life that he saw ignited there. He knew that his proposal had been accepted.
“How did you become a hired killer? And, more pointedly, why are you in here?” Khiall asked darkly, his eyes were now riveted on the older man.
Scotlan stood up and moved closer to Khnyghtsyde, his voice he kept low as he relayed his sinister secret to the fae.
“I am known as Blacksword. I belong to the Dark Hood Guild. It is an old, feared, and highly respected guild. The master’s code name is Cylas. You see, after many years of service in the military, fighting and killing for the Crown, I retired with a title and estate. But, I grew bored and annoyed by the useless, pious, and bureaucratic nonsense that prevailed around the noble courts. I loved to gamble and sought out the more rustic houses and unsavory company. Soon, my fighting skills were noticed by Cylas and he took me into his guild. But, there is more to being a saeissin than fighting well.” Scotlan held his glass up in a strange salute to the younger man and handed Khiall the rejected goblet from the desk once more. “Knowledge is your weapon. A Master Saeissin is in the top echelon of any guild, sometimes second only to the Guildmaster. It is a highly coveted and highly respected position. It carries with it power and fear. But, along with that, it carries a heavy price. One that I am about to pay.”
He was silent for a long moment as the shadows crept closer around them. “You asked why I am in here,” Scotlan smirked at some hidden memory, and then continued. “I let my mask slip.”
“Your mask?” Khiall looked at him incredulously.
The philosophical smile was back to play on the human’s lips as he explained. “Not my face covering, no. I’m speaking metaphorically. As a saeissin, one must cover one’s identity…wear a mask so to speak, for the world to see. I had many Masks. I hid my true self from all others until I became lost. I no longer knew why I was killing, I just was. And, the funny thing is, that I discovered that I had lost my appetite for it long before. I lost the love of what I was doing. That is the point when one must know to stop. But, I didn’t. I got foolish and made the ultimate mistake. I let my work invade my refuge. I was seen as who and what I really was; and got caught red-handed on an assignment.”
Turning away for a moment as his voice trailed over his shoulder, Scotlan hissed, “That is a mistake that you must never make. Always save one Mask for yourself. Make one to be your safe face, as true to you as it can be; but still accepted by the world as harmless. Let it be above reproach and well-loved, for if you can keep in the favor of those around you, then none will want to stand against you before the Judges’ bench.”
D’harromarrie’khiall nodded as the man’s words swirled around in his heart and it began to burn for more. This man did indeed have knowledge to teach him and he was eager to absorb it. All his life the righteous faerlins and weak-hearted humans had tried to force him against his nature; bend and mold him into something that would not haunt their dreams. But, standing before him now was a creature of his own ilk; a man that could appreciate his instincts and talents for bringing pain and suffering. Scotlan waited; silent and looking deeply into his eyes. He seemed to be searching for something in the dark fae and just as he asked his next question, he found his answer in the fae’s expression.
“Tell me, Khnyghtsyde. Have you ever taken a life?”
‘Khiall did not move or speak, but Scotlan sucked the truth from him. With a smile that curled the corners of his mouth coldly, the human chuckled. “Yes, I see that you have. Do you feel remorse over it?”
The memory of blood dripping off his clawed hands as he had stared down at two faerlin soldiers who had invaded his step-family’s porch demanding that his mother and he return to the Eastern Faerlin Woods echoed in his mind. They had been after him–the changeling, an abomination that must be purged from this world. He had reacted from instinct; bringing them death had been swift and delightful. A feeling of accomplishment, even excitement, had filled him and came back now in a lurid rush, giving his skin gooseflesh in the dark prison cell. Even his mother’s diatribe and rejection of him had never dampened that satisfaction. Looking up into the Saeissin’s face with a glitter in his eye, D’harromarrie’khiall whispered, “No.”
“Good.” Scotlan clinked their glasses and then drank in acceptance of his new apprentice. “That will make this so much easier.”