Love and Understanding | Chapter 1

rough draft of demons of their heart excerpt. the human meets the beautiful fairy tale of his childhood.

cw: swearing

Upon the highest tower of his palace in which pierced the white clouds of summer morning, Amalla watched the human man hundreds of feet below traverse his way about his beloved rose garden. The human man had been here for two mornings now, and Amalla wondered, with both confusion and delight, why he was so insistent on staying. The human man was not wandering about all that purposefully, yet he did not seem lost; to Amalla, it looked as though he was perfectly content with living his life in the solitude of lush grasses and the innocent flora.

However, this could not be. Humans came to this palace with intentions to discover, to kill, and to return home with what they desired, yet they had always failed to do anything more than the first. Amalla kept a calm eye on the man, keeping his elbows slightly bent as he grasped the stone parapet with delicate fingers.

“Perhaps,” Amalla said, “I have been so long alone that I have conjured him from my imagination.” 

He sighed with a smile. “If this is so, then let him wander about some years more, lest he try to strike me… or I admit my delusion.” 

The human man was inspecting a yellow petal flower and its green stem that spanned a winding length about the trees and garden, swerving above the orange and red flowers as it curled around long wooden poles. He brushed its black center with his thumb, all which Amalla saw with perfect clarity. He noticed how short and clean the man’s nails were. Looking down at his own, he was now slightly concerned to find how long and vicious his black claws had gotten. 

“When humans come to find a beast, they are hardly disappointed,” he said to himself before he laughed. “If the sharp fangs and hideous height were not to give it away long before! How could they notice nails when their eyes can barely actualize my form?”

As Amalla continued to watch the human man, he made note of all the little details he had tried not to notice the previous morning. His brown skin, clear and bronze in the golden sun, complimented the pale blue fabric and honey accents of his decorated uniform.  

“A Warrior of high rank he must be,” Amalla said. “It would be quite fantastical to see the use of human magic against this form!”

The human man’s blue eyes flitted about the garden, his tall, brown boots crossing one in front of the other. His hands were behind his back as he strolled about the lawn. His curly blond hair, tied up in three high sections with white bands, blew in the scant winds about his slightly broad shoulders. Amalla had never seen a Warrior so close in proximity to himself, and he was very surprised at how peaceful such a terribly destructive force could look–how in love with the world he could look. The deep blue and pale lilac aura that emitted from and enveloped the human man’s body was beautiful and nostalgic to witness; it took his mind to thoughts of the tranquil oceans of old, when no human had yet existed to see it shine under the radiance of the starlight that existed long before himself.  

Though Amalla could watch the human man all morning and night–to feed both his eternal tedium and his everlasting fascination– he had to direct his attention forward. There was a squad of humans on equines approaching two miles away. 

Amalla could see the faces of the seven humans, the harsh orange hue around all of them, and the expression they all bore were what he had always come to expect from humans that approached his palace: determined intention to annihilate and seize. One man looked strikingly similar to the one in his garden with the only differences being that his curls were cut short atop his head like a full, golden crown, and his eyes possessed none of that disarming peace, and his entire body was cloaked in an orange so violent it was only a shade lighter than a stormcloud of blood red. The heat and energy of his rage overwhelmed him so greatly that it made a sound and emitted a blinding light that punctured his mind, and in all realities there was no great probability that a man constructed of this much malice could ever exist without it. An entity bathed in a rage not inherent to his nature, but inherent to one who interacted in a world they believed hated them, a world they deemed unjust, a world they deemed evil, a world they hated.        

“Ah, I understand it so clearly now!” Amalla cried as he turned and leaned against the parapet. “They sent their Warrior to scope over my lands before sending their little army to attack me! Oh!” He gasped loudly, and threw the back of his hand up to his veiled forehead. “Well, if today is the day they strike, then I must give them an end to remember! Oh, sweet humans, you make it so easy to love you and so horrible to kill you! Why can’t you leave me lonesome so I can adore you from afar?”

He began to lean back even more so that his body was arching further and further into empty space until he began falling from his tower like a sleeping bat in its cave, as if it was about to take its life. Just a moment before he came in contact with the ground, he flew up in a whirling windstorm of long hair and black silk, avoiding the gaze of the human man below him. Standing on the tops of his tallest tree, Amalla saw the equines and their riders approaching. 

“Let me wait until they make their intentions explicitly violent,” he said to himself the words he always said during times of an attack. “Then I will have no choice but to defend my livinghood.”

Spheres of bursting red light made Amalla step back suddenly. A transparent blue string spun itself lightly about his finger’s which made him gasp again. He turned his head around to see the human man many feet below and in front of him, his footsteps just as careful and meticulous as before, hands still clasped behind his back. The red explosions had flown the men off their equines several yards back; clouds of dust enveloped them. 

In the same instant, the blue string elongated and tightened all around Amalla’s body, first his fingers then his arms then to his torso and feet. Completely constrained, he plummeted down the tree branches and slammed to the ground with a harsh thud.

Whines of the equines, terrible cries of the human men, and the explosive bam, boom, bam of the Warrior’s firings were all he could make of the situation now outside his palace entrance. 

This binding he was under was not strong enough to contain him for much longer–not as strong as the Warrior’s powers had just showcased nor as he had assumed–as Amalla began to break away from it limb by limb. When he flew back to the sky, the dust had settled, the land was silenced, and seven men lay lifeless on the dirt path, the Warrior standing above them. Amalla gently came to a landing beside him.

________                            

Fuck! 

Santhan spun around. He lifted his head until he strained his neck and even then he could not see the beast’s face. He stepped backwards, dodging the outstretched limbs of the man below him, and for just a moment his breath was stolen.

Of all the legends and tales told of the being that lived in the palace of Mavlonia, nothing could do justice to the figure standing before him. There the beast stood, ten feet tall with dark brown rivulets of hair just as long falling down its sides, dressed in a red and black silk gown which left no skin exposed. A black veil cascaded down its face like a mourning bride. 

Before he could take note of its face, the beast took his hands–much more softly than he thought it possibly could–and led him back into the palace lawns. Santhan was terrified, but this was what he had wanted since he had arrived. He knew his binding spell would not contain such an enormous, powerful creature; he only needed it to be constrained for a moment in order to kill the squad himself. That should have been no concern for the beast: that was all his own.  

Santhan tripped on the length of the beast’s gown, so it swept him up and carried him in two hands, gliding his sharp claws with care down the small of his back. The Warrior’s mind went completely blank. 

So blank, in fact, that when the beast had strung him up on vines of thorns against a massive cobbled wall, he was too late to resist, and all he could do was thrash uselessly. It would be suicidal to try and use magic on the beast before him now. His mind was far too scrambled to conjure something clearly.

He was now eye level with the beast, and they both were covered in shade as thick clouds sat in front of the sun. The beast, perhaps upon noticing this, removed its veil and stepped closer to a struggling Santhan. It cupped his chin, and its sharpened nails pressed into his cheeks. Santhan could hardly breathe. 

The face inches from his was the most beautiful he had ever seen, and that fact was as terrifying as it was exhilarating. It was not one completely of man or woman, as it did not appear entirely human, but it adorn features Santhan perceived as puzzlingly feminine. Its long, dark lashes framed immense, scarlet eyes void of pupils, and its mouth was as pink and plump as a freshly ripened berry gleaming after soft rain. Its cream skin free of any bruise or blemish, no sign of an injury or scar made Santhan wonder… 

“Is it not the beast before me?” Santhan said through deep breaths and a desperate grin, “But rather the princess of Mavlonia cursed to a beastly form?” 

The beast opened its mouth as it gently laughed, revealing two sharp fangs.

That laugh… Santhan thought. 

It was something of music in the wind…. something airy and fragile in its beauty, like a song of flutes and bells playing from high mountaintops just barely within the grasp of human ears. A beast of this proportion should have had a bellow of a laugh, one that shook his insides, but instead it stunned his conception and stirred his heart. It replied in its serene and quiet voice, a melody in and of itself, sweet and kind, inhuman in its enchantment. 

“Ah, so this is the tongue you speak.” A small smile overtook its lips. “There is no princess here, Warrior. Only I.” 

Santhan could no longer feel his legs, and the thorns pushed deeper into his uniform. Beads of sweat collected at his forehead.  

“But… but no beast could bear a face or form so horribly human and desirable,” he said as coolly as he could. In his head, the words he spoke sounded scattered and fearful, but the beast almost seemed to redden at them. It had its lips parted and large eyes even wider now, and it seemed to search Santhan. 

“Why did you come to kill me alone? And why did you slay your men?” Its massive red eyes were like two faltering globes of light which held all the sincerity and devastation in the world. Santhan could only speak with honesty. 

“They had been planning an attack on your palace for about a week. There were stories of the beast that lived here. Ones we heard as children. Yet there were also tales of a princess captured and locked away in the highest tower. They came to see for themselves… to make a new story, the final story, of their own. ”

The beast lowered its chin and lowered his gaze to the grasses. “I had thought as much. You say ‘they’ as if you are a separate entity from them.” His eyes returned to the eyes of the human. “You are not a part of their army?”

Santhan’s weak head dropped as he scoffed. “I was. They had sent me to kill the beast. But I wasn’t going to. That’s why they came so quickly after me. So they could finish what they thought I couldn’t.”

The beast lifted the human’s chin slightly, his shortening claws still dark and sharp as they grazed his skin. It leaned in closer. Santhan realized that the fragrance that surrounded them came not from the rose bushes but from the beast itself. “Then for what reason did you come, Warrior?”

Sweat rolled down his face. He felt as infinitesimal as an atom from the tender ache of his touch. “To protect the being that lived in that tower.”

He spared him an innocent smile. “You should not have betrayed your own army for such a silly reason. If they were to try to strike me down, they would have been dead before the thought of drawing a weapon had surfaced.” It said its words without cruelty or self-righteousness. It was a simple fact on its lips, one of recollection and endless experience.  

“True,” Santhan groaned. His body pulsated with exhilaration; all his limbs burned and numbed. “But I could not let it happen. They have gone mad with destruction for too long. They’re fools really. That’s all they’ll ever amount to be… all they ever would have amounted to. They took too much pleasure in their conquests. It was my burden to rid the world of them. Of my brother.” 

The beast looked at him, and in its thoughtful silence its eyes seemed to search his soul. Then it began to release him from the vine, and held his hands for a brief moment as he guided him to his feet. 

Santhan clutched his sore arms in pain, stumbling as he came in contact with the ground. The beast was now hardly taller than Santhan, no longer a terribly towering figure. Its consuming globes of eyes seemed larger at this height, and its features had become even more delicate and pristine. Santhan was looking at a creature sprung out of his old storybooks: a silvery woodland sylph; a fairy deity of youth and beauty; an alluring androgyne siren whose endless hair flowed down the bends of the river; a reclusive nymph amongst the blood red flowers of mountains no human could traverse. 

Indeed, what was before him was a fairytale, one he had heard wildly different accounts since his childhood. However, this was no captured princess or bloodthirsty beast that would tear him in two or any other old high tale. This was a real being of pure radiance, and its essence was not of any human sex but rather something as light and fragrant as a stream of lavender petals floating in the winds. And it stood before Santhan in all of its fantastical reality.   

The shade lifted as the clouds rolled onward, and the being pulled down its veil. 

“What are you to do now that you have no army to return to and no brother on the living plane?” It asked him. “What are you to do now that there is no being here that needs protecting? How can you live among your fellow humans in peace?”

“I wasn’t planning to, actually. I tried for a long time. I’m done with them now.”

The veil obscured the being’s face. Its voice, however, was so thick with sadness, that Santhan felt it all transfer to him upon hearing its words: 

“How could a mortal man kill his kin and think it right?”

Santhan could not meet its gaze. “You must not be human to think of it as some strange thing. That is the nature of the world. Bad people get bad ends. That’s all. And that’s all it’ll ever be.”

“But…” the being started softly, “…you cannot kill kin. Humans value their families so highly…”

“Is that what you think? That’s hardly true for half of us. I am not above forgiveness. But brother or stranger, he had to be killed by my hand.”

“I cannot begin to understand this. Do you believe this is what they deserved?”

“I do. This is all people deserve. I just gave it to them early.”

The being thought for a moment before it smiled behind its veil. “You must be regarded as a strange breed of human, Warrior.”

“Please, I’m… my name is Santhan,” he said. “I’m hardly human, and I’m no longer bound to the title of Warrior.”

“But why? Is that what makes you believe yourself to only be hardly what you are?”

“It’s… I gave up my entire life to it. For twenty years, since I was five years old, I’ve been enslaved to that title’s stupid demands and pointless sacrifices. It never meant anything to me. So I’m done with it now. I’ve been done with it since forever. I’m just finally following through with my feelings, I guess.”

“But… what do men do when they betray their own, when they no longer claim their humanity, much less their title? Will you not kill me yourself now?”

“No.”

“Then you are leaving?”

“No.”

“Then you are going to kill me?”

Santhan broke out into a laugh that startled him. “Are those the only options?”

The being took a step back. It hovered its hands over its chest and caressed one with the other. “What do humans want from what they deem a monster if they are not to slay it?” It spoke and touched itself with a softness, delicate voice and delicate fingers.  

Santhan leaned on the wall, bending his leg to put a foot up against it. “I don’t know. I know I don’t want to kill you. I know that for certain.”

“What do you want then, Santhan?” It kept stroking its hands, running its fingers along the backs of them, as though it was afraid. 

Is it possible for it to feel fear? Santhan thought, struggling to take his eyes off the motion. How could it? 

“I don’t know.” He lifted his eyes to meet the being’s. “Your name, if you have one.”

“Well, I’ve been called many names throughout the millennia, and I have crowned myself my own titles.” It unwound its hand and tapped its chin in thought. 

“I’ve presented myself as Amalla for some time, yet I have had no one to present myself to.”

“Amalla… you named yourself after the amallah flower? And did you say millennia?”

That’s a fitting name for this creature.  

Santhan recalled what his friend had once said about that flower, saying that it was a fairly young species, one that bloomed full and small with a romantic shade of satiny pink and smelled of sugared apples. He had said it lived only in the snows of winter and half of spring, and was plucked by the common people to make medicine and herbal teas for the dying; it served as a sweetener and a pressed decoration for the extravagant cakes of royal’s parties. 

Souga, a person who lived to cultivate and share knowledge on all matters, including his odd fixation on the inner workings of flora that he spoke of to Santhan and Santhan alone, had said it was a rare flower that was held sacred only by those who picked it by their own tired hand, only by those who were less fortunate than the royals who took it without a thought of its scarcity or significance. 

Souga, a man tall and broad that had stood in the gardens of their childhood just five long years ago, in the place they had called the Upstairs in their shared decade, with the tiniest white rose upheld in the palm of his sculpted hand. Fragile green stem nestled between spread fingers, the muscles in his arms taut and outlined against his long sleeves, his warm brown eyes lowered as he studied it with finally accepted sorrow, a sorrow shared with his lost smile, the wind tossing his thick red hair about powerful shoulders. Santhan had wished for the amallah flower to suddenly appear in the white rose’s stead. It didn’t. It couldn’t. It had been for nothing. 

Souga, Souga… 

You’d think it was a fitting name, too. 

Amalla smiled. “I was the one that named that flower upon its conception. Alright, I’ve given you what you want, Santhan, and I believe it is time for you to make your way back to your people.” He turned his back to him and whispered behind his shoulder, “Good luck to you.”

The Warrior-no-longer’s head rose at the sound of the being’s footsteps. He did not realize how fast his heart was beating, nor did he notice how his unblinking eyes burned. All his senses were enthralled by that one fantastical image before him: the ebony and ivory palace glistening in the sunlight, the colors of the breathing flowers in the garden, a train of black and red silk gliding against the jade grasses, the train in which belonged to the gown of the tall, lonesome being now too far from him. If he could only remember that image forever–

I have nothing now… I’ve never had anything. 

Why do I think I’m worth anything after all this time?

It would be impossible, however, to forget the feeling– 

Is it even possible for me… to feel something other than just the absence of hatred?     

“Wait–wait!” Santhan sprang from the wall and dashed to him. He grabbed the blowing sleeve of Amalla’s gown. “Hold on just a moment! I know what I truly want.”

Amalla turned his head, wind rippling through his veil. “And that is what?” He asked the question with slow, rich empathy, ripe with kindness and pity.

Is it worth everything? Is it worth a life I forgot I was still living?

“Santhan?” That sweet, sad voice sounded again.

Why are you worth living now?

“To be with you,” Santhan replied.

Amalla’s back still faced him, and he said nothing. 

“I… I have heard about the being that lived here my entire life. And from what I see before me, all of them were wrong. Insultingly wrong. Let me learn of you and your life. So I can better tell the world of what lives in this palace. And so no harm befalls you for the rest of time.”

No reply came from the mouth of the beast. For many moments, Santhan felt the squirms of dread that herald a violent death writhe across his skin.

“I no longer belong to the human world, Amalla. And I don’t care what you do to them or to me. Kill me whenever you want. Please, only let me live to understand you. The rest is in your control.”

The being turned and sank down a bit so they were eye to eye, his thumb moving across Santhan’s forehead to fix a curl stuck in cold sweat.

 The human had bore his decayed soul to this beast without restraint, and he felt himself growing weak. He did not know he could do that. He thought this was impossible… he had always been told, always believed…  

Neither knew which thought to focus on as they popped up in their minds as saplings do in dark soil– both living only to grow and die and to be replaced with another more vivacious. 

Santhan would plead for a slow death before suffering the affliction of rejection. By the grace of a merciful God or a fleetingly forgiving universe, no such words met his ears.  “You indeed are a strange breed of human,” Amalla beamed through his gentle words. “I have been longing for… non-confrontational company for all time now. And perhaps it would be interesting to see… how it feels and what it means to be the subject of attempted understanding. Come then, and let us make a tale of the two of us.”

~Sammicakes

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