After three days of constant surveillance, exhaustion weighed on the priest. When his eyes drooped disobediently, when his body tried to fling itself from his chair, he finally accepted he could not forsake everything just to keep the creature.
He’d hoped to avoid any great emergencies before the Vampire Hunter’s Guild arrived to take care of the demon, the little town completely unprepared to house or punish the thing. The only reason it managed to be captured was its own stupidity; after destroying half a bar in a fit of intimidation, the hellman proceeded to drink the night away then pass out in a drunken mess. At that point, they slapped the silver chains around his legs and dragged him into the cell. It had been easier than anyone had predicted. Too easy.
A good number of demons would be killed by the touch of the metal, but he didn’t even sizzle. This caused the people to question the priest’s judgment, saying that maybe the powers he used were just that of a wizard—he looked remarkably human—to which the simply priest responded the punishment was no different. Death was the best way to protect everyone.
He had forgone all his duties, which, being the only preacher in the town, was problematic. As a man of the cloth it was his duty to agree to the hunt, to go out and search for a young, lost child, no matter how implausible her safe return was. Children disappeared all the time, however, if all the villagers agreed, he must show his face.
He didn’t say anything to the beast, pretending it was all natural that he’d leave his post. Of course, the nonchalance would have worked better had the demon not heard him yelling at every single man in the church about going to collect the child, but the priest told himself that that wasn’t likely he could eavesdrop that well.
Night passed through the little windows, dimming the already shadowed walls. The demon couldn’t help smiling as he paced the small jail, alone for the first time in a week. Prior, he had been entertaining himself with alarming his watcher. He could sit still for a long time, just staring; that seemed to disturb humans immensely.
But as he strode along the length of the cell, his thoughts turned frantic. How to remove the ankles’ chains? They weren’t a complete hindrance. He still had secrets to turn back on. But even if he managed to escape, they would suck his strength until he found a way to get them off.
The sound of footsteps echoed behind the door across the room. He froze in place, eyes on the entrance like a spooked cat.
The girl entered, carrying a plate. She jumped when she saw him staring.
“I thought it was your footsteps,” he smiled cordially, walking again.
She paused at this, her frazzled blonde floating in front of her narrowed eyes. Kaia reined in her confusion and shut the door behind her.
“I brought you a practice tart,” she said, standing in the middle of the room.
He posed mid-stride.
She moved to the bars then abruptly stopped. “Back up.”
He smiled, obeying with a slick step backwards. She rushed the plate through, dropping it on the other side in a moment of panic.
Had he his strength he could have caught it before the contents splattered on the dirty floor, but knowing he didn’t, the demon didn’t bother.
“Thank you,” he said.
She shrugged, eyeing the plate on the floor.
“Haven’t you eaten at all?” she asked.
The girl bit her lip. “Not in days?”
“I could go years.”
She swayed for a minute, staring at a far corner before asking, “Do you mind if I sit?”
He gestured to the priest’s chair and went back to pacing.
His plan was to ignore her until she left, but her presence had an uncontrollable effect on him. After two strides, he stopped and faced her from a distance. She kept staring. He pried his eyes away, continuing his measured steps.
She started to hum. He peeked to see her usual chipper attitude stripped from her expression.
“Are you a nun?” he asked.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he said.
“Stop trying to kick me out.”
“Does the priest know?”
“I’m not privy to what, if anything, is in that man’s head.”
“I imagine if he knew naïve, young virgin is stalking the prison for her next temptation, he’d have something to say about it.”
“It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. No warning. Couldn’t be helped.”
The chains clanged as he moved to his seat. They linked gazes. Some time past, neither wanting to be the first to move.
“What?” she demanded.
“Humans that dote on demons are disgusting.”
She paused. “I assumed you thought all humans are disgusting.”
“Demons that allow human servants are worse. Allow me to warn you. Those who take on the servile only do so for lack of options. You’d do yourself a favor if you ended your attraction of my kind with me.”
“I’m not planning on becoming a servant to any demon,” she scoffed. “You are interesting, but that’s because you are pleasantly behind bars and easily watched. I can look from safety.”
He smiled again, leaning back.
Over her clasped hands, her brown eyes glimmered with thought. Another involuntary sigh let out. Her neck drooped.
“Upset?” he asked.
She shook her head: I don’t want to talk about it.
“What do you have to worry about?” the demon said, placing his hands behind his head. “You’re not the one getting executed.”
Her eyes shot up.
“Or have we forgotten my predicament?”
She raised her chin from her hands, saying, “Not everything’s about you.”
“You needed some perspective.”
She rolled her eyes, turning her attention to a wall far from him. He drummed his fingers, somewhat cheerfully, eyes scanning the metal bars. The demon leaned forward.
“So,” he said. “Care to make a deal?”
She jumped. The girl’s realization almost threw the chair over as she leapt from it. Her face turned bright red, she took a moment to recompose herself.
“A deal?” she asked with unconvincing nonchalance.
He just kept his tight-lipped grin, her reaction very satisfactory.
“Ha. No,” she replied.
Walking to the other side of the room, she tried to look as though she had been planning all along to finger through the priest’s notes.
“What will it take for you to let me out of here?” he asked.
She rotated towards him, wide-eyed. She laughed. “Are you serious?”
He said nothing.
“I’m not an idiot.”
Leaning back against the wall again, he shrugged. Kaia frowned. She squinted. “What kind of deal?”
The man jumped up, walking towards her with a lively skip. “Well, my dear friend, I was thinking in terms of a trade.”
“What kind of trade
“You know what things my kind has to offer,” he said, smiling gleaming. “The question is, what do you want?
“Nothing you have. Nothing that would be worth the trouble. Also, I have no idea where your key would be and no interest in dying. Didn’t you just say that demons who make deals with humans are disgusting?”
“I said humans who make deals with demons are stupid.”
“Well, that’ll convince me.”
The white-haired man’s face turned to stone.
She picked up the papers and waved them at him. “Do you want to hear what the priest has to say about you?”
“What are you doing here?” the demon demanded.
Kaia just blinked innocently.
He grabbed the bars, leaning into them. “You want something.”
“No,” she said. “I’m just curious.”
“My brother and I go around the world seeing and making up some of the most fantastic creatures one can ever hope for. In every town I search for something I haven’t heard about yet. Of course I’m fascinated with you. Most people have a morbid curiosity with your kind.”
He backed off. “Humans are simple.”
“We really are. In fact, most of us are under the impression the priest is nuts, did you know that?”
“Does that make you simple?”
“The fact that we’d rather indulge our curiosity instead of believing you’re dangerous? It makes us a certain kind of simple. Who has come down here to see you?”
“No one but the fools,” he smirked.
Pushing away a hair curled around her shoulder, Kaia searched for the mortar for moral support.
“I don’t trust the villagers,” she admitted finally.
His expression didn’t waver.
“They act peculiar,” Kaia continued, looking at him. “They don’t seem to respond in the ways I would think someone should.”
“That is generally the most disturbing thing about your kind,” he said. “They behave unexpectedly.”
“They have a witch living outside of town that they don’t praise or threaten. A child disappears and their reactions seem superficial at best—as though they are acting in the way they think
they should. I understand being selfish like the best of them. I know how hard it can be to care about someone who you don’t really know… but this is a small village. And even if you’ve never met the girl, wouldn’t you be a little concerned about it happening to you?”
“Maybe it’s not uncommon,” he agreed.
His contributing confused her. “That’s what I thought. I mean, maybe it happens all the time. I’ve seen idiots who would refuse to leave a place that is clearly dangerous before, but they were the kind to be in denial about it happening at all. These folks seemed ready to accept that it was a spirit who took her.”
The demon adjusted his sleeve underneath the silver chains.
“And then there’s you,” she said. “An alleged beast that few have ever had hopes of witnessing and not only is no one curious, no one seems afraid enough. They have a demon sitting in the basement of their church for days, one that destroyed a building, and yet I’ve seen no sense of fear.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. She took a moment to understand the look.
“Are you a demon?” she asked. “Or is that a lie?”
The man turned on his heel and walked back to his bench, chains clanging as he went.
“Please answer me!” Her voice cracked. “I don’t understand what is happening. I don’t understand why you’re here. It can’t possibly be so simple. How could these humans have captured someone like you so easily?”
Throwing an ankle across the other, he sat back and closed his eyes, smug.
“If you are human involved in a witch trial, or an elaborate scheme so the church appears useful, or even an apparition that is more common to this world, then just tell me! It can’t harm you any. And it won’t aid the preacher, if that’s your concern.”
She shook her head, not entirely expecting him to tell her anything, a certain unexplainable frustration overcoming her. “My brother is out there with a whole group of them. I have the vaguest expectation that they may attack him. I think he does too, which is why he wouldn’t let me come along. Yet,” she smiled. “I also have such low opinion of them that I feel if they even did gang up on him, he’d be far too experienced to allow them to kill him.” She looked at the demon meaningfully. “Of course, you’d prove that assumption wrong.”
The silvery eyes studied her before he finally leaned forward. “The villagers are fat and lazy, as well as cowardly. If I thought there was anything to be afraid of, I would not be sitting so calmly before you now.”
She looked at him.
“Your priest has been counting down the days until my execution. That is when the righteous will arrive, and I will then be pulled from this cell, taken into the streets where they will hang me from a silver wire and burn my corpse. If they knew what they were doing, I hardly would feel they would call for backup.”
Kaia glanced from his silver chains to his face. She approached the bars, finally asking, “What are you?”
“Are you a demon?”
“Why are you here?’
“Your preacher has been demanding that of me for every hour I’ve been in this cage. You won’t wrestle it out of me that easily”
“Please,” she said, moving closer. “If you know anything about this village, please tell me. I can’t imagine that you know nothing.”
“If I did, I would have no inkling to say.”
“You’re rather calm,” she said.
“I’m rather dead,” he replied. “Metaphorically. You didn’t see me before I was defeated.”
She smiled. “What? Did you kill anyone? Did you take down the world?” Reaching out, she squeezed the bars. “They are not afraid of you. Tell me why?”
The metal clanged as he slammed up against it. She jumped. The horror on her expression could not be missed, and the demon’s anger grew more apparent.
“I have seen nothing of this place except for the inside of this room,” he said. “Do not demand information. I owe your kind nothing.”
Shock faded, she scratched her ear, turning her eyes to the ground.
“Alright,” she sighed. “I tried.”
He glowered at her from behind his cage. She started to pace in the silence. He could see, even from his distance, the tension in her body, the hairs free from her ponytail standing up on her neck. Kaia played with the pouch on her hip, opening and closing it nervously. She flicked her brown eyes back to the demon’s and that was how they stayed for some time.
She finally smiled and shrugged.
“I just wanted to be your friend.”
“Interesting choice,” he growled. “Dead man walking.”
Her lips parted to speak, but then quivered in a hesitation.
“Do you really think that you are going to die here?”
At first his expression remained blank. Then he grinned maliciously.
“I thought so,” she said, turning on her heel.
She moved to the door, then stopped abruptly, foot extended like a dancer. Slowly, she turned back, a coy smile on her lips. “Do you mind if I study you?”
His brow lowered a bit in annoyance.
“Or if I go through the priest’s notes? I mean, if you really are a demon, then I could always use the information.”
Without a word from him, she turned and skipped back to the table and began to riffle through the paperwork. Picking up a random handful, she walked back to the stool over on the other side of the wall and sat, crossing her legs most delicately and presenting the first paper before her. She then proceeded to read.
He leaned apathetically against the bars, a thorough look of lethargy on his face. He watched her try to focus on the tiny black scratches before her. Her brow slanted a bit, and she leaned into the paper. He appeared completely unenthralled, yet the intensity in which he stared remained the same.
After a time, he leaned back, tugging on the silver chains around his wrist lightly. He pulled them up to the bones in his hands and then released, testing the boundaries. He looked back at her. Her eyes were hardly moving on the page.
“You are not of the higher classes,” he suggested.
She didn’t even look up, “Took a look at my clothes, I see.”
“I doubt you are experienced in any form of society.”
She nodded, continuing to pretend to read.
“You are a traveler?”
Placing the paper down on her lap, she sat up straight. “I am a hunter of the Wyrd. I kill things like you.”
He smiled, placing his hands above his head to lean his elbows against the bars. “I don’t believe that.”
“Well,” she admitted, shuffling the papers, “My brother does anyway.”
He continued his stare.
“Why?” she demanded.
“You’re attention starved.”
She frowned. “Oh please. Everyone stares at me where ever I go. Including you.”
“You’re constantly doing whatever it is you think will get you in just the right amount of trouble.”
She scoffed. “What?”
“The things in which you don’t have to face any real consequences, yet, will still receive a reaction.”
She just smirked at him, condescendingly: very clever
“Wrong,” she told him
“Why else would you be here?”
She raised her brow. “For the attention?”
“That’s what I believe.”
“Try morbid curiosity.”
“Not at all.”
She drummed her fingers on the large stack, huffing.
“I’m not usually waiting around,” she said. “Here I’m constantly uncomfortable. But, when I go to places that it’s obvious I’m not wanted, it’s not as awkward. Do you really hate humans?”
He didn’t answer, his face stone.
“Your reactions to me are not of the bigoted type,” she said.
“I felt more like you would treat me as a dog that doesn’t shut up.”
He smiled. “I like dogs.”
Kaia paused, crinkling the papers in between her hands. “I’m sorry that you’ve been treated this way.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry that they’re trying to punish you. And I really hope that you’re right in believing they can’t do anything to you.” She looked at him. “I can’t help but think that you can’t be a demon, because… well, because you’re too compassionate.”
He broke with laughter. She jumped. The man tossed himself away from the bars, walking back towards his bench and sat. His chuckles continued as he crossed his legs and arms, burying his chin into his chest.
“You haven’t been anywhere close to the vicious nature of the hellman described. Your flesh is not burning at the touch of the silver. You didn’t melt the mind of the preacher now that he’s been down here with you for days, and you’ve never once attempted to entrance me into releasing you.”
He shook his head.
“And you know what? I don’t think the preacher thinks you are evil either. Why else would he have left you down here like this? Even if the chains do hold you, that is not to stop anyone from just coming down here and being convinced to let you out. That’s how all the stories go, anyway. And I know you might disagree, but I don’t consider the man stupid. Why would he just abandon you to go on this man hunt that the whole village is involved in? It’d be a perfect chance for you to escape.”
The demon looked at her.
“Not… that you should.”
She huffed. A pained look crossed her face. Putting her head in her hand, she sighed. “I hate it here.”
The demon snorted.
His icy gaze still said nothing. Kaia looked around herself awkwardly. Suddenly, she stood, holding the papers in one hand.
Without a word she took one more glance about before walking over and tossing the papers back onto the table. Not stopping to even look at him, she walked right out the door.
He sat there for a long time, unsure on what to think.