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They call us monsters. They call us savages. They call us demons. The latter is the term my ancestors favored, but perhaps all three are appropriate to an extent. It wasn’t always this way. We weren’t always creatures of sin. But who cares to take the word of a demon?
My brethren live in a terrible place. A place where pain is eternal, where life is lost, where all hope is abandoned. It, too, goes by many names. The Underworld, The Inferno, Hell. Those who dwell here are certainly the most wretched of beings; human and otherwise.
Through the millennia, our sorrow evolved into resentment, our grief into rage, our misery into revenge. My people began living up to the names wrongfully given to them. Monsters, savages, demons.
Not all of us feel the same, however. As each human is unique, we too are exclusive to our own minds. Some of us understand that robbing others of happiness won’t retrieve the happiness that was robbed from us. We are the true outcasts of the universe, looked down on by demon and man alike. Not even angels show sympathy, unable to look upon the tainted blood in our veins.
Angels are the only common ground between the two “political parties” so to speak; the passive archdemons – a cruel parody on the holy term “archangel” – and our more vicious counterparts. Our mutual censure for the chosen ones, so full of righteous pride, becomes the uneasy mediator when revolution calls.
Our numbers are few, my companions and I. Even if we initiated a rebellion, they would surely crush us. But these are words of violence. I wish no malice upon my fellow demons. Our existence is brutal enough.
The demons, however, prefer conflict, even amongst their own kin. They crave revenge, where we long for justice. Although the situation has not yet escalated to war, tensions are rising. I write this now out of fear. I fear for my allies. I fear the quiet. I fear death lies ahead.
The sound of footsteps in the hall broke my train of thought. I set the quill down on the tablet, a thin wisp of smoke curling its way off the edge. The runes I just finished burning into the surface still glowed a bright amber before cooling to the black of ash. The feathers of a phoenix had countless uses, writing utensils among the least common.
The rusted hinges creaked open and a tall, slender woman appeared in the doorway. She possessed hair the color of night, eyes the color of blood, and skin the color of olives. A set of ragged wings extended from her shoulder blades, and a long, bladed tail curled around her feet. Based on her physique, she is often mistaken for a succubus, but anyone educated should know better. Aside from that, her features were primarily human; a human in her prime, at that.
“Aerya. There’s someone here to see you.” Always one to skip the formalities and get right down to business, Xierra was both a close friend of mine and a well-respected demon. She often served as a bridge between our communities. Without waiting for a response, she gestured for another figure to enter the dimly-lit room, this one far more menacing.
A beast of a man filled the doorway, made of stone layered with thick cords of muscle. Symmetrical scars adorned his face, crested by a pair of horns long enough to impale a child. His expression seemed engraved in a permanent scowl, and a shiver ran down my spine when he turned his hollow, black eyes to me.
Dismissing the chill, I rose from my silver-gilded chair to greet him. “My name is Aerya. How may I -”
He cut off my sentence with a harsh glare and spat at my feet. His gaze scanned me up and down, assessing and analyzing as he moved farther into the room. “You carry the face of an angel, but the blood of a demon. You are a disgrace.” He turned away from me in repulsion.
This was a common reaction. With feathered wings like translucent clouds and crystalline eyes like the afternoon sky, I resembled my antonym more closely than my synonym. Choosing such an appearance was a bold, and perhaps dangerous, decision on my part.
“I bring a message of your rapidly approaching demise.” Hatred dripped from his voice like venom from the mouth of a serpent. “We grow weary of your treachery.”
“My allies are anything but traitors.” I interrupted him firmly, emerging from behind my desk to stand and face him unhindered. “We want what is best for demonkind.”
“You! You side with the angels,” he scoffed, raising an accusing finger at me.
“We side with equality. We…” I faltered, “…I could never betray a brother.”
“Then prove it.” He withdrew a small dagger, the blade gleaming with polished obsidian. Xierra took an alarmed step closer, whipping the sharp edge of her tail forward. The larger demon only glanced at her before turning the dagger over in his hand and offering the hilt towards me. “Return this to me in three days’ time, stained with the blood of an angel. If you refuse, it will become stained with the blood of an archdemon. This I swear.”
I paused a moment, taken aback by his threat. “We do not bring harm to any being without cause…”
“Your life is not cause enough?” An edge of bitterness pierced his voice. He wanted me to turn him away. He wanted me to give him an excuse.
“I’m sorry. I cannot do as you request.” A slight tingling sensation crept across my skin as I prepared myself for the oncoming blow I was about to undoubtedly receive.
“Then you must die where you stand.” With a blur of motion, he sent the knife whirling through the air, the blade striking my chest. It surely would’ve pierced its target had I not prepared myself. A ripple of silver-blue light coursed through me as the ward I was using deflected the weapon away from me and clattering harmlessly to the floor.
By the time I looked back up to my attacker, Xierra’s tail was already embedded in his chest, stabbing upwards from his gut, his scream choking in his throat. She enjoyed a swift kill, perhaps too much. I turned my gaze away in quiet respect at the life that rapidly left his eyes, and Xierra laid a cold kiss upon his brow as he crumpled to the floor. I slowly leaned over to pick up the dagger, a tear stinging in the back of my eye.
“Aerya…” The demoness’ voice was gentle as she knelt beside me, but I knew her well enough to sense something amiss. I couldn’t bring myself to respond, staring at the blade in my hand, trying to process what I had just done. A demon just died because I refused to kill an angel. How else could we explain it? I looked like a traitor.
“They go to war.”