The Demon Lord
Link and his new acquaintance, Meleyana, had been traveling for about a day, which he had come to regret. She had become an annoying burden, and more than once he thought that perhaps it would have been better if she had just ended him, so that he would not have to bear the torment to which she subjected him. To make matters worse, they had no food and the waterskins were dry as jerky. He rubbed his temples. They were in dead-land and trying to find any kind of resource that could provide sustenance was useless. There was utter silence. Meleyana did not speak often and when she did, it was only mock him.
He had been in the Plains so long that he almost seemed to forget what day or night even looked like. It was a hazy dream, only a delusion that his mind created to make him believe there was something—anything—better than this abominable place.
His stomach roared its demand to be fed.
Meleyana grunted. "You cannot be hungry," she said, aggravated.
"Do you not go hungry?" he snapped back at her.
"I do not require mortal necessities."
"I need food and water if I am to continue my existence in this world. Once we reach the borderline, I need to procure some supplies."
"I find it odd that humans have managed to remain the victors of each war that could possibly enslave them all. For you are, after all, undeniably fragile," she said with a devious smile. "You can easily die merely by not being fed or watered. Humans are very interesting animals."
"Enough! You go too far with your insults, and I grow weary of your tongue." He scowled darkly at her.
"I do not desire a pet," she said and paused, as if to allow him to absorb the reminder that she was above him. "If you cannot make your own, then I have no choice but to leave you behind."
He towered over her; with his height she looked like nothing more than a child.
"Do what you wish, but I refuse to sacrifice what I need in order to live," he said. "However, take heed my words that you and I still share the same enemy." His throat was dry and it pained him to continue speaking.
"Perhaps that is why I am still present. We shall detour for your supplies, but we will stray no longer than half a day." To look him in the eyes, she had to tilt her head back as far as she could.
He would not thank her. He wished yet again that he had never actually agreed to her help, for now he half-hoped she would leave him behind like she had said. They both took the role of alpha wolf, and now they were at each other's throat to state their dominance. He knew full well that this insufferable issue of who had the authority would be ever present during their time traveling together. He clenched and unclenched his jaw. He would have to endure, and perhaps they would come to some sort of deadlock and let it suffice.
Taking his eyes off the ground, he peered outward. The borderline was now in sight. Straining his eyes harder, he could see light peer through the veil of the wretched place. Exiting south from the Plains of the Dead left Link to ponder on the nearest village, because he had never traveled that far south before. But since he desperately needed water to restore some semblance of strength, and therefore once he was on the other side he would locate a river.
He stood at the borderline, with hesitation and fearful spikes rippling across his body, for he never had faith when crossing the veil. He walked through the veil of darkness.
The sunlight burned his eyes. He inhaled deeply through his nose; fresh clean air filled his lungs. Looking toward the sky, it was bight blue with only a few white puffs of cloud that just floated by with no true destination in mind.
"Are you going to just stare dumbfounded at the sky?" Meleyana asked. This time Link could almost feel palpably her irritation.
He did not acknowledge her, for the first time in what seemed like lifetimes he was out of the darkness, and back into the light. After standing there for several long moments, lost in thought, he remembered that he was awfully thirsty; but he had gotten distracted now that he had escaped the Plains of the Dead.
His lips were stinging and chapped. He was dehydrated. "I need water," he informed Meleyana curtly.
"Of course you do." She gestured for him to lead the way.
Except he had not said that he was lost, and he did not intend to inform her, for surely he would have to hear her complain insufferably about his 'mortal necessities' again. It was nonsense to tell her that it was not her place to judge such things, because she was so pigheaded.
He surveyed his surrounding; there was a forest the west, an endless plain of luscious green to the east and south. Heading north was not an option. The plain gave no indication that he would happen on water in a short amount of time. The forest might contain a water resource. But if he took the route through the plains he could happen on a hut along the countryside, and acquire water that way.
"I see that you are indecisive. Determining the location of water is a very simple process," she said, smirking.
"It might be for you, demon. I was not gifted with the sense of smell nor the hearing to make this process simple." His voice was scratchy. He wondered if she knew it pained him to talk, and provoked him into speaking.
"Never again call me a demon, or you will wish yourself dead compared to what I'll do. If you had any intelligence at all, you would have known to asked me to point you in the direction of your precious water."
He stood there, silent, waiting for her to lead the way. He refused to murmur a single syllable. He was not going to let her get some sadistic pleasure from his agony. She grunted and headed for the forest, he followed right behind her.
As they neared the forest, Link was filled with unease that screamed at him to turn around and flee. He did not wish to inquire with her if she was experiencing the same feeling, because he did not want to hear another retort. He was sure she would say something if she was sensing the presence of danger.
They now stood at the forest's edge. Link stopped, but Meleyana kept on walking. She must have seen, or heard, that he had stopped. She turned to look at him and impatience flared in her dark purple eyes. He clenched his jaw and swallowed hard, then proceeded forward. With a quick, satisfied lift of her nose in the air, she whirled on her heels and walked further into the forest.
He did not like the forest, for it made his skin crawl. He rubbed his thumbs nervously over his fingers back and forth, attempting to distract him from the dark feeling. He could hear the flow of water nearby, and he would surely have salivated if his mouth were not as dry as a wasteland.
The deeper they were in, the more time seemed to rapidly progress. The trees clustered closer and closer together, eventually screening out nearly all of the sunlight between their branches. The trees were as black as coal with emerald leaves. It seemed to be an unbefitting match, for life and death to coincide within the same being; as he knew Thorn would have put it.
His missed his family terribly.
He could lose much, he thought, but his family was one thing he just could not see himself without. They were the most important people in his life, his brother especially. They were different, but that never mattered in their relationship.
He had grown accustomed to the people of Marden treating him as if he didn't belong there, as if he should rot alone in a cave somewhere, but he did not expect his brother to show that same kind of resentment.
He was innocent!
Delatricx would pay for the family he destroyed.
The ground was mushy under his feet. He was happy for Meleyana's silence, for he need time to think, even if it was about painful memories. A gentle breeze stirred something distasteful in the air and it almost made him spit. And with that breeze clung the eerie feeling that something was pursuing them.
He stopped dead still as if he had been slapped by a wintry hand. A woman's voice rose in a terrified shriek in the distance. He closed his eyes to determine where the sounds rang. Nothing. He drew his sword, eyes remaining closed; he listened for the person to scream again. There was no sense for him to search for the essence of the person because he had no idea what he was looking for. He did feel Meleyana, but the distance between them gapped greater with each passing second.
The scream rang out again.
His eyes flashed open, his feet took a mind of their own, and he ran toward the scream. His feet stomped through puddles concealed under a thin layer of dirt. His heart was beating faster than a rabbit could run as he willed his legs to get him to his destination to help the poor soul. But the wind that collided with the force of his body seemed to slow him down as if there was some unseen force.
As the screaming ceased, so did his legs. With no clear direction to head in, he stood again awaiting the screaming to resume. He hoped that it would not be the last. Drawing shallow breaths of cold air, he was unsure whether or not he would have the strength to endure a battle in his deprived condition. He needed water and food and rest.
His legs ached and his lungs burned like white-hot fire. He leaned against the tree to his right, trying to relieve his legs of some weight and to control his breathing. It became nearly impossible to hold his sword, so that it would not drag about the ground.
Several soundless moments passed by, and Link found it more likely that the person whom he was trying to save had been killed by whatever monstrosity pursued them. Hopelessness filled him to his core; it appeared that everything was against him. He could not convince his own brother of his innocence. He could not save the poor soul. Did he really have a chance of killing Delatricx? As he examined the situation, the more doubt consumed his shoddily built courage.
Startled out of thought by the crunch of leaves, he turned his head to find a slender wrist reaching for his shoulder. He snatched at it and pulled.There was a young woman standing before him. She was covered in dirt. Blood trickled from the corner of her delicate mouth, and fear shadowed her face. Her red dress might have once been pretty, but it had been reduced to shredded rags.
She only looked at him for a few seconds before she apparently determined that he was not a threat. She charged him and hysterically hammered her fists against his armor.
"Help me! Please… help me! It-it was right behind me…!" She continued to scream as if she had gone mad by some unfathomable horrors.
He had to grab her wrists, for she had struck his armor many times and with a force so hard that her fists were bleeding. He knew that he could save the physical form, however, he was unsure if he could save her mind if it was indeed no longer sound. He hoped that was not the case.
"What is hunting you?" he croaked, and then he rubbed his throat.
"Calm yourself. You are safe now." He released her hands and observed to see if he would have to restrain her again. She did nothing but shiver. "Did you see a young woman while you were escaping the demons? Her appearance is that of a little girl?" His voice was low, almost a whisper.
"No…." She shook her head.
"Have you any waterskins?"
His choices were limited. He could not leave her there while he went in search of Meleyana. He was reluctant to encounter the demon, for their death would be assured. He had tried locating Meleyana by her essence and felt nothing.
Multiple screams cut through the thick silence, and he assumed that Meleyana was slaying the demons that had been hunting the young woman who leaned against him. She quivered at the terrifying sounds, she even whimpered. Link looked down at the frightened woman and embraced her to provide some sort of comfort, yet it felt awkward to him and he wanted to release her. Knowing that it would not be right if he did, he bit back the urge.
They stood there in overpowering silence so still that even the crickets refused to disturb it. Cold shivers crept down his spine; he gripped the hilt of his sword so hard that his hand began to ache. The woman clung to him tighter. It seemed that even she realized it was too quiet.
A twig cracked on the opposite side of the tree they stood by. He slowly shifted her behind him and then gripped his sword with both hands, ready to fight. But it was not a demon that came around the tree; it was, in fact, Meleyana. She was soaked in black blood. He could not conclude that it was not hers, for he did not know exactly what she was.
"Put your sword away, we will receive no further trouble here," Meleyana said.
Relieved, he sheathed his sword. The hunted woman stepped out from behind him gingerly.
"That is impossible… there were seven of them," said the woman.
Link did not want Meleyana to reveal what she was to the woman, since she had just been ruthlessly hunted by demons. In her frail state of mind, she would not distinguish between the demons and Meleyana.
He placed a hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him. "Now that the crisis is over, may I ask your name?"
"Well, Leeka, have you a home to go?" Link placed his hands on her shoulders to continue providing comfort; awkwardness became a distant echo.
She shook her head.
Link looked at Meleyana. She rolled her eyes. He guessed that she figured out what he wanted to do. He knew it would be dangerous if she came with them. If her safety was jeopardized and her life was lost, he did not think he could have that on his conscience. Logic said no, and his heart said yes. It was complex and delicate decision to make.
"Oh just tell her you have decided that you will take her with us, and that you cannot promise that she will survive," Meleyana said, irritated. She clearly was tired of Link dancing around the issue.
She was right. He had already made his decision, the woman would come with them and he would do everything in his power to ensure she would live.
"Meleyana, we must work on your patience. Leeka, Meleyana is right, if you agree to come with us, I cannot guarantee that you will live to settle in a new home. You need to make that decision."
"I want to come with you," she said immediately, her eyes shining with unshed tears and her chin trembling in the fight to keep them back. She instinctively took a step closer to him.
"Are you sure?"
"I have nowhere else to go…. Those damn demons killed my family." The tears finally ran down her cheeks.
"Death is everywhere. Humans die, more so than other beings. You humans are like twigs, easily breakable. Crying like a babe—"
"Bite your tongue, you vile, heartless shrew. Where do think you have the right to speak ill of the dead? Have some sympathy! Death is, as you said, everywhere, but that does not mean that anyone should rejoice when it does happen! And to make it worse, you have to belittle her at the death of her family!" Link bellowed. He tasted blood, and pain ripped through his throat.
The woman was shocked at Meleyana's words. She was rendered speechless. Her eyes wandered over Meleyana's form like she was not there.She continued to weep at her loss. Link was incapable of comfort, for he did not how to help a person whom grieved.
"Let us depart, I need to bathe," Meleyana said simply, and walked away.
Leeka looked at him, eyes red, and tears dripped off her chin. He gave her an apologetic look, hoping to indicate that she had his sympathy.
Link still wasn't sure if bringing Leeka was a good idea, but it really did not matter anymore since he would not change his decision and leave her alone. The only thing that was important was that he would defend her until his last breath.