1

Meeting Zane

I looked around me in a daze. Screams of terror filled the air. I heard my mother scream, my father begin to shout. Glancing over my shoulder, I called out to them in fear. Villagers were running past me in a mad rush to get away. To flee. Only, what were they fleeing from? I wasn't sure. One minute I had been walking down the market street with my parents and the next chaos.

"Mother…Father?" I called as a strange expression filled their faces. Slowly, I turned.

A huge figure loomed about fifty feet from where I stood. He had to be at least eight feet tall. Or, at least I assumed it was a he. He looked like a beast, given human form and walking on two legs. He had a pair of horns, at least three feet long, which curved to the back of his head. His body was covered in a thick, dark brown fur. His legs ended in goat's feet, cloven and huge. On his back were two large wings that looked as if they were made of stone. His entire body was surrounded by a menacing aura of black-blue shadows. His face was a bizarre mixture of a human and a lion.

His eyes…They were a bright red-orange, like the sunset, but looked more like snake eyes. They glowed out from his skull. They stared at me, making me feel as if I was rooted to where I stood.

I gulped. "M-Mother?" I murmured in fear. Turning back, I was struck speechless. My parents, both of them, were fleeing along with the rest of the villagers. "F-Father!" I shouted in shock. "D-Don't leave me!" I cried.

Slowly, the Beast came closer. I began to sob. I couldn't help it. He was terrifying. And his eyes…

When he stood about ten feet away, he came up short. His expression twisted into a look of guilt. "Uh…Look, I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to scare you so bad." I stared, speechless. Slowly, the Beast faded away. In his place was an ordinary man. Or…mostly.

"What?" I said softly.

He had shrunk, a little more than two feet, until he was five' eleven". His body had transformed into a normal, twenty-year-old man. His skin tone was a pale white. He wore a midnight blue tunic and black trousers. His hair was cut close to his head, a dark black. He had a full beard, covering his chin and neck, but not in an unappealing way. But it was his eyes, again, that held my attention. They hinted at something inhuman. They were a brilliant shade of purple.

He ran a hand through his hair. "Look, like I said, I'm sorry. I'll…I'll go help you find your parents, okay? Though, honestly, I wouldn't bother with them. I mean, they did just completely abandon you in order to save their own lives."

I finally found my voice. "D-Does that mean you are going to kill me?"

He sighed. "Why does everyone think that of me?"

"Have…have you seen yourself in a mirror when you were…like that earlier?"

He frowned. "I just can't stand other people. I don't like to be around others. I don't like having to deal with them. So when I come into villages, I usually transform in order to make people leave me alone. That was the first time I used that particular spell though. Was it really that terrifying?"

I nodded firmly. "Yes," I half-squeaked out, "it was." I closed my eyes, taking in several deep breaths. "This is a really strange conversation I've found myself in," I muttered as I opened my eyes again.

For the first time, I saw a ghost of a smile on his face. "Strange conversations are the best."

His smile made me feel a little funny. Shaking my head, I came to a decision. "You don't have to help me find my parents. Honestly, I don't want to go back to them anyway. Mother treated me like her personal slave and Father acted like I didn't exist most of the time."

He stared at me with a strange expression. "I'm sorry to hear that. I know how that's like, partly at least."

Still feeling as if I was rooted to the ground, I tried to shift a little. I managed half an inch. "S-so…What brings you to this village?" I asked awkwardly, hoping to distract him as I slowly began to move away.

He shrugged. "I just wanted to stop for the night in an inn. I've been camping out for the last several months. I thought it would be nice to sleep in a bed once in awhile. I guess that isn't going to work out now," he muttered. Glancing around, I saw his words were correct. We were completely alone.

"Why don't you like other people?" I asked suddenly, the words slipping past my lips before I could stop them.

His eyes grew annoyed. "It's because I'm apparently the villain of the world. Everyone hates me, wants me dead. How could I like other people when they see me as nothing but a bringer of death and destruction?"

I tilted my head to the side slightly in question. "No offense…How can you be considered a bringer of death and destruction? You were terrifying earlier, yes…But you didn't hurt anyone. Now you just look…normal," I finished weakly. Besides your eyes, I thought silently.

He laughed out loud, throwing his head back. "Exactly!" he cried out as he calmed down a little. "It's because I have magic, powerful magic. Magic that has never been seen before. Besides just that, I have every other single magic that exists in the world."

I looked at him in interest. Magic was a rare thing for common folk such as myself. "Really? What can you do?" I found myself asking before I could really think about it.

He flexed his shoulders, raising his hands up in front of him. He moved his left hand, pointing it in my direction. "I can make anything disappear, evaporate, at a touch. I've also learned to…blast it. Like this." I watched in numb terror as he took in a deep breath and pushed his hand in my direction. As I watched, a force of…something came hurtling towards me. I let out shriek of terror as it slammed into my body. I squeezed my eyes shut, expecting my body to disappear, as he had said. Only…it didn't.

"Shit," I heard him murmur. "That…That sounded like a better idea in my head. I'm sorry."

Opening my eyes, I glanced down, running my hands over my body. My face quickly grew hot with embarrassment and rage as I realized what had happened. He made my cloths disappear!

Suddenly, in broad daylight, I was standing half naked. My entire dress was gone. The only thing I had on was my thin shift. Under his intense purple gaze, it was just as bad as being completely naked. His expression was a mix of appreciation for my body and shock at what he had done. My anger rushed up and helped me break from the spell that had been keeping me mostly still. Running over to him, I raised my hand and slapped him squarely across the face. My hand was stinging in pain, but I was satisfied at the angry red mark I left on his cheek.

"I deserved that," he said honestly. "Here," he sighed before removing his large tunic. He held it out awkwardly. "I'm sorry," he apologized again, as I pulled the tunic over my head. He was six inches taller than me, so it was not surprising to me when the tunic fell a few inches above my knees.

I still felt mostly naked, but I wasn't nearly as close to indecent as before. "Thank you."

He rubbed at the mark I had left on his face. "I'm sorry again. I didn't mean to do that, exactly."

Glancing up, being so close to him, I caught sight of his tattoos. He had several all over his chest and stomach. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like. All I knew was they contrasted very much with his pale skin and looked as magical as anything else I had seen in the past ten minutes.

I took several steps back, worried to be so close to him. "So…you can make things disappear with a touch."

He nodded slowly. "Yeah. It's made the whole world hate me. I'm sure you'll recognize the name of the Demon King."

I grew absolutely still. "D-Demon King? Y-you are the Demon King?" I shuddered in fear, stepping back more.

He watched my reaction with something akin to sadness in his eyes. But I blinked and the expression was gone. "Yes, I am; the Demon King Zane König. You can just call me Zane, if you'd like," he offered.

I stared. The Demon King himself was standing before me…

"I think you should leave now," I said softly.

His eyes darkened a little. "Yeah…I guess I should." He turned to leave. As soon as he did, I had a strange reaction.

I miss his purple eyes.

The thought came into my mind, making me gasp in surprise. Why would I think such a thing?

He was the Demon King. That meant he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. He was the one who had brought the drought eight years ago. Even now his armies where battling with the other countries of the world. There were countless other reasons why he was despised the world over; including the Black Death three decades ago.

But wait…

He hadn't hurt a single person. He had simply let himself look scary. And yes, the whole village panicked and fled, but he still hadn't harmed anyone. In fact, he had offered to help me find my parents.

To help me.

Yes, he had stripped me of my cloths, but he had immediately apologized. He hadn't even protested to me hitting him or paused for a second in giving me his own cloths. Glancing down at the large tunic I wore, I bit my lip.

This didn't make any sense. He was the Demon King. Wasn't he?

Yes, he had even said so himself.

Zane König...

"W-Wait, Z-Z-Zane!" I cried out. Blinking, I saw that he was already gone. Shaking my head, I headed off in the direction I had last seen him go. "Z-Zane!" I called. "Zane?" I made it to the village square. The village was still empty. "Zane, please come back!"

Stopping, I wrapped my arms around myself. I could still feel the heat from his body through his tunic. Sighing, I told myself to stop thinking such fantasies. He was gone now. All I'd have left to remember him by would be his shirt. I sighed harder.

"Did you call my name?" a voice asked very close from behind me.

Letting out a shriek of fright, I jumped, spinning to face the voice. Zane was staring down at me, his face guarded. "Did you call me?" he repeated.

Clearing my throat, I nodded. "Yes, I did."

A eyebrow rose in question. "That's quite interesting. What was it that you needed?"

I cleared my throat again, nervous. My palms began to sweat and I unconsciously moved them down along my sides. "I…I…" He watched me intently, making me blush. I dropped my gaze for half a second. Letting out a breath, I looked back up into his face. My eyes were drawn to his purple eyes once again. "I want to go with you," I whispered. I couldn't say it louder than that.

He took a step back, his face showing complete shock. "What?"

"I want to go with you," I repeated, my voice a little stronger. "You make no sense at all. I want to find out who you really are. Are you the Demon King, Zane König, feared by all? Or are you Zane König, a simple man who wants only to live his life in peace?"

I wasn't entirely sure what was going on in my head. All I did know was that this was the only thing I had ever truly wanted in my life.

It made absolutely no sense.

But it was the truth.

He let out a bark of laughter at my words. "You want to come with me?" he asked, his purple eyes laughing as well. "You want to come with me?" He stared at me hard, his face suddenly becoming serious. "You…want to…come with…me?" His voice grew as soft as mine had been earlier.

Slowly, I nodded. "Yes, Zane, I do." His eyes closed as I said his name. We stood in silence for several minutes.

I shivered in a sudden, cold gust that picked up my long black hair, tossing it over my shoulder and out in front of me. Shuddering, I reached out to pull my errant hair back, holding it down. Abruptly, the gust stopped. Blinking, I glanced up. Zane's hand was held out towards me again, only I was in some sort of clear bubble. I was still on the ground, but the wind couldn't reach me inside the bubble. I felt the body heat the gust had stolen come back to me. Once the wind died down, he lowered his hand and the bubble was gone.

"Thank you," I murmured, feeling shy for some reason. "So…can I come with you, Demon King?"

He studied me for a long time. "Are you sure?" he finally asked.

I nodded, managing a smile. "Yes. Completely sure. My parents have no need or want of me. I have no man I'm in love with here, nor a betrothed. I'm a grown woman. If no man has showed interest in me by now, they never will." I wasn't sure why I was confessing this to the Demon King.

It was true though. I was eighteen. Long past the age of marriage for most women. I had spent the last four years watching as my friends and other women my age were quickly snatched up, like they were prized dolls. I, on the other hand, was completely ignored. I had never even caught one of the young, or even older men, stare at me in the way men did to women they found attractive. My father had hated it. He had wanted to get rid of me, to have some man bring him something of much more worth than a daughter. I hadn't been a son, so I was worth nothing to him.

Shivering from the memories, I tried to smile ruefully. "Honestly, my life was going to be nothing more than that of a spinster. If I go with you, at least it might be a little eventful, before I die."

He eyed me, a strange expression on his face. "Well, then," he said softly. "Off we go."

Thinking, I quickly raised a hand. "Wait! I need to go back to my home. I need to pack my things."

He nodded. "Right. Completely forgot about that."

"You didn't think I could just keep wearing your tunic, did you?"

He turned his head away. "Nope. I didn't think that at all."

I frowned. Shaking my head, I led the way back to my home. Part of me had expected to find my parents. Instead, my home was the same as everywhere else, deserted. Walking through the familiar walls, I moved to my room. I could hear Zane following behind me quietly. Going to my bedside table, I lifted up my pack. It wasn't very big, but it was large enough for a few dresses, my brush, and three of my books. I made sure to grab my favorites.

Done with that, I pushed past Zane, pausing a little at first. He was standing so close behind me, I could feel his body heat. "Personal space," I reminded him and he instantly backed up. Brushing past, I moved into the kitchen. Finding another pack in one of the cabinets, I began stuffing it with foodstuff. I had no idea what to expect from this trip. But it didn't matter. I was finally leaving this awful place. I was finally going to be free.

Moving back to my bedroom, I handed the pack with food to Zane. I grabbed one other dress and began to lift up the tunic. Stopping, I turned back to him. "You may have seen me undressed once, but that is not happening again. Now, get out," I told him sternly.

Silently, he left. Once I was sure he was gone, I removed the tunic and pulled on a simple dress of faded red. Picking up my personal pack, I walked out of my room. "All done. Here's your tunic back." I took the pack with food from him while he dressed. Brushing a stray strand of hair from my face, I waited.

He continued to gaze down at me in silence. I sighed. Slinging my packs over my shoulders, I reached out and grabbed his hand, placing my hand in his. He froze, staring down at our intertwined fingers. "We need to go. Before the villagers get the courage to come back," I told him. He remained quiet.

Slowly, gently, his fingers rubbed against mine, still holding his hand. I couldn't help the heat that fanned my face and neck at his touch. "Z-Zane…l-let's g-go," I stuttered.

He finally lifted his head back up and his purple eyes were the brightest I had seen yet. They almost looked as if they had a light behind them, shinning out from their depths. "Yes. We should leave."

Before I could respond, or react really, he moved. As soon as he did, I let out a cry of startled fear. He took a step forward. Suddenly we were completely out of my old house and three houses down from there. Swaying in lightheaded fear, my fingers gripped his tightly. He stopped. Glancing down at me, he frowned. "I'm sorry. I forgot humans don't move this fast." He paused. "I can hear the villagers returning. We really do need to move. Sorry, again. I swear I won't do anything, so don't slap me again."

In half a second, I was swept up into his arms, my face pressed against his shoulder. He had wrapped my arms around his neck, his arms around my middle and under my knees. He froze once again, a shudder running through him. "Wha-" I started to yell.

I had to swiftly close my eyes as I felt him move, walking forward. A few minutes later, we were about three miles away from my village. "Wha…?" I murmured again, feeling a little dizzy. Slowly, he released his hold and let me slid down his body. I was still dizzy, so I leaned against him. I expected him to push me back. Instead he only held me a little closer, though his touch seemed very hesitant, very uncertain. "O-okay," I whispered faintly. "So you can move…very quickly."

I pushed against him, letting him know I wanted to be released. Almost reluctantly, he moved his arm from around my waist. Letting out a breath, I glanced up at him. "Can we not do that again? I mean, unless we have to. I think I'm okay with staying at a normal human pace."

He smiled. "I don't mind. I was just in a rush."

I nodded. "Right then. Now…where are we headed?"

He shrugged. "Nowhere in particular. Just wherever I feel like going."

I looked up at him sharply. "Wait, so…you don't have a goal in mind? We'll just be wondering around aimlessly?"

He paused. "Are you having a change of heart? Would you like me to take you back?"

I shook my head vehemently. "Not at all."

His smile grew. Then it dimmed a little. "So. You know my name, but I have no idea who I have the pleasure of joining with me on this journey."

I blinked. He was right. I hadn't once told him my name. "I'm sorry. My name is Ashna Sangini." I smiled up at him. "It's wonderful to meet you, Demon King. I hope this journey of ours treats us well."