The King of Qulix
The tragedy that befell Mahorela weighs heavily on Ivo’s heart as he trudges up the Qulixion mountains. It feels like a dream. Just hours ago, he was with his mother, and now? She may not be of this world. It’d be a miracle if anyone survived the demon attack, since Mahorelan folks weren’t equipped to be fighters.
The city they’re heading to, Qulix, is known for its rugged mountains and falling rocks. The King, Rayen, is a kind ruler, but strict in the ways he governs his kingdom. Outsiders seldom visit, so Ivo isn’t sure how he and Cresil will be taken to. They may be welcomed, or, worst case scenario, attacked.
Ivo wants to bring up the possibility of a non-friendly welcome, but Cresil has his back to him, and seems focused on what’s ahead. The demon doesn’t seem too concerned, but it’s not a reassuring factor to Ivo. After all, demons don’t have a lot to be afraid of. They can do whatever they please without fear of death.
Cresil’s much stronger than an average one, Ivo realizes. He took out others in seconds and he did seem to have some kind of power over them. A royal? It would explain some things the other male did and said.
Staring ahead, Ivo focuses on the task at hand. It wouldn’t do to lose his bearings and fall, since the last thing he wants is to become a monster’s meal.
“How are you faring?”
Cresil’s voice causes Ivo to jump, and the demon wraps an arm around his waist to keep him from slipping. Heart pounding, Ivo looks at Cresil, who looks at him with no expression on his face or in his eyes. It’s a bit… creepy. He’s so used to seeing the vibrant faces of his fellow villagers, it’s weird seeing someone who’s devoid of emotion.
Cresil lets Ivo go and arches an eyebrow at him. “This is hardly the place to be daydreaming.”
Ivo crosses his arms, but loosens his stance after a few moments of staring. “I know, but…”
“The fate of your village is weighing on you. It is alright to feel the way you do.”
The boy tilts his head, surprised at those words coming from someone as impassive as Cresil. “I guess so.” Ivo grips onto the other male’s arm, to steady himself more than anything else. “We should keep going. Qulix isn’t too far from here.”
Cresil looks at Ivo with a tinge of something written deep within those silver depths, but it’s gone as quick as it came. They continue trudging the steep mountain, Cresil occasionally pulling Ivo closer when he starts to loose his footing. If this were any other situation, Ivo would have found the demon’s show of compassion towards him funny.
However, this isn’t anything to laugh about. Mahorela is gone, demons are planning to ruin all of Merron Nien, and without Cresil, mortals don’t stand even a slight chance. Ivo has to wonder about this “service” humans did which made a royal demon turn against those he’s supposed to govern, but another part of him doesn’t wish to question it.
As much as Ivo hates to admit it, he doesn’t want to be alone, and Cresil is the only companion he has right now. The man’s presense is something he finds comforting, despite his lineage, and it may be the one thing keeping Ivo sane. Hell, he’s alive because of him. If Cresil didn’t show up when he did, the demon Ivo attacked would have snapped his neck in an instant.
Ivo looks at the city. It’s much more modernized than Mahorela is. Smoke billows from chimneys and rocks fall from various peaks. He can’t believe a place could be built on mountains, but Qulix is the proof, and it makes a bit of excitement bubble in Ivo’s blood. One of his secret desires is to travel the world, and as much as he wishes the circumstances were different, this may be his chance to do so.
He’s a bit amazed they managed to make it. Ivo’s heard stories of travelers who almost made it to this city, but monsters attacked them during the final stretch. Perhaps it’s because of Cresil they hadn’t seen any during their trip up the rugged slope. After all, monsters, in reality, were nothing more than demons banished from Beherit.
Gazing around, Ivo notices Cresil is nowhere to be found. He sighs. Where on Merron Nien could he have gotten to?
Raising an eyebrow, Ivo makes his way to where he heard the voice. However, he gets one warning, a “psh” sound, before gas flies in his face. Coughing, Ivo waves his hands to clear the purple fumes, and a girl comes in view once it clears. Her hair is a bright shade of pink and her clothes are those native to Qulixion folk.
“Sorry about that!” she says, a grin on her lips. “I have to prank newcomers to our lovely city. It’s my rule.”
Her voice sounds different than the ones people possess -- possessed -- in Mahorela. It’s rich with an accent Ivo read in books. Qulixion natives spoke words fairly differently and had a different vocabulary altogether when it came to certain ones. Ivo finds he likes the way words sound when she speaks them. She puts emphasis on certain syllables and it was quite enchanting to hear.
“What’s your name, handsome?” she asks, holding her hand out. Her skin is covered in scars, but from what, Ivo doesn’t know. Instead of wondering, he takes her hand, gripping it in a firm grasp before letting go.
“I’m Ivo,” he answers, looking around the area. “Have you seen a man with black hair and silver eyes wandering around? We were traveling together, but I think he got lost in the crowd of people.”
“Silver eyes?” the girl questions, arching a brow. “You don’t hear of folks with silver eyes. What is he, an elf? Elves have odd colored eyes, or so I heard, but ain’t no one heard from them in centuries.”
Ivo bites his lower lip. Would it be okay to tell a girl he just met a demon was walking amongst their city? After contemplating for a few moments, he shakes his head. It would be better not to tell her about Cresil’s true heritage. “I’m not sure what he is.” Realizing that would sound a bit weird, he clarifies with, “We met after my village’s massacre. We’re here to warn the King of the impending attack.”
The girl’s raven eyes widen. “Your village?” They gaze over to the tattoo resting against tanned skin, and she tilts her head, a contemplative look on her face. She nods after a minute, whistling under her breath. “Mahorela was massacred, was it? Damn. It don’t surprise me much. It didn’t have much in the ways of defense like we do.”
Ivo wants to feel insulted, but he knows she’s right. Mahorela is a farming hamlet. The ones who knew how to wield weapons were him, Charlotte, and his mother, but… He rubs his temples and fights against the emotions rolling to the surface. Charlotte may be gone, but his mother may still be out there somewhere. You have to cling to any hope you can in a situation like this… right?
Ivo assumes the sole reason demons went after Mahorela instead of another city or village is because the poles were located near Mahila Datu, the forest of illusions. It was a target of opportunity and the easiest to get to.
“Do ya know where your friend is from?” She’s grinning so wide Ivo wonders how it’s not breaking her face as she dances around him. She stops after a few seconds and places a hand on her hip. “Ivo?”
“Ah, I’m sorry,” he mumbles, shaking his head to make himself pay attention to her instead of going off in his own world. “I don’t know where he’s from. He never told me.” A blatant lie. He knows all demons are from Beherit, but he’s sticking to his plan of not telling anyone of Cresil’s true heritage, lest the townspeople panic.
“Hmm, oh well. Anyway, late introduction, but I’m Alice! Pleased to meet ya.”
“Nice to meet you too.”
Alice leaves with an extravagant handwave, saying they’ll have to meet up again sometime. Ivo nods his agreement; despite her playing a prank on him in the beginning, he finds he likes Alice, quirks and all. He runs a hand through his hair and wonders where Cresil went off to. He wouldn’t leave him behind, would he?
The worries build in his blood until a tap on the shoulder catches Ivo’s attention. The one he was thinking about gives him an uninterested stare, shaking his head at the mortal. “While you were off chatting, I was speaking to King Rayen. He has agreed to give us an audience once I told him who I was.”
“Who you were…?”
Cresil sighs and grips Ivo’s wrist, dragging him amongst the Qulixion people until he stops at the palace. It looks as if it’s made of boulder and stone.
The guards stop in the entrance, crossing their spears and giving the duo hard stares. “Unless you have an audience with His Majesty, entry to Castle Qulix is forbidden.”
“I am Cresil,” Cresil says, giving them his own cool look. “I was speaking to the King earlier and he has agreed to speak with myself and my companion.”
Nodding, the guards uncross their spears and move aside. “Very well, King of Demons. You may pass.”
Cresil walks in the palace without another word. Ivo runs after him and grabs his arm. “Hold on, you never said you were the King! I pegged you as a royal, but the ruler of all demons?”
The man glances at Ivo and it makes his blood freeze. Cresil’s eyes are frigid; if looks could kill, Ivo’s sure he’d be dead right now. “My status is unimportant. What matters is we caution the rulers about how demons will end them if they do not prepare themselves.”
Cresil walks away, leaving Ivo to stare after him for a moment before running after him. The thought this man is the one who governs over every demon in Beherit is a bit hard to swallow. Why in the world would the ruler of demons decide to turn against his own kind? Ivo’s thrown back to the words Cresil said before… Something about humans doing him a great service.
What could that “great service” be? It has to be something huge. Ivo can’t think of anything, but he decides he’ll question it later. After all, they have a meeting with King Rayen to deal with. Maybe, just maybe, Cresil will reveal more of his motives.
Ivo won’t hold his breath on that.
The guards give them looks as they walk towards the throne room. They must be a weird picture to anyone that knows who Cresil is and what his status is, but Ivo can’t find it within him to care. He has more important things to worry about than gossip and people wondering what their deal is.
Eventually, they reach where King Rayen awaits them. Cresil looks back at Ivo, and although he gives him a look of skepticism, Cresil opens the doors to the throne room.
It’s even more extravagant than Ivo thought it’d be. Statues of what he assumes are Qulixion gods are in every corner, while there’s sand statues of mountains. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
“King of Demons,” a low voice breaks Ivo’s trance. He looks up and meets the eyes of the King of Qulix. “This is your companion from the massacred village of Mahorela, I presume.”
“Yes,” Cresil responds, voice heavy with his own level of authority. “You know the rumors of what has transpired, do you not?”
King Rayen steps off his throne and walks towards the duo. Ivo feels nervousness build in his blood. He’s never been around royalty in his life, so he has no idea how to act around them. His mind supplies Cresil is royalty, but Ivo hardly sees him as such.
“I have. Your kind attacked Queen Latya, the ruler of Nevlamas, and the Queen of this realm announced war against demonkind. She seems to have forgotten the tragedy which befell Merron Nien when humans thought it wise to fight against demons.”
Ivo shudders. He’s heard stories of the Great War. Thousands upon thousands of mortals fell to demon claws, and their fragile peace came to be when rulers of both realms signed a peace treaty, stating demons would not attack ever again. Seems demons can never hold their end of the bargain.
“If I’m not mistaken,” King Rayen continues, and Ivo stares at him curiously. “Your father was the current king of Beherit when the peace treaty was signed.”
Huh…? Cresil’s father was around when the Great war occurred? How long did demons live?
“You would be correct, Your Majesty,” Cresil answers. “He dreads this war as much as I do. We both tried to stop our people from attacking Merron Nien, but one thing you should know about my kind is this: a lot of them are stubborn old men.”
King Rayen nods. “It is safe to assume some of your kind oppose this war?”
Ivo tilts his head, watching Cresil’s reactions. Could it be true that some demons are opposed to this war? It’s hard to imagine…
“Yes, some of the elders are highly against this war. They know humanity stands no chance against us.”
Ivo wants to object, but he knows it’s the truth. Mortals don’t possess any skills demons do. If Mahorela is anything to go by, this war will wipe out humans and demons won’t even be breaking a sweat over it.
There’s a low howl from behind him, and Ivo looks down, seeing Accalia make her way towards them. She sits by his feet, nuzzles his hand, then looks at Cresil and King Rayen. Cresil smiles faintly at the familiar, while the King looks confused.
“Who is this creature?” he questions. “It seems far too big to be an average wolf.”
“Her name is Accalia,” Ivo answers, scratching behind the familiar’s ears, and she gives a happy bark in response. “She was with my mentor, Charlotte, before she fell to the hands of demons.”
“That mortal was a special one indeed, since Accalia is a demon familiar,” Cresil adds. “Our familiars bond with one person and only one person, and this Charlotte woman managed to tame her. It’s a feat not many humans can claim. After her death, the bond was broken, and it seems Accalia has made a new one with Ivo.”
“How intriguing…” King Rayen muses. There’s hollers of “stop at once!” a few moments later, causing them to look at the door. What appears to be a child bursts through the gates, their skin black as night with silver markings resting on different parts of their body. “Who are you, child?”
“Cresil!” The child bounds towards the demon king and latches onto him, nuzzling his face within the thin fabric of Cresil’s shirt. “I couldn’t find you for days! They said you turned on demons, but even if you did, I’ll follow you to the ends of Beherit and Merron Nien!”
Cresil smiles fondly at the boy. “Moros, I’m sorry to have left you behind, but I knew you’d follow me. This battle will be a dangerous one.”
“I don’t care,” Moros exclaims, tightening his hold on the larger man. “No matter what, I’ll follow you. It’s my duty as your familiar to protect you from harm!”
The demon king chuckles quietly before nodding. “Very well, Moros.” He looks at King Rayen and smiles a little. “I’m sorry for the sudden intrusion, your Majesty.”
“Put in the back of your mind,” the King replies. “Now, King of Demons, what do you suggest we do to protect ourselves against a demon invasion?”
Cresil looks at Moros, who nods and weapons materialize in front of them in seconds. “These weapons are highly effective against demons. Equip your strongest warriors with them, and bring those who are unable to fight in the palace walls.” Cresil picks up one of the weapons; a spear of sorts, and walks towards the King, handing it to him. “The weapons will bond with whoever carries them, granting them additional prowess.”
“Where would you find such arsenal?” King Rayen asks, eyes widening when a white light glows where he grips the spear. It dissipates as quick as it came, but a mark rests upon his wrist. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“We collect anything that could harm us, weaponry included,” Cresil explains. “The mark is your bond with the weapon. As long as it remains, you can call it to your side, even if it’s meters away from you.”
Ivo watches the scene before him. It’s hard to believe the one meant to govern over all demons is helping mortals destroy his kind, but Cresil is an enigma, one no one can hope to understand. Ivo hopes to in time, but he realizes it may take months, or perhaps years, before he cracks the shell the demon king built around himself.
“I believe our work is done.” Cresil’s voice breaks Ivo’s train of thought, and he begins to walk away. There’s a flash of light, and a little blob like creature replaces where Moros once stood. It flies towards Cresil and lands on his shoulder, to which Cresil chuckles lowly. “Ivo, Accalia, let us go.”
“Right.” Ivo nods his goodbye to the King and runs after Cresil, Accalia quick on his heels.
“Our next stop is Ding Dong Dell,” Cresil says as they exit the Qulix and begin their trek towards the next city.
“Can you answer me something before we go?” Ivo asks, and Cresil looks at him, eyebrow arched. “What was the “great service” mortals did for you? I can’t imagine any king turning against those he’s supposed to protect, even if they’re in the wrong.”
“What do you hope to gain by knowing such information?” Cresil asks, voice hard. “I am helping you save your world, and that should be enough. Childish curiosity could get you killed.”
“...Of course. Forgive me for asking,” Ivo mumbles, contrite. “Let’s go.”
Cresil nods and they begin their journey anew.
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