Dark Guardian

Submitted into Contest #117 in response to: Set your story at the boundary between two realms.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction Thriller

The boundary between our realms was meant to protect and shield us from heartache. To give both sides, humans and succubi collectors, the space they needed in order to keep from growing attached. We enter the human realm, collect what we are owed, and return home. That is the order to things. Only love doesn’t care about rules, regulations or traditions. Love cuts through boundaries, finding its mark on the hearts who need it most. 

I had no idea how much I needed her, until her cries reached my stubborn ears. I spent months attempting to ignore her. To shut out her calls and prayers for salvation. A salvation it was not my duty to provide. But as time marched on and I realized the gods she was praying to had no interest in relieving her suffering, that it was up to me to intercede, well that is where I discovered what is truly for you will always find a way to get your attention.

It had been six months since my mother Leora gave her life in place of my own in a tribunal before the council. Six months since my sister Hadria made sure I would be in the human realm collecting pieces of souls so I would not be aware of our mother’s sacrifice. How I’d hated my sister in the months since. Longed to access the memories she had stored away of our mother’s last moments. Mother giving her life for mine was never meant to be and so surely it was my right to see her final moments. To reach into my sister’s mind and gently extract what was haunting me.

As Hadria slept peacefully, I crept into her room as though I were an intruder. A criminal in my own right for what I was about to do without her consent, but what choice had she left me? Standing above her, I recited the incantation,“Apertum….absolvisti…revelare….expedire. Show me the fragments otherwise left unknown”, pulling me deep into my Hadria’s mind. The sound was overwhelming as I felt my feet on the familiar hard, red clay floors. I felt a hand at my back, ushering me forward with the crowd towards the arena seating. That was the thing about the council. They loved putting on a show, a fact that had not changed since the construction of the newest council chambers back in 40 AD. In fact, any human who set foot in this arena would instantly be reminded of the great colosseum built by the humans in 70 AD Rome. A human who was brought before the council some years before took his inspiration from us and in a bid to outdo the creatures he mistook for gods, made the Roman Colosseum double the size of our own.

Moving forward to find my seat, I am careful to avoid catching the attention of my sister Hadria, who sits in the third row behind the council members. I am so focused on avoiding her, I nearly bump into the two demon guards guiding my mother Leora into the arena. Her eyes glance over and as her gaze passes through me, I realize she knows. Or rather, that she knew. My mother knew I would violate Hadria’s trust in order to see for myself. That I would be unable to go on without knowing first hand the pain she endured in my stead. I suddenly felt the memory rumble. Hadria was growing restless in her sleep and though I did not wish for her to see these memories again, to have to experience them as a nightmare herself, I needed to know more than I could allow myself to care for her. 

As the memory clipped along, we are pulled forward to the moment I had been dreading. Standing before the council, my mother, still the picture of light and grace which was uncommon for a succubus, said the words I never wanted to hear. “I stand in place of my daughter. I give of myself and my memories freely to settle the debt owed by my Veda.” The Head stands some four feet in front of my mother, her movements so fluid one would swear she was composed of nothing but the calmest most serene water. “You leave me no choice, Leora. I sentence you to—“ A sudden banging from far off distorts the memory, pulling me away as my mother screams out in pain, “It’s alright, Veda. I love you, my light.”. 

And with that, she was gone. It was all I could do not to scream from the depths of my soul, to wake Hadria and beg her to forgive me. I needed my sister to hold me but more than that, I needed to know what that incessant banging was. The way it cut through the spell and into Hadria’s memories in order to reach my ears could only mean one thing. That human was crying out, and again she was going ignored by the angels she prayed so diligently to.

In my rage, I apparated directly into her bedroom only to find it was a child. A small bundle curled up on her bedroom floor, ears covered as who I can only guess was her father banged violently at the door. I reached down to gently touch her shoulder and as her tear filled eyes gazed up at me, I was surprised by her steadiness. Humans three times her age have gazed upon me and screamed as though I were murdering them. My massive wings, curled horns and tail were not the most welcoming things, and yet this child looked at me as though she knew me. It wasn’t until another round of bangs came, threatening to knock her bedroom door off its hinges, that the child flinched. “Quickly, get into your closet. You must hide.” The child did not budge. I offered my hand to help her up, and she simply took it. No questioning, protesting, not a single indication of me not being worthy of being trusted. “I need you to stay inside your closet until I come for you. No matter what you hear. Do you understand?” I half expected her to answer me aloud. She had seemed so comfortable with me, and yet all she could manage was a sheepish nod of agreement. Almost on instinct, I kissed the top of her head as I tucked her away safely in her closet, handing her a stuffed bunny from her messy bedroom floor just before sliding the door closed.

As I walked towards the child’s bedroom door, I could feel the energy of the man on the other side. He was awash with lust, rage, and from the smell of it, more bourbon than any human should be consuming. I took a deep breath, readying myself for what was to come next. “Revelare communem vobis fore. Reveal to me your desires once more”, my hand slowly turning the door knob as I recited the all too familiar incantation. And there he was, the monster the child truly feared. “Who in the hell are you and what do you think you’re doing in my daughter’s room?” I placed my hand on his chest and as I allowed my voice to drip with the honey of seduction, “Oh Ellis, Ellis, Ellis. Now what are we going to do with you? You have much to answer for, don’t you?” Before he can get out a well rehearsed lie, I quickly recite the next incantation, tying his tongue. “I believe we have heard enough from you for a lifetime.” And as I leaned forward to whisper into his ear, my hand grazing his skin sent me catapulting into a surface memory. The screams of the little girl I hid away in her closet were almost enough to send me into a rage there would be no coming back from. I grab him by the throat and begin to pull his flailing body behind me. “It’s your turn to dance with a monster.”

Many screams later, Ellis is down for the night at the very least. I was sure to only take a portion from him, but to do so in the most painful way possible. Perhaps fear of my reappearance would keep him from haunting the child any further. Apparating just outside the girls closet, I hear the smallest of whimpers. As I slide the door open once again, “It’s only me, my child. You can come out now. Your monster has been abated.” 

Just as before, she calmly takes my hand and allows me to guide her over to her bed. It isn’t until I sit at the end of it that her apprehension reveals itself. I was likely a monster to her all along, but I was better than the monster she knew. “Abscondo…” is that better, little one? My horns are gone now, see? Nothing to fear.” But the child remained silent, the only indication of acceptance was a tiny smile creeping across her tired face. “You must rest, little one. Your monster has been abated and will not bother you again tonight. My darkness will cover you. Let me be your shield, your dark guardian.” 

In my nervousness, my tail begins to bounce from one side to another. Mother always compared me to a cat in that way. The nervous energy of my wanting to flee but needing to stay, all bundled up in my tail. To my surprise, the child reached out and took my tail in her tiny hand, calming me instantly. It was almost as if our souls recognized one another. I could not be sure, but I could swear this would not be our last meeting. It was as if my choosing to come to her aid, to stand in the gap for her, was the beginning of something. An altering of fates, both hers and my own, now entangled. For better or for worse.

We went on this way for quite some time. She would call out through the darkness and I would appear to fend off her step father and then sit at the end of her bed. Her hand would instinctively find my tail, holding tightly but never tight enough to hurt me. I was her anchor, and as time went on, she grew to be mine. She needed me in ways no one ever had, and it was hard not to grow attached. As my sister Hadria began to notice my absences, her concern rightfully grew. I was missing far too many collections in order to watch over my little light. I told myself she needed me, that there was no one else who could do the job, but I knew that was only half true. I knew I needed her as much if not more than she needed me, and so it had to end. The next collection I made sure to nearly drain Ellis. To strike the fear of hell into him so that he would have no choice but to flee. I planted the seed in his mind that harming the child would be his undoing, and so finally he fled. After three years of collecting, he was gone and the child could get on with her life. Which meant my time with her had to end.

Back in my own realm, I returned to my collections. Visiting souls I’d been assigned by the Head herself in an effort to recapture my interest and prevent me from finding my way to the fate mother had interceded in order to prevent. I either had to collect with regularity and focus, or I would be set before the council and sentenced to death. 

The years ticked by and I never lost sight of that little girl. Peaking into the human realm to be sure she was safe, until her twenty fifth birthday arrived and I knew all at once something was very wrong. She had shielded herself from me the past two years in her waking state, but in her dreams it was all I could do not to rush to her side. How she longed for me to fight off her new monster. A man she fell in love with before realizing he was a wolf after all. His teeth sank into her with a regularity that frankly terrified me. I had seen many humans devoured by the pain of hiding abuse, and she was no different. The wolves in sheep’s clothing had a knack for finding my little light. But it was a battle I could not fight for her, as much as I longed to.

It was not until she gained the courage to break off the engagement that I realized the truth of what was happening to her. A fear eater, one of the fiercest demons from our realm, had attached themselves to her. The iraphagus, or fear eater as most called them, was set to devour my little light tonight. What was I to do? A piece of my realm had adhered itself to her, living in the shadows and casting spell after spell to assure her demise. Breaking her down bit by bit so that once they chose to appear on this night, devouring what was left of her would be simple. Merely the thought of it was more than I could bear, and so I broke every law and tradition put into place in our realm. 

It had been a decade since I’d apparated directly to her. Perhaps it was all that time passing, or my nerves at seeing her again, but my apparition was less than ideal. As I stood in the bathtub behind the shower curtain, listening to her hum as she brushed her teeth, I knew all at once I had no choice but to go with fear. Pulling the curtain back, “Well hello there, and what have we—“ and with that, she was gone. Took off running down the hallway and into her bedroom. 

Why she ran is any beings guess. She grew up watching me apparate in and out of her room countless times. Surely ten years away was not enough to remove those memories? In any case, I quickly apparated into her locked bedroom, pulling her onto the bed. “I’m sorry, little light but your life is in danger. I must perform the ritual I told you about all those years ago. We must hurry.” Her eyes looked me over slowly, and finally I heard her again. Her voice was like coming home. Warm, familiar, but different. The way she looked at me had changed as well. I admit, I had snuck into her realm a few times in the last two years as she dealt with her now ex fiancé. Tucked away but just close enough in case he finally tried to kill her. It had taken all my strength not to step out from the shadows some eight months before. It was in this very bedroom I stood, barely shielded by imposed shadows in the corner of her bedroom, that I watched in amazement as she found her second wind. Committed herself to finding a new life post abuser, and I hoped she would finally be at peace. Whispers of Otaktay, the fear eater hot on her trail, was what it took for me to finally reveal myself to her in her adulthood. And as I straddled her on the bed, something changed. 

The fear in her eyes was replaced with an anger I’d never experienced from her. “Where the fuck were you? All these years, all this time fighting against man after man, fighting against my own mother, and where were you? You promised to be my cover, to shield me in darkness. My very own dark guardian, but when I needed you more than ever, where were you?” 

For an instant, I considered taking my leave. Saying a final goodbye and going our separate ways, but as the air began to shift around us, I realized there simply was no other choice. Pinning her arms to the bed, “I’m so sorry I was not able to come to you. To step out of the shadows and be your warrior, little light. But—“ Her eyes glistened with recognition. “Had you thought I’d forgotten?”, I whisper above her. “I never stopped loving you or wanting to be by your side. But as you grew older and escaped from your mother after Ellis was gone, I feared my presence would only do you harm. We are not meant to be attached in this way. And yet, now I must bind you to me in order to save your life. I’m sorry I don’t have another way to save you, as much as I—“ Her left hand slipped my half hearted grasp, reaching up slowly to caress my cheek and wipe away the tears I had not realized I’d begun to shed. Her voice was calm, certain. “I trust you, Veda. With my very life and soul, I trust you to do what is best. If binding us, tethering our very fates is what it takes for me to finally be safe from the monsters of your world and mine, I accept.”

I am taken aback by her strength, her openness, her commitment but most all by her trust in me. As I go to begin the incantation that will bind our souls to one another, I lean down to whisper into her ear but am surprised to find her whisper into mine, “I love you, Veda. I love you and I will always be your little light. I will always be yours.” And as she finds my lips to kiss me, I finally understand it all. Our souls were fated, called to one other in love. No realm could have ever kept us apart. No demon or set of circumstances too great to keep us from finding one another in this moment. 

October 28, 2021 20:57

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1 comment

Georgia Papp
11:04 Nov 04, 2021

What a lovely story! I love the trope of someone falling in love with a "monster". And the world you created sounds fascinating, I'd love to read more about it. What I would work on, maybe, is making the story more concentrated. Giving the action a sense of immediacy, not like everything has already happened and there are no real stakes. Keep the reader on their toes. Try to relate action as if it's happening right now and introduce pauses to make the reader want more. Anyway, great story of love transcending boundaries!

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