Who are you?


What is your purpose?

To kill. To slay. To torment.

Who do you serve?

The demonkin.

Who do you serve?


Who am I?

The one who created me.

Who am I?


What do you call me?


Yes, you do.


I made him to be perfect, and he was. He had the perfect body, he was the perfect killing machine, he had the perfect mind. I made him like darkness, black hair and pale-moon body and blue-star eyes. Looking at him made me crave him, and sometimes I bent his slender body under mine until he cried out. I wanted to fuck him raw because I knew he'd always come back begging for more. He belonged to me, and that feeling, more than anything else, was what made me want to eat him alive. Every time he called me "Master," it was like sex. Every time he looked at me with eyes full of nothing but obedience and lust and slaughter and perfect innocence, I wanted to swallow him whole.


"I don't get it."

There were twenty-five of them in full draconian form, gold and glittering. No need for armor like this, but they wore armor anyway, heavy plated stuff that didn't let them fly. They didn't need weapons either, but they bore them, giant spears and shields and swords. It was enough to intimidate any demon platoon and send them hurtling away full of chattering fear.

But only one faced them on the battlefield. One of the squad sucked in a breath.

"It's him," he breathed.

"What?" said the first dragon, one of those with the cocky stance of young adulthood, convinced he is invincible.

"It's him," the second speaker repeated with a moan. "We're all going to die."

"Don't be stupid, there's only one--"

His last words were choked off by a sudden blur that separated his head from his body. The reptilian head rolled on the ground, spilling sticky crimson, its expression slack and tongue lolling out obscenely. The demon floated above, blood dripping from his long black claws, body flashing like a knife in the sunlight. He grinned wolfishly, and his eyes were blue and terrible and wild like starfire. Demon magic pulsed under his skin in spiraling whorls, crawling like tangled vines on his limbs and face and chest and feet like a tattoo drawn all in black.

"Tell the devil Kaligo sent you!" he howled, and another one of the soldiers, a female, exploded in a spray of blood as he whirled by. He spat in her shocked-open eyes and knocked out a tooth for a souvenir. Her entrails spelled out I love you on the ground.


Demons are complicated creatures. They are actually made entirely of magic and subsist on negative emotions such as fear, hatred, envy, anger, and so on. This is why they tend to flock around large urban centers, such as towns and cities, where there is more sustenance to be found. Demons are cruel by their very natures, and their idea of "fun" is often to raze a town to the ground, killing and/or raping the inhabitants and pillaging the belongings. It's unknown what they do with the things they steal, as the demon country lacks any semblance of organized government, much less an economic system.

Though a demon can take on several different forms, they can really be broken down into two states of being. That is, demons actually only have two forms: physical and astral. In their physical forms, demons may be able to shapeshift and take on several different appearances for a limited amount of time, as this feat tends to be rather energetically expensive, and a demon may actually even become "trapped" in this alternate shape. Their physical forms are also able to be killed, and as the spirit, or the astral form, is then robbed of its physical shell, it dissipates and the demon effectively "dies."

The main benefit to the astral form, however, is that it gives the demon the ability to teleport. This is accomplished by the demon temporarily "inversing" itself and letting the astral form assert itself in the place of the physical form. The demon then becomes invisible except by means of mage-sight, and it can almost instantly transport itself elsewhere. This is what makes demons so difficult to battle, as they can move very quickly and are difficult to predict. Some dragons have found ways to teleport, although they are nowhere near the speed and ease with which the demons accomplish it.


My master is a strong and beautiful man. He has red hair, red like the killing fire, and eyes like melting gold. His skin is dark like the earth of the jungle. They think he looks like a child and they mock his weak appearance, but he is clever enough to conceal his power. "No one expects a child," he says. He is strong; much stronger than me. I wish I were strong like him. I want him to acknowledge me. When he compliments me, it is sweeter than anything else in the world.

Sometimes I watch him when he fights. He enjoys the slaughter; he screams and laughs and punches holes in the enemies so that they can watch themselves bleed. They scream, and I can feel their pain. I can taste it, sweet and heavy on my tongue. I feed on their anger, their hatred and pain. The more they hate me, the stronger I become. But it does not make me as strong as him. I will never be as strong as him, because he's the one who made me.

I think I love my master. He is the most important thing to me in the world. I would do anything for him. I would die for him. But Master says I don't know what love is, and Master is always right.


The wolves howled.

(Wolves do not speak as humans speak. They do not communicate as humans communicate. Certainly, their barks and yips and growls mean something, but so do the pricking and the laying of the ears, the snufflings and the whimperings, the turn of the head and the posture of the body, the height of the tail. They do not have words as humans have words. They communicate in concepts, the most basic of tongues, one that humans have forgotten.)

Kaligo did not understand why they were howling. Just as often it was for fun as it was for communication, and often he joined in. But tonight there was a strangeness in the howl, a note that he could not identify and could not seem to duplicate no matter how much he moaned and murmured with them, voice rising and falling in the ancient song that had haunted the ancestors of man.

Arroyo did not howl. He was sulking again, sitting apart from the pack and staring off into the darkness between the trees. He was silent often these days, saying little. Even Kaligo could not break into his thoughts, and most often he did not dare to try. So he spoke to the pack instead, since his master would not speak to him.

how? he asked with ears and whine.

(Wolves do not ask why. Why is beyond them. They do not question why they walk on four legs instead of two or why the caribou migrate. They do not care if the world revolves around the sun. They ask how they may more faster, how they may stalk and kill, or how to root the rabbit from its den. So Kaligo could not ask why they were howling, but he could ask how.)

with sadness, one of the packmates replied with eyes and ears and dip of head.

Kaligo did not know what sadness was, much less why they were sad.

death/surcease/stop, said one wolf.

packmate/brother/he-of-the-scarred-jaw, said another.

That was less foreign to Kaligo. He knew what death was. He thought he remembered how death made people sad.


He was strong and golden in human form, with long, sun-colored hair and sky-blue eyes. His body was young, muscles lean and supple under his skin. You could not tell he was a dragon save for the reptilian eyes and something in the coiled, graceful way he stood. Some things can never be hidden.

"Lila!" he cried, running towards her. "Lila, we thought you were dead!"

"It was only an illusion!" she cried, sobbed, flung herself into his arms. She was sweet and golden too, her hair a shade paler than his, her eyes deeper and darker and smoother. Pliant under his hands, soft under his lips. Her skin felt warm; she was real.

(Where was he? Had he always been here in this forest, sunlight slanting between the leaves and branches, light-pools on the loam? Yes, of course, of course. He'd been chasing that one, the mad one, the illusions-master, and he'd fled away into the shadows in the form of a fleet black deer. But Lila was here now, and everything was all right. Everything was going to be fine.)

"Oh, Lila, Lila," he moaned. "I thought I had lost you."

"He did it only to hurt you, to make you speak."

"They could never make me speak," he vowed, gazing seriously at her. He could fall into those eyes forever, so wide and deep and sudden.

"But what of the battle at Zalnush? Surely--"

"It has not happened yet," he affirmed. "But we shall fall like lightning from the sky, and our spears will score the flanks of our enemies."

"An assault by air, eh?" Her voice was different, suddenly, deeper and more menacing.

He felt his insides drop. "Lila. . ."

Lila laughed and her eyes were narrowed, the blue empty and horrifying. Her skin melted away; her tongue hung out and she panted like a dog does when it laughs. He took a step back, moaning. The rolling eyes leered at him and the skull grinned madly.

"Thanks for the information, Kragen," Kaligo hissed, and he tore the dragon's belly open.

(Disemboweling someone is easy. All you need is something sharp enough to pierce the skin and flesh. Make a long cut across the belly, below the navel. One slash from Kaligo's claws was usually enough to send the intestines spilling out. Or, if he was particularly malicious, he pinched a fold of skin between thumb and forefinger and tore them open like a sack of potatoes. This is only possible in something that has thin skin, like a human. It's not nearly as easy when the dragon is in his true form.)

Most often Kaligo saw anger in his victims, and sometimes shock and betrayal. They cursed him, often, as they died, and Kaligo was inevitably ready with any number of rejoinders. Most of the time he just laughed, and they died with his mockery in their ears.

But Kragen died silently with something foreign in his eyes, and Kaligo did not know what it was.


"It must have been a traitor," Arroyo muttered to himself. He often ranted senselessly in the days of their exile, hiding in the forms of wolves and feeding off the weak shades of emotions they could derive from animals. They ate meat a lot these days to keep their physical bodies healthy. Kaligo did not mind, but Arroyo seemed to resent it. "It had to have been a traitor. There's no other way."

"Yes, Master."

They walked side by side in the snow, leaving the wolfpack far behind. Arroyo insisted that they keep moving. They were a pretty picture, two wolves side by side, plowing through the thick snow of the mountains. Arroyo was a large, heavily-built wolf with fur that seemed vaguely rusty in color, as if he were part dog. Kaligo was slimmer, built more for speed, with black fur and crystal-blue eyes that didn't exist on any wolf.

"Who could it have been?" Arroyo muttered to himself. "It had to have been someone high up--someone close to me--Beliza? Yarga? Timerus, perhaps? I never trusted him."

"Perhaps, Master," Kaligo said dutifully.

Arroyo spun, sending up a cloud of snow around both of them. Kaligo screeched to a halt, suddenly nose-to-nose with his master.

"Is that all you can say?" Arroyo snarled. "'Yes Master, no Master, three bags full Master?'" He bared his fangs at Kaligo, and for a moment it seemed he was going to lunge at his protegé--but he stopped and turned away. "No. Never mind. You can't help it; I made you that way, unable to think for yourself." He waded several steps through the snow and sat, shoulders hunched.

Kaligo took half a step forward, tentative, head down. "Master?"

"Go away," Arroyo said sullenly. "You're useless."

He didn't really mean it. After all, Kaligo was the only thing he had left in the world, which now consisted of a frozen plateau and a smattering of wild animals. There was no sign of whether any of his demon compatriots were coming for him, or whether they'd be friendly. A general who has to flee from his own underlings is, perhaps, not a general you'd want back.

But Kaligo was used to doing what he was told.


"Go away," Arroyo barked.

He stared sullenly into the distance, purposely ignoring Kaligo. When he looked back, his servant was gone. He waited, but Kaligo never came back.


"We would like for you to come with us."

"Well, it's about time."

"But things have changed, Arroyo. There is a new age now, and it is one of order."


"The dragons fancy themselves in charge. We'll let it be that way so long as we get what we want."

"That's fine and well, but--"

"We will give you lands. You will be a duke."


"You will retain all the privileges and powers you had as a general. We merely ask that you be a bit more. . . discreet. The dragons are powerful. They are not good to have as enemies. We've discovered that firsthand."

"Yes, yes. I will come with you. But there is a favor I must ask. . ."


I found him. He is under the care of one of the Ruby kin. Were she not there, I would reclaim him. But even a demon as powerful as I cannot touch one scale upon the hide of a Ruby dragon.

I no longer recognize him. He looks the same as before, yes, as perfect and beautiful as ever, but his eyes are different now. They're no longer filled with lust and cruelty and violence. There's nothing there now but that perfect innocence, and beyond that, something darker. This was not supposed to happen. I do not understand. I made him perfect, but he has become flawed. He wears a sword, he wears clothing, but why? He does not need them. I made sure of that.

The Ruby dragon did it to him. I would kill her, but I cannot. I can only take him, and I will remake him. He will become perfect again.


"You can't go around naked like that," she explained, buttoning his shirt. It was too large for him, but it would suffice for now.

"I can't?" Kaligo said, bewildered.

"You can't," he said firmly, shoving a persistent lock of red hair behind her ear. Her eyes were red too, red like blood. They reminded him of someone, but he was not afraid or sad. She smiled at him. Arroyo had never smiled at him like that.

"There," she said with satisfaction. "Much better."

The shirt suited him. It matched his eyes. The trousers were a nondescript faded brown, and now he looked like any simple traveler, too poor to threaten but too clever to trick.

"I'd sleep with you in a moment," she said mischievously.

Kaligo had the grace to blush.

A few days later, she handed him a sword as well. It was a heavy, ugly thing, with a cracked leather scabbard and a scarred, pitted blade. But it was still serviceable, though she had to punch another hole in the belt before it fit around Kaligo's narrow waist. "People won't bother you if you have a sword." She buckled it. "And you look like a guy who knows how to use one."

"But I don't."

"That doesn't matter."


I knew he was there the entire time, watching me, waiting for the right opportunity. I knew he was angry; angry that I had changed, angry that Alexandra had encouraged and fostered the change. Angry that I was no longer perfect, and that I no longer belonged to him, even though he was the one who drove me away in the first place. I knew he wanted me back, and that he would hurt Alexandra if he could.

I couldn't let that happen, and that was why I left. But I left under her protection, and he knew it, and that was why he waited. I was content to let him wait. Things would have to come to a head eventually, but I was satisfied to let it happen whenever it happened. I wanted what little time had been allotted to me, and most of all, I wanted to keep those around me safe.


"Kal, meet Winter," said Kitsuki. She seemed different somehow, almost deferential. Strange for a fox demon, who were notorious for their flippant disregard for everything but themselves. "Win, this is Kaligo. We're kinda partners."

The no-longer-stranger reminded Kaligo of snow, fresh and cold and clean. Maybe it was his skin, past pale, or the hair that reached down to his knees, pure white. His eyes were blue too, like the reflection in a frozen pond on a clear winter's day, about to fall into the sky. He looked like a nature spirit clothed in a traditional kimono, smiling and graceful and serene. He was too good to be true.

Kaligo bowed, feeling suddenly awkward. "Pleased to meet you."


The first time Kaligo saw snow, he didn't know what it was. It scared him, hot-blooded demon that he was. He was born in a place of jungle heat, where the air was always hot and wet like the inside of a mouth. Outside the tropical lushness the land was dead and gray, and the rain that fell was dirty and warm. But soon he grew to love the snow, its peaceful beauty and the hush that followed a new snowfall. It was like the world slept under a thick blanket, ready to reawaken in spring.

The first time he saw Winter, he was frightened just as much, but he fell in love just the same.


The room reeked of opulence. It stank of hedonism, luxury to the point of indolence. The carpet was thick enough to drown in, the couches upholstered with velvet and decorated with little satin throw-pillows. An enormous picture window faced out into the night and the rolling hills beyond. Someone had planted tropical trees and flowering bushes outside in an attempt to replicate the jungle, but everything indoors was red; wine-red, blood-red, berry-red, moon-red. Everything smelled of sex, and there was no light, only the moon laughing through the window. One pane was stained with something purplish.

Kaligo lay on the floor, the left side of his face a mess of blood and humor. A smear of something dark marked where he had earlier slammed against the wall. His claws were smeared with drying blood, and dark stains seeped from underneath his clothing. He did not seem to be aware of anything that was happening; he did not seem to be aware of Arroyo standing over him.

The scene was almost laughable. Had they both been standing, Arroyo would hardly have come up to Kaligo's chest. But his little-boy face was contorted in a mask of insane fury and he breathed heavily, as if he would crack and split with his anger. His claws dripped blood, ribs showed white and slick through a wound in his side, and the right side of his face was the same gory spill as Kaligo's. They might have been mirrors of each other in another place, in another time.

"You see," Arroyo said breathlessly in a mockery of gentleness, "we're the same. See? I made you the same." He kneeled and kissed Kaligo tenderly, just under his ruined eye, licking at the poisonous demon's blood. Kaligo made no movement of recognition or acknowledgement. His eyes stared blankly at the ceiling as Arroyo cleaned every inch of Kaligo's face, catlike, with his tongue, eyelids lowered in a lover's gaze. When Arroyo spoke again, he sounded almost hysterical. "Now I'll make you all over again, and you won't be anyone's but mine."


It was one of the better days of the season, snow freshly-fallen and wet enough for packing, the sky slate-gray-blue Everything was muffled by the recent snowfall, like the hush of early morning and late night, peaceful and contemplative. They were outside, neither of them dressed for the weather and neither of them caring.

"Winter show ice to Kaligo." The sprite kneeled in the snow, looking up to his friend with a smile. "show why Winter is Winter to Kaligo."

Slender white hands cupped together and called forth a gust of wind, sharp and biting like the fangs of beasts. As Kaligo kneeled and watched, he saw icicles form in Winter's palms, delicate and cool. "Winter is Winter. . . Winter calls, ice come to Winter. . ."

(He had seen something similar to this a long time ago, on the battlefield. Icicles formed from nothing to stab through the hearts of the demonkin; frost blew and froze the dragons in mid flight so that they plummeted and shattered on the ground below, faces frozen in expressions of surprised terror. But this was different. This was winter, he could feel it, like the tilting of the world, winds coming to freeze the rivers as they ran.)

Winter suddenly threw up his hands, and small flakes drifted down like gentle rain. It was a simple act that brought a unique joy solely to Winter, but with him such things inevitably infected those around him. He looked to Kaligo, smiling, and Kaligo found himself smiling back.

"Kaligo hair like Winter now."

Kaligo's eyes swept upwards, as if trying to see his own hair. Then he laughed and shook himself, dog-like; his hair was, sure enough, dusted with a fine coat of white snow, and so was his clothing. It gave him the appearance of having been the victim of mischievous fairies. "I'm never challenging you to a snowball fight." Briefly, he tried to comb the snow out of his hair, then abruptly decided that it didn't bother him (despite the fact that it was beginning to soak his clothing, and his pantslegs were wet from kneeling in the snow).

Smiling, Winter cupped his hands together and summoned the ice once more, crystals forming in his palms. "Winter want make present for Kaligo. . ."

"A present?" Kaligo had never received a present in his life, unless you counted the sword. But that didn't count.

A slight nod, and the sprite seemed to lose himself in the ice as it grew and bent, shaping itself almost faster than the eye could follow. Kaligo averted his eyes, but when a quiet giggle alerted him that his gift was ready, he couldn't help but peer. Winter's eyes twinkled much like the newly-crafted figurine in his hand as the weak winter sun reflected off a beautiful and intricate ice wolf. It howled to an unseen moon, one foreleg raised and leaning back as if about to leap forward to join its fellows. At play, just as the sprite was at most times. Winter offered it to his friend. "for Kaligo."

Kaligo found himself speechless as he took the miniature ice sculpture in his hand. It was incredibly detailed; you could even see the eyes and the pattern of its fur. ". . . thank you." Impulsively, he raised his hand and made a curt gesture, the lines of power flaring in his palm. Then it was gone and nothing seemed to have changed, but now it would always be winter around the little wolf, wrapped in an illusion o cold.

"There," he said, smiling at Winter. "Now it won't melt."

"Kaligo keep ice cold? only keep cold if close to Winter. if leave Winter, is no more cold. . ."

"I will," Kaligo said, smiling. "I want to keep it close to me."

"Winter have toy wolf. Gen-Gen give. Winter keep close, help to think of Kaligo. now Kaligo have ice wolf. think of Winter now?"

Kaligo smiled, but he might have trembled. He had never been afraid, not even when facing an army, not even when he had been on his own for the first time after leaving Arroyo in the mountains. But now there was a little trickle of fear, with red hair and eyes like melting gold. But his voice did not sound as hoarse as he thought it would. "Always."

He was rewarded with another bright smile--brighter than jewel-drops of blood as they glittered in the sun before splattering to the ground--and Winter scooted over until he sat next to his friend, laying his head on Kaligo's shoulder. Kaligo nearly dropped his new gift and found that he was suddenly light-headed and giddy.

"stay with Winter. . ."



Kaligo stared out the window, willing his voice not to shake. Arroyo sat behind on the couch, sullen and quiet, toying with a half-filled glass of wine. "Don't touch him," Kaligo said. "I'm warning you, don't touch him. I'm not the only one who'll hunt you down and make sure that you never walk this plane again, or any other."

"That's not what matters." The reply was low and breathy, a rattling hiss.

Kaligo frowned and began to turn around. "What--"

The wineglass hit the window and shattered; the smell of alcohol rose into the air as wine dribbled down the pane and soaked into the carpet.

Suddenly, Kaligo was on the floor, and he couldn't breathe. Arroyo's hands were around his neck, absurdly strong for such a tiny child-body. The older demon's face was a disfigured mask, like a puzzle badly put together. Kaligo tried to draw breath, but he couldn't; nothing could go in and nothing could go out. He had been human too long; he had forgotten how to be a demon, how to not need air.

Then Arroyo howled in pain and let go, skin and flesh and blood dripping from his exposed side. Kaligo choked and coughed as he stared in wide-eyed horror at his hand, the fingers of which had suddenly extended themselves five hard, sharp, inches, black as ebony. Battlefields flashed before his eyes, but he had no time to think; he lunged and tore at Arroyo again, turning half his face to ruin.


Darkness. Arroyo had laid his hand over Kaligo's face, over his eye. It was comforting. He couldn't think anymore. He just wanted to sleep, wanted to let himself go into that soothing, comforting darkness. Distantly, he thought he could hear words being murmured, rhythmic and regular. Then he felt his mind start to pull apart, bit by bit, draining out of him as if he'd developed a leak somewhere. Kragen and Lila and Alexandra and Kitsuki and Winter--

He fell through his mind.

This was important; he had to find something to hold onto, something that would let him stay himself. He seized onto the image of a wolf because somehow he knew that was significant, that it was somehow a part of him, deep down inside where no one ever went. Not that he remembered who he was, but that was important, just like the snow that fell from the sky and the sky that was blue except during winter sometimes when the snow fell but snow was safe and he needed to go somewhere that was safe he needed to go somewhere it was always winter

He fell out of his head and landed somewhere icy and white. The wolf shook its head and blinked a flake out of his eye, then stood and shook himself all over, fluffing out his black fur. He was hungry.


Memory burn is an intimate act--like sex, but closer. With sex, you only physically join, one inside another, both inside each other. But to shatter someone's psyche, you have to touch it first. You have to know it, if only for a brief second. This is why memory erasure is not taken lightly, nor is it done often. Never has a demon tried to remake another from the bottom up, because that would require erasing it first. Sometimes it is easier to destroy and create anew than put something back together that was broken.

To truly know someone, you have to be willing to give up yourself.

It is impossible to truly understand someone as we are now. Our own perceptions, experiences, thoughts, and feelings get in the way. They keep us from truly seeing from the other's point of view. We can sympathize, we may even empathize. But we will never truly know them.

To understand another, you must shed your own mind.

Arroyo had acted rashly. He had been desperate. He did not understand why or how his creation had changed itself. These things, to his knowledge, were not possible. But his protegé had remade itself, had flawed itself in a way that was supposed to be impossible. Arroyo did not understand, could not understand, and so he sought to destroy. This is the way of any being.

People are selfish.

When Kaligo vanished, Arroyo was left to curl up on himself on the stained and ruined carpet. He did not cry. Demons do not shed tears (they do not know sorrow, they do not know joy; pity the demons, for the only happiness they know is false). His mind had fallen to pieces.

That is why they cannot understand each other.

Demons thrive on negativity. That is known. They live and feed off emotions such as hatred, jealousy, anger, and envy. Emotions such as peace, hope, joy, and love are foreign to them; they recoil from them as surely as humans recoil from pain. They are destroyed by it; to them, such emotions are instruments of death. But not only are they antithetical, but positivism is literally incomprehensible. They cannot understand it. It is too far from them to grasp.

And yet, we seek to understand the unknown.

At the same time, demons are drawn to it, like a moth to the flame that will be its death. They know the rule; they know the power of the balance. They know that in order to appreciate joy, you must first known sadness. They know that in order to feel hope, you must first feel despair. The demons know this; it is their way of life. It's how they survive.

That is because you cannot fight an unknown.

But never, ever, has a demon felt it.

To destroy something, you must know its weakness.

To feel, to understand such things are to cease being a demon. To live it is impossible. Arroyo felt himself unraveling at the edges as the brief touch of Kaligo's mind spun round and round his head. He could not comprehend; he could not begin to comprehend. And yet it was there, and it would never go away.

To understand something, you must know its weakness.

He could not live this way. It was impossible.

Then maybe, to destroy something, you first have to give up yourself.

So he didn't.

And when you give up yourself, you are free.


(a gentle breath, an exhalation)

Ah. . . why did you come here?

I felt you dying.

This frees you.

I know.

Are you happy?

I don't know what happiness is.


I was born to lie. You know that.

(laughter, gentle and self-mocking) You sound angry.

I am angry.

Why did you come, then?

To watch you die.

That's another lie. I always know when you're lying.

I don't know why I came, then.

You don't know, eh?

You took everything from me.

And so did you. Where have you been, these past decades? I've missed you.

I know. That's why I kept away.

You still have that cruel streak in you.

You put it there.

But you found a way to unmake yourself, didn't you?

I don't remember.

You don't remember anything? But you remember who I am. What I am. To you.

I don't know what you mean.

Of course you do. That's why you're here.

. . .


. . .

Tell me.


Tell me. For old time's sake.


Fulfill the last wish of a dying man.


No. . . what?

No. . . (pained, unwilling, resigned) Master.

Yes, I am.