Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for mature content.
AN: Just a lazy excerpt from my novel, one of those "stories within a stories" or folklore kind of stories, so it stands alone :) But some background: Fiel Montroy has a chance to ask Luterogan (a man revived from the dead) what happens after a person dies. Liander stops her before she intervenes. They sit and have a chat.
Liander indicated to the space across from him, motioning for Fiel to sit. To a bystander, he would seem every bit the gentleman, but Fiel knew better. She glanced at him suspiciously before slowly setting herself down. As if on cue, he unceremoniously propped his legs atop the bench across from him. Why would he do that? Fiel fidgeted in her seat, glancing around uncomfortably. She noticed the grimace from the innkeep and blushed. He knows this bothers me. This is why he behaves this way.
“Fancy an ale?” He did not wait for her response before he poured himself a glass, and then one glass for her, as though nothing were out of the ordinary. He had this knack of seeming completely oblivious to how others respond around him. Yet, sitting so close to him now, Fiel noticed he seemed paler than usual, his face more haggard and worn than she remembered. For the first time, his jet hair--normally perfectly coiffed and slicked back-- had more flecks of grey than she remembered.
She made no motion to drink. Meanwhile, Liander gulped down his entire glass before he spoke again. His eyes met hers, and she saw in them a sparkle. Fiel dropped her gaze, stumbling over her own flurry of objections, but he interrupted her--
“You remind me of that traveler, in that story,” he said, a wicked smile pulling at the side of his lips. Ugh. She hated him.
“I am not here to listen to another one of your moronic stories. Now--if that’s all you invited me for--” Fiel stood up from her seat, but she could not leave. Not with Liander’s legs propped up against the bench-blocking her exit.
“You’re going to see Luterogan again.” The way he said it, it was a statement, but the tone he said it in was a command. You cannot. You cannot see Luterogan again. The man infuriated her more than anything else. She could not understand why Liander would not say what he means. Everything had to be some kind of riddle.
“What’s that to you?” Fiel snapped. “I have every right to see him if I wish.”
“You know it’s rude to leave an offer of drink unfinished.” He indicated towards the glass of ale.
“What do you want from me?”
“Have a drink. It won’t kill you.” Knowing him, he might have drugged it.
“Are you really going to tell me another story?”
“It’s not a story. It’s history--back before there were cities--”
Fiel groaned. “Yes. Yes of course you are.”
“Back before there were Priests and Priestesses protecting the masses in their sanctuaries, there were only villages scattered throughout the wilderness. Amidst that wilderness--the people used to believe demons walked among the moss.
“So, here comes this traveler--not unlike yourself--visiting a village just like this one and the traveler comes upon a comfy inn that served goats and cheese and a meat stew with warm buns and butter and the coldest pint of beer--nothing like they serve in this slop here.” Liander was unmistakably loud at the last point. Fiel felt herself red in the face for even being associated with him.
“But he came upon the news that although this village was cheery, it had within it a sad kind of truth. The townsfolk were quick to warn him of the news at sundown. Here, a horde of demons would come and attack anyone who would dare disturb them in the night.
“Anybody caught walking the streets at night would be gobbled up by demons. It didn't matter if they were working, or talking, or moving, or making any noise--in fact, any soul who would so dare be awake by sundown--that would be enough to disturb the demons. Such a person would be dead, or worse--possessed by the next morning.
“So as a precaution against the demons, the whole village would share in a communal glass of mossmilk before bed. They would be knocked out for the whole night. A dreamless, undisturbed sleep, before they all awake together by daybreak, safe and sound.”
Fiel eyed her glass suspiciously.
“Now, the traveler was well traveled. He never saw demons before and so he never believed in them. But he also believed that when in a new place- you practice what the locals did and so he went along with it for many nights. And soon, it became normal. Before sundown, he’d take the mossmilk- and by daybreak, he’d awake and have a grand old time. But that wasn’t enough for the traveler.
“For you see, the traveler noticed that upon the next morning, things weren’t quite how the townsfolk had left them the following night. Things were disappearing. Crops were dying. He started to notice a pattern…
“Every night they went to sleep by the mossmilk, by the next morning, they would be one pig short. Or somebody’s harvest was burned. Or somebody’s house got trashed.
“The traveler began to suspect that this arbitrary curfew set about by the Elder folks of the village was all a scam. That it wasn’t demons walking about the night--but bandits taking advantage of the vulnerability of the villagers and exploiting them. How could the Elders allow this to happen? They were complicit in it! By winter, soon there were no rolls. No beer. No stew. And the villagers grew hungry.
“So, one night, when he couldn’t stand it anymore- he set about a clever plan, this traveler in revealing the Elder’s injustices. One night, as the entire village went about drinking their mossmilk, the traveler secretly pretended to drink his portion, but spit it out in a nearby plant when nobody was looking. He went off to bed earlier than the other villages, claiming he was tired.
“Yet, what he was really doing was hiding himself among the rafters of the innkeep where he could overlook the outside center square and witness for himself these so-called bandits terrorizing the night. He waited there for a while yet. Until by the stroke of midnight, he finally saw it--but not at all what he had expected to see…
“There really were demons! Except he could not believe his eyes. There were thousands and thousands of them. All of them vulgar creatures, like deformed humans, some of them with two heads, or some of them with wings, with horns, with multiple arms and scales or serpant necks.
“But all of them completely naked, with all their bobs and bits. All of them partying outside, making strange and upsetting noises. Eating all of the available food and flaunting all the functions and every inch of their bodies...
“It was an orgy of demons, Fiel…” Liander said, blankly. Just in case she didn’t get it. Fiel sighed, finally acquiescing and taking a deep drink of her ale, hiding her face as much as she could help herself.
“Anyway, there were all of them out there just doing awful, awful things with each other and spawning more and more demons. And this Traveler was transfixed. In one night, he witnessed horrors he had never before witnessed in his life. But something happened…
“See, this traveler was not alone. He had stayed in that village long enough to befriend the locals, long enough to fall in love himself with one of the village girls. And it was precisely this woman he loved, who had listened to his doubts, who had encouraged him in his investigation, who had noticed his sneaking out when no one else had, who had followed his actions in spitting out her own drink, so that she might join him up on the rafters that night, and witnessed what he himself had witnessed.
“And it was in that moment, while he stood frozen, that this woman got up and screamed. And the demons, sensing her humanity, pounced on her, stealing her away--”
“Enough!” Fiel said, slamming her glass down upon the table. “Why are you telling me this--?”
“Fiel, you’re embarking towards the unknown just as the traveler in the story who starts out with intentions of justice and helping out the villagers. See, the traveler had hoped the truth was something he can handle.
“That if he armed himself with the knowledge of what was really happening, he might be able to change his circumstances and help the villagers. He knew hope itself was not enough to change anything, so he mistakenly believed seeking the truth would be a better weapon.
“But truth is a demon, Fiel. Knowing about the demons--seeing them brought him no closer to a solution. No closer to changing the fate of the villagers, or uprooting their society. But the truth changed him. And one day, you are going to have to ask yourself if you would be stupid enough to want to change everything you think you know about yourself.
“Would you sacrifice yourself -- your identity -- your loved ones -- for truth? Would you spread it to others to give them such an evil choice? Or would you drink the mossmilk. Force yourself to live your life and forget in happy bliss… and why is that a bad thing?”
It was at that moment Liander got up, holding her wrist in his hand. “I’m telling you as someone who’s walked in your steps, you do not want to go after that man.”
And her hands burned, and her heart was pounding, because despite his ways, despite everything about him-- he was right. He was always right. Liander never had the capacity to not be right. His own grey eyes gleaming with the truth of a sharp edged blade.
What was she to do?