Chai was gone most of the time, demonstrating his proficiency with weapons for his clan leaders, usually settling this dispute or that over territorial claims. He always seemed to come home the victor, albeit the bloodied and bruised victor, at times.
Vieve soon learned that while Chai, being proficient at battle and weapons mastery, was part of the Warrior Clan, Krys had no interest in fighting. From what she’d seen of his battle that first time they met, she held on to the idea that he, like his brother, would be a warrior. He seemed very skilled at fighting.
“No… only against lesser demons.” Krys admitted. “I have no skills useful enough for any of the Battle clans. Even if I did, I wouldn’t want to be in one. Fighting is just so pointless to me. Survival, yes, but just fighting because you can? Where’s the sense in that?”
“So, how does this clan thing work, anyway?” Vieve inquired. She’d heard them speak of the clans many times, but they never explained anything.
“Well, there are Major Clans and Minor Clans. Every type of talent has three separate clans attached to it, and one of those clans is led by a Grand Master. Those clans are the Major Clans. The other two are led by High Councilors and are Minor Clans.”
“What kinds of clans are there? Besides battle?” she tilted her head curiously.
“Well, Battle is the Major clan, and it controls Rivalry and Vengeance clans. They all focus on some type of fighting, but for different purposes. Delusion, Paranoia, and Insanity are all clans based around mental attacks. Delusion is the Major Clan, controlling Paranoia and Insanity.”
“Which clan is yours?” She started wiggling her feet back and forth.
“I’m part of the Insanity clan. I mess with people’s minds.” He confessed.
“Can you show me?” she seemed excited to see what he could do.
Krys blushed and coughed into his hand. “To use your abilities, at least at lower levels, you must usually be consumed by strong emotion, most often related to your major clan. Seeing as I don’t have a major clan, I don’t know for sure what emotion that would be, but… I could take a guess.” He muttered the last part, hoping she wouldn’t catch it. When she said nothing, he sighed quietly, thankful she didn’t ask.
“Well… what kinds of things can you do with your powers?”
“I manipulate people’s minds, making them see what isn’t there, hear what has not spoken, feel the intangible, taste that which has no flavor, and smell that which does not exist.”
“Wow… I wish I could do that.” she muttered. He chuckled lightly and she gave a sheepish smile. He had a nice laugh.
“Maybe someday, you’ll do something even better.” He smiled, his eyes conveying his sincerity. Her smile never faded, as she realized he had nice eyes, too.
‘What about him isn’t nice, I wonder? Anything?’ She remembered him as a demon, fighting in the forest, and scaring the wits out of her…even that no longer held any discomfort in her mind.
“I almost forgot to ask… since you’re in the Insanity clan, will you promote to Delusion?”
“Not necessarily. There are many types of abilities, all of which can be interlinked in some ways. It is not necessary to promote to your own Major clan, if your abilities can be better used elsewhere.”
“So… where do you think you’ll go to?”
“Well, I never finished telling you the other clans. Lust and Envy are the Minors under Greed. Perjury and Presumption are under the Major Clan of Peril.” He stopped as she giggled. He smiled too. “I know, three P’s… Don’t know who came up with that. Distress and Fatigue are under Evasion. Corruption and Coercion are under Persuasion. There are others, but I forget the order of Major and Minor, after a while.”
“So what? Oh me? Well.. I uh…cough I’m not sure yet, really. It’ll be a while before I’m up for promotion anyway, so I have yet to decide.”
“How long do you have to wait?” She couldn’t imagine waiting too long.
“I’ve got a few years before I’m up for promotion. Demons get promoted in their fifteenth season, and no sooner.” He nodded.
“Fifteenth… but.. You’re way older than fifteen, aren’t you?” She asked, disbelieving.
He chuckled good naturedly. “By far. I’m older than the oldest human you’ll ever meet. Seasons in the Frozen forest don’t work like you’re thinking. 25 human years is a season for us. The Frozen Forest, despite it’s name, isn’t always frozen. Once every 25 years, for one solid year, it is like halfway between spring and summer, warm, snow-free, and green. It’s wonderful. I couldn’t tell you why it’s that way, but the councilors and historians probably could. I just know that I’ve seen spring so rarely, that when it comes, I revel in it.”
His eyes had taken on a faraway look, with his smile wide and boyish. He was obviously off in his own world, and she couldn’t help but smile at his openness. She liked this side of him. He was happy and open about himself, and she was glad for it.
He turned to her, his smile softening to less of a childish grin and more of a brotherly acknowledgement.
“So how old are you, then?”
“Three Hundred and Seventy One.” He couldn’t help but chuckle as her eyes widened.
“Woah…. You’re old.” She said, without thinking. She instantly covered her mouth and her eyes went wide, realizing how rude that must have sounded. He only laughed, amused at her distress.
“To you, or any other human, I would be ancient. Don’t worry. As long as you don’t start offering me a cane, or trying to hobble me around the house… I think we’re good.”
Her eyes regained their normal size and she dropped her hands, a blush quite evident on her cheeks. “I won’t. You’re obviously not feeble.” She thought back to him carrying her as he flew up to the tree house each night, on a return trip from wherever she’d asked him to take her that day.
“How old is the oldest demon?” She puzzled aloud.
“Well, as far back as our records date, the oldest is over three thousand years old.”
“Is that… m-my…?” the thought of the demon inside her still scared her at times. Krys wrapped an arm and adjacent wing around her to comfort her.
“Yes… that’s your demon.”
She was silent for a while, then gave him a half-hearted smile. “So what about you?”
“Well, I’m considered a high-level demon. I’ll probably live to be over a thousand before I die. The oldest high-level demon we’ve ever recorded died at just under 1400 years. But that was some time ago, so our technology has likely advanced quite a bit since then, and could extend our lives even further. But I can’t be sure.”
“Are there anything besides high-level demons?”
“Yes. Low levels, like Grelkies and imps live to be about 400 or 500 years old, if they don’t get slaughtered for their impudence, first. Humans, as you know, can live to be up to around 100 years old. They are the lowest level creature we keep track of, in life spans. Half-demons usually have half the lifespan of whatever demon their half came from. So if there were such a thing as a half-gremlin, they might live to be 300, if they were lucky. Someone born of a high-level and a human, on the other hand, could probably live to be about 500 to 800 years old, if they did well.”
“So, would I possibly… have an extended life, because of my demon?” She felt curious, though somewhat afraid to know the answer.
“Being possessed by a demon such as he could extend the life of a quasi-demon, but to humans, it holds no potential for a longer life. If anything, it would probably shorten it, given his destructive nature. So… I hate to say it.. But, since you’re a human, you will die in a human’s time.”
They were both silent after that. She was thinking how sad it was that nothing good could come of this demon… not even a slightly longer life, in which to live with her friends. Krys was thinking how depressing it would be the day he had to bury her. Even knowing her for such a short time, he felt they’d been friends for lifetimes already, and he didn’t like the thought of losing such a friend.
“I’m sorry, Vieve… I wish…” he trailed off, knowing wishes wouldn’t change anything.
“How much demon would have to be in me for that quasi-demon bit to apply?”
He coughed and turned away, causing her to stare at him curiously. He had no idea why the thought came so suddenly, but when she’d asked him… something much more crude than her original intent had come to mind. He had yet to tell her he was looking at promotion to the Lust clan. Somehow, he didn’t want her to know. But with his mind betraying him so randomly, he was fairly sure she’d figure it out on her own, eventually.
“From what I know, any percentage of inherited demon blood will enable you to have a longer life.”
“Inherited? So… I couldn’t….” She gulped and felt sweat form at her brow. “Not that I would… just…”
“Taking another demon’s blood would have no effect. Our blood burns non-demons. Else I would have simply done it myself.” He huffed wearily. Why did she have to be human?
Vieve blinked at him in shock. “You would have…done that… for me?” The blush staining her cheeks made her look away.
“Well, yeah. It’s not like it would hinder me much if you took some of my blood for your own, and if it would allow my friend to live that much longer, then of course I’d do it.” He admonished, surprised she’d think otherwise.
It wasn’t that she thought he wouldn’t sacrifice something for her, just that it seemed so… intimate to her. Swapping blood? That was something vampires in romance novels did. Right before…
Her blush deepened and she shook herself mentally.
“Why did I have to be human?” she grumbled, then took on a stern glare. “And why would this damnable creature want a human anyway? If I’m just going to die in less than 80 years, why bother?”
“He said that your ancestry was useful to him. That you had untapped powers that he would let none but himself control.”
“But my whole family is human. There hasn’t been a demon in my family ever, until now. We aren’t magic or even exceptionally intelligent, I don’t understand.” She groaned in exasperation.
“Not to be rude, but are you sure you’re actually part of that family? Does your blood match theirs, or do they have a birth record of you being your mother’s child?”
“Of course I’m part of that family… I’ve never had my blood tested, and I have no need to look at my birth certificate, but they’ve raised me for as long as I can…” She paused for a moment, taking on a dazed look, “remember.” she whispered.
“What is it?” Krys puzzled over her sudden change.
“Well, I…. it’s weird, really, but I always have this memory…of a woman, with red hair and brown eyes…” She smiled unconsciously to herself, “She was holding me in her arms, smiling at me… she called me her little angel girl.”
“Little angel girl?” Her description of the woman sounded familiar to Krys, but he couldn’t think of why. “Maybe it was an aunt or other relative come to visit.”
“No, I don’t think so. She seems so.. Familiar, even though I only have the one memory of her…”
“Because you are my child.” another voice spoke in the forest. Krys and Vieve looked up as a form coalesced before them. His eyes went wide as he bowed low.
“Lady Marina.” he said breathlessly.
“Marina?” Vieve seemed lost as she stared at the woman.
“Yes, child, Marina. Your mother.”