Certainly Daryl should have preferred this place to Aosoth’s domain. Too long had he been forced to stare at the jagged peaks piercing the murky sky, the rumbling of thunder punctuating his more depressing thoughts and of course, the omnipresent glare of the mistress. Now he had found himself walking – not flying – through a Kirkalanian field. Plump hills sat instead of the misshapen mountains and the sky was a light blue, showing none of the fury it had near Aosoth’s castle. An array of wheat swayed languidly nearby, and some sheep enjoyed a free meal.
But the most noticeable thing about this place, Daryl thought, was not what it had, but what it did not have.
There were no tall yet vulnerable houses. No humble blacksmiths or bakers unaware of their impending fate.
There were no people. No good people.
So is this what he should do for the rest of his life? Stay here? Nobody would ever find him here, since his scales were the exact colour of the grass. His bright green couldn’t hide him from the wrath of Aosoth in her domain, yet here he could hide from the accusing glares, the furious vengeance of those he hurt. Here, he was safe.
Everyone deserves to be safe. A phrase he had heard sometime in his childhood, but he couldn’t remember the specific source.
Still on his feet, he approached the sheep – the stupid, unaware sheep. No purpose but to eat. And be eaten. There’s nothing wrong with eating a sheep because a sheep doesn’t talk. A sheep doesn’t think. So, if Daryl needed a bite to eat, he could just use his fire breath on one of those creatures, and he’d gobble away to his heart’s content. The sheep wouldn’t mind. If there was anything they knew, it was fate had in store for them.
Are there any other creatures that don’t think? What about the ones in his head? They were formed from thoughts, and thoughts don’t think. Or do they? And were they not meant to be no more than mindless minions anyway? Daryl needed food, and he had an unlimited supply in his head. All he had to do was think of something big, chase it, kill it, cook it. He’d be eating like a king. It would be perfectly acceptable. Head monsters are not people, so it was fine to kill them. Aosoth was not a person…
Why did his mind do this? Just when he thought he had got it worked out, it threw something else at him. How could he even say his mind belonged to him when he couldn’t control it? And, oh great, now that he’s thinking about all this, a head monster is going to pop out and run about causing chaos. He ran from the sheep, feeling a gurgling in his head.
No, no, no.
A wobbling slime emerged from the hole in his cranium, probably formed from worries about it coming rather than the thoughts about murder. It had no arms with which to strangle, no feet with which to crush its enemies under, no eyes with which to observe suffering.
A harmless one. He got lucky this time.
So he let the blob slither off around the hills. It might get eaten by some animal or something. It wasn’t Daryl’s concern what happened to it. Though thinking about it getting eaten by an animal set Daryl off about him eating animals again. The thought of finding a gryphon, roasting it and eating it had entered his mind without warning, and he scolded himself for it. Gryphons weren’t like sheep, gryphons could think, they could feel and to kill one would be monstrous.
Another head monster was coming.
Oh, maybe it won’t.
He shouldn’t worry. What was there to worry about anyway? What worries were there here? All that time with Aosoth was behind him and Kirkalan was safe now. Its citizens were living in peace, and he was certainly a Kirkalanian citizen.
Yes, he lived here, and he couldn’t wish for anywhere better. Where else but Kirkalan could offer a place like this, where he could blend in, with no fear of being rediscovered, and had the sounds of the birds fluttering about and the mindless animals bleating to calm whatever was in his head?
Walking further, he discovered an apple tree, and thus plucked one of its goods from a branch. This place truly had everything. Digging his fangs into the fruit, he let the juices wash through his mouth, sloshing them about with his tongue. One piece. Savour it. Slowly chew, slowly. Another bite. Clean, wholesome food.
He spent almost the whole day in that area, fluttering about the sky like the birds, attempting a conversation with the sheep to see if they really did have thoughts, and sitting and pondering. Dusk came quickly, with the field being bathed in a royal purple, and thus, Daryl felt his body begin to slow down. He was safe sitting here; he wasn’t noticeable among this grass. Camouflage.
His arms rising into the air, he made his way towards a large tree, and lay under it. Watching the smooth movement of the leaves was sure to make him drift off into slumber…no worries…peace…ah…
Those flames, the spitting, flapping imps dominating the village. No, there wasn’t a village. Those big black blobs couldn’t possibly be – have been- a village. And what was that sound? That sound…it didn’t sound like screams…it didn’t sound like…it sounded like…
Forcing his eyelids open, Daryl escaped the nightmare only to feel a breeze enter his cranium. Oh no.
A head monster created by the dream. Why did he fall asleep? The mind is hard enough to control when awake…
A monster created from a dream like that could not be a harmless one, so Daryl set off to find it. The sky splattered with dark purple and scarce illumination would make this task a little more difficult, so Daryl created a small amount of fire to make the search a little easier.
The illumination faded away as Daryl turned to see the source of his noise. More light had made its appearance, but it was not the light Daryl had been hoping for. It was torches. Hellish, mocking torches.
A trio of bulky men walked through the field, their torches giving their faces a yellow pallor. Those type of people. Their appearance rendered Daryl unable to use his legs or wings, yet he felt nothing that resembled fear.
Waving slowly, Daryl let ‘Hello’ escape his mouth.
‘It’s him!’ The smallest of the three pointed at Daryl, leaping about as he did so, ‘It’s the bugger that burned down our homes!’ The three moved closer, yet Daryl remained still. The other two said things too, but Daryl couldn’t make them out – odd that the shorter one would have the loudest voice.
So, if his body did not want him to escape, what was there to do? He could still move his mouth though, so perhaps his body was suggesting he talked his way out of it.
‘I didn’t mean to…’ Daryl managed to say. If he could say that, why not say more? ‘I had to, I was told to do that and…and… I couldn’t say no to Aosoth, alright? If you ever met her, you’d understand.’
What he said did nothing to stop the men. They said nothing in response, and they didn’t walk away. So, earlier suspicions that conversations did little in Kirkalan were confirmed. Realising what it was up against, Daryl’s body allowed him access to his feet and wings, and thus, Daryl ran through the grass, into the wheat, before taking off into the air. Once airborne, he did not continue his escape, but rather looked down upon the field, looking for any sign of the creature that escaped his cranium. A small amount of fire came through his nostrils to slightly improve the search, even after he knew the fire had…
‘Ow!’ A few stones in his direction put out the fire and made his flying all the more haphazard.
‘You gotta come down from there sometime!’ It was the short one, it had to be the short one. The other two seemed to be yelling, but Daryl either couldn’t hear or understand them. ‘We can wait ‘til morning!’
While knowing too well he should have responded, Daryl chose to turn his attention away from them as he was sure he had seen a sign of the monster created from his dreams. An orange critter, weaving its way through the wheat. It moved slowly, so all Daryl had to do to deal with it was swoop down and take it somewhere where it wouldn’t cause any more trouble. Doing so would mean that trio would gain their chance though, wouldn’t it? Besides, if they were really after the blood of evil, they would do very well attacking that monster. They were good, they knew what they were doing.
They couldn’t see the monster though. Their attention had been diverted.
‘Hey!’ cried Daryl, only to have another stone thrown at his face. ‘There’s a monster in that wheat! Why not go after it?’ He made sure his voice was as loud as that of the short man, but the stones kept on coming.
Why should they listen to him anyway? They were the good guys, like Coover and Gangrene. They knew better. The good guys don’t listen to the evil witches, they aren’t afraid of the evil witches. While knowing that he couldn’t continue to roast entire towns into cinders, Daryl also knew that the residents of those towns knew what he did.
One of those moods.
As if on cue, another head monster, an eyeball attached to two claws, wriggled out. Its pupil transforming into a fanged mouth, it spoke.
‘Let’s give them what they want.’
Its eye still transformed, it leapt from Daryl’s nose, and Daryl dove after it. It landed before Daryl could catch it, and thus crept up to the miniature mob before roaring.
‘It’s summoning demons!’ said the tallest of the three, which made Daryl stand still for a moment.
‘I didn’t want it,’ replied Daryl, knowing that saying that wouldn’t do any good.
‘Get him!’ Those magic words. Those words that always filled Daryl with that odd energy that made him lose control of his body and momentarily overlook the free monsters about. He ran through the wheat, turning off his flame to avoid creating a fire, before taking off again. While he knew there were still monsters hopping about, he thought to himself the furious three would take care of them. Those three couldn’t get him up here. Up here among the sparkling stars and the purple clouds.
Maybe he’d just spend the rest of his life in the sky. This place seemed more peaceful and exclusive than that field. And what was up here? Birds. Birds and gryphons. Gryphons were pretty intelligent though; would they judge him? Daryl had seen many gryphons in the air before, yet had never stopped to talk to one. Did they talk? They had beaks, didn’t they? It would be hard to talk without lips. If they could talk, however, Daryl would try and strike a conversation with them. Weren’t they alike? Gryphons would probably understand persecution from humans, given that the gryphon was considered a delicacy by some. Aosoth never had a gryphon henchman though. Gryphons weren’t destructive.
Suddenly, Daryl found himself suddenly glad gryphons didn’t talk and happy that there were none of them around.
Still flapping about, casting a warped silhouette in the light of the moon, Daryl told himself not to keep kicking himself in the behind. There were plenty of people out and about willing to do that for him, after all. Or he could try being proud of himself, not following the path of evil to the very end like many in this land did. Were he to walk this land aimlessly, he might as well be positive.
But how could he be positive when he did all those bad things why did you do them you murderer sicko monster you made them burn you killed them AAAAAARGGGH
It was best not to think.
Fly through the sky with a clear head.
No monsters in a clear head.
All night. He had been flying all night. It had accomplished nothing, it hadn’t undone his misdeeds, and yet he had flown through the sky all night. He couldn’t fall asleep.
Back to the fields. Back to the green grass and the wheat and the sheep. The three had gone, but they had left something behind. Two dead monsters. A dead eyeball and a dead slug, lying among the wheat. Seeing the carcasses made Daryl smile a little. Imagine the humans, reaping in hopes of sustenance, and finding them. Would they eat the monsters? Well, that’s something good he’s done.
What was there to do for him that could be called good? Killing those monsters? No, he created them in the first place. Though villains never cleaned up their own messes, did they?
There was nothing to do.
His wings still sore from a night’s worth of flight, Daryl sat on a nearby rock, his head resting on a claw and his tail swinging back and forth slowly. The large lump in his gut had grown a little lighter, but not by much. So no thinking then. Just sit here and don’t think. That’s…
The high-pitched greeting made Daryl cower behind his rock, his arms flailing all the while. Peering up slowly from behind his sitting place, he saw no other than Spartypuss, standing before him. As the cat looked over Daryl, his bowtie sprung upwards.
Of course! Weren’t the stories supposed to say that Spartypuss would come to those in emotional trouble to comfort them and give them advice? And he certainly wouldn’t give advice to a villain, would he?
‘Come on! Don’t be afraid!’
‘I’m…not,’ replied Daryl, brushing himself off.
‘But you do look really sad!’ Spartypuss neared his head towards Daryl’s, a smile stretching his furry face. ‘You wanna tell me what’s wrong?’ His voice sounded just like a mother’s…
‘I don’t really know how to say this,’ replied Daryl, scratching up the ground with his feet. ‘But…I’ve done some really bad things…’ he begun before he stopped himself. Wouldn’t Spartypuss know? He was a god after all.
‘What kind of bad things?’
‘You know, really bad things…’
‘Wait.’ Spartypuss narrowed his eyes, leaning down to stare at Daryl. ‘You were with Aosoth, weren’t you?’ he stated, pointing a finger to Daryl’s snout.
Daryl shuddered, walking backwards to hide behind that rock again.
Forcing himself to straighten up, Daryl replied,’Yes.’
‘You fought alongside her in her battles.’
‘And you burned down villages to spread her message.’
Freezing for a moment, Spartypuss’ gaze fixed itself on Daryl. In a second though, that smile returned. ‘Oh, this is wonderful!’ Grabbing Daryl by the hand, Spartypuss led him into a gleeful dance around the field. ‘I’ve so wanted to make one of Aosoth’s minions see the light!’
‘Well…’ said Daryl, ‘I’ve…seen the light already, I guess.’
The dance slowly stopped. ‘Really?’
‘Yes…I know what I’ve done….I….well…it was…’
‘I know,’ said Spartypuss, engulfing Daryl in a bear hug, ‘You’re sorry!’
‘Well, of course I am,’ said Daryl after freeing himself from the giant cat’s clutches. ‘The problem is, what can I do about it? I mean, I thought about going back to my old village…’ He turned away from Spartypuss, that bright smile doing nothing to calm his nerves. ‘I don’t really want to talk about it.’
‘Come on! Turn that frown upside down!’
Daryl began to shudder.
‘Don’t ignore me! There must be something I can do!’
Just as Daryl was about to walk away in search of nothing, Spartypuss squealed once again. ‘I’ve got an idea! What you need is a fresh start!’
A fresh start? Daryl turned to face Spartypuss. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Go to another world, where they won’t have heard of what you did, and live there!’
Spartypuss put his finger to his chin. ‘Once I, some other gods and some wizards got together so we could use our magic to go to other worlds! We wanted to see if we could find any nice stuff that could help Kirkalan! The place we found easiest to access was a land called “Engaland” on a world called “Earth”.’
‘Oh yes. I thought it was a rather pretty place, even if it rained a lot. But my comrades wanted to leave. They said it was a dump and the people there were idiots.’
‘Well, if they thought that, do you really think I should go there?’
‘Well, what do they know? I sometimes go there to relax in the parks.’ Spartypuss began to wonder about the fields. ‘They’ve certainly got nicer houses than we do, and they have all this weird machines.’ With that, the cat sat next to Daryl. ‘I think you’ll have more to do with your time there then wonder about aimlessly.’
‘Yes…’ Something with his time…
‘There’s all these “sports”…like this one where you kick this thing about into this fishing net. And there’s this box thing which all these people seemed to be rather fascinated by. Plus, there’s lots of pretty flowers…’
‘But can I do anything…’ Daryl rummaged his brain for the right words. ‘That’ll…help? I want to…’
‘Oh yes, there’s plenty of things like that.’ Spartypuss continued.
With all of the worries and stress that had contributed to his many monsters, Daryl wondered if moving to an unfamiliar world would be the last thing he’d need. With guilt, loneliness and anger bothering him, why add problems adjusting and living in a ‘dump’ to the list? It would more than likely create more monsters. Yet Spartypuss, with his confused and childlike tone, sounded so enthusiastic about it. How could he refuse an advertisement like that?
‘Maybe I’ll give it a try,’ said Daryl, before adding, ‘Will they really accept me though?’
‘Of course! I’ve heard they really like dragons over there!’ replied Spartypuss before tapping his chin. ‘It took them a while to get used to them though.’ A pause. ‘They might be a bit more accepting if you dressed a bit better.’
Daryl looked down at his bare body. ‘Dressed?’
‘Yes, I think if you went there like that, you’d get arrested.’
‘Don’t worry though; I’ll make you some lovely clothes to wear!’
Daryl rose from his spot and began pacing around Spartypuss, his wings and tail twitching. ‘I still don’t know…I have a hard time understanding this world.’
Rising with arms stretched upwards, Spartypuss replied, ‘Just give it a try! If you don’t like it, I’ll send you back here!’
After turning around, Daryl looked into the wide eyes of the cat-god, wobbling and enlarging. ‘Maybe I’ll give it a try then,’ said Daryl, ‘If you really think…’
‘Of course!’ Spartypuss beamed his trademark grin, and upon snapping his fingers, dressed Daryl in a second. The dragon looked down to see his new ensemble: a tweed jacket, with a tie and tank top, as well as some black trousers and shoes. The clothes had holes for Daryl’s wings and tail. Spartypuss conjured a mirror in his hand, so Daryl could get a better look at this wardrobe. These clothes seemed to compress his body, with him writhing about as he wore them, yet they gave it a flourish it never had before. Wearing these things, it made him look less like the terrifying beast who lay waste to many an unsuspecting village. In fact, he now appeared more akin to his victims. Well, except for one thing.
‘Could you please…?’ Daryl gestured towards his head. Another click, and a trilby appeared, hiding the head-hole.
‘Do you like it?’ Spartypuss clung his hands together, standing upright. When Daryl nodded, Spartypuss danced a little dance before adding, ‘I think that’s how they dress over there.’
‘Okay then.’ Daryl began playing with his tie. ‘When can we go?’
‘I can take you over there right now if you want me to.’