Above an Alpha Ch. 05byPlainJane12©
Adria was like royalty. That's the thing you have to keep in mind through all this. Royalty didn't really exist yet, but she was it. Father, her father, had a big house and a lot of people who worked for him. He was considered wise for a human, and he was loved not only by humans, but other things as well. This is how Adria came to be such good friends with Gorta – but more about that later.
Adria was the eldest of twelve. Her mother gave birth every two years to the day. Adria had ten brothers, and one baby sister. The twelve children were well loved throughout the land, and everyone believed that they would be great leaders someday. –And this was when almost no creature would raise a hand against humans. They all knew what Eve had gotten away with not so, so long ago, and they feared the power she wielded. No one is, after all, more dangerous than someone who will be forgiven regardless.
But though it was a time of peace for humanity, it was a time for war between other things. Demons had begun to bicker among themselves. No one's business but their own, except the giants chose a side, and where giants go, sprites often follow. The stars themselves chose a side. Voices from the depths came too. War broke on the earth and things that couldn't die fought in the land of men. –It was pretty epic.
In the midst of this, an ancient demoness sought to strike a blow against her nation's enemies with a spell. –It required the blood of a human child born to change the fate of a world. Though the demoness knew and feared the great risk of harming a human, she sought this blood, and found it. It was Adria's sister. The girl was ten – beautiful, sweet, a little chubby, and beloved by all, of course. She was a hilariously funny girl. Nice teeth. Very witty. And great with a piece of chalk. She could also sing, and – ...anyway...
The demoness kidnapped the girl, and not quietly. She left destruction behind such that a rescue mission could not even be attempted for three days. Finally, her father set out with his most loyal men to rescue his daughter.
He did not return.
Months passed, and the eldest of Adria's brothers, Ben, decided it was time for him to go to save his father and sister. Adria forbid him to go alone, and so he took his brothers, Caden, Dart, Elides, Fye, Gabe, and Hander. Adria stayed behind to rebuild their home, tend to their mother who had become useless with misery, and to protect the youngest of her brothers – Isaac, Jack and Kevin.
Months passed. Adria rebuilt everything – even made things better than they had been. She believed she prepared for her family's triumphant return, but there was no word even sent to explain delay.
Adria didn't know what to do or how to act. She sought council from friends of the family – human and otherwise, but most just shook their heads at the injustice of it all. And then came the morning Adria discovered the youngest of her brothers missing – gone to rescue the others under the dark of night. But they were just boys – Kevin no older than 12.
She would not tell her mother the youngest were missing.
It was up to her to retrieve them.
But unlike her foolish brothers, she knew that it was unlikely she alone could defeat a demoness that had defeated her ten brothers, great father, and stolen her little sister.
So she went to her friend, Gorta.
Oh, yeah... Gorta. Meant to tell you about her sooner.
Gorta was a fairy. –Not like a Tinkerbell, I'm a huge bitch in a tiny body – how ironic, kind of fairy. Gorta was an ancestor of what you'd now think of as a Fairy Godmother – though they're all gone now too. –This is all, of course, before fairies granted wishes, and no – this isn't the story of how they got into that trade. This is a story about two best friends from two different species and the unfair bargain that got struck between them.
Fairies were great and powerful creatures – with little to no free will. Their minds were tightly bonded within their race, and even a little bit bonded to the rest of the universe. This is why they so loved Father, Adria's father, because he often walked with them and talked with them, despite their difficulties. The more the fairies could commune with humans, the more they each were able to develop their own free will as individuals. When Adria was a little girl, even though many thought fairies were too dangerous and odd, she was allowed to play with the fairy children – and so made a great friend in Gorta.
It's kind of sad, though – what happened. See, Adria's father had offered to let Adria play with the fairy children, in order to see if she could help them develop free will. Well, like any child, she didn't connect with everyone – mostly she hung out with Gorta. And the experiment worked. Gorta became the most independent fairy child that ever lived. –So much so that it frightened the others, and by the time they were teenagers, she was forbidden from seeing Adria. The two best friends didn't see each other face to face again for years.
Only despite their efforts, Gorta never was able to become quite like her people again. She tried. But everyone considered her a little odd.
But then, Adria perhaps would have never been able to save her brothers if this hadn't been the case.
Adria traveled to see the fairies, and demanded to see Gorta. It had been years, and the fairies resisted her demands at first. But she refused to leave. The fairies did know what happened to her father and brothers of course, so they were afraid to relent, but eventually they did.
Gorta came to Adria. It was likely very awkward – demanding to see a person you haven't seen in years. But they were happy to see each other, and soon Gorta was able to ask why Adria had come.
"My sister is kidnapped, my father and brothers have disappeared, and I believe it is all at the hands of a demoness I can't hope to conquer by myself. I need strength. I need genius. I need life enough to withstand her blows. Please, Gorta. You're my friend. You have power. Lend me some."
Gorta frowned. She was independent enough of mind to be able to think for herself, but she could still hear her people react to this request. –It could not be. A human with fairy power would be an abomination. Yes, the world was riddled with wars now – but think of what would happen were such a new thing to exist.
Gorta replied, "I can't give you power. I can't lend it to you."
Adria stood there still, as if she wouldn't leave until she received what she came for.
Then Gorta smiled. "I can make a trade though. Our cousins, the Elves, make trades all the time. It would not be a sin for me to do so." Gorta tried to stay upbeat, despite the words of her family ringing through her head – they were not elves! They could not trade power for whatever a human could give in return. The power of a fairy must be used for a fairy! This human had nothing to offer them – except perhaps free will, which they were no longer so enamored with as they had been.
"What will I owe you?" Adria asked, having already decided that she would pay any debt.
"I have to explain something, my friend," Gorta said, rubbing her head. "What I can give you is death to your enemies. Nothing you want dead, shall live. I can give you luck, speed, and strength. I can give you the energy of the sun, and the still quiet of the moon." Gorta's family was screaming -no- in her mind. "But this must be a trade, and a fair one."
Now Adria began to worry. "What can I give you?"
Gorta replied, "There was once a great fairy, who made a sword for a human – so that he could slay the dragon that plagued the fairies. The great fairy believed the gift was not a sword given to a human, but a hero given to the fairies. I will repeat this act.
"You Adria, I will make a hero. You can save your family. But, you must also save my people too."
Gorta shrugged. "No idea. But it's the only way. You'll be invincible until, for every life you've saved or taken, you've saved a fairy life as well."
"Er. Okay," Adria said, "So that's what, my ten brothers, my father, my sister, my father's men, and then I'm going to kill that demoness so... Gosh, Gorta, I have to save like maybe three dozen fairy lives? How often are your people in danger?"
Gorta bit her lip.
Adria shook her head. "I'm not saying I won't do it. I don't really have another choice. I don't know how this repayment will work out, but... Thank you, Gorta."
"Er... don't... thank... me yet..."
And Gorta changed her.
Adria awoke, still human – but with the power of a demigod. Nothing she wanted dead, would live. She had luck, speed and strength. She had the energy of the sun and the stillness of the moon.
She also had a raging headache, several spontaneously ingrown toenails, and the overwhelming urge to vomit. –Very overwhelming. When she was finally able to speak, she croaked, "The hell?"
Gorta shrugged, still holding her friend's hair for her as she vomited onto the enchanted floor of a fairy room. "Ta-da. You're a hero now."
Adria resumed vomiting.
"Yay! You can save your family!" Gorta added.
"What happened to my toes?!" Adria said through tears, the skin around her eyes mottled by the violence of her puking.
"Er – when you push power in, sometimes toenails come out. It's a balance thing. Come on," Gorta said, pulling Adria to her feet. "You're a big serious hero type now. No more ruining the carpet. That stuff is supposed to be magical."
"That really hurt!" Adria said, sniffling. "I thought you would make me invincible."
"You are invincible! –Doesn't mean you can't feel things. Now, seriously – you've gotten what you wanted. You better go save your family while they're still alive."
"I don't really know if they are still alive," Adria whimpered, still in the daze of her headache.
"WHAT," Gorta said, flat.
"Well I don't know. The demoness didn't tell me what she's done with them. I don't even know where she is. God, my toes!"
"Oh, Adam H. God," Gorta said, before going to the door and yelling out, "Someone come in here with some clippers. And we're going to need a mirror."
Twenty minutes later, a nice little fairy boy had given Adria the pedicure of her life, and Gorta had the low down on the demoness who had taken Adria's family. She pushed the mirror into Adria's hands so she could have a look.
Gorta told her, "The demoness is called Zada. She doesn't look special to me, but I guess she is one of the few fallen ones that actually invested in property back in the day. –She's a big fish in the demon war because of all her land. She's not far from Nod. She has your brothers locked up in the dungeon of her keep. I can't find your father or his men. Your sister... it's weird, she keeps her by her side always. –Like a pet."
"What's that about?" Adria asked.
"I have a bad feeling she's using your sister's blood to twist a curse of some sort. Look at your sister's hand," Gorta said. Adria did see the tight, stained cloth wrapped around the little girl's palm. Adria began to tear up. Although she had never had much of a plan, suddenly she realized that she had subconsciously thought that first she would free her father. –And then he could do the rest.
And before the images of the mirror had run before her eyes, her concept of what happened to her family was vague and unreal. –They had merely been lost, far from home. They needed nothing more than to find a way back. But now – now her sister was being bled right before her eyes, while her brothers starved in a dungeon.
"Adria, I wish I could help more. Go with you. Take you there. But everyone's already having a fit. They think you'll take advantage of us. –Never return the favor and live forever."
"Live forever?" Adria turned.
"The trade, the bargain, is clear. You will have everything I've given you until we are repaid. You can't die unless you repay us." Gorta turned away, ashamed almost – but only almost, of what she had done to her friend. "There are some who believe that would be an ideal situation."
Adria would have been one of those people herself, had life at the moment not been such a terrible thing. She shook her head. Immortality was not the issue of the moment, saving her family was.
"So I'm off to Nod, then Zada's keep."
"I said I can't take you there – and I can't. Zada's power in her own home on her own land would undo me. But I can get you partway there. –It would be a two days' walk."
Gorta reached out her hand, to do as she had remembered Adria teaching her so long ago – to clasp hands in the human way. Adria took Gorta's hand to shake, and smiled before realizing too late she was already being sent away.
"Wait!" Adria said, dematerializing right in front of Gorta. "What do I do when I get there?"
She was already in Zada's land.
Adria looked around. She was surrounded by flat, dead, desert spotted only by black husks of trees long passed from life. The air was harsh, and low, thick, rolling yellow clouds hid the sky. There was still the sickly visibility of day, and yet no actual sunlight. "Be nice if I knew which direction I was going in..." she mumbled to herself.
"No direction?" came a voice from nowhere. "My father had me think I was the only thing on earth with that problem."
Adria turned, looking for the source of the voice. "Who's there?"
"Almost everyone, Baby. This is Earth, circa beginning. Who's not there is a better question."
"What are you?" she demanded.
She felt someone breathe on her ear. She turned just quickly enough to see movement. –Whatever it was looked like a man, a man who could move. He was hiding among the dead trees.
"You're fast!" came that voice again, almost bewildered. "You look human..."
"So do you," Adria countered.
"You didn't get that good of a look," he replied.
And suddenly, too suddenly he was there – tall, but as she looked up, he looked down. They were touching noses. Her breath caught in her throat. This thing standing before her, he had eyes like her mother's softest dress, deep, red brown.
He smiled at her, revealing sharp pointed canines. She opened her mouth to scream, and he wrapped his arms around her, taking hold of her waist in his hands. She pushed him.
And he flew right off her. She looked at her own hands in awe. He looked up at her from the ground. He smiled again. "So you're Zada," he said, chuckling. He started to get up, dusting the dirt off the knees of his pants. "This makes things easier. I thought I would have to find you before killing you."
"I'm not Zada, you, you demon."
Standing he cocked his head annoyed. "Demon? What is that supposed to mean?"
Adria pointed to her own teeth and then pointed to him. "I saw those, those things in your mouth. You can't fool me. You're a demon. You'd better stay away from me. I'm Adria – a beloved human daughter. I have every right to kill you after touching me like that. My people will-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, no. Have to call bullshit on so many counts. You are not human. You have no people. And..." his lips curled in a very pleased smile, "You liked me touching you, and rights always fall away under the pressure of wants." He started to walk toward her, slowly this time. "You're as powerful as Zada would be, but from what I've heard Zada would never deny being herself. ...Too proud. Are you one of her minions?"
"One of her enemies; though it's none of your business, Demon."
"Why do you keep calling me that?" he asked suddenly, shaking his head.
"That's what you are, isn't it?"
"Demons are inky things made of ruined soul-stuff. Zada is a demon. The demons waging all the nasty wars that turn the earth to wasteland, are demons. Whereas I am made of flesh," he said, suddenly running a hand up his own torso to his chest. "My soul is not ruined... just... currently inaccessible. That's why I don't need yours, the way a demon would. Demons crave whole souls you know. That's the first indication you're dealing with one. He'd check your purity like a horse's teeth."
"How...?" Adria began, but she stopped herself at the sight of his smile. "Nevermind. What are you then? You're not human."
"Mmm, part," he replied. "They call me vampire. A little bit human, a little bit demon, a little bit regret."
"So you ARE a demon," Adria said, eyes narrowed.
"Only a third!" he replied.
"That's enough," Adria said.
"I'm also a third human," he added, "Which is plenty enough for anyone."
Adria stood there, trying to figure out what to do. She still didn't know where Zada's keep was. And though it sounded like this demon thing knew where it might be, asking a demon thing for help seemed like a good way to get bad directions. "You said you want to kill Zada?" Adria asked.
"Want to? No. Have to? Yes, probably. She has something of mine I want back."
"My father's bones."
"You've hit the nail on the head."
"She has something I want back as well," Adria sighed. Though it was a bad idea, she couldn't work out a tangible difference between wandering in a random direction and asking for help from this third-demon-thing. "Can you help me to find her keep?"
"I could, but you see my dear, I don't trust you. You know what I am, but I don't know what you are."
Adria suddenly realized how close he had gotten to her. He didn't smell like a man – not the men she knew, all those friends of Father's who were too beholden to him to ever notice her, sweaty and gritty in the work of the earth.
He smelled like a clean room, and also leather, polished wood, fine wine, and paper. Adria did love the smell of paper.
Suddenly he interrupted her thoughts, "You smell human; though you would have to be a great one to bathe every day. But there's also..." he leaned in to inhale deeply. –A moment before he jumped back. It startled Adria how far he had suddenly jumped.
"Fairy!" he accused, pointing. "You smell of fairies!"
"I am human. The fairies... merely let me borrow some power," she lied.
"In return for what?" he asked, curious. The vampire had been previously unaware that fairy magic could be bought, sold, or borrowed.
"That's not your concern. I just ask if you can direct me to Zada. My aim is to kill her. If you can't help me, then leave me now."
He stared at her calculatingly. Her story sounded false, but smelled true. He did want his father's bones back, and wasn't looking forward to the prospect of facing Zada for them. Perhaps this woman would make good fodder.
He licked his lips. "My name is Quo," he said, bowing.
"I am Adria."
"I'll take you to Zada's keep myself."
"Thank you," Adria said, wondering if she was about to go on a wild goose chase with a vampire.
Suddenly he was by her side, and she gasped upon realizing her arm was in his. He pulled her clockwise about 130 degrees, then marched her along with him. They were going south. "You know it'll take two days," he said. "That's plenty of time to get to know each other, don't you think? Tell me, Adria, are you married?"
"No," she practically stammered.
He smiled at her, then looked ahead. "That's good. I don't want any angry husbands coming around after we spend the night together."
"Well, it takes two days, Adria. I just said that. You seemed to accept that. Are you not aware that one often finds nights sandwiched between days?"
"Well of course, but you know how you put it."
"You seem a little old not to be married."
"Thanks," Adria replied.
He laughed. "I wasn't being offensive," Quo began.
"Oh?" Adria inserted.
"Come on," he said, "Just having a sense of basic hygiene makes you the most beautiful human I've ever seen, and then on top of that," he drew his fingers through her hair, "You have fine features, delicate, well-tooled – like the first real humans. None of that brutish nature from the soulless or those evolved apes they all mated with. Look at that." Quo dipped the tip of his finger against the little indentation above her upper lip. "He took care when He made you."