This is a work of short fiction by Alanea Alder- it is unedited and under copyright 2019
Aziah stretched his long body and inhaled deeply. Looking up to the sky from his nest he saw that the sun was just cresting over the Peaks that bordered the human territory.
It was too early to hunt those that would be scurrying around at dusk and too late to go after those that woke with the sun. He sighed. Looks like he was having fish for breakfast… again.
He extended his wings and lept from his high aerie perch where he had chosen to make his home. The unforgiving sun-baked earth radiated heat back up at him warming his underbelly. He enjoyed the warmth on his fur, but knew that landing would burn all four of his paws. He smiled to himself. He had made that mistake once before, back when he had been a cub. In the many centuries that had passed since then, he made sure never to make that painful mistake again, once had been more than enough to drill that lesson home.
After a leisurely flight he was soon at the edge of the Moon Forest, where most of the inhabitants came out under the light of the moon to play, hunt and kill. He landed, making no sound, and walked toward the river. Unlike the lumbering bear swatting at fish downstream, he simply used a bit of magic to hold the fish still and ate them where they swam, turning the entire riverbed into his glistening plate.
Once he was done, he made his way back to his nest. Yawning he curled up and enjoyed the afternoon sun on his fur. Tonight he would go after bigger game, after all, a few dozen fish could hardly appease his appetite.
Kael licked his dry lips and eyed his waterskin longingly. He sighed. He had been raised in the lower city of the human kingdom of Aerion. He knew better than to squander his water. He would have to ration it accordingly if he was going to have enough for the trek home. It had taken him a week longer than he had projected to get this far, so his water supply was doubly precious in this unforgiving desert.
He looked up at the ragged, sharp rocks that climbed to the heavens. Legend had it that one of the last remaining Sky Kings made his home in these razor sharp craigs. Majestic, winged lions that ruled over the earth and sky. If the Sky King couldn’t save them, nothing could. Using the gloves he had made from spare pieces of cloth and leather he began his climb. His family’s salvation depended on his success.
Aziah’s ear twitched. He growled low in his throat. There was that sound again. He must be losing it. The isolation had finally cracked his mind and he was now hearing things, because he could had sworn he heard the sounds a human made whilst they were in pain, near his nest.
“Merdai!” a male voice cursed.
Aziah blinked. That had most definitely been a human’s voice he heard. Was one insane enough to climb his aerie? He felt his whiskers twitch as he smiled, a foreign gesture to him. It would take a miracle for him to reach the top, let him try.
The moon was high. Normally he’d be hunting by now, but his curious nature had been piqued. He had yet to hear the scream of the human as it fell to his death, and from what he could tell, he was actually close to the ledge that led to his home.
He found himself rooted in place to see if the crazy creature could actually finish his climb. Then he would eat him as an appetizer and go hunting.
His eyes zeroed in on four pale fingers as they crested the edge, clutching the very rock. It took a few moments but soon the human had pulled himself over and now lay in the dust breathing heavily.
Should he eat him now? He tilted his head. It would be rude to kill him when he could barely breathe. He might even let him enjoy the view for a moment, then eat him. He felt proud of his generous nature.
The human rolled over onto his side and pushed himself up onto his knees. When the small creature looked up and saw that Aziah was watching him his thin human skin lost all color and he bent forward placing his hands together above his head on the ground.
“Please, mighty King! Please, listen to the pitiful request of this unworthy one.”
Aziah blinked. King? It was been a few centuries since he last interacted with humans, had his reputation grew that much?
“I am feeling generous tonight. Your pathetic efforts to reach my home provided me with entertainment. Speak your piece, then I will eat you.”
“Thank you!” the male exclaimed, causing dust to billow away from his bowed head.
“Sit up so that I can see your face as you speak. Know that any form of deceit will secure yourself a painful death, not the merciful one I have planned for you.”
“Of course. Thank you!”
Aziah looked into the unusually deep blue eyes of the creature before him and realized two things. Firstly, this human was a youngling, he hadn’t even reached manhood yet. Secondly, the youngling’s eyes shined with a pure light one didn’t see in this world often, his heart was true.
“Speak,” he ordered.
“Great King, I have come to beg for your help.”
“My help? How exactly?” Aziah was sure that this child would ask for gold, they always did.
“The kingdom where I am from Aerion, the people are suffering greatly.”
“Why come here? Why not go to your own king?”
The boy grimaced. “It is the king himself causing most of the suffering.”
Aziah sat back. “What would you have me do, swoop in and eat him?”
The boy shook his head. “You could be our king.”
Aziah blinked. “What makes you think humans would listen to anything I have to say?”
“B-b-but sir, you are a Sky King, no one save the gods can gainsay you.”
Say what? Aziah stared into the youngling’s eyes, the child was not lying. His mind flew to the last human he had known before today. “Liall, what tales have you told?” he muttered under his breath.
“Liall? Our King and Father?” the boy whispered reverently.
The boy nodded. “King Liall slaughtered the dark ones and lifted Aerion into a Golden Age of peace. We all pray to him to watch over us,” he explained.
Aziah burst into laughter. “That womanizing, irresponsible soldier? I had to practically drag him, by the collar mind you, to attend public works meetings with the nobles. You all pray to him?” His laughter echoed all around him.
The boy’s body shook. “You knew our King?”
Aziah shook his head. “I knew a reckless, fearless man who had more heart than brains and even more lust than sense. He hated the way the common people were being treated and nearly caused a revolution.”
“He was a war hero,” the boy refuted.
Aziah nodded a bit. “I will agree to that statement, but youngling, he sort of started that war.”
“He saved a lot of people,” the boy whispered.
“That he did. That he did, indeed. The changes he made allowed humans to co-exist with the divine and magical beings in this world.”
“King Savon has put bounties on the heads of magical beings. He encourages his nobles to hunt them down, saying that humans should rule this world, not beasts,” the boy said in the barest of whispers.
Aziah felt ice fill his veins. How long had this insanity been going on right under his nose? He looked out at the Peaks in the distance. Aerion bordered his territory, if he didn’t nip this in the bud there’s no telling what the giants or even the vampires would do in retaliation. His home would be a battleground for generations to come and he would get no rest.
He eyed the boy who swallowed hard under under his scrutiny. “Because you have brought this ridiculousness to my attention I won’t kill you tonight.”
“Thank you, sir!”
He turned and started walking back to his nest before pausing.
“What are you called?”
“Have you eaten Kael?”
Aziah sighed. He would have to feed the youngling so he wouldn’t expire on the cliff and stink up his home.
“Get on my back,” he ordered, walking over to the boy.
The boy began to shake so hard Aziah feared his bones would break.
“Sir, I could never.”
“Look Kael, I haven’t eaten tonight, and since I can’t eat you until you take me to your kingdom I need sustenance. From your response I take it you haven’t eaten either and I don’t want your dead body fouling my home, so get on my back so we can get something to eat.”
Aziah watched as the poor boy tripped…twice, before climbing onto his back.
“If you lose control of your bodily functions whist on my back I will toss you off and take my chances in Aerion alone, understood?”
Aziah smirked feeling devilish. He bounded toward the edge and lept off. Behind him he could hear the startled gasp of the boy before a whoop of excitement reverberated around the canyon. The boy clutched his mane tightly as they spun and dipped. He was having fun for the first time in decades.
Aziah took them to the river where he had ate breakfast and the boy darted forward quickly. He practically had his face in the water before Aziah pulled him back by the waist of his pants.
“That is a very good way to get your face eaten boy.”
Kael blushed. “Sorry sir, I was just very thirsty.”
Aziah felt a bit of shame. Of course he was thirsty, only the gods knew how long the boy had been in the desert prior to the rigorous climb.
“Fill your waterskin and use that.”
Kael nodded and dunked his waterskin in the crystal clear waters of the river before lifting to his lips to gulp greedily. He filled it twice more before he sat back satisfied. He filled it for a fourth time and slung it over his shoulder.
“Thank you, sir.”
Aziah ignored him as he once again froze the fish in the water. “Come collect dinner.”
The boy scrambled forward and plucked four plump fish from the water. With little choice, Aziah once again had fish to satisfy his hunger. When he turned back to the bank his mouth practically dropped. The silly cub had built a fire and was roasting his fish, advertising to every creature in a five mile radius they were there. He shook his head, he had forgotten that humans liked to cook their food.
“Eat quickly,” he grumbled, taking a defensive position behind the youngling.
“Did you want some?” the boy asked.
Aziah felt something stir in his heart. This youngling had nothing, was in fact probably starving and here he was offering him his food.
“No, I ate my fill. You eat that so we can leave,” he ordered brusquely.
“Yes, sir.” The boy pulled one fish from the fire and blew on it before digging in.
It didn’t take him long to polish off his dinner. In the end, Aziah only had to warn off two other creatures before they returned to his nest.
When the boy hopped off on their return Aziah noticed that he had begun to shiver. “Don’t you have any outer clothing?”
The boy shook his head. “We’re a couple months away from the cold season. I didn’t know that it would be cold in a desert.”
“Didn’t know…” Aziah took a deep breath. “Cub, who sent you out here with no food, little water, no clothing and no idea what in the hell you were doing?”
“I’m not a cub, I’m almost a man,” the boy refuted softly.
“How many summers have you had?”
“Fifteen,” he answered.
Aziah had to admit, humans didn’t live that long, so that may actually be grown for him. He settled his wings against his body. “It’s colder because we’re higher up.” He sighed. “You might as well come into the nest, you’ll freeze otherwise. This way, if I am hungry in the morning, you won’t be far away to be my breakfast.”
The boy gulped. “Thank you, sir.” He walked beside him as they entered the large cavern that was his home.
“No making noise and if you have to release waste hang your ass over the side of the cliff, don’t muck up my home.”
The boy grinned up at him. “Really!” he asked excitedly.
“Don’t fall over.”
The boy snort-laughed then made a small bed on the stone floor with his meager cloak. Aziah waited until the boy nodded off before curling around his small body. “Stupid, no fur cub,” he grumbled. “It was getting too quiet around here anyway.” He closed his eyes. “You better be worth it cub,” he muttered to himself before he too fell asleep.
“Cub! Tell me about those bounties again,” he demanded, as they walked through the forest the next day in search of breakfast. So far the cub and proven resourceful and had been able to kill three rabbits with his slingshot.
“King Savon has convinced the nobles that humans were made in the image of the gods and that beasts should not have dominion over us.”
“Most non-humans have left the kingdom, taking their families and businesses with them,” Kael explained.
Aziah eyed the cub. “Why you? Why did you come to search me out? Why not a ranger or a warrior?”
“An adult,” he thought to himself.
The boy shrugged. “No one would come.”
Aziah stopped in the path. “What made you come? What gave you the strength and courage to climb my spire?
The boy’s eyes hardened. “He wants to take my sister as a concubine because she’s a half wolf-shifter. He made the announcement a month before her fourteenth birthday.”
“By the gods,” Aziah whispered. He did mental calculations. “How much time do we have?”
Kael’s eyes widened. “You’ll help sir? You’ll be our new king?”
Aziah laughed. “Of course I won’t be your king! You couldn’t pay me enough to deal with humans day in and day out. No. I will not be king.”
“B-b-but..” Kael stuttered.
Aziah head butted the boy to the ground playfully. “We’re not Sky Kings youngling. Your legends are wrong.”
Kael’s eyes filled with despair. “Then what can I do?”
Aziah walked past him. “You’re going to do what that reckless drunken, flirt did so many years ago, you will start a revolution.”
“What!” he screeched.
Aziah chuckled. “We’re not Sky Kings, Kael. We’re King Makers and I have decided to make you king of Aerion.”
He heard a loud thump behind him. He turned back and nodded. “Yes, Liall had the same reaction when I told him too.”