Author's Note: This was a story that may or may not become a prologue for a longer reincarnation story. I am aware it needs fluffing out for some of the sections, but it was something that demanded writing. It was written with Princess Alexandria's music challenge, thus the Evanscence song quotes.
"Hello, I'm your mind, giving you someone to talk to. Hello."
Demona roared as she split the stone that encased her, spreading her wings and flinging off the last shards attached to her. Folding her wings, she flicked a piece off her shoulder, before she realized she wasn't alone. With a snarl, she reached to maim the human, but her hand encountered an impassible breath of air.
"I would not try that if I were you." The human said softly, before the candles before her died, snuffed out by nothing. "Breaking a circle is bad luck." The girl sheathed her athame, and gently blew the bloodied petals off her hand. "May the goddess bless my village with bountiful harvest and strong herds." The petals drifted for a moment before being caught up in a breeze. The human breathed deeply, rising, and broke the thin circle of salt. "I beg your forgiveness for using your place of rest as an altar, but I know the villagers will not disturb me here."
"You are unforgiven." Demona growled, talons snaking out to grip a slim neck.
"May I earn your forgiveness?"
"How can a human earn my forgiveness?" Pinpricks of blood welled up at the tips of her talons.
"I have a safer place for you to rest. Crypts are only safe for so long." Demona released the human, who didn't even raise a hand to her neck. She smiled, gave a respectful bow and turned. "Follow me." She murmured, bending to pick up a wooden mortar and pestle. Her athame was already at the small of her back.
"Know how to use that, Human?" Demona muttered. The human glanced at her over her shoulder, her eyes far too knowing for Demona's comfort.
"Athame's are not used as a weapon. You would find the blade you are staring at rather dull." The human pulled a second, smaller sheath from her hip and turned to extend it to the gargoyle. "That is my common knife." She pushed open the gate to the graveyard and stepped out onto the path. Demona followed, testing the blade against her thumb. The utter calm bothered her. The human's only protection was held in her hand, and it was a common peasants knife.
"Why are you not scared of me?"
"The Christians who preach nearby say, 'Do unto others as they would unto you.'" The female turned off the main path to the village to a smaller path, something that was barely more than a deer track.
"What is your name, Human? What makes you separate from the Christians you quote?" Demona tested the balance of the blade, not surprised when the hilt was far heavier than the actual blade.
"Would you give me yours in return?" The human moved surprisingly well through a near black forest, at home enough to step over the rocks and roots on the path.
"Humans in the past have called me Demona." The gargoyle retorted, ducking under a branch. She admired the fact that the human was having less problems navigating than she did.
"I am known as Zhi. Juno, at ease!" Demona frowned at the last, until they rounded a sharp bend in the trail and she saw a large wolf hound sitting near the trails end. "Juno will not hurt you." Zhi absently petted the dog that came up to her chin. Demona warily trod around the dog, aware that the eyes were far to bright for it to just be a dog.
The small cabin was built into a rise of the land, and built mostly out of rounded cobblestones. The roofing was thatch, although it looked to be layered over wooden slates. There looked to be shutters on the two sides not built into the hill. A small spring trickled up from the ground.
"Rather well built for a peasant."
"The village helped me with this. They come to me for help, and they helped me in return." The human opened the door and stepped in, no sign of a lock or any other protective measure aside from the wolf hound. Demona was about to step closer when she noticed the carvings etched into the door frame. They were barely visible, with ash smeared into their folds. Demona turned her eyes to the windows, and etched into them were the same symbols.
"Have you put it together yet?" Demona returned her gaze to Zhi.
"You are a witch." That had been obvious in the graveyard.
"I am not strictly a white white." Juno chose that moment to amble up to his mistress, turning to sit just before her. "But I am not black. I do not harm others."
"The blood?" Most spells that Demona had heard of involving blood were black and usually harmful. The bloodied petals fell before her eyes in her mind.
"Offering of the self. Willingly given. It's borderline." Something seemed to fade from Zhi and she smiled once again. "Come, my cold cellar will work well to protect you." Demona stepped in, placing the blade on a rough table within. There was a bed to one side, and a deep bellied cauldron over a blackened logs on the other. The door was near the fire pit. Zhi had already gone through another. Demona followed warily.
It was mostly empty, except for herbs on racks and a small set of shelves with clay jars on it. "No one comes in here but me." Zhi murmured. "It would be safe as long as you choose it to be."
"Why are you not screaming?" She turned to see that smile, the one that continued to set the gargoyle on edge.
"Your name marks you as a monster. But there are greater ones out there, and those are the ones I put choose to place my fear in." Demona frowned. "My family, before we came here, knew of a clan. It has been in our stories for generations." That made far more sense. "You can hunt to the north and west. The village is to the southeast." Zhi bowed once again. "You are free to come or go as you please."
Demona followed her out into the main cabin, before moving beyond it. Juno woofed at her, nipping at her talons as she passed, but she ignored the familiar as she slipped up the hill and into the forest. Glancing at the sky, she guessed she'd get several hours of travel in the night that was left.
You won't cry for my absence, I know/ you forgot me long ago
It had been years since she'd been in this area of the continent. Close to seven, if her memory served correctly. The thermals were strong, considering it was night, but the summer was hot. Demona spiraled downward, spotting the graveyard that she sought. It wasn't long before she was hunting for the small deer trail. She nearly missed it, it had been beaten into a regular footpath. Glancing about, she slipped down it, comparing what she remembered to what she saw.
The snarl felt out of place. Glancing to where the path bent ahead, golden eyes moved out of the brush, its hackles raised and its teeth gleaming in what little light there was.
"Juno, at ease." Demona knew her command hadn't be successful when the wolfhound started snarling louder, making small snapping motions with his head.
"What have you found Juno?" Juno barked to the voice, once that had deepened a bit with time. "Identify yourself." The voice had grown closer.
"Demona." The gargoyle said, sighing.
"Juno, on guard." The hound stopped growling but continued to glare at Demona. A head poked out from around a tree. "It is you." She tapped Juno's shoulder and they both disappeared back up the path they came. Demona followed.
It was almost the same as she remembered. The carvings were more carefully picked out, several stumps were put around the area, and the stream had cut deeper into the ground.
"You remember me?"
"If there are clans here, they hide from humanity. You are the only gargoyle I know." Zhi was sitting outside, a small fire lit for light. She had a knife in her hand, and was smoothing out a section of a staff.
"Is the offer for sanctuary still open?" Macbeth was out to shatter her again.
"Of course." Zhi didn't even pause.
"Will Juno attacked me if I go hunting?" The wolf hound had come up to sniff her tail.
"He's too smart for that. Juno? Come hold this please." Juno let out a woof of air before lumbering to her side, bracing one end into the ground. "Go on. Try to be back for dawn." Demona glanced at the fire before moving back into the forest, this time climbing up into the canopy to hopefully, get a drop on her prey.
She returned well before dawn, two rabbits in her grip. She sat down on a low stump next to Zhi. "Would you teach me your magic?" She asked softly.
"Why do you want to learn?" She was tying feathers to the top of the staff now. Juno was pacing around the path.
"Can't hurt to know." Demona evaded, gutting the rabbit.
"Then no, I will not." The human didn't even bother looking at her.
"Why not?" Demona glared, her eyes burning.
"Because if you believe knowledge can't hurt, then clearly, your years have taught you nothing." Demona growled. "You want magic that flares and changes things, like shielding you from arrows, or calling lightning."
"Isn't that what magic does?"
"Some magic does, yes." Zhi looked at her, finally. Her gaze was sharp. "But mine is changing scales. Encouraging that arrow to stray from its path. Encouraging the earth to yield just a bit more. Promoting good health among those of the village." She picked up a small knife, carving grooves where her hand would rest. "In a pile of sand, a single grain does not seem to matter, but it can make a difference. My magic is long term."
"I have longer than you to affect."
"That matters?" Zhi muttered, returning her gaze to the wood and losing the sharp look. "Why do you want to learn?" There was a silence.
"To help my clan." Demona said softly.
"Do you? Even though they are not at your side?" Zhi set down the staff.
"I always wanted only the safety of my clan."
"Then let us see about tipping the scales, hmm?" Zhi smiled.
Witch: Away From Me
"I look into myself, but my own heart has been changed / I can't go on like this / I loathe all I've become"
"Remember, its about will. Think of what you want accomplished as you form the rune in the paint." Zhi erased the rune in the dirt and redrew it slowly, showing the slow formation of the four points. "It doesn't need to be perfect. Imbuing it with your intent will accomplish what it represents." Zhi placed her hand over Demona's, shifting the gargoyle's grip on the brush slightly. "I think this way will work better for you."
"It's not how you do it." Demona frowned, moving her grip back to the way she'd mimicked.
"My way suits the way I do things. You should experiment until you find a way you like better. Try it this way." Zhi changed the grip again and leaned back.
"This is not the way my former master taught me." Demona murmured as she curved the brush towards the third point, the curve far out of place compared to Zhi's perfectly formed symbol.
"Tell me about it." Zhi murmured.
"I was lucky, to find someone willing to take on a gargoyle, considering the restrictions on our stone sleep." Demona looked at her last shaky line and threw the thick bark into the flames. "I would do the things his aching bones didn't like to do, fetching things, bringing him things. Occasionally an animal for whatever experiment he was working on." Zhi handed another slab of bark. "There was just his way. If I didn't master something properly, he would call lightning to shock me into a better mind frame." Demona carefully formed the lines again. "Occasionally light a fire on me." A hand halted her progress. Demona looked into unreadable eyes.
"I will never cause you harm. Not magically, not physically." Demona's eyes dropped to the small scars on Zhi's neck, three on one side, one on the other. A hand raised her chin, forcing her to meet Zhi's gaze. "The past can only harm the present if we allow it to." She murmured before letting go of the chin. Demona let her gaze fall, her hair falling to hide her face.
"Did I do it right?" Demona said, looking up at Zhi, who stood outside the salt strewn circle, weeks after teaching the protection rune.
Zhi reached a hand forward, her hand stopping a foot away from her body. "Yes you did. If I try, I would be able to push through, but it is strong for your first circle." Zhi smiled. "Well done." She did as she said she could, leaning through the circle to press her lips against a smooth brow. "Patience and time will make you a master."
Demona paced along the cabin's length, unable to stay still long enough to grind the herbs Zhi asked her to.
"Am I wrong Zhi?" Demona growled softly. "Is it wrong to protect the ones you love?"
"What are you asking?" Zhi was rubbing some foul smelling paste onto a horse's fetlock, left in Zhi's care in hopes to speed its recovery.
"In an attempt to protect my clan, they got hurt. Was it wrong of me?" Demona murmured. She felt her guilt. Her months with Zhi forced herself to confront what she did not want to face. It was hard not to, when Zhi usually answered questions with more questions, most of which made her head hurt if she thought too hard on them.
"Mayhap. It was not wrong that you tried to protect them. But were they willing in your protection? That is where you determine your truth." Demona turned away. "But then, those I protect don't realize all I do. All answers depend on the information you have. Mayhap they wronged you by getting hurt in your protection."
"You are a confusing human."
"Mmm. My closest confidants, a night dweller and an old familiar." Juno lifted his head and put it against her thigh, leaving a trail of drool. "That wasn't a cue to make yourself a pain you know." Demona hide a smile behind talons. The familiar's face dictated otherwise.
She bent down and scratched the familiar's head, who left a sloppy streak of slobber on her wrist for her effort. "You're not horrible, for a human." Zhi smiled.
"I will take it with the intent it was meant." she murmured.
"My clan would have liked you."
Even in Death
"Even in death love goes on."
"You should flee!" Zhi hissed as soon as she closed the door behind her. "It is not safe here anymore!" Zhi closed the shutters and Juno gave a whine.
"What happened?" She hadn't been gone as long as last time. Only a few months had gone by compared to the year the time before that.
"There were trials nearby." Juno whined again, his golden eyes as mystified as she knew her own were.
"I've been in the mountains for a while. What trials?" Demona forced Zhi to sit down and pressed a cup of cold tea into her hand.
"Witch trials." Zhi looked up at Demona, fear in her eyes. "The latest was only a few days by horseback."
"I doubt it will come here. There aren't any magistrates nearby."
"Crops failed last year! And the rain is drowning the seedlings this spring." Zhi snapped. "One of the women miscarried and another had a stillborn. There is a wandering magistrate who is due by in a few days." Demona could hear the desperation and the fear in her voice. Juno flicked his head back and forth between the two.
Demona glanced at the skyline, already beginning to lighten with dawn. "Dawn is here. Zhi, I will protect you, best I can."
Zhi had a crooked smile. "I know you will. Try not to roar when you wake." Demona wanted to stay and reassure Zhi, but the sunlight and the possibility of visitors forced her into the back room. A ray of sunlight broke across the doorway and Demona felt her flesh stiffen into stone. She closed her eyes just as Zhi came to rest against the door frame.
She awoke, as always, to sound of cracking. She was about to roar when she remembered, and muffled the sound. Shaking off the the last shards, she slipped to the doorway, peaking out to see Zhi staring at her fire, Juno leaning against her leg. She was pale and drawn.
"Zhi?" Demona stepped closer to the human. She noted that Zhi had a firm grip in Juno's mane. The last time she'd seen that happen, a boy had died of blood loss before she had reached the injury site. "What happened?"
"I've been accused. Cursing the town. Cursing the women. Another miscarriage happened late yesterday. Cursing the crops I've been trying to boost so much." Zhi hugged Juno's sitting form.
"You'll have a trial, you'll be found innocent." Zhi shook her head.
"Magistrate isn't here. He's been delayed. Won't be here for another month. Village Elders are going to try me." Zhi didn't smile. She didn't sharpen her gaze, she didn't shove Juno around. She just stood there, dejected.
"They will not find you guilty." Zhi lifted bitter eyes to Demona's.
"They brought the charges to me. I'm going to burn. No lake or pond to test me. We don't have a gallows, cursed thing. I'm going to burn." She raised a hand and placed it on a blue shoulder. "You may have done wrong by your old clan, but you've always done right by me." The hand moved to grip red hair. "You hear me? You have done right by me." She rested her forehead against Demona's. "You can't protect me from this."
"We can run. Find a someplace new. In the mountains. No one will find us there." Even as she tried, she knew Zhi wouldn't come. Zhi had literally poured her blood and sweat into the village and its people. Had healed countless injuries, then lain in bed, unable to rise for days.
"I can't." Her grip on Juno tightened enough that he whined. "If I leave, no one will protect them."
"They want to kill you."
"You did too at one point." Zhi chided. She pulled the gargoyle into a hug. "Don't stay. Don't watch. Flee, please."
"No. I will save you."
"I'm not willing." Gripping the gargoyle hard, she repeated herself. "You are my family Demona. I want to know you'll live the life you were meant to. Protect that clan of yours." She pulled back. "Don't watch. Take Juno with you. He won't last long, but his spirit will come back to you."
"You know, don't you?"
"Don't watch." Zhi pressed her lips against Demona's jaw, lingering a moment, before darting out the door, grabbing her athame as she went.
Witch: Forgive Me
And you forgive me again / You're my one true friend / And I never meant to hurt you
She didn't struggle. Demona clenched the bark in her talons. She didn't even try to struggle as her townfolk condemned her and led her to the already waiting stake, where there was a surprisingly little amount of wood.
"Zhi Miller, ya stand accused of and tri'd of wi'chcraft. Ya have been found g'ilty, on all 'counts. Yur to burn ta death." The burly blacksmith quoted to her as he tied her, none too gently, to the rough stake. "May God damn your soul."
"So mote be it." Zhi said. She fell silent as the villagers pushed the path in the would closed. The Elders all had a touch, which, at a nod, they all shoved into the piles of wood. The smoke immediately began to rise.
Demona rakes her talons across the tree, wanting to swoop down and save her, but knowing that it would break Zhi. Knowing Zhi would never forgive her for sparing her this.
Zhi spotted her. Demona wasn't sure, but she swore she saw a quiver in Zhi's lips. She jerked back when Zhi let out an involuntary scream, the first of the flames flicking at her skin. Demona nearly glided to her then, wanting to tear her from the humans that didn't care.
Zhi stared at her, her eyes bright, whether with pain or tears, Demona didn't want to know. Her lips began to move, and Demona's gaze slipped down. She wasn't sure the words they formed, but knew, somehow, that they were important words. The flames took and began to burn higher. Another of Zhi's screams ripped through the air. After that final scream, she fell silent, biting through her lip to silence the scream.
All the while, Demona waited, hoping that Zhi would give her a look, a plead, to free her. All the while, Demona hated that Zhi never struggled and just allowed herself to die. The smell of burning flesh was growing thicker, but Zhi didn't scream. Her eyes left the gargoyles, and Demona saw the tear tracks. She watched the gaze lift upward, towards the symbol of her faith. Demona watched as Zhi dug her nails into the wood, her breath coming in shallow gasps. The flames reached higher, burning her torso and Zhi dropped her gaze back to Demona. Opening cracked lips, she said, just barely loud enough to be heard.
Demona's eyes burned. Her talons raked across the bark as Zhi turned her head away. A long few minutes more, and Zhi's head fell to rest on her chest, her arms the only thing still holding her to the stake.
"Serves the devil worshiper right." One of the townsmen muttered as he turned away from the dead body. "Consorting with demons. To think, she used to be alright."
"Demon should go back now that she's dead."
Demona hated them all. Zhi for choosing death and humans for forcing the choice on her. She turned away from the burning body and leapt into the forest. Ashes filtered into the sky, and Demona murmured, almost to herself. "All is one with the wind."
'Now I'm bound by the life you left behind / Your face it haunts/ My once pleasant dreams / Your voice it chased away / all the sanity in me'
Demona flung herself from the bed, stumbling from the bed. Talons pressed against a cool wall and she rested her unadorned brow against the wall. The idea of nightmares disturbed her, and they were a frequent disruptor of her sleep. She snarled at the memories they revived now. She hated Zhi. Hated she'd been betrayed by a human she thought she could trust.
A whine caused her to look down, a small ball of fur looking up at her with gold eyes. The floppy ears butted her spur, and gnawed on it hopefully. She bent and picked up the small retriever, barely two months old. It licked her face happily.
"You miss her too, don't you Juno?" She mumbled to the puppy as she slipped out of her bedroom into the reality of her life.