“I call’d the devil, and he came.
And with awe his from I scan’d:
He is not ugly, and is not lame.
But really a handsome and charming man.
A man in the prime of his life is the devil.
Obliging, a man of the world, and civil:
A diplomiatist too, well skill’d in debate.
He talks quite glibly of church and state.” – Heinrich Heine
“This way, come along.” Melek reached back to the young girl that followed just behind him. Her large, dark eyes looked up at him inquisitively even as she slipped her tiny hand into his much larger one. If there was any trepidation there on her part, she certainly did not show it. Fae creatures were delightfully alluring, even when they were so young. Or perhaps, he mused, it was especially when they were so young that he found their curiosity so wholly irresistible.
This one, however, had a whole future ahead of her. He resolved that he would groom her, and when the time was right, and much, much later, it would be her own daughter would assist in his greater purpose. But first things first.
“Tell me, do you like books, my dear?” he asked.
The Halfling child nodded her head. then offered in Sidhe, “I know how to read a little but there are not many books in Dunnlauden.”
“It’s very good that you can read,” he smiled, ignoring the child’s observation about her village. “Did your Maman teach you?”
The little girl nodded.
Of course, the Peacock Angel knew that Moya had done so. For a human, the girl’s mother had not only proven to be useful in her devotion, but in providing the Sidhe ranks with at least some new blood. Without a doubt, the child would not be entirely trusted among humans, and her mother would be branded a whore for the ridiculous sin of having consorted with demons. The absurd irony of it all both amused and annoyed him. But the child did not need to ally with superstitious humans that lived in a village anyway. He had already foreseen that it would be leveled in a few years time. By then she would be far, far away, the village nothing but a forgotten and distasteful memory. And with his help, this Halfling girl would take back the throne of her Sidhe ancestors. Following that, everything else would have fallen neatly into place, and Melek’s plans would begin their long, winding road to fruition.
The forest trail became a long corridor of columns comprised of gnarled trees that stretched far toward the horizon. Shelves and stacks of books of incredible luxury and filled with delights of every kind were found behind branches, along tree trunks, hedgerows and brambles. The Halfling child’s eyes grew even larger and more luminous as a covetous bloom lit her features.
Remembering herself, she looked up at Melek who smiled at her unasked question. “The forest, indeed the whole world is my realm – and yours. You see, we are family, you and I. Family should share, and I will share all of this with you.”
Her little hand gave his a slight squeeze. Immediately to her right, resting on a moss and lichen covered tree stump sat a very large green and blue leatherbound book. The binding was shot with gold arabesque designs and in the centre of the cover was painted the most beautiful peacock whose feathers glittered with green and blue stones.
“That one is yours alone,” he smiled down at her. “Do you like it?”
“For me?” she had barely dared to hope.
“Of course, my dear.”
She let go of his hand only long enough to step forward and ftouch the beautiful and ornate cover with gentle and reverent fingers. Clearly, she had never seen anything so beautiful as this book and very carefully she opened the cover to see a blank page staring back at her – then another and another. The entire book was blank.
“But there are no words,” she said with obvious disappointment.
Melek knelt down beside her and took both of her small hands in his. “That is because it is your book and you must write the words in it,” he said. “Will you do that for me when you learn to write and to draw? You must write down all that you see and learn and keep track of it.”
Unable to resist the instinct to reassure him, she extracted her tiny hands from Melek’s and embraced him, burying her face into his neck, her soft, warm breaths warming the depths of what might have been his heart. It had not been the daughters of mere mortal men who tempted the Fallen Ones. No. The Sidhe women, the pure essence of what wildness and Nature truly are in ways that no human woman could ever be. This little one would serve his purposes beautifully and she would do it willingly besides.
And somewhere in the distance, the voice of the girl’s mother called into the dark palace of the woods.