“It is the sacred function of all fiends to fuel chaos wherever they fly,” my mother had told me since I was a fledgling too fragile to leave the nest.
It was a lesson imparted to me with such fervor that on the day when I finally spread my skeletal wings and soared from the only home I’d ever known at the summit of the decaying bell tower, my purpose was as much a part of me as my leathery black skin. For two years, my only companion besides my mother had been the dusty broken bell she had nested beneath. The cracked and crumbling ruins it crowned had been abandoned for decades by the citizens of this country. I don’t know why they departed, but I prided myself on presuming it probably had something to do with us living there.
I gazed down at the meandering dirt road dotted with small villages and domiciles, enjoying the cool breeze on my wings and planning my next move. My mother had made sure I was well informed of the dangers awaiting me. There were many fantastic creatures in this land, benevolent, malevolent, or both. Mostly they were moody. The same nymph who elected to lead a lost wanderer out of the forest might lure the next to their death, and no one really knew why. I suspected they were bored and having no real purpose in life besides living, made their choices based on how they felt that day. I, being a fiend however, had a clear calling and one I intended to commit to. Humans who suffered from misplaced items, unlucky accidents, and the nagging sensation that objects were never quite where they left them, had all tasted the toils of the fiends.
Chaos is a delicate craft and one I was eager to study, but overconfidence can cause unwanted ramifications. I had learned that lesson the hard way the first time I had thrown myself headlong out of the nest, expecting my small undeveloped wings to carry me to safety. It was only my mother’s claw around my ankle that kept me from cracking my head open, and I had consequently learned to be more careful. Being still a novice, I decided to start small, and I was soon provided the perfect opportunity when I perceived a figure pacing its way along the path below me.
As I drew closer on fluttering wings, I could see a peasant trudging down the road, hauling a creaking wooden cart through the deep ruts. I rubbed my thin bony hands together excitedly, envisioning the havoc to be inflicted. His cart was piled high with leafy and colorful produce, and I concluded he was destined for the nearby village to sell his goods.
Confident that he was occupied with his labors, I perched on the center of one of the wheels for a closer examination. It was attached with a bolt of wood shoved through a hole in the axle, and I began willfully working at it, finally wrenching it free. The cart wavered wildly as he tried to catch it, then the wheel-less side slammed to the ground, sending a flood of crops onto the dirt road. It was followed by a profuse outpouring of curses, and I darted into a nearby bush to enjoy the ensuing upheaval.
He first tried to rescue his soiled produce, but no sooner had he set one item back onto the tilted cart and turned to retrieve another, I shoved not one but two more back into the dust until the number on the ground was greater than before he’d begun. Giving up on this endeavor with a grumble, he left them in a small pile and trudged into the trees. In search of what I didn’t know, but I intended to make his efforts even more arduous. He put himself to freeing a large stick from a tangle of vines, and I set to work ensuring that as soon as one was loosened, another had attached itself. It was finally wrested free along with frequent fuming and spitting, and my target trudged back to the road.
The stick was used to prop up the cart while he turned his attention to reattaching the offending wheel. It was an ingenious invention, but I was rather irritated. I had anticipated a momentary respite, watching him struggle to lift the cart and shove the wheel back into place. Instead, while he turned his attention to reassembling his rig, I took to relocating the bolt. This resulted in an furious and frantic search until he finally found it where he presumed it had rolled, on the other side of the road inside a rather thick tuft of grass.
Once it had been pushed back in place, his produce returned to its proper pile, and he proceeded down the road, I began to devise my plan for the second and yet un-effected wheel. I was about to set to work on it when the sound of hooves joined the rumble of the wheels, and I darted into the tree cover. Fiends are creatures that function in the shadows, unobserved. Human sight leads to human anger which leads to the real horror: human touch. We are rendered powerless by human handling, transformed into little more than ugly sprites with no sense of surreptitiousness or sinister scheming. Dare I say it, we become sympathetic. Some, as my mother told me, had even been reduced to serving humans as some sort of companion. I shuddered at the thought and quickly concealed myself.
The farmer was joined by a hunter leading a large plow horse laden with hunks of meat. The travelers fell in step, one chattering cheerily while the other grunted in response, burdened by his heavy haul. I followed them, hiding in the tree covering, considering my next move. Perhaps his horse could lose a shoe or the strap on the saddle might snap. The possibilities where endlessly exciting!
My thoughts were disrupted by a loud squeak coming from deeper inside the nearby forest, and I perched on a branch to listen. It echoed through the trees again. Humans were much as my mother had described: large, lumbering, lumps, with their languid language, but I was eager to see the other inhabitants of this land with my own eyes. I was momentarily satisfied with the success of my morning endeavors and also aware that the village would soon be approaching. More human eyes meant more chance of being caught, and I couldn’t deny my own curiosity, so I spread my bony wings and plunged further into the tree cover, chasing that mysterious sound.
Part 2 of 4 will be released next Friday.