An Act of Desperation
Month of Love 2018: Black

Caedra had escaped a life of servitude and made her way across the world on her own against all odds. But now she found herself in a foreign country, penniless and desperate, and the desire for revenge burned in her blood.

She had stolen a book when she ran. Maybe she could use it.

Arcanum
Month of Love 2018: Blue

Caedra studied the demon’s teachings intently, growing steadily addicted to the power he provided, and for two years she butchered souls in his name. She targeted the weak and the hopeless, the ones who wouldn’t be missed.

Killing was cathartic, an exercise she truly enjoyed almost as much as the attention he began to give her on his rare visits to her world. The only thing that got her to set down her blade, for a time, was the discovery that she was carrying his child. She dedicated the next several months to studying, preparing for the day she would return to the streets of Hafeld to test out her new skills.

The demon Amamot fascinated Caedra. Yes, he could be brutish and terrifying, but also elegant and, most oddly, doting. The people of Tochar, from where she had fled, gave sacrifices to spare them from his rage and cruelty. She curled against him, listening to his heartbeat.

He was ancient, brilliant, creative, and most of all, patient. And while she learned everything he was willing to teach, she also began to see him not as a monster but as the complex man he was. And yet the Abyss itself ran through him, driving him to bring entire worlds to ruin, to reduce the multiverse to ash so that the Abyss might swallow it all up once again. She knew this, and loved him anyway.

The world she knew was already full of hate and pain and suffering. She welcomed the opportunity to undo it all.

The Black Night
Month of Love 2018: Red

Finally, after years of training, it was time to enact the plan the great demon had been working on – the plan Caedra was instrumental in. Her son was old enough now to be left alone for a few hours, and so she gathered her things and kissed him as he slept peacefully.

And then she slipped out into the night, carefully covering any trace of her presence with the powers granted by the creature she still loved – though it had been some time since had shown any interest in her beyond her training.

Tonight, she was certain that would change. Tonight, she would cull the unwanted from the streets, and summon more of those otherworldly creatures into the city. She, who had escaped her former life and made it across the world, and who had brought the one demon the gods so badly wanted to keep these cities safe from. Tonight, they would announce their presence to the stars, and the gods would weep.

Dawn tinted Hafeld’s streets with pink and gold, and people woke to discover the massacre they had slept through. Guards had sectioned off entire districts where vile circles of blood and runes had given rise to creatures of pure evil. They hunted down the last of these demons and sent it back to the pit it had crawled from, and so the crimson streets were tainted with a rich black. Only one witness spoke of something they were sure was not a demon, but nobody matching the description was ever located.

Caedra only dropped the last of her disguises once she was safe in her apartment. She cleaned herself off, and then cradled her confused toddler close. Hopefully, he would never have to know the horrors his mother had committed.

On the street below, a woman with silver eyes followed footprints that ended abruptly, questioned people who had only seen darkness, and failed to find anyone with a matching weapon. Eighteen dead, twelve more injured, and all she ever found were questions.

Like the Dawn
Month of Love 2018: Yellow

The midwife was probably the only person Caedra ever regretted killing. She had done it out of desperation, for the woman had screamed when she delivered the baby and saw what he was, and tried to suffocate him.

Even Caedra was shocked by his pitch-black eyes, the down-tipped tail, and those fragile little wings. And fear began to sink in – fear for her beautiful son, who knew neither his mother’s faults nor his father’s ancient evil. She was determined to provide him a life as far from those things as she could – and sadly a normal life would mean putting what little she knew of herbal medicines to use, to stunt the growth of his horns and remove his wings and tail before he was old enough to remember the pain.

Virion grew quickly. His intelligence stunned her, and in addition to raising him to be good and kind, she made sure he was educated. At home, they read together, and she taught him reading and writing, both in her native tongue and the local one they simply called ‘Common’. On Solsdays, she would walk him to school to learn with the other children at the nearby temple.

He had behavioral problems, they said. Fits of rage. Uncontrollable impulses to hurt the others. She never could tell if that was true or a manifestation of the prejudice of this place – for the tieflings, which he was not, but whom he quite looked like – were already regarded as inferior and evil.

His father never did meet the boy. His interest in her had already faded by the time she carried out their massacre. But the Abyss had never fully left her, and as she gave everything to raise her son, it steadily sapped her energy and poisoned her blood. She grew gaunt, and weak, as her son grew tall and strong with each passing day.

Caedra was hardly surprised when Virion’s childlike delight at watching a blacksmith work his forge turned into a true aspiration, as the boy grew into a teen. All that heat and metal and pure strength was a clear echo of his father’s nature, and Virion took to it like a fish to water, not knowing his own heritage. It was bittersweet for her, as she watched his skills develop, and finally there came a day when she decided it would be best if he knew the truth.

She sat him down in the comfortable little library she had assembled from books collected over the years, a warm, sunny place in a home bought with blood-soaked gold, and for the first time she told him her story.

All Things Come to Join the Flood
Month of Love 2018: White

It was a cold winter evening when Virion returned from work to find his mother unmoving. Caedra had been in bed for a few days, hardly able to stand on her own, feverish with horrors and hallucinations, and the boy, only eighteen, had been torn between helping her in what were likely to be her final moments, and burying himself in his apprenticeship with the smith to escape. He loved his mother dearly, but there was nothing he could do for her, and they both knew it.

Virion had his mother cremated, in the hopes that whatever pure evil still dwelled within her body could somehow be controlled by doing so, and at dawn he collected the urn full of ashes and walked up the coastline. She had never made it back to Abachar, wherever it was, but he knew she had mentioned crossing a great sea as a child, and he poured her ashes into the water, hoping they would somehow find her a way home at last. The urn, and that strange necklace she had always worn, which he now knew was a token from his father, were placed on the shoreline beneath a tree she had loved – and as one final, desperate attempt, Virion prayed to Essam in hopes that her soul would soon find its rest among the gods, in their beautiful celestial realm, far from his father’s darkness.

In the following months, the tree withered and died.

Month of Love 2018: Caedra's Story

Every February, the Month of Love organizers put together a list of prompts, one per week, for artists to complete.

In 2018, I illustrated the life of a fictional character known as Caedra Allal Nisariel – a villain from the world of The Arneth Hub, whose involvement with a demon plunged a city into darkness.