The Crossroads of the Aether
Demons. High Society has painted a picture of this people as a savage beast, only fit for the driest hell-fire. You can often find the propaganda on fliers posted around the city shaming their culture, their beauty. The uneducated lower class eats this intentional racism up like a fresh meat pie, treating those demons who wander into the slums even worse than the inhabitants of their own slimy boroughs. I’m not sure if the city has always shared this view of these majestic people, but I sure was not raised to miss a business opportunity with anyone, regardless of race.
I was raised outside of the great Gearford’s borders. My family travelled most of the time, we were wanderers and the desert was our home. In a length of time we became uncomfortable with the area we lived in, or the inhabitants were uncomfortable with us staying, and so we moved. I was part of a large family which travelled together with my cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents. We all moved together and we picked up work where ever we could find it. Most of the family worked with metal, fixing pots and sharpening knives, though a few of us were known to trade and deal with demons. Because of our involvement with the Vibranni, most people hated us. “The Vibranni where to be avoided at all costs” was the the ideal for majority of humans. If they were to be dealt with, they were subhuman and only deserved to be at the feet of our race. Our family knew better. There was big business to be had dealing with them as equals.
I was about the age where I could participate in trade and it was my first time trading with the demons themselves. During this time, the demons were fascinated with colored glass. They had always appreciated glass as they could store perishables from the hot desert sun. Colored glass was a new thing for them and they were obsessed with all differing hues that could be achieved with it. I hadn’t even reached puberty yet, but we had been trading with the red tribe for a long time (even before my parents could trade) and the Matriarch agreed that I could partake. She trusted me over the rest of my cousins, who were the same age. I never understood why.
I remember sitting in the large wagon for a long time while the elders greeted each other. I clasped two small amber bottles in my hands tightly. I was worried they might slip out of my hands because my palms were becoming so sweaty, just thinking about presenting my findings to the other race. I had traded some homemade dumplings to a poor boy in the city for them. He had said he had found them down an alley. I didn’t quite believe him. Children from the city tended to be filthy liars and terrible thieves. I sat in the wagon, thinking about the grubby boy’s face devouring my own lunch, trying to have faith that he was different than other children I had met. Soon I would be trading the bottles for something worth a lot more than what I had given the boy. I remember that I felt a tinge of guilt that I had intentionally swindled him out of a greater profit. I can’t remember what I had told myself to justify the actions, but the rest of our group began exiting the other wagons with their goods, so I got up, pushed the wagon door open, and hopped out, protecting the small bottles with every part of my being.
Trading always reminded me of slaughterhouses. There was something about the trade traditions of the Vibranni that never settled with me. It was logical to line up by importance, then age, and then by size. Maybe it was the humbleness of the demons, or maybe it was the cockiness of humans that made this an unpleasant experience for me. Back then, I had been partnered with a rather shy, particularly red-faced, little demon girl. She was not even a year older than I was, but it was obvious that she had reached an appropriate age. Her legs had been splinted, and she grimaced each step taken toward the line of my family. Being the outsider, I presented the two glass bottles first. I remember the redness draining from her little round face and watched her stumble over to the matriarch, face full of mixed pain and excitement. My heart must have skipped a beat when she approached me. My partner was replaced with the largest Vibranni I had ever seen standing. She towered over me at least a good 3 or 4 feet, her black eyes cast down to the small bottles I had tightly clutched in my hands. “Show, Solnishko.” Her voice was softer than I had expected. It may have been because she saw my nervousness, or considerate only for the baby in the sling on her chest. I opened my hands slowly, lifting them up for her to see the amber bottles. She stooped quickly to my level to examine the bottles closer. She lifted her gaze to mine and smiled.
I only remember the teeth of her grin. Somehow I managed to present a gift that was worthy of the death necklace I had received that day. I had never seen a badger skull before. The teeth were remarkably similar.