He roamed through the cave, listening to the sounds around him. Water dripped into an underground pool further down, the drops spaced several seconds apart and the splash echoing off the rocks. Sand and pebbles crunched under his feet, and wind whistled across the cave opening, all of it familiar. He’d walked that cave a million times for a million different reasons. His domain—where he drew his strength—also became his weakness at times, for the cave was alive.
His name, Alanya, meant The Destroyer. He wandered the ages, seeking to slaughter people with special gifts.
He fed on them for their strength and power, each special power offering a distinctive flavor. Their cries resonated in the cave’s memory; their blood splattered in its walls and drenched the floors. If he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could still smell the coppery tang.
Outside, patches of golden moonlight speckled the ground beneath pine and alder, yew and birch. Strolling to the mouth of the cave, he looked at but didn’t see the forest. His mind seethed in his hatred for the brothers Zachariah and Matthew McCannon.
Their parents abandoned them ten years earlier when they were only seven and eight. Since then, Zack took it upon himself to care for his younger brother. Matthew’s powers caught Alanya’s attentions and, from Matthew’s infancy, the demon made one attempt after another to steal them. But always—always—Zack stood in the way.
The thought of a mere boy defeating him sent Alanya’s jaws cracking. A fury flooded him, so fierce he couldn’t breathe, so fierce the claws on his clenched fists drew blood from his palms.
Alanya roared, the walls of the cave shaking with the sound, and his chest heaving. Moonlight reflected off his blood red scales, so dark they almost looked black. In his fury, outstretched dragon wings brushed the cave walls and the long tail, spiked at the end, drove a hole into the floor.
Lowering his bald head, human in shape except for horns twisting on either side, he scanned the forest, yellow eyes glittering at his new plan.
The demon decided to play brother against brother, slowly, so he could enjoy his feat and revel in their pain. He smiled at what he’d do to them before they died, licking his lips in anticipation at the thought of Matt’s powers becoming his. And, to treat himself, toward the end, he’d watch Matthew kill Zack, breaking the boy’s spirit and mind. Payback, he nodded; retribution for refusing to submit to his superior power, for daring to defy him.
Sucking in a deep breath, Alanya turned from the mouth of the cave to gaze around his domain, he walked into the shadows, sneering.