Many years, decades, centuries, it doesn’t matter. New to this world was a naïve and curious creature, who knows nothing about himself except for his name, Kaleb. He has no idea how he came to this world, nor where he came from. All he does is explore and hunt, and perhaps collect dropped items, whether they would be weapons, jewelry, or even shoes. These items would always come from these bipedal beings that would trudge through the forests on their own or with a companion. Whatever these creatures were, they incited Kaleb’s curiosity.
Never did he reveal himself to these beings, believing that they would run away without even giving him a chance, just like how other animals would, whether he wanted to eat them or not. But one day, the naga was noticed by a lovely maiden, who was out and escorted by two armored men protectively staying close to her, wielding their large shields and long swords. She was adorned in a black dress concealed by an ivory colored coat, and she was very lovely. Her skin was peach and her hair was long and flowing like golden wheat, but had a tarnish of red beneath. Locks of her hair were intertwined on her chest to form a braid and it laid just below a golden necklace adorned with small triangles. The first time she saw him with her amber eyes, she had a look of surprise and interest, then a smile formed on her lips as she raised a hand to lower her defenses.
The woman approached the large creature, who was flabbergasted that she would even dare come near a terrifying monster such as himself. He stood tall and looked down upon her, swallowing nervously while trying not to scare her, not that she was terrified to begin with.
“Hmm.” She backed away a couple of steps to get a better look at the naga, resting her hand beneath her chin while she pondered to herself, her guards still making sure that the monster doesn’t try anything to hurt the young lady.
“Do you speak?” she asked the snake creature, to which he responded with a nod. “Really, now? State your name, please.” The woman said in a demanding but not too intimidating manner.
“K-Kaleb.” He stuttered, turning his gaze away from the human.
“Are you afraid of me, Kaleb?” she asked the naga. “Or rather confused as to why I am not afraid of you?”
The snake being didn’t respond, pursing his lips.
“You have nothing to worry about, Kaleb.” She reached a hand out but did not take his hand. That was his choice for the matter. “My name is Gytha, Queen of Ire Suns.”
“Ire Suns?” Kaleb blinked, slowly taking her hand. “Is this what this world is called?”
“No.” Gytha chuckled as she tugged his arm gently, allowing the snake creature to follow her. “My, you certainly have a lot to learn.”
Ever since that day, Gytha gave Kaleb a place to live in her castle and treated him with kindness as they spent time together. And one day, the two were walking in her gardens when she tried to pick one of her roses, but pricked her finger in the process.
“You’re bleeding.” Kaleb leaned down and held her wounded hand up to his face.
“It’s nothing, Kaleb. You need not worry about…” she tried to take her hand back but Kaleb didn’t let go. Instead, he gave her reddened fingertip a lick with his long tongue, disgusting her highness as she pulled hand out of his grasp herself.
“Good gracious, Kaleb. What on earth was….” The woman scolded before noticing that the wound had healed, to her shock. “H-How did you…”
“Forgive me for not telling you, Gytha.” The naga held his huge hands his chest and backed away slightly, not wishing to upset the queen even more. “It is a special technique of mine.”
“How did you know you could do that?” she asked in a gentler tone, now no longer angry at him.
“I tried it on my finger.” He explained. “Usually, my wounds heal faster, but not in an instantaneous rate. I then tested it out with a wounded deer and it confirmed my suspicions.”
Gytha was still surprised by this sudden discovery, but then shrugged it off with a smile and reached up to give Kaleb a kiss on the cheek, causing the monster to blush.
“Thank you, my treasure.” She caressed his hand, Kaleb looking away in a bashful manner.
Days later, Kaleb was now in the gardens by himself, watching over the ducks swimming nearby a river. Across it, he noticed a hooded figure tossing crumbs of bread to the little ducklings, tilting his head as he curiously stared. The figure lifted their head to reveal a young maiden with an undetermined hair and eye color as the shadows of her hood slightly concealed them. Seeing the creature, she appeared frightened and scared at the sight of him, which Kaleb found hurtful.
“Please…” the sorrowful monster said, hissing his lines. “Do not be afraid of me.”
“Y-You talk.” The woman responded, now more curious about the snake monster. “Who are you, and what are you doing in the queen’s garden?”
“I live here.” Kaleb explained.
“Live here? With Queen Gytha?” she tilted her head and smiled a bit. “Huh. I guess there is some kindness to her after all.”
Her last words rose Kaleb’s suspicions, but before he could ask, the naga was called upon by a royal servant to tell him that supper’s ready, and not to keep her highness waiting for she had something special to show him. Nodding, Kaleb turned to the hooded lady to bid his farewells.
“Listen, I would like to see you again.” Kaleb smiled. “I would love to know what the other humans in this kingdom are like.”
“Of course.” The maiden smiled. “Though it shouldn’t be my permission you should be asking to see the rest of this kingdom. Try asking the Queen. Perhaps she may allow you to meet some of us.”
“I shall.” Kaleb nodded before turning to depart to the dining room. While on his way, Kaleb realized that ever since he had been invited to live in Gytha’s castle, he hadn’t been outside of the place, other than the gardens. He never felt that he wasn’t allowed to leave, but it was probably because of all the luxury and comfort that the castle had provided him. Then again, he has never been treated with such generosity in his entire life.
Arriving at the dining hall, Kaleb found Gytha welcoming him with open arms.
“Ah, Kaleb. You’re just in time.” Gytha smiled before moving out of the way to reveal a gift she had brought him, a large black coat covered in blue and green patterns in form of snakes. The naga was stunned, picking up the coat and admiring it, seeing how much detail was put into making this.
“Gytha, this is…” a smile formed on Kaleb’s lips.
“Go on. Put it on.” Her highness gestured with her amber eyes. He does so and looks at his sleeved arms. It felt so nice and warm to wear.
Leaning down, Kaleb kissed Gytha’s forehead and gazed into her eyes.
“I love it, Gytha.” The snake smiled, feeling more content with his life than ever before.
But sufficient to say, it will not last for him.
The next day while he was slithering through the halls of the castle, Kaleb heard yelling coming from beneath the floors. Concerned, he followed the noises to find a trap door hidden beneath the bricks and took them apart to go in. What he discovers is a dark pathway lit by torches, revealing some metal bars with depressed looking folks laying behind them. His attention turned back to the yelling and he made his way further and further as the shouting became louder and louder. To his discovery, he found Gytha herself staring down at a prisoner being held at the arms by two guards. He recognized the prisoner as the maiden he encountered the previous day, watching with shock as he saw his queen holding her captive.
“I haven’t even touched him!” the maiden shouted, full of anger and frustration as she tried to fight back. “This is unfair arrest and I demand a good reason for this!”
“You have seen too much of him.” The queen coldly stated, glaring at the woman. “He is not to leave the castle walls until I see fit. How dare you try to steal my treasure.”
“What is this?”
Everyone turned to see Kaleb, Gytha being the most surprised to see him.
“Kaleb. You’re not supposed to be here.” She huffed, upset and anxious.
“What are you doing to this young woman?” Kaleb demanded.
“Kaleb, go back to your room this instant. I must deal with this… spy.”
“Spy?” the naga raised a brow, turning to the maiden.
“She came to try and steal you away from here.” Gytha explained in the most convincing way she could. “I’m merely stopping her from going forward with her plans.”
“Lies! All lies!” the prisoner shouted, now fighting more spontaneously than before. “I never even knew about this until yesterday!”
“Silence!” Gytha spat, turning to the prisoner. “You are to spend the rest of your days rotting away in this dungeon! You shall never see the light of day again!”
“No!” Kaleb protested. “Gytha, please! You can’t do this!”
“I have to, for your own safety. Come along now, Kaleb.” Gytha turned to leave.
Suddenly, the hooded maiden stomped on the guards’ feet, causing them to yell out in pain and release the woman, who ran past the queen and the snake creature straight up the trap door.
“Find her! Arrest that woman!” the golden haired queen commanded her guards. “Have the entire kingdom looking for her!”
The guards ran to the exit while Gytha waved her arm at Kaleb, gesturing him to follow her. To his reluctance, he complied and left the dungeon with her, looking at Gytha and wondering if she was hiding something from him.
“Gytha…” Kaleb uttered.
“What?” she snapped, startling Kaleb.
“N-Never mind…” he averted his gaze, to which the queen sighed.
“I’m sorry, Kaleb.” She massaged her temples. “I’m just trying to protect you.”
“I understand.” He looked back at her, staring into her amber eyes. She gave him a reassuring smile and held his hand, taking him back to his chambers to rest.
There was no word of the runaway maiden for days, and Kaleb, unsure if the maiden was truly a spy or not, was nevertheless worried of what may happen. What if she really was innocent, and it was all a misunderstanding between her and the queen? But if so, why did Gytha arrest her the next day? Was the alleged spy trying to sneak into the castle? And how did Gytha know that the maiden was trying to steal Kaleb? What reason would she have for him?
Pondering about all these questions, the snake man licked his lips instinctively before looking down at his tongue. And then a different thought hit him…
The snake creature slithered near Gytha’s library, where a single guard entered with some news to deliver for the queen. The naga remained inconspicuous while he listened and watched, wanting to know what’s going on.
“Disappeared into the forests, you say?” Gytha sounded annoyed, unable to believe the news.
“Yes. We followed her as far as we could, but a number of our guards were killed and we had to move out.” He said somberly, like he witnessed something horrid and was going through the difficulty of getting over it.
“Killed by what, exactly?” she looked out the window nonchalantly.
“We don’t know, but whatever it was, it tore our men apart.”
“Well, I hope what you say is true because if so, we’ll allow whatever killed my men handle her instead.” Gytha turned and glared at the guard, stroking the handle of a dagger on her desk. “And if not, I will be handling your head.”
“Y-Yes, your highness.” The guard said hesitantly.
“And make sure to keep a close eye on my Kaleb. He found my dungeon and gave my prisoner the opportunity to escape.” She heeded as she looked down at her book and turned the pages before she winced and swiftly taking her hand back, looking at her finger to see she got a papercut. “She almost gave myself away to my precious treasure. Do you know what would happen should he try to leave?”
“Yes, my liege.” The soldier bowed before her highness. “We know how important Kaleb is for us all.”
“Very good. You are dismissed. Be gone.”
The soldier slowly backed to the door, prompting Kaleb to hide within the shadows until the soldier had left the room. The naga was now more suspicious than ever of Gytha. She’s hiding something from him, and everybody in this castle knows, including the guard. Stealthily, Kaleb followed the man through the halls, keeping himself crouched and silent as he crawled towards his target. The guard looked behind him when he felt that he wasn’t alone, but didn’t see anything or anyone… until he turned back around.
Before he could react, the guard was coiled up in a black snake tail adorned with green and blue stripes, the tip covering his mouth to prevent yelling. What he saw was a scowling, scaly beast glaring at the human with its river blue eyes. The monster took the guard somewhere far away from Gytha’s library and anyone who might hear them, looking around to make sure nobody spotted him.
“Call for help, lie to me, and you will never breathe again.” Kaleb threatened the guard as he slowly removed his tail from his mouth, keeping his tail’s grip around the man’s neck as he stared into the terrified man’s eyes. “What is the queen hiding from me, and why did she arrest that lady from the other day?”
“Sh-She tried to steal something from the queen. We were only doing as we’re….” The guard got choked as the snake got angrier.
“You’re lying.” Kaleb hissed.
“Okay, the queen wanted to get rid of her because she saw you and wanted to silence her!” the guard confessed. “She didn’t want her prize to ever be seen by any other commoner!”
“Why? Why is she being so secretive of me?” the snake tightened his tail’s grip slightly.
“You’re what’s needed for our future plans.” He explained. “With you, we could fight off our enemies and heal our wounds!”
“So she did have something in mind for me.” He thought to himself, then let go of the guard and inhaled through his nostrils, taking in the man’s scent.
“I have your scent, so don’t even think about telling anyone.” He threatened before slithering off to confront Gytha, who had been calling for the naga.
“Ah, there you are, Kaleb.” The queen smiled up at the creature, holding her wounded finger. “I’ve been looking all over for you. Come in.”
She welcomed the beast into the library, where the queen rummaged through the shelves to look up some books. The snake creature noticed her paper cut finger before turning his attention to her.
“Cut yourself?” he asked her highness, who turned and looked her hand.
“Ah, yes. Nasty paper cut. It’s nothing important.” She smiled and went back to searching for books. “Now, then. What story would you like me to tell?”
“I’d be more interested in knowing what you told the guard about me.” He scowled and noticed that the queen stopped looking through the books, slowly turning to Kaleb with a blank expression.
“And what would you like to know, my Kaleb?”
“Why I am forbidden from leaving the castle grounds.”
To that answer, Gytha chortled to herself as leaned against the book shelf.
“I never said you weren’t allowed to leave.” She smirked. “And besides, is it smart to leave the castle and allow the commoners to see you as you are, ridiculing you and calling you a monster?”
The naga furrowed his brow, slightly baring his teeth.
“I’m merely protecting you, my treasure.” She continued. “Still, you could ask me to….”
“What did you mean when you said the lady nearly gave yourself away to me?” he asked, catching her off-guard. “Does it have something to do with how you treat your kingdom?”
The queen sighed and brushed her blonde hair back.
“Well, so much for the sentimentality.” She said with a smug smile. “Shame on you, Kaleb. Spying on the person who took you in and gave you luxury. Is that really any way to thank me?”
“Explain why you took me in.” he demanded.
“Because I figured that a monstrous creature like you would be of use to me.” She said casually, gently rubbing her thumb over her paper cut. “Surprisingly, you were of more use to me than I thought. With your spit, you could heal not only my wounds, but also my staff. Think of all the wars we could win with you. Nothing could stop us with you on our side.”
“That’s not the only reason you want to keep me.” His gaze darkened, his tail slithering up near her leg.
“Kill me, and the entire kingdom goes to ruin.” She replied. “Without an heir to the throne, my entire domain will fall into chaos. And even then, you will be hunted down to no end. Is that how you want to live the rest of your life?”
His tail stopped where it was and the snake man huffed.
“However, since you’re so curious, I’ll tell you anyways, my treasure.” She walked over to her chair. “Because you’ve managed to heal my wounds, I wondered if there was something else about you that could benefit me quite well.” She looked over at the knife on the table, then to Kaleb’s enormous snake body, a devious smirk forming on her lips. “Yes… I wonder.”
Kaleb’s eyes widened slightly, knowing what she is implying and got up to leave. Realizing what he may plan to do, the queen got up and ran for him, but he was so swift that she managed to lose him at an even pace. In a panic, Gytha ran back to her library and opened a window to call to her guards.
“All of you, find Kaleb!” the queen shouted. “He is planning to escape! Make sure to bring him back to me immediately!”
As Kaleb slithered his way through the castle, he managed to find the garden exits but found that it had gotten heavily guarded, so in a leap of faith the naga fought his way through stabs and arrow shots before managing to get out easily, slithering back into the forests that was his real home. Alone in the woods, Kaleb pulled out arrows from his body, wincing at every pull he did as his blue eyes were drenched with tears. He had been manipulated and tricked by the very creatures he was anxious of, feeling like a complete idiot for trusting them.
Natalee felt pity for Kaleb as he explained his reason not to trust the humans.
“All those times she called me her treasure, it all started to make sense to me. I realized that if I stayed with this… mad woman, I would be fulfilling her own selfish desires no matter how much she hurts me. Who knows what else she wanted from my body. My sweat, my blood, my tears. Either way, I wouldn’t allow her to take more from me.”
“What happened afterwards?” the woman asked. “Did she forget about you?”
“Hah. She never even gave up searching for me.” He rubbed his face. “She had the entire kingdom to hunt me down should they find me, and bring me to her alive. I had to get as far away as possible, but no matter where I went, I was always hunted down by humans. Some have tried to trick me, pretending that they had no idea who I was and felt bad for me, but I learned the hard way to never trust any human.”
“Gee… that really sucks.” Nat looked down at her feet. “And I guess it never stopped with you, especially with those scientists.”
“Yeah.” Kaleb sighed. “And you can guess why I tried to kill you and your brother that day.”
“I understand.” She looked at the raven-haired man. “We all have our reasons to protect ourselves.”
There was a long, awkward pause between the two.
“Do you want the rest of your sandwich?” the brunette asked getting up from the bed. “I’ll bring it for you.”
“It’s fine, Natalee.” Kaleb took her hand and brought her back to her seat. “I just… need some company. It’s been so long since I’ve had any.”
The young lady smiled and hugged the guy, wanting to help him feel better. “Okay, then.”
Kaleb hugged the young lady back, bringing her down with him as they both laid on the bed in each other’s arms, having only each other’s company.
“… thank you for understanding.”
“No problem.” She smiled and closed her eyes.