Demons are horrible, ugly, and cruel, right? Minions of Satan (or Shaitan since we’re talking middle-eastern mythology here), their purpose is to create havoc and torture souls. Pitchforks, red skin, fangs, and other nasty features depending on a person’s cultural background. Also, according to Islamic tradition, Shaitan employs jinn to do his dirty deeds. Well, I couldn’t have that since one of the heroic figures of Setara’s Genie happens to be a jinn. I turned that traditional view on its head, so why shouldn’t I also mess with the concept of demons?
Two of Setara’s best friends happen to be demons. Azizah and Kairav are blue demons, which are generally nice beings who go about their business and don’t harm humans. Azizah is a cave demon and spends her time (yes, demons have gender) tending to caves. She keeps the caves neat (in her own manner) and even builds new caverns using her magic with rock. Kairav is a water demon who cares for all types of water—pools, rivers, lakes, and streams.
They don’t usually buddy up with people either, so old tales paint all demons as evil. There are bad demons, true. For example, the blue demons are enemies with the purple demons.
In another of my middle-eastern books, a character points out that blue demons are good and purple demons are bad, so I’ve maintained a consistent view of demons within my tales, even if I’m at odds with the rest of humanity in that regard.
Setara is traveling with Azizah as they search for a home for the demoness. Along the way, they chance upon a beautiful pool in a forest glade. This excerpt shows the introduction of the two demons, Azizah and Kairav, to each other.
Basit frowned when he heard the voice and then snapped his fingers. “Kairav, is that you?”
The water dropped back to the surface, and an enormous form stood up out of the pool in place of the towering water. Clearly, this was another demon, although a lovely shade of light blue, almost a match for his pool if the sun were shining. The figure rapidly shrank to a more reasonable size, no larger than Basit.
With a booming voice, the figure cried, “Basit, you old dog! What have you been up to?” Then, more subdued, the demon continued, “Why I haven’t seen you since, when was it? Oh, yes, when old Shairan got tricked into the lamp by that Aladdin boy.”
Kairav stepped out of the pond and gave Basit a big hug, lifting him off his feet. Basit laughed and pounded Kairav on the back, which swooshed a wave of water over Setara, Azizah, and Sheik. “Oh, sorry!” Kairav said with a laugh. Sheik shook from head to tail tip, splashing even more water on Setara. Despite the soaking, she couldn’t help but grin at the happy reunion.
Finally, they broke apart, and Basit gestured to his comrades. “This is my mistress, Setara the Fair.” Setara felt her cheeks glow at Basit’s compliment. “Her fine dog, Sheik.” Sheik woofed a greeting when he heard his name mentioned. “And lastly, but certainly not least, the lovely cave demon, Azizah. We’re helping her find a new cave.”
“Ah, Azizah, eh? Are you not the mate of Petros? A fine demon, him.”
Azizah sniffled. “Yes, but I’m sad to say he passed on to the great cave in the sky a few seasons back.”
“I’m sorry to hear it. He was a good demon. Took care of his cave and never blocked up the streamlets running through it. That’s important to us water demons. Too many thoughtless demons blocking up the waterways. Should be a law against it.”
“Pardon my rudeness.” Kairav rubbed his hands together. “Please, take your ease.” With a flip of his hand, the water ran back into the pool, leaving the rocks around it perfectly dry.
Basit looked around the pool with more interest than he’d shown before. “Nice place you’ve got here, Kairav. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a more lovely setting for a demon pool. The waterfall is a nice touch.”
The demon puffed out his chest. “Thank you. I’m rather proud of it.”
Basit rubbed his chin. “Say, Kairav, what’s under the waterfall?”
“Nothing. It’s just a rock wall. I diverted quite a few small streams to get the waterfall flowing. I worked for a couple of months on that alone.” Kairav surveyed his little realm with a satisfied look.
The genie and the demon continued to chat about past experiences and common friends. Setara listened closely, fascinated by the accounts of the private lives of magical beings. She noticed Azizah looking glum, so she went to the side of the she-demon and touched her arm. “Are you all right, Azizah? You look a little blue. Oh, I mean, sad. Of course, you look blue.”
“Kairav reminded me of how much I miss Petros, that’s all. It’s the past now, so I need to move on, but it still makes me sad to think of him.” The dark blue she-demon smiled bravely, which, if one didn’t know her, could be quite frightening.
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The Tales of Abu Nuwas: Setara's Genie