Peer Review by chrysanthemums&ink (United States)

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welcome to the end of eras

By: sunny.v


Helia’s tongue flicks against her canines. She swallows down the rusty tang of blood, relishing in its flavor. It is a grounding presence, admittedly.

But also, as she knows: always very intimidating to humans. Such as the one standing before her.

“You’re here,” the little boy says, wondrous. Wondrous, but not surprised, nor afraid. They stand at a crossroads—the boy on one side of the train tracks, Helia crouched on the other. He seems so young. Helia thinks he is but a blink of an eye in comparison to her many centuries.

“Salutations,” Helia greets pleasantly, lips curving into a wicked smile. She waits for him to flinch. He does not. 

“Good morning,” he returns, not smiling. He does not hesitate when he says, “I’m here to form a contract.”

Helia isn’t surprised. She’s been through this before—rinse and repeat. Another man seeking wealth, fame, love. Their first mistake begins when they seek it in the arms of a demon, and demons are ever so promising, but they are not kind. Guilt does not weigh her down—she’s above such sentiments. But curiosity—Helia is curious.

Helia hums, amused. “How old are you?”

“There is no age limit to a bond,” the boy responds quickly. Mercilessly, she notes. Sharp. Quick witted.

Helia stands up languidly and takes a step forward. He does not take a step back, but he is much shorter than her. He tilts his head back to maintain eye contact. “And how would you know this?”

“I know your kind,” the boy responds. There’s a glint in his eye—one that Helia has seen before. A hunger that burns brighter than the holy flames. 

“Then you must know that my kind,” she leans down slowly, tapping a clawed finger against his chest, “do not form contracts in fruitless endeavors.”

“Your kind has mingled in countless relationships with humanity for as long as time. I don’t see why this encounter is any different.”

Helia lets a mirthless laugh escape her lips. She considers gripping his chin, pressing her fingers together until she draws blood to hear how he squeals. But no—not yet. She finds this human rather intriguing. “You are a boy. Not even a man.”

“I show more promise than men twice my age,” he says. There’s thinly veiled pride in it, but more certainty than anything. Unparalleled conviction. “You’re willing, are you not?”

“I will consort with you,” Helia says. She licks her canines. To be truthful, she’s been itching for another contract as of late. The earth must have changed so much in the past century or so. “What do you offer, brave one?”

“The blood of a hundred demon slayers,” he says, mouth finally curving upwards into a sneer. His eyes dart to her bare collarbones, nodding his head at the brand resting at their base. “The ones who gave you that.”

Heat burns in Helia’s gut. Demons care little for emotions like bitterness or hurt—but revenge is a delicacy, and a welcome outlet for their restless nature. She’s impressed by the child’s ability to recognize as such, and realizes how much research he must have done.

“In exchange for my servitude?” Helia eyes his wrist hungrily, the place where their bond mark would burn on his skin. 

“In exchange for your assistance,” he replies smoothly. “You accompany me so long as I live, correct?”

“Unless rather unfortunate circumstances come in the way,” she affirms. “I smell vengeance wafting off of you, little one. A hunger for it. Do you plan for blood dropped at your doorstep by my hand?”

“Not quite so simple,” he says. His eyes, dark and calculative, narrow into slits. “But, really: yes. I have unsettled matters.”

Helia shifts, the air still around her even as she moves to stand behind the boy. She grows more and more pleased by the second. Her charcoal bones click in their joints. “Then we are the same, child. Does it delight you? To share the desires of a demon?”

“We‘re leagues apart in some areas, and one and the same in others. It’s why I require you instead of taking on my challenges myself.”

Helia inhales the scent of greed wafting off the boy. It fills her lungs, so she closes her eyes and revels in it. Then, she says, “Humor me, Bondbearer. What makes you and I different?”

“I don’t ask questions I don’t know the answers to,” he says, looking straight ahead, shoulders set. 

“Do you think me a fool, then?” Helia asks genuinely, but she cares not for the answer, nor is she indignant. 

“No,” he answers truthfully. “But you have a match in me, demon. We would do well to form a bond with someone of equal stature—each other.”

“You don’t know how many men have told me the same,” she states easily. She crushed each one of their hearts in her fist. Tissue was a delicate thing, and she cared not for how fragile and temporary the life of her Bondbearer was. “They were all men that dwarfed you in many aspects considerably.”

“I suppose we’re both in for a surprise, then,” he says easily. Then, the boy holds out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”

Helia looks down at his hand. She hums, and the air around them suddenly grows much too loud. “Your name, brave one?”

“Rowan,” he says. She runs a tongue over her fangs, pleased, and places her hand palm upwards in his.

Helia’s eyes must glint crimson, because his gaze flies across her face for any signs of displeasure. He must be too young to understand that the pain of a demon and its pleasure in bloodthirst are almost one and the same. “You will not ask me to offer my name in return?”

He gives a knowing smile at that, turning to reach for a pocketknife from his backpack’s side pockets. She does not flinch, tail flicking curiously behind her.

“Helia,” Rowan says, sounding like he’s restraining his excitement. Helia gives a wicked smile. “I don’t even ask questions I do know the answers to.”

-a small excerpt from my wip (a mini novella lol) this is their first encounter but sometimes a family is just a genius little boy and his scary demon mom
-if you know where the title is from, come forth to receive a virtual smooch

Message to Readers

if you read this thank you :’) i know stories don’t get much love often because of their length, so it means a lot to me <3

Peer Review

You've introduced two very different characters, with different personalities, and different goals in just a chapter (half chapter? tidbit?) and both are very interesting people! You can clearly see the two contrasting personalities and how they end up working together, and even foreshadowed a little. We get a clear and concise view into Helia's point of view, and I'm tempted to say that if this were from Rowan's POV, it wouldn't've worked nearly as well (though you could definitely pull it off :)). Your dialogue is smooth and seamless as well and definitely pulls the reader in. Most people on this site complain of prose being too hard to read, but you definitely break out of that stereotype! TL;DR, your character building is well built and well executed. You've managed to fit a remarkable amount of foreshadowing and even worldbuilding in this piece without it overshadowing your main focus: the characters. Your prose is very smooth and easy to read too, and the dialogue is an absolutely joy.

To be honest, other than the nitpicks i put in the highlights, I think this is good. this first chapter (?) serves more as an introduction to our main characters than an intro the world at large, and it works well with your style and with this story. we can get to the nitty gritty worldbuilding later, the most important thing is to establish your characters. in that aspect, i wouldn't change a thing!

Reviewer Comments

you can see my descent into madness through the highlights. I hope this was helpful! what a nice intro to your story, i'm interested if you ever publish it anywhere!
all my suggestions are just suggestions and the person with the ultimate jurisdiction is you, the writer! take all i said with a grain of salt!~like always, if you have any questions about any of the points i mentioned, just ask me below!
also this is unedited so all the grammar mistakes are on me-