It wasn't HIS fault he wasn't liked.

Sipping lazily at some severely unsweetened drink, Samuel turned his ice-blue eyes across the bustling, sickeningly happy town. Everyone had something to do. They worked nonstop all day in the choking dust and blistering heat as though their lives depended on it. Well, it probably did, seeing that Samuel was the one playing Mayor Tyler Anthony like a puppet. He liked that control. Tyler had never suspected his most trusted advisor (and now only advisor, since the rest had 'mysteriously' died off one by one) of using mind control. Oh, not like it took much to get that big oaf to follow orders if he thought it was for the good of the community. It only took a bit of mental breaking-and-entering at times when Tyler started to realize Samuel's intentions weren't totally moral. A bit of verbal lashing in the human's nightmares beat the remaining backbone from him and, like a frightened child, he had run begging for help and advice from the one and only person left to ask - Samuel Avery.

Oh yes, quite devious, Samuel was, and oh-so-proud of it. He liked control over this town. He liked bringing in commerce - but only from humans. Other species were too smart, too powerful - might figure things out and get in the way of his plans. Samuel kept the people working (but was amazed that they denied breaks on their own, except at night) and kept trade pouring in, and had managed to convince Tyler that Samuel needed to have 90% of town's income. It had been difficult, sure. But Samuel had his ways with people.

Tyler had been dubious as expected. But Samuel had fixed that. Tapping into the mayor's mind, he sent him nightmares about the town crumbling to dust, nightmares of everyone dying but one - Samuel. This was partially true. Having assassinated all of Tyler's relatives and convincing him to never marry or have children, Samuel was now the only other residing in the mayor's incredibly large and airy abode. When Tyler had woken from the nightmare he dashed like a puppy in a lightning storm straight to Samuel, pouring out all of his fears. Samuel had soothed him like a father and, once he got the human's mind relaxed and more open, he'd slipped on a telepathic leash and had Tyler obeying him (almost) unquestioningly from then on.

Why he felt the need to gain so much power was a bit unknown, though perhaps because he was a Devehkrino, who had it in their genes to manipulate people. Maybe instead it was because of his rough childhood. He frowned, not very pleased about thinking of all THAT again.

First, his father had been killed by some pathetic human crusader named Lutherold. His mother, Rodita, had tortured and crippled the horrid human for that as long as she lived.

Then, his older brother, Niles, had moved out. They hadn't seen each other since. Niles was the only person Samuel could ever trust, always there to back him up and protect him - which is surprising; Devehkrino family members are usually at each others' throats. Nevertheless, his father and brother being gone had been a bit heartbreaking to the lad.

Then that dispicable Heihker family. Ohhh, how Samuel hated them. They would stubborn and arrogant. When Samuel and his mother tried to move to a little cabin in the woods, Zaeyuun Heihker had demanded they pack up and leave. But it was never wise for an Ethereal shapeshifter to cross paths with a Devehkrino. Rodita, as like all her species, had an avid natural knowledge of an ethling's weaknesses...the biggest one being, laughably, their hair.

The source of strength and energy, a bald ethling was a dead ethling. That knowledge coupled with pinpoint precision on a longbow proved an effective advantage. Rodita had shot all but some of the ethling's hair clean right off with a single arrow, nearly killing him. They thought that would be the end of that git. But no, trouble continued only a year later, when that nasty Zysan thing decided to show up, team up with the Heihkers, and then brutally slay Samuel's dear old mother. Samuel had been only ten at the time, and fled the country in fear that the shapeshifters would then come after him. He'd been a stowaway on a ship that took him west over the ocean.

There, he'd raised himself, using his extensive knowledge of magic and alchemy to survive. When he was an adult, he rounded up some merchants and decided to go settle (or just take over) a town. He'd found the perfect place - lush, green grassy hills, a river, plentiful fruits and trees...a town already built, nice and peaceful, just bubbling with prosper.

And inhabited entirely by Ethereals.

By then Samuel had shrugged off all fears of the shifters and all that remained was a deep, burning fury. He'd pay them back if it was the last thing he did.

But he was not rash. It had to be done slowly - to break them down from within. He had to fraternize, and, Heaven forbid (if there as a Heaven), get into a bit of a relationship with one of them. They were not so easily manipulated and very resistant to mind-reading, but once he got the loyalty of one he knew the secrets of them all.

The woman (whose name he didn't bother to remember) had spilled every last secret of the town and its people, telling him all he and his waiting caravan needed to know. Then, he had killed her. Why? Because he COULD.

He had left town without disposing of the body and gone to tell his merchants-turned-fighters everything. With their strength and his magic (and ability to turn people into mindless pet dogs) they had conquered the little town called Touk (which, ironically, meant "yours" in Ethereal language).

The town slowly built up after that. Samuel never accepted outright leadership, but just pulled the strings of whomever was mayor at the time instead. Now, it was Tyler's turn to be a witless slave to Samuel's whim.

And just when he had managed to erase his childhood-bred hate of Ethereals and eased into the happy thoughts of alienating hapless humans, he sensed a new presence in the area. Not in town, but close enough to investigate. He set his drink down and wandered inside. He made his way to an empty room (of which the home had many), lit a candle, and disappeared (for Devehkrino cannot teleport without the presence of flame).

It was out in the foggy, lifeless hills surrounding Touk that the new person had arrived. It was odd, however - it had been not a usual sauntering-up or magic teleportation, but more like the very fabric of reality had ripped open to let this life in. But, Devehkrino often picked up surreal feelings like that with their mental senses, so Samuel ignored his feeling of apprehension and went straight to investigate this newcomer.

Before he arrived he knew what it was - an Ethereal. A spy, he thought immediately. Or a scout. They wanted their town back. He knew they did. They wanted to kill him, just like his mother. But as he saw the ethling through the mist, he realized it was only a child. A very weak-looking child at that, too.

Well, Samuel thought, someone was going to find the kid and he'd be darned if he didn't manipulate the child first. He paused, putting on his best near-blank face, smoothed out his white roves, and strode up to the boy quickly so as to seem like he appeared out of thin air.

"Well now, what have we here? A child standing alone in an abandoned pasture? Oh, interesting…Tell me, who are you?" Samuel said in an inquisitive voice.

"James..." the little ethling said, shaking like a leaf. Samuel seized him up with a glance. Was he pretending to be a coward, or had he stumbled upon a truly pathetic shifter?

"And what are you doing out here at the break of dawn?" Samuel said. He held in a smirk as the child stuttered to find the right explanation.

"I...well...there was a...a kind of...erhm..." the boy said, "I...I'm not quite sure, really...I mean...it wasn't on purpose..." Then, as an afterthought, he added, "And who are you?"

"Mr. Avery to you," Samuel said sharply, hoping his suddenly cold tone had any effect on the trembling shapeshifter, "And if you call me anything else you'll regret it."

"Er...where am I?" the boy asked, unaffected by Samuel's attempts at intimidation. Why did the kid have to be so irritably ignorant?

"Near the town of Touk. Where are you from?" Samuel replied, though he already knew. All Ethereals come from, most obviously, the Ethereal Plane. But he decided to see if this boy would humor him about that.

"...Far from here, I think," the child said. Samuel picked up on this boy's reluctance to speak too freely, and knew that now his radiating aura of evil was having an affect. He could sense the child shudder mentally, and could see that the ethling had a strong aversion to looking directly at him, but instead placed glancing at the ground or sky or something.

And then Tyler walked up with a giddy smile like he hadn't a care in the world. Or maybe Samuel had drugged him again and merely forgot. Either way, his optimistic presence highly irritated Samuel as the giant, bushy-haired, friendly man completely shattered the entire process of fear that Samuel was working up.

"Who are you?" Tyler asked the boy in his usual cheery, friendly voice.

"...James..."

Ignorant to the boy's terrified glances at Samuel, Tyler continued, "What are you doing out here anyway? Don't you have a home or a family to be with?"

The boy paused noticably, mouth opening and closing repeatedly before managing to say something intelligable.

"...No...not really..." he said. Samuel's mouth twitched in mirth, but he held back a smirk. He picked up on some bizarre memory of a flaming-hourse slave-driver of the boy's. The child was so horrible at lying, but Tyler remained oblivious and got one of his pitiful looks on him. And then Samuel knew it. He knew the mayor was going to invite that kid to LIVE with them, of all things.

"Oh...I'm sorry to hear that…I'm Mayor Tyler Anthony of Touk, and you're welcome to stay in my home if you want," Tyler said. The boy seemed about to refuse, but with a glance at the desolate landscape around, eventually accepted.

"Alright..." he said quietly. Samuel could not keep his eyelid from twitching. He did not want to be in the same building with any more Ethereals, especially not whimpering orphans like this one.

"Okay! I'll meet you back in town. Avery, why don't you escort him home?" Tyler said and walked off, disappearing into the mists. Samuel would escort the little bugger if he had to (lest draw further suspicion to himself) but was not going to submit to commands without giving this child fair warning of what the kid was getting into.

"Shake hands, since we've met and will now be living together?" Samuel purred, extending a hand. The boy offered his own small, pale hand. Samuel immediately gripped his wrist and twisted the boy's arm on the verge of snapping it.

"Ah! Stop! Let go!" the child cried, struggling to escape in vain. Samuel ignored the boy's obvious pain and bent down, say a low, sinister hiss into the kid's ear, "I know what you are and where you're from. Touk doesn't tolerate non-humans like you. If you do anything to irritate me, I'll tell Mayor Tyler all about you and you'll be back in the wild and totally homeless, and there are things that live out here that are a lot meaner than me and would love to make a meal of you. So if you want to keep your sorry hide alive, I suggest you do whatever I tell you from now on. Got it?"

The boy whimpered like a scolded puppy and nodded, biting his lip. But this was not satisfactory enough.

"Well?" Samuel growled, using his other hand to twist the boy's arm further.

"Yes! I understand!"

"Good." Avery let the child drop the ground in a crying, shaking heap and stalked off, smirking to himself. Maybe living with an ethling wouldn't be so bad after all - this one would be oh-so-fun to torment.