The Devil had a young son named Raksha who, upon coming of age, dreamed of proving to his father that he was ready to continue the family business.

Leaving home one evening, he walked through a forest to find a traveler and offer to guide him to the nearest Kingdom. “I know the best route in all the land, and I know this forest better than anyone. For a small fee (a few pennies) I will take you to the Kingdom.”

The traveler enthusiastically took up the offer and followed Raksha along a winding trail. Meanwhile, the demonling was carefully choosing a path that would lead anywhere but the Kingdom. And so they walked, deeper and deeper into the forest. However, as time passed the traveler became anxious, and thought to himself that he did not like this path very much and would find another way, preferably with a bit more space between the trees.

Raksha was disappointed to lose his first traveler, but decided he would not quit that easily. The next evening he found another man, but again, after a little while walking, the fellow became tired and abandoned him to find an Inn.

Raksha continued like this for the next year, and though he changed his appearance, and the route, the price, and the pace, he lost every traveler, evening after evening.

This sequential failure made Raksha feel very sorry for himself. He thought that perhaps he was unfit for the family business and should join a circus instead. “I could be a clown”, he mused. And then he slipped into a depression, perseverating on the shame he seemed destined to bring upon his family.

The Devil noticed his son’s sadness and confronted him: “Son, what is it that you are so dreadfully upset about- and don’t pretend you are not. You have not eaten in 3 weeks. What is bothering you?”

Raksha claimed to be doing an experimental fast- but, as his father was the king of lies, he pressed him further for the facts. At last Raksha mumbled what was really bothering him, and told his father about the year of dismal failures.

The Devil listened and asked for all the details of each and every traveler, and took careful note of the steps that Raksha took to lead them astray. When Raksha finished his narration, the Devil told his son: “Raksha, I am pleased with your efforts, but follow me on my next run tonight, and I will show you how I lead travelers astray.”

Raksha, who had been expecting his father to lament his failure and reject him as an unworthy heir, was pleasantly surprised at this invitation and could not wait for the night to begin.

***

When the sun finally set, the Devil beckoned his son and they went out into the forest where they quickly found a Traveler milling along the usual road. The Devil motioned to his son to hide and pay close attention. The King of Lies then transformed himself into a generally not unpleasing, but not particularly pleasing, visage. Rubbing dust on his face and picking up a walking stick to appear like an experienced forester, the Devil approached the man:

“Sir, I see you are travelling, and I happen to be going along the same road. Where is it you are headed?”

“To the Kingdom of course”, said the traveler, slightly taken aback by the sudden company.

“Aha, yes, where else is worth travelling to, eh? Well, shall we travel together then? For mutual protection? I tend to go this way all the time, but I would be glad for the company as I hear there is an increase in wolves nearby.”

The bit of information about the wolves alarmed the traveler, who graciously agreed to walk with the Devil, thinking he was a simple forester. As they walked, the Devil began making small suggestions about what local foliage was good to eat, and acted like a general guide. He was decent as well, and steered them along a very safe route straight towards the Kingdom. He even pretended to save the traveler from a pack of wolves and formed a bond of friendship.

All this time Raksha followed in the shadows, watching and observing his father work.

When the Kingdom became visible and its golden flags were glistening in the light of an emerging day, the Devil suggested that they celebrate their completed journey with one last forest meal.

Nearby the gates, they made a fire and roasted a pheasant they had hunted the previous day. After indulging in the meat, the Devil produced a cake, and the traveler mysteriously found wine among his belongings which he enthusiastically shared with the Devil. They finished the whole bottle and became quite merry.

At this point, the Devil acted as if he had something confidential to share and asked the traveler: “My friend, I don’t usually do this, but I think you deserve to know something. Normally, if we go on into the Kingdom from here, we’ll have to go through customs and carry a visa, and it is all very inconvenient with all the fees and restrictions. But I have some friends here, and if we go to the other entrance just over that way- it is hidden-  then we’ll skip all that procedural pettiness and get special access to the VIP sections.”

The traveler, who was intrigued, slapped the Devil on the back and said, “Lead the way”.

Then the Devil turned away from the Kingdom and took the traveler a different direction entirely.

***

The next night, with the traveler having been thoroughly deceived, Raksha approached the Devil: “Father, the traveler could see the Kingdom, it was right there. And after your meal, you lead him the other way and he followed you. But when I guide them, they do not get anywhere near the Kingdom and must assume I am leading them closer, yet they abandoned me. How is this possible?”

The Devil cleared his throat and explained:

“Listen son, when you find a man by chance and offer him his dreams, he will always foster a small doubt. This is because he won’t know you, and when he realises his destination is not nearby, the fatigue and fear will embolden him to try another route. I, on the other hand, do not give them a chance to doubt me- I take men right up to their destination so that when they see that I know the way to the gates, they will be more inclined to believe that I also have the keys. When I took this traveler to his Kingdom, he assumed I would also let him in.”

***

After learning this invaluable lesson, Raksha decided to try his hand at the family business once more. He privately found a traveler the following evening, and requested her company. Together they made their way towards the Kingdom, and he showed her many wonders of the forest, protected her from supposed wolves, and appeared to be a good guide. At the end of their journey when the Kingdom was visible, Raksha suggested they share a meal, and he produced a cake and wine for the occasion.

However, the traveler was unusually sensible. She saw the gates and decided she would rather go through them first and celebrate once safely within the walls of the Kingdom. Raksha tried all manner of charm to convince her not to go, and finally offered her the secret entrance. But she was of a single mind. She simply wanted to walk through the common gates, and nothing would distract her.

Off she went, into the Kingdom. And as she passed through the gates, she thanked Raksha— to his absolute horror. This outcome (being a reliable guide) was worse than simply losing a traveler, and out of embarrassment and shame, the demonling ran away, changed his identity, and never returned to the forest again.

The last anyone heard of him, he was fired by a chronically tardy Bulgarian circus troupe who claimed his “incessant obsession with taking wrong turns” nearly costed them 15 small town clients.

***

Devil son

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