1

Tiyan opened his eyes. And closed them in the same second.

He remembered the cell. The excruciating pain of the inquisitor’s magic. And the mocking smile of his savior, which infuriated him even more than pain. He was not ready to accept a rescue from the hands of humankind’s worst enemy.

The room which they gave him was filled with scent of something sweet and elusive, not unlike jasmine. Draped windows were open wide, showing the wintery forest landscape to him. Tiyan didn’t feel cold, though. There was no wind, no icy bites on the exposed skin. The air was slightly chill, which, in comparison with what he had to stand in Vennklan Valley, was a caress of sweetest kind.

He huffed, seeing they left him naked, but almost in the same moment, he found out that the fey offered him new robes in exchange of his destroyed, dirty ones.

Standing slowly from the comfortable bed, he approached the bundle of robes with caution. The set was composed from tight pants, high boots and a brown vest, without any embellishments. It all looked far better than everything he ever wore.

It would be really stupid to stay naked, even if only for safety reasons. When he wore the clothes, he spotted also a dark brown belt and…

A brooch shaped in form of the same strange animal he had tattooed on his shoulder. A self-eating beast. A sign of doom.

He took the jewelry into his fingers, fascinated and filled with anxiety, but quickly discarded it on the bed.

He won’t wear it. Probably another wickedness.

Hearing suddenly a silent knocking at the door, he instinctively reached for the pistol… but they took him all weapons. His eyes darted from one wall to another, seeking anything that he could fend himself. But the door opened without invitation and someone entered the room.

A girl.

A girl.

“I thought you won’t say “enter” so I thought it will be better – and faster – to just come in” said the young female, showing him the plate full of fruits and some strange things Tiyan never heard of. “Eat–” she crooked her head, a bit like a bird. “– it’s not poisoned. If you want, I can take the first bite.”

Tiyan realized he must look like a fool, so he sat and taking the plate, he pointed at the odd-looking fruit. “What is this?”

“It’s glaune. Very sweet and juicy, grows in the woods, deep into the West.”

“Can… can I eat it? Is it not something only fae eat?”

The girl laughed. She had really nice laughter, tingling under his skin.

“I ate it first day I came here. So I think it’s safe.”

Human. Human woman. Human servant? No, a slave.

Tiyan buried his teeth into the flesh of glaune fruit. It was indeed sweet and very very good. The girl seemed not be scared of afraid, like slaves – he always imagined – should be. During him eating, she opened the windows wider, letting a bit of cold wind enter the room.

“It’s a magical barrier” she explained. “If those who are inside don’t want something to enter, it won’t. But you really should take a bath” her eyes smiled while she stated he reeks.

He silently finished his fruits. He didn’t even realized how hungry he was and grateful to gods, that they at least didn’t bathe him while he was sleeping.

“Prince Lorian will visit you soon. We better clean you, before he leads you to the court.”

Tiyan swallowed the fruit. And coughed. It fell into wrong hole.

“Whh… what… what court… kh…” he pushed the whatever it was fruit through his throat, with real effort, and looked at the woman with a shock.

“You are in Dal’coler. The capital city of Kilyans. And in a High Fae palace, this whole place is a fae court” she said, looking at him, like he was some kind of new kind of a idiot.

Dal’coler. This bastrad carried hin straight into the maw of the lion.

“And you?” he changed the topic, to not think about being in the heart of the enemy territory. “Have they kidnapped you, like me?”

The woman looked at him again, with some kind of renewed attention.

“You really believe in it?

“Shouldn’t I?” retorted Tiyan.

“I came to Dal’coler by my own will. Me and my brother.”

“You… came here… freely?” Tiyan thought he heard wrongly. “To become a slave?”

“Not a slave” the girl furrowed her well-shaped brows. “A servant. They can’t afford slaves, too much bad blood in the court, and too much hatred to be tamed.”

Tiyan had to look not very wisely, because she sat next to him and smile delicately, like wanting to amortize the shock.

“Of course, they daze people to come here. They can be really unpredictable and like to be admired. They are most vain creatures I have ever seen. I don’t want to sound like a naive fool. I know what they did to humans. I hated them too, most of my life. I am sometimes thinking I still hate them.”

Tiyan had to look even stupidier because the young woman patted him on the knee.

“You probably – and most of the people – would see my as a traitor. I don’t say they don’t have flaws. They are flawed, oh, how much. I don’t say the war wasn’t cruel and that they don’t punish harshly those who oppose them. That would be great understatement. But many of the legends about them are just not true.”

She moved with her head, her hair fluttered around her, in a flurry of gold.

“I felt like a traitor of my kind way too long. I felt like I offend my family, my friends, my village. You can think about me as such, it’s your choice. You will see that not all is black and white, though.”

Tiyan wanted to snap, but he lost ability to form a coherent sentence. This was some kind of hell for fools. The war happened and nothing would erase it.

Nothing can erase so much death and blood.

Nothing can erase the pain he was burdened for almost whole adult life.