• sneak peeks

    Sneak Peek: Hatred

    “How sweet is to see so much anger, so much stale and deep hatred,” whispered the fae with a wry smile. “Every human hates fae, and us, high shee, the most. But at the same time you are such a joyful break from everyday boredom and routine. Tell me, Tiyo, how will you pay your debt to me?”

    Tiyan’s face showed deepest hatred indeed, but mixed with fear and something undeciphered, which was tearing his insides with cold efficiency. This situation was humiliating and maybe death would be better than being pushed on his knees before worst enemy of humankind. He would prefer to die, taking the shee with himself, if he wasn’t spellbound. His muscles were sore and he literally felt the frozen bars of invisible prison he was put in.

    Snow. Everywhere this cursed snow.

    Even in his own veins.

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  • wip

    WIP: Chapter II – Crippled Fate and Dark Blood, Part I

    They came the other day. On pale white horses, with loaded pistols and with facial features showing pure unadulterated scorn.

    The legends of the Praetor were reaching even Venklann Valley and even if they never expected to meet the high prosecutor of magic, they held him deep in their hearts, at the very bottom. He was no fairy-like elusive danger, which was as real and mythical. He was darkness set in stone, an iron hand of law, which was choking both the throats of the offenders and innocent ones. The king condemned his actions in silence. Praetor’s power was already too big and the fear before magic was already too strong in noblemen in the capital. They would follow him to the pit of death and back if that meant killing all signs of forbidden, fairy magic in the land of Avras.

    Why the fae allowed that, was beyond all’s guessings.

    But they did. No mage trapped the Praetor is a vial filled with his own tears. No fairy cursed him with eternal life as a tree. That’s why some suspected that Praetor’s actions are favored by the fae, as they push Avras even deeper into the dark, violent ages…

    His name was Lucius. And it was not him, who rode on a white horse to the town.

    Tiyan was on the hunt, like he planned last night, but when he returned, he saw the gathering all through the main road. Whispering people, some with fear in their eyes, some with hope. When he tried to look above their heads, to see who’s coming, the gazes they were sending him were maybe not hostile, but… knowing. A little suspicious, a little sad.

    And when Tiyan pushed himself to the front, his insides turned like on a crank.

    The men who were riding the main street couldn’t be called nobles, but surely they were from very important families or houses. Their robes were made from raw material, all navy blue, like a stormy cloud, thick and warm to protect them from the freezing cold. They held pistols on their belts, one on each side. Their cold look was tainted by something more… something Tiyan couldn’t place. But it all became clear when his gaze landed on their leader.

    If something was about to melt the snow with a warm smile, with good intentions and with a lot of empathy, this man would be the catalyst. Tiyan’s unwanted magic felt radiation from him though, strange emotions, misplaced, dark and chaotic, hidden behind the facade of kindness, which opposed the night incarnate of his entourage.

    This man was more dangerous than all the cold men behind him. Even if he was about to offer him freedom off the fae that inhabited his dreams, he would decline. If he had a choice to decline, of course.

    All men had dark, swirl tattoos on their skin; on hands and face at least, as their robes were thick and unrevealing. A sign of Praetor’s warriors.

    Tiyan realized this in a second, after his eyes transformed what he saw into a whole scene. He knew what Praetor does to magic users, willing and unwilling, it never mattered. The one thing that mattered was purifying fire on which they all were burning, screaming.

    He backed off, bumped into a man, then a woman kicked him in the ribs, until he was far from the first row. His blood boiled in his veins, both from fear and because magic in him also sensed the danger. Tiyan was not a coward, but this was another form of threat, made in fire and blood to punish people in semi-majesty of the kingdom’s law. If they target him, how could he even escape?

    And the vision of spending weeks in the prison cell, tortured and interrogated wasn’t his chosen plan for the next few days.

    There was of course a chance that they are here for different reasons. But this was a very small percentage and Tiyan was almost sure that someone denounced him. Someone like…

    “I see that Praetor’s inquisitor came after you, eventually” a sharp voice, destroyed by many nights spent regretting and drinking. “Very timely, really very timely, if you ask me.”

    Tiyan didn’t have to even turn back to see who it was. This voice was as well known to him, as his own.

    Prolat Sek, his old childhood friend, and now his most bitter enemy. When they were still small kids, they were inseparable. Like brothers, they spent all their time together, even when it was forbidden. Even if that included going alone to the thick woods and being attacked by famished wolves. When the war with the Kilyans started, they both were held at homes, until the war changed into desperate fighting for lives for the humans. Prolat was older by four years than Tiyan, and was sent earlier to fight. He returned without one leg, the other was cut by the night spear held by the shee. The wound was clean but it bled with strange darkness for a few days, until the remaining flesh started to look like a fallen autumnal leaf.

    Prolat was a son of the engineer so he was able to build himself a prosthetic, which allowed him to walk. But his father was dead, he died on the same battlefield where Tiyan was saved by the dark raven-like creature. All in Venklann Valley knew that Tiyan was brought in a magical bubble under his own door, where his mother found him. And Prolat, who could not hate fae frenetically, because they were far, and unreachable, chose to hate on his old friend.

    Because he was alive and complete. And Prolat was a cripple. Tiyan had a sudden thought, that he should be thankful that he is still alive, while so many people from the Valley died.

    “Well, Markon? How do you feel when the torturer surely already prepares hot iron?”

    Tiyan looked back at the smiling man on a horse. He already was further down the road, so he could only see the long cape and long hair of the inquisitor.

    “How could you find time to denounce me and to lose your last brain cell altogether?” barked the hunter.

    “Clever, Markon, clever. But no. I in no way could go to the capital city and denounce you. But that gives out another beautiful possibility. More people hate your magical ass and we all want to see you transported to prison.”

    Tiyan heard the voices of people rise in volume and a strange tingling feeling in his chest, how it bubbles inside him. He many times felt the same sensation when the magic started to protest and evidently, inquisitor’s presence was a huge kick into said magic’s metaphorical guts.

    The young hunter just passed his old friend. The farest, the better. Besides, he had a plan, he had an idea, crystallizing in his mind, an iron nail hit with a hammer in the dark wood.

    The sharp laughter of Prolat chased him until he lost him in the now-deserted streets.

    The snow was falling indifferently, filling Tiyan’s footprints on the road with blinding white.

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  • poetry

    Jewels

    we are jewels in the crown of midnight,
    dark obsidian tears, made of moonlight and blood
    rippling on sorrows’ surface, disturbing the night’s slumber

    we are torn skin of the faint young sun,
    black fires burning on the forgotten hills, children of the opalescent haze and moondust
    touching the mortality with madness; ruling over abandoned circles and shadowed mazes

    we are the last kiss from the goddess,
    blinding the nature with our brilliance, coating its heart with a stellar honey

  • Uncategorized

    Life

    The eternal winter wasn’t something that could hurt a high fae. Not even the lowest of the magical creatures. The frozen leaves and branches were hiding the pure heart of the Kylian kingdom, the castle of winter. The life was silent here, yet thriving. You just needed to carefully listen as the song of the birds and murmur of trees breaks through the mute veil of the snow.

  • fey stuff

    The Cat Approaches

    The old gods gave us invisible wings, raven feathers that took us deep into the night, allowing us to bathe in the luminous blood of the stars. The old gods created us free, so we knew no bounds nor fear. We passed the land, taking what is ours, and nature blessed us, crowning us with leaves and moss. The old gods offered us endless grace, so that we could enchant the world for our enjoyment. The glamour that never stopped shining, unless we wanted to show our true selves – fangs, talons, wildness. It was terrifying but also even more tempting than beauty.

    The old gods gave us power. They gave us courts to rule, beautiful music to dance to, sharp minds to out clever our opponents, and craft skill to amaze lower races with our beautiful art.

    But the old gods can take it all away so easily. Just as easily as Cat separated a paw from his holy body, to give us sky, fire, snow, trees, air, and earth.

    Yes, they can take it away. And now the gods are waking up, their souls rise in boundless hunger and thirst. Angry at those who dared to forget about the most cherished of offerings. One so sweet it could satisfy a hunger ancient, quench a thirst eternal.

    Flesh and blood of the fae kind.

    Our lands will be awash with our souls, eaten alive by the Great One. We knew this would happen, and now the bottomless depth opens its maw once again to swallow us all.

    The Cat.
    A Devourer.
    He approaches, slashing his tails over our exposed backs.

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  • wip

    WIP: Chapter I – The Fear Within, Part III

    The night swallowed Tiyan, cold night filled with unknown fears.

    The hungry, eternal night, filled with terrors. As a hunter, he met her very often, but never, ever he felt like this. It felt like darkness presses on his body, physically, and forgotten spells and curses sink into his heart and swallows all his courage.

    He was sure all his family feels the incoming danger now, maybe they were terrified, as much as they never shared their real councerns with anyone, pushing fear and worry deep into well of their subconsciousness. But what spoke to him with coldest and most frightening voice, was the grandmother’s face. Like frozen in time, enchanted. Like something – or someone – sucked her life and replaced it with… another.

    His father was a person who stands firmly on the ground, but even he had to admit that magic came too close to their home, None of them had idea how to chase it off. Especially while Gravir blamed him, Tiyan, of all that as connected to forbidden knowledge.

    “We are having hard time already, fighting the winter” he told him late eveving. “Keep your curse leashed.”

    Like he was able to! He blamed himself too, but he was almost sure his sister would not survive, if he didn’t help her. If he didn’t stop the possessed jaws from biting through her throat.

    The young hunter inhaled the chill night air. Now, what happpened just few hours ago, seemed unreal. The courtyard slept, under a soft and safe blanket made of snow. How close they all were from being condamned? How many steps separated his family from death?

    One thing he knew. It was not his fault.

    Not. His. Fault.

    When he returned home, he was so tired, that he entered his bed and almost immediately fell asleep. He was hoping he won’t be dreaming about the dog’s head falling near her bleeding body. Not about the scared eyes of his sister, growing bigger and bigger from pure fear…

    *

    Bigger.

    Colder.

    Tighter.

    His clothes seemed to suffocate him. His body was crystallizing, touched by the merciful sun, blessed by the cruel moon.

    The forest palace almost blinded him. Created from the dark crystal, it seemed almost unreal. The forest surrounded him, speaking to him in an unfamiliar language. The trees seemed to sing a song from which he felt small and insignificant. It was full of longing, pain and nostalgia as if the boughs were crying for long-gone times. Tiyan stretched his hands before his eyes and didn’t recognize them. They were transparent, shimmering like crystals the palace was made of, reflecting sunbeams like diamonds. His body was light as if he was made of smoke or the glow of the setting sun, the dawn full of insufferable beauty.

    He forgot about fear, he relished over his new form. He didn’t remember who he was, but he knew he was not part of this world, and this form had been offered to him to see the palace and hear its song.

    In front of the palace’s crystal gate, creatures with pointy ears moved, airy, as if woven from cobwebs, from summer gossamer. They didn’t look at him as if he wasn’t there. Most of them wore green and blue. He couldn’t see the weapon or feel enmity, but he could feel the darkness everywhere. He floated in the dark light and primal splendor of the palace and its inhabitants.

    Then, as the song of the trees rocked him like in a child’s cradle, he heard a voice. It was young and brought to mind the sound of the stream on a cold winter’s day.

    ‘Tiyo…how long will I wait for my faithful servant?’

    Normally, Tiyan would have to slap anyone who would call him his servant. But the voice hated opposition, even if it seemed to belong to someone much younger than him. It was the voice of the ruler.

    ‘I have a right to you, and the seed has sprouted up. Magic is tormenting you, isn’t it? How much easier would it be to take off the shackles and go to a place where it’s natural to cast an enchantment, to enforce your will. Where you’ll be safe. The pain must be unbearable, my innocent winter child. It’s sweet to see your suffering, but my grace is boundless.’

    Tiyan wanted to answer, but couldn’t speak, like his mouth were sewn up.

    ‘Soon, I will send for you, and you will not be able to refuse.’

    Tiyo suddenly felt that his real body is coming back, and the creatures in front of him started to look at him, their gazes dark, expressions cold and undeciphered. He didn’t belong to this place, not in this body. But did he belong anywhere?

    He woke up sweated in his dug-up bed. He sat down, the wet linen sticking to his skin. He was defiled, cursed. The fae will never give him peace, whoever he was. He hid his face in his clasped hands.

    As long as he had his own will, though, he won’t allow him to own his life. He was not weak. He was not a slave and never will be.

    His head fell on the pillow again. Not a slave.

    Now sleep.

    He was going to hunt tomorrow, even if only for a hare or a quail. Do what he was best in. And chase the sucking feeling of lack of control he felt.
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  • wip

    WIP: Chapter I -The Fear Within, Part II

    Tiyan was slowly chewing the meat he stripped from the boar and cooked into a stew, while observing the door to his parents’ room. His sister was tucked into the warm furs, sitting by the firelight, with eyes half closed, drifting into sleep. The doctor came, bandaged her wounds and left, allowing the family to settle after what happened with the dog. An hour ago Tiyan saw by the window, how Gravir cleans the courtyard from the body, and shovels the fresh snow, to clear the blood.

    During his hunts, Tiyan killed many animals. But this… this was a touch of magic. Evil magic, which boiled the sanity out the dog’s head. It was as terrifying as sad.

    His parents were quarreling behind the closed door. He felt that the subject was him. They quarreled only when he was the subject. Something tempted him to just go there and eavesdrop, but Lessa would see and grandmother Saya too. Besides, he had enough honor to not to.

    And he was afraid of what he could hear.

    “We should open the window” he heard a silent voice.

    Tiyan looked at his grandmother. She was old, older than war. She was an oldest person living in Vennklan Valley and he could bet that even in neighboring villages. Sometimes she was seeing things no one did aside from her. Gravir thought it’s caused by her age. Tiyan thought that Saya was touched by magic too.

    “Gra, it’s too cold” he just said, but was curious why she suggested that. He didn’t have to wait long.

    “The little fairies want to warm their wings” was the enigmatic answer.

    “I doubt they would care about the cold,” said Tiyan, eating another bite of meat. “They are servants of Kilyans. They are used to it.”

    “Not these” Saya smiled lightly. “These are sent by the cat.”

    The cat.

    Always the cat. He was present in many stories and visions that Saya’s enchanted mind was creating. The cat that is sending the fairies. The cat that stole the moon. The cat that one day eats the sun and drinks its light. Tiyan always wanted to ask who is the cat and how he connects with magic that swallows the land, but somehow, he knew that Saya doesn’t have an answer for that.

    Gravir raised his voice behind the door and Tiyan quickly swallowed the morsel, soundfully, to not hear why he was so angry. Possibly – because of him, as always. But he really didn’t want to hear.

    “Gra, tell us a story” murmured Lessa from her furs. “And I don’t want the fairies to enter. They are mean.”

    Tiyan almost shushed her, but realized that it was something they both needed. Something to calm nerves after the ordeal and silence the quarreling parents.

    “What kind of story would you like?” Saya closed her eyes.

    “Something only you remember” peeped Lessa and hid even deeper into the furs.

    “Something that is both true and not true” fired Tiyan. Legends. They held wisdom of the older days and the possibility of any part of them being real, was making them twice as thrilling.

    “Then… I will tell you about the damned ones” Saya opened her eyes and started to tell the tale, bathing the room in the unlight of the old times.

    “The fae stood out of the moon and stars, created by the the One. They were beautiful like the sun and mysterious like the night. Seelie, whom we call saru, loved the world and everything that lived on it, but Unseelie, known to us as kilyans, were cruel and they liked to look at the suffering of smaller and bigger creatures. The One was unhappy that they lived together, so he tore one of his seven hands and blood fell on kilyans, the black blood of the god. From that moment they were forced to live outside of the land of shee, in forests and mountains, far from civilization. What One did, was not to the liking of Manus, the father of the gods. But he couldn’t force the One to sew his leg again up to his body, so he created a different kingdom for Unseelie, behind the mountains and the forest which they inhabited. Then the Courts were born, the Seelie Court, where everything smelled of flowers and the sun was shining, and the Unseelie Court, which hid in the eternal darkness. Then people came to Avras, and saru took them under their protection, knowing that kilyans will want to destroy them. For many years, the protection of the saru allowed people to prosper and be happy and wealthy. Saru walked with people, like the bright messengers of the gods who were sent to give and never to take. But the One didn’t like it. He didn’t create people and scrutinized them, so he took the saru from human land. Suddenly they disappeared, and then kilyans, fae of black hearts and immeasurable cruelty, attacked the land of people for the first time.”

    Tiyan heard the story many times. But he listened to it now, like a prelude to something he didn’t fully understand.

    “Kilyans killed almost everyone, but a small group of people survived, and kilyans didn’t hear about them, nor knew about them; their village grew and the kingdom of people began to revive again. Kilyans, busy with their affairs and court intrigues, didn’t care about them, didn’t even know they exist. As long as the king didn’t start sending settlers deep into the mountains, oblivious to the danger. Kilyans had been busy developing their own lands and once they reached the peaks of their success, they remembered their neighbors and the ones who survived. Then the Great War came. The Kilyans, filled with pride, decided to conquer the humans and enslave their lands.”

    The grandmother’s eyes blinked with an unusual glint.

    “But those who know the fae know too, that they don’t do anything without reason. Good reason. Reason, who we can’t embrace.”

    That was new. Saya behaved differently too, her hand reached to blankets she had on her lap and taking them off, she slowly approached the window. Lessa and Tiyan observed her like they were enchanted, until she opened it with fast movement and inhaled deeply the freezing air. The snow entered the room, swirling like in dance.

    Tiyan jumped to her, taking her back from the window, Lessa squealed, feeling cold.

    It all happened in less than three seconds, but it allowed Tiyan to look into Saya’s eyes. They were cold and blind, like her pupils and irises changed into ice.

    “I don’t want the fairies to enter” murmured Lessa, but the windows were closed and no one came inside.

    And grandmother’s eyes again were blue and tired. But Tiyan knew what he saw. The magic started to spread more violently and he was the one that brought it to this home.

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  • wip

    WIP: Chapter I – The Fear Within, Part I

    He tossed the wood into the burning fire. It was freezing in the main hall. Whole house was shaking in the clutches of ice and snow.

    Tiyan lifted the dead boar and put it cautiously on the table. It was heavy and untouched by magic – a rare thing in Vennklan Valley. The animal will probably allow them to fill their stomachs for four days. Then he will have to go on another hunt, as the only hunter in the family.

    He slowly started to pull the gloves off, trying to warm up fingers, which got numb from the pressure of frozen material. Turning to the fire, he stretched his hands towards it, giving out a sigh of relief.

    Another day won. And another meal he got without seeing odd things. The woods were filled with misshapen creatures, sometimes people were missing, and returning – white haired, with dead gazes, almost frozen – but still breathing, like puppets held together by unknown and terrifying force.

    Magic. Tiyan spit into the fire, like this gesture could protect him from the spells and mirages that were filling the woods and abandoned villages, sometimes too close to feel safe. His father always told him that Vennklan Valley is still normal enough to live. It was only partially true. The animals were getting wild and running away, so they couldn’t hunt for dinner. Or they were getting closer, mushrooms growing straight from their skin, maws filled with blood, and eyes blind – or at opposite; seeing too much. It wasn’t normal enough to live. It was not scary enough to not leave and settle closer to big cities.

    Traitor cities. Fae vassals.

    King Marnsul Dal, the ruler of shee, awarded the loyal cities – and the puppet human king – for their bent necks. While smaller villages, which fought longest in the great war, which opposed, not wanting to part with the summer and spring, with freedom and joy – were thrown into dark ages fast and efficiently. Fae knew no mercy over conquered lands.

    And people who went too close to Kilyan lands, never returned. Eaten by the magical overgrowth of the shee kingdom. No one knew what could happen with them, if they were killed – or worse. Kilyans could seem kind and amiable like honey, in their ironic way of being, but their calculated ruthlessness was something all humans living in Avras knew all too well – and tried to avoid, if given.

    The fae were creatures of old days and old darkness. They possessed skills beyond human comprehension and their hearts were filled with black knowledge and night from the eve of time. People could even disappear from the face of the earth, for them. Fae didn’t need such a far-reaching plan, they didn’t need conquest. They could destroy them so easily. What were their plans then? Why to keep them alive – under their boot, but still keeping their lives? That was something that Tiyan’s mind didn’t embrace.

    Magic.

    The young hunter’s thoughts immediately ran to the mark he had on the left shoulder. A strange animal, whose tail was coiled around its neck, like strangling it, but the face of the creature, almost human-like, looked barely pained. More cheerful but in a dark way. It was a disturbing image, which looked like a tattoo, but Tiyan never remembered getting it. It just appeared one night, and when he was awake, the mark was there. Tiyan never allowed himself to drink so much to lose consciousness, so he was sure that no one did that to him, when he was after alcohol. What was it then?

    He still looked at it with a mix of curiosity and fear, when the mirrors’ reflection was showing it to him, either while he was shaving or washing. It was an odd presence, disturbing one. A sign from whatever demons or gods.

    And everytime he looked at it, a faint memory was worming into his mind. A memory he didn’t want. A memory he shouldn’t even remember.

    Shadow. Eyes like black holes. A smile within the storm clouds. A raven carrying him through bloodstained plains.

    Tiyan shook his head and decided to skin the boar before it started to stink. Or stink worse than it already did.

    When he took off the warm jacket and started to prepare knives, he heard a scream from the courtyard. Tiyan wouldn’t be a successful hunter, if his reactions weren’t fast – he took the biggest skinning knife and ran – as he recognized this voice. His sister, Lessa. He spotted her before, when he was entering the house, she was playing with the big guarding dog, who was the best defense against the wild animals this house had and loved them all to death. His mind already started to write fast scenarios, which proved to be true.

    Tiyan appeared in the courtyard in a moment, just to see how the furious and maddened dog aims for his sister’s throat. She tried to defend, but was shocked and most of all, was only seven years old.

    His father was there too, in his hand – a huge hammer, his expression furious and fearsome. The dog had no chance. Tiyan though, was closer already – but he had only a skinning knife, a skinning knife against an enormous dog, which weighted twice as much as him.

    He had to act, quickly. So he did the first thing his inner voice told to do.

    Tiyan reached with his hand, slowly, his senses suddenly sharper, like on the hunt.

    His lips formed a word, silent, almost too silent for anyone to hear, more even a furious animal.

    “Raf.”

    It all lasted only three seconds. In one, the dog still tried to bite the girl, in second, he looked at Tiyan. In third, petrified. Like a beast carved in stone.

    “Raf,” the hunter said again, the dog’s name. He suddenly felt what runs through the big canine’s head. Pain, confusion, fear. He didn’t want to attack Lessa, something forced him to. Like an aggressive spirit entered his body, controlling him, ordering him to bite till blood, drink the warm liquid and relish on it. The dog was terrified, almost begging Tiyan to stop all of this. The feelings rushed through Tiyan, like a tsunami, like an avalanche, leaving him empty and afraid, cold and lost. He felt blood filling his throat, blood that was not his, or his sister’s. His eyes widened in terror and rage, pushed into his veins and mouth by a bubbling spell.

    But this confusion lasted only a few seconds, as well. The dog turned its big head to Lessa, baring its teeth… and then, he fell, violently sent on the ground by the blow of the hammer of Tiyan’s father.

    His sister screamed. She was screaming seeing Raf lying dead on her, pinning her with his weight to the ground.

    “Tiyan,” Gravir said, glaring at him. His skin was covered with sweat and bloody saliva. He looked like an old god of war who descended from stormy heaven to punish the guilty.

    The young hunter looked at him, his gaze absent. His confusion, his mind still feeling the pain of the dog, the dog who was always a good companion, a good guardian, who killed so many beasts, to protect this house. To protect his humans.

    “Never do it again. I will manage,” Gravir growled.

    Tiyan nodded, like in a trance.

    It frightened his father, it terrified even Lessa. It happened again. This… curse. It crawled into him, embraced him with its dark tendrils, and now, he was affected, poisoned. He was like those mushroom-skinned beasts in the woods, tainted – a pariah. But he was also sure that Gravir would not be on time. Raf would kill Lessa, if he didn’t use this darkened malediction. That, though, wasn’t making it less terrifying.

    Tiyan looked as Gravir took Lessa in his arms to carry her inside. Their grandmother was gazing from the window, not even afraid, her face bore an odd and quite unsettling expression. His mother stood next to her, putting hands to her mouth, in utter horror. They both were too far to see the attack, but not far enough to see Gravir’s anger and dead body of the dog.

    And Raf laying on the wet ground, was a sign of changing times. The magical blight was spreading, and it entered his soul, to pollute it with filth. Tiyan closed his eyes and exhaled.

    And followed his family.

    The snow was falling, thick cocoon of silence. The tiny white petals mixed with the blood and covered the courtyard ground, burying the dead animal under hushed plaid of shadowed brightness.

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  • wip

    WIP: Prologue

    Tiyo didn’t remember much of the Great War between the people and the Kilyans of the fae lineage. It was as if a thick fog has covered all his senses; dangerous and blinding, yet – at the same time – sensual and inviting. At least he imagined it this way. He wished strongly for it to be his refuge. He wanted to disappear when fae sellswords were murdering his friends and brothers. He didn’t want to watch as the ones he grew up with fell under the inevitable blows of the cruel Shee. He tried to use his sword but he was too young to do it properly. He shouldn’t have even been there, no one should. He was just another boy used as cannon fodder, another insignificant young life, a thread cut too early. Kilyan mages didn’t even have to enter the battlefield to sweep their enemies from the face of the earth with spells of the mightiness that Tiyo’s people could not even dream of. He could only try not to be brutally killed.

    The battle he took part in was particularly vicious. The King of the Kilyans threw huge kritars at the humans, enormous carnivorous monsters with crystal teeth. The beasts tore apart their victims with bony claws, bloodstained double jaws, and teeth resembling sharp diamonds. The fae made sure they were eternally hungry for human flesh. It caused more fear and Kilyans loved it when humans feared them.

    Tiyo was twelve at the time but his face was covered with blood and tears that flowed from his frightened eyes. Fear or regret, anger or despair, did it even matter? Where were the saru of the fae who protected the little ones from their demonic brothers? Where were the good beings who promised peace and kept the Dark Folk on a leash?

    Sobbing from fear, he threw his useless sword on the ground and reached up to smear the tears with his dirty hands. The fae passed him by, aiming at the adult men whose screams pierced the thick air. Just for a brief moment, Tiyo wondered why he wasn’t attacked as well.

    Shortly, a tall fae warrior covered in fog passed by, pausing only to take a peek at Tiyo. He didn’t even make an effort to hide the amused scorn reflected on his face. Tiyo felt piercing anger mounting inside his stomach. Why don’t they attack him? It’s as if he was so easy to get rid of that the act itself wasn’t worthwhile. The birds of prey have already been circling in the air, and their eyes were following not only the dead men lying dead on the battlefield but also the boy. As if they were beckoning him to join the army of corpses, littering the bloodstained ground.

    “FIGHT, COWARD!” he heard a yell to his right. A human soldier, covered in the blue blood of the fae, held a sword dripping with the fluid that once ran through some Kilyan’s veins. Tiyo wanted to spark hatred in himself, for everything the Shee represented. Yet, to his surprise, he felt as if he couldn’t. What was happening on the battlefield was simply sad. Humans had no chance of winning and even their burning hatred for the Kilyan kind couldn’t change the fact that they were all lost long before the war had even started.

    Tiyo tried to pick up his sword and fight, just as the stranger urged him.

    Don’t be a failure. Do something. But his hands suddenly went numb, the strange fog intensified, hitting him with a waft of rank air, and the boy almost fell to his knees. That was when he felt it.

    A spell drilling his side. There was no blood, just the distant feeling of pressure and pain. Feeling helpless, he slowly looked up and spotted the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Faint, almost transparent eyes looked at him coldly. His long white hair moved in the wind and framed a long face, that was characteristic of Kilyans. But it did not convey the rage that usually accompanied the battle between the sworn enemies. It was an idle face. Indifferent, with no resentment. The man had so much contempt in his eyes that Tiyo involuntarily shivered. The penetrating spell continued to roll into his body. A quiet moan escaped his throat, insipid despite the unbearable pain. While the fae was slowly approaching Tiyo, a spear appeared in his hand with slender fingers. The boy thought it was even more beautiful than the Shee who held it.

    The Kilyan, silent, beautiful, and indifferent, stood in the middle of the battlefield. Unconcerned, as if he was invincible.

    He slowly lifted the spear, right when Tiyo eventually fell onto the bloodsoaked earth. The soil smelled of iron, but it also carried the strange scent of grass that the fae’s blood gave off. “There was not even a blade of grass growing there”, he thought unexpectedly and almost laughed, half-delirious from the pain. Feeling like he was going to pass out soon, numb with pain, he lifted his eyes once again and looked around the battlefield. The kritharas trampled the ground. The dark soil was stained with the blood of fighting armies, intermingling into puddles of blue and red. There was no life here.

    He waited for the final blow. The Kilyan recited some words in his ethereal dialect that sounded like liquid sleep. Tiyo didn’t want to fight anymore. He’s had enough. Enough of his father, who told him to fight. He was done with the fae and king Robhar who foolishly thought he could defy magic.

    Kill me and take this pain away. The boy curled up into a fetal position, wishing everything around him would finally come to an end.

    Then he felt a terrifying cold. Death. The Kilyan hit me, and I’m so bemused that I didn’t even notice.

    But after a few seconds, Tiyo realized that he wasn’t dying. He still drew breaths. They were sharp and shallow, but still, unmistakably his chest kept rising and falling. The white-haired fae began to speak to someone, quickly, in a hurry. In response, he received a murmur that might well belong not to a man, but a raging storm. It had a primordial sort of power that scared the boy more than the fight and all the shed blood around him.

    “Us’slu man’ki sarra’l.” This time, a soft voice unfolded over Tiyo’s shaky body. He was afraid to look, fearing to see its owner. He felt that this fae was surrounded by cold evil – petrifying cruelty. Unfathomable in its boundless frigidity.

    The boy didn’t understand what the Shee said, but suddenly his body became warm, instead of deathly cold. Eventually, the boy dared to lift his eyes but he saw only two hazy spots. One was bright, certainly belonging to the white-haired Kilyan, dressed in white robes. The second one was completely black. The image in front of his eyes began to blur and, for a second, Tiyo saw two black holes instead of eyes; gaping in emptiness, reminiscent of the infinite night. They were deeper than the ocean that his father traveled across on a freighter, a metal colossus that housed thousands of people. Fae constructors didn’t use metal; only light and night. Even the spear held by the Kilyan was created from the pure rays of the sun.

    Dark eyes drilled into his soul. The black Kilyan seemed to grow in Tiyo’s mind, reaching the height of a colossus, similar to the ship his father worked at – a soulless monument.

    He closed his eyes as the black fae leaned over him. He smelled of flowers and rain-washed ground after a storm.

    “Don’t… don’t kill me…”, Tiyo managed to squeal. But the black fae only laughed – it was not a burst of evil laughter at all. It seemed to hold the promise of spring after cruel winter.

    “Human child,” said the man in his language of Sorgon, “you have been sent in too early.” The tone of his voice lowered, turning into a whisper when the cold breath of the Shee touched Tiyo’s neck. “But children are precious prey. You should not be here, but I will never let the oath be broken in front of my eyes…”

    Tiyo, dazed with the scent of flowers and the man’s soft voice, could no longer restrain his fatigue. He knew that they will kill him, they will surely kill him now…

    The boy fainted. The last word that left his lips, as the faintest whisper, was “please”.

    “You’re pleading?” amusement rang in the fae’s voice. “I am here to fulfill your plea.”

    But Tiyo did not hear him anymore. The battle continued. The fae kept eliminating people at a bone-chilling rate. Yet, he lay still as if surrounded by a protective bubble. He slept like the child he was.

    He slept dreamlessly on the ground, while the human empire was being shattered by the Shee forces.

    Snow started falling on the now deserted battlefield, thick and freezing. Snow that has always prevailed in the land of Kilyans. The fae kingdom took over the human one and even the weather surrendered.

    Someone carried Tiyo. It was someone with eyes black as coal and dark hair resembling raven’s feathers.

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  • sitely

    Welcome to the Winter Court

    Threads of starlight in my hair,
    midnight on my left shoulder,
    dusk on the right.
    Under the moon and in eternal night’s embrace.

    Welcome to the winter court

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