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.


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.


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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Forest is where I belong. My gods live there.