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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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Forest is where I belong. My gods live there.