• wip

    Chapter IV: Locked Up in the Heart of Darkness – Part II

    There were no winter portals which led to Vennklan Valley.

    Fae portals. All that remained after Saru, a high spellbinding, unique and beautiful – and useful. Saru used them to travel between the seasons. Kilyans used them to shorten their ways. Not all portals were usable for them, as only winter ones were letting them through. And almost no winter portal was left in the human lands.

    Aside of one.

    Lorian was well aware that he had little time. When he tried to enter Tiyan’s mind in his sleep, he was attacked by pain, fear and confusion. He didn’t know what was happening to him, but he sensed danger looming over his Fox. And that was not only a slap in the face to his planning. All could go wrong, because he waited.

    The winter portal in Dal’coler was built-in the wall of the palace, like a gate without entrance, like a door to nothing. A relic of times, when Saru and Kilyans lived together, eager and young, not stained with hatred. Encrusted with silver and jade, it invited all fae to pass. Stone and crystal, kissed with sun and entwined with starlight, was one of the most enchanted things in the capital. Now, when the moon was brushing the marble-like texture, they were gaining a charm that always allured Lorian. Something in Saru’s craft was making his heart ache.

    Lorian ran his fingers over the stone and as always, he felt a bolt of energy going through his hand, straight to his heart and from there to all his limbs. He didn’t know if all Kilyans felt like that when interacting with the portal. He knew only that everytime he passes it, he feels stronger and his power swims faster through his veins.

    “I bring you the shadows” he whispered. “You bring me the light.”

    The portal glittered with spells that Saru put on it when they left. Wintry gates were stronger than other portals. It was something in the Seelie’s craft mixed with Kilyans’ – it was unnatural yet opposites attracted each other like angry lovers.

    Lorian sighed when he felt energy starting to touch him deep inside, and he passed the gates with one step…

    …. a wave of emotions washed over him, like tidal water. His body and the very being – caressed by an ancient power, which was pressing his soul with invisible fingers, a touch of long gone times. Soft and dangerous. Exciting. He felt pure power beating in him, like a loud drum.

    This magic was not safe and tamed. It was primal force, and that alone was making it more delicious.

    His breath became ragged, and his tension rose, until the gates decided to release him…

    … to appear in the human lands.

    Lorian still heard the scream of painful emotions in Tiyan’s sleeping mind, which guided him. His Fox was afraid and torn and suffering, and Lorian was afraid too that with his own boastful games, he could condemn a whole feykind. Lose more than one brother.

    Vennklan Valley was still far away. Farther than his legs could carry him, a dangerous path, filled with terrors the gods sent on Avras. A path, which separated him from his destination – an only one option so choose.

    His robes fell off, leaving him naked, his pallid skin exposed on the cold icy wind. Lorian, even with his bound with winter, couldn’t not shiver, but his soul greeted the cold with joy. Feeling as his power glimmer around him, raised by the unknown influention of the Saru’s portal…

    … He lept.

    And flew.

    *

    The wind hit the door to prison, and they cracked, old and destroyed by the long expositions on the cold.

    Guards chosen from the Praetor’s army were harsh as the winter itself. They have seen all that is dark in Avras. They committed darkness too. The possibility of the punishment – and the power they were given along with the duty – was keeping them with heads high; and with respect towards the orders. Most of them originated from impoverished aristocracy, and wounded soldiers, from people who lost everything in the Great War and didn’t blame the fae – who were far and untouchable – but the king. Praetor’s spies listened to who was angry enough and silently recruited from such broken people, giving them power.

    And power corrupts, especially if you already inhale air and breathe out vengeance.

    Dark magic fed on whispers bitter people heard, urging them to harm and relish on pain. Jealousy-driven magic, regret-fueled power.

    Three guards raised their heads, at unison, more like animals than human beings and took in the air.

    The same wind carried a peculiar scent, like spring flowers, like lilacs and tulips. Something not unlike the fresh breeze from the sea. And something they sensed only when Lord Inquisitor performed magic. When they performed it.

    The scent of darkness.

    Light had a warm scent, which each of Praetor’s envoys could recognize. Smooth, like rose petals; vanilla with chocolate and fresh bread.

    Darkness smelled of snow and frozen passages. Slick like glass, scent of ash and midsummer night, bathed in promises. Sensual scent of pure twilight.

    It was a warning. It was a promise. Tempting every dark magic user, beguiling like magic itself.

    But before any of them could even place where this scent was coming from, they heard a scream, talons pierced the chest from behind, blood poured. And the torch light showed a beast from deepest nightmares.

    Its mouth was filled with sharp teeth, its body tense and muscular, skin black as coal, just as its eyes. In these eyes – darkness of strongest allure; it grinned at them with full aray of fangs and suddenly, both of them felt like they wanted to fulfill every wish on this monstrous being. Something they didn’t feel since the Great War, something that brought doom to humankind, along with moon spears and dark spells.

    Glamour. Cursed glamour.

    “A fae” a growl came from the throat of one of the soldiers and the other one knew well what that meant. Magic against magic. Dark spells against wintery sorcery. Fighting the strong urge to obey everything the fey beast could want from them, they started to weave their own enchantment.

    They fought the Kilyans, both of them lost something because of them. They were aware that they never had a chance standing against the fey, but now, the forces were equal. And it was two of them, with combined powers they aquired when they joined the inquisition.

    Or at least, so it seemed.

    Fueled by rage that was sitting in them since the war, the ink started to dance on their faces, spreading and changing reality. The fae crooked its head and looked at them with studied interest. There was no fear in its black eyes, only void and curiosity. Its membrane wings slowly moved, its pose bent and prowling, like it waited only to cast a deadly blow. Its tilted head observed them, seemingly taking in their magic and trying to understand it.

    Humans desecrate everything. Even the shadows become vile in their hands. Even night becomes loud and full of screams.

    It should tell them something. That the fey stopped its attack. But they realized it only when the ink started to form spikes already. And it was too late.

    It all took seconds, but for all of them, the time seemed to slow down, to eventually burst in the flurry of snow.

    The fae with a sudden move caught the spikes in the taloned hand, like they were not made of darkness but hay, grinned at them, its fanged maw spreading from ear to ear. The spikes melted within its skin, causing it to crack, blue blood emerging on the surface. And it… pulled…

    … alongside the faces and skin of the guards, which were attached with a spell to the spikes. Making them fall into a tangled mess of their own magic. Which was cruel enough to not care who it feeds on.

    The darkness and shadows slowly crept over them, embracing them like cocoons. Their own spells, urged by the familiar magic of the Kilyan, gorged with them; eating them with hungry tongues and ready teeth.

    “I am disappointed you have such a short memory” said Lorian standing over the mess of broken bones and flesh scraps. The wind again carried the scent of ocean breeze and lilacs. Naked limbs of the fae prince were soaked in melting snow, when his shape returned to normal.

    The shallow lacerations in places where the human shadow magic entered his skin, gleamed with blue blood mixed with dark oily substance. Fey magic in man’s hand transformed; it wasn’t silent caress of the night, but a blow of a rusty hammer – potentially could harm a High Fae and Lorian didn’t intend to check how.

    Leaning over the bloody puddle, he found the keys and entered the dark well that was the Vennklan prison.

  • wip

    Chapter V: Slaves and Fools – Part I

    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 the scent of something sweet and elusive, not unlike delicate lilacs. 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 the 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 of tight pants, high boots and a brown vest, with golden 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 the form of the same strange animal he had tattooed on his shoulder. A tail-swallowing, uncanny beast. A sign of doom.

    He took the jewelry into his fingers, fascinated and filled with anxiety, but quickly discarded it on the bed. The brooch seemed to gain darkness after it left his hand, while gleamed when he held it. Shiver crept over his body, as the suspicion started to worm into his mind. He didn’t dare to word his guess, even if just in thoughts.

    He won’t wear it. Another wickedness.

    A hushed steps sounded before the door, and Tiyan tensed. When they stopped and rustling was heard, he was almost sure that someone leans on to the keyhole and observes him. Even if he had a hard time imagining fae lords doing it. They would probably consider themselves far above that.

    Hearing a silent knocking at the door, he reacted with delayed panic. 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 would 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” she outstretched the hand with the plate, patiently waiting for him to fight his fear before the unknown.

    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?”

    The girl didn’t hide amusement, which was painted on her porcelain features; not mocking, rather knowing, like she has seen it many times before.

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

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

    The girl laughed. She had really warm laughter, tingling under his skin. He caught himself of losing tension – but not caution. It could be a vicious trick. Under the mask of kindness – talons and teeth.

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

    A human. A 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 to be scared or afraid, like slaves – he always imagined – should be. While he was 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 ate his fruits. He didn’t even realize how hungry he was and grateful to gods, that they at least didn’t bathe him while he was sleeping. His gaze once in a while was wandering to the woman. She was beautiful, in ethereal kind of way. He could easily take her for… a fairy. A nymph that just emerged from the lake. He realized that he stares and quickly returned to his meal.

    “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 the wrong way.

    “Whh… what… what court… kh…” he pushed the fruit through his throat, with real effort, and looked at the woman with 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 bastard carried him straight into the maw of the lion.

    Silence reigned in the room. Tiyan wanted to ask one question, but something stopped him from being too curious. The wind hit the barrier and dissolved over it, splashing snow over the frame.

    “Come, ask” said the girl calmly. “We are in the fey palace. Here secrets are dangerous. Mine are not.”

    “Why are you here?” he blurted, feeling as badly tamed anger squeezes his guts with cold fingers. “Have they kidnapped you, like me?”

    The woman looked at him again, with some kind of renewed attention. There was some sadness to it, in addition to something undeciphered, with was even sadder and somehow… magical. Something enchanted.

    “Do 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 deal with. They love themselves too much to add additional troubles to their life. Which, is very long.”

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

    “Of course, they often daze people to come here. They can be really unpredictable, selfish and… they like to be admired. They are the most vain creatures I have ever seen. I don’t want to sound like a naive girl, tempted with glamour, though possibly I sound like one. I know what they did to humans. I hated them too, most of my life. I sometimes think I still hate them.”

    Tiyan had to look even stupider because the young woman added.

    “You probably – and most of the people – would see me as a traitor. I don’t say they don’t have flaws. They are flawed, very much. I don’t say the war wasn’t cruel and that they don’t punish harshly those who oppose them. That would be a great understatement. But life is not easy and isn’t a straight path.”

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

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

    Tiyan wanted to snap, but he lost the 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 with for almost whole adult life.

  • wip

    Chapter IV: Locked in the Heart of Darkness – Part III

    Black eyes. Like two coals, dark and hungry. And this voice, whispering straight into my head, brushing nerves and soothing pain. Why do you do this? Why do you help me? You wanted my demise so much that you cursed me. And now, you drill a hole in my skull, to sip from my memories and consciousness. You bathe in my blood and in my sanity… Why? Why all of this? Why are you tormenting me now, when I am most vulnerable?
     
    “You are so overdramatic.”
     
    What? Why do you follow me like an apparition?
     
    “But you showed a lot of stamina. I am impressed.”
     
    What?
     
    Tiyan opened his heavy eyelids, which burned with unshed tears. Three nights with inquisitor’s touch made him lose hope but not his inner stubborness and strength. He hanged in his own lifeline like a man drowning in a bog on a rope. His whole body was sore, though and even if he knew that he didn’t have any real wounds, he felt like his insides were torn from him and pushed back again, alongside with sharp needles and dirty rags.
     
    This voice though…
     
    “Ah, at last.”
     
    The voice wasn’t sounding in his head, nor he lost his mind. The fae that tormented him for years took form, and now was standing in the other corner of the cell, looking at him with unhealthy curiosity.
     
    And he was naked.
     
    Tiyan cursed, trying to understand what really is happening. The pain still numbed him, but the sight of a bare fae in his own prison cell, in the freezing cold in which even dogs had to wear clothes to not lose the inner warmth, was too much for him.
     
    And there was something off to him. Not that he knew how the fey should look like. But his aura was glittering and gleaming, forcing Tiyan to bow before him and beg and act like a fool.
     
    The glamour.
     
    All the fae used it and this one was not an exception. He heard of it, how the fae were forcing people to do the most dangerous and humiliating things because of this crafty little trait. But to his surprise, he wasn’t already making an idiot from himself in front of the Kilyan. He still had his free will. He decided to use it, as long as he can.
     
    The fae seemed unaffected by the iron-enscrusted door he was leaning onto and the awful filth that reigned in Tiyan’s cell. More even, he seemed to enjoy the low conditions. As if this dirty place was a break from some kind of royal routine.
     
    His black eyes drilled the human hunter through and through. His smile was predatory and dangerous, like a smile of an extremely vicious were creature that caught its prey and relished on its scent.
     
    Perhaps it was part if this cursed enchantment too.
     
    “So what?” Tiyan grinned at the fey, his cracked lips stretching in a wild expression. “You came here by yourself to stain your feet in the dirt and look at my suffering? I have bad news. I am not going anywhere.”
     
    “Ah” the fae looked amused. “For sure you prefer the hot steel and finger screws applied to you by these unwashed inquisitors. Or maybe even a bit of something worse, much more… sophisticated? Shadow magic can be cruel. They’ve never seen the sun in the forest at morning but they surely know how to break people.”
     
    “Finger screws better than a fairy court,” Tiyan spat.
     
    Kilyan laughed. Even Tiyan had to admit it was a beautiful sound. He remembered a similar laughter, from long ago, from his childhood. This was indeed the same fey. The fey who saved him on the battlefield. The Kilyan who led his army to the battle in which half of his family was killed. Though now, he didn’t feel fear before him, he was not mesmerized, even if glamour was attacking his senses with fear and wonder. Just rage. Petrified, stone-hard anger.
     
    “You are aware that you will die here. I am not lacking servants, my winter child. I have countless of them. They are obedient and devoted. I don’t need to save your thick skin, but I want to give you something humankind could never offer you, now or ever.”
     
    “What?” asked Tiyan bluntly.
     
    “Power. Relief. A place where you can develop your talents I gave you in that moment, when I saved your life.”
     
    “So it was you, you dark bastard” Tiyan clenched his teeth. “I didn’t ask for that.”
     
    “Yes, your kind always had death wishes and affinity for suffering. You would rather die than serve. Such strong backs, such rigid spines! Very admirable! I would say stupid, but you would feel offended.”
     
    “How would you’ve guessed” irony oozed from the hunter’s tongue.
     
    “The purpose of your life is to serve under me. That is the truth that you don’t want to but will embrace. If you are so reluctant to go with me, you will end up there in another way.”
     
    “By force?” grinned Tiyan manically, feeling as his pained body tenses.
     
    “No. On butterfly wings, carried by moths and fireflies” replied the fae, laughing again.
     
    Beautiful sound.
     
    Hypnotizing.
     
    Tempting.
     
    Enchanting.
     
    The glamour perhaps didn’t work on him, but the spell that the Kilyan started to weave was more than effective. Even if Tiyan tried to fight it and refuse to be taken anywhere by this black-eyed monster, he was weak and in pain and his mind still was halfway to shut again on the reality.
     
    Soon, he was sleeping, in the dirt and mud of the prison cell.
     
    The fae crouched next to him. His long fingers brushed Tiyan’s hair, in a soft and loving caress. His throat produced a growl, like he was a waking beast, not a being that resembled humans. His hands started to blacken and talons rose on his fingers, long and deadly.
     
    “You should thank me. You are given a chance to grow over your kind. And maybe, even maybe… to rise above us all. Better than death, don’t you think?”
     
    And Lorian took him into the snow, talons deep in his ragged clothes, eyes flaming and wild, sharp maw filled with teeth forming a predatory grin.
     
    Leaving the prison behind.
     
    Carrying his Fox into the night, concealed by shadows, led by the midnight darkness.
  • wip

    Chapter III: Dal’coler – Part III

    Lorian leaned over the cold and seemingly lifeless body of Rells’kol Ol’Dal.

    The fourth son of the King of the Shee looked like made of marble – and blood. His veins were visible through almost transparent skin, crimson and terrifying in their finality. Lorian’s fingers ran over the glass-like skin, like wanting to pass a spark of life – but quickly were withdrawn, like the youngest Dal prince just realized how futile it was.

    “You were right, brother” Ain’Dal whispered, observing the dance of light over Rells; a touch of sun where only darkness reigned. “The gods are waking from their slumber. And I have less options than I thought.”

    Silence was his reply. But of course Lorian didn’t expect anything over that.

    “The prophecy was always the last resort. You would not approve of my methods. You would probably not approve of me. But we always were like the sun and the moon – like water and fire.”

    The silence spoke more than words. Rells was not dead, but was equal to it, and nothing could take that burden from Lorian’s soul.

    “The day when you closed your eyes, was the hardest day in the life of my father. My brothers. And mine. Do not think that I didn’t mourn you, just because we despised each other. That I didn’t feel guilt and didn’t weep. Because I knew that deep down in your bright heart, you liked my night. It comforted you when you were falling; a deep well filled with familiar monstrosities, childhood friends who were scaring away your demons.”

    “But our power grew. We hated each other because we always competed and wanted to prove that we are better, stronger. I was just a naive fool. Young, much younger than you and much more hot-headed. You would hate what I have become even more, probably. Maybe though, just maybe, you would be proud of me.”

    Lorian’s dark eyes landed on the stale face of Rells’kol. The light, the same who embraced him during his life, now left his features. Even the beaming gleams that were always present in the chamber, seemed to not touch the inner frigidity that reigned under his skin.

    “The spell was not meant for you. Lerrel never forgave me. Maybe it would be better if you died, brother. That way it would be a closed book, a finished chapter of a long tale.”

    He stood from the small chair that was in the center of the room, a small supplication seat, where Dal family prayed to the gods, so they returned Rells back.

    “But I am not done with you, yet” he said, like saying goodbye was too much for him, too final and too meaningful. “I am sorry I’ve killed you, brother.”

    A dark smile crept on his lips, the darker because of bitterness and pain it was drenched with..

    “But I will do everything to bring you back, even if I had to fight the god.”

  • wip

    Chapter III: Dal’coler – Part II

    “Perhaps it’s time to release kritars on the Shadowlands” the voice sounded in the throne room.

    The royal brothers’ gazes landed on the youthful features of king Marn’sul Dal. They were almost sure that someone will suggest that, but not that this someone will be their father. Marn’sul, usually collected and almost ethereal, now emanated with foreboding aura. This, alongside with the vision of kritars stomping over the bluegrass of the Shadowlands and eliminating not only the enemy, but also the shadow fairies, was painting the future in much more ominous colors.

    The meeting table, which was standing on the elevation that was swallowing sounds and was not allowing any curious ears to hear the important information the royal family shared, was embraced by the light, reaching far to the high, crystalline ceiling above it. Each prince had a throne-like chair which surrounded the high seat of their father. No one ever tried to listen or spy in this chamber. No one ever wanted to check, what traps this room had and what spells – aside the sound one – protected it.

    One seat was empty. As always.

    “They will kill the fey too” Risel, the second son, looked like the mere idea of kritars being sent once again, was making him sick. He always was the most delicate among the Marn’sul sons.

    “But the darkness will be pushed back, and will think twice before attacking again” first son, Lerrel, was more bloodthirsty. “Shadow fairies will die either way. We are not here to bargain with the enemy.”

    “You are a fool, Lerrel. If we allow our vassals to die, we won’t be better than the force we fight with” Arlis, the third son, was against father’s idea as well.

    They all knew from the spies who worked under Nymre, that godsoul particles startes attacking the lands which bordered with Kilyan’s realms. They roamed the woods, taking strength from lesser beings, swallowing them all and making them part of themselves. The more souls their ate, the more powerful they were becoming – condamned by own god, suffering thousands of years of neverending pain. Yet the Kilyans didn’t have even a droplet of pity for them.

    “I think not only Lerrel is a fool here” another voice reached the gathering and all eyes turned to Lorian, who so far was sitting silently, not adding anything to the discussion.”

    Marn’sul Dal’s gaze landed on his fifth child and then a smile crept over his graceful face.

    “So you call me a fool, son.”

    “Not without reason, father” Lorian’s black eyes danced from the largest seat towering above the table, to his brothers’ ones. “I doubt a kritar could do more than me.”

    Now, that amused Risel, who almost burst with laughter. His deep blue irises beamed with joy.

    “So you think that hundreds of darkbound beasts can do much less than a one darkness weaver? Even if you shapeshift, Lorian, you can’t fight something that came straight from under god’s heart.”

    “That’s why I say they can’t do more than me” was Lorian’s calm response. “They are parts of a god. Kritars will do as much as I, but will additionally destroy the Shadowlands.”

    Marn’sul nodded at this with well-seen praise.

    “We don’t want to cause more fear and death than it’s needed,” he agreed. “Good that at least one of my sons uses his crowned head.”

    Lerrel threw a hateful stare at the throne on which Lorian was sitting. Lorian replied with a charming smile.

    “So no kritars” Arlis counted chances. “But what other options do we have? Or do you really think about sending Lorian there and allowing him to sacrifice himself in an epic battle?”

    “They would sing poetry about him. I think he would like that, even after death” Lerrel had to add a remark, though no one reacted to it.

    “There is one option” again, Lorian attracted all the attention. Even Lerrel’s, as much as the firstborn son would hate to admit. Lorian waited to add weight to his words and when he had them all on the edge of the knife, he grinned darkly. “The prophecy.”

    Silence reigned among the High Shee. Even Marn’sul narrowed his thin, elegant brows in disbelief.

    The prophecies were more frequent in the past, but now, when Orha collapsed and buried the last pythia under the hard stone and thick earth, the Kilyans stopped relying on them and seeking signs in the future.

    This particular prophecy was known only to royal lineage and most of the Kilyan kings refused to even acknowledge it. To even think that a lesser being could in some way save the fae from demise and torment was so offending, that most of them were pondering if the pythia who shared it with the world was in her right mind.

    Not that all pythia were sane. This one either way died in a gruesome way, executed by king Innar.

    Who – on the other hand – was killed by his own son.

    “What prophecy you even talk about” hissed Lerrel, knowing the reply very well.

    “Of course the Cat, the Fox and the Raven” Lorian waved his hand, accenting his words. “It’s the only prophecy which could make you salivate with rage, Ler.”

    The firstborn huffed in anger. Calling him “Ler” was usually the last thing someone could say before he reacted with sheer violence. Of course, in this case he couldn’t.

    “The Cat is already approaching” continued Lorian. “And I think I found the Fox.”

    Risel’s eyes opened wide, resembling full moons. Arlis swallowed soundfully. Lerrel looked like he ate a human finger. They all felt like being given a slap in the face. Only Marn’sul started to nod, with understanding and – again – obvious praise.

    “Difficult times need extreme solutions,” he said eventually. “We are not in position to refuse your idea.”

    “But, father, he sought the Fox” the anger started to boil in the firstborn. “Possibly even considers himself already a Raven. This is madness! This prophecy is forbidden and we should seek another solution. We can’t put our future in the hands of such a low race!”

    But the king, as usual when he wanted to end any complaints – and the meeting – stood from his seat, and stepping from the elevation the table was standing on, he said.

    “We are fighting with more than a threat and we are fighting for more than our lives. And in such a situation no means are too low and no savior is too…”

    He pierced Lorian with his gleaming pupils.

    “… human.”

  • wip

    Chapter IV: Locked Up In The Heart of Darkness – Part I

    Tiyan woke up with severe and sharp pain in his chest and rats nibbling at his shoes. One separated from the others and started sniffing on his hand; the young hunter kicked it hard, frightening the rest of the animals.

    He reminded himself of all what happened before, his hand reached to his chest, expecting a bleeding wound, maybe a deadly one. But he found only a scar in a place where inquisitor’s magic hit him. This was more than foreshadowing of what they plan to do to him, this was a promise.

    He cursed, badly, under his breath. He was not shackled but he had no means to escape. The cell didn’t even have a window. Only a short candle was lightening it from the shadowed corner. Yes, and what if he kicked the candle by mistake, or during sleep? All would burn to a stake, starting from the hay on the floor and ending on him.

    He tried to stand up, but feeling a weakness in his limbs, he decided to stay in the same position and wait how all of this unfolds. Something in him, deep down in his heart, wondered if the spikes from the emissary’s tattoos weren’t poisonous, he rarely felt so weak and helpless.

    Without anything to do, he started to count his chances. He doubted they would free him. Most likely, they will kill him to warn others cursed by any kind of magic. But before, they will make him suffer and that frightened him most. He was not a fool. Pain can break anyone and even if he wanted to show them how little it means to him, to not give them satisfaction… he knew that he will agree on any accusations they will brew, at the end of the day.

    The rats didn’t return, hiding in small holes in the walls, holes ready to free the small rodent, but not ready to allow a tall man to escape.

    Yes, it was a hideous situation. The only way to not be already dead was not losing hope. If there is any chance, he will see it and use it.

    He didn’t know how much time passed and what part of the day – or night – it was, but after he lost hope two times and regained it twice as well, he heard footsteps in the corridor that led to his cell.

    He didn’t expect anyone giving him a helping hand, but he saw a chance for himself. If not using talk, he may use force. Anyone can be defeated and he was… desperate.

    The key grinded in the lock. No additional light entered the small cell, but rats ran through the open door and a small figure slipped inside. The man held a miniature chair and a book. No hooks and knives, nothing to torment him. At least physically.

    The newcomer put the chair before him, sat on it pedantically and settling down, he pierced Tiyan with a gaze of his blue eyes.

    The silence became almost a sound, in which Tiyan was fighting with himself, weighing how fast he can attack the man and run, or if it’s even a good idea.

    Then, the small man spoke.

    Tiyan shivered.

    The voice that was coming from him was deep and ominous, like coming from an empty well. But it was not the worst. The man spoke without opening his mouth.

    “Repent” was the only thing he said, but Tiyan felt like hundreds of stones hit him in the head.

    “Repent yourself” he managed to throw a weak reply.

    “Your soul can still be saved. Just bow to me and your sin will be erased.”

    “Erase yourself,” said Tiyan.

    The man looked at him with a very clever gaze, which hid a lot of things that Tiyan would prefer not to see.

    “If you don’t bow, your sin will eat you. Your magic is decay. Your power is unclean.”

    “Clean yourself, too. But I sense you never do it.”

    The short man laughed. Not through mouth again, but the laughter filled the small cell and caused Tiyan to feel nauseous. What did that even was? Who were these people? What magic did they possess?”

    “You will repent. But since you refuse to bow, the path will be painful.”

    And he opened the book. His fingers started to run through the text, like he was fast-reading. But he didn’t read. He was weaving a spell. The ink from the book started to swirl and leave the pages, forming a black heart, hanging in the air, like a sign of death .

    It started to beat. It started to beat slowly. And then faster.

    Tiyan felt with horror, how his own heart started to beat frantically in his chest. The faster the inky heart was beating, the more pain he felt.

    “Repent.”

    “Repent that your mother gave birth to you!” whizzed Tiyan.

    The inky heart became wider and bigger and the hunter felt his chest, just over the place in which the spike hit him in the woods, started to expand and hurt… hurt a lot. His frantic gaze landed on his body, but nothing was changing in it… though the pain grew and grew and soon Tiyan couldn’t stand it. It was like his whole body became one agonizing spot, which grew in intensity and spread… spread mercilessly.

    He clenched teeth, his eyes drifted up in a mute plead to any god that could see him and stop it.

    The pain overwhelmed him and when he dared to look at the heart again, he saw how it bleeds with ink tears, how ink nerves separate and twist and he felt that too, his nerves drawn on a spool, his tendons dissolving into a sea of suffering.

    He felt like the torment lasts for hours, until his brain couldn’t stand anymore and shut off. He collapsed on the floor unconscious. The man closed the book. The ink heart dissipated in the flurry of ash. Taking the chair with him, he smiled at the laying hunter.

    “Tomorrow. You will repent.”

    And like with certain hesitation, with certain well-hidden fear, he added, his head lowering in respect.

    “For the glory of the One.”

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  • sneak peeks

    Sneak Peek: The Dance

    His hands embraced her waist, dragging her against his chest in a possessive gesture. Nymre allowed on that and looking into his eyes, she whispered.

    “Let’s show them what we are made of.”

    The music filled the air, joyful, spring-like, like a rippling stream during meltdown. Lorian, also looking in his lover’s eyes, slid his fingers delicately over her arm, until he found her palm and squeezed it lightly. He pressed her tighter with his second hand and said, silently; his voice urging her, touching her core with soft caress.

    “Of stars and moonlight, and forgotten dreams.”

    And he led her into a dance.

    It was a dance of soul and heart, like the music that was accompanying them entered their veins and filled them with water and fire, with wind and light. All moves were fluent, like water and fire too, which under their skin with flames, which washed them with wild tides.

    Lorian took her into adventure and she didn’t want to return. This dance was a seal that closed all quarrels and misunderstandings. They knew they were bound as one, even if sometimes that wasn’t obvious. When Nymre was in his arms, she was another person. She was more than a raven fae. When he was in hers, there was no darkness and light, only her warm skin and her eyes full of stars.

    The music reigned over them, embracing them with the sound of the blooming meadows, woods filled with life and silent passages, sleeping under peaceful snow.

    “Of raging light and seething darkness” she had to add, sparkles in her eyes.

    “Of night eternal and frozen storms” he smiled mischievously and swirled her, so fast that she lost her breath.

    The High Shee which gathered in the ballroom observed them, almost hypnotized. It was something magical in the way that he carried her into this dream, and how her black wings moved behind her, sometimes lifting her up, and sometimes – caressing his skin with feathers. It was something spellbound in them, so they allowed the spell to drink from their feelings, admiring its strength..

    This was their time. This was their moment.

    Before gathering clouds swallow them all.

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  • wip

    Chapter III: Dal’coler – Part I

    Nymre landed on the shadowed balcony of the fairy palace, entering softly the magical bubble that protected it from winter cold, batting with her black wings and stepping gracefully down the stairs to the chamber that spread before her. Her long ears, as always happened among raven shee, caught every talk and every word that sounded there. The messengers and spies, the raven fey, were held in high esteem and even if they were the lowest of the high fae, they were so important, that Nymre was promised to the youngest son of King Marn’sul Dal.

    Now, her keen eyes spotted the young prince among a few high shee, with which he talked silently. She shook her head, trying to silence the sound of the talk which was not for her.

    Trying to not look like she eavesdropped, she half walked, half flew towards the group. She immediately caught that her arrival invigorated Lorian and approaching closer, she bowed slightly. The young prince was clad in black vest with a dark belt around his slender waist, all embelished with silver thread; a long cape was draped on his arms and fell loosely behind him, adding him grace. On his wrists and hands raven feathers were attached, sewn into the material. Nymre involuntarily smiled.

    “News for royal ears, your highness.”

    The other three Kilyans seemed to not like the disruption. One of them was Karlian Norr, a son of the king’s advisor. The other two were twins, sons of the older brother of Lorian, Ainan, and Korl’eann. These four always seemed to drift towards each other.

    Lorian Ain’Dal’s black eyes landed on her and slid over her frame, almost hungrily. She narrowed her brows under her bird mask. He was making a spectacle, showing that she belonged to him, but at the same time, when alone, they drifted between love and animosity. The quarrels between them, if they came to the ears of the court, would be legendary. Lorian never meant to marry her, he was a free spirit, unbound and carefree. She at the other hand considered him worst material for a husband. He was insufferable, proud, and egotistic and seemed to take a special pride in his demeanor.

    Others found it charming. Others found him clever. But she wanted to slap him in the face, kill him, and disappear with him in a vast bed, loving him feverishly.

    He had to guess what she thought about because his brow rose. She sent him an angry look.

    “News for royal ears” she accented her words with urgency and Ain’Dal, with a sigh, separated from the group and entered the balcony with Nymre. Lorian leaned over the balustrade.

    “I thought you were coming back in the next two days. Something happened?” he said, looking into the stars. The stars above the fairy palace were an exceptional sight. Never and nowhere were they so bright and so beautiful.

    “Exactly,” she said quickly. “The divine particles are awakening, my spies saw a group of them in the mountains, still far from our lands, but brushing against them dangerously close.”

    Lorian wanted to say that he will deal with them if they come closer, but he was aware that even if he is a powerful darkness weaver, he can’t kill a soul of the god, even if only a small part of it. And both of them knew that.

    “The particles attacked the Shadowborns’ lands near the Nam Sea. No High Fae died, all diplomats were at that time in Dal’coler. Possibly we soon witness an angry ambassador of Shadowborns. I won’t be surprised if they accuse us of lack of protection.”

    Lorian digested that in silence. The curious and intense look on Nymre’s face urged him to say something.

    “The tides shift and the moon takes crimson colors. This is only the beginning. The gods are restless” darkness in his voice, ominous tone which moved the raven fey more than her own news.

    “Very, Lorian. I should go with it to your father first. But I am your spy. And it’s you who found that human” she said with faked scorn. “If he is what he is, you should call him as soon as possible.”

    “Preparing such an untrained person will either way take ages” Lorian clicked with his tongue.

    “He really took the magic as well as you say?”

    “Even better!” Lorian’s lips formed an ironic smile. “He is drenched with it. I feel it even through his dreams. My vision shows his enormous potential. But—“

    “But?”

    “He is filled with rage, fear and hatred. He is the opposite of the magic I offered him. And he is stupid” added Lorian, nonchalantly.

    “Fire can burn in the night. You know that, my high prince” said Nymre, half teasing him.

    Lorian’s gaze landed on her body once again. They never denied the magnetism they felt for each other, nor did they deny the temptation they always had when the other was around. Nothing ever could stop them from taking what was theirs.

    Lorian took her by her hand and dragged her towards himself, tightly pressing her against his chest. Nymre sighed. His hand brushed the base of her wings on her back, which was especially fragile place. She stiffled another sigh.

    “We are on the balcony, Your Highness” she reminded him.

    “That’s why I will only do this…” and he pressed his lips to hers. They melted within each other. Through Nymre’s mind a glimpse of Lorian’s emotions passed and they were so strong that she gasped. They were fierce, and passionate, like a storm after a long drought. She pushed him back.

    “Not here” she scolded him. “You are hot-headed and awful.”

    “But that’s why you always fall for my charm” teased Lorian, trying to pry her again, but she sneaked out from his grasp.

    “I need to return now. My people wait for me, we have much to do. But…”

    “There is always some tiny… clever… delicious but” his black eyes drilled her through and she felt that she couldn’t say no to him.

    “But I can return a few hours later.”

    “A few hours! You are spoiling me.”

    She wanted to toss a mean remark, but as a result, she only laughed. He was right. She was spoiling him. And he was spoiling her. They were spoiled, hopeless, and filled with fire.

    They were after all High Fae. Hopeless creatures, wild as the wind and dangerous as the night.

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  • wip

    Chapter II: Crippled Fate and Dark Blood Part III

    The terrain was uncomfortable at best and cruel at worst.

    Tiyan, however, hoped it would cause as much trouble to the pursuers as it did to him. As a hunter, he repeatedly faced adversities that were beyond the abilities of most people in his town. Even if his hands were bleeding from tearing through the sharp leaves that grew in the snow like blades as if mocking him, even if the day was gleaming with ice and the forest fauna would surely smell his scent soon – he would not give up. There’s always hope.

    Stumbling over a stone, the boy grabbed the first thing that could cushion the fall. Leaf. Again. Razor sharp.

    He couldn’t stop. Not now, not when Praetor’s emissary was leading the chase.

    When he first saw the envoy, clad in black and silver, he knew when they find out who uses magic in the valley, it will be his last day without pain. The emissary looked kind and jovial for townsmen on the streets, but not for him, not for a person with magic, which was recognizing a familiar, dark soul. He knew that Praetor never used the service of people who didn’t like causing suffering.

    A sharp roar rang in his ears, straight from the depths of the forest that surrounded him. Not even bothering to guess what it might be, Tiyan mustered all the strength at his disposal and, taking a slight right turn, resumed the arduous climb up the steep slope.

    They almost found him in his house, where he was packing up. He put the most vital hunting equipment on, took food and water, in case the land lacked streams, and kissed frightened Lessa goodbye, even without explaining, he dashed from the building, aiming at the vast forest nearby.

    He felt like a coward. But he knew that he endangered his whole family and the inquisitor came here for him and only for him. Better to be a coward than a reason for the death of Lessa and their father. And his grandmother. Maybe the townsmen will condemn him, but he will be alive, maybe even ready for revenge on the one that caused all this mess.

    The fae who infested his dreams. It was he who alienated him in his own town, it was him who bit through his mind with visions, led him astray during the hunt, blinded him on reality. Why does he even care? Why did he latch to him like some parasite, drinking from his soul? Perhaps that was some kind of cruel game, a game Kilyans liked to play with humans. Like with toys on a string.

    If yes, he will find a way to escape this influence, but for that, he needs to be alive.

    Coward.

    Traitor.

    No. A young man, persecuted by flawed law. Law that was unlawfully going after him for something he never wanted to happen.

    The animal that roared nearby was closer. Tiyan heard the rustling and stomping; it was something big, perhaps another boar or even a bear. He had no chance with a bear now. His limbs were numb and his heart raced into his chest, beating like a ritual drum.

    He hoped that whatever this animal is, will leave him in peace and allow the laborious wade through the overgrowth.

    He heard the chase, the horses snorted and hit the ground with their hooves, closer and closer. He was a fool, he chose the most difficult path, hoping that they wouldn’t dare go the same trail with horses. The horses though seemed unaffected by the sloping terrain.

    Tiyan fell again, face in the snow. He spat the earth and white, furious, his hunting equipment suddenly becoming a nuisance. He took too many weapons, and they delayed him. How he suddenly became so stupid, so slow. His life depended on that and he slacked like a beginner. He was here many times, he knew this valley.

    At the same moment he was spitting snow, the huge bear rose before him. Tiyan instinctively reached for a pistol, ready to defend. His hand shook already like in fever, but he aimed well. At the exact moment though, the bear kicked it with his enormous paw and the gun landed in the muddy snow.

    Only now, Tiyan saw that the bear was not normal. The colony of fungi bit through the skin on his back and his left eye was red, like a hunter’s moon. The wild animal roared. It was not the roar of a bear, but a wild whizzing sound, produced not by an alive beast, but by the horns of the underworld.

    “Curse it!” Tiyan wanted to reach for his pistol, then, realizing that it was too far, pulled the forbidden iron from the sheath behind his belt, but the bear jumped in the same moment. Tiyan was about to throw himself on the beast, in last resort, but the animal barked like a wounded dog and screamed deafeningly, and a dozen spikes pierced him through the back and pulled – hard and mercilessly.

    Tiyan observed with horror how the shadow chains and spikes eat the bear, leaving blood and guts on the ground.

    The sight was terrible, but nothing prepared him for what he saw later. The inquisitor was approaching, and his face was a pulp made of shadows, darkness, and ink. The spikes were floating around him, ready to attack again, making him look like some kind of nightmare-made monster.

    Tiyan’s magic that rotted in his bones and veins, moved restlessly, wanting to swallow the power that was approaching, bathe in it and absorb it. The young hunter, panicked because of these feelings, managed to take hold of a dagger, though it seemed futile, facing this kind of nightmarish terror.

    Black magic! his mind screamed. He is after you because you are cursed, but he uses an even worse abomination.

    Tiyan pressed his teeth ready to defend, the inquisitor halted and the spike hit the boy in the chest, delving deep, deeper, almost brushing against the heart.

    The hunter wanted to do something, anything, but another dozen of spikes surrounded him and bound him with ropes made of ink.

    He had no chance against these black spells. So he lost.

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  • wip

    Chapter II: Crippled Fate and Dark Blood – Part II

    “Where is the boy?”

    The question hung in the midair and spread, reeking of repercussions.

    The small council of Vennklan Valley was not less surprised than if the Praetor’s emissary took the mayor’s cat and told them he was the ruler of the town now. But, of course, everyone knew about what boy he was talking about. It was not a mystery that Tiyan Markon was cursed. But none of them wanted to be the one who put the young man into shackles on the way to the capital. Maybe he was touched by evil, but he wasn’t evil himself. They disliked his curse but didn’t want his death. And even the most prejudiced council member didn’t want to see him burning and screaming. They were not cruel. Maybe scared and haunted by changes, but definitely, they weren’t murderers.

    “Whoever brought you here, had the wrong information,” the mayor said through clenched teeth. “No one in Vennklan Valley uses magic, forbidden or not.”

    A soldier who so far stood behind the emissary hissed and stepped forth, only to be halted by his lord.

    “Nothing happened, the mayor only isn’t aware of what position and name I possess” he smiled kindly and leaned forth with a predatory gaze fixed on the town’s nobles. “You will speak to me ‘your grace’ next time. And nothing bad will happen to anyone in this room.”

    One of the council members scoffed and shook his head. The soldier again wanted to deal with it, but the iniquisitor only put his gloved hand on his arm and shook his head. Then, he turned to the man who didn’t agree with calling him with the royal title. The tattoos on his face seemed to dance as he grinned.

    “I think I heard an opinion, but I am not sure what it was supposed to mean” his voice like oil, his eyes like daggers.

    “That meant that only the king can be called ‘your grace’” said the older noble, withstanding the darting gaze of the emissary. “You are too prideful, too full of yourself.”

    The grin of the inquisitor became wider, but his lips twitched. Possibly not many people dared to oppose him, more even refused his will. One could see easily that anger boils in him like in the closed kettle. But the man who spoke before continued.

    “You are not “grace” and you are not our lord. The king never approved of the methods of the Praetor and you… you won’t put your hand on any townsmen here until I live.”

    “Ah,” that was the only thing that escaped the emissary’s mouth. The silence was prolonged, two sides looked at each other in tension so thick that could be sliced with a knife. The kind smile that was present on Praetor’s lord’s face while he was entering the town on horseback, returned, to pull the sun from behind the battered curtains.

    “How unfortunate,” he said, gesturing with his hand. “The boy is dangerous. His magic was given to him by lower forces, by the enemies of humankind. Maybe the king never gave us official orders, but we all must work in the name of… greater good.”

    “Greater good in other words can mean lesser evil” The mayor narrowed his thin brows. “And I won’t take any evil deed on my back.”

    “You are not afraid of his curse? Of the abominations he attracts? Tell me kindly, how many times have you seen him wandering off the valley?”

    “He is a hunter. He is the one who helps to feed the families that lost their fathers and husbands in the war. He needs to go outside.”

    “Ah yes, and how many times he goes back without prey, with hazy eyes and absent expression?” drilled the inquisitor.

    A whisper came through the group of men. The mayor stood firmly and didn’t join them.

    “I don’t think the lack of prey in this valley speaks against the boy. These lands are infertile, the animals go into the terrains that lack the fog coming off the mountains. You want his demise in the name of the “greater good”. And that is not even lesser evil. It’s just wrong. Do you really believe in it? YOU-” he turned to the council behind. “- you believe HIM?”

    “No,” said the man who spoke before. “Tiyan Markon is ours. The son of Gravir Markon. As I said, you will take him over my dead body.”

    “That can be arranged, if you continue to stop my hand from doing justice. But we all know that you want him away. You want freedom from the fear and from the demons he attracts” The inquisitor was in his element. He had to do such speeches many times before receptive crowds and the mayor was aware of that. He was too old to buy it. “Think of your families, your women, your sons and daughters.”

    Again a scoff. Laughter in the back. Some nods and some heads shake in disagreement.

    “Listen, ‘your grace’” the mayor said with a heavy sigh. “You have soldiers and your sword and we have hundreds of people and our tools of trade. Sometimes very sharp, sometimes very heavy. And until you bring an order from the king himself, the boy stays with us. Think about it, when you return to the capital, to give a report to your lord. He may rethink his actions too.”

    While he was speaking, the tattoos on the face of the emissary started to move. At first slightly, as lazily. As awaiting orders. They swirled and danced, a slow caress over his skin, a touch of questioning pressure.

    And then, they spread, the ink leaving the skin on the emissary, reaching with sharp talons to the mayor. It looked like a mass of black spikes left the skin and biting through the town’s leader’s flesh, pierced him, pinning him to the wall.

    The small council watched in horror, how slurping blackness slowly drilled through the limbs of the screaming and tossing mayor, swallowing him and soon leaving the bare, bloodied bones.

    The spikes returned on inquisitor’s skin, again looking like tattoos. The emissary grinned, a bubble of blood slipping from his mouth and falling on his vest with big droplets. He licked his lips like he didn’t want to lose even a small portion of his victim.

    “Any more questions?”

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