wip

  • wip

    Chapter VII: Be My Guest – Part III

    Work in progress. Dos, will be heavily rewritten. It’s an early stage.

     

    Tiyan almost crept behind Nostel to the balcony surrounded by ivy and luminescent flowers – which were already starting to open their cups, touched by the spreading dusk. The sun, shining on the sparkling snow, slowly sank beyond the horizon, piercing the distant mountains with its tired light. Mountains he had never heard of and which he would have known nothing about until now if it weren’t for the pixie who made it a point to explain every incomprehensible thing in the fae palace.

    “Pretty, isn’t it,” Nostel asked, leaning on the railing. She couldn’t reach high, but she quickly remedied this by climbing onto the flower-covered marble. “The sunsets in Dal’coler are exceptionally beautiful.”

    “Everything here feels…” Tiyan had no idea how to put this feeling into words. The fear slowly passed, the memory of Lorian’s predatory shadows was pushed away by the magic of this place.

    “Enchanted?” Nostel narrowed her eyes. “Don’t be surprised, human boy. That’s why most people stay here, even though their first reaction is desperation and fear. Dal’coler has a spell in it that works not only on your kind.”

    “On you too?”

    Pixie laughed brilliantly, as if bells were ringing together. A sound both charming and disturbing in the mouth of a living creature. It was surprisingly sad laughter, touched with strange melancholy.

    “Oh yes. We came here as victims of the war with humans. Fugitives from Makarsal.”

    Tiyan had wanted to say something for some time now, but the last sentence made him forget what.

    “What, how so, war with humans?” he narrowed his eyes, almost sure he was about to hear that the High Fae had sent less powerful magical folk to use them as shields.

    “Oh, they probably don’t teach you that in Avras, my poor boy,” the pixie’s pale eyes showed glints of sadness. “But it wasn’t the High King who attacked your people first. You were the first.”

    “Impossible.” Tiyan gritted his teeth. Yes, impossible. The Fae who murdered half of his family, bloodthirsty, powerful, and fearsome, would certainly not allow humans to attack other magical creatures. The Fae who used their powers to possess his race, to force their obedience and make them pay in blood for every head held too high, were aggressors, predators, feeding on the souls of humans.

    Impossible.

    “But still,” Nostel now looked overwhelmed by the news she carried, but not enough to spare him. “It’s the Kilyans’ fault, of course. And the people. No one is blameless when everyone is to blame. When the people, eager for the lands that the Kilyans had once taken from them, attacked Makarsal, Tinyen, the Shadow Lands… The High Fae didn’t want to help us. They were too busy with their own court intrigues, too busy with their own power. The Kilyans are a self-absorbed, dark kind. Not always cruel, but vain and able to do monstrosities alongside with great good. But when we asked for asylum, when the humans took away our homes… they gave it to us. But they demanded a price.”

    Tiyan listened, as if thrown into a vortex of nightmares from the past, a past he could not remember.

    “We had to give them our tribute once they took them from the humans. And our hearts too, hearts that would forever belong to them. But it wasn’t them who were killing us without remorse. They weren’t the ones who brought fire and iron to us. It was your race. Humans. ”

    “But…”

    “I’m sorry you’re hearing this from us. But the war wasn’t just the fault of the fair folk.”

    There was silence on the balcony. A wolf howled in the distance, and Tiyan could almost hear the reproach in the beast’s voice. It was new, new and… sad. People suffered a lot from Kilyans, but how much did magical beings that humans treated with steel suffer? Because Tiyan no longer doubted that Nostel was telling the truth. There was too much sadness in her eyes when she talked about her exile.

    “Was it the King…?”

    “Yes,” Nostel nodded. “King Marn’sul Dal, along with his firstborn, Lerrel, took the oath from us. Giving us eternal protection and taking our tribute. And then he ordered his sons to lead the fae army to destroy human aggression. And human resistance.”

    “And Lorian?” Tiyan couldn’t help but ask.

    “Of course he was there too. He was one of the generals in that war. His shadows were murderous to humans.”

    Tiyan closed his eyes. The more he learned, the more he wanted to sink into the ground. As Leira said, nothing was black and white. The grayness was tying the hands and covered the horizon with a sad ashen color.

    Leira knew. Of course. She couldn’t live in Dal’coler for long and did not know. To the lesser fae, humans were bloody invaders. How many of them still hated them? How did Leira get here, what were her motives? How could one live with the knowledge of all of this?

    Tiyan preferred not to know.

    No, he preferred to know. All.

    “Tell me about it,” he choked out with masochistic persistence.

    “We’ll tell you,” Nostel smiled slightly. “One day. But for now… it’s not the time for it. We have a guest” she did a small, delicate curtsy. ” Lady Nymre… it’s a honor to see you.”

  • wip

    Chapter VII: Be My Guest – Part II

    WORK IN PROGRESS.

     

    He was furious. And felt betrayed by someone who he shouldn’t trust, but somehow began to. In comparison to his brother, Lorian seemed more reasonable and he turned out to be the same, or worse.

    He cursed. Like a blow to his face, the fae didn’t  put guards before his room, no one chained him, no one seemed to even pretend they took precautions. He was so… easy to tame, that they didn’t even have to do it. It was a final insult, even if he possibly would hate it more, if they put him into a cell and started to treat like Praetor’s people did in Vennklan Valley.

    He was well aware he acts like a child, but all of this, the faked patience and faked good will, was another brick to the wall he was slowly building between fae and himself, since his childhood. The wall became enormous and was made of iron, which burned the fey. He was childish, betrayed and completely aware it’s all futile.

    He almost hoped that Leira would come and he would be able to tell her how good and kind her master is. He hoped for that, until he realized it’s even more childish and he is a man not a child. His actions were childish from the beginning, when he tried to test Lorian’s patience, insulting him with every sentence. When he thought that he could overpower him with irony and when he already knew his purpose, to play a person from whom their lives depended and who can dictate the rules. No. He acted like he was in a safe place, where he can prance and boast. But he wasn’t, and that he started to slowly understand. Lorian was not his childhood friend, who turned his back on him and now they can banter like peddlers.

    But even knowing this, even knowing that he was stupid to trust and think he can get away with everything, he was scared… and that was making him hate even more. Because he was aware that he took everything for granted because Lorian was not killing him. Which was… not only childish. It was a death wish.

    Everytime he heard footsteps before his door, he hoped it was Leira. He didn’t dare to go outside, he knew nothing protects him now, and if Lorian’s brother appeared again, he would be exposed. The tiny threads of her magic on his body dissipated and now, he was protected only by his own power.

    Which was greater than other people’s.

    Even magical. Even inquisitors.

    That was so fantastical, that it was almost impossible. This magic was a curse… but he held a certain power. He could stop the fae prince from killing him directly. He could talk to animals. In their minds. A droplet of Lorian’s royal power entered him, and was in him since he was born. And got stronger when Lorian chose him on the battlefield.

    He never considered himself a powerful, strong person. When he was younger, he was different and a lot of valley children laughed from his long limbs and slanting eyes. His skin was paler than the almost brown skin of people from Vennklan. After the war, he was treated like a traitor by many, because the fae carried him into the village, and left there, like a package with surprise.

    And this surprise was his magic.

    He was good at hunting. He managed to feed his family and the families, who lost their members in the war. But that was all. He was gifted with magic, but was as mundane, as it could get. This magic could make him more. But all he knew was that it destroyed his life in the Valley. But that wasn’t his fault. This was the fault of prejudice and fear and… his own perception.

    He almost hoped all of this would change. That’s why he almost trusted Lorian. Because he was hoping for another life.

    But Lorian was not a wish fairy. He could bring him power, but with certain thought in mind, with certain purpose. And Tiyan’s wishes were as irrelevant to him as a fly on the wall.

    Fuck him. And fuck my hopes and my wishful mind.

    There was also that enigmatic prophecy. His blood was to stop the god from killing all the fey. He would of course let them all die, he had no sentiments. The human realms would exhale with relief, after all, fae were the enemy. But, from Lorian’s words, he understood that humans were targets of the god as well. Now, when magic spread, all humans, even with a small dose of magic in them – and that meant almost all in Avras -would become the god’s target. And that meant that he held a much heavier burden on his arms than he thought. If he won’t agree to help, the whole Avras will literally die, with those who survive being scarce remains of humanity.

    That was frightening. That was too much. But he had to think about it, because that was big, in a terrifying way. Nothing till now depended on him, he was passing through life like a butterfly without wings. And when he got them, he was too scared to fly.

    Steps. Again. Closer. Leira.

    When the door started to slowly open, he was sure it’s Leira. He stood up, and wanted to approach, to say something about how awful her master is, and how awful he, Tiyan, is as well, when the sight halted him in midstep.

    A child. A child entered his room. With a plate filled with… yes, it had to be meat. Meat smelled of spices, strong and delicious and caused him to feel all his taste buds. She also carried wine and water and Tiyan for the first time realized how thirsty he was. He actually lost sense of time and an idea budded in him, that time here goes differently than in human realms.

    “Greetings, human” the girl laughed and put the plate on the small filigree table. “We are Nostel. And you must be the newest enemy of the prince” seeing his unwise expression, the child girl laughed again. “We heard that you infuriated Prince Lerrel. That had to be a sight!” she clapped with her small hands. “If you want, you can do it again, we will watch with joy.”

    Tiyan laughed. It was the shock and panicked laughter of a person who saw too much.

    “Yes, laugh, human, laughter is good for the stomach” Nostel praised him. “And then eat, we will watch you as you do it. We can’t eat meat. We always wondered how it tastes.”

    Tiyan felt tears appear in his eyes, from laughter. Surely. And from strange relief.

    “Why can’t you eat meat..?”

    “We are the pixie” Nostel looked at him and poked the plate. “We feed only on stardust and moon magic. And sometimes… on water and fruit” she blinked at him and smiled mischievously. “But very rarely.”

    When Tiyan seemed to stare she poked the plate again and smiled.

    “Eat. We will watch.”

    An odd sensation filled Tiyan. If anyone told him so insistently to eat some food, he would be wary. But this… pixie seemed to really be indeed curious, not having any poisonous intent. She felt… honest.

    Tiyan took the fork and and tearing a morsel, he put the bite into his mouth and chewed. It was really good. He never tasted such spices and he was never even aware such combinations of tastes are possible. And when he swallowed the first piece, the others followed it and soon, the plate was clear and Tiyan much happier.

    “Humans are peculiar” summed it up Nostel. “You eat animals.”

    “Don’t… High Fae too?” Tiyan asked, clearing the plate from the sauce.

    “Only during celebration. Solstice. Aricosel. Namadan. And nights like that. You can walk from this room, you know?” She changed the subject. “You are not a prisoner. Prince Lorian said you are his guest. That never changed. Even if you did annoyed him much, from what we understood.”

    These adult words in a child’s mouth seemed unreal. Even if she wasn’t a child at all. But… it looked like Lorian didn’t care he frightened him to death, and that was only showing how alien fey are. So inhuman.

    “I doubt other fae think so too” he decided to omit Lorian’s place on all of this.

    “Oh, but they do!” the pixie laughed. “They better do. Prince Lorian was very clear about it. If you are scared, we can accompany you. All High Fey are busy with the ball, and I doubt they will be very occupied with you. Here is plenty of humans. And only few  fae know who you really are.”

    “And who I really am?”

    “Prince Lorian’s special guest, of course!”

    Tiyan raised a brow, but he realized, it’s his chance.

    And of course, he agreed.

    Everything is better than sitting here and crying over spilled milk. If he was a guest, he would squeeze as much as possible.

    He drank the wine with two gulps and hoped that it isn’t enchanted, like the legends went.

    “Lead then” he murmured, hoping as well that they wouldn’t bump suddenly on Lorian. That would be more than unwanted now. He still had to digest some things.

    And forget how panicked he was, seeing the prince’s dark side.

  • wip

    Chapter VII: Be My Guest – Part I

    “You shouldn’t. Just no.”

    “I had to teach him a lesson. Otherwise, he would act like a hatred-filled child… which he actually is.

    “I still think you shouldn’t. He will be much less prone to go after your word now.”

    “I won’t allow him to dance to his own music. This is too important. I had him on the lost end. Now he will think twice before he opposes me.”

    Nymre sighed. They just had a heated discussion about Lorian’s outburst in the Chamber of Prophecies. She didn’t like it, even if she knew he had right to it. He was sure that it was the only way, an only way without putting a leash on Tiyan’s neck and dragging him with himself. Which, Nymre dismissed from the beginning.

    “He is scared, Lorian. I would be in his place. And he is so young…”

    “Yes, I start to regret that it must be him” Lorian rubbed his forehead with a resigned gesture. “He is also stubborn and stupid. I sent my servant, Leira, to him, to ease his temper. But it seems it even lit it up.”

    Nymre laughed, putting her taloned hand on his shoulder. Her deep, round, blue eyes gleamed with sparks, which, surrounded by the raven mask she never was taking off, looked mysterious and alluring.

    “Leira, ah Leira… I think if you sent him your most beautiful servant, he possibly started to… how humans call it? Fight for her attention, but compete as well?” she laughed again. “Lorian, he probably thinks she is your lover and it breaks his heart, because he feels inferior to you.”

    Lorian’s smile darkened. He indeed was aware that something like that might happen. Leira was one of his specially chosen, most honest and useful servants. She also was pretty… for human standards. He would lie, if he said that he never seduced human women in the past. But Leira was a gem, which he never even thought of alluring. She was a perfect spy, trusted and not afraid and her personality shone with confidence and great understanding of the fairy realm.

    No, he was aware that Tiyan might have eyes for her. Which young boy wouldn’t? But her influence was different than he thought. Sometimes humans still managed to confuse him, even if he thought he knew them well.

    “Oh, Lorian” Nymre squeezed his arm, unsure if to scold him or praise him. “Lerrel possibly would kill him on the altar. You are not like that. You can be ruthless but not without a reason, and I admire that you can hold your dark side trapped. But this boy doesn’t know that. He only sees a royal fae, who kidnapped him and forced him to serve. He sees your power and can’t not think of not having it by himself. And…”

    Lorian raised his brow.

    “… he is a bit… simple.”

    “Stupid.”

    “If you prefer so” she laughed. Lorian couldn’t stop thinking that Lerrel would have it easier. Just throwing Tiyan into the fiery pit and feeling good with himself. But then, he would achieve nothing. The path to freedom and life was much more rough and demanded much more sacrifices.

    “Let me talk with him” Nymre decided and caressed Lorian’s cheek with her fingers. Delicately. Seductively. “I think he won’t be afraid of someone with a soothing light aura. He saw too much darkness today.”

    “Oh, he surely won’t be afraid,” grinned Lorian with amusement. “How many taloned, winged fae has he seen in his life?”

    “You think so?” she laughed. “But I have my spells. You know how they work. You know it by your own… heart.”

    “My heart has nothing to do with your spells,” Lorian chuckled  darkly, his aura started to emmit the dim black light, like wanting to puncuate his words. “It’s hard as stone and dark as well in the soul of the universe.”

    “At least that’s how the tale goes…”

    “My brothers like to turn things, especially tongues.”

    “And in some places they succeed… not in Dal’coler, though. Here all the Kilyans know, what ruler you really are, Lorian.”

    Lorian’s black eyes gained additional depth. He literally drilled Nymre’s soul, and she had to admit that she likes it.

    “Let me talk to him,” Nymre urged her lover softly. “If he still opposes, I will let you do what you think is best for your cause. You can even drag him by force, you can enchant him until he does everything you order him to do. But I would like to make it easier for you. Your burden already is heavy enough. And willing blood is much more precious than a forced one.”

    Lorian was aware that everything they both do now, will have wide repercussions. This was not a game the fey kind played with humans. This was real, real like pain and real like death. Real like what happened ten thousands years ago, when half of the Kilyans were drained from their souls and magic and absorbed by the hungry god, who can’t be appeased. No one could fight him, no one could win his heart with their pleas. Cat’sea’van was pure force of thirst and destruction.

    The Cat, their creator. Who created them to feed on them, and filled them with magic, to drink from it.

    Lorian was disillusioned. He knew that in the eve of time, the fae were made from the moonlight and star glitter to appease the hunger of the god. It was harsh truth, but a truth, stone-like reality. Even if others were blind to it, even if others wanted to think they were more than that.

    They grew from being a fodder though. They became brightness that was able to outshine the sun and darkness that could swallow the night.

    And Lorian wanted it to stay like that.

    He planned to kill the god.

    And Tiyan was the key to his death.

    “I think humans feed the Cat” said Lorian cautiously, like wary to clothe it in words. “When you talk with the boy, take a few of your best spies and check that for me. They use magic that borders on my own, but is much weaker. It can’t be accidental.”

    “Is this an order, my prince?” Nymre smiled, but her eyes were serious.

    “I like giving you orders” his mischievous gaze seemed to playfully gleam.

    “Oh, I know” she chuckled and stood up. Her wings spread, wonderful, dark as the sin, soft like caress. Lorian fed on the sight like Cat’sea’van on souls. “And I melt like a candle knowing, how egaerly I follow them.

    Her feathers touched him and he couldn’t not to embrace her in the waist and squeeze tightly, like they were parting for years not days.

    “Do not seduce him, my raven.”

    “Are you jealous, your highness?”

    “Always.”

    “That makes me proud and fills my heart with joy.”

    They didn’t need to say anything else. Nymre half flew and half walked away and Lorian still couldn’t turn his eyes from her.

  • wip

    Chapter VI: The Prophecy – Part III

    Lorian read the words with a calm voice, which took a tone similar to the rippling stream in the winter grove. Tiyan wasnot prepared for it to carry him into the heart of the prophecy, which glimmered with obscure images before his eyes. He saw the fox and the raven… and terrifying form of the monstrous cat… who looked just into his soul, looked through him and was seeing all his fears and dreams.

    the raven spreads his wings over a wounded fox
    and gives him his inner eye, to heal him
    the eye bursts in the body of the fox
    and tears his heart apart

    the night travels with the fox and the raven
    where darkness entwines with light
    where the old Cat relishes on blood
    drinking from the well of souls

    raven floats in the air
    and the fox needs to stay on the ground
    the green wind rages above
    and the paws leave footprints in the snow

    when the raven falls with his wings cut
    the fox silently takes him into his teeth
    and offers him his breath
    to heal his wounds

    Tiyan got lost in the words, which made him see mirages of things that can happen but – not necessarily. The fox with torn heart, the raven with cut wings… and their unwilling union, when they had to bring the terror on its knees…

    that will happen when the great war
    makes both lands suffer
    and the raven leaves his nest
    and the powers of the ancients grow impatient

    the key to the raven’s heart
    lays in the sacrifice
    the fox will return to his forest
    hidden safely in the mossy green
    and the raven will rebuild his eye
    and rebuild his wings
    and the frozen garden will swallow his guilt
    whispering alluring spells straight into his heart

    the fox found on the battleground
    ready to die, promised to fate
    and the raven, lost in the past
    so powerful, yet unable to fly

    Tiyan blinked, when the tale was cut. It seemed unreal now, but it was engraved in its heart forever.

    “And that, my unwilling Fox, is the lock and you are the key” said Lorian looking at Tiyan, his black pupils not reflecting the light anymore, looking like pure void. Tiyan could swear that the shadows around him seemed to dissipate, like scared of some unknown emotion that built in the fae prince.

    “This prophecy could mean anything” Tiyan still was looking deeply at the cartouche. The words danced after Lorian touched them. “You could capture anyone and force him to be the Fox. You could save anyone on the battlefield. What does it has to be me? I never asked for being a–” a mockin smirk. “… a chosen one.”

    This time he really was curious. Fae laws and magic were alien to him, at least to a certain degree. And he never planned to become a sacrificial lamb, even if that didn’t mean he would die.

    Lorian’s shadows still looked like they were pushed away from his body. Like he was… impatient, much less collected and something was slowly removing his mask of eternal patience and stoic irony. He heard the music too. It was slow, dark and heavy, like a graveyard note buried under a very heavy stone.

    Lorian came closer to him, maybe not as close as Leira… but he suddenly felt like fey’s shadows slowly enveloping his protective bubble made by the girl not long ago. Tiyan backed off. The shadows didn’t insist, they stayed around Lorian.

    Lorian pierced him with darkened gaze. He had to reveal that. Better now, than later, better from his mouth, than Lerrel’s. Even if that possibly would make this silly boy much less cooperative and much more confused. And his own patience was already on its lowest. He felt as it stretches, ready to break. He told himself many times that patience is the key. But with every word coming from Tiyan, the sand was pouring in its hourglass and only few drops were left.

    “Because you were born with my mark on your shoulder, and that, by default, makes you my property. Filled with magic from the very beginning, unusually powerful for a human.”

    Tiyan’s mouth opened. Like fish. He didn’t catch up to the latter words, but hung on the first ones. No, that couldn’t be true. Property! He was claiming he owns him!

    His sense of pride snapped, his nerves lost it. He forgot that, even if Lorian is treating him well, he is still a Kilyan. Dangerous, dark and prone to violence. He forgot he was in the palace of the enemy, which he was reminding himself for the whole day.

    He blurted.

    “I don’t know what is going on in your head, but one thing is sure, this is madness. You are so sure I will help you, because I am a human, because you think you have power over me. You say, you will not sacrifice my life. Why should I even believe you?”

    He didn’t catch how Lorian’s expression changes, like all pent-up desire to deal with him in much less appeasable manner was coming on the surface.

    “Yes, I am a guest, a cherished guest… you want to use me and without me, you will not be able to stop your Devourer” Tiyan continued. “But that ends here. I am not your toy and not definitely not your property. You can chose another lamb to fill with magic.”

    He would turn and leave, if he knew how to leave this place, if he, deep under his skin, didn’t know they won’t let him. But he really had enough, of mysteries, untold secrets and Lorian’s infuriating sense of superiority. The times of war were over and he was not the small child anymore.

    He felt that more than he saw. Something dragged him closer to the cartouche, something dark, which easily sunk under Leira’s spell and now seemed to penetrate his skin with icy bites. The darkness that was dancing around Lorian gathered again, and flew towards Tiyan, immobilizing his limbs and lifting him up.

    And when the young hunter gazed in panic at Lorian, he just trashed and screamed, because it was not the usual, ironic, collected prince anymore.

    Lorian was grinning at him, enveloped by shadows, which had teeth now, teeth, talons and thorned tails. His smile was darker than everything in this chamber and was sending shivers down the boy’s spine. His hands, usually well kept and delicate, now became black and talons rose from his nails.

    The fae prince came closer, and poked Tiyan with his sharp claw, just in his chest; darkness spread over it and sunk into the hunter’s skin. Tiyan trashed again.

    “They say that even the most patient beast has its limits” he purred into Tiyan’s face. “I allowed you to continue, as I was sure that if you will go by your own will, it will be… easier. For both of us. But your words are not amusing me anymore.”

    Tiyan wanted to speak, something, anything, but was too panicked to dare.

    “If… and I say, if… you allow me in your graciousness to explain your own situation and your place in this prophecy… then maybe, we can return to our conversation. Cultural, nice and easy conversation. If though,” Lorian grinned again. “You will keep insulting me, then, you will end up enchanted, dancing through the empty halls until I allow you to come to your senses.”

    Tiyan wanted to act bold again, but the look in Lorian’s dark eyes warned him that it would be the last thing he would ever do. Of course the fae would not kill him, he needed him. But he would toy with him forever and that was more scary than death.

    “Good” Lorian was seething with a dark aura, which worked on Tiyan harder than anything his brother could try on him. “Now. If you don’t comply with the easy way, we can try the hard one. But I believe that you don’t want that either.”

    “No” uttered Tiyan, feeling as the shadows ease on him, and spit him on the floor. He didn’t have to look at Lorian to feel and hear as he approached and crouched next to him.

    “Never. Ever. Try my patience again, winter child. You are possibly well aware where you are. But you took my good will for weakness. And certainly wanted to check how far you can go, without annoying me.”

    Tiyan looked at him with renewed hatred.

    “You still need me, you just said so.”

    “Oh yes. Definitely” the fae prince’s black eyes drilled in his soul, stealing the light from it, with his shadowed ghosts creeping around him. “But everything has its time and everything has its purpose. Perhaps your purpose is to still learn. And mine – to teach you.”

    Lorian slowly stood up. His composure again impeccable, his skin pale and smooth as ice.

    And he smiled, with a smile of vast moonlit plains and icy passages reaching deep into the marrow of the earth.

    “Now, first lesson. You are not acting before I won’t say so. And listen carefully, because it’s as important to me… as to you. And perhaps to all that you love and care for.”

    “I don’t need to listen to you. You will make me suffer either way.”

    “You do, I am afraid. This is not a game. You need me as much as I need you. So…” his eyes gleamed with galactic white, stars and moons. “… how much you love your family, Tiyan Markon?”

  • wip

    Chapter VI: The Prophecy – Part II

    “Kill me??”

    The sound of his own words reigned way too loud in his ears and Tiyan almost felt as something, some vile force, tried to slip through his protective spells, almost pushing the air from his lungs. He thought that his eyes would get adjusted to the dark but nothing like that happened and not being even able to place where he is and where is Lorian, made him close to panic.

    If that was some cruel joke from the fae prince, he was not amused.

    The light gleamed in the distance. How vast this chamber even was? And when Tiyan was able to see again, when the flickering brightness freed the room from the darkness’s reign… he saw the most perfect, the most ominous and most overwhelming sight he ever witnessed in his whole life.

    Lorian stood near a large cartouche built in the wall, portruding from the stone. The prince’s shadows were frantic and manically pulled and danced and amassed before the wall which towered over him, far up, where the light wasn’t reaching. The faint gleam appeared to be kept captive by the chamber, unwilling guest in the kingdom of the night.

    He slowly approached the fey prince, looking with reluctant awe at the darkened cartouche. He almost forgot about being unenthusiastic about the palace. The previous murder attempts from Lorian’s brother were pushed into the back of Tiyan’s mind, and that alone was a sign not only he is curious and amazed, but also that he slowly started to accept the status quo. If someone told him so, though, he would probably deny, angrily. But the palace had a charm that was sinking into his skin and changing his reality.

    The cartouche was filled with cryptic writings and images the young hunter had no idea what could depict. All of them held a primal beauty, like something created in the eve of time.

    “The Lord and the Lady” said Lorian with a muted tone, like darkness around them didn’t allow any sound to spread wider. “The Tidal Water; Impatient”. The Autumn and the Great Depth”.

    Tiyan made a bitter expression.

    “Do not frown, winter child” smiled Lorian, gazing at him. His black eyes seemed to reflect the light, filled with white sparks. “These all are prophecies. Some are more enigmatic and some very simple. But one thing binds them. Some were explaining things that really happened. And some refer to those which will happen in the future – though the fey kind forgot about their meanings.”

    “I didn’t expect the mighty fae relying on some obscure guessing” Tiyan had to bite. He wouldn’t be himself, if he didn’t.

    “Because you never witnessed a real prophecy. In your world, even now, when magic touched it, you had no access to them, nor you wouldn’t be able to decipher the simplest one, even if someone was giving you an answer on a plate.”

    “Do not hold back. Offend us more” grinned Tiyan voraciously.

    “I am not offending you” Lorian grinned like a cat over a mouse in his claws,. “Humans never were exposed to high spellbinding. You would walk into it and not see how it changes the world around you. You wouldn’t even feel it. And this is the fact, not an offense.”

    Lorian touched the cartouche, delicately. The letters on the lowest prophecy started to shift and dance.

    “Your brother was right. You like to amaze mortals” Tiyan said, but even he had to admit that it was intriguing.

    “You are created to be amazed, you are made to be in awe” Lorian laughed; it again sounded like on the battlefield, a long time ago, in another life. But Tiyan was slowly getting used to it. “At least, in the beginning. Not a lot of things can move a human that lives in Dal’coler long enough.”

    Tiyan suddenly felt an urge to ask about Leira, but decided not to. He would better hear more from her, than listening lies from the monster who enslaved her.

    Lorian touched the swirling letters again and they drifted towards him, shifting and drinking from his aura, until they returned on the cartouche, forming words… which Tiyan still didn’t understand. Probably written in fey language, they were as alien to him, as Ain’Dal’s black eyes.

    “The Cat, the Fox and the Raven” said Lorian, looking at the lighted up words, a tension in his usually collected voice.

    Tiyan involuntarily shivered, like he was embraced by the cold gust of wind. He looked behind, in fear that it may be again Lorian’s brother, but they were alone. Closed in the chamber, tightly shut; the other half of it was drowning in deep darkness.

    “The forbidden prophecy” continued Lorian. “Most of the Kilyans despise humans. And the mere thought of being dependent on them, is revolting. An insult for all the fey. But I realized quickly that the pride is what could carry us into the open jaws of death. And not only death. Our souls would be torn from us, and our magic would be removed, swallowed by the beast of many faces. This means pain and oblivion. And I love my people, my kind and my subjects too much to allow them to pass away screaming, forced to fill the dreams and soul of a god.”

    Tiyan got lost pretty quickly.

    “Wait, wait… what god? What death? And what am I even supposed to do?” he felt a bad feeling worming into his mind. Prophecies by default were something he would avoid, even if he knew what they are all about.

    Lorian’s eyes gleamed with amusement, real one, like he was telling an especially vicious joke. “You are needed, because your blood will bind the Devourer in the mortal realm, stripping him from his destructive power.”

    Lorian possibly was saying something else, but Tiyan focused only on the words that just left his mouth. Blood? His pupils opened in disbelief and he suddenly felt claustrophobic, the liquid night around them closed its talons around his fast-beating heart. Blood. This one word changed the whole deal. Not only this bastard captured him and took into the nest filled with enemies, but also wanted his life to appease some another monster.

    “Let me explain everything” the calm voice of the fae prince brought him back to life and pulled him over the sea of fear. “Because you seem to believe I am going to sacrifice you. I won’t. But to understand my trail of thoughts, I need to unveil the real meaning of this prophecy.”

    Tiyan huffed in badly concealed anger.

    “Explain then, your highness” he only said, with a mocking tone, and Lorian gazed at him with an undeciphered, unnatural expression, his features changing slightly in the flickering, faint light.

    Tiyan was sure that he saw wrong. But part of it knew it was real.

  • wip

    Chapter VI: The Prophecy – Part I

    Tiyan expected the fae palace to be filled with enemies, looking at him with curiosity and badly hidden scorn. To his surprise, Dal’coler was a silent place, glittering with light and shadows. The court members they met were either bowing before Lorian or exchanging with him a few words. And no one cared for him, like he was another human servant. He had to admit that he preferred it that way. He didn’t like to be the center of attention, especially here. Here, too much interest could mean death.

    Lorian was leading him through vast sunlit corridors, filled with chill air and the scent of flowers. It was a fact – Dal’coler was enormous and… beautiful. In this dangerous way, that held more allure than safety. 

    The fey prince radiated with dark aura and that alone was making his meetings with the court a specific spectacle. Most of the fae had glamour resembling wintery light, which was making a fine contrast with his darker one. They never clashed though but attracted each other, in strange dance of chill day and starry night.

    Do not admire them, Tiyan scolded himself, they do that on purpose.

    But the most curious thing was, that now he could see their aura. He didn’t see it in Vennklan prison and he didn’t see it in the bathroom. Now, it was as natural for him as breathing. And to add to it, he perceived the spell Leira gave him, it gleamed over his skin and even clothes like a spiderweb made of stars. Something was changing and he didn’t think if he hates it… or likes it.

    Leira.

    She was walking behind them; whenever he gazed at her, she looked back and a sparks of joy were dancing in her pupils. He suspected that he amused her, with his stubbornness. And he preferred it that way too. Better to be amusing than scorned and hated.

    “Where do we go?” he wanted to know, after a few other fae met and few vast chambers passed. “I understand that to some… Room of Prophecies.”

    “Some say that curiosity killed the human child” Lorian turned to him, his face tense, which was unusual to him. Tiyan thought that he only had two expressions: enchanting and mocking.

    “Perhaps” Tiyan leveled with him. “I only want to know. Is it too much? Maybe telling me where we aim would destroy your impeccable aura of mystery?”

    Lorian grinned, with all teeth.

    “This is not my own mystery I am worried of losing. You will see, my winter child, that even fey can feel the weight of things in Dal’coler.”

    More mysteries. He really was a bastard.

    Tiyan really hated mysteries. Being called all the time a winter child as well.

    The surroundings started to slowly change. From sunlit passages and bright chambers, it went slowly, gradually to darker, more shadowed rooms and corridors. Soon, the path started to lead down, down, into the heart of Dal’coler. Tiyan’s skin crept, when the music that seemed to always be predominant in the fae palace, became darker, more atonal and ominous. The aura shifted, the darkness seemed to press on them all. Prince Lorian changed as well. To Tiyan’s shock, he saw that shadows from the corners and ceilings started to crawl up to him, like tempted with his enchantment. They slid over him and danced around him, celebrating him, bowing before their lord.

    Shadow magic.

    He knew what inquisitor used to torment him, because Lorian told him, back in the bathroom. Tiyan was not a complete fool and put two and two together. His tormentors used fey spells.

    From what Leira explained, royal magic.

    How they managed to master it even on smallest degree, was beyond him. He somehow doubted fae gave it to them, like the prince did with him.

    Lorian led them into the darkness,  which became thick and muting, and soon, which felt much more than few minutes they really spent there, they saw an intimidating sight.

    A large gate, which looked like it was made from obsidian and coal; all light that still existed in this part of the palace, was drifting towards it and turning into night. It seemed to suck everything into its maw, like a hungry sea beast swallowing small water creatures, which were falling through its gaping mouth.

    Tiyan heard a moan behind and when he turned back, he saw Leira, strangely pale, how she supported herself over the wall gobelin encrusted with golden threads. She looked in visible pain.

    Before he could react, Lorian spoke, the shadows around him intensifying.

    “You can go. I allowed you to come too close” his voice was colder than usual, not mocking anymore.

    “I wanted to make sure that my spell works and the gate won’t harm him” uttered Leira. “I will go, my prince, thank you” and bowing deep, she withdrew, her legs and hands shaking.

    “Do not worry,” a smirk again appeared on Lorian’s face, but his tone dark, dark as the gate itself. “As soon as this place won’t be able to reach her, she will feel better.”

    Tiyan gazed after Leira again, worried, but she already disappeared, a glimpse of her golden hair vanishing in distance.

    Lorian slowly approached the gate. His shadows seemed to wail without sound, Tiyan felt it in his bones, how the dark doors attracted not only them but also their master. How – whatever was on the other side – drags Lorian in. He felt that, he felt that in his own mind.

    The fae prince wanted to touch the gate frame, but then, they both heard the ragged breath. Like someone was suffocating and fought for air. Delicate steps and wind, which came from nowhere, like commanded to. The wind was cold and Tiyan shivered unwillingly. It carried undeciphered scent, something heavier than Lorian’s jasmine, which the young hunter couldn’t place. It made him want to stop breathing and hide.

    A fae, looking older than Lorian but possibly as ageless as him, was coming, his throat’s muscles tensed. Lorian didn’t even turn back.

    “I see you still trying to stop me, brother” he just said and he placed his hand on the frame. “Trying to follow my footsteps may be dangerous.”

    The door shook, like pierced by a powerful bolt of energy, and the newcomer laughed.

    “And you still can’t stop yourself from impressing the mortals.”

    “It’s not my fault, that they are impressed” grinned Lorian and looked straight into the fae’s eyes. They stood there, measuring themselves with their gazes, until Lorian’s brother passed because he had to take another wild breath in.

    “These doors will kill us all one day. Our father should lock them forever and put seals on them.”

    “Perhaps. But not before I show my Fox what burden lays on all of us.”

    Now, the new light lit in Lorian’s brother’s eyes. They slid over Tiyan’s frame and measured him, just as they did with Lorian before, he seemed to try to delve into him and dissolve him into dust. It felt like he tries to push a very powerful spell into him but is unable to. Try after try, Tiyan’s aura was opposing against his mind. After few times, he resigned but his glamour attacked Tiyan so hard that he almost fell on his knees. But he withstood. The glamour was a shock, but just as in prison cell he didn’t gave in to Lorian, now, he didn’t give up to his brother.

    “Very well!” the fae eventually exclaimed. “Your magic protects him well and gives him more strength that I ever suspected you would share. And I already wanted to show you how futile your attempts would be.”

    “You are surely aware that killing the servant of another fae is punished… harshly” Lorian seemed indifferent, turning his attention again towards the door.

    His brother took another effortful breath. The dark energy that emanated from the gates, seemed to choke him, more and more, the longer he was near it.

    “And how bad that you forgot that you don’t have your own shadows to protect you” Lorian added, sliding his fingers over the door. They slowly started to open. “It would be such a pity to lose you, because of your own recklessness… Lerrel.”

    The fae looked infuriated, more, murderous. But seeing as the gates opened, he knew how little chances he had against the shadow magic that protected the Chamber of Prophecies.

    Burning with cold anger, he didn’t add anything more and soon only the scent of roses was indicating that someone was here with them.

    “What was it?” blurted Tiyan, feeling as the protective spell woven by Leira tenses around his skin.

    “More important was what he tried to do,” Lorian said with a furrowed brow.

    “And?”

    “He tried to kill you.”

    The gates opened wide, sucking all light in and enveloping them with pitch-black darkness.

  • wip

    Chapter V: Slaves and Fools – Part III

    Tiyan slowly put his clothes on. After the bath, his skin became more fragile, but the robe touch was a pleasant sensation. They were made of something resembling silk, but much smoother. Tiyan realized that he ponders, what spells were intertwined in it, to feel like a gossamer and still being able to work as a robe.

    And he was aware that not only the robe. This whole place, beaming with strange calmth, had a sublime aura, something not unlike a dream. Positive feelings were forced into his mind, but he knew that Dal’coler can’t be anything more than a nest of vipers.

    If vipers could live in the snow.

    The bathroom’s cozyness was making him dizzy and it wasn’t necessarily a bad feeling. His fear and tension was washed by the water before and now kept away by this cozy, warm place. And he almost was grateful for it.

    He remembered Lorian saying that… Leira will join him soon. He wanted her to come so he could face her and explain himself, because he started to feel guilty. He indeed didn’t have the right to judge her. Perhaps when she appeared once again, he would try to brush off the bad first impression. Humans should stick together in this place. He didn’t know how many of them were kept here, but when he sees another, he won’t be trying to jump to conclusion again.

    He felt much better without layers of filth on his skin, wearing comfortable clothes worthy of royalty. He never was vain, but this was a treat which he decided to use to its limit. If they offer him rich robes, they probably won’t kill him in the next few days. His mind couldn’t stop writing scenarios though, in which Lorian kicks him to his knees and laughs from his naive hopes. He could stand against him, fight with him, even if he had no chance. But he would hate and loathe being humiliated.

    Why would Lorian do it? He didn’t know. But his memories surged from time to time, showing in a flashes of a lightning how the fae murder the people from his village. Tiyan was torn between memories filled with blood and the feeling of peace that talked to him stronger and more insinstently with each hour.

    He might not agree on anything they propose, but he can of course listen to what they have to say. Maybe he will be able to throw refusal into their faces, as a showcase of stubborn defiance.

    There was a silent knock to the door and when they opened, he felt a scent of roses and tulips, caressing his senses. Leira appeared like a gust of wind, silent but very very real. Her golden hair danced around her face a wave made of pure sunlight.

    Tiyan didn’t know how to start his explanations, because she surprised him again, cutting the thread of his thoughts. But she looked at him shrewdly, he saw an accusation in her eyes… and then her features were lighted up.

    “You don’t need to say anything. I know you regret it.”

    “You can read minds?” he raised a brow.

    “No. But your inner struggle is very visible” she laughed. Tiyan almost cursed, but stopped himself on time. Bad impression could be done twice, after all. “Prince Lorian told me he takes you to the Chamber of Prophecies. Humans can’t go there without protective spells. Most of the fae also. It’s a very dangerous place.”

    “And you…?”

    “I will put that spell on you” she smiled mischievously. “Don’t make such a frown. If I have a chance, I like putting spells on unaware men, who enter my lair.”

    “I see the fae sense of humor is contagious” he said, with a raised brow.

    “If you only knew. But no. This sense of humor is completely mine.”

    Tiyan without usual hesitation allowed her to approach him. She shook her fingers and looked at him intensely, this time completely seriously. Her nails ran over his hands, and surprise had to be well painted on his face, because she quickly explained.

    “You must know that magic the High Fae pass on to others – like you and me, or any human they consider worthy – is different from their own. High Fae can use spells without gestures and words. The royalty, like King Marn’sul Dal or prince Lorian, can enter human minds or shape darkness, by mere thinking of doing so.”

    “I know that all too well” interrupted Tiyan.

    She pinned him to the floor with her gaze and continued.

    “Magic passed on humans and magic of the lower fey needs gestures or words. And some kinds of spells… need touch. I possess this kind of magic.”

    His whole being started to write scenarios again, faster than a flash of lightning, among the murmur of the thunder.

    “So… Lorian offered you this… intimate magic..?” the sleeping volcano of Tiyan’s emotions again threatened to burst.

    “Yes,” she replied, approaching even closer. Tiyan almost backed off. A insistent thought entered his brain and slowly wormed its way to his marrow.

    “Did he…? Were you… his…”

    Her expression couldn’t be more disappointed now. He knew that he offended her, even without looking at her face or hearing irritation in her voice. Her composure calm as a silent snow, but it was even worse than an outburst of righteous anger.

    “Why do all men think only about one thing? It’s not of your interest, but no. I never was “his” in any way your mind has brewed up. Magic chooses itself how to bloom in a human body, it wasn’t even his own choice, silly winter child.”

    Tiyan felt as deep shame washed over him with cold streams. He promised to himself, a few moments ago, to never judge or jump to conclusions and here he was, doing the very same.

    “I don’t need a knight on a white horse, Tiyan Markon” she spoke, starting to pull his sleeves up, on which he didn’t protest “I am not a naive girl, used by an evil fae prince. Maybe I don’t have a high position here, but I am trusted and I can do much more than clean bedrooms or do laundry.”

    “I am a fool” he admitted, when her hands started to circle over his arms and hands, sometimes pressing, sometimes just brushing against the skin.

    “Yes. Yes, you are,” she patted him condescendingly on the warmed up cheek.

    And she got lost completely in the magic that traveled from her veins to his skin, sending shivers down his spine.

    The magic was a bolt of energy, which was causing his hair to stand up and electrify. Everything in him was attracted to the spell she woven, like his tendons, muscles and nerves wanted to jump from him and stick to Leira like a sanguisuge. And there was something extremely sensual to it, which again made Tiyan angry. How many humans possessed this kind of power and how many of them the fey…

    She told you that it’s not your bussiness.

    Stop being an idiot.

    “You still compare sizes with prince Lorian in your thoughts” murmured Leira, a small and very mocking smile dancing on her lips. Tiyan felt exposed and stopped thinking at all.

    He sighed, when she stopped, unfurling his sleeves again and withdrawing her hands. Tiyan looked at his own body and saw that a frail mist envelops him, light and breezy. He didn’t feel anything… aside from shame mixed with… peace from her delicate touch, still lingering over his skin. Elusive but strangely familiar.

    She judged her craft with a wry expression and a charming grin crept in again, lighting her features even more intensely. There was something slightly predatory in it.

    “Perfect. Delicious. Now you are ready to be sacrificed to the monster” she complimented him.

    He didn’t swallow the bait.

  • wip

    Chapter V: Slaves and Fools – Part II

    Tiyan allowed himself a moment of much needed relaxation. Of course, their kindness could be a dark trick, but when he felt like rose-scented water splashes against his tired and pained limbs, he couldn’t stiffle a sigh of true relief.

    He was in Dal’coler, surrounded by enemies. The primal fear that kept him on his toes subdued, though. The calm silence of the bathing room, warm water and flowers drifting on the water’s surface numbed him. Be what has to be, but at least he won’t die dirty and reeking of rats and filth.

    It was his second bathing thub. The clear water was putting gleaming reflections on the walls, making the room look… magical.

    He took a small bottle filled with… something glittering, of deep green color, like fresh spring leaves. The uncorked it and strange scent enveloped him… like. Yes. Like liquid spring. The small leaves danced in the bottle, miniature signs of rebirth. Spring seemed to be closed in a small bottle and kept as a captive, until someone decided to bathe in it.

    He didn’t know why, but the fact that this was even possible, made him almost regain caution. Whatever they caught in this bottle, made one wonder what other things are captured in this palace.

    Deep down though… he was aware that the fae freed him. Perhaps to make him a slave, but he would break under the pressure of inquisitor’s torture. They could torment him for days, maybe months. Now, this situation was much better. He could hate Kilyans for all they did to humankind, he could oppose their orders… but he was bragging in pain before. No, torment and death were not better than a fae court.

    Of course the fae who kidnapped him so easily can do much worse things to him. But now, he felt relief. The pain started to ease on him and his body slowly started to heal.

    His mind won’t recover that fast, though.

    Tiyan took a deep breath and dived with his head into the water, laying on the bottom of the bathing tub and closing his eyes.

    This was almost lulling him to sleep, the silent movement of water and the sound of strange music, which under the water intensified and enveloped him with a soothing cocoon. He didn’t know where it came from, but was beautiful… and sad. Like lament clad in glitter and moonlight.

    Your imagination becomes wilder than a famished wolf, he thought and slowly, very slowly, he pushed the air from his lungs. The bubbles flew from his mouth and started to gleam on the water’s surface.

    When his lungs started to protest, he slowly poked his head out… and couldn’t stop himself from a surprised and angry screech, which sounded ridiculous even in his own ears.

    “Do you know the sense of privacy?!” he growled, trying to find something, anything to cover himself with. He decided the flowers would do well and gathered them over his bare body.

    “Usually yes” said the fae, who was sitting on the frame of the bathing tub, his finger making circles in the water. “But not when a person with whom we need to have a serious conversation, takes a few hours to bathe.”

    Tiyan realized, even through the anger, that he lost the sense of time. The bath loosened his sore muscles and he allowed safety to creep over him. Safety he shouldn’t feel.

    The fae this time was not naked. His black robes, made of raven feathers and fine silk, were tightly pressed to his limbs. The cape hung behind him, long enough to reach the floor. His temples were embellished with a silver crown.

    The prince.

    The prince of this place.

    “You are prince Lorian” he said with an accusation in his voice. He was aware how naive this had to sound. But he already faced too many surprises in the last few days.

    “Ah, Leira surely introduced me already. Did she make a good impression?”

    Something boiled in Tiyan.

    “You made her believe that she is here by free will! That is even worse than open slavery” he pushed more flowers over his crotch, to hide better. Prince Lorian looked at him intensely, with a dark amusement.

    “You truly are impervious,” he said slowly, with real curiosity in his eyes. “Someone in your place would be at least a little grateful for saving him from shadow torment.”

    Shadow torment.

    “Until you tell me why you saved me when I was a child and why you kidnapped me, I won’t stop being impervious,” hissed Tiyan. “I don’t intend to play your music, not knowing the melody.”

    “Clever!” Lorian’s face lightened up. “So you are not a hopeless example of a village fool, after all.”

    Tiyan didn’t know how to reply to that, so he sewed his mouth and decided to not say anything, until he gets a good and filling reply of what is this madness.

    Seeing the stubborn, harsh expression on his face, Lorian sighed.

    “Oh, but you are childish… good. Very well” he stood from the edge of the tub. His long cape floated behind him like bat wings. “Finish your long bath and dress up. I will explain it all.”

    “No tricks?” Tiyan narrowed his eyes.

    “No games” grinned Lorian and sweeping in the air with a cape theatrically, he led his steps to the door. He turned back though. “I will send Leira to you. And… you already judged her. Do not. And that, you can consider an order from someone who allowed you for another day of life.”

    Tiyan wanted to reply cleverly, hitting the fae with his irony, until he would feel it in his polished shoes. But something in the prince’s tone stopped him.

    Something.

    Something darker than night.

    But he had one more question. Which burned him in the lips, urging to be let out.

    “Wait! How did you bring me here? Some kind of magic?”

    But Lorian already left, leaving behind a scent of jasmine and lilacs.

  • 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.