Tiyo didn’t remember much of the Great War between the people and the Kilyans of the fae lineage. It was as if a thick fog has covered all his senses; dangerous and blinding, yet – at the same time – sensual and inviting. At least he imagined it this way. He wished strongly for it to be his refuge. He wanted to disappear when fae sellswords were murdering his friends and brothers. He didn’t want to watch as the ones he grew up with fell under the inevitable blows of the cruel Shee. He tried to use his sword but he was too young to do it properly. He shouldn’t have even been there, no one should. He was just another boy used as cannon fodder, another insignificant young life, a thread cut too early. Kilyan mages didn’t even have to enter the battlefield to sweep their enemies from the face of the earth with spells of the mightiness that Tiyo’s people could not even dream of. He could only try not to be brutally killed.
The battle he took part in was particularly vicious. The King of the Kilyans threw huge kritars at the humans, enormous carnivorous monsters with crystal teeth. The beasts tore apart their victims with bony claws, bloodstained double jaws, and teeth resembling sharp diamonds. The fae made sure they were eternally hungry for human flesh. It caused more fear and Kilyans loved it when humans feared them.
Tiyo was twelve at the time but his face was covered with blood and tears that flowed from his frightened eyes. Fear or regret, anger or despair, did it even matter? Where were the saru of the fae who protected the little ones from their demonic brothers? Where were the good beings who promised peace and kept the Dark Folk on a leash?
Sobbing from fear, he threw his useless sword on the ground and reached up to smear the tears with his dirty hands. The fae passed him by, aiming at the adult men whose screams pierced the thick air. Just for a brief moment, Tiyo wondered why he wasn’t attacked as well.
Shortly, a tall fae warrior covered in fog passed by, pausing only to take a peek at Tiyo. He didn’t even make an effort to hide the amused scorn reflected on his face. Tiyo felt piercing anger mounting inside his stomach. Why don’t they attack him? It’s as if he was so easy to get rid of that the act itself wasn’t worthwhile. The birds of prey have already been circling in the air, and their eyes were following not only the dead men lying dead on the battlefield but also the boy. As if they were beckoning him to join the army of corpses, littering the bloodstained ground.
“FIGHT, COWARD!” he heard a yell to his right. A human soldier, covered in the blue blood of the fae, held a sword dripping with the fluid that once ran through some Kilyan’s veins. Tiyo wanted to spark hatred in himself, for everything the Shee represented. Yet, to his surprise, he felt as if he couldn’t. What was happening on the battlefield was simply sad. Humans had no chance of winning and even their burning hatred for the Kilyan kind couldn’t change the fact that they were all lost long before the war had even started.
Tiyo tried to pick up his sword and fight, just as the stranger urged him.
Don’t be a failure. Do something. But his hands suddenly went numb, the strange fog intensified, hitting him with a waft of rank air, and the boy almost fell to his knees. That was when he felt it.
A spell drilling his side. There was no blood, just the distant feeling of pressure and pain. Feeling helpless, he slowly looked up and spotted the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Faint, almost transparent eyes looked at him coldly. His long white hair moved in the wind and framed a long face, that was characteristic of Kilyans. But it did not convey the rage that usually accompanied the battle between the sworn enemies. It was an idle face. Indifferent, with no resentment. The man had so much contempt in his eyes that Tiyo involuntarily shivered. The penetrating spell continued to roll into his body. A quiet moan escaped his throat, insipid despite the unbearable pain. While the fae was slowly approaching Tiyo, a spear appeared in his hand with slender fingers. The boy thought it was even more beautiful than the Shee who held it.
The Kilyan, silent, beautiful, and indifferent, stood in the middle of the battlefield. Unconcerned, as if he was invincible.
He slowly lifted the spear, right when Tiyo eventually fell onto the bloodsoaked earth. The soil smelled of iron, but it also carried the strange scent of grass that the fae’s blood gave off. “There was not even a blade of grass growing there”, he thought unexpectedly and almost laughed, half-delirious from the pain. Feeling like he was going to pass out soon, numb with pain, he lifted his eyes once again and looked around the battlefield. The kritharas trampled the ground. The dark soil was stained with the blood of fighting armies, intermingling into puddles of blue and red. There was no life here.
He waited for the final blow. The Kilyan recited some words in his ethereal dialect that sounded like liquid sleep. Tiyo didn’t want to fight anymore. He’s had enough. Enough of his father, who told him to fight. He was done with the fae and king Robhar who foolishly thought he could defy magic.
Kill me and take this pain away. The boy curled up into a fetal position, wishing everything around him would finally come to an end.
Then he felt a terrifying cold. Death. The Kilyan hit me, and I’m so bemused that I didn’t even notice.
But after a few seconds, Tiyo realized that he wasn’t dying. He still drew breaths. They were sharp and shallow, but still, unmistakably his chest kept rising and falling. The white-haired fae began to speak to someone, quickly, in a hurry. In response, he received a murmur that might well belong not to a man, but a raging storm. It had a primordial sort of power that scared the boy more than the fight and all the shed blood around him.
“Us’slu man’ki sarra’l.” This time, a soft voice unfolded over Tiyo’s shaky body. He was afraid to look, fearing to see its owner. He felt that this fae was surrounded by cold evil – petrifying cruelty. Unfathomable in its boundless frigidity.
The boy didn’t understand what the Shee said, but suddenly his body became warm, instead of deathly cold. Eventually, the boy dared to lift his eyes but he saw only two hazy spots. One was bright, certainly belonging to the white-haired Kilyan, dressed in white robes. The second one was completely black. The image in front of his eyes began to blur and, for a second, Tiyo saw two black holes instead of eyes; gaping in emptiness, reminiscent of the infinite night. They were deeper than the ocean that his father traveled across on a freighter, a metal colossus that housed thousands of people. Fae constructors didn’t use metal; only light and night. Even the spear held by the Kilyan was created from the pure rays of the sun.
Dark eyes drilled into his soul. The black Kilyan seemed to grow in Tiyo’s mind, reaching the height of a colossus, similar to the ship his father worked at – a soulless monument.
He closed his eyes as the black fae leaned over him. He smelled of flowers and rain-washed ground after a storm.
“Don’t… don’t kill me…”, Tiyo managed to squeal. But the black fae only laughed – it was not a burst of evil laughter at all. It seemed to hold the promise of spring after cruel winter.
“Human child,” said the man in language of the Shee, “you have been sent in too early.” The tone of his voice lowered, turning into a whisper when the cold breath of the Shee touched Tiyo’s neck. “But children are precious prey. You should not be here, but I will never let the oath be broken in front of my eyes…”
Tiyo, dazed with the scent of flowers and the man’s soft voice, could no longer restrain his fatigue. He knew that they will kill him, they will surely kill him now…
The boy fainted. The last word that left his lips, as the faintest whisper, was “please”.
“You’re pleading?” amusement rang in the fae’s voice. “I am here to fulfill your plea.”
But Tiyo did not hear him anymore. The battle continued. The fae kept eliminating people at a bone-chilling rate. Yet, he lay still as if surrounded by a protective bubble. He slept like the child he was.
He slept dreamlessly on the ground, while the human empire was being shattered by the Shee forces.
Snow started falling on the now deserted battlefield, thick and freezing. Snow that has always prevailed in the land of Kilyans. The fae kingdom took over the human one and even the weather surrendered.
Someone carried Tiyo. It was someone with eyes black as coal and dark hair resembling raven’s feathers.