The night passed slowly. Very slowly. Then the day came, lit by the faint sun, the fog raised from the lake and the woods looked like draped with thick spiderwebs. Tiyan felt a throbbing, dim pain of fear in his heart, that he was able to tame enough, to not show it to his family.
But they knew, of course they knew. They always knew. He would be naive if he believed it isn’t so. But was glad that they allowed him to keep it in himself, buried under shallow earth.
Alina Markon would never give her son to fairies. That was out of the question. His father straight up opposed it. Mina wasn’t even aware, what happens in the minds and hearts of others. And Korr, Tiyan’s dog, slept, with a dreamless sleep.
Tiyan eventually wore the warm clothes, scarfs and heavy boots, and went, slowly, like a mourning procession, to carry the remaining meat to the old mer’s house. Mer died during the war, his sons -too. Only his old wife and their daughter occupied the once important house. They were unable to hunt, never were taught this trade. A nasty thought entered Tiyan’s mind, that if he was sent to the woods, to die there, these women wouldn’t rely on him anymore. Others of course could help them and probably would, but they were living through their own silent nightmare. Only Tiyan seemed to care enough. The current world brought to life hard, remorseless people. But… he liked to feel needed. By his family and by others too. It was helping him too, to more accept the current life.
The snow muted his steps, as he passed the silent people. They sometimes were nodding at him, but mostly, kept to themselves. Only one woman stopped after he passed her, and looked after him, with a smile.
He stood in the mid step, like paralyzed.
They tried something together, not that long ago. Filling the empty void that was sucking life from the village. They desperately sought warmth, understanding, and even pleasure, fast and painful in its bitter truth. They latched to each other, like snow to the trees. Drinking sweetness that seemed forbidden, when all was falling apart.
She would love it to continue. Tiyan… couldn’t.
Now, he was so glad that it was in the past. If they still were together, the lesser folk would know. And do something he would be unable to unsee.
They stared at each other. Untold things hang between them, heavy, difficult. Tiyan shook his head.
“I think it would be better going” he uttered. He would be better indeed. His mind maybe was not open before fairies anymore… but who knows what they read in his thoughts. Maybe finished unhappy love… or maybe something more… tasty.
What an awful word. Awful and wrong.
He saw disappointment in her green eyes.
“Perhaps we could…”
“Perhaps” he buried his gaze in the package with meat he was holding.
“Go. Do not let them wait. Because they wait, yes?”
“Them—?” he quickly realized that she meant mer’s family. Of course, them. Not the hungry night.
She walked off, her thick trousers’ legs wet from snow, her woolen hat put tightly on her long, copper hair. Tiyan inhaled and slowly exhaled the air, which took the form of a cloud made of breath.
There go my choices. Perfect.
The mer’s wife welcomed him with a weak smile, an old woman from a good house, which already was unused to a small village life. What was happening now, was draining her like a leech. Her hair were still brown though, not white, like his mother’s. She never saw a war first-hand. She never fought with spells of the High Fae. She never was captured. But she looked weaker and more afraid than Alina, like not experiencing all of this made her even less prepared for this kind of life.
“Where is Soira?”
“Still sleeping. She still fights with the sickness from last month.”
“Tell her I asked how she feels.”
“The meat it salted. So it kept you both going for longer.”
He handed her the package and allowed her to invite him for a thin tea made of herbs. No one was doing and mixing herbs like Dolsa Reinard.
She made him one glass, took the second herself and slowly started to drink, a tea made on snow. Tiyan sipped too. It was really good.
“So… anglor” she smiled at him meekly.
“Yes” Tiyan returned the smile. “All seem to know what I bring them. Am I so predictable?”
“Yes. But that’s not a bad thing. Thanks to that, you always come back to us.”
Tiyan was never good at receiving compliments. Perhaps, because he had low self-esteem. Or because he thought that he always does things wrong, especially when he tried hard. And therefore he must try harder than others, because good won’t find him as easily as them.
“I know. You don’t like that” Dolsa laughed. A kind, motherly laughter. “But that is true. You have a good heart, Tiyan Markon.”
“I…” he lost his words completely.
“You know that, deep down your heart. You judge yourself too harshly. Perhaps, it would be good, if you gave another chance to that girl. I see how you look at her. Or rather, how you don’t look.”
Tiyan suddenly started to feel like falling under the floor would be a better thing than hearing praises. He almost stood up, but Dolsa put her old hand on his own.
“Do not go.”
Tiyan plumped heavily. His heart sank. Do not go. A word that appeared in his nightmares way too often.
“Talk to me. I see something burdens you, something heavy. Would you tell me?”
But Tiyan couldn’t tell. Couldn’t and didn’t want to. The compliments warmed him up and gave him hope, even if he was unused to them, even if he refused to acknowledge them. But if she heard how he endangered his family, and a village, they would stop falling on his heart, replaced by acid of disappointment and scorn.
But he stayed.
About everything, but not himself.