Gravir Markon took the news with pressed teeth and keys. Keys to the basement.
Iron was forbidden, just at rowan, which still rose under the snow, dry and almost dead, but still able to weaken the fey spells. That’s why people in Vennklan Valley dug the vast cellars, in case faeries felt especially hungry. Their keys and pots, even weapons, were made of bronze. But deep under the rooms, deep under the foundations, even deeper, in the soil, villagers were keeping iron – ultimate weapon against a deadly glamour.
Tiyan observed how his father walks down, and brings back knives and nails, even a hatchet.
“Nothing is immortal, even if it claims so” he said, his eyes looking like sunken, black bruise-like smudges under them. Tiyan didn’t know if Gravir’s readiness to fight at all cost worried him or filled him with hope.
His mother still kept company with Mina, who eventually fell asleep. Her feet were still cold, but slowly warming up, lips stopped having almost blue color.
“And what if they won’t come tonight?” expressed his worry Tiyan. Faeries were unpredictable. Maybe they had enough for now. Maybe… maybe Tiyan just tried to push back the fact that it won’t end, even if they resign. They will be an easy prey, they had whole life of Tiyan on their plate, since he shared the mind with them. Most villagers would just give themselves into their hands, if they promised them quick death. But now, Tiyan knew – if you fight, you may die. But if you don’t – you lose your soul.
Which didn’t belong to him anymore.
“They will come tonight, or tomorrow’s night, or a day after tomorrow” Gravir put his sharp equipment on the table, all in one place. “But they won’t harm Mina again” his gaze slid over Tiyan’s frame. “And they won’t harm you.”
Tiyan felt a pang of shame, but decided to wash it away, acting, putting himself to use.
They both went out, putting hard iron nails into the wooden walls, to stop them from using the house as a trap. Snow was hiding the ones that they stuck in the backyard and before the front door. The rowan branches were pushed into the windows.
As they worked, they heard how Alina starts to sign. Tiyan didn’t recognize the sad, almost painful song, but Gravir’s eyes watered down, not much, only a bit, but enough to make him pretended it was caused by the wind. Tiyan smiled. Bittersweet. A song they both knew, but he didn’t. A song from the long gone past. They were in so many places before he was born. Alina was coming from a city, on the south. Gravir took her on the travel through whole Avras, they saw not only deep mountains, but the Marcen lakes on the north and capital of the land, with the battlements of the academy towering above the huge city – a place where one could just disappear for days and still not see one hundredth percent of the book collection.
That was before. Befote Unseelie turned their eyes on them.
Now, the academy was in ruins and the city captured by winter and fear. No more happy songs. Only songs that cause eyes to water – like the wind.
When they finished, Gravir sat in the armless chair just between the closed door and the table and put the iron hatchet on his knee. Tiyan knew that he will sit here like that, until they won’t come. And if they won’t come, he will attract them, like hunters attract prey.
With himself as a bait.
This all seemed madness. No one fought the fey and won. They were too numerous and their spells were too strong. But a hope entered his heart, strange hope, bittersweet like the song Alina was singing. Tiyan sat in the chair under the window and looked through it outside. The chair slowly creeked while he was leaning on the windowsill. The snow was falling, covering everything with additional white.
White like marble. And like a sign of peace, a hopefull banner.
Burying them all under the thick blanket of silence.
Tiyan realized that the fireplace burned out, and the room was enveloped in darkness. Mina and Alina disappeared, deep in the house. He had to sleep, he didn’t know how long. But his father was still sitting in the chair and his eyes were glowing with strange white in the dim blackness.
Gravir put a finger to his lips. He moved restlessly in his seat and patted his hand with the blade of the hatchet.
Tiyan still wanted to inquire further, but then, he heard it. That was what awoken him, tearing into his dreams like a dagger.
A howl. Not a wolf. It was deep, low and guttural sound. A howl of something much more predatory.
And a song. It filled the air like a lightning.
It was not a song similar in any case to the one Alina was singing. It was deep and heavy, a tombstone over a living person. Emotionless, cold, cruel like eternal winter. It washed over the woods like a sharp knife slicing the flesh in half, it seemed like the closer it got, the more heavy the air was becoming, like pressed with hard stone.
It was the song of the High Fae. Nothing could be so powerful, even hundred of hundreds of lesser folk.
“You are really important to them, son,” Gravir gazed at Tiyan.
“I don’t know why” Tiyan pressed his teeth, but he knew why, or at least suspected it, on the very shallow surface. They wanted him, yes, not the lesser folk. The High Fae, whatever brewed in their sick minds.
“Yet, they are here. At least one.”
Tiyan looked pale. But that didn’t stop Gravir from telling the truth.
“We will fight. But I don’t know how we make it.”
Tiyan slowly, very slowly took the knife from the table. His hands were shaking, but his voice was not.
“We will fight.”
Gravir nodded. There was nothing that was right enough to say at this moment.
They will fight.
Or they will die.
If they have luck.
They both opened the door, at unison. The snow fell inside, and quickly covered the closest boards. The song started to lower, to again go into the howl, this time so close. So fucking close.
Tiyan felt as the hair on his arms and hair stand up from worry… and something else. Which was not particularly unpleasant but was tearing its way through his head like a frantic weasel.
And in the same moment, when they left the house, watching around with sharpened senses and expressions moulded in steel, it hit them with sheer beauty and horror, with strength of the stars and moons.
A wave of awe, love and fear entered through their skin, to veins, just into the marrow. It was so strong that Tiyan almost lost balance.
It was beautiful. Beautiful like a fresh breeze in the chilly morning. Like a first kiss under the hidden grotto, paving its way to something more.
Tiyan fell in love in the song, but mostly, in the one who sang.
He was lost.
He was doomed.
He was still holding the knife, which now trembled in his hand, ready to fall and disappear in the snow.
“It’s not the High Fae!” he heard the frantic scream of his father, but it didn’t matter. He wanted just to fall into embrace of the one who lured him in. Peace. Eternal peace. Like death.
It was not a High Fae… that’s good, he thought. That’s good, yes? He thought it was good. Very.
“It’s a Bean Sidhe!”
But Gravir’s scream was muffled by the silence.
Carried into death’s embrace by the peaceful snow…