Tiyan at first didn’t know where he was. His head was pounding with dull pain. He felt as if something wet trickled down his neck. He was too tired to check, he allowed it to fall on his hand. Blood. He was laying face down in the snow, which now glimmered in the awakening morning. The sun was still low, but the forest beamed with an almost joyful aura.
And he didn’t hear other people. The village seemed empty. Like a ghost town, inhabited only by murmur of the trees and croaking of scavengers.
He heard them, as they circled around him. Like they thought he was dead.
He opened his eyes, effortfully. The sound of rushing blood filled his ears and he almost threw up. He was before his house… but… yesterday… something happened. Something he should remember better. Something vile.
It was all too much.
Trying to somehow catch the balance, he lifted his arms and face from the snowed ground. The scavengers, as rotten as their prey, with mold on the black wings, landed nearby, looking at him with empty eyes.
I am not dead.
One of the birds, emboldened by his lack of clear reaction, jumped to him and bit him in the arm, which was luckily concealed by the thick jacket. Its teeth were bloodied, when he was retreating, croaking painfully.
Bloodied. The bird’s beak and teeth were all in blood. It had to feast on something, on dead meat. The wind carried the intense scent of blood and the birds started ton wail in anticipation.
Do not turn back. Always when you do so, you see horrors.
He looked just into the pale sun. Maybe if he looked into it for long enough, he would lose sight and would not be forced to face the reality. But the reality would deal with such cowardice thenfold.
He had to do it.
So he did.
He was not ready for the sight, though, even if he predicted something awful. Few steps from his, there laid Gravir Markon. Blood was still trickling from his ears. Aside from wounds caused by the birds, nothing could be found on his body. He had luck. He died quickly. He heard of the Bean Sidhe, their voices, even if being able to sound like liquid pleasure, could also kill. No one was safe from their spells, only High Fae.
Tears rushed to his eyes as he slowly, still not believing what he saw, approached Alina Markon. He effortfully knelt near her. His eyes slid over the roots, vines and branches. His fists closed, impotent gesture, short nails digging into the skin, too blunt to break it, even if that would be a relief, his blood for the blood of his mother.
The vines and branches, roots and stones. They always appeared, when fairies were going on the hunt. A morbid marriage of nature and dark magic.
A silent, mute cry filled his lungs, which he didn’t try to repress. He embraced the dead body of his mother and allowed himself to lose it completely. Nothing mattered anymore. This was the end. This was the ultimate fucking end of all things.
His fault. If he was dead now, they would live.
He furiously started to remove the earth from his mother’s mouth. He didn’t allow them to desecrate her, not after death. He was weak, guilty of their death, but at least will give them a funeral, without a cruel mockery of the fae lingering on their bodies.
He looked around, stopping his hands. She had to be here too. Maybe she managed to escape. Maybe she is still in the house.
His fingers ran through his mother’s scarce hair, in pained caress, and he stood up, with half hope and half terror, afraid of what he could find inside.
People started to look through the windows, meekly, with fear-painted faces. They weren’t there to help his parents. They weren’t there, but he didn’t blame them. They were as weak as him. Only Alina and Gravir were brave enough. And paid its price.
He rushed through the house, trying to check all hiding places Mina would choose. Their house was big enough to hold crevices and dark spots where the girl could find at least temporary safety. He fell through the backyard, and checked the cellar and attic.
Like she never was there.
Maybe she ran into the woods. Maybe she found solace in one of the neighboring houses. Maybe… maybe. He wanted to scream. His fault, not even the fey, but his. They wouldn’t be here, if he chose wisely, when he knew what would happen. When his mind didn’t think of consequences, scared and selfish like… like…
That day, something changed in Tiyan. He walked from house to house, to see if Mina didn’t hide there, when the fae attacked. He didn’t find her, people looked down, when he was gazing at them. Almost everyone lost someone and almost everyone knew how guilt tastes. Bitter, gagging feeling, making one want to never feel again.
He ventured into the woods, trying to check as much space as possible, before twilight started to paint the sky with purple and black. He didn’t dare to search during night, and he doubted too, if he even saw anything, if he couldn’t find her during day.
But the soul-wrenching guilt never left him.
It was the first day of his new life.