We are the earth, we are the black soil. We come back to roots, to fertilize the ground, to drink eternally from the bottomless streams that hide deep under the rocks. We are the earth and black soil. Aiming to the heart of the goddess. Feeding her children with ashes.
Tiyan didn’t expect to say these words so early in his life. He almost hoped he would never have to, even if immortality was nothing to long for. His parents, clawed from his life so violently, will be returning, to be reborn. But not during his life. He hoped though they will, in better times and he will be able to meet them. Even without memories, the bond never fades.
The evening swallowed the shadows, cast by the huge bonfire. His mother and father were laying on the improvised pedestal, hungry flames licking their wounded bodies. When the fire burns out, he won’t scatter the ashes on the wind, though. He won’t feed the snow, he won’t feed the cursed magic. He will bury them, like nomads from the south do. Give them straight to the soil.
Tears glistened in his eyes. The fire burned, not quenched by the cold wind, not silence by the snow. A part of human right to live, biting through the curse, opposing the spell, speaking through death. Death if life and life is death. You always come back, for better and for worse.
Only he couldn’t reconcile with that.
Coming back to the current world was a cruel joke from the goddess.
He wiped his tears, pretending cinders fell into his eyes. He knew he had all right to cry. But he felt so guilty that he was sure that he should be stripped from it. His face buried into scarfs, red from icy cold and slowly awakening anger.
Noyd. She put her slender fingers on his arm. He didn’t have the strength to just tell her, that now, it may be even more difficult, that it will be more difficult. But something in him longed for her touch, for her understanding and comforting presence.
“I am so sorry,” she said, in a calm, soothing voice. His chest heaved and a short moan escaped his throat, misplaced, weak. “If there is anything I can do…”
His mind rattled in his skull, like dices. His feelings burning in him with grief. Noyd saw that, observant and caring and taking him in her arms, she just allowed him to support his chin on her arm, allowing him to bury into her embrace. Like a wounded animal, seeking warmth.
“If you need me…”
“I need you” he uttered into her neck, his eyes again filling with unwanted tears. Her hand landed on his head and caressed his hair. She knew that now, no words are needed.
Tiyan returned home, his fingers trembling, when he searched for the keys. Mina still wasn’t found, even if he and the boldest villagers sought her for almost three days. She vanished, like a mist after a dry day. Not knowing what happened to her was even worse than knowing she was dead.
The house looked and felt empty. He almost wondered if not to invite Noyd tonight, at least to keep him company, but he thought that it would be unfair towards her. Even if he really needed company. Even if he still liked her more than he wanted to admit.
He ate the rest of the anglor he hunted the other day and thinking of the next hunt, which will be even more difficult, he just drowned in the armchair, which still smelled of Mina and Gravir. It smelled of home. This building was not a home anymore, though. It was empty. Empty like a his heart.
He drifted into dreamless sleep. Restless sleep which sent him far from tears and far from pain. Far from grief and from death.
He had to sleep longer than he expected, because the moon was high. Something, some unsure feeling woke him up. The moon beamed through the window. The house was silent as ever, bathed in cocoon made of solitude.
And something was not right.
He decided to go and check the locks. Even if it was the enemy, locks would stop him from going out willingly – if he threw away the key.
But when he tried to lift himself, he realized he couldn’t. His legs were bound to the chair. He swallowed with arising panic. When he dared to look down, he didn’t see ropes or dreaded vines.
He knew that tossing in place won’t do. It will only tighten and he can even lose legs. But the vision of being tied down and exposed was making him nauseous.
“I know you are here” he decided to speak. Everything is better than the vicious unknown, prolonging the time of not knowing what games are played and what chance he still has.
For a while, nothing happened. Like it knew of his fear and fed on it. Pulling the cords of his growing panic.
A nd a tiny shape stepped from the table. It was hiding in the darkness but now he could see it in all its small glory.
It was a woman, with the same glittering wings, with the same ethereal face brushing on perfection. The same he saw in his dream. But this time, her gossamer dress was not present. She was naked, in the cold and snow and wind.
Before she could react, she moved, fast, very fast and within a second, she was standing on his chest, her big blue eyes were sparkling… but they were empty. Completely emotionless, which was a stark contrast with her wide smile.
“He learned his place” she grinned wider and stepping closer, she touched his chin in an almost imperceptible way.
“My place was with my family” anger came a bit on the surface, but only slightly.
“He learned that his place is with blood and spells,” she continued. “With us.”
“What you want from me” he didn’t like that the fae again tries to play with him, giving away only riddled words.
“We want him to go and save his sister, of course!” giggled the fey, her eyes still dead like stones.
Something turned violently in Tiyan’s stomach.
“You have her,” not a question, a statement of a fact.
“Not us. The Shadow has her. Is it tempting to save her? Is it delicious to think of freeing her?”
Tiyan’s blood slowly boiled. Slowly, swallowing him with hundreds of hungry maws.
“Where” he almost hissed.
“In our palace, in our realm. He must come. But he must come by free will. He must want to enter.”
Something alit in him, something not unlike a nerve wrenching hope.
“And if I won’t come?”
“The Shadow will swallow her soul. Day by day, and again, until she is dry like a dead branch” she smiled with the most charming smile.
“Where” his teeth clenched, his throat too.
“Will-o’-the-Wisps will guide him.”
He felt as if his feet again could move and wanted to grab the fae and do something, maybe even break its tiny awfully beautiful neck. But she already disappeared in the darkness. He realized the window in the kitchen was open, snow falling inside. Quickly he closed it, and moved to the common room, to burn in the fireplace again.
They had her.
They had her.
And he of all, had to go into the maw of the lion. Maw, filled with sharp teeth and cruel spells.
He was not ready.
But he had no choice.
And he was afraid, like never in his life.