The snow.

White. Cold. Unforgiving.

The mountains weren’t closer by inch, his eyelids heavy and biting frost seemed to touch his skin, even through the layers of thick fabric. He felt as his bare fingers lost feeling and he dreamed of a place where he could just lay and sleep. Avras’ winter was kind, in comparison to Ain’asel ‘s.

The landscape was pale under the night sky, which was frightening in an alien, stark way; the enormous moon shone over it, making it glitter with translucent light. Beautiful. Tempting. And dangerously peaceful. Like it was luring him to lay in the snow and give up.

You don’t need the fae to die. You don’t need beasts or sharp teeth. One slumber in this cold and you won’t wake up again.

Do not.

Strangely, the beauty of the surrounding was biting his heart with melancholy. The stars above him reminded him of himself; lost, alone and pursuing night.

The temptation to just fall asleep was stronger with each step. Just surrender. It’s magic. The mountains will never get close, because they don’t want to. This whole land doesn’t care if you die or live. Will be watching you trudge through snow, until you lose all strength.

But he didn’t plan to lay down. He always remembered why he was here. And the mountains can run, he will get to them, even if they travel on the face of the moon. Even if they want to play with his mind and body – he will fight it.

His will was one thing though, and nature was another.

He felt as he is losing strength, slowly, the cold drinking from him like from a cup. His steps were becoming slower, harder to make. His breath catching with exhaust.

You can’t lose here, his mind screamed, you are so close. You managed to enter this realm. You can go through it too.

But… his muscles were already frozen in time, his mind drifting into the chasm of sleep. His mouth choked with the wind.

Tiyan just… fell.

Two nights. It took two nights to pull him on his knees. Two nights of travel which seemed like hundreds of nights of hard labor. Where his hope was lifted just to be pushed time after time into the abyss.

Two nights of worry mixed with pain of giving up muscles and fire which didn’t warm him… but was giving him courage to go on. It kept burning in him with high flame… but it wasn’t warm enough to pull more effort from him. It was a flame that could burn all around him; but not melt down his own ice that resided in his heart and veins.

And his eyes closed.

To let him drift into nothingness. And the frozen landscape was looking at him, indifferently, allowing the wind to carry snow on him, burying him under the thick white blanket.

*

Mina, no!

He saw her, pursued by the fairies, deep in darkness, as she runs through corridor filled with wings nad teeth.

And at the end of it… the shadowed form, which beamed with hunger and power, darkened force, which called Mina. Which tempted her; to trust it, to follow it’s step and get lost in the beauty of the night.

And Mina was scared, afraid and was following it, until it’s too late.

No! Please! Mina!

NO!

He felt as if something warm touched his lips.And the liquid, warm as well, drips into his throat. His eyes were even heavier than before and he couldn’t open them. He heard his own voice as he moaned, harsh and battered, silent, and tired. And scared of the dream vision he just saw. He didn’t even know what he said, his words disappearing in the cough. But he lived. He lived, for goddess’ sake. But… how? Where was he?

He realized that someone was giving him a hot drink and he allowed the liquid to fill his mouth. Something… Yes, alcohol and herbs. And something else, which made him want to drink more, just to feel the taste once again. He swallowed, knowing he won’t forget this taste for long. He was too tired to feel fear. And too cold inside to not drink anything warm that was offered to him.

His eyes slowly opened, to give a way to the surrounding – not white anymore. The moon disappeared to show a canopy of frozen leaves – green, like spring enchanted into winter. Spring in winter, his mind was trying to embrace that. He had to lose his mind. The snow eating him alive, while he hallucinated.

“Humans are so easily impressed” he heard a soft voice. “He told me you will be young. Easy to impress.”

Tiyan’s eyelids fluttered, shaking themselves from the rest of the forceful sleep.

The face that leaned over him would be beauty incarnate – if not dissonant elements, which were more uncanny. Cat-like, yellow pupils, placed in big round eyes, sharp teeth, like of a predatory animal… and an open throat.

Tiyan opened eyes for good.

The throat of the fae above him was completely open, so he could see his tendons, and veins, beating in the rhythm of his pulse. He saw no blood, red or blue, like this gaping hole was there from beginning. His voice was normal, like the gap was not causing him any issues.

His laughter was kind and pleasant for the ears, when he took the cup.

“Yes, easily impressed.”

Tiyan decided to not look like a fool at the trait that was seemingly obvious for the fae who fed him with liquor. His eyes drifted there, in a sick fascination. But then, he realized that his throat is not open. It was transparent. Hidden behind a  thick, glass-like membrane which glittered slightly, almost invisibly.

“You could touch if with your fingers, if you feel so. Do you want to?”

“No” said Tiyan dully.

“As you wish. It would feed your curiosity, though. If you ever wished to, it could be an interesting experience” the fae sipped from his cup. Tiyan could see as the drink fills the pipe closer to his spine, and goes through it with a slow gulp. His veins glistened in the warm lights which was radiating from the leaves above them.

Tiyan looked at his fingers. And he saw bandages, clean and thickly embracing his hands. He tried to move them, but he was unable to feel them. What happened in the snow? How long did he sleep in the cold, ready for death?

The fae seemed to be amused, when he spoke.

“One was not to save. I cut it. Otherwise you would die. The others… maybe they will make it.”

Tiyan again gazed at his fingers. Thick bandage. Cut finger. Frost. Snow.

Death.

“It’s better like that” he agreed, shocked, that such words leave his mouth. But frostbite was a danger all knew well in Vennklan Valley and it was not to joke from. It was a threat for all hunters, when the weather was becoming harsher. And in Ain’asel, it was… remorseless. A winter which knew it’s powerful and was reveling on it, hungrily pushing others to their knees, forcing them to bow before its strenght.

He looked again at the canopy of crystalline leaves over him, like made of glass, green with an emerald of spring and early summer.

The fae seemed to guess his thoughts again, because he nodded at the leaves, which were embracing them with a safe cocoon.

“My gift. Spring. My magic. That’s why my king chose me to guide you. This is our home.”

The king.

The king.

“You are a fae” Tiyan stated more than asked, like this question was about to set a deal between them.

“And you are a human,” grinned the fey. “But I am not a fae which would eat you, and that is a relief for you.”

Definitely, Tiyan thought bitterly.

“The Shadow. Is he your king?”

“Oh yes,” his host chuckled. “Now drink more. And sleep. In warmth. We don’t want to lose more fingers, do we?”

Tiyan agreed, at least temporarily. But he cursed the fae that he didn’t appear earlier. Perhaps he couldn’t. Perhaps his journey through snow amused him. But he knew where to go and he would lead him there. To the palace of the Shadow, the king, who wanted him.

Wanted him so badly.

Just as Tiyan wanted to sleep now. Peaceful, calm, and safe slumber, in which he won’t lose any more fingers or life.

Guarded by a fae with a transparent, pulsing throat.

He would think of it as a joke of fate… but he didn’t have strength to think. He was safe. At least until he arrives at the palace. Until he sees if his sister is safe or it was just only a cruel game.

At least until he won’t lose hope.

2 Replies to “ATOM: At the Border of Madness – II”

    1. Yes! He is actually a bean among fey, but… still is able to be dark. In rather not obvious way.
      Lorian likes him enough, too. He is his trusted warrior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *