Tiyan felt as warmth embraced him with delicate fingers. Warmth. In the middle of the freezing winter. The silent murmur of leaves above his head, sometimes giving out a crystalline note. A sound of a wind where wind was not present; a touch of ethereal breeze in still air.

He reminded himself of all that happened during the previous day. He almost died, buried into the cold sheets of cruel snow. He still remembered the misleading peace the winter wanted to cradle him with. It would be a silent and irrelevant death, a tiny pollen blown away over the vast plains of Ain’asel, small and forgotten.

His bones were still tired, his muscles sore and pained. His body drained of strength, and he didn’t know how much walking still awaits him. But he lived and that counted most.

The leaves above him seemed to be made of crystal, but when he slowly stood up – his body protesting with a mute wail –  and reached with his hand, he realized they were real. Real green leaves, moving only slightly on the wind that had to blow outside, safely concealing him in an emerald bubble. How the leaves managed to stand the winter that reigned everywhere, was beyond him. Magic could be cruel… but also… in some unbelievable way beautiful.

He never would think he could allow himself for such a thought.

The leaves gleamed between his stretched hand, which already started to slowly regain feeling.

Cut finger.

Only now he remembered that his finger was cut by the fae who saved him. A huge bile rose in his throat, especially since his last words he directed at the unknown fey were “it’s better like that”. Tiyan never said anything so stupid. So bold. And so hopelessly untrue.

He didn’t feel the wound that had to be there. Magic again or… just his numbed senses? He saw in his mind the fae leaning over him, touching him and deciding his finger can’t be saved. Was he enjoying doing it? Or was it a daily routine to him, so obvious, cutting fingers of frostbitten humans?

He quickly hid the hand. He didn’t even want to think about how he will work later. How he will hunt – if he survives. If he saves Mina and will be allowed, by a miracle of the goddess – to take her home. Home seemed so distant now, unreal, like High Fae were to him, before all of this started. Distant, looming danger, which he would possibly have no chance to encounter. Home was now a dream, almost alien, almost unreachable. If he ever comes back… how could return to his normal life? Hunting, and returning home to meet Mina… but without Gravir and Alina.

He almost laughed. Bitter, sad scoff left his mouth.

He already thought about what his life would look like if he returned home. Like he had a chance of retrieving his past life.

Fear again bloomed in his entrails. The fae with an transparent throat kept him safe, but definitely that was only temporary. Whatever they all wanted from him, possibly didn’t include leaving him alive. Or it did… which was even more scary.

Tiyan didn’t see his host anywhere. The crystalline, alive leaves lay scattered on the rich and dark soil. For the first time in such a long days, he didn’t sleep surrounded by snow. It felt unreal too, like a slight touch of life he lost, when the fae invaded Avras.

Leaves.

He almost forgot what they looked like.

The fae possibly left to gather water or food. Or both. Tiyan didn’t eat for two or more days, but realized he wasn’t hungry. Whatever the fey gave him in the drink, fed him and restored his strength.

The taste of the drink though. He will remember it forever. It was the taste of his youth and years he never lived, combined into a frighteningly delicious liquid pleasure. He was scared to even ponder what ingredients were put there and if they wouldn’t harm him later.

He pulled the jacket on, trying somehow to maneuver with his bandaged hands, and gathering strength to face the winter again, he left the safe harbor made of leaves, bark and vines.

The wind bit him as soon as he appeared in the open space.

Less cruel than yesterday – if it was even yesterday – but still cold and merciless. The snow wasn’t falling, leaving the world in a mute cocoon of silent white. The world around him slumbered – to later wake up into a raging mood od icy petals and hungry snow storms.

The footprints in the snow led to the border of the small clearing where the fae put their camp – almost invisible, like the fey didn’t weigh more than a raven or a hare.

And then, he saw him.

His robes pulled slightly down, his face up, his pose welcoming, like he invited a lover. Tiyan didn’t know if to look, or just return to safety. The fae’s throat was beaming, radiating gleam, like he had hundreds of fireflies under his transparent skin. His face was pleased and almost ecstatic. The glow danced over his skin, small sparks, sharp and bright. It looked intimate and personal, a moment cut from the fabric of reality to wash him with light.

Tiyan thought for a moment that he was invading some kind of ritual and the fae will punish him somehow for doing so. But then, his host turned his deep green eyes on him and smiled.

He really smiled. Not with a mocking dark grin, he could expect, but with a stoic and dim smile taken straight from a cozy autumn day, which Tiyan remembered only slightly – but with nostalgia that was tearing his heart into pieces.

Tiyan was aware he looks like a fool. The fey definitely thought so too.

“Light is so invigorating” he spoke and crooked his head – in a very bird-like manner. For a moment, Tiyan was almost sure he could see a misty and hazy form spread behind him – a shadow, but made of dust or smoke. But the moment passed and Tiyan was seeing only a man standing on the skin-biting wind.

“You look so impressed again” chuckled his host and started to slowly put his warm robes on again.

Tiyan had to agree.

He was.

The fae killed you father. Killed your mother. Destroyed your home, the one you held under your heart.

And he suspected it all was a trap too; to impress him, and numb his caution, show him that fae can be amiable, kind.

To later throw him under the feet of “his king” – so he could be devoured by darkness.

Being cautious was Tiyan’s second nature. He was aware that he put a guard down, when snow sipped all strength from his bones. When his mind circled around warm fire, far from here and possibility of rest, first time in a very long time. But… he would be too scared to do that again.

“Now it’s your turn” grinned the fae.

Tiyan looked at him with visible anxiety.

“To eat” explained fey. “You are empty and need to fill your insides. I have dry meat. Should keep your stomach occupied.”

Tiyan didn’t know if this was all said seriously, or the fae jokes from him. He only dreamed to again leave winter behind and stay in the safe warmth of the enchanted spring.

But even if he was not hungry after the filling drink he got at night, the promise of dry meat, real, not rotten meat, made his mouth salivate.

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

  1. The leaves above him seemed to be made of crystal, but when he slowly stood up and reached with his hand, he realized they were real.

    I love this! Magic is beautiful , Tiyan! 🖤

    Is it always, always winter?
    And that mist…I was curious. Was it Lorian? Or was it some fairy magic or was it just Tiyan’s imagination?
    As always, another beautiful chapter! I love how you describe things!

    1. Yes, magic can be really beautiful! 🙂 But Tiyan still needs some time :>

      Yes, in fae land is always winter :> The seasons change with rulers. Lorian’s power and personality were winter-like.

      It’s Qhal’s aura, which is different from the Unseelie’s. Soath lyth’s aura also attracts light and looks a bit like spread veil, with dust particles dancing on it 🙂 Like shadow… but without form and more light than Lorian’s darkness.

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