Tiyan could feel like the mountains drank his soul from him, slowly, relentlesly; a gloomy passage through monotonous snow, accompanied with a dull howl of the intensifying wind. The clouds above their heads were amassing for two days, promising a storm. Tiyan knew about snow storms and how dangerous they can be in mountains. He was looking up in an almost masochistic way, trying to guess when it would arrive.

But the clouds were heavy and there was no storm; a looming danger, a promise, without outcome. Tiyan had to admit that it’s maybe not as bad as a deadly avalanche… but stealing something from himself, another particle of his courage, which was already shattered by the gate to AIn’asel.

Qhal seemed worried and that alone looked like danger wasn’t necessary above them. His steps became heavier, more calculated and his eyes were shifting. A moderately talkative fairy was replaced by a cautious and aware person who knew perfectly the scent of danger and felt it just right now.

Tiyan was good at walking in silence, but this time, among the sharp chasms which could open under his legs at any moment, he needed to hear a human voice. Even if it would not come from a human.

“Have you passed this passage before?” his voice, already muted by scarfs, was carried by the wind, making him almost inaudible. But Qhal heard.

He turned his hooded head in his direction, his green eyes were almost only things recognizable in the falling evening.

“No Soath lyth knows Shadowlands as much as they would want to” was an enigmatic response.

“That means no” Tiyan sighed, wind immediately pushing into his mouth, making him lose breathe for a moment.

Qhal smiled at him. His smile was a bit sad, like he felt guilty, but neither Tiyan suspected that any fae can feel guilty, nor he could admit he knows fae expression language.

“I know these mountains, Tiyan Markon. I was born here.”

Tiyan looked at him with a very cautious expression. Not that he doubted. Mere thought of growing up in this dim land of gaps and cruel tops, was not even surprising. Just… unpleasant to imagine.

“Sometimes most obvious things are hidden before the eyes” Qhal wasn’t smiling anymore, and Tiyan almost thought that he made some mistake in the fairy protocol. He almost waited for that, to see the real face of his guide. For his worries and fears to have any translation into reality. But Qhal didn’t intend to be violent, which almost disappointed Tiyan.

Almost.

And it suddenly brought acid to his throat.

Fire, a burst of a flaming power, burning around him, while the shadowed presence slips under his clothes and enters him, like a lover, forbidden, dark and so uninvited.

And he never wanted to feel it again.

Qhal still looked at him with a curious gaze. His lips crooked in a mysterious smile. Tiyan almost felt that his face, or moves or literally anything sells him and his thoughts.

He almost felt relieved when Qhal turned back and resumed his journey.

The passage became tighter, the walls around them more steep and dangerous to walk by, the dark forms were piercing the skin of the stone and protruding from them, to make their path more difficult and risky, when they tried to not go too close to the edges. Mountains seemed even darker now, when twilight came, painting the sky with deep violets and ink. When they passed the rock pocket in the wall, Qhal decided – quite obviously for Tiyan – that they stop here. Tiyan sat in the corner, trembling from cold, looking at his hands, which now, touched by the green produced by his guide, were warmest part of his body. And Qhal… started to prepare the place to bite it with roots and embrace with vines.

It was not the first time Tiyan saw Qhal’s magic. But now, when the sun set completely behind the horizon, the spring that Qhal offered to winter was especially beautiful. The tendrils, luminated from within, spread over the frozen ground, drinking the water from the snow and growing, swelling and forming a green wonder above their heads. The wind stopped like a cut with an order. Tiyan’s ears huffed with relief, when the howling diminished. A dead and pleasant silence reigned in the closed. improvised arbor.

Tiyan knew that none of them needed to keep the watch, because the alcove separated them from all dangers. Yet… this time Qhal didn’t intend to rest. He instead started to brew something. A scent filled the arbor, not exactly tempting and not repulsive. Tiyan couldn’t find a way to describe it… like pine trees with mud. But it was still far from the actual scent, when he inhaled it.

Qhal didn’t boil the liquid and didn’t offer it to Tiyan. He just mixed the ingredients – whatever they were – and poured it into his throat. Tiyan could see how the liquid fills his pipe and quickly goes down. His transparents membrane trembling.

“You can drink?” Tiyan murmured. The silent tingling of the leaves was calming and relaxing. Yet Tiyan was far from a tranquil mood.

No more danger. No more pain.

“Yes” was Qhal’s reply, quite dettached and cold. Tiyan felt that he worries and that alone made him anxious. “Sleep. Better to pass this night sleeping.”

“And you?”

“I won’t.”

Tiyan observed as Qhal takes two more gulps of the drink he brewed. He didn’t even offer him the dry meat. Tiyan felt a creeping feeling under his skin, a feeling that Qhal was distraught, even scared, despite being safely concealed in a magical, green canopy.

That wasn’t encouraging. Tiyan was sure he wouldn’t fall asleep. Something hung in the air, an undeciphered threat.

But… he did.

He did, falling into a calm sleep, this time without nightmares… while Qhal’s green eyes reflected the arbor in an almost ominous way. Wells without end, green with emerald of the moss and woods.

The night fell on them and ate their shadows, leaving them in faint gleam of the leaves and vines…

*

He knows he woke up. He knows it, dreams pushing on his mind, but not entering it, like a storm cloud, looming. But he feels like dreaming, even if he is so awake.

Something crawling over his skin, his eyelids are heavy like stones. He hears voices. Silent, caressing his senses like velvet but bringing images that Tiyan doesn’t comprehend nor wants to. Illicited quickly, in a low tone. And cracking over him, like a burning bonfire. The voices reminds him of flames.

The crawling on his skin stops, but he feels that something amasses under his clothes, awaits and craves.

Mute darkness swallows the arbor, burying claws into the green, tearing the soul from the vines, and flesh from leaves. Silence. A dreadful silence of impatient prelude to dark.

He opens eyes, slowly, heavily, and sees Qhal as he tries to stop heavy eyelids from closing, in desperation. His hand crawling, like dettached from his body. Gathering earth. Trying to reach.

*

Limbs everywhere, broken faces, black like coals. Hazy mind, Qhal, where is Qhal? Dazy, he drowns in something soft, like feathers and… decomposing flesh, it reeks with old meat. It’s so soft, he wants to bury in it and sleep. His mind is almost not connecting. A small face, just over him. Black, with deep blue eyes, like translucent orbs. Tight lips spreads in a half smile, a small hand reaches to him, and lands on his chest.

Where is Qhal?

The hand reaches and reaches until it passes his skin. This can’t be real, he doesn’t feel pain, only need to fall asleep and never wake up.

The wings above him, on the pattern that is Qhal’s magic – green leaves connected in intricate swirls, and blue wings, waving like touched by  light wind. But here, the wind doesn’t come. It’s a windless arbor. Windless. But he feels the air which carries the scent of burned coal and rot.

Where is Qhal?

He feels as if something runs a hand over his hair. Pulls. And releases.

He hears something, Whispers. “Shadow’s pet”. He is Shadow’s pet.

Is he?

He isn’t pet.

He isn’t anyone’s pet.

The carving over his chest suddenly starts to sting, while many small hands trail the path over it, spreading his jacket and shirt. Someone takes the pendant from under his clothes, someone smiling and awfully misplaced, like a burned doll.

Where is Qhal? Qhal?

Where is he?

Is he also Shadow’s pet?

They think he is. Tiyan is.

The feathers are so soft.

He is looking at the burned wonders, so wrong in their flawed beauty.

And  is awake enough to taste the coal.

2 Replies to “ATOM: Shadowlands – I”

  1. For a moment I thought Qhal had died.😯 That he had been attacked by some animal. But I think Tiyan is dreaming. On the other hand, if he noticed that the fairy was worried before going to sleep…maybe it wasn’t a nightmare. But I would also like to know where Qhal is.🤔 I hope he’s okay.

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