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ATOM: Luna – III

Lorian’s gaze followed his more and more carefree subjects, warmed up by the wine and influence of the moon. He sipped his wine slowly, his hand only sometimes picking up the goblet. His eyes delved in the depths of the ballroom, his mind catching delicious thoughts, filled with fire, awaiting fulfillment, which their heated bodies and souls craved for.

He felt the moon warm his own body too. Eternal lover for all the fae, which reflected all their needs. All their hidden desires.

He felt as Nymre leaned to him, wine mixed with her feminine magic caused her to be less tensed, less restricted. And darker.

“Lorian…” her fingers landed on his chest and slowly traveled down, on his tight. “I allowed… the wine to work on me. I loosened my guard…” a small, vicious smile wandered on her lips.

Lorian felt her insistent body, as it started to press to him, latching to him like sticky honey. His eyes gleaming with something that would frightened all the others, human or fey. But not Nymre. She wanted it. She desires exactly this.

“I shall use it against you…” he whispered, a sultry caress for her ears. “Use all your weaknesses.”

Her eyes sparkled, her long talons closed over his tight, he felt them burying in the flesh. Such a rapture. Such a tamed, beautiful, tempting pain.

He will give her more of it.

Just as they both wanted.

His finger took a whitish lock of hair that fell on her forehead, brushing it behind her ear. Her eyes were now wild, deep like wells filled with thorns and black roses.

Painted with blue and white.

“But first… I want to spark that fire to unbearable heights” he purred into her exposed ear. “Painfully intense.”

Nymre sighed when he touched her neck. The other fae, who were sitting around him by the feasting table, were only partially aware of what was going on. Some of those who danced, following the atonal sound of the forest music, played by the group of the lower fey, already started to disappear between the low arches, by the ornate doors which led to corridors, even outside, to taste cruel love of the frost and snow.

Lorian felt Nymre’s arousal. Her worries disappeared from her mind, leaving a place only for enjoyment, the moon filled her with another kind of strength. She was unquenchable now, untamed. She was everything he admired in her, ready to destroy whole nations with her magic and allure. Send all lesser beings on their knees. Just as he did in the past. Enjoying the pain of those who opposed them, carving their names on their skin…

“But first, I will give you… blood.”

His gaze landed on a human slave, one of many, who now served Lord Trivan, handing him the goblet of strongest, moon-influenced wine.

Nymre followed his attention, and her smile became falsely concerned, almost frightened, unsure.

A game they loved to play. A game they never were tired of. A hunter and a prey, a hungry wolf and a maiden. Death and life. It worked on his lover better than blood apples.

His power danced around the slave, with dark and deepest shadows. The human felt them quicker than saw, entering under his clothes and pulling him in Lorian’s direction. He moaned into a tentacle of shadows, which pushed around his mouth, entering them and taking his breath away.

“After all, the most intense love is bathed in crimson” he smiled at Nymre, his face lighted up from within, beautiful and pure, like cruel winter itself. Nymre’s hand closed harder over his leg, as she followed the sight of the human, who approached them willingly, looking at Lorian with fear.

His shadows pushed the human under his feet. Fear in the slave’s eyes, a real unadulterated fear. Invigorating one. Beautiful. Lorian could feel it in the air, in his marrow. All fae could feel the human emotions, fear, love, desire, and desperation. Fear, the sweetest of them, was overwhelming for every faery. It fed them with its strength, and Lorian could feel how his body reacted to it. Nymre saw and felt it too… and she loved that.

He smiled at the human, reaching to him with his hand, like he offered his own life to him.

“Come, child” he spoke, his shadows drifting off from his victim, returning to him. “We are enjoying ourselves. So much. We want to enjoy even more.”

He felt frantic thoughts in the human’s mind, a will to escape, strong, desperate and hushed by reality. He had no way to escape. Yet he still would try, if given a chance. He removed the shadows, to allow breathing.

“Do you want to serve your lord?” he mused casually, staying with his hand on the slave’s abdomen. “Give yourself, to bring him enjoyment?”

“N— Ye-s… please…” the human’s fear was intoxicating. Lorian dragged him closer.

He touched his chest, dragging his hand lower, under his simple slave shirt, until it landed on his abdomen.

“Your blood is hot. Allow me to make it even hotter.”

And he pushed.

Human’s eyes opened wider. At first nothing seemed to happen, but soon, the slave’s skin started to tense and spread, his mouth forming a pained groan.

“Bleed for us” purred Lorian and the slave’s body, slowly, mercilessly, bloomed with thorns. Blood poured from the wounds, when they pushed through his veins, making him bend in an unnatural pose and eventually fall on the stone floor. Torn skin opening more, but Lorian didn’t intend to kill him. This was just the beginning.

The fey around them looked with fascination as human’s skin closes tightly over the thorns, and the victim is left panting, his pained moans filling the air. Lord Lon’s fingers also closed over his lover’s arm. Lorian knew what they all needed, a beautiful torment to break all rules that usually were binding them, and set them free, and willing.

He wanted it.

He wanted to tear into this slave’s flesh and cause his agony. Lorian surely would allow him. He felt as the other fae, the whole Winter Court beamed with vicious energy, blooming in them, fast, like night flowers. This was the night when all of them wanted the same thing. Praise the king with sweet pain… and gloat over his power.

Free.

Untamed.

Wild.

Just like nature created them.

Lorian smiled, beautifully, like the sun coming from between the clouds, and pulled the slave; his shadows carrying him straight under his feet and up. He lifted his chin with his fingers; tears already in the human’s eyes, while the fey king’s black gaze delved just into his terrified soul. Lorian’s fingers smeared theem on his face with a tender move and closed his mouth with a hungry kiss. Pushing more shadows inside, a slow and visceral torment. Lorian lost in the taste of fear, dripping off the human’s tongue like nectar for the gods. Better, even, because it was so real. So touchable. So delicious. His eyes closed, when he ate it, all, swallowing it, draining the human from hope.

He broke the kiss, his smile pleased, his expression bright like the brightest star.

And his teeth buried in the skin on human’s neck, fresh blood poured, staining his robes with crimson. Hot, human blood, iron in disguise, the only iron the fae could bear. He growled into his wound, tearing it further, devouring the warmth. His taloned hands caught the slave’s hips and forced him closer to himself, digging in his skin, leaving marks. The blood trickled down the fae king’s lips an chin and landed in thick drops on the table. The human tossed, scream caught in his throat.

Lorian raised from above him, licking his lips. His smile bloodstained and hungry, Nymre so close to him, he felt her blood too, under her skin, in her veins.

“Do you want to please your lords’ hearts? The court loves you. They crave for you. Perhaps I should give them what they want. A sacrifice for the moss and stone.”

And he looked just at Lon. The fey lord could swear it was directed just at him, and his hunger reached its peak. The faery king’s power threw the slave at the floor, hard, leaving bloodied trails.

“I would keep you for myself… but the solstice is a time of sharing. I may allow them to pleasure themselves with you. Allow them to experience my grace.”

The human’s eyes met Lorian’s. And found in them amusement, dark, unforgiving… alluring. And his own fate. No matter what he does, he will suffer. Lorian wanted it, so it will happen.

“I—” his body, still pierced with thorns under his skin, hurt with the pain, but muted, like the faery wanted to leave more place for suffering. He knew that Lorian wouldn’t let him be. What was better? To be killed by him, or the others? His thoughts were buried under a wall of despair. His voice was unable to leave his mouth, the destroyed throat refused him, the blood still pouring from wide wound. He started to helplessly crawl, only far away from Lorian, even if it was futile.

The fae’s eyes on him, digging holes in his already wounded flesh.

“Not beautiful enough” laughed Lorian, his laugh silent but cutting the air like blades. The fae around him slowly moved from their seats. An offering for the moon. Bleeding sacrifice for the forest. Something so rare, but more tempting thanks to that. Their auras glimmering, darkened, when their powers amassed over the human slave.

A gift from their king. Who now was equal to gods.

All barriers broken, only pure lust left.

Lorian leaned back in his seat, a smile, cruel, beautiful one, dancing on his bloodstained lips. Nymre was looking at him intensely, his depraved raven, feeding on the emotions of the court. Her fingers, mimicking his own trail over the human’s abdomen, slid down, down, just between his legs.

And pressed. Feeling he is more than ready to own her.

Lorian’s gaze pinned her to her seat, her body aflame.

“I need it, my lord…” she murmured, her eyes wandered off, at the fae and the human, and the blood and pain. The Winter Court celebrated the New Lunar Year, causing the flesh to scream.

He pulled her on his lap, lifting her dress and allowing her to sit astride of him. He was hard already, and he knew that this act would push the court into more intense, sweet abandonment.

Her impatient hands pulled him from his trousers. They both were heated, powerful and free. Her kiss was hot like molten iron, and just as deadly. Her grasp on him, her breast flattening over his chest, her nipples erected, visible through her dress. She descended on him, he reached deep into her, his shadows entering through her skin, and traveling down, even more, to the point of no return. She moaned, her arms around his neck, her legs tightly pressing to him, like she didn’t want to let him slip from her and join the celebration.

“Fuck me” she grunted, such a low voice, enchanting. Like a distant storm. “Make me yours. Make me your moon bride.”

“I will enslave you” he grinned, his black eyes glimmering with danger. “So hard. Mercilessly.”

“Do it, my king… break me.”

He took her, wild and free, to the sound of the screams and under the moonlight, which hung over the castle, bigger than the sky, pulling all the right strings in their nerves. The Winter Fae knew how to celebrate. And they knew how to drown in the purest wine of freedom.

“Bathe me in blood” she purred, biting his ear and drawing a small droplet from it. His shadows coiled around her neck, pressing, hard.

And he laughed.

And he did it.

The court abandoned itself. In pleasure and violence. In pain and lust.

Freedom.

And the light entering the arched windows, eating them alive.

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ATOM : Luna – II

Alnam observed the ceremony with a bitter air. His chest heaved, when Lorian stepped into the sacred circle, ready to become one with the woods; only for a small while, but it was enough for the protective forest to anoint him again. To give him all power again. Allow him to hold all the reins – again and again.

Alnam didn’t understand it, the only explanation was that the woods… liked Lorian’s nature. His hidden crimes. His reign that perhaps – only perhaps – was giving them enjoyment of a more twisted kind.

His eyes drifted at Nymre.

In long gone times he thought she was the most clever woman in this court. But at the same time, he thought that Lorian may be the perfect choice, a perfect king  – after all.

Now, he thought of Nymre either as a fool, who takes a monster to her bed. Or someone who simply enjoys it. The court changed so much through last years… and he… he stayed an autumnal lord, with all bad and good it was bringing. Winter was alien to him, too harsh and too cruel.

Autumnal lord in the palace of frozen dreams and nightmares covered with a thick pillow of snow.

Nymre… poor soul or a twisted creature that fed on his lover’s darkness? He would lean to both. She was more than meets the eye.

Lorian was always so beautiful… and under it, maws filled with blood. How could they not see it? His hatred, dull like old pain, drilled his soul through so many years that he didn’t recognize it anymore. It blended with him so tightly that it became him.

Making him hollow.

Lorian, smiling, took Nymre by the hand and led her to the ballroom, to start the celebration, which will end for many deep in the woods, in bedrooms, in corridors, hungrily relishing on each other, tasting the pleasures. And as always he will spend this time of freedom, with his memories.

Corvel.

Narlia.

Leira.

When he met her in the corridor, some time ago… she was not the same woman he tried to ease during the same celebration. Who he wanted to love. No, who he loved; her strength, her innocent boldness, her resistance… and who he wanted to respect… all these feelings didn’t fade during last thirty years. Perhaps became even stronger, as he observed as she changed. From Lorian’s slave, she went through a long path. And he didn’t know anymore who she hated now. Who she wanted now. To whom she was leaning.

But not to him. And he wouldn’t dare to even talk to her about this, not knowing where her loyalty lays.

This was over, a fast, fleeting moment of pain and joy. Lorian did it masterfully, throwing him again into another pit filled with shadows.

“Alnam, my friend…”

The familiar voice. Alnam turned to it, to see a tan face of one of his strongest allies, Lord Kolerial Vern’ese. They fought together in two wars and both relied on each other for so long that he would never consider him less than a friend. In the court filled with deception and cruel games, Kolerial was an exception. He never plotted against anyone, planning their demise.

Which could not be said about his wife, whom Alnam didn’t trust from the beginning. A poor choice of usually very rational Vern’ese. Dark heart, hidden behind sharp beauty, she held the household in her talons like a wild shuldra.

“The ceremony was quite the sight, ” mused Kolerial, looking back at the disappearing court. They followed Lorian to the ballroom, among laughs and eager conversations; a promise of pure pleasure above them, like a heavy cloud, their auras shivering.

“I wonder how much of what the priests share with us, is truly the woods’ will,” said Alnam with a calm smile. He pondered about it for years already. Perhaps only he minded the blood on Lorian’s hands…

Kolerial gazed at him, then at the disappearing crowd. His face an undeciphered mask, showing pleased content, a mask, which Alnam knew very well.

Kolerial knew about Corvel. The only time he lowered his guard and – to not suffer alone – he shared his pain with someone from the outside.

Sometimes Alnam wondered if it was a good choice. But Kolerial never even tried to use it against him. Never played on his memories… like not a winter fae.

He was stoic like an autumnal child and that made Alnam like him. It was rare, in this castle of dark.

“Woods are a god,” said Vern’ese, with a slight amusement. “Maybe they love us, but it’s a twisted love.”

Alnam never tried to pull Kolerial on his side, to make him hate Lorian, just as he did. He knew that he preferred silent existence and hatred, real, blood-boiling hatred is alien to him. He had no reason to hate Lorian, he could not trust him, fear him, after all which he knew about him, but Alnam didn’t expect anything from him.

And it proved to work between them. His brother in arms stayed away from any court scheme, but was true enough to understand Alnam’s desperate pain.

Which still blossomed in him, after all these years.

Alnam didn’t expect him to bathe in it, and change his calm demeanor into a creature of vengeance. His own vengeance died a long time ago after all, with his not less desperate act in one of the New Lunar Years, thirty years ago. Lorian killed even that. And took Leira from him.

He breathed in air and exhaled loss.

“Will you again travel to Devlonmere tonight?” Kolerial’s eyes beamed with slight worry. He seemed to know his tendency to tear up the old wounds. In Devlomere, where it all started.

“No, not tonight. I still have duties to do, in Dal’coler” Alnam suddenly felt very tired. Duties of battles that were not his own. Duties connected with nations which already bowed before Lorian. He tried to perform them with as much strict finesse as he could.

“You should allow your subordinates to take some from your shoulders.”

“I can’t,” Alnam laughed bitterly. “I am too grown into the procedure. Devlonmere will wait. It always waits, after all.”

With its white walls, pallid sky and cruel mountains. Beautiful, raw and wild, a real winter tale, happening just before his eyes. He was its autumn lord, even before it took the white color, a copper and vermilion home of his youth, of his best memories… and his first love. Narlia, who loved autumn, but even more loved winter. Her lilac lips, a contrast for the white, either in autumn and in winter. Beautiful. Cruel in their truth-speaking way. Honest.

“Why are you tormenting yourself, traveling there? Here, you at least don’t see ghosts.”

“And here, I can at least do what soothes me the most” Alnam’s lips curved into a perfect smile.

Kolerial lifted his well-shaped brow.

“Play this charade. Isn’t it all we love most, me and Lorian?”

Play the charade. Something overwhelming. But taking his soul into place, where white walls were a safe harbor of good memories, and the bitter ones…

… were just perishing.

And he knew Lorian loved it too.

How could it not be a perfect end for himself? Losing in the charade, which he played for forty years. But he knew he would lose it one day. The thing was, how much he will take with him and how much it will belong to Lorian.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe all.

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ATOM: Luna – I

“The gates are open once again.”

“To let the moon in.”

“To swallow the sunlight and replace it with frozen darkness.”

The voices of the forest priests resounded in the vast chamber, filled with fey nobility. Their susurring tones; repressed and dull, more a whisper, were loud enough to fill the hall; loud even if silent. The thick veils on their faces seemed to swallow all light around them. Like they were made of night; and there could be a lot of truth in it. The tales told that they were created from nocturnal silk, woven by creatures that have never seen the sun. Lorian knew the truth though it was much less pleasant and much more interesting.

During New Lunar Year, also his own fate was counted. If the woods decided that he needs an heir, he would have to oblige. Produce the child and allow the future decide if his offspring takes his throne… and life. But he knew that it won’t happen. The ancient forest loved him.

And he was aware such love could bring only one thing.

Eternity.

He felt the mind of Nymre. Her light aura gleaming around her. He suddenly felt a strong urge to grasp at her. Pull her away, even by force. Bury her in truth. But at the same time, he knew he couldn’t. Perhaps the life his lies will give to her, will be enough for her, to forgive him. He wanted her eternity as much as his own.

What have you become. Tormenting those who you love.

But Nymre wouldn’t be herself, if she let her worries be an open book. Even to him. She hid her face under her raven mask, which seemed to swallow also her inner turmoils. She was scared of being weak as much as he despised the mere idea of it.

They were good at wearing masks. A hidden place where no one could reach. While they should truly… scream.

And when she was letting him inside, into her mind, he felt everything that she stored, even if she was sure he sees only the surface.

She would never understand that he has to suffer to live. That he has to pay the prize, for himself and her, to feed his hunger that never ceased to burn his entrails.  His hunger, which she admired when he loved her, but also which scorched him from deep inside.

Which made him – eventually – fight the creatures as old as time.

He wondered if he was ever ready to completely free himself from the overpowering pleasure of gods’ blood. Even if he kills them. Even if he eats them whole, bone by bone, string by string.

“We give our blood to the sacred forest.”

“We offer our flesh to the branches.

“We sacrifice our hearts in the name of the woods.”

The priests pretended to be above this all. They were drinking fear from his court, intoxicated with admiration and fear they were causing. While Lorian knew they were bending under spores the gods were releasing, under the power they couldn’t bear, guarding their prison, faint-hearted, afraid, ready to feed on his night, only to reach peace. Only to not collapse under the pressure of the god’s awakening rage.

And only he knew the truth. Which, unknown to others, wasn’t becoming less tasty, less… pleasing.

“It seems your subjects enjoy the rite” he heard Nymre’s voice. Beautifully mocking.

“In New Lunar Year the woods drags us closer to them” he smiled at her, sparks in his black eyes. “Drink from us and allow us to drink from them. At least… that’s what the priests tend to say.”

Nymre’s eyes widened… and she laughed. Her aura shivered slightly. Anticipating.

“You do not share the sentiment of your court.”

“Not at all. I share it, reluctantly. I know the forest loves to test us, though. It’s an unpredictable, cruel god. They think they explain its wishes to us. While the forest toys with them… just as with you or me.”

Nymre’s eyes drilled him through. Her mind almost forcefully begged him to read her thoughts, to be one with him… so he slipped into her.

Shallow thoughts. Pleased elation. Curiosity. And deeper… doubt, worry. So much of it. His eyes closed, when he spoke inside her head.

They are fools, Nymre.

Don’t you worry that the woods would ask for your heir?

That is always a possibility. But I don’t tend to fear, Nymre. I act.

Her mind latched to him, in a possessive grip. He allowed to her to become one with him. It was another kind of union… more intimate than sex… but at the same time much more painful in its purity.

He was becoming Nymre, with all of her. With her desire. With all her inner strength, untamed wilderness of her nature.

With her fear.

And with her love.

“Our king.”

“Lorian Ain’Dal, hundredth king of Ain’asel.”

He parted with her, slowly, to not harm her.

He raised his black eyes at the gathering under the portal to sacred woods, a core place of the chamber. The cathedral was built around it, to give honors to the god of the moss, which allowed Dal’coler to sprout from the mountain. The fact that the fae themselves built it, biting into stone with their magic, was forgotten through many ages.

The priests, clad in thick black, looked like ominous ravens, with not less thick silky capes dragging behind them in a parody of wings. Nymre would be offended by the comparison. Ravens were graceful, harbingers of the eternal storm, while them… decomposing alive, eaten by the power they had to guard.

Lorian offered the court his most perfect smile. He didn’t fear that his reign would end. He knew it wouldn’t. The forest liked him, craved him, it wanted him in the most perverse way. If someone was to replace him, if he somehow decided to have a child… the woods would remove them. Fast and without remorse.

The priests were looking at him from under the dry out flesh that were their veils and he felt their thoughts, chaotic, pained, terrified. They also hoped, no, they needed him on the throne. Only he could stop their anguish, take the burden from their backs.

Kill the First Ones.

End their misery.

They would prefer death over becoming like him, filled with fire and pain. They weren’t ready for the flames. But he was more than eager to take that from them, as long as he could drink the heat from the holy veins and fill himself with delicious power.

Stop them. Kill them. Swallow them whole, like a treat that hangs on the tallest tree – a reward that was worthy of all the effort.

The priests opened before him to let him in their circle. He stepped into it, allowing the dark and dim energy of the woods enter his body.

He was never ready for it, but he welcomed it even more eagerly. The power of the woods entwined with him and he felt the rapture, not even slightly similar to the one that was washing over him, when he was eating blood apples. The second was strong like a hammer and overwhelming like a snow storm… the touch of the woods was pure tranquility. A smile bloomed on his lips and his aura pulled the dark energy in… taking it inside.

Pleasure instead of pain.

A soothing calmth of the moss and rippling stream, instead of rays of the cruel sun.

He could almost sense the scent of the forest, of the old bark, of resin and of the leaves murmuring in the darkness, moved by the wind…

He didn’t know how long it lasted, how long the woods were claiming him as theirs, making him rest in the protective peace of the enchanted overgrowth. He abandoned himself in it, catching each tendril of the soothing delight. His so often pained body relaxed and drifted in familiar darkness, which was becoming one with his shadows. Just like he became one with Nymre.

“No heir. The woods decided.”

The words pulled him violently from the pond of the green stillness.

He heard Nymre’s sigh, a relief.  Her aura glimmering through her, her features not as tensed as before. Her body slowly relaxing.

And he had plans which surely would allow her to relax even more.

His mind entered heads of the whole court; the cacophony of voices, thoughts, and hidden dreams and cravings hit him with their pure and loud power.

Blossoming hatred, well hidden, yet so obvious.

Just as well hidden approval, silent keen of his loyal ones.

The fear, delicacy that he never had enough of.

And one thought which was repressing them all.

Leira’s bold and powerful core, beaming with well tamed but strong hope, in the far distance.

You hate what you are becoming.

And  you love it.

Just like her.

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ATOM: Flesh and Bone – III

Before him – a vast sky, painted with rays of a faint sun, which fought for survival with the frozen aura of this place. Under him – a void, deep and disappearing in the thick mist, which shouldn’t be present in such cold.

And far away… a cold forest, dark and harsh with its sharp edges.

If Qhal told the truth – and Tiyan knew he did – this was the first passage leading to Dal’coler, the place of wonders and death. Even Qhal seemed to be aware that Dal’coler is dangerous, not only for humans, but for the fae too. The court was a vicious hungry thing, feeding on weakness.

On human hope and blood.

The wind was almost non-existent, like the even more potent cold in Lesser Realm was petrifying it, not allowing it to dance above the land.

Qhal was looking at him all the time, even if he… didn’t look. If the fey had some power that allowed it to have an eye on him, even without turning his eyes… it was well hidden, but Tiyan always felt his gaze on himself. Following him. Guarding him. Spying.

The incident with the portal made him reluctant, an old fear creeping in. Perhaps the fae could fight the gods… but he was not ready. Few days ago, he was indifferent to them, they didn’t seem even half as real as now. The Goddess, the creation itself, always seemed distant to him, even if he believed she watched him for most of his life. He would never imagine that he could meet her, face to face. She was… absent but ever present, she was in nature; leaves, flowers, the water he drank… even in snow, when winter didn’t mean death. But god… a god having a body, who was able to turn his attention on him, who could do as he pleases with him, by mere whim… it was disturbing.

But he knew the fey could do the same, with the same means. For humans, they were gods. It was only a matter of perception.

How he ended between two blades of these sharp scissors?

“We are in a dangerous place. The cold in this region is especially intense.”

Tiyan stopped grinding his thoughts, which were taking him to nowhere. He will mull them over and over again, meeting dead ends.

“Trapped between two mountain ranges” continued the fey. “The magic here is less intense than in Dal’coler. But it affects the weather more than the minds of living beings.”

“So… would I lose another finger?” a bitter, dark joke, but Tiyan couldn’t stop himself.

“No, if you will do what I say” replied Qhal with a small smile wandering on his lips. “After all, my king wants you whole. With as many lost parts as possible.”

Tiyan couldn’t not use the chance of Qhal speaking freely of the king. He wanted to know who awaits him. Wanted to know what he can expect and what fate may possibly he meet. Even if Qhal will again react with animosity, he can’t harm him, even if he presses on him. He had his orders.

“Why don’t you want to talk about him?”

Qhal’s face tensed. As Tiyan expected. But he decided to take risks and push forth.

“He took my sister. He killed my family. And you serve him. I will not bargain. If you need me to go with you, tell me what I can expect. Why? Why don’t you allow me to speak his name?”

Qhal ‘s throat slowly pulsed with light, which his body started to emit. Light… darker than usually. Muted light which would not enlighten the dark night hours.

But Tiyan wanted to at least try. And trying – pull as much information as he can. Going into maw of the beast not knowing practically anything was a reason why his god-induced worries were intensifying through the last days.

“Qhal… I need to know. I will probably die. What do you risk?”

The fey seemed petrified. His brows narrowed in displeasure, but his face stayed cold, like sculpted in marble.

“You won’t die” Qhal’s light became a tone darker. It looked like his throat shone with absence of the sun. “If he needs you, you won’t. But do not expect not to suffer. Lorian is my savior, I owe him my life, but he is not merciful. Not to humans. Not to anyone he doesn’t deem worthy.”

Savior.

He was Qhal’s savior.

Now, Tiyan slowly started to understand. Qhal admired his king. Cold fear closed its talons over his heart.

“Have you seen her? My sister?” the words barely were leaving his throat. Qhal couldn’t lie. He was walking truth and Tiyan was afraid of what he could hear.

Qhal silently, noiselessly, turned to the sun. Reached with his hand to it. And… smiled. He really smiled.

“I saw her, yes. She was not harmed. And won’t be. Unless… you decided to disobey him.”

He slowly looked at Tiyan, lazily. His features perfect and dangerous, beautiful and stern at the same time. A scultpure of a calm god, who’s indifference can lead him to stepping on small bugs that were humans.

“What do you expect to hear from me, poor soul? That Lorian Ain’Dal kills you as soon as you stop being useful? That your sister suffers terrible pain in the palace and you will come in vain, just to share her fate?” he chuckled. “I can assure you that nothing can prepare you for Dal’coler. But as much as I like you, I am not here to warn you or to save you from what awaits you. I am here to keep you alive. And I will do it, even against your will. Even if you refuse to go with me, I will keep you alive and deliver you to Dal’coler. Even if that meant your hurt feelings… or your pain.”

Tiyan swallowed a thick ball of saliva. He felt like he could expect such an answer. Qhal was dutiful soldier of of the throne and loved Lorian, with whatever grateful love he sprouted in him.

He loved the shadow that forced under his clothes, craving him voraciously.

And Tiyan was afraid of this love. Afraid how it can affect him.

This was pointless. Qhal was a fae and will remain one, no matter how much he liked Tiyan or how much he despised him. He would really harm him, just to fulfill his mission. He saw it in his soft eyes, which always promised rain and in his smile, which held mysteries. He was a fae. Nothing changes that.

The croaking was heard in the distance. Loud and piercing, like intensified by the cold, empty air. Tiyan, angry at himself and at Qhal – at all fae – looked up, to see the flock of black birds, feathers darker than night. Their voices, sharp as stone edges, somehow… reminded him of home… and the dead bodies of his family. Carnivors. When he woke up, he heard bird voices too. Just as sharp. Just as hungry.

Dirt in his mother’s mouth. Tangles of vines going straight through her flesh. Cruel laughter of a fairy messenger, her empty eyes.

One of the ravens parted with the group and flew just in their direction. A small shape on the pale sky became bigger, until it was so close and Tiyan saw that the bird had strange eyes.

Blue, large, perfectly round. Like the eyes of the heavens itself. Like paint that was used to color the sky, and later was poured just into those eyes, to add stellar, unearthly magic to them.

Qhal smiled and stretched his arm, so the raven could sit on it. His throat beaming now with a familiar soft light, like its intensity and shade depended on his mood.

Probably it did.

The raven indeed had huge eyes. Bigger than Qhal’s, strangely intelligent, wells filled with wisdom of many ages. His wings wide and thickly feathered, dark, so dark, glistening with obsidian. And now, the bird was looking at him, intensely, like wanting to see into his head and pull all his thoughts out.

“Dal’coler watches us,” Qhal touched the head of the raven, softly rubbing it. The black bird made a single croak, silent and dry.

“Was it sent… by the king?” tried cautiously Tiyan.

“Yes” chuckled Qhal again. “And by Lady Nymre.”

And that was all. Lady Nymre. Qhal didn’t even try to explain that, the raven looked at Tiyan like it was engraving his features in his mind. It seemed to look like that forever, eons passed, years crumbled, and Tiyan couldn’t stop gazing in those electrifying, round eyes; they grounded him completely.  There was magic in them, not completely cruel. Just… alien, like this whole realm.

When the bird broke the contact, Tiyan felt as he was ravaged by the winter itself. Cold tendrils of sweat slowly stroking his skin. It was unplesant, like a freezing and suffocating water after a warm bath in the sun.

The raven took flight as unexpectedly as it arrived and doing a few circles above Tiyan’s head, croaking loudly, it flew to join the flock in the distance.

Qhal of course would not explain. That would be too easy.

Ravens.

And he was left in ignorance, still knowing as little as before.

Or maybe… knowing even less.

Categories wip

ATOM: Flesh and Bone – II

The portal closed over him, taking him in a tight and merciless embrace.

Qhal disappeared, Shadowlands; with its snow, dangerous beauty, cruel wind – it seemed to dissolve around him, like winter chill is dissolved by the touch of spring. Like the whole Ain’asel was removed from existence, leaving… not void. It didn’t feel like the last time. It wasn’t all consuming night that was taking him, forcing him, like a restless lover, stealing parts of his soul, replacing the and returning, all in the matter of seconds.

Tiyan felt the warm touch of non-existence sun. His eyes slowly adjusted to the reality the portal threw him in. The bright red sand, the crimson sky, and the distant mountains on the horizon; it all beamed with warmth. Which, following the dreadful cold of Shadowlands, was as shocking, as relieving.

The land was all shades of red; vermilion and mahogany… blood. The sky seemed to pulse above his head, with copper heat. Tiyan felt as the fire in his veins awakes and moves, eager to free itself and merge within this reality.

Why was he here?

Weren’t he supposed to pass the gate and land in somewhere called Lesser Realm? As far as he understood from Qhal’s words, it was another realm under the rule of Dal’coler, as cold and merciless as other fae lands.

This land though… was silent, with the silence of the burning furnace, quiet like a burned forest…

… what if he landed here and won’t be able to free himself? Tossed somewhere by mistake, unable to find the way back…

His insides twisted in fear.

Mina. All he did, he did for her. If the shortcut made him lost, he won’t save her and shadows will consume her soul. Such foolish way to fail – misguided, after all he went through.

He still felt eyes of the burning faeries on him, their nightmares under his skin. And the vision of dying Mina will join this, crueler than teeth and talons.

Qhal… he had to be here, somewhere… or he would search for him. The flames under his heart were burning around the mark on his chest, the lines that scarred his skin lighting up from within.

No.

He couldn’t get lost. In sake of Mina and himself.

He looked into the sky, sunless and empty. Only bright red and vermillion. The ovewhelming colors was everywhere, like mocking him, closing all paths, and chance to find guidance or signs.

“A human.”

Only one word, just in his head, but powerful enough to make him fall on his knees, his fingers burying in the red sand.

“Mortal creature, such a bad choice…”

Tiyan wasn’t ready. The dry meat he ate before landed before him in a unrecognizable pulp. The voice which spoke, forced inside him,; started to eat him alive and take senses from him.

“… but did we have another?”

Tears ran from his eyes… to sink into the sand, releasing smoke.

What was that? Oh goddess…

“But maybe that is the best choice, after all.”

This time, the voice wasn’t as painful. Feminine, delicate, but emotionless and alien, somehow, like Tiyan would imagine a sky or a mountain to speak – distant, empty… but… at the same time curious.

How?

Who?

His eyes were still filled with tears, which were slowly evaporating from him, the skin on his face drying, like he was becoming a desert itself. His flames, his mysterious power danced in his veins, happy to hear the voice. Enjoying its closeness.

“Hope is not something that I can embrace, poor soul. But, if I did… I hoped that you would survive.”

His tongue was dry too, but he didn’t have to speak. His thoughts were sucked in by the strange force that was addressing him.

Who are you.

“This is a question even I don’t know the answer for. All I know is that my womb became dry, when I created winter. And I can’t bear flames anymore.”

Tiyan’s mind swirled frantically. Flames. Fire.

“And I am hungry.”

Visions attacked Tiyan’s mind. Chaotic, incoherent, painful. The entity in his head showed him its feelings, its hunger… loss of strength and power. But… also vile intent to destroy everything that walks on Ain’asel and swallow it to feed the flame.

Tiyan felt the meat, what was left of it in his stomach, again traveled to his throat.

“You shouldn’t be here, mortal one. You came too close. Too close. But my hunger is overwhelming. I can’t swallow you though. You are the key to my existence.”

Tiyan heard this hunger in its voice, even if it was emotionless and dry as the sand under his fingers. It didn’t care how many lives it would destroy, satiating itself. It was pure want. Want for souls, blood, crave for flesh.

It was a bottomless mouth wanting food and only food.

And Tiyan felt a repressed desire to eat him too in it. It would swallow him, destroy him, even if it would feed it only for a few minutes.

He didn’t even fear. He felt utter disgust and repulsion. His flames suddenly felt vile for him, because they wanted so much to become one with this warm land and the voice.

“A soul of your… one of a kind… burning… flaming… with the flames that were torn from under my skin..  it would fill me… it would bring me so much… but I can’t… even if I want this so much… the pain of hunger is… unbearable… he EATS us… HE EATS US WHOLE…

Bottomless mouth wanting food.

Someone’s hand grasped over his arm. He heard a voice, much more familiar, much more… alive. And he was pulled. So hard that when he landed with a thump in the freezing snow, he thought that’s shock would destroy him.

The snow slowly was falling on his hair, his hat laying under his feet, he felt a strong urge to throw up again, but he couldn’t, nothing was left anymore.

“Fool” murmured Qhal, his voice slightly off, like he was worried… or scared. “But no. It was only my fault. I should anchor you with me.”

Tiyan’s eyes filled with snow and tears. His body was shaking but not only from the immense cold.

“What… where was I?” his voice shaking, alongside his limbs.

“Shadowlands were once a gate to the underworld. When gods still lived, going through this portal was a death sentence.”

“G-gods?” Tiyan started to form a frightening conclusion.

“They are dead. But the underworld is a trap. It can fill you with the afterglow of the deceased elders and it can madden you… or kill… and I am not sure which of these two would be worse.”

“They are d-dead?” the voice inside his head didn’t seem dead. It knew his name. It knew him, of all. It craved his veins and tendons.

“For a very long time, Tiyan Markon” Qhal started immediately to enchant leaves and vines, the cold here was even worse than in Shadowlands, and even if Qhal could joyfully walk naked in it, Tiyan would die, a frozen bundle of lost hope and failure. “But they still harm our realm.”

Gods.

Hungry gods.

Fae gods, as filled with need as the fairy folk. An intensified and personified craving.

It didn’t feel as if they were dead. It felt as if they were very alive.

And Tiyan thought immediately that his flames wanted them. They felt good there, in this ellusive realm.

And that meant…

… that it was all bigger than him. Bigger than he imagined. Bigger than he wanted.

And bigger than he was ready for.