I am drown in this song. It’s so Raithea, it’s a visceral hurt for me. The lyrics fit perfectly.
I am drown in this song. It’s so Raithea, it’s a visceral hurt for me. The lyrics fit perfectly.
Raithea was standing near the window which faced the prison, his short hair, tangled by the windy weather, caressed his face. He liked wind, an element filled with both rage and soulful intimacy – it could tear the skin from the flesh… or embrace one like a lover. Elves had celebrations for each of the elements – fire, wind, earth and air. Each of them were bringing both good and bad to this world, and balance was cherished by elvin kind.
His heart felt like it was covered with scales, digging deep into the muscle, but it was his back that held the mark. Painful and wrong, never allowed him to forget how much he pays for using dark magic, and the punishment on humankind had to be thrice as torturous. Scales rubbed his sensitive young skin – the humans will experience iron and flame.
Zakrivea stood behind him, because he wished for her company, and she never said no to him, even knowing many of his darkest sins. He was almost seeing the fear in her gaze, but that was better than pity. He never told her about marks, the toll to pay for freeing his kind. Just as he never told Keeral about countless murders he committed to get to the point he was in.
Neither of them would understand. Neither of them would agree to…
… love him?
Anymore? Still? Or was it a single mirage of a tormented soul he never could let go, feeling its safety in the clenched fingers of his closed fist.
This was engulfing, this feeling, this bathing in suffering. He made an armor from it but inside, he was bleeding from too many festering wounds that he gathered over the ages. It was his personal pit filled with fire, and a personal redemption. He will pay for his own loss with pain.
“He screams a lot,” said Zakrivea. For a moment she wanted to put her hand on his shoulder but his stern expression when he faced her, made her retreat. “Such death…”
“The only way to make him pay for the crimes” hissed Raithea harsher than he firstly wanted. He closed his eyes, trying to calm the fire that was pulling all his nerves into a jagged crank.
Zakrivea was still looking into him, and he felt she saw all the deeds he committed, even if she couldn’t.
“No” he turned back to her. His gaze landed on the gates leading to the prison. The screams of Lord Kesser indeed were reaching even here, but he couldn’t treat them with anything more than utter cold. He wanted him to pay. Not to die. To suffer. But he didn’t take the pleasure from his demise, like humans would do. It was something that had to be done and he was glad that he was able to bring this on him.
Lord Kesser tried many times to tell who visited him with the poisoned stew, but the spell he put on the meal, and for which he was growing-in scales now, allowed him to only babble incoherently. The guards didn’t recognize the herbs, and the king, as Raithea imagined, was more happy to lose the subject who was causing troubles, not eager to make any investigation. Since no one knew about the herb, there was no reason to persecute slaves. This was a weak point of his plans he worried about. But it went as smoothly as sliding a hand over a cat’s back.
“Please, Raithea” her voice caught the strength which he loved in her, but oh gods, how he hated it surged just now.
“I wanted you to face the punishment, not question my plans, Zakrivea.”
“So I was to fear you? Is that what you want?” she said that with disappointment, which he dismissed.
“Not to fear me. I thought it’s not possible to make you fear anything.”
“But you still try. Wanting me to face the horrors of your revenge. But no. I won’t fear you, Raithea.” her eyes were glittering, almost like green stars.
“There is the only one all should fear in this castle” his expression darkened to the point of changing his face into much more adult, much more revealing.
“That means you” she frowned, when a painful groan came from the prison. “I am not cold, Raithea. What you do… you have plans… I know you have many of them, and this had to be part of them… but… it’s not you. I know you better. Don’t let them change you.”
Ah! She knows him better! Oh sweet autumn child! A honey-filled words and so assured, so full of certainty!
He didn’t allow her to see his face. It became a mask, as always. The mask, always different, for the king, courtmen, guards… and for Keeral. And for her. Yet she seemed to see past it and that was even more painful, because under it, he held a hundred other ones.
“Tell me, Zakrivea…” he mused, still looking into the window, wind dancing in his hair. “What do you see when you look at me?”
That caught her off-guard. She knew how to reply, oh, he was sure, but this was a dangerous question. One many couldn’t answer well, not in his ears.
“I see a man that lived too long. And suffered too long” her delicate voice reached him. When she said that, it felt like a balm which softly oozed on his soul. But no, she couldn’t know. Not now. And not in the future. That part of him was buried deeper, so deep, that it didn’t even touch the surface of the deepest mask.
He chuckled. A dark, sad chuckle. She tensed behind him. Like expecting the same he did to Lord Kesser. Or maybe… just knowing he lies. Not only to her, but also to himself.
A loud shriek sounded and he smiled.
The agony prolonged, and it was enough to make him not weep and not regret.
The storm was coming, ready to quench the earth’s thirst for liquid rage.
The castle was a vast well filled with labyrinths of corridors and rooms, which more unnerved Arialin than dazzled. For humans – a fortress filled with places as dark as their hearts. For elves – a vicious trap where a true child of the young world couldn’t breathe.
He was curious, though. Trying to look stronger and more confident he felt, he observed the corridors, sometimes passing humans or elvin servants. The first was reacting with hard hidden scorn and maybe even fear. The elvin people though… there was a certain and unusual amalgamate of fear, hate, and hope hidden behind their gaze. Arialin supposed they still placed hopes in Raithea, but for them, he was lost, too bound with human invaders, touched by their darkness.
Even, if as he supposed, Raithea many times was helping enslaved elves, just as he helped him. But his demeanor wasn’t likable or easy. Even him, had a hard time fully trusting him. But he was seeing those cogs in his brain, as they work, fast and efficiently.
For a purpose, which Arialin couldn’t embrace.
Raithea stepped with grace and easiness only a young child could muster. One didn’t see the black hole that was filling him. It was so easy to underestimate him. So easy to make a mistake.
We are in the heart of a bloodthirsty dragon.
Yes, and it breathes fire, Arialin responded to his shadow.
There was no need to soothe her. She knew it as well as him. One tiny tiny little betrayal from Raithea and they are dying a painful death.
When Arialin felt a gust of wind on his face, his muscles twitched. He thought he will never feel the air again as a free person. He was still free. And he wasn’t an elf anymore. He was a human and he realized that if he wants to help Raithea to help himself, he must act like one.
The watchtower held a commander’s chambers and for Arialin, the tower was a test for his nerves. Raithea was the lord advisor and the guards had to make way for him, but they looked with such disbelief at them both, that a huge ball was coming to his throat.
He is a racist. They are aware of it. The dark lord chose a racist to accompany him. They are surprised.
How do you know what he is?
I feel it in his shadow. The aura. It’s potent. Very strong emotions, negative emotions. This guard is a bad human.
All humans are bad.
This was a statement that was grounded in him by years of witnessing all that humans done to this land. But no. There were good people. His adoptive parents.
But they were dead.
He was so lost in thoughts that he almost stepped on Raithea’s cloak when he opened the door without knocking and entered the large room. Once again, Arialin was impressed by the bright confidence of his host. If he was less confident and less filled with inner power, these humans would step on him, especially since he looked like a child. Humans sense weakness too easily and prey on it.
The commander seemed surprised but quickly braced himself. He was a middle-aged man, with a light beard and short blonde hair, his pale blue eyes seemed to pierce them both.
He was holding a document, which he quickly put down and pinned with an empty chalice.
“Lord advisor,” he said with a deep and battered voice, fitting more to a much older person.
Raithea bowed his head for a welcome and grinning at the man, he tossed the first verbal coin before him.
“We are having a bad day for all people occupying the position of a guardian.”
The commander blinked almost non-visibly, but Arialin caught it.
“Because I am going to steal your most skilled, most cherished, and most liked guard. Isn’t it a bad day? A mournful day for this noble congregation.”
“Who?” then seeing Arialin, his eyes widened and he almost lost the trail of what they were even talking about. “Eh… him?”
“Yes,” Raithea still smiling nodded at Arialin. “Rog was the first and most perfect choice for my guard. Who could not admire his strong personality and balanced opinions?”
Arialin almost laughed, observing the colors the commander’s face took.
The commander knew, yes he knew, that Raithea jokes from him and his colors blended eventually into the deep color of red.
“Now” Raithae’s expression darkened in one second, and his voice became harsher. “What papers do I need to sign and what bureaucratic nonsense do I need to go through to take this man and do with him as I please?”
The commander’s face became almost black.
“What you want from him… I know Rog. If you didn’t want him for personal revenge, I don’t know what for.”
“Yes, I know Rog’s fame too” Raithea smiled darkly. “And because of that, he will be the perfect candidate to assist me in dangerous tests and magical experiments” seeing that the man wants to protest, he added. “He will be well paid. Should I remind you, commander, that I have all power given by the king, to dispose of workforce that inhabits this castle? Experiments I do are vital for the future of a human kingdom.”
The commander started to add two to two and suddenly – and Arialin was almost sure he just realized he can get rid of the problematic subordinate – he smiled wide.
“If you think that your experiments and tests will gain because of him… and if he will be paid well… I just hope he returns to us in one piece and in the same shape he possesses now…”
The man looked suspiciously at Arialin. Ah yes.
“He is ordered to be silent” added Raithea, like hearing Arialin’s thoughts. “And when I give orders, one listens.”
That one sentence was enough for Arialin to chuckle internally. Just because it was so true.
The commander looked after them, still, Arialin felt his burning gaze on his back, when he opened the door before Raithea, as a good guard and- let’s name that – servant.
And when they left, the bearded man took the chalice and lifted the documents from the table, tossing them into flames, which immediately started to lick pages and devour the message.
Behind the door, Arialin whispered to Raithea.
“He didn’t really care what will happen to this Rog. I would show even small dose of worry in his place.”
“Ah yes” Raithea’s eyes pierced him even harsher than commander’s one. There were lightyears of pain in this angry gaze. “Because this is not forest and we are not celebreating solstice anymore.”
It took many months for Arialin to understand what he meant.
Arialin looked at the small bottle with a doubt. As much as he wanted to trust, Raithea wasn’t making it easier. Ordering, not asking, though he had to admit that everything he was saying so far, was turning into his favor. The shadow inside him raged, urging him to not drink the potion, and as much as Arialin wanted to listen to her, there was a lot of obvious truth in his host’s words.
Arialin couldn’t hide forever if he wanted to achieve anything, if he wanted to live long enough. More evenly, hide in Raithea’s bedchambers, as safe as they were. He doubted Raithea would allow him, to add to it. He was sure that he would not give him to humans, but as long as he would hang over his host’s head, danger was immense.
It will hurt, do not drink it.
As long as it gives me more freedom, I am willing to take risks.
Raithea’s gaze wasn’t necessarily encouraging, but there was so much assured confidence in it, that Arialin closed his eyes… and swallowed all of the mixture in one take.
Raithea’s eyes seemed to widen, like he waited for that and that caused a pang panic in Arialin’s mind, but it was quickly overwhelmed by… a feeling.
Not exactly painful. It felt like he was dissolving in a thick mist, his sight became blurry and unfocused, his limbs lost connection with his body. He didn’t want to scream, but he definitely wanted to speak, but he couldn’t utter a word. It felt like his tongue plastered to his throat and choked him… but without loss of breath.
And his shadow…
First time in his short life, Arialin could feel her stupefaction and disconnection.
Do not go, he wanted to tell her, sensing her departure. Yes, many times he wanted her to go, he hated her so often and was scared of her. But in the end, he didn’t want her to go. He wanted to understand her better, not remove her from his life. If she disappeared… he would feel more lost than in the lonely sea, during a storm.
But the shadow still was there, hushed, silent, but observant and alert, in the dark corner of his mind, looking at his change with a dark stubbornness.
First thing he felt, when he returned from the mist, was that he has worse eyesight. He blinked a few times, but his crystal clean, elvin sight didn’t return.
“Humans have much weaker eyes” said Raithea, and pointed at a glass of water Arialin forgot to drink at night. It was cold now, cold like snow. “Drink water, to ease the change. It will take time to adjust, but humans somehow use them to see. It can’t be that difficult.”
Arialin took the water and drank fast, also to remove a strange acidic taste in his mouth. It helped.
“How… what do I look like?”
His voice was alien to him, rough and harsh, without melodic touch all elves had. It was brutally human.
He was not sure if he wanted to see his new face. If his voice sounded like that, how different he looked, how he changed, maybe forever.
What if he will stay human for all his remaining years.
Raithea seemed amused, and Arialin turned to the mirror. He had to face himself, no matter if he looked like a brutal war monster. But to his asonishment, he didn’t see a human there. Only his own slightly ragged and tired person, with same eyes, with same fear in them, with same doubt and courage, he just was finding in himself.
“Your look didn’t change, in reality” said Raithea, amusement ranged also in his tone, “You didn’t change your skin, it’s impossible to do so, your bone structure can’t be changed, as well as your blood or muscles position. You didn’t become human. You just happen to use a very powerful spell of illusion. You can still see yourself, as you really look like. And so do I. But others, be they humans or elves, will see Rog, a very unfortunate soldier, who was designed for the least desired person.”
Arialin stared at his perfectly normal reflection in the mirror.
“But… my voice… how did it…”
“Voice can be changed so easily. Even without a strong spell.”
“So, I will sound like that forever?” Arialin’s tone took on a much harsher note. Having this rough, cruel voice was least he would like. “And what about my sight? If I didn’t change, why do I look like a human?”
“Because magic takes as much as it gives” Raithea’s voice also harshened and the shadow inside Arialin moved restlessly, he could feel her under his skin, protesting. “We all pay a toll, to get the prize.”
Arialin had so many questions, but he understood all too well that Lord Rhuitaure won’t answer them now. He knew this secretive kind of person, who played with too many puppets and held too many secrets. They never were answering directly.
And all who he ever heard of, were power hungry humans, who would better kill him than help.
But strangely, that trait in an elvin person, was making him assured that whatever job needs to be done, will be done well.
“Who is this Rog? Who will I be?” he couldn’t stop himself from asking at least that.
“A guard,” Raithea simply said. “You need armor, you will get a new one from your captain. I never used a private guard, so there will be questions, but not as much as would be, if you became a maid or cook. Most questions will probably arise, why I want Rog, especially, guarding my person. Do not talk, when we appear in the watchtower. Look spellbound. I will take this ungrateful task on myself.”
Or he will put a spell, so you look like one.
Arialin wanted to ignore the shadow but decided to nod internally. Raithea seemed a person, who would not shy out from ultimate resources. One more question, though, needed to be asked.
“Where is this guard? Won’t he protest when I appear looking at him?”
“I am sure he has much better things to do now” Raithea’s voice darkened and lowered and Arialin could almost see an adult version of him, speaking it. It had such finality to it, that he decided to not push further and resign from all the questions he ever had.
He made him suffer, he made him weep, he made him scream, he made him seethe.
This time, Arialin completely ignored the shadow.
Maybe because he felt she had a lot of rights.
Point of view… Raithea… but like this:
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pitAnd it’s filled with people who are filled with shit And the vermin of the world inhabit it. But not for long… They all deserve to die. Tell you why, Zakrivea, tell you why. Because in all of the whole human race Zakrivea, there are two kinds of men and only two There’s the one staying put in his proper place And the one with his foot in the other one’s face Look at me, Zakrivea, look at you. No, we all deserve to die Tell you why, Zakrivea, tell you why. Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief For the rest of us death will be a relief We all deserve to die. And I’ll never see my sweet ail No I’ll never hug my wife to me – finished!
The overgrowth swallowed them, hungrily, embracing them as a willing lover.
He had to tame his loran, so the animal didn’t surrender to the call of nature and galloped through the leaves and branches, to an unknown destination, known only to him. Lorans were animals used as a transport, but only by most skilled elves. They easily were allowing their nature to take over their common sense.
They both were skilled enough. Lorans were kept on his fields, and he loved to just run on one of them, not caring for anything, his hair windswept and wild.
She looked at him, her eyes smiling.
“Well, my lord, it seems you again allowed yourself for your thoughts to drift off. What important things occupy that stubborn head of yours?”
Raithea shook his head. His features lighted by inner gleam. He stopped his loran, who wanted to prance, the summer overwhelmed him. He named him Gale. Very fitting name, as he was like a force of nature making the sky shake.
“I just thought how pleasant it would be to bathe our lorans in the stream. They surely would use a cool off.”
“I assume not only lorans need a cool bath,” she laughed lightly.
“As long as lorans bathe too, I can at least pretend that I don’t like the cold stream water” he replied and again tamed his animal. His hand slowly patted his head.
“We are getting married today, Lord Rhuitaure. How it would look if the ain scal appeared in the sacred grove with wet hair and tangled robes.”
“My robes always eventually get tangled one way or another. Especially when we spend time together” his expression indicated pure victory.
“You beautiful fool” she scoffed playfully. “If it depended on you, you would marry in a stream, with only a wreath on your head.”
“Tempting idea, but I doubt your mother would approve. She would throw her own robe on my back as soon as she would see me bare.”
“That is modesty, my pure lord. You should be born a loran. That way, you would not need to take care of any clothes and protocole. An only thing you would need to care about would be how fast to lose yourself in the wilderness.”
“Only if you were a loran too… who would scold me? Who would allow me to lay my head on her knees? Who would straighten up my misled pathaways?” he taunted.
These simple words, playful but honest, caught her heart in tangled vines and squeezed with delight. She felt almost touchable bond with her ain scal. Her spring bruthi, who kidnapped her into the kingdom of grass. She didn’t know how she deserved such happiness. Finding first love among everlasting elves was not an uncommon thing, but still clean and clear as a young sun.
“We are not made to be lorans” she only said, a light smile dancing in the corner of her lips.
“I wouldn’t be able to give you this, then” he retorted fast, pulling something he held close to his chest, all the time they rode. It was a wreath made of twisted birch roots, with silver leaves growing straight from its tangles. She looked at him with disbelief.
“But Raithea. It’s a symbol of your bruth-kin.”
“I want to offer you this,” he simply said and stopping his animal, he took the reins of her loran, who softly allowed it. He leaned over and put the wreath on her forehead. “You already won me thousands of times. Let others know, I am yours.”
She lost her breath. He was hers. Let the others know. But she was his, completely at his whim.
It was pure.
It was beautiful.
It was them. And no one should dare to break it.
Raithea looked at the wreath. He found it in the ruins of the place in which they kept her as a prisoner, broken like a solstice puppet and bloodstained like a sacrifice. She still was wearing it, when she went to the battle, still wore it when they captured her. Her feelings were so strong that she never parted with the symbol of their togetherness.
He found it next to her body, where she laid in her own blood, with gaze that held pure horror. And he hated himself for allowing this. For not being faster, more persistent. More cruel. He never thought he will resort to this kind of way, bloodthirsty way, but he also knew it was not enough. Desperately not enough. He was not enough cruel, coldblooded. And that’s why she died.
He won’t repeat that mistake again.
ain scal – groom
bruth-kin – ruledom
Lord Kesser was caught in the mid-drink.
That alone was a grave offense. The other one was a person of the messenger, who came clad in black to bring the darkest news.
The third was lack of time, in which he could plan or act. Soldiers who dragged him off his own manor, seemed content to humiliate him even more than it was necessary, and not allow him to change his morning robes. He wasn’t liked among people close to the throne, but this kind of malice was too much, even coming from them.
“I will make you hang, when I am free! You hear it? HANGED?” he screamed in the thin air, as citizens gathered; he caught a few ironic smiles.
But the look on the face of the Lord Adviser was stale and frozen, expression set in stone. Not even a slight sign of enjoyment, hatred, or scorn. Just pure indifference.
And that alone made Kesser stop throwing threats and allow these cursed soldiers to take him to the cell. The king wanted to show him where his place was. Savras was harsh lord, but he still would cherish him higher than the slaves, yes? He didn’t want their interesting customs to die. They were ancient, rich and fitted for every party. Women looked beautiful in elvin robes and even his wife, who wasn’t young anymore, seemed to gain radiance when he called her his ail.
Whatever that meant.
He never truly needed to learn what all of this means. The clue was an aesthetic and pathos. The rest was unimportant.
Why then did he feel like the punishment had only started?
He hasn’t eaten for three days already. The other prisoners had their meal brought to them, but he was always being omitted. His stomach twisted in pain, as he was unused to more than a few hours between the dinner and supper. When he complained, he saw an elf, coming out from the shadows. He was just looking at him and Lord Kesser wondered why on Pit of Wallowing a slave is permitted here and why he has access to his cell. When the elf disappeared, Kesser didn’t try to call anymore. He was almost sure the elf, one or the other, will appear again and will do much more than just staring.
Fourth day passed and he still didn’t get food. Water was brought to him scarcely, but his hunger was immense and sometimes he was almost standing up to call for guards… only to retreat. He was seeing an elvin woman, this time, badly concealed by the shadows. Her eyes were cold, like shards of ice.
They are watching you. Making sure you won’t get supplies.
Probably these hellish elves were eating his rations. Filthy bastards were stealing, when they always were given good care in his chambers, he never was punishing them without good reason. In his home, slaves, especially women, were being treated with kindness. And care. After all, women in this funny elvin culture were put on a small pedestal.
The fourth day was coming to an end. A bright light of setting sun was pushing itself through the bars. He exposed his face on it, wondering how long Savras’ anger will last and how fast these cursed elves will be removed. He was tortured by them!
He had to fall asleep – for better or for worse – but a crack of the opening door woke him up, to the dim light of an oil lamp and the heavenly scent of something filling. At last the guards caught the thieving slaves and are bringing him meal, as they should do from the first day here!
His eyes slowly were adapting to the light. At first he couldn’t recognize the visitor, but his insides were caught by a cold hand of fear, when he realized who was with him in this small, claustrophobic cell.
Raithea stood there, a kind smile on his youthful face. He put the lamp on the chair, which stood next to the wall. In his second hand, he held a bow filled with stew.
As hungry as lord Kesser was, he would never willingly eat anything brought to him by this shadowed bastard.
Raithea crouched next to him and grinned even wider, an unnatural grin, in opposition to his eyes, which were cold and cruel as snowstorm on the highest mountain peak.
“I hope, Lord Kesser, that you enjoyed my hospitality. Only few really deserve my… special kind of care” he said, a cold amusement in his voice.
The nobleman didn’t reply, but spit on Raithea, aiming badly, the saliva landed just under elvin lord’s feet.
“You truly should not waste your water” Raithea shook his head, exaggeratedly. “What if I decided that you can live without it as well as you can live without food?”
“When the king will know, and he will know, you will pay worse than me” Lord Kesser decided for boldness. This was an elf. Self-confidence always works on the lower races.
“Oh” Raithae laughed lightly. “I doubt anyone here can pay worse than you.”
This sentence, worming its way into his mind, lighted a warning candle in his brain.
“You won’t dare to kill me” he grinned at him with pure scorn, painted with unwilling pang o fear. “All have seen you here. Will know that you killed me. The king is not a fool.”
“Killing you would be a waste of possibilities, and they are so many” said Raithea and pushed the bowl with stew towards the prisoner. “Besides, I am here in good will. You were hungry. So eat.”
Lord Kesser looked suspiciously at the meat. It smelled delicious and nothing indicated that its poisoned. It smelled of good pork and spices. But he would be a fool, to eat it now, after the threat and from these hands.
Lord Kesser laughed. At least I still had a choice. This elf was too weak to force him to do anything. He was a child. Against a large grown-up man.
The voice hit him in the mid-laughter. It was aimed directly into his free will. Lord Kesser felt as his body became numb and his right hand, completely not controlled by him, reached for the bowl.
As the magic was pushing the nobleman to take the spoon, Raithea’s eyes narrowed.
“I could kill you, but you don’t deserve this mercy. You were humiliating and harming elvin families for years, separating mothers and children, ordering elvin women to amuse your guests at your parties, while they were always ending the same way. With pain and tears. And you were desecrating our history, beliefs and culture, dressing as bruthi and allowing humans to use elvin celebrations as an excuse for orgies.”
Lord Kesser was cursing, cursing so badly, but his own hand, already pushed the first spoon of the stew into his mouth.
“I could kill you, now. But that would be too little. You will die slowly. It will take weeks until you die. And I will always be far away. Far enough to not be connected with your demise.”
Lord Kesser was eating vigorously, his own body not listening to him.
“And all caused by a herb, which you surely could add to your meal on one of your dinners. So used to adapting elvin customs to your own miserable life. But not keen enough to know enough about our medications. They heal us. But I learned that they work differently on humans, Lord Kesser.”
Raithea stood up and dusting off his robe, he looked at the empty bowl and furious nad scared gaze of the prisoner.
“You ate everything?” the elvin adviser grinned. “Such a good boy.”
Lord Kesser didn’t feel hunger.
He won’t feel it until his last minutes, when his insides will start to fall apart.
“Remember to scream, Lord Kesser” Raithea added, leaving. “Screaming eases the pain.” his eyes lit. “Consider it an advice of mercy.”
Raithea woke up, his face flattened against the table. He was too tired to think up a better place to rest, and he found himself in his library more by instinct than true planning. Of course, he remembered to install protection. He would be a fool, if he exposed himself to the attack of Rog’s alikes. But that last spell drained him to the last drop and he fell asleep as he sat, surrounded by open books.
His mind started to work as soon as he was awake. The life he took at night still didn’t take revenge, but his left hand almost paralized and he was well aware that it’s only the beginning. Narrowing his dark brows, he looked at the limb.
It was red and veins were visible. But he still didn’t spot the marks. He should get used to them, his whole body knew the pain of markings, the blood’s punishment. He never got used to it, though. It was a side of magic he worked on, though, to eliminate it. He was at a dead end, but he was doing everything.
He didn’t intend to die as well, when the conclusion came.
With right, healthy hand, he pulled a small void capsule he held among his robes. It was filled with dust that was left after Rog disintegration. But it also held a very important element as well, not only his dried up and mashed up bones.
It held part of his consciousness. He knew that Rog’s soul went to whatever dimension humans believe in. In a dimension that Rog, personally, believed. Be the Amnott for forsaken, or a Pit of Wallowing so many humans were afraid of. All of this was a lie. They shaped their own afterlife, for gods’ amusement.
Dust particles were held together as an insignificant part of Rog’s soul, which helped him to create a new face for Arialin. He didn’t intend to tell his guest how he gained a new body for him. This was by all means unnecessary.
He took a small dose of self-made herbal pills and swallowed, not even taking a drink to ease the hard texture. They will help him to carry on through the day, after an eventful night.
He entered Keeral’s room without even knocking. His apprentice was sleeping soundly, his bed almost perfect, like he never laid in it – yet here he was, tucked in the warm bed sheets. Raithea hated the part of himself which was making him admire Keeral’s purity and dutifulness. Purity, which wasn’t stained by years in slavery. He possibly couldn’t even hate the invaders. It was enough that this good soul disliked them.
He felt the stark difference between them too, in such moments of peace. He could almost enter Keeral’s mind and see unstained paper, on which he, Raithea, could write as much as he wanted. Keeral offered him his dreams and future. In return, he gave him lies and half-truths.
Raithea scoffed, angry at himself. When it’s all over, Keeral will have a much better life than this world could offer him. He was finding out, slowly, that he treats Keeral almost like a son he never had. That was helping him to actually do as he pleased, as long as his child is safe. This was a weakness he was accepting to have.
Raithea took the books which Keeral still had with himself and left the chamber, soundlessly, leaving his assistant sleeping.
Arialin slept restlessly. Nightmares were reaching into his mind with black tendrils. He dreamt of his clan. How its core was torn from their roots by the cruel fire sent by the vile humans. He never witnessed it, but he was seeing it in his dreams way too often. Darkness, screams, scent of burning flesh and wood. The forest was dying and his people were feeling its pain, as much as their own. Each tree, each leaf, was screaming, and they were screaming too, weeping, as the flame was devouring their skin and drank their blood. Melting, like a candle. Suffering, joining their ancestors in a burst of light.
When he opened his eyes, they were filled with tears and his shadow seemed to grow in his chest, pulling him to take revenge, even now.
I can’t. They will execute me. You have heard what he said.
They must pay, they must scream. Like broken puppets.
Only if I won’t be screaming too, when they capture me.
I feel the smoke. I feel the pain of the trees.
It’s only reminiscence. Try to trust him. He already has done enough.
I don’t trust anyone.
Arialin sighed, feeling though as the new energy fills his veins, given to him by his shadowed companion. He didn’t feel torn or pained anymore, but he was giving the rightful merit to the food he ate at night. Even his skin stopped looking like paper.
He almost believed Raithea cast a spell, but he didn’t have to. Night of sleep (even if filled with nightmares) and a filling meal, was enough to restore his strength, which was lost before.
I wonder how he plans to hide me in this castle full of enemies.
A sorcerer. A beast of night. He has many talents.
But you don’t like him, even if he helps.
He is unknown. He is darker than all I know. Connected with dark gods.
Arialin wrinkled his forehead. That was something new and that simple sentence made him feel crawling over his back. Dark gods. Demons. Anticreators and a mist between dimensions. The shadow told him about them. They were in every darkness, in every cruel deed. And they moved the cogs on the universal reality, alongside with creators.
To think that his host could have any connection with them, almost made him lose his trust too.
But he preferred to trust. If he stopped, he would be already dead.
At least inside.
Another poetry piece, dedicated to Raithea.
I wear the flesh of the silent gods
created from immortal stars
and tormented roots of the earth
washed over with silver blood
marked with the flame of their dying hearts
I wear the skin unwillingly
tearing it with my sins
staining the fingers with ink of death
until the light flays it off my soul
to leave breath and pulse
clothed in agony of cursed stars
and tangled roots of the forest I called home
“I heard that the queen almost doesn’t leave her chambers these days.”
“I am sure she is sick. Her skin is very pale.”
“And I think she is scared.”
“Last time when I saw her, she followed that cursed child.”
Silence reigned among the guards. The time was very late but inner chamber guards were more dutiful than their mates on the battlements. Most probably because they were better paid, got better supplies and even wine from time to time. Guards led by Lord Sakis were, in fact, treated like rats, and their castle colleagues were constantly joking about the safety of the city that encircled the castle. Not without certain worry, as they lived inside this city too.
The king surrounded the city with a cordon of army, though, as every sensible ruler would do. Maybe that’s why the worry was slight. Many conquered lands didn’t agree with their rightful rulers. Army was guarding the outer terrains and was sent to keep these kingdoms in check. It wasn’t even needed to add that this army was powerful as a blast from the cannon. Nothing could stop them.
The queen was, though, another case.
She married Savras in the late age of thirty but she managed to bring three children – two boys and a girl. The oldest one, prince Dussen, was already a very insufferable teenager. She was always fragile and guards thought that sometimes stupid. But half a year ago, her behavior started to be strange. She didn’t want to take part in celebrations, didn’t want even to share her bedchambers with Savras, which was widely known, as the king wasn’t hiding his frustration.
Queen Rabra seemed a frightened couch puppy, witnessing her very first thunderstorm.
And there was someone who opened the window, to let the rain and lightning in.
“If you asked me, that elf is involved in everything bad that happens here.”
“But even he can’t endanger the queen. If he ever tried, Savras would tear his stomach up and order him to eat his own entrails.”
One of the guards, who till now didn’t take part in the conversation, laughed nastily.
“And you, what do you think about it, Rog?”
Rog scoffed, amused. His face, bearing a similar scar as the king, spread in an awful wide grin.
“I think we all dance to his music.” he just said. “If that depended on me, I would kill him. Not sending some stupid refined assassin, which he could easily take of with his cursed magic. We should go and stab him as he sleeps, overpowering him with our mass.”
“Yes, Rog, that is most stupid plan you have ever came up with.”
“Better to have him on our side” said an older, white haired soldier. “Who knows what he plans. How all shifts.”
“Yeah, and soon, the pigs will start to fly and elves will rule Karmala. He is an easy target. He looks like a kid, for Anit’s sake! He is weak and small.”
The old soldier looked at him like he just found a very fat specimen of a cockroach on his pillow.
“Just shut up, Rog. This kind of speech won’t take you far.”
“Yes?” the guard in question gazed at him with anger. “You all are already lost to him. This is what he wants. Soon you will all wake up with a leash on your necks, with those filthy pointy-eared bastards holding its other end!”
Rog didn’t want to talk and the last hours passed with a stern atmosphere and hostility. The other guards never liked Rog, he was searching for conflict wherever he went. Searching for problems and putting others – purposefully – against each other.
When they were changed, the sun still was hidden behind the horizon. Rog, annoyed, decided to cool his head outside, clear his mind. They were such fools! He suspected since elvin boy appeared in the castle, that he plans something against this kingdom. The way he coiled Savras around his finger, the way he used his privileges to help the slaves. He plotted, oh he plotted, for sure! If all were seeing it as clear as he, Rog. But they were too cautious. They should blow him up in an explosion of blue fire, the quicker, the better.
He took a slug and lighting it up, he inhaled a big swig of the smoke.
He felt this, as soon as the herb reached his lungs.
It felt like he found himself in the water, he couldn’t take a breath, feelling how fluid fills him. His eyes opened wildly, in sheer panic, he tossed the cigarette and supported himself on the stone wall, trying all the time to catch a breath.
“It feels like you are burning. But you are, in fact, drowning. What an irony of elements” he heard an amused voice and at once, he knew who speaks. This… this…
“I would say that in every court, in every place led by aristocrats, keeping your mouth shut and minding your own business is profitable” said Raithea, approaching Rog slowly and patting him friendly on the bent back. “Court is a dangerous place and is built by… dangerous people.”
Water, bubbly, in his nose, his lungs… his cursed lungs!… he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t take air in!
“You… khhhh… you… bast—-“
Raithea just forced more of the magic into the guard’s throat. Rog’s eyes almost left their sockets, he tossed, until he fell on the ground, cut under his knees with a power of death. The water started to slowly trickle from his nose and mouth, sinking immediately into the ground.
“I actually showed you a lot of mercy,” he said to the dead body, still focusing on keeping a magical bubble around them both, aware that if someone saw them, his plans would have to change… drastically. He knew that the spell inside Rog’s body would utilize his corpse in an hour or more. He decided to stay, safely concealed and watch as the guard’s body changed into dust.
Now he had a face that he could use for weaving Arialin’s mask. Not a perfect face, as he will have to hire a human guard, so Arialin was always close.
Possibly that will be more problematic than giving him the face of a human washerwoman. But easier and connected with much less of a loss.
And he was sure that Arialin would have better things to do, than washing dirty underwear for spoiled nobles.
He felt though that usage of magic drained him, his already tired body almost collapsed when a certain dose of elation evaporated.. This was an especially powerful spell and taking a life never was coming without consequences.
Magic takes and gives. Now he took, swallowed it, just as Rog. What he will have to give, will reveal itself in the morning.
He felt an itching in his left hand. And he guessed, even if that knowledge couldn’t stop it from happening.