Aeonian AU Series Part 2
Part One >>> Here <<<
Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night,
and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt — Sun Tzu
A deal with a God.
Between mortal and immortal. A need to survive, and a need for sensation. Instinct and desire.
There was a line threatened to be crossed.
Nesta wanted no part of it, and moved to shoulder her belongings, cold determination written across frozen features. The Archerons had long familiarized themselves with prison layouts, and another night in a cell would not be another shackle to their future.
It seemed Elain no longer wanted a part of that cycle, as it was she who surprisingly stood up—shocking both belligerents—and placed frail hands on small hips—bone that had weakened over the years, blemishing and bruising over the slightest touch.
“Nesta,” the middle Archeron sister said simply and firmly. “It’s either we keep running forever…or settle.”
“I’m not settling with him.” Or any self-entitled male. Nesta jerked her head towards the God of War, who merely raised a dark brow.
“Him has a name, you know,” the God crossed his arms, golden plates of gleaming armor glinting, and Elain blinked. “Must I point out I could revoke the deal so you would not have a choice in the first place?”
Nesta seethed in her spot. “You must really want us if you’re resorting to threats.”
The God smiled, sheer strength radiating from him. “You, Nesta,” he said without a pause. “I only want you.”
Elain turned red.
Nesta hissed. “You males think you can get whatever you want, control whatever you want, receive what you please.”
The eldest Archeron sister would have expected the immortal creature to claim her then and there—to simply show he could—would have expected a snarl to rip her to shreds in front of her sister—would have expected the soldiers to come bursting in, pointing swords to their necks—
—but the God didn’t.
Hazel eyes stared at her, levelling her an easy gaze—unblinking at her unflinching, equally matched stare.
“If other men got what they wanted, controlled whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted,” he said slowly, “Then your tongue would be pleasuring, your body covering another’s, and your mind forced into willingness. That is the way of both the mortal man and male god.”
But not mine, the words lingered in the air.
“And yours?” she bit out.
The God’s eyes crinkled. “I would allow your tongue to snap otherwise, bones ready to attack me, and mind ready to extinguish my existence.” A pause. “I like your sniping.”
Nesta certainly did not like his sniping. “Perhaps you like the fight. And the gruelling victory afterwards.”
“Not everyone is a sadist.”
“Then you do not know of mortality.”
“And you have lived for an eternity? And seen that not every intent is to mar?”
“I believe the word for that is called naive.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be immortal, would you, Nesta?” The God tutted. “To have the luxury of time to simply ponder your decisions?”
Nesta snarled. “Get out of my house.”
“That’s not very nice, sweetheart.”
“Neither are threats, prick.”
“You have options.”
“Limited options for an unwanted solution.”
Elain slipped into the room, slightly panting. Nesta surveyed her sister’s slightly red cheeks and beginnings of perspiration dotting her forehead. She’d been so invested at launching barbed words she hadn’t noticed Elain had left. Distractions.
A faint curse left her lips. The God tracked every movement.
“The town’s soldiers approach the gardens.” Elain heaved, a hand pressed against her chest. “They’re carrying torches.”
Nesta stilled. Bit her tongue.
The pyre had been rebuilt as she’d raced back, Ianthe claiming human sacrifices for an enigmatic festival.
It seemed she had set her sights on who’d participate, unwilling or willing.
Time wasn’t a luxury she had, and each heartbeat pounded into her ears.
“As much as I’ve enjoyed our lovely banter, I’ve got a schedule to keep. What will it be, Nes? You and soldiers who haven’t been laid in years—with a sister in her prime—or a God infatuated with you?”
Nesta swallowed, and stared at Elain, who wrung her hands nervously. The answer was clear on her face, of what she needed and wanted.
“Take my sister,” Nesta said lowly. “To safety. And then we have a deal.”
A tsk. “I want you, Nesta Archeron.” Calculating eyes turned towards Elain with an easy shrug. “No offense.”
Elain shuffled in her spot nervously, an animal trapped with no escape route. But Nesta could give her a way out.
“Take my sister first,” Nesta reiterated. “Then you can have me.”
She swore the God rolled his eyes. “You drive a hard bargain. But if that is your term, then I will accept.”
Elain’s eyes widened, and Nesta lunged forward, her mouth twisted—but the God had already wrapped his arms, armor and all, around her sister’s waist—and vanished. Nesta cursed lowly, and spun around as the window glass shattered, fire and flames licking the walls of the house, the shouts of soldiers breaking the suffocated silence. The front door tossed open, and Ianthe stood in the doorway, hood covering her face, save for the sick smile etched across her face.
“Nesta Archeron,” she crooned, the glowing, blue gem on her forehead flaring, “It’s time to make amends.”
Nesta Archeron could only burn in her own ashes, simmering as the orange and red hues licked the house, smoke filling her nostrils and consuming her vision in a gray, gaunt inferno of gas. The wood crumbled around her, splintering on the ground below, snapping at the flames in great waves.
The guards leeched onto her skin, crawling around and over her pores, sucking her away from the collapsing refugee she’d once call home, and stole her out into the night, the tang of cold metal wrapped around her air, vacuuming her into a cold abyss.
It was a futile to struggle with chains clinking around her. It was beyond her to scream with a wet rag shoved down her throat. It was pointless to think as Ianthe, robe and all, swished from the burning house, hood lowered, eye perfectly healed.
There was only one thing Nesta was certain of:
Ianthe had to be claimed by a God.
And there was another thing she knew:
She was screwed.
A dead, mortal woman couldn’t keep Elain alive, but a God of War with an infatuation would suffice. But—she would be damned if she allowed her younger sister to toil in the hands of any male. First Tomas’s attack, second Feyre’s absence—Nesta would not allow Elain to be a third.
Ianthe seemed to read her mind, and she swirled to face the remaining guards. “Search the outskirts for her sister. She can’t be far from here.”
Then she stalked towards Nesta, a frozen smile tainting her lush, pale lips. Her hair on her skin prickled along with her nerves, heating her body in the cold of the night. The faint fragment of a whisper in the wind blew past her, dragging her along with the hard touch of metal’s hand.
Armor and arrogance dragged her along the dirt, thin twigs and grimy grins pricking at her exposed legs. Red shame and surrender no longer flushed her cheeks as they did three years ago. Instead, white-hot anger seared at her skin, enveloping her lungs in a casket of chills, head clouded with a haze of hatred.
“Dump her in the pit,” Ianthe ordered, and the guards flung Nesta’s body into a hollowed hole.
She flinched as she hit the bottom, hands scrambling for purchase, only to find grains of hand slipping easily past her fingers. The stench of the rotten and forgotten forced itself into her nostrils. Her feet crunched on feeble figments and connected with something hardened, dried, and yellowed. A closer inspection revealed scarlet spots of red strung with lines of moss and mold.
Nesta toed the figure, and bile rose in her mouth as a skull stared back her.
“Sleep tight, Nesta Archeron,” a sickly, sweet voice swept from the top. “I expect great things from you tomorrow.”
And with that, the slight tanging and shuffle of metal and the pulsing aura of something horribly twisted yet irrevocably powerful receded.
And so did her will.
She tried to claw her way up, but the sand continued to pour around her. When she thought she could breathe, the sand washed down her, claiming her in a current of curses. She tried to dive to the sides, but her fingers met with hardness that cracked her nails. When she thought she had found an opening, her shoulder rammed into solid steel. She tried to rest, catch her breath, but the ground held the horror of the deceased, bone and marrow beyond definition.
The sand stuck everywhere, and she drowned in it. The grains rolled over her and crammed into every crevice. Her feet bled from chipped points, eyes half-closed in a state of overdue terror. If she looked closely enough, she could see Elain growing a garden of smoke and bone, Feyre emerging from stream of sand with the skin from her face shrunken to reveal the structure of the skull, and the phantom of Tomas rising from the mound and her body sinking below with him.
Hallucinations and the helldoomed, the hideousity and heartless. Was that her destiny? Reigning upon a throne of her own sorrows, drowning in a sea of her own spite, and flying only in her soundless melancholy, she supposed she only rose when spurred upon another’s hand.
But one day, she promised herself, Nesta would seize integrity and initiative.
Fate disagreed, and the charred lines forming the pentagon glowed faintly, faint whispers creeping over the hair of her skins. The ground rumbled, and she clawed desperately at the air, holding her breath. Slowly and with a shudder, the dirt lifted, the sand pouring down toward the abyss below. With a start, Nesta realized that she’d been tossed in a cage, filled with the bones of the fallen, weighed down by the sand.
The creaking sound from the cage’s ascent clocked in her ears. Each jolt sent shocks that emptied into her ribs, a secondary cage that rattled whenever the bars on bones crashed against the brown of earth. The slow momentum had her dirt-caked nails digging into her palms, wobbly knees knelt on the patches of cracked and culled.
When the first sliver of light flickered to a spot on the floor, she winced. Perhaps three years ago Nesta would have scrambled on her shins towards the ray. But time saw her fold, broken beautifully and wretchedly warped, molded into the pillar of ice and steel the fates saw her as today.
Her sight vanished into darkness when the layer of sand and dirt broke through the depths of the morning horizon. Her forehead throbbed to the swaying of the cage, vertigo and vices swirling through her head in a cacophony.
And when she did regain her vision, the cage thundering against the floor, jarring her adrenaline, Nesta wished she’d never opened her eyes.
Ianthe stood above her, resting upon a smooth stone, hood drawn and draped dramatically down, eyes glinting with malicious fever, filled with the fervor to forebear fear and fury in the flesh. The Head Priestess cocked her head, blond curls cascading down to the curve of her breasts.
“Cheating death only works for so long,” Ianthe hummed. “You’ve played with fate and fire, Nesta Archeron. And for that—you shall burn for that.”
Nesta surveyed her surroundings. Guards shouldered the perimeter, the cage encircled by a hexagon of red, marred lines, the hole behind her barren. In front of her laid a huge pyre of wooden crosses, Ianthe at the apex. Nesta’s eyes traced slowly back to the dark blue gemstone adorning the other woman’s headband, glimmering ghoulish gloom in daybreak’s dew.
The pyre—a purgatory for the punished, in which providence perpetuated pernicious practices, plotted by the premeditated powers to plague the pitted. The abyss—an excavated, empty hole encircled by earth and filled by enmity. Both offered no sanctitude or sanctuary, no savior to save her except herself.
I can help you, sweetheart.
The pure, predatory look, oozing hypermasculinity typical of all males—especially those belonging to those warrior-bred bodies—that had given her a choice. An option. A facet to her future she hadn’t had in years.
I claim you. As mine.
Ianthe stalked down the wooden stairs, each step equal predator, full of feminine fatale. A current of cold wind tousled her hair, revenge and retaliation cocooning her robed figure. Her fingers locked around each other, silence reigning around her in utmost fashion.
Three guards broke from the outer circle, torches in their hands. The red and orange hues caught in the sunlight, a gesture with all the gleaming, golden glory to grant grudge’s gratification. Two strode to the sides of the pyre, lighting the cages stacked with wood, littering with scratches and claw marks sinking deep within the hardened strips.
Flame flickered, licking and leaping in the air, greedily inhaling the innocence of the surroundings, vacuuming all the vices, veering clear of all virtues and valerians. Each flare of fire exuded emanations of heat, dousing her in sweat and stench.
Nesta had long strayed from the fire, a type of luxury in the wilderness that drew together unwanted attention. She had tamed herself in the shades of stillness, cherishing the coldness that culled all confrontations. For when the fire burst into a conflagration, the flames created a conquest that no child could conquer, and when flames wrought upon a wildfire, no warnings or wards could save the wills from the wreckage.
The wood charred, and her skin prickled. She seethed in anticipation as the third guard approached Ianthe, bowing lowly and offering the last torch. The High Priestess delicately snatched the metal hilt, and dismissed her bodies of armor with a glance.
The two guards lurched forward, and approached the fringes of the cage. Gray covered their faces, only beady eyes boring into her. Hands yanked apart the chains, inserting keys, and pulling the bars apart. With a grunt, the third guard reached it—and before Nesta can protest—a collar chokes her neck.
Shell shock slid off quickly like the sand., Rage, unbridled ire, and raw anger flowed through her veins, a palpable poison. The state she’d been reduced to—the power Ianthe held—the enigmatic state Elain laid in—the option that lingered in the air—
Her lungs clouded, and heaving a cough twisted her insides, pain flashing through her like lightening. The guards hooked hard hands under her shoulders, and dragged her forward, her toes dragging in the dirt. Ianthe’s eyes watched her curved back, the sign of submission, dark malice glittering in her eyes.
“You do not escape me,” the woman hissed. “You do not decide my decisions. You do not comprehend my plans. You do not understand—which is why this path has been laid for you.”
The guards hefted her up the bottom steps, her shins knocking against each edge. Pain throbbed away into a numbing sensation, her skin slick with sweat. The heat danced over her, and she couldn’t see how the guards hadn’t already melted.
The guards tossed her at Ianthe’s feet, and the third one bent down, attaching a chain to the collar. He offered the end of the link to the other woman, who took it with a slow smile—for the viper had sunk in her bite, vicious in all things vile.
“Look up,” Ianthe crooned.
Nesta jerked back, ignoring the flash of pain ripping the flesh across her neck, and watched with grim satisfaction as the High Priestess toppled forward, skirts flaring around her frame.
The ephemeral euphoria ended quickly, as the two guards caught the blond haired woman at her elbows, the third one yanking her forward with a blow to her haid. Blackness swept across Nesta’s vision, and her wounds stung in the heat, ashes seeming to accumulate at the bottom of her throat.
The chain jerked up, and her head followed.
Beyond Ianthe was another pile of wood—fashioned together to form a coffin.
“I offer mortal and unclaimed Nesta Archeron,” Ianthe murmured, twirling the the chain around her wrist.
The guards pulled her forward.
“As a tribute to my Goddess,” she continued.
The collar tightened, and saliva stuck at her throat.
“Mortal to be maimed,” she hummed.
The guards tossed her into the pit, the wood chipping at her skin, tearing open old scars, and blemishing old bruises.
“Soul to be claimed,” she murmured.
Nesta’s body screeched in agony, blistering with bitterness.
“For revenge’s respite,” her voice steadily grew louder.
Nesta’s head enveloped her in a consuming inferno that drove her heartbeat into a matching crescendo.
“For the callous crimes committed,” the voice hissed.
Her sides cocooned in darkness.
“To halt and heighten humanity’s horrors,”
Nesta refused this to be her hate, dealt by Ianthe’s hand.
Ianthe dropped the chain into the coffin, fingers now wrapped around the flaring torch.
The flames grew closer around Nesta and the wood bit at her back. Her vision blurred, but her mind did now waver: she would not let this be her end.
Nesta made the decision that would forever change her fate.
Staring into the flames, she embraced the heat, and croaked out, “I, Nesta Archeron, accept Ares, and his claim.”
The fire vanished.
A different type of heat filled her body, a small noise of content unwillingly escaping her throat.
Only slivers of smoke curled in the air, winding into whirlwinds of loops that leaped into the skies above, casting the horizon into a gray canvas. The knobs of her wooden barriers collapsed around her, the floor of the casket rising forward, her body following until her two feet landed solidly against the dry, scorched Earth.
She tilted forward—
—and into the arms of solid warmth.
“Nesta, sweetheart, my booty calls take me to the battlefields, not sacrificial statements. But if you wanted to offer yourself, all you had to do was ask.”
Another one cut in, jarring her.
“Seize the girl!” Ianthe screeched, and when a heartbeat of silence met her command, she hollered another order.
An arrow bounced of the God’s armor just as Ares pressed her flat against his chest, wrapping his body around her—as a shield, Nesta realized.
Her chin tilted up, and she watched the God of War’s eyes connect with the High Priestess’s.
The brute cursed—or as much as Nesta could believe with his furrowed eyebrows—in a language long forgotten and buried from the human tongue.
Ianthe stopped screaming, and breathed out the God’s title in near shock.
Nesta supposed her God’s sheer size could leave any human in shambles, but both her and Ianthe were not those weeded out, wallowing in weeping weariness. Two sides cut from the rusted coin, both females remained unwavering forces, true to their own twisted truths.
The God sighed deeply, and hefted Nesta into his arms, running the pads of his fingers over her exposed skin. “Change of plans,” he grumbled, then pointedly look at her. “You really know how to choose your enemies.”
Great black wings exploded from the God’s back, tearing at the hinges of the bronze armor glinting in the hazed surroundings. In one beat, they shot from the ground, and a second later, a volley of arrows followed them.
The God angled her body so that she laid cradled to the open skies above, the tips of arrows barely grazing her sides. Nesta watched in inaudible awe as the arrows that did connect with Ares’s armor bent, and fell limply down the ground below.
Moments later, the assault halted, the wings carrying them lands away. The smoke cleared, clouds whipping by in blinks. The wind whistled in her ear, and the skin of her face felt sucked off to reveal the bones of her skull.
They rose higher, and her sight blurred. Sand ripped off her body, her clothes tearing. Years of stealing and hoarding her money’s worth dropped to the ground below, and she felt bile rising from her throat—not from the lack of money—though that would conjure later problems—but from the lack of strength.
She felt tired. Nearly defeated. Past emptiness.
She could sense this near abyss of a thing her kind called a breaking point.
“Get your paws off me,” Nesta seethed, her spine rigid ice, locked into frozen misery and formidable madness. The gushing currents slashed at her face, hair whipping around her, the god’s wings beating with mighty strokes as black canvas stretched across the palette of a horizon.
“These paws,” the God simpered, delicately raising a brow. “Are currently making sure you don’t plummet to your desirable death.”
He squeezed her waist to emphasize his point.
She instinctively gripped his shoulders tighter, ignoring the groan escaping from the god’s throat, and locked her fingers around the nape of his neck. A feeling akin to curiosity struck her, and her pinky stroked the outline of the large membrane curving around the edge of his wing.
His reaction was instinct: Ares, the God of War, tilted, and plummeted to the green grounds below, the air rushing around them in an inferno-like vacuum. If she could pinpoint an exact sound, she would have believed that this immortal being had whimpered.
And if that God had made that pathetic noise, then Nesta could only silently scream, her mind too-tormented, too overwhelmed and oppressed. She cursed the emerging sun above—that should have shed glory and good—should have protected all maidens in its’ blazing brashness—should have stopped her fears from three years ago that now crept alongside her in every inch—as she blacked out.
Forgive me, Elain, she thought silently to herself, and sent a brief breath of a prayer for Feyre’s wellbeing, for the first time, she willingly gave herself to the darkness.
And as her heartbeat slowed, she could sense another’s steadily alongside hers.
Did you see how I used Roman numerals as transitions because that’s the closest I could get to something related in Greek mythology? I crack myself up sometimes. Does that even make sense? Oh well ^.^. Anyways, HUGE thanks to everyone who patiently waited. I’m a horrible updater. That’s a fact I can’t find the lie.
Time for me to tackle all the submitted prompts (my inbox is never closed, so feel free to shoot me anything, though it may take me awhile to answer) and reply to all the tags! S/o to the @the-little-dragon-faery for always keeping me own my toes. I love you so much Cresta I don’t know what I would do without you.
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