The Angara do not wed in the way humans do. There are ceremonies, but they vary by planet, a consequence of the fracture of their culture all those hundreds of years ago when the Scourge first tore them from each other.
“Family is everything to us,” she learns early, and feels a tightness in her chest at the words, lies in bed later that night staring at the stars, thinking of why she left her home centuries ago and everything she has lost since she awoke.
“On Aya, we sing. Havarl, we plant a tree. On Voeld, we pray to the Yevara, our last link to our history,” she learns, and thinks of the tragedy of loss and the strength in fighting, continuing, living, breathing, hoping, though the chance of success becomes more rare by the day.
She fell in love with him and his family and the planets he showed her. Felt, for the first time in months, the peace of belonging.
“Perhaps this is still a dream,” she thinks, as she stands near the waterfall where she felt love first bloom, strong and whole. Flowers in her hair and gathered around her throat. She turns and gazes at the people who have come together, settlers and explorers, souls who had travelled beside her in sleep, groups of Angara who loved her for who she was, not a Pathfinder or a hero, but a girl who loved one of their own.
She turns to him and speaks the words she had memorized, Shelesh still unfamiliar on her tongue. “You may use your own language, dearest one,” he had told her. She refused. She was joining more than one man, and so she would use the voice of his people.
The Moshae takes their wrists and crosses them, ties a black linen string, binding them. He speaks and she listens, gaze locked, her entire universe in his eyes, spinning stars and supernovae. She loses herself and feels that she can see clearly for the first time the path that her life could take, and drinks in the sight of it.
Sounds to her right and she stirs. Clapping, cheering. The cord is pulled from their wrists and then she feels herself lifted from the ground and she’s spinning, flowers falling from her hair. She laughs, joy from her throat, holds his face in her hands and kisses him, soft but hungry.
There will be questions to answer, plans to make. But she finds that the sound is falling away and her feet are back solidly upon the earth. She seems to be standing on a vast plain, sun overhead, air in her lungs, and there is nothing but the two of them, and she rests her forehead on his chest with his arms tight around her, and she breathes in the smell of him and they stand together, the rest of the galaxy ceasing to turn, golden light holding them softly in silence.
All my wolves, begin to howl Wake me up, the time is now Oh, can you hear the drumming? Oh, there’s a revolution coming
Elorcan Werewolf 10
She soared on wings of misery and ruin, every feather slicing slivers of sores and wrecking welts through her. Ripping pain rippled through her, muscles burning and tightening. Her skin had shed, her nails stretched, the very roots of her hair screaming in agony. A rattling vigorously shook within her, bones bending and lungs lifting. Her spine arched, with her nostrils flaring. Hair prickled across her skin, acidic akin feelings coursing through every inch of her screaming pores. Saliva bubbled in her throat and a dryness coated across her tongue. After the flame came the ashes, where the the mind slaved down memory lane: roaming and raging with flashes of sickened smiles and the whistling whip raining over her, pale skin blemished with purple and red hues, salty and thin liquid warming the stones. Afar she watched the strippings and the beatings, the ghost of the red and the pain a figment of reality that no longer her drilling appeals of feebleness. The phantom face of the predator in victory and ruined triumph leered down on her. It was neither hot nor cold. It was all nothing. And dark, and more dark. It was another cell, a transformation from a weak, ruined flesh to hardened, strengthened possessions. She distantly was aware of the shivering wracking her skin, but the cold cell had been far worse, a numbing to the perspective of an outsider welcoming the pain, and relishing in the wrongs of the singular and surroundings. A part of her swayed to an unsung melody, trapped within the bleeding ears and scarred tongue, scratches and screaming echoing through her head and bouncing around her walls. Her head throbbed and swabs of cotton smothered her vast space and thoughts of process. It was cold. The loneliness had left her for the embrace in pain’s open arms. The itch at the back of her mind eased as the darkness swept in, consuming every crevice and corner, calming the chaotic condensations once crammed down her throat. A bubbling sensation rose up, smothering down her body, lying still in a seemingly blackened alley where the crickets no longer chirped and the roaches had long deceased. Pacifism arose with those lying words of calm and soothings, for she was not alright, and had not been. Distorted images and mangled bone rose within her vision, and she could see the image of a trembling girl huddling in a damp corner, tears coating a grime-caked face with equally dirtied and bloodied skin, crimson liquid bathing her skin, sticking to her tongue, and filling her nose. Scars decorated her, blood crowning her black burnt strands. Smoke and ashes filled her insides, slithering into her veins. There had been the warm, tepid hands of longing and hope, shattered by the epiphany of what came after pain, numbness. A string of stress snapped within her, a balloon of remembrance sleazing a decrement of undulated joy and innocence. Her lungs opened and filled with a vast broad suck of air, and Elide Lochan exhaled, breaking from her cell.
Lorcan laid his mate in the center of the dark cave, running a hand over her burning forehead, leaving traces of red welts over his palm. He hadn’t expected the circumstances to trigger whatever hidden Lycan gene within her to detonate, especially within the bounds of being able to finally hold her within his arms safely and securely. He would never let go. He was sure of it. A sob escaped Elide’s mouth, and her body lurched forward from her previously prone position. Lorcan immediately pressed wet towels against her burning body, and hissed when her temperature plunged into dangerous, icy textures, mist escaping her breath. A damned old Lycan, and through his entire life span, he hadn’t seen a transformation like this. He could not fathom why fate or the moon goddess would pair him with a beautifully and tragically broken creature who would suit another male of purity and trueness, but he supposed that Elide had enough with attempting to be molded into a higher figure as a priestess with inked and poison insides. He murmured his mate’s name soothingly as he rocked her in his arms, and whispered his assurances into her ear, her skin already hardened and smooth from the beginning stages. In certain intervals of seizures, her eyelids would flare open, dark, onyx pupils glistening in true, speckled darkness even the cave could not swallow. The final stages of the process had come, the coldness shattering into the shedding of wrinkled, outgrown exteriors to sleek skin, and muscular limbs. Lorcan studied his mate’s even breathing, and gently wrapped himself around her, stroking her hair. All the troubles for her to live immortal along him, to see the world through a deeper, more powerful eye’s of restrained responsibility and flying faults, would mean tethers to the true. To have another soul to care for didn’t seem the burden’s weight when the very fabric of mates meant equality and sharing, a bond of the better. Elide’s eyes darkened into pure obsidian, and her spine snapped straight, a sharp gasp of breath wrenching itself from her mouth. A rasp of sound crackled through the dampened darkness, and Lorcan gently poured a little stream of water into her mouth, allowing her to swallow. His body lit afire, his mate’s perfectly situated with him, both tragically broken. A rumble of possessiveness shook his body. Her wet hair, curling into thin curls and loops, slicked back against her forehead and plastered against her pale skin. Cold hands wrapped around the nape of his neck, and erratic breaths burst from her, chest heaving deeply. A roaring sensation fired from some hidden depths within, matching the turmoil colliding within his own mate’s eyes, filled with a blankness that sends him reeling over. “Elide,” he whispered, and leaned his nose against her forehead. The hands slid down his neck and across his chest and right over his beating heart, thrumming just for her. A phantom of a breath ghosted over his skin, and a tremble ran through him, in forever peace and contentment within the splits of a second. Fingers reached up to cup his chin, and dark lashes blinked up at him. “Lorcan,” Elide Lochan answered, and the edges of her lips curled up, revealing white, canine teeth. A dark, questioning look flickered across her features, a spell of quick agony. By the dilation of those hardened eyes from the once-softness, and the tang of fear and anger spiraling through the air, Lorcan knew that his mate craved a revenge full of vengeance so deep that the ocean itself would be envious. He could not rightly offer he what she wanted now so he endowed her with what she needed; not of the bloodshed to beckon her away from the abyss of numbness but another stolen piece from her scratched and strung tapestry of life. The pads of his thumbs brushed over her cheekbones down under the curve of her jaw, cupping her neck and smoothing one shoulder; pulling his mate in, Lorcan kissed her deeply. Elide responded instantly, her teeth nipping over his parted lips, and wrapping her own hands behind his neck, viciously pouncing on top of him, his back kissing the cold, hard ground. Her body was warm, and suddenly the cave seemed full of the hidden potential that had coasted over his own ground, soiled and covered with dirt. His Lycan within him responded to the roaring in his female’s, and his nerves set afire with each stroke of her hand that set him into a frenzy of no return past deep despair. Her skin touched his, her full breasts pressing against his chest, pale and porcelain legs wrapped sinfully around his waist. She gasped as he sucked on her neck, the sound full of rich forbiddenness, sending him close to free ferality. “My mate,” she whispered, and leaned her head back, exposing her neck to him. “Mine,” he growled, and stared into those onyx eyes, waiting for that permission to confirm past the disaster that had dented their destiny, waiting for that spark of what should have been theirs since the beginning, waiting for step towards surety and security. She merely cupped his chin, forcing him to stare at her, not quite consenting. “Do you love me for who I am or for what I do to you?” “You are referring to the mating bond?” “What else?” she said, almost bitterly. Dark eyes narrowed. “I do not need the mating bond to fall in love with you, Elide Lochan.” He could see the doubt in her darkened eyes, and the slight chill coursing through her. Lorcan held her tighter, and buried his nose within her damp hair, cradling her stiff and new body, one with unbridled potential and higher capacity. His Lycan side growled, needing to assuage his mate’s concerns and fears, and Lorcan abided. “I do not need the mating bond to see how the light catches against your hair,” he murmured, brushing her hair from her forehead. “Nor how you twist the strands when you’re nervous or thinking, a quiet foreboding. How you lick those fingers before turning a page or to remember the taste of what you last ate. How you believe yourself inferior when you have surpassed the limitations of your expectations. How you cross my mind, as if I can see the magic in the world, as if “I’d been searching for you all my life, a lost soul without an anchor. I have made a plethora of mistakes in the entirety of my life, but if each of this missteps would have let me to you in the end, I would commit each single atrocity again. If every inch of darkness and insanity was so that I could have you, then I forgive the cursed fates. I had never planned on falling love, much less with another person, didn’t think it was possible, much less it possible to love someone so much with all of me. I barely held control and focus, but with you, it’s not about these things. It’s about honor and cherishment, about you, Elide Lochan. “The darkness lived and lives through me; it simply does not live around me. So when you cannot see the light, I will sit with you through the darkness. I look at you and the twisted things that have come between us, and I know that I will choose you in the next life, in the next realm, in this life, through death, through whatever shape or form, to whatever face of shadow will appear. I broke and will break my rules, my mind, myself, just for you, just to see you hum to yourself as you continue in your beautiful, complex symphony, a passerby such as myself forever granted the pleasure of hearing. “I do not care if we are not soul mates because I had never believed in the concept of love, nor bothered to listen to its proof of existence, not when fear would win out in the end. But I fear for my love of you, and I fear for myself for what ends I would do for you. At your beck and call, I do not know what bounds or limits what I could do and destroy for you. In the middle of the chaos and lunacy, you were there, with my heart, and I’d let you keep it for the eternity. With you, I can breathe a little bit more, and fill the dead skin and smothering ashes sweep away, filled with a sound melody, one that will reverberate for as long as your heart beats. “If I could turn back the clock to be the male you deserve, I would do so in a heartbeat. For you deserve every twinkle in the stars that lights up the night and the rays of the sun in coldness. No longer do I think I deserve nothing but stark bareness for my brokenness, but one who craves so deeply for more and seen too much that perfect shards would not be enough. You need to paint, Elide, and need to unleash your emotions jailed, and I will be your palette should the need arise. I have conquered and silenced but never have I loved, and now, I think that I can finally do such a thing. Everything I have not done, I want to do with you. With you, and only you. It’s always you, Elide Lochan.” Elide stilled, pressing her cheek against the top of his chest. “You—” Lorcan brushed a knuckle under her chin. “—I could not learn about my mate as a human, so I chose my weakened wolf form to present to you.” “Lory,” Elide murmured, her lashes fluttering, inevitably floored. His inner Lycan twitched, and he pressed himself harder against her, needing more than their touches, needing to fulfill that animalistic need driving him for completion. For awhile, simple silence filled the cavern, a blanket of the inked dark providing solemn, sincere need of time as a sponge to soak in the words and occurrences of the chaotic, distorted past. But the present was a gift for aknew. A laugh slipped past Elide’s lips, and his mate smiled knowingly at that tent in his pants, screaming for her, ready for her, slaving to her. Elide bared her neck wider. “You are mine, Lorcan Salvaterre, and I will fight for you.” Trust and certainty bound between those eyes. Lorcan brushed his nose over hers, and a deep rumbling resounded from within his chest, a noise that had been locked and swept along with the ashes of unspent time and burning emotions. Baring his fangs and revealing the aura of his true other side, unhinged, Elide leaned forward, waves of longing from what time and distance had built between them. Lorcan bit down, and watched Elide’s eyes flutter open and close, a murmur of content escaping her mouth and her skin shuddering with pleasure. Her lidded eyes gazed into his, a smile smoothing across her features. When his fangs retracted, his tongue licked the blood pooling across her collarbone, his mate’s breathing uneven and ragged, her body ready for what followed next. The scent of need and hormones permeated the air thickly. But Lorcan could not give that to her, not when they needed to seek cements of closure from the cowardly confronted. So he pulled his mate into for another kiss, one which their their inner wolves howled together in synchrony, a stimulation ceases his current worries and fears, save for the warm body in his arms. When they pulled apart, both mouths dripped with blood and sores, Elide ran a tongue over her ripped lips, and gave him a wicked smile. The scent of mixed arousal pierced through the cave, flowering in the darkness, matching their smoldered songs of suppression and satisfaction. Lorcan’s hands ran over her thighs and skin, not to claim, but to heal, kneading those tight, new muscles that would need to be broken in. Tomorrow they would face the new freshness of the world together, hand in hand. So he said, “Sleep,” and curled her body against his own, molding their flesh together and against one another. Elide reached out to grasp Lorcan’s hand through the darkness, resting her head along his torso. “Goodnight,” she whispered, voice muffled. Elide could almost feel the other Lycan male’s smile warming her skin, a rarity at odds against all. “Goodnight,” Lorcan rasped back. “Elide Lochan.” “My mate,” Elide whispered, and allowed the dark oblivion to wash over her, carrying her further with an anchor into the abyss. No longer was she only human, a simple, disposable gem in this dim world, but a larger player, one with cards to hold and discard, with a lover at her side, one to fit her perfectly, one she’d love forever, through everything.
Elide awoke to warmth, her body tucked within another’s. As soon as she stirred, the male holding her gripped her hips, and a satisfied growl rumbled deep from his chest. She traced her hands across his chest, and closed her eyes as he kissed her forehead, stealing another one from her lips. Tracing her fingers along his lips as they parted, she could feel them curving up into a feral grin. “A run?” her mate proposed, and her body surged with power at the request. She didn’t respond, and instead channeled in the raw depths of power and dominance within her. Elide closed her eyes and focused on her inner Lycan, the unknown beast within her that had slumbered for years in silence. Feeling her bones crack and rattle, her teeth shifted and hands grew, paws hitting the floor, her tail wagging. By the time her nose sniffed the air, the scent of humanity had no longer reeked within the cave, the other in front of her radiating the typical-Lycan authority. Her mate took off and out from the cave, Elide surging forward behind him. The hints of light peeking through the demented trees drooping over with hanging branches and sickly yellow leaves dripping thick, orange meshes. Their bodies wove through the firm trunks with white claw marks and deep indents, stale, brown blood caking the curves. Stalks of yellowish grains spurted from the left fields, the tips dotted with crimsons colors. Their wolves streaked by, and Elide pushed her legs faster and faster, feeling the wind tearing at her face and her lungs opening and expanding, the infinity of forever within unleashed within the trapped seconds of a limited body. This was freedom. She hadn’t been a believer in hope, that sliver of beautiful shreds ripped within her and howling to another wolf. She didn’t need hope when her true passions blazed from the wrongs and flaws hampering her true state. She couldn’t be restrained, not in this body, nor in the next. She had been scared of her future from her past, but she swore to herself no more. As they raced through the forest, the trees grew straighter and taller, the air crisper and fresher, no longer stale stenches of the rotted filling her nostrils. Rich green flashed across her vision, an array of colorful, vibrant hues rising from the soiled Earth, full of the minerals and sprinkles of waters. The sunlight glared down harsher, and no longer did the shadows loom over in hulking forms, cowering the damp dirt. The first willing surrender came with chasing her mate, allowing him to hold her heart. She lost track of time, allowing the figment of that necessity to slip from her mind. She followed her mate, with her giving trust, the last piece of what remained from her fractured heart. She nipped at his paws when he slowed down, and eventually took the lead, leaping over fallen logs. They raced further and further in the morning until her tongue lolled out, and Lorcan slowed down to a trot, leading her to a crystalline river. He nudged her to the edge of water, licking the tip of her ear. Pushing her forward from her behind, her mate eagerly walked them down the bank. Elide’s snout reached down to lap up the water, but stopped at her reflection. No longer did white-fur coat her, but midnight dark streaks to match her mate’s fur. Darkness. Elide’s ears twitched, and Lorcan stalked next to her, rubbing his snout affectionately against hers. Elide can only stare at her reflection, at the darkness, and the pitch-black coat that she now owned. A tiny part of her shivered, and wondered what her once-jailed would have thought, at the winning inklings that he’d left in memory, perhaps even a victory. Her uncle had molded her so that staring at any reflection had her turning away, scared of her own ruined image full of tears and washed dreams. He’d seen her heart as a piece of plastic, his own mind a red-hot brand, hands his hammer to pound with pain. The salted liquid brimming on her eyes had held no value, full of empty emotion, a natural response from her body, damaged and depressed. The cold cell had been a war with herself, a pity for her own weakness and feebleness, for her foolishness in believing for much more. It had been a cry for wonder, her own pity party in the trapped and isolation. The only beginnings had been the flames in the night of broken memories and crooked laughters. And now, this river, with the sun beating down on her, filling her with unwanted need that a past shape of her would have needed awhile ago. Pure, undulated light. Light that could not outshine the dark hole inside of her. She could feel a calling to fulfill the need in wrecking pain against her uncle, and having bloodshed run along with her bloodlust. It was an animalistic, acute sense that had her almost on her knees, but her mate was next to her, holding her, a pillar of solidity. The fact that her pelt had transformed into rich tufts of dark fur to match the midnight quality of her mate’s had her mate often licking her coat, and content rumblings emerging from his throat. Their wolves had gotten to acquainted with one another too well, and too much. Most hunts ended up in playful banter between the them, rolling on top of another, the male allowing his female to yip her victorious by pawing him on the ground. After drinking their fill of water, two dark, ethereal shapes raced through slanted and crooked trees, the onyx eyes the predator and feared as creatures of the night and strays of the moon, bent on their own love and no other facets wedged between or among them. No longer did she have to hide the things she hadn’t like about herself, flaws or facts in the hands of vices clamping hard around her. She had freedom and fullness, no longer a mangled ankle, where she could howl and push her legs faster and further as one with the wind, the whispers of might and glory at her heels, her mate racing right next to her, sheer power and strength exuding from him. The first kill had been a bear, to which they’d taken down easily that Elide gained a grasp of her own power. The male bear had not withstood a chance against the two hungry Lycans, Elide ripping chunks of his hide, her maw drenched with the warm blood oozing out. Lorcan had scratched the bear’s face, and easily clawed an ear off, slamming his body into the bear’s side, sending their prey into a tree, which promptly collapsed. Lorcan had dipped his head at her, allowing her to take the first bite. After digging past the ribcage and licking the bone clean, she’d allowed her mate to finish devouring the other meat from the liver and stomach. Leaving the carcass in the burning sun, they’d returned to the lake afterwards to clean the blood off their faces. She lapped from a lake greedily, ignoring the sense to reach out to her past Alpha and Beta, and nudged her mate’s proud head towards the water. Lorcan had taken in the habit of standing guard whenever she ate or drank, but all she wanted was her mate to eat with her, two forces of nature sharing a meal together. She slowly lost herself with her mate, to the wildness and its call, while the itching for revenge grew at the back of her mind. By the time the sun set, and the shadows loomed, preaching the misfit and the outcast, Elide had nudged her mate’s head. Lorcan responded by licking her mated mark, sending sensual thrills over her body, tail wagging furiously. The floating feelings of ecstasy ended as the loneliness diminished, the rage filling her, claws digging into the soil. Lorcan brushed himself over her, intertwining their scents, a question in his eyes. She swallowed, and twitched her eyes, pawing the ground. Reality would sink in one way or another, and it seemed it would always harbor anguish. Tugging on that firm thread between them, Elide allowed her mind to coast and seep over the sanctuary between them, shattering them with her syllables. Where is Vernon? Lorcan’s tail stopped wagging, and his snout touched her nose. After silence reigned over them for awhile, Elide reared back and shot off into the distance. If her mate would not give her the answer, then she knew someone else who would willing. Following that thin thread of connection to former warmth, she touched the link between her old pack, feeling the storm of voices and waves of shouting. She could feel Lorcan at the back of her mind, growling, but the itch grew more pronounced. Focusing on that past link, she channeled into the Fireheart Pack, feeling the soothing remembrance of belonging on some interval. Aelin’s link soared over her first, sending her a set of coordinates that Elide followed easily, weaving through the trees and jumping over rivers, knowing that her mate would be on her tail despite all odds. Manon’s voice easily boomed over the little murmuring in her mind, demanding how she’d survived the shift, if she’d been marked and mated, if she was fine. Elide didn’t know what fine was, but merely repeated her previous question. She’d be fine once the scratch within her went away. Aelin hadn’t responded, and Elide could imagine her musing over the consequences of telling her, while she sprinted towards them, pushing her new body faster and harder. Manon didn’t wait. Locked in the middle of a human city Las Vegas in human form so no wolf can get to him. Council banned any werewolf in any form from entering. Elide nearly tripped over a dip in the ground, but continued to leap forward and run and run and run. Then I cannot get to him? He’d gotten to her, wormed his way into her, darkened her, hurt her, broke her. Not without breaking Council rules, Aelin piped in. There is a death penalty, Elide. Come home. Elide abruptly swerved to the side, and shut down the link of her past, before leaving her farewell. A death penalty would not serve when there were worse things than death, a figment of this reality she no longer feared. Home was no longer with the Fireheart Pack when she was destined to rule to Perranth Pack, buried under the disgust and falsities of the Morath Pack. She deserved her empire and her people, one where her Alpha blood reigned, now mixed with Lycan genes. Her home was herself. She owned herself to her mate, another creature of the night and wind and darkness, and her broken mind and shattered heart. Closure seemed a distant concept with seeping ailments howling within her. She would no longer be feared. How could she settle for less when she’d been given none in return, given a body as more? Lorcan had feared for the depths for her, his love for her, and now Elide only feared what she would do when she saw her uncle. She left her scent through the forest as she broke out into the clearing, allowing whispers of her to trail behind for her mate. Pushing her legs faster, her paws pounding against the Earth, Elide ran, her lungs capable of more, her muscles able to absorb more, and her heart ready to devour. She crossed borders after borders, a set destination carving in her mind, to quell that urge for more.
Elide’s scent had ended past a run-down railroad, his own wolf growling and snarling in frustration. She’d blocked her own link to him, shutting down a window on her mental side, leaving traces of bitterness. Shifting and showering his own dark residency in the castle, Lorcan headed towards the Fireheart Pack. Rowan, to his credit, didn’t speak a word as his hooded face stalked into the Pack House and slammed the door shut. An arm was wrapped around his mate, Aelin, and across the table sat an empty chair where the half-Lycan should have been. The lack of activity when he had passed border lands sent him on edge more than usual, and by the blank faces staring at him, numbness had settled in. Lorcan slammed a fist on the table, staring at the thick wad of papers sent from the Council. Across in bold were the consequences if any wolf in any form dared to set foot or paw into Las Vegas without authority. Rowan nodded, hearing his linked question. “It’s where Elide went.” He let out a growl, anger rushing through him. “Do you know what you’ve done?” Sometimes secrets were for the better good, for the sake of sanity, one lesson he’d learned over time. Information was too gold, too heavy, and too greedy for those whether unwilling or drowning. Aelin sat higher in her seat, and pressed her palms against the table. “Manon told Elide, and is tracking her down currently. You can’t cage someone again when she’s been locked up for too long.” “And if your Beta fails?” Lorcan hissed, and Rowan leaned forward, his natural instincts to protect his mate. But at least the Lycan Prince had his mate near him, while his own was a shattered mosaic of wear and tear. Rowan ran a thumb over Aelin’s arm. “Then the Council will issue a death warrant.” Lorcan stared at them dully. “Everyone has their secrets, some more deadly than the rest. But my mate held the most dangerous. She harbored her Lycan side in.” The monster had thrashed within her, claiming divine retribution. Lorcan allowed himself a brief second to close his eyes, at the wrenching and snaring tugs at his heart. Without his last shred of fulfillment, he had lived without honor, but to live without experiencing the brighter spectrum to only listlessly carry on with the dulled cowardly and bloodied halves had already ingrained into his mind. His duty had shifted from the killing fields to defend and cherish another soul, a match for his. “She’ll be fine,” Aelin whispered, flatly staring at the stack of papers with vivid contempt. “She lived in Morath all her childhood.” “So Elide’s been through worse,” Rowan clarified. “You have a strong mate, Lorcan.” But even the strongest fell, and Lorcan feared that for once, this concept of more, of hope and love, would not be enough. He tore off into the fading sunlight, his clothes tearing and body shifting into solid muscle and full wolf, a deep howl full of pain and sorrow erupting from his throat, a sound that no other echo would capture, and no other wolf could vocalize in the forbidden night. For Lorcan would reclaim what owned his heart and keep hers beating. He promised her as much. He flew across borders and pushed his body to the limits, all for her, all to have her, all to live for her.
Aelin cradled the picture frame, tracing a finger over the young dark-haired female in the middle, Rowan’s arms wrapped around her waist. Three women had stood proudly in the picture as the sun’s rays had casted over their tanned bodies, their toes curled from the wet sand and waves lapping at their ankles. Aelin had taken Elide’s right, her hair seemingly catching on fire at the angle, Manon the pillar of ice and height on Elide’s left; Elide had smiled gently into the camera without Aelin’s own signature smirk of wildness or Manon’s sneer of ferocity. She had been their rock, their gentle tide, their voice of calm reason against all raging reasons. It seemed the fates were bent on disorder and chaos from false notions of tranquility. “She’ll be alright,” her mate murmured, staring at her instead, offering his warmth. Rowan slid the frame from her hands and guided her to the bedroom. “I’m afraid,” Aelin murmured. “That in the dark she chose herself because we all fully refused to give to her. Her pack, her freedom, her strength. She’s been so cooped up for so long, I’m afraid what the oppression has molded into Elide’s heart.” Rowan leaned down into her. “Elide is not evil, Aelin. She will come home.” “The problem is, Rowan, where exactly her home?” Elide was heir to the Perranth Pack, an Alpha in her own rights. She’d been a second Pack Doctor within the Fireheart, and could now have a place in the Lycan’s royal palace as a mate to one. Aelin didn’t even know where her future laid with the Prince of Lycans, one where she was a simple female Alpha, one with a dirty past no clean palace could harbor. She’d killed many, had many blood and lines on her hands, and played dirty. By no means was she ready to take up the Princess title. “You do not think she will return to your pack,” Rowan mused, brushing a hand over her neck where her mated mark would have shown. He’d been surprisingly patient with his feral dominance to take things slow. He hadn’t displayed the typical possessive behavior in vying to mark his mate that every male inherently held. “I do not think Lorcan will return to your Pack.” Aelin shrugged off her leather gears, noting the scorching gaze Rowan shamelessly directed towards her. He shucked off his own clothes, pulling off his boots, and headed to the washroom. She could imagine two Lycans on solid, ivory thrones, heading the Perranth Pack. A new type of signal in a new world with darkness and lightness colliding like never before. A force Elide and Lorcan would hold as two blooded Lycans, mated to one another. A new empire forged from the darkness into the light, one with scores to settle. Lest her own Pack fall apart, her Beta was missing, Manon radiating another ancient power of her own, her authority matching that of an Alpha and strength comparable to the Lycans. Their functionality seemed to end as time poured over. Sense evaded her. Rowan tucked her under his chin, his naked torso slightly wet, steam escaping from the washroom door. “Elide and Lorcan have each other.” Aelin blew out a breath. “They will reinstate the Perranth Pack. If the Council does not demand their deaths first.” If not— She felt rather than saw Rowan’s wolf rear at the thought of the blood and deaths that would be shed, and Aelin’s own skin matched his shiver. A dark dawn was emerging, one that time had cultivated, and it seemed like the fire would not be able to out shine the shadows. Ashes had scattered too far. Sleep did not find her, a restless itch at the back of her mind. Even her mate’s presence was not enough. Even the chocolate gifts he’d bestowed on her no longer tasted sweet in her mouth, sourness gathering at her teeth. When the clock strummed twelve midnight, a beeping emission rose from her office computer. Aelin blandly arose from her mate’s embrace, and sleepily headed towards her device, scanning an email from an unknown address. Frowning, she dragged her tongue over her bottom lip, doubling clicking the link. Her eyes skimmed over the package, and her cursor hit start, she listlessly stood up, and cast one look at her mate, the Prince of the Lycans. Her focus returned back to the video. A gown had swished around the Princess of Lycan’s hips, her cunning eyes taking in the male in front of her. Minutes later, the beautiful fabric had been ripped and discarded, skin on skin. Rowan and Remelle had been more than acquaintances, and it seemed like the Lycan princess’s claims of lovers had been more fact that false. Aelin didn’t bother to mute the moans from the video and the flashes of naked skin that sent her inner wolf reeling. From shock and disgust. What we did meant nothing, her mate had said. But by the mated mark on Remelle’s neck, his words had meant otherwise. And would explain why he felt less of a tug and shift towards to her, not matter fate’s plans in destiny. You are mine, Prince, Remelle had smiled, moments before Aelin had once upon a time entered the castle for Elide to confront Lorcan, before all pain and chaos had broken, before she had allowed Rowan to court her. I am yours, her mate had said, holding Remelle in his large arms, embracing the Princess. For she had come too late. For timing had been everything, a facet of life destiny had not granted her. She was as good as rejected, and without her mate, her pack would not fully function. And her pack came first. Aelin stormed out of the Pack House, masking her scent, and shifted, damning the Council, and shifted into her blood-red wolf, sprinting off into the night. She had enough of games, and without her rock here, bloodlust was calling.
Manon tore through the forest and past the streets, a blur from the cars and trunks, the buzzing and honking, the shiny lights and cursed mumbles streaming past her ears. Once the sights of the looming, towering structures came in sight, she quickly shifted, and stalked through the night, cracking camera screens before glimpsing the dangerous, seething woman. Sliding through thin doors, she picked a set of clothes from the racks, flipping a black hood over her white-hair. Filling the pockets with the familiar curve of blades, Manon strode into the human-filled streets. It was a filthy, ugly disgrace here, where innocence bled and corruption ruled. The disgusting cards littering the cracked streets and whistling catcalls had her gripping her blade at her waist. Walking up the steps to the Caesar’s Palace, Manon could feel the eyes boring into the back of her head, and the thumping of other foreign heartbeats. She could not stop Elide from her mandate, but she could complete it for her, lest she suffer from death, live without experiencing the joy of having a mate and belonging in unity. Manon moved behind a pillar before an arrow drove through her spine and out her heart. She barely had time to dart away before the pillar collapsed and the human screams erupted. “You are not welcome here,” a voice hissed, a slight rasp and undercurrent lying beneath the syllables. Manon drew out Wind Cleaver, her eyes adjusting to the smoke billowing in the hallway. She swore as the marbled statues glowed and shuddered to life, moving towards her. The water from the fountains rose to the air and slammed against the ground, rushing towards her. Magic. Her lips thinned, and she rolled underneath the first lash of a fist aimed at her head. She hauled herself onto the higher beams, and dodged the first strike of the Poseidon statue, slicing off the trident. When the chariot flew through the air, the water flooding the entire floor, Manon dove, and swam deeper into the hotel. Rivulets of stream wrapped around her ankles and tossed her back to the entrance, the back of her head hitting the wall. Gritting her teeth, Manon ducked as a wheel from the chariot flew right above her head. Her nails dragged along an outlet, and with a wince, she clawed at the walls, climbing higher. When the next stature flew towards her, Manon loosed a dagger at one of the columns, the marble collapsing on top of the magiced solid. Panting, she hauled herself into an alcove, and grasped blindly at the stones embedded in the walls. She jerked her body to the side as a hammer grazed the edge of sweatshirt. Finding the Lycan stone, she twisted hard on it, and when it didn’t budge, she drove Wind Cleaver through the middle, and the entire building shook in response. Turning around, she flashed her blade in front of her, watching the statues crumble into dust, and the water drain beneath the tiles. Dropping onto the ground, she continued deeper into the hotel, scenting the darkness and wretched scent of twist distorment. The next hall shuddered, and the ground shifted within her, tossing her body to the side. Darting up the middle stairs, Manon slashed Wind Cleaver through the incoming volley of arrows. One arrow exploded in front of her, and while Manon had seen many explosions in her life, she didn’t think she’d seen one where the flumes aimed straight up her nose and mouth. Snarling, she pressed her blades against her face, and muttered an archaic Crochan command, spoken from eons ago. Wind Cleaver flashed out, forming a mask around her face, thinning out to a veil around her eyes. Then she darted behind a curtain, ready to jump out the window if the attack continued. It did. A large spear shot above the curtain, crumbling the entire mainframe of gems and sparkling hues. Manon swung herself back into the staircase, her exit now blocked. She palmed two daggers, and then dashed down the main hall. Two knights standing against the wall shuddered to life and groaned, their helmets turning into her direction. The Council must have hired experienced witches to fortify the entire hotel with magic. It was too bad she was half-witch. Manon ducked and danced between the two knights, dodging each blow. When the last sword embedded itself into the wall and the other knight dug his lance out of his foot, she launched herself in between, and stabbed both her daggers through the would-be hearts, disconnecting the magical chain. The armor clattered to the floor, and she dusted off one metal hand clinging to her elbow. Sheathing her daggers, Wind Cleaver peeled off her face, and landed comfortably back into her palm. Manon slashed the blade through the cracks of the grand hall door, and then yanked the doors open with a crash, tasting the blood slipping out her scratched lip. Wind Cleaver nearly dropped out her hand as she leapt forward with a no, her face straining. For she had been simply too late.
“Well, well,” the face of her nightmares chuckled in front of her. “Have you come to finish me off at last, my dear niece?” Elide smiled at him, a curl of lip full with ice. “I don’t need to kill you when you’ve been dead for some time.” She stalked in front of the silver-chained monster. “But I suppose death would be a nice touch.” Especially if she were to break Council laws. “You touch me, you cannot touch your Alpha title as Perranth.” Dark shadows had blossomed under his eyes, and his body had thinned considerably, skin faded into gray, feeble meshes. His teeth cracked at the edges from grinding his jaws harshly together, and his nails were shredded. All the lies and tells in her life…maybe one day she’d have all the pieces. But maybe it was better she be reckoned as shattered and broken. Elide hefted a chain in her hands, her heart thrumming. “Look familiar?” she cooed, and swam in the despair and fear in her uncle’s eyes. She had drowned in those emotions a long, long time ago. The chain jerked around his neck, the shackles at Vernon’s wrists and ankles and waist screaming against his scarred flesh, burning from the metal. His neck snapped to the side, his eyes unfocused but glazed over in determination. She’d burned for so long that the sight did not an ounce of satisfaction to her. Elide stepped forward, and the balcony window shattered. A sigh of relief bubbled from the Vernon’s rasped throat, but quickly dissipated into a squelch of agony as a hatchet whistled through the air and pierced across his ankle, destroyed the chain and the flesh underneath. A howl of anguish shook the Alpha’s body, but he continued smiling. For he had believed crafted the perfect monster and carved a hole into society, a shard in the masterpiece of society. His legacy, his faults, his nightmares. A reality. Little did he know that he hadn’t destroyed her. She had destroyed herself. He had willingly retreated into the abyss of dark and ink. Elide tightened the chain, and waited for the newcomer to reach her. Warm hands wrapped around Elide’s waist, and her mate kissed the base of her throat. The ground beneath them shook. “Together,” Lorcan rumbled, and wrapped a hand around her wrist. Elide knew what her mate was offering. To end Vernon himself, to take the burden off of her. But this was what something that she needed to carry by herself. Shrugging off Lorcan’s hand, Elide offered her own smile at her Uncle, who shivered violently, teeth bared weakly. “I’ll see you in hell,” she said sweetly, and jerked the chain violently down, watching the neck snap completely. The doors burst open, and Lorcan arranged himself in a protective stance around her. Manon, looking as if she’d been dragged across the grave and back, hissed, her eyes purged into utter block. A single no hissed out of her mouth, and Elide felt the thin thread bound to the Council snap, and a fallen order blanket across her mind. A death sentence. Issued and ordered. The hotel floor shook again, and Elide braced herself for the consequence. Manon slammed the door shut, and stalked towards her, not sparing Lorcan a second glance. Blood dripped from her sides, black sweatshirt torn and ragged. Her past Beta dipped her head and gripped Wind Cleaver solemnly. “I stand with you.” She bared her teeth, and nodded towards Elide’s mate, just as the balcony drapes flung apart, and the white uniforms of the Council guards flew in, wolves of order leaping from behind. The South wall shuddered and collapsed, fire ringing out and bursting into flames around them. Lorcan pinned her to the floor as a burst of flame brought it down. An Enforcer flung a sword towards them, aim at Lorcan’s exposed back, but a wolf leapt through the fallen wall, a red pelt slicked with flames flying through the air, and taking the weapon. Aelin Galathynius slammed into the floor, the sword sticking from her back, blood swirling with the flames around her. Her wolf shuddered and stilled. Elide roared and tossed Lorcan’s weight of tons off of her and ran towards her fallen friend, the echoing howl of Manon’s having the tiles shake. The tide of Enforcer did not stop, but Lorcan flung his dark magic forward, sending the first wave of wolves out the window. Darkness swept across Elide’s eyes as she nosed her previous Alpha’s body. She watched the flames surrounding them wink out. She felt the Alpha of the Fireheart’s pack fur turn to ice. Decaying. Elide howled, and Lorcan roared his own, Manon’s screeching nails tearing across bodies after the next. The doors from the upper floor cracked open, and Elide’s heart soared as she saw members of the Fireheart stream in, wolves of all colors with snapping teeth. The floor became a battleground for unseen justice and stringent consequences. The Fireheart Pack had openly issued their statement in disloyalty as rebels and resisted the Council’s orders by heeding their Alpha’s call. As Elide launched herself against the nearest guard, she knew the deaths would come. But she welcomed it. For once.
Lorcan ripped off the pelt of the nearest enforcer, and kept an eye on his mate, whose claws had dug into a guard’s eye. After the wolf laid dead as his feet, he raced towards her, hauling the bleeding enemy off her back, and tossing him into the rubble. His mate rubbed her maw against him, and together they leapt into the mess of hissing and tearing and howling. They killed every beating heart of human or animal in their way. She became the silencer and the executioner. He was death. She was desire. They slaughtered the Council guards and the Enforcers. Without a blink or thought. And together—together they could bring down kingdoms if they wanted to. In another realm or world. For their limits came as the Council themselves stormed in, and the floor levelled off, the ground shaking and infrastructure collapsing around them.
Rowan awoke to a cold bed, and felt frosted agony worm through his body. He tore through the Pack House in search for his mate, and found not one trace of another Pack member. Aelin had to have more logic than to dare step foot or paw into Las Vegas, but by the true absence, it only seemed plausible. He swore, and opened his mind link with Lorcan. Blocked out. Of course. Snarling, he shifted into his silver wolf and followed the Council orders to the edge of Nevada where the desert ran for miles. Uneasiness ran through him as he picked up speed. The sun baked his fur, but he continued to push. Riddled and bristling trepidation coasted over him, driving him over an edge. When his paws no longer hit grass and soil, churning over sand, his pace slowed down considerably, a sharp searing pain digging into his side. The Prince of Lycans howled as he felt wedge drive within him, pain flowering within him to unknown depths. From his peripheral vision, dread building within him, he mustered up his well and stalked to the camp where the flying white flags of the Council shone. The guards parted, and his wolf strode through the line, noting the scent and stench of metal and wolfsbane. As the line of guards ended, a white elder with wrinkly face came into sight, and Rowan halted. The King of the Wolves. Rowan dipped his wolf’s head, not meeting the golden-ringed eyes of the other Lycan. The final authority and the highest honor, King Erawan, wolf of the order. The full-blooded Lycan merely handed his scepter to a helper next to him, and maintained his posture. “As the Prince of Lycans, you are authorized to uphold the law,” the King droned, and parted to the left. Rowan’s heart broke at the sight. A red-ash wolf laid bloodied and broken along the sand, face caked with tears and grime. His mate. “Aelin Galathynius.” A pained look crossed over Rowan Whitethorn’s face. The King nodded, a sneer on his face. “She has broken Council law and is sentenced to die. As Prince, you will set an example.” An example. That law was first. Over love, over morality, over need. The King beckoned a finger, and Rowan shifted, clothed in his royal garb. His Lycan within him howled in anger and fury, a turbulent storm raging within him. But the duty called. The first bond he had swore. His tongue filled with ash as the solemn words washed over him. One his animal side could not yet overcome. “Through my Lycan blood in me and through orders through the Council, you are condemned to execution for slaughtering and violence, death and destruction. Your disloyalty holds charges with the end.” Rowan felt his legs lurch forward, his wolf howling within him, a sound his mate did not echo. Betrayal ran in his mate’s eyes, deeper than the execution. Disappointment and sorrow. He knew the sight would haunt him for the rest of eternity. Another Hell on Earth. The King snapped his fingers, and the helper handed Rowan a dark blade, crested with obsidian gems on the hilt. He could feel the order pressing down in his mind, caging him. He lifted the blade.
Aelin merely grinned at Rowan Whitethorn, still finding the strength within her failing lungs. He wasn’t on his knees grovelling, serving her, honoring her, cherishing her, protecting her. He wasn’t. Not when his mark laid on another’s neck. Not when a silver blade inked with darkness was directly over her. Not when the Council themselves had swarmed the hotel, and Remelle had triumphantly dragged her bleeding body across the city and into the desert where her veins had been ripped and displayed. Her Pack was in ruins, more than demolished. Only thirteen of her pack members had survived, and had fled with Manon—Aelin’s last order as Alpha. To survive and to remember. Aelin watched her mate take the dark blade from the King’s hands, and felt hatred boil up within her. Felt her inner wolf agree and hiss out, “I, Aelin Galathynius, reject you as my mate.” It would be easier this way, for the pain to fuel her, and for the pain for him to end her without rational thought. So that he could live with the burden that he had no control over his animalistic side, and lost his other half by priorities. That it wasn’t the sword of the King that ended the chance of more, but the emotions of the rage and embittered. She supposed this was her fate. To be stuck within that scale. And she did not stop her once-mate as the feral growl rippled through him and his bones shifted, a silver wolf leaping towards her, fury in those eyes. Aelin supposed she knew how Elide felt, how the physical pain of her skin being ripped apart and blood gushing out, pooling around her—it compared to nothing in the slightest to her heart breaking, not from the sheer force, but from her mind collapsing down on her and giving up, diving into that black abyss, and over the edge and into the what waited in the next life. “I hope Remelle is everything you wanted,” Aelin managed to whisper out as her spine cracked and her neck snapped. And she saw the darkness.
Lorcan stared at his mate, his love, his fate. “Elide,” he whispered. Elide blankly stared at him, a little trickle of blood running down her face. “Elide,” he repeated, his voice cracking between the syllables. Elide part her mouth. “Lorcan,” she murmured, and her hands fell limply to her side. “What have I done?” He swallowed harshly. Rid the threat before the threat rids us, as ordered by the King Erawan. Kill the girl. Pure ferality and unbridled bloodlust. His mate, his fate. The Council members closed within them, blank faces. Another cage, another cell. Lorcan felt his paws holding blood and sand, reeking of gore and flesh. Holding his and his mate’s defeat. It had not been enough. “I am sorry,” Lorcan whispered, despairingly. “Moon goddess forgive me.” For his first oath had drilled into his mind and wormed its way. The silver blade lurched forward, driving within his Elide Lochan’s ribcage, piercing through her hardened flesh and out her other end. The onyx eyes widened before her lids fluttered shut, and she croaked out his name thickly, her upper body collapsing on top of the blade. “Forgive me,” Lorcan said, and embraced her. Darkness and madness swept through him, a cord of sanity pulling into a reach beyond him. Her nest of hair fell across her face, and the salted stench of blood filled his nostrils again. He wrenched the blade out, and a silent scream stamped onto her face, pale features turning into whitened ash. “Forgiven,” Elide rasped out, and went limp, her eyes closing. For they had both sinned beautifully in the tragic world. Lorcan held his mate in his arms, and blankly stared at the silver sword tainted with crimson, staining the ground. He had promised to not let her go. Promises, his oaths, his only living shred of morality in this world. He would not let it slip from his fingers as further dishonored. Lorcan slowly reached down and wrapped the warm hilt around his roughened hand, his other wrapped around the drooped body, a sack of emptiness. Inhaling the fast fading scent of his source of elation one last time, Lorcan drove the blade inwards without a figment of restraint. The Council wolves stared blandly, empty holes drilled into their eyes. Two bodies collapsed onto the soiled ground, blood intertwining between them, tying them closer than ever before than in life, through the decay, and to death. Even his Lycan genes could not regenerate him fast enough, as the fast fading mated mark disappearing from Elide’s neck snapped his own tether to this world. For when his mate had been sentenced to die, so had he. She hadn’t needed a ring on her finger when he had claimed her, a claim that went into the next life and realm, a long, long dream of what could have once been and whispers of fantasy of might and true love, an easy conquerment to whistle through his heavens only to plunge into the depths of hell. For death had been their wedding with eternity.
Manon tossed away the flowers that littered the three graves she had built near the entrance of soom gloomy and haunted cave in the middle of a darkened forest. Elide Lochan. Aelin Galanthysius. Lorcan Salvaterre. It would have been suicide to return back to Las Vegas where the Council awaited, with too much dark enhanced power and foreign allies. The Fireheart Pack remained in spirit, but the name was filled with too much raw memories. Settling her heart in steel, Manon headed into the wild, Alpha blood coursing through her veins. She’d rebuild up this pack, and forge them into their own masters, not weapons. And the dawn of the Crochan Pack arose, filled with thirteen beautifully broken members. Thirteen survivors with the blood bathing over their bodies and minds, sculpting their souls. She had revenge burning within her. In memory of her fellow wolves, the fallen who had fought against the stringent orders. And so the Crochan Pack sprinted into the distance, where they’d forge the next era.
Elide jerked up, panting, and stared at the darkness within the cave. Lorcan immediately sat up, and wrapped his arms around her, offering his warmth.
She yawned, and her mate yawned back.
A run? Her mate proposed.
She didn’t respond, and instead channeled in the raw depths of power and dominance within her. Elide closed her eyes and focused on her inner Lycan, the unknown beast within her that had slumbered for years in silence. Feeling her bones crack and rattle, her teeth shifted and hands grew, paws hitting the floor, her tail wagging.
Elide waited for her mate to shift, watching the powerful muscles ripple through currents in the dark cave. When Lorcan finished shifting, her nudged her in concern. She moved against his pelt, shaking off the vivid images that had flashed across her head. Elide licked her mate’s ear affectionately, and wiggled her tail in anticipation.
Her mate took off and out of the cave, Elide surging forward behind him, into the breaking light of slanted rays, ignoring the murky and hidden feeling of deja vu running underneath her.
I love my country. By which I mean I am indebted
joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government
to make right. We’re so many cunning sons and daughters, our foremothers and
forefathers came singing through slaughter, came through Hell and high water,
so that we could stand here and behold breathlessly the sight. How a raging
river of tears cut a Grand Canyon of light.
Okay so this is something I wrote, that’s quite a touchy subject? Anyway, Im sorry if it offends you
but its about body image. Reader wakes up to see Oswald masturbating
to porn and gets paranoid he finds the woman on the TV more
attractive than her. I used the Kink Challenge from Anon “needy/clingy sex” and based it loosely on a dream @emyliabernstein told me she had XD
(Oswald flicking over to porn accidentally in a hotel room) and it
kinda stemmed from there! Please read the warnings.
Warning- Sexual content, body image, Reader feeling unattractive and
Oswald makes her feel sexy/loved, Masturbating to porn, heavy sexual
description, comfort sex, I love you, body worship, smut
Min had been to many places, but traveling to Asgard was completely new. She was giddy with excitement but bit it back so she looked professional. She had been invited by Odin and Frigga as a guest for a banquet. She didn’t quite know which one, but she was honored. She trekked along the rainbow bridge, looking into the vast space. The air was crisp and the stars here were a million times better. Splashed with color, twinkling and bright. She never wanted to leave. She almost forgot all about the stars when she entered the golden city. She stopped, catching her breath at the sight. As far as the eye could see, were buildings, made from gold, silver and bronze the largest one in the middle was obviously the palace. It looked so outstanding she just stood there taking it in.
After a moment she forced her feet to move on, weaving her way through the streets, amazed at their technology and their armor. She loved all of it. She slowly walked into the palace, looking around before a guard took notice.
“Hey! You don’t belong here! The rest of the courtesans aren’t allowed out until after the feast!” He grabbed her roughly by the arm. Her eyes turned red and she grabbed his wrist, twisting it and making him yell out.
“What did you call me?” She snarled, her voice soft and deadly.
“Someone! Help this whore is attacking me!” He yelled out.
Jaune Arc, greatest of mortal heroes, was dying. It was no monster or warrior who had defeated him. Instead, it was time. He was an old man now, and he was waiting for the one fate that awaited all old men. He was waiting for Death.
He did not wait alone.
His children were all waiting outside his bedroom, for he had permitted only one other to be with him in his final hours. Pyrrha, Goddess of Victory and Righteous Battle, was the mother of his children and the love of his life. She had taken a poor, untrained boy and helped him become a living legend.
And now Pyrrha waited. She waited for Death to arrived. And she waited with her sword in one hand and her shield in the other. On the bed, Jaune slept.
For Jaune, she would fight Death.
Pyrrha knew that Death was close when her children gave a great cry that echoed through the house. They were demigods and legends in their own right, and their divine blood let them see what others could not. They could see Death coming for their father, and they would not let Death have him so easily.
But scarcely a moment passed before stillness and silence once again reigned over the house.
The door of the bedroom trembled. Pyrrha had barred entry into the room with every magic and power she could muster. Not even another god of war could have broken into it so easily. Yet the door swung open as if by its own accord. Pyrrha’s brows furrowed. It was true then. No door could bar Death’s passage, not when Death had command of the greatest door of all: the Gate of the Dead that separated the realms of the living and the dead.
A chill swept through the room, and the candles wavered though no breeze stirred the air. A vast, bloody shadow swirled in the doorway. There, at last, was Death. Her blood-red cloak moved as if alive, and her scythe, as dark as the dead of night, drank in the candlelight and plunged the room into an eerie twilight.
Death raised her head, and Pyrrha found herself staring into silver eyes that seemed to see everything that she was and ever could be with but a single glance. Then that gaze shifted to Jaune.
“You cannot have him!” Pyrrha snarled. Her divine power flooded into the room, and her armour blazed as though wrought of fire and starlight. Her sword became a spear, its point so sharp it could pierce the fabric of reality itself. Her shield trembled in her grasp, a shining, gleaming mirror that could reflect any attack that fell upon it. “Take even one step closer and -”
“And what?” Death murmured. “You are powerful, Pyrrha, Goddess of Victory and Righteous Battle. Even amongst the gods of war, there are few who could claim to be your equal, and none who can truly say they are your better. But I am no mere god of war. I am Death, and even gods can die.”
Pyrrha’s power blazed brighter still, a sun to beat back the chill and darkness that came with Death. “I have fought a thousand gods, Death, and never lost. Do you truly think that I will give up my beloved without a fight?”
“How brave you are,” Death replied, and Pyrrha could almost have sworn that there was true sorrow in her voice. “Braver even than your children.” Pyrrha’s eyes narrowed, but Death spoke swiftly. “You need not fear for them. They are merely unconscious. It is not their time yet. I would have passed by them entirely, yet I knew they would never forgive themselves if they did not at least try to stop me.”
Pyrrha swallowed thickly. Her and Jaune’s children were demigods, but they were amongst the mightiest of the half-gods. To have defeated so many of them and so quickly… Death’s prowess was terrible indeed. “Even so… you shall not pass.”
“You cannot stop me.” Death lifted her scythe, and Pyrrha tensed, anticipating an attack.
Death attacked but not in any manner that Pyrrha had anticipated. As the scythe drew to a stop, the shaft level with Pyrrha’s chest, the red-haired goddess collapsed to her knees. Her strength fled from her, and she felt as though the entire weight of the world were pressing down on her. Her spear clattered from her grasp, followed shortly by her shield, and a second later she was sprawled face down on the floor.
As she fought to stand once more, Pyrrha sensed Death walk past her and sit on the edge of Jaune’s bed.
“Don’t!” Pyrrha wailed, unable to so much raise her head from the floor. “Please! No! Stop!”
“It is his time,” Death replied. “And there are laws not even we can break, Pyrrha.”
“Please…” Pyrrha wept. She clawed at the floor. “We were friends once, when we were but young gods. Please, for the friendship we once shared, spare him, please, Ruby! Please!”
“I cannot spare him.” Death’s power eased a fraction, and Pyrrha found herself able to look up into the other goddess’s eyes. “But for the friendship we once shared, I can promise you two things.”
“His passing will be swift and gentle. He is still asleep, Pyrrha, and he will not wake again before he passes. Instead, he will dream of his youth and the days you spent together in happiness. He will pass peacefully and go then to the blessed fields and noble halls that await great heroes of renown.”
“And I will never see him again after he enters those halls. I will never walk with him through those fields.”
“No, you will not.” Death’s eyes glazed as though she were seeing something far away in space and time. “But when the Last Battle comes, the gods will not fight the darkness alone. Instead, the Gate of the Dead will open for the first time, and all of the heroes and legends of the past shall stream forth to do battle once more. Jaune shall be the leader of the mortal heroes, and he will be as he was in his prime. You will fight the Last Battle side by side, Pyrrha.”
“I would gladly lay down my sword, my spear, and my shield for him. Please, do not take him. What is glory to me if he is gone?”
Death shook her head sadly. “Remember my words, Pyrrha, and do not despair. For if the night and day cannot be together until the Last Battle, then you too must wait.” A lone tear trickled down Death’s cheek. “And you are not the only one waiting. Even Death’s chosen must die, and I will not see her again until you see Jaune.”
Gently, so gently, Death laid one hand upon Jaune’s brow. Then she was gone and so was Jaune.
I’m at the Grand Canyon. It’s colder than I thought it would be. In my head it was the desert, I guess, but I’m at the north side of it. It’s high up in the mountains. There are trees, evergreen firs and spruces, lots of trees. Bitter cold and thin air. It hurts a little to breathe, and every time I do, the breath comes out visible.
It’s off season, I think. Or maybe not many people come to this part of the Canyon. A great acreage of sheer nothing, a vast quantity of air. If we are a country made up more of distance than culture, then no wonder this is our most defining sight. We come to see the breathing heart at the center of America, and it is a hole in the Earth. And then we take a picture of it, so that we can own a little bit of that distance. Because that’s all we want, really.
This is one of my favorite parts so far. I’ve been trying to find it and share it with people. It speaks to the beauty and chilling, touching writing of Joseph Fink.
Djelibeybi really was a small, self-centred kingdom. Even its plagues were half-hearted. All self-respecting river kingdoms have vast supernatural plagues, but the best the Old Kingdom had been able to achieve in the last hundred years was the Plague of Frog.*
* It was quite a big frog, however, and got into the air ducts and kept everyone awake for weeks.