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The day had started out like any other.

 

At the chime of his alarm clock, he had woken up with a smirk and flipped out of bed with a gleeful chuckle. After a quick shower followed by a solid breakfast -and way too many flips-, he had been ready to face the day and meet the children at the ball court.

It had been in the middle of November, the weather had been the perfect mix of not too cold, not too warm and the kids adored it. Truth be told, so did he. Hours later, he reached his arms out wide and upwards, stretched lazily with a happy groan, and just basked in it all. So far, the day had been perfect, if not for the fact that they had had to cut the days activities short, since that very same evening he had been called to attend an urgent meeting a few miles out of town. It worried him slightly that the topic of said meeting had been kept secret, but hopefully it would be nothing too serious.

A slight movement to his left caught his attention and he turned his head to see the top of Robbies head peeking over the ball courts wall, clearly trying -and failing- to hide. He quickly gave an energetic wave in greeting; half hoping the other would join. To his disappointment, the man only huffed and stalked off with his arms swinging wildly beside him, all the while muttering something about ‘overactive sports elves’. Sport shook his head slightly in bemusement and grinned to himself. Despite the resentful attitude Robbie sometimes still showed him, the past few months had revealed the soft and caring side that the laziest resident of the town tried to keep well hidden. They would be great friends eventually he just knew it.

They -Sportacus and the kids- had just wrapped up their game of the day, when a freezing cold gust of wind hit his back, involuntarily making him shiver rather violently. Considering the change in season, it should have been nothing to ponder on, and yet… Something about the faint scent that it carried. Something about it was… Wrong. It reminded him off- ‘’is… something wrong?’’ Stephanies tiny worried voice cut his musing short and he quickly looked down to find her standing close, eyes big and observant.

‘’No no, everything is fine, just got cold for a moment is all.’’ He chimed and beamed a bright smile for good measure.

‘’What do you mean cold?’’

‘’That wind was rather chilly’’ he said and gestured around the ball court, arms coming up to rub any lingering traces of cold from them.

‘’Sportacus?’’

‘’Yes Stephanie?’’

‘’There was no wind’’

With how close she had been standing, surely she would have felt it too, but… ‘’…Oh?’’

‘’You are not getting sick are you?’’ She asked suspiciously ‘’You said it yourself a few days back that the weather can trick you into wearing too little clothes, and you would be at the risk of catching a cold as the result of it.’’ She pressed, sounding genuinely worried. ‘’Should I make you some soup?’’

‘’No that will not be necessary, I am fine’’ he laughed as he ruffled her hair gently, driving a delighted squeak from her. He did not feel the need to mention that elves did not ‘catch colds’. ‘’We should finish cleaning though, it is getting late.’’

‘’Okay Sportacus, I trust you.’’ She said and jogged over to Trixie to lend a hand in finishing the clean-up. When they had finished, he gave a fond smile and a wave, as he watches them wave goodbye for the day.

The day had been perfect.

And yet… he could not shake the persistent feeling of a sudden off-ness.

---

 

-Several hours later in a location far out of town-

He should pay attention, he really should, but his eyes were so tired and he never really was good at sitting still, and usually when he did his mind started drifting, kinda like how a bird would fly high in the sky, gentle clouds whipping around its wings as it- right.

This meeting was important, or so his brother had told him right before they had entered the circular room.

Sport straightened up and tried -and failed- to suppress a yawn, which earned him a small, disappointed sigh from his brother and a quick annoyed side-glance from one of the three other elves gathered. Íþróttaálfurinn gave him a stern look as he lightly kicked the side of Sportacus leg. ‘’Please at least try to stay focused Sports’’ he growled lowly. ‘’We are almost done’’ he added if but a bit more understanding. Sportacus -noticing the slight twitch of Íþróttaálfurinns left leg, clearly not happy with being still for so long either- gave a small huff in acknowledgement before turning his attention towards the announcer. So far, they had been discussing the usual stuff. Humans moving closer to the forest, trash left behind by said humans before the topic had moved on to something about-

‘’Wait what, sorry, could you repeat that?’’ Sportacus suddenly wide-awake gasped out.

‘’Which part?’’ the announcer pressed dryly, clearly annoyed.

‘’The part about the weird pattern and the people seemingly disappearing for no particular reason.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn cut in helpfully.

‘’Yes… that’’ Sport mumbled in gratitude. This was very important and it was not that he did not want to pay attention, he really did but-

‘’As I said.’’ The announcer started on a deep sigh. ‘’Reports are coming in from all over that kids and grownups have started disappearing without a trace. In addition, that they do so in large numbers.’’

‘’How large’’ Íþróttaálfurinn immediately demanded.

‘’Thousands.’’

A stunned silence fell over the table for several moments.

‘’Do we… know how grand the total is?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked hesitantly.

‘’So far the estimated is at 150.000, though that number is most likely much higher.’’

‘’But… How can that be?’’ Sportacus breathed out shakily before continuing ‘’humans are so keen on reporting even the smallest event, so does it not seem weird that no one has even noticed the fact that more than 150.000 people have just disappeared? Then again, maybe the news have just not reached the town I guard…’’

‘’We do not know why or how, and no, it is not just your town. Reports speak of entire villages just seemingly abandoned, yet no one knows where they went, or why for that matter, they just. Disappeared.’’

‘’That is not possible.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn shook his head and tilted it slightly to the side before pinning the announcer with a stern glare. ‘’Surely someone would have noticed something either before or after it happened?’’ he snapped.

‘’Nothing has been reported’’ the announcer said albeit a bit apologetic.

‘’Do we know when this started to happen?’’ Sportacus asked.

‘’A few months back.’’

’Pardon?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn bellowed.

‘’I… said a few-‘’

’Yes I heard you, what I wish to understand is why you did not let us know about this before now?’’

‘’We…’’ he trailed off, looking slightly nervous before picking up his courage. ‘’We simply do not have any information on the matter. There has been nothing to report’’

Sport wanted to argue the fact that 150.000 people vanishing was indeed a matter that needed reporting, but judging from the way his brother had gone all tense and still beside him, that would be unnecessary.

The elf in question was rubbing his temple feverishly, looking about ready to explode with frustration. ‘’If that is true, keep your eyes peeled on this case. Your entire focus will be on this and nothing else. If there is even the smallest update on this, I want to know immediately. Hesitation will not be tolerated. Does anyone have anything that they wish to add?’’

When no one spoke up again, the elf stood up and solemnly nodded once.

‘’That is all for now then. The court is dismissed’’

___

 

-One and a half hour later, right outside of town-

It was not uncommon –to his brothers’ great dismay- for his court to ignore the happenings around them, but this was on a whole other scale than anything he had ever heard of.

To say that he was worried would be a great understatement. All those people… Would whatever have happened to them, happen to his town as well? Were the children going to be safe? What had even caused this?

With those thoughts bashing unhappily against the inside of his skull, Sportacus half jogged and leaped over the low wall that framed his town. He willed himself to slow down and took a few steps along the wall, trying to sense something, though he was not entirely sure what it was he was looking for.

At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All seemed… Normal. Right as he had left it. Perhaps he had no reason for alarm after all.

That thought had just started to cement in his mind when he happened to glance down and abruptly stopped dead in his tracks. The flowers were...

He gently knelt down beside the small growth and hesitantly reached a hand towards it. The feeling off off-ness came back tenfold.

Dead. Not just withered. Dead.

With a shaky breath, he withdrew his hand sharply and clutched it protectively against his chest. Could be a coincident. It could have nothing to do with what is going on outside of town. He thought weakly and he knew it was a lie.

Something bad was coming and for once, it was something the court could not ignore.

___

 

The next day started like the previous had.

His alarm clock woke him, and he flipped out of bed with a delighted chuckle.

Shower, breakfast, flips.

Ready to face the day.

Jog down to meet the children. Be a friend, mentor and role model.

Calm yourself, they will be fine. His mind whispered and he failed to believe it.

___

 

Two uneventful weeks came and went with no further incidents and he had just started to believe the encouraging words of safety that his mind provided him with, when the feeling of off-ness came back stronger than ever.

They had been in the middle of a heavy yoga-session when the strange chill went straight through him, and he once again failed to suppress a full-body shiver.

He had paused in the middle of a stretch, arm still draped over his head, when he felt a slight tremor go through the earth.

‘’Did anyone feel that?’’ Trixies unsure voice spoke up from the back of the group. The children exchanged quick uncertain glances, all thoughts of exercise momentarily forgotten.

‘’Do you think that was an earthquake?’’ Ziggy yipped, clearly terrified.

‘’Ziggy calm down, we do not get earthquakes here’’ Pixel cut in sharply.

‘’Then what was it? Is Robbie doing something underground?’’ Stephanie gasped, clearly worried. ‘’Oh god, do you think he hurt himself somehow?’’

‘’Children calm, please.’’ Sportacus urged, though he doubted that he sounded as soothing as he had hoped he would. He kept his face as neutral as possible as his ears strained against the unnatural quiet that had settled heavily around them. The sudden stillness unnerved him greatly. It felt wrong. Off.

‘’Sportacus, what is happening?’’ Stingy peeped up a little to his right. ‘’Are we gonna be okay?’’

You are making them worry. His mind yapped at him angrily. ‘’I am not sure’’ He started, forcing himself to keep his voice firm and even. ‘’But I think we should move inside’’

‘’Why?’’ Trixie pressed, not one to happily be kept in the shadow of things. Sportacus’ mind blanked out for a moment and he found that he could not come up with an answer that would seem logical fast enough to not cause further worry. The children could not sense the urgent scent of something sinister forming in the air around them. Get them out, get them to safety. His mind howled. I am trying. He yelled back.

‘’I-I think it is going to rain.’’ Stephanie helpfully cut in and Sportacus nodded appreciatively before sending her a quick relieved smile.

‘’Looks like it might yes, we should-‘’

‘’Trixie what is that?’’ Ziggy shrieked, voice ending in a horrified high pitch.

Lethal. His mind screamed frantically as he watched a black, shadowy mist creep towards her screaming form. Quickly he sprang to his feet and desperately pounced in her direction. Do not let it! No! NO!

___

 

He leaped just as the shadow reached and swallowed her up.

Not fast enough. His mind cried as the realization hit him.

Her eyes turned pitch black and unseeing. Her skin took on a sickly pale colour before she literally blinked out of existence. One moment she was there, and then she simply was not. The last thing he saw of her was her face, contours contorted to one of pure terror, mouth caught in a silent scream.

It took her.

Chapter Text

Panic.

He felt his heart pound loudly in his head, as his hands closed around the empty space, where both Trixie and the shadowy mist had been only seconds ago. What is this? What was that?! He asked his mind. The reply came in form of a screeching, static roar that rose ever higher. Where did it-

‘’Sportacus?’’ He looked down to see Stephanies small, shaking hands wrapped around his upper arm. ''Wha-''

’What happened?’’ Stingys high-pitched voice ran sharply in his ear, as the child all but plastered himself against the elfs right side.

‘’She was screaming, she was screaming? Why was she screaming?’’ Pixel pale-faced and sounding close to hyperventilating demanded somewhere to his left.

‘’Is she ok?’’ Stephanie asked as she tightened her grip on his arm and shook him rather violently. Get them inside; get them out of the open.

‘’Stephanie.’’ Sportacus began, hands starting to shake slightly. ‘’I need you all to go home. Right now.’’

‘’Is she ok?’’

’I don’t know’’ he yapped and grabbed her as gently as he could by the shoulders. He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply, steeling himself. ‘’I do not know. Just-‘’

‘’Spor-‘’

’Please. Please do this for me. Just go. I will take care of it’’

‘’You can fix this? Right?’’ She pleaded in a low voice, as the tears in her frightened eyes finally spilled over.

‘’I can.’’ He told her in a voice as firm as possible. Lie. His mind whispered. Not the time. he spat back.

Stephanie took a few shuddering breaths, before she finally hissed out five impossible words.

‘’Promise you will fix this.’’

‘’I promise.’’

___

 

-37 minutes later, Town hall-

 

The mayor looked anything but impressed ‘’What do you mean gone?’’ he asked bewildered. ‘’Did you lose her in the forest?’’ he pressed, voice sounding far too amused for the current situation.

’No, she-‘’

‘’I am sure she is fine, you will find her eventually, you always do’’ he said as he reached up and awkwardly patted his shoulder.

‘’I do not think-‘’ the most obnoxious ‘MILFOOORD!’ faintly rang out before he could finish and make the mayor understand just how dire the situation really was. Sportacus had never before been one to feel extreme dislike towards a person, but as he watched the mayor quickly jog away and out of the town’s hall, he truly believed he had a small taste of what it felt like.

‘’Oh dear, oh dear’’ the mayor mumbled to himself, shaking his head slightly as he vanished down and out of the hallway.

The stifling silence seemed to close in on the elf, after the sound of the door closing had faded. At that moment it seemed the silence was all there was. All that would be left.

Following the same way the mayor had just left, Sportacus took a defeated look at his town that was slowly falling apart around him and breathed out heavily.

The court would be of no help and the mayor was too daft to recognize a natural disaster, even if it struck him in the face. He gazed around tiredly and in that moment felt utterly and entirely alone.

He was at a loss for what to do, how to proceed.

Ignoring this was out of the question, but he had no knowledge, no understanding of what was happening. He would have to… To… How did the phrase go - desperate times calls for desperate manners? As far as famous last words go, those would not be the worst to have. His mind purred darkly. Be quiet. He sighed back.

He was desperate indeed.

___

 

Help would not come and if did, it would not come fast enough for it to matter.

That was the main reason he now found himself standing ready and prepared, in the middle of the forest that surrounded his dying town, protective circle set up and prepared in front of him.

He kept his breath even and controlled as he moved his hands in deliberate, jerky motions while lowly murmuring foreign, yet familiar words. This part was easy, one he knew well and truly by heart. After all, these were just standard protective wards; not enough to hold a demon in place, but enough to buy him a few precious seconds in case things went sour. Satisfied, he put down his Athame and started on the more delicate part of the summoning. Immediately the pleasant, warm breeze stilled and the air around him grew thick and hostile. Here we go. The same great tremor that he had felt earlier shook through the ground, and he failed to repress the violent shivers the chill brought with it, as the shadow heeded his call.

’Who dares call upon... –oh. It is you’’ the shadow rasped in a disembodied voice, void of any emotion. ‘’What could you possibly wish to achieve by doing this.’’

‘’Why did you take Trixie? Where is she?’’

‘’Oh was that the name of the little human?’’

‘’Why are you doing this.’’ He demanded, willing himself to keep calm.

It laughed at him. Or rather, it was downright cackling.

‘’Answer me.’’

The swirling mist seemed to solidify for a moment, before it broke apart and became something closer to translucent. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the way one of the five runes flickered slightly, but paid it no further mind. The binds would hold for long enough. They had to.

‘’I do not care why. Besides I am merely a messenger.’’

‘’For who and what message do you carry.’’

It stayed silent, seemingly testing the border of the circle.

’Answer me.’’

‘’Why should I answer you? What have I to gain by doing such? Besides, little elf, you do not seem aware of the obvious.’’ It rasped, sounding almost amused.

‘’Which is?’’

‘’You are utterly powerless.’’

‘’I am not.’’

‘’Oh?’’ It spat. ‘’you think these petty binds can hold me?’’ A single rune flickered and died with a soft hiss.

Sportacus took a deep steading breath. Losing one rune means nothing, it is fine. His mind encouraged. Keep it talking. Stay focused.

Squaring his shoulders, straightening up slightly and keeping his voice as neutral as possibly, he willed himself to remain on the topic that mattered. ‘’You only took a single child, yet I know entire towns have vanished instantly. Why.’’

‘’Perhaps I grew bored? Perhaps I like a little mayhem?’’

‘’Do you?’’ he asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

‘’Do you?’’ it laughed back.

 ‘’I keep this town safe, I would never harm any of its residents.’’ It is trying to distract you, make you lose your head. Stay calm.

The mist purred darkly at him. ‘’But you would if you could. If it was allowed.’’ Dread filling him as the second of the runes dimmed and flickered out. Three remains, you will be fine.

‘’Never. Why are you targeting this town? What need have you of it?’’

It laughed. ‘’I have no use of it.’’

Somehow, that statement was the most unnerving piece of information he had received so far. Carefully, he kept his voice calm, lest his nerves would fail him. It is bluffing, it has to be, that is just a thing shadows do. ‘’Then who does?’’

‘’You will know eventually.’’

’Who?’’

‘’Chalk instead of blood’’ it purred. Two runes remains, there is still time.

‘’WHO?!’’

‘’Water instead of wine’’ a single rune still held, and the elf watched with dread, as it started to flicker. ‘’Dirt instead of bones’’ the last light of the rune died with a soft hiss. ‘’Have you been taught nothing?’’

He ran.

___

 

For the second time that day -as he sprinted down a narrow path in the forest that hopefully led straight back into town- he felt himself bordering on slight panic.

The knowledge that it could –and should- have easily caught up by now bothered him greatly. It confused him. It is toying with you, playing with its dinner. His mind grumbled. Then let it work for the food. He growled right back and willed himself to press his body on faster than he had ever run before.

He had just vaulted himself over a large, overturned tree trunk that blocked the path he was currently storming down, when he spotted something round and metallic in the distance. What is-? he started. SAFE! His mind howled back.

Without thinking, he steered straight towards it, leaped, and tumbled into what turned out to be the end of a giant pipe. His bare feet soon found cold, hard concrete, which was quite uncomfortable to run on, but all things considered, he was not going to complain. Judging by the stale, yet significantly warmer air, it was clear that he was inside some kind of elaborate, seemingly abandoned, underground structure. Or rather, this part of it was abandoned. Or just not in use.

There was no light inside the tube, but he paid that fact little mind as he bolted down the increasingly dimming hallway, thick shadows slowly eating up what parts of the path he could see ahead.

He had just gotten a good four hundred meters in, when something in the air shifted and he knew the shadow had grown tired of their little chase game. At least we put up a fight. It almost had him, he knew that, but he refused to let that fact slow him down.

He rounded a corner and barely had time to register the shift in the atmosphere, nor the great ripple that went through him as he charged straight into unwelcome territory. He rounded another corner and clashed into something soft; said softness let out a surprised grunt as they both landed hard on the ground. The impact knocked all breath from his lungs, and he groaned low and painfully, as he slowly managed to roll off whatever it was he had crashed into.

''What in the-'' the soft thing wheezed and kicked the side of his leg. Safe his mind cheered. He had no energy left to give much more than a worn out yay in response.

The fae hesitantly got halfway up with an angry huff, brushing his clothes off harshly as he did so. ‘’Sportadork, what in the world do you think you are-‘’ he trailed off as he looked to a point behind Sportacus. The elf slowly turned his head and stared at the shadow that seemed trapped behind an invisible barrier. Robbies face went from angry to downright lethal. He slowly rose to his full height, body tense and shoulders squared, glaring at the flickering darkness that was hovering just a few meters away.

The shadow merely seemed amused.

Robbie stared intensely at it as he puffed up his chest, fists clenched tightly on either side of his body. He took in a harsh breath and all but roared out a single command.

‘’OUT!’’

Chapter Text

Robbie was angry. Actually, that was an understatement, he was furious.

The fae was pacing back and forth, arms swinging harshly around him as he made wild gestures. ‘’-and into my territory of all places, do you have no shame?’’

He was not really paying enough attention to what exactly Robbie was yelling, too stunned and relieved to focus properly.

‘’-even realize how lucky you are that my entire lair has been warded properly for years?’’

Sportacus slowly shook his head, trying to bring himself out of his stupor. He should pay attention, he really should but he was just so exhausted.

‘’-just about to take a nap when you came running and I thought, hey, what's an elf doing in a place like this, does he not have any common godsdamned senses, but then I recalled that that elf is you and then you bring that along and I'm forced to use precious energy on- ...’’

Robbie had stopped pacing. ‘’Are you even listening?’’ he yelled, more annoyed at this point than angry.

Sportacus, still on the floor, raked a hand through his damp hair before exhaling softly. ‘’I did not know where I was going, I did not know this is where I would end up.’’ he said, genuinely apologetic.

‘’You should have felt what kinda territory you were entering from a mile away.’’

‘’I was distracted.’’

‘’That is not an excuse.’’

‘’I-I… I am sorry. I did not mean to. Truly, I didn’t.’’ he said, and hung his head low with a shaky sigh. Like that, he made the perfect picture of a kicked puppy. Robbie regarded him for several moments, taking in just how miserable the elf looked, before taking the slightest bit of pity on him.

‘’Look, It is not the fact that you came in here, even if it was unannounced, it is the fact that you brought that with you.’’ he said and pointed to the mist that for all he knew, looked like it was watching a great sitcom unfold right in front of it. ‘’And what are you looking at, I told you to get out.’’ He growled at the mist, who merely chuckled back. ‘’Oh for the love of-‘’ the fae started, cutting himself off. ‘’Right then, guess I will have to see you out.’’ He quickly made a few swift movements with his right hand, before holding up his palm towards it. His eyes fell shut and face settled into that of deep concentration, before he murmured two words that – even for the elfs sensitive hearing - was too low to hear. The shadow vibrated slightly before it promptly vanished into thin air with a surprised huff. ‘’Talk about bad manners, wh-‘’

’Is it gone?’’ Sportacus asked, clearly awestruck and slightly confused. Surely, it could not have been that easy.

‘’Nah just banished for the moment. With that said, so should you be.’’ Robbie snapped, clearly annoyed at having been cut off.

‘’Robbie I-‘’

‘’Were extremely offensive, yes I know.’’

‘’I-… I am sorry.’’ The elf said, nervously rubbing his hands against each other. ‘’But-‘’

‘’You could at least have knocked.’’ Robbie commented dryly.

‘’I-…. There were- are more important matters at hand.’’

‘’Such as the fact that you ruined my nap?’’

‘’Robbie, the children-‘’

‘’Oh for the love of- do not bring up the children right now.’’

‘’No please, they-‘’

‘’Well, I do not care, I am quite tired, and I was going to take a nap and now I am going to, so leave. Thank you for your visit, now go. Get. Out’’ he hissed between clenched teeth. ‘’Go go, out you go.’’  He urged as he pushed the elf up and out of the hatch.

‘’But the shadow-‘’

‘’Is banished for the moment and besides, it was barely letting off any presence at all, you will be fine, now go.’’

‘’But-…Can I maybe stay here for the night?’’ Sportacus pleaded.

‘’No.’’ Robbie snapped and let the lid fall shut with a loud clank.

‘’Robbie please.’’

’We can talk in the morning Sport, now seriously, go.’’ Came the slightly muffled reply.

All things considered, that could have gone a lot worse. Breathe. You are still alive. You will be fine. He thought as he looked around anxiously for any sign of the return of his stalking foe.

 ___

 

-Airship - 37 minutes later-

Sportacus had always prided himself on not giving in to paranoia. It was a state of mind, which made you waste precious energy, which would eventually result in having none at all, when you finally needed it and by such, he refused to give in now.

The rest of the evening – after Robbie had gracefully kicked him out – had mercifully been rather uneventful. He had managed to go about his now rather surreal and horrific day, taking care of the rest of his daily routine, before finally collapsing on his bed with a tired yawn. He had not done nearly enough to deserve the rest but… Stop that. You cannot help them if you cannot even help yourself. They are inside. They are safe. His mind scolded. For now. He despaired right back.

He had just started to drift off to an uneasy rest, when something made his entire body shudder and tense, as he sensed a certain something, which had no right to come to a place like this.

Immediately he was alert and ready. It might not be-

"LIGHTS!" he all but roared, hoping it was the stress over current events and not an actual threat sending his instincts into overdrive.

A bright light quickly flooded the sterile room, chasing the shadows away as it progressed. The entirety of the room was free of any lingering, unwanted, creepy shadows and immediately some of the tension ebbed out of him.

He let out the breath, he had not realized that he had been holding, and forced his shoulders to relax as much as possible. The feeling of unease did not completely vanish and this time he begrudgingly allowed himself to blame it on paranoia. Just stressed. Overall, it would only make sense he thought bitterly albeit highly relieved, as he rubbed his face vigorously.

Wait. It is cold. One thing was being stressed another was to-

It's under my bed.

 ___

 

In retrospect, it was quite impressive just how fast, he had managed to vault out of his bed, pounce for the opening of his airship, and swiftly slam his fist down hard on the release for the door.

His ship had not been high up and after a brief glance over his shoulder – to see that yep, the shadow was indeed creeping towards him - he decided the best course of action was to simply let himself drop.

As his feet met solid ground, he let himself fall into a natural roll, before springing up and all but storm the small distance to Robbies lair. Despite the last departure from said location, he had decided to move his airship a bit closer to the villains lair, just in case.

Right now, he was overjoyed about that decision.

For the second time that day, he did not bother knocking, as he all but flung himself down the hatch and into the unwelcoming safety of the faes territory.

The fae in question had been lounging in his obnoxiously orange chair, when Sportacus hit and tumbled ungracefully to the ground. In his defense, he was becoming rather sleep deprived, and that he was even still on his feet was a small miracle. Robbie flailed around awkwardly in his chair, as he jerked awake with a startled gasp. ‘’Oh for the love of- what is it now?’’ he growled as he tore off his sleeping-mask. ‘’Sporta-‘’

‘’Please just hear me out.’’ The elf started, both hands quickly coming up in reconciliation. ‘’I just… I.’’ he trailed off weakly, shoulders dropping in defeat. ‘’I need help. I have no one else to go to.’’

‘’Considering it is your second unannounced visit today, I kinda noticed that.’’ Robbie snarked as he stifled a deep yawn. ‘’Should you not be asleep or something?’’

‘’I was, but the shadow-‘’

‘’Come on Sport, since when have you ever been afraid of lame shadows?’’ he yawned and stretched lazily before slowly getting up. ‘’Now, I need my sleep. Come on, I will show you out.’’ The fae had already closed the small distance to the hatch, hand reaching for the -do something, DO SOMETHING!

‘’It took Trixie.’’

Robbie stopped dead in his tracks, hand pausing awkwardly in midair. He blinked a few times in confusion before turning around slowly, actually paying attention now. Actually listening. ‘’What did you just-‘’

‘’It took her. She's gone.’’

Robbies eyes widened in stark shock. ‘’But. How?’’

‘’I don’t know.’’

‘’What…’’

’I don’t know, but the others are in danger.’’

‘’But it’s just a… Why did you not say anything sooner?’’

‘’I tried.’’

They both fell silent, clearly unsure of what to say. ‘’That…when you say… gone. Do you mean as in…‘’

‘’I am not sure, but I believe she is dead yes.’’

Another deafening beat of silence fell between them, this time heavier than before. Sportacus found himself looking anxiously around the messy lair, desperate for a distraction to just how horrible this whole ordeal was. His eyes fell on a small shelf to his right, full of metal jars that let off a small, barely there sensation of something. He briefly pondered what their-

‘’Why did I not sense a threat like this.’’ Robbies low voice cut into his musing. Sportacus looked over to see him anxiously rake a hand through his disheveled hair. ‘’It should have been… but it… Could it?’’ the elf crooked his head slightly to the side with a confused expression on his face, clearly not understanding what the fae was pondering on. ‘’No, it could not have, I would have known, but if I was… And if it… It was outside of the… oh. Oh!‘’ he loudly exclaimed with a baffled expression. The fae shook his head in wonder before explaining. ‘’My wards are designed to numb out exterior interference, that includes the senses too.’’ He mused, stroking his chin in deep thought. ‘’The closer it is to the barrier, the less I would be able to feel it, it is a sort of backwards system I know, but that way I can tell when something has gotten too close and I just… sorta forgot that that is how it works.’’

Sportacus slowly nodded, taking in the new information. ‘’Why did you not sense it in town then?’’ he asked.

‘’I... Erm…Guess it is the fact that I was asleep… Or maybe your panic overruled most of whatever it is its radiating, I am honestly not sure.’’ Robbie looked over with narrowed eyes. ‘’With that said, why did you not just immediately tell me it was hazardous?’’

‘’I tried.’’ Sportacus huffed, a little offended.

‘’Well dammit.’’ Robbies yapped and threw his hands up. ‘’Be a little more aggressive or something next time if-... Actually please do not be aggressive. Ever.’’

‘’Of course not.’’ Sportacus reassured and shook his head slightly. ‘’But please, will you help me?’’

‘’If I must be honest, no.’’

‘’Please.’’

‘’What exactly do I need to do?’’

‘’I… am not sure.’’

‘’Then it is kinda hard to help isn’t it.’’ Robbie asked with a raised eyebrow.

The elf took a deep, grounding breath before answering. ‘’You can keep them safe.’’

‘’And if I cannot?’’

‘’You warded your lair, it cannot enter here, you can keep them safe, I know you can.’’

Robbie fell silent for a few seconds, contemplating his words. ‘’What do I get out of this?’’ he finally asked.

‘’The children will be very grateful. And safe.’’

‘’You gotta sweeten the pot.’’

The elf sighed greatly, once again at a loss for what to say, before finally settling on the one thing he had wished to avoid. ‘’I will make a deal with you.’’

Robbie failed greatly to hide his stunned expression. ‘’Oh?’’ he started, looking highly amused. ‘’Well you got my attention.’’ He finished with a firm nod.

‘’So you will help?’’

‘’I will watch over them yes.’’ He nodded again in confirmation.

Sportacus looked at the ground, no longer eager to keep eye contact. This was strictly business and not the kind he very much enjoyed. ‘’What do you want in return?’’

The fae cracked a sinister smile, which quickly reminded Sportacus of just how dangerous said business actually was. ‘’A favor.’’

‘’What kind?’’ This could be bad. Very bad.

‘’Any kind. Big or small, it does not matter. Whatever I eventually ask for, you will do it.’’

He did not really have much of a choice and so he extended his hand out towards the smirking fae, still not meeting his eyes. A small charge ran up his arm as their hands clasped.

‘’Deal.’’

 ___

 

‘’So how are we going to do this?’’ Robbie asked as he casually sat back in his furry chair.

‘’Can you ward the town? Ward it like you did with your lair?’’

‘’You mean the whole town?’’

‘’Yes.’’

‘’Nope. Too much space to cover.’’

‘’But-‘’

‘’I agreed to watch the children, not the town itself.’’

True. Gods, his brother was a lot better at this whole thing. Come to think of it, he needed to send word to his brother about this whole ordeal.

‘’The ball court then. And their houses.’’

‘’I cannot do both at the same time.’’

‘’Then what do you suggest?’’

Robbie looked thoughtful for a moment before crossing his arms over his chest. ‘’Well, for starters, they are not safe, even if you did get them out of the open, which by the way, that part does not really make sense to me. If it is as swift as you say and can get in everywhere, why has it not done more than it already have?’’

Sportacus shook his head slightly. ‘’I do not know. It might be bored. Or… maybe it wants an audience?’’

Robbie shrugged casually as he mused over his words. ‘’We keep the ball court safe for now then until we know how to proceed. I can ward each child while they are there, but you have to trust me.’’

‘’How would you do it?’’ The elf immediately demanded.

‘’That is where the trust part comes in.’’ He said while smiling brightly. He – with a small struggle – got up and went over to fetch something, from a small jar, which had been placed under a small metal table somewhere to his left. ‘’Make them eat this.’’ He said with a smirk and handed four small packages of something to him.

‘’What is this?’’ Sportacus asked in a flat voice.

‘’Sugar!’’ The fae exclaimed proudly, confirming the elfs suspicion. ‘’And a few extra things mixed in! Make sure they eat it all. I cannot sense if they do not and it is highly important that they do.’’

Sportacus nodded slowly, examining the treats closer. ‘’And this is safe?’’ He pressed.

‘’Completely.’’ Robbie assured before narrowing his eyes slightly at the elf. ‘’But seriously, I really do need to sleep and as things are, you cannot stay.’’ Robbie quickly held up a hand, silencing the protests that Sportacus was about to voice. ‘’But I am not kicking you out without any kind of defense, just… give me a moment.’’ He said and walked over to fetch something from one of the strange, metal jars the elf had been examining earlier. ‘’Give me your hand.’’ He demanded.

Robbie placed and fastened a cold piece of fabric, which was dripping with something, around the wrist that Sportacus held out. The fae quickly placed his hands around it, murmuring something, which sent a small shiver down the elfs spine.

‘’What is that?’’ Sportacus asked as he traced the purple stitches. The energy he felt emanating from it somehow seemed... unhappy to be near him.

‘’Basic magic that shields your presence from a shadow. A little while back I wanted to make something directly against possession, but I never really got around to it, so for now, this will have to do. If a shadow comes, for once in your wretched life, stay still. As long as you do not move, it cannot sense or see you.’’ He examined it closer for a moment before giving a firm, self-satisfied nod. ‘’It will hold.’’ He mumbled, more to himself than the elf.

‘’Thank you. I appreciate this.’’ Sportacus said sincerely.

‘’I am not doing this for your sake alone.’’ Robbie huffed. ‘’If I am not mistaken, if you are taken, this thing will get the knowledge you possess and considering you have seen the inside of my lair, I would rather not risk it.’’

The elf - despite the hardness of the day and the seriousness of the situation - chuckled slightly at that. ‘’It is appreciated nonetheless.’’

Robbie seemed deep in thought for a moment, before backing away from the elf a bit. ‘’If we are going to do this, there are going to be a few ground rules.’’ he began, crossing his arms over his chest. ‘’I do not want you in my lair, so you will not come here unless we have agreed on it or you are moments from death. Secondly, if I want to nap, I am going to nap no matter the circumstances or what time of day it is.’’

‘’Sounds fair’’ Sportacus said with a small shrug before sighing greatly. ‘’I need to send word to my brother. He... needs to hear about this.’’

Robbie gave a firm nod in acknowledgement. ‘’Sounds like a great cause of action. If the situation is as bad as it sounds like, then I got someone I should probably send for too.’’

‘’Oh?’’ Sportacus exclaimed, failing to conceal his surprise.

’What, you thought I was some lonely hermit? I prefer my solitude, it has not been forced on me, thank you very much.’’ He snapped, obviously offended.

The elf quickly held up both hands in reconciliation. ‘’Pardon, I did not mean it like-‘’

‘’Yes you did.’’

‘’Okay... maybe I did, but-‘’

‘’Can we just get on with it like, right now.’’

’I… Yes. Yes of course.’’ He croaked out lamely, feeling the tips of his ears going red. ‘’So I will see you tomorrow at the ball court?’’ he asked, keen on steering the topic back on safe territory.

The fae huffed slightly, still visibly annoyed. ‘’Yeah, see you then, now please for the love of the gods, get out.’’

 ___

 

Sportacus felt the tiniest glimpse of hope arise in his chest as he – for the second time that day - left through the hatch of Robbies lair. They will be safe. It will be all right.

He hoped it was true.

Chapter Text

Sportacus woke for the first time in years without feeling truly rested.

He had managed to get out of bed and go about his daily routine, without any signs of unwanted intruders – or rather intruder - before exiting his airship with a tired yawn - which was now situated directly above Robbies hideout. He trusted that the small ward around his wrist would be enough but... Just in case.

He let the ladder get just about halfway down, before letting go and gracefully landed on the roof of the lair - just beside the hatch leading down into the safe, yet still unwelcoming territory.

He quickly took a deep breath, before raising his closed fist to bang hard and enthusiastically on the hatch.

When no one answered, he effortlessly opened it up wide with one hand and leaned over the edge of it. ‘’Robbie!’’ He called down.

A startled gasp, followed by an annoyed huff reached him. ‘’Are you moments away from dying?’’ The fae yapped back.

‘’No?’’ the elf called back a bit hesitant.

‘’Then what are you doing here?’’

Sportacus frowned slightly while letting out a great sigh. ‘’We have a deal, you will help me today.’’ He called down. ‘’Remember?’’

’Oh. Right’’ Came the groggy reply. It sounded like Robbie was doing his best to stifle a deep yawn, before he continued on a barely audible mumble. ‘’Guess I will.’’

A few small, metallic clanks accompanied by small grunts of effort, predicted the arrival of one tired fae.

Sportacus could not help but feel a small pang of relief, as the top of Robbies disheveled, ascending head came into view and proceeded up and out over the side of the hatch. With a great deal of effort, the fae tiredly pushed himself the rest of the way up, and all but hauled himself out of the pipe and onto the cool roof surrounding it.

For a few moments, he simply paused to catch his breath, before settling into a deep, lazy stretch - this time failing to suppress the yawn. The fae looked downright haggard.

‘’Did you sleep at all?’’ Sportacus asked in a soft and slightly worried voice.

‘’No.’’

‘’Why not?’’

Robbie regarded him with a silent stare for several moments, looking as though the elf had just asked him if water was in fact wet. ‘’I already have trouble sleeping and then you barge in telling me there is a shadow killing our kids. Put two and two together Sport.’’ He gruffed out.

Robbie swiftly pushed away from the hatch and stalked past him, signaling with his right hand for the elf to follow. The elf in question was quick to obey and fell into a somewhat comfortable pace, right beside the now quiet fae.

It had only been a couple of minutes full of an unsure silence between the two, before Sportacus’ mind started to wander. While he had in fact managed to catch some sleep after arriving back to his airship, the sleep that had eventually claimed him had been light and uneasy.

As he had woken up, he had allowed himself a few minutes in bed to just lie still in peace and hope. Hope that this whole ordeal had been but a bad dream. That he would still get to see Trixie and the others as usual. That he would not have to think of how to explain this to the kids, when he himself did not fully understand what had happened. But this wasn't a dream. This was real but it did not-

‘’You okay there Sport?’’ Robbies tired voice cut through his musing.

The elf looked up at the fae, who, to his surprise, was actually looking slightly concerned. Sportacus absently scratched the back of his head. ‘’Yeah just...’’ he trailed off, not sure on how to explain his train of thought. ‘’It-…’’

Robbie stayed patiently silent as they walked side by side.

‘’This does not feel real’’ he finally admitted. ‘’None of it does. I do not even know what happened and yet I was there.’’

‘’We will figure it out.’’ Robbie said confidently before beaming a bright, albeit worn, smile at him. ‘’Did you bring the pouches?’’

The elf reached into a pocket to retrieve the wanted items. He held it out to the fae, who after a quick extermination gave a small nod in confirmation. ‘’Good. Make sure they eat them.’’ He said while pinning the elf with a stern glance.

Sportacus gave a firm nod in acknowledgment, before storing them safely away again.

‘’Really though.’’ Robbie started solemnly. ‘’It is kinda hard to ward against something I do not even know what is.’’ He said while stifling another yawn. ‘’Those four will be a solid start, but do we even have a clue as to what this thing is?’’

Sportacus shook his head slightly, suddenly feeling several decades older than he actually was. ‘’I am not sure…’’

Robbie gave a small, thoughtful nod before continuing in a slightly worried voice. ‘’I just hope I can banish it a second time if it becomes necessary.’’

‘’What do you mean?’’ the elf immediately demanded, heart sinking slightly in his chest.

‘’I just… I have a bad feeling I took it by surprise. If it is prepared next time, things could get… messy.’’

‘’Messy…’’ Sportacus parroted weakly. A child is most likely dead and you say ‘messy.’ ‘’Have you ever seen anything like that before?’’

‘’Maybe I have, but I hardly paid any attention to it.’’ He replied meekly. ‘’I should have.’’ He said, more to himself than the elf.

‘’It is not your fault.’’ Sportacus quickly said.

‘’And neither is it yours, but you do not believe that.’’

The silence that fell around them was anything but comfortable. It seemed to stretch on for years before the elf finally found his voice.

‘’I am their guardian.’’ He exclaimed sternly.

‘’And you are up against something you do not know what is.’’

‘’It is still my responsibility, they are my responsibility.’’

‘’And you have done everything you could.’’

‘’Which was not en-‘’

‘’Okay no, Sport stop.’’ Robbie yapped loudly, both hands reaching out to tightly grab the elf by his shoulders. ‘’I know how I look right now, but have you seen yourself recently?’’

Sportacus regarded him silently for several moments. ‘’What do you mean?’’

‘’You look as bad as I do and that is saying a lot. If you want to help them, you have to snap out of it.’’ He said while tightening the grip on the hands still holding the elf in place.

They stared at each other for a long while, both refusing to back down.

Several moments passed like that, before Robbie finally rolled his eyes loudly. ‘’Oh why do I bother, you are the hero, right, you know what is best, of course you do, silly me.’’ He hollered while throwing his arms up and out as he ranted on. ‘’Fear not!’’ he yelled out to no one in particular. ‘’The big, great Sportacus is here to save us all! After he takes a nap.’’

‘’Robbie.’’

‘’What?’’ The fae spun around and pointed a long finger in the elfs general direction.

‘’You are being overly dramatic.’’

‘’I did not sleep and I do not care.’’ He barked while somehow managing to gesture around possibly wilder than before. ‘’You are being a nit about this and I cannot stand it.’’

’Ro-‘

‘’Nope! You asked for my help, the drama is part of the package, now can we please get on with it.’’ With those words, his vociferous behavior came to an abrupt end, as he spun on his heal and stomped away in the direction of the ball court.

For several moments, all Sportacus could do was stare dazed after Robbies tense, retrieving back. He shook his head slowly in bewilderment before quickly setting into a half jog, in order to catch up with the annoyed fae.

--

 

To say that he was nervous was an understatement.

He willed himself to take a deep grounding breath, before taking off at a sprint, as soon as the ball court came into view.

One, two, three and… four.

None had been taken in the night. They were all here. Unharmed. Alive. He thought. Or almost all of them. His mind coldly reminded him.

Stephanie was the first to notice his arrival as she all but sprang to her feet and quickly strode towards him. Not sure of what to say, he merely gave a quick, confident nod in greeting, before letting the breath he did not realize he had been holding, slip out. This is real. Snap out of it.

Stephanie was fidgeting with her hands, seemingly as lost for words as he was. She kept her gaze downcast and did not move at all, before he gently started to kneel down slowly, as if not to spook her. The events of the day before had no doubt been terrifying for all and it showed in the way she gulped slightly, as he finally met her at eyelevel. She however, failed to muster the courage to return his gaze and instead looked slightly to the side; stricken with fascination at whatever she had laid eyes on on the ground.

She wanted to ask, but she did not dare. She deserves to know. His mind urged gently. He wanted to protest that he did not know either.

‘’Where is Trixie?’’ She finally huffed out, hands falling limp and powerless by her sides.

‘’I do not know.’’

‘’You promised.’’

‘’And I will keep that promise, but you have to give me more time.’’

She looked as though she wanted to protest against the demand, but stayed mercifully silent. The consequence was however obvious, as for the first time since he had gotten to know her, the look she threw at him was full of suspicion and uncertainty. She does not trust you. He could hardly blame her.

‘’I will figure it out.’’

‘’Promise?’’

‘’Promise.’’

Silence grew between them as she rocked back and forth on her heels, before the child all but flung herself forward and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.

‘’I trust you.’’ She uttered with great enthusiasm. Albeit her cheeriness was obviously forced, he was immensely grateful for it. He willed a smile on his face and stood back up, just as Robbie came into view.

The fae positioned himself in a cross-legged pose on one of the low walls directly beside the small group; face relaxed and hands planted solid on each side of him. ‘’Refrain from talking to me unless you want them to think you have lost your marbles.’’ He quickly snapped before a faint purple glow shone around him.

‘’What?’’ Sportacus asked in confusion.

‘’They cannot see me.’’ Robbie smirked mischievously before letting his eyes fall shut.

The elf was about to answer before the words caught up with him. Invisible. Right. Mouth hanging open, the first part of that statement suddenly hit him. Wait he can turn invisible?  ‘’Uhm.’’ Stephanie’s small voice sounded to his left, accompanied by a small tug on his arm. ‘’Are you actually okay?’’. He willed himself to snap out of his musing, as he realized that he had been – from her point of view – staring at empty air.

He quickly gave a small shrug before refocusing completely on her. ‘’I am all right Stephanie, no worries.’’

She squinted her eyes and looked highly unconvinced. ‘’You are acting really strange.’’

‘’I must admit I did not get a lot of sleep last night.’’ He admitted while settling into his typical ‘hands on hips’ pose.

‘’Did Robbie mess with you again?’’ She whispered suspiciously, likewise placing her hands on her hips and successfully mirroring his pose.

The elf let out a chuckle as he fondly recalled the rather tuneful tennis ball incidence. ‘’Something like that, yes.’’ To his right, the fae in question let out an offended huff at the obvious lie. In response, Sportacus felt a small vibration emanate from the pouches, as if reminding him of what he was supposed to do. He took a deep breath, retrieved them from his pocket and quickly held them out to the small group.

 ‘’What’s that?’’ Stingy immediate pipped up.

‘’It looks like candy?’’ Ziggy suggested hopefully.

‘’Come on, Sportacus would not give us candy.’’ Pixel quickly chimed in as he too drew nearer to the elf and the offered treats in question.

The elf felt himself smile at the carefree banter. ‘’It does actually have sugar in it.’’ He admitted.

All four gasped in shock.

’What?’’ Stephanie uttered appalled.

‘’But it’s good for us right?’’ Pixel questioned. ‘’Otherwise you would not be giving it to us.’’

‘’Of course.’’ Sportacus agreed while giving Pixel a grateful smile. ‘’It will give your immune system a boost!’’ Boom. There. That would make sense. He could do this.

Relief washed over him as he watched Stingy all but rip one of the pouches from his hand, muttering an indignant ‘’Mine’’ before quickly devouring the small treat. The other three judged his reaction before each claiming, opening and consuming their own.

‘’They taste... not bad…’’ Stephanie mused while wrinkling her nose as some kind of aftertaste hit her. ‘’Just… weird.’’

‘’They are Sweet.’’ Ziggy agreed with glee.

‘’But… Sour.’’ Pixel complained.

‘’Are you sure this is okay?’’ Stephanie asked, looking slightly worried.

‘’Just this once.’’ He reassured with a small nod. She did not look convinced.

‘’Alright!’’ He uttered and clasped his hands together, feeling a small bit of energy return to him after a job well done. ‘’time for exercise!’’

To his left, Robbie let out an exaggerated groan as the elf went and fetched a basketball.

With his attention elsewhere, he did not see that Stephanie had quickly leaned over the side of the small wall and spat the remains of her treat back out.

Chapter Text

Sportacus had managed to work up quite a sweat, when Robbies worn out voice reached him. ‘’Wards are set up; my physical presence is enough to maintain it for now. Good night.’’ He called out loudly before reaching a hand under his vest, to retrieve a pillow and two rather large balls of fluffy, orange fur, which he quickly stuffed into his ears and promptly lied down. The elf briefly wondered where exactly the fae had kept them - after all, his vest had been completely flat, and surely, judging by the size of the lumps and the entire pillow, there should at least have been a tiny bump to indicate what had just been hiding underneath it. Does he keep more stuff under there?

Judging from all he had already seen, combined with the newfound knowledge of just how strong Robbies grip on magic was, he did not doubt it. The elf shook his head in fond bewilderment while delicate, small snores started to fill the air, coming in the direction of the now sleeping fae.

So far so good.

A big grin spread across the elfs face as his left hand shot out and caught the ball, as it was about to whistle past his head. He quickly set in motion down towards the other side of the court and successfully scored a goal.

’Scooore!’’ Pixel cheered loudly while Stingy threw his hands in the air and loudly whined about how it just was not fair. The game continued for a good twenty more minutes before Ziggy promptly decided he had indeed had enough and sat down against the same wall Robbie was currently occupying. The other three quickly joined him in the much-deserved relaxation. Besides, a team of three kids vs one – albeit sleep deprived – elf hardly seemed fair.

‘’Good game guys!’’ Sportacus praised as he too sat down and started into a serious of stretches. ‘’I do believe that is enough for today.’’

Pixel and Stephanie promptly high-fived each other while Ziggy took the opportunity to weakly lie all the way down on the ground.

‘’Dude you okay there?’’ Pixel twisted his head and asked a bit concerned.

Ziggy raised both arms a bit before letting them drop down again with a heavy ‘thunk’. ‘’Yep, all good.’’

‘’You sure?’’ Stephanie asked as she quickly got up to fetch some water for their downed comrade. ‘’Better?’’ she asked after making sure he had downed it all.

‘’Much!’’ Ziggy agreed.

‘’Well, it’s getting pretty late though, I think I’ll leave for the day.’’ Pixel announced. ‘’Hey Steph, wanna come with and play some games at my place?’’

‘’Sure!’’

‘’Alright, see you tomorrow Sportacus!’’ Pixel quickly called over his shoulder as he reached down to help the girl up.

‘’Can I join in?’’ Stingy pipped up as he quickly ran after the two.

‘’Of course.’’ Stephanie and Pixel agreed in unison.

‘’See you tomorrow!’’ Sportacus called after the small departing group, just as Stephanie threw one last unsure look in his direction. He kept his gaze firm but gentle, as he nodded once in acknowledgement and it seemed to be enough. She finally cracked a small smile and waved goodbye.

With a heavy sigh, he finally allowed himself to feel and acknowledge, the fatigue that had crept into his muscles over the course of the workout. It would not be long, before he no longer could ignore the fact that his energy levels were way past his limits, but as it was, they still had work to do and so he had to soldier on.

Just a little further. Just a bit more, he could rest then and Trixie’s disappearance would not be- None of this felt real. He should probably be a lot more worried about that than he currently was, but considering the situation at hand, he felt, at least for the moment, that it was excusable.

For several moments, all he could do was to just stand and breathe, unsure of how to proceed. He had to write his brother as soon as possible, but should he do anything else first or was that the main priority? Considering the reluctance the general part of the court had shown in taking any part of this… Whatever this was, was he then to instead focus on the safety and warding of the town, or was it best to try to push through with those that actually had a real fighting chance? And what if they cannot do anything, what then? You give the responsibility over to those who care not and then what happens? It is not like this whole mess is an isolated case- He shook his head greatly in frustration – the death of a greedy family attacked by a group of wild fae was perhaps a very grim case, but this was nothing like that, the court could not straight up just ignore this… But they kind of had, had they not? Several months had already past with the knowledge that something was on the rise and just now we are made aware and suddenly - the ball fell from his numb fingers and softly bounced across the ground, startling him greatly. He felt himself stare stupidly at it as it hit the wall and rolled back towards the center of the court. Focus. Keep your focus Sport. His mind gently urged as he felt his eyes start to burn from how dry they were getting.

He breathed hard into his hands and made the decision. You still have work to do, do not lose it now.

With a final, deep, grounding breath, he went over to the still snoozing fae - when in doubt, two heads were better than one, especially when half of that was close to collapsing - reached out a hand and shook him gently.

Robbie immediately stirred to the light touch on his shoulder; eyes flew open at once, tired and unseeing. He did not see who had touched him, but simply registered that someone had.’Don’t touch me!’’ he gasped out and Sportacus watched in horror as the fae nearly fell off the wall from how desperately he trashed in order to get away.

The elf quickly took two wide steps back, hands flying up in confused reconciliation as he tried to appear as non-threatening as possible. ‘’I won’t.’’ he quickly promised, not understanding what had been triggered, but understanding that something had.

Robbie still seemed far away, not yet registering his surroundings – partly since his ears were still blocked out from most of the surrounding sound - but he gave a small, jerky nod to indicate that he had heard the reassurance.

Sportacus, knowing the best remedy was the calm silence that he could indeed offer, stayed silent, willing the fae to take as much time as he needed. Several moments passed like that, before the dazed fae seemed to realize the where and who. He slowly sat all the way up and let out a heartbreakingly distressed ‘’Oh.’’ Into his still shaky hands.

‘’Robbie I-‘’

‘’Don’t.’’ the fae snapped, sounding far more tired than angry as he quickly removed the fur from his ears and unceremoniously let them drop to the ground below. They both fell silent before Robbie sighed and continuing in a much more soft and gentle tone ‘’I’m fine, just… give me a minute elf.’’

Sportacus was not going to argue with that and instead sat down with his back to the wall, purposely turning his front away from the other.

‘’This is not something you should in any way feel ashamed over.’’ He began as carefully as he could. ‘’If you need to talk-‘’

‘’I don’t.’’

The elf nodded once in affirmation and quickly added an understanding ‘’Okay.’’ Once he realized that Robbie could in fact not see the gesture.

They both stayed silent for a few more minutes, before Robbie suddenly swung his legs over the wall and stood up. ‘’We still have work to do.’’ He yapped as he snatched up his pillow and jerkily pushed himself away from the wall to stalk off in the direction of his lair. ‘’Come along elf!’’ he called back rather harshly, not bothering to check if the elf was indeed following.

If his voice was still a bit shaky, the elf was not going to comment on it.

--

 

The walk back was spend in a silence so thick - which Sportacus was doing his best not to break - that the sudden words spoken from Robbie made him visibly jerk in surprise. ‘’I gotta nap later.’’ The fae grumbled sleepily before settling into a deep yawn. ‘’It’s highly exhausting.’’

‘’The no-sleep or the glowy thing?’’ Sportacus asked with a raised brow.

‘’Yes, the glowy thing is exhausting, how very eloquent.’’ Robbie huffed and rolled his eyes. ‘’Glowy thing.’’ He mimicked in a ludicrous voice before shaking his head in something, which almost came close to fond bewilderment.

Several moments passed in a strangely pleasant silence before the fae mumbled something too low for him to catch.

‘’Sorry what?’’

‘’The… thing too. It is… exhausting.’’

Sportacus felt his brow narrow in slight confusing. ‘’What… thing?’’

Robbie shrugged slightly before answering. ‘’You know, the-’’ he cut himself off while gesturing to his own head and around in a circular pattern as though it would make the elf understand what he was trying to explain. ‘’the panicky thing.’’ He finally settled with an annoyed huff.

They walked together for a while in a weird kind of silence that his sleep-deprived mind could not quite place.

‘’Did you…’’ he trailed off, unsure of how to voice it properly. ‘’Want to talk about the-‘’

‘’No.’’ the fae sharply cut him off. ‘’But now you know it is there and you can kindly ignore it.’’

‘’Robbie that is hardly healthy.’’

‘’And it is also none of your business.’’

The elf sighed greatly but did not raise any verbal complaints. Pick your fights Sport. His mind gently advised. Yeah but at least he has admitted that it is there. Granted, we already knew that, but it has to count for something in regards to trust. Right?

‘’Stop thinking about it.’’ Robbie snapped just as the outer parts of the lair came into view.

‘’I was not-‘’

‘’Yes you were.’’ The fae – correctly –accused as he ascended the ladder and swiftly made his way to the hatch. ‘’Focus on what matters.’’ He barked as he opened the hatch and jumped inside.

‘’You matter as well Robbie, seriously if you need to talk-‘’

‘’But I do not and you will shut up right now or who knows.’’ He hissed, just as Sportacus landed once more on the floor of the faes lair, in a voice that was becoming increasingly more unpleasant by the second. The unwelcome tingle still clung to him, but it seemed slightly lessened from the last time he had visited. ‘’Who knows, I might disable that sweet little ward of mine – at this he gestured vaguely towards the elfs wrist – and watch a little cat and mouse unfold.’’ He drawled as he turned and made his way over to a table with two chairs that had been set up in the center of the room, not far from the oversized, orange one he usually slept in. ‘’Who. Knows.’’

The elf stopped dead in his tracks. ‘’You…’’ he trailed off uncertainly as he stared at the other. ‘’You would not actually do that, right?’’ His lair is still warded so if he actually does that… No, he still needs you to uphold your part of the deal. He would not-

Robbies defeated sigh ripped him straight from his slightly panicky musing.

For a few seconds, all Sportacus could do was stare as the faes shoulders slumped dramatically before said fae picked up a rather large cake-knife. ‘’Of course not.’’ He finally grumbled out and proceeded to cut himself a rather large piece of cake; frosting spilling over the sides in thick, heavy chunks. ‘’I am tired, cranky and already quite tired of your presence.’’

This rapid change in behavior was seriously going to give him a headache.

The elf took a deep breath and willed his hands to stop shaking. ‘’And that is enough to warrant a death threat?’’ he asked tiredly.

Robbie set down his plate, a bit harshly, on the table and made a great show of flopping down into one of the chairs. When a whole minute had passed with the only sound being that of the others ludicrous mastication, it quickly became apparent that yep, it was indeed enough.

The elf rolled his eyes as hard as he possibly could before groaning into his hands. This was going to be hard.

‘’Robbie that is-‘’

’’Nope, no comments on my diet.’’ He snapped and quickly stuffed his face with as much cake as his mouth could possibly hold. ‘’Sit down.’’ He gruffed out between delighted munches and gestured to the prepared chair in front of him, before the elf could comment any further about the fact that it was the apparent threats on his life and not the sugary treats he had wanted to comment further on.

The elf quickly sat down and gazed at the prepared items in front of him. He gingerly took a feathered pen in hand and unfolded a piece of parchment to lay in front of himself. He tried a few test-strokes and found that a deep, rich ink somehow flowed freely from the tip and onto the paper below, despite none was clearly visible on the tip itself. He held it closer to his face and if Robbie had not interrupted him, he would have happily examined it further.

‘’So.’’ The fae started once his mouth was somewhat cake-free. ‘’You say this might be on a global scale, but does anyone know, what is actually going on?’’

Sportacus shrugged while looking slightly hangdog. ‘’Whatever it is, it is big.’’ He admitted, unsure of what to say. ‘’People are disappearing and we do not know why.’’ He mumbled, putting the pen back down on the table, until it was actually going to be useful.

‘’So you know the ‘what’… or you have an idea of the ‘what’, but not the ‘how’ and most importantly ‘why’.’’ Robbie concluded and Sportacus nodded solemnly.

Truth be told, at this point, Robbie knew as much as he did on the matter at hand. You did however make a deal and one have already done his part. His mind once again reminded him on a whisper. He will not be cruel. He urged back.

As it was, and with the one-side-concluded deal in mind, there was no longer any real reason for him to stay and chat unless it was for Robbie to claim his price.

And yet, over the course of the joined efforts of the day – if one looked away from the ridiculous threats of literal death that had been thrown on the table - something had changed between them, either for better or worse. The fae seemed a lot more inclined to help with this, than Sportacus had originally thought he would, and perhaps he would help see it through all the way to the end. Whatever and whenever that ‘end’ was.

Therefore, he was only slightly surprised, when the silence that fell between them this time, did not feel completely uncomfortable. They stared at each other for several moments, neither too keen on breaking this new, strange truce.

‘’The kids are safe.’’ Robbie finally stated in a carefully soft voice.

The elf felt himself nod in appreciation, knowing it held true. ‘’So what do we do now, should we spread the word?’’

Robbie huffed tiredly and regarded the idea before answering. ‘’What difference would it make to let people know, it is not as if this is something they can actually fight.’’

The elf mused on that for a moment. It was true, but- ‘’Perhaps...not if we are divided. However, this... this... realm?’’ He made a circulating motion with his hand, trying to comprehend the weight of what they could be, and were, possibly facing. ‘’Holds some quite powerful creatures... What if we managed to spread the word, let forces unite... while we prepare for the inevitable?’’

‘’And what is the inevitable?’’ The fae asked with a raised eyebrow.

‘’I do not know, but whatever will happen, I wish to be prepared.’’

Robbie nodded slowly, as he put down his fork, and regarded him for several silent moments. Suddenly, the realization of the other part, of what the elf had applied, hit him. ‘’Wait, you mean gather elf and fae?’’

‘’For starters, yes.’’

The fae hummed in agreement, while a small smile settled on his face. He twirled the fork a few times against his now empty plate before answering. ‘’Maybe it would be possible.’’ he mused in wonder, but just as quickly as the tone had turned hopeful, it turned scoffing. ‘’But considering how most of the powerful races despise each other, I doubt we could 'unite' them.’’ he said while gesturing wildly with his hands. ‘’Most creatures would rather kill each other, than have to fight side by side, let alone be in the same room together.’’

Sportacus looked at him solemnly. ‘’And yet, here you and I sit, invested in calm conversation.’’ he pointed out.

‘’That is different' Robbie quickly snapped.

‘’How so?’’

‘’I...we-‘’ Robbie tried, hands stilling midsentence. ‘’It just IS.’’ He exclaimed, clearly angered. ‘’Or do you wish for that to change?’’ He barked and looked sourly at Sportacus through narrowed eyes.

The elf only had a small moment to mourn the possible loss, of whatever fragile peace had settled between them only moments ago. ‘’Of course not Robbie, that would be the last thing I wanted.’’ He raised his hands slightly in reconciliation, before letting them fall slack and heavy back into his lap.

The room once again fell silent, the elf looking slightly forlorn, and gaze downcast.

‘’Look...  I did not mean it like that.’’ Robbie surrendered slightly. ‘’It is just... this thing, this arrangement you suggest is too grand, it is just... too huge.’’ He sighed.

The elf allowed himself a tiny, hopeful grin before countering. ‘’Then let us start small. We could make a list of those we believe would aid us in spreading the word. Start small, move bigger as time progresses?’’ he tried.

‘’I suppose.’’ Robbie replied while running a hand through his hair, slightly ruining its careful styling. -Sportacus briefly wondered when he had had time to put it in order, seeing as he had not once seen the other touch it. Actually, come to think of it, had it not been disheveled just as they had arrived back to- ‘’Maybe you are right, maybe we should start with our own races then, after all, both fae and elves are plentiful, while they are... usually unreliable, especially towards each other.’’

Sportacus chuckled slightly, hoping his next words was not a complete repetition of his previous ones. ‘’So far, I have only seen good from the fae and they seem quite keen on helping. For a price of course.’’ He finished lamely.

‘’Exactly.’’ Robbie replied while narrowing his eyes in sudden suspicion. ‘’For a price. Come to think of it, have you actually met any other fae than me?’’ He asked.

‘’Of cou-‘’ Sportacus started but stopped midsentence. ‘’I... I uh...’’

‘’You have not.’’ Robbie finished for him.

‘’I... no. No, I do not believe I have.’’ He admitted.

‘’Then how do you believe my race to be 'good' if you have had no true encounters?’’

‘’I have met you?’’ The elf tried.

‘’As I said. It is different between you and I.’’ Robbie started. ‘’And trust me, the rest of my race is not nearly as forgiving as I am. To be honest, had I been among my Unseelie kin throughout the entirety of my childhood, I doubt I would have let you live after what you did.’’ Robbie growled lowly making the elf recoil slightly.

‘’You know I meant no offense with what I-‘’ Sportacus started before the fae cut him off sharply.

‘’But you were.’’

This time the silence that spread between them seemed to be eternal, while both parts mused on what was ahead. Neither seemed in a hurry to break it, but somehow, this silence was - just like the previous one - a lot let tense than he had expected.

‘’So...’’ Sportacus tried in a small voice, clearly relieved when the fae turned his head slightly towards him. ‘’Should we start on that list?’’

---

 

- 2 hours and 7 minutes later – Somewhere in the forest -

 

‘’Are you sure about this?’’ Sportacus asked a bit dubious.

‘’Completely.’’ Robbie reassured while grinning brightly at him. Like that, he looking almost like the very embodiment of confidence

‘’I mean, it is just that this creature-‘’

‘’Sport. No delays. Just do it.’’

The elf sighed deeply before squaring his shoulders. ‘’Still, should we not rather start with our own-‘’

‘’Sport, we already talked about this, it makes sense to go for this one first. Ready?’’

Sportacus gave a brief, but firm nod before raising his hand out in front of him. He slowly relaxed his fingers, allowing the small, lit branch to fall down into the waiting cauldron below. Small sparks immediately rose and crackled, as the dried herbs made contact with the flame. Sparks became small flames and small flames quickly escalated into a small, controlled inferno. Here we go. He thought, getting an ugly sense of déjà vu. Robbie had been kind enough to go and retrieve his Athame and other tools that he had left behind after his last misadventure into the occult, and so it was his own familiar gear he was using this second time around.

‘’Relax Sport, it is only a mare we are summoning, not some big shot.’’ Robbie said soothingly in front of him.

Despite the seriousness of the situation they found themselves in, the elf could not help but let out an indecent, loud snort. ‘’No no, it is only the embodiment of a nightmare. Nothing big at all.’’ He joked albeit in a voice void of any real humor.

‘’I was not aware you were even able to be sarcastic.’’ Robbie laughed cheerfully.

Sportacus shrugged. ‘’I just worry this is a mistake.’’ He said solemnly.

‘’It will not be.’’

‘’But-‘’

‘’Sport just trust me, if anyone has seen someone get taken and if it is as horrific as you describe it, they are bound to have nightmares about it. It makes a lot of sense to summon the creature that would eventually feed of that misery. If not, we would not be doing this.’’

It made sense, but he still did not like it. This was too risky, too-

‘’Sport. Look at me.’’ Despite himself, the elf looked up and immediately felt a small shiver run down his spine, as he looked up and met Robbies intense but comforting gaze. ‘’It will not harm us. And if it tries, I will not let it.’’

He gave a small nod in acknowledgement, appreciating the comfort and reassurance. You can do this. We can do this. He forced himself to take a deep breath before letting himself slip back into the familiar trance of a summoning ritual. Say the words. Form the incantation. Beckon it. His mind purred.

‘’Come to us.’’

Nothing happened for several moments as both elf and fae seemed to hold their breath in anticipation.

Something was off, but not in the way the shadow had seemed wrong to him. This was… something else entirely. It was different, but he could not seem to place a finger as to what was so ominous about the sudden lack off… There is no sound. No birds sang, nor did any gentle sounds of the small stream nearby reach them.

Even the wind itself had seemed to still.

Both elf and fae seemed to have deducted that fact at the same time, and both were now staring intensely at each other, searching for even the slightest change in the other. The wards were strong but if they did not hold…

Suddenly, Sportacus felt the telltale chill creep up his back; not in the creepy manner, he had experienced the last couple of times, but still enough to make him violently shiver. Robbie seemed to feel it too.

‘’Robbie?’’ He asked hesitantly.

‘’Still here.’’

The chill went away.

The birds started singing again.

‘’Did it work?’’ The elf asked in a soft, barely audible voice.

‘’I do not know. Something happened, but it is not what I expected.’’ Robbie admitted and ran a shaky hand through his damp hair. ‘’I do not know about you, but I get the feeling we should wrap this up and leave as soon as possible. Actually, preferably right now.’’

Sportacus felt himself nod, unsure of what to say. ‘’Are we in danger?’’ he asked, not sure if he actually wanted to know the answer.

‘’No.’’ The fae stated with sincere confidence. ‘’Whatever just happened was more of a test than anything else and I do not... I do not believe we passed it.’’

The elf nodded again as he sat down hard on the cool ground. He slowly lowered his head to let it rest in his hands and allowing himself to slow down and just breathe.

‘’You okay Sport?’’ the fae asked over his shoulder, hands occupied as they quickly threw sand into the cauldron in order to quench the fire.

‘’Yeah.’’ The elf replied meekly while running a hand through his hair. ‘’What do we do now?’’

‘’Next one on the list I suppose.’’ The fae replied casually as he turned in a small circle and with one hand made three quick circular gestures, successfully closing the circle. ‘’It might be gone, but again, that does not mean we should linger.’’ He was oddly cheerful as he held out a hand and helped the elf stand.

‘’Come now, it will be okay.’’ He said and enthusiastically patted the elf on the back, as they for the second time that day trotted off in the direction of Robbies lair.

Chapter Text

You should sleep. He thought as he watched Robbie work. We. Should. Sleep.

It was way past eight in the evening, likely already way into the night, yet he felt as jittery and restless as a squirrel, who had somehow managed to indulge itself, on at least six pots of coffee.

The elf sat in one of the two chairs, head heavy in his hands, as he absently scratched at the back of his head. A faint headache had started up sometime ago in the back of his skull, and from the feel of it, it was quickly developing into an actual migraine, and wasn’t that just great. Almost as if on que, he felt the pressure increase and he furrowed his brow in slight annoyance. Just. Great.

His fingers had gone completely numb, legs heavy and breathing seemed to have become a hassle several hours ago. Gods, the last time he had been this drained, was when his brother had insisted on dragging him to one of the formal court meetings, which had lasted way into the next morning and the entire midday included. He shook his head at the unpleasant and boring memory and was rewarded with a small dizzy spell.

Fantastic. Absolutely amazing. He thought, as he breathed into his hands and looked up to observe the working fae in front of him.

The fae in question seemed oblivious to his dark musings, as he worked the mortar, hands crushing and combining the herbs with practiced ease. Robbie surely had to be as close to collapse as he was, yet showed no physical signs of it.

With a huff of displeasure, the elf worked an open palm against his temple, trying to ease the pounding in his head. The feeling of having to stand by, of not being able to do something that was actual useful was starting to eat at him. He hated it. Greatly needed something to do, but remained silent as he watched the other work; desperate to partake, but knowing that he had no idea on how to help. After all, this was not his expertise.

A hand came up to scratch absently at the base of his right ear, before his fingers caught on the hem of his hat, blocking him from any further access. With a groan, he swiftly discarded said hat and laid it on the table beside him.

--

Robbie worked tirelessly on, not once needing to look down at what his hands were doing, until suddenly, he had reached into a jar, only to stop abruptly as his hand closed around empty air.

‘’Well I’ll be damned.’’ He mumbled while scratching his cheek in bewilderment. ‘’We are going to need a fresh supply as quick as possible.’’ He said while bending down to receive a small piece of parchment from the shelf under the table. ‘’Would you mind?’’ he asked and absently handed him a small list with a few, quick scrawls on it. ‘’They need to be plucked at night, so it would be-‘’ Robbie cut himself off as he noticed the elf sans his hat. He seemed momentarily dumbstruck, as he gazed at a pointed ear, before willing himself out of his stupor. ‘’It would be perfect if it could be done right around…’’ he trailed off, as he looked down at a small watch. ‘’Now actually.’’ He said a tad surprised. ‘’If you do not mind of course, it is rather late.’’

Sportacus quickly shook his head, grateful to be tasked with something other than his nervous fidgeting. ‘’It is fine.’’

Robbie looked at him - or rather his ear - for several seconds before shrugging casually. ‘’Good good, see you later then.’’

The elf gave a quick nod before turning towards the hatch. He had made it halfway, when Robbie called after him. ‘’Oh! I forgot.’’ He mumbled loudly and bent down to retrieve something from underneath the table, he had been working at. ‘’Bring this with you.’’ He said as he handed him a small knife and two empty glass jars. ‘’Do not mix them.’’ He said as he gestured towards the piece of paper in Sportacus’ hand. ‘’The list tells you which to take first, so follow it carefully.’’

Sportacus nodded absently, once more turning to leave.

‘’Oh, and before you leave.’’ Robbie called after him again, making the elf stop dead in his tracks with a small huff of impatience. ‘’Take this with you as well.’’ He said as he retreated towards the fridge. The fae carefully kept in front of it, shielding its - for some reason - secret contents from the elfs curious eyes. It is most likely all just sugary contends and he do not want me to comment on it. Sportacus thought with a tired frown. But who knows, maybe there is hope yet for the laziest resident of the town.

To the elfs great surprise, Robbie returned with a red, shiny apple, which he proudly held out in front of him, with a gleeful smirk that really did not have any business being this attractive.

‘’It is not…’’ he trailed off, looking down at the apple hesitantly. The last time he had accepted an apple from Robbie, he had ended up unconscious and in a cage.

Robbie looked confused at him for several seconds, not understanding where the elf was going with this.

‘’Sugar.’’ The elf elaborated.

‘’Oh. OH! Gods no, I am not trying to murder you.’’ Robbie quickly defended himself and the innocent apple. ‘’Not right now at least.’’ He added with a playful wink.

The elf carefully closed his numb fingers around the offered fruit and turned it a few times, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

It looked innocent enough all right.

He willed himself to scoff at his own paranoia and took a bite of the apple, before turning towards the ladder. Immediately, a tiny spark of his usual energy returned, making him hum in gratitude.

‘’Remember, shadow comes, you do not move.’’ Robbie called after him.

The elf lifted the wrist that held the ward above his head and shook it slightly, indicating that he had understood.

---

 

- Twenty minutes or so later – A good way into the forest -

 

The rain poured down relentlessly, as Sportacus made his way down one of the less commonly-traveled paths, which went through the forest behind Robbies lair. It had only been a few minutes out in the cold, before the chilly rainwater, had managed to completely soak through his light jacket and shirt underneath.

Truth be told, the cold did not actually bother him, but the rain did so.

He shook his head sharply as he went along the path, willing himself to stay alert.

It could not be long now.

The instructions on how to get to the garden – which had been located on the back of the written list from Robbie - had been rather vague, but gave just enough information away, that he was fairly certain he had indeed found the correct path.

In the distance, a faint tremor of energy shot through the ground beneath him and in a matter of seconds, the entire scenery around him changed.

He blinked a few times in surprise and stared at the marvel in front of him.

While the forest itself had always been plentiful, this area was downright lavish. Sportacus allowed himself a moment of wonder to be astonished over Robbies impressive gardening skills. Granted, it was a lot smaller than he had expected, but no doubt expertly well kept.

Small stones lay on each side of the even pathway, leading up to an old, rusted gate. As he approached, it swung open on creaking hinges, letting him enter before softly closing once more behind him.

Inside were twelve rows of various herbs, flowers and a single tree located in the corner, whose branches easily spread out above and covered the entirety of the garden, successfully serving as a makeshift roof. The elf craned his neck and gazed at the smaller branches, which reached down and in some places actually touched and draped across the blooming ground.

For several peaceful moments, he stood and merely breathed in the fresh, welcoming scent the place gave off, before reaching his arms over his head and lazily stretched out his back. This place was downright fantastic.

Okay. He thought and willed himself to focus on the task he had been given. Two rows down and to your left. He thought as he recalled the first instruction, on how to locate and collect the correct herb.

He went over to the row in question and kneeled down in front of it; Glanced at the small sign beneath to make sure that it indeed had the accurate symbol, before he took out the jar, unscrewed the lid and placed it next to him. The desired herb in front of him gave a small wave, which he knew for sure was not caused by the wind. Hesitantly, he reached out a hand and raked it down its soft, silver fur. Immediately, his entire palm started to tingle with a strange, giddy energy.

He quickly withdrew his hand and rubbed his palms together to still the playful energy, he still felt bouncing within.

In response to his surprise, the plant seemed to vibrate with elated laughter.

‘’May I take some of your leaves?’’ he quickly asked in a soft voice, to which, three silver leaves gently bend slightly towards him. ‘’I will consider that a yes then.’’ He chuckled and proceeded to, as gently as he could, cut the leaves from its stem.

Two more to go.

He got up and moved to the next herb on the list, checked that it had the correct symbol and withdrew his tools. As he took out the knife, a small, nervous tremor seemed to go through the small yarrow to his left and so he quickly made to reassured it, that he would not take more from its fellow flora, than was absolutely needed. It responded with a small vibration, which he decided must have been a positive one, since he sensed no more doubtful vibes from it.

Okay, last one is…

He reached a hand into his pocket and drew out the slightly soaked paper.

--

Moments later, he closed the second jar and put the knife – now cleaned - back in his pocket. A belladonna who had, rather aggressively he might add, been flirting with him, seemed to wilt a little, as he quickly said his thanks and wished them all a good night. He smiled at it and promised that, if he were allowed, he would definitely come visit again sometime soon. It perked up a bit but none the less continued its quiet disparagement.

He shook his head in fond bewilderment, as the gate closed behind him and started to trek down the still impressively well-kept path.

Well-kept path gave way to the less traveled route and lastly, he finally, after half an hour or so, made it onto the more common, familiar path.

He had almost made it to the edge of the forest, when he felt a sinisterly, familiar chill creep up his back. Immediately he stopped moving and closed his eyes shut, willing himself to stand as still as possible.

Several moments passed like that, in the unnatural quiet, which had settled over the forest, while the elf did his best to remain calm, as a combo of dread and nerves threatened to overtake him; instincts screaming and demanding that he give into self-preservation and run.

He slowly willed himself to take a deep breath and open his stinging eyes.

It was in no way a surprise to find the shadow right in front of him.

---

 

 - A few minutes earlier – Lair -

 

Robbie sighed tiredly as he leaned back in the uncomfortable, wooden chair. He knew from previous experience that he would fall asleep, if he laid down in his comfortable, fluffy one, yet he could not help himself, as he looked to it with great longing. Another great sigh escaped him, as he turned his attention back to the parchment below him. In truth, he had gone for much longer periods without any sleep, but it was starting to wear him down more than he cared to admit to.

With a groan, he picked up his feathered pen, put the tip of it against the rough paper and quickly scrawled his message.

There. That would do.

For several moments, he simply sat and stared at nothing in particular. Too tired to do anything remotely active, unless it had to do with the project at hand and seeing, as he could not continue his work before that blasted elf came back, he decided to indeed do nothing at all.

When a couple of minutes had passed like that, the need to at least do something seemed to get the better of him and with a huff, he got up and started towards the kitchen; figuring he might as well make himself some coffee and plain warm water for that stupid elf.

He knew the elf in question could in fact not catch a cold, but… bah! This was his home, his domain that the meddlesome elf had decided to invade, and Robbie could and would, thank you very much, do as he pleased!

And so, he now found himself, kettle with boiling water in one hand, mug in the other, making said damned coffee. He had just successfully brewed and helped himself to a scolding hot mug of the delicious caffeine, when he felt a small vibration ripple through him; no doubt caused from the sudden activation and use of the ward.

He dropped the mug with a shriek, jumping slightly in fright as the fragile porcelain shattered on impact with the ground, sharp shards skittering across the now soaked floor.

The fae cursed in pain and annoyance, as his palm started to sting from the slight burn. He was just about to get a cloth to clean up his clumsy mess, when the realization of why he had dropped the mug in the first place hit him.

Immediately, he felt his entire body freeze up, breath caught in his throat as he stared off in the direction of the forest.

No. Oh no.

Pain of his burned palm momentarily forgotten, he gulped and considered his options. Should he go and check up on the elf? It could be nothing serious... Or quite possibly nothing at all but on the off chance that the elf had indeed landed himself in trouble… he mused as he worried at the handle of the broken mug and chewed his lower lip in uncertainty.

He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. The vibration seemed fairly small, not yet anything too troubling but… Ugh, what a mess.

He took a deep breath and decided it was probably nothing.

The elf probably just cut himself on the knife or… something of that caliber. Or maybe one of the flowers got a little handsy. He mused in an afterthought.

Yeah. That was probably it.

Probably.

---

 

- Back in the forest –

 

The shadow jerked from side to side with great vigor, seemingly confused and slightly jittery, as it tested the boundaries of some invisible barrier. If a shadow could possibly look frustrated, then this was clearly it.

It seemed as though hours had passed before finally, it stilled and stayed dormant in front of him.

Sportacus did not even dare breathe too deeply, lest he feared the small movement would somehow be enough to break the shield, he felt steadily rise up around him.

His eyes started to water, nose itching, left leg twitched slightly - yet he managed to keep his cool in his, to this day, weirdest, lethal standoff.

Several moments passed in that tense silence, before it seemed the shadow had enough of their deleterious imitation of great Greek statues.

‘’Stay out of this and you will be spared.’’ It finally drawled.

A soft, surprised huff followed by a small, breathy laugh escaped him. ‘’I decline.’’ He snapped in a voice that shook from tension. Internally, he felt a highly, energizing anger rise at the outrageous suggestion, making his focus peek.

‘’Pity.’’ It declared, somehow sounding genuine.

‘’Whatever it is you seek to do here, you will not succeed.’’

‘’I already stole away one of your children.’’ It pointed out as it started to circle him, seemingly looking for any weaknesses in the ward. A soft growl sounded slightly to his left, when it seemingly found none.

The elf took a slow deep breath before responding. ‘’And you will not take another.’’ He said as he felt his nails scrape lazily against the handle of the useless knife.

‘’You think you can hinder me little elf? You are powerless.’’

‘’You cannot harm me, nor will you harm anymore of my people here.’’

It hummed. ‘’You seem so certain.’’ it drawled challengingly as it came to a stop right behind him. It seemed as though it was trying to press itself as close to his person as possible, causing the entirety of his back to go cold, chill spreading and settling into his very bones, making him shudder lightly. He quickly willed himself to once again stay still. Do not move; trust that it will hold.

‘’I am.’’

It hummed again. ‘’Interesting. I would love to see what makes you tick elf. How much would it take to break you?’’

‘’Leave.’’ He simply replied, refusing to play its game. ‘’You have no place here.’’

It chuckled at him. ‘’You think you can banish me?’’

‘’I will find a way yes.’’

It hummed as in thought. ‘’You are powerless.’’

The elf felt an eyebrow raise despite his efforts to stay absolutely still. ‘’Is that like your new slogan or something?’’ he yapped in a voice void of any humor.

‘’Careful now.’’ it warned in a low voice.

The chill vanished as suddenly as it had come.

Sportacus breathed a deep sigh of relief and waited several minutes, unmoving, despite its presence being gone. It was definitely not paranoia he told himself, as a good ten more minutes passed with him staying still as a rock.

Necessity. Not paranoia.

Not.

Paranoia.

Far above, it seemed as though the weather gods had unanimously decided that it was ‘annoy the dead-on-his-feet-elf’ as the drizzle started back up; few icy drops sneakily making it down his back, causing him to yelp in surprise.

When no shadow came back to viciously murder him where to stood, he shook his head clear of the renewed fatigue and started the small walk back to the lair.

--

 

Robbie was waiting at the table for him, two mugs of something hot and steaming inside next to him, when he dropped back down into the heavenly dry and safe lair.

Sportacus immediately went over to the table, the fae had used, while doing his herbal magic and put the full jars and knife down. The list he had been given was completely soaked through, ink haven abandoned its original fine lines and instead bled black splotches all over the now ruined piece.

The elf held it up towards the fae in an apologetic matter, to which Robbie just shrugged and unceremoniously threw a soft towel at the elfs soggy head, before gesturing to the unoccupied chair in front of him. Said elf caught the towel, before it hit him in the face and gratefully started patting it through his hair, as he made his way over to the table Robbie was seated at.

The light drizzle outside had turned into an actual downpour, hard drops drumming gently across the roof. It was quite soothing, now that he was no longer caught out in it.

‘’Is it not a bit late for coffee?’’ the elf commented and nodded towards the mug, which had replaced its destroyed counterpart.

The fae shrugged, as he pushed the mug of water over to the other. ‘’Still got work to do and it is also none of your damn business.’’

Sportacus nodded although obviously displeased.

‘’You mentioned you needed to write to your brother.’’ Robbie said, as he gestured to a fresh sheet of parchment in front of him.

The fae quickly folded his own letter in half, scrawled a name - which the elf did not have time to read - before he held up the parchment, and snapped his fingers at it. The letter immediately disappeared in a puff of small, purple sparks.

‘’I have been wondering.’’ Robbie started, loudly ignoring the elf stunned expression.

‘’Yes?’’

‘’How come the court is not doing anything about this?’’

Sportacus felt himself shrug. ‘’That is what I want to know too.’’ He admitted. ‘’Truthfully, I do not know.’’

In front of him, the fae huffed. ‘’Does your king not care?’’ he suggested.

’He cares.’’ Sportacus snapped.

Robbie quickly threw his hands up in a frustrated manner. ‘’Then why is nothing happening?’’ he countered, to which the elf sighed powerlessly.

‘’I do not know Robbie. It is not that they are impuissant, but I suppose they-… We simply do not have enough information as of yet.’’ He said and proceeded to stare at nothing in particular. ‘’It does not seem like what is happening here has happened elsewhere as of yet. Perhaps the focus will change after my brother is made aware.’’ He mused aloud with a sour expression.

‘’And if it does not?’’

The elf shrugged. ‘’Then we keep doing what we are doing and perhaps we can make a change, however small that might be.’’

They both fell silent at that.

Sportacus took a couple of minutes to stare at the letter-to-be in front of him, unsure of how to voice all that had taken place over the span of… How long, or rather, short had it even been? He felt his mind start to drift towards a rather dark place, one he would rather stray from, just a little while yet. Preferably for a very long time.

He supposed he had been lucky the first time the shade had decided to assault his town. So many others had seen entire cities wiped out in mere seconds, so why were they different? Had it chosen specifically to go after one of the children? Why was he spared? Given the chance, could he actually have done anything at all?

In front of him, Robbie suddenly looked up at him through narrowed eyes. ‘’You all right?’’ he asked in a curiously gentle voice.

The elf started to fiddle with the corner of his own, still-blank parchment. ‘’The ward works.’’ He simply stated and refused to meet the others gaze.

Robbie stared at him wide-eyed before letting out a soft. ‘’Oh.’’ He quickly looked down at the elfs wrist, looking a bit hangdog.

A strange, fragile silence fell for a few seconds, before the fae inhaled sharply. ‘’Sorry about the death threat.’’

Sportacus felt himself nod, still keeping his eyes down. ‘’Apology accepted.’’

In front of him, Robbie cleared his throat awkwardly. ‘’From this point on, I will try and keep it at a minimum.’’

‘’You mean there is more of the sort to come?’’

The fae shrugged slightly. ‘’I gotta admit, it is a defense mechanism more than anything, so yes, there might be more like it somewhere down the line.’’

The elf mentally counted to ten. Then ten more. Then twenty more. ‘’I am not sure on how to respond to that.’’ He admitted.

Robbie shrugged again. ‘’You did not answer my question though.’’ He started, once more settling into that strangely careful voice.

Sportacus felt his brow furrow in confusion.

‘’Are you okay?’’ he elaborated, when the elf did not seem to understand, where he was going with his question.

The elf worried at his lip. ‘’No.’’ he admitted. ‘’I do not understand why I am being targeted. Or spared to start with for that matter. It keeps insisting that I am powerless and yet it seems to be haunting me specifically. What’s more, it offered me an olive branch.’’

‘’Oh?’’

‘’I stay neutral on this whole ordeal and it would let me go.’’

‘’Interesting.’’ Robbie said as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. A single finger came up to scratch at his chin. ‘’Did you accept?’’

’Of course not.’’ The elf barked, feeling a flare of annoyance course through him.

Robbie just shook his head. ‘’Your kids are safe and it cannot harm you, why would you decline?’’

Sportacus glared at the other. ‘’You think I would ever accept an offer from something that murdered one of my children?’’

One of the faes hands quickly came up in retaliation. ‘’No, I know you would not, but hear me out.’’

’Why would you even suggest I should have done so?’’

‘’Sport calm down.’’

The wood whined, as the elf gripped the edge of the table hard. ‘’You think I care so little I would spit on-‘’

‘’Calm down!’’ The fae yapped. ‘’Can we please stop fighting for like two minutes and just have a rational conversation for once.’’

Hah, hypocrite. The elf thought in annoyance. ‘’You are being ridiculous’’

’Yes and clearly we are both stressed and not overly level headed, so please, I did not mean to say it the way I did, just-…cut me some slack and calm. Down!’’ He half-yelled as he rubbed at his temple.

Sportacus let out something that came dangerously close to a growl, before willing himself to do as thrice suggested, and calmed.

‘’Can we both just agree to apologize in the morning.’’ The fae continued in a soft, strained voice.

The elf forcefully exhaled as he stared at the table and still-blank paper. In the wake of the tiny bit of clarity that had come, when the previous anger melted out, he could easily see and realize that the best remedy for his predicament, was probably not to take it out on the one person who was actually trying to help.

He nodded and willed his hands to let go of the table. ‘’Yeah.’’

Several moments passed where both refused to look at the other.

‘’Look I'm sorry for-‘’

’Nope, we take this in the morning Sport.’’

The elf gave a small nod, before taking a sip of his water.

‘’So, the next on the list is your kin?’’ he tried hesitantly.

Robbie accepted the quick change of topic with glee. ‘’There is a gathering fairly nearby tomorrow night, yes. As far as I have come to understand, they stay for the rest of the week out.’’

‘’So, if we include today, that leaves us four days left?’’

Robbie nodded. ‘’I believe you are familiar with how time moves differently within the circle, yes?’’ The elf nodded and Robbie took a deep breath before continuing. ‘’I hope to only take a couple of hours or so in there, but worst case scenario it could take up to three days, depending on which kind of… general mood the gathered will be in.’’ he sighed and leaned his head in his hands. ‘’Actually, it might take a lot longer than that.’’ He grumbled more to himself than the elf. ‘’Worst comes to worst I will be off for around one to five hours, but however long it takes, which I really cannot say before I am there in person, I will need quite a lot of rest once I do return.’’

‘’You cannot avoid the more physical aspect even though you are kin?’’

He shook his head before flicking his fingers towards the ceiling. ‘’Traditions and all that.’’

The elf gave a small nod. He could sympathize with that. ‘’Would you mind if I join you in the evening when you-‘’

‘’You are not coming along.’’ the fae quickly yapped.

‘’But-‘’

‘’Nope, not only could we possibly be gone for days if the timeline really goes astray.’’ The fae quickly held up a hand to silence the protest that Sportacus was about to voice. ‘’Nope, seriously, I have experienced too many gatherings where ten minutes there, ended up being hours outside of the circle. Gods, I have even experienced that several weeks had passed once I returned and sometimes that timeframe is reversed and ten minutes here is a month in there and no, do not give me that look, you are needed here. Besides, most importantly, you have no clue on how to behave in that kind of environment, so you are not coming.’’

’But-‘’

‘’End of discussion, it is not happening.’’ He barked in annoyance.

Sportacus grit his teeth but willed himself to stay calm. ‘’You said yourself that I have only met you and no further of your kin.’’

‘’Which is another reason you are not going.’’

‘’How else am I to learn how your social infrastructure works if not in person? It seems the perfect opportunity, besides, I will have to meet some eventually regardless’’

‘’And you will do so later, when I introduce you formally and on neutral ground, but not at a party and especially not this kind.’’

‘’Why not?’’

‘’It is simply too risky.’’ He stated as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared the elf down.

‘’You do not believe I can take care of myself in there?’’

‘’I highly doubt it.’’ Robbie yapped rather rudely.

Sportacus wanted to argue further, but decided that enough was enough. Regardless, he could always try to press again once they had both slept. He absently picked up the feathered pen and started to fiddle with it.

‘’In any way.’’ Robbie continued in a harsh tone. ‘’I will make sure everything is taken care off before I leave.’’

‘’Which exactly?’’ the elf asked, not caring much for casual conversation, as he turned the pen over in his hands; somehow not getting any ink on his skin as he worried a fingertip at the sharp end of it.

‘’The personal wards for Mrs. Busybody and the Mayor.’’

The elf felt his brow crease in confusion. ‘’I thought you already had?’’

Robbie shook his head. ‘’I have not had a chance to do it directly. So far, small glamours have been set up around the places they frequent, but not directly on their person.’’

The elf gave a small nod and forced himself to put the pen down. ‘’And it will hold?’’

‘’Not for long, but just long enough. I will go and get the more intricate work done tomorrow before attending the gathering in the evening.’’

The elf gave another nod and tried to smooth out one of the wrinkled corners of the parchment. The attempt was highly unsuccessful, so he instead picked up the pen again and actually put it to its proper use.

He was still pretty unsure on how to explain himself, but in the end, he managed to cover the important details. Robbie had gotten up sometime mid-letter and continued the work on the pouches.

Sportacus leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. ‘’S’ done.’’ He mumbled before settling into a deep yawn.

‘’Did you write the name of the receiver onto it?’’ Robbie asked without turning towards him.

‘’Yeah.’’ The elf let out an indecent yelp, as the letter went up in a great lightshow of purple flames, nowhere near as controlled as the one the fae had sent his own off in.

‘’Show off’’ he mumbled under his breath, as he stared at the place, where the letter no longer was. The elf took a deep breath and rubbed at his bone-dry eyes, before gazing towards where the fae was still indulged in his pouch making. He let out another yawn - this one a lot deeper than the last - as he stood up and turned to leave, not wanting to intrude any further and thus not bothering with saying goodbye.

He had almost made it to the hatch when Robbie called after him.

The elf turned around, just as the fae closed the distance between them and grabbed his wrist gingerly. He held it up a bit and examined it closely through narrowed eyes; brow furrowed in deep concentration. Sportacus felt a small prickle of energy pulse under his skin where the fabric touched directly, before the fae seemed to have come to a conclusion.

‘’All good.’’ He mumbled lowly and continued to stare at the wrist in his hand, seemingly lost in thought.

‘’Uhm.’’

Robbie visibly flinched and immediately let him go, before the hand that had been holding onto the elf was cradled almost protectively against the faes chest.

‘’Can I come by tomorrow?’’ Sportacus tried softly, wanting to defuse whatever situation seemed to be approaching.

It worked.

‘’Nope, I do not want you around more than I have to.’’ Robbie snapped at him, snarky banter bringing them both right back into familiar territory.

‘’Goodnight Robbie.’’

‘’Night'.’’

---

 - Sometime in the middle of the night – Lair -

 

He was unsure as to what had roused him, but somehow knew that something had.

His eyes flew open, rapidly blinking while darting frantically around the dimly lit room. He tried to lift his arms, but found that he could not. His legs were no better. He tried to open his mouth, but, to his great frustration, found it completely unresponsive as well.

He realized that his entire body was tense, muscles completely locked up, but except for that, he could not feel anything.

Wait, actually… He could. His chest was strangely heavy. Or rather, there was something heavy on it.

He quickly concluded that whatever it was he was experiencing, that something - and it was indeed a creature and not just his imagination running loose - must be the source of it. Well this seems unnatural he thought sourly.

The ‘something’ chuckled. ‘’Unnatural indeed’’.

To say that his hair stood on end would be an understatement. The creature shifted slightly above him and, much too soon, a dark shadowy figure slowly came into view. What he witnessed was to say… rather... peculiar.

Whatever this thing was, it seemed to reject any light, which should have naturally reflected off it, while the surrounding shadows seemed much darker than should have been possible. He tried to take a deep breath and to his great dismay, found that he could not. What is this? He thought desperately and tried to fight down the intense thrall of fear, that he felt slowly start to ease into his bones. The creature chuckled again and loomed down further. There was a slight pressure against his collarbones, as too many claws settled themselves against his upper chest, as the creature seemingly perched for balance. Or perhaps it meant to eat his face. Or just intimidate him into thinking that last thought, or maybe… maybe… Actually, he did not really want to know what it wanted.

It slowly lowered itself down further, a single claw coming to rest gently against his throat. This is bad, this is bad, this is bad.

Did he mention that this was bad?

‘’Relax.’’ It purred. ‘’I am not here to eat you.’’

He realized at once what it was.

He could not breathe. To be honest, he did not want to any longer; he would have wasted his breath on screaming anyway. Not some bigshot. Right. He huffed in a strange mix of terror and annoyance.

The annoyance made sense. The terror even more so. After all, the thing staring down at him was literally terror incarnated.

‘’You called?’’ The mare purred.

 

Chapter Text

That it was not here to outright eat him, hardly meant that he was safe. Then again, it might not wish him any actual harm at all, but he had no way of telling just yet.

In his head, he frantically started chanting whatever ‘how to break a part-possession, even when the mage has no idea what exactly has entrapped him’ incantation that came to mind. Considering the symptoms he was currently suffering under, he supposed that this - whatever it was - was indeed a form of physical possession, but it could just as easily be something entirely different - But trepidation and desperate times right? Desperation was the very reason he was in this situation to begin with anyway, so might as well throw his all into it.

Above him, the mare chuckled at his persistent, panicked struggle and dug a single claw deeper into his quickly bruising skin - the sound more like a rusted bell caught between two pieces of sandpaper, than any actual merry- actually no. He honestly rather did not want to think too much on what its vocal tunes could be interpreted as.

It was just wrong and... Wrong!

Slowly but surely, the hold it had on him seemed to crack and shudder at the edges, as his counterattacks viciously ate at the forced quiescence it had installed in him. Pride be damned, if he could, he would have cried in relief.

He had made it about halfway through an old, memorized list - which had been obtained sometime in his youth, from a very grumpy Swan maiden - when suddenly, he felt his left finger move ever so slightly. For a startled, blessed second, the inner voice screaming we are going to die seemed to quiet just enough for the fae to repeat the incantation with a bit more force and intent behind it this time.

His entire left hand twitched and finally, finally full-body-movement was recaptured as the mares hold on him snapped.

The fae quickly grabbed the side of the fuzzy chair and let himself plummet down hard on the ground.

The mare, haven long since anticipated this move, kicked off of him and landed gracefully a few feet beside the downed fae. If I ever meet that sweet little swan again, I’ll have to give her my thanks -the owed favor that follows be damned. He thought as he took several deep, gasping breaths and – as quickly as his body would allow it -crawled backwards, away from the blasphemous creature.

Now at the same level and slightly to his right, the dark intruder let out a surprised huff, as it watched the other squirm breathlessly on the ground, limbs still a bit uncooperative after their little show of dominance.

''How did you get in?’’ the fae rasped out, when his breath had returned enough for him to do so.

‘’You invited me in.’’ it stated, clearly unimpressed.

A ritual. A chill. A test. ‘’Oh. That. Guess I did.’’

Perhaps it had come to merely talk and not eat his face. He could appreciate that. A lot. And if it is bad, you should probably word very carefully where you want it to be summoned, so this does not happen again.

The worded carelessness could probably be blamed on sleep deprivation and shock, but still, he should have known better.

Slight misstep; note that for another occasion.

‘’And how can I be of service?’’ It purred, long, split tongue coming up to absently lick at a gaping gash, in one of its raised paws. A foul, dark liquid immediately started to flow thickly from the wound and down on the floor, as the sharp tongue broke the fragile, barely healed tissue.

It is like a talking housecat from hell. He mused, as he tilted his head to the side and studied it further in the low light. ‘’Does that not hurt?’’ he asked it – genuinely curious and at the same time, hoping to buy himself enough time to get his head back in gear.

It regarded him for several moments before answering ‘’No.’’ it laughed. ‘’It does not.’’ It said and gracefully jumped back up into his still-warm chair. It huffed and used a few moments to snuggle down, as far as it could get into the fur. It looked downright cozy. ‘’Pray tell, I doubt this is why you had me summoned?’’ It asked. If it had had eyebrows, one of them would have been lifted. Actually maybe it had, it was hard to tell when most of the lights were down and he was not about to turn them on.

‘’I-... We need your assistance.’’ The fae said as he slowly rose to his feet and stalked a bit back, away from the mare.

‘’And why do you require my assistance?’’

It would be bad to give away too much information all at once. Say too much and the words spoken could easily be turned and twisted - both the elf and he risked ending up with a seriously severe problem on their hands, in regards to whatever -hopefully simple - deal came out of it.

Just stick to the basics and explain as simply as possible he thought as he glared at the creature currently getting thick, black chunks of something all over his chair. That is usually the best way to go about these kinds of situations. Give away too much and it might double-cross me. Give away too little and I risk the other getting suspicious of some sort of trap - even if there is none.

Taking a deep, grounding breath into his burning lungs, the fae hoped not to appear too unnerved as he crossed his arms over his chest. ‘’We are in need of allies for a very specific task.’’ He finally settled in an even tone.

The mare glared at him for several long moments, before settling into a deep yawn as it tugged its head down further into the soft fur. Even with the distance between them, Its breath smelled foul and- nope still not thinking of what it can be compared to, just leave it be Robbie. He thought grimly and narrowed his eyes, unsure if it was safe to look away from the nocturnal abomination.

Several seconds passed in a tense silence - the mare almost appearing as though it had actually started to drift off.

‘’You are not going to… Sleep, are you?’’

‘’Of course not, a creature like me cannot sleep.’’ It commented in a soft, dry voice.

‘’Then what are you-‘’

‘’Comfort.’’ It spat, clearly dismissing the subject.

‘’Oh.’’ The fae mumbled, as he scratched the back of his head and willed himself to look away and around, slightly dumbfounded, feeling a bit lost in his own home. Everything about it gave him the kind of uncanny unease one would get, if every piece of furniture one owned had been moved just an inch to the right. Not downright bad or anything, just… A gentle eeriness.

‘’There is a shadow stalking this town.’’ He started, deciding to just get on with it and focus on the original reason, as to why the mare had been summoned and at least attempt to not look further into what the mare itself seemed to radiate.

He felt as though he might lose a part of his own reality, if he thought too much about the currently lazy presence in his home, and so he willed himself to just ignore it for now.

‘’We need to know as much as we can about it, what it is and why it does what it does. Have you seen it?’’

‘’I have seen it yes.’’ it stated simply, letting out small puffs of air. For a split second, he almost thought it was purring.

‘’What can you tell me?’’

‘’Nothing.’’ It offered casually. The fae was about to ask another question, when the mare beat him to it. ‘’At this moment in time, you already know as much as I do. That is not to say that I cannot find any further information on it. I have the means to do so. I could do it. For a price of course.’’ It said as a single eye in the butchered mass opened up and focused on him.

‘’For a price. Of course.’’ He parroted while trying hard not to think back to a conversation, he had just had with a certain blue elf. ‘’What do you want in return?’’

It lifted its…heads? And regarded him closely. ‘’A lock of hair.’’ It purred.

‘’No.’’

‘’A nail then.’’

‘’No.’’

‘’A single drop of blood?’’

‘’Absolutely not.’’ It seemed to think hard for a moment and he found that he was slightly surprised it had not dismissed itself at his now triple refusal. There seemed to be something else it desired, and he had a sneaking suspicion he already knew what it was. ‘’That shadow is hunting you as well, is it not?’’

It flinched but showed no other reaction. He did not need it though. He knew he was right.

‘’You want protection?’’ he pressed, hoping to come across as neutral, neither too pushy, nor too casual.

It hissed out a low, angry tune in reply.

‘’Something that could shield your presence and make it back off? Or, something that could create a fake trail. That is why you ask for something, which is essentially tied to my essence.’’

It was downright growling now but he was no longer afraid.

It was not going to hurt him. It needed him.

Comfort. Peace and quiet. He could relate.

‘’I can make it for you. Help you to something you could spread far and wide, so that it would take at least a month before it would catch up.’’ The offer was out there, it was perhaps a little too giving from his side, but desperate times, desperate measures, and really, he hoped that was not going to become his motto.

Besides, he still had a favor from the elf to claim. It was not as if he was going to need anything for a while.

‘’And what do I do once that month is up?’’ it rasped.

The fae mused on that for a moment. ‘’Tell you what, you keep feeding me information on this specific situation and I keep you safe for as long as we both need it.’’

A massive paw came up and scratched absently at a torn ear.

He had won.

‘’Deal.’’

--

 

- Close to dawn - Somewhere else –

 

The leather-clad crook shifted slightly in the cramped space, as he pressed his shoulder against the shelf and pushed it aside enough for him to reach both hands under it, and pull out of fairly tattered and worn backpack from the small, hidden compartment that had been beneath it.

As he drew back, he managed to hit the back of his head against the edge of the low window shelf - which he probably should have noticed, situated just above from where he was kneeling. Startled and a tad annoyed, he let of a low hiss as both  hands quickly reached up and rubbed at the tender spot. Great, amazing, just fucking fantastic.

He groaned dramatically as he leaned back against the shelf, opened the bag and took out the bundle within; all the while loudly ignoring the burning pain in his calf, as he set the bundle aside for now. Blood sugar was a thing after all, and his was getting dangerously low.

Absently, he reached into a small pocket in his suit and withdrew a rather crushed brownie.

With a greatly exaggerated sigh, he set to glare at a broken nail, while he munched on the baked good. The good in question had been snatched up from a small lady’s stand – the same stand he and two fellow idiots, seriously why did he ever think they were right for a heist like that, tsk - had passed on the way back from a – almost – successful get-rich-fast night. Granted, he had done his part and had not exactly come away empty handed, but it had been a close shave, so to speak.

Brownie successfully consumed, he set his focus on preparing the necessary items to disinfect the wound on his calf.

The place he was currently occupying smelled like stale cat-piss and honestly, this was not a place anyone should have to spend a night, but that was just his luck. He had been lucky tonight though, the bullets that had been directed at him, had all missed. Or well, almost all of them. As he had been fleeing, one had graced him and now he had to deal with the bloody, annoying aftermath.

He grit his teeth tight as he pressed the disinfectant against the gash.

He had left the brownie-lady a few – ow, fucking OW! - coins for the ingredients of course. He was not a complete savage. Just almost.

First stage of the first aid successfully completed, he quickly wrapped gauze around the offended wound. Granted, he could only wrap it twice around, seeing as he could not yet afford to waste too much of it - not before he was in the clear and it would be safe for him to go and collect some more. Hopefully it would be enough to stop the bleeding and let it rest, now –hopefully – completely bacteria free. With another great sigh, he rolled up the remaining gauze and unceremoniously threw it back in his bag.

Calf back in order, he took out the little metal box, which was a constant when he was on missions such as these, and set to count the remaining money that had been in the little brownie-lady’s not-so-safe safe.

He had made it about halfway through the counting of the smaller coins, when a familiar energy ripped through the reeking air, causing him to jump in surprise; coins successfully slipping from his hands and falling to the floor, with a sequence of small metallic clangs.

Eyes quickly snapped to his left, as he waited for whatever the fuck that reticent idiot was sending him. Moments later, a letter materialized and fell to the floor of his current hideout.

Glanni suspiciously narrowed his eyes at it. It was not often that his cousin would send him anything at all, but a letter of all things? Now that was just plain weird.

Handcuffed hands clinked softly, as they put the few remaining coins back into the box, and moved to pick up the letter.

Swift hands unfolded it and quickly skimmed over its contents.

For a few seconds he stared into empty space before re-reading the letter; wanting to make sure, it actually said what he thought it did.

‘’Well someone's desperate.’’ He huffed in confused amusement before letting the parchment go up in flames.

His sentence clearly stated that he should not return to the town, but he supposed such dire times called for drastic actions. And maybe, just maybe, that damned, mustard-coloured elf would be there too. With a small chuckle, he set to pack up the rest of his sparse belongings.

He had a situation to attend to.

--

- Late in the morning – Airship -

 

Sportacus woke with a tired groan at 10.32.

For several moments, he lazed on his bed, not wanting to get up and do anything at all just yet.

When several minutes had passed like that, and his airships AI had decided to no longer take pity on his obvious need for rest, and instead of the blessed quiet, had started pestered him greatly about sleep patterns, duties and what have you’s, he got up to face the day.

First things first was definitely to hit the showers, floor pleasantly cool beneath his feet as he made his way towards the bathroom, hoping the quick fresh up would clear out the grogginess that was still thick in his head.

The elf shook his head as the warm rays hit him, eyes closing as he tilted his head up towards the falling water.

The pleasant distraction did little to dissolve the thick fog in his mind, if anything; it seemed to press harder on his brain, overshadowing his thoughts and emotions. Everything still felt so far away, as though he was an onlooker watching from the outside in, unable to actually participate.

He rubbed viciously at his numb face, the water falling over his ears, blocking out the outside world with a roar.

He was okay though. He had to be.

The elf sighed as he turned off the water and got out, quickly grabbing his toothbrush and setting to work on finishing the rest of his morning routine. As he did so, his eyes fell on a soggy, wayward curl that trailed over his left ear. His hair in general was getting pretty long. He would need a haircut soon.

The elf shook his head a bit roughly, when he realized he was staring dumbstruck at his own reflection and exited the bathroom, to go fetch himself some breakfast, before he could get a chance to drift off again.

He was in the middle of absently poking at a piece of cucumber, when his AI alerted him to the presence of an incoming letter. Fork quickly abandoned, he made it to the station, just as the letter in question shot out through a slit in the wall, which he quickly snatched from the air and swiftly made his way back to the table.

He worried at the edge of the still damp and cool fabric of the ward, as he laid the letter out on the table and set to reading.

The entire thing was a quick scrawl, so much so that he had to narrow his eyes and lean in further, to make sense of what his brother was trying to say.

Caught up in politics, will come as soon as possible. That was fairly normal, nothing spectacular there. What is happening in your town is happening in thirteen other places. Now that, he was not sure on how to take; should he be relieved or not that their case was not an isolated one? The elf felt his yaw tense before he continued reading.

The next part had quickly been crossed out before the next readable line read:

Do not engage. No matter what you do stay away from it.

The last four words were the first out of this small message that was easily readable – Clearly, his brother had wanted to make the point clear, but this was not exactly his choice, now was it?

You kind of did summon the shade with a piss-pour ring as your only protection that one time though his mind coldly reminded him. With a huff, he told it to kindly shut it, as he put down the parchment and stared at the small, wrinkled corner of something else that stuck out from underneath it.

With a furrowed brow, he pushed the letter to the side and glared at another piece of folded parchment, which had been trapped behind the one he had just read through. It showed out to be a collection of smaller taped-together maps, showing different locations with quick, small scrawls littering all around them, specifying what each location had endured. He squinted his eyes at one of the small blobs of text around a rather large piece of a map:

 

Town: Limewire

Population: Originally 76.369 – 3 people remaining

2/3 have gone insane

Last kept repeating the word ‘eye’.

 

With a confused huff, he turned his attention to another set of scrawls and saw the same vague description pop up, each sporting a person or two saying the word ‘eye’ or ‘eyes’. A single person had been a little more descriptive and had added ‘sea of eyes’, but it did not exactly make a whole lot of sense to him. The elf worried his lower lip between his teeth and stared at the whole mess of maps.

Various other towns had similar ‘eye’ incidents, but the majority of the remaining towns were marked with a current population of a big fat 0 and so they... Had nothing to tell.

Just zero.

Gone as though they never existed.

He felt a shiver run down his spine as he stared at the seemingly random attacks. There seemed to be no correlation between the different areas, just sudden annihilation and then silence.

With a shudder, he carefully folded it back up and put both letters back in the envelop to keep them safe.

He would have to speak with Robbie about this, preferably as soon as possible.

He quickly got dressed and was about to reach for his hat, when the realization that he never brought it back from Robbies lair hit him. He scratched at the back of his head with a tad of annoyance.

Technically he was still situated just above the faes territory, but he had been asked to not intrude and though he needed it, this was hardly a life and death situation, so… well, there was a simple solution to his current predicament. He went over to the far side of the ship, squatted down and pressed the needed button to release a specific panel in the floor. With a cold hand to the side of his face, he stared down at the old uniform, he honestly never thought he was going to use again. It was an old thing, tattered and worn, the fabric at the knees and elbows nearly gone from use. Granted, he only needed the hat – which he swiftly snatched up – but why he had kept that old thing was honestly beyond him. It held quite a bit of sentimental value he supposed.

As he put on the scratchy, old thing, a few stitches popped in protest, but it would do.

--

 

None of the remaining kids had mentioned the growing shadows under his eyes, nor the fact that his hat was a completely different colour than usual, and that it in no way matched the rest of his outfit, so he considered that a great win on his behalf.

They were just finishing up their game for the day, when a huffing Robbie Rotten left the town hall, fists clenched and arms swinging dramatically by his sides. At first it seemed as though the fae was doing everything in his power to ignore the other, but after a few moments, he turned on his heel and went straight over to the ball-court.

The clearly bothered fae positioned himself with his head in his hand, on the low wall to the elfs left and stared at the other with an annoyed expression. Sportacus was about to open his mouth, when Robbie shook his head and placed a finger in front of his lips.

With a small nod, the elf turned back to the kids and bid them farewell.

‘’Good morning’’ the elf offered once all but the two magical beings had fled the scene.

‘’I have been up since a little past seven.’’ Robbie deeply grumbled.

‘’Apologies.’’ The elf shrugged. ‘’Good morning regardless.’’

The fae rolled his eyes loudly as he withdrew a familiar hat and threw it in the elfs general direction, before leaning his elbows on his folded knees. ‘’I believe this is yours.’’

Sportacus caught the returned garment, before it could hit the ground and swiftly switched to his correct colour.

‘’Green suits you though.’’ Robbie mumbled lowly, more to himself than the elf. A sudden grim expression crossed his face before he continued. ‘’I talked to a few rather panicked selkies right before going to the town hall. They have been assaulted as well.’’ The fae picked at his nails, not meeting the focused gaze of the other. ‘’As she explained, an entire lake went pitch black, as though someone had straight up poured paint into it and puff’’ he exclaimed and flicked his fingers towards the sky. ‘’They were all gone. If they had had even just a toe in the water, they were taken.’’

The fae flexed his fingers and seemed a bit reluctant to continue. Sportacus stayed patiently silent, waiting for the other to ground himself and elaborate. Robbie took a deep, sad sounding breath and finally continued. ‘’It took some time to calm her down, she was rather hysterical, which is… understandable.’’ He sighed and glared hard at the ball in the elfs hands. ‘’It really is everyone and everything which is being targeted, but get this.’’ He snapped and looked up at the other. ‘’She is being haunted just like you are.’’

Sportacus felt his blood run cold at the new information. ‘’Is she…’’ he trailed off, not actually sure where he had been going with his question.

‘’She is safe.’’ Robbie assured. ‘’I gave her a ward, much like the one you have, just less…’’ he said and circled his hand a few times, searching for the right words. ‘’Personal.’’ He finally settled. ‘’I cannot feel if she is in trouble, you are enough of a bore already to keep safe.’’ He yapped.

The elf let out a small, dry chuckle at the typical snark being thrown at him. ‘’Does she know why she is being targeted?’’

Robbie shook his head. ‘’She has no clue, it seems as random as the fascination it has with you.’’

The elf felt himself nod, as he bounced the ball against the ground a few times. ‘’I got a letter from my brother.’’ He said as he reached a hand into his pocket and drew it out. ‘’He has been kind enough to give a little more information, on which parts are affected by this.’’ He said and held it towards Robbie, who took it and gingerly unfolded it. ‘’A few have seen something, but they cannot explain what exactly.’’ He finished as the fae skimmed over the map-parts.

Robbie nodded absently, without taking his eyes off the letter in his hands. ‘’Eyes?’’ he asked and looked up at the other.

The elf shrugged. ‘’I am not sure on that part either.’’

Robbie hummed low in thought. ‘’Any information is a small step on the way I guess.’’ He grumbled and folded the letter back up. ‘’Mind if I keep this and note it down?’’

‘’Go ahead.’’ The elf agreed.

A deep silence settled between the two, before the elf absently scratched at the back of his head, and decided to press the issue on a subject he knew would annoy the other, but it was kind of incredibly important, so- ‘’About the gathering-‘’

‘’You are still not coming along.’’

Sportacus took a deep breath. ‘’I do not feel I should be kept out of something this important.’’ He pressed.

‘’Just let me take care of it.’’ The fae snapped and roughly pushed off the wall.

‘’Why are you being so evasive about this?’’ Sportacus called after him, as the fae attempted to make a quick retreat.

The fae in question spun around and pointed a slim finger at him. ‘’You.’’ He started in a low, growly voice. ‘’Are not coming, and that is final.’’

‘’You tell me it is risky, but refuse to explain why.’’ The elf argued, as he put his hands on his hips. ‘’Why is it so important that you go alone?’’

The faes face adopted a curious shade of red, as he swallowed and nervously flexed his fingers. His mouth opened and closed a few times, yet no words came. Whatever this was about, it seemed to weight on him greatly, but he did not seem overly eager to put it into word.

’Just.’’ He yapped out, voice rising to an interesting high pitch, while his shoulders rose up to his ears. ‘’Read up on it while I am gone!’’ he barked out and spun on his heel.

‘’Read up on what?’’ the elf quickly called after Robbies retreating back.

The fae stopped and breathed sharply a few times, before finally taking a deep, grounding breath. His fists clenched on either side of him and Sportacus briefly worried, that he was about to have a fit.

‘’Traditions on the unseelie gatherings.’’ Robbie barked, keeping his back to him. ‘’the less formal ones.’’

‘’I already know about the type.’’ The elf argued in a flat tone.

In front of him, Robbie seemed to laugh, though no sound came out. ‘’And do you know how they treat guests?’’ he asked. ‘’Especially elves?’’

Sportacus shook his head. ‘’I do not.’’

Robbie turned to him then, glaring daggers. ‘’Then read up on it.’’ With that, the fae turned and strode off; ignoring any further complaints the elf raised.

Left alone in the ball court, the elf set to passing back and forth, as he mused on how to proceed. While he did have a fair bit of knowledge on how fae-society worked, there were still embarrassingly, large, gaping holes in the more intricate parts of the traditional aspects, he was well aware of that, but he was working on fixing that.

The sun was starting to go down in the horizon, a chill going through the air and replacing the already vain remains of warmth in the air, with something that came close to uncomfortable.

So they are bad hosts, is that it? He mused to himself. Or is he worried his reputation would be tarnished if he lets me tag along? The elf scratched at the back of his left ear. If that is the case and I go alone, then it should be fine, right?

Whatever ridicule he might face from the fae, he was ready to take. Besides, Robbie had always had a flare for the dramatic. This could not possibly be as bad as the other made it out to be.

He rotated the ball in his hands a few times, as he stared off in the direction of the forest. If he wanted to go, he had to make up his mind right now. The elf worried at his lower lip, as a finger absently drummed against the rough surface of the ball.

Robbie would be furious with him but… He told me not to come along. He technically did not say I could not go alone.

You know what he meant. His mind scolded. However, it is still not, what he said. He argued right back.

He bounced the ball against the ground a couple of times, took aim and successfully scored.

It would be fine. He would be fine.

What could seriously go wrong?

Chapter Text

A lot of things could go wrong apparently.

Granted, he had realized that this encounter would probably be tough and all, but this? This he had not seen coming. At all.

Of course, some things were bound to have severe consequences, but this whole ordeal did not make much sense to him, especially since he had explained why he was here, or at least he had tried to before he was forcefully interrupted, and by the gods, he had been right about the ‘bad hosts’ part.

Honestly, he had been nothing but courteous and polite.

He kicked roughly at the hardened ground and did a spin, surroundings rushing past him in a blur of movements, colours and sound, all the commotion making him slightly dizzy.

He was not even sure how long he had been here. Had it been an hour? Two? Perhaps even longer?

In hindsight, it had been ridiculously easy to find the ring of shrooms, leave his shoes at the edge and make his way inside. The locality had most likely been a trap, perhaps not specifically meant for him or any of the towns-people, but the unignorably fact was that he had indeed walked right into trouble.

The elf did a weird flip, which ended in a graceful arm-up pose. He quickly spun and did something that he honestly had no words for, movements so unlike his usually controlled patterns. It probably looked okay though, considering the small applause he received from some of the surrounding fae.

Their reaction, though positive, was hardly fair – or welcome - considering he had no control over his own body; Mind and soul already lost to the violent tunes of the never-ending harp.

To be fair, the first half an hour or so, had actually went pretty well.

As he had crossed through the small one-way barrier, a few lounging fae had turned and craned their long necks towards the newcomer. Instantly, a strange fascination seemed directed towards his person, albeit most of the gathered seemed either stunned or perplexed, a few actually downright baffled.

A single fae, whose eyes held the deepness of raging oceans and hair flowing like an eternal, starless night, had split from her group and approached him, with a facial expression that could be described as warm but hungry.

Feeling a strange sort of urgency and foreboding, the elf had immediately started to explain the reason behind the rather spontaneous party crashing.

From there, things had gone downhill pretty fast.

The fae, now in front of him, had tilted her head and narrowed black beady eyes at the other, a single clawed finger tapping impatiently and almost expectantly against a raised wineglass, which she held further towards him with a small, pleased nod.

He had politely shaken his head and continued to explain why he had come, hoping not to seem too unnerved by the unblinking scrutiny, he had been held subject to.

With a frown and a soft huff, she had drained the glass and thrown it towards the edge of the ring.

Both hands now empty, she had gently traced her slender palms down the elfs tense shoulders, leaving unpleasant tingles in their wake, before the movement had continued up and across his collarbones instead.

The touch had been warm yet still strangely tingly.

The elf had continued to explain himself, hoping to get the point and urgency of the situation across as quickly as possible, so he could get out and back to work, preferably before a certain purple fae discovered his absence in the town.

The fae in front of him though, seemed to have had other plans for his schedule, as she traced her hands up the sides of his reddening neck.

Was the touch actually all that unpleasant, or was he just too on edge to properly feel how nice it could be, if he, just for once, let himself go?

He had thrown her a cold, desperate look, hoping she would get the memo.

She had not.

With a heated smirk, she had turned her gaze towards his crystal, as it had started to vibrate ever so slightly; his own hand now slowly lifting towards it, hoping whatever she had in mind was nothing too malicious.

With that, she had let out a deep, raspy chuckle, both hands coming up further to caress his face instead, claws digging ever so slightly into the tender flesh, before she had raised herself up on her toes and kissed him deeply.

He had felt safe then.

Warm.

Nothing had really mattered anymore except for the sweet, little thing wrapped carefully in his trembling arms.

In fact, his whole body had been trembling. Skin and bones lost to the fuzzy, pleasant feeling that had seemed to have invaded his veins and replaced his brain with soggy wool.

He had not wanted to leave.

Would they let him stay? It was not as if anything was waiting for him outside of the safety of the circular barrier, he had mused as the fae had continued to trail soft kisses down his flushed neck, traced his ear, purred sweet nothings in his ear and he had just...- But that is not true is it? The pessimistic voice in his head had growled loudly to catch his diminished attention. There is something waiting.

With a huff of annoyance, the elf had promptly told his reason to shut it, as he had pressed the fae closer and kissed her back with the same vigor and attention she had shown him thus far. She was real. Whatever was out there was not. It did not matter.

But this is not real. The voice had droned on as he had trailed his hands down her slim waist. Nothing ever really felt real these days anyway. Why did it matter so much?

He was tired of all the trouble and pain. Just… tired of it all.

Besides, whatever it was that was so urgent, it could probably wait a few hours. Or a few years maybe.

He could spare a few years right? They would take care of him and he could rest.

It had been tiring.

He was tired.

Tired of-…of what exactly? He had thought in slight confusion, as the fae raked a hand through his damp hair, sending small sparks of pleasure through the elfs scalp. I am…tired of what? His thoughts had felt murky, far away and unimportant, regardless if his crystal – which had been screaming at him – told him otherwise.

With a pleased, self-satisfied hum, the fae had drawn back ever so slightly and started to tug him towards the small group she had originally been with.

Around them, all gathered had followed the pair with bright, expecting eyes.

...What am I doing?

It had felt as though he had come up for air, that small separation and loss of direct contact allowing him to actually think and understand. It was still all so confusing.

He had come to… do what exactly?

With a great mental strain, the elf had tried to scramble the remains of his torn thoughts together, a great pressure steadily building behind his hard-shut eyes as he did so.

From somewhere deep inside of his mind, a small flash of… something had seemed to reverberate through the murkiness.

There was indeed something he had to do. There was a purpose. There-

A small tremor had shot through his entire arm, as one of the faes sharp claws absently traced over the vibrating ward on his wrist. She had not seemed to pay it any attention, most likely not realizing what it was, or what she had just activated, but in that exact moment, it had felt as though a violent crack had wrecked through the elfs brain, shattering the carefully woven illusion and nearly sending him to his knees from the sheer force of it.

With a strangled cough caught in his dry, burning throat, Sportacus had placed his shaking hands against the faes turned shoulders and pushed the bewildered other away, trying to create as much distance between them as was currently possible.

He had felt his ears pop, sounds and music coming back with a headache-inducing vengeance, even as the remains of the crushing tension in his pounding skull had broken.

The elf had protectively curled his shaking fingers around the ward on his wrist and breathed deep and hard, willing himself to snap out of it, crystal still panicked and screaming for his attention.

It could very well be a question of mere seconds, before she or one of the others would try to drag him back under; the window of opportunity still rapidly closing, as he had felt the faes sharp claws brush carefully down his arm, other hand already curling under his chin to lift his head and-

He had been overheated and drained, but that had not been the time to worry about such lesser, fixable issues.

The elf had taken a deep breath and continued to explain why he had come.

--

 

- Technically only a few minutes earlier – The lair –

 

With a huff of impatience, Robbie moved the large magnifying glass closer to a small map-part, in order to read some of the more dense clusters of quickly written text next to a particular, small town, whose population had gone from 5849 to five and a half.

The ‘half’ of a person was not explained any further, and quite honestly, he did not even want to know.

In some areas, the hand that had written it had obviously been shaking rather badly, due to either a sleepy mind or that of frustration and anger. The fae leaned in even further in order to read a particular bad part of the scribbles, when he felt a small vibration from the ward.

He jerked his hand in surprise, successfully knocking over his mug, contents spilling all over the unoccupied part of the table. Small mercies. He thought dryly as the mug continue to roll and seconds later, tumbled over the edge of the table and crashed against the floor.

Robbie shut his eyes and breathed hard. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5-

This was becoming a bad habit.

He swiftly removed the map to a safe, dry spot, as the brown contents slowly invaded the wooden surface of the table.

‘’What did he do this time?’’ he mused aloud as he looked in the general direction of the forest. The elf had been fine the last time, albeit obviously shaken from the shady encounter.

The fae shook his head and started to clean up his mess.

The tremor did not seize however. If anything, it slowly rose higher.

He had no idea what it meant. It was not as if this was a familiar situation.

With a tad of annoyance, the fae rubbed at a sore point in his shoulder as the tremors continued to get worse, bordering on something which came close to frantic.

He should probably do something about that. He mused as he threw the soiled cloth in the sink and returned to his reading.

Probably.

--

 

- Back in the ring –

 

The elf had gently jerked his head out of her grasp, before he took a deep breath, and finally looked up at the other.

The fae had huffed in what could only have been disappointment and a slight anger, not at all interested in what he had to say. She had thrown him a look, which screamed boredom, before tossing her hair over a slender shoulder and crossing her arms over her chest.

She then did something with her left little finger, just a small movement of sorts, which caused the elf a weird itch. At first, it had been a subtle tingly feeling that had started at the back of his neck and slowly crept upwards.

Nothing major, just enough that it was hard to ignore.

As the elf had desperately continued to speak, the fae had glanced over to another of her kin, with an ‘are you seeing this’ expression. The other shook his head, before he had stalked the small distance and wrapped an arm over her shoulder - handing her another glass of wine as he had done so.

One of her sharp claws had started tapping impatiently against the fragile glass, and a faint glow seemed to shimmer from her sparkling eyes. The elf had willed himself not to look directly at her, afraid of the possible and swift consequence.

Instead, he had glared at the glass in her hand, glowing eyes reflecting and dancing mockingly as the other had continued to stare him down and started to hum lowly.

The slight itch had gotten worse - itch turned to a dizzy spell, mixed with a wild feel of dread and urgency. Unsure on how to proceed, he had absently scratched at the tension in his neck, hoping to ease it.

It had been around that moment, when the tension had turned into an actually suffocating pressure - feeling as though he was inhaling smoke, drowning in what should have been clean air – in which he had realized that she really was not paying any attention to what he was saying. At that, the words had died a quick, sour death on his tongue. He had licked at his dry lips, eyes closing, as he had taken a deep, grounding breath, eyes blinking hard and rapidly as they had started to turn blurry and watery.

The elf had raked a shaking hand down his numb face, realizing he was way out in the deep end and quickly losing the last of his footing.

At the other end of the ring, a rather butch-looking fae, had picked up a harp and for a single moment, the slight understanding had managed him a fleeting moment of clarity. With a deep breath, which he knew would be the last, deep one for hopefully not too long, he willed himself to at least attempt to resist the pull and just all out retreat before they put him into a deep sleep, which he might never wake from.

Of course, it had been futile.

The rhythm had seemed to overpower reason. He had tried to focus, tried to resist its continues pull, but found that no matter what, it demanded his full attention.

With one last, desperate half-breath, he looked up at the other and tried to will the words to come. Had tried to make her understand. Alas, if she had understood why he had come, she did not overly care.

At this point, he had doubted any of them did.

The short fae in front of him had grinned knowingly, with a mouth full of tiny sharp teeth and he had suddenly felt the pull drag in another direction. Something much more sinister and at that, he had tried - and failed - not to panic.

They would not actually make me- He had thought desperately before the realization that yep, they would indeed, had hit him.

And so, no longer able to resist the brutal pull of the well-played strings, he had started to dance.

--

Regaining control was like trying to light a candle in the midst of a storm.

Daring but ultimately impossible.

The elf could only hope that they would grow bored and release him eventually. If anything, even if it had proven futile, he had managed to do, what he had originally set out to do in the first place.

If he actually got out of this alive, he swore a silent, pained oath to do as suggested and actually do the damned research first, before acting rashly.

Sportacus grit his teeth, as he felt a sharp pebble dig its way into the space between his toes and whimpered softly, as he abruptly did a spin on that foot. With a yelp, which eased into a breathless gasp, he felt his skin tear.

A flip, a spin, arms out, some kind of movement, followed by another damned flip.

The elf sent a silent plea, to whichever god cared enough to listen, as he felt himself start to lose track of time.

--

 

- Roughly half an hour later - Somewhere in the forest –

 

Something was off. Exactly what or how bad, he was not sure of, but the moment his ward had angrily started to buzz in order to get his attention, he found that no matter how hard he tried, he had not been able to ignore it.

As the minutes had slowly inched by, the faint buzz had grown increasingly more demanding and roughly six minutes after it had gone off, he had given up and had had to put down the project he had been working on.

’Okay, something, hopefully non-lethal is happening to that flipping elf and he might need help...’’ the fae had mumbled aloud to himself while scratching his chin in thought. ‘’If I continue to ignore it, he might figure it out by himself but if he does not...’’ he had trailed off while gesturing around his silent lair.

It had offered no reply.

It had not needed to though, he knew he could not ignore this any further, and so he had set out to retrieve his stupid, hopefully still-alive elf.

Whatever is going on, he might actually get hurt he thought with an annoyed huff, as he made his way through the darkened forest, going in the general direction the ward was trying to pull him. As he did so, the urgent feeling grew slightly more intense and the fae decided to throw his pride to the wind, as he set into a brisk powerwalk.

Or he might already be hurt. He mused as the ward increased until it was practically screaming at him.

The fae shook his head roughly and set into a light jog.

Hah, the elf had actually managed to make him move. Had the situation not appeared to be as dire as it did, he could have laughed over the irony of that.

With a strange sense of dread, the fae could not help but think back to the confused expression the other had sported over the last part of their conversation, and the more than triple refusal to join the nightly event, which Robbie had voiced. The fae felt himself frown, as a few pieces of the puzzle started to come together in his head.

But surely he would not be that stupid he thought with a huff, as he quickened his pace even further, but refusing to set into an actual sprint. The elf is gullible, not downright suicidal.

The path he was on was undeniably, eerily familiar though.

Robbie stopped dead in his tracks as the circular row of mushrooms came into view - the pull coming from inside it.

‘’Oh, you have got to be kidding me!’’ The fae groaned out dumbfounded before hiding his face in his hands and kicking at the ground in annoyance.

He took a deep, frustrated breath before taking quick strides towards the edge of the ring, not daring to waste any more time than was absolutely necessary.

The elf really was suicidal.

--

 

- Back in the ring – Technically more than a day later –

 

The elf let out a strangled gasp.

This should not hurt as much as it does he mused while he swirled and kicked at the ground. No matter how much he tried – and he had been trying for a while now - he could not slow down.

Focus on your Breathing he reminded himself. Your muscles need the oxygen.

For one blissful moment, the music seemed to slow down. His head became a little clearer, surroundings coming less blurry and he even managed to draw a single, deep, rattling breath, before the invading vibrations kicked back up; Body and mind once more enchanted, moving on its own accord as it was unwillingly overtaken by the brutal rhythm.

He wanted to scream.

Maybe he did.

--

The dance seemed to be never ending

With a shrill high-pitched noise ringing in his ears and legs singing from exhaustion, he had almost given up the last shreds of his desperate hope, when suddenly, the shrooms at one side of the ring seemed to glow a specific, familiar shade of deep purple, from which one unpredictable, impossible Robbie Rotten casually emerged.

Several of the gathered fae lazily turned their gazes towards the newcomer, but unlike the perverse attention the elf had immediately received, Robbie was regarded with none.

The fae in question nonchalantly glanced around at a few of the dancing faes that had decided to join the elf in his forced twirling, with an expression that could only be described as bored.

A few painful moments passed like that, before his gaze finally settled on the worn out elf. The fae crossed his arms over his chest and let out an annoyed and very tired huff, gaze calculating and slightly amused, as he watched the dancing elf, who despite his exhaustion, still found himself unable to slow down the maddening pace of the dance.

The elf briefly wondered how long he had been at it. Hours? Perhaps an entire day had passed already?

The fae who had originally come up to greet Sportacus now turned her gaze towards the newly arrived fae, casting him a frown that promised a very painful death, should the other try and intervene in their entertainment.

Robbie raised a single brow at her and returned her stare with a glowing glare of his own. Immediately, she did a full-body flinch and let her eyes drop, as though an invisible palm had slapped her. At this, a shorter fae - currently to the elfs right - got up and quickly strode towards Robbie.

The two immediately fell into a heated, animated discussion.

The shorter fae said something to which Robbie shook his head, frowned and shrugged slightly, before casually gesturing in the kicking elfs general direction.

The other gave a small nod and said something, which had the taller let out a huff, before he replied with a handful of wide gestures, seemingly trying to explain something that the elf was far too tired to catch - not to mention the fact that his ears were still relentlessly ringing.

The other seemed to muse hard on whatever Robbie had said, before uttering a statement, which had the taller narrow his eyes and worry his bottom lip between his teeth.

The taller finally nodded and the two shook hands.

The elf desperately tried to keep his gaze on the two, in order to see what was going on, using the slight bit of remaining energy in him, to fight the beating pull of the harp.

He managed to hold his position for all of an entire two seconds, before the rhythm once again demanded his full attention and he was swirling away from what was most likely his only ticket out of here.

Robbie did not seem to pay him any further attention though, instead taking in the entire scene around him with a strangely careless glare.

The fae watched and the elf danced - Was this a rescue or just the presence of another spectator?

The fae in question did not make any advances towards making any change of that settlement, despite haven just made some sort of arrangement with the shorter fae, and for a brief, panicked moment, the elf wondered if the other actually did not intend to break him out of here at all.

Robbie had surely been entertained by their little games, but what if he was no longer?

The elf could do nothing about it, as he felt dread settle deep in his bones - a strange unwelcome hopelessness quickly following in its wake.

Perhaps the elfs quick change of heart could partly be blamed on the unignorably fatigue that somehow seemed even more demanding than the pull of the harp - but as it was, the other had in fact wanted him gone from day one.

The fae had never actually done anything to outright hurt him, but... He did not want to be in a situation where he needed saving in the first place, but he needed it regardless, gods damn it all, if the other really had come to want him gone that badly, then he really was doomed.

Tears pricked at his eyes and he willed himself to continue the focus on his breathing, less he actually give in to panic and this was just not the time.

A specific tic in the beat had him spin and kick his feet high in the air and the elf realized with horror that they were bleeding, skin torn from the prolonged dancing on the hardened ground.

A few drops of blood flew and landed, crimson stains slowly dyeing the dirt around him. He managed to force his gaze down and realized that most of the ground had indeed already changed to a dark shade of brownish red already.

Minutes passed like that with the other still being passive and the elf tearfully felt, as the last of his hope dwindled and died.

So the gods really had just rewarded him with another spectator. Was that it?

What a joke.

Sportacus forced his eyes closed, wanting to block out the reality of his predicament, as he sent a quiet prayer to his father. In truth, he had never been good at long-distance communication like this – close encounters were not exactly any better, but as it was, he could only hope that it would somehow manage to reach its receiver regardless.

Robbie had yet to move, and the elf felt even more uncertain about why he had come in the first place. Surely, the deal was to convince the others to join in on the situation at hand. Had he actually already done so or had this all been a lie? It was not as if he was bound to hold his word, so if he had for some reason already changed his mind…

No, you still owe him a favor. His reason quietly reminded him. He will not just outright leave you here. It would not be very beneficial for him.

The elf felt himself frown in confusion. He really did not understand.

A specific low frequency in the beat had him throwing his arms out, back arching slightly, before he did another quick spin. The movement should not have hurt as much as it did, but it did, by the gods it did.

Nothing the elf could do would have stopped the pained, startled whimper that escaped his tightly clenched lips.

Robbies stance still seemed eerily casual, he did however, immediately snap his gaze towards the elf at the small, wretched sound. The fae still did not give any of his intentions for still being present away; however, the elf did notice the slightly confused frown that started to creep over the others face.

The fae regarded him through narrowed eyes, a single finger doing a weird circular symbol, to which the elf - with much relief - felt his breathing come to him a bit less labored.

The fae looked perhaps even more bewildered at the others reaction. Did he not realize how bad the elf was hurting?

A few moments passed like that before the other happened to glance down at the dirtied ground and finally noticed the elfs ripped feet - eyes going almost comically wide and with a mouth slightly open, as he stared at the other. His expression rapidly turned from disbelief into a sudden understanding, before turning a quick, slight hurt and finally, it settled into something sinisterly neutral.

Closed off. Cold.

Suddenly, it seemed as though the fae had made up his mind, as he barked something at the smaller fae  -who Robbie had already made an agreement with – who looked in the others direction with a ‘what now’ kind of expression.

When the taller fae got a headshake and a few unemotional words in return, he narrowed his eyes and quickly strode up to the other. The elf could not exactly see what was happening, only able to overhear the low yaps and growls as information was being passed back and forth, in what appeared to be an even more intense argument than the first they had had.

He caught a glimpse of an absolutely outraged Robbie Rotten angrily poking the smaller fae - who had both hands up in retaliation at this point - repeatedly in the chest. The two fell silent for a beat, before the smaller gave a grunt and some small, affirmative noise in reply.

Immediately, the elf felt a low tremor of familiar energy ripple through him.

A tremor, which mercifully seemed stronger than the pull of the harp and in that moment, something akin to hope, started blossoming in the elfs chest. He quietly found himself wondering if the sudden lack of fear for the situation should be worrying him. After all, this sort of rescue never came without a usually pre-agreed upon price.

For the moment though, he was not going to look a gift-fae in the mouth and despite his earlier dark musings and doubts regarding the other, he found himself beaming up at the approaching fae.

’Hello.’’ he managed to weakly rasp out, voice refusing to come out as more than a mere whisper.

He heard Robbie huff in reply as the other slowly strode forward, a single hand raising, as the faes fingertips started to glow a faint shade of purple.

Sportacus felt the tremor again, stronger this time and found himself immediately slowing down, his dancing becoming less chaotic and more deliberate. The surrounding fae seemingly annoyed by this, but none made any attempts to make the elf up the pace or outright stop Robbie in his meddling.

The tremors all but hummed through him and for a moment, he allowed himself to bask in it.

He was still moving, but his body had gone comfortably numb, which he greatly appreciated - and if the fleeting thought that perhaps the other had done it deliberately so, made him incredibly happy, he did not feel the need to ponder any further on it.

He was in the middle of doing a twirl, when he felt something snap, as though something lost its hold on him. Abruptly, he felt his spent legs give in under him, and at once realized that he had no strength left in his body, and therefore would not be able to break his fall at all.

’Oh.’’ he croaked out lamely, as he started falling – it was more of a collapse really - towards the ground at high speed.

‘’Oh indeed.’’ Robbie replied dryly, as he quickly closed the remaining distance and somehow managed to catch the elf, before said elf could straight up face-plant the blood-soiled ground.

Chapter Text

He was not completely sure if he had passed out for a few seconds or not. He did however, realize that he was leaning deadweight onto a disturbingly, quiet Robbie Rotten. The fae fortunately did not seem to mind it in the least - easily holding up the entirety of the wan elfs weight.

The quick changes in moods and standpoints had him perplexed. So the other really did care?

Yes, you nit, he cares. His mind tiredly grumbled back, fed up with his doubts and insecurities.

The elf simply allowed himself a few moments to come to – Just focusing on drawing refreshing, much needed air into his burning lungs, feeling as though he had run at least three marathons in a row.

Maybe he technically had.

A soothing set of glowing fingers, had found their way into his sweaty hair, carefully rubbing soft circles into his numb scalp - the other hand currently serving as a firm anchor against the small of his back.

‘’What happens now?’’ the elf managed weakly, if with a bit of caution, still not trusting the other to expect nothing in return.

‘’Well, multiple things can happen now.’’ Robbie began. ‘’for starters, I could have you make love to me, but I am fairly certain that is an outcome we both wish to avoid. So.’’ he felt Robbies breath ghost over his ear, as the other leaned down and pressed a grinning mouth against its shell.

‘’So?’’ Sportacus asked in a small voice.

’So.’’ Robbie parroted in a whisper. ‘’I take your place and stay until the dance is finished. Unlike you, it will not bring me harm. I would not mind doing so; actually, I would not mind it in the least. However.’’ He gently nipped at the tip of the elfs ear, making the other shudder slightly.

‘’However?’’ Came the strangled reply.

‘’I would do it for a price.’’ He finally settled. Sportacus only hesitated for a second, and honestly, he should have thought it through before agreeing so easily.

It was becoming a bad habit

‘’I would do anything.’’ he whispered back hoarsely and realized with horror that it was indeed true. Had he not just been thinking the other wanted him dead and gone, probably less than five minutes ago? Seriously, what was becoming of him?

‘’Anything, you say?’’ Robbie mused. The elf suppressed the shiver this time, as he felt the fae lightly chuckle against his ear. ‘’Are you sure about that?’’ He challenged while slowly letting the hand that had been in the others hair, travel to the base of his neck, gingerly rubbing at the tension that had built over the prolonged, dance-session.

‘’Yes.’’ He felt the smirk that had settled on Robbies lips, as the fae slowly tilted the elfs head, in order to press a gentle kiss to the side of his neck.

Sportacus waited with a held back breath, for whatever the fae would demand of him.

This was dangerous, but he could not, and honestly did not overly want to, shake the ambivalent simplicity, which seemed to have found a home in his foggy mind.

After several moments, he felt the faes hand settle back into his hair, gently tilting it back so he could hold the others glowing gaze.

‘’I want you to stay and watch me dance.’’ he offered with an air of finality, as he gently helped lower the elf down onto the compact ground.

As the fae let go of him, the other realized that he indeed had no energy left - not just legs, but entire body overtaken by fatigue. He quietly pondered on whether or not he would be able to walk out of the ring on his own, but that was a sorrow for a later time.

The elf tiredly gazed around, taking in his blurry surroundings with an air of blithe disregard.

His eyes landed on the short fae, Robbie had so politely prodded at. As he continued to stare, the other turned his gaze and raised a brow at the elf, as he casually lounged on the ground, the female fae sprawled in his lap.

She too, threw a glance at the elf - loudly rolled her eyes, as she tossed a handful of long, dark hair over her shoulder, before reaching out a hand and drawing the attention of the male fae, who had given her another drink, back when the elf had originally decided to insert himself into the ring.

The two fell into what seemed to be a private conversation and Sportacus willed himself to settle his attention back to Robbie - The fae in question haven just discarded his shoes and vest close to the edge of the ring.

As the other slowly turned and stalked towards the middle, he turned slightly and held the elfs gaze, before raising his arms, feet settling into what the elf mused was some sort of starter-position.

Robbie let his eyes fall shut and appeared to fall under a blissful concentration, arms raising higher before he too, was lost to the music, just as the elf had been not too long ago.

--

 

- Meanwhile – Elsewhere –

 

It had been a close one, but he had managed to jump onto the old steam-train headed in the direction he needed to go, just as the whistle sounded and the train set in motion.

First things first, he needed to find the hour plan and preferably a list over the different stops. Second, some actual food would be heaven right about now.

Glanni swiftly made his way to where he knew the cart, of the guard of the train, would be located. He found it, peeked in and glanced around.

Bingo.

The cart itself was mercifully empty - That however, did mean that he had to keep a lookout for the absentee. It would not do to have come so far, just for him to be caught, possibly recognized, and sent off to jail.

After all, he was kinda wanted in at least seven different states - It still counted even if it was a persona of his they were looking for, right?

Right.

It was almost disturbingly easy to snatch up the needed items, and a few of the colourful donuts casually presented on a greasy, white plate.

Now he just needed to find a quiet place to hide out for the next… three hours and forty-seven minutes.

He frowned deeply at the hour plan, as though this was all its fault, crumbled it up and nonchalantly threw it over his left shoulder with an annoyed ‘’Tsk’’, before making his way out into a corridor - locked booths located on either side of him, as he walked down, listening closely, hoping to find himself a quiet, unoccupied one.

He had made it about halfway down, without any luck, when his phone silently vibrated in his pocket; alerting him of an incoming call.

‘’I'm on the move, so make it snappy.’’ Glanni yapped lowly, as he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe to one of the carts, keeping as much weight as possible off his injured calf. ‘’What you got?’’

‘’Shits crazy I can tell you tha'.’’

‘’I know, just get to the point Boris.’’

‘’Aight. We got hold of one of the survivors. Whatever did this is definitely demonic of nature, but it's practically a newborn. Shit reeks of destruction yo.’’

Glanni took a deep breath, before glancing down the corridor behind him, to make sure he was still alone. ‘’I hear rumors of an actual shape.’’ He said quietly. ‘’The fuck is that all about?’’

‘’From wha we understand, whatever it eats it can use to mimic. Skin, bone, mind- doesn't matter. It takes it all and spits it back out if it can use it to trap.’’

‘’So it specifically targets more now?’’

‘’Nah, still jus' those with a strong core.’’

‘’You figure out why yet?’’

‘’Yeah and nah.’’

Glanni furrowed his brow, before glancing down the corridor again. ‘’The fuck does that mean?’’

‘’You know tha fucked up dog-meat festival, where they do evil shi’ to make the meat tender?’’

‘’The Yulin thing?’’

‘’Yeah yeah, that the one.’’

‘’What about it?’’ A door opened at the other end and Glanni slowly pressed himself against the wall.

‘’Well it's like tha, it wear ya out till you ripe for the taking, but you gotta be terrified first. We dunno why yet, but guess it served a purpose. Might jus’ be bored for all we kno, or may be lookin’ for a host to actually take and possess instead of jus’ eaten.’’

A rather rough-looking guard was making his way down the corridor. Glanni quickly scouted the small space around him, hoping to find a place to hide. Of course, there was none.

‘’G?’’

‘’I gotta go.’’ He grit out, as he snapped the phone shut, quickly putting it back into his pocket and setting to work on opening a small window located a bit further down. Glamours had never been his strong suit and the one he had currently coated himself in, would fade in less than a minute.

That was more than enough time, to do what was needed though.

It was a tight fit – and highly difficult with his hands still cuffed, but he had done it before - but just enough for him to slip outside and make his way onto the roof of the cart.

He took a deep breath and made himself as flat as possible. Stupid fuckin minimalistic trains with nowhere to hide, the fuck is up with that.

While he could indeed hide from any eyes he wished to shield himself from, the guard would have easily been able to sense the unnatural warmth radiating off him. He would have realized something was off, and a head-on collision in a tight space like the corridor currently below him?

Nope, not a chance, the roof of the train would have to do - even if he was freezing his ass off.

After five minutes, he carefully peeked his head inside the mercifully, still open window and glanced both ways, making sure the cost was indeed clear.

Empty corridor? Check.

Highly pissed off and cold Glanni? Double check.

He quickly made his way back into the warmth of the train, viciously rubbing his burning palms together, as he pressed a cool ear against the door of a cart. When nothing but a dull silence reached him, he pressed a palm against it. No life-signs came from within. It was perfectly vacant.

He slid the door open and promptly flopped down onto one of the soft benches; took out his phone and punched in Boris’ number.

‘‘Yo favorite hot trash speaking, not here at the moment - you know what to do’’

‘Beep.’

‘’Call me if you get anything else.’’ Glanni started, leaning the phone against his shoulder, as he took out one of the donuts to munch on. ‘’Also, if Avgust is still around, please kick him for me, he owe me big time.’’ He said as he glared out the window, staring at the moving scenery, before biting a large chunk out of the sugary treat, not caring if he spoke with his mouth full. ‘’I’m goin off the grit for a few days though, you know how to reach me.’’

With that, he snapped the phone shut, got up to lock the booth and finally hunched down in the corner with a deep, tired sigh. It would not do to lie all the way down though, like that, he would probably fall asleep and miss his stop.

Absently, his fingers drummed against his bended right knee, as the other hand set to worrying at the tear close to his hipbone. Past events, had been far too hectic for him to stop, and take the time to patch it up proper. Hopefully his cousin could do that for him. Of the two of them, even if he would never admit it aloud, Robbie was definitely the greater tailor.

--

A few restless hours passed like that.

Glanni vaguely registered the train stopping at a random station, which he did not know the name off, before taking off minutes later.

Above him, the rain drummed down relentlessly and for a split second, he was glad to have not been caught out in it.

That said, he was getting quite bored - It was not as if he could actually set out and explore the rest of the train, not while his hands were still cuffed and the guard could potentially catch up and corner him. With a huff, he took out the last of his sugary rations and consumed them.

From above, a shrill female voice rang out:

‘’Next up is the Couloir. We should be arriving in five minutes or so. Please mind the cap as you depart. I repeat, The Couloir is next.’’

Glanni raised a bewildered brow at the loudspeaker. Shit it’s been that long already? He mused as he picked up his backpack and got ready to depart.

--

He quickly ducked under the low barricade, at the end of the platform and made his way onto the train tracks. This part was always risky, but he had yet to mess up. After all, he was still alive - the ones who messed up usually were not.

He swiftly made his way over to the intended goods-train, eye narrowing in the low light in order to read the serial number of the cart he had picked.

It would not be the best sort of transportation, but it was fast and delightfully guards-free.

Glanni sat himself down against the wall of the cart, took out the map and glared at it. From here, he would have to jump onto another train, as he reached Asteraceae. After that, unless something else happened, it should only be a couple of days until he reached his final destination.

The map was swiftly rolled back up, before he wrapped himself in his blanket and squeezed himself in between two crates. It would be a good seven hours, before he needed to be alert, and usually he could only sleep for about five hours at a time without his sleeping meds - so it would be fine.

With a huff and a grunt of pain, he loudly adjusted himself in the tight space, so he was not leaning any weight onto the healing wound on his calf. The blasted thing was already close to fully healed, but the continued traveling was starting to get to him - Too little sleep and too much hiding out on rooftops, never did good for anyone in the long run.

Granted, he could chance his lifestyle, but nah. He was perfectly happy with where and what he was, thank you very much, that would not be changed anytime soon, if he had any say in it - Unlike some of his brothers, who had chosen to become honest people and serve those below them, he had chosen to stay free. The consequences of that were all worth it.

Fuck all, it's just the price I have to pay. He mused as he shut his eyes, the low rumble of the moving train lulling him into a much-needed sleep.

--

 

- Somewhere in the forest– Just outside of the ring –

 

It was still dark out, when a glowing Robbie Rotten, lips thin and looking highly unimpressed, emerged from the outside of the ring, unceremoniously carrying the limp elf over his left shoulder, as though he was a mere sack of potatoes.

Robbie silently fumed, as he shifted the elf a bit, in order to get a better grip, before he let out an annoyed grunt and started the walk back towards the lair - Whatever temporary truce that had settled between the two back in the ring, gone with the absence of any immediate ‘the elf might actually die’.

Sportacus swallowed around a dry throat, as he stared at the moving forest ground below.

He felt himself start to drift off and gleefully allowed the calm, dark to take and pull him down further into sleep, trusting the other with the control.

--

Coming back into awareness was an unpleasant experience.

Somehow, - the elf thought it best not to ask – Robbie had managed to scale the building with the elfs entire dead weight on him. ‘’Can I please have some water?’’ he croaked out, as the other made his way over to the orange chair and lowered him down onto it.

Wordlessly, a glass of cool water was pushed into his hands, before the other stalked back out of his sight. From the sounds of it, Robbie was angrily slamming various items onto a small, metal tray, as he buzzed around the lair, collecting what he needed.

The elf drained the glass slowly, humming in relief, as he felt the burning in his throat subside a little.

After a few quiet moments, the fae made his way back over to the downed elf, set the tray down on the small coffee table next to him and set to work.

Sportacus grit his teeth at the sharp sting, as the fae started to dig out a pebble, which had stubbornly jammed itself into the elfs flesh. It was no doubt a painful thing to endure; yet, the elf could not help it, as his entire leg twitched slightly, confused nerves sending a completely different message than that of pain to his exhausted brain.

’Hold still.’’

’So-ahahh-sorry, m’ ticklish.’’ The elf mumbled sleepily.

Robbie just glared up at him, as he firmly wrapped his palm around the elfs ankle, in order to hold it in place. ‘’Do not kick me in the face, so help me elf, I will kick you out.’’ He warned as he managed to dislodge the pebble.

The fae immediately pressed a soggy cloth, dripping with something, which smelled slightly sour against the small gash - pain instantly easing into a pleasant numbness. The small stone made a hollow clank, as the fae dropped it onto the metal tray.

‘’Sorry.’’ The elf repeated as he put the empty glass down and let his dry eyes fall shut.

A strange silence feel between them then, as the other worked, lips thin and set in a concentrated frown and the elf mused that it was probably best to leave him be.

He had just about managed to drift off to sleep, when a soft, metallic clang rang out in the quiet lair, as the fae put his tool down. He sighed as he swiftly set to wrapping a thin layer of fresh gauze around one of the elfs feet. ‘’It bears repeating Sport, you are an idiot.’’  He mumbled through tightly grit teeth, more to himself than the other.

The elf hummed in acknowledgment, before letting his eyes fall shut again, this time unable to keep himself from falling asleep.

--

 

- In the morning - Elsewhere –

 

The wide, ornamental double doors closed with a loud bang, as a well-rested but highly annoyed Íþróttaálfurinn, made his way through them and into the small, circular room, which was usually reserved for the innermost circle of the court. These days however, it seemed as though even the lowest of the common folk, had set themselves on invading their sacred grounds.

It hardly matters. He thought in annoyance, as he waved a small elf out of his seat. The elf in question seemed to quickly realize his fault and was about to stammer out an apology, before the taller swiftly cut him off, with a wave of his hand.

Immediately, all other chatter died down, as all eyes turned to the newly arrived.

‘’Sir we would like to-‘’

‘’You do not yet have permission to speak.’’ A guard helpfully cut in before anyone else could start raising their comments and concerns about the situation at hand.

Íþróttaálfurinn took a deep breath, before straightening up a bit and addressing the worried crowd around him. ‘’I understand the need for answers, but you must have patience.’’ He began, as he picked up the pen and paper prepared for him. ‘’We do not yet understand the nature nor the shape of what we are up against, but we are doing everything we can to resolve this unfortunate calamity. If anyone has further information than what we currently hold, please speak your mind. If not, please still your tongue for now.’’ The elf took another deep breath before continuing. ‘’Your words will all be heard, but for now, we must focus on the bigger picture. I cannot promise you answers that I do not hold.’’

To his left, a small elf with tired, haunted eyes, shuffled a bit closer and shakenly raised a hand.

‘’You may speak.’’

The other quickly let their hand drop, and instead set to worrying at the edge of the cape they were wearing. A few tense, silent moments passed like that, before the elf finally seemed to gather enough courage to speak up.

‘’The town I am from. It got attacked.’’ They started, voice low and trembling. ‘’Everything went dark and…’’ they quickly trailed off, seemingly too disturbed to continue on that specific part of the tale. ‘’It was weird though.’’ They settled instead. ‘’There was a perfect cut down through the town, where it seemed like it could not pass. One side was dark, the other was not.’’

‘’Like a barrier?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked with a raised eyebrow.

‘’Yes, but there is none. We never put any up, we never had a need for it.’’ At this, the smaller elf looked down, eyes seeming cold and distant.

Íþróttaálfurinn absently scratched his chin in thought as he noted it down. ‘’Did it attempt to cross into the other parts of town? The ones that were not touched by its shadow?’’

They nodded. ‘’It could not cross though. My sister thought it was safe and…’’ the other took a deep breath, before clearing their throat. ‘’Shadows pooled around her feet, like they just grew out of her own shadow, before she got snatched. It tried to do something to her, but I am not sure of what it was.’’ The other bit at their lower lip, before embracing themselves. ‘’Eyes turned black. Body violently jerked as though being electrocuted. It did not make sense.’’ They said before falling silent.

Íþróttaálfurinn gave a curt nod and noted the rest. ‘’Did anyone else attempt to cross or go closer to the darker parts?’’

They shook their head. ‘’There were only three of us left and we sure as fuck did not wanna get any closer to that abomination than we were.’’ The taller elf quickly waved off the guard, who was about to correct the foul language of the smaller elf.

Everyone were on edge, forgotten manners were to be expected.

‘’Thank you.’’

’Don’t fuckin thank me, just fix this.’’ They quickly snapped, before uttering a soft, shaking ‘please’, nails starting to dig into their upper arms.

Íþróttaálfurinn failed to suppress a quiet sigh, before he once more addressed the nervous crowd. ‘’Does anyone else have anything of importance to report?’’

Chapter Text

 

The first thing he registered was the smell of food - In the kitchen, Robbie turned slightly and regarded him through narrowed eyes, as he noticed the elfs now conscious state, before abruptly turning back to tend to his cooking.

The elf grit his teeth and took a deep breath; Preparing himself to stand up, as he put both hands on the sides of the chair and slowly started to lift himself out of it. He let out a soft, pained gasp, when his bound feet touched the cool floor below. Immediately, albeit a tiny bit irked, the fae let out a little huff and abandoned his cooking to assist him – swiftly wrapping an arm under the others shoulder and practically carried him along.

‘’Wha’ time is it?’’ the elf groggily rasped out.

‘’Just past noon’’ the fae answered, as he opened the door to the bathroom and held it open - The elf somehow managing to get inside without crumbling to the ground.

‘’Try not to die in there.’’ Robbie helpfully suggested, as he closed the door a bit harshly after him.

Sportacus took a deep breath and did his business.

--

Robbie was still right outside of the door, when the elf reemerged and wordlessly helped him get to the table, before stalking towards the kitchen and retrieving a rather large pan of something from which – the elf started to notice as the other drew closer - an absolutely heavenly scent emitted.

‘’Shut up and eat.’’

’I did not-‘’

‘’Did I stutter?’’

The elf obediently picked up his fork and dug into the fresh, steamed vegetables – Realizing that he was practically starving, as soon as the flavor hit his tongue. With a bit of mental effort, he willed himself to eat slow, less he might end up making himself ill. He managed that for all of two minutes, before a hungry, primal urge overtook him and he practically devoured the rest.

He had just - a bit shamefully - put his fork down, when a soft, purring something brushed against his shin, making the elf glance down in surprise. Small, black beady eyes blinked back at him, as the kitten set to work on rubbing itself all over what it could reach of his left leg.

‘’You took it in?’’ the elf asked, a tad surprised. Last he checked, the other was not overly fond of the furry creature.

In front of him, Robbie blushed before casually shrugging. ‘’Couldn’t find a ward that fit.’’ He grumbled and glared down at the black and white fur-ball. ‘’Deal went for the kids and that is technically a kid too.’’

The elf felt himself grin ever so slightly, doubting the shade would be interested in such a small target, but otherwise decided to keep quiet on the obviously touchy subject. And while being on the subject of shades-

‘’Do you think there is a chance, that the shadow might be gone? Could it possibly have moved on?’’

Robbie quickly shook his head. ‘’Doubt it.’’ The two fell quiet for a moment, before the fae continued in a clipped tone. ‘’Speaking of shade, I do believe you managed to throw quite a lot over the little party you spontaneously decided to invite yourself into.’’ The fae stared coldly at the elf as he cracked his knuckles. ‘’Good thing is, you actually did succeed in convincing them to join the cause. Both Corvus and Deus agreed to join, which I honestly did not see coming, those two are not friends.’’ He said and took a swig of his coffee. ‘’I will meet up with Deus later today and discuss the further details. He has already gone and mended pure intend to a big cluster of his mushrooms.

‘’…I am not sure I understand that part.’’ The elf admitted with a furrowed brow.

‘’Which part?’’ Robbie snapped at the other.

‘’The mushroom part.’’

The fae sighed greatly, before elaborating. ‘’Basically his energy flows through the spores in the ground, which has in turn created a huge network of semi-sentient flora. At this point, whatever he directs his intend towards, it could very well span and influence the entire forest, not to mention everywhere else he put a part of his core and intend towards. As for the forwarded intend itself, he hopes to create a… let us call it a Shade-bane, shall we?’’ the fae grinned at him.

‘’Would it be possible?’’

Robbie shrugged. ‘’I do not know, we will have to wait and see. But if it does indeed work, then it will be one hell of a powerful defense.’’ He mused as he scratched at his chin. ‘’If it fails, Corvus have already send word to Vita and Nox. They plan to attempt similar feats and hopefully one of the three will succeed.’’

‘’Who was that?’’ The elf quickly continued, when the fae raised an eyebrow at him in question. ‘’Corvus. Who was Corvus?’’

‘’He is the host of the party and basically the one who calls the shots. If he decides to wrap things up or let someone go, his decision is holy no matter what anyone else says.’’

‘’So he is the ringleader so to speak?’’

Robbie grimaced. ‘’You could say that.’’ The fae sighed dramatically. ‘’He did however not want to let you go. Grey had already taken a liking to you and…’’ he trailed off as he circled his hand.

‘’Grey?’’ the elf asked, feeling even more confused, as he tried to take all the new names and information in.

‘’Did you actually talk to any of them, or did you just yapper on as per usual?’’

‘’I tried.’’ the elf snapped, as he looked up at the other. Robbie just laughed at his frustration.

‘’Okay, okay peace, please.’’ The fae chuckled, as his hands came up in retaliation, when the elfs expression had settled into a deep, angered glare. ‘’Grey is the first fae you talked to in there. She likes you. A lot.’’

‘’She has a weird way of showing it.’’

Robbie shrugged. ‘’’She is fae and you had already done all the talking. They had no further use of you.’’

‘’Why not just let me leave then?’’ he asked, actually curious.

‘’Corvus did not see a reason to spare you.’’

‘’Why not?’’

The fae shrugged. ‘’Why should he?’’

‘’Because it is the decent thing to do?’’

Robbie huffed and raised an eyebrow at him. ‘’You do realize where you were, yes?’’

The elf tapped the butt of the fork against the table instead of replying. ‘’How did you convince him?’’ he asked instead.

The fae shrugged nonchalantly. ‘’I told him I would step on his flowers.’’ He said and quickly elaborated when the elfs hand stilled and he did nothing but stare back at the other in confusion. ‘’Half of his energy is merged with his garden. It is practically his literal lifeblood.’’

‘’Ah.’’

The fork went back to tapping against the table, as the two fell silent.

‘’So who is Deus?’’

‘’He is bad news and you should stay away from him if you can.’’ Robbie immediately snapped. ‘’As for Nox and Vita, they do not roam in these parts of the realm, so chances are you will never be unfortunate enough to meet them.’’

The elf nodded in acknowledgement, but remained quiet as he mused. So I did not actually mess up completely. He thought, as he dared a glance up at the other. You should still not have gone. His mind grumbled back.

That was kind of true, but done is done – new day, new beginnings and all that. One thing still lingered though – the doubt, which the elf had been unable to shake about the other, still as strong as it had been, back when it had first snuck into his muddled mind. He mused it mostly stemmed from their piss-pour attempts at standard communication – which he knew he held just as much of the fault of.

If they were to actually make any progress, without wasting further time and energy on doubts and speculations, he would have to clear a few things up – and hopefully not get stabbed with a fork, or beaten to death with a frying pan, by an angered fae in the process.

‘’Is there a chance you are backing out of this project?’’

In front of him, the fae was silent for a beat, before he practically growled out a low ‘’Pardon?’’.

‘’This situation at hand.’’ The elf started, hoping he was not digging his own grave ‘’the deal was that you would see to the safety of the children. Anything from that point on is technically not anything that you…’’ the elf felt himself trail off, as he noticed the unimpressed glare the other was regarding him with.

‘’Are you always this distrusting of other people?’’ he huffed dryly.

‘’No.’’ the elf admitted. ‘’No, I am really not.’’

‘’Then please stop it.’’

They stared at each other for a few beats, before the elf felt himself blush and set to worrying at the points of his fork.

’What?’’

‘’Nothing, just... Sorry I doubted you.’’ Sportacus uttered in a soft voice, as he stabbed at a leftover piece of cucumber, not looking up at the other.

‘’You doubted me, or are you doubting me?’’ Robbie huffed with an air of impatience.

The elf gave a small shrug. ‘’In the ring.’’ He elaborated, as he skewered the remaining slice clean through the middle. ‘’I thought you would let me die.’’

A deep, uncomfortable silence fell, before the elf finally dared to glance up. Robbie glared at him before suddenly reaching out his left hand and smacked the elf over the back of his head.

’Unbelievable.’’ He mumbled as he rubbed at his throbbing hand.

‘’You were standing, not doing anyth-‘’

‘’I did not realize you were that hurt okay?’’ The fae angrily cut him off. ‘’I thought you had been there for maximum an hour, I thought maybe this would be a fitting wake-up call, maybe you would stop being such an idiot, maybe you would stop putting your life in danger and just trust me for once when I tell you that I. Got. This.’’ The fae slammed his palm against the table, as he grit out the last three words. ‘’I am sorry.’’ He spat, seeming sincere. ‘’I am so godsdamned sorry, but this is not my fault.’’

Robbie took a deep breath, as he shook his head in an indignant fashion. ‘’This is a disaster.’’ He mumbled while the elf continued to fiddle with his fork, unsure of what to say. ‘’This is not my fault.’’ He repeated before letting out a deep sigh. ‘’And neither is it yours.’’ The fae continued in a softer voice. ‘’I should have told you, when you asked, but I really did not want to. This is a bit of a sore spot for me, okay?’’

Sportacus felt himself nod.

‘’You ever pull a stupid stunt like that and I will personally chop your legs off.’’ Robbie warned, voice momentarily back to its usual snark.

The elf huffed, as he felt himself grin almost stupidly. ‘’Yeah.’’

‘’Sport I am serious, what in seven hells were you thinking?’’ the other uttered in a soft voice, as he raked a hand through his hair.

The elf just shrugged. ‘’I was thinking I told you that I should not be kept out of anything this important.’’ He laughed, hoping the other would not get too annoyed.

In front of him, Robbie smacked his forehead against his open palm, clearly annoyed. ‘’You are insufferable.’’

‘’I believe you have told me a few times yes.’’

‘’Honestly, how old are you, 5?’’ The fae mumbled through his slightly parted fingers.

‘’67.’’ The elf corrected, as he bit into the last slice on his plate.

Robbie went amusingly quiet, before his head snapped back up to stare at the other. ‘’What?!’’

The elf gave a small shrug. ‘’Dad's 378.’’

‘’You are kidding me, right?’’

‘’Nope.’’ The elf said, as he stared back into the unblinking gaze of the other. ‘’You realize elves live long lives, right?’’

Robbie let out a small, disbelieving huff before answering. ‘’Of course. You act as if you are in your teens though, so how should I have known.’’

A small, comfortable silence fell before the fae got up, grabbed both plates and pan and made his way to the kitchen. ‘’67.’’ The elf heard the other murmur in disbelief as he, rather violently, did the dishes.

--

‘’Why are you holding on to me?’’ Sportacus asked, as he stared down at the fae – the fae in question currently wrapped tightly around both of his legs.

‘’Cause you gon’ be an idiot and wander off again if I don’t.’’ he mumbled, voice muffled by the elfs pants.

The elf let out a small chuckle as he awkwardly petted the others unruly hair. ‘’I am not going anywhere.’’ He promised.

‘’I dun’ believe you.’’ Robbie grumbled sleepily in protest.

‘’Robbie?’’ The elf got a soft hum in reply. ‘’You are not going to sleep on the floor are you?’’

‘’You are in my bed.’’

Oh.

‘’I can move.’’

Robbie immediately gripped his thighs and held the other in place - relenting his grip a bit, when the elf winced in pain. ‘’Absolutely not.’’

‘’But you need to-‘’

’Move and I will chain you down.’’ Robbie yapped as he, deadly serious, glared up at him. ‘’Chains. Iron chains. I have them.’’ He barked as he narrowed his eyes and somehow managed to glare even harder. ‘’Yep.’’

The elf stared down at the other in slight horror, both hands flying up in retaliation, before he slowly relaxed back into the chair. ‘’I have a spare madras somewhere in here, just got to find it first.’’ The fae grumbled as he got up with a grunt of effort.

‘’…Wait, where did you sleep last night?’’ The elf asked in concern.

‘’I didn’t.’’ Robbie admitted, as he gazed down at the other with a serious expression. ‘’Your breathing was all weird and you kept randomly twitching so I did not dare.’’ Sportacus was about to open his mouth, when the fae beat him to it. ‘’Stop commenting on it and sleep.’’ He snapped, as he turned and stalked out of sight.

--

 

- Hours later – The court –

 

’Thank you!’’ Seven quickly yapped over his shoulder, as he picked up the small tray and swiftly made his way out of the small, busy kitchen - quickly sidestepping a taller elf, with a rather large water-jug, as she nearly ran into him, in her rush to get to wherever she was going.

He balanced the tray on one hand, while he corrected his hair with the other, in the big, ornamental mirror, located just outside the war-room. He still had no clue – and no one he spoke to knew either – as to why it was placed here in the first place, but heck, it just was.

Granted, no one in the court really minded his exterior, but the movements had become somewhat of a routine, while he was still just a smaller servant, working in the fields outside of the court itself. The elf quickly made sure his long bangs fell over the burned part of his face, dead eye glaring back at him, as he flashed a cheeky smile at himself, before outstretching a foot and lightly kicking at one of the huge double doors.

Inside the war-room, an annoyed but luckily affirmative grunt sounded. The elf opened one of the doors and slid inside, before it could collide with the back of his head.

Íþróttaálfurinn did not in the least, look surprised to see him – the taller elf casually gestured towards the round table, to where Seven quickly stalked over and put down the tray, snatching a few apple slices for himself. ‘’Tea?’’ he asked the taller and poured two mugs, when the other absently nodded.

The shorter elf gently blew over his own mug, as the other continued to stare down at a large, rather over-written map – different coloured lines and sections pointing out this and that about...

‘’Evacuations?’’ Seven guessed.

The other gave another nod, but seemed to be ignoring his presence for now.

Seven sighed greatly, as he put the mug down. ‘’Sir, if I may?’’ he asked, as he worried at his lower lip. Íþróttaálfurinn threw a small nod in his direction, as he too, picked up a slice for himself and set to munching on it - eyes never leaving the map in front of him. ‘’I know it is not my place to comment, especially not in a place like this, but…’’ he nervously trailed off, waiting for permission to speak further.

The other finally abandoned his map and gazed at him, silently gesturing for him to take a seat, which Seven promptly did. He drew his mug closer to him before continuing. ‘’I worry it might evolve.’’ He began, as he scooted his chair a bit closer to the table.

The taller elf paused on his chewing and glanced up at him. ‘’Do elaborate?’’

‘’We have yet to hear any reports of the darker ones involvement.’’

‘’Because no one has been foolish enough to approach.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn deadpanned.

‘’But what if it does?’’ Seven asked softly, hoping he was not pressing too far. ‘’If it takes a dark one? What then? Perhaps this foe is still in the progress of becoming. Half-baked for lack of better words - what it eats, it mimics, and so far it has no shape, but what if it suddenly does?’’

The taller shook his head, drew in a sharp intake of breath, before he too sat down and glared at the other. ‘’You would call that half-baked?’’ the taller elf tiredly asked with no traces of scoff in his voice, as he gestured to the map, before leaning his head in his hand and regarded the other through tired eyes.

‘’Sir, have you ever heard of the Shell eaters?’’ Seven settled instead.

‘’Only in passing.’’

To that, Seven gave him a small nod before sighing greatly. ‘’For starters, it is best not to talk of them at all.’’

‘’Brevity is a skill.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn shrugged as he tried – and failed – to stifle a yawn.

The other closed his eye, as he leaned forward, hands clasped in front of his mouth, as though he could somehow shield the words, if he just covered them well enough. ‘’They started out pretty much the same way this little shade did. Nonphysical, completely unpredictable, but worst of all, it kept evolving. When a Shell eater finds a victim it deems fit, it will look the target in the eyes.’’ at this, Seven snapped his eye open and stared at the other. ‘’The person will then be unable to move, as it slowly devours that persons essence, until nothing remains but a hollow shell. They have perfected their hunting method over the few hundreds of years, in which they have roamed here. This little shade of ours have not. Yet’’ he concluded with a downcast eye, as he let his folded hands rest against the edge of the table instead.

In front of him, Íþróttaálfurinn had started to vigorously massage his temple, as though trying to work out a great headache. ‘’What do you suggest then?’’ he asked, as he reached across the table and snatched up another apple slice.

The smaller elf looked around in uncertainty - not expected for his opinion on the matter, to have any value in a place such as this. Not that he would have kept quiet anyway, but still. ‘’There is speak of joined forces?’’ the elf tried softly. ‘’What if we asked them to join?’’

‘’The dark ones?’’ The taller huffed. ‘’How on earth would you go about that?’’

Seven shrugged. ‘’I honestly do not know sir.’’

Íþróttaálfurin stared at him for a few moments, before noting it down.

A heavy silence fell after that, before the taller elf sighed and gazed back up at the other. ‘’Are you doing all right these days? I hope your mother is not causing you too much trouble in the midst of all this?’’

Seven shook his head. ‘’It is what it is. She is just worried for my safety.’’ He mumbled, not too keen on discussing that specific topic. He was perhaps the youngest staff-member in the court, but he could damn well hold his own. ‘’It is important work though, I cannot complain.’’ He said honestly, hoping to quickly derail the other.

Íþróttaálfurin nodded solemnly and allowed the chance. ‘’I have a meeting to attend to later today. Would you kindly make sure everyone is properly hydrated beforehand, so that we do not have another fainter on our hands?"

‘’Of course sir.’’ Seven said, as he slowly rose to his feet and made to exit the war-room. ‘’Oh and sir?’’ The taller lowly hummed in acknowledgement. ‘’Would you please make sure to actually follow your own orders?’’ he said as he casually gestured towards the second, neglected mug.

Íþróttaálfurinn looked up at him in surprise. ‘’Pardon?’’

He should probably stop pushing his luck, but his boldness was kinda the very reason, he was trusted with the secrets of the inner court. ‘’Fuckin drink some water your highness, you need it as well.’’ He said and swiftly made his way out of the war-room, before the other could reply.

--

 

- Meanwhile – Elsewhere –

 

The hardened ground softly complained, as a large portion of sharp claws lazily raked across it. An oozing snout sniffed here and there, following a quickly fading trail - no doubt left by their unfortunate perpetrator.

The mare dug in deeper, as something responded to its disembodied calling.

From beneath it – deep, deep down inside the cold ground - a shimmering, dying ember rose up between two parted claws and gently, oh so gently, it was stored away for further examination.

The scent was undoubtable, deliciously recognizable.

Pure. Unadulterated chaos and destruction.

The nocturnal stalker allowed itself a moment to breathe in the refreshing scent of mixed panic and sorrow, which the ember gave off - After all, these hunts had shown to take a great deal of effort.

As it was, covered in unseeing and seeing eyes, it did not exactly see the shadows slowly inching closer to its being, but at this point, it was well tuned towards the other dark presence, which seemed to lurk around every corner of the damned realm these days – Acutely on edge, after the firsthand witnessing of several of its brethren falling prey to the greedy, dark mass.

With a huff, it allowed itself to slip in-between – purple spores rapidly breaking and splitting off in literally every single direction, which existed here in this plain between the physical and the not – before the mare itself dove into the ether and vanished as quickly as it had come.

Chapter Text

She could not make sense of what had happened. One moment, she had been calmly reading up for a test - next thing she knew, it seemed as though someone had turned out not just the light in her room, but the sun itself. She had managed to find her way to the window, pressed a hot, shaking palm against the cool glass and squinted her eyes at the spreading darkness, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever had caused this.

Unfortunately, there was nothing to see. At all.

She nervously tapped a nail against the glass – unsure if there truly was no light outside, or if she had momentarily gone blind - just as a startled scream erupted from the outside. She flinched back, and fell hard on the floor, as her left leg collided with a random object on the ground.

Probably just a power out she thought desperately, as she took a deep, shaky breath and started to crawl through the pitch-black darkness, towards where she knew the door was located – hoping to find perhaps a flashlight or any other light source in one of the other rooms of her small apartment.

She did a full body flinch, as her ankle collided with something, which knocked over and smashed against the ground with a loud bang.

Or wait, no.

She had felt the vibration from the object, but it had not actually made any sound, as it had collided with the floor, close to her person. Realizing that, she got up on her elbows and tried to locate the object, with a puzzled expression quickly settling into her features.

Maybe it just hid a pillow or something equally soft, maybe... Wait, had it not gone eerily quiet outside as well? Like, really quiet.

The thought that maybe she had gone both deaf and blind had just struck her, when something rough and dry brushed against her throbbing ankle. Startled, she tried to look behind her, but could see nothing with the spontaneous absence of light.

She yelped in fright, as a set of sharp claws wrapped around her bruising ankle - yelp quickly assenting into an actual panicked scream, as the wrist that held her, started to drag her backwards, away from her destination. She tried to kick at whatever had a hold on her, eyes going wide, as her foot went straight through something cool and moist, which quickly rose up above her and pressed down on the entirety of her thrashing form – Like a thick, cold fog, slowly suffocating her under the weight, it should not have had.

By the time she tried to call for help, something had already started to press itself down through her throat - lungs rapidly filling with a foul, dark liquid, as the sensation of a thousand ants chewing through her skin and into her torn veins, made her last attempt to regain freedom, all the more desperate.

Any kind of movement had become impossible, as she felt her wide eyes burst, before the entire mass that had been a person only moments ago, collapsed in on itself.

’How annoying.’’ The shadow drawled, as it jerked itself free and shook its shimmering form; like a dog who had just rolled around in mud.

--

 

- In the evening – The lair -

 

Robbie glared down at the snoozing elf - said elfs chest gently rising and falling.

The grip they had had on him had been strong; Grey really had not wanted to let him go.

In the end, it had taken a lot more energy than it should to bring him out - A sort of intense, magical tug-of-war if you will. He had eventually managed to resolve the situation, with a show of dominance and the undeniable fact, that he and the elf obviously had a connection.

Corvus did not need to know which kind - fact was that it had worked.

Robbie sighed as he raked his hands through his hair, before slowly stalking over to draw down the periscope. It made a soft sound, as it slid down into his hands.

Outside, the sun was just about to go down. Else for that, it did not seem like there was anything of notice at all. The children were fine, town quiet and currently absent of any activity at all. The fae should have been happy about that fact - irony of him missing the usual buzz, not at all lost on him.

He huffed and let the periscope glide back into its holder before stalking towards the kitchen.

A few mugs of coffee and cake would make everything better. Yep.

Besides, he had agreed to meet up with the other fae later, so the energy would be needed, if he were to not outright slaughter everyone within his vicinity in a fit of righteous indignation.

He stretched out his back and glared over at the idiotic elf. Had Sportacus actually thought that he would outright let him die in such a fashion? The fae shook his head, drained his coffee and grabbed himself another slice of cake.

Idiot.

--

 

- Roughly an hour later – Somewhere in the forest -

 

‘’So do you wanna fill him in on the progress of the shroom-ward or should I?’’ Grey asked, as she turned and flashed a bright smile at Deus.

‘’You are not actually calling it the shroom-ward, right?’’ Robbie huffed, as he glared at the pair.

In front of him, Grey just shrugged. ‘’You are not exactly one to talk about cool nicknames Robster.’’

The fae in question let out a dramatic sigh and flicked his hands to the sky. ‘’whatever, shroom-ward it is, I am sure anyone who hears about this, will take us very serious.’’

‘’Children please.’’ Deus chuckled, as he crossed his massive, tattooed arms over his chest. ‘’The problem Roblie, is that the ward is not working.’’ He continued. ‘’Something is missing, which I cannot provide, but I am unsure, as to what that is.’’ He gruffed out, as he absently scratched at his beard. ‘’The intend is there, but it needs a push.’’

The three fell quiet for a beat, while Robbie took in the new information. The fae slowly kneeled down on the cool forest floor, placed his slightly parted, glowing fingers against the ground and reached out. Beneath him, he felt the strong beat of the unsuccessful ward, as it pushed up and brushed against his fingertips - Like a heartbeat, slowly rolling through the ground below.

A slight frown settled over the faes face, as he pushed against it harder. Nothing budged.

He let out a gentle sigh and slowly stood up, quickly brushing off his dirtied knees. ‘’If anything, this should at least slow it down.’’ He concluded, as he gazed at the others.

Deus solemnly nodded. ‘’But it is still not enough to keep it out completely.’’

To his left, Grey flipped her dark hair over her shoulder, before placing her hands on her hips. ‘’We’ve decided to wait and hear back from Vita and Nox. Maybe one of them has figured it out.’’

Robbie nodded. ‘’I cannot say for sure what is missing either, so it seems like a wise choice of action.’’

The three once more fell silent, before Deus cracked his knuckles and casually gestured to the ground below. ‘’I mean, usually we do not wanna keep others out, be it a physical presence or not. It’s just… shrooms are usually used to lure, not keep out, so that might be it.’’

Robbie raked a hand through his hair, as he nodded. ‘’Might be.’’ He softly agreed, before glancing up at the sky. ‘’Has Corvus had any luck with the other gathering yet?’’

Deus shook his head. ‘’They don’t wanna touch anything that has ‘elf’ on it.’’

’This is bigger than that.’’ Robbie quickly snapped. ‘’Besides, it is not like the shade is discriminating when it feasts, which I am sure they have already noticed.’’

Deus just shrugged. ‘’I know, but several thousand years of hate, don’t just fade like that Roblie, you of all people know that.’’

Robbie shook his head in frustration and glared at the other, as though this was his fault. ‘’You are with me in this, yes?’’ he spat.

‘’Of course Robster, don’t think you can get rid of us, even if you tried.’’ Grey laughed, as she tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. ‘’I have something for you by the way.’’

‘’Please tell me it is not another pair of mittens?’’

‘’It is indeed mittens you ungrateful bastard.’’ Robbie huffed, as a pair of purple mittens were shoved into his hands – small white strawberries decorating the hem. ‘’I worked hard on them, so a small thank you would be nice. I will not even hold you in for a favor, promise.’’ She clipped, annoyed expression settling into pure delight, as she received a quick peck on the cheek.

‘’Thank you.’’

--

 

- Way into the night – The court -

 

Íþróttaálfurinn woke with a start, when a loud, persistent knocking sounded at his door. ‘’What?’’ he barked out in a slight anger, and tightly shut his eyes against the sharp light, protruding from the now opening door.

‘’Sir, there is a situation and I-They-I could not… You better come.’’ Sevens equally tired, but alert voice sounded from the doorway.

The taller elf groaned and rolled out of bed, quickly snatching up a shirt that had been carelessly discarded on the drawer next to him and put it on – not caring that it was inside out.

’Where?’’ he yapped, as he strode out of his bedroom, doing his best to swiftly save his bed hair from its smushed state.

‘’The war-room.’’ Seven quickly replied, as the two, side by side, made their way down a flight of stairs to get to the main level. ‘’Couple of commoners climbed the gate a few hours back, but please hear them out, their concerns are legit.’’

The shorter elf quickly threw Íþróttaálfurinns embroidered coat at him, as they walked towards the double doors - Seven quickly jogging ahead to throw them open, before the king of the court calmly walked through.

Immediately, a hush fell over the room, as the gathered all turned to him. Then everyone erupted into what appeared to be a quick, frantic shouting match.

A rather knobbly-looking guard, with their hair in a great disarray, quickly dislodged themselves from the agitated crowd, and gently pushed a small elven child forward – quickly taking off her coat and turning the child’s back towards the taller elf.

Five long claw marks had embedded themselves down her back.

Íþróttaálfurinn stared at the mess, as the shoulders of the small child started to shake - the guard holding her, quickly covered her back up, before cradling the crying child close and looked up at Íþróttaálfurinn with a baffled expression. ’It touched her.’’ They said in a voice full of concern and fright. ‘’Outside of the valley, the small town just by the sea. Everyone is gone - we found her like this.’’

A few other elves stepped forward in order to try to gain his attention.

‘’But sir we need to- wait, it can touch things?’’

‘’Is it physical then? Is this an actual possession now?’’

‘’What of the wards, will they even work?!’’

A loud clang rang out, as the guards positioned by the door, both slammed the blunt end of their spears into the ground, easily cutting through the panicked chatter. Immediately all sound died down - only the soft whimpers of the child still present in the thick, stunned silence that settled.

Íþróttaálfurinn willed his tense shoulders to drop, before he took a deep breath and slowly kneeled down in front of the child, as if not to spook her any further.

’Nothing but elves can penetrate the courts wards. Our defense is impregnable against both the physical and the nonphysical.’’ He gently promised to her trembling back, as he kept his voice as soft, as he possibly could. She gave a small nod and buried herself closer against the chest of the guard holding her. The taller elf took another deep breath, as he slowly rose to his feet and sat down in his chair. ‘’Please settle down. Now one at the time. What has happened?’’

--

 

- Next morning – The lair –

 

Sportacus was engrossed in reading, when a huffing Robbie Rotten, dressed in a morning robe, dropped into the lair. With a forlorn expression, the elf guiltily glanced up at the other and awkwardly cleared his throat, as he absently tapped a finger at the book in his lap. ‘’I owe you an apology. A sincere one.’’ He said softly.

The faes stunned gaze quickly snapped to him in surprise, before he nodded once at the elf with a dazzling grin. ‘’That you do.’’

The elf was silent for a beat, before taking a deep breath. ‘’Thank you for not claiming ownership of my…’’ the elf trailed off, looking for the right word to explain what he had just read. It did not matter though, Robbie practically knew the book and traditions by heart, but it needed to be said out loud regardless. ‘’My person.’’ He finally concluded, as he fiddled with the corner of the page. ‘’I had no clue it was this dangerous to go, or that that was even a possible outcome.’’ He admitted.

Robbie huffed, as he took the book from the elfs outstretched hand. ‘’Yeah well, done is done.’’ He mumbled and quickly went to put it away. ‘’…Wait, where did you get this?’’ the fae asked, as he stopped dead in his tracks and held the book up a little.

Sportacus awkwardly cleared his throat again and calmly regarded the other. ‘’So I might have really needed to move and I did promise to read up after… after everything.’’ He said, as he scratched at the back of his head. ‘’I am sorry. Truly.’’

The other crossed his arms over his chest and stared the elf down. ‘’Are you apologizing for the book or you being an idiot right now.’’

‘’Both.’’

Robbie let out a soft hum, as he regarded the other. ‘’Can we agree for you to not do it again?’’ The elf nodded. ‘’Then say it.’’

‘’Say what exactly?’’

‘’Promise me that you will not throw yourself into a dangerous situation, such as that of what we both just went through, without doing the research first.’’

The elf was silent for a beat, as he mused it over. ‘’This is not going to cost me right? There are no further repercussions if I agree.’’

In front of him, the fae scoffed loudly. ‘’Only that you might actually survive this cursed ordeal.’’ He said, as he shook the book in his hand slightly. ‘’But no, there are no further repercussions. This is for you.’’ He said, as he vaguely gestured toward the elfs person. ‘’I do not gain anything from it.’’

The elf felt himself nod again. ‘’I promise.’’

Robbie quickly strode forward and extended the book-free hand, which the elf grasped – the small telltale tremor of a deal well sealed, going through his arm, as he did so.

A heavy silence fell between the two, as the fae seemed to muse something over. ‘’The shroom-ward did not work.’’ He casually grumbled.

‘’Shroom-ward?’’ the elf huffed out in surprise.

’It is a stupid name, I know.’’ The fae barked, as he flicked a hand towards the ceiling and promptly went to put the book down. ‘’I told them, but nope, shroom-ward it is. Shroom-ward, I mean really, what kind of-…’’

A puzzled expression – which clearly had nothing to do with the current trash-talk of poorly names wards - settled over the faes face, brow furrowing slightly, before the fae looked downright alarmed.

‘’Is it the shadow?’’ The elf worriedly whispered, as he immediately stood up, winching slightly at the pain it brought him.

Robbie slowly shook his head, as he absently narrowed his eyes at nothing in particular. ‘’Something else.’’ he snapped, as his eyes snapped to a fixed point in front of him, hands and most of his torso glowing a soft shade of purple.

A strange, silent tension slowly rose throughout the lair, as the fae seemed to be intently listening for something. The elf felt his ears pop, as the pressure continued to built, soft vibration going through the ground around him, as he awkwardly shuffled his weight from foot to foot, trying to ease the pain from standing up.

‘’Someone is trying to get in.’’ Robbie finally concluded, face set in concentration, as he worried at his lower lip. ‘’It requires a very strong amount of energy to do so, but why would anyone-‘’

Sportacus felt the entirety of his back and shoulders go tense, as an entire shelf of jars exploded out from the wall with a loud boom, chairs and tables knocked over in the process, from the sheer force of the intrusion.

A tense silence fell then, the only sound being that of a cracked jar’s contends, slowly dripping onto the floor below, as the two stared at their elven intruder who - breathing hard and looking slightly winded - gazed around with eyes widened in a panicked alarm. Sportacus only had a second of delighted recognition, before the other snatched the shorter elf up into a tight death trap of a hug.

’Dad I can’t breathe.’’ The shorter elf managed to wheeze out, as he laughed and rapidly tapped at the others arm.

Chapter Text

‘’You tell me you are dying and I find you fine as day, what is this?’’ Aki demanded, as he slowly lowered his grinning son back onto the floor.

Oh. Right. That. So the prayer went through after all the smaller elf mused, as his father’s broad hands settled on his slumped shoulders, shaking him lightly, as he swiftly examined him for any visible damage - quickly relenting the depressing hold, as he gazed down at the others feet and realizing the bound state they were in.

Hands still on his shoulders, Sportacus glanced over the taller elfs shoulder - just as his crystal started to gently vibrate against his chest - and took in the regretful recognition his fae was currently emanating. The other promptly paled, as the older elf turned and followed Sportacus’ gaze.

The fae gulped, as Akis murderous glare turned to him - he took a single step back, hands quickly coming up, as though to shield himself from a blow.

‘’I walked into a ring.’’ Sport quickly yapped, once more drawing the attention of his father. ‘’He.’’ The elf continued, as he gestured with a tilt of his head towards the fae. ‘’Broke me out of it.’’

Aki let him go with a soft ‘’Ah.’’ and straightened up before turning slightly towards Robbie, throwing him a single, stern nod. ‘’Thank you.’’

‘’No problem, don’t even want the favor, nope.’’ The fae clipped, sounding slightly winded, as he continued backwards, before abruptly spinning on his heal and stalking over to a knocked down shelf - squatting down and retrieved an empty backpack, that had been located under it.

‘’And you.’’ Aki growled lowly, as he turned back towards the shorter elf. ‘’Are idiot.’’ He yapped, as he continuously poked the other in the chest with a finger. ‘’You need think things through.’’ He snapped, as he flicked his son on the forehead.

‘’Sorry dad.’’ The shorter elf said a bit sheepishly, quickly hanging his head, as he rubbed at the sore spot on his forehead.

Aki narrowed his eyes at the other before sighing greatly. ‘’I believe you have learned lesson.’’ He concluded, before gently head-butting his son. ‘’I hope this not bring up any bad memories?’’ he asked in a hushed voice.

The shorter shook his head slightly. ‘’This one is good.’’ He replied. ‘’It is not like back then.’’ He softly promised, as he looked towards the slightly frantic fae. The vibration from his crystal was still just that of a small buzz, so he reckoned it was hopefully nothing, which could not be solved by a quick cleanup – and possibly a short trip to the garden in order to replace what had been lost; this was his fault after all.

’You might wanna wrap up the happy reunions.’’ Robbie snapped loudly from across the room, as he hurried around the lair - quickly throwing this and that into the quickly filling back.

‘’What is matter?’’ Aki asked, as he finally let the other elf go and glanced around the ruined lair. ‘’I caused mess.’’ He correctly observed with a raised eyebrow, as he stared at the sticky, olive-green contents of a jar, slowly leaking down onto the dirtied floor below.

‘’Don’t worry about it.’’ Robbie mumbled, as he swiftly crossed across his thrashed home and threw a few books and a jar of instant coffee into the now bulging bag.

The shorter elf felt his brow furrow at the odd behavior and was about to ask what was wrong, when all the lights in the lair died – successfully plunging the place into complete darkness. ‘’Shit.’’ He heard Robbie mumble from somewhere to his left, as the fae vigoursly started to rub his palms together.

Sportacus squinted out into the thick darkness - trying and failing to see, what the source of the matter was.

Small flames danced on Robbies palms, as the fae slowly parted them – casting an eerie light over his grim features. The fae sported a sour expression, as he somehow managed to tug on the backpack without setting the fabric or any of his surroundings on fire.

‘’This not powerout.’’ Akis soft yet stern voice sounded in front of the smaller elf, to which the fae slowly shook his head. His shifty eyes kept jerking from side to side, scouting for any movement that should not be there, as he slowly started towards a door at the other end of the room.

‘’No it isn't.’’ he verbally replied in a soft voice. ‘’We need to move.’’ He continued quietly, as though he did not dare speak too loudly.

‘’But the wards-‘’

‘’They are down.’’ The fae clipped in a hushed voice, just as Sportacus started towards the hatch. ‘’It won't work.’’ Robbie hissed over his shoulder. ‘’Follow me.’’

‘’What?’’

‘’The hatch is operated by electromagnetism.’’ He explained, as the other two stalked after him. ‘’Shitty security system in case the power goes out, I know, but the emergency generator should have kicked in already so... Yeah, fact is, it is locked.’’

‘’And we cannot just change the fuse?’’ The smaller elf asked, as he too, nervously gazed around in the low light.

Only Aki seemed nonplussed by the whole situation.

In front of him, Robbie shook his head. ‘’Your father is right, this is not a regular powerout.’’ He mumbled lowly. The shorter elf felt a shiver go down his spine, just as the thought that maybe there was something the other were not sharing with the group, crossed his mind.

To his left, Aki settled a firm hand on his shoulder. ‘’Do not be alarmed, it is what shade wants.’’

‘’You know about it?’’ Sportacus asked in a slightly shaky voice, as the trio made their way down the dark corridor – Each step, like walking on upturned knives, loudly sending sparks of pain up his shaking legs – unable to shake the uncanny feeling of being watched, as he swallowed a lump in his throat.

The shorter elf could not banish the feeling, that something bad was indeed about to happen.

‘’I do not live under rock. I have been busy helping evacuate over these past weeks, I have seen thing or two.’’ Aki replied with a casual shrug, just as the shorter elf, felt a different kind of chill enter behind them.

’Aki.’’ Robbie lowly hissed in front of them.

‘’Already done.’’ The other replied.

The shorter elf felt his brow furrow. ‘’Why is it not attacking?’’ he whispered. ‘’It is here, is it not?’’ he asked, as he firmly kept his eyes on the glowing fae in front of him - not daring to actually look behind and confirm his suspicion. Aki swiftly scooped up the spooked kitten, as it tried to run past him - As the shorter elf had thought, the shade did not care for its tiny presence.

’Cat and mouse.’’ Robbie lowly gruffed out, as the flames on one of his palms rose higher – flames on the other dying out with a hiss, as the fae fell back and gently gripped Sportacus’ hand. The pain, which his ruined feet brought him, instantly lessened significantly and the trio simultaneously upped the pace.

--

 

- Meanwhile – The hollow trees -

 

Deus tapped his foot twice at the hardened ground, and quickly took three large steps back.

In front of him, the hard dirt started to shake, before the earth upturned itself in great chunks - Pebbles and small twigs flying everywhere, from the sheer force of the movement, roots drawing aside, with a collection of soft cracks and pops - successfully creating a pathway, down into the hollow beneath the tree.

In truth, the place was always open to the outside – the only thing shielding them from any unwanted visitors that of perhaps the strongest ward and glamour in the entire system. If one knew exactly where to go, the completely theatric entrance were skippable, however, you had to go in blind, as you prematurely went through the glamour in the wrong way. He had tried to do it once and ended up taking a tumble down the stairs. From then on, he happily waited out until the greatly beloved, dramatic entrance finished revealing itself.

Deus swiftly made his way down into the dimly lit underground system, which spanned most of Corvus’ forest – the entrance to the tunnels closing behind him with a roar.

Here, a small corridor, lit with luminous mushrooms - which grew on either side, both low to the ground and up the walls in small intricate patterns - lay before him, leading to the main attraction, which over the years had shown out to be the great bar, serving all kinds of different foods and drinks collected from just about all over.

The place itself was still a bit of a myth among his kin – none of its occupants too keen on sharing their secret location and potentially be overrun with loud, expectant costumers.

They liked the quiet under the earth and so they hoped to keep it that way.

Deus stalked through the small, carved archway at the end, small sign above reading ‘The hollow trees’, and swiftly made his way over to the scintillating, wooden counter, sat down and ordered his usual fill of wine, bread, cheese and a few olives on the side.

A few of the regulars had not believed him, when he said that he practically lived on a diet of the stuff. After three weeks of eating nothing else, they had simultaneously seemed to agree that it was best to just leave him alone on the matter – after all, anyone who tried to argue or get in a fight with the fae, had quickly come to regret it, once he had risen to his full height and stared them down. Not that he was aggressive in any way; it was quite the opposite actually.

Despite the story going around of that one fae, which he had apparently ‘knocked out cold’, he had never actually punched anyone in here. The worst he had done so far was a gentle slap on the cheek of a rude customer – the fae, which starred in his brief touch with violence - who had tried to assault one of the other regulars. The receiver of the slap had been too drunk to stay on his feet, thus unfortunately knocking himself out cold, when he had hit a table on the way down.

Except for that, his reputation here was clean.

As he ate, someone harshly tapped his shoulder and sat down in the stool next to him, before leaning into his personal space to deliver a quick peck on the cheek.

‘’You look like shit.’’ Grey politely informed him, as she stole an olive from his plate.

‘’And you look heavenly as usual.’’ Deus grumbled back at her.

She laughed in delight and threw her dark hair over her shoulder. ‘’I gotta show you something.’’ she said, as she grinned wide and held out a small, glasslike orb, wrapped in Dutch tape.

‘’The fuck is this?’’ Deus asked, as he put down his bread and accepted the glowing object from her outstretched hand.

‘’A bomb.’’

‘’You’re fuckin with me, right?’’ he asked, as he stared down at the innocent-looking orb.

‘’Nope. I Haven’t actually tried it yet, but I thought we should look at other options, while we work on getting the shroom-ward in gear.’’ She explained, as she lightly tapped a claw against the glass-orb. ‘’Considering we kinda have a small shade-problem in the basement, I thought ey, might as well.’’

‘’We have a shade in the basement?’’ Deus asked with a raised eyebrow, as he promptly drained the rest of his wine.

Grey nodded, as she gestured for him to follow – which he did, after quickly consuming his remaining olives and paying the glaring bartender for their services - along towards the staircase going down into the darker parts of the hollow trees.

--

‘’This is just uncanny.’’ Deus said, as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the shimmering mass, which seemed to be a solid wall just beyond their ward - Constantly pressing against the barrier, as it tried to get in. ‘’Is this the same thing all around?’’ he asked, as he waved a tattooed hand back and forth.

Grey nodded. ‘’We have tried to banish it, but it only makes it wobble a bit before it stabilizes.’’ She said, as she took out the orb. ‘’There’s one really odd abnormality though, but I’ll show you after we test this one out, yeah?’’

Deus nodded, as they both took a small step back - Grey gingerly unwrapping some of the tape, before pressing a pair of painted lips against its cool surface, making the core of the orb shine a bright shade of green. ‘’Make me proud.’’

The entire black mass shook greatly, as Greys bomb exploded in a great show of green and golden sparks, seemingly taking a large chunk out of it.

For a few tense seconds, the space where the bomb had taken effect seemed to remain shade-free, before the foggy sustenance wobbled a bit, and once more covered up the previously lost space. ‘’Fuckin hell.’’ She hissed, as she bared her teeth at it. ‘’Just fuck off already, what even are you?’’ She howled, as she gestured wildly with her arms and slowly stalked towards it.

’Don’t-‘’

‘’Get too close, I know, chill.’’ She yapped, as she held up a hand towards it, keeping a safe distance between her palm and the shimmering mass. ‘’I’m not stupid, I got this.’’ She mumbled, as she glanced up at it. ‘’I don’t get it, it feels like a cluster of small cold needles pressing back – normally that would be what a red energy feels like, but this is different. It’s weird. I wonder if this would be the same sensation if you touched a host.’’ She mused aloud, as she raked her tingling hand through her hair and turned back towards Deus.

‘’Host? Someone actually got possessed?’’

Grey shrugged. ‘’Not really, the entire person just sort of collapsed into a puddle of goo, but someone tried to touch em’ just before and ended up being snatched in the process.’’

The pair fell silent, as Deus worried at his beard in thought. ‘’Think a host could walk through a ward?’’

‘’I fuckin hope not.’’ she yapped wide-eyed at the other. ‘’But ey, maybe this shit-stain of a bomb would actually be of use then.’’

‘’Chill out Grey, that wasn’t a bad shot.’’

‘’Fuck yeah it was.’’ She yapped, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder, before shaking her head in disgust. ‘’Did that even do a difference at all?’’ she asked, as she let her hand drop and squinted into the shimmering shade.

‘’Kinda hard to say when there's so much of it.’’ Deus mused. ‘’If anything, it’s a start right? You got it to back off for at least two seconds.’’

Grey huffed, as she shoved past the other, grabbing his thick wrist and tugging him with her in the process. ‘’It seems to be surrounding the entire underground. Only the cavern on the eastern side is not affected.’’ she yapped, as she gestured towards another part of the shade trapped behind the ward. ‘’But like, there is no other way to reach the cavern, than to go through some of the more heavy wards, so...’’

‘’So it cannot cross through rock.’’ Deus concluded.

‘’Yeah.’’ She sighed. ‘’And then we have this. Whatever the fuck that cut there means.’’

Deus stared at the perfect cut, which seemed to have disallowed the shade, to take up the entire space of the corridor behind the ward. Grey slowly put her hand outside of the ward, on the shade-free side. ‘’See? It can't reach me.’’

Deus worried at his lip, as he stared at the others hand - currently being shaken slightly beyond the ward to prove the point. ‘’Strange.’’ He agreed. ‘’It's not a ward is it?’’

She shook her head. ‘’Nah we don’t have any that should cause this. This is not the only place this had happened though.’’ She said, as she slowly retrieved her hand into the safe space inside the ward. ‘’Corvus said it has happened in a few towns when they got attacked, but no one really know what the fuck is up yet.’’

Deus scratched at his beard, as he stared at the perfect line, which cut straight through the shade. ‘’Is it always in a line like that?’’

Grey nodded and the two fell silent for a few moments, before she sighed greatly and tugged the other along. ‘’Fuck it, I’ll treat you vodka, how bout that?’’

--

‘’Vita wants a word.’’ The fae behind the bar grumbled and gestured over their shoulder, as the pair reemerged from the shade-experimentation. Deus hummed, as he drained the shot Grey pressed towards him, after she had jumped behind the bar.

‘’Is it urgent?’’

The bartender shrugged. ‘’Something about a wroom-ward.’’

Deus felt himself blink a couple of times, before he quickly got up and jumped over the bar counter as well. ‘’You know, there is a perfectly person-sized gap for you to walk through, instead of jumping around like a maniac.’’ They called after him, as Deus made his way into the staffs-only area.

He quickly shut and locked the door behind him, before stalking over to the small pond in the middle - Small rings rapidly spreading in the still water, as the fae pressed his glowing palms into the wetness. He gently blew onto the reflective surface, and willed it to show him the reversed image of the destination he desired.

Moments later, Nox’s disturbingly thin, wide-eyed appearance successfully peeked into view in the water- mirror.

‘’You got Vita around?’’ Deus asked the other, to which he got a great headshake – unkempt, dark-brown hair flying everywhere in the process and disturbing the still surface, as the other had leaned too close to the water’s edge.

‘’Vita’s busy, s’rry, I’m all you got at the moment.’’

Deus shrugged. ‘’Matters not.’’ he said and leaned a bit further down as well. ‘’What’s up?’’

‘’Rat is dead.’’ The other said casually before sighing. ‘’Or I guess, do we even know if people die in there? Gotta admit I hope they do, the alternative seems brutal.’’

Deus shrugged again. ‘’Have you had any success with the ward on your end?’’ he asked instead - not too keen on discussing the potential outcome of a person left to the mercy of the shade.

Nox shook their head. ‘’Vita has not had much luck either. A piece is still missing, but we might have an idea, as to what it could potentially be.’’

Deus raised an eyebrow at the other. ‘’Do tell?’’

‘’We might need a completely different core.’’

‘’Are you saying my magic is not strong enough?’’ Deus drawled, as he glared unimpressed at the other.

‘’Nah, I’m sayin you might need a different core for this, chill out you brute.’’

‘’Like what?’’

Nox fell silent for a moment, before taking a shallow breath and continuing. ‘’Now don’t get mad at me.’’

‘’What?’’

Nox’s hands quickly flew up in surrender. ‘’Look, ours isn’t going to work either no matter how much we press, that’s the point. What we might need is a different type than wha’ we got around. Like we have tried with the elements yeah? Maybe we need a completely different type of core to mend the spores together, maybe we-‘’

‘’Nox, breathe, you are repeating yourself, just fuckin tell me already.’’

’Like an elven one.’’ Nox yapped and quickly continued, when the others eyes lowered to dangerous slits ’’no, no really, it makes sense, they are internalized in their cores, plus they great with flora right? Like ours is external, so that might be why it malfunctioned, but like this it might just work.’’

‘’So you want me to voluntarily bring a fuckin elf into my sacred grounds?’’

‘’Since when do you mind elves that much?’’

‘’I don’t, the rest of my entire fuckin court does.’’

Nox groaned deeply into their hands, before staring at the other through slightly parted fingers. ‘’I don’t give a rats ass about your stuck-up pride Deus.’’ They spat. ‘’Snatch an elf, I don’t care where it has been last, and get to work - we’re currently doing the same on our end.’’

‘’Is that what Vita is up to?’’ Deus asked, as he scoffed at the absurd demand.

‘’Yeah.’’

The two fell silent for a while, before Deus sighed greatly, as he raked a hand through his hair. ‘’I miss you two.’’

Nox huffed and blew a kiss at him. ‘’We miss you as well.’’

Deus felt himself smile, despite the previous annoyance. ‘’Whatever, give me an update when you got something, yeah? And try not to die while I am gone.’’ He urged.

The other chuckled, before throwing a wink at him. ‘’Gotcha.’’

--

 

- In the evening – The kitchen in the court –

 

‘’I fuckin’ called it.’’ Seven uttered, as he violently helped doing the dishes. ‘’It is indeed taking form.’’

‘’So?’’ The small elf beside him asked, as she flipped her long, amber braid over her shoulder, before accepting the soaked plate and set to wiping it dry. ‘’It is not like we can do anything about it.’’ She clipped, as she handed the now dry plate to yet another servant, who turned and put it back on the shelf. ‘’What are you gonna do? Go outside of the ward and politely ask the shade to fuck off back to where it came from?’’ The servant who had accepted the dry plate asked.

‘’Something like that, yeah.’’ Seven scoffed, as he reached into the lukewarm soup water, snatched up the last plate, cleaned it and handed it to the other, before putting a wet hand on the edge of the counter, gracefully jumped up, and positioned himself on it. ‘’I mean what else; we stay here and do nothing? Sure, Patricia, go ahead, see how long it takes before that thing gets clever and comes a ’knocking on your front door.’’ He grumbled, as he quickly snagged one of the open bottles still standing on the counter near the trio, and abruptly set to drain its remaining contents.

‘’Hey that’s mine!’’

Seven shrugged. ‘’I’ll get you a new one straight from the king’s quarters, how’s tha?’’ he mumbled out between swigs.

Patricia laughed, as she lightly shoved at his shoulder, successfully making the other spill all over his front. ‘’You don’t steal.’’

Seven shrugged, as he put down the now empty bottle and set to drying his soaked front with the dishtowel. ‘’Nah you right. I’ll get you back though, no worries.’’

‘’You better.’’

The trio fell silent for a beat, before Seven shrugged and set to drumming his nails against the counter. ‘’But really though, I’m gonna do something about this. I hate being dormant.’’ He vowed, as he stared at a smudge on the counter - grabbing a cloth and setting to wipe at it. It did not relent.

‘’Sounds like you already have a plan?’’ the other servant asked with a raised brow, as she crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the counter.

Seven threw her a curt nod and took a deep breath. ‘’I am gonna go talk to a dark one.’’

The two fell into a tense, stunned silence, before Patricia glared up at him, mouth hanging wide open. ‘’You are insane!’’ she hissed lowly, as she continued to stare him down.

‘’You think they are gonna go?’’ He snapped, as he gestured upwards. ‘’Fuck no, they are not expendable. We are.’’

’Gods Seven.’’ Patricia said, as she raked a slightly damp hand through her hair, before putting both of her hands on the counter and staring out the window. She rapidly blinked, as she slowly shook her head, before gazing back up at him. ‘’You have already made up your mind, haven’t you?’’

Seven absently nodded, before he snatched up an apple and set to munching on it.

The trio once again fell silent, before Patricia took a deep breath and straightened up. ‘’Aight I'm coming with you.’’

Seven nimbly jumped down from the counter and pressed a quick, small peck to her cheek, as he shoved past her. ‘’No you are not.’’

’Be careful.’’ The other yelled after him.

‘’It was nice knowing you.’’ He laughed back.

’What do I say to the king?’’ Patricia urgently called after him. ‘’Sorry my lord, yeah our friend and fellow bastard got eaten by a great, dark one - yes we are sorry too?’’

Seven sighed, as he paused, before leaning against the doorframe. He absently scratched at the back of his head, before turning back to the pair. ‘’I hate how cliché this sounds, but if I am not back by tomorrow night… tell him I love him.’’ Patricia raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him, to which Seven just shrugged. ‘’I’m not playing right now, I owe him everything.’’ He said, expression settling into something rare and cold. ‘’Whatever happens, stay safe girls, don’t be stupid.’’ He urged, as he turned and continued to stalk off.

‘’Like you?’’ Patricia called after him.

‘’Yep!’’ Seven yelled right back.

--

Patricia turned towards the other servant - who was quietly eating the remains of the neglected apple - once their fellow idiot had well and truly made it out of sight and earshot.

‘’We are going straight to Íþróttaálfurinn with this, yes?’’ The other asked with a raised brow.

Patricia let out a huff and nodded. ‘’Of course.’’

Chapter Text

The sun was still high in the sky, when the unnerved – sans Aki, whose expression was still bewilderingly nonchalant – trio made their way out of a hidden entrance and into the forest, swiftly making their way onto one of the less traveled paths leading back into town.

Seeing as the town hall and a few other locations were still warded – albeit not strongly – they had decided, that the best cause of action, was to seek shelter there, until a more solid plan could be voiced and formed.

‘’Hive mind?’’ Sportacus asked with a furrowed brow, as he glanced towards his father, who nodded sternly.

‘’One week ago, two shade broke from dark wall of mass in town, after I shoved kid to safety behind ward. They followed from distance, seeming to regard my action before engaging.’’

‘’And did they?’’

Aki nodded again, as a small sinister smile crept over his features. ‘’They are no longer on realm.’’ He said darkly while shrugging, before letting his gaze travel in amongst the slowly withering trees. ‘’I am fast to banish, but it has to be done close – practically with shade right next to me - which is reason I keep distance as well.’’ He explained, as he worried at the end of his beard. ‘’From what we observe during evacuation, the more frightened target is, the longer form will be held after shade takes over victim. It is not actual possession yet, but it is attempting. However, shade is not fit to hold psychical form at all, it only mimics.’’ He explained, taking a deep breath before continuing. ‘’I wonder, what kind of form would be held if shade truly succeeds.’’ He mused lowly. ‘’Regardless, I have standard ward on me, but shade never seems interested to approach in first place. After first encounter, shade mostly left me alone. Thus, theory of hive mind was born, seeing as shade act same way wherever I go.’’

The shorter elf felt himself nod slowly. ‘’So far we have only had one shadow here though.’’

Aki shrugged. ‘’How do you know? Could easily be more - they not exactly easy to tell apart.’’

To his left, Robbie nodded slightly and cleared his throat, before engaging in the quiet conversation. ‘’Glanni has been saying the same thing regarding the targeting of frightened targets. Apparently, it goes for those with a stronger core as well.’’ He added and squeezed the shorter elfs hand in support. ‘’I reckon the core needs to be as strong as possible, for it to mend the tissue, but I am still a bit unsure about the whole thing.’’

‘’Why are you not being targeted then?’’ the shorter asked, as he looked up at Robbie, who gave a small shrug.

‘’For all I know, I might have been in the start actually, but if the theory that you need to fear it is correct, then it probably lost interest. Besides, my core is not all that strong.’’ He admitted in a low grumbling voice, as he scratched at the back of his head.

‘’You would call your core weak?’’ the shorter asked on a huff.

’Did I stutter?’’ the fae yapped in clear annoyance. ‘’I know how to use what I got Sport – it is a question of understanding when to push or pull, while being quick to decide which elements would strengthen the spell you wish to cast, and introduce it into the mix.’’

The shorter felt himself nod again, before asking further on the previous line of thought. ‘’Is that why it is not following us at the moment? Does it wish to prod us a bit first?’’

Something dark settled over the faes features, as he clenched his jaw. ‘’Either that or it has something else planed.’’

‘’Like what?’’

Robbie shook his head. ‘’I do not know, I just have a bad feeling about all of this. It was awfully quick to react on the broken wards - then it leaves in less than ten minutes. It does not seem like a very wise hunting strategy.’’

‘’Unless it has something else in store.’’ The shorter elf agreed to which the fae nodded.

To his left, Aki narrowed his eyes at the fae, before turning his head towards the outer parts of the town, which slowly but surely came into view as they walked. ‘’You say the children warded, yes?’’

‘’They are safe yes.’’ Robbie nodded, before the two locked eyes and a strange, loaded silence fell between them.

‘’Do not hesitate to ask if you have need of anything.’’ Aki said sternly, as he let his eyes travel back to the town.

"Right". The fae mumbled in reply, as he glared at the moving forest floor, looking like he would much rather be anywhere else, than where he currently was.

‘’You know each other?’’ the shorter elf hesitantly asked, as he looked between the two.

The shorter elf felt a slight vibration from his crystal – gone as quickly as it had come – as the fae let his eyes travel into the forest on the other side, refusing to meet the gaze of either elf. ‘’You could say that.’’ He replied in a clipped voice.

‘’You have… history?’’ he softly prodded.

‘’You remember scandal that went down?’’ Aki asked, as the trio made their way inside the small town.

Sportacus felt himself nod, as his brow furrowed. ‘’What of it?’’

‘’Could we talk about this some other time?’’ Robbie snapped, just as the shorter elfs crystal let out a violent jerk in protest. The shorter felt greatly torn – wanting to press the issue, but realizing that now was probably not the best time for a spontaneous therapy session, regarding whatever the faes role in the old scandal was. It did not make sense though; Sportacus had no recollection of ever reading about the other somehow being involved in the mess about the previous number-guardian of the town, before his father had been sent to clean up.

The shorter took a deep breath, before shaking his head – deciding to drop the issue for now.

The three once again fell silent, as they walked – only sound being that of the soft chirps of a few stubborn birds, who had not yet gone south for the winter.

‘’Will you show me town? It has been long since I have been here.’’ Aki spoke up to his right, to which the shorter quickly nodded.

--

 

‘’I hope I did not interrupt anything important?’’ Sportacus asked, as the door to the town hall closed behind the trio, and the three made their way, towards a table in the corner.

‘’I was in middle of meeting with high elves from western court, but matters not.’’ he shrugged. ‘’Albeit I did rip chunk from their energy to make distance-jump, but nothing which cannot be mended with diplomacy.’’ He explained, as he nodded sternly to himself and sat down at the table. ‘’High elf lost half of family last week due to malfunction in ward, which is reason they came to us in first place. Unfortunate thing, but seems these times are bringing all courts together, so perhaps positive can come from this, no?’’

The shorter rapidly blinked before gazing at the other. ‘’The western court came to you out of their own free will?’’ he asked, as he too sat down – gritting his teeth against the immediate pain that shot through his legs, as the fae let go of his hand and sat down beside him.

Aki grinned darkly, as he winked at his son. ‘’Desperate times indeed.’’

The shorter let out a small ‘’huh’’, as he took the information in, before the trio fell silent for a beat. ‘’So what do we do now?’’.

Beside him, Robbie casually shrugged. ‘’My cousin is supposed to be arriving today, so I might as well hang out here until he does so.’’

‘’Is it not possible for you to put the wards back up on your own?’’ the elf asked softly, to which the fae awkwardly scratched at the back of his head.

‘’Look I am not paranoid, but perhaps I would prefer, to have someone watch my back, as I indulge myself in suck laboring tasks.’’

‘’We can watch you?’’ Aki offered.

Robbie softly huffed, as he took out a rumpled notebook – different colored strips of paper sticking out in between random pages - from his quickly packed back and flipped through it. ‘’I would rather have my own kin watch over me.’’ he grumbled lowly, to which Aki just shrugged. ‘’Besides, I am running low on energy in general, so the extra boost he could provide would be much obliged.’’

‘’Fair enough.’’ Aki agreed, as he leaned his elbows on the table and looked down at Robbies quick doodles and scribbles. ‘’What this?’’

‘’Shroom-ward.’’ The fae said and quickly set to explaining the whole ordeal, when Aki raised a confused eyebrow at him. The smaller elf felt himself start to drift, as the two talked back and forth, sharing ideas and speculations like a pair of old, lost friends who had been separated for years, and it was all he could do not to think back on the old, tragic scandal his town had suffered.

The elf solemnly gazed towards the door leading out into the small storage, where he knew the records of all the previous guardians lay, before looking back at the two. Both elf and fae were still fully engrossed in their scheming – His father leaned over the table, eyes glued to the faes hand, which drew quick lines on the paper, as he wildly gestured around with the other, explaining this and that concept and inner workings of the so-far malfunctioning ward.

Aki gave a stern nod, as he too picked up a pen and started scribbling some, quick fast scrawl beside the lines that Robbie had already drawn, to which the fae vigorously nodded his head and let out a soft, excited ‘’Exactly!’’

And so, the smaller elf decided that he could indeed excuse himself for a little while. He silently grit his teeth, as he stood up and gingerly made his way towards and through the door leading into the storage. The items he were scouting for, were neatly lined on an old, wobbly, wooden shelf – thick, heavy tomes lining the shelf, as they stood side by side, all covered in a layer of grey dust.

6, 7, 8-

The elf tapped a finger against the tome he needed and carefully wedged it out from in between the others – somehow managing not to knock over the entire shelf in the process, as he had had to use a bit of force. A small cloud of dust quickly dispersed and gently fell towards the dusty floor below, as he held it up and harshly blew on it.

Sportacus took a deep breath, as he silently set to reading. As he thought, he could not find anything in the records, regarding the fae somehow haven been involved in the whole, unfortunate affair. In fact, reading the old reports gave him nothing new – if anything, it only made the old rage, he had carefully shoved into a box in his mind and buried so deep deep down, he sometimes thought it completely gone, rise up on new.

The elf willed himself to calm down, as he traced the faded photograph of the brutal aftermath of the fight, which had broken out, when the rogue elf had refused to surrender. It was ironic in a sense, to see the enraged sneer on the others face, considering the tranquilization, which had later followed.

That in itself had been a completely different scandal, which had resulted in the whole system haven to be closely examined and renewed, after some had deemed the later punishment of the elf too extreme.

If one met the chained elf on the picture below, one would scarcely believe they were one and the same – the others mind haven been completely wiped. A fresh start if you will - Too bad it had taken most of his basic functions like talking with it.

Sportacus glared at the small, ripped photo of the burned down town hall, before taking a deep breath and flipping to another page.

Some had argued that they should have seen this coming far earlier, and if only there had been some kind of control put in place… But no, no matter how many casual visits the court had paid - in the end - it would have changed nothing. The entire town had fallen under a heavy, glorifying glamour, thus anyone who even glanced towards the town at a distance, would not have known anything was up.

It had been horrible for everyone involved - The mayor haven taken the blunt force of the strangling glamour, as he had tried to push through to the outside, in order to get the help, they all so desperately needed. As a result, his fragmented mind had taken permanent damage. His father - and a few of the elder elves, who were strong in the workings of the mind - had done everything they could to try to mend the pieces together, but alas, none of their attempts to help the poor fellow had proven fruitful.

In the end, it was the small actions of one lone, desperate child, which had broken the despairing town out of its calamity – the child themselves tragically perishing in the fire they had started - the smoke alerting the outside and surrounding towns, that something was indeed not right within the pristine walls.

The elf closed the book with a soft, tired sigh and put it back – Absently tracing his finger over the spine a few times, as his eyes glided over the remaining tomes, searching, hoping, that maybe there was something he had overlooked.

Minutes later, the elf disappointedly concluded, that there was indeed nothing.

He could not see a reason, as to why the mentions of the fae should have been kept out of the records, if he had indeed been present, when the whole thing went down – unless… It for some reason was for his safety - But why would it be kept hidden? He mused, as he scratched at the back of his head - listening to the soft, muffled sounds of the children playing in the ball court - felling a small tingle of relief that the town had not completely given up in his brief absence.

The elf bit at his lip, unsure on how to proceed, as he stared at the old, silent tomes in front of him, wishing they could just come alive and verbally spill their secrets. Granted, he could just ask the other, but considering the clipped response, he had already received, it might be for the best, if he just kept this to himself for now.

With a huff, he turned and went back to the still engrossed shroom-debaters – Flinching when a loud crack and a crash rang out, just as he shut the door behind him. ‘’Wups.’’ He apologized softly, as Robbie threw him an unimpressed glare.

His father let out a low chuckle and was about to say something, when the smaller elfs crystal gave a violent jerk in warning – both elves quickly locking eyes, before both heads snapped to the front door.

‘’Someone’s in-‘’

He loudly ignored his screaming nerves, as he set into a dead sprint towards it.

--

 

‘’Where?’’ Aki asked in a grim voice, to which the smaller shook his head.

‘’It is not being specific.’’ He replied, as the trio swiftly made their way towards the darkening steps. It was still in the middle of the day, yet the sky itself seemed to darken, as what looked like thick, black flakes of snow lazily drifted around them, slowly covering the ground in a layer of shimmering shade. ‘’Have you seen this before?’’

Aki solemnly nodded. ‘’It is not dangerous.’’ He said, as he held out a hand and caught a few of the dark flakes, silently rubbing them between two fingers – a black string of goo connected the two digits, as he slowly parted them. ‘’It makes person disoriented if stands too long in it.’’ He elaborated, as he wiped his hand on his pants and took the steps down three at a time, before coming to a stop at the bottom and gazing around.

Robbie carefully grabbed the puzzled elfs left hand, as he too, emerged out from the safety of the town hall and into the unnaturally cold, clammy air – the pain from his ruined feet fading immediately. ‘’Do not waste your energy.’’ Sportacus softly urged, as he gently pried his hand out of the others grasp, and instead placed it on the lower back of the fae, before they carefully started the descent down the dark, sticky stairs.

Aki narrowed his eyes and looked towards the ball court, where the children seemed to have stopped playing – All four gazing at the glittering sky with baffled expressions on their faces. A smudged ball fell from Pixels grasp, as he set to wiping his glasses with the back of his hand – trying and failing to get the gunk off.

With a huff, the elder elf took off and nimbly vaulted himself over the low wall, seemingly trying to calm and reassure the spooked younglings that they would be safe – and no, the sky itself had not dried out and it was definitely not currently falling down in flakes.

A wall of shadow lazily poured in from in between the houses – slowly gliding over the smudged ground, before it rose up and slowly started to spin around them, before the whole surrounding wall bend and spread out above, creating a dark, shimmering dome. The smaller elf quickly grabbed Stingy close, as he made it over the low wall - Pixel and Ziggy immediately grabbing on to each of his legs. ‘’We should get out of the open.’’ He softly urged, as he looked towards his father.

To his left, Aki shook his head. ‘’Shadow already block all exits.’’ He pointed out in a stern voice, as he narrowed his eyes and gazed around at the waves of steadily, approaching shadow. Above them, the thick flakes continued to rain down, coating every surface in its shimmering black.

In any other circumstance, the eerie picture would have been beautiful. Serene even. A tense silence fell over the group, as they stared at their gleaming surroundings, before a single, large tendril of shadow broke from the mass and hesitantly, jerked its way across the ground.

‘’You sure wards are strong?’’ Aki hurriedly asked the fae to which Robbie gulped and nodded.

‘’It cannot touch them.’’ He promised into the cool air, as he rubbed at his tense shoulders.

In front of the smaller elf, Stephanie – who was the only child not currently clinging to said elf - turned and gazed at him. ‘’What’s going on?’’ she asked in a soft voice, as she slowly backed away from the jerking shadow – which kept creeping closer.

Sportacus shook his head. ‘’It’s going to be okay.’’ He promised, unsure of what to say - Fearing any explanation he could offer would only spook the gathered further than they already were. The last thing they needed was for one of the kids to try to make a run for it. Unconsciously he pressed Stingy a bit closer to himself, as he stared at the approaching shade.

Theater. His mind snapped urgently. Stay calm. Trust the wards to hold.

The increasingly, expanding tendril jerked itself a bit off the ground, before the entire thing shook violently – snapping tentacles emerging, morphing, a spine protruding from the inky mass until the whole thing stood up on two legs and walked among them.

It stumbled forward, as unsure and perplexed as a newborn faun, as its heavy, boneless arms swung from side to side with each broken step - a perfect sneer set in the middle of its face, gaze cold and unblinking, as it kept its gaze fixed and slowly made its way towards its intended target.

In front of him, Stephanie let out a choked cry, as she stared right back at the hideous abomination. ‘’It’s not her, right?’’ she said in a shaking voice - a single tear rolling down her reddened cheek, as she shook her head and hesitantly took a single step forward. ‘’She is not actually here is she?’’

Sportacus urgently shook his head and tried to take a step forward, as Robbie took one back. ‘’Stay back.’’

‘’Is it supposed to be able to do that?’’ the fae yapped, as he nervously stared at the atrocity.

Aki nodded. ‘’It loses form quick.’’ He lowly barked, as he shifted from foot to foot, seemingly unsure of whether or not to approach any further or stand his ground – narrowed eyes jerking from point to point, as he tried to keep track of the movements around him.

’Trixie.’’ Stephanie cried, as she covered her mouth in disgust, not once taking her eyes of the jerking horror slowly approaching.

‘’We should move. All of us, right now.’’ Robbie lowly urged.

Aki shook his head. ‘’We cannot cross wall, even with ward - we must wait till shade retreats.’’

‘’And when will it retreat?’’ the fae yapped, sounded a bit frantic.

‘’Once bored or fed.’’

The faes jaw clicked, as he nervously glanced at the surrounding wall - roaring and moving like a great wave, as it seemed to spin faster around them. ‘’All just theater.’’ The shorter elf heard the shaking fae mumble to himself, as the others eyes snapped to different points, hugging himself close. ‘’Just for show, just theater.’’

Stephanie let out a soft whine, as she slowly took a single step forward. Then another.

Sportacus tried to reach out an arm to grab her close, when the terrified children already clinging to him halted his movement. ‘’Steph, stay back.’’

It all happened so fast.

--

 

By the time Aki, slightly stunned and wide-eyed, realized he was too far away to intervene, it was already too late. Regardless, the older elf still let out a shout of ‘’do not touch.’’ As he set into a dead sprint, to at least attempt to restrain the pink-haired youngster from touching the living shade.

She quickly took three steps forward and reached out a shaking hand towards the hideous, swirling mass - The abomination, which wore the perverse copy of the dead youngsters face, staring back at her with a strange sense of longing, as it too, reached out and graced the others cheek with mock gentleness.

Dark shadows created a stark contrast, as it spread underneath her skin like a thick, gooey ink – veins bulging and overflowing, as the black mass pressed through and corrupted her from the inside out, moving and jerking, as though it was indeed a living thing. She let out a scream of agony, which abruptly cut off, as she collapsed to the ground - clutching her face, neck and shoulders, where the corruption quickly spread.

The abomination crooked its smashed head to the side, as it looked to where Aki kneeled down next to the downed child and quickly set into a serious of lowly, murmured banishments - Curious, as to see what the other would attempt to do, before its gleeful smile stretched beyond what could possibly be considered sane. Unnatural. Wrong.

The shaded version of Trixie did a full-body jerk, as the entire mass collapsed, before it spread outwards across the ground and evaporated into nothingness - just as the smaller elf finally managed to dislodge himself from the kids - swiftly forcing them behind him with a shout of ‘’Watch them.’’ Towards the pale, wide-eyed fae, who finally seemed to snap out of his terrified stupor, and shakenly did as he was told.

‘’Please no.’’ the smaller elf whispered, as he took in the pained expression on her face – Mouth agape, as though she was a fish caught on land, eyes terrified and unseeing, as they fixed to the dark, shimmering dome above. ‘’No.’’ he hissed, as he reached out and placed a hand to the side of her face.

Some of the inky tendrils under her skin seemed to draw towards him, before an unnatural chill spread on the inside of his skull, just as he felt his entire body freeze up - nerves splintered, as ice flooded and invaded his veins, burning him from the inside out.

An unnatural numbness seemed to spread from the wrist, which held the ward, just as the sound of his own name roared in his ears. He was vaguely aware that his head snapped backwards, throat already raw from screaming. Am I screaming? He mused, as he attempted to jerk his hand back, but found that he could not - Tendons like torn, frozen wires caught in the dead of winter. Immobile and unusable.

His vision darkened and exploded inwards, as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing.

Maddening.

Eyes.

Chapter Text

It was madness. It was terror. It was chaos incarnated.

The creature in front of him was a mass of different shapes and forms, all pulsating as though an earthquake rocked it from within. It had no start, no end, up was down and down was up.

It did not make sense.

The elf vaguely registered some other unfortunate, agonized creatures here in the seemingly finite and eternal mass, suffering as much as he was. He reached out and searched for his own degenerating body – Hoping, that he would be able to find some sort of physical end, or at least a beginning, which could give him a hint, as to what he was supposed to do.

He felt trapped, violated, as the sensation of thousands of tiny, black, sparkling insects pressed against the skin he did not have, insisting on chewing inside to reach the warm flesh they themselves needed and so desperately craved. The sensation made him both shiver and scream from a mouth, which seemed to stretch and collapse in an infinite loop of torment, as the different impressions of nothingness and eternity washed over him relentlessly.

Then, a soft, purple glow seemed to emanate from deep within his core, giving him the pinpoint he needed, in order to examine what had become of his fragmented self. He tried to focus on the glow. Focus on the way he felt his entire being, being torn apart and reassembled each time he broke and shattered into dust.

The more he focused on the glow, the more insistent the other tugging grew – trying to rip him in two different directions. He wanted to give in to both, but somehow understood that he could not.

A choice had to be made – and quick.

He directed his state towards the soft glowing. That at least did not bring him any further agony. The more he focused, the brighter it shone – soft rays breaking through the shimmering black and letting him ascend to the above. And there were indeed an above, he realized, as he stared at the atrocity in front of the eyes he could feel slowly gathering and being mended back together.

He had form. He was.

The thing suddenly seemed to realize that he was watching it, black swirls forming in the sea of eyes that had lit up all over its shaking form, before every one of them jerked and snapped towards his glowing self.

It laughed at him - dark tentacles reaching towards his face, as he willed the purple to rise up and take him instead.

What could have been a second felt like an eternity, as he reaching in, in, in and tugged hard.

Something responded to his calling and he felt his core shiver and vibrate, as he let his own existence bleed out towards the surface of his skin, before everything that he was, had been and would be, exploded outwards with a great, blinding light, which drew the darkness away. Forcing it to retreat, as he pressed the ungodly thing back and out of his mind.

He finally opened his own mouth.

And howled.

--

 

- Somewhere else -

 

’Godsdamned elf with his stupid ideas.’’ Seven cursed, as he picked himself up from where he had fallen on the cool ground – loudly ignoring that he was that elf. With a soft huff, he leaned down and removed a small pebble from his bleeding knee, before straitening back up and cracking his back with a groan.

The elf took a deep breath – White mist dispersing from his mouth and into the cool air - before wiping the sweat off his forehead and looking around at the heavily overgrown forest around him.

Judging from the wild way the flowers all seemed to shimmer and dance in the chilly air; he had to be getting close to what he desired. After all, at this late in the year, there should not be any flowers left in this pristine a condition - unless a deity was personally tending to them.

He shut his eye and send a small prayer towards whichever god cared to listen in, to not let that deity chew off his head, before he even got the chance to open his charming mouth and hopefully strike a deal.

With a soft huff, he opened his eye and continued down the flourishing path.

--

 

As it turned out, the Dedar he had successfully tracked down, and unfortunately interrupted in its tending to its younglings, had indeed not been very interested in letting him open his mouth, and politely utter the word ‘parley’.

In retrospect, perhaps the black beast did not know the meaning of the word.

Nah. It knew.

The elf had barely raised his hand to give a small wave in greeting, before the beast had roared and broken into a terrifying charge – all clawed hooves and deep, foul scenting puffs now currently hot on his heels.

He tried not to panic, tried to keep his breathing as even as possible, as he sprinted over the hard ground, all thoughts of diplomacy currently abandoned, as he slid under a deformed tree, jumped up and sprinted on. ‘’Please hear me out!’’ he barked under his strained breath, as he vaulted himself over a series of gnarly, upturned roots. ‘’You like your quiet solitude right?’’ he yelled, as he managed not to stumble, as his left foot collided hard with the sides of a half-buried rock. ‘’Well I do too, so seriously, you should hear me out!’’

He felt the remains of his weak magic gather, even before making the conscious decision known and turned around to face the beast in pursuit – barely managing to fully turn, before the puffing Dedar slammed straight into his chest and send him flying.

The elf landed with a hard ‘’uff’’, as he collided hard with the ground, quickly setting into a roll in order to break his momentum. ‘’Hear me out!’’ he coughed, as he twisted and lifted his upper body off the ground to keep an eye on the beast - ready to sprint in case the other lost its patience and tried to eat him where he lay.

The dedar did not seem pleased at all, as it lowered its head and nonchalantly stepped over him – Clawed hooves digging deep into the hard soil on either side of his head, dripping gums parting as it sneered - revealing rows of sharp teeth - foul, rotten stench making him gag, as it glared down hard at the intruding elf.

Seven quickly crawled backwards over the hardened ground, slowly trying to inch his way out from the giant spirit - raising a hand to try and shield himself, as it let out a huff directly into his face, which made his eyes sting.

‘’It will come here as well, you know that, it’s not like you haven’t noticed its approach into your domain right?’’ The elf quickly yapped, as he stared up into the eyes of the black beast – knowing he did not need to elaborate much further. While the great beast above him was not exactly a mind reader, it tended to immediately understand the general shape and intend of the thoughts its visitors put forward. Not that it often had visitors per say - usually those who strayed into their territory ended up as food for its flowers and younglings, and that was exactly why the court needed to pass the information regarding the shade along.

Dedars could shift and bend themselves around any object they wished - be it psychical or not - making them an incredible dangerous foe. They were generally neutral beings, who only acted in self-defense if they felt threatened. Too bad 'threatened' also included 'your energy sucks and you should leave my forest now’.

Seven felt his blood run cold, as the beast above actually answered him – harsh words sounding less like a voice and more like rough sandpaper over the tips of a thousand rusty nails, making the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. ‘’Of course have I seen this shade you speak so ridiculously light off.’’

‘’Great.’’ The elf laughed. ‘’That’s a great start.’’ He said - Still trying to get out from under the beast. ‘’So thing is, we kinda need your help with this.’’

‘’I care not for the living.’’

‘’But you care for your forest and the trees yeah?’’ he argued, as he swiftly scrambled backwards, on the rocky ground. ‘’You care for the-‘’ he let out a choked, startled gasp of pain, which eased into a soft whimper, as the beast casually lifted one of its black hooves and stepped down hard on his right ankle - The sharp pain, which shot through his leg alerting him, that the joint was undeniably broken. The elf let his back collide flat against the ground in shock, when he realized that the beast indeed had him trapped. ‘’You care for the little ones; you care for those glowing fuckers underground! You-nngh- care for the small - you have a responsibility to them.’’ He quickly grit out, as he shut his eye tight and took a shallow breath through clenched teeth.

‘’You believe you have any right to speak of my responsibility?’’

‘’Yeah.’’ The elf harshly grit out. ‘’Yeah I fuckin do you brute, they are your children and a mother protects her own.’’

‘’Yours did not.’’

Seven felt his jaw click, as the old, abandoned memories came knocking at the back of his mind, before he inhaled sharply and stared up into the unyielding gaze of the beast above. ‘’But you do. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still. Be. Talking.’’ He spat. The elf let out a moan of pain and grasped at his broken ankle – bones most likely splintered from the others impact – as the Dedar finally relented with a soft scoff and stalked out of his sight.

For a few precious seconds, all was quiet – Only sounds being that of the elfs soft whimpers, as he abruptly let the joint go, when the realization that touching it only brought him more pain hit him.

He let out a small, broken laugh, as he managed to twist his body a bit and leaned up on his elbows to keep his eye on the other. ‘’When is the last time any creature has ever managed to escape your grasp?’’ he barked, just as two small, sparkling creatures came stumbling out on the path behind him – clearly spooked after their mother spontaneously ran off in the fashion she had. They made their way over to her and nuzzled against her front legs, making the deity huff out what the elf could only assume was a pleased noise, as she gently bumped her rough nose against them in silent greeting. ‘’Well?’’ he asked again, as the beast finally raised its gaze back on him and glared.

The Dedar seemed frustrated for a beat, before answering in what the elf could only assume was an annoyed fashion. ‘’None has ever.’’ It lied.

‘’Right.’’ The elf drawled and shut his eye tight, as his jostling accidently made his injury flare up with pain. ‘’This shade has, hasn’t it?’’ he breathed out and quickly continued, when he was greeted with nothing but a tense silence. ‘’See? Even you are not truly safe from this fucker.’’

One of its shimmering children approached him; the deity - for all the elf knew – looked on in a nervous fashion, seemingly ready to crush him into the soil behind his back, should he try and harm the small creature in any way. The elf tensed but stayed completely still, as it head-butted the side of his face, seeming disappointed when he did not respond back. At this, the dark one actually seemed to flat line for a second, unsure of how to act in the face of the unfamiliar situation. ‘’Why have you come?’’ it finally asked, somehow sounding tired.

‘’To aid in any way I can.’’ He huffed out between shallow breaths, feeling himself grin despite the obvious danger, as the small creature aggressively started to shove at his shoulder, before placing the top of its head against the side of his neck and shoving with all its might.

Seven felt himself settle into a slightly hysterical laughter at the intense effort the little other put in, as the great beast finally made up its mine and trotted back over to him - swiftly shoving its child away and placing a clawed hoof against his chest. The elf felt his ribs protest slightly, as the other gently pushed down, slowly increasing the pressure as it practically spat. ‘’You lie.’’

The elf could do little more than let out a half-scoff, as the pressure on his lungs continued to increase. He tried to get as much air as possible, before answering. ‘’Half-truths. We all have em’ right?’’ he wheezed.

The deity regarded him silently. ‘’Leave.’’ It finally said, as it relented the pressure - turned and stalked off down the path the elf had just been chased down. ‘’I will not grand you a second chance.’’

Seven took a deep breath, as he turned on his side and leaned on his elbow. ‘’Are you in or not?’’ he rasped, as he tried to get up, stumbling and falling back down, when he could not support his weight. He managed to reach out an arm, successfully grasping a stick that seemed large enough to support his weight.

The beast had yet to answer him, when he finally managed to get up - slowly making his way on one foot down the same path, the dedar was currently shoving her children down. ‘’Are you-‘’

‘’Go back to where you came from.’’ It said without turned its head. ‘’We will speak further then.’’

‘’Great. Amazing.’’ He yelped, as he nearly fell again, but luckily managed to find his balance with the help of the stick.

In front of him, the beast made a turn and went straight through a tree – younglings jumping in excitement in front of its rough trunk, before one did a little wiggle and walked after its creator, other quickly following, as it did not wish to be left behind.

And so, the elf stared at the rocky path in front of him, unsure on how the fuck he was going to make it back.

He had not forgotten the whole ‘jumping from rock to rock over a great river’ thing, in order to get here - All things considered, he was lucky to have come out of this whole ordeal in – almost - one piece, but as it was, he had no clue on how he was supposed to make the trek back in his condition. It was not as if the court would send a rescue team, not with how busy everything was, but one could hope right? He mused, as he failed to balance himself proper, when his stick caught on a rock – successfully sending him falling flat on his face.

His gasp of pain send dust flying everywhere, as he grit his teeth in frustration, before balling his fists and punching the ground once. Get up. He angrily thought, as he placed his shaky palms against the ground and shoved himself up. ‘’You can do this Seven.’’ He growled, as his tense fingers closed around the stick. ‘’We’ve been through worse and still came out alive.’’ The elf inhaled sharply, as he pushed himself upright. ‘’Been through worse.’’ He grit out and glared at the path ahead with renewed resolve.

‘’We can do this.’’

--

 

- Back in town –

 

He was terribly cold. Scratch that, it felt as if, he had been dunked in icy water, and then abruptly left to the mercy of the Siberian winds – Entire body trembling from the chill, while his teeth clattered in his mouth.

‘’Sportacus’’ Something slapped his left cheek hard. ‘’Sportacus!’’ It kept slapping him.

‘’Aki, maybe punching him back to consciousness is not the best way to go about this.’’ Robbies dry voice said from somewhere to his right.

Aki slapped him again, less roughly this time. ‘’Can you hear?’’ His father urged, sounded slightly panicked.

‘’He is out cold, of course he cannot hear you’’ the fae grumbled.

A heavy hand settled on his shoulder, shaking him lightly ‘’Sporty?!’’

’Ouch.’’ The smaller elf managed to wheeze out, as he slowly turned his head away from the assault and promptly threw up.

Above him, his father sighed in relief, as he quickly helped his son lean over proper, making sure that the smaller did not accidentally choke. ‘’Gods.’’ Sportacus heard Aki say lowly, as the elder gently moved the other a bit and put him back down.

Sportacus slowly opened his eyes and blinked up at his father, who was leaning over him with a cold, calculating gaze. ‘’Welcome back.’’ he smirked humorlessly, as he gazed down at his son.

‘’Give him a breather will you.’’ The fae mumbled, sounding tired beyond his years.

The smaller elf raised a hand to wipe at his cool mouth, surprised when all that came away was the same sticky black stuff, which had fallen and coated the ground around them. He slowly tried to get up, before Akis stern hand stopped him midway. ‘’Easy, lie down for minute or two longer’’ he urged, to which the smaller nodded slightly in response, before lying back down.

His head hurt. Did he fall on it? Why was he on the ground in the first pl- ‘’Stephanie, what happened to Stephanie?’’ He demanded, as he abruptly made to sit back up again.

‘’Please calm.’’ The older said - Firm hand returning less gentle this time.

‘’What happened?’’ Sportacus cried.

‘’We don’t know’’ Robbie answered, voice carefully void of any emotion.

‘’Is she...?’’ Sportacus started in a small voice, as he gazed over at the fae – currently covered in three sleeping children with wet, glistening cheeks - before looking back to his father. Aki tiredly gazed at him instead of offering any verbal reply. ‘’She's gone then.’’ He realized and slumped back down on the ground, as what was left of his remaining energy left him completely.

A tense silence fell over the group, as the smaller elf willed himself not to lose his cool – unless it was the unnatural chill, which still lingered in his bones. He shut his eyes and took a deep, pained breath.

‘’Shade is gone.’’ Aki solemnly said, as he gazed out into the emptier town, to which Sportacus felt himself absently nod, before covering his eyes with the back of the hand, which was still gunk-free.

‘’They cannot stay here.’’ Aki – knowing his son were referring to the three remaining children – nodded again.

‘’I will take them to court.’’

To his right, Robbie spoke up. ‘’I cannot go there; it is not a safe place for a f-‘’

‘’I do not care, you will go with us or you will stay here.’’ Sportacus barked, as he slowly got up - ignoring the pain from his feet and generally cold, tired limps, as he stalked towards the low wall – sitting himself down and gazing around at the shimmering ground.

‘’I cannot-‘’

‘’This is your own fucking problem.’’ The smaller elf snapped, as his ears drew back in anger and he threw a murderous glare towards the quickly paling fae, who unconsciously pressed the three snoozing children close, as though protecting them from their enraged guardian. The smaller elf raked his hands through his hair – not caring that one of them was still covered in the sticky, black gunk, as he tugged on the long strands in obvious frustration.

‘’Okay then.’’ Robbie started on a carefully neutral voice, as he pressed the children closer still and glared up at the other. ‘’I’m calling in my favor.’’ To his left, Aki narrowed his eyes at the fae, but otherwise stayed silent.

Sportacus wanted to walk away and deny him – wanted to argue that he owed him nothing in the face of what had just happened – yet he felt the tug in his bones, as the magical binds of the original deal started to make their presence known. ‘’What do you want?’’ he spat, as he placed both of his shaking palms against the edge of the wall, less he break something in a fit of aggression.

‘’Don’t abandon me.’’ Robbie said calmly, as he gazed back up into the lethal glare of the other. ‘’I do not care what you do, as long as you do not harm me and we both go to a place, where I will be safe.’’

Sportacus wanted to deny him, even as the tug on his bones got louder – threatening to tear at his insides, less he give in to the demand. ‘’Are you really this selfish?’’ The elf spat, as he felt the tug increase to the point, where it instantly sent him to his knees. He sneered and grit his teeth, as both of his hands slowly scraped at the filthy ground - longing to tear into the humorless smirk, the other wore, as the fae gazed down at him.

Would murdering the other be considered harm? Would chopping off a piece of his bloody corpse and taking it with him be enough, for both demands to be respected?

Of course not. That was an absurd, violent, childish thought in the face of a situation he did not want to deal with.

It would not be long before the magic would literally rip him apart, if he kept resisting. He truly did not have a choice in this he realized, as he sneered in the face of the calm other and growled low. But perhaps - perhaps he could manage to strain against it just long enough for him to wrap his soiled hands around that slim thr-

‘’Go to old court.’’ Akis stern voice cut through his dark musing. ‘’Wards are strong still. Go there.’’

‘’Are you not coming with us?’’ Sportacus snapped, as he jerked his gaze towards his father, who merely shook his head.

‘’I will look after children. Besides am needed elsewhere.’’ He said a bit apologetic, as he got up and approached the fae, who swiftly managed to dislodge the snoozing children from his person. ‘’Mayor and Busylady - I will return to help to safety too. Small cat as well.’’ He said gently, as he placed each child close to his own person, before looking back up at the other. ''Can you spare bit?’’ his father asked the fae, to which Robbie nodded – not meeting the older elfs eyes.

Aki cradled the children closer, as Robbies form slowly started to glow a stuttering, shade of purple. ‘’Sorry.’’ The fae mumbled. ‘’I am completely out of juice.’’

‘’No matter.’’ Aki said, just as his entire form lit up and he vanished as quickly, as he had come – The sheer force of his exit sending sprays of thick, black gunk flying in a wide outwards circle and coating the two remaining beings in the process.

The pair fell silent for a while – only sound being that of the remaining elfs soft panting, as he slowly collapsed headfirst against the ground. In front of him, the other let out a tired sigh. ‘’I know you don’t wanna hear this, but you have to accept the demand.’’ He said, as he slowly got up and stalked towards the other - The elf gritting his teeth at the faes approach, as his shaking fingertips clawed against the dirty ground below. ‘’Sport.’’ Robbie sighed gently, as he kneeled down in front of the downed other. ‘’You are literally going to die if you keep resisting this.’’

The elf refused to reply, as he continued to draw in small, quick heaving breaths - a bit of gunk making its way into his cold mouth, as he stubbornly turned his head away from the other. Above him, the fae huffed in frustration. ‘’All right, change of plans then.’’ He groaned, as he massaged the bridge of his nose. ‘’Do not abandon me until after you have gotten me to safety and just as the last stated - cause me no harm.’’

’Deal.’’ The elf grit out and promptly slumped against the ground in relief, as the soft tremors of a deal well sealed coursed through him.

‘’Are we having a party or something?’’ Glannis amused voice rang out, as the newcomer kicked at the soiled ground, as he slowly strode into the ball court. ‘’Shit.’’ He rasped low, as he took in the scene before him. ‘’What did I miss?’’

--

 

- Meanwhile – Elsewhere -

 

Vita tossed her auburn hair over her shoulder and stared with an uncaring expression, at the glowing forest floor beneath her bare feet. Nox had been correct in their assumptions – The elven core was indeed the missing piece. Granted, some other type of core might have worked as well, but this particular type was just so much easier to come by. In addition, a lot less protected, than some of the other discussed alternatives.

In hindsight, it had been ridiculously easy to break the fragile ward surrounding the picked out elfs house, kick in the door and snatch the baffled other straight from its own living room.

She crossed her scarred arms over her chest, and threw a murderous glare down at the wide-eyed, trembling elf, who still had their palms firmly pressed against the cool ground – waiting with a held back breath, to see what the fae would do next.

Vita huffed at the barely controlled panic the other creature emanated. It would be a pure delight to push a little further, and see how much it would take, to make the other shatter, but as it was, there were more pressing matters to attend to, than the continued bullying of the shaking bundle of elf at her feet.

‘’You can go.’’ She rasped, to which the nervous elf immediately jumped up and took off in a dead sprint, towards anywhere that did not have ‘Vita’ in its vicinity.

The fae stretched her arms over head and let a misty, cool breath slip out into the chilly night air.

It was all for the greater good though.

Besides, the elf had been allowed to leave with their life and general person still mostly intact – That was a lot more than the fae usually would have granted them.

Chapter Text

Darren absently scratched at the back of his right ear, as he stared down at the still elf, who had washed up on his beach. The old elf had no clue, as to how long the other had been here, but judging from the colour and fresh state of the others skin, it could not have been too long.

He slowly took a deep, grounding breath, as he crossed his fingers, hoping that the other were indeed not deceased, before carefully making his way down the steep, rocky hill – Carved walking stick helping him along, so he did not accidentally take a tumble on the treasonous rocks.

The young lad was lying half in the water, half on land, as the elder successfully made it down to the soft sand – swiftly making his way over, before using the butt of the stick, to gently prod at the others soggy head. The other gave a small twitch – confirming that he, gods be praised, were indeed alive, but did not respond otherwise, to the attempts the elder made to rouse him. Darren drew a sharp inhale and quickly squatted down – wrinkled hands settling on the younger elfs shoulders, as he, as swiftly as he could, dragged him out of the cold water, before turning the other onto his side – a hand tilting the youngers head back, so he could properly gaze at the pale faced other.

Sadly, the old elf did not recognize him, as he roughly slapped the others cool cheek.

A few moments passed like that, before the younger suddenly drew a painfully, harsh breath into his lungs, as he gasped awake - wide eye settling to the elder above him, before letting out a keening whine of distress, as he bend at the middle – frantically clutching at his right ankle. The younger silently cried, and grit his teeth, as he ascended into a quick fit of ragged coughs, which wrecked through his slim, shaking frame.

The elder loudly rolled his eyes, as he managed to nimbly wrestle his own worn coat off – gently explaining that no he was not a pervert and yes, the younger needed to strip out of his own soggy clothes, if he wanted to survive. And please, stop complaining and just do as you are told lad, you are already half-dead from the cold and yes yes, I will turn around if it bothers you so.

‘’How f-far am I f-from t-the c-court?’’ the other asked through his blue lips – skin covered in gooseflesh, as the older turned back around again and looked down at him.

‘’Half an hours walk I reckon.’’ Darren gently replied, as he kneeled back down, to get on eyelevel with the shivering other. ‘’But what do you need there? They do not give food to commoners, if that is what you are looking for.’’ He explained, as he helped rub some warmth into the others back – swiftly helping the other up, as the younger jerkily made to stand.

‘’Just n-n-need to g-go t-there.’’ He mumbled in a hurried voice, as he started jumping along on one foot towards the edge of the beach. The young elf had made it about twenty-two meters, before he lost balance and fell back into the cool sand – thin arms settling into said sand on either side of him, as he pushed himself up, and somehow managed to get back to standing, before jumping along again.

‘’The healers are not tending to us peasants lad.’’ Darren unimpressively urged, as he stalked the distance to the other jumping elf – putting an arm under the others shoulder to help him along. ‘’We have one in the village that can see to you instead.’’

The trembling other shook his head. ‘’N-need to g-go to the c-court.’’ He repeated, as they started making their way up the steep hill.

The older scoffed, as he helped the other up onto the path above. ‘’This sounds urgent?’’ He nudged.

The younger opened his mouth slightly, before letting it snap shut. ‘’Y-yeah. M-eeting up with– f-family.’’ He finally settled, as Darren suspiciously narrowed his eyes.

‘’Are you part of the staff?’’

‘’No s-sir.’’ The younger elf lied. He had seen the recent evacuation notes on Íþróttaálfurinns table; the common folk were not overly happy with any of the royals - not to mention those that served them, so best to be on the safe side, until he knew where the other stood.

Darren was silent for a beat, before making up his mind. ‘’Countless are the kings mercies.’’ He softly spoke, as he stopped and gazed down at the other.

Seven felt the cold wind brush against his tense calf, as he stared at the elders twinkling eyes. ‘’And h-holy is t-the c-court?’’ he softly settled, as he waited with a held back breath, to see what the other would do next. The older elf gave him a small grin, as he nodded.

‘’Give my regards to Ivar when you see him again.’’ He said, as he helped the other onto his back – a soft grunt of effort escaping him, as he carried the other along. ‘’Gods, you are just skin and bones.’’ He mused aloud, as he shifted the grip on the other a bit. ‘’Did they stop feeding their staff or what?’’

The younger let out a soft, breathy huff. ‘’D-don’t h-have m-much of a-an appetite in g-general.’’

Darren hummed, before falling silent for a beat. ‘’Your king has lost most of the support among the fishers.’’ He said sternly. ‘’Consider yourself lucky that I was the one to find you.’’

Seven gave a small nod, knowing he had indeed been beyond just normally lucky, in the past twenty-four hours. ‘’G-gotta admit I d-dunno why.’’

The older let out a loud exhale, before elaborating. ‘’Rumors spread around quickly after the proceedings with the Raven queen.’’ he started on a snort. ‘’Considering it was less than a month after, that the black fog started taking people away-... you know of the black fog, correct?’’ Darren suddenly cut himself off and asked the other.

‘’Yeah w-we’ve n-noticed.’’ He joked in a dry voice, to which the elder nodded.

‘’They say he – the king - personally cursed the soil, so that we would starve out.’’

‘’That l-literally m-makes no s-sense.’’ He said, as he shook his head. ‘’B-besides t-the Raven q-queen just came f-for a f-feast.’’

Darren shrugged slightly and shifted his hold again. ‘’The people will tell you otherwise.’’ He scoffed. ‘’But I take it none of you have seen the spoils of the earth from the past months then?’’

The younger shook his head. ‘’H-haven’t.’’ he agreed.

Darren was silent for a beat. ‘’The crops came out black and corrupted. None of it was edible, so we are still surviving on last winter’s stocks.’’ Seven rapidly blinked, as he took the information in. From what he had observed from the small meetings, the court was not aware of the dire circumstances this part of the region apparently lived under, which would mean none had reported it to the court. Perhaps this was an isolated case - If not, it was purposefully being ignored, but that would hardly make sense, not even with the current shade-situation at hand. ‘’It was as though the seeds themselves had been tainted by a… for lack of better words, curse.’’ Darren concluded on a scoff.

‘’W-would it n-not usually b-be feathers then?’’

The older barked out a short laugh. ‘’There are different types of curses lad.’’

Seven shrugged. ‘’W-what d-do I k-know.’’ He said, as he glanced around at the slowly moving scenery. Two elven kids in front of a beaten, run-down shack looked up at him, as the pair passed – both busy tending to a tiny garden, outside of what the young elf - currently leaching warmth from the elders back – truly hoped was not their actual home. He felt his brow furrow in confusion, as he took in their sad, malnourished state. ‘’D-do you know if t-the black soil is j-just happening h-here?’’

‘’It appears to be random, but no. It has happened in a few towns further down as well.’’ He explained on a sigh, before falling silent.

‘’I h-haven’t asked f-for your name.’’ Seven said lowly, just as they passed what appeared to be a burned down house. Granted, it had been quite a while since he had been through here, but this place should not be in such a poor condition already – not unless something had happened to make it so. Low rations made sense, but this close to the court? It did not completely make sense to the young elf - Last he remembered, the entire village had bloomed with fruits and berries – children and cattle happily grassing, as they soaked up the warm rays from the late summer evening.

Fall always killed a bit of the joy, but this was just absurd.

‘’Darren.’’ The older gleefully offered, as he squeezed the younger elfs thigh in proper greeting. ‘’And yours?’’

‘’S-seven.’’

The older raised both brows in surprise, as he tilted his head a bit. ‘’You’re one of the guardians kids?’’

The younger elf fell silent for a beat, as he bit at his slightly-less blue, lower lip. ‘’T-technically. How d-do you know Ivar?’’ he quickly asked in a low voice –hoping to derail the other, before he could accidentally reveal something, which was probably best left in the past.

‘’We were sparing partners back in the day.’’

‘’You w-were part of the guard?’’ he asked in surprise, to which the other sternly nodded.

‘’We both served under Mikala, the old captain of the guard at the time.’’ He said in a strangely neutral voice, as they exited the tiny, barely still there village. ‘’I think that is before your time?’’ he asked.

Seven nodded, as he blinked his eye a few times. ‘’Y-yeah.’’ He agreed in a soft voice. ‘’N-not to prod but, why do p-people believe the k-king would poison the s-soil? You s-said ‘starve out’, but why w-would anyone… A-anyone think that m-makes sense? It would be a s-stupid thing to do, besides the k-king like his people.’’

The older gave another little shrug. ‘’Superstition and old fears.’’ He said in a dismissive tone, making the younger still the further questions for now. It was not as if he was in any position, to argue with the driver, so to speak.

‘’W-why are you still here?’’ he asked instead. ‘’T-this region should have been evacuated w-weeks ago.’’

Darren softly scoffed. ‘’Where would we go?’’ he asked in a slightly annoyed tone. ‘’To the court?’’ he drawled, as he roughly shifted the other again – Seven tightly gritting his teeth, as his broken ankle flared up with pain. ‘’No my lad, we wish to remain free.’’ He spat.

‘’You are not s-slaves there.’’ The younger gently argued, hoping he was not pushing too far. ‘’A-anyone can come and go as they would like. N-no contracts and all.’’

‘’Proves what you know kid.’’ Darren sighed gently, before both fell into a tense silence, as the older swiftly made his way through the forest, which surrounded the court. ‘’It should not be long now, a good ten-twelve minutes or so.’’

Seven absently nodded, as he stared at the wet, white snow, which softly started to fall around them.

--

’Figured he was one of yours.’’ Darren called out in reply to the two guards rough demands of ‘state your business’, as he slowly ascended up the wide, stone steps, which led up to the main gate of the court. The older elf turned a bit, and showed his snoozing burden - Soft snores sounding, as one of the guards lowered his spear and approached to take a closer look.

The guard turned a bit and threw a stern nod to his partner – other guard raising his spear slightly to knock twice on the metal gate. ‘’Do I just…’’ Darren asked, as he gestured with his head towards the opening gate.

‘’Either that or you just hand him over.’’ The guard, who had knocked replied.

The elder shook his head, as he looked back up at the court, which towered above him – a deep, tired breath going through him, as he slowly strode through and made his way inside. ‘’Still looks the same.’’ He softly murmured, just as a plump elf exited through a door to his left. She stopped dead in her tracks, as she stared at the older, before her eyes landed on the sleeping Seven still plastered to the damp back of the elder.

She raised a surprised brow, before shaking her head – original task quickly abandoned. ‘’Right this way sir.’’ She yapped, as she went back to the door she had just come through, and held it wide open – closing it behind the pair, as Darren crossed the threshold. ‘’Of course it’s him - and no, shut up and get back to work.’’ The elder heard her grumble to a confused, passing servant, who had quickly asked something, before the plump elf once more gestured for the elder to follow. ‘’Heather, get the healer!’’

--

‘’I don’t suppose you could spare some food - even leftovers will do.’’ Darren softly asked, as two servants helped get the still sleeping elf off his back and into a bed instead –a blanket quickly draped over the slightly shivering elf, before one of the two handed the worn coat back to Darren. ‘’Times are short and stocks are running low.’’ He elaborated in a nervous voice, as he rubbed his palms together.

The plump elf nodded towards a servant, who quickly ran off. ‘’Afraid it is all we can spare.’’ She said, sounded a bit apologetic, as the servant returned with the goods. ‘’Go get Patricia.’’ She snapped towards another servant, who nodded and ran off to fetch the other.

Darren shook his head, as he accepted the small, offered bundle. ‘’It is more than enough, thank you kindly.’’ He nodded, before offering a quick, polite farewell to the few, baffled gathered.

The old elf could not help the sigh, which escaped him, as he finally made it out onto the other side of the grand walls, which surrounded the court. He pressed a palm against his chest, before nodding towards either guard and swiftly made his way back down the stairs.

Behind him, both guards quietly observed, as the elder cradled the bundle close, as he set into a light jog into the forest – practically fleeing, as fast as his old legs could carry him.

‘’Was that Tyr?’’ the guard on the right side of the gate asked, as he tilted his head slightly towards the other. ‘’It was, wasn’t it?’’ The guard on the left sternly nodded, before raking a hand through his hair.

‘’Look I know we are supposed to kill him on sight.’’ He softly started. ‘’But I can’t you know? I just can’t.’’

The other nodded slightly in agreement. ‘’Yeah I get it.’’ He mumbled lowly, before both fell silent – only sound being that of the wind, as it howled through the trees and quickly made anyone not properly dressed shiver.

‘’We didn’t see anything. Aight?’’ the guard on the left urged, as he held out a closed fist towards the other.

‘’Not even a clue, as to what you are referring to.’’ The other quickly agreed, as he bumped his own fist against the waiting one – their plated knuckles colliding with a loud metallic clank, as they did so.

--

 

- In the evening - The old court -

 

The airship hung low in the air, as the rain relentlessly drummed down from above - quickly soaking the pair of impatient faes to the bone, as they observed the cold elf, vigorously working on clearing the front gate free of the heavy, ragged rocks, which had been hastily stacked in front of it. Glanni with his arms crossed over his chest and a sour expression on his face - Robbie with hunched shoulders and fiddling with the corner of his vest, as he stared at the ground in front of him, looking both forlorn and conflicted.

In fact, all entrances to the old court were currently looking much the same – sealed off and blocked, and so, there was only one way to go about it. With a huff, Sportacus threw a particular huge rock to the side - misty breath disintegrating into the air, as he growled low from the sheer effort of it, before bending down and easing his right arm under the next.

A small cluster of tiny, glowing, crystal foxes gingerly made their way down the sides of the mountain, as they curiously investigated, what the entire ruckus was about – a single letting out a distressed howl in surprise, as it was nearly squashed by a flying boulder.

The elf quickly straightened up at the sound – realizing that they indeed had company, before bending down and picking up the next heavy rock, this time carrying it instead of the more aggressive clearing method.

A few of the braver foxes hesitantly continued their way down, and gathered around the slowly revealing opening, into what had once been their home as well – the rest pausing in random spots on the steep hill, just above the gate, to survey the proceedings from a safe distance. A few burning eyes of the glowing creatures, gazed to the two faes in confusion, before looking back over to the working elf, who was wiping the sweat of his cool forehead, before bending down to wrestle another stone free.

Sportacus considered leaving the two impatient, ‘soaked to the bone’ faes with them - Like that, he would technically not have abandoned either fae, likewise not caused either harm, considering they were still safe within the outer, weaker wards, and still on the very property of the old court.

The elf dared a glare back at the pair – faes currently flanked by a steadily increasing number of foxes - before taking a small step back and rubbing his numb, dry hands together, in an effort to ease some warmth back in them. He looked to both ends of the doors, and decided that there would indeed be space enough for both to fall open, without colliding with any rocky obstacles, before politely nudging a nosy, sniffing fox away, before stepping back up to the large barrier and placing both of his cool palms against the wet surface of the stone gate.

Sportacus took a deep breath, as he let his stinging eyes fall shut and reached in - seeking permission first, as he asked the mountain to let them safely pass.

After all, it was best to be polite in case others had managed to slip through, and made a home of their old court in their absence - or worse, have the mountain itself be offended and try to snuff the three out, before they even got a foot over the threshold. Granted, that was mostly superstition, but large rocks had fallen of elven heads before, as slandering words had been uttered – so best to be careful.

Sportacus scraped his slightly, shaky fingertips down the rough texture of the gate, as it softly listened and responded to his nonverbal demand -Curious, as to see what its old kin wanted back in its hopefully empty halls for. Of course, it would not actually inform him on whether those halls were currently empty, that would just be too easy.

The elf sent a quick prayer to a random god, that the unpleasant, grumpy creature – which had made the elves flee and abandon the court in the first place - was indeed dead or gone, as the large gate finally started to part with a soft creak, before both sides fell open with a grand roar.

A cluster of the small, thin framed crystal foxes rushed past him – a few brushing their sharp yet soft furs against his legs in thanks, as they poured in, seeking shelter from the cold rain and wind, they had previously been subjected to.

The tiny, welcomed intruders’ yips and yowls of loud delight, seemed to echo and fade, as they fled into the dark hallway – their soft glow illuminating the carved walls, as they gleefully jumped about and ran ahead.

The elf took a deep, tired breath into his cold lungs, as he stared into the thick, black darkness, which seemed to expand eternally in front of him. With a quick glance over his shoulder, he registered that the two faes did indeed not seem overly eager to step inside before he did, and so - with a soft, annoyed scoff and a tiny nonchalant shrug - he too, slowly made his way inside.

He had barely made it more than ten meters into the dark beyond, before a startled gasp rang out behind him, causing the elf to spin on his heel, and stare at a pale Robbie Rotten, who was frantically grabbing at the rocky wall beside him. One of the faes shaking knees hit the ground, as the fae hunched in on himself, gasping and panting, as he pressed a palm to his chest – looking like he was about to become violently ill right then and there.

Immediately Glanni – looking confused and barely winded - was by his cousins side – worried look on his face, as he placed a hand against the others trembling shoulder. ‘’Strong wards.’’ The elf heard the kneeling fae rasp out. ‘’Holy shit, Aki weren't kidding.’’ He wheezed. ‘’Strong wards. Very strong.’’ he grit out shakenly, as Glanni huffed and wrapped an arm under the others shoulder - practically carrying him into the black beyond.

‘’Well yeah, you also took the hit from yo own wards breaking.’’ He clipped, as he shifted his grip a bit and helped the other along.

Sportacus refused to be moved by the sight of the two - but still - that did little to stop the pang of worry, which nonetheless wrecked through him. He swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat, as he willed himself to ignore both the confused vibration from his crystal, along with the tiny sparks of sudden pain in his abdomen. Shoulders tense and eyes slowly adjusting to the low light, he kept his steps as light as possible, as the trio slowly ascended deeper into the mountain.

As they walked, a finger came up to absently trace against the rough, carved stone beside him – the elf holding his breath in the tense echoing silence, as he prayed nothing would suddenly grab his wrist and drag him off to- His finger caught on empty air, and he knew they had indeed arrived at their destination. ‘’So far so good.’’ The elf mumbled lowly to himself.

‘’Wha’ you say?’’ Glanni asked behind him, to which the elf shook his head – not offering any verbal reply. He doubted the other had seen the gesture and he hardly cared.

A cool palm pressed against the wooden surface a bit farther in, and Sportacus found the door handle he sought - slowly inching the door in front of him open. A single fox - small bursts of soft rays illuminating its immediate surroundings - stared up at him in tense surprise, but except for that, the corridor was mercifully empty.

Behind him, the two faes caught up and came to a halt, as they noticed the elfs hesitation. The slight warmth from Glannis outstretched palm - on which flames danced – casting a harsh puppet show of jerking shadows over the open door. ‘’What’s this?’’ the fae asked, as he took in the detailed wood-work around the doorway.

‘’Sleeping quarters.’’ The elf mumbled back emotionlessly, as he finally went inside and located the door he was looking for. ‘’There is room enough for at least a small army, so you can take whichever room you like.’’ He said, as he opened the door to his left, and once more claimed it as his own. ‘’Just stay away from the golden door at the end.’’

Of course, Glanni – Swiftly dragging his cousin with him – stalked over to the forbidden door and strode inside, a soft ‘fuck’ escaping his foul mouth, as he took in the barely lit beauty before him. ‘’Dibs!’’

Sportacus softly groaned, as he let his forehead collide hard with the wall inside his old room, before reaching out a hand, and successfully locating a handful of his old, abandoned smooth rocks – the small stones haven been left behind, in the hectic evacuation decades ago. Moments later, a soft, golden glow bathed the walls and ceiling, as the rocks came back to life, and brightly shone from within.

He would have to locate the center of the mountain - which was located in the grand throne room - if he wanted to light up the other rooms and corridors, but for now, this would do. Besides, he knew his way around in the dark – He technically did not need the extra light, if he were to only stay for a day or two, but staying in complete darkness after the tragedy that went down in his town?

No thanks.

’Aight kids, we meet in the kitchen in half an hour and sort things out yeah?’’ Glannis way too enthusiastic, booming voice sounded from just outside his room, before the fae himself poked his head in. ‘’This place got a kitchen right?’’

The elf scoffed and glared over at the other. ‘’Second floor.’’ He grumbled. The other gave him a wink and a thumbs-up, before swiftly slamming the door shut after him.

A luminescent fox crawled out from under the elfs bed, in the deep, thick silence, which settled. It silently nudged at his leg, trying and failing to gain the attention it desired.

The crystal foxes were a dear friend to his kin – they were deeply sympathetic creatures, who understood the basic emotions of others, and sought to provide comfort, wherever they could. That also meant that they were great for sniffing out foes, and they had originally been the reason so few lives had been lost, when the Tusseladd had first made its presence known, by literally tearing down the back gate and going into an eating frenzy, as it-

The fox tugged hard on his pant leg, as it impatiently yapped at him, when he did not respond to its call for attention. Moments later – when the fox had settled to claw and successfully tear a hole in the fabric – one of the elfs hands finally broke, from where it had been holding up his chilly head, and instead set to absently scratch the playful other behind its pointed ear. With a curse and a hiss, the elf drew his hand back – a thin stripe of blood trickling down his finger, from where he accidently cut himself on a particular sharp strand of fur.

Both creatures drew back and stared at each other – fox with an ‘are you actually dumb?’ expression on its face, before it carefully jumped up into his lap instead, and nuzzled a good portion of its less sharp fur into his hand. Sportacus accidentally made a literal, bloody mess on its furry exterior, as he sighed and gazed down at it – long, bushy tail wagging slightly in glee, as he finally gave in and actually petted it proper – this time paying attention to what his hand were doing, and not cutting himself in the process. A metallic clank came from his doorway, as another fox jumped up and successfully opened his door – a skill the tiny creatures had perfected over the years, in which they had been allowed, to roam the place freely.

The elf let out a bewildered huff, as a few minutes later; countless foxes had decided to follow the proceedings of the first – Elf now pretty much covered in the softly glowing foxes, which all tried to make themselves comfortable, as they rested on whichever part of him they could. A smaller one managed to climb all the way to the top of his head, and had set to curiously – and painfully - chew on the tip of his ear, before he gently nudged it off and waved the crystal cuddlers to the side, before lying all the way down himself.

The cold elf relaxed into the old, beaten madras, as he shut his eyes tightly – willing himself to take a deep, grounding breath and focus on the glowing foxes, as old, forbidden memories not so gently tried to invade his mind. The less time he had to spend within these walls, the better. Truth be told though, the newer court was as much of a huge no-go, as this abandoned old one was, but at least the new one was free from the two unwelcome faes, who had currently invaded the previous kings personal, sacred quarters.

Granted, the two others, were not the worst, this place had thrown at him. But for him to have opened himself up and care as much, as he had for Robbie, just to realize everything had been a- A soft yip sounded directly in his left ear, as the fox, who the elf had originally cut himself on, made its way up to his cool cheek and laid down next to him. It nuzzled itself down further into his dusty blanket and fell asleep – soft, clicking sounds emanating from its crystal chest, as gentle snores from both itself and its kin rocked it in its sleep.

Just a few days. The elf told himself, as his abdomen continued to faintly hurt. Just a few days more and we leave this cursed place behind.

--

 

- The Hollow trees -

 

‘’What the fuck is that crazy fucker doing?’’ Vita howled, as the entire floor of the Hollow trees shook greatly – a few drinks falling off the bar and surrounding tables, before they smashed against the ground below.

Moments later, a gleeful Grey emerged from the cellars - Huffing and puffing, as she threw both of her clenched fists in the air and yelled triumphantly. ‘‘I cleared an entire fuckin corridor with a bomb!’’ She loudly exclaimed, just as Vita threw an olive at her, which hit the other smack in the forehead.

’Great.’’ The fae rasped out angrily. ‘’Fuckin’ don’t body the rest of us in the process.’’

Grey grumbled out a low ‘spoilsport’, as she swiftly snatched a bottle of whiskey from a baffled regular. ‘’At least I’m getting shit done compared to the rest of you lot.’’ She clipped, as she nimbly positioned herself on an unoccupied barstool.

Vita drummed her sharp nails against the counter, but offered no verbal retort to the obvious offense. ‘’Did Deus snatch an elf yet or not?’’ she mumbled instead, as she took a sip of her water.

‘’Nah he still searching – said he was gonna go snatch the house-elf Robster had lying around, but apparently the town was deserted when he got there.’’

‘’Just take one.’’ Vita grumbled into her water. ‘’Is not that fuckin hard.’’

‘’Yeah well, unlike you, we actually care if the royals come knockin’ our door in. Deus gon follow the trail instead.’’

‘’Trail?’’ Vita asked with a raised brow.

‘’Roblie is shit at covering his tracks.’’ The other fae explained, as she set to work on another pair of mittens. ‘’Anyway, how’s the love life?’’ she asked, as she wiggled her eyebrows at the glaring other.

‘’None of your fuckin business that’s for sure.’’ She growled, to which Grey just chuckled.

‘’Trouble in paradise?’’ She laughed delightfully. ‘’Aww come on Vita, share with me, do you still make Nox squirm like back at the-‘’

The other angrily threw the remaining olives at the laughing other. ‘’I said shut up.’’

‘’You technically didn’t.’’ Grey argued, as she threw her dark hair over her shoulder.

‘’Whatever.’’ Vita scoffed, as she drained the remains of her water. ‘’I’m leaving. You’re paying my tab.’’ she rasped over her shoulder.

’As if.’’ The other lowly grumbled, as she looked back down and set to work on her mittens again.

‘’Oh and Grey?’’ Vita started in a loud, neutral voice, as she swiftly spun in the doorway, just as the dark-haired fae looked back up again. ‘’Comment on Nox like that again, and I’ll cut your tongue out.’’ She said, as she narrowed her eyes. ‘’That a promise.’’

A subtle spark went through the air, just as Grey dropped her mittens and threw her hands up in surrender. ‘’Aight.’’ She clipped a tad annoyed, as she glared at the other. ‘’Take a fuckin joke though.’’ She huffed humorlessly.

Vita remained deadly silent, as the two continued to stare at each other – a loud, frightened yelp escaping the thrashing black-haired other, as Grey quickly threw herself up onto the bar, as the stool she had been perched on caught on fire. ‘’A joke!’’ she huffed, as she quickly petted the small, green flames down, as they threatened to eat further at her pants. ‘’Fuckin humor Vita, it’s a thing.’’

Chapter Text

Small, jerky shadows danced on the dimly lit walls and ceiling, as the silent pair – Glanni and Sportacus - rounded the corner leading into the kitchen on the second floor. The low light, from a few randomly placed candles, cast an eerie glow over the tense, bend back of Robbie, as he stood by a dusty, half-broken kitchen counter - absently stirring something in a big, old, blackened pot.

Glanni threw a thin frown over his shoulder at the elf, before he snatched up a prepared bowl of something, which smelled vaguely like food, and continued over to a still intact table, in the corner of the room. With a small grunt of effort - and a hiss, when his calf accidentally brushed against a table leg – the fae turned, jumped up and positioned himself on top of the small table. His long legs gingerly swung back and forth over the edge, before the fae picked up a spoon, and set to eating.

The eating fae threw another small frown in the direction of the hesitant elf, before he gestured to the chair beside him – said elf slowly made his way over and sat down, keeping his back firmly pressed against the back of the chair, as he absently poked at one of the two remaining spoons still on the table.

Several moments passed like that, as a strange, uncomfortable silence settled over the trio, before Glanni loudly rolled his eyes and pushed a bowl of something towards the elf - The fae swiftly banging his own soggy spoon against the side of the steaming bowl, when said elf did nothing but stare at the ground beef inside.

‘’I cannot eat this.’’ Sportacus said a bit apologetic, as he gently pushed it away, before leaning his elbows against the edge of the table - folded hands falling into his lap, as he considered just going to bed with no dinner at all. He hardly had an appetite anyway, and he doubted there was any edible food left in this place, which he could actually consume, without becoming violently ill, as a result.

The fae frowned down at him from his place on top of the table, before casually shrugging. ‘’Suit yourself elf, see if I care.’’

The elf let out a tired sigh, and had already started to rise, when something round and red entered his field of vision – making him halt and stare down tiredly, at the fruit in Robbies outstretched hand. The elf took it without looking at the other, and gently stole a small bite out of it – instantly feeling a bit of his energy return, after the hard labor committed at the gate.

Above him, Glanni huffed. ‘’Well shit fine then - if you both gonna insist on keeping quiet, then Imma just take the word, aight?’’ he grumbled, as he loudly chewed on his own food, before clearing his throat and harshly putting the half-empty bowl down beside him. ‘’So first off, I’m pretty annoyed at the whole ‘arriving at a town just to be yelled at’, when I calmly ask what the fuck has happened.’’ He started on a snappy tone, as he scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest. ‘’I technically hadn’t done shit to deserve it, not this time at least – and no shut up Rotty, I don’t care what you have to say.’’ He spat, as he glared hard at his cousin, who quickly gulped and looked back down at the dirty floor beneath him. ‘’I’m tired beyond belief, not to mention still injured - which your elf is for some reason as well, so that’s fuckin fantastic.’’ He grit out, as he angrily picked his bowl back up - swiftly consuming the rest of its contents, in a series of loud, obscene slurps. ‘’You’ve both been rude – and still fuckin are mind you, but fuck it, aight. You called and now I’m here, so perhaps we can actually get some fuckin work done. But.’’ He drawled, as he flicked a finger between the two of them. ‘’Whatever the fuck is going on with you two, you gotta work it out, before you get all three of us killed – and shut up Rotty don’t look at me like that.’’

The trio fell silent again, before Robbie – who had been picking at his nails the entire time – awkwardly cleared his throat and made his way back over to the table, when Glanni angrily pushed a chair out for him.

‘’I’ve got a lot of info to share.’’ Glanni continued after his cousin had sat down. ‘’But I got a feelin’ this is some standard knowledge at this point, but fuck it, you – here he gestured at Robbie – practically live under a rock, so might be news for you.’’ When none of the others spoke up, Glanni continued on a huff. ‘’Gods this is a mess. Aight, I got a few recounts from survivors, all talking about eyes – Whatever the fuck that means. We believe it might be either hysteria or a hallucination caused by the shade. Either that or this is actually, what its true form looks like.’’ he concluded, as he glared from elf to fae and back again. ‘’Fuckin hell, am I talkin’ to myself or wha?’’

Sportacus gently sighed, before leaning his head in his hand. ‘’I have seen it.’’

Glannis narrowed eyes quickly snapped down at him, as the fae tilted his head. ‘’What exactly did you see?’’ he asked, as he casually set to examine his nails.

The elfs head-free hand absently started to pick at the stem of his partly consumed apple, before replying. ‘’As you said. Eyes.’’ He finally settled with a small shrug. ‘’Just a swirling mass of eyes.’’

‘’Anything else?’’ Glanni pushed, before putting both palms back against the edge of the table.

A soft snap sounded, as the elf broke the stem between two tense fingers. ‘’Visually no. There was a vague idea of a shape, as in there was an up, but except for that. Nothing.’’ He concluded. ‘’Just a sea of eyes, which tried to pick me apart by the atoms.’’ he mumbled, as he rolled the two pieces of the stem between two cool fingertips. ‘’And I am cold.’’ He mumbled, as if on an afterthought.

Glanni scratched his chin in thought, as he went over the information. ‘’Coldness makes sense and that’s nothing new.’’ He shrugged. ‘’So it’s trying to figure out how to hold a form, is what you are saying.’’

Sportacus gave another small shrug. ‘’I do not know.’’ He admitted on a soft sigh. ‘’What I do know is that I was not alone in there.’’ He concluded, as he flicked one of the stem-pieces off the table – glaring hard in annoyance, when it landed just on the edge instead.

‘’Cause of the eye thing or-?’’ Glanni continued to prod.

The elf shook his head. ‘’Someone else was there with me, as in a person or a different creature.’’ He corrected and quickly elaborated, when the other raised an eyebrow at him. ‘’In the mass. Someone else was stuck there, being picked apart as well.’’

Glanni softly hummed, before glancing down at his cousin, who – eyes distant and downcast remained silent. ‘’So kinda like a giant stomach made of eyes - like, it’s been digesting to see what we made of?’’ he mused aloud. ‘’Makes sense if it wanna try to gain form, it could be examining how this whole thing works.’’ he said, as he tapped two fingers against his chest. ‘’Could be why they go for a strong core too – fuckers probably last longer. Also if you frightened, you easier to pick apart.’’ He mused, as he raked a hand through his hair. ‘’What you say Rotty – sounds like a solid theory right?’’

Robbies eyes momentarily went wide, before he shook his head roughly and glanced up at his cousin. ‘’Sorry what?’’ he mumbled a bit apologetic. Glanni massaged at the bridge of his nose, as he loudly groaned.

’Fuckin children, get yo head in the game.’’ He growled in annoyance, as he pushed off the table and set to pacing in front of the absent pair.

Sportacus picked up the remains off his apple and set to quietly munching - listening with half an ear, as the two faes set into a quick, hushed yapper about wards, shades and what nots. This was all information and ideas that he and Robbie already- The elf did not overly care, as he finally got up – not saying goodbye, as he strode off into the clogging darkness.

--

 

- The court -

 

After a quick shower and breakfast well executed, Íþróttaálfurinn now found himself angrily barking out orders, to a few of the unfortunate runners, who had been the closest to his vicinity, after he had departed from the early morning meeting - Which had gone absolutely nowhere.

As it unfortunately still was, most of the court seemed much more interested in talking every tiny detail through, than committing potentially risky actions - and while he was usually one to agree on such proceedings, they had already wasted enough time with their slow chatter.

One good thing had come from the meeting though – albeit calling it ‘good’ was perhaps a bit cruel.

Apparently, one of the high elves from the Eastern court had lost four members of his family, in what the court in question had dubbed the ‘Killer-fog’, and now, finally it seemed as though they – a completely different court than his reluctant Northern own – Had decided to put all of their attention towards fixing the issue.

With that in mind, it should have been an important, giving meeting, and yet, somehow, it had ultimately gone nowhere. These slow, draining proceedings seemed destined to give the tired king a permanent headache, as the elf in question angrily rubbed a palm against his throbbing temple.

Íþróttaálfurinn quickly half-jogged down the corridor leading towards his personal quarters – taking the stairs three steps at a time, as he reached them. It would be a few hours until the next meeting, and in the meantime, he hoped to get some privacy to muse things over.

Two panting servants ran past him, as he reached the upper floor – both looking slightly winded, as they bowed low and apologized for the quick pace, and so sorry your highness, another high elf fainted and- yes thank you, thank you, we are indeed doing or best, good day.

The king shook his head, as he finally made it into the safety of his own bedroom and promptly sat down on the edge of his bed – heavy head falling into his hands, as he groaned softly.

Similar stories of the ones from the Eastern court were piling up, and he could only hope some would eventually be progressive. If not, he might just have a fit and leave the whole thing behind, for a week or two. Of course, he could not actually do that, the dire events seemed to be escalating on a global plane, and were increasingly becoming more unpredictable - like the short message from his father, explaining that the shade had held its form for all of two minutes, before collapsing.

Not to mention the quickly, very important, scrawled side note on the bottom of the letter, detailing how the Western court had reached out as well, and how his father was currently taking part in heated discussions which hopefully - if Aki could convince them of such - would span over both the Northern, Western and the Eastern court. South had never been willing to lend a hand, no matter what the issue might be, and so they had decided to ignore that region for now.

Of course, Íþróttaálfurinn had immediately agreed to cooperate, even if the remaining inner circle of the court had been reluctant to even consider the idea of such a truce.

Ultimately though, he held the final word in the decision.

The day had just been full of small surprises and endurances like that - Not to mention the two frantic servants banging at his door, as soon as he had woken, alerting him that one of his inner, prized staff had run off to tangle with a dark one. Íþróttaálfurinn had barely had time to respond to their pleas of ‘can we please set after him’, before another servant had come running, telling him that the idiot rascal had indeed already been delivered back to them by a fisher – half frozen and asleep.

It all seemed so unreal.

The elf let out a breathy sigh, as he got up, stretched his tense arms over his head, before crossing them over his chest – Shutting his eyes tight, as he mused on how to best proceed.

Speaking of truces, perhaps they could find other unlikely comrades in amongst all this chaos - Perhaps, if all elves could truly work together for once, others might take to the trend. The Selkies, Water-horses and Swan maidens, which roamed in these parts of the region for example, had all joined forces in an effort to keep their waters secure.

If they could leave old spite behind, then perhaps others could too. Like the dark one that his suicidal staff-member had somehow come back alive from.

Not to mention the fae. That, even if it was years past already, was not something he had seen coming.

Granted, he had only been helped in a pinch once, by a certain black-haired, grinning, gorgeous – ahem – fae, when he had been backed up into one of the corners of the gates, leading into the Western court, by three enraged Gnomes, who all demanded to be let through and into a territory, where they certainly where not allowed passage.

It had not been the elfs fault, and he had tried to politely inform them of that fact, just before all hell broke loose.

His fae in question had all but waltzed up to the violent execution in progress - casually grabbed one of the angry others and nonchalantly punched the living daylights out of them, before they could proceed with their intend to take out both of Íþróttaálfurinns eyes and tongue in compensation for the passage he could not grant.

For a few startled seconds, the remaining three, still-standing creatures, had all gazed up and over in bewilderment, before the pair of Gnomes broke out of their stupor, and decided to try and see, if the laughing fae could ‘stay alive, if they clawed out his throat’.

The back-to-back fight, which followed the angry threat, was not one that he would soon forget.

A fae helping an elf, not to mention for free. It seemed like a bad joke, and yet it appeared his little brother was indeed doing the exact same thing.

Íþróttaálfurinn glared down at the bundle of letters he had received over the years from said little brother – all detailing this and that proceeding from the small, lazy town. They were not the most entertaining pieces of literature that he held in his possession, but they were some of his most treasured. Sadly, the topic of the recent ones, had been grim enough for him to-

The elf spun on his heel, as a harsh knock sounded at his door. With a soft sigh, he quickly barked for the person to enter. A blond servant hesitantly poked their head just inside the door and blinked over at him.

‘’Your father is here.’’ They said, as they stared expectantly at him.

Íþróttaálfurinn nodded – Tensely waiting until the visiting elf in question, had properly made it inside and the door firmly closed again, before he quickly closed the distance and threw himself into the others waiting arms. Aki returned the tight hug with a delighted chuckle, as he practically squeezed the living daylights out of his son. ‘’Good to see you.’’ The younger huffed gleefully, as the elder finally let him down on the floor again.

‘’And you.’’ Aki agreed, as he clasped the lower elfs shoulder and looked him over through narrowed eyes. ‘’What this?’’ He huffed, as he gently shoved at the others arm. ‘’Both sons neglectful enough to make one health elf in total?’’ He laughed. ‘’You must eat.’’

‘’Yeah well.’’ The younger said, as he scratched at the back of his head. ‘’Busy and all.’’ He mumbled a bit apologetic.

Aki shrugged, as he pushed past the other. ‘’Busy times indeed.’’ He softly agreed. ‘’Should not be too busy for family or health. Your little brother got same message.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn gave a hum of acknowledgement. ‘’How is Sporty holding up?’’

Aki fell silent for a beat, as his eyes shortly grew distant and cold. ‘’Learning consequences of deal.’’ He started on a huff. ‘’Luckily lesson is easy.’’

The younger blinked a few times, as he tilted his head in confusion. ‘’What happened?’’

‘’Desperation.’’ Aki said with a small casual shrug, as he reached in and retrieved a wrinkled letter from inside of his shirt. ‘’Regardless, he went to old court.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn stopped dead in his tracks, before narrowing his eyes at the other. ‘’Do we know for sure if the previous occupants are dead?’’ He asked in a soft voice, as he gingerly accepted the held out letter and pushed out a chair for his father.

‘’I hope.’’ Aki agreed in a serious fashion. ‘’No trouble should be if three stay in outer rings, occupant cannot reach trio there. Sport know of fact - If not, is good it is indeed trio staying at court, no?’’ He pointed out, before sitting down in the offered chair.

‘’One for each head?’’ The younger huffed humorlessly, as he swiftly opened the letter and skimmed over its contents.

Aki glared angrily at him, before replying. ‘’Do not joke.’’ He said in a low, stern voice, before picking up a pen and adding some of his own recent activities, to the evacuation notes in front of him – quickly snatching a fresh sheet from nearby, when the map below him, did not reach into a part he had helped clear out.

‘’Sorry dad.’’ The younger said genuinely apologetic, as he leaned over to read the specific notes, over the others shoulder. ‘’Who are the others?’’

‘’Old villain from town and the cousin of him.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn was silent for a beat. ‘’You left him with Glanni?’’ he asked with a raised brow, before shaking his head slightly in fond amusement. It seemed fate would truly not let him forget the other. However, while he had no doubt his little brother could fend for himself, he still could not help the pang of worry, over the fact of which kind the younger elf had been left alone with. ‘’All things considered, is it wise to leave him with fae?’’ He asked in a soft voice.

‘’Will be fine.’’ Aki assured on a shrug. ‘’Robbie is good kid and Glanni you know well.’’

The younger felt his cheeks redden slightly, as he rapidly blinked, before shaking his head a bit roughly - Of course his father knew of that specific affair. ‘’What do you recommend?’’ he asked instead, as he looked down at the map – gesturing towards a specific part, which was closer to the Eastern court, but had yet to be evacuated. Therefore, it was technically not his responsibility, but while the East were finally taking things serious, they did not seem to overly care for its small folk.

It would not be hard for the Northern guards, which had already been sent out, to ‘accidentally’ stray a bit further and help out.

Aki hummed, as he stroked at his beard – knowing what his son meant by the rapid tapping against the map-part in question. ‘’Is bad area, but worth effort to clear.’’ He started, as he picked up the pen and drew a quick copy onto another fresh sheet. ‘’Move from here.’’ He elaborated and drew a line from the already noted position of the guards. ‘’To here. Let through and drop off close to ward.’’

‘’Would it give us trouble with the Eastern court?’’ the younger asked despite already knowing the answer. ‘’I mean, if they refuse to take refugees in?’’

‘’Yes.’’ His father said, as he tapped the point of the pen against his notes. ‘’But low folk will aid in keeping guards safe. If trouble politically, since Eastern has been ignoring call for aid by other courts - except Northern - it might strengthen yours.’’ He said on a small shrug. ‘’Also action will be seen as kind gesture, which East court cannot act poor on.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn hummed. ‘’How is the discussions going in general?’’

‘’Good.’’ Aki curtly nodded. ‘’Western court is in on truce, further, West is willing to aid – here he pointed to Íþróttaálfurinn – with small army. However, West refuse to aid East and South other than not attacking.’’

The younger let out a surprised huff. ‘’That is a lot more than I expected.’’ He admitted. ‘’If anything, that is a great start, but what of the others?’’

Aki shrugged. ‘’Not yet.’’ He admitted, as he slowly stood up and set to pace the room. ‘’I cannot be multiple places, no?’’ he mused aloud, as he flicked his fingers towards the ceiling. ‘’But am needed in bad areas of evacuation and likewise proceedings on truce, so perhaps I found a way, but is risky if she get angry.’’

The younger felt his brow furrow, as he took the information in. ‘’I have a feeling you have a favor to ask?’’ he asked, as he tilted his head slightly.

‘’Yes, not from you however. Two-way mirror portal.’’ He started, as he smirked darkly at the other. ‘’Set up in courts that corroborate.’’ He explained, as he vaguely gestured towards the grand mirror beside him. ‘’It will be difficult to convince courts of such, but good idea for fast transportation and share of information.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn rapidly blinked, as he stared at his father’s bright grin. ‘’Different creatures on realm use mirror to travel, perhaps one will let elf through?’’

The younger let out a small, confused huff. ‘’And who would that be?’’ he asked a bit uncertain, as he crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. ‘’Those that pass through in such a fashion are rarely friendly, not to mention physical or verbal in any form of common communication.’’ He pointed out, as he slowly stalked over to where the other had likewise crossed his arms over his chest, and was staring straight at his own reflection.

‘’One such exists who happens to owe favor.’’ Aki explained, just as the younger visibly gulped. ‘’You are frightened?’’ The elder asked with a single raised brow.

’No.’’ The younger quickly lied, to which Aki huffed, grinned and turned back to the mirror. ‘’Then no problem. We will proceed.’’ He said, as he confidentially nodded once to himself. Íþróttaálfurinn took three quick steps back, as the elder stared straight into his own, narrowed eyes, and set to chant the cursed name thrice.

For a few, perfect seconds, all was still, before a high-pitched, scrapping – like claws raking down a frosted window – sounded from seemingly inside the mirror itself, causing the small hairs on the back of the youngers neck to stand on end. The startled gasp of horror was caught in the younger elfs throat, as he – very kingly – hid behind the straight, broad back of his grinning father.

‘’Hello!’’ Aki hollered in obvious delight, as he spread his arms out wide, as though greeting an old lost friend.

’Oh gods no, not again.’’ The bleeding other drawled in a raspy voice, as she pressed her torn fingertips against the invisible barrier of her eternal confinement. ‘’What could you possibly want this time?’’

--

 

- The old court -

 

Sportacus woke with a start, as a sudden, intense stab of pain wrecked through his stomach, causing the startled elf to bend at the middle – a few yapping foxes falling off and tumbling to the floor in the process. Whimpering through grit teeth, he clutched at his abdomen, just as a lone fox lightly bit the tip of his ear in offense, to haven been woken, in such a fashion.

‘’Sorry, sorry ouch.’’ He managed to cry out, as the little creature gave a small, offended yip, before jumping down and fleeing out into the corridor – a few of the glowing creatures following in its wake. ‘’What is this?’’ He mused aloud, as he stood up on his shaking legs - one of the foxes on the floor looking up at him, before tilting its head curiously at him, as it let out a series of low, confused howls.

‘’I don’t know either.’’ He grumbled at it, as he snatched up a glow-stone and slowly made his way out into the dark corridor. ‘’Stress.’’ He murmured lowly to himself, as a hand absently came up to rake through the sharp fur of a fox, who had decided its biggest mission in life, was to plaster itself against the side of his neck, as it dug its sharp claws into the fabric of his shirt, and hung on. Successfully serving, as the weirdest nightlight to date, as both fox and stone lit the path for him.

Both faes where still awake, when he reemerged into the dusty kitchen - Robbie quietly reading at the table, while Glanni was on the phone, having a loud conversation, which included a handful of wide, dramatic gestures.

Robbie blinked once, as he looked up at the approaching elf - who still had a softly glowing fox-light on his shoulder – before frowning slightly and quickly glancing back down.

‘’-But like sure aight, it is what it is, but stay away from the sleep meds I guess, you know since-.’’ The elf heard Glanni bark from where he stood at the counter, before seemingly being cut off by the person on the other end. ‘’No, gods no, just listen Boris, It’s- No you fuckin aren’t listening, I’m trying to tell you-‘’ The fae continued - face settling into a deep frown, as he yapped on in a somehow both hushed and yet loud voice.

The elf gingerly sat down on the opposite side of the quiet, reading fae – trying and failing to ease the pain by lightly massaging his hurting abdomen. Granted, he had barely eaten in the last couple of days, not to mention his ruined sleep schedule, but somehow, this felt different.

Still, it was not as though, there was anything for him to eat in here, and considering the state of the hard soil outside, unless something drastically changed, this whole situation would not be sustainable for long.

Sportacus had just started to ponder, on why he had come here in the first place, when an entire, fresh kale head was quietly pushed across the table, and into his field of vision. The elf quickly took a deep breath and blinked the tired, confused tears away, as his stomach aggressively growled in hunger, before silently accepting the small miracle, with a dumbstruck expression. It was all the elf could do, not to feel the faint crack, which cut straight down through the thick, careful ice, which had made a home around his heart.

‘’-No, just let me explain, that’s not what I said.’’ Glanni yapped loudly. ‘’Boris? Dear?’’ He barked angrily, before scoffing and slamming his palm against the phone a few times. ‘’Shitty connection.’’

‘’There should not be any at all.’’ The elf quietly argued, as he took a large bite out of his food and glanced over at the sneering other, who kept slapping his phone in offense. The fox-light carefully leaned down and sniffed at his green snack, before it jerked its head away and sneered at it in an irked fashion - jumped down and completely left the kitchen, as it too, went in search for sustenance.

Sportacus took another bite out of his food and set to chewing, as he absently stared after the little glow-ball. The pain lingered - Faint, but still there.

Glanni huffed, as he looked up and threw a glare right back. ‘’This is a different type of connection you nit.’’ he drawled, as he loudly rolled his eyes at the other, to which Sportacus just lowly hummed in reply. ‘’-Are you there or no? Hello? Ah, yes yes.’’ Glanni clipped, as he continued his loud conversation.

Despite his best efforts not to, Sportacus felt his eyes travel to the reading fae, as he silently munched on the refreshing green. Lips pale and a faint constant tremor going through his slim frame, the other somehow seemed worse for wear, than when the elf had gone to bed probably just a few hours back - in all honestly, the other looked ready to keel over and die. The elf rapidly blinked, when the other – as though to prove the point of the elfs dark musings - set into a violent coughing fit.

The fae made a face of pure disgust, as he painfully coughed something, better left undescribed, up.

‘’Are you ill?’’ Sportacus asked on a low, unsure voice, as the others blurry eyes finally abandoned his book and snapped up at him.

The fae gave a small, noncommitting shrug, before looking back down. ‘’It is not as if you actually care anyway.’’ He weakly murmured in a low, raspy voice – clearly not meaning for the other to hear.

‘’Can’t help it.’’ The elf angrily clipped, as he took another chunk out of the kale and gazed around. ‘’Do pardon if it makes you uncomfortable, I truly do not intend for-‘’

‘’Aigh we’ve talked a bit of the previous theory through, while you rudely decided to snooze.’’ Glanni loudly interrupted the sneering elf, as he snapped his phone shut. ‘’The stronger the core, the longer it can hold the form.’’ The fae explained, as he put his phone away and leaned back against the kitchen counter. ‘’The worse the terror, the stronger the vessel becomes. Don't ask how it works, cause I don’t fuckin know - guess the terror creates a powerful energy or something that works as a sort of fuel.’’ He mused, as he flicked his fingers towards the ceiling. ‘’An actual update though, is that a few people started dying in their sleep like a week or so ago.’’ He clipped, as he tapped against the pocket, which held his phone.

The other two remained in a tense silence, as Glanni looked between them, with a clearly bothered look on his face. ‘’Right, good work Glanni, happy you such a hard worker, thank you very much – no problem fuckers, you are so very welcome.’’ He drawled, as he frowned and made his way over to the table - snatched Robbies notebook close, picked up a pen and quickly noted something down in a series of quick, angry scrawls.

‘’I’m hitting the hay.’’ Robbie grumbled lowly, as he abruptly stood up and fled the tension-filled kitchen.

An uncomfortable silence settled between the two remaining creatures – only sounds being that of the soft cracks of the flames, as they danced on their separate candles and around the angry, writing fae.

‘’So you banging my cousin?’’ Glanni asked in a dry voice, as he finally put down his pen and put his head in his hands instead. ‘’Is that what’s going on?’’ he asked, as he continued to stare intensely at the other. ‘’Cause if it is, please get yo shit together.’’

The elf blinked rapidly at the casual other, before replying. ‘’No.’’ he finally settled, to which the fae nonchalantly shrugged.

‘’Shame.’’ He said, as he took a sip of his cousins’ cold, abandoned coffee. ‘’Thing is, I’m leaving for the other court, as soon as possible.’’ He explained, as he sighed dramatically and frowned down at the mug, as though it had personally offended him. ‘’Gotta admit I’m tired of the traveling, but I got a better shot at helping out there.’’ He explained, as he absently scraped a ragged nail against the handle of his mug. ‘’This place is boring as fuck anyway, bit too much just waiting about for my taste - Don’t hesitate to call when something new actually happens though.’’ He urged, as he got up, made his way over to the dirty sink and threw out the offensive coffee. The fae sighed, as he grabbed a cloth from the dusty counter and set to cleaning the mug, as best he could.

The elf hummed affirmatively, as he took another bite and stared at the smudged table in front of him. ‘’Sounds reasonable.’’ He agreed on a grumble.

'’Just need to be sure my cousin outta dodge.’’ The fae mumbled low, as he glared angrily over at the chewing elf.

Sportacus blinked once, as he awkwardly paused, around another bite. ‘’I am not going to hurt him.’’ he softly promised, as he looked over at the tense other.

‘’World doesn’t evolve around you elf, that’s not what I meant – this place make me sick.’’ The fae settled on a not-so-casual shrug, as he stared straight at the other and somehow managed to glare even harder, just as the elf furrowed his brow – both hands slowly lowering to rest against the edge of the table, as he completely abandoned his late night snack.

‘’What do you mean?’’

Glannis hands stilled in their rough mug-cleaning, as he rapidly blinked – something carefully neutral slipping into his features, just as every single candle and floating flame in the room, did a weird little flicker. Stark, jerky shadows swayed and danced over his lethal glare, as a dangerous tremor vibrated through the air –The loud, unspoken threat of great, personal harm unmistakable, as something sharp and ugly settled into the others features. ‘’Fuckin unbelievable, don’t play coy.’’ The suddenly tense fae growled aggressively, as he harshly slammed the mug down, turned, and stalked out of the kitchen - Small flames and candles dying with a hiss, and successfully plunging the small area into darkness.

The worried elf rapidly blinked at the unmoving black, as he awkwardly sat alone in the dark, dusty kitchen - Soft, startled howl from a fox echoing from the staircase, as Glannis enraged 'fuck off!' rang out alongside it.

What did I miss?

Chapter Text

Ivar spun his spear a few times, as he and one of his most trusted guards, walked across the wooden bridge to get back up to the court – Bridge itself connecting to one of the smaller, beaten paths, which lead back down towards the ocean.

‘’How is Peggy holding up in all of this – you still got time to walk her and all, right?’’ The guard asked him, as he gazed at the valley below – the large withered forest spanning out underneath, seemingly stretching endlessly towards the horizon, before the sea swallowed it up.

Ivar barked out a short, harsh laugh, as he shook his head in delight. ‘’Yeah she’s fine, and of course – it could be the end of the world and I would still take time off, to get her out in the fresh air.’’ The large elf said, as one of his rough fingers absently worried, at the end of a strip of leather, wrapped tightly around his spear. ‘’She’s currently enjoying the new bed I got her, after her sister tore the last one to shreds.’’ He laughed, as he recalled the guilty look on his second and largest dogs’ face, after the large elf had caught the canine vandal red-handed.

To his left, the guard nodded, before looking back up at his captain. ‘’And Chris? He doing all right after he got moved to peasant-watch? He seemed happy to be out of ‘Dark fog duty’ but I dunno, he seemed kind of tense for some reason last I saw him.’’ He admitted, just as the pair made their way over the bridge and set up the steep hill leading up to the court.

The larger elf glared down at the other, who seemed to quickly pale under the murderous gaze. ‘’So we are calling it peasant-watch these days, eh?’’ The shorter guard gulped, as Ivar shook his head and huffed. ‘’Chris took an arrow to the shoulder and is not allowed to tell further of it – and no you didn’t hear shit about this from me. The rest of you will be properly informed when evening comes.’’ He grumbled. ‘’It’s gonna get worse, especially when the winter truly sets in.’’ Ivar solemnly promised. ‘’So if you could keep the insults to a minimum that’d be great.’’

The shorter guard quickly let out a small ‘yes sir’ – tips of his ears and cheeks going red, as he awkwardly coughed.

‘’The western court has offered a temporary truce, while we deal with this.’’ Ivar continued, just as the two crossed out onto the platform above, and stalked towards the steps leading up to the front gate.

The shorter raised an eyebrow. ‘’Really?’’ He laughed, and let out a soft ‘huh’ in surprise, when the taller threw him a stern nod.

‘’I plan to send fifteen of ours to help em out - show of good faith and all that since they willing to send a small army to aid us. Would you be interested in going?’’ He asked, before clapping the other hard on the back.

‘’Do I have a choice?’’ The shorter asked his superior, who once again nodded.

‘’On this one you do. I realize the potential problem that could rise, if I send people who still harbor too much hate, towards all the shit that happened way past.’’ He admitted on a small shrug, to which the other huffed.

‘’Yeah I get ya.’’ The guard said, as he drummed his short, dirty nails against his chainmail - the two quickly took the wide stairs up two steps at a time. ‘’Aight, I’m in.’’ The shorter elf said, as he curtly nodded towards his two fellow comrades at the gate, who quickly stepped aside to let them pass.

Ivar grinned and clapped the others shoulder. ‘’Great. You are leaving in two hours.’’ He gleefully barked, as he strode past the startled other and stalked into the courtyard - other elf loudly glaring after him.

‘’Son of a-‘’ the shorter growled, as he shook his head and scratched at the back of his head. ‘’Aight, great.’’ He mumbled and quickly set into a jog, in order to catch up to the larger, grinning elf.

--

 

- The old court -

 

It was close to dawn, when one cold elf made his way out into the unpleasant, biting cold of the morning. With a soft sigh, he sat down heavily against the right side of the gate – fingertips lightly scrapping against the frozen ground, as he leaned back and mused on what Glannis late-night outburst could have possibly meant.

Somehow, the pain from his abdomen had gotten increasingly worse over the night, without him being able to figure out why exactly – only thing he was truly sure of was that it was different, from what the two others were currently suffering from. How exactly he knew that was a mystery as well, but the soft, urgent voice in the back of his head kept nagging, insisting that he had indeed missed something quite important - Something he should have thought off, but for the life of him, could not seem to recall. Each time he felt he came close to an answer, something overshadowed that particular train of clear thought and once more, the waters were muddied - successfully making him loose track of what it was, he had come close to realizing.

In the years that had past, while this place was still occupied, no know diseases had flourished, so he greatly doubted something of that nature, somehow still lingered within the walls - Except for the hopefully dead- but no. That could not be the cause of whatever the faes had come down with - the inner ring were completely sealed off, in order to prevent it from escaping, so truly, that could not be it. Besides, while it was an ugly creature indeed, it was not known to carry diseases. What then?

A gentle breeze playfully tugged at his hair, as it swirled and danced around him - lifting the low branches of the withered bushes, which littered the sides of the steep hill around the main gate, before continuing inside the open gate itself. Sportacus allowed him one small moment to shut his eyes and bask in the quiet peace of it.

Had something come from outside then? Had the foxes dragged something with them, as they settled back into the old halls? No. That was literally impossible, and whatever this was, he could not have passed it on to the others either.

With a soft scoff and a groan, both shaky hands came up to rake down his face, as he tried to make sense of what was happening.

The ground was pure, the foxes just as well. Had they both been sick, before coming here? No, not according to Gl- The elf scoffed loudly in annoyance, when he felt a completely different kind of chill enter alongside the biting cold of the wind – successfully interrupting his train of thought.

All sound stilled, just as he snapped his eyes open and glared irritated at the shade – following its jittery movements, as it jerked back and forth in the deep silence, testing the edges of the outer wards.

For one insane, startled moment, he considered actually getting up and walking out to see, what it would do, if it managed to catch him twice. The elf shook his head at his own blasphemes reaction. Imp of the perverse. His mind softly whispered, making him snort in amusement, despite the seriousness of the situation. ‘’What do you want? He finally clipped into the unnatural quiet, as the shadow kept trying to press itself further against the invisible barrier.

‘’Have you reconsidered?’’ It asked in its eerie, disembodied voice.

Cool fingers closed around a pebble, before the elf raised his hand over his head, and threw the small stone at it. The shade wobbled a bit, before stabilizing. ‘’You have grown denser.’’ He pointed out in a dry voice. The back of his head made a small sound, as it harshly collided against the rough stone gate – eyes trailing to the slowly lighting sky, from which the thick, black snow slowly started to fall.

‘’How observant.’’

Sportacus huffed, before taking a deep breath and shutting his eyes, as some of the flakes gently landed on his face and shoulders. ‘’I am not going to stay out of this.’’ He grumbled, as the damned snow melted and itched against his skin. ‘’I am not sure how you seriously ever believed that was even an option.’’ He laughed humorlessly, as he rubbed both shaky palms down his sticky arms – frowning when the motion only made it worse.

‘’You will eventually come to realize that struggle is pointless.’’

The elf felt himself bark out a baffled laugh. ‘’How cliché. You sound like a bad villain.’’ He chuckled humorlessly, as he covered his grinning mouth. ‘’I am terrified, truly.’’ He laughed, as he realized his mistake and instead glared down at his sticky, filthy palm – quickly lowering it further, to try to get some of the dark gunk off. ‘’Must I remind you I already escaped you… How many times have it been now?’’ He pointed out, as he gave up on cleaning his hand – lips going strangely numb, as the shimmering goo continued to melt and invade every available surface of the annoyed elf.

‘’Give me the two which you shelter.’’ It purred regardless of his retort, as it pressed itself further against the invisible barrier. Sportacus felt a fresh flake hit the corner of his tense lips, just as he turned his head down – hands coming up to try and shield himself from the worst of it. ‘’You reek of despair elf. What do you have to lose? Give them to me.’’ It tried, as it jerked gently from side to side. ‘’Give them to me and you will be spared - I might even give you the children back. You want that, do you not?’’ It drawled in what the elf reckoned was a mocking tone.

He knew it was a lie. Nothing could return from that wretched in between space, unless they got out quick.

’Yeah no.’’ he snapped, as he gave up on trying to use his hands as mini umbrellas, and instead lied down, to just embrace it - He was covered already regardless. ‘’You lie. You have done nothing but lie.’’ He said, as he shook his head roughly. ‘’It is true that I can be ignorant, but I am not stupid enough to believe you would ever return what you have taken. Besides, you truly believe I would trade a life for another?’’ He huffed low. ‘’What a joke.’’

The whole scene above and around the lounging elf was strangely beautiful – the black, shimmering goo covering everything, as it slowly melted and seemed to solidify in some places. He felt a flake land directly into his right, narrowed eye, causing him to rapidly blink and rub at it, to try to get it out. The mass felt like a thick soap - Stung just the same, he mused, as both the ward - still tightly wrapped around his wrist - and crystal, vibrated in protest over his apathetic, dormant state.

He loudly ignored both.

‘’Give me the-‘’

‘’Get lost already.’’ He growled, as he covered his ears, turned on his side and curled in on himself. The elf let his stinging eyes fall shut, as he drew his bound, tingling feet closer to his own shivering person. Vaguely, he registered his left ear twitch, as something howled and nipped at it.

--

 

- The court –

 

‘’Íþróttaálfurinn wants to see you.’’ Patricia clipped, as she strode into the room – pair of old, wooden clutches tugged safely under her arm.

‘’Is he…’’ Seven trailed off, as he bit at his lip, before furrowing his brow and slightly opening his mouth again – shutting it with a click, as he seemingly reconsidered and instead gave a small nod, as he looked down and gingerly accepted the crutches. Patricia held out a hand and helped the other stand - quickly smooching out the wrinkles of his nightshirt, after making sure the other was not going to fall. ‘’Don’t mother me.’’ Seven mumbled low in protest, to which Patricia lightly slapped his arm, before going over and holding the door open for him.

‘’There is cake for you in the kitchen from yesterday’s staff meeting, when you finish up.’’ She clipped, as she shut the door after him, both slowly making their way down the hallway. ‘’Also, we could generally use some help in the kitchen if you aren’t completely dead after this. Try not to fall down the stairs and break your neck, or something equally stupid.’’ She called over her shoulder, as she hurried off to starts her own duties.

‘’Got it.’’ Seven softly grumbled, before taking a deep breath and slowly started making his way through the busy court. The young elf could not help but worry, if this was that one time too many – if this was finally where the king would have to draw a line and say ‘no more’ to his stupid ideas. Granted, the youngster had done much worse in the past - like that one time, he accidentally set the entire west wing on fire, when a traveling mage, had taught him a few basic earth-spells, truly, he just wanted to be able to grow flowers in the same way that the mage had shown him, but nope. Entire thing had instead caught on fire. Luckily, no one had been hurt - The whole ordeal had not helped his phobia though.

Seven greatly worried at his bottom lip, as the double doors leading into the war room came into view. He took a deep breath, as he shifted his burning palms a bit on the uncomfortable crotches – inside of the joints already starting to blister, despite the brief distance from the healer’s quarters and to here.

He quickly corrected his hair in the mirror, before lightly banging his right crotch against one of the two doors. Moments later, a guard opened and helpfully held the door open, when he realized the others predicament.

‘’Leave us.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn – eyes still on the map before him – ordered on a casual note.

Seven flinched, as the door closed behind him. With a soft gulp, he willed himself to jump a bit forward, weight resting on the right crotch, as he waited for permission to sit down and receive his – hopefully light – punishment. He lightly stabbed at the ground, with the butt of the left crutch, as he stood in the tense, uncomfortable silence – only sounds being that of his kings angry, quick scrawls.

Seven felt his shoulders and back tense, as the pen was finally put down a bit roughly.

‘’Take a seat.’’ The kind ordered and gestured to the chair in front of him.

The younger swiftly wobbled over and gingerly got into the offered chair. Aight, we have done worse before. He quickly reminded himself once more, as he picked at the red, burning flesh on the inside of his right palm, before willing himself to glance up and receive the intense, disappointed stare Íþróttaálfurinn threw at him. The older let out a tired sigh, before leaning his heavy head in his hand.

Seven silently gulped, before straightening up a bit - both hands quickly coming up in reconciliation. ‘’I can explain.’’ He began on a clipped, urgent voice.

‘’You better.’’

The younger elf took a deep breath and nodded. ‘’I succeeded.’’

‘’You still have a head on your shoulders, so I figured as much.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn pointed out, sounding highly unimpressed.

‘’Would very much like to keep it that way sir.’’ Seven said softly, as he let his hands drop and instead put both of his hurting palms against the edge of the table.

The pair fell silent for a beat, before Íþróttaálfurinn let out a deep, tired sigh. ‘’What am I supposed to do with you?’’ He mused aloud.

‘’Preferably keep me around and enjoy the amazing benefits, my spontaneous ideas gain you?’’

The older huffed in loud agreement, as his eyes momentarily went wide. ‘’The entire court is indeed talking of your suicidal endeavors.’’ He admitted. ‘’But what am I to do, when some small kid hears of the heroic deed done for the greater good, and sets out to get themselves killed?’’ He sighed, as he narrowed his eyes at the other. ‘’What then Seven. That death is on me.’’

‘’It would be my fault though.’’ The other quickly argued, leaning slightly forward in his seat.

Íþróttaálfurinn shook his head. ‘’The court and the people surrounding it are my responsibility.’’ He said softly. ‘’Whatever you do, whatever actions you might take - They are my responsibility, and if my court acts dumb, that goes back to me as well.’’

Seven took a deep breath, as he quietly worried his bottom lip between his teeth. ‘’Fine, fuck it, kick me out then - you’ve waited for that anyway, haven’t you?’’ He spat, as his eye fell to the low, ornamental panels on the wall beside him.

The older narrowed his brow at the small outburst, before taking a deep, slightly frustrated breath. ‘’Forgive me.’’ he began on a tired sigh. ‘’I forget how young you are. How vulnerable you still are in these types of crisis.’’

‘’I’m not made of glass.’’ The shorter yapped loudly in protest, as he set to fiddling with the corner of a note close to him.

‘’That is not what I meant.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn corrected, as he shook his head, leaned forward and put his elbows against the edge of the table. ‘’These situations.’’ he began, as he gestured between them. ‘’Have been a constant repeat, each time there has been trouble.’’ He explained gently. ‘’How many times have we been in this exact situation?’’

Seven casually shrugged. ‘’I’ve lost count sir.’’ He grumbled, to which the older gave a small nod.

‘’You see?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn said gently, before he lowered his head and managed caught the others wandering gaze. He softly continued, when Seven shook his head in a nonverbal reply. ‘’You brought up the matter on the dark one, last time we spoke, and I should have seen this coming.’’

The younger huffed humorlessly. ‘’It wasn’t that obvious sir.’’ He did a full-body flinch, when the other actually laughed in delight – A single brow raising in confusion, when the other continued to laugh.

‘’You poured wine down the Raven queens back, when she insulted my garden, yes, I should have seen this foolish an act coming, I should, but I did not.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn continued, as he continued to laugh at the pleasant memory.

Seven gave a little hum in affirmation, as he briefly thought back to the shocked faces of the ones gathered. The young elf had had to spend a month in isolation after that – ‘isolation’ might have been a stretch, seeing as they let him out each night, to stretch his legs and get some fresh air – but it had been totally worth it.

Even Patricia had high-fived him in the kitchen right after the spontaneous, little happening, before the guards of the Western court, had barged in and dragged him kicking and screaming out into the courtyard. Only the stern, swift words about his young, unpredictable mind - and obvious loyalty - from Íþróttaálfurinn had stopped, what could potentially have ended in a spontaneous, public execution, and had instead ended up with him gaining the reluctant respect, from their neighboring court.

The shorter bit at his lip, before glancing back up at his grinning king. ‘’So I take it I get to stay?’’

The king nodded. ‘’You do.’’ He said, as he picked up his pen. ‘’You owe an apology to Vincent for running out on kitchen duty though, that I cannot and will not save you from.’’ Seven absently nodded. ‘’So.’’ The older began, as his face settled into something cold and focused. ‘’Tell me of the dark one.’’

--

 

- The old court -

 

The needle effortlessly pierced the surface of the worn leather, as Robbie held it tightly between two tense fingertips and pushed it through – Thread slowly making its way between both sides of the torn fabric, and pushing them back together, as the steadily decreasing ring of thread forced them closed.

With a sharp inhale and a quick sip of his scolding coffee - seriously Glanni had made the water far too warm for comfort – the faes shaking hands repeated the motion.

He had made it about halfway through the repairs of his cousins worn out cat suit, when a loud bang from a slammed cupboard rang out behind him – causing the fae to accidentally penetrate his fingertip, when he did a violent, startled flinch.

‘’Are we already almost out of coffee?’’ Glanni huffed, as he angrily slammed the near-empty glass container down onto the counter. ‘’Fuckin hell.’’ Robbie heard the other swear under his breath, as the other somehow managed to jerk down a hand and catch the towel, which kept creeping down his slender hips, before it could fall any further and put more of his pale, scarred skin on display.

Robbie hummed in response, as he sucked at his bleeding fingertip – dry eyes blinking tiredly down at the blood, which welled up from the small puncture.

‘’Imma send you some later aight?’’ Glanni groaned, as he aggressively tossed the container back into the cupboard, before reaching out a hand to snatch himself some sugar to add to the bitter mix.

‘’Appreciate it.’’ Robbie mumbled, as he managed to relocate the small needle and continue his work – having to shift the working fingers, when the small metal kept slipping on his still slick fingers.

From the stairway, a few yips and yaps echoed up and out into the kitchen, as two snipping foxes chased each other in – in their wake, one cold, dirty, elf followed on his sticky, bound feet, before the elf in question stopped dead in his tracks. Sportacus’ eyes went comically wide, as they snapped up and stared at the table prepared for him – Fruits and veggies enough to make out a small feast, littered on plates and bowls beside the working fae, who did his best to appear casual, as he willed himself to focus on the leather in his hands.

‘’The fuck happened to you?’’ Glanni yapped loudly towards the newcomer, as he aggressively continued to stir the brown liquid.

Sportacus looked conflicted, as he continued to stare towards the table in confusion, before he blinked and finally made his way over to sit down heavily in the prepared chair. ‘’Nothing.’’ He finally replied, as if in an afterthought.

‘’Sure as fuck don’t look like nothing – Did you take a swim in a pool of mud or what?’’ The frowning fae clipped, to which the elf softly huffed.

‘’Something like that yeah.’’ He agreed. ‘’If the mud is made of black snow that is.’’ The elf kept his eyes firmly on the table, as he continued to awkwardly stare at the greens in front of him – like a dog given a piece of bacon, but had not been given the permission to eat.

Glannis swift hands stopped abruptly in their rough stirring, as he glanced over to his worried cousin instead. ‘’Do you get what the fuck he’s talkin’ about?’’

‘’Is the… Snow having any effect?’’ Robbie hesitantly asked, as he gazed up at the other – hands continuously swift and secure in their sewing.

The elf gently shook his head, as he glanced up as well, and met the worried gaze of the other. ‘’Just itchy.’’ He admitted, before looking back down and around at his untouched food.

By the counter, Glanni loudly huffed, as he rolled his eyes. ‘’Well at least you actually talking, fuckin progress, amazing.’’ He drawled, as he put his coffee aside to cool a bit down, before loudly continuing to open and close the wooden cupboards. The fae in question squinted his eyes, as he seemed to find something of interest, before reaching in an arm and picking something up. ‘’I think this used to be bread.’’ He mumbled disappointedly, as he threw the boring object over his left shoulder.

The stony object hit and briefly skittered across the ground, causing one of the two present glowing foxes to jump down - from where it had been overseeing the kitchen on its place on the counter - and stalk over to the curious object. It sniffed at it, before strong, crystal jaws opened – sharp teeth chewing on it, as if it was some sort of ancient, bizarre dog toy. ‘’So no one died in their sleep.’’ Glanni continued to drawl, as the other two had once again fallen into a tense, awkward silence. ‘’Fantastic. Go us.’’

‘’The wards would-‘’

‘’Yes elf, I fuckin know.’’ The fae snapped, as he glared at the other, before huffing and throwing another piece of something, which once might have been food as well over his shoulder. ‘’Why the fuck did you not clean up before leaving?’’ He scoffed.

Sportacus was silent for a beat, before he absently picked up a fork and set to fiddling with it. ‘’We did not have time.’’

‘’And why the fuck not?’’ Glanni spat, as he kicked out at a fox, who had continuously been trying to get a sniff of his pale legs. It growled in warning, as its crystal body briefly flashed bright.

Sportacus immediately held out the shaky fork-free hand to calm it – soft, unfamiliar words spoken in a language neither fae understood, as the elf managed to calm the small, hissing creature. It tilted its head at him, before it turned and abruptly took off into the dark of the stairway at the other end of the kitchen.

The elf took a deep breath, as he stared after it. ‘’We were caught off guard.’’

Both faes stared up and over at him. ‘’Serves you right.’’ Glanni grumbled under his breath, as he took another sip of his scolding coffee.

’How so?’’ Both Sportacus and Robbie loudly yapped back in unison – both awkwardly locking eyes for a second, before they suddenly seemed busy glaring at anything else, which was not the other.

Moments passed in another tense silence, before a loudly scoffing Glanni threw a piece of something, which might once also have been a loaf of bread, at the head of the reluctant elf. ‘’Fuckin eat.’’ The fae growled low, as he turned around to fetch his coffee some more sugar - his mutinous towel slipping again with the abrupt movement. A slight, coffee-free hand absently snatched down and managed to correct it, just not before his cousin - and a blushing elf - got a good view of the others ass.

Glanni loudly slurped at his too-hot, now much sweeter coffee, hissing, when he burned his tongue. The fae had just angrily slammed the mug back down again - a bit of the hot liquid spilling over the edge in the process - when Robbie simultaneously managed to finish his task. The faes swift, shaky hands tied the final knot and put the smeared needle back in its casing, before nonchalantly throwing the entirety of the patched-up cat suit up, and onto the table in front of him.

With nothing else to do, the fae dared a harsh glare up at the still-fasting elf, who kept rudely poking at his food. The offensive elf in question furrowed his brow, as he held up a tomato and stared in bewilderment at the little marks, which peppered the red, round surface. ‘’Why are they all full of holes?’’ He asked, eyes jerking around at his offered gifts, as he got no reply. A soft ‘oh’ escaped him, as he noticed a cucumber, still skewered by one of the thousands of small forks, which had littered the surrounding cupboards shelves. The suspicious elf kept his eyes downcast, as he bit his lip and sniffed at the innocent green, before finally taking a small bite out of it.

The shaky fae got an ugly sense of Deja vu, as the other – eyes still downcast – practically set to devouring the rest.

For some reason, which did not seem related to the eating frenzy in front of him, the elf seemed to choke for a second - chewing slowing significantly, as he let out a small whimper and shut his eyes tight, before both hands pressed against his tense stomach.

Robbie felt himself blink rapidly, before he huffed and picked up his coffee. ‘’Are you somehow affected as well?’’ He asked softly, causing the elf to glance up and raise a brow in confusion - just as his cousin made his way over to the table, completely took off the towel and snatched up his repaired cat suit. The elf –suddenly very interested in the greens before him – kept his eyes firmly in front of him, as Glanni – very aware of the others sudden discomfort – happily tugged it on.

‘’Fits like a glove.’’ Glanni exclaimed with a bright grin, as he pushed a few bowls aside and comfortably sat down on top of the table, before snatching out a nail file from one of the suits hidden pockets – happy grin going wider, as he set to fixing his ragged nails. ‘’I’m leaving tonight.’’ The fae informed the two silent others, as he held up one of his fresh-filled nails to examine the newer, less sharp form.

Sportacus – already aware of the fact - hummed affirmatively, as he picked up an apple, and set to munch on it, just as Robbie leaned his elbows against the table, hands folded in front of his mouth, as he glanced up at his cousin.

‘’You plan to walk?’’ He asked with a raised eyebrow, to which Glanni roughly shook his head.

‘’Hoping to catch a ride.’’ He said vaguely, as he threw his cousin a bright smirk and a wink. Robbie huffed humorlessly, as he leaned back in his chair and let his eyes travel anywhere but the two in front of him.

Silence fell for a beat, before the elf decided to take the word and break the sudden tension, which had settled between the two faes. ‘’Thank you.’’ He said in a soft voice, as he gestured at some of the empty plates in front of him – palms coming up to rub at his still itchy arms, in a nervous fashion.

‘’Don’t mention it.’’ Robbie grumbled, to which the elf offered a low hum in reply.

‘’So I owe you now.’’ Sportacus said lowly, as he gazed over and down at the fox, who was still vigorously trying to get through to the core of the ancient, maybe-bread. ‘’Is that how this works?’’ The elf spat a tad aggressively, as he grit his teeth – eyes jerking back over and rising no further than the others chest, as he suddenly shivered and clutched at his abdomen again.

Robbie gently shook his head with a small frown, to which the elf briefly narrowed his eyes, as he jerkily nodded.

’Why are you sick?’’ The elf grit out - a strange snarl settling over his features, as he glared hard at the other. ‘’Is it something I have done without being aware of it?’’

The bewildered – and slightly annoyed by the elfs aggressive, confusing behavior – fae, was about to retort, mouth already open on an equally angry sneer, when Glannis meddling elbow hit his tense, shaky shoulder.

‘’Pass the syrup’’ Glanni clipped, just as his scowling cousin grit his teeth and jerkily did as asked.

Robbie had just returned his annoyed focus to the scowling elf, when Glanni pushed off the table and crossed through the dusty kitchen – whistling and gently nudging a sneering fox out with him, as he went.

The sounds from the fleeing fae and bewildered fox echoed up and out into the silent kitchen, as the floating flames, which had lit the room, simultaneously died out with a hiss, leaving only three candles left.

A tense silence settled between the pair, as both completely seemed to have lost track of the previous thread of conversation. ‘’I thought the flames were yours.’’ Sportacus softly spoke up, as he snapped out of his stupor, to which the other shook his head and gazed at the barely lit wall beside him.

‘’Too taxing.’’ He explained. ‘’It is a spell Glanni and I perfected when we were young so…’’ he elaborated, as he circled his hand, before awkwardly trailing off. The fae bit at his lip, as he placed his trembling palm against the table.

The elf gave a soft hum in reply. ‘’Since then has that ever been taxing for you?’’

Robbie seemed downright angry for a beat, before loudly scoffing and all out deciding to ignore the question. ‘’The ward should keep you safe from the whole ‘dying in your sleep’ thing.’’ He tried instead, as he gestured towards the elfs wrist, to which the elf in question hummed a tad aggressively.

‘’Sure.’’ He drawled.

Robbie felt his jaw click, as he blinked once and willed himself not to get provoked. Seriously what did I do to deserve this treatment? He thought in an irked fashion, as he rubbed at his temple. ‘’We are not sure, as to how it happened.’’ He settled instead, as he set to explain the current update. ‘’But perhaps it managed to connect the bridges between a sleeping and waking mind, thus it followed the flow created between the two, and managed to snatch the mind, while leaving the body behind.’’ He elaborated, as he slowly got up and set to pacing. ‘’I mean, it sounds like a stretch, but it could perhaps be possible, not that I have ever heard of such before, unless we are talking dream walking, but that opens a completely different discussion, since it would have to have a sleepers mind as well, to create such a link.’’ He mused, words and gestures becoming rapidly faster and broader, as he spoke.

The fae dared a glance over at the annoyed elf, who was angrily picking at his nails with a slight frown on his face. ‘’Perhaps the strain on the waking mind is too much, and thus it went for a sleeper, in order to find a suitable host. One strong enough to sustain the strain of the corruption.’’

Silence once again fell between the pair, before the fae glared back over at the silent other – fingers flicked towards the ceiling with a small ‘whatever, I’m talking to myself aren’t I?’.

Sportacus felt himself actually growl low, as a large crack tore down through the careful ice around his heart, this time rage flooded through instead of the conflicted appreciation and doubt, which had caused the change last time. He felt it sink deep into his cold veins, and slowly start to overcloud reason. ‘’I’m listening.’’ He spat angrily – a soft hiss escaping him, as he accidentally broke off too big a piece of his nail.

Robbie narrowed his eyes at the other, before shrugging. ‘’I mean, we should perhaps call upon the mare again, after all I worry that it cannot get in here, because of the hateful nature of your war- sorry, that was rude, your wards are just very strong, nothing bad there, just stating fact.’’ He coughed awkwardly.

The elf swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat, as he felt his ears start to heat despite the cold that still lingered in his bones. Truly, he wanted nothing more than to make the other shut up. All this pointless talk was giving his already hurting head an even tenser headache. He let out a low, startled hiss, as an intense yap of pain wrecked through his abdomen – back and shoulders going tense, as he grabbed the edge of the table hard.

The elf hung his head and breathed deep - Long bangs falling into his eyes, as the other droned on and on and on. Glanni would forgive him, if he knocked the other out for the moment being, right? All for the greater good and all that. Robbie had always appreciated the peace and quiet - even he could surely forgive him for shutting the mindless, pathetic musings up.

‘’-if that indicates the shade somehow actually dream walks, I mean can you believe that, it would require not only a huge amount of energy but a large understanding of-‘’

‘’Why should I believe anything you say?’’ The elf said in a tired voice, as he softly panted and finally glared up at the other.

Robbie felt his jaw click, as he promptly shut his mouth and stared in confusion at the black smudges covering the elfs cheeks, gulping slightly, as he took in and returned the tense, hateful gaze of the other – swiftly taking two hesitant steps back, as the elf slowly got up and approached him.

‘‘Have you actually been truthful about anything at all?’’ the elf spoke in a deceivingly soft voice, just as the faes hands came up, as if to shield himself from a possible assault. The angered elf narrowed his eyes at the gesture - Face setting into an ugly sneer, just before he suddenly clutched a hand against his stomach. The elf breathed deep, as he somehow managed to glare harder at the confused fae. ‘’Is this all a lie? Are we a lie?’’ Sportacus growled, as he shoved at the others shoulder, making the fae stumble back a bit – hurt expression quickly settling into his features, as one of his hands came up to rub at the spot, where the other had shoved him.

’Why would you still doubt me?’’ The fae barked in reply to the elfs doubtful accusations – his eyes jerking over the others tense form, as the elf seemed to be fighting against heavy, invisible binds.

’You said she was safe?’’ The elf growled, as he shakily reached up and grabbed the other tightly by the shoulders. ‘’That is an excellent place to start if you ask me.’’ He drawled, as he shook the other slightly – face scrunched up in pain, as he did so. ‘’And you claim I should be safe as well, what kind of insult is that after we both just witnessed-‘’

‘’She must have-‘’

’You said she was safe! And what of the others, the rest, are they at risk too?’’ He yapped loudly, as he continued to draw deep, ragged breaths - growls low in his throat, as his ears drew back in an angered fashion.

Robbie frowned deeply at the other, before inhaling sharply - steeling himself, as he tried to push the aggressive, slightly hysterical elf off him, to which the other only tightened his grip – fingers twitching violently, as though the thin bones themselves were breaking apart from the inside out.

A sudden understanding dawned over the fae, as he took in the violent, pained reactions of the other - Brow furrowing, as something old and sad settled into his pale, disappointed features.

Cause me no harm.

‘’Whatever happened is not my fault.’’ The fae said carefully, as he wrapped glowing fingers around each of the elfs shaking wrists – said elf feeling his strength slowly deplete, as he refused to relent his hold.

‘’Then what happened?’’ Sportacus demanded, keeping his voice as calm as he possible could, despite the unwelcome rage still coursing through his veins. ‘’What went wrong?’’

‘’I do not know.’’ Robbie dug his nails into the elfs trembling wrists, as the other - despite the warning growl from the fae – continued to tighten his hold. ‘’Sport, you are overreacting to this whole thing.’’ He tried in a gentle voice, as he tightened his hold further on the other, to which the elf sneered.

‘’I know.’’ He growled. ‘’I do not understand why, I can't stop.’’ He panted.

A strange tingle shoot through the elfs upper arms, just as Robbie’s back and shoulders went tense - purple sparks briefly flying over his form, as he braced himself for either a violent meltdown, or having to literally knock the other out, before the ancient magic could tear the elf apart.

’Stop this, you are being foolish.’’ The fae urged as gently as he could, to which the sneering elf huffed loudly, not overly caring for the faes obvious discomfort or concern, as the two continued to silently stare at each other – neither willing to back down from the taxing standoff.

A strange, dark flicker seemed to flare up and immediately die out in the elfs eyes, just before he narrowed them slightly. ‘’I owe you nothing.’’ He finally settled, as he let his arms drop – both limps far heavier than they should have been from the short strain. ‘’I owe you nothing, so there is no real reason for us to suffer in each other’s presence any longer, right?’’ The elf clipped, as he shut his eyes – roughly shaking his head and taking three, quick steps back out of the others personal space. Somehow, the distance helped clear a bit of the unwelcome aggression, but still, pieces of it lingered regardless.

Robbie rapidly blinked at the quick, baffling chance in the others behavior, as he tilted his head and stared at the retreating other. ‘’Sporty wait what - just wait a minute, why would you assume-‘’

‘’Don’t.’’ The elf yapped, as he raked a hand through his soggy hair.

‘’What is happening?’’ Robbie tried, as he hesitantly took a small step towards the other, who quickly took a step back.

’Just don’t, I am sorry.’’ He half yelled, as he willed himself to take a deep breath and try to calm down. ‘’I am not myself.’’ the elf pleaded – that old, unwelcome, but oh so familiar ice firmly settling back into his heart - successfully chasing any lingering emotion away, as the terrifying numbness set back in instead. ‘’You want to be left alone regardless, is that not correct?’’ He chuckled humorlessly, as he turned and went in a wide circle around the puzzled other – not overly caring if the fae wished to reply to that or not. ‘’So I’ll leave. You can have this place if you so desire, though I would advise you against going too far in, just stay out of any path leading towards the center - You’ll know what I mean if you get too close.’’ He said, as he rubbed at the burning half circles, which the other had pressed into his cold skin. ‘’The court will need me around regardless, which you do not. Not anymore. Goodbye Robbie.’’

A small ‘tsk’ rang out behind him, just as the elf felt a tense tremor go through the air - ears popping from the pressure, as the door in front of him slammed shut, causing him to shakily step back in surprise. The elf blinked, hand awkwardly paused around his own wrist, as he hesitantly let go and reached for the handle instead.

‘’Let me out.’’ He growled low, just as a violent flair of anger wrecked through him.

‘’Nope.’’

’Robbie-‘’

‘’You wanna fight?’’ The fae yapped coldly, just as the elf turned around to glare at him. Sportacus got a weird sense of Deja vu, as he gazed up into that intense, burning gaze - briefly wondering if that lethal glare did indeed run in the family. ‘’Then let's fight.’’ Robbie hissed, just as the remaining flames died, casting them both into a suffocating darkness.

Sportacus felt himself tense, just as something slammed into his side, making him gasp and slam into the closed door behind him – the hard wood making a loud bang, as he collided with it. Slightly winded, he quickly got up and did his best to brace himself, as he squinted into the unrelenting black.

For a few tense seconds, he could not register any sounds or movements beside that of his own breathing.

He took a deep breath and shut his blinded eyes - willing his heart to calm its frightened, frantic pounding, just as a pair of hands settled onto his shoulders, held on and shoved him back against the door. The elf grit his teeth, as ten sharp nails dug into the cold, tender flesh of his shoulders - Two stormy embers litting up above and glaring down at him.

Sportacus felt a shock of fear wreck through him, as he felt himself truly start to go numb – not just arms growing heavy, but every single muscle starting to feel slack, as the other leaned down close. ‘’I don't like your kin.’’ Robbie drawled, as he increased the pressure - Elfs breath caught in his throat, as he stared wide-eyed up into the burning gaze. ‘’But I gave you a chance and I'm willing to give you a second if you'll stop being dumb for one godsdamned second and just. Hear. Me. Out.’’ He grit out harshly, as he let the other go - Elf promptly collapsing to the floor, as his unresponsive legs gave out under him.

The fae took a step back, as he glared down at him – two lit embers burning in a sea of barely contained rage and disappointment, as he raked both of his glowing hands through his disheveled hair and sighed deeply.

‘’Whatever happened back there was not my intention.’’ Robbie snapped in a voice seeming to simultaneously come from all sides at the same time, as the vibrations hit the walls and bounced back. ‘’You know that.’’ He spat. ‘’Otherwise the demand would not have affected you as it did.’’

Sportacus did not dare take his eyes off the other, as the fae slowly crouched down. ‘’I do not know what is going on with you, but you are acting dumb beyond reason. As said, I am willing to give you another chance, but not if you keep turning on me like this.’’

In front of the elf, the other blinked once, before tilting his head. ‘’And do not even think for a second that I cannot crush you into the dirt if I so desire. Which I don't in case you haven't realized it.’’ He growled, as he narrowed his eyes. ‘’You might be strong.’’ Elf, panting hard and still completely immobilized, gulped and continued to stare, as the fae inched closer - a warm hand settling under his jaw and gently lifting it. Sportacus felt his blood run cold, as he started to lightly tremble – terrified, in the face of the others calm rage. ’’But so am I’’

A soft gasp escaped the elf, as the other gently traced his pointed ear. ‘’I refuse to beg, and I will not hold you back if you truly wish to go - Despite what you seem to have deducted I am not that selfish - I merely want to survive.’’ A glowing hand continued up and settled in his dirty hair, as the fae softly raked his fingers through it. ‘’If you need to go, then go, but if not, stay.’’ The faes other hand settled against the side of his neck - a soft tremor running through him just below the skin, as Robbie released him from the forced, numbing state. ‘’Stay and let's work this out instead of constantly fighting.’’ He urged, sounded tired beyond his years.

Sportacus wanted to argue that the other was contradicting his earlier statement, but stayed silent. No words came to him – truly, he did not know what to say, in the face of the others pure desperation.

The faes face seemed to fall - a mix of hurt and acceptance filling the space, where the others anger had slowly drained out, before Robbie sighed in defeat.

‘’Do you truly distrust me this much?’’ He asked, as he let his hands drop. ‘’Is this more than just a common dislike already? Have I managed to drive you away for good despite all my efforts to-‘’ He abruptly cut himself off, as he shook his head in disbelief and silently gazed down at the other - brow furrowing in a sad, frustrated manner, just as the elf bit his tongue.

Robbie drew a sharp inhale, as he abruptly got up and angrily stalked back to the table – a single palm circling in a quick, angry movement, causing small flames to dance around him, illuminating his immediate surroundings. ‘’I should be happy right?’’ He said a tad aggressively, as he slammed this and that into his back. ‘’I got my will in the end - I drove you out of that pathetic excuse for a town.’’ He yapped, as he hauled the filled backpack over a tense, shaky shoulder. ’’But I'm not. I'm really not.’’ He admitted, as he drained the last of his coffee in one big gulp. ‘’Not at all.’’ He murmured in a soft voice, as he slammed the cup down.

The silence was thick and heavy in the wake of their small argument, as Sportacus slowly got up, on his still wobbly legs – The door creaking open on its own beside him, just as the fae turned and made to shove past him. Robbie, truly looking sick, as a sheen of sweat covered his pale, dimly lit features, nearly stumbled – and would have fallen – if not for the elfs quick, steadying hand against his shoulder, as the elf gently tried to push and stall the other.

After a small, winded cough, the elf said the first thing that came to mind. ‘’Why do you dislike elves so much?’’ He breathed, as the back of his head collided with the doorframe, as he childishly held out an arm and blocked the only exit – taking a deep breath, as he waited for the response.

The fae paused, as he glanced down at him, before taking a small, wobbly step back. Robbie kept his eyes on the other, as he moved his head a bit away, as though trying to create distance. ‘’I have my reasons.’’

Sportacus worried at his lower lip, as he took a deep breath and decided to metaphorically tie himself to a heavy object, and dive into the deep end along with it. ‘’Does those reasons have to do with the previous guardian?’’

A deadly quiet settled, as the others gaze turned distant and closed off – The other seemingly judging him, as his gaze remained cold and unblinking. ‘’You couldn't possibly start to phantom the sheer...’’ He started on a soft voice, before trailing off. The elf remained silent, as the other seemed to contemplate his words carefully. Finally, Robbie’s jaw clicked, before he concluded in a carefully neutral voice. ’’Misery and desperation we fell under.’’

The elf swallowed around the lump in his throat, before continuing. ‘’Perhaps not.’’ He agreed gently, as he fully relaxed back against the doorframe. ‘’But I understand misery and what it does to people.’’

In front of him, Robbie scoffed. ‘’Do you now.’’ He drawled, clearly unimpressed.

‘’Did I stutter?’’ The elf clipped, as he threw the others own words back at him. ‘’You are not the only one who has gone through hell, and had to put past hate behind you.’’

The fae seemed surprised for a beat, before scrunching up his nose in an irked fashion. ‘’And what do you possibly think you know of putting past hate behind you?’’ He retorted a tad annoyed.

The elf felt a phantom tug around his throat before answering. ‘’More than you think.’’ He clipped in a soft, dry voice, before glaring down at the others feet.

Both fell silent for a beat, before Robbie sighed, narrowed his eyes and tilted his head. ‘’Why do you suddenly care for this case?’’

The elf shut his eyes, before inhaling sharply. ‘’Because I care about you.’’ He finally admitted, as he gazed back up at the other.

The fae huffed, as he raised an eyebrow. ‘’You have a shit way of showing it.’’ He laughed, to which the elf loudly rolled his eyes.

‘’Must we quote each other constantly?’’

Robbie nonchalantly shrugged. ‘’You started it.’’ He pointed out.

A few of the dancing flames died with a soft hiss, just as Robbie awkwardly cleared his throat and got a few of the candles going instead.

Sportacus felt himself stare at the others strained expression, before letting out a soft scoff. ‘’This is a mess.’’ He mumbled, as he shook his head.

‘’Indeed.’’ The fae agreed. ‘’But it's ours.’’

‘’At least we have that.’’ The elf chuckled humorlessly, to which the other lowly hummed.

‘’But it is not enough is it?’’

Sportacus blinked at the ground in the silence, which followed. ‘’I guess not.’’ He said on a low breath, as he quickly turned and made to push the door further open - the texture rough under his palm, as he allowed himself to be a coward and flee this conversation.

‘’Are you going in the morning as well then. Is this goodbye?’’ The other called after him.

The elf felt his fingers twitch against the surface of the half open door, as he stared into the dark beyond. ‘’I have not decided.’’ He finally settled, as he dared a glance over his shoulder. Robbie seemed as tired as he was – a shaky hand on the wall to brace himself. The elf briefly worried if the other could actually make it back down the stairs on his own.

He let out a soft sigh, as he briefly stared down at his bound feet, before glancing back up at the other. ‘’I am angry.’’ He finally settled. ‘’I am angry and I do not know why, I do not feel like myself these days.’’ He admitted, as he raked a hand through his hair.

The other gave a small nod, as he looked to the side. ‘’It is okay.’’ He said gently, sounding genuinely worried for the other.

‘’No.’’ The elf lightly shook his head, as a humorless smile settles over his features. ‘’No, it is not, it excuses nothing about my behavior, but I cannot stop.’’ He breathed, before taking a sharp inhale and slowly making his way off into the dark stairway. ‘’Goodnight Robbie.’’

’Actually!’’ The other called out behind him, making the elf stop dead in his tracks. ‘’I uh. Cannot move right now.’’ He said, as the elf flinched and spun around. ‘’I think I will pass out if I do.’’ Sportacus felt himself blink rapidly, as he stared at the pale other, who refused to meet his gaze. Without a word, he swiftly made his way over and picked the other up into his arms. ‘’Don’t look so smug.’’ The fae grumbled angrily, as he crossed his arms over his chest.

‘’I am not.’’ The elf laughed.

’Are too.’’

--

 

It was far into the night, when a soft knock sounded on the door – the elfs blurry gaze quickly snapping to it, as he grit his teeth and got up – eyes going wide, as he opened the door and stared down at the presented items left just outside of his doorstep. The elf quickly looked both ways down the dark, empty corridor, before he closed the door with a tired, wet sniffle.

A few seconds passed in silence, as he leaned his back against it – back of his head making a hollow thunk, as it collided with the hard wood.

It did not matter if the gifts were from Robbie or Glanni - with the way he had been behaving, he hardly felt like he deserved the careful offerings currently left on his doorstep.

The elf lasted all of eleven seconds, before he groaned, ripped the door back open and quickly snatched up the offered items, before his shame could intervene again. Sportacus silently scoffed at his own current and previous childish reaction, as he stumbled back over to his bed and promptly sat down.

This is gonna hurt. He thought correctly, as he grit his teeth and set to unwrapping the dirty bandages around his feet – a large chunk of scab peeling off in the process, and causing the barely mended tissue underneath, to bleed anew.

With a gentle sigh spilling from his cracked lips, the elf stared down at the mess his feet had become – skin barely mended and the angry yellow spots telling of an incoming infection.

He hoped the cleaning, would be enough to keep it at bay, if not, things could get messy – the elf grit his teeth, before picking up the sterile cloth, and what he assumed to be some kind of healing balm. With a choked moan, which quickly eased into a pained whimper, the elf pressed the bitter-scenting cloth against the ruined flesh, before swiftly wrapping fresh gauze around each of his feet.

Overall, that could have gone a lot worse he mused, as he stored the items away and laid back down on the bed - shutting his eyes and willing himself to stop thinking and at least try to catch some sleep.

He reeked from the previous days hard labor and twice snowfall, however, the only showers – the old court technically had none, what flowed through here was an underground lake and a small waterfall, which they never located the start off - in the mountain, was located way inside the second ring. He needed the fresh up yes, but he was not about to go there, just for that.

Granted, the kings quarters held a large tub, from which water naturally flowed through, but again, those quarters were sacred and off-limits, despite haven been invaded by the pair of meddling fae.

Perhaps it was a bit silly to uphold such old laws in an abandoned place, where some of his deceased ancestors, had literally found their last resting place inside the halls, and could not be moved and put in the ground, due to the-

Perhaps, he could go and knock in the morning, and ask if the other – Glanni had parted with them a few hours back, after the elf had carried his pale, scowling cousin down and lightly kicked at the golden door - would politely share the bath.

Perhaps.

Chapter Text

Robbie coughed weakly, an uncomfortable shiver running through him, as he managed to crawl the rest of the way out of the warm tub and dry himself off; swiftly dragging his robe back on, before staggering back to bed and flopping down onto it.

The sleep had done him good; especially since he had not had to share the king-sized bed with his cousin, meaning, randomly getting kicked throughout the entire night, as the other tossed and turned in his fitful sleep, was not a thing. Granted, haven endured the rough, nocturnal treatment throughout their shared youth, he was fairly used to it, but a single night with no new, sore bruises in the morning? Yes, thank you, that had been amazing.

With a low groan, he weakly tried - and failed - to cover most of his shivering person with a huge, dusty blanket and promptly shut his eyes.

Yes, the kick-free sleep had given him some of his energy back but no, he was not yet back in gear and if he needed to sleep throughout the rest of the day as well, then so be it. After all, the last of his precious reserves had been used in the fit of frustration and anger towards the blasted, ungrateful elf; not to mention the cursed place itself kept deteriorating his already depleted health. As a result, he could now barely move at all, as his body used all its energy on restoring what had been lost.

At least no physical injuries, except for the rather vicious, black and yellow bruise on his shoulder, had shown themselves yet, but if he kept at it with no real change, then this could not end well.

Glanni had rudely snatched half of his first aid kit with him. The grinning thief mumbling something about a sore calf, before he had pecked the other faes check and left out of the still open gate; a puff of purple smoke engulfing him, the moment he made it out into the cool air and performed a sloppy, distance jump, which would – hopefully - bring him towards the newer court.

The rest of his first aid supplies – Both he and Glanni had agreed to it, especially after the small show of good faith from the elf late last night - had gone towards said annoying elf, considering the other definitely needed it more.

However, seeing as he himself was now fully out of any supplies at all, that meant no more arguments until his magic was back in gear, which would be… Well at this current, slow rate, weeks.

Granted, getting out into the outer wards would perhaps speed up the healing progress a significant bit, but with the black snow still falling heavily around the old courts grounds, that did not seem wise. The elf had insisted that it had not affected him in any way, but both faes had not been able to shake the sneaking, nagging suspicion that something was indeed terribly wrong, regardless of the others calm towards the matter.

At first - since the brief days, his cousin had been here where all Glanni knew of the elven other - Glanni had been certain and insistent that it was just a mere lack of manners, which caused the others poor, slightly abusive behavior, but he himself had tiredly kept defending the pointy-eared doofus. And no, he was not just making up bad excuses, shut up Glanni, something was seriously off and yes, the elf did kinda look like he considered murdering me, but this is not normal and no I do not want a poisoned dagger to keep on my person ‘just in case’, what even.

Robbie sniffed wetly, as he turned on his side, hugging himself close, as he once again tried and failed to get comfortable on the soft bed.

Despite what his cousin had kept loudly insisting, this was not how the idiotic other usually acted. Something was off and he was going to find the underlying cause of it.

He just needed a full-day nap or two first.

The fae had just about managed to drift off, when a deep, pained yowl rang out and echoed down the hallway outside of his suite. With a grunt of effort, he managed to push himself up on his elbows and squint his eyes towards the half-open door from which a soft, pulsing glow emanated.

For a few seconds, all he could hear was the aggressive hissing, as multiple foxes – including a few that had been lounging on the bed with him – got up and went out to investigate what all the fuzz was about.

Whatever it was, the response did not seem overly happy, perhaps a coyote or a mountain lion had made its way inside in hopes of finding either shelter or food. The fae did not actually know if such animals roamed these parts of the region, but considering the terrain, it did not seem too unlikely.

Robbie raked a numb hand over his face, as his eyes slowly adjusted to the quickly lighting room. Perhaps the foxes would take care of the intruder and he could just go back to sleep - Regardless, he was not exactly in any shape to help out, if things truly got messy.

Outside, the low hissing and growling turned into something actually enraged and threatening, just as a low, barked out ‘what the fuck’ accompanied the angry tones. Immediately, as more gritty sounds from the annoyed intruder rang out, Robbie jerked up further – head spinning, as he swiftly kicked off the heavy blanket, rolled over to the edge of the bed and got out.

The undeniable fact was that someone was coming down the corridor and it did not sound like his idiotic elf. A startled yap from a fox - most likely kicked - echoed, as whoever the intruder was, harshly opened a door a bit further down the hallway, and from the sounds of it, had to kick a few more hissing foxes out of the way, in order to get inside.

A delighted, booming ’Bingo!’ rang out, just as Robbie felt his blood run cold, as the realization that he knew exactly whom that strained, annoyed voice belonged to hit him.

The concerned, shaky fae tugged his robe on a bit tighter, as he grit his teeth and swiftly stalked towards the golden door - a few of the low growls and hisses outside of it, escalating into actual howls and yaps, before the entire hallway lit up and cast harsh, pulsating rays into his room.

Robbie practically tore the door open, wide-eyed, and blinking rapidly against the bright light, just as a confused Sportacus yelled out a startled ‘get off me!’, as he fought against the strong hold the giant intruder had on him.

Robbie felt himself snort, as he stared at the comical scene, which should not be funny.

Deus, already half-covered in bright, angry foxes, dragging a yelping Sportacus away – the elfs fingers clawing at the ground in a blind panic, as the tattooed brute had grabbed the frantic elf by the legs, and made away with him back towards the main gate.

‘’Let me go!’’ Sportacus let out a bit winded, as he managed to catch the side of one of the carved doorframes and held on for all of two seconds, before a harsh tug from the giant fae dislodged the fragile grip.

Robbie huffed, as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned heavily against the doorframe. ‘’What are you doing?’’ He clipped with a raised brow, as he impatiently tapped a foot against the ground.

‘’Borrowing your elf.’’ The giant fae called back over his shoulder – A few viscous yips and growls accompanying his call, as the crystal creatures – fur puffing up to look like shining hedgehogs - circled him and snipped at his already bleeding lower half and legs.

‘’He is not mine.’’ Robbie scoffed in reply, as he watched Deus’ annoyed attempts to kick the glowing foxes out of the way. The giant fae actually managed to punch one straight between the eyes, just as the unfortunate creature pounced on him, causing it to collide hard with the wall beside him.

Deus stopped dead in his tracks, hissing loudly through grit teeth, when a vengeful fox closed its jaws around his lower leg, just as he had turned around to glare back at the other fae. The giant roared and angrily kicked the fox off – pained distraction enough for the confused elf to seize his chance and jerk one of his legs free.

The elf – upper body still on the ground – spun in the onehanded grip and managed to deliver a swift, hard kick with the heel of his free foot, which send the fae stumbling a bit further down the hall – a few yipping foxes jumping out of harms way, less they be crushed under the others weight.

Sportacus quickly jumped up and was about to pounce on the other, when Deus recovered and instead met him halfway with a harsh punch to the side of the head.

Disoriented, the elf wobbled a few steps back, as Deus - roughly kicking a few more snipping foxes out of the way - took three forward. ‘’Ah, that's even better then.’’ He loudly yapped towards the startled, wide-eyed Robbie, as he closed the remaining distance and made to grab the elf by the collar.

Sportacus, noticing the move through his temporary haze and incoming headache, traded a head-butt back, before delivering a harsh punch to the giant faes stomach.

A few foxes abruptly paused and looked between the angry fae and elf in confusion, before yipping and going back to helping out the enraged latter.

Robbie, startled and a bit nauseous, felt himself gulp at the vicious display of mindless violence that unfolded in front of his eyes, as he willed himself to relax further against the golden doorframe - deciding it was probably for the best, if he just kicked back and watched the elf tear Deus a new one. He was still completely out of juice; it was not as if he could actually be of help in any way, unless it was verbally - however, considering the angered state the two very still in, he was not about to interrupt and possibly draw eithers fire towards his own person.

Still, this frenzied state seemed so far removed, from anything his gentle elf had usually been a subject to. True, crisis made people show their real faces, but this seemed exactly the kind of wrong, which he had tried to tell Glanni of. Perverse, as if an unknown, misplaced violence manifested and roared through the very core of the others person.

As if to prove the point of his troubled musings, Deus had just managed to get a grip on the others right wrist, when a throaty howl of rage rang out from the elf, as said elf jumped up and slammed his bound feet against the others chest - successfully sending the fae flying down the hallway.

Robbie let out a small sympathetic ‘uff’, as he watched both elf and fae wince in pain. To his surprise, instead of further engaging in the destructive outburst, the elf shook his head roughly and swiftly took four steps back; arm held out in a protective manner, as though to shield the casual, shaky fae from any harm the slowly recovering, still fox covered giant could bestow upon them.

‘’Why is he here?’’ Sportacus asked a bit winded over his shoulder, to which Robbie tensely shrugged.

‘’Not sure actually.’’

’Why are you here?’’ The elf grit out, as he turned back towards his attacker, ears falling flat against the sides of his head - looking a lot like a hissing cat in that moment and less like the bundle of happy energy, the fae had come to silently adore.

Deus, who was harshly shoving a few foxes off him, coughed harshly, as he finally managed to get his breath back and stand up. The giant kicked a few of the yipping creatures out of the way, before unhooking a thick chain from around his neck - stretching it out in his hands, as though he was getting ready to choke the other with it. ‘’Just shut up and come along.’’

‘’No can do.’’ Sportacus growled, as he tried to wipe the blood off his split lip - accidentally smearing a red line across his jaw instead. ‘’Can you knock him out?’’ The elf asked over his shoulder, as Deus slowly approached; chain snapping with a metallic ‘clack’, as the fae drew his hands a bit together before tugging hard on either end.

‘’Well yes but…’’ Robbie trailed off, as he witnessed another poor fox collide with a wall, when the giants elbow had connected hard with its side. The little creature let out a loud yowl in distress, as the lower part of its left front leg splintered on impact and it fell harshly to the ground. A few of its brethren stopped dead in their tracks, as the wounded creature let out small, pained whimpers where it lay, unable to get up.

’But what?’’ The elf lowly yapped over his shoulder, as he narrowed his eyes at the approaching Deus - not once daring to take his eyes off the sneering fae, as the giant painstakingly inched closer through the swarm of angry, snipping foxes. ‘’State your business or I will throw you out.’’ The elf harshly barked at the scoffing Deus.

‘’The wards are restricting my-.’’ Robbie spat through grit teeth, just as Sportacus dug under a massive, chain covered fist – a choked yelp escaping the elf, as Deus’ other fist swung and connected hard with his jaw instead.

A growling fox jumped up and sunk its sharp teeth deep into the roaring faes arm, just as Deus made to grab at the stumbling elf. ‘’For the love of the gods elf, just get back!’’ Robbie urged loudly, his nails digging into his sore shoulders, as he shook his head roughly and took a small step back.

Two things happened at once – Deus, fox still attached to his arm like a bright, aggressive, crystal leech, somehow managed to sidestep and get the chain around the frantic elfs throat, before the elf harshly bend, twisted and bodily threw the fae over his shoulder.

The thick chain still attached, caused all three to crash against the ground, in a heap of kicking - and in one case, glowing - twitching limbs. The entirety of the angry trio, landed uncomfortably close to where a wide-eyed, yelping not so casual Robbie Rotten was standing now with both of his palms up in a nervous, frightened manner.

‘’This is seriously unnecessary!’’ Robbie clipped out in a shrill voice, just as the giant fae managed to wrestle the other underneath him - the elf now with his front against the ground, as the other placed a knee between his shoulder blades and tightened the chain hard, successfully cutting of the others air supply.

’Aight that is enough, get off him.’’ Robbie quickly yapped, as he took a small step forward again, before realizing neither of the wrestling creatures were currently paying attention to him.

The elf let out a chocked gasp, as he clawed at the unrelenting metal - skin around his throat and neck turning a disturbing shade of soft grey, before his eyes started to become blurry and unfocused.

Iron a low, worried voice in the back of Robbie’s head not-so-gently urged - fae already ignoring his spinning head, as he turned, sprinted back inside his room to grab the small, ornamental lamp on his bedside table and swiftly made his way back out into the corridor, where Deus had started dragging a nearly unconscious, quickly paling elf down.

Robbie did not have much of a plan, as he took three steps forward and threw the golden lamp hard at the back of the other faes head - successfully making the other flinch and drop the panicked elf in the process.

Sportacus made a soft, heaving sound, as he quickly dislodged the chain and rolled to the side and out of immediate harms way. His chest and shoulders trembling, the skin around neck and throat slowly mending to a less worrisome colour, as he gasped and coughed.

‘’You said he wasn't yours?’’ Deus spat in annoyance, as he picked out a small piece of golden glass, which had embedded itself into the flesh of his lower neck - a thin trail of blood quickly making its way down into his shirt, as the sharp piece was removed.

‘’I never said you could just take him.’’ Robbie huffed tiredly, as he once again crossed his arms and glared unimpressed at the bleeding other. A single fox luckily managed to jump out of the way, as Deus scoffed and tried to stomp on it in frustration.

‘’Well I need an elf right now, so I'm taking this one.’’ The giant said, as he went back over to pick the still coughing elf up by the back of his collar. Sportacus swiftly jerked and spun in the grip, his teeth viciously sinking into the others lower arm.

Deus yowled in a mix of surprise and pain, before he tightened the grip in anger, picked the elf up further and brutally slammed him headfirst back into the ground. A harsh crack resounded as Sportacus’ nose unmistakably broke upon impact – a ragged gasp escaping the winded other, as the pain registered.

Deus scoffed in annoyance, as he let go and instead unceremoniously reached down to grab a hold of the others feet again.

‘’What do you need an elf for?’’ Robbie loudly groaned into his shaky hands, as the elf managed to wrestle a foot free and harshly kicked the others bleeding calf hard.

‘’Shroom-ward.’’ Deus spat tiredly. A loud hiss escaped the faes grit teeth, as the elfs still-free heel connected with the back of his knee and nearly sent him falling again.

‘’You could just ask you know?’’ Robbie tried in an irritated voice, as he took three shaky steps forward.

In front of him, Deus scoffed. ‘’Since when do we ever ask permission first?’’ He laughed, as he somehow managed to catch both of the elfs legs again.

‘’Since now.’’ Robbie grit out, as he sharply inhaled and drew a single string of energy directly from his core; praying he was not going to miss, as he sent the bolt of a very specific spell towards the bleeding back of the retreating other.

The huffing fae only wobbled a bit, as the numbing effect failed to properly set in. It did however, cause him to accidentally let go of the elf, who quickly took his chance and managed to drag himself back and out of the staggering faes immediate grabbing reach.

With a soft winded huff, which eased into a wet cough, Robbie felt both of his legs lose their strength, just before one of his knees collided hard with the ground. He softly panted, as nausea set in – upset stomach making its presence known, as the fae doubled over and promptly threw up the remains of his late dinner.

Robbie had only a second to appreciate the lack of his skipped breakfast, before the world tilted on its axis, as gravity suddenly demanding his full attention.

A single fox yipped, as it sprinted over and sniffed at the pale, downed fae in concern – a crystal paw gently petting his sore, slack shoulder, before turning its attention back towards the wide-eyed elf, who had managed to get up, spun and immediately stopped dead in his tracks, as he, mouth slightly agape, stupidly stared down at the unmoving other.

The fox sneered aggressively, as its crystal muscles tensed, before it set into a dead sprint down the hallway, jumped up, used the elfs left shoulder as a springboard and hurled itself – claws out and ready - straight into the face of the startled, fully recovered fae.

Deus roared, as the sharp claws dug into his cheeks and left eye – remaining foxes quickly understanding the unspoken demand for true damage to be done, as they settled onto his thrashing form like a pack of hungry wolves, seeking to fully devour their unwelcome intruder.

The giant kicked and screamed out in a literal, blind panic, as he failed to dislodge the clawing fox in his face - fae quickly blinded by his own, hot blood, as a pair of teeth settled onto his right ankle and started to viciously chew, successfully halting his movements, as the fae completely lost his orientation.

Sportacus felt himself gulp, as he stared at the gory, violent scene, before his head snapped back down in the direction of the still, pale Robbie.

With a small breath of fear and confusion - and a pained whimper, as he accidentally slapped a hand over his mouth and thus disturbed his broken nose -, the elf felt his head snap back and forth between the two dying faes, before he harshly called out a few, loud, clipped words towards the small, enraged, crystal executioners. ‘’Let him live!’’

A single fox angrily spat out a bloody chunk, as it sneered aggressively at the slightly hysterical elf, but ultimately did as told. Sportacus willed himself to ignore his screaming crystal and instead sprinted down towards the open, golden door - quickly bending down to grab the unconscious fae under the shoulders, and harshly tugging him along, back into the safety behind the golden door, which he closed behind them with a hard backwards kick.

‘’Robbie?’’ He hissed lowly, as he kneeled down and laid a cold hand against the side of the pale faes face, searching for a pulse, as the other stayed still and unmoving. To his great relief – and slight concern –, the faes heart seemed to be beating frantically, as though the organ itself was trying to beat out of the others chest.

A loud bang sounded at the door, when something heavy - Deus - threw itself against it, making it bounce threateningly. The elf sent a quick prayer to whatever god had made it so that the giant had set to trying to kick the door down, instead of trying the handle first. Robbie is dying; why do I know he is dying? The elf thought in a frantic manner, as he jumped up and shoved himself against the door, quickly locking it. This is not the ideal time to think on such. His mind scolded back.

He has been hurting since we arrived, has he not? Sportacus mused on, regardless of his minds soft scoffing. What did I miss? What did I forget? He thought, as he stared down at the twitching, but still unresponsive other.

His mind remained quiet for any answers, as a loud crack and groan sounded from the carved frame of the golden door. ‘’Shit.’’ The elf hissed and quickly stemmed harder against it. ‘’Just leave already!’’ He called out, greatly doubting the yowling fae could hear - or perhaps merely ignored the demand - as the giant continued to kick at the golden wood.

With the way the entire thing groaned, the elf greatly worried if the hard wood could indeed hold. The beams around were strong, yes, but more for show than practicality. After all, there had never truly ever been a need for them to be anything but pretty.

’Robbie?’’ The elf tried again – hissing and loudly gritting his teeth, as he accidentally bit his tongue in the progress, when Deus kicked again.

The elf let out a great huff of relief, as a low, pained whimper sounded below.

He will still die. His mind urged darkly. But why? He spat right back. A clear thought of explanation started to form in the back of the elfs foggy mind, just before it slipped and escaped his grasp again.

They were currently trapped - no other way out existed, than the one he was currently blocking. Perhaps if the wood broke, they could make a run for it and try to get into the second ring. It was not the best plan, but between tangling with the shade outside of the wards, and the bloody, stubborn fae currently kicking at the door, he would rather take his chances by making a run for it.

He would have to be fast, but it could be done.

The pressure relented for a second, as Deus howled in agony. The elf had no way of knowing exactly what the crystal creatures had done, but from the sounds of it, it had been bad. ‘’Just. Leave!’’ The elf pressed with a hint of despair - despite the violent behavior of the other, the elf truly did not want the giant to outright die within the old halls.

The fae intruder ignored the plea – a loud roar echoing down the hall, as though he had been thrown into a live blender; agonized screams accompanied by the enraged growls and hisses from the foxes themselves.

Suddenly, the golden wood in front of him started to glow, just as a strained ’Get back’ sounded below.

Sportacus looked down to see a pale, trembling Robbie drag himself slightly forward, teeth grit and an intense look of concentration on his face, as he kept a shaking palm pressed against the hard wood. The faes chest did a little jerk, low hic escaping his thin, pale lips, as he violently coughed something up, just as a strange tingle shot through the elfs lower arms, causing said elf to immediately jerk back and away in surprise.

The entire door glowed bright, before a loud click sounded, just as Robbie let out a strained, relieved sigh. The fae took a single ragged breath and slumped back against the floor, unmoving, just as another, harsh, frustrated kick connected with the door.

This time, nothing budged.

Sportacus stood in silence for a few tense seconds to see if any of the further attempts the giant fae made to break down the door would go through – However, the door truly seemed impregnable, and so, the elf quickly kneeled back down beside the downed other and gently turned him onto his side. ‘’Robbie?’’ He tried softly, as he lightly shook the faes shoulder and pressed two fingers against the side of his clammy neck.

The frantic pace was gone, in its place, a slow, stuttering beat desperately tried to keep the blood flowing through the quickly cooling fae.

‘’He is always warmer than the norm.’’ The elf mumbled aloud to himself, as he felt himself start to lightly tremble. ‘’Warmer than the norm, this is nothing.’’ The elf bit at his lip, unsure of what to do, before reaching down, gently scooping the other up and getting him over and into the large bed. Robbie’s chest kept slowly rising and falling, that was not worrying. What was however, was the small trail of blood, which slowly trickled down the faes jaw and throat, as the other bled from his nose.

‘’What did I miss?’’ The elf clipped aloud, as he kneeled down and gently stroked a trembling hand down the side of the others cooling face. ‘’Please, what did I miss?’’ When he still got no response, the elf let out a strangled breath and let his worried gaze travel around the dimly lit room - Two glow-stones were perched on one of the two bedside tables, casting their soft, golden light over the place. He figured one of the faes had snatched them from his room, while he had been out, but he did not overly care.

Sportacus took a deep breath, as he placed both cool palms against the others chest – shutting his eyes tight and swallowing around the nervous lump, which had formed in his throat, as the others heartbeat continued to stutter slower still. The fae was still clearly alive, but his life was slowly ebbing out. If he could not stop the current, before the other completely slipped, then... The elf shook his head, as he blinked his blurry eyes.

Just outside the still glowing door, the sounds of the intense struggle slowly moved further back and away, as the giant seemed to give up and leave, before he was reduced to a bloody pulp.

This is your fault a dark, familiar voice drawled in his head, causing the elfs cold fingers to twitch in a startled response, where they lay on the cooling faes chest. Sportacus took another deep breath, grit his teeth and willed himself to ignore the shades unwelcome, impossible taunting, as he reached in, in towards his own core where the ancient elven magic lay.

With a relieved huff, he felt it stutter and spark, as the old flow came back to life after years of lying dormant. Healing was not a field he had indulged himself in, since he was around the age of twenty-five, and his teachings back then, had been ignorant at best.

He will still die. The familiar voice purred on. This is futile.

Now was probably not the best time to experiment, but he had to do something. It felt like a small eternity, as he slowly felt the energy gather in his center and started to gently push outwards, letting it travel down his arms and through his parted fingertips, before pressing it further down and into the still form of the other.

Sportacus worried at his bottom lip, as one of his eyelids peeked slightly open – a startled gasp escaping him, as he stared in amazement, as both palms started to glow a soft gold. The elf sharply inhaled, before shutting his eyes tight again – face settling into a deep concentration, as he refocused on pressing the golden rays in and through the others chest.

A soft breath of sympathy escaped him, as he realized the torn and beaten state of the other – the elf gritting his teeth hard, as he pushed harder and willed his magic to mend the damage he felt spanning out under the faes skin. ‘’Even breathing must have been agony.’’ He breathed low to himself, as he shook his head.

You cannot do anything to change-

‘’Shut it!’’ The elf grit out angrily and pushed on. ‘’How are you even doing this?’’ He laughed humorlessly, as he dared another peek at the slowly heating fae in front of him. Slowly but surely, Robbie’s breathing started to come easier, before the other let out a small, contend sigh – mouth parting slightly, as he seemed to fall into a deep slumber instead of his previously forced, unconscious state.

The elf leaned back and raked his tingling hands through his hair, before gazing back up at the others slack features. The fae should be fine for now, but why had he been so out of it in the first place - why was he sick?

Robbie had said something about the wards, multiple times in fact but why was it important, why had he-… Why did it matter?

Sportacus shook his head roughly, as he reached out a hand and traced the others jawline.

The wards were restricting... Robbies magic? Was that what the other had tried to say? Would that mean the other was unable to heal as well? If such were the case, using magic could potentially be lethal, seeing as the channeling always damaged the casters body in some way. If Robbie could not heal and he kept using his magic regardless… He would… He…

A few small scratches sounded at the door, as a lone fox tried to get in, but except for that, it seemed the fae intruder was well and truly gone. Sportacus sighed tiredly, as he stayed seated, turned and leaned the back of his head against the king-sized bed.

Something was seriously wrong with him.

He had punched the giant fae, but gods, the pure, untamed want, the need to tear the giant apart and leave him bloody on the floor had terrified him. The elf stared down at his still glowing hands – the left coming up to gently tap at his broken nose.

With a sharp wince, he immediately jerked his hand back. ‘’Nope, can’t heal myself.’’ He mumbled softly to himself, as he groaned low and settled both hands back into his hair.

Such a wild, unwelcome anger and now it was just… Gone. Over and done.

Still, as he sat with his back pressed against the edge of the bed, the elf could not help feeling as though he had just abandoned a very important train of thought, yet, he but could not seem to recall what it had been about. Ten cool fingertips raked down and started viciously pressing against his temple, as a heavy headache set in. Sportacus sighed, as he leaned his head back further and glanced up at the pale, unmoving other.

A loud, resounding snap wrecked through his foggy mind, just as the ward still clinging to his dirty, itchy wrist gave a small tremor in warning. A strange pain registered and flooded in, just as he felt his skull start to restrict. The elf willed himself to ignore it, as he stubbornly chased the reluctant threads of the previous thoughts, regardless of the rising, pounding pain in his skull.

’What did I just…’’ The elf trailed off, as he narrowed his eyes at the sleeping fae and tugged hard on his own dirty hair.

Wards, Robbie had mentioned the wards, more than once actually - but why. It was true that faes magic would be restricted, but still, Sportacus could not shake the feeling that there was something else, something very very important, that he had forgotten.

The elf groaned loudly, harshly pressing back against the mud in his mind, which slowly seemed to eat away at his desperate thoughts, as he slowly got up and paced around the room.

Sick. The wards made the other sick somehow, that had to be it but how?

‘’What did I… miss’’ He mused aloud again, as he raked a glowing hand through his dirty hair, grit his teeth and ignored the brutal agony the thoughts brought him.

Wards. Hateful wards. The wards protected its residents. Restricted foreign magic. Rejected anything it did not see as kin or those close to. The wards would have rejected-

Sportacus felt a shiver run down his spine, as his eyes involuntarily and all on their own, jerked towards the barely lit wall to his left, just as a thick shadow, which was not caused by his movements, nor the soft flickers from the stones - spread over the ceiling, walls and slowly crept over the floor.

They would have rejected-

The elf felt his arms and back start to itch anew, as he roughly shook his head - the sticky mud slowly bobbling in and devouring the clear, important realization.

Would have-

He felt himself glance over at the calmly snoozing fae, an odd calm settling into his cold bones, as both his crystal and ward remained completely silent, despite the obviously troubling image he was presented with.

The shimmering black slowly inched up and over onto the bed, before the jerky, dark tendrils spread, and made their way towards the faes still form. The glittering mass rose and hovered above, as a contorted face and two jerky arms slowly solidified out of the inky mass - its dark palms lurching forward and settled heavily on either side of the faes face, before the black other slowly sunk down towards its unaware prey.

The elf watched, as the dark monstrosity jerked its swirling form closer still, and seemed to breathe the fae in slowly - form vibrating gently, as it seemed to savor the delicious scent of the fresh meal presented so casually in front of it.

Still, no black spread under the others skin. No shimmering dark forced itself into the others veins and pushed all else aside. Theater. All show.

‘’The wards are intact.’’ The elf heard himself breathe, as he shook his head and laughed darkly. ‘’Still intact.’’ He chuckled, as he felt something press against the back of his legs and rise further up – A set of rough fingers inching over his ribcage, before they jerked up, gripped his chin hard and forced the elfs head back up to stare at the dark, sparkling ceiling instead, on which multiple eyes opened and glared down at him. ‘’The wards would have kept you-’’

The wards would have rejected not just the faes magic but also the very essence of the two others, regardless if the mountain had allowed all three inside – he asked for passage, not amnesty.

Of course, Glanni had been pissed at his gullible ignorance; he had slowly been killing them both.

‘’It would have kept you out.’’ The elf concluded, as he roughly scratched at his itchy arms, the shimmering black slowly inching its way upwards, as it crept up over his torso, just before he felt it dip under the fabric of his shirt.

The elf shivered at the uncomfortable sensation, as a clammy fog ghosted over his flesh, just before the rough hand on his chin forced two fingers inside and pried his jaws open. ‘’This is not real.’’ He chuckled low, as best as he could, with the rough, broken digits digging into the roof and bottom of his mouth.

Sportacus felt himself continue to laugh despite the situation – the brief thought that if Robbie should wake now, all he might see was the elf standing, laughing, as he stared mirthlessly at the ceiling with his mouth slightly agape.

If he did not think I had lost my marbles before, he will now.

The black jerked up and closed over his face, obscuring his vision, as a few tendrils tickled his lower lip, before it greedily pushed itself into his grinning mouth - seeking entry to whatever it was, a shade would feast on. All of him probably, such was its greedy nature. Still, he could not help but briefly wonder; did the dark push in or had it actually crept out?

The elf was still terribly cold, but that was it; No unnatural chill or stillness accompanied whatever this hallucination was. He felt himself laugh slightly hysterically at the ridiculousness of it, just as some of the creeping black closed around his throat.

‘’You are not actually here.’’ He chuckled humorlessly in a choked off voice, just as some of the shimmering dark twitched and pushed down further into his throat, making the elf gag slightly, as he tried to cough it back out.

‘’How do you know?’’ It drawled in a voice, which seemed to come from all around him at once.

The elf huffed, as best he could, considering his restrained position. ‘’This is not you.’’ He deadpanned. ‘’This is different.’’

‘’And how can you be sure?’’ It purred darkly, as the grip around his throat tightened further. ‘’How can you be certain th-‘’

‘’You are not here.’’ The elf repeated in a choked, clipped voice, just as some of the dark covering his face slowly retreated. A few of the unblinking eyes continued to stare down, while a large portion abruptly closed and seemed to vanish into thin air. ‘’This is not you.’’ He insisted, as he did his best to bite down around the fingers in his mouth. To his surprise, the digits had no form at all – teeth harshly clicking shut, as he jerked himself forward and out of its glittering hold.

‘’I am real.’’ It hissed angrily, as the dark continued to dance and swirl around him, before it finally jerked, gathered and stood up on three legs in front of him; its contorted faces stretched beyond recognition. ‘’I am here.’’ It drawled from two grinning mouths, as it tilted its heads and took a looming step towards him.

The elf shook his head in slight disgust, as he turned his head, yet kept his eyes trained straight on the perverse atrocity. ‘’No. I do not know how you are doing this, but you are not real.’’

The abomination in front of him scowled, before it tried and failed to press itself back against his person – the whole mess of paws, claws and sticky eyes going through his arm instead of the hold it wished to regain. ‘’I could be.’’ It angrily hissed.

‘’But you are not.’’ The elf retorted on a dry note.

Silence settled between them for a beat, before the shade scoffed darkly. ‘’I will be. I am here.’’ It purred, as the whole thing collapsed and sunk back into the dark shadow at the elfs feet.

I will always be here.

Sportacus took a deep, ragged breath, as he shut his eyes tight and willed his shoulders to lower from their position around his cold ears. He more felt than registered, as his tense fingers raked through and tugged at his hair hard. Vaguely, he registered the hard, cold ground under him, as he - hunched over and panting hard - kneeled on it.

The wards. The elf heard the low, urgent, welcome voice return in his head, as the elf – mindful of his hurting nose - raked his cold, shaky palms down his clammy face instead of the continues punishment of his dirty locks. ‘’Are poisoning Robbie.’’ He concluded aloud in a clipped tone, voice slightly muffled by his hands.

The elf bit his split bottom lip hard, as he quickly made his way over - willing the five words to echo in his head, as he once more kneeling down next to the fainted other.

One hand positioned against the cool floor, other pressing directly against the space above the faes heart, the elf shut his eyes tight and breathed deep, before he reached out and in, down towards the core of the mountain itself and further still, until he found what he sought.

The vibrating core of the ancient rock seemed highly annoyed at haven been disturbed so quickly again, but mercifully listened and responded to his frantic request.

For a few seconds, the elf felt nothing but the soft vibrations of the constant, neutral energy of the mountain itself wreck through him, until suddenly, a violent pressure forced itself up and in through the hand resting against the floor. Sportacus let out a small whimper, as the energy brutally pushed through his trembling core, until the flow itself pressed on and down through the other arm, directly into the unaware fae himself - the sensation much like a golden, violent tsunami crashing through and just as unignorable.

Sportacus shut his eyes tight, head snapping back from the sheer force of the request and action, as he grit his teeth and held on. This would not have caused you any pain if you had just asked us before entering. The mountain laughed heartily, as its violent flow of energy wrecked through and essentially fused a tiny shard of its own presence within the slumbering fae.

‘’Will this be enough?’’ The elf grit out in a strained voice, loudly ignoring the mountains scolding, as he felt the presented shard seal itself around the faes core. ‘’Will he live?’’ The mountain – being the very helpful, neutral being that it was – did not answer him.

It did not matter though; he could feel the others heart let out a series of startled, hard beats, before finally, the faes pulse steadied out into a constant, strong, steady beat. The elf could not help the relieved grin that split across his face, as a healthy, heated flush returned to Robbies face, just as the last of the mountains presence flowed through and sealed within the other. Sportacus blinked the nervous tears away, as he bit at his split lip.

He knew he had forgotten something else besides the wards. Something, which had probably just taken place and was in fact just as important, but he could and would chase that particular string of thought later. Right now, it really did not matter.

A sudden, choked gasp sounded right in front of the musing elf, just as Robbies back arched off the bed – the faes eyes flying open, as he started to glow a bright shade of purple. The fae seemed confused and panicked for a second, as his magic brutally returned at a pace his body could not keep up with, trembling hands gripping the sheets on either side hard, as he whimpered through tightly grit teeth.

Sportacus barely breathed, as he quickly jerked his hand back and watched the other struggle to channel the returned magic correctly. The fae seemed to cramp up, muscles locking, before a series of small convulsions wrecked through his trembling form - the back of his head hit the soft surface of the bed, as his knuckles went a stark shade of white from the brutal grip, the fae kept on the now slightly torn fabric.

Robbie - panting hard and coughing wetly – managed to let go of the sheets and clutched at his chest instead, downright growling through grit teeth, as his face settled into an aggressive, pained sneer.

The faes chest violently twitched once, before he mercifully managed three deep, ragged breaths. Slowly but surely, the bright glow faded to a dull shine, just as Robbie breathed out a low, elated sigh of relief, mouth parting slightly, as he promptly shut his eyes and relaxed back against the bed. The fae laughed in a strained delight, as he basked in the pleased numbness, which followed the violent awakening.

He had only a second of warning, before his upset, empty stomach did a flip, causing him to immediately shoot up and jerk out a hand in order to push the worried elf roughly aside.

The fae felt his throat constrict, just before he started dry heaving onto the floor.

Sportacus – unsure if he should touch the trembling other or not – stayed as still as possible, while the other sniffed wetly, the faes vice-like grip on the others shoulder not relenting for even a second, as the fae slowly came back to himself.

The elf felt himself gulp, as what must have been at least seventeen small dancing flames lit up around them.

’Great.’’ The fae croaked out. ‘’Great, I can still do that.’’ He laughed humorlessly, as his tense fingers uncurled one by one, and finally relented the brutal grip. The fae coughed weakly, as he shoved himself back and flopped down onto the bed again – Arm under his head and half of his face hanging over the side, just in case.

A few tired, wet sniffles, accompanied the weak coughs, as Sportacus let his gaze travel around the dimly lit room - a small, painful spark of something wrecking through his head, as he watched the thick shadows dance on the wall. There was something important there. Something he was quickly forgetting again. His brow furrowed, as he tried to chase the fleeing thoughts. The shadows are moving but we are not the soft voice in the back of his mind urged.

The elf felt himself sigh, as the mud dribbled back in and once more clouded the clear thought. ‘’But it is not real.’’ He urged back on a tried sigh.

’Shut up elf.’’ Robbie coughed weakly, as he spat at the floor and buried his face against the crook of his bended arm. ‘’This is bloody real all right.’’

Sportacus felt the humorless grin return, as he sighed and got up to fetch the other some water - quickly helping the fae sit up, as it became clear for them both, that Robbie did not have enough strength to do so. He silently supported the cool glass, as Robbies numb fingers curled around it – the elf swiftly putting it aside on the small bedside table, once it was completely empty.

Robbie immediately nuzzled his face into the elfs neck, as he slumped against Sportacus’ side - the faes slow, shaky breaths slightly ticklish, as they fanned over the elfs collarbones. ‘’Do you want me to move?’’ The elf asked in a low, soft voice, as he dared to sneak an arm around the tired faes back, in order to make sure the other did not outright collapse right then and there.

Neither of the two seemed to overly care that they were both covered in dust, and in the elfs case, still peppered by the dry, flaky, black snow.

‘’No.’’ The fae huffed in a muffled, slightly annoyed voice, just as the elf reached up a cold hand and absently started to rake his dirty fingers through the others disheveled hair. Vaguely, they both registered the low purrs, which started deep in the elfs throat, causing Robbie to huff out a baffled laugh, as he nuzzled his heating face closer against the elfs neck. ‘’Well at least you are contend.’’ He mumbled tiredly, almost as if to himself.

A low defeated sigh escaped the elf, as he shut his eyes, loudly ignored the pain from his broken nose, and rested the side of his face against the top of Robbie’s warm head.

‘’Wha’?’’ The fae mumbled up at him, to which Sportacus gently shook his head a bit.

‘’I have caused you a lot of pain, haven’t I?’’ The elf deadpanned, as he glared at the darkest corner of the room. Robbie hummed, as he placed a slightly shaky palm against the elfs chest and breathed out a soft, heated scoff in reply. ‘’Robbie?’’ The elf tried, when the fae refused to give any further verbal answer.

The fae hummed affirmatively, but still stubbornly remained silent. ‘’Why did you not tell me of the wards?’’ The elf pressed on, as he narrowed his eyes at the dark.

‘’I did and you plainly ignored it, what are you on about.’’ Robbie scoffed tiredly, as he pushed a bit back and glared up at the elf.

‘’I did not remember.’’ Sportacus urged softly. ‘’I am not sure why, but I feel as if I keep forgetting the things that are important.’’ He admitted a tad apologetic, as he let both of his hands drop.

‘’As in you have forgotten all we have worked on so far?’’ He huffed in annoyance, to which the elf quickly shook his head.

‘’Just the wards.’’ He said softly. ‘’Or… I think that is all I have forgotten at least.’’ He mused, as he scratched at the back of his itchy head.

Robbie blinked twice, before he narrowed his eyes and turned his head slightly. ‘’You do not remember the conversation about it, right before we went in?’’ He asked in a carefully neutral voice.

A soft static roar quickly washed over his foggy mind, as the elf tried to recall the conversation in question – a small stab of pain wrecking through his skull, as he tried to push through the foggy thorns regardless. Eventually he sighed, as he shook his head in defeat. ‘’Which one?’’ He asked instead.

‘’Glanni asked you to let us pass safely, so that this would not happen.’’ Robbie elaborated in a clipped tone, as he gestured vaguely at himself. ‘’He told you it would be in your best interest as well, to let us keep our magic, while we stayed in a place this… affecting.’’

The elf felt his jaw click, as he nervously blinked twice at the lethal expression, which had started to creep into the faes features. ‘’And you are sure I heard this?’’ He softly urged. The fae narrowed his eyes further right before he huffed and roughly pushed himself up and away from the other – legs still slightly shaky, as he made for a golden door in the back of the room. ‘’Robbie please.’’ Sportacus quickly called after him, making the annoyed fae stop dead in his tracks. ‘’I do not remember.’’ He urged softly. ‘’Please, I really don’t.’’

The fae sighed in a highly exhausted manner, shoulders hunched, as he glanced back over his shoulder - absently staring at the elfs bleeding, broken mess of a nose, before he sighed impossibly harder and finally turned all the way around again. ‘’How do you forget something like this?’’ He asked in a clipped, tired voice. ‘’Not gonna lie, I thought you just wanted to punish me.’’ He admitted tiredly, as a hand absently raked through his hair.

Sportacus stayed patiently silent in the thick silence, which followed - nervously holding the others angered glare, as Robbie frowned deeply at him. ‘’You truly do not remember?’’ The fae asked, as he tugged hard on his own hair and somehow managed to narrow his eyes further at the other.

The elf shook his head, as he worried at a corner of a dusty, heavy blanket.

Robbie seemed deep in thought for a second, before he took a ragged breath and elaborated. ‘’My cousin asked you to let us pass safely.’’ He repeated on a carefully neutral voice. ‘’And you paused, as you where clearing the rocks and just…’’ The fae trailed off, circling his hand a few times, as he stalked over, picked up a golden pitcher and poured himself some more water. ‘’You just… glared. Like, I am not sure I have ever seen such an expression on your face befo- no wait I have. You had the exact same expression in the kitchen when you threw a hissy fit.’’ The fae mused on a mirthless tone, as he drained his water in one go, loudly huffed and finally stalked out of the other golden door and into a completely separate room.

Sportacus sat alone and waited nervously in the awkward silence, which settled over the king’s quarters. Somehow, he could not help but feel, as if he was being scolded.

Several minutes passed, before a scowling Robbie Rotten returned – a set of spare clothes and the personal notebook tugged safely under his arm. The fae loudly slammed his notebook down onto a desk at the far end of the room and angrily scrawled something down in it – several extra flames bursting to life around him, just to prove that he could indeed still do that.

‘’Do you believe I could somehow still be possessed?’’ The elf asked in a small, unsure voice, as he nervously fiddled with a loose thread, randomly poking out of the heavy blanket.

Robbie scoffed, as he threw his pen down and put the notebook away. ‘’Ward would have kept it out.’’ He clipped, as he gestured at the elfs wrist, before picking up the set of clothes and throwing them at the others forlorn person.

Sportacus nimbly caught it, cold hands unfolding and holding up a long, purple nightshirt. ‘’Still touched a living shade though.’’ He mused on a grumble, as he turned it over. Small, white, dancing strawberries with black top hats and canes were sloppily embroidered onto the hem of neckline. ‘’This is pretty cute.’’ He chuckled, as he lowered it and gazed back over at the still frowning fae.

Robbie shrugged, as he walked over to a large mirror, located in front of the bed and set to cleaning his face. ‘’You cannot blame everything on the paranormal.’’ He clipped, as he narrowed his eyes and glared back over at the other. ‘’And no, it is not cute.’’ He grumbled on, almost as if to himself.

The elf looked back down, as he sighed. ‘’Guess not.’’ He softly agreed, as he held the shirt and pants close, slowly getting back up as well, and made for the door.

‘’You are not leaving!’’ Robbie yapped after him, causing the elf to violently flinch and awkwardly retrieve his hand back, from where it had paused, just over the handle. ‘’Besides, it is still locked, and no, I am not letting you out.’’ He clipped.

The elf sighed, as he glared hard at the ceiling instead. ‘’Then what am I supposed to do?’’ He asked, as he slowly turned towards the other, who was getting back into bed himself.

‘’Get in and shut up.’’ The fae yapped dryly, as he swiftly rolled himself back up into the blanket. Sportacus felt himself stare stupidly at the large bed – the span enough for at least seven people to all sleep comfortably.

‘’You do not mind?’’ He asked in a soft voice, to which he received a deep yawn in reply.

‘’-‘m not gonna save your butt again so soon, so nope, just shut up and sleep please.’’ Robbie loudly complained, as he reached out a hand a petted the space beside him.

The elf sighed, as he silently discarded his filthy clothes and got into the new, too tight, purple set. The pants somehow fit him well enough; the shirt however, was way too small, fabric stretched awkwardly and restricting his movements. Still, these were much cleaner than his own and so he quietly laid down without any voiced complaints - a good meter remaining between the fae and himself.

It did not seem as though there was any extra blankets in here, but despite the cold still lingering in his bones, he did not need it anyway.

The elf had nearly managed to drift off, when Robbies low, muffled voice caught his attention – high enough to hear, but just low enough that had he indeed been asleep, he would not have been roused. ‘’Sportacus?’’

The elf yawned tiredly and hummed in reply.

‘’You might be right.’’ The fae mumbled softly on a carefully neutral voice, to which the elf felt himself rapidly blink.

‘’About what?’’ He asked, suddenly very awake, as he stared out into the dark of the room. The elf did a full-body flinch, as a large part of the blanket, was thrown over his cold form, but otherwise, he received no verbal reply, as to what the fae had deducted. Admittedly, he was quite grateful for the warmth the other radiated - The harsh pain from his stomach was gone; yet, the terrible, unnatural cold still stubbornly remained.

It was still probably just around mid-day, but as it was, he was far too tired to press for answers, and so he shrugged and once more shut his tired eyes, allowing the nap they both so desperately needed.

-

 

Several hours passed in the tense quiet, which – considering the elf was lightly snoring right behind him – the snoozing other was delightfully unaware off. Robbie blinked for what must have been the thousands time, as he stared at the dimly lit wall beside him, a soft sigh escaping him, as he worried his bottom lip between his teeth and finally shut his stinging eyes hard.

The nagging feeling had returned tenfold after the short day’s events, not to mention the small, offhanded comment from the now sleeping elf.

The fae hoped the other was wrong, he really fucking did.

However, considering his own, still physically depleted state, now might not be the best time to trigger any response from the slumbering, hopefully nonexistent shade.

A deep tired yawn wrecked through him, as he pondered on how best to approach this delicate matter. He did not want to admit it, but he was quite terrified for both his own safety and that of the oblivious elf – there was a reason Glanni had left that blasted, poisonous dagger behind and there was a reason he was now clutching the handle of it, from where it lay securely under his soft pillow.

The poison would immediately render the other immobile - it was not lethal.

Correction, it had been lethal, but he had made sure to change it, the moment he had realized the others predicament.

If worse came to worst, he doubted he could truly get himself to kill the other. It just… no it was too absurd, but just like he had been unable to pacify Deus with his own magic, would he then be unable to pacify his idiotic, darling elf?

Robbie felt a terrifying resolve set in, as he tightened his hold on the dagger.

Perhaps it would not come to that, but no matter what happened when they both woke, this would and could not be a pleasant experience. Nor would it be safe for either, but if the elf was indeed correct, it unfortunately explained quite a few things about his bad behavior.

The fae could only hope the possession was not yet ripe, otherwise the extraction could potentially be deadly, and hopefully, the shade would stay dormant until he had made the necessary preparations to expel it from the elfs presence for good.

Time was of the essence here; the longer he lingered, the greater the chance was that he could not bring the other back, before it was ultimately too late. Robbie grit his teeth hard, as he snapped his eyes back open and glared at the dancing shadows on the wall beside him. While he truly hated everything about this current situation, the worst part was not lost on him.

If the elf was correct, then this meant the shadow could cross the wards inside of a host.

Chapter Text

Robbie kicked at the thick, black water, as he slowly made his way through the dark sludge. With a small, worried breath, he stopped and gazed around at his curious surroundings – the shimmering, black sea seemingly expanding endlessly in all directions, cooling and soaking his lower legs, as it reached up just past his knees.

There seemed to be no sky above, no ceiling or other ends to indicate just how grand this space in between the waking and sleeping, which he presumed was where he was, stretched.

He let out a soft huff and walked on, the lower part of his long, soaked, purple, robe dragging behind him, as it floated on top of the cold water. Robbie shook his head and gulped slightly, loudly ignoring how the tugging sensation from the robe in question, could easily be mistaken for a pair of hands holding on and trying to keep him back, from whatever he was walking towards.

Somehow, he knew that, the knowledge that there was indeed an actual destination strong and fierce, as he fought against the waters relentless pressure and pulling to keep him back. This place could not harm the fae himself that much he was certain of; the same however, could not be said for his idiotic, darling elf.

The texture under his bare feet was strange to say the least. The sensation of something smooth, soft and slightly sticky, making it feel as though he could easily slip and slide at any moment, should his focus waver for even a second – the dark, shimmering water surrounding ready to swallow up and drown him for good, should he fail the small, forced trial.

‘’Mayhem, theater - It wants to scare you first so don’t let it.’’ A small – oh so familiar - Female voice gently reminded him, the voice coming from somewhere to his left, just as an unwelcome paranoia slowly invaded the faes mind. She could not be here, could she?

As a result, his arms jerked up and were kept slightly out by his sides, as to not lose balance – palms turning and hovering a good half meter over the waters disgusting surface, fingers tense and ready to dig into and fight against whatever he stood on, in case he should indeed fall.

Disregarding the small, helpful whispers which kept cheering and urging him on, there was no other sound in here, except for the soft noises of the lazy, slowly waving surface, which now seemed to do a violent jerk, before it parted in an eerie, almost unnatural way before him.

‘’You can do this Robbie.’’ Trixie’s mischievous voice chimed in, coming from his acute right, as it laughed harshly at him.

The fae took a shaky breath, as he shut his eyes tight, grit his teeth and willed himself to push on and continue forward through the dark sludge, despite it also being the direction of immediate danger. It felt as though he was walking through a thick, cold soap, which continued to grow denser still – the sustenance becoming increasingly more difficult to walk through, despite it still gently parting in front of him.

‘’Are you the ones doing this?’’ Robbie asked in the general direction of where the cheery, yet solemn voice of Stephanie originated - the fae gesturing vaguely at the parting water in front of him, as he pushed on. ‘’Or is this something else?’’ He grumbled low, more to himself than the two lost youngsters.

Despite the simple question, he got no reply from either of them.

Robbie let out an angry scoff, as the helpful, comforting whispers completely fell silent, leaving him with nothing but the cold, thick water as company - the dark sustenance clinging to his feet and tense, lower legs, as he finally, finally spotted and swiftly, but carefully, stalked over in the direction where a just as puzzled Sportacus stood.

The elf in question - still clad in the purple nightshirt and pants, which the fae had given him - was standing still in the middle of the cold liquid, neck craned, as he stared up at a large swirling, black mass, which rose up and out of the wet below.

The dark abomination slowly dragged itself along through the water, a big palm smashing into the shimmering black, causing large sprays and chunks of something better left undescribed, to fly in large, outwards circles around it. It kept dragging and clawing at the smooth, sticky surface under the water for what seemed to be at least a minute, before finally retrieving its hand.

Big, fat chunks of whatever the surface underneath consisted of, spilled between its ragged, parted claws and fell back into the water, causing a series of small, wet splashes, as the repulsive chunks crashed against it.

The atrocity held its palm close to a dense cluster of eyes, which opened up on its swirling form, seemingly examining the torn and scooped up mass. A second arm shot out and jerkily assembled itself out of the shimmering form – the two broken wrists smashing together with an obscene noise, as it set to vigorously rubbing them together.

Surprised and a tad startled, Robbie stopped dead in his tracks, as he too, paused and stared up at the frustrated shade.

The eerie scene reminded the fae of a small, angry child given and playing with a piece of black, wet clay, as the shade in question set to banging its palms together, as though it hoped to somehow create something from it. Big, fat strings of black goo connected and stretched between the palms, as the abomination finally parted them.

Along the tearing strings, multiple small eyes opened up and blinked blindly around, before the pressure from the breaking strands stretched too far, causing them to abruptly burst with a series of small, wet pops.

‘’What is it with this thing and eyes.’’ The fae grumbled to himself, as he inhaled sharply and swiftly closed the remaining distance - placing his left hand on the elfs lower back, as he came to a halt next to said puzzled elf.

‘’Talk about ugly.’’ Robbie mumbled low in a form of greeting, to which the elf humorlessly chuckled.

‘’Indeed.’’ Sportacus softly agreed, as he stepped a bit closer to the tense fae - both seemingly relieved and comforted by the others presence. The elf turned his head slightly towards the newcomer, yet did not take his eyes off the shimmering shade in front of them. ‘’Is this a dream?’’ He asked softly to which Robbie casually shrugged.

‘’Not quite. I unfortunately cannot say exactly what it is.’’ He mused, a single finger coming up to scratch at his cheek in thought. ‘’Have you been here long?’’

The elf was silent for a beat, as he crossed his arms over his chest and turned his attention back fully to the abomination in front of them. ‘’I have been here for hours.’’ He breathed in a soft voice, as he lightly dug one of his bound heels into the soft tissue underneath them. ‘’I do not believe it has noticed me yet though.’’ He mused on a deep sigh, as he inched a little closer still to the other.

Robbie hummed in reply, as he wiggled his toes and raked them over the strange fleshy floor. ‘’When you wake, ask me to tell you of the time my flirty belladonna refused to let me leave my garden, unless I told her a quite embarrassing secret. To keep it short, we argued for three and a half hour, until I finally relented. Pots and jars were broken in the process.’’ He huffed, as he scrunched up his nose at the unpleasant, distant memory. ‘’Not by me I might add.’’

Sportacus laughed in delight, as he shook his head. ‘’This sounds like quite the story.’’ He chuckled, as he thought back to his own strange encounter with the sassy flora. ‘’What did you tell her?’’ He asked.

Robbie huffed and rolled his eyes loudly. ‘’When you wake, let us see if you remember about this whole thing.’’ He said, as he gestured around at their shimmering surroundings. ‘’Consider it a reward if you do.’’ He continued on a deep sigh, before his expression settled into something distant, cold and serious.

The two fell silent for a tense beat, before the fae inhaled sharply and narrowed his eyes down at the other. ‘’No matter what happens Sport, you have to fight this.’’ He solemnly urged. ‘’Press back. Resist its pull.’’

The elfs expression fell, as he lowered his head and glared at the dark water. ‘’I am not sure I can do that.’’ He softly admitted. The two fell silent again, before the elf continued in a barely audibly voice. ‘’Something is wrong with me, is there not?’’ He urged, as he gazed back up at the dark atrocity.

The fae grit his teeth, as he gingerly grabbed the others hand. ‘’You are not alone.’’ He solemnly vowed, to which the elf gently squeezed back, before tightened the grip further - still not taking his eyes off the gently vibrating abomination, as the giant mass jerked and shimmered. ‘’We do need to get out of here though.’’ He grumbled low, as the two watched the shade continue to angrily smash at the black water.

‘’What do I do?’’ The elf asked, as he tilted his head slightly towards the fae.

‘’Gather it at your core.’’ Robbie ordered in a stern, yet gentle voice. ‘’Your energy that is. Your essence. Gather it.’’

Sportacus felt his core respond, as he pressed in – most of the elfs upper body lighting up in a soft golden light, as he willed it to flow and gather, as the fae had requested he do.

’Good.’’ Robbie praised on a low voice, just as the shimmering giant violently jerked, a few large, black chunks falling from slack, broken wrists, as it noticed the two creatures observing it. Immediately, what must have been at least a thousand eyes opened up all over its form and trained straight onto the pair.

A loud, high-pitched, keening whine rang out, as it shifted what must have been its front towards them.

For a startled second, Sportacus felt the golden flow stutter and falter, as he gasped in fright and took a small step back. The elf would have turned right then and there if not for the strong grip the fae still kept of his hand.

As the upper portion of the atrocity swayed, tipped over and finally smashed into the dark water below, a loud, wet splash followed by a reverberating boom, echoed out into the seemingly endless space around them. Both elf and fae let out a startled yelp in unison, as a large, dark spray of black water fell on and soaked both, regardless of the fact that the dark atrocity was still at least a good fifty meters away from them.

A huge wave rose up and pushed towards them, nearly knocking both over, as the force of the water itself crashed into them, before the water again settled – the liquid itself far too thick to keep moving much further. A few gentler waves reached them, as multiple arms and legs sprouted and jerked themselves out of the black, shimmering mass - the ragged, broken limbs, settling deep into the fleshy mass below, as it managed to push itself up a bit and support its massive weight.

’Let it expand.’’ Robbie urged a tad rushed, as he spat out a bit of the foul, disgusting liquid, simultaneously squeezing the elfs hand in support. Granted, it felt more like a nervous spasm, but the elf was not going to comment on it.

Sportacus felt the cold, black water brush up against the front of his legs, as the tremors from the dark abomination caused the thick, clinging surface to continually be disturbed. With a small, shaky breath, he dug his heels further into the fleshy ground below, as to not accidentally get knocked over. ‘’I don’t know what to do.’’ He yapped a tad worried, just as the monster started dragging itself towards them.

‘’Let it wreck through you.’’ Robbie quickly barked, as he narrowed his eyes slightly down at the shaking other. ‘’Let it flow and- yes, exactly, that's it!’’ The fae praised in a strained delight, just as a blinding light engulfed them both – the water beneath them parting in an outwards circle from the sheer force of the energy the elf was now successfully channeling.

Sportacus felt a shiver of disgust, as he stared at the broken eyeballs squashed in between his toes. ‘’I have been a part of this mass, have I not?’’ He breathed softly, as he continued to stare in fright.

‘’Focus!’’ Robbie urged in a clipped, dry voice – the grip he kept on the others hand turning painfully tight, as his breathing started coming a bit too fast. ‘’Do not look at it.’’

Sportacus willed himself to glance back up at their current problem – The black behemoth slowly dragging itself closer still. A large, uneven mouth opened up, which seemed to cut straight through its swirling surface - ragged teeth and eyes all glaring and reaching towards them as it progressed closer.

The elf felt himself start to truly tremble, as he stared into the yawning, teeth filled gape. ‘’I am not sure I can do this again.’’ He shakily admitted, as he took a deep breath, pushed and pressed back, as hard as he could. ‘’It was completely by instinct last time, I-‘’

‘’Shut up and just do it.’’ The fae helpfully advised back. ‘’And stop doubting yourself on this, you definitely can.’’ He quickly mumbled on, a tad apologetic.

Sportacus blinked and raised the fae-free palm up towards the creeping, shimmering form in front of them – Elf shocked, as the flow immediately changed and instead pressed up through his arm, as it was given a direct direction. Sportacus gasped and grit his teeth hard, as it felt his nerves and bones would surely break and splinter, from the sheer force of it – the sensation of his vibrating bones close to that of a thousand papercuts cutting and burning the inside of his arm.

A low, pained whimper, which quickly escalated into an actual agonized scream, tore from the elfs throat, as he pushed on regardless of the brutal channeling, the raw energy wrecking through and exploding out through his raised palm - Fingers twitching violently, as the overwhelming flow threatened to break and reduce the limbs to dust.

The black atrocity flinched and howled a shrill, high-pitched wail, as it jerked and flung itself back and away from the golden explosion.

Sportacus panted hard in relief, as he managed to cut the flow off, before he literally tore himself apart – small, pained puffs of laughter escaping him, as his shaking legs bend and gave out from under him. ‘’I can’t do it, it’s too much.’’ The elf cried, as the fae quickly jerked him back out of the black water and instead drew the elf into a tight embrace.

Sportacus buried the side of his cold face against the others neck, crying freely, as he clutched his burning arm close – pain from his broken nose amplifying the agony further, as he accidentally disturbed it by bumping it against the faes throat.

‘’It is okay, you tried.’’ Robbie quickly reassured him. ‘’You did good.’’ He promised, as a soft, purple glow started up around them. The fae kept gently shushing the pained other, as the elf continued to sob lowly, nails digging into his twitching arm – the muscles jerking and out of control, as they seemed to simultaneously convulse and cramp up.

Robbie glared up at the bewildered shade, as it did a violent twitch and jerkily spun back, as it realized the assault had prematurely been cut, just as two extra mouths opened and moved in their general direction. ‘’You are still ugly.’’ The fae childishly spat in a dry tone, as he reached out and searched for the dreamers’ flow, which hopefully existed somewhere on the nonexistent outskirts of this cursed place. If not, they would not be able to escape.

Correction, he would, the elf could not – After all, Robbie was not the main, infected target here.

The fae shut his eyes tight, as the black, shimmering giant dove back down towards the pair – teeth reaching out of the black, dripping gums like three, perverted gapes of a great, white, eyeball-covered, mutated shark. ‘’Hold on.’’ Robbie urged sternly at the hysterical elf, as he reached out further and forced his way through the thick binds of the link, which had infested and embedded itself into the elfs sleeping mind.

It felt like a small eternity – Shades unnatural cool practically suffocating them both, as its breath blew and ghosted over Robbies trembling form, just as the fae finally, successfully cut through and managed to create a small rift and exit out of the perverse in-between.

--

 

- Servants quarters - The court -

 

‘’Darren says hi by the way.’’ Seven said nonchalantly, as he sat up further in the bed, leaned slightly forward and picked up one of the offered apples slices, from the small bowl, Patricia had brought for him.

To his left - perched heavily on a small, wobbly chair - Ivar huffed angrily.

‘’He does not exist.’’ The older elf said in a clipped, hard tone, before gazing back out of the closed window located just above Sevens head. ‘’And don’t ask.’’ He quickly gruffed out. ‘’I’m not allowed to tell.’’

In front of Ivar, located just beside the closed window, where she leaned against the frame of it, Patricia huffed mirthlessly, before turning her head to glare down at the pair. ‘’He helped overthrow one of the previous king.’’ She said nonchalantly. ‘’What?’’ She immediately spat, as she received a death-glare from Ivar. ‘’It’s not like it’s a secret or anything, the old fart practically carried the revolution on his own after the common folk realized just how corrupt the king and his family was - no thanks to you I might add.’’ She shrugged, as she vaguely gestured towards the scowling Ivar and went back to picking at her nails. ‘’Besides, the entire staff are whispering his names after he so politely returned our fellow idiot to us, so it’s not like I really need to keep silent about it.’’

‘’Names?’’ Seven asked, as he snatched another slice and bit into it. ‘’As in plural?’’

Ivar rolled his eyes, before inhaling sharply and leaning his elbows against his bended knees. ‘’Did he tell you anything?’’ The older started on a serious tone. ‘’Tyr would not march back into a place like this without a good reason, even if it was to drop off a run-away.’’

‘’I didn’t run away.’’ Seven scoffed dramatically – mouth slightly open, as his hand came up to cover the place above his heart. Ivar shrugged, lips going thin and eyes slightly widening in an impatient gesture, before settling his focus back fully on the bedridden elf in front of him.

‘’Did he tell you anything?’’ The older repeated in a harsh manner.

’Gods Ivar, give the dumbelf a break.’’ Patricia sighed, as she stalked around the bigger elf to sit down on the bed – Seven quickly scooting a bit towards the wall to give her proper space.

Seven shook his head slightly, a troubled look settling into his features, as he seemed to stare into empty space for a few beats. ‘’How is this my life?’’ He began in a low, tired, disbelieving voice.

’Cause you stupid.’’ Patricia snapped, as she threw an apple slice at his head. ‘’And stupid people sometime get unbelievably lucky.’’ She concluded, before snatching up a few slices for herself.

‘’Or they die.’’ Ivar huffed, as he picked up the thrown apple slice from where it laid on the blanket.

‘’Or that.’’ Seven agreed, as he leaned his shoulder against the wall. ‘’How’s the rounds going?’’ he asked to which Ivar casually shrugged.

‘’Confidential.’’ He snapped in a dry voice.

‘’Not towards me.’’ Seven pressed.

‘’As in I don’t want to tell this shit to a kid.’’ The older snapped, as he glared hard at the other and snatched at least half of the slices for himself.

‘’Whatever.’’ Seven grumbled, as he reached out and snatched a few slices as well, before the two others could consume them all.

‘’You are ignoring a question.’’ Patricia mumbled, as she wacked Sevens hand hard, before the elf could steal the last slice. With a huff, she held the bowl towards Ivar, who nodded slightly and accepted the offered slice.

‘’He mentioned something about the soil being cursed and how Íþróttaálfurinn are losing supporters among the common folk cause of it.’’ Seven shrugged, as he once more seemed to grow distant. The young elf fiddled with the edge of his blanket, as he absently flicked off a piece of something that might have been a breadcrumb. ‘’Did you cut them off from speaking up?’’ The young elf asked, as he narrowed his eye and gazed at Ivar. ‘’The low folk, did you force em to shut up and keep away?’’ The older solemnly shook his head, before a deep sigh escaped him.

‘’Supplies are low.’’ Ivar started, not meeting eithers gaze. ‘’As Tyr said, the common folk are losing their trust and so they didn’t come for aid.’’ He explained softly, his palms spreading outwards, as he tried to keep the statement as short and true as possible. ‘’But no, we sure as fuck didn’t keep em out - they didn’t ask for help either.’’

‘’Like not at all?’’ Patricia asked on a carefully neutral voice to which Ivars frown deepened.

‘’Well, if you count the small group who tried to raid our stocks and steal away with them, then yes.’’ He grumbled slightly aggressively, before abruptly standing up. ‘’There’s not a whole lot of proper communication running back and forth these days, people are on edge and it’s gonna get worse.’’ He lowly vowed. ‘’Promise me you two are gonna stay out of trouble from now on, aight? I’d rather not have to scrape you off the pavement when you get too nosy.’’ He clipped sternly to which both younger elves immediately raised their hands in retaliation.

‘’Duly noted.’’ Patricia replied in a rushed voice. ‘’With all due respect to your guards though, perhaps if you were a bit more forthcoming with the common f-‘’ She started; awkwardly cutting herself off and biting her tongue, at the lethal glare, she received from the towering elf.

‘’Believe me.’’ Ivar started on a low, throaty growl. ‘’We are trying our best, but it takes two to tango and it is quite difficult when one part brings a hatched to the party.’’

‘’Like literally?’’ Seven asked solemnly.

‘’Literally.’’ Ivar grumbled in reply, as he shook his head slightly – clearly disturbed as the messy, unwelcome memory came knocking. ‘’If it wasn’t for-‘’

All three heads snapped towards the door, when a soft knock sounded at it, before it creaked slightly open. A small, wide-eyed face hesitantly poked inside – its owner staring up nervously at the three glaring elves.

‘’Is that one of the human spawns?’’ Ivar laughed in surprise, as a disheveled, slightly nervous Ziggy stalked inside and closed the door behind him.

‘’Can I please stay here for a bit?’’ The small child asked, as he nervously fiddled with the edge of his cape. ‘’I got lost.’’ He added a bit forlornly, gulping greatly, as he stared up at the tall, male elf, who was still glaring down at him.

Patricia scoffed, as she sat the bowl aside and petted the empty space in front of her on the bed. ‘’Of course, come in.’’ She softly said to which Ziggy immediate stalked over and sat down – the child’s fingers still engrossed in their anxious fiddling. ‘’It is a rather large place, I’ll give you that.’’ She laughed, as she handed the kid a few apple slices, which she had hidden for herself.

Seven blinked rapidly at the slices, staring dumbfounded, as the small child accepted the goods. ‘’Is Sportacus here?’’ Ziggy asked, as he seemed to hunch slightly in on himself.

‘’Who’s that?’’ Patricia asked with a raised brow.

‘’No.’’ Ivar simply replied, nodding slightly towards Ziggy, as he crossed his arms over his chest. ‘’Íþróttaálfurinns brother is currently engrossed in a confidential task.’’

‘’That fae related stuff, right?’’ Seven asked on a casual shrug.

‘’How do you-‘’ Ivar asked, head tilting and eyes narrowing, as he glared down at the other. ‘’Is nothing secret in this bloody place anymore?’’ He barked, making Ziggy yelp, flinch and draw his knees closer to himself in fright.

‘’Calm down you brute.’’ Patricia laughed, as she raked a soothing hand down the frightened child’s back. ‘’He’s not bad, I swear.’’ She whispered, to which Ziggy gulped but nodded jerkily in a nonverbal response. ‘’Why don’t you help him find his way back?’’ She asked sweetly, as she gingerly grabbed Ziggys hand and led him over to the quickly paling Ivar. ‘’What?’’ She huffed, as she noticed the others expression.

‘’I’m not overly fond of children.’’ Ivar replied, looking highly nervous all of a sudden.

‘’What, why?’’ Seven chuckled from his place on the bed. ‘’Afraid they’ll bite your kneecaps off?’’ He joked, to which both Patricia and Ivar threw him a stern glare.

‘’Don’t listen to them.’’ Patricia softly said, as she squeezed Ziggys hand in comfort. ‘’Come, I’ll help you then.’’ She settled, as she pushed the door open and led the child off.

Silence settled for a few beats, before Ivar huffed softly. ‘’Too much trouble.’’ He grumbled under his breath.

‘’It’s not that bad.’’ Seven laughed, to which he received another murderous glare from the older elf.

‘’Try telling that to my guards.’’ He grumbled in annoyance, as he shook his head. ‘’We got trouble with one of the kids, who keep stealing weapons from the armory, claiming that they are all his. Like seriously, this kid comes in, grabs a claymore and loudly exclaims ‘mine’!’’ Ivar shook his head again, a bit more roughly, as he raked a hand down his face. ‘’It’s a living nightmare I tell ya, I used more than  fifteen minutes trying to explain this kid, why he could not keep such a large weapon – let alone the fact that the rascal could not even lift it, and so he ended up just sitting on it like some tiny, yellow, possessive magpie. It took me an hour to get him to move. A bloody fuckin hour!’’ The older elf scoffed, as his shoulders rose from his clearly angered state.

Throughout the entire retelling, Seven tried and failed not to laugh – a hand shielding his grinning mouth, as the treacherous chuckles escaped him regardless.

‘’It’s not funny.’’ Ivar grumbled angrily, to which Seven just laughed harder. The younger elf managed to calm down a bit under the heavy scowl the other threw him, until a delighted snort escaped him, causing him to once more start laughing. ‘’Whatever.’’ Ivar clipped dryly. ‘’I gotta get going.’’ He gruffed out in annoyance – the small, delighted chuckles still vibrating though the room, as Seven failed hard to calm down.

The older elf seemed deep in thought for a second – an old expression settling into his tense features, causing Seven to quickly sobering up. Ivar did not look like that, unless it was truly serious and personal. ‘’Did Tyr mention anything about Laure?’’ The older asked in a low, soft voice, to which Seven shook his head.

‘’No clue who that is.’’ He said genuinely, to which Ivar nodded, still seeming distant.

A thick, uncomfortable silence fell over the room for a beat, before Ivar let out a small sigh – the elder suddenly seeming tired beyond his years. ‘’Whatever happens.’’ He started, as he slowly stalked over and loomed down over the gulping, quickly paling Seven. The wood groaned in protest, as Ivar placed a booted foot against the edge of the bed and leaned down further. ‘’You don’t mention any of this to Íþróttaálfurinn, you got that?’’

‘’He already knows.’’ Seven quickly retorted on a slightly rushed tone, as he pressed himself flat against the wall.

‘’Perhaps.’’ Ivar agreed, as he tilted his head slightly. ‘’But that’s through indirect whispers. If he is told directly about this, he has to act; so for once, you gonna keep your fuckin mouth shut, you got that?’’ Ivar growled threateningly, as he got closer still to the others face.

Seven nodded jerkily, as he awkwardly tapped the others cheek twice. ‘’Got it, no words about the old, mysterious duffus, amazing, no clue what you even jabbering on about, nope - But you know, if you stop being so fuckin loose-lipped yourself, it would spare you a lot of trouble, believe me, you are talking to quite the expert on that.’’ He promised, as he flicked the others forehead hard. Ivars stern glare fell, as a small grin set in despite his best efforts to keep a straight face.

‘’Take care you fool.’’ Ivar said, as he shook his head, waved over his shoulder, and stalked over to the door.

‘’You too.’’ Seven quickly called after him, a deep, tired sigh escaping him, as the door closed with a soft click and he was finally left in blessed peace.

The young elf took a deep breath, before raking his cold hands down over his face and sighing into them.

‘’How is this my life?’’ He mumbled again, as he shut his eye and pinched the bridge of his nose hard. The healer had told him not to put any pressure on his right, injured ankle for at least a month – If he got proper rest, perhaps it would be shorter, but nothing had been promised.

The empty bowl made a hollow clank, as the elf jerked out a hand in annoyance and knocked it over – eye following its circling form, as it rolled over the floor, before it knocked against the wall opposite and finally settled.

--

 

- The old court –

 

Sportacus jerked awake with a choked, broken gasp, as he grabbed at his pained arm and not so elegantly fell out of the large bed.

Vaguely, the elf registered the faint golden glow still emanating from said arm, causing him to stare at it in a hazy confusion, as he gently rocked back and forth. Hot, wet tears spilled, the sensation scolding hot, as they fell on his arm, yet the small wet pin points seemed to immediately numb the areas in which they covered.

From above and still on the bed, a soft, annoyed groan was heard, as Robbie woke as well. The fae groggily rubbed at his dry eyes, as he sat up fully and glared down at the shaky elf.

A small whimper escaped the elf in question, as he bit at his split lip, got up and stumbled over to the tub, where he swiftly kneeled down and plunged his burning arm under the surface of the water. Relieved, it seemed to neutralize and whisk away some of the intense burning, yet the uncomfortable cold still lingered. Robbie huffed, as he managed to push himself off the bed and quickly stalk over to the whimpering other. ‘’Hold your breath.’’ He yawned in warning, as he placed a foot between the elfs tense shoulder blades and nonchalantly pushed the yelping other in.

The water roared in Sportacus’ ears, as he fell face first into the warm water – his lungs quickly protesting the change in element, just as an intense pain exploded from his broken nose. His hands settled against the bottom of the large tub, as he reached it, from which he quickly pushed off and shoved himself back upwards towards, where there was still oxygen to be breathed.

The elf coughed wetly, as he once again broke the surface of the water, his cold arms jerking out and settling over the side of the tub. His arm had mercifully stopped its brutal burning, yet other bruised parts of his body rudely decided to make their presence known. ‘’What was that for?’’ He spat a tad betrayed, as he continued to cry softly.

Robbie casually shrugged, a hand settling against the side of his face, as he sat down and blinked at the other. ‘’Water neutralizes.’’ He said simply, as he reached down and grabbed one of the elfs hands.

Sportacus let out a relieved sigh, as his pain immediately faded. ‘’But all of me?’’ He softly yapped in slight annoyance, as he set to wrestle his soaked clothes off with one hand.

The fae grinned darkly, as he reached down his elf-free hand and helped the other get his shirt off. ‘’You seriously needed a shower.’’ He chuckled low, to which the elf glared up at him, before flicking water at the others grinning face.

Robbies mirthful expression immediately fell, as he gazed down at him – a few warm drops dripping from his hair and back into the tub below. Sportacus felt himself gulp, as the faes face continued to stay carefully neutral. ‘’I didn’t mean to…’’ The elf tried softly, before trailing off, clearly nervous if he had overstepped.

Robbie softly shook his head, as he squeezed the others hand again – their grip separating for a few moments, so that the elf could completely remove his clinging shirt. ‘’Is there anything you want to ask me?’’ The fae urged gently, a single brow lifting, before he grabbed the others hand again.

Sportacus blinked, head tilting, as he blinked up at the other. ‘’There is a lot of things yes, but you seem to be looking for something specific?’’ He pressed, clearly uncomfortable under the intense gaze he received.

The fae shrugged nonchalantly, before grabbing a small bucket of what the elf presumed was soap. ‘’No matter.’’ He said on a disappointed huff, before scooping a generous amount of what was indeed soap out of the bucket. ‘’May I?’’ He asked, as he gestured towards the elfs soggy head, to which he got an affirmative yet confused nod in return.

Silence fell for a minute or two, as the fae set to vigorously scrubbing the previously dried snow and filth out of the others long curls.

‘’Who was that?’’ Sportacus finally asked on a contend breath, as he vaguely gestured towards the door.

‘’Deus.’’ Robbie mumbled, receiving a soft ‘ah’ of understanding, followed by a breathy, choked gasp, as the fae accidentally scratched at the others pointed ear a tad too roughly.

’Sensitive.’’ The elf complained softly, to which Robbie hummed nonplussed and continued his cleaning assault.

-

 

‘’I don’t suppose you have another dry set to spare?’’ Sportacus asked softly once Robbie was satisfied with his thorough tending.

The fae tiredly mumbled something too low for the other to hear, as he got up and stalked off through the other door at the end of the room. Sportacus pushed himself up and out of the tub as well, quickly grabbing a soft, purple towel – the elf could have sworn it was not there, when he had been shoved into the tub - and swiftly got his hair and upper body dry, before bending down to wrestle the soaked pants off.

He had just managed a small victory over the cold, clingy pants, when a wide-eyed Robbie Rotten returned – the fae stopping dead in his tracks, seemingly completely frozen, as he stared at the elfs torso. ‘’Uhm.’’ He started very eloquently, as he vaguely gestured at the elfs chest. ‘’You uh… Your-’’ He tried, awkwardly clearing his throat, as he tightened the grip on the fresh clothes in his hands.

The elf felt his brow furrow, as he straightened up and blinked back. ‘’What?’’ He asked in acute confusion, to which Robbie vaguely poked a tense finger against his own chest and lower stomach.

The elf glanced down. Immediately, an uncomfortable shiver ran down his spine, as he stared at his pale, damp skin, which was quite possibly covered in claw marks.

Robbie hesitantly stalked over, his hand hovering an inch or so away from the others flesh, seemingly unsure if he should touch or not. The fae awkwardly cleared his throat, as he huffed in frustration and kneeled down.

A low hiss escaped the elfs grit teeth, as five hot fingertips pressed against his bruised skin - Glowing fingers carefully raking over and tracing the angry, red lines, as the fae set to examine them closely. ‘’Do you know when this happened?’’ He asked on a baffled tone, to which the elf shook his head slightly.

‘’Must be at least a few days old.’’ He mused.

Robbie shook his head, as his brow furrowed further. ‘’This one is fresh.’’ He mumbled, as he traced a particular sore, red welt running over the elfs ribcage. The fae seemed thoughtful, as he glanced up - a deep, slow sigh escaping him, before he pushed himself up from the floor and gently placed a hand under the others chin.

A soft ‘tsk’ sounded, as he tilted the elfs head back slightly – his glowing fingers softly raking over the bruises he found there as well. ‘’He really did a number on you huh?’’ He grumbled low.

Sportacus rapidly blinked up at the ceiling, suddenly nervous for some reason that he could not seem to justify. ‘’What?’’ He asked, the angle awkward, as he glanced down and tried to hold the others gaze. Robbie shook his head, as he vaguely gestured towards the mirror, before letting go of the other.

The elf felt a shock of stark fear run through him, as he stared at the ring of dark, angry bruises around his throat. ‘’This is from Deus, right?’’ He asked, as he hesitantly traced it, causing the fae to blink and tilt his head.

‘’I believe so?’’ Robbie asked a tad unsure. ‘’Unless you hit your throat, as you fell out of the bed, or some other idiotic act like that?’’

Sportacus felt himself slowly nod, as he gently traced the angry welts spanning over his ribs. It felt strange – painful, yet the sensation was much closer to that of haven been out in freezing temperatures for too long and the flesh suddenly exposed to an intense heat, than that of a scratch.

This felt like something else entirely. Off, in a way he could not truly explain.

He willed himself to shake his head roughly and snap out of it, once he realized he had been staring at his own reflection for what must have been at least a couple of minutes. ‘’Why does Deus need an elf?’’ He finally asked.

‘’Dunno.’’ Robbie carefully replied, seemingly lost in thought, as he stared at the tense other.

‘’You know.’’ Sportacus started a bit unsure. ‘’If I can actually help in any way-‘’ He tried softly, before the other abruptly cut him off.

’Nope, not on those kind of terms you won’t.’’ The fae clipped angrily. ‘’Not after what just happened out there, I don’t care if Deus promised to see this through or not, that was too bloody far.’’ He yapped on, as he jerked his head slightly in the direction of the door, to which the elf casually shrugged.

‘’Then go with me. It worked out pretty well last time did it not?’’ The elf pressed.

Robbie loudly rolled his eyes, as he huffed softly. ‘’You cannot always relay on me busting you out, when the situation gets sour.’’ He scolded, as he stalked over and pressed the fresh set of clothes into the others slack hands.

‘’I know.’’ Sportacus laughed. ‘’But you understand my point?’’

‘’Yes, but still.’’ The fae grumbled, to which the elf chuckled low – said elfs eyes widening slightly in a worried gesture, as Sportacus tilted his head and continued to stare. ‘’What?’’ Robbie spat, clearly annoyed.

‘’You are bleeding.’’ He said, voice thick with concern, as he gestured at the others face.

Robbie made a face of disgust, as he wiped at his nose and proceeded to stare at the red lines now smeared over his hand. The fae shrugged jerkily and glared hard at the wall beside him instead.

A tense silence settled for a beat, before the elf gingerly grabbed the scowling others hand, cold fingers quickly setting to cleaning the angry red of the faes hand with the slightly soggy towel, before said fae could complain too loudly. ‘’Think you could let me out?’’ Sportacus asked when the silence stretched into something uncomfortable.

’No.’’ Robbie grumbled, as he snatched the towel out of the others grip and stalked off with it.

‘’My bandages are soggy.’’ Sportacus tried softly, surprised at how hoarse he suddenly sounded, as he wriggled his toes for emphasis. ‘’I need to change them.’’

Robbie gave a deep, tired yawn in reply, as he threw the towel over the back of a chair. ‘’You need to let the skin breathe.’’ He finally said, as he waved him off. ‘’Besides, you don’t need them at this point.’’

‘’There is a light infection.’’

Robbie groaned into his hands, before settling into a deep, exaggerated sigh. ‘’Is he gone?’’ He clipped, as he gestured towards the door. ‘’Do you have some sort of elven danger detector, which could be useful right now?’’ He spat, as he turned and stalked over to the golden door.

The elf gave a small shrug, as a delighted grin spread across his face. ‘’I dunno.’’ He started, as the fae held a glowing palm against the golden surface of the door. ‘’But no, we have no such exact thing, my crystal does not work like that.’’ He laughed, just as a loud click sounded from the now unlocked door.  ‘’I can take it from here.’’ Sportacus said softly, to which Robbie roughly shook his head.

‘’We are not splitting up.’’ He grumbled, as he grabbed the others hand and started tugging him along down the corridor.

-

 

‘’Why was your magic so depleted?’’ Sportacus asked, as they made their way back - A few foxes racing ahead and jumping through the still open golden door.

‘’I could not use magic in here?’’ Robbie replied, as he narrowed his eyes a tad confused.

‘’But you have.’’ The elf remarked, brow furrowing, as he shifted his hold on the med supplies a bit. ‘’You just did.’’

’You forget that fast huh.’’ Robbie breathed lowly, more to himself than the elf. The fae took a deep breath, before elaborating. ‘’I could not regenerate.’’ He said softly, willing himself to be patient with the others brief amnesia and repeated questions. ‘’Calm down, we fixed it already, the wards stopped- stopped as in past happenings, calm down you blasted elf, don’t look at me like that, I am not dying, I SAID CALM DOWN, I AM FINE.’’  Robbie harshly yapped, as the elfs eyes stayed widened in fright for the others slowly regenerating health. ‘’They kept me from healing, kept, again, past happening, so I have a lot to catch up on.’’ He grumbled on.

The two fell silent for a beat, as Sportacus tried to reassemble his shattered thoughts. ‘’But why?’’ He finally asked, as the golden door closed behind them – The wood glowing, before relocking.

‘’The wards are poisonous.’’

‘’I am not sure I understand how?’’ The elf finally admitted.

Robbie stopped dead in his tracks, as he groaned loudly into his hands, before he sat himself down on the edge of the large bed. ‘’The wards.’’ He elaborated on a slightly aggressive scoff, as he promptly buried himself back under the heavy blanket. ‘’Elven wards are poisonous to faes Sporty, we already talked about this.’’

‘’I do not remember.’’

‘’I sure noticed.’’ The fae grumbled, as he rolled his eyes. ‘’Again, we fixed it, so quit worrying. I just need time to heal.’’ He mumbled on a dry voice, as he shifted himself down further into the bed to get more comfortable. ‘’It’s fine.’’ He groaned when the other continued to shuffle nervously in front of the bed.

‘’Is there anything I can do?’’ The elf pressed on regardless, to which Robbie hummed low, before answering.

’Stop talking.’’ He spat, somehow managing to make it sound gentle.

Sportacus worried at his split lip, before glancing over at the firmly locked door. He let out a deep, frustrated breath, as he promptly dropped down and started doing pushups.

’Gods you are insufferably.’’ Robbie scoffed dramatically from his place on the bed, to which the blasted elf had the audacity to chuckle.

Robbie shut his eyes tight and willed himself to ignore his surroundings for at least a couple of minutes. In truth, the healing, which the elf could indeed provide, would normally be more than welcome, but considering he had had to expel what had felt like at least a good thousand leftover shade-remains from his own body, stemming from the brief touches during their – in the elfs case – forced stay, in that disturbing place in-between? No thanks.

It did not seem as though the shade could truly travel from one host to another unless it was indeed in that space in-between, but given time, it might figure out the trick. Perhaps once the possession was ripe, which it would never be, Robbie solemnly vowed, as he listened to the others persistent counting of the dumb, energetic activity. So far, the corruption in the elf had not spread too far – the shades progress still kept at something, which could be considered momentarily reasonable.

Hopefully, he would be ready for the real deal once the next morning came along. In the meantime, considering the elf was obviously not safe when asleep, he just had to keep the idiotic other awake and preoccupied.

He could definitely do that; it would not be a problem, nope, not at all.

Not. At. All, I can definitely do this. The fae angrily thought, as he slid a tense hand under his pillow and clutched the dagger close. Whatever happened once it all went down, the fae now knew that the foolish other did indeed have a real fighting chance. Perhaps the elf himself was blessedly unaware of his own potential, but the sheer raw power of the channeling done once the elf had been confronted by the shade?

That had been downright terrifying.

Once this whole, blasted possession deal was over, and if the elf was willing - if he could somehow teach the elf, help him shape and channel his energy correctly, without tearing himself or the elf apart in the progress, they might just have a real chance at driving this thing back.

Perhaps not alone, but their neglected list still held a few names, which needed tending.

Chapter Text

‘’Quit fuzzing.’’ Nox loudly complained for the fifth time, as they raked the pink – originally it had been white - wet cloth down over Deus’ left, torn eye and cheek.

‘’Easy for you to say.’’ Deus grumbled back, as he did his best to stay still, despite the obvious pain caused by Noxs careful tending.

‘’Perhaps it is, perhaps indeed, but I would like to get this done - preferably before you catch an infection or bleed out on my kitchen floor.’’

‘’Or catch rabies.’’ Deus mumbled back lowly, a tad annoyed, as he for the sixth time hissed and flinched violently.

‘’You need fur for that.’’ Nox retorted in a dry voice, to which Deus scoffed.

‘’No you don’t.’’ The giant spat back, once more shifting on the small stool. ‘’Can you save it?’’ He asked, as he gestured to his left, currently blind eye. Nox was quiet for a while, as they raked a glowing finger over the still slightly bloody mess that was the mangled remains of the other faes eye.

‘’I am not sure.’’ They finally settled on a soft, slightly apologetic voice. ‘’Perhaps Vita can help you out, but I’m afraid I can’t fix this.’’ They said, face scrunching up in disgust, as they drew back their hand - a small chunk of the others dead eye still clinging to their finger. ‘’How is your hand? Is it still numb?’’ They asked, as they gestured at Deus’ right hand, which was missing three fingers.

‘’Completely frozen.’’ The giant mumbled back, clearly agitated about the whole ordeal.

Nox hummed, as they grabbed a fresh cloth and soaked it in disinfectant. They had just pressed it against the others left, torn cheek, when a disheveled Vita waltzed in through the door – Roughly slamming said door after her.

Deus raised what remained of his left eyebrow, as he gazed at Vitas hands, which were both currently dripping a small trail of crimson over the tiled, kitchen floor. ‘’Do I wanna know?’’ He asked on a small, surprised laugh, to which Vita glared back hard and shook her head in a dismissive manner.

‘’None of your concern, you don’t know the bloke anyway.’’ She rasped, as she made her way towards the sink. ‘’Or knew I suppose. Anyway, did you fall into a fuckin thorn bush or what?’’ She yapped out on a humorless chuckle, as she tried to turn the tab, fingers slipping once, before she finally managed the small feat. Once the water seemed the right temperature, she set to vigorously scrubbing the red off her hands.

’Haha, very funny.’’ Deus yapped darkly, as he threw her a glare, before swiftly turning his gaze out of the window located next to him, to instead stare out over the large undergrown city in which the two other faes lived in – The surrounding flowers and streetlamps peppering the landscape all shining a faint, soft, constant blue.

‘’I take it you fucked up as usual then?’’ Vita pressed on regardless of the others annoyed scowling, as she gazed over her shoulder and grinned mirthlessly at the others turned head.

‘’Rotty decided to switch teams in the middle of it, so yeah, it kinda did fuckin backfire.’’

‘’I can see that.’’ Vita remarked dryly, while grabbing a cloth to dry off her now clean hands. ‘’Why didn’t you use the spell I gave you?’’ She said, as she hung the damp cloth to dry on a rack beside her. ‘’You could’ve just knocked the elf the fuck out with it, instead of taking whatever beating that is?’’ She said, as she gestured at the deep bites, cuts and scratches peppering the giants hunched form. ‘’Or are you telling me Robert decided to flash his teeth and bite you for real?’’

‘’It didn’t work and no, Rotty technically didn’t do shit, that’s kinda the issue.’’ He grumbled, hissing loudly when Nox raked the disinfectant over a particularly sore spot. ‘’The elf got a shield ‘round him.’’ He rasped roughly, clearly pained. ‘’Fae in making I might add - fuckin thing just bounced right off.’’

Vita shrugged casually, as she opened a cupboard and retrieved a large mug and some tea for herself. ‘’Too bad.’’ She mumbled lowly, more to herself than the two other faes. ‘’Nox you want some chamomile for yo throat?’’

Nox let out a small ‘yep’, before putting down the now pink cloth and set to bandaging the giants left arm instead. ‘’Didn’t you say Robbie brought the elf to a party or something and it got a little wild?’’ Nox mused aloud on a soft voice. ‘’Would make sense if he gave the other a way to resist a pull like that then.’’ They quietly remarked.

‘’Well shit.’’ Vita softly agreed, as she filled a kettle, set it to warm, before resting her hip against the counter – a foot jerking out to lightly kick at the giant faes right shin, causing said giant to growl low in warning, as his injuries flared up. ‘’Should’ve probably asked first then.’’ She chuckled.

’Fuck no, not you as well.’’ Deus barked aggressively, causing Nox to immediately take a small step back in fright.

‘’Nah, I’m joking, chill yo tits.’’ Vita huffed, as she waved the other off. ‘’But that means your frequent part of the forest is still a no-go?’’ She asked, as she narrowed her eyes slightly at Deus, who roughly nodded in a nonverbal reply. ‘’Well shit, go grab another then, fuckin fix your shit.’’

‘’It’s not that simple, I don’t wanna get in trouble with the royals again.’’ Deus clipped coldly, as he absently scratched at the ragged scar running from the base of his right ear and midway down his torso. ‘’Fun times that was.’’ He grumbled on, as the old memory of how he got the particular scar came back, before he rolled his eyes and leaned slightly forward, so that Nox could get the bandages properly around his large torso as well. ‘’But whatever, gloat all you want, you gonna help me out or not?’’

Vita slowly exhaled, as she crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her head slightly at the other. ‘’It's gonna cost you.’’ She huffed low.

‘’How much?’’ Deus immediately asked.

‘’Keep grey out of my face for the next month.’’ Vita clipped coldly. ‘’Scratch that, make it two months, and yes I can change the terms when you haven’t agreed yet, shut the fuck up.’’

Deus sighed tiredly, before flicking his remaining fingers towards the ceiling. ‘’The fuck she do this time?’’ He grumbled.

‘’You in or not?’’ Vita asked instead; shoulders going tense and jaw clicking loudly, as she tilted her head further.

Deus shrugged nonchalantly, a choked growl escaping him, when Nox poured disinfectant directly over the torn flesh, where his right ear used to be. ‘’Fuck it, yeah I’m in.’’ He grit out, clearly pained.

’Deal.’’ Vita clipped dryly.

--

 

- At the main gate - The court -

 

Glanni raised the heavy bowl in greeting, as he neared the front gate. Luckily, both guards stationed at either side of it, both seemed exhausted and slightly distracted, and so they did not overly seem to care about the just as tired looking servant gingerly approaching.

The fae grit his teeth, lungs constricting slightly, as the strong wards of the court pressed around and against him, as he successfully passed by the two nonplussed guards and straight through the gate they guarded.

Just as with the situation back at the old court, safe passage were now granted, however, despite his near perfect disguise, he was not exactly considered a friend of neither court. Not yet at least, therefore the annoying binds once more settled closely around his magic, sensation resembling that of a pack of invading, aggressive snakes seeking to strangle and devour the last life out of it, clamping down and temporarily snuffing it out, as it registered something it did not like and seeked to get rid of.

Normally it would not be much of an issue, but already, he had spend far too much time within constricting wards for it to be comfortable.

Hopefully that would change once he found that bouncy, yellow elf and got a proper greeting.

Glanni scrunched up his nose and spat rudely at the ground, eyes narrowed and gazing around at the small courtyard spanning out around him, clearly unsure of where to go from here.

Already, he could feel the muscles of his back and shoulders tensing up, just as a powerful headache settled in and raked through his skull – A slight, faint ringing starting in his ears, as his legs and arms grew heavy, feeling as though a thick, stiff wax had replaced the blood in his veins.

A disheveled servant, who had just exited through a door to his immediate right, stopped dead in her tracks and halfheartedly returned his angry glare with a small frown of her own. ‘’Can I help you?’’ She asked, clearly not recognizing him, but feeling as though she should.

‘’Depends.’’ Glanni started on a casual shrug. ‘’Need to find the king.’’ The fae croaked out, voice hoarse and slightly raw. He harshly cleared his throat to rid it of the worst of it, just as she blinked back and shook her head.

‘’He’s in a meeting right now.’’ She tried a bit hesitantly, not yet too suspicious of the coughing other but clearly showing a bit of reluctant trepidation. ‘’Are you alright?’’ She asked softly, as she took a few steps in his general direction. Glanni immediately held up a dismissive hand, causing her to once more pause.

‘’Bit of a mean cough going on, so yeah I would rather not pass it on, just saying.’’ The fae warned, to which the other servant laughed humorlessly in reply.

‘’Sure, but getting the king sick is completely fine is it not?’’ She retorted. ‘’Anyway, what’s your name? I don’t believe we have met before.’’ She said, eyes narrowing, as she strode over and extended a hand regardless of the foul look the fae threw her.

‘’Dan.’’ Glanni rudely coughed into his hand, causing the other to, a tad disturbed, reluctantly retrieve her hand back.

’Right.’’ She drawled, as she pointed over her shoulder to the door she had just passed through. ‘’Regardless, you need to go through there and take the stairs up to the second flight. It’s not far from there, just go down through the corridor and take the door at the end - the office for those looking for work is down there.’’ She said dryly, a small, thin, fake smile blossoming on her face, as her eyes gave him a quick onceover.

Silence settled for a beat, before Glanni huffed. ‘’Dress for the job you want right?’’ The fae coughed back casually, as he threw her a bright, too wide grin in return.

‘’Sure, whatever.’’ She started, a more sincere expression settling into her features at the small declaration of – what she thought to be – immediate truth from the fae. ‘’Guards are on edge though, you might wanna tread carefully.’’ She laughed, shaking her head slightly, as she pushed past the tense other. ‘’By the way.’’ She called over her shoulder, as she made for another door at the opposite end of the courtyard. ‘’Spitting is considered a direct offense, so you might wanna cut that out if you don’t want to get kicked out.’’ She explained, just as the door slammed shut after her.

Glanni shrugged, as he made for the door he had been directed at – quickly discarding the bowl just outside the door in question, before he shut his eyes, breathed deep and reached in. The fae let out a small huff of indifference; a harsh shiver going through him, as he successfully managed a glamour, which would shield him from any prying eyes, before he once more spat harshly at the ground, went through the door and up the stairs, taking them three steps at a time.

-

 

By the time the guards at the great, ornamental double doors not saw - seeing as there was nothing to see - but rather felt the faes unnatural warmth emanating between them, it was already too late.

Glanni chuckled low, as he let the glamour slide off, pushed past the puzzled, suddenly alert, wide-eyed two and harshly kicked the doors open.

’Tadda!’’ He rasped a tad winded, throwing his hands in the air, as he posed dramatically and stared straight at a baffled Íþróttaálfurinn, the elf in question looking like he had seen a ghost, and finally around at the likewise glaring, scandalized high elves surrounding their confused king.

Immediately, the guards positioned on the inside of the doors grabbed the grinning fae and started hauling him backwards, back out of the war room – the two outside striding a bit forward, should their help be needed.

’Wait!’’ Íþróttaálfurinn called out, a hand raising to halt all four guards, before they could drag the fae further off.

Glanni felt his racing pulse settle a bit, as he felt the guards grip on his right arm go a little less tight. ‘’I know this man.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn quickly elaborated, as both guards, and the two who had managed to snap out of their previous stupor, stopped dead in their tracks and looked back in confusion.

‘’You know this fae?’’ The guard on Glannis right questioned a bit doubtfully.

‘’Did you not understand what I said?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn yapped, just as Glanni managed to jerk himself out of the left ones grip – the right immediately letting him go, when the king threw him a hard glare as well.

The fae jerkily straightened up again and roughly brushed his clothes off in an angry fashion, just as the big, misplaced smile blossomed back onto his face. He quickly took a few steps forward back into the room, acting as though nothing had hindered him at all. ‘’Good day to you as well.’’ He huffed delighted, earning him several scoffs and angry exclamations from the high elves situated around the table.

‘’Why are you here?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked sternly, a tad confused by the whole situation, as he lowered his head and possibly scowled at the nonplussed fae.

‘’To help.’’ Glanni said simply, as he gave a small, mock bow in Íþróttaálfurinns direction. ‘’You clearly fuckin need it.’’

‘’Throw him out - this is a waste of time.’’ One of the elves on Íþróttaálfurinns immediate left spat, as he scrunched up his nose and turned to throw a disgusted glare at the kind in question.

Íþróttaálfurinn looked conflicted, as he loudly ignored the high elfs protests. ‘’But the wards?’’ He asked Glanni instead, as he took in the faint tremors wrecking through the faes shoulders.

‘’Yeah that tickled a bit.’’ Glanni said with a casual shrug, before rudely laughing at the shocked expressions he received by that.

‘’He should not be-‘’ another elf started, before the king sharply cut them off.

‘’Leave us.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn said, both hands settling heavily against the table in front of him, as he kept his glare directed straight onto the still grinning fae – the delighted expression, which Glanni wore, quickly falling and instead being replaced by something quite confused and surprised.

The high elf who had spoken looked highly pleased, as they turned their attention towards the quickly paling Glanni - the elfs mouth opening to spit something clearly malicious. ‘’All of you.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn barked dryly, as he turned his glare in the entertained high elfs direction. ‘’Leave us. Now.’’

The high elf blinked at him, clearly perplexed, before their face settled into something cold and ugly; a few mumbled protests being raised aloud as the assembled elves, sans Glanni and the two guards still inside, started to slowly pile out.

Íþróttaálfurinn took a deep, tired breath, before directing his attention onto the two guards still standing at the door. ‘’You as well.’’ He ordered in a soft voice.

‘’My lord-‘’

The king lowered his head and somehow managed to glare harder. ‘’I will call for you if I need it.’’ He clipped dryly, getting a stern, curt nod in return from both guards, who quickly bowed and did as told.

After the doors had closed and the two were left in a strange, thick, blessed peace, Íþróttaálfurinn took another deep sigh, before glancing back up at Glanni, who was quite possibly beaming in delight at him.

Glanni raised a single brow at the others lethal expression - fae tilting his head and shrugging casually, as Íþróttaálfurinn continued to scowl angrily. ‘’This better be important.’’ The elf barked low, as he finally straightened up and crossed his tense arms over his chest.

‘’Honey, I always am.’’

’If you have come to joke-‘’

’Aight, right into it I see, no problem.’’ The fae yapped a tad aggressively, the mirthful expression falling, as he flicked his fingers towards the ceiling and took two wobbly steps forward. ‘’Glad to see you too, long time no see, yep amazing, missed you dearly as well.’’ He clipped, just as his left knee buckled under him, successfully sending him to the floor. The fae softly sighed in annoyance, as he shrugged off his backpack, retrieved his notebook and flipped through it – Long, heavy legs stretching out casually in front of him, as he decided to just embrace his current predicament and get comfortable, with where he was seated.

Íþróttaálfurinns angry scowl immediately fell, as he blinked twice and took in the others tired, but highly annoyed state and expression. The elf hesitantly strode around the table and forward, right hand coming up to hover unsure in front of him, as he cleared his throat and carefully approached the huffing other.

After all, they were not exactly friends.

Perhaps they could be considered reluctant allies, or just two people who made a great team, when the world came tumbling down around them, but despite the faes not so pleasant surprise visit still being highly appreciated - albeit the timing was quite poor - Íþróttaálfurinn could not exactly be certain of the others underlying motives. ‘’Is it the…?’’ He trailed off, as he closed the distance and kneeled down in front of the scowling other.

Glanni roughly jerked back, notebook clutched protectively against his chest, as if to shield both himself and it. ‘’Calm, I mean you no harm.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn softly assured, as he drew his hand a bit back again and gave the other space. The elf patiently waited until the scowling fae finally lowered the notebook, before he reached forward again – right hand settling heavily over the space, just above the others heart.

A small, gleeful noise of clear relief escaped the fae, as he felt his magic chase some of the lingering tension and drowsiness out of him. The glamour, albeit only shortly worn – not to mention the fact that he had passed through two separate, constricting wards - had been highly exhausting. ‘’Much better.’’ The fae darkly purred, as he flexed his tense neck and gingerly got up on his still shaky legs.

Íþróttaálfurinn let out a soft scoff, as he too stood up and blinked up at the grinning other.

The two fell silent for a beat, before the elfs face settled into something worried and confused. ‘’Wait, how did you get past the gates?’’ He asked, knowing the other could not have climbed the gate without severally injuring himself in the process.

Glanni shrugged casually, as he winked down at the other. ‘’Disguise.’’ He said vaguely, before he rudely pushed past the other and slammed his notebook against the table. ‘’Anyway, get the fuck over here, we got work to do.’’ He said, as he absently waved a beckoning hand at the other.

‘’What do you have?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked, as he strode over to stand beside the other, leaning slightly forward to peek down at the angry scribbles littering the pages below. As the elf had expected, the entire thing consisted of a heavy, personal code, which he doubted he would be able to crack, even if they got their best language and code specialist to look it over.

‘’Bit of this and that.’’ Glanni started, as he found the page he needed and started translating a few keywords for the other – a perfectly shaped, pink nail tapping twice against the large map still spread out on the table in front of them. ‘’I got a bunch of new info just yesterday – seems my boys are cracking down hard on a few truths, so that’s amazing.’’ He mumbled aloud. ‘’Think I’m actually getting closer to tracking the origins of the lines it can’t cross – the shadow that is, you know about those random line-thingies right? – But, we still missing a few pieces of the whole puzzle.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn nodded slightly. ‘’As in you are getting closer to understanding what has caused the lines to appear, or a general overview of their location?’’ The elf asked, as he quickly skimmed down over the translated lines.

 

Survivors going insane - Aggressive behavior showing right before. Symptoms described: Strength increased. Constant coldness. Loss of appetite. Hallucinations. Random disregard for others/Fits of anger growing worse. High arrogance and violence follows.

  • Two normies killed by survivors.
  • One survivor claimed to be a god, before being terminated.

Black snow a big no go.

  • Umbrella is enough for a shield – Snow seems to be getting slightly acidy over time though, so ‘nother defense needed soon.

Not-pattern pattern on the line-thingies – Constant, neutral force present/Don’t think they randomly placed.

  • Hella strong neutral force in place where two lines overlapped.
  • Lines are old, practically ancient – Not a new thing.

Íþróttaálfurinn sucks.

 

The elf let out a soft, surprised snort, as he read the last line. ‘’Both.’’ Glanni offhandedly answered to the elfs question, as he wrote a few more scrawls down into his own notebook.

‘’Who is this… These contacts of yours?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked softly, as he noticed what potentially could have been a name - the writing still too heavily coded for the elf to read.

Glanni ‘tsk’ed’, as he threw the elf a stern glare. ‘’None of your business.’’ The fae coldly clipped.

‘’I need to know.’’

‘’Not if you want any further of it.’’ Glanni yapped dryly, as he snapped the book shut. ‘’I’ve helped you before elf.’’ He said dryly, as he tapped a long finger against the notebook in his hands. ‘’I can do it again, but it’s on my terms or not at all.’’ He concluded.

Íþróttaálfurinn took a deep, grounding breath, before giving the other a soft, affirmative nod. Glanni silently regarded him for a few beats, before he opened the book again and placed it back on the table. ‘’So.’’ The fae started, as he grabbed a pen and tapped twice at a point on the map. ‘’There’s a line that runs from here.’’ He said, as he put the pen directly against the map and started to trace. ‘’To here.’’ He explained, as he carefully marked it down. ‘’It’s almost like a safe pathway - shade can’t cross, that much we are sure of, but it’s getting clever.’’ He mumbled.

‘’How so?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn softly pressed.

Glannis jaw clicked, as something truly ugly settled into his features. ‘’A small squad of mine followed what they thought to be a safe line. Spoiler, it wasn’t.’’ He said, expression morphing into something cold. ‘’Fuckin thing ambushed them, as soon as they lowered their guard. They thought it was safe, but nah, it wasn’t. Only one of the idiots lived.’’

‘’You believe that was done on purpose?’’ The elf asked softly.

‘’Of course.’’ The fae practically spat. ‘’It’s fucking with us big time and it’s been doing so all along, I fuckin hate it.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn flinched greatly, as the fae harshly slammed the still open notebook against the hard surface of the table. ‘’I keep thinking I fuckin figured out it’s tricks and then it outmaneuvers me, it’s fuckin tiring Íþrótt.’’ The fae spat, breathing hard through grit teeth, before he let out a low, defeated sigh, shoulders dropping, as he traced the harsh, angry line he had drawn on the map. ‘’Aight sorry I’m being over dramatic, I’m just… done with all this shit.’’ He mumbled a bit apologetic.

Íþróttaálfurinn gave a small nod, as his hand came up to awkwardly pet at the others tense shoulder. ‘’Don’t touch me.’’ Glanni grumbled low, a tad aggressively, yet there was no real threat in his voice.

The elf immediately let his hand drop.

’Anyway.’’ Glanni continued. ‘’Whatever these lines are, they emanate from the ground itself. We tried to bomb the shit out of it, but it still stays as a constant vibration in the air. We don’t have enough information to draw out an actual, complete map yet, but it’s getting closer.’’ He said, as he traced a few more lines down onto the map. ‘’Just… don’t expect this to be a fail proof thing.’’

A tense, yet not uncomfortable silence settled between the two, before Íþróttaálfurinn spoke up again. ‘’How are you holding up in all of this?’’ He gently asked, as he crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the side of the table.

Glanni inhaled sharply before answering. ‘’Somewhat reasonable all things considered.’’ He said, as he raked a hand through his hair. ‘’And you?’’ He asked, a single brow rising at the sudden, sour expression settling into the elfs features.

‘’I do not know how I am going to do this.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn admitted on a soft voice. ‘’I feel we are wasting precious time on just… talking, but regardless, it is necessary, I know that.’’ He huffed, as he shook his head gently. ‘’However, the high elves are... tough to handle – the whole lot more keen on talking and keeping themselves and their immediate kin desperately safe, than taking much needed action.’’ Glanni flashed a dark, playful grin at him, as he wiggled his brows and pointed a thump at himself, to which the elf immediately sent him a cold, dismissive, dry look. ‘’No.’’

‘’Oh come on Íþrótt, you know I can do this perfectly, practically in my sleep so to speak.’’

‘’By what, poisoning all of them so they cease their persistent complaining?’’

‘’That was one time.’’

‘’One time too many.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn retorted on a dry tone.

’Whatever.’’ Glanni grumbled, clearly annoyed. ‘’Fact is, you need someone like me to handle these sort of annoying affairs.’’

‘’I disagree.’’

Glanni grit his teeth, eye twitching, as he huffed and glared daggers at the other. ‘’Anyway.’’ He yapped coldly. ‘’Regardless if you willing to get of your high horse yet or nah, I take it I get my own room until you come to your senses and take that fuckin action you speak off, right?’’

‘’You cannot stay.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn softly urged.

Glanni immediately puffed up his chest, looking much like a scorned, angry peacock. ‘’I am not leaving.’’ He angrily snapped, as he slammed his notebook shut and shoved himself away from the table. ‘’Do you have contacts practically all over the world currently workin’ on figuring this shit out – and no I ain’t here to fuck spiders elf, I’ll be dead before I start dropping names, so shut up.’’ He aggressively yapped, as he started pacing back and forth. ‘’You have no idea how fuckin far I traveled just to get here, you can’t just throw me out this soon - and yes, you fuckin need me around even if you don’t realize it, don’t fuckin look at me like that, you lot are fucked without me and you know it.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn took a deep, grounding breath, once more crossing his arms over his chest, as he sighed and set to absently watch the others angry passing around the room. The elf shook his head roughly, realizing he had been spacing out for a few beats; quite possibly missing out on some important part of the others angry complaints.

‘’-Not to mention my fuckin calf keeps bugging the shit out of me, like I need to rest, like actually rest in a quiet place, preferably with no godsdamned love problems - gods am I fuckin tired of listening to my idiot cousin complain about his small, fixable problems - not to mention all the shit Boris keeps giving me over… Nah fuck, you don’t need to know that part, like-‘’ Glanni cut himself off, as Íþróttaálfurinn let out a deep, drawn-out sigh - the fae angrily blinking over and down at the nonplussed other.

‘’Let me look at it.’’ The elf gently urged, as he held out a hand and bend his fingers in a beckoning manner.

Glanni stared at him for a beat, clearly confused. ‘’Look at what?’’ He spat, a tad irritated.

‘’Your calf.’’ The elf elaborated, as he held out both of his hands towards the huffing other.

‘’How the fuck am I… Supposed to do that, do you want me to fuckin detach my leg or wha’?’’ The fae clipped coldly, as he scrunched up his nose and made a face. ‘’Besides, why the fuck do you wanna look at it - it’s long and fleshy, there you have it, amazing, it’s a calf, hallelujah!’’ He grumbled on, as he spun and wiggled the calf in question.

‘’Come here.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn chuckled low, a small, hesitant smile blossoming on his face, as the fae scowled hard, but nevertheless approached. ‘’Turn around fully and grip the table for support.’’ The elf urged gently, as he gestured at the table beside him.

Íþróttaálfurinn lowered his head and threw the other a small, confident nod, as the fae continued to stare, still clearly mistrusting the others motives.

Glanni - after what seemed to be a small eternity - grumbled low, but finally did as told.

A small yelp escaped the fae, as Íþróttaálfurinn reached down a hand and lifted the others leg up high. ‘’What?’’ Glanni rasped roughly, both hands scrambling frantically against the wooden surface in front of him to get a proper grip. Íþróttaálfurinn ignored the faes confused exclamation, as he pushed the black leather up high to reveal the poorly healed wound, which was clearly caused by a stray bullet, before the elf placed his glowing palm over the affected area and closed his eyes. ‘’The fuck are you doin’?’’ Glanni gasped, as a strange warmth traveled through the back of his lower leg and upper thigh.

‘’Healing you.’’

Glanni grit his teeth tight, doing his best to breathe and keep calm, as he lowered his head and shut his eyes as well – knuckles going white, as his fingers tightened hard around the edge of the table.

The elf blinked, as his glowing fingers gently raked down the now fully healed flesh in front of him, before he nodded once and carefully lowered the others leg again.

Glanni quickly spun and hugged himself close, before taking a small, unsure step backwards and out of the others immediate grabbing reach - fae confused, but still slightly relieved at the pleasant, pain free tingles still running through his lower leg. He could not even feel his blistered heel anymore. ‘’Uhm.’’ He mumbled eloquently, as he glared hard at the others boots. ‘’Thanks. Now what the fuck do you want in return?’’

Íþróttaálfurinn threw the other a soft smile, before shaking his head slightly. ‘’Come here.’’ He beckoned, as he extended his hand again – Fae still seeming highly skeptical, but eventually, he shrugged and did as told.

’Wow no, what the fuck Íþrótt.’’ Glanni spat, as he jerked back and out of the grip, the other had tried to get on him. ‘’I don’t care, don’t you fuckin dare-‘’

‘’Just trust me.’’ The elf gently urged, both hands quickly coming up in retaliation. Glanni narrowed his eyes and glared at the other, as he crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot hard against the ground. ‘’It is not what you think.’’ The elf softly promised, as he slowly reached both hands out again and patiently waited.

‘’You do anything funny and I’ll stab you, you got that?’’ Glanni mumbled low, to which the elf solemnly nodded. Íþróttaálfurinn waited for the other to step forward again, before placing both of his warm, glowing palms against the faes left hip. ‘’What the fu-‘’ Glanni started and was about to jerk back out of the others grip again, when the elf tightened his hold.

‘’You were stabbed.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn deadpanned, as he parted his palms slightly to cover the hurting area better. ‘’It has been weeks, but you had to sew it up yourself, is that not correct?’’

The faes jaw clicked, as he huffed and scowled down at the glowing hands on his hip. ‘’I didn’t ask for your help.’’ He mumbled tiredly. ‘’Seriously, what are you doin’?’’ He asked again, when the other continued his careful tending - warm palms moving to Glannis left shoulder, as the elfs energy alerted him of another semi-fresh injury. ‘’Íþrótt you don’t have to do this, I am fine.’’ The fae tried softly on a barely audible voice, brows furrowing, as he tried to figure the other out.

The elf shrugged casually, as he threw a small, sweet smile up at the other. ‘’You already disturbed my schedule and quite possibly caused a scandal. I might as well.’’

Glanni blinked, before his expression fell and instead settled into something annoyed and disappointed. ‘’Right.’’ He drawled - eyes once more lowering to the others boots.

An uncomfortable silence settled, before the elf moved his glowing palms to the faes left wrist and set to work there - Glanni hissed and immediately snatched his hand back and out of the elfs hold. ‘’Aight, that’s enough grabbling elf, get off.’’

‘’But it is hurting you?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked a tad confused, palms still reaching, upturned, warm and ready.

The fae scoffed harshly as he moved further back – flinching hard, when his lower back knocked against the side of a chair, which was send tumbling to the floor. Glanni took a deep, raspy breath, as he shook his head, straightened up and glared coldly at the puzzled other. ‘’Just tell me what you want in return.’’ He clipped.

‘’I don’t want anything.’’

‘’And why the fuck not?’’ The fae spat dryly, as he hunched slightly in on himself – eyes narrowing and straying to the closed doors behind him. ‘’Seriously, what the fuck is this? Is this because of that gnome thing? Because I still don’t want anything for it - I didn’t do it for you, so just fuck off and tell me what you want.’’ He spat, lips thinning into a displeased frown, as he crossed his arms over his chest and took a small step back.

‘’You owe me nothing.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn settled on a soft sigh, as he turned his attention back to the large map. ‘’But if you have time to explain the details on the lines and what you have gathered about the black snow a bit further, then I would be much obliged.’’

Glannis brow furrowed, as he turned his head a bit away from the other, but still kept his eyes straight onto the elfs bend back, as though he expected the whole thing to be some cruel trick – Fae awkwardly shuffling a bit back and forth, as he nervously waited for the other shoe to drop.

When nothing of the sort happened, the fae drew a sharp inhale and jerkily moved over to stand by the elfs side. ‘’Aight.’’ He mumbled low, keeping his distance, as he picked up a pen and gestured to a point on the map. ‘’So here’s the thing.’’

Chapter Text

Sportacus felt unsure of what to do - A deep uncomfortable, restless, caged sensation heavy in his bones, which he had been unable to shake, since his rather violent awakening followed by the involuntary, refreshing shower.

Somehow, for some reason, he felt as if he should not be in here, yet he was starting to forget why that mattered so much. After all, it was just a location right? The place was nice and everything in here shined in a beautiful golden hue, besides, it was not as if there were any other living creatures inside the old court with them, except for the crystal foxes – two of which were currently scratching rather viciously at the golden door, clearly trying to get out as well.

The elf stopped dead in his tracks and breathed deep into his hands – quickly jerking his head back, when he accidentally disturbed his nose. He took a few, deep, calming breaths, willing his shoulders to stop shaking, as he listened to the soft, echoing yaps of the currently not trapped crystal foxes, as they merrily raced around in the halls outside. He truly needed something to do, other than just sit around and wait for whatever it was they were waiting for.

The elf let his eyes trail over to the large bed, on which Robbie, one hand tugged safely under his pillow, had fallen back asleep – the faes face slack and peaceful in his slumber, yet a deep, stubborn crease still remained in between his brows.

Sportacus realized he was staring, but could not bring himself to overly care, as he took in the others carefree, calm, still expression. Considering how dire their time apparently was, it seemed a bit rude of the other to just sleep the day away like this, but Robbie truly needed it, right? Otherwise he would not be wasting time like this, leaving the elf and the few unfortunate foxes desperate and trapped in the process.

Yes, that have to be it. The elf thought, feeling the way his fingers went tense, before the cool digits suddenly twitched. If that is not the case though. If Robbie truly is just sleeping because of his old, disgusting habits, then… The elfs eyes narrowed and traveled down onto the others exposed throat and neck. He yearned to curl his fingers, nails sharp, pointed and ready. Gods, he wanted to plunge them into the others throat, rip the flesh and tug out the strong veins hidden just under the sk-

Sportacus took several large steps backwards – Breath suddenly stuck in his throat, as an intense pain wrecked through his abdomen. What is this? He thought a tad disturbed, as he stared wide-eyed down at his still twitching hands. Hesitantly, he willed himself to look back over at the fae, the elf shaking his head roughly, as the small voice in the back of his head continued to whisper its dark, violent impulses. ‘’Are these my thoughts, or are they yours?’’ Sportacus asked aloud to no one in particular – A strange, empty coldness, followed by an unwelcome numbness rising and raking through him, just as some of that damned mud flooded back in and clouded his mind.

With a small, frustrated huff, the elf lowered his cold hands and instead turned to approach the locked door. Damn it all, he needed to get out of here, before he did something he would deeply regret.

One of the foxes turned its head and looked up, as it noticed his presence – A soft, startled yip escaping it, as it tilted its head and sniffed at him, in what he could only assume was nervous confusion. Its entire body lit up in warning, before it sneered, raised its hackles and sprinted past him to hide under the bed – Its bright glow lighting up and shining out from its place under the bed.

Dumbfounded, the elf felt himself stare at the small, aggressive lightshow taking place, just as its brethren got the memo and swiftly followed along – the small creature jumping up into the bed to dutifully stand guard in front of the still sleeping Robbie.

‘’Right.’’ Sportacus breathed, hoping to not appear as a threat, as he put up both hands in retaliation. ‘’Whatever you are sensing-‘’ He started, quickly taking a large step backwards, when both foxes hissed and practically spat at him. ‘’Right.’’ The elf repeated softly, as he continued to slowly inch backwards towards the door, placing one of his trembling palms against the golden surface, as his back collided hard with it.

His hand felt strangely tingly, as he turned a bit and reached in, examining the flow of purple energy closely. The wood practically thrummed with the familiar magic the sleeping other harbored. Surprisingly – considering the elfs hold on magic was not the strongest – it did not take him long to figure out the small intricate pattern and shape, which he felt almost lovingly respond and tenderly press against his palm.

It should not be too hard a feat; all he had to do was reverse what he felt.

Sportacus took a deep breath, pressed in further and kindly asked the flow itself to corporate and heed his intend. Within seconds, a soft click sounded and hesitantly, he pressed the door open and proceeded to stare into the dark corridor ahead.

‘’Right then.’’ He mumbled aloud to himself, trying to gather the remains of his depleted courage and set out to hopefully locate the core of the court. There, he would be able to breathe life back into the old veins of the flora system running through the entire mountain, and through that, they could finally get some light.

He had managed about three steps into the suffocating dark, when one of the spooked foxes abandoned its post, raced past him and sprinted up ahead, quickly disappearing out of view as it rounded a corner, causing the elf to flinch and curse slightly.

This should not be this hard, I am not afraid of the dark, I have never been afraid of it. He thought a tad embarrassed, as he took a deep breath, clenched his fists and made a point out of it, as he quickly started out into the dark beyond.

It felt a bit unfounded, but still, he could not shake the feeling that something terrible was indeed about to happen.

-

Sportacus stared at the giant rocks, lamps, closets and other pieces of what used to be furniture, which blocked his access out of the safer territories and into the second ring. With a soft huff, he closed the distance and set to work on clearing it, knowing there was indeed no other way around - Not unless he completely went out and took it through the back gate, but that was not going to happen. Besides, the other hallway leading into the inner rings, might look exactly like the one he was currently in, so he might as well just pick and clear this one out.

Surely, the feat would take hours, but it would be worth it.

-

Several hours did indeed pass like that, before finally, there seemed to be a big enough opening for him to squeeze through and continue his search.

Unlike the outer and less important ring, which Robbie and he had stayed in, the second ring was far more intricate in its carved walls, polished floors and ceilings. Here, even though the carvings were old and faded - but still as beautiful as ever - the place gave off an air of authority and indeed, this was not a place for commoners to just casually tread through. Íþróttaálfurinn and he had been so young when they first visited together, barely past their teens, full of hormones, glee and restless energy, which – no matter how hard they had tried – the guard could not contain.

His brother and he – again, much to the guards chagrin - would play tag in the halls, keeping the entirety of the old court as their playground. The game was simple, none of the brothers truly tried to catch each other, it was the guards that was ‘it’.

Sportacus felt himself grin stupidly, as he recalled a specific, very intense chase, which had involved at least three offended high elves, a cat and a mischievous maid. That day, he had had a particular fast guard hot on his heels, as he had attempted to use one of the high elves shoulders as a spring board. Sadly, he had misjudged the distance and so he had face planted the ground rather brutally, thus allowing the guard to catch up and drag him away.

Above, on the ledge he had tried to reach, his brother had stayed hidden, giggling like the amazing big brother that he was. Granted, Íþróttaálfurinn had known his injury and general situation was nothing too serious - the crystal, which had been passed on to Sportacus after Íþróttaálfurinn had become king, would have immediately alerted him of such and surely he would have helped out.

Maybe. There was indeed a few times where he had not.

Absently, Sportacus reached up a hand to touch the crystals casing, frowning hard in confusion when his cold hand met nothing but the soft, dark purple cotton of the nightshirt, which the fae had borrowed him.

The elf stopped dead in his tracks, the realization that he had left it behind in the king’s quarters hitting him with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. ‘’Wait.’’ He breathed aloud. ‘’Wait, I am sleeping in a kings bed?’’ He mumbled on, horrified, knowing it was indeed true. The elf raked a hand through his hair, tugging slightly on the longs strands, as he stared dumbfounded at nothing in particular. ‘’How did I forget?’’

His voice seemed to vibrate in the tense air around him, before the softly spoken words disintegrated, the walls swallowing them up and storing them away. Sportacus glanced at the dark ceiling, frowning slightly, as he noticed the subtle, strange, ancient static in the air.

No doubt, the mountain was keeping a close eye on him the question was why. The elf sighed hard, as he placed a hand against the wall closets to him, shut his eyes and leaned his forehead against it. ‘’How did I forget?’’ He repeated on a whisper.

Of course, the mountain remained silent, not keen on spilling her knowledge and carefully kept secrets.

Still, so many memories were trapped in this old place - both good and bad ones cramped into the creases, walls and rocks. It was rare that the mountain ever delivered any of the stories, fables and memories back, which had been lost due to neglect or the simple passing of time. However, old rumors still to this day spoke of disembodied voices, laughter and hushed conversations indeed from times past, carried out repeatedly - screamed out or softly echoed, as though a scratch had appeared in the old recordings of time and allowed them to bleed through.

Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

Sportacus took a deep breath, brushed his long bangs out of his eyes and continued into what his younger self had considered to be a large, round lobby of sorts. Here, he could take one of the two curving staircases down and approach five different doors below. The door in the middle - surrounded by the four completely identically ones - led directly into the throne room. The center of the mountain. The place he needed to go in order to light up the place.

As for where the other four went, he had no clue, haven never been allowed inside, all he knew, was that it was used for royal business. Up here on the round walkway, there was another set of doors, one, which lead directly towards a large library, another, which led into a dining hall and yet another, which led deeper into the mountain itself, where the theater was located and the hopefully dead Tusseladd remained.

Such a large creature should not have been able to move after being driven in and pushed over the ledge, but if it had-

Sportacus drew a sharp inhale and set into a dead sprint towards the edge of the walkway. Íþróttaálfurinn  and he had made this leap quite a few times in order to escape the guards, so he truly had no fear, as he set off from the edge and hurdled himself straight into empty air – both hands successfully catching and holding onto the metal edge of the giant chandelier.

The giant thing moved and swung on its rusty, creaking chain, as the elfs weight and gravity combined forced it to follow the forward motion.

Sportacus tried and failed to suppress the gleeful laughter, his stomach nonetheless doing a nervous flip, as he got far enough and let go.

For a few seconds, he was in the air, before he gracefully landed safely on the other side of the walkway, upper body bending, as he rolled on the ground in order to stop his momentum. With a foolish grin, he looked back at the giant thing still swinging back and forth – the stupidly cheerful expression abruptly falling, as a loud crack and tear rang out, right before the thick chain of the chandelier broke.

’Wups.’’ The elf breathed, as the giant thing collided hard against the marble floor below with a loud, harsh crash. Sportacus blinked a few times and proceeded to stare at the mighty, dark brown dust cloud, which quickly rose up and spread out around the chandelier. ‘’Apologies.’’ He murmured softly, petting the floor awkwardly, as the thick, suffocating particles swayed and danced lightly in the air around him, causing him to swiftly cover his mouth and squint his eyes, as the dry invaded his nostrils.

For a moment, as he stared at the dancing dust, it almost seemed as though something was swirling, forming into an actual being among the giant cloud, before the entire thing jerked, seemed to collapse in on itself and finally completely dispersed again. Vaguely, he wondered why he was able to see anything at all, in what should have been pitch-black darkness, but truly, he could not bring himself to care much.

Suddenly, a strange, familiar tremor shot through him, causing him to stare down in confusion at a purple piece of fabric, which was wrapped tightly around his wrist. The elf picked at it, unsure as to where it had come from or why it was vibrating in the way it was. Somehow, he knew that he should under no circumstances remove it, yet, the skin underneath seemed to itch and burn, the sensation quickly becoming uncomfortable, just as the strange coldness, which stubbornly remained in his bones, set in harder than ever before.

The elf shook his head in slight bewilderment, willing his fingers to stop toying with the tight knot of the fabric and instead slowly got up – teeth clattering in his mouth and burning palms rubbing at his cold arms, before he turned towards the door, which would take him towards the theater and further into the mountain.

--

 

‘’What!’’ Robbie half shouted, as he shot straight up in bed, his breath catching in his throat, as he felt an intense tremor run through him, no doubt coming from the ward. ‘’Where the fuck is my elf?’’ He practically growled, realizing he was breathing a tad too fast, as he rolled out of said bed and glanced around.

Fifty or so small flames lit up around him, casting a harsh, bright light over the area. There was no need to call out for the other; he knew the elf was not close.

Robbie felt his jaw drop in slight disbelief, as he finally noticed the door, which was still slightly creaked open. As he pressed a shaky palm to it, the faint traces of the elfs magic - now firmly mixed with his own - was still present around and inside the golden wood itself, thrumming and beating as one. The flow no longer had a specific direction to go in and so it would stay here, embedded in the wood, until either given a new direction or used for something else.

Robbie hummed low in thought, as he raked a palm over the hard surface and willed the very strong and now slightly bluer purple energy to return to him. ‘’I truly recognize him as kin already.’’ The fae mused aloud, as he reluctantly let go of the neutralized door and instead peaked out and down the dark corridor.

The tremor from the ward was screaming possession yet he could not help the nagging feeling that this might be something else too. Robbie let out a deep sigh, turned and swiftly went back to retrieve his dagger, carefully tugging it into the belt at the back of his robe, before finally going out to start his damned search.

Please do not let it be too late. The fae thought, as his slow jog, eased into an actual sprint.

-

Robbie had no idea where he was. It was a large, circular room of sorts with at least eight different doors. Actually no, that was an understatement this place was huge. ‘’Large drop. Nope.’’ He gulped out, quickly stepped back and away from the edge of the walkway.

Down below, in what seemed to be the center of the room, a large, partly broken chandelier lied, around it, several big chunks of the marble floor were scattered around, no doubt caused by the giant thing dropping.

Robbie shook his head and hesitantly followed the rounded walkway, before coming to a halt in front of what appeared to be a short corridor, hidden behind yet another open door.

At the end, a steep, dark staircase greeted him. The fae groaned into his hands, before parting his fingers slightly in order to stare at the dusty fresh footprints leading into the dark beyond.

He had to go down.

Robbie willed himself to take another deep breath and slowly inch his way down. It was difficult to maneuver in the dark, but he did not dare to use too much light. After all, the place reeked of death and decay. At the end of the staircase, yet another corridor awaited him, this one leading towards what appeared to be another, if not larger room, just like the one with the eight or so doors, which he had pretty much just been in.

The room he was gingerly approaching seemed to be slightly illuminated by some unseen source, yet, he never made it far enough to check out exactly what it was.

The fae yelped loudly in pain – his left hand quickly jerking up to clasp over his mouth in order to stifle any of his further cries. Startled, and a tad annoyed, he glanced down and glared harshly at the offensive rock, which he had just smashed his big toe against. The digit throbbed painfully, but luckily, nothing appeared broken.

Still, he winched slightly, as he slowly trod on - a tad more carefully now.

He knew the elf was close, knew, from the way the urgent tremors from the ward increased tenfold. Robbie took a small, grounding breath, crossed his fingers that he would not attract any unwanted attention, just as his shoulders went tense, as he got ready to make a run for it.

With a held back breath, he sent out four small flames to light up the path ahead.

Immediately, the fae stopped dead in his tracks, as a familiar silhouette slowly staggered into view – the elf seemingly wobbling out of whatever the big room up ahead was. The dazed elf swayed a bit on his feet, as he stared, seemingly transfixed, as he approached one of the dancing flames, eyes big and round, as though he was some curious, mindless moth drawn to its light.

Sportacus reached out a hand and cautiously pressed a fingertip directly against one of the flames – abruptly retrieving his hand, as he obviously burned himself in the process.

‘’Oh gods.’’ The fae breathed out, voice barely above a whisper, as he reached a hand back and clutched the handle of the dagger hard – Shoulders tense and eyes never straying from the fixed, off-putting, angry glare the other now sported. ‘’Here we go.’’

Chapter Text

‘’What?’’ Sportacus asked in a hard tone, frowning hard, when the other took a small, shaky step back. The elf felt himself sneer, his back and shoulders suddenly tensing, as he let out a small scoff. ‘’You should not be here.’’ He clipped angrily.

‘’Are you referring to the court or the situation at hand?’’ Robbie asked as calmly, as he could muster, taking yet another small step back, as he watched the elfs upper arm do a strange, jerky twitch, before the other shook his head hard.

‘’Do you actually believe you know what is going on?’’ Sportacus laughed darkly – a small, confused voice in the back of his head screaming at him to step away and disengage, before it was too late. Startled, and more than a little terrified, the elf felt the way the cold mud flooded in and drowned out the little voice of reason – simultaneously, slowly but surely, feeling the way he was rabidly losing control over his own mind and body. A sharp pang of pain shot through his head, cold fingers twitching violently, as he tried to press back against the invading fog and cold. ‘’Do you believe you can somehow fix this?’’ He asked, genuinely curious and perhaps a bit desperate, yet, the tone was harsh and accusing.

Robbie’s expression settled into something carefully neutral, as he narrowed his eyes and observed the elf closely – slowly backing away from the wobbly other in the process. ‘’Right now, in this exact moment, yes and yes I do believe I know exactly what is going on.’’ He sighed.

‘’You?’’ The elf laughed mockingly, just as an intense stab of pain wrecked through his abdomen, causing him to nearly double over. He wanted to claw at the others pathetic, tense frown. Wanted to rake his nails down those reddening cheeks and cause deep, red welts to- ’You actually think yourself that important?’’ He chuckled darkly on a raspy breath. ‘’How lame. That is truly the most pathetic- Fuck!’’ The elf breathed, clearly pained - a single hand coming up to rub at his temple, as his bound feet momentarily stopped their forward staggering. ‘’Gods, what is happening to me?’’

‘’Perhaps you do not see me as much.’’ Robbie mumbled on a hushed voice, just as the elfs world tilted sideways, a dull pain registering, as his head collided with the wall beside him, his trembling legs weak and the quickly bruising shoulder leaning heavily against the wall, all that was holding him up. ‘’But yeah, I am pretty damn important if you ask me.’’

The elf panted hard, as he tried to shove himself upright again, the red-hot anger flaring to absurd heights, as he managed to gaze back up at the fae. He wanted to jump the other, hold him down and shove his nails deep into the others- Sportacus tugged hard at his hair instead, his own reaction scaring him greatly. His mouth parted, breath cold and somehow simultaneously burning, as it wrecked through his hurting throat. He felt like a fish caught on land, panicked and claustrophobic in his own chilled skin.

‘’Are you doing this?’’ He breathed, while raking his sharp nails down over the front of his throat, as he stared pleadingly at Robbie, the faes dimly lit features becoming blurry and unfocused, as a red haze settled over the elfs eyes. He knew he was drawing blood, but he could do little to stop it.

‘’No.’’ Robbie softly replied, shaking his head, as he slowly started to approach - that damned hand mysteriously staying firmly behind his tense back. ‘’Sportacus.’’ The fae urged, his shaky voice gentle but stern, as he came to a halt, seemingly unsure if he should approach further still or not. ‘’Stop clawing at your throat – Please, fight this. You must.’’

The elf let out a small, humorless chuckle through grit teeth, as he felt the soft tissue break further – The fae letting out a frustrated, warning huff in response. It took one hell of an effort, but somehow, miraculously, the elf felt some of the suffocating mud retrieve, as he stubbornly pressed back against it - The soft flesh of his throat cold and mushy under his knuckles, as he forced and finally managed to curl his trembling fingers - his sticky nails instead digging into his trembling palms.

He felt his fingers violently spasm, the cold digits trying to uncurl, just as a sick want to raise both of his hands and press them against his own bleeding throat and squeeze until the last of his constricted windpipe completely cut off registered.

It hurt. Everything hurt. Sportacus shut his eyes tight, took a deep breath and managed to press the heels of his palms against his stinging eyes. ‘’I cannot stop.’’ He said, feeling as if he was going to be sick. It would all be better if he just threw the other out - it was all the noise causing this, of course, Robbie was to blame for it, that much was obvious. He should just give in already, push the other out onto the wrong side of the wards and the shade would deal with it. Everything would be better if he could just – The elf quickly took three, wobbly steps back towards the theater, both hands coming up to tug hard on his hair again. His head cleared a bit, the distance blissfully helping, if at least only for a few seconds.

‘’No!’’ The elf harshly barked, taking a few more shaky steps back, when the slowly approaching other, tried to close the distance again. ‘’Don't.’’

Robbie gave a small nod and slowed significantly, but did not fully stop.

Sportacus shook his head hard. ‘’Stay away.’’ He pleaded on a raspy breath. ‘’Just stay away!’’ A sharp pain registered, as he bit his barely healed lower lip hard enough to break the skin again - a metallic taste filling his mouth, as he tugged harder on the strands between his tense, trembling fingers. He should sink his teeth into that slender throat and just make the other shut. Up. It was a simple thing to do and it would help him, surely. The elf let out a soft whimper, as his grip became hard enough that a few strands came loose. ‘’He is hardly saying anything at all, what are you on about?’’ The elf desperately retorted back at the violent thoughts tearing through his ponding skull.

‘’What is happening?’’ Robbie demanded on a stern, yet gentle voice full of worry. ‘’Can you describe what you are feeling right now?’’ He urged, slowly inching closer, carefully, as though approaching a cornered animal. ‘’Can you fight it at all?’’

‘’I don't know.’’ Sportacus cried harshly on a slightly hysterical voice, somehow managing to let go of his hair, before he ripped it all out – his fingers growing numb from the burning cold coursing through them. He wanted to tear at the other. Wanted to make him bleed out. ‘’I do not understand, I cannot stop.’’ The elf cried, a sad, desperate expression settling into his features, as he stared down wide-eyed at his twitching hands. He felt pathetic at his own desperation, bleeding bottom lip quivering slightly, as he took another small step back – throat constricting further, just as a shrill ringing sounded in his ears. ‘’Robbie I can't stop, why can't I stop?’’

‘’Just try to breathe dear.’’ Robbie urged, as he looked the other over. ‘’Just breathe.’’ He repeated gently. Sportacus took yet another step back, as the fae took another forward.

’No.’’ The elf shook his head again - a soft whimper escaping him, as the muscles of his stomach cramped painfully, making him gasp, as he clutched at it. Unsurprisingly, he felt his cheeks go wet, as the cold, yet burning hot tears started falling. In front of him, Robbie let out a small, sympathetic sigh before the fae grit his teeth, seemingly steeling himself.

‘’What do you want to do to me right now?’’ The fae asked in a cold, soft voice, as though trying not to spook the other further – the fae turning his head away, as he still kept his eyes locked with the now growling other. ‘’What is it telling you to do?’’

The elf shook his head, still clutching at his abdomen, as he managed a few more steps backwards – at this point, they were more than halfway back to the theater again. ‘’Stop.’’ He breathed, ears drawing back and fists clenching, just as an aggressive sneer started twitching at his lips. The fae took a deep, grounding breath, before he continued to talk; yet, the elf could not hear the softly spoken words at all.

He wanted to claw at the other. Wanted to rip out that annoying, waggling, meddling tongue, wanted to make him- Sportacus’ knees hit the dusty floor, elf panting hard, as his sticky nails dug into the back of his neck, hard enough that he knew he had broken the skin there as well. He continued to claw at the broken tissue, the shrill ringing louder than ever in his ears, causing him to yelp and instead settle his hands hard against his ears instead.

The elf let out a low keening whine, as both the ice wrecking through him and the ancient magic of the deal combined, seemed to claw and tear at his insides.

Robbie slowly closed the distance and kneeled down – the hand not busy clutching at the dagger settling onto the elfs shoulder, steadying him, before the fae carefully raked his glowing fingertips over the others tense, abusive hands, causing both of them to relax enough, that the elf could not do too much further, immediate damage to himself. Vaguely, they both registered the small, choked 'please' falling from the elfs blue lips, as Robbies dagger-free hand moved down and instead settled under the others chin, gently lifting the elfs head enough for him to get a look at the others blurry, disoriented eyes.

’So fast.’’ Robbie mumbled out on a small, discontent sigh, before the fae gingerly snatched one of the elfs numb hands, when they rose back up to continue the clawing at his already bleeding throat.

‘’What is going on?’’ Sportacus asked in a low, confused voice, just as the faes expression settled into that of a deep concentration. Attentive. Focused.

‘’Do you trust me?’’

‘’Of course.’’

Robbie gingerly let go of the others hand and instead reached into his robe, in order withdraw a small bundle – the elf watching through a haze, as the fae pressed it into one of his shaking hands. ‘’Eat.’’ The fae ordered, as he gestured at it. Sportacus somehow managed to not drop the little bundle, - curious indeed - as he drew the small layer of cloth aside to reveal three small, crumbled leaves, which had been stuffed inside it. He wanted to crush them further. Destroy them and throw the remains to the wind.

The elfs chest did a painful spasm, as he loudly ignored the dark voice and instead placed one of the leaves against his cold lips, quickly starting to chew on it. It rewarded him with a bitter, dusty, slightly metallic taste, causing him to immediately feel sick, as he somehow managed to gather it in his mouth and swallow down the offensive treat.

Robbie let out a deep, pleased sigh, as he gestured at the remaining two – the fae seemingly relaxing a bit, as the elf slowly set to devour the just as offensive second. ‘’The last one.’’ Robbie ordered, huffing low, when the elf shook his head, and tried to hand the bundle back. ‘’Sport, you must.’’ The fae urged sternly – annoyed at the way in which the elf tried to turn his head away, when the fae snatched up the last, neglected leaf and held it against the others cold lips.

‘’Didn’t work last time anyway.’’ Sportacus loudly complained, as the fae tried to onehandedly pry his lips open and shove the leaf inside. The elf swallowed dryly and coughed – an intense pain wrecking through his spine, while an uncomfortable pressure build behind his eyes.

’This is different.’’ Robbie snapped a tad frustrated, when the elf stubbornly refused to open his mouth. ‘’All of it.’’ He clipped angrily – a deep, relieved sigh escaping him, as finally the other relented.

Sportacus scrunched up his nose in discomfort just as a sharp pang of white-hot pain wrecked through him; the dark voice harshly demanding he spit it back out. Do not trust him so easily, he is not your ally. It drawled in its cold, unwelcome tone. He will only bring you further pain; he is beneath you, he- ‘’Shut up.’’ The elf mumbled back tiredly, as he immediately set to chew and eventually managed to swallow the last leaf.

‘’I did not-‘’

‘’Wasn’t talking to you Robbie, sorry.’’ The elf groaned weakly, just as the fae jerked forward and managed to catch said elfs head, before it could collide against the wall again. ‘’Can’t feel my legs at all.’’ He reported softly, feeling strangely nonplussed, as an intense dizzy spell hit him. ‘’Just thought you should know.’’

Robbie was silent for a moment, eyes narrowed, as he examined the others reaction closely - The hand still holding the elfs head up tightening the hold slightly.

Sportacus rapidly swallowed around a dry throat. ‘What?’’ He asked in a hoarse voice, as he realized the other had asked something – Elf greatly startled, when his own voice seemed muffled and far away. He felt confused and disoriented, as he stared at the faes moving lips, but still, he could not hear the words. Robbie caught the others wrist and held on, when the elf started banging a closed fist against the side of his own head.

Immediately, Sportacus jerked out of the others grip.

The elf wanted to jump up and run. He felt wrong. Off, as he felt the control over his own body slip again - an intense coldness setting in, chasing away the numbness and instead leaving him oversensitive and – from the feel of it – chilled to the bone. ‘’What did you do?’’ He asked, flinching hard at his own angry tone, just as both of his hands came up to tug on his hair again. At least, the violent thought had died down, yet, the empty echo left behind was instead loud and unignorably, as the vibrations of it banged and trembled through his still pounding skull.

Robbies lips thinned, as he leaned back a bit. ‘’What was necessary.’’ He said, a hand settling under the others chin again, gentle, as he tilted the elfs head up a bit. Only a thin ring of the usual beautiful blue remained - the pupils dilated beyond what should have been possible - the white surrounding the coloured irises slowly withdrawing as well, as a thick, pitch black ink entered and flooded the elfs eerily unblinking eyes.

The faes own stormy eyes went wide, as he stared and blinked hard at his own startled, frightened expression mockingly reflected back at him in those beady, dark orbs. Immediately, he willed himself to press back against the onslaught of terror, pushing it deep deep down, less he loose his courage, and flee like a scared child at the first sign of trouble.

Robbie flinched hard, when the elf started to laugh, the mirthless sound ringing out defeated and hollow, as it echoed out and bounced around the rough walls of the corridor around them – The tone too close to that of a dead, broken thing, which had no place emanating from his elf, gods damn it. ‘’Do you see it?’’ Sportacus asked, as he stared at a point just behind the slightly shaky fae. A red, angry line formed by itself across the elfs left cheek, slowly trailing over his chin and down the side of his pale, bleeding neck as well. ‘’Is it here - is this real, is this actually happening?’’

This is all happening internally. Robbie thought, not sure if he should be relieved by that fact or not. The faes face once more set into that of a deep concentration, as he completely abandoned the dagger - almost certain that the herbs, which the elf had consumed, would be enough to stop the worst of a possible attack – and settled both of his trembling hands against the sides of the others head.

Robbie took a shallow breath, as he forced his way through the deep-felt, ragged shards of panic emanating from the elf, before finally pressing in further to examine the extend of the damage. Here, the sensation of a thousand, tiny dust specks, which had made a home in his elf greeted him - Like greedy termites, slowly chewing away at the others stressed out mind, as they corrupted him slowly from the inside out.

The faes grip tightened harshly, as the elf started to viciously claw at the glowing binds keeping him dormant – said elf leaving red, angry smears in his wake, which quickly mixed with the faes fresh own. ‘’Look at me.’’ Robbie ordered on a throaty growl, just as Sportacus felt himself start to go slack – the elf unsure if it was the herbs, or if the other was forcing it upon him. Still, the aggressive clawing died down a tad.

The elf hissed in discomfort, as something black gathered in him, before it crept and pushed through his veins – the skin itself remaining pale and cold, as the leftovers from the previous part possession tried to latch on and resist the violent exorcism, which was about to take place.

’Look at me.’’ Robbie barked again, gritting his teeth hard, when the elfs black, narrowed eyes snapped up at him. Sportacus felt his chest constrict, jerky vibrations wrecking through his constricted throat, causing him to cough harshly. The fae merely blinked, as thick, black spots landed on his face. He knew, without a doubt, that the others teeth and tongue was coated in the same black sludge, which had fallen heavily from the sky only days ago, both outside the old court and back in their town.

Whatever seed had been left behind in the elf after their accidental close-up with the shade, had had to be small, yet it had truly grown, spread out and flourished through the other so quickly.

This would be difficult, but it was indeed still possible.

Sportacus felt his mouth spread into a painfully wide, gleeful grin, as the last of his vain, bodily control left him. His eyes bulged from his head, as an almost insane mirth overtook him. ‘’Pathetic.’’ He spat, as he licked his lips, gathered some of the black gunk and spat at the other. ‘’You think you can make a difference?’’ He purred, trying to get in the others face. Robbie stubbornly held on – the faes fingers tightening in the elfs hair. ‘’You will fail.’’ He laughed brightly.

Robbie blinked twice, unmoved by the taunts, as he instead pressed in further, willing himself not to falter in the face of the others obvious pain, as he felt around for the edges of where the worst of the corruption had settled.

Sportacus wanted to plead and beg, as a sharp agony tore through his skull; truly, it felt as though he would burst at the seams. Heart ponding wildly in his chest, he could not regain control of his tongue - or other parts of his body for that sake. ‘’You will fail and watch them fall.’’ The elf drawled in a strained voice. ‘’One by one. They will all wither. You will watch as I tear them apart, as I did your younglings.’’ He laughed, feeling his unblinking eyes start to sting. ‘’Your kin. Your loved ones - All of them. There is nothing you can do.’’ He chuckled, as he managed to shake his head despite the death grip the other had on him. Robbie’s fingers tensed further in the elfs hair, but he nonetheless remained silent. ‘’Nothing you can do will change this.’’ Sportacus clipped coldly, pressing himself forward, as much as he could - a truly crazed look blossoming over the elfs exaggerated features – said elf briefly worrying that his eyes would fall from their sockets, as they somehow went wider. ‘’So give him to me.’’

Robbies jaw clicked, just as the faes eyes narrowed dangerously. ‘’Give the elf to me and I will leave you out of this – that is what you want, is it not? Peace, quiet, a problem free existence. Give him to me and you will be spared. Let me have-’’

‘’Get out.’’ Robbie whispered on a passive, cold voice - the faes blurry eyes blinking once, but never straying from the pitch black orbs in front of him. ‘’You do not belong here.’’

Please stop.

Sportacus felt himself start to laugh again, as the intense cold slowly crept over and along his spine - nerves feeling as though they would surely splinter, as the ice grew dense and then shattered. The cold invaded and wrecked through his tingling skull, made his tense fingers twitch, coursed up and down both of his arms, pooled in his stomach and slowly but surely, it started to burn. The icy fire cold enough, that the elf briefly feared the others tense fingers would be frozen as well; stuck forever against his numb scalp, as the elf slowly drowned in the icy sensations.

‘’This is going to hurt.’’ The fae murmured softly in apology, as one of his tense, glowing fingers traced the others pointed ear. ‘’I am sorry.’’

Don't, please don't, I can't.

Sportacus could not breathe. It had been bad before, true, but that was nothing compared to the crystal-clear, sharp snap he now felt shoot through his skull.

It felt as though he had been split wide open, his head pounding savagely, as though a thick, iron rod was being banged against the side of his constricting head - big rusty flakes breaking off on the inside and scrambling around in the cold, invading mud, which stubbornly lingered in his mind.

White noise roared in his ears, the pressure behind his eyes steadily increasing until the whole thing expanded, shot outwards through his body, rode alongside his cold, already frayed nerves - all the way out into his toes, as the familiar magic pushed through, brutally pushing everything else aside, as it demanded entry into his very core.

Too much, too much, TOO MUCH!

A pang tore through the elfs burning, oxygen-starved lungs – a small, wretched sound, which eased into a strained, ragged cough escaping said elf, the vibration and motion of it, enough to open his constricted airways. Sportacus managed to draw a single, shallow breath, before he started howling in agony – the anguished fae digging his glowing fingers deep into the others hair and holding on, as the other desperately tried to jerk away.

Robbie grit his teeth hard, willing himself to keep on, as the other cried heartbreakingly – the fae hissing loudly, as the elf once more started to frantically claw at his wrists.

Still, he could not stop now, even if he desperately wanted to.

It took minutes, seven hells did it feel like hours, but Robbie saw the moment his elf regained some resemblance of control – saw and felt, as the others wet nails suddenly stopped trying to tear through his skin. The elfs freezing cold, shaking palms wrapped around the torn flesh of the faes wrists, and instead of trying to shove the fae off, desperately hung on.

It should have felt like a victory, but the fae could not help the startled face of disgust, which bloomed over his tense features, as a thick, black goo seemed to ooze from the elfs very pores – the black slowly creeping from his broken nose, ears and mouth.

Sportacus’ black eyes filled with dark-grey tears, the salty water contaminated, as though a thick, black ink had been mixed in – the stream cold, as it lazily glided down the elfs cheeks and further down over his jerking throat, before it landed heavily on the floor between the two.

The elf did his best to press against the pitch-black onslaught of shimmering mud and ice, when it tried to set back in, willing himself to stay focused on the small shards, he felt still come loose – assisting and pressing to expel them, despite the obvious agony it brought him.

The shade was desperate - if such was an emotion, a creature void of empathy could possess. The damned mud rising, boiling, burning hot, as it pressed against the inside of his skull, searching for anything to hide behind, hold onto or shove between it and the bright, purple light inside the elfs head, which stubbornly, brutally, kept pressing everything else aside, as it searched, chased out or destroyed the dark specks.

Sportacus briefly wondered if he would get to at least keep his sanity intact, or if the triumphant light could potentially destroy not just the shade, but himself in the process. Almost as if on que, the last remains of the elfs scattered thoughts abandoned him completely. There was no violence left, no strange, unwelcome bursts of misplaced anger. Nothing remained. Nothing at all, except for the strange, painful bliss slowly wrecking and roaring through every speck of his weary being.

It was a bit frightening, but somehow, the elf felt safe in this space in between the conscious and unconscious, trusting the blinding light to keep him whole. A single, worn-out, appreciative sob tore from the elfs chest, before he felt his own grip on the others slippery wrists go slack - both of the elfs hands falling limp by his sides, just as his vision darkened and his eyes rolled back into his head.

Robbie let out a deep, ragged sigh of relief, as the other truly, mercifully passed out.

Still, the fae kept searching, kept pressing through and checking every corner in which the shade could potentially have left even the tiniest shard behind. Otherwise, this whole thing would start over. He knew he had successfully done it, when a healthy flush took to the elfs cheeks and neck and nothing but the faes own, strong flow of energy – and the elfs, of course – bounced back at him. The fae felt the fatigue from not just the current resolved situation, but the rest of the hectic, eventful days set in. He willed himself to ignore it just a bit longer yet, as he placed a trembling hand over the others cool cheek and, as gently as he could, wiped some of the offensive black away.

Gingerly, the fae rubbed it between two fingertips, examining it closely, before deeming it to truly be dead.

Harmless. No longer a threat. He had failed twice, but just this once. Just this once.

Perhaps a tad paranoid, but not willing to beat himself over it, he gathered the flow and pressed in again, checking just one last time. As he already knew, the shade was well and truly gone, not just from the darling elf but himself as well – it had not been much, but the shade had indeed managed to infect the fae during the rather brutal clash.

Robbie was reluctant to let go, gentle, as he gathered the elf close to his own warmth. He breathed deep, sighed and waited until the other started to slowly heat - the elfs body temperature rising to something less worrisome, before carefully lying said elf down on the ground, checking twice to make sure the other could breathe unhindered.

The fae swallowed around a dry throat and raked his still trembling hands through his hair, feeling the way he was breathing a bit too fast.

Granted, he realized the first signs of an anxiety attack was slowly creeping up on him, but damn it all, this was not the time.

The exorcism – albeit it could indeed have been a lot worse, but he was not going to linger and beat himself over the head with the ‘what ifs’ right now - had taken more energy than he technically had. He knew he had no chance of making it back, not without leaving the elf behind, which was not going to happen, not in a million years.

Almost as if on que, his vision started spinning, as he was hit with an uncomfortable, nauseating dizzy spell, casing the fae to promptly shut his eyes and lie down next to the passed out other. Robbie scooted closer until he was practically flush up against the elf, careful, as he protectively threw a shaky arm over the unconscious other and drew him close to his own warmth again.

They lied like that for a few minutes, before Robbie let go of the elf to reach behind himself and draw forth the dagger. He kept his eyes closed, as he threw it into the dark, towards whatever the room at the end of the hallway was – the dagger skittering across the ground, before it fell over an edge. Judging from how long it took it to reach the bottom of the room, it had to be pretty darn deep.

Robbie drew another deep breath, before embracing the other close again. This was perhaps not the safest place to slumber, but what could he do?

It took a while before the fae managed it, but eventually, he too dozed off.

Chapter Text

’Grey.’’ Deus tried, breathing hard, as his right, two-fingered hand came up in what he hoped was a calming manner. The giant’s eyes were wide and slightly blurry, as they jerked around in a frantic manner, taking in the already dead or dying bodies, which littered the ground around them. Both of his forearms held nasty-looking cuts, while a new, fresh scratch ran down the barely healed mess of his left cheek. ‘’Just put the knife down.’’

In front of him, Grey laughed mirthlessly, as she kicked a twitching arm aside and stepped over another.

‘’The fuck is up with her eyes?’’ Deus asked tensely in the general direction of where Vita was standing – the other fae appearing completely nonplussed, almost relaxed, as she stood, arms crossed and narrowed eyes focused straight onto the sneering Grey.

‘’What do you mean?’’ Vita asked, as Grey took two steps forward – the faes fingers tensing, as they clutched a golden, slightly bend out of shape knife hard.

‘’Well for starters, they are completely black.’’ Deus clipped, the giant taking a hesitant step back, as Grey tripped and somehow managed not to fall flat on her face, as her leg caught onto the side of a downed, shallow breathing fae.

‘’They have always been black.’’ Vita huffed, to which Deus shook his head, just as the downed fae reached out and managed to wrap their sticky, slippery fingers around Greys lower leg, before being harshly kicked in the face with Greys free foot.

‘’A deep, dark grey is more like it, this is not right.’’ Deus corrected, as Grey dislodged the tense fingers around her leg and stomped onto the downed faes shoulder. A harsh crack and a pained ‘fuck’ rang out, as the poor faes shoulder dislocated.

‘’Whatever.’’ Vita scoffed, as Grey rudely, unnecessarily spat at the downed other, before she turned her attention back on the two still standing faes in front of her. ‘’Original colour or not, she ain’t keeping them for long.’’

‘’Don’t.’’ Deus clipped at Vita in warning – the fae in question holding up a dismissive hand, as she took a step away from the other two, just as Grey closed the distance and made to grab at the tense Deus.

The giant tried to shove her back, not using any real strength, - seeing as he did not want to harm the bloody and beaten other further, knowing that his strength outshined hers by at least the tenfold - as he grabbed her wrist and pushed. Therefore, neither Deus or Vita expected the enraged other to suddenly jerk out of the giants grasp, the hand holding the knife twitching once, before the blade was embedded deep into Deus’ tense, vulnerable belly.

The giant cried out, more in shock than pain, as Grey drew back her hand and plunged the glistening steel thrice more into the bewildered other, twisting the blade in the warm flesh hard and willing the blood to flow freely.

Deus managed to get a shaky but strong hold of the others wrist, the trembling fingers of his left hand wrapping firmly around, before squeezing hard enough that he felt the thin bones underneath break. ‘’Let it go.’’ He breathed out, voice coloured by pain and frustration, as the other started to laugh a deep, rich, mirthless tone.

’Bit too fuckin late for tha’, don’t you think?’’ Grey retorted, as she drew back and kicked the others chest hard, successfully making him release her and sending him staggering back.

’Right, what the fuck.’’ Vita clipped, as she looked between the two other faes. ‘’Yeah, this is not right, you right bout that.’’ She rasped, taking a few steps to the side to grab hold of a heavy candleholder.

’What the hell Grey, what’s happening – What did I do?’’ Deus breathed, clutching his stomach hard, as he tried to stop the bleeding. ‘’Why would it be too late?’’ He continued, clearly confused, as his legs gave out from under him.

Grey laughed, as she drew her hand back, took aim and threw the knife at the other. The gold flickered through the air, before Deus’ giant, right hand closed around it, the sharp side biting into his two remaining fingers, before he winched and let it drop to the floor. ‘’Grey.’’ Deus tried again, voice slightly pleading, as the chuckling other snatched up a neglected sword from a long-dead fae. ‘’Please stop.’’

‘’Don’t think she’s gonna listen to you mate.’’ Vita clipped, a harsh metallic clang ringing out, as the sword made contact with the candlestick and thus failed to cut off the giants raised hand and furthermore cleave his head in two.

Vitas strength, combined with the others broken wrist, helped ease the sword out of the attacking faes grip, the blade skittering across the ground, before it came to a halt in front of the quiet, trembling Nox, who had been doing their best to press themselves as hard against the corner of the room, as they possibly could. The fae quickly snatched it up and shakily held it out in front of them – trembling legs holding, as they stood their ground and got up, yet did no further move to engage in the fight. ‘’By the way, you loosing too much blood.’’ Vita offhandedly remarked down at Deus, before she swung the candlestick at Greys head. ‘’You might wanna leave before it’s too late.’’

Vita let out a surprised laugh, as the harsh metal made contact with Greys skull, a harsh crack sounding, before the rapidly blinking fae staggered a few steps to the side. ‘’Not gonna lie, that felt fuckin amazing.’’ Vita chuckled darkly, as she drew the candlestick back and tried to do it again. This time however, the uninjured wrist easily caught around the metal and held on.

‘’Grey for fucks sake – cut it out!’’ Deus practically roared, as he managed to get up, duck under the swinging, dislodged candlestick and tackled the other to the ground.

Grey, pinned as she was, managed to trade a quick head-butt back, before Deus grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her back into the ground. She let out a small, winded noise, yet the action did little to stop her – the fae jerking her left arm out from under the others bended knee and reaching a hand into the folds of her stained, messy skirt.

For a perfectly quiet, tense moment, all movement seemed to stop - even Noxs trembling subsiding for a moment, as all present, both the standing and still aware, downed others stared in shock at the small dagger, which was now embedded into the side of Deus’ neck.

The giant jerked back in surprise, as the hand which still clutched the dagger tight jerked, twisted and cut a clean, straight path across his throat. A single, strained ‘well shit’ sounded from the floor, somewhere to the giants left, as blood spilled in a thick, red spray, before Deus, wide-eyed in his fear and disbelief, instinctually clasped a hand over the gaping wound.

Grey seemed to marvel at the warm liquid, which covered her - the crazed, confused fae raking a hand over her face to rid herself of the worst of it, as she wiggled a leg free, placed her heel against the dying faes shoulder and nonchalantly shoved him off. Giddy and perhaps a tad confused at her immediate, rather gory surroundings, she gingerly stood up and wringed some of the cooling liquid out of her skirt, just as Vita - now howling in barely contained furry - seemed to snap out of her stupor.

However, it was Nox, who reached the suddenly tense, quickly paling, wide-eyed fae first. Grey hardly got a chance to look surprised, before her head was bouncing against and over the ground, her black hair waving wildly with the momentum of its fall, before it eased into a slow roll and finally stilled. Someone, the fae badly injured and downed just as most of his present kin, reached out a hand and shoved the head further away from his person – a small ‘Nope’ escaping him as he did so.

The borrowed sword made a loud, startling noise, as it slipped from the tense fingers of the trembling Nox, who shakily turned, kneeled down and pressed pale, glowing hands against Deus’ throat. ‘’Fuck.’’ They breathed out, clearly distressed. ‘’Vita- I cant, it’s too much, it’s not stopping.’’ They cried, as the bloody palm of the giant’s two-fingered hand covered the smaller, glowing ones.

‘’Yeah well.’’ Vita started, as she kneeled down and shoved the others hands away to instead settle her own glowing ones onto the giants cut throat. ‘’Lend me a bit will ya?’’ She asked, as she corrected Deus’ head a bit, in order to close the gaping wound as much as possible, pressed in and started mending the tissue back together.

Nox blinked twice, before placing a hand between Vitas shoulder blades. Slowly but surely, the strong, healing flow grew fiercer, as Nox managed to mingle and properly combine their flow with the other faes.

‘’Don’t suppose you could spare a bit after?’’ The fae with the dislocated shoulder asked on a pained breath somewhere in front of the still-standing trio.

‘’You got a cut throat?’’ Vita asked coldly, to which the other shook his head. ‘’Do you want one?’’

’Vita please don’t.’’ Nox tried, as they buried their face against the others tense shoulder. ‘’Just…’’ They started on a low voice, before trailing off, as in front of them, Deus – who was staring hard at the ceiling, clearly in shock - tried to speak.

‘’Sorry mate, your vocal cords are fucked.’’ Vita said a tad apologetic, before turning her head up to glare at the other fae, which she had just threatened. ‘’You’re gonna be fine, there’s no internal bleeding.’’ She said dryly, glancing down again, as she abandoned the mended throat and instead settled her sticky, glowing palms against the four stab wounds on the giant’s stomach. ‘’Just a fuck-ton of pain.’’ She breathed low, sounding strangely agitated.

From the still open door of the room, a deep, exhausted sigh rang out. ‘’I had hoped.’’ Corvus breathed vaguely, as he gazed around at the surrounding carnage with a serious expression. ‘’What happened here?’’ He asked down at an injured fae, who slowly managed to drag herself across the ground, before settling her glowing hands against the fae with the dislocated shoulder.

‘’Nothing rational.’’ Someone else spoke up, as they shakily managed to get up, and slowly staggered towards the door. ‘’Shit got intense, I can tell you that.’’ They informed the frowning Corvus, before shoving past him and exiting out into the hallway behind.

‘’We meet in the lounge in half an hour.’’ Corvus yelled after them, to which he got a non-verbal, dismissive wave of a bleeding hand in reply.

‘’Feichín?’’ Corvus tried, as he slowly stalked over to the fae with the dislocated shoulder, kneeled down and helped the female shove the joint back into place. Feichín let out a pained but relieved sigh, as he slumped back against the ground.

‘’Fuck if I know.’’ The fae rasped, as he gestured at the still head of Grey, before vaguely gesturing in the general direction of Nox. ‘’That one went stabby stab and the other cut her head off.’’ He breathed, as Corvus and the other fae helped him stand.

‘’I can take it from here.’’ The female fae said, as she snaked an arm under Feichíns shoulder and tugged him along. Their stride was slow and stumbling, but it seemed they would be able to make it without too much further injury. ‘’The lounge you said?’’

Corvus nodded curtly, before sighing and turning to look down at Vita. ‘’Are you three all right?’’ He asked, just as Deus grabbed a hold of both Nox and Vita, drawing them both down into a tight hug. The giant looked worriedly pale, shaking lightly, as though he was cold from either blood loss or shock. Most likely, it was both.

‘’Yeah.’’ Vita replied, as she somehow managed to push herself out of the giants hold and instead glared down at the other. ‘’You shit at keeping deals btw.’’ She spat, as she tapped the giant twice in the chest. ‘’Don’t care bout the circumstances, she-‘’ Vita said, as she gestured at the head of Grey, before gesturing at her own face. ‘’Was supposed to be kept out of this.’’

‘’Vita please.’’ Nox sniffed, as they pressed themselves close to the shallow breathing Deus – Both of their glowing palms pressing against the mended skin on the giants stomach. ‘’Not now.’’

‘’Deus’ gonna be fine, just tired as fuck for a lill while.’’ Vita huffed towards the still frowning Corvus, as she got up, kicked the leg of a random dead fae and gingerly crossed the room, while keeping her narrowed eyes on the still bodies of those passed, in case one of them decided to stand up and attacks in the same manner Grey had done. ‘’But yeah, I dunno what happened either Corv, I can’t give you any answers.’’ She rasped, as she kneeled down and placed her glowing palms against a completely still, but breathing fae in the corner of the room. ‘’Nox help me out here, I need a lill extra – but yeah, Grey freaked and started stabbing left and right.’’ Vita informed towards the now bend back of Corvus, as the small fae kneeled down and examined the detached head of Grey close.

Corvus sighed deeply, as he picked it up, turned it a bit and stared tiredly at the dull, half-closed, black eyes. A thick, black goo, slowly started to trail and drip onto the floor from the dead faes mouth. ‘’The same thing happened downstairs at the pool.’’ He mumbled, almost offhandedly, as he examined the goo closely.

‘’That why you covered in blood?’’ Vita asked on a huff, to which she got an affirmative hum and a small nod in reply.

‘’How long ago did this happen?’’ Corvus asked, as he dropped the head and gazed around at the general carnage and the few faes, who had managed to get up, and were now slowly trailing out of the room. ‘’The lounge in twenty-seven minutes – healers have been send there as well, so go there instead of the bar.’’ He yelled after a pair. ‘’Whiskey can’t heal a stab wound.’’

‘’Ten minutes or so.’’ Vita replied, as she managed to ease the breathing of the fae in front of her.

‘’Matches with ours then. I came here immediately after we resolved the situation downstairs.’’ Corvus nodded thoughtfully, as he slowly stood up and kicked the head across the room. ‘’The shroom-ward works beautifully by the way, good job on that.’’ He said, to which Vita shrugged, as she detached the heavy, somewhat clean cape, now previously worn by the unconscious, but stabilized fae in front of her.

‘’Didn’t do shit for these ones though.’’ She shrugged, as she gestured at a pale, dead fae, before gingerly covering the shaky Nox with the cape. ‘’Calm dear, I’m serious about it, he will be fine.’’ Vita said surprisingly soft, as she placed a hand between Nox’ shoulder blades, pressed in and forced the other to calm down. Immediately, Nox went slack against Vitas person, their soft, contend sigh filling the foul-scenting air around them.

‘’Perhaps not.’’ Corvus agreed, as he stalked over and sat down onto the side of a turned-over couch. ‘’But it’s keeping the shade from further approaching.’’

Vita laughed, as she practically crushed the nearly asleep Nox against her. ‘’You fuckin with me right now? Look, things went sour real fuckin fast, I know that, but something happened with the shade in the halls - Our halls Corv, in here with us – not out there.’’ She spat, as she glared over at the thoughtful-looking Corvus. ‘’Apparently, some idiot went out into the wrong side and nearly got taken. Grey got em out though – fuckin idiot collapsed the west hallway in the process – so if you wondering what the shaking were, that was it, but yeah, she managed to drag the bastard back inside the wards. That was right before shit went down.’’ She said as she casually examined her nails closely. ‘’Yeah, I dunno, it wasn’t just Grey who started freaking, Noora and Frei did as well, all three seemingly simultaneously, so there’s that.’’

Corvus hummed, as he scratched at his chain in thought. ‘’So you did have answers after all.’’ He said softly.

‘’Fuck off Corv, don’t sass me right now, I’m stressed, aight?’’ Vita clipped, as she abandoned her nail examination and instead raked her fingers through Nox’ messy hair. ‘’But yeah, this whole thing could have been worse, shroom-ward intact or nah.’’ She clipped.

‘’Thirty-two people are dead Vita.’’ Corvus scoffed coldly. ‘’Could you for once show an ounce of respect?’’

‘’Torstein, Laure and... Yeah, I don't recognize the rest.’’ She shrugged, as she gazed around at the dead. ‘’But yeah, pure carnage. Fun times indeed.’’ She huffed, just as Corvus started to rub at his temples, clearly frustrated.

‘’Go lock the front entrance.’’ He said in an exhausted manner. ‘’We are going into complete lockdown until we know who is safe and who’s not.’’

‘’You sure that is necessary?’’ Vita rasped.

’Absolutely.’’ Corvus breathed out on a sigh. ‘’No one leaves until we know for sure who is possessed or not.’’

Corvus and Vita – at this point the only conscious remaining faes still in the room, except for the sleepy Nox – gazed knowingly at each other, before Vita broke the tense silence. ‘’Is that still a secret?’’ She asked low, to which Corvus nodded.

‘’You know the deal.’’ He said simply, as he slowly got up and approached the two others.

‘’Still think it’s a shit way to get rid of a rival Corv.’’ Vita remarked tiredly on a sigh, to which Corvus shrugged and placed both hands against the sides of Vitas head.

‘’Best way if we want to avoid an outright war.’’ He retorted, as he pressed in and rid the other of the few shade-remains, which lingered. ‘’Besides, unlike your love for poison, this cannot be traced back in any way.’’

’Sure whatever, just don’t come crying if this all goes sour.’’ She rasped, as Corvus reached down and gave Nox the same treatment Vita had just received.

‘’Keep them safe.’’ Corvus said simply, as he send Vita a pregnant look. ‘’You are one of the only people I can count on for this, you know I don’t wish for any unnecessary death or suffering.’’

Vita merely blinked, as she loudly ignored the other and instead turned her attention onto Nox, which she managed to gently rouse - a pair of blurry, unfocused eyes immediately blinking up at her. ‘’You wanna come with and get some simple stuff done?’’ Vita asked softly, to which Nox nodded sleepily – the sniffling fae leaning their head up to respond to the small, intimate kiss, which Vita pressed against their lips, before a firm hand snaked into theirs and started to tug them along. ‘’You gon take care of this?’’ Vita asked over her shoulder, as the pair made to exit the room. ‘’That one is still alive and shade-free so leave em.’’ She quickly added, as she pointed to the still unconscious fae, from which she had snatched the heavy cape still draped safely around the shoulders of the sleepy Nox.

Corvus gave a small nod in reply, as he raked a hand through his soaked hair and gazed around. ‘’We meet in the lounge – Tell everyone you meet to be there in twenty minutes.’’

‘’Got it.’’ Vita clipped, pausing for a moment to look down at the sleeping Deus. ‘’Could you get him the herbs he needs to survive?’’ She asked, as she pressed Nox closer to her own person. ‘’Blood loss is pretty bad and he’s still healing from the previous misadventure.’’

‘’That will cost you.’’ Corvus shrugged nonchalantly, as he reached down and grabbed the sticky sword still lying on the ground.

‘’How much?’’

‘’Your loyalty.’’

’Which you already have, don’t fuckin play with me.’’ Vita spat a tad aggressively, swiftly looking down the hallway to make sure that they were still alone, and not bothered by any ears, who could potentially snatch up too much information and pass it on to a certain high-fae other. Corvus still did not hold the necessary power among the court, for them to be spared and should the details of their little scheme become known, they would truly suffer the full blunt of the consequences. Correction, Vita would, such was the specific arrangement.

Corvus grinned darkly, as he gazed up at her. ‘’In that case, we should not have a problem, correct?’’ He said, as he casually rested the flat end of the sword on the top of his shoulder. ‘’Keep in line and I keep you and yours safe. Such is the deal.’’

The two stared at each other for a tense few moments, before Vita narrowed her eyes and jerkily nodded at the still grinning fae. ‘’Lounge; Eighteen minutes.’’ Corvus said in a voice void of any emotion. ‘’You already know what to do.’’ He grumbled, as he tensed his grip on the handle of the sword.

Vita nodded again, pressing Nox close, before the pair once more started down the hall.

Corvus inhaled sharply, flexed his shoulders and got into position. The sword made a whooshing sound, as it cleaved through the air, before the blade embedded itself deep into the neck of a now dead fae.

--

 

- The old court -

 

‘’Well good morning to you too.’’ Robbies groggy, contend voice greeted him, as the elf stretched lazily and pressed himself further against the intense, pleasant warmth he felt radiate from the fae. With a soft sigh, he gingerly nuzzled the side of his face into the soft flesh of the others neck, earning him a small chuckle in response. ‘’Tickles.’’ Robbie complained, as his mustache raked against the faes tender skin.

‘’Sorry.’’ Sportacus mumbled sleepily, as he drew back and slowly tried to sit up.

Promptly, the movement caused his head to spin, just as the elf felt his stomach do a flip, causing him to spin on the spot, upper body curling as far away from the other as he could, before the elf placed a shaky hand on the ground and waited. About two tense seconds passed, before his chest and throat constricted – The elf now staring down in disgust at the foul, inky black mass, which he kept throwing up.

Robbie quickly got the memo as to what had and still was happening – the fae getting up and scooting close to press a firm hand to the elfs chest.

Several minutes passed like that, before the damned black seemed to have finally, completely left his body – The elf still dry heaving onto the floor, yet nothing came up. After checking that the elf was indeed done, Robbie dragged the other into his lap and drew him close again. ‘’Is it over?’’ Sportacus rasped low. It still hurt to talk, even breathing hurt, but despite his gentle shivering, he truly felt warm for once - skin tight and slightly itchy, but somehow, the warmth made it all bearable. ‘’Truly, is it gone?’’ He asked, to which Robbie gave an affirmative hum in reply, just as the elf nuzzled himself closer to the band of warmth, which surrounded him- the elf allowing himself to just relax and bask in the pleasant calmness of the moment.

Sportacus realized he was leaning dead weight onto the other – Hands still strangely numb, as they clutched at the faes chest, just as a glowing, gentle hand settled in his hair. Robbie softly shushed him, as the fae tightened the hold and drew the elf closer still.

It took the elf a moment or two to realize why, but he figured it out once he registered his own, silent tears running down his dirty cheeks and soaking up the wrinkly fabric of the others shirt. Sportacus felt strangely empty, muscles slack and non-responsive, as he coughed and immediately turned his head a bit to spit out the foul tasting liquid, which had been shaken loose from his hurting throat.

The elf sniffed, none of the two overly caring that he was leaving a trail of black snot behind on the other, yet, Robbie did settle a gentle hand under the elfs chin in order to draw his face a bit up, so he was not squashing his nose too much. The movement confused the elf, before he realized that yes, his damned nose was still broken and at least a few more days away from completely healed, and at the same time, understanding that the other must have been neutralizing most of his pain.

Robbie wiped at some of the still hardening goo from the cheek not currently pressed against his person. ‘’It is left without a spark.’’ He mumbled, as he rubbed it between two fingertips. ‘’It is just empty mass.’’

‘’I don't understand what you are saying.’’ Sportacus mumbled wetly.

’Safe.’’ Robbie finally settled on a small huff, as his hand went back to rake softly through the others messy hair. ‘’It means you are safe.’’ The elf let out a small, tired chuckle, before offering a worn out ‘yay.’

A small silence settled between the two, as Sportacus tried to wipe at his stinging eyes – the elf letting out a weak cough and a pained hiss, when one of his nails accidentally brushed too close to his eye. Robbie scoffed, as he brushed the elfs hand away and lifted said elfs head. ‘’Dunno if it's safe for you to move yet.’’ The fae admitted, as he set to assist in getting the gunk out of the others eye.

The elf promptly let his eyes fall shut, taking a deep, ragged breath, as he relaxed further against the other and let out a small, breathy laugh. ‘’What?’’ Robbie asked - the faes hand stilling in his careful tending.

‘’We have been here before, have we not?’’ Sportacus asked, as he raised a hand and heavily settled it against the faes warm chest. Robbie scoffed loudly, as his hand reached up and instead continued its slow circles through the others hair.

’Yeah, I guess.’’ Robbie mumbled low. ‘’Are you still cold?’’

‘’Getting better.’’ Sportacus replied on a soft exhale, as he turned his head a bit and gazed up at the other - the soft, low purrs of delight starting deep in his throat, as those clever fingers hit just the right spot behind his ear. ‘’I am sorry.’’ He breathed out in a soft voice.

‘’What for?’’

‘’I have been on a terrible behavior as of late.’’ The elf laughed, genuinely apologetic, as he shook his head a bit. Robbie loudly snorted, a small smile blooming over his features, as he cradled the other closer.

‘’You were not in your right mind.’’ The fae mumbled low, to which the elf hummed.

A small silence settled then, before the elf blinked hard and swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. ‘’This means it can cross the wards.’’ He started on a low voice, confirming what Robbie had already deducted. ‘’Inside a host. It can cross over.’’ He elaborated, as he gazed around at the dust-covered floor – the spot beside them still covered in the smudged, dead remains of the shade.

They should probably get rid of that at some point.

Robbies hand stilled again, as he let out a slow, ragged exhale. ‘’This is bad.’’ He softly agreed, to which the elf hummed.

‘’Robbie?’’ Sportacus peeped up again, causing the other to look down – elf reaching up a shaking hand, which settled heavily onto the faes cheek. ‘’Thank you. Truly.’’ Robbie gave him a mirthless smirk in return, before leaning down to press a quick peck onto the elfs dirty forehead.

‘’What?’’ Sportacus asked softly, when the fae tightened his hold further, not letting the other draw back and get up. The fae sighed greatly, as he shut his eyes and instead of answering, settled his cheek against the top of the elfs head. ‘’Robbie? Are you all right?’’ Sportacus tried softly, doing his best to gingerly jerk out of the others vice-like hold. ‘’Are you-‘’

‘’I don't ever wanna hear you scream like that again.’’ Robbie breathed out a tad desperate – the elf softly sighed, suddenly tired and empty for words, as he relaxed back against the other. ‘’Whatever happens.’’ The fae continued in the others verbal silence. ‘’Please do not stay silent if I can help you - If anything happens, if anything has happened that I could somehow change or help you with, then please-… Please just-’’

Sportacus, this time successful as he drew back and turned around to face the other, pressed a soft, careful kiss against the corner of the faes mouth, before leaning a bit back and looking up at him. ‘’Whatever happens.’’ The elf started, mimicking the others words back at him. ‘’We face it together.’’ He said, as he took the faes hands in his and squeezed them gently.

In front of him, Robbie sighed greatly, before leaning down to press his forehead against the others. ‘’We stay together.’’ He concluded – the fae likewise tightening the hold of the other hands.

‘’Together.’’ Sportacus mirrored happily, just as a goofy grin bloomed over his dirty features. ‘’But not in the kings bed, we gotta find another spot to nest down in.’’ He laughed softly, to which the fae scoffed.

A deep, comfortable silence settled between the two, before the fae suddenly grit his teeth hard and tensed up, appearing to have remembered something important. ‘’Sleepers mind.’’ The fae vaguely exclaimed.

‘’Pardon?’’ Sportacus asked,

Robbie softly shook his head, brow furrowed and clearly deep in thought, as he mused on something. ‘’Sleepers mind.’’ He repeated again. ‘’The link through the dream. Dream walk. It cannot create form.’’ He said, as he drew slightly back – the faes intense gaze snapping onto the confused other in front of him. ‘’It cannot… truly hold a form, but if it gets rid of the mind already present within the body – if it took the mind out and replaced it with a shard of its own.’’ The fae blinked down at his hands, still linked with the elfs, before letting go and instead reaching up to rake them through his disheveled hair. ‘’Roots in the mind.’’ The fae breathed, as he narrowed his eyes at the elf. ‘’Roots which corrupts and press everything else aside - roots that make you forget and slowly devours, what you yourself are.’’ He said, as he ginger got up and pressed his back against the wall. The faes slightly parted lips opened and closed a few times, before he continued on a stern tone. ‘’It eats the mind of the host. Replaces it slowly enough that the carrier does not realize it.’’ He mumbled aloud, as he stared at the dead shade still clinging to the elf. ‘’It could not possess a person directly since it collapsed the tissue right away, nor could it pick the host apart and reassemble it into something new. So, it just snatched the body instead and threw out everything it could not use, as though a person’s entire essence was the core of an apple, it did not want to eat or deal with in any way.’’ The fae looked slightly pale, as he gazed down at the elf. ‘’The mind was too complex for it.’’ He said, as he shook his head slightly. ‘’Too much to operate or subdue, so it had to get rid of it completely. It just wanted a body. It wanted a body of its own. The more you forgot, the less you fought against it. The less you fought, the easier it became to overwrite youfear makes you blind, fear makes you forget.’’

‘’Until you are ripe for the taking.’’ Sportacus breathed out, as he recalled Glannis words. In front of him, Robbie jerkily nodded. ‘’But why?’’ Sportacus asked, hoping he was understanding the faes theory correctly. ‘’Why does it want a body, would it not be slowed down by it?’’

‘’Dunno.’’ Robbie shrugged. ‘’Chaos, mayhem. Maybe it just wants to destroy us all for no particular reason.

‘’It has said that it was just a messenger.’’ The elf softly pointed out. ‘’If what you say is correct, what would the message be?’’

Robbie shrugged, as he scratched at his chin in thought. ‘’To show what it is capable of perhaps.’’ He mused aloud. ‘’Glanni did say it acts like a newborn, thus it would not yet truly understand the rules of the cosmos.’’

‘’There are rules?’’ The elf asked.

‘’Of course.’’ Robbie huffed. ‘’And watchers who oversee that those rules are obeyed.’’

Sportacus mused on that for a second. ‘’So technically, this whole thing might solve itself?’’

Robbie frowned and shook his head. ‘’Not before it is too late.’’ The fae said solemnly. ‘’But yes, it might eventually solve itself, but not before everything we know is burning too bright for any of us to survive.’’

A small silence settled, while the elf gingerly got up. ‘’There is another thing.’’ He said softly. ‘’It mentioned another who could have use of this, while it itself did not.’’ He pointed out, as he thought back to the time he had summoned the shade himself. Back then, their curious foe had barely been a dark, see-through mist, easily banished with two softly spoken words.

Robbie shrugged again – one of the faes hands settling onto the elfs lower back and drawing him close, when the elf got close enough for him to do so. ‘’I doubt that part was important.’’

‘’But if it is?’’ the elf softly retorted.

‘’It is too grand for now.’’ Robbie settled, as he shook his head. ‘’We still do not understand the shade itself – how will you understand what has cast it, if you cannot even see the shape of its shadow?’’

Sportacus huffed a small laugh. ‘’True.’’ He said, as he leaned his forehead against the faes chest. ‘’But regardless, the longer a potential host carries it, the harder it will be to expel it? That is essentially, what you said?’’

Robbie hummed and gave a soft nod in response. ‘’And the worse your body will be for wear. Damaged goods so to speak.’’ He replied, before sighing and embracing the other close. ‘’I fear, if it goes unchecked for too long that it cannot be removed completely without destroying the host in the process.’’ He admitted.

Sportacus raised his head and stared up at the other in the uncomfortable silence, which followed. ‘’How bad was my case?’’ He asked, not truly wanting the answer.

‘’Bad.’’ Robbie settled on a cold voice. ‘’Very bad.’’

Both were silent for a beat – neither too keen on breaking the tense silence, before Robbie huffed and settled his hands against the sides of the others face. ‘’Link with me.’’ The fae said softly, quickly elaborating when the elf raised a brow at him. ‘’The dream-link.’’ He explained. ‘’Should we find ourselves suddenly caught unaware or for some reason without a ward or some other type of shield, the link would warn the other and we could help each other out.’’

‘’And that would go both ways, correct?’’ Sportacus asked in a careful voice.

’Of course.’’ Robbie replied, as he narrowed his eyes down at the other. ‘’Do not misunderstand, you are ridiculously strong, but the… direct focus is still missing.’’ He said, as he tapped twice at the elfs right arm. ‘’Like this, we could easily help the other out if need be, without you accidentally ripping yourself, or me, apart in the process.’’

The elf nodded, expression thoughtful, as he settled a hand against the others hip. ‘’What’s the catch?’’ Sportacus asked a tad nervously, to which Robbie shrugged casually.

‘’You find yourself following a dream-flow not tainted by a shade, all you will see, is what I regularly dream off, which is-‘’ The fae awkwardly cut himself off, just as a curious flush peppered his neck and cheeks. ‘’Well it’s not hard to stray from a dream that you are clearly not meant to see, besides, I can easily kick you out without damaging the link – same goes for you of course, in case I followed it the other way and accidentally get too nosy.’’

Sportacus hummed. ‘’And we can always remove it?’’ He asked, to which Robbie jerkily nodded. The elf bit at his split, bottom lip for a moment, before nodding slightly. ‘’I’m in.’’ He said.

The fae smirked down at him, before leaning his head down and connecting their foreheads again. ‘’There.’’ He said softly.

’Wait that’s it?’’ Sportacus asked, clearly surprised.

‘’Well uhm-‘’ Robbie awkwardly said, not meeting the others eyes. ‘’Yes, yes that’s it.’’

‘’Robbie?’’

‘’I miiight have already created the link a few days ago.’’

‘’What-‘’

‘’No no, look, you were tossing and turning in your sleep, clearly something was amiss - and hey I was right you were being attacked - but I could not get through to you, I tried, I really tried, and you would not wake, so I panicked and I remember the link could be used, and then it was just there and then you were possessed and I feared your reaction would be to drown me or choke me in my sleep, which you threatened to do at least three times and I just-‘’ Robbies, quick, slightly hysterical tirade was cut short, when the elf leaned up and once more settled his lips against the others parted mouth – the elf quickly drawing back and out of the others space again.

‘’It’s okay.’’ Sportacus quickly reassured. ‘’I understand – I do not mind that it is there, I just got startled for a second.’’ The elf said, as he settled a hand against the others chest. Robbie suddenly seemed to remember how to breathe – the fae taking a deep, shallow breath, before straightening back up again.

‘’Well.’’ Robbie started, as he stared at the elfs bound feet, licked his lips and managed another deep breath. ‘’Yes.’’ He finally settled, not sure as to what he was answering.

‘’How do we know who is infected?’’ The elf spoke up, when it seemed the other was starting to panic anew - the elf unsure, which part exactly had triggered it. ‘’Are the potentially possessed walking time bombs, or do you believe we have a chance at stalling it?’’

Robbie drew a sharp inhale, as he shook his head, clearly happy to have been brought back onto a safer, more familiar train of thought. ‘’We don’t.’’ He deadpanned. ‘’And unless we get our hands on a newly possessed, there is truly nothing we can do to stop or detect it.’’

‘’Well a fox sneered at me.’’ Sportacus tried – a small smile blossoming over his features despite the seriousness of the situation.

‘’There is no trace of it left.’’ Robbie replied, as he leaned down – the fae waiting a moment, before pressing a soft kiss to the elfs neck. ‘’In you I mean, it is all gone.’’ He elaborated, as he pressed a glowing palm against the elfs chest and pressed in regardless of the fact that he knew it was true.

‘’That is not what I meant, but good to know.’’ The elf admitted, as he reached up and snaked his fingers in-between the faes glowing ones and held them close. ‘’But what of the thousands that have been evacuated?’’ He asked. ‘’What if one goes berserk in the same manner that I did?’’

Robbie bit at his lower lip – the faes tense fingers twitching slightly, as his brow furrowed. ‘’This possession was not ripe so to speak. We still got time.’’

‘’Depends on when the first was infected or if the other, potential person forgets quicker than I did - is that not correct? Besides, it knows now that it can take over the host, if only briefly. Perhaps it has done so with others.’’

‘’True.’’ Robbie sighed, as he gazed down the hallway and towards the stairs leading back up to the circular lobby-like room. ‘’Speaking of foxes, why are there none here?’’ The fae asked to which the elf tensed slightly.

‘’They do not go too close to the theater.’’ The elf admitted on a soft voice, to which Robbie hummed.

‘’Why did you go here then?’’

‘’To locate the heart.’’ The elf admitted, as he closed the distance again and rested the side of his face against the others chest. ‘’I wanted to light this place up.’’

Roughly seventeen, small flames lit up around them, as Robbie embraced the other proper. ‘’How do we do that?’’ The fae asked.

‘’We need to go to the throne room.’’ Sportacus replied, to which the fae hummed.

‘’Is that the throne room?’’ Robbie asked, as he jerked his head towards the deep room at the end.

‘’No.’’ The elf said simply, on a shaky breath. ‘’It is an old theater.’’ Robbie went slightly tense, before he blinked and gazed down at the just as tense other, who refused to meet his gaze.

‘’And why do I detect a problem with that?’’ He sighed deeply.

The elf was silent for a great while, before finally, he gulped and looked up to meet the others intense gaze. ‘’Because a three headed troll is sleeping in it.’’ He finally admitted – the elf very much aware of the way Robbie immediately went pale. ‘’When you found me, I had been staring at it for…’’ The elf trailed off, as his gaze lowered again. ‘’I am not actually certain as to how long it had been.’’

‘’There is a troll…’’ Robbie started on a strangely cold voice, as he let go of the elf and stepped back. ‘’In here with us.’’ He hissed, as he pointed towards the faintly glowing room at the end.

‘’It cannot reach us.’’ Sportacus quickly promised, just as both of the elfs hands came up to hover awkwardly in the air in front of him. ‘’If the Tusseladd is still alive, then it is still stuck, it cant-.’’

‘’Tusse- There is a fuckin Tusseladd here?’’ Robbie clipped, clearly agitated.

The elf could not help the small scoff, which escaped him. ‘’You think any lesser could drive us out?’’ He clipped. Robbies mouth rapidly opened and closed, as the elf hesitantly looked up at him.

The fae shook his head hard, as he raked a hand over his face. ‘’You are insane.’’ He barked low, clearly angry to which the elf quickly took a small step back.

‘’I could not remember- I… I’m sorry.’’ Sportacus tried on a small, shaky voice – the elf flinching hard, when the faes lethal glare snapped up at him. ‘’I really did not mean to-‘’ He started, before Robbie viciously growled and took two large steps forward in order to close the distance, which the elf nervously tried to create. Both of Robbies tense hands settled into the elfs dirty hair, before the fae tightened the grip and drew the other flush up against him – said elf letting out a surprised yelp, as the fae kissed him deeply.

’Insane.’’ Robbie growled against his lips, as he rather aggressively nipped at them. ‘’Absolutely insane.’’

‘’Robbie-‘’

‘’No – shut up.’’ The fae clipped dryly, as he drew a bit back and allowed the other space. ‘’You could have mentioned this while Glanni was with us – you could have said something before it took over your mind.’’

‘’I’m sorry.’’

‘’I fuckin know you are, but that changes nothing, I know you had trust issues and still do, I’m not blind, but with these things, you need to let me know and assist.’’ The fae took a deep breath, as he gazed down at the slightly shaky other. ‘’You saw it enter here, didn’t you?’’ The fae deadpanned. ‘’You saw the chaos that followed, you know the intricate details of what happened.’’

Sportacus could only nod – the elf not trusting his voice to hold. Robbie let out a deep, annoyed sigh, as he buried his face into the elfs hair. ‘’Please tell me we are not going to fight a troll.’’ He groaned in a voice slightly muffled by the others hair.

‘’It could be dead.’’ Sportacus said softly, feeling himself smile humorlessly despite the serious topic, as Robbie let out a series of angry groans, huffs and a single ‘unbelievable’.

‘’Your race is stupid.’’ The fae grumbled. ‘’Insanely stupid.’’ He spat, as he once more jerked his arms around the elf and held the other close. Sportacus barked a short, startled laugh – the elfs own arms coming up to tightly wrap around the faes middle.

‘’Sure.’’

Robbie shook his head again, before sighing into the others hair. ‘’Right, I will go with you.’’ He said, as he drew back and jerkily smoothed out the small wrinkles in his night robe. ‘’A fuckin Tusseladd.’’ Sportacus heard the fae hiss low, more to himself than the elf. ‘’Is there anything else I should know?’’

The elf shrugged slightly. ‘’We have an old library, which might prove useful.’’

Robbie took a deep, ragged breath as he willed himself to calm down completely, before he turned his head back in the direction of his elf. ‘’As in you believe it could hold information regarding the shade?’’ He asked.

‘’Doubt it.’’ Sportacus replied and quickly continued, when the other rolled his eyes. ‘’But the place holds a lot of old knowledge, perhaps we could find something- like a shield or a spell to banish it.’’

‘’Fairly certain I already have what we need.’’ Robbie grumbled to which the elf shrugged.

‘’You never know.’’ He tried, as he tilted his head and regarded the other.

Robbie huffed, before deciding to humor the other. ‘’It is a troll-free environment, correct?’’ He asked, to which the elf laughed.

‘’Completely.’’ Sportacus quickly promised, as he leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to the faes cheek. ‘’I’m sorry.’’ He said again to which Robbie sighed and grabbed the elfs hand tight.

‘’Lets just get this over with.’’ He said, as he started tugging the other in the direction of the old theater. ‘’Of course there is a troll in here, off course.’’ The fae mumbled low. ‘’Don't they usually roam in forests and not caves?’’ The fae groaned, almost as if on an afterthought.

‘’This one went mad.’’

‘’Well great, that is very reassuring.’’ Robbie spat, just as a strong, rotting scent hit them. ‘’I really hope that is newly deceased.’’ The fae murmured, as he grabbed the elfs hand closer.

Sportacus squeezed his hand in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. ‘’If not, we have a serious problem.’’ He sighed. ‘’Kill the light.’’ The elf softly urged, just as the fragile flames died with a soft hiss - successfully plunging both tense creatures into a nearly complete darkness. Both stopped and decided to wait for their eyes to adjust to the now lower lighting, before continuing.

The first thing Robbie noticed was the luminescent shrooms, which had pushed through parts of the mosaic ceiling – the invading flora now casting an eerie glow over the old theater below. From there, it took the faes stressed out mind a second or two, to truly see and understand, what it was that emanated the foul scent.

Robbie felt his blood run cold, just as Sportacus immediately drew the petrified, barely breathing fae back – said fae stumbling and nearly falling, before the other caught and steadied him. ‘’That is-‘’

’Yes.’’ The elf hushed in a godsfearing voice. ‘’It is, but it might be dead.’’ He softly panted, as he grabbed onto the faes trembling shoulders and held on – both creatures settling into a tense silence, as neither seemed too keen on approaching the ledge again.

It eventually had to be done though.

Sportacus gently tugged the reluctant fae after him, as the former slowly approached the broken banister and peeked back over. ‘’Gods it is so much worse than I expected.’’ Robbie said, covering his mouth in disgust, as he stared down at the giant carcass.

Another frightened, tense silence settled between the two, before the elf found his voice again.

‘’I’m going down there.’’ Sportacus said, as he placed a hand against the part of the banister that was still intact.

‘’No you are not.’’ Robbie quickly spat, as he grabbed the other and jerked him back away from the edge again.

‘’If that thing is somehow still alive, we need to know.’’ The elf not so gently urged, as he carefully pried his hand back out of the others tense grip. ‘’Trust me on this.’’ He lowly called over his shoulder, as he swiftly made his way back over to the banister.

‘’Sporty this is a very dumb idea.’’

‘’I know, but are you going to be able to sleep, knowing this is still in here with us?’’

The others jaw clicked, as the fae worried his quivering bottom lip between his teeth, before finally, he shook his head. ‘’It is dead.’’ He settled sternly. ‘’We can just leave - We can go and find somewhere else to-‘’

’Where?’’ The elf gently urged, as he lowered his head and narrowed his eyes at the other. ‘’The new court? Your gatherings?’’ He said, as he raised a brow and shook his head. ‘’Your kin would rather dance or ‘love’ me to death, than see me happy for even a beat. Mine would not even let you pass through the gates.’’ He urged softly. ‘’My brother cannot protect you, if you actually managed to make it inside – and no, it is different with your cousin, he has a kings approval, which you do not yet have. I cannot protect you outside of these walls; this is my domain now, just as the lair was yours. Neutral grounds.’’ He argued softly, as the others’ shoulders slumped slightly. ‘’We are not safe anywhere - not if we want to stay together. And if that.’’ Here he gestured down at the Tusseladd. ‘’Is suddenly going to barge in in the middle of breakfast then…’’ the elf trailed off, as he shook his head. ‘’As you so correctly guessed, I have seen it firsthand - we will not survive if we are caught off-guard.’’

The fae raked both hands through his hair, as his eyes fell - mouth opening and closing a few times, before he completely shut it and stared back at the other. ‘’With the right persuasion, we could change their view on you.’’ He finally settled, as he decided to focus on that point first.

‘’Which we do not have time for.’’ The elf argued, as he slowly stalked back over to the other. ‘’Someone needs to ‘borrow’ an elf for whatever reason, and you are not there or around to stop them – what then?’’ The elf asked, as he raked his shivering palms up the others tense chest, just as one of the faes hands gently settled under the elfs chin – lifting said elfs head, as he stared back with a furrowed brow.

‘’I can talk to them. I can demand that they-‘’

’Later.’’ Sportacus promised, as he stood up on his tiptoes to deliver a quick peck to the others tense, thin lips. ‘’We will change their views later, but for now we have to fight.’’

Robbie softly huffed, as he finally relented. ‘’We cannot fight the dead Sporty.’’ He pointed out, as he pressed a soft kiss to the elfs forehead. ‘’But I am in.’’ The fae said, as he drew back. ‘’Once all this is over, we set change in motion.’’ He vowed, to which the elf chuckled humorlessly.

‘’If we both survive.’’

Robbie huffed. ‘’Indeed.’’ He agreed, as he pressed the other close again – this time refusing to let go, as the other tried to draw back. ‘’Do not stay down there for any longer than you absolutely have to.’’ He growled lowly in the elfs ear.

Sportacus lightly petted the faes arm in what he hoped was a confident gesture. ‘’You got it.’’ He promised, as he smiled up at Robbie, just as the other let him go. ‘’And stay up here.’’ He urged. ‘’Cover me if things go sought.’’

Robbie raised a surprised eyebrow at him, before holding a palm against his forehead. ‘’The elf is strategizing instead of throwing himself head first into danger.’’ The fae drawled darkly. ‘’Must be a fever.’’ He mused seriously, before grabbing the others hips. ‘’Gotta go back to bed right now then, yep.’’ He urged, as he pressed a last, quick kiss to the others forehead – knowing that the elf had no intention of backing down from the challenge below.

Sportacus scoffed, as he shoved playfully at the others shoulder, before taking a deep breath, turned and went back over to the banister. He somehow managed to squash the quick flair of panic, as he stared back down – the easy feeling from their quick banter evaporating like dew in the morning sun, as he gulped, before swinging himself out onto the other side.

A shade is destroying all that I love and yet I still have to deal with this. The elf thought darkly, as he let himself drop – Nimbly catching the edge of the level down below, before repeating the movement.

Drop catch, drop catch, until he was all the way down.

Sportacus landed with a soft thud and quickly covered his mouth with a shaking palm, as he turned his head slightly in disgust – The intruding scent almost unbearable, as he kept his eyes peeled on the unmoving creature.

The elf slowly inched closer, as he gazed around, taking in his immediate surroundings, before his stinging eyes caught on a set of old, dusty bones directly to his right. Judging from the torn, withering clothes and broken bones, the unfortunate elf had been slammed into the ground and most likely chewed on for a bit, before being harshly discarded to what had now become their final resting place.

With a soft shake of his head, Sportacus willed himself to jerk his eyes back onto his still unmoving target, before he spotted a rather large, knocked over candlestick. His clammy hands silently wrapped around it, as a stupid plan formed in his mind. ‘’Okay, we can do this.’’ He mumbled lowly to himself, as he slowly approached the hopefully dead three-headed troll. ‘’Just poke it and run.’’

Above him, Robbie’s eyes went wide, as he seemed to realize the others intend. ‘’You are not actually going to poke it Sporty, are you out of your mind?!’’

The elf swiftly spun and pressed a finger to his lips. ‘’You see any movement, let me know and I will get out of dodge.’’ He urgently hissed back, as lowly as he could.

Robbie tugged at his hair, as he stared down at the tense elf – fae greatly shaking his head, as the other slowly stalked towards the mountain of dead flesh, before he covered his mouth in disbelief and let out a series of small, worried whimpers.

Sportacus pressed the end of the candlestick against an eyelid of the head closest to him – The thin layer of flesh letting go with a wet, tearing noise, as it had clung to the eye itself. The elf scrunched his nose and willed himself not to turn his head away, as the scent of the dark, decayed liquid slowly dripped down from the torn tissue, and onto the marble floor below.

The two intensely-focused creatures stared wide-eyed, neither fae nor elf daring to even blink, as they waited to see if anything moved – Robbie keeping an eye over the entire mass, while the elf stared into the decaying white of the trolls dead, leaking eye.

When an entire minute had passed like that, the elf slowly lowered the candlestick and glanced back up at the completely silent fae. Sportacus took a deep, raspy breath, before the fae swallowed and sternly nodded – both of Robbies hands glowing a soft shade of purple, as he grabbed the banister and quickly mouthed ‘Don’t die.’

Sportacus felt himself smile slightly despite the seriousness of the situation, before turning back to his hopefully completely, dead target. He rolled his shoulders and raised the candlestick high, before taking a deep breath – tightly shutting his eyes, before plunging it into the dead mass before him.

Immediately, the surface of the eye burst with a loud wet pop, as the pressure, which had presumably been building over the years it had been lying here, was released – large chunks of gunk, filth and decay spraying out and showering the elf, before the entire mass culminated in a loud series of wet slaps against the smooth marble floor.

Sportacus stood completely in shock for several seconds, before the sticky candlestick fell from his numb fingers and onto the floor below – the loud metallic clank seemed to echo and fade out into the else empty theater, before he humorlessly chuckled and spread his soggy arms out wide - gunk and filth dripping off him as he did so. The elf shook his head like a dog, his long hair stubbornly clinging to his face and skull, as he spat at the ground and continued his tense, nervous laughter. He would need a long, hot shower - preferably right now.

‘’Well it is long dead, so that is lucky.’’ The elf drawled, as he raked his hands down both of his arms, chest and face, in an attempt to get the thick mixture of fat, gore and decay off him. The whole mix let off a scent much like rotten eggs he realized, as he for some reason sniffed closely at it - nearly making him gag, as he rubbed at his eyes to clear them off the sticky liquid. ‘’We got an underground waterfall a few stories down.’’ Sportacus laughed, as he tried to squeeze some of the gunk out of his hair. ‘’I suggest we go there next, before getting the light up and running.’’ He joked, as he gazed up at a pale, tense wide-eyed Robbie Rotten.

‘’Sporty. Get back here right now.’’ The fae lowly urged, clearly wanting to keep his voice as low as possible - Knuckles white, from how hard his glowing hands were gripping the banister, as he stared at a point right behind the baffled elf.

‘’Wha-‘’

’Get. Back.’’ the fae hissed, just as a low rasping sounded behind the elf, causing the small hairs on the back of said elfs neck to stand up, as he slowly turned around in horror. A series of sloppy sounds, muffled and much like air slowly fizzing out of a balloon sounded, as the trolls decaying limps jerked and set into motion after years of lying perfectly dormant.

The elf let out a small, panicked breath, as he stared up into the partly intact other eye, which blinked down at him through its torn eyelid - a few foul scenting chunks of gunk and gore falling down, as the pressure from the movement smudged the eyeball together. Suddenly, the realization that the elf should not have been able to see the other eye, from where it had been lying hit him, meaning the giant head had moved while he was distracted by his obvious disgust.

‘’Sporty.’’ The elf heard the fae grit out, as the giant eye blinked again – a messy pupil narrowing, as it trained onto the elfs trembling form. ‘’Get back up here right this fucking moment.’’

Chapter Text

Sportacus gulped, feeling his blood run cold, as he quickly took five, trembling steps back – The troll letting out a mix between a growl and a high-pitched shriek, as it registered the movement.

The elf had only a moment to gasp in fright and shock, before the entirety, which was the not dead troll, stood up on its convulsing legs, which somehow did not break from the sheer weight, of the decaying creature they held. Sportacus' ears drew back, as he shakily stared up at the creature – the elfs mouth slightly open and the elf himself barely breathing. The last time he had been in front of this creature… The broken back gate torn off its hinges. His likewise confused, terrified kin all panicked and sprinting for their lives, as the giant squished and pushed itself through the hallways that barely fit its enormous frame. A small, lost child being squashed under the giants foot, as the Tusseladd picked up the child’s mother and-

’Sportacus move!’’

The elf twitched and quickly threw himself sideways, somehow managing to duck low to the ground and out of the way, as one of its massive arms swung for his head. The elf rolled further across the hard, marble floor, before jumping back up, his breath now coming much too fast.

‘’Sport focus, get back for- MOVE you idiot!’’ Robbie roared, his booming voice bouncing off the walls and vibrating back to him, as one of the trolls fists came down towards the elf. Again, Sportacus felt his trembling legs obey at just the last moment – the blast from the impact of the troll’s knuckles against the hard floor, sending him flying even further, as the entire room and floor shook with the shock of it.

The elf once more rolled, jumped up and turned back to face his old foe, which had seemingly destroyed a large part of its own hand in the attempt to reduce the elf into a flattened, gory pancake. The troll shook the limb around in anger – Black blood and bewildered maggots flying everywhere, just as a few tiles from the mosaic ceiling rained down and joined the enraged roar of the troll in a series of soft clings and clangs, as the small shards bounced and skittered across the marble floor. Sportacus ducked low to the ground again, as the trolls mighty tail swung past, just above the elfs head, as the giant thrashed and roared.

‘’Gods below.’’ Robbie breathed low to himself, as he flinched and ducked behind a pillar next to him, just as a large, fleshy bit came flying straight for his head. The chunk smashed against the wall behind him, successfully coating the back of his lower night robe, as the impact send a spray of foul liquid over him.

Down at the bottom of the theater, the Tusseladds third head suddenly seemed to snap into awareness, as it jerked up from its dormant position – its giant mouth opening to take in a shallow, ragged breath, just as its eyes rolled in their sockets, dazed and disoriented, before the whole mass that was the troll jerked and eerily stilled. For a tense moment, it merely appeared to be breathing, its giant, mushy, still leaking fist clenching and slowly opening again, as though the troll was testing its own boundaries, before finally, it gazed around, truly seeing its surroundings.

All three of its heads simultaneously turned downwards, the five remaining eyes all snapping onto the trembling elf below. All was still, as both elf and fae held their breath – said elf slowly backing away, though he was unsure as to where he was heading exactly. The dead, broken bodies littering the smashed, too small for such a large creature, hallways – Sportacus’ own mind yet too young and shielded from the cruelty of the world to truly understand that such creatures existed, as the giant thrashed through and ate whatever it came into contact with.

The Tusseladd continued to stare down at him, as it took a single, hesitant, booming step forward - The mushy fist raising again, this time seemingly with true intend behind it, as the three heads kept a close eye on their staggering target.

Sportacus jumped up high off the ground, just as the giants fist came crashing down for him again – the elf managing to not be crushed and simultaneously grab a hold of the torn, rotting flesh just above the trolls knuckles, as he landed on the back of its hand and stubbornly held on. For all of three seconds, he desperately clung to the soft flesh beneath him, before the wet skin in between his tense, clutching fingers tore apart and sent him flying in a spray of filth and gore, as the giant drew back its hand and viciously shook it around, as though trying to rid itself of a pesky bug.

From its perspective, it probably was.

Sportacus’ back collided hard with the rough surface of a nearby pillar, before gravity set in and the elf fell heavily to the floor below. The elf gasped and stared up at the slowly turning troll, as it searching for its carelessly discarded prey. His father scooping him up from where he had stood frozen in fear on the bloody floor. Aki throwing his younger self over his shoulder, as the older elf settled into a dead sprint towards the open front gate, away from the approaching troll – The elders eyes blinded by his own grieving tears as they fled alongside guards and common folk, all fleeing as one single being. The glowing foxes – just as blinded by the panic and confusion - ran alongside them out into the suffocating warmth of the hot summer air.

‘’Sport for the gods sake, snap out of it!’’ The winded elf heard his frantic fae yell, as he looked up at the frenzied troll, who had finally located who it sought. Sportacus’ arms came up to shield himself, as he furiously rubbed at his itching arms.

He felt too hot. Terrified, as his wide eyes jerked around the circular room, looking for an exit that neither was blocked, nor had a murderous troll in its wake. A servant with dead eyes handing him a sweet scenting tea and a blanket, as she kissed his forehead and told him everything was going to be ok. The elf threw himself to the side, as the troll reached for him again – the enraged creature letting out a roar of pain, as the fae threw a ball of purple fire at the troll, which collided hard with the back of its right head, successfully taking out a large chunk of it. The simpler times which followed.

A single, unseeing eye still hung by a string of dead tissue, as it slowly turned around, and for the first time, noticed the sneering other. Robbie visibly gulped, as the Tusseladd wobbled and stalked towards the faes position – Filth and gore dripping off it, as its attention were now fully on the other.

The fae threw himself back and down onto the wet floor, as a half-broken, leaking fist came crashing through the banister, just narrowly missing the screaming other.

The entirety of the section, which the fae was on, started to collapse and keel over towards the gulf – the yawning deep of the room appearing much higher than it probably was, but still enough to kill him instantly, should he indeed fall. Robbie, both caught up in his fear of heights, now brutally combined with the angry threat of the troll below, yelped and desperately hung on to a single, still intact floor beam protruding from the splintering mess, just as the old, wooden floor under him gave in completely.

Robbie closed his eyes, not willing to see his own demise rushing towards him, as he let go of the beam and let himself drop, just before the trolls broken fist could close around his thin frame and crush him.

Sportacus watched through a haze, as his fae crashed against the hard floor of the platform just below- the rest of the broken, wooden mess continuing down and crashing against the marble surface. The depressed state of mind. The loss of will and appetite following the years of therapy, where his kin stared at him with deep understanding and pity, which he desperately wanted to run and hide from, but followed wherever he went.

A shade. A dead child. A repeat.

Robbie screamed as he quickly scrambled backwards on the new platform he unwillingly found himself on, both of the feas glowing, trembling hands coming up, palms upturned and set in the direction of the Tusseladd, before a deep purple shone in the center of each palm.

A bolt of purple lightning shot out, mingled in the air and collided with the troll’s right arm, causing the entire limb to explode in a great lightshow of magic, filth and gore. The torn arm made a loud, disturbing, fleshy slap, as it fell and collided against the hard floor below.

The Tusseladd wobbled a bit, one of its heads staring down at the detached arm in confusion, before it roared, drew back the entirety of its wobbly form and straight up rammed itself against the side of the room, as though it hoped to squash the fae in the process.

Sportacus shook his head, both of his hands coming up to tug hard on his hair, as he watched his fae run across the shaking walkway – the fae narrowly avoiding getting crushed, as the troll rammed its shoulder against the part of the platform the fae had just been on only seconds ago. A confusing- Stop being in the past and focus you imbecile! The loud voice in his head angrily spat, causing the elf to flinch, before he bend down and picked up a large, broken piece of the marble floor. The elf quickly took three steps forward in the direction of the enraged troll and threw it as hard as he could.

The sharp chunk went straight through the trolls left head – the Tusseladd howling in pain, as it spun in confusion, looking for what had caused the injury. The large creature seemed to lose its balance, its left arm flailing pathetically in the air, before its wobbling body fell and collided hard against the side of the theater.

Fortunately, though the elf was unsure as to what he had hit inside the troll’s skull, the head in question slumped against the Tusseladds chest and appeared to be unmoving.

’Robbie?!’’ Sportacus called up, as he tried to locate the other – elf bracing himself, as the entire room shook from the impact of the, for now, downed troll. A large portion of the mosaic ceiling came loose and rained down around him - A single shard cutting a clean path down the left side of his forehead, causing the elf to jerk up both of his hands, suddenly afraid that one of the falling shards might fall badly and take out his eye in the process.

‘’Still alive!’’ The fae called back.

‘’A numbing spell would be amazing right about now!’’ Sportacus yelled a tad destressed, as the troll smashed its massive, remaining arm into the wall of the theater, causing a great cloud of blinding dust to be kicked up and settling heavily in the air around him.

An entire section of balconies collapsed under the weight of the troll’s arm - the elfs eyes stinging, as he rapidly blinked to clear them of the unwanted particles still heavily in the air. Keep drawing its fire, it has to be drawn away from the walls and especially away from Robbie - otherwise the whole room is going to collapse around us. His mind not so gently urged, as another large portion of the sharp tiles above fell directly onto his head, like a tiny, sharp cascade of a surreal marble rain. ‘’Robbie!’’ The elf yelled again, worried the other might somehow have been caught under that massive, still thrashing arm.

‘’It’s not working!’’ The elf heard the other loudly yell back, voice moving and sounding a bit frantic, as the fae sprinted around the circular platform – trying to create distance between himself and the slowly recovering troll.

The fae stopped short, when he nearly fell straight into a gaping hole in the floor. Gulping, the fae glanced both ways – but definitely not down, nope – before he grabbed a hold of the banister and inched his way to the other, still intact side.

Sportacus grit his teeth and picked up another log – this time the head he threw it at, stayed intact, yet the elf did manage to gain the attention of the now two-headed troll. ‘’Just do whatever you can!’’ He yelled back, just as his eyes caught a glimpse of something shiny, which were lying neglected among a pile of rubble. The distraction was enough that he did not notice the quickly approaching heel of the Tusseladd, which would have crushed him, if Robbie had not stopped dead in his tracks and thrown another bolt of lightning straight at it.

The troll roared, just as the elfs fingers closed around a peculiarly, fresh-looking dagger, before the elf rolled out of the way, as the troll tried to stomp on him again. Slowly but surely, the floor he was on, had started to become too slippery and smooth for him to stand firmly on – the decaying fat and tissue of the troll making it wet and difficult to maneuver properly.

The elf felt a stupid idea form in his head, as his stinging eyes traveled onto the broken, and still breaking, platforms above and around him. ‘’I need a distraction!’’ Sportacus yelled, as he set into a sprint towards the lowest parts of the platform closest to him. The elf managed to run up the low wall and catch onto the edge of its banister, just as Robbie dug out of view again and ran to the opposite side of where the elf was now slowly making his way upwards.

A bright, purple flash, followed by a loud boom and an enraged roar came from the faes direction, just as the elf got high enough that his suicidal plan just might work.

The Tusseladd, now with its attention firmly on Robbie, did not notice the elf behind it – the elf in question holding onto the edge of a broken platform with one hand, the dagger clutched firmly in the other.

Sportacus took a deep breath, knowing he could easily make the jump, but still worried, as he let go and shot out from the wall. The elf felt his stomach do a flip, face scrunching up in disgust as he landed in between the crook of the trolls middle and right head, the rotting stench this up close enough to nearly make him gag. The elf quickly secured himself a firm hold of the strong, yet slippery black hairs protruding from the Tusseladds right neck, as he climbed a bit further right and plunged the dagger deep into the fleshy mess of its neck.

Swiftly, he drew the dagger back and proceeded to rapidly stab at the strong, yet beaten by time and decay, muscles and tendons underneath - the tissue far softer and easy to cut through than he had expected. So, to the elfs horror, said elf felt his grip on the smooth hair slip, just before he managed to stab in deep one last time, before he slid down the trolls back and proceeded to clash hard against the floor below.

Somehow, he managed not to hurt himself too badly, yet, he did register the sharp pain shooting up his left leg, as he ran across the wet ground, his bound feet slipping and disappearing beneath him, as the left caught on a large chunk of decayed fat, which send the elf tumbling and sliding against the floor.

‘’And then there was one.’’ Sportacus breathed lowly to himself, as he spun and glanced back over his shoulder to look up, just in time to see the right head of the troll slump onto its chest, just as the left had done. ‘’Again!’’ Sportacus called up at the tense Robbie - the elf swiftly pushing himself up and loudly ignored the pain from both his left leg and right hurting shoulder, as he sprinted towards the platforms again.

The fae seemed reluctant, but he had clearly caught onto what the elf was doing. Above and behind said elf, another loud boom sounded and vibrated out, just as a giant, newly detached finger crashed against the wall not far from where the elf was gingerly making his way upwards.

The Tusseladd was pretty much constantly roaring at this point, as it tried to exterminate the two – from its perspective – very annoying, fast, offensive ants.

Sportacus took a deep breath, as he hauled himself over the edge of a semi-broken platform, clutched the dagger close, took a few steps back and sprinted back towards the ragged edge, before he once more leaped and landed, dagger first against the neck of the third and middle head of the troll. The elf managed to cut a genius, ragged slice straight down its spine, before he grabbed hold of the thick hairs and started hacking away at the strong joints underneath.

The troll’s right leg gave out from under it, as the elf managed to sever something vital - the giant roaring in a mix of confusion and pain, as its other leg collided with the marble floor as well.

Sportacus had just started to feel a flicker of hope that they could actually beat this thing, when the troll’s giant, remaining fist reached back and closed around him. He could not breathe, the intense pressure around his ribs suffocating, as he desperately stabbed at the leaking fingers squeezing and trying to crush him to death. The Tusseladd raised the frantically stabbing elf up high in front of its remaining head, seemingly wanting to take a chunk out of him, before deciding otherwise and instead, nonchalantly threw the offensive elf hard against the ground, as though he was a panicked chicken it wanted to behead, but could not get to lie still on the chopping board.

Sportacus felt time slow to a near halt, as the crushing pressure restricting his lungs mercifully eased, his eyes blurry and unfocused, as they went wide and stared up at the Tusseladd, which was reaching for him again. The elf tried to roll away, yet he could hardly move at all. He felt weak, disoriented and confused, as he let out a winded cough – those damned fingers of the troll once more pressing in on him, this time against his already hurting shoulder and neck. Still, nothing felt broken at least, but that hardly mattered, considering he felt the warm, rotting breath of the Tusseladd hit and ghost over him – the already vain light from the room completely cutting off, the humidity changing to something clammy and moist, as his head was now undoubtedly inside its mouth.

The dagger slipped from the elfs numb fingers, just as in front of him, the third and last head of the troll exploded like a bursting watermelon – the gunk and gore covering him, just before the elf hit his head against what he assumed must have been one of the trolls dislodged, broken teeth.

Sportacus once more hit the ground hard, still winded and confused, but from the feel of it – as he frantically pressed a trembling palm against his soggy head and neck, checking for any immediate injuries – he would be all right after all.

The elf placed a hand against the floor and tried to shove himself further up. Vaguely, he registered his name being shouted in warning – said elf turning to see what the issue was, just as a large weight collapsed against and completely covered him, forcing him back down flat against the smooth, wet floor. Once more, he could not breathe, but this time it was not from the pressure he still felt linger around his ribs, but rather the fact that there really no longer was any oxygen in the tight space he now found himself under.

He tried not to gag at the intense stench, tried, to preserve what little air he still had, as he felt himself slowly start to suffocate, just as a few muffled shouts reached him from outside of his fleshy prison. Luckily, it appeared that whatever part of the troll had trapped him did indeed mostly consist of rotting fat, skin and flesh. Had it been a bony part – or one of its heads – truly, he would have been broken beyond repair.

Slowly but surely, the flesh around him started to warm, just as the elf managed to wedge his shirt and hand far enough up that he could cover his mouth and broken nose with it. Disgusted, but full of hope, the elf felt the constricting fat around him slowly give way, the foul, sticky liquid trickling around and under his jerking form, as it heated and ultimately melted. The elf did a violent, full body flinch, as he felt a part of the warm, greasy liquid trickle into his left ear, causing him to abruptly jerk and turn his head as much as possible, in order to stop the worst of the flow. Regardless of his efforts, he still felt the muscles of his stomach and right leg spasm in response, as the liquid steadily pushed on and in.

Up ahead, a steady, purple glow rose in intensity, just before a strange tremor went through and rocked the mountain of dead flesh surrounding him. The elf closed his eyes and did his best to drag himself forward despite his suppressed state, knowing he must be close to the edge, but not yet far enough for him to truly be out of the danger zone.

At least one a half minute must have passed like that, before he felt the constriction in his throat and chest settle into something beyond painful, lungs truly starting to burn, just before the elf instinctually tried to draw the oxygen from the air that he could not get. Accidentally, he opened his mouth wide and immediately started to choke, as indeed, there was nothing but the warm grime surrounding him. Both of the elfs hands clawed at the slippery ground, as he felt panic set in – the elf desperate as he inch by agonizing inch, wormed himself forwards through the melting fat and gore.

It seemed an impossible feat, the elfs muscles slowly starting to go slack, as he pressed back and fought against the intense dizzy spell and fatigue, which tried to set in and instead continued to drag himself onward, the heat near scolding as it increased to something unbearable.

From frozen to boiled alive. A small voice chuckled darkly in the back of his mind, just as a glowing hand pushed through the fat just ahead of him and frantically jerked around in the mass. The elf, though his vision was rapidly darkening, movements sluggish and slow, used the last of his vain strength to push his own twitching hand the last bit forward, somehow managing to catch a hold of the glowing other.

A nasty shock of pain shot through the elfs wrist and arm, as Robbie held on, tugged and pulled as hard on the offered wrist, as he could. It felt like a small eternity, though it might only have been less than three seconds, before the mountain of dead flesh finally released the elf with a sickening, wet pop. Immediately, a sharp pang wrecked through the elfs lungs and chest, as he gasped and choked on some of the filth already coating the inside of his throat and mouth.

The warm grease on the floor, made it easy for the fae to slide the other along – the elf still coughing and hacking, as he felt some of the filthy dead shake itself loose from his convulsing throat and finally fly or trickle out of his slack mouth. Everything seemed coated in a red haze, far away and unimportant, as the fae continued to drag him further away from the dead troll.

Robbie, wide-eyed, slightly shaky and breathing heavily was immediately upon him, as the fae deemed the distance far enough.

The fae sat down and quickly dragged the trembling, pale Sportacus into his lap, before he settled a hand under said elfs chin, - the other coming up to support the back of his head - as gently, Robbie tilted the elfs head back in order to successfully open the others airway.

It felt like an entire stack of white-hot, acidy needles had been shoved into his burning throat and lungs, as the elf finally managed to draw three wet, ragged breaths - his head colliding heavily against the faes tense chest, as the elf realized he was far too tired to hold it up himself.

Robbie wiped at the others face, disgusted, as he could not seem to get the sticky, cooling grease off. The offensive filth was smooth and slimy against the faes own palm, making it highly difficult to keep a proper grip on the fabric, as he tried to use the edge of his night robe to clean the others eyes and nose with it.

Sportacus laughed in a crazy, broken manner, as he glared up and over at the partly melted side of the troll - his ‘tsk’ing fae quickly abandoning the cleaning and instead carefully examined the still chuckling elf over for any further injuries. ‘’I told you to get back.’’ Robbie growled angrily, clearly worried, as he wiped some of the bigger chunks off the others neck and chest, after he had deemed his caretaking complete.

The elf settled his dirty, trembling fingers against the faes thin lips, rudely shushing him. ‘’M fine’.’’ Sportacus rasped and coughed raggedly, as if to prove the point of his excellent condition. The elf drew a shaky breath, as he curled his fingers and toes, wanting to make sure everything was truly still in order. ‘’I feel we have been in this exact situation a few times now.’’ He breathed softly. ‘’Minus the gunk.’’ He laughed, almost as if on an afterthought, as he smirked up at the other and playfully winked. ‘’Wait no.’’ Sportacus laughed, slightly hysterical. ‘’There was gunk last time too.’’

The elfs gasp was caught in his throat, as Robbie gathered a tense fist of the others hair – the fae tugging a bit harshly on the long strands, as he drew the elfs head back and kissed him deeply. ‘’You could just as easily have not been fine.’’ Robbie breathed against the elfs lips, before settling his attention onto the others neck instead. ‘’And yes.’’ He grit out between his possessive kisses. ‘’This is indeed a godsdamned repeat.’’

‘’Trust me to know what I’m doing.’’ Sportacus settled, as he weakly pushed at the others face, yet the powerless movement did nothing to halt the others nervous show of affection - If anything, it only spurred the fae on.

‘’Allow me to be worried when one of the few spells I have truly perfected has no effect due to the sheer size of a creature.’’ Robbie huffed darkly, to which the elf chuckled. ‘’It’s not funny.’’

‘’Robbie I am covered in troll.’’ Sportacus laughed, as the other growled low and nosed at the sensitive spot behind his ear. The elf let out a breathy moan, as the hand in his hair drew his head further back and a pair of tense, hot lips kissed at the tip of his reddened ear. Sportacus stared at the luminescent ceiling – a single shard of the ruined mosaic coming loose and bouncing against the now permanently dead troll, before the shard fell down further and joined its fallen brethren already scattered around on the floor. ‘’With all due respect.’’ The elf managed to breathe out, as a set of teeth gently nipped at the pointy tip. ‘’I do not think we should be making out in a place this open.’’

Robbie hummed low, the hand finally relenting and letting go of the others hair, before he instead settled it against the elfs chest. ‘’Since when did you become the voice of reason?’’ He tiredly teased.

‘’What, are you saying you usually are?’’ Sportacus rasped back, getting a low, warning growl in reply, before he settled into another coughing fit – the elfs nose scrunching up, as he spat a chunk of something better left undescribed at the ground beside him.

‘’Are there any more trolls in this godsforsaken place?’’ Robbie asked a tad angrily, loudly ignoring the others retort.

‘’No.’’ Sportacus chuckled tiredly in response. ‘’Just that one.’’ The elf elaborated, as he gestured at the giant cadaver still present beside them. Robbie curtly nodded, as he drew back and gingerly got up, quickly making sure that the elf could indeed hold his own weight, before angrily tugging the other along after him.

The pace slowed significantly, when he noticed the slight, pained stagger caused by the elfs left leg. ‘’Uhm.’’ The fae started awkwardly, as he gazed down at the others hurting leg, wanting to make sure the pace was indeed still not too fast for the other. ‘’I actually do not know the way.’’ He admitted, to which Sportacus chuckled.

‘’You were almost correct.’’ The elf replied, as he walked a bit in front and swiftly took the lead. ‘’If you do not mind, I suggest we take the throne room first - I really need the light it would give.’’ He said, as he glanced over his shoulder to make sure the dead troll was truly not moving anymore.

Robbie hummed, as he tugged on the others hand, causing the elf to slow to a halt, just as the fae had done. ‘’Are you developing a fear of the dark, or what is happening here?’’ The fae lightly teased, as he bend down to retrieve the neglected, grime-covered dagger. The faes small smirk fell, as the elf lowered his eyes and refused to answer. ‘’Oh.’’ Robbie mumbled, genuinely apologetic, as he put the dagger back into the belt of the night robe. He had not wanted to keep it, but it seemed best to hold onto it - after all, it had proven very useful so far. ‘’Sorry.’’ The fae finally settled, when the elf still did not look up, or in any other form answer him.

Sportacus squeezed his hand in a silent reply. ‘’Throne room first?’’ The elf asked on a soft voice.

‘’Throne room first.’’ Robbie replied, as the elf tugged him along again and led him through a hidden door, which had been concealed by a dusty, moth-eaten cloth.

Chapter Text

‘’Shit.’’ Victor heard his fellow guard, who was standing to his right - just as tensely as he himself was - hiss lowly, as the poorly clad commoner in front of the pair continued to approach the front gate, despite the shouted warnings from both. Victor tightened the already tense grip on his spear and raised it high, as the other elf reached and started their jerky stagger up the stairs.

Both guards knew what they had to do, yet neither truly wanted to carry through with it; not unless they at least tried to make the other see reason.

‘’Just stop right there.’’ The guard to Victor’s right tried again, as he too, raised his own spear slightly in warning. ‘’None are allowed to pass through at the moment, so you must turn around. You have to-’’

‘’They aren’t hearing you.’’ Victor quickly cut off his partner, as he swiftly spun his spear around, so that the butt instead of the sharp point of it was now poking against the commoners left shoulder. ‘’Leave.’’ He tried sternly, as he pressed the other back harshly, hoping to cut through whatever daze the other clearly found themselves in.

The commoner staggered a bit back, nearly losing their balance on the wide steps, before they did a strange twitch and once more approached.

‘’Closer than that and you will be put down.’’ Victor heard his partner practically plead, as the elf in front of them was shoved a bit back again. Despite the warning, the other still did not stop, as they instead reached up both of their trembling hands and harshly shoved the offensive spear aside.

A deep, frustrated sigh escaped Victor, as an arrow whooshed through the air and hit the commoner straight in the shoulder - neither guard needing to glance behind to know that it had been released from atop the wall, where another guard kept a broader lookout of the area. If anything, the reassurance that they were indeed not alone in this endeavor, made Victor feel slightly, if not calmer, then safer.

After all, this unfortunate situation was far from an isolated incident and things had gotten quite ugly the last time around, before their frustrated would-be intruder had finally given up and stalked back into the woods.

The commoner looked confused, clearly in pain, as they grabbed the feathered part of the arrow and tugged hard on it, as though trying to rip the intruding wood straight out of their own, pierced flesh. Blood, which seemed a tad too dark slowly seeped from the wound, dripping down and staining the dark grey top and scarf, they wore.

The old, tattered garments appeared to be a little too cold for the season, but it was not as if he himself could comment on it - his own, sparse attire worn underneath his armor not exactly being in any better shape. Fun fact, metal does not keep you much warm in the early, cool winds of the approaching winter, which they currently found looming over them.

’Shit.’’ Victor heard his partner mumble again, as the commoner in front of them gasped and staggered a few steps back, before they stopped dead in their tracks, gaze seemingly far away and curiously empty – completely removed and indifferent to the dire situation at hand. Their eyes seemed to clear of the blurry haze, which had a strong hold of them, as their gaze snapped up and locked with that of the guard on top of the wall.

Both guards, including the one keeping watch on top of said wall, suddenly felt nervous, but for a completely different reason than that of the potential bloodshed, just as something cold and truly violent crept into the posture and expression of the sneering, deadly still elf in front of them.

Neither of the three would however voice their concerns aloud. Rumors were one thing; seeing what could potentially be the real deal up close was nerve-wracking enough in itself. Besides, even if their fears were indeed true and embodied amongst them, the added, panic inducing superstition had no place in this mess - It would only make it worse than it already was.

The sound of another arrow being readied behind and above them seemed impossibly loud in the sudden, near suffocating silence, which had settled heavily around them.

‘’Vic.’’ The guard on the wall mumbled, as she raised her bow and took aim. ‘’Don’t-‘’

‘’Get too close, I know.’’ Victor swiftly finished, as he spun his spear and got ready as well. ‘’Fuck, this ain’t gonna end well.’’ He mumbled more to himself than his fellow guards. ‘’Last warning!’’ He tried regardless, as the commoner in front of them reached out and wrapped trembling fingers around the sharp sides of the spear and tugged.

-

‘’Fuck that’s gnarly.’’ The guard on the wall breathed, as she shook her head roughly, willing herself to focus on the seriously messed up situation taking place just below her feet.

Neither guard appeared as if they would make it - Victor still seemed to be twitching, but considering the gaping hole in his throat, even if they managed to get him to a healer, it would be too late. As for the other… Well he was kind of missing his head.

The murderous commoner banged hard on the gate, clearly oblivious to the fact that it was properly sealed from the inside. It was not yet common knowledge, but the gates would not be reopened until the king demanded it so, which at this rate, considering the recent, humiliating invasion of a single fae and the following, seemingly spontaneous assassination attempt against their king – which, surprisingly, had been averted by said fae - would properly take weeks at most.

The guard inhaled sharply, readied yet another arrow, before taking aim and for the fifth time, fired at the invasive other.

Below, the arrow hit its mark, yet at this point, the commoner hardly seemed to notice the invading steel, not to mention the entire spear sticking through their person, as they instead stalked over to the rough wall beside the gate and tried to climb it. The spear got in the way however, the heavy wood and metal comically catching them off-guard, as the imbalance send them crashing back down against the ground.

A thick, black, smoky ooze seemed to drip from the wound, as the commoner wrapped their hands around the shaft and pressed the spear straight through and out – the shaky elf quickly reaching back to tug it completely free of their flesh, before they once more tried to climb the wall.

‘’What do we got?’’ The gruff voice of the approaching Ivar asked, as he came up beside the other guard and gazed down. The large elf’s jaw clicked, eyes narrowing in a displeased, slightly exhausted manner, as he took in the frankly, quite horrific scene below. ‘’Right.’’ He breathed out on a soft, slow inhale, as he pushed the invading other back down with the butt of his sword.

‘’What do we do?’’ The female guard asked, gaze full of uncertainty, as they both stared down at the stumbling commoner below - the dazed other appearing to be sporting a now dislocated ankle.

Ivar shook his head, as he snatched up one of the two extra bows resting against the edge of the wall. ‘’Keep it stagnant for now.’’ He said, as he placed an arrow on his bow and took aim.

‘’It?’’

‘’I have a bad feeling it’s a shade.’’ Ivar mumbled, as he let the arrow fly. Said arrow went straight through the commoner’s eye, causing the crazed elf’s head to snap backwards from the impact, but otherwise, they showed no reaction to what should have been a lethal injury. Ivar let out a deep sigh, as he raked a hand over his mouth. ‘’Sound the bell.’’ He rasped sternly.

An angry grin bloomed over the commoner’s features, as they blinked up in acute confusion, just as a loud chime rang out and vibrated through the chilly air around them. Two more guards, both carrying bows at the ready, immediately hurried up and joined their hunched captain on the wall.

Seconds later, the commoners other eye sported an arrow as well – the poor elf stumbling, fumbling along, as they managed to abandon the wall and instead locate the gate again. Their hands settled heavily on either sides, just before they started banging their head against the rough surface of the gate, appearing as though they hoped to smash their way inside.

’Is there…’’ One of the two newcomers started on a low, unsure voice, as they leaned down and stared at the deteriorating mess of the common elf below. ‘’-Any way we can save them?’’ The other helpfully finished, to which Ivar shook his head begrudgingly.

‘’Not a chance.’’ Ivar grumbled, just as the first, female guard returned with a heavy boulder resting on her left shoulder – the lithe elf grunting from the sheer effort of the task, but clearly not needing any help with it.

A sick crack rang out, as the skull of the blinded commoner broke, the impact sending the other crashing against the ground, just as a heavy, intense silence settled over the gathered, as the four - and that of the curious, newly arrived guards - all peeked over the edge of the wall.

‘’Oh come on!’’ Ivar roared in incredulity, as he harshly punched the wall beside him – the large elf clearly frustrated, as the host below settled both of their bleeding hands against the cold ground and got up.

--

 

- The old court -

 

The water was cool and refreshing against his itchy skin, as Sportacus managed to strip himself of his clingy shirt and dive in.

Seconds later, the delighted elf reemerged in the middle of the cool stream; his long hair slowly returning to a decent state, as the slick filth mercifully glided off, before the strong, cool current of the underground waterfall swiftly whisked it away for good.

It had taken a while to get here, the old and unused hallways of the lower levels partly overgrown with large, heavy fungi, making it difficult for the two worn-out creatures to make their way through, but if anything, despite them both being tired, it had been worth the effort.

The elf stretched his heavy arms over his head, quickly stifling a deep yawn, as he gazed around and took in the beauty that was the glowing, invasive flora, which he had successfully asked to come forth and once more flourish, after so long of lying dormant inside the hard, rough walls of the mountain. Even now, the flowers continued to grow and spread out along the ground, ceilings and walls.

The old seeds had been sheltered and sleeping for so long, that they genuinely seemed annoyed and a tad confused, as the life had been breathed back into them. It had not been an easy task – the endeavor long and tedious, but eventually, it seemed his will was greater than their want for eternal rest and so, they finally had light all throughout the court.

Robbie had seemed to fear for his elfs sanity at first – the fae blinking rapidly down at the kneeling elf, as said elf had settled both hands and forehead against the broad backside of the throne. ‘’I can feel the mountain.’’ Sportacus had explained, as he had traced a crack in the hard rock in front of him - the design of the slightly faded carvings running in intricate, circular patterns, which spanned out under him as well. ‘’Its age, all it has seen and endured.’’ He had elaborated, as he had glanced up at the dark roof of the throne room. ‘’Memories are stored here. Old ones. So much joy, despair and life.’’ The cool stone had vibrated slightly beneath his shaky palms, the energy weak but definitely still there, as he closed his eyes and reached out - the elf asking for entry, before he had set to examine the old, giant system running throughout the court.

Without a specific purpose or direction, the old flow had pressed against him curiously; the sensation close to that of small needles writhing and thrashing expectantly against his cool palm. It was chaotic at best. ‘’It is all still here.’’ The elf had breathed out softly, to which Robbie had scoffed rather rudely.

‘’Great.’’ The fae had huffed, as he had warily glanced around. ‘’What good is that going to do us though?’’

Sportacus had just smirked mischievously in return, before he had gathered his energy and started to push. It had felt as if something had slid into place within the hard rock, as though a last piece of a large puzzle once more came together, just before the carvings in front of him lit up– The light traveling like veins inside the intricate circles, before the light shot downwards and out.

Robbie had clearly been about to say something else – the fae abruptly cutting himself off, as he too noticed the soft glow, which rapidly spread around them. A soft ‘wow’ fell from slack, awestruck lips, as Robbie gazed up and followed the spreading, glowing flow of the blooming flowers, which pressed out and spread through and over the glowing walls and ceiling.

‘’A lot of good actually.’’ Sportacus had teased gently, as he gazed back up at the dumbstruck other, who kept opening and closing his mouth, clearly lost for words. The elf had started to laugh, soft and deep, the tone clearly gleeful but still laced with a heartfelt exhaustion.

Robbie had huffed and gazed down lovingly at him then, the flowers slowly brightening glow reflecting in his stormy eyes and honestly, it was all the elf could do not to grin back fondly. ‘’You said something about a shower?’’ The fae had said with a slight amusement in his voice, as he held down a hand to help the still laughing other stand.

’A shower would be amazing indeed.’’ Sportacus had quickly agreed.

The elf raked his hands through his soggy hair, shaking his head slightly as he willed himself back in the present. Slowly but surely, the filth gave way, the water immediately around him no longer grey and dirty, as the press of the cool water continued to carry and wash it away. Sportacus shook his head again, enjoying the feel of it.

Perhaps, he should be more concerned about the fact that he seemed to have lost a significant amount of his fingers sensibility. Worst and most disturbingly, weird tingles seemed to permanently wreck through his shoulder blades - the unwelcome sensation strongest down and around his spine. The elf hoped it was not a permanent feature, but both Robbie and he doubted he was that lucky.

After all, you did not tangle with a shade and not pay any consequences from it, but if this was the only price he had to pay, then so be it.

Speaking of permanent features. Sportacus thought in amusement, a small, playful grin blooming over the elfs features, as he turned and gazed back at Robbie, whose expression had remained intense and heated ever since they left the throne room. A significantly bothered flush immediately invaded the faes cheeks, as the elf winked and raked a hand down his wet, naked chest – the fae awkwardly coughing into his hand, as he quickly glanced away, suddenly very interested in the invading flora around him.

Still, despite his best efforts, Robbie’s eyes kept glancing back over to the stupidly gleeful elf, who was very aware of which kind of reaction he was enticing. Regardless, the fae still scooted a bit closer to the water and the blasted elf in general, removed his socks and dipped his feet inside. Robbie had insisted on not going in however, insisted that it was far too cold for his liking and so he would stay on dry land, thank you very much.

Sportacus chuckled, as he once more dug under the cool water, not missing the way the other still followed his every move through narrowed eyes.

Robbie’s fascination was completely fair though, the elf had after all, started it.

They had barely made it halfway through the slowly lighting throne room, when Robbie let out a loud, choked gasp as he had turned to gaze back at the glowing flora behind him and instead in the process, spotted the giant stone throne – the proud, elegant feature towering high, as it was carved directly from the mountain itself.

The fae had quickly scaled the stairs and flopped down on it. ‘’How do I look.’’ He demanded on an amused tone, as he threw a long leg over one of the sides and leaned back lazily. Still, despite him being dressed in his pajamas, his posture somehow remained stern and composed – the faes expression settling into something hard and regal, commanding respect.

Sportacus chuckled blissfully, as he shook his head at the others childish behavior. If any of the past royals knew a fae was currently sitting on their prized throne. The elf bit at his lower lip, as he looked up at him through hooded eyes. ‘’Like I could get on my knees and worship you.’’

Sportacus stayed just long enough to see the others shocked expression settle into something hot and bothered, as the fae stared back at him and awkwardly cleared his throat. The elf could not help the smirk, which split over his features, as he calmly – only slightly bothered by his bound feet and still hurting leg - walked towards the door leading back into the circular lobby.

‘’Worship you say?’’ Robbie purred directly into his ear, as he embraced the elf from behind, causing said elf to yelp in surprise at just how quickly the other had reached his side. With a content, elated sigh, Sportacus let his head fall back against the faes shoulder – the elf greatly failing to suppress the shudder, as the other grinned and nosed at his neck. ‘’Should I take you up on that promise?’’ Robbie challenged darkly, as he settled his hands heavily onto the elfs hips.

’That depends.’’ Sportacus breathed out, tilting his head slightly to give the other better access. ‘’Do you want me to?’’

The intently focused expression was still there, when the elf broke the water’s surface, this time emerging right in between the parted legs of the curiously quiet other, yet, despite the elfs attempts to gain his attention, Robbie stubbornly refused to meet the others eyes – the fae instead glaring down at the red, angry welts still peppering the elfs chest.

‘’Have I upset you?’’ Sportacus softly asked, genuinely worried that he had pressed too far, as he settled both of his hands against the others tense thighs - said elf letting out a surprised yelp when the other suddenly grabbed him close and drew him up into a tight hug. The angle was slightly awkward considering the fact that Sportacus' lower half was still submerged, but he was not about to comment on it, not with the way the others breathing seemed a little too fast and shaky. ‘’What is happening?’’ The elf tried gently, a soft, breathy gasp escaping him, as he felt a hard tug on his hair in response.

A strange silence settled between the two, the only sounds besides the faes heavy breathing being that of the constant flow of the water as it pressed through. Sportacus let out a soft sigh, as he tried to draw back slightly, only to have the hand in his hair tense in response. ‘’I have frightened you.’’ The elf suddenly breathed out, as the others possessive behavior caught up with him. Granted, there was heat in the way he was being embraced, but the slight desperation was not lost on him.

Robbie growled lowly against his neck, but refused to acknowledge the elfs correct observations any further. ‘’Do you want a haircut?’’ The fae rasped instead, almost as if to himself, as he rolled some of the long, wet strands between his fingers.

Sportacus reached up and took the faes hand in his. ‘’Would love that yeah.’’ The elf chuckled, as he dared a small smirk up at the other. The two once more fell silent for a beat, before the elf leaned up and stole a soft kiss off those frowning lips. If anything, it seemed to calm the other down a bit. ‘’We should open the court again.’’ The elf said, tilting his head slightly, as he smiled brightly up at the other.

‘’What?’’ Robbie said hoarsely, clearly confused at the sudden change of topic.

Sportacus merely shrugged, as his free hand came up to rid the other of the elfs own build up dirt. At least it did not appear he had gotten the other much dirty, but perhaps he should take the chance and drag the other down and under with him anyway. ‘’We might as well. My brother would have the final say in it, but I think it is a brilliant idea.’’ The fae seemed highly annoyed by the idea. ‘’What?’’ The elf asked softly as he gazed up into the sudden, tense scowl the other now sported.

‘’I finally got peace and quiet around here and you want to ruin it.’’

‘’You would call our past skirmish quiet?’’ Sportacus said, hissing loudly in surprise as a set of sharp nails briefly bit into his side.

’Do shut up, you know what I mean.’’

‘’Perhaps.’’ The elf chuckled. ‘’I still however, truly believe we should do this.’’ Robbie sighed, as he leaned his forehead against the others and breathed in deeply - the elf felling his smile widen again, as the fae finally nodded. The small, breathed out curse from the fae was not lost on him at all, but at least they seemed to have reached an agreement on the matter.

Robbie sighed again, deeper this time, as he blinked down at the hand now grasping his thigh tightly. ‘’You are getting my clothes wet.’’ He remarked with a hesitant smirk, the heat returning with a pleasant vengeance, as the elf leaned up to steal another small kiss.

‘’Then take them off.’’ Sportacus whispered against the others lips, as he settled both hands against the edge and pushed himself fully out of the water. The elfs pants were forced a bit down by the sudden tug, and change in element, but truly, neither cared. Immediately, the faes hands were once more in his hair, said fae drawing the elfs head back a bit, before leaning down to kiss him deeply. ‘’How far do you want to go?’’ Sportacus asked, slightly breathless as he set to work on getting the others night robe open. Once successful, he slid his hands under the soft fabric and gently guided it down, exposing the smooth, pale skin of the faes shoulders and upper chest, which he leaned down and in to press sweet, openmouthed kisses against.

‘’How far would you let me?’’ Robbie retorted on a soft chuckle, which eased into a heated gasp, as the elf nipped at his neck.

Sportacus drew back enough for him to hold the others intense gaze - the elf taking both of the faes hands and placing them onto his naked hips instead.

Perhaps he should have been a slight bit frightened at the charmed gleam, which sparkled in the others bright, stormy eyes, as the fae dipped the tips of his warm fingers into the cool fabric still clinging low to the elfs hips and started dragging it down further.

Perhaps he should have been wary of the way in which the faes fingers instantly traveled, tightened and possessively dug into the skin of his lower back and neck, as the elf finally mustered the courage to move forward and fully straddle him.

Perhaps it was not the wisest to trust the other not to take advantage of the specific words and clear trust, which the elf threw in his face, but truthfully, he could not bring himself to care as he leaned down and uttered the words, ‘It's all yours’ against the faes, warm smirking lips.

Chapter Text

‘’Gorgeous.’’ Robbie praised, as the second finger slipped inside to join the first. Beneath him, breathing hard and barely able to hold onto a mere speck of his rapidly depleting sanity lay a panting Sportacus. Granted, the elfs disheveled state did make sense considering the careful tending he currently found himself subject to. ‘’Breathe dear.’’ Robbie ordered as he leaned down and softly kissed the other.

The elfs mouth parted, lips moving silently against the faes smirking own, as he clearly tried to form coherent words, yet all that escaped him was a series of small, delighted puffs of air. Above him, Robbie chuckled darkly, as he nipped at his elfs flushed neck.

‘’I take it it is your first time with a fae?’’ He purred, despite already knowing the answer. Below, the elf let out a low groan in response, as the back of his head thunked softly against the floor. ‘’You still with me here?’’ Robbie teased, just as the elfs fingers twitched against his lower back.

Sportacus, eyes hooded and far away, breathed out a low, startled hiss when the fae lightly bit the side of his already bruised neck. Granted, the fae was doing his best to avoid the worst of the deep purple, greens and yellows, which painted a grim picture straight across the elfs throat, but still, from time to another, that clever mouth and tongue still strayed a bit too close for comfort.

‘’Please.’’ The elf managed to breathe out in a trembling voice, unsure of what he was asking for, as Robbie drew back and instead settled his attention back onto the elfs swollen lips. ‘’Please.’’ With the way the fae was holding him close – gentle, treating him as though he was truly fragile, yet tightly, securely, possessive, as though he feared the other would slip from his grasp if he averted his attention for even a second - he half expected him to start chanting mine against his flushed skin.

Sportacus’ short musings where cut short - chest tensing, expression caught in a silent scream, as those long fingers hit something downright delicious inside him, causing his brain to flat line for all of three seconds, before a brutal, white-hot pleasure gathered and wrecked through him. Distantly, as though his ears were stuffed with a thick cotton, Sportacus more felt than heard the soft, delighted chuckles pressed against the tender spot where his neck and shoulder met.

The elf squirmed, as he managed to draw a single shallow breath, which quickly eased into a happy sigh, as the sudden tension burst and in its wake, a warm, pleasant shiver ran down his spine, causing his toes to curl and his neck to crane back further yet.

Still, those clever fingers continued to move, the repeated motion slow and lazy, as they worked him open.

Sportacus swallowed hard, the worst of the sudden, desperate tension gone, though he slowly, steadily felt it built again, as he gulped down as much air as he could possibly muster – like a drowning man, coming up for air after having been submerged for far too long. His shaking hands, as if on their own, traveled around to instead rake down Robbies chest.

‘’I must admit, I thought it took more to make you fall apart.’’ Robbie teased, as he turned his head and gently pressed his grinning mouth against the elfs throat. Sportacus let out a deep, sleepy hum in response, which quickly eased into a breathy, much more alert moan, as a wet tongue traced the shell of his ear. ‘’What do you need dear?’’ The fae purred, as his free hand travelled down to tease an already pointed nipple. Sportacus let out a keening whine, his fingers twitching hard against the faes pale skin, as the fae in question lightly bit the tip of his pointed ear.

An amused gleam danced in Robbies eyes, as he gingerly pressed a sweet kiss against it before leaning back to gaze down at the shaking mess in his arms.

‘’More.’’ Sportacus pleaded, one of his trembling hands sliding off the others chest to instead clutch at the hard rock beside him. The elf tried to hold on, tried to just breathe, as the third finger slipped inside, yet, he had absolutely no control over the way his spine suddenly arched off the ground, eyes falling shut and toes once more bending, as Robbie pressed in further, twisted and curled his fingers.

Everything was suddenly too much and yet not enough.

The elf let out a choked moan, both hands now firmly slammed against and scrapping desperately at the rough floor below him.

‘’breathe.’’ Robbie scolded again, as he firmly forced the elfs hips back down – the lazy pace slowing significantly, as he placed a hand against the side of the others face, gentle, as he tilted the others head a bit forward. ‘’Look at me.’’

It took more of an effort than Sportacus felt it should, but eventually, he managed to open his eyes and gaze up into the others intense, heated gaze.

The soft glow from the surrounding flora reflected in the stormy embers looking down on him, the vision seeming as though ripped straight from a dream - anchoring him, as he drowned in the pleasure. ‘’Haah-nggh, enough.’’ Sportacus breathed in a weak, desperate voice.

‘’You sure?’’ Robbie asked, to which the elf quickly nodded in confirmation. Regardless of Sportacus’ further urgent reassurances that yes, it was indeed enough and no, you will not hurt me, it is perfect, please, the fae continued the soft, gentle pace for a few minutes.

With his free hand, Robbie did a small, sharp circular motion and just as the last time the fae had done so, Sportacus could not keep down the amused, startled, breathless laughter that escaped him, as his eyes once more caught sight of the small, glass container now firmly clutched in Robbie’s grasp.

It had been approximately ten minutes ago or so that the fae had done the same exact motion and seemingly snatched it straight from the empty air.

‘’What’s so funny?’’ Robbie, who had looked about ready to murder the elf underneath him, had grumbled with a confused, furrowed brow.

‘’Where did you?’’ Sportacus had started in a voice laced with barely contained mirth, as he gestured at the small container. ‘’Why would you carry such a thing around, especially since-‘’ the elf had tried again, a single hand coming up to shield his grinning mouth. ‘’You know, I was kinda possessed and all, so-.’’

Robbie had rapidly blinked down at the other before suddenly huffing and narrowing his eyes in annoyance. ‘’Sport.’’ The fae had started. ‘’Of course, I didn’t carry it with me.’’ The fae had mumbled looking highly offended that the other would have even considered it. ‘’Besides, I got you soap as well, did I not? You think I just stuffed all of that up my ass or what.’’ He mumbled on a tad growly.

Sportacus had let out a small chuckle, as he had quickly leaned up to steal a soft kiss off of those pouting lips. If anything, it had seemed to rid the other of the worst of the sudden sour mood the fae had found himself in. ‘’Then how did you fetch it like that?’’ The elf had asked, genuinely curious. ‘’And yeah, you got me soap as well, but really, how does this whole thing work?’’ He had asked on a low, delighted voice as the fae had eased his wet pants the rest of the way down his hips and carelessly discarded them to the side. ‘’Like, is this some sort of telepathy or do you have a small pocket dimension at your disposal?’’

Robbie had rolled his eyes and breathed the word ‘magic’ against the elfs neck, as though it somehow explained everything. Still, when Robbie had moved his attention a little further up, lips nearly scorching as they pressed against the base of Sportacus’ ear, it had shut the elf up.

Sportacus was still laughing breathlessly – fingers tense and still digging into the hard rock below - when Robbie leaned down to kiss him deeply. It was getting pretty hard to concentrate, both body and mind seemingly overwhelmed by the different stimuli, but still, he had mind enough to open his mouth further and return the sweet attention.

’Please.’’ Sportacus practically whispered in a strained voice against the others lips as Robbie drew back enough for him to do so. ‘’Please just-‘’

‘’Please just what?’’ Robbie purred.

‘’I need it. I need-’’ The elf abruptly cut himself off, flinching hard at the sudden cold, which rolled over him. Concerned, he leaned up on his elbows to look down at Robbie, who had moved and positioned himself in between the elfs parted legs.

The fae threw him a small, mischievous smirk as he gazed back up at him, one palm pressing down gently as he parted the others legs further.

Sportacus swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat before throwing him a shaky nod. Immediately, as a firm hand wrapped around his length and a hot tongue proceeded to lick a wet trail up it, the back of the elfs head fell back against the ground again. ‘’Gods.’’ He managed to rasp out, tense fingers settling into and tugging hard on his own hair, as that hot, inviting mouth settled tightly around his cock.

Knowing what kind of desperate state he was once more reducing the other to, Robbie chuckled around the girth in his mouth before hollowing his cheeks and drawing his head upwards slowly. Within seconds, as Robbie repeated the motion thrice, Sportacus felt like screaming.

It had been a while since the elf had allowed anyone this close and he knew full well that he would not be able to hold on for much longer.

Too much. Still not enough.

‘’Come up here.’’ Sportacus rasped out as he tugged the other off him and reached down further to draw the yelping fae flush up against him again. ‘’It’s enough.’’ The elf breathed as he parted his legs and arched up against him. ‘’Please. It’s enough.’’

‘’You sure?’’ Robbie urged as he nevertheless withdrew his fingers to instead focus on getting the container open.

’Yeah.’’ Sportacus assured on a slightly shaky voice as he gently nipped at the others ear. ‘’I want you.’’ The elf said as he lightly wrapped his legs around the others waist, both hands trembling as they trailed up and settled heavily in between the faes shoulder blades. ‘’All of you.’’

The sweet, soft kiss, which Robbie leaned down to deliver onto the elfs lips, seemed, despite their situation, strangely innocent - calm and with no real heat as the faes hands grabbed onto the others hips and drew him closer still.

Sportacus did not know what to make of the sudden soft, fond smile, which Robbie beamed down at him and he was about to open his mouth and comment on it, when the fae started to slowly slide inside.

Not. Enough.

‘’Please.’’ Sportacus managed to gasp out, the elf surprised, at the deep desperation he heard there in his own voice.

‘’I will not deny you.’’ Robbie reassured as he kissed at the others neck and slid in further. ‘’But you have to be specific – tell me what you need.’’

‘’Please move.’’ The elf felt his own fingers tense against the others back, mouth parted slightly as the fae tightened his hold and obeyed.

The stretch that he had expected from the others intrusion was practically nonexistent, still, the lazy, soft and slow rhythm was not yet enough to truly satisfyEach thrust careful, gentle as though Robbie feared the trembling elf in his arms were truly about to fall apart. One of Sportacus’ hands trailed up to rake through the others short hair, the fingers tightened, trying to hold on, as the deep desperation started to creep back into his bones - the pressure uncomfortable, intense as it threatened to increase and crush him beneath it.

Sure, the elf had felt frustration before, sexually as well, but this felt different. Deeper in a way he could not quite place.

Robbie hummed low against his neck before he started pressing small, soft openmouthed kisses to the elfs shoulder, throat and finally trailed the sweet affections up his jaw and cheekbones. Still, Sportacus did not understand why the other was softly shushing him, the fae gentle, so godsdamn gentle as he embraced and fucked into him. ‘’Robbie.’’ The elf breathed in a voice, which sounded wrecked and pleading even to his own ears.

‘’It’s ok.’’ The fae reassured as both of his hands settled into the others long, curly hair, careful, as he tilted the elfs head back. It took Sportacus a moment to realize that he was crying - the tears warm and wet as they slowly trailed down his cheeks, before one of the faes hands brushed them aside. ‘’It’s ok, I got you - just breathe dear.’’

Sportacus shook his head and let his eyes fall shut - elf unable to express or even figure out what he actually needed. ‘’Please.’’ He breathed, as unsure as to what he was asking for as he had been the first time around. ‘’Just. Please just…‘’

‘’More?’’

’More.’’

The breath caught in the elfs throat at the series of deep, hard thrusts that one little word earned him, before finally, a deep, drawn-out moan slipped past his parted lips. The hand not currently digging into the faes hair trailed down and settled into the curve of the others lower back – palm shaky and heated as it followed along with the movements of the faes circling hips.

Sportacus had barely uttered the word ‘harder’ on a soft, strangled plea, when the faes fingers reached down and dug back into the tender flesh of his hips – the grip tight and hard enough to add additional dark marks to the already rather colourful display of bruises. It took the elf a moment to realize that he was babbling on in elvish, the melodic, softly panted words coated by pleasure and the drunkenness of safety, as the sweet nonsense bubbled up and was kissed off the surface of his swelling lips. ‘’I-’’ the elf tried, taking a few shallow breaths as he willed the pleasant fog in his mind to disperse enough for him to make a single coherent sentence or at least get his want across. ‘’Hahh-nggh, need it harder.’’

Robbie pulled almost all the way out, before slamming back in, making the elf cry out in a mixture of pleasure and pain, as the fae adjusted his hold slightly and set a quick, brutal pace.

Enough.

Both of the elfs hands jerked and settled onto the others upper back, fingers tense as they scratched and clawed at the smooth, pale skin there. The sharp sensation did not seem to bother the fae, if anything, it seemed to spur him on further as he roughly fucked the elf against the hard, unrelenting floor of the cavern.

‘’Good?’’ Robbie managed to growl out in between his pants of strained effort.

‘’Good.’’ Sportacus laughed breathlessly, the delight still clear in his voice despite his wrecked state as the fae reached up a hand and made a tight fist of the others hair, drawing it back and keeping him in place so that he could kiss at his neck.

Immediately, as soon as the fae relented his harsh grip on the others strands, Sportacus’ head fell back down against the ground, though this time, the hand stayed to carefully cradle the elfs head, while the other came around to support his lower back.

A small, foolish grin spread across Sportacus’ features at the small show of care – the low, throaty purrs vibrating out and joining the sweet tirade of moans and strangled pleas, which already bounced and echoed off the walls. Beneath the elfs palm - as said elf let his hands travel back around - Sportacus could feel the others heart beating wildly, no doubt matching the frantic pace of his own.

He had been about to say something, swollen lips already forming around the words, when his neck craned, toes curled and legs convulsing beyond his control before a sharp snap of white-hot pleasure wrecked through him, causing his vision to whiten and back to arch off the ground one final time. Through it all, as the pleasure steadily build and then finally released, Robbie continued to fuck him – the quick, hard pace not relenting for even a second as the faes eyes widened, no doubt enjoying the sight of the ecstatic elf beneath him.

Finally, after what seemed like a small timeless eternity, Sportacus went boneless in the others tight grip, his still uneven breath fanning warm and heavily over the faes collarbones. It took a second for the elf to perceive that he had indeed come – Small, weak puffs of elated laughter escaping him, as he realized he had come untouched in the end.

Sportacus managed to draw a few shallow breaths before he let both of his hands travel again, this time settling them onto the others lower back before they trailed further still, down onto Robbie’s cheeks – trembling palms pressing and following the movements of the faes rough thrusts. A small shiver ran through him as he blinked up at Robbie, eyes slightly blurry, but still perfectly able to see the faes intensely focused gaze as the other returned the heated stare.

The elf reached up a shaky hand and gingerly placed it on the side of the others face - the faes breath hot against his palm, as Robbie shut his eyes and leaned into it. In seconds, as though that small touch was enough to drive the other that much closer, the hard, unrelenting thrusts started to become irregular - as did Robbie’s breathing.

’Beautiful.’’ Sportacus breathed up at him, voice full of barely suppressed glee and adoration as he did his best to meet the others snapping hips. Robbies hold on him tightened, the grip bordering just on the painful side as his eyes focused down on the elf again – the expression cautious, wary, looking as though he could not truly believe this was real.

The fae managed to hold the others gaze for all of three seconds before he let his eyes fall shut again – the already tight hold truly becoming painful now as he somehow managed to up the pace even further.

‘’Robbie.’’ Sportacus practically whispered, a tad worried as he leaned up and kissed the others flushed neck. The fae was so warm. Granted he was always warm, and perhaps it was the leftover, stubborn cold, which had lingered far longer in the elfs bones than any of the two were comfortable with, but Robbie practically burned against his lips.

Robbies entire body shook as the elf gently bit down on the warm, inviting flesh so carelessly presented to him, which he sweetly kissed and nipped at in apology, causing the fae to let out a deep, breathless moan in response - breathing going shallow, as he desperately fucked into the happy, but still worried elf.

‘’I am yours.’’ Sportacus - still not truly caring about the possible consequences - mouthed against the others heated flesh. The elf knew the other was close, yet, as Robbie finally mustered the courage to return the others anxious gaze, he looked anything but convinced. Truly, the fae looked skeptical that this could in any way or sense be real - as if this was all a carefully woven lie and soon the punchline would be revealed. ‘’I am not leaving.’’

The fae blinked twice before he stubbornly squeezed his eyes shut, pressed his face into the elfs neck and embraced the other close. Like this, Sportacus could easily feel the intense tremors wrecking through the other, yet he was unsure whether they stemmed from pleasure or something less than pleasant.

From the way he was being held however, there was no doubt that Robbie did not want this to end – the fae desperately holding on, clutching him close as though the brutal pleasure that was to come would shatter the illusion and rip the elf from his grasp.

’I am yours.’’

Robbie stiffened against him – the faes mouth caught in a silent scream, as his hips continued to snap forward twice, almost as if on instinct, before finally, he stilled completely.

Gently, Sportacus caressed the back of the faes neck, before he pushed the others head back enough that he could press a soft kiss to the corner of his still panting mouth. Sportacus, still worried, yelped as Robbie unceremoniously collapsed on top of him, muscles going slack as though he was well and truly spent.

From the sound of the faes slightly raspy breathing, he probably was.

The elf chuckled low as he embraced the worn out other close - slowly but surely, finding great relief in the way the fae started to fully relax against him, in a way that was not just out of pure exhaustion.

Sportacus waited several minutes, simply basking in the calm of it, before he finally took a deep breath and broke the strange silence, which had settled between the two.

‘'Are you okay?’’ The elf asked, to which he got a low hum in reply.

Robbie was silent for a good while longer before he cleared his throat. ‘’I’m just… not used to caring about those I fuck.’’ The fae blatantly admitted in a barely audible voice, as he placed both hands on either side of the elfs head and gingerly hoisted himself up a bit. ‘’Or the other way around as well I guess.’’ He grumbled on, even more quietly.

‘’Is it a problem?’’ Sportacus asked softly to which the other shrugged slightly.

‘’It is not a… common thing among my nearest of kin.’’ Robbie admitted, still not meeting his gaze. The elf winced slightly as the other had the mind to pull his flaccid member out – the fae still gentle, doing it as carefully as he could. Sportacus’ whole body felt hypersensitive, his back especially so, as the strange tingles started making their presence known. Robbie managed to roll off and lie down beside him – elf instantly feeling a great surge of relief, as the other drew him close to his side again. ‘’But no, I suppose it is not a problem but I-‘’ The fae cut himself off, seemingly looking for the right words. He sighed deep before continuing. ‘’I am not good at this.’’ Robbie mumbled, sounding both slightly apologetic and annoyed with himself. ‘’This was a different experience altogether - not bad per say, quite from it actually but it is… yeah it is different.’’ He solemnly concluded.

Sportacus laid his head on the others chest, finding a deep, peaceful calm in the thrum of the others slowing heartbeat. Absently, the low throaty purrs started up and rumbled through him again as Robbie reached up a hand and carded it through the elfs curls.

‘’We will work on it.’’ The elf vowed, as he caressed the small marks he had left on the others neck. ‘’If you wish so, that is?’’ He asked a tad more quietly. The hand in his hair tightened as Robbie turned his head to press a soft kiss to the elfs temple.

‘’I do.’’ The fae said simply to which the elf hummed.

‘’If you do not mind me asking.’’ Sportacus started, sincerely hoping his next lines of questions would not be too heavy for the situation and recent discoveries. ‘’Back at the ring… Or rather, right after it – you said that it was a bit of a sore spot for you. Is this?’’ The elf tried, unsure on how to voice his sudden understanding. ‘’Related.’’ He finally concluded.

Robbie let out an indignant snort as he nevertheless tightened his hold on the other. Perhaps the hold was a bit too tight, but the elf was not going to comment on it just yet, not with the frantic way the others pulse seemed to jump under his palm. ‘’You got a shit way of dealing with peoples emotional traumas, you know that?’’ The fae sighed, sounding more tired than annoyed. Still, despite the faes soft scoffing, Robbie did relax against him again.

‘’Sorry.’’ Sportacus mumbled, genuinely apologetic.

‘’That said.’’ Robbie grumbled on a voice, which held no seriousness to it. ‘’If you start asking me about nine right now, then I might throw you to the shade.’’

‘’Would you actually?’’ Sportacus yawned - the soft rise and fall of the faes chest lulling him into a much sleepy state of mind. Soon, he knew, sleep would start to pull at him for real and though he doubted it was anywhere near bedtime, considering past events, he deemed the nap fair.

‘’Never.’’ Robbie practically growled as he threw an arm over the others waist.

--

 

- At the front gate - The court -

 

‘’Right.’’ Glanni mumbled, as he let go of the robe, which had been used to lower him down safely – the guards above on the wall not too keen on opening the gates after what had just occurred – and now gingerly approached the eerily still, gory scene in front of him. The fae stifled a deep yawn behind a pale hand, clearly annoyed at haven been woken at - what he considered to be - such an early hour, before he rubbed his palms together and squatted down to examine the three smashed, unmoving others close.

Glanni took a deep, grounding breath, and though he would never admit it aloud, he was happy for the watchful eyes he felt drilling into his tense back, as he reached forward and harshly poked at the dead commoner below him.

When nothing moved, he deemed the unfortunate other dead enough that he could reach down further to gently pry an eyelid the rest of the way open.

There was not a whole lot to see, given that an arrow was still sticking out of it, but fortunately enough of the glazed over surface remained for him to affirm his dreadful suspicion. ‘’Black eyes.’’ He mumbled low to himself on a deep, tense sigh. ‘’Yep!’’ He barked, as he turned around and gazed back up at the tense guards on the wall above him. ‘’It was probably possessed, but it’s dead now.’’ He yawned again, as he locked eyes with a just as tired looking Íþróttaálfurinn, who nodded curtly in response.

‘’Are you sure it is dead?’’ Ivar - who was standing close to his king’s side - asked gruffly, as he leaned down and tilted his head slightly. The giant elf huffed in amusement, as Glanni shrugged and flicked the commoner’s forehead hard.

To Ivar’s left, Íþróttaálfurinn sighed deeply, as he shook his head. ‘’Glanni respect the-‘’

‘’Stone-dead.’’ Glanni confirmed, as he once more poked a long finger at the dead other. ‘’Been for a while actually.’’ The fae mumbled low, more to himself than the observing others.

‘’Right then.’’ Ivar nodded, as he gestured for the other to come back up into the safety of the stronger wards just beyond the wall.

The fae nodded, sniffed and made to get up.

It was not the sudden movement to his acute left, as much as it was the small rustling of clothes, which made the fae flinch hard in a dreadful fashion. He had less than a seconds warning, before a tense, cold hand wrapped around his wrist and tugged him downward hard.

Glanni yelped in pain and surprise, as the offensive hand tightened its grip further still and dug sharp nails into his tender flesh – the instinctive, startled retort cut off in his throat, as he suddenly found himself staring straight into a pair of beady, pitch black eyes. ‘’Your kin is dead.’’ The dead guard purred, as the other fae-free hand came up to settle around Glannis throat – the dead other drawing the now choking, wide-eyed fae even further down towards his own, smashed person.

Above, Glanni registered Ivar hiss out a loud ‘’Shit.’’, before the large elf snatched a sword from one of the shocked guards next to him – the giant hesitant for all of a second, before he took off from the wall and vaulted himself into the empty air in front of him.

‘’The little elf ended him.’’ The dead guard drawled, grin wide and stained with black, just as Ivar hit the ground hard – the giants knees protesting loudly, as he clutched the sword and swiftly staggered forward down the stairs.

A single arrow hit the dead guard in the left shoulder, causing the tight grip on the faes throat to waver for all of a second, before it once more tightened.

As the one who had released the arrow itself already knew, it did no real damage at all.

‘’You knew the truth of the matter did you not? You knew, but you thought it would be fine; he is truly not a child anymore, correct?’’ The dead guard laughed gleefully, as Glanni let out a pained noise followed by what was more a soft, panicked movement of lips, than any outspoken spell, before the fae sneered and smacked a glowing palm against the others cold, clammy forehead. ‘’Oh how he suffered, the screams filled to the brim with barely contained-‘’

The rest of the taunt was cut short, as what remained of the - now fully dead – guards face and head split and cracked wide open in a spray of too-dark red – the entire skull and mushy brain underneath the faes clutching grasp seemingly reduced to dust and bloody pieces, as a blast of thunder was let loose directly into it.

The abusive fingers twitched menacingly against Glannis bruising throat, before they stilled completely – the cold digits seemingly losing the remainder of their strange, supernatural strength, before they fell and smacked hard against the ground below.

The rest of the dead guard’s body lit up, cold frame convulsing as though an inner force cruelly attempted to set it back in motion, before it as well, finally fell slack against the cool ground again - this time truly unmoving.

‘’Shit.’’ Ivar rasped again, as he looked between the remains of his dead men and commoner – now missing their head as well, thanks to the quick, downwards arc of Ivar’s borrowed sword – before finally settling his attention onto the shaking, hunched over form of Glanni.

The fae, who was still kneeling on the cold ground, seemed dazed as he stared down at the gory remains right in front of him. He slowly turned his head - loudly ignoring Ivar’s softly spoken questions in the process - as he turned his head and instead locked eyes with the just as shocked-looking king above and behind him.

‘’What.’’ The fae rasped out softly, feeling yet not truly caring, as his fingers tensed and curled further into the soggy, too red mess of bones and flesh below him. ‘’What?’’ He repeated, clearly confused, as a small tremor registered and ran down his spine – the familiar magic no doubt stemming from the hastily thrown-together, yet very powerful ward, his hopefully still alive and breathing cousin had gifted him. He knew what the tremor meant. Knew what the flow he currently felt pressing through his tense form was, as it searched and got rid of the invading shards, he himself had failed to notice and would otherwise have neglected to expel.

And that was just it, was it not?

Truly, in terms of trust, Robbie and he only had each other - only had the other to call and count on, when things truly got messy and needed fixing. Granted, there were others - like Boris - that had come across their previously shared path, but the kindness given from those had never truly been given for free. Never given without an underlying smell of rot and filth – the sinister seeds just waiting to settle and ease further into the very marrow of his tired bones should he fail to notice it in time.

The recent loss of said, blasted, idiotic, dimwitted Boris, the one fucking person who had given him a glimmer of hope that not all people were complete shit, was one thing. The snap from their shared bond surprisingly intense and heartbreaking enough on its own, as it had slammed into and wrecked through his confused, shaking frame.

The result - after the fae had realized what exactly had caused his sudden distress - had immediately shown itself in Glanni succumbing to a gasping collapse, the breath feeling as though it had been knocked out of him, as the ground rushed up to meet him. If not for the fact, that he at the time had found himself in the presence of a few puzzled high elves, he would have happily stayed on his spot on the floor, but there was a time and a place for everything, and that had just not been it.

Granted, seeing Íþróttaálfurinn get the living daylights scared out of him was sort of satisfying on its own, but considering the reason behind it. No - Not worth it.

Not at all.

Ironically - after he had made a few frantic calls to figure out the how and who - it had been old blood, which had sent the idiotic other to an early grave and granted, when time was once more on Glannis side, he would right that little wrong, but right now, there were more pressing matters, which needed acute answering to. Boris was one thing, one of the few so to speak, but this would-

He knew he was breathing too fast, but despite his best attempt, he could not seem to calm down.

It felt unreal, as his gaze traveled further upwards - the clouds above heavy and grey, from which thick, black flakes slowly started to fall and silently cover his trembling form.

He knew it was a lie. He knew he would have felt their connection snap, the moment Robbie passed on, but still, he had to check for himself.

He had to be sure.

Glanni flinched violently, as Ivar settled a large, warm palm onto his trembling shoulder – the giant gentle, as he shook the other and willed him back into the present. ‘’Whatever you thinking right now, don’t go through with it.’’ Ivar started on a low, surprisingly soft voice, as he tightened the hold on the others shoulder further. ‘’Splitting up is a shit idea and you can’t go headfirst into a situation you don’t know enough about.’’ He tried, getting a throaty huff in reply, just before the fae twitched and jerked out of his hold.

Ivar barely had time to sigh in frustration, before Glanni sprung up and bolted for the edge of the outer wards – the elf quickly following down as well, before leaping off one of the lower steps and crashing straight into the back of the slightly panicked fae. ‘’Just stop and think for a sec here.’’ Ivar hissed, somehow still not unkindly, as he pressed against and held the thrashing other down. ‘’This won’t do you any good, you know that.’’ He continued in a slightly raspy voice.

‘’Fuckin hell-‘’Ivar started, just before Glannis growl of frustration cut him off – the fae frantic, as he tried to elbow the scowling other in the face. ‘’You saw the aftermath here, what the fuck do you think you could do against a host if that is indeed what happened with your cousin?’’ He spat, knowing both the nature of the situation at the old court, while still being grounded in the fact that Íþróttaálfurinns brother could truly not harm a fly, less he was under a darker influence.

The fae roared, as he kicked and thrashed against the others unyielding hold - the still falling black snow cold and slippery under him, making the efforts tedious and all the more futile. ‘’Just- look.’’ Ivar hissed low, as the other slowly started to wear himself out. ‘’You can’t go alone, it’s suicide if you do and you know it.’’

It seemed like a small eternity passed; the fae feeling overheated, defeated in knowing the other was right, as he finally gave up the fight and slumped heavily against the cold, dirty ground beneath him. ‘’What am I supposed to do?’’ The fae laughed, the tone sounding worn out and exhausted even to his own ears. ‘’What the fuck would you do?’’ He continued, turning his head slightly as to not accidentally inhale any of the black flakes surrounding and covering his still trembling form.

‘’You’re a mage, aren’t you.’’ Ivar said vaguely, as he reluctantly drew back and got up - the grip on the shaky others left wrist still tight and strong, less the fae might try to make a run for it again. ‘’You don’t have to go in person right?’’

Glanni felt his jaw click, as he turned and shook his head slightly - the slow stagger back up the steps feeling more as if he was advancing towards his own funeral, than into the safe, warm place he was in fact welcome in. ‘’No.’’ He said, voice nearly too soft for the other to hear, but still, Ivar caught it.

‘’As in you agree or you can’t do that astral thing?’’ Ivar asked, still not unkindly.

‘’Can’t.’’ Glanni replied, the spiteful look, which he threw at the other falling slightly short in the absence of the recently faded adrenaline. A strange, sharp tingle registered from the ward, when the elf moved his arm up and instead clutched Glannis shoulder tight – the familiar flow no doubt trying to access and rid the other as well. Ivar blinked, but otherwise showed no indication that he himself had noticed the flow currently pressing in and through – the energy swift as it did what needed to be done.

The elven captain, clearly not strong in the dark arts, that much Glanni now knew, stayed on the ground, as the fae started making his way up – said fae surprisingly nimble, as he jerked out of the others hold and scaled the robe with practiced ease. A pair of hands reached for him, wordlessly offering to help him the rest of the way up, yet they were rudely ignored, as the fae instead managed to get a hold of the ledge and hauled himself up and over.

Glanni wasted no time in shoving past the solemn guards, quick on his feet, as he made for the door at the end of the wall.

It was not so much the knowledge that he could potentially have lost Robbie, as it was the fear of it. He knew he was being foolish, knew the other still breathed, but still. It took one hell of an effort, but somehow, he managed to force and relax his fingers, before his sharp nails bit and broke through the skin of his palms.

‘’Glanni.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn tried, as the fae in question shoved past – the elf trying to reach for the other, before turning to throw a curt nod down at Ivar, who nodded back. The message simple, delivered and understood; Take care of this.

‘’No.’’ The fae spat back, gritting his teeth hard, as he practically kicked the door open and made his way through - the worried elf, regardless of the others cold dismissal, following closely behind down the stairs.

A few of the servants who had gathered in the courtyard quickly got out of his way, as the fae upped his pace, lowered his head and scowled, daring any of them to speak up and ask what had happened.

None did.

Vaguely - the sound seeming muffled and far away - both registered as Ivar started roaring out orders, the sound of moving feet and clattering armor soon following, as the gathered - including the few startled servants - scrambled to prepare a bonfire.

‘’Glanni.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn tried more urgently this time, causing said faes shoulders to visibly tense, just before the pair stalked the remaining distance to the door leading up into the servants quarters. Here, Glanni had been given a tiny room, which he shared with a petite little other.

His roommate, despite their size, snored like a bear, but so did the fae himself. Apparently - or at least, so had he been told - others took bets which one would be the first to wake the other.

The sound of yet another door kicked open seemed impossibly loud, as the vibration of it echoed up through the staircase before them – the fae roughly shaking his head, as he swiftly took the stairs up three steps at a time, quickly making it into the hallway beyond and practically jogging down it.

If not for the huffing elfs quick reflexes, the third, kicked-open door – this one shielding the room Glanni had made a temporary home in – would like the previous two, have been slammed in Íþróttaálfurinns face.

There was such a thing as reckless behavior and then there was deliberate.

Glanni yelped, when a strong hand closed around his wrist, a mere second before his back slammed into the wall beside him. ‘’Just. Stop.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn hissed low – the fae blinking down in surprise at the angry, heartbroken expression the other wore. ‘’You realize my kin is involved as well - not just yours?’’ The elf pressed as he tightened his grip on the other. Glanni felt his jaw click, as he narrowed his eyes and glared right back.

‘’Don’t care.’’

‘’Of course you do.’’

‘’Do not.’’

‘’Uhm.’’ A small, unsure voice said from Glannis acute left. Both looked over to see the fae’s pale, confused roommate slowly close and lower a heavy book onto the bed beside them, before they gingerly got up and approached the door. ‘’Leaving. Yep. Doing that right now.’’ They said softly, voice a little shaky from seeing their king in such a state. ‘’Bye.’’

As the door finally clicked closed, Glanni visibly slumped – the faes eyes downcast, as they stared at the tense hands still fisted in his catsuit.

‘’You care.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn breathed after what felt like a small eternity, voice soft yet still stern. Glanni just shrugged, as he placed his hands against the other’s shoulders and gently shoved him off – the elf willingly taking a small step back in response, but still staying close, hands shaky as they uncurled and flattened to instead lie still against the others chest.

‘’What the fuck am I supposed to do Íþrótt.’’ Glanni mumbled, biting his lip, as he shook his head again, still refusing to meet the others gaze. ‘’People are dropping like flies right now - it’s a godsdamn hassle to keep up with who’s still kicking and who’s gone dead. You heard what that dead fucker said, I have to go, I have to…’’ Glanni trailed off, as one of his hands hesitantly came up to cover the two still pressed firmly against his person. ‘’I have to. I need this. I need to know.’’

Eventually, though so far, the elf in front of him had shown no indication that he would – and perhaps he truly never would, but the chance that one of those high fuckers took it instead was still present in his mind – Íþróttaálfurinn or any from the inner court, who ran this gods-awful place, could take advantage of his current situation.

After all, nothing came for free and here he was, housed, fed and kept secure. If the other - but still most importantly one of the high butts - did not consider his assistance enough, he could very well soon be drowning in debt.

Granted, Glanni could leave at any time, but going outside of the wards for more than a day had proven lethal and so in the end, did he really have a choice?

Perhaps he could make the distance jump, but stripped of his magic, as he would be the second he entered the old court again, he had no means of healing and making it back safely. Not to mention, if he made it to the old court, and yes, he did realize his own reasoning sounded dull and lesser than what he could usually dig up with, he doubted he could stay sane so deep inside the suffocating rock. Honestly, how Robbie could breathe so easily far underground and surrounded by thick metal was a mystery to him.

If anything, the puzzled, patiently silent elf currently trying to gain his attention seemed to fully understand his situation and again, he did not seem as though he would try and trap the other in debt, but that hardly mattered if someone else did.

Still, the comfort that brought was another thing he would never admit aloud.

Glanni felt himself chuckle humorlessly, as he finally gave up and raised his gaze to meet the others gentle eyes. Immediately, as though Íþróttaálfurinn was presented with the sun after a long, dark winter, a small, hesitant smile blossomed over his features.

This could not last, but truly, when had it ever?

Íþróttaálfurinn let out a soft sigh, fingers curling slightly in the rough fabric, as he tilted his head a bit. ‘’The astral thing.’’ He said softly, earning him a scoff and another mirthless laugh in return.

‘’What about it?’’ Glanni said, loudly rolling his eyes, as he decided to humor the other. Considering the specific phrasing, he had a feeling Ivar and the elf currently in front of him had some sort of inside joke going.

‘’I can do it for you. It is however a tedious labor, so I will need your assistance if I am to make it without swooning right after.’’

The fae was silent for a while, before finally nodding. ‘’In that case. Would you…’’ Glanni started, as he snatched up one of the elfs hands and pressed it against his own left wrist. ‘’In return for?’’ He tried vaguely, as he with the other hand gestured between them. ‘’Heal it in return for my assistance on the matter.’’ He finally elaborated, when all he got in return was a confused, raised brow.

‘’I do believe that is two favors for you and one for me.’’

‘’You in or not?’’ Glanni clipped, just as a soft, golden glow started up around the wrist still clutched in the elfs careful grasp. ‘’Besides, like you said, it’s your kin too, so that’s like half half.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn felt his smile widen, as he gazed back up into the suspiciously narrowed eyes of the other.

‘’I’m in.’’

Chapter Text

The small elven child stood as though frozen in their tracks, neck craned and eyes wide as they stared up at the shimmering black, which steadily crept closer. The attack on their small, rather secluded village had come less than ten minutes ago but already, it felt like an hour, or quite possibly more, had passed – the cold, suffocating dust-filled air heavy with grief and pure terror as the shadow did what it did best.

‘’Shield!’’ Aki yelled over the cries of the just as panicked, and or confused commoners as he grabbed the dazed child close, sprinted and made it safely over the edge of a hastily thrown up ward.

Immediately, a soft glow rose up around them – the slowly strengthening wall wavering once, as the shade pressed and pushed greedily against it. Everyone present within, except for two guards and Aki himself, screamed in fright as a thick, dark fog rolled in and covered the cold ground around them - the shimmering black following closely behind and hitting them like a tidal wave.

‘’It will hold.’’ One of the two guards within their particular ward said sternly, yet not unkindly, as Aki bent down and put the child back onto the ground. Less than a second later, they were safely back in the trembling arms of their mother.

‘’So.’’ Aki started, quickly stifling a deep, curiously unbothered yawn behind a hand, as he accepted one of the three large umbrellas already opened within the circular barrier and held it over the happy family reunion huddled on the freezing ground beside him. ‘’Storm is heavy, but all should be accounted for.’’

The guard to his left snorted. ‘’How many got lost in the mass though?’’ She grumbled, clearly agitated.

‘’Less than last time.’’ The other guard on Akis right mumbled right back, as he held his own umbrella a little higher, so that the three commoners he was currently shielding from the steadily falling black snow could huddle closer together under it. ‘’Besides – and don’t get me wrong I fuckin hate being here too, but we did do a pretty good job this time, so fuck all I guess.’’ The guard grumbled impatiently as he reached a hand into a rather spacious pocket in his jacket to retrieve a shiny, red apple.

The mother of the child - which a random guard had rather hastily hauled inside the glowing ward earlier - looked at it with a suspicious glare but nevertheless accepted it. With a pinched expression, she carefully pushed it into her child’s hands.

None of the guards could blame said child - nor were they much surprised - when the first startled sob finally rang out and mingled in the stress-filled air.

‘’We did good.’’ Aki curtly nodded in agreement. The calm elf took a deep breath as he looked around. It should have been in the middle of the day, but the sky had eerily darkened – all light seemingly being absorbed as the shimmering wall around them vibrated and spun faster, no doubt trying to find a crack to filter through. Slowly but surely, the edges of the cheap but still thick plastic of his sticky umbrella started to melt away, though the rude deterioration abruptly halted, as he let his energy flow through the handle, up and finally out to repair the worst of the damage.

The snow was not harmful inside their little barrier, but it had started to do some rather gnarly things to any immediate, exposed skin or tissue, so best not to take chances.

‘’You think it’s gonna be hours like last time though?’’ The guard to Akis right mumbled on as he stretched his back and slowly sat down, gesturing first for the remaining evacuees to do so first.

‘’Perhaps, perhaps.’’ Aki agreed as he too sat down and got comfortable. ‘’Shade generally seems accepted on fact that ward is impregnatable so short time, longer time – who knows.’’ The old elf shrugged as he gingerly stretched his legs as far as the safety of the umbrella would allow it. In truth, the raging black just outside of their safe little circle had broken through twice already, but present company considered, now was not the time to mention that aloud. Keeping his movements as casual as he could, Aki inched himself closer to the mother and now openly weeping child – the old elf ready in case one of them decided to sprint out into the cold dark.

After all, while the shade could not easily get in, a host could.

‘’Why? You have someplace you need be?’’ Aki lightly teased as he narrowed his eyes and glared up at the pitch-black flakes, which slowly started to liquefy and drip down over the edges of the umbrella – the thick dark mix running smooth but densely over the ground, like a cold, quickly drying ink and just as permanent.

‘’Nah.’’ The guard on Akis right huffed as he leaned his elbows on his knees – careful, as to not disturb his own umbrella too much. ‘’Also the word is impregnable, I think impregnatable means something else.’’

‘’Actually I think it means the same, but might be wrong on that as well.’’ The guard on the left added to which the two others shrugged. ‘’Regardless, am I-’’ She quickly cut herself off, eyes widening in fright for a second before all three – and a few of the commoners - seemingly simultaneously gazed up and stared out into the eerily calm, silent storm raging around them.

It was a faint noise - perhaps even imagined - the vibration of it low and scratchy, but without a doubt, something big and heavy was moving around in the raging black.

--

 

- The old court -

 

‘’How are you here?’’ Sportacus asked – the elf feeling as if he had just closed his eyes. Originally, seeing as Robbie had stubbornly refused to leave the king’s quarters and ‘Sportasoftie’ – as the fae had so lovingly pouted at him - had not had the heart to throw him out, Sportacus himself had gone to sleep alone in his own room. Still, after lying awake and staring wide-eyed at the darkened ceiling for far longer than seemed reasonably, the elf had wrapped himself in the dusty blanket and slipped back to claim the spot beside the fast-asleep fae.

‘’I am not.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn shrugged. ‘’It is the whole astral thing.’’

‘’You have never been good at that.’’ Sportacus pointed out as he nevertheless returned the bright, humored grin on his brother’s face. Behind him, Robbie jerked awake – the faes blurry eyes blinking rapidly as they widened and finally caught sight of their newcomer. Robbie narrowed his eyes and let out a small ‘Oh’ before lying back down again - the even less audible ‘Nope’ breathed against the back of Sportacus’ neck not lost on either of the two brothers.

Íþróttaálfurinn let out a soft snort and shook his head at the softly groaning fae before turning his attention back to his younger brother. ‘’Well at least you are both covered.’’ The elf laughed gently as he started to pace restlessly in front of the two. ‘’And as for the astral thing, I have assistance.’’ He elaborated, shrugging again, just as an urgent, troubled look bloomed on his features. ‘’Is it-’’ He started softly before cutting himself off. ‘’Are you both all right?’’ He finally settled instead.

Sportacus blinked and crooked his head slightly. ‘’Yes?’’ The elf replied, a tad unsure at the sudden, worried expression his brother still wore.

Clearly, there was something else, the older elf wanted to ask, but it seemed unimportant enough to be completely dismissed with a shake of the elfs head. ‘Matters not’ Íþróttaálfurinn mumbled under his breath before shaking his head again. ‘’Regardless, you are truly doing all right, yes?’’ He asked, only half meeting the others eye.

Sportacus felt his brow furrow as he nodded, quickly sitting up proper to face his still pacing brother. The vibe felt slightly awkward – both seemingly unsure of what to say. Granted, it had been a long time since they had had a proper casual conversation, the last being just before everything went down, and the time before that… Well, if one excluded letters, he was not exactly sure how long it had been.

‘’Do you know if it is truly dead?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn suddenly urged, looking much too young as he rubbed his palms together in a nervous fashion. ‘’The troll, is it gone?’’

Sportacus shrugged nonchalantly. ‘’It is now.’’ A pregnant silence settled before Íþróttaálfurinn narrowed his eyes at the other.

’Sport.’’ The older started on a carefully neutral voice. ‘’Tell me you did not fight a troll.’’

‘’I did not.’’ Sportacus quickly assured with a bright grin – the elf only feeling a tad bit of guilt over the relived expression, which filled his brother’s face. ‘’We did.’’ He elaborated, the grin going impossibly wider, as he gestured at the snorting, half-awake Robbie behind him. There was little Sportacus could do to hide the small, poorly-concealed chuckles, as Íþróttaálfurinn buried his face in his hands and set to slowly exhaling.

Finally, after what much have been approximately twelve seconds, his older brother let out a deep sigh, eyes slightly widening as he shook his head. ‘’So anyway, dad got in touch with an urban legend who will be aiding us.’’ The elf started, still shaking his head slowly in disbelief. ‘’I need you two bloody fools to connect as well.’’

‘’Connect?’’ Robbie’s sleepy voice asked.

‘’Say her name thrice in the mirror and immediately state your business. She will not harm you as long as you speak swiftly.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn, looking highly nervous, explained. ‘’And mention the fact that we have our fathers blessing to do so.’’ The elf quickly added as he absently started fidgeting with the edge of his leather armor.

‘’Is this?’’ Robbie asked as he sat up and rested his disheveled head on Sportacus’ shoulder. ‘’Bloody M-‘’

‘’Look.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn quickly interrupted, both of the elfs hands coming up to stop the other from finishing the cursed name. ‘’I am truly not too keen on being present when you do this.’’ The elf clipped, sounding like he was trying to be polite. ‘’It needs to be done but will you please wait.’’

‘’Of course.’’ Sportacus quickly assured with a small nod, to which his older brother looked highly grateful. ‘’In the morning then.’’ The elf concluded.

A short silence settled before Íþróttaálfurinn let out a small sigh. ‘’So.’’ The elf started softly as he tilted his head and gazed around. ‘’You are sleeping in a kings quarters now?’’ He asked with a raised eyebrow, to which Sportacus awkwardly coughed. ‘’No worries, I will not tell.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn chuckled.

Sportacus absently felt himself nod - the elf keen on swiftly changing the subject again. Perhaps the fae currently busy rubbing his face all over his shoulder was not aware of it, but it truly was a high offense. ‘’Are there other updates on your end?’’ He asked.

Íþróttaálfurinn shrugged as he scratched at the back of his head. ‘’Fall asleep outside a ward and your mind is at risk. Except for that, I do believe you know as much as I… at this… point.’’ The elf paused for a moment, seemingly listening intensely to some other conversation, which Sportacus could not hear. Íþróttaálfurinn narrowed his eyes and bit at his lip in a worried fashion, before seemingly focusing back on the two bewildered creatures before him. ‘’I have to go.’’ The elf said a bit apologetic. ‘’Your cousin says hi as well.’’ He concluded with a small wave.

Neither of the two barely had time to respond, before the image flickered and disappeared – all traces of the older elf gone in a heartbeat, as though he had never been there to begin with. Nevertheless, Sportacus still raised his hand and waved goodbye to the empty air.

‘’Well.’’ Robbie yawned against his neck after a small beat of silence. ‘’That happened.’’

’Yeah.’’ Sportacus, not really up for any more casual conversation, softly replied.

‘’Sport.’’ Robbie mumbled as he lightly wrapped his arms around the slightly shaky elf.

‘’Yeah?’’

‘’Let go of it.’’ Sportacus tried to draw back only to have the fae tighten his hold. ‘’The stone.’’ Robbie elaborated in a tired voice. ‘’Let go of it.’’

‘’What?’’ The elf asked before he blinked down at his left hand, which was clutching a glow-stone tight – the soft, golden light lazily spilling forth from in-between the spaces of his fingers. ‘’I… would rather not.’’ He admitted in a small voice. Still, he gingerly managed to uncurl his tense, slightly hurting fingers one by one and let it drop to the floor below.

Robbie loosened his hold and reached one hand forth to gently turn the elfs palm upwards, the other coming down to trace and caress the inside of the elfs shaky fingers. Small, bright flames danced in his wake, as the fae placed his glowing fingertips against the elfs and lightly drew them towards the center of his palm.

Strangely, the fragile flames did not burn him – the tiny, warm forms growing and pooling in the center of his palm before they seemed to still and die out again.

‘’It likes you.’’ Robbie remarked softly, more to himself than the elf, as he slowly pressed his hot fingertips back against Sportacus’ own and gently forced them back down against the bed. The fae, seeing, as his hand was larger than that of the elf, let his hand slide a bit forward before lowering his hand and completely covered the others palm. As they parted, a tall, bright flame rose. ‘’Do you feel it?’’ Robbie asked. ‘’Do you understand how it works?’’

‘’Not really.’’ Sportacus admitted as he stifled a yawn. As he watched, a single string of flame seemed to slip in between and around his fingers. It felt nice, but that was about it. ‘’Why are you showing me this?’’ The elf asked as he leaned his head on the others shoulder.

Robbie casually shrugged as he once again covered the elfs palm, this time to extinguish the dancing flame. ‘’I wanted to.’’ The fae grumbled before wrapping his arms around the others middle and drawing him back down on the bed with him. ‘’Besides, who knows, it might come in handy - you never know, you might find yourself in a situation where it is- do I need a reason for doing things?!’’ He yapped.

‘’No.’’ Sportacus laughed lightly in surprise as Robbie practically shoved his face into the side of his neck – the fae still mindful of the others injuries. ‘’I did not mean it like that Robbie, thank you.’’ He quickly added, the small chuckles still ringing out as Robbie nosed at his neck. ‘’I just… have a strange feeling you are trying to distract me for some reason.’’

‘’Do you want to be distracted?’’ The fae spat a tad annoyed as he pressed a small kiss to the base of the elfs ear.

‘’Do I have a reason to need distraction?’’ The elf retorted playfully as he tried and failed to suppress a shiver, to which the fae groaned.

‘’You said you were fine yet we both know some serious shit has- Gods my language is always bad when Glanni has visited – fact is, you have not been fine for quite a while now.’’ Sportacus felt himself blink but could not think of an answer.

‘’Look, it is understandable all things considered.’’ Robbie started softly when the silence had stretched for far longer than he was comfortable with. ‘’Just. Basic communication and all that.’’

‘’And what am I supposed to do?’’ The elf asked.

‘’Just talk.’’ The fae spat right back. ‘’Yes hi Ibuprofen, I am fine, how are you – no no really I am fine I have totally not been possessed and about to bite out this handsome faes throat or anything – oh yeah, by the way, I fought a troll and nearly got eaten, also I am afraid of the dark now and twitches whenever my own shadow moves across the wall, but that is a normal thing that people do right? Wrong!’’

Robbie took a deep breath as he rose up on his elbow and stared down at him - the challenge clear in his eyes.

Sportacus knew he was being baited and decided to bite.

‘’I was kidnapped when I was younger.’’ He started – the elf slightly amused as he watched the faes eyebrows rise comically high. ‘’I learned to be quiet. It is not a pleasant story and it is not something that I share with a lot of people.’’ He elaborated as he slowly sat up. Gently, he reached out a hand to flick some imaginary dust off of Robbies night-robe. The elf took a deep, grounding breath before continuing. ‘’Ever since that incident, something just. Changed. I do not wish to bother people with my own problems, especially not when they are small – no please hear me out – when they are small compared to what others have gone through, or are still going through. I prefer to help others out. It is... Easier."

Robbie stayed silent for a good while – the fae seemingly trying to process the change in topic and the heavy information, which had just been dropped on him. ‘’Do you… want to talk about it?’’ He tried softly.

Sportacus felt a small, hesitant smile bloom over his features. ‘’Not yet.’’ He replied – the elf allowing the fae to pull him back down beside him again. Perhaps the embrace was a little too tight, but he was not going to comment on it.

Behind him, Robbie let out a tension-filled sigh. ‘’I feel like I know you pretty well, but am I wrong?’’ He asked. ‘’Throughout the years, I believe I have gotten to know what makes you tic, but am I wrong?’’

Sportacus shook his head. ‘’No.’’ He replied, as he lifted the faes hand and pressed a chaste kiss to the back of it. ‘’But you are right, I need to talk. We need to talk but just-…‘’

‘’Not right now?’’

‘’Not right now.’’ The elf echoed.

Robbie let out a soft hum as he brought himself flush up against the elf again. ‘’In the morning then.’’ The fae breathed low, failing greatly to stifle a deep yawn. ‘’Or later – quite honestly, I have lost my sense of day and night in here – you people ever hear of windows?’’ The fae grumbled to which Sportacus let out a soft snort.

’Later.’’ The elf simply said and allowed his eyes to close. Truthfully, it most likely was in the middle of the day, but that was indeed an issue for another time and considering the faes low, agreeing hum, he was not the only one with that opinion.

Chapter Text

Sportacus sighed as he glared at the cold, black liquid, which was slowly making its way up through the surrounding red, hard ground itself. Around him, trapping and circling him in, was a very familiar set of gently glowing shrooms - the slightly uneven circle they made, tracing and mapping out, what he in his nightly hours had come to see, as a slice of his own personal hell.

For the past nights, this crude, raw dream had pretty much been a constant and somehow - thank the gods - he had managed not to wake Robbie up, when he himself had woken bathed in sweat. Perhaps it was past experience, which kept the elf from shouting upon waking, or perhaps the others undisturbed nights came from the fact that they now slept in separate rooms and instead spent the waking hours practically fused together.

Rules were rules after all, as his brother had so gently reminded him, and the fae had stubbornly refused to see reason. Besides, they did both need their space and so in the end, they had decided this to be the best solution.

This dream felt different though.

While the usual spectators were indeed present - as per the unfortunate norm - each else normally moving figure were standing perfectly stiff and still. Slightly unnerved by the unmoving nature around him, Sportacus rather aggressively kicked at the water and glared at one of them. Their faces – again, as per the norm - seemed to almost be erased, as though someone had grabbed an eraser and attempted to wipe away anything recognizable about each of the faces surrounding him. It was a halfhearted job though, instead of obscuring what had once been there, it was now a strange, messy version of it instead.

Quite honestly, he was not certain if this was worse than the original image or not, but just as well - he could hardly recall any particular’s features, except for a very limited few.

As he continued to gaze around the small ring, the messed up eye of the mockingly still fae closest to him spun and fell out of its socket. The now attached eyeball itself – still blurry and unrecognizable as it fell - made a small splash as it collided with the gently rising water.

’So.’’ Sportacus, just as annoyed as he was frightened, breathed low into the frozen air around him. ‘’This is a dream. Right?’’ He got a low, thoughtful hum in reply before a deceptively silky dark voice answered him in what he reckoned must have been an amused tone.

‘’Indeed.’’

The elfs eyes immediately snapped towards the source of the sound and less than a second later, he found himself staring at a strange, lumpy creature, which was casually - seemingly completely undisturbed by the rising water - making its way through the still standing crowd.

The first thing that stood out to him were the five eyes, which appeared almost randomly placed upon what he reckoned was its face.

Or rather, faces. Despite the eerily thick, dark fog that clung to the creatures form, it what obvious that it had more than one. Considering what he could see of the rest however, he was honestly glad for the blurry, headache-inducing image it presented, instead of whatever hellish form truly laid beneath the surface.

The elf hummed in thought as he forced his eyes to return to the now one-eyed fae, which, surprisingly, was no longer the closest individual to him. With a small surprised yelp, Sportacus quickly took a wide step back from the now way-too-close fae immediately to his right.

‘’Can they harm me?’’ Sportacus asked a bit hurried as he dared himself to take a small step back towards one of them. It was subtle, the change in speed and rhythm barely there at all, but they were indeed moving - the movements slowed, halted, as though the faes were moving through a hard, suffocating jelly.

He could be wrong, but it appeared that they were slowly gaining speed.

The mare briefly dug itself under the water’s surface before it put on a slightly less blurry, disturbing display of - what the elf presumed to be - dead skin and fur. It was more of a brief flash really; a single, very much on purpose glance behind the heavy glamour, but it was enough to nearly make him gag.

Disgusting. Sportacus thought as he squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head away. Absolutely horrid. His mind quickly agreed.

The mare – either oblivious or uncaring about his obvious repulsion - repeated the movement thrice, as though trying to bathe in the cold liquid, which was now gently lapping against the elfs shins, before finally, it settled all of its eerie focus back onto said elf.

‘’No physical harm will come to you, as for the rest, I promise nothing.’’ It replied on a huff and jumped up onto a slowed faes shoulder. ‘’I do apologize greatly for your past encounters here, you see, it has been quite difficult to move through your wards without damaging the edges, but, I have managed.’’

One of its wide, toothy mouths grinned at him, opened wide and bit into the faes neck, taking a generous chunk straight out of it, before it set to chew on the bloody lump.

Sportacus squeezed his eyes shut and did his best to block out the obscene chewing noises. ‘’Robbie?’’ He breathed softly, unsure on how to call out, but hoping that he would figure it out quickly. After all, his fae had not exactly explained how their shared dream-link worked, just that it did.

As he waited, he made the unfortunate mistake of peeking an eyelid open, to see the mare happily chewing on what was left of the slowed faes head, and now the elf really did gag. Slightly panicked and not too keen on being left alone with their potentially murderous ally, Sportacus held his breath and frantically tugged harder on the link.

He barely felt the just as frantic response hastily shoved back at him, before a flash of deep purple right next to the elf told of Robbie’s arrival. ‘’What, Where?!’’ Robbie, slightly winded and wide-eyed demanded as he gazed around at the near-still image surrounding the pair.

‘Mare’, was all Sportacus managed to grit out before he had to physically turn away, less he might actually get sick right then and there. Robbie seemed pained as he continued to gaze around and understood the ‘what’ and especially ‘where’ - a single brow raising curiously, as he noticed the blurry mare in question.

‘’Well that explains a few things.’’ Robbie mumbled lowly, as he sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. ‘’How did you get through?’’

The mare shook its obscured frame of skin and fur, before two pairs of eyes blinked over at the pouting fae. ‘’I have a blessedly open invitation to come to you both directly.’’ It said vaguely, as it scratched at a torn ear.

‘’But the wards here should…’’ Robbie tried, as he vaguely gestured around him. ‘’Regardless of that, you still should not be able to just… waltz in.’’ He finally settled, to which the mare coughed and laughed.

‘’You think me that unsophisticated? I knocked, as any sane creature would do.’’ It purred. ‘’More time was spent on the waiting than I would have liked, but the mountain gave way eventually - besides, as I argued, you did give me your blessing and thus, it is only fair.’’

Robbie was about to open his mouth again when Sportacus beat him to it. ‘’It should not have been enough.’’ The elf argued – said elf trying hard to not look at the gory scene in front of him. ‘’This is not a place you are allowed to tread, neither in the waking or the sleeping.’’

The mare growled out a hollow, dry tune as it set to scratch at a protruding bone sticking straight out of the messy lump in between the shoulders of the fae it was occupying. ‘’Neither is he.’’ It finally drawled.

Neither of the two needed to ask to confirm that it was referring to Robbie.

Robbie was – again – about to open his mouth and protest when the mare rather rudely continued. ‘’Perhaps you should be aware that as much as I have, the mountains presence have grown tired of your meddling here.’’

Silence settled for a beat, before Sportacus found his voice again. ‘’How so?’’ The elf, still as annoyed as frightened, asked.

‘’The three-headed you decided to rid it off. After your kin fled, it had kept it dormant – the life slowly drained as the mountains presence ate its very essence.’’

‘’Like a Venus flytrap?’’ Robbie, looking slightly green, asked, to which the elf let out a soft, slightly excited ‘oh’.

‘’Is that why it stayed alive way into its death?’’ Sportacus, still trying to look anywhere but directly at the mare, asked, to which said mare shrugged - Or at least, he supposed the spastic movements of skin and limps were indeed a shrug.

‘’Life. Death.’’ It purred. ‘’Such definitions does not apply to a creature like that - they simple are, and then they are not. Pray tell, I doubt that is what you wish to discuss?’’

Sportacus looked to Robbie who looked just as lost as he himself felt. It had been such a long time since the mare had been called upon - So much had happened and while questions had been asked, at least fourth the amount had risen.

‘’Well?’’ The mare rasped.

Robbie - for the third time – were interrupted, as he tried to open his mouth and answer – the fae clearly annoyed as he stomped his foot under the uncomfortably high water and flicked his fingers towards the non-existing sky. ‘’Regardless, think on it. This is not a safe place to discuss heavy matters.’’ The mare concluded.

‘’Why exactly did you come here?’’ Sportacus snapped as he rubbed soothing circles into his still huffing faes lower back.

‘’I need to be led inside the mountain. I need your permission.’’ The mare answered to which Robbie huffed.

‘’I thought you said you already had it?’’ Robbie grumbled.

Silence fell for a good while, before a few things clicked in Robbies head - The fae drawing a deep inhale before continuing. ‘’This is ridiculous.’’ He muttered under his breath. ‘’I might have promised to keep you safe, but I said nothing about being your godsdamned nanny, you might be hunted as well but this is too damn f-.’’

’Manners.’’ The mare rasped rather aggressively, just as a bone-chilling breeze swept across the water’s surface, seemingly freezing both elf and fae to the bone. ‘’Or do you forget to whom you speak?’’

Sportacus – realizing they would not get much further and that this silly bickering was a waste of time - swallowed around a dry throat, as he fiercely rubbed at his arms, to try to get some warmth back in them. ‘’You have my blessing and permission to reach out again, be it inside the mountain or on the outside. This should be enough for you to properly be led through, correct?’’ The elf said matter-of-factly, to which one of the mares heads nodded.

‘’Till we meet again.’’ It drawled sourly, before vanishing – gone as though it had never been there. The paused dream and the half-eaten fae remained however, somehow appearing impossibly more foreboding than before.

‘’Are they…’’ Sportacus started a bit unsure of himself – the elf less annoyed but still eager indeed to fill the tension-filled air.

’Always this passive aggressive?’’ Robbie finished with a lifted eyebrow. ‘’Yes. And apparently keen on telling half-truths as well.’’ The fae concluded to which the elf hummed.

‘’So. Do we just…?’’ Sportacus trailed off, as he felt the already heavy tension in the air rise tenfold.

’Leave?’’ Robbie concluded on a small, worried voice, as both his and that of the elfs ears popped from the sudden pressure.

Both felt a jab, tear and snap, as the dream around them set into motion – dead wide eyes and jerking frames all flickering out of focus for a second, before they started moving. Multiple arms, all seemingly broken and bend oddly at the joint raised to the sky, as a shriek, hollow cry rang out – the sound far removed from the deadly, but beautiful, strings of the harp that had once been the elfs painful constant for those twenty-four hours long past.

Sportacus took a shaking step backwards on the smooth, fleshy forest floor, as one of the jerking, glaring figures nearly crashed into him – the elf somehow managing to catch his balance as he nearly slipped and fell. He had not needed to bother with staying upright however, as he only managed to turn and catch a short glimpse of his panicked faes face, before a pair of cold, clammy hands wrapped around his lower half and dragged him under the waters cold surface.

--

 

- The court – The war room –

 

‘’-Yet we do not know how exactly this came to be, just that it did.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn said curtly just as another grape hit him on the side of the head and then proceeded to bounce across the table. ‘’The only two survivors reported that they had skipped breakfast and gone straight to work – when they returned, the rest of the village had been wiped out, however-‘’ Íþróttaálfurinn cut himself off as he croaked his head to the side – the designated grape instead bouncing off a high elfs head. ‘’It does not appear that the shade had been present at all.’’

‘’So it might be unrelated?’’ Another high elf asked – the high elf in question looking very much offended as he pouted at Glanni, who was gingerly holding a fresh grape between two fingers.

‘’Correct.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn softly replied to which he got a loud scoff.

‘’Then why are we discussing this at all?’’ Another asked. Seconds later, the readied grape hit that particular elf, before it rolled across the table and came to a halt just at the edge of it.

‘’We must consider all options and not let any possible knowledge on our situation go to waste.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn urged. ‘’I know you are all tired but this is important.’’

‘’I differ.’’ The first high elf who had spoken said. Less than a second later, an entire bowl of grapes – sans the bowl – rained over him. ‘’This is a disgrace-‘’

‘’This is a necessary topic.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn gently objected.

‘’You know exactly what I am referring to!’’ The high elf half shouted.

‘’Are you accusing me of being ignorant?’’

‘’I am telling you to rid us off this pest!’’

’Truly.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn barked loudly, making everyone present – the two guards at the doors included – jump in startled fright. ‘’I implore you to mark your manners and trust my judgement.’’ The king sternly urged. ‘’Now if you please, it might truly not be related to our situation, but it is nevertheless just as important.’’ He pressed before turning to pin Glanni with a stern look. ‘’We all need to work together on this. Time has been wasted enough as it is.’’

The gulping fae nodded and slowly lowered his grape filled hand.

‘’Now.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn started – the elf doing a piss pour job at hiding his fond smile as a handful of grapes hit the side of his face. ‘’Does anyone have any suggestions as to what might have happened?’’

-

Hours later, after the inner circle had been dismissed, Glanni let out a deep tired sigh, jumped up and lied down onto the table. The fae let out a soft hiss, as the change in position made his spine pop, before he stretched out his arms and folded them behind his head.

In this kind of light and peaceful scenery, Íþróttaálfurinn could not help but wonder how much of the faes bravado was an act and how much was actually a part of his personality.

‘’You got a leak.’’ Glannis eerily calm voice spoke into the silence, cutting straight through the elfs concentration. Íþróttaálfurinn blinked over and down at the resting fae – said faes eyes half closed and fixed on the ceiling.

‘’Pardon?’’ He asked as he reacted out a hand, snatched up a grape, popped it in his mouth and bit it in half.

Glanni craned his neck and locked eyes with the other – the fae silent, as he seemed to contemplate on something, before he drew a sharp inhale. ‘’Rid me of any remaining debt and I'll tell you.’’ He offered - unblinking eyes going wider still. Like this, Íþróttaálfurinn could see the complete whites around the others irises. Truly, Glanni looked like a cat ready to pounce, even though his posture was still disturbingly casual.

Still, the statement gave him pause. ‘’You are not in any debt here?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn softly urged as he tilted his head to the side.

‘’Humor me.’’

The elf felt weird as he was trying to understand where this was suddenly coming from and he had barely put down his pen, before a shock of static electricity went through him. Startled, he pressed back against the sudden pushing sensation and followed it backwards, just as an ugly, metallic, slightly sour taste invaded his mouth - the taste cold and terrible, as it overshadowed and chased away the sweet lingering traces of the grape.

It clouded his own senses - like an old, barely healed scar split right open and now thick, infected puss leaked forth. It was far from uncommon and this was not a taste he had been spared either.

Betrayal.

Íþróttaálfurinn leaned back in his chair and willed his heart to calm down – the elf drawing deep, slow breaths as he wondered who had hurt the other enough to leave such a bad dent in his soul. ‘’You are not in debt.’’ The elf repeated on a soft voice, hoping to defuse whatever argument he felt brewing.

Glanni spun in place – the fae slamming both hands against the table before lifting himself a bit up, his movements so fast they were practically a blur. ‘’Then it shouldn't be a fuckin problem, just say the damn words and rid-‘’

’Glanni.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn, voice stern but still gentle, pressed, as he slowly started to lean forward, into the tension filled faes space. ‘’You are not in debt.’’

‘’Then say it.’’ Glanni hissed low as he scrambled away from the elf, nearly falling off the table in the process.

‘’I just did.’’

‘’You know what I mean.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn let out a deep sigh as the fae sneered and shoved himself off the table - fortunately without any further injuries - and made for the door. It was not the first time, and certainly not the last, that Glanni had left like this - the taste of iron still strong as it clung to the fae.

‘’I rid you of any debt owned towards me or mine - paid or unpaid, they wither.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn half yelled over his shoulder to make sure the foulmouthed other heard him. Silence fell for a second as the elf worried his lip in between his teeth. He knew he was missing an important piece of the puzzle but this at least felt like the right thing to do.

Moments later, a loud, dry scoff rang out – the fae still sounding annoyed and on edge, but nevertheless, it still sounded relieved.

‘’Fantastic.’’ Glanni rasped as he, from the sounds of it, practically kicked the doors open. ‘’I’m taking care of it, don’t worry about it.’’ The fae mumbled on, more to himself than the other, as he fled the room.

A loud click sounded as the doors slid closed behind the still agitated fae.

Íþróttaálfurinn shrugged, popped another of the grapes still within reach in his mouth and glanced down at his notes. Still, the sweet taste did little to block out the scorching acid still festering and tearing at him.

--

 

- The hollow trees –

 

Deus was having a bad day. Scratch that. This day was terrible.

The giant angrily pouted down at his olives as he kept poking at one of them. With a soundless huff, he flicked one onto the counter, which rolled on and finally fell onto the floor below. The bartender was dead and the place under lockdown, so it was not as if there was anyone left to correct him on the shitty behavior.

With a deep sigh, he gingerly got up and started cleaned the bar, polishing at it until it shone and sparkled.

Nothing really mattered.

Grey was gone and Nox – once their actions had fully registered – was a sobbing mess.

Speaking of Grey. Deus thought as he jumped up, positioned himself on the bar and started fiddling with one of her shitty, homemade bombs. She would have loved the fact that she did indeed collapse the entire downstairs area with her little creations.

Good for them that the underground tunnels were as well built as they were, otherwise they could very well have been buried alive. Maybe that had been the plan.

As he rolled the small orb around in his hands, a piece of Dutch tape came loose with a small tearing sound. Frowning, he glared at it and rubbed the offensive piece with the edge of a nail, to try to get it to stick back on. Once more, it popped back out and refused to be kept in place despite how hard he tried to make it stick.

‘’You planning to kill us all?’’ Vita asked, startling him greatly, as she stalked over and started eating his neglected olives. ‘’I don’t blame ya for that, but it would be a dumb move Des.’’ She grumbled to which Deus responded with a small huff – the giant scratching at the ragged scar across his throat as he nevertheless put the bomb away.

‘’Cat’s got your tongue?’’

Deus threw her a dirty look. Very funny.

She just shrugged. ‘’We’re gonna leave, Nox and I.’’ Vita rasped in a low, careful voice - the tone calm and cold. ‘’I’d suggest you come too, cause Corv is gonna be fuckin pissed about it.’’

Silence fell heavily as they glared at each other before Deus shrugged casually, made a big show of shoving the last of his olives into his mouth, shrugged again and jumped down from the bar.

‘’Was that a maybe?’’ Vita called after him as the giant started walking off.

Deus shrugged again.

--

 

- The old court –

 

Sportacus woke with a strangled gasp caught in his throat – his borrowed nightshirt and pants near soaked through with sweat. He felt both cold and overheated, the flashes of moving through a liquid so thick it felt like tar and just as disgusting as it invaded his mouth, still very real and flashing behind his stinging eyes.

With a breathless huff of effort, he quickly stripped himself of his dirtied shirt, grabbed his blanket and shuffled out into the hallway.

His legs felt all wrong, stiff and heavy as he moved – his head foggy yet clear; alert and yet still asleep.

‘’Where is it?!’’ Robbie - as the elf met the other halfway - asked in a voice rough and scratchy from sleep, to which Sportacus shrugged. The fae shook his head, grabbed the elfs hand and started tugging him along towards the kitchen.

’Ridiculous.’’ Robbie muttered under his breath as the door flew open and then shut heavily behind them – the loud bang it produced scaring the living daylights out of a few roaming foxes in the progress. ‘’This is so not acceptable.’’ Sportacus could only nod awkwardly as he was drawn into an uncomfortable, far too tight embrace. ‘’Not acceptable.’’ The fae repeated gruffly against his ear.

‘’It is okay.’’

‘’No it’s not.’’

The elf let out a deep, tired sigh as he buried his face against the others warm neck. ‘’I am okay.’’

‘’You are not.’’

‘’Please stop.’’

‘’Could you please be just a tiny bit outraged, when great harm and injustice is thrown at you?’’

‘’It is o-‘’

‘’It is so not okay – Right, you have learned to be quiet or whatever, but this is not the time to be quiet!’’ Robbie rather aggressively snapped as he drew back and placed both of his palms against either side of the elfs face. ‘’Please care a bit more.’’ The fae continued on a much more calm voice.

Silence settled for a few beats, before Robbie let out a low huff and started squeezing the others cheeks together - rudely imitating the elfs thick dialect as he spoke. ‘’Yes Robbie, great idea, I will do that, yep!’’

‘’What are you doing?’’

‘’I, Sportadumb the third, solemnly swear to stop being dumb.’’

‘’Stop.’’ Sportacus half laughed as he nevertheless allowed the silly affection.

‘’Also, Robbie Rotten is the best villain in the world and I will listen to his great ideas forever.’’

’Stop.’’ Sportacus chuckled – the mirth slowly seeping through his annoyance.

Robbie was about to continue the gently abuse of the elfs face, when several of the surrounding foxes let out low yaps and growls, causing the faes eyes to immediately narrow and snap to a place above and behind the elf. Robbie made a curious noise in the back of his throat – his expression turning ugly and cold and the elf knew exactly what had just appeared on top of the cupboards.

Sportacus tightened his hold and forced the other to stay still before he could do something hasty. ‘’Just focus on what matters.’’ The elf urged softly.

‘’Stay close.’’ Robbie hissed in reply as he cast a basic protective shield over both of them – the faes magic silently whining as its ripples collided with something it clearly did not like.

Sportacus took a deep breath, released his tense, pouting fae and turned around to face the mare.

The creature, the thing crouched on top of the cupboard - too many eyes and a neck that supported at least five, upside-down heads. A complete, utter violation towards what should be psychically possible - Truth be told, the elf was not sure what he was looking at and while trying to summon the right words in his mind to hold onto and understand what his eyes were seeing, none could properly describe the creature that was the mare in all its glamour-free glory. He thought he had gotten at least a bit used to its absurd presence as it had visited through the dream, but he had been dead wrong.

’You.’’ Robbie growled low only to be stopped short by a quick, reassuring squeeze from the elf.

‘’Focus.’’ Sportacus urged.

Infected, pitch black, dried up skin, peppered with sickly green, yellows and blues expanded over a body that was both too big and yet too small for what it supported. Milky white broken bones protruded from too many bend joints that all ended in huge, wicked claws that seemed to have not been cut or trimmed in at least a decade past.

the size of the dark, eerie mass seemingly changed as he gazed at it and as he stared, a huge scaly tail full of tiny spikes uncurled and ran down the entire length of the cupboard, continuing all the way down to the floor and finally across the floor itself.

The entire creature reeked of rotten eggs, something slightly metallic that he could not quite place, mixed up with an underlying scent and taste of something incredibly bitter. Yet, he thought, those words, none of that would still be quite enough to describe the pure revolting chaos that was currently in their presence.

This creature, he realized with a start as he gazed at it, did not make sense.

Maybe that was on purpose.

While Robbie seemed fairly composed - this being his third encounter with the nocturnal other - the fae was curiously still and tense as he glared up as well. In the meantime, Sportacus was frozen to the spot with fear.

Or rather, terror would be the more accurate word.

For several moments, all was silent as the dark creature loomed over them, its gaze, or rather, gazes unwavering, like an aggressive, menacing cloud of terror and hate about to descent upon them. Then, one of its claws ticked against the wooden edge of the cupboard and whatever spell the pair had seemed to have been under broke.

Sportacus felt a sharp jab of pain run down his spine, right before he felt his legs go numb and unresponsive beneath him, and he would have collapsed onto the floor, if not for the fact that Robbie was clutching him close and helping him stay standing.

‘’How are you so unfazed?’’ Sportacus laughed nervously – the tone bordering on hysterical as he felt his eyes glued to the mare.

‘’Oh believe me.’’ Robbie started in a carefully soft voice as he forced his stinging eyes to blink. ‘’I am not.’’

Both jumped back in fright, as the mare let itself drop down onto the kitchen counter.

‘’Relax.’’ The mare purred darkly as all of its seven heads spun and snapped upright with a creaking and snapping of already broken bones. ‘’After all, if I recall correctly, I am not some bigshot.’’ It drawled, clearly offended as it pushed an old mug of coffee over the edge of the counter.

Both elf and fae flinched and took a small step backwards, as the mug shattered upon impact – the sharp, white shards now bathed and scattered in the spreading pool of the cold, brown liquid.

‘’I truly apologize.’’ Robbie coughed with an angry, pinched expression.

‘’How genuine.’’ The mare breathed as its long tail slithered across the floor – the sharp edges of its spikes catching the wood and drawing long, deep scratches across it. A few brave – but still warry - foxes hesitantly crept closer – a single one coming close enough to sniff at the long, twitching coil now firmly stuck in the floor. The fox seemed to gain a bit more courage as the tail, safe for the small jerky movements, stayed unmoving – a single crystal paw coming out to gently tap at it twice, before it jumped back into safety.

‘’Have you thought on it?’’ The mare continued as one of its three heads looked down puzzled at the fox, which had crept closer again and was now gently nipping at a sharp spike. The rest of the crystal creatures stayed back in confusion – the whole bundle seemingly unsure of themselves, like a litter of kittens, trying to understand their new surroundings.

‘’What exactly are you?’’ Sportacus could not help but ask.

‘’Darling.’’ It purred grotesquely through jagged rotten teeth. ‘’I am literally a nightmare.’’

Robbie huffed unimpressed. ‘’We noticed.’’

The creature slowly tilted one of its heads and narrowed a good portion of eyes at the fae. ‘’I cannot tell if you mean to insult me?’’ It asked, sounding genuinely curious.

’Truly.’’ Sportacus interjected before things could escalate further than that. ‘’What are you?’’

‘’Who can answer such a question?’’ It spat. ‘’I merely am, and one day I will be no more - Should I take it that you have not thought on it?’’ The nocturnal creature shrieked, causing the elf to immediately cover his sensitive ears with a pained, terrified whimper. With a single leap, the mare landed heavily on the table, where it stretched out its messy frame, before lying down.

‘’Do you know what it is?’’ Robbie, finally getting to the point, asked. ‘’The shadow, that is.’’

One of the mares heads turned towards the fae, before it absently started to scratch the side of that particular face - its sharp claws tearing several eyes apart in the progress, which all leaked a shadowy mass onto the table and floor below.

‘’It is closer to what I was made of, than that of what your own vessel possesses.’’ It said vaguely. ‘’It appears made of the dark itself, yet it acts like none of those, who have been crafted out of such.’’

‘’So you do not know?’’ Robbie pressed to which the mare growled low.

‘’The lines.’’ Sportacus urged as the thought hit him – the elf lowering his hands and taking a small step in front of Robbie. ‘’There appears to be lines it cannot cross, yet we do not understand how they work.’’

Suddenly, as the elf continued to approach, what must have been a good thirty-two eyes blinked open and settled straight onto said shaky elf.

‘’The Ley lines, yes.’’ The mare said simply, as it nodded, before it started licking at a broken paw.

Behind Sportacus, eyes wide and full of sudden understanding, Robbie squeaked. ‘’Come again?’’

The mare let out a loud, dramatic sigh as it stretched out on the table, seemingly almost melting across it. When he got no reply, Robbie hesitantly followed the elfs example and hesitantly went to the table. Here, Sportacus was carefully unfolding the large map – the elf swift as he picked up a pen and started carefully tracing the few lines he knew of. ‘’Most of them do indeed match up.’’ He mused softly, to which Robbie hummed and leaned against the table.

‘’Are you certain?’’ Robbie asked – the fae quickly jerking his hand back, before any of the mares heads could snap at it. ‘’It is just…’’ He said as he gingerly tapped twice at a reported line from Glannis notebook. ‘’If that is the case, then this one does not add up.’’

‘’I do not know all of them, so it very well might be that it actually does match up.’’ Sportacus softly confessed. ‘’However, this one.’’ The elf said as he tapped twice at a reported safe-route. ‘’Is definitely not a place where one runs across, that much I am certain.’’

Robbie hummed. ‘’Is it possible that some of the lines have bled together then?’’ The fae mused, as he gestured at two lines close to where the reported safe-route ran.

With a loud creaking of joints and bones, the mare shifted its weight to better observe what the pair was tracing and mapping out. ‘’It is possible that some have harbored and redirected some of its energies yes. Controlled and corrected a smaller portion of the flow so to speak.’’ It rasped.

‘’Such a fabricated line would eventually wear itself out, right?’’ Sportacus asked aloud.

‘’Possibly.’’ Robbie mused to which the mare hummed. ‘’Or do you disagree?’’ The fae asked but got no further reply.

‘’But why have we not heard about this sooner? I know it has not been that long, but surely someone else would have noticed and recognized the pattern of the-‘’ Sportacus started before cutting himself short. Surely, others would be - as Robbie and he had been and still were - working towards finding a way to survive.

It was quite possible that they, whoever it might have been, had found a way without sharing the knowledge to the world around them. ‘’That.’’ The elf started instead. ‘’Would explain why Glannis guys suddenly got caught in what was reportedly a safe line. It might have worn itself out, or it might be that the shade got denser and the fabricated line was no longer strong enough to hold. Would the rest of the lines, the originals, still be strong enough then?’’ He mused.

‘’That could be it.’’ Robbie replied to the first, loudly ignoring the rest of the elfs musings as he scratched at the back of his head. ‘’It could be-‘’ The fae started as he glanced at the mare - one brow lifting in confused amusement at the sight of the terrifying other - The terror in question currently rolling around on the table, wiggling, as though trying to scratch its back. ‘’-the same idea as we had with the shrooms. Both wards used an already existing element, be it that the lines are... Quite possibly stronger from the start.’’

‘’They would be stronger dearest.’’ Sportacus softly said. ‘’Wait, they finished the shroom-ward?’’ The elf asked to which Robbie shrugged.

‘’Most likely.’’ Robbie grumbled in reply. ‘’I do not overly care what those idiots do. Regardless, these lines.’’ The fae started as he started pacing back and forth. ‘’Is there a way for us to expand them and make them hold, without damaging the originals in the process?’’ He asked to which Sportacus shrugged.

‘’I must admit I do not know enough on this topic.’’ The elf grumbled as he tapped his pen against the map below. ‘’Someone else figured out the trick though, so we know that it is possible.’’

Robbie hummed low in thought. ‘’Do you know how they did it?’’ The fae asked towards the mare. ‘’And will it exhaust the originals?’’

‘’A feathered shield might be a better solution than that of your shrooms or cheap fabrications.’’ It said vaguely, completely ignoring the question. ‘’That is, if you wish to ever walk freely again.’’ The mare huffed, causing Robbie to blink and stop dead in his tracks.

’Feathered?’’

‘’Search for the owl.’’ The mare purred after the silence had stretched for too long.

‘’…Owl?’’ Sportacus asked hesitantly.

The mare yawned and stretched out a long, croaked leg – the limb far too long and wrongly shaped. ‘’Your dry, forbidden books have indeed what you seek.’’ It drawled impatiently. ‘’The possible solution - What could be a remedy to this unfortunate predicament we all find ourselves in.’’

Sportacus and Robbie, both looking unsure, gazed briefly at each other.

‘’You are saying two different things here.’’ The fae started carefully. ‘’Does it have what we need or is it only a possibility that it does?’’

The mare seemed to shrug. ‘’Depends.’’ It said vaguely.

‘’Well that sure is helpful.’’ Robbie groaned into his hands to which the mare chuckled rudely. ‘’Could you at least give us a hint?’’

The mare regarded him for a great while, before seemingly scoffing. ‘’One eyed.’’ It rasped low, to which Robbie hummed.

‘’Anything else?’’ The fae asked, but got no answer.

In front of him, Sportacus had gone curiously quiet. ‘’How do you know what our books hold?’’ The elf, slightly worried, asked. The words had barely left his mouth before he felt a clammy, phantom hand settle tightly around his throat, the numb, tingly sensations running along his spine increasing tenfold.

The room seemed to darken a nudge and Sportacus got a sudden rush of panic as the hand morphed into an iron collar that he knew was not real, but it still felt the deal – the elf gasping at the ancient sensation, as a different kind of ice and dread than that of the shade crept through him.

Time seemed to slow to a halt as the mare lifted and turned all of its five heads to stare at him.

’I.’’ The rude, nocturnal creature started, as Sportacus somehow managed a shaky step backwards. ‘’Am far older than you could even hope to phantom.’’ It drawled softly as though he was daft. ‘’I feast on dreams, feast, on that which you cannot shield. I know all that there is to know of you and your kin.’’ It rasped as it wiped its long tail across the floor – the loud sound of the coil slamming into said floor causing the elf to gulp down mouthfuls of much needed, panicked air.

The elf felt something snap in him – the collar cracked and shattered, the tingly sensations calming to their usual hum as the mare let him go. ‘’Do not ask stupid questions elf.’’ The mare scoffed as Sportacus grabbed the edge of the kitchen counter hard. Absently, he felt himself nod.

’Right.’’ Robbie said softly. ‘’Perhaps you do not have any need of him, but I do.’’ The fae said offhandedly, as he stepped a bit closer and in front of the panting elf.

‘’Duly noted.’’ The mare practically spat - somehow sounding both entertained yet bored and uninterested.

A short silence fell before Robbie spoke up again.

‘’Is that all then?’’ The fae asked a tad aggressively as he despite the harsh tone, nevertheless hoped to steer the conversation back into safe territory.

‘’it is a difficult task to pull strings of already fading, half-torn dreams out of the dying dirt.’’ The mare purred darkly.

‘’So that was all.’’ Robbie confirmed to which the nocturnal creature huffed and squinted suspiciously at him.

’Yes.’’ It confirmed in a slow, patient voice as though speaking to a child. ‘’For now.’’ It concluded as it tapped the map once - a single claw raising to tear a large gash in one of its faces. ‘’Shall I return once more has been unearthed?’’ It asked as new eyes started sprouting from the deep gauges it had just left. A few of them expanded too far and burst with a soft 'pop'.

‘’That would be appreciated.’’ Robbie nodded sincerely.

‘’I take it that I am dismissed then.’’

‘’Yep.’’ Robbie confirmed.

The mare slowly got up and stretched itself out before it jumped down onto the floor, causing a few startled foxes to take off running. ‘’We have a deal.’’ It practically spat as it approached the tense fae.

‘’We do indeed.’’ Robbie mumbled as he reached a hand into his night robe to retrieve a small, bitter scenting bundle, which he gingerly handed to it. The mare snatched it with a pair of rotten, ragged teeth before it, much like it had in the dream and the first time Robbie had met it in the middle of the night, disappeared without a trace.

Robbie let out a deep, tried sigh as he turned and looked down at Sportacus, who had sat down with his back against the lower cupboards - The shaky elf clutching a trembling hand to his chest, shaking all over, as he drew his blanket further around himself for comfort.

‘’I need to contact my brother. I need to talk to Mary.’’ The elf said as he leaned his elbows against his knees and covered his face with his shaky hands, to which Robbie slowly sighed.

‘’There are only so many passive aggressive creatures I can deal with in one day.’’

‘’Then I’ll do it.’’ Sportacus, voice muffled by his hands, said. The elf was taking deep breaths and it took Robbie a moment to realize, that the other was doing so to calm himself down.

‘’You barely dare to enter my quarters anymore because of some stupid rule, so how would you do that?’’ The fae asked as he sat down as well, reached out a hand and started carding it through the elfs hair.

‘’They technically aren’t yours.’’ Sportacus argued as he let his hands drop and leaned into the touch.

‘’Humor me.’’ Robbie hummed softly.

Silence settled for a bit before Sportacus spoke up again. ‘’One eyed.’’ The elf mumbled under his breath. ‘’One eyed owl. I need to tell my brother.’’ He repeated softly.

‘’Do you know what that meant?’’ Robbie asked to which Sportacus shrugged.

‘’Maybe.’’ The elf softly replied as he gingerly got up. ‘’Would you mind if I take this alone?’’ He asked as he offered the fae a hand to stand up. ‘’Some of this information might be a bit… sensitive.’’

‘’Then should I not be present?’’

Sportacus bit at his lip before replying. ‘’We have already broken a major rule of this court.’’ The elf urged, causing Robbie to perk up – the faes eyes sparkling with mischief.

‘’Are we about to break another?’’ He grinned.

‘’Robbie.’’

‘’Oh we are, aren’t we!’’

‘’Robbie!’’ Sportacus snapped, something hard entering his expression. ‘’This is serious.’’ He urged, a bit more gently this time. ‘’This is really bad.’’

‘’Like bad bad?’’

‘’Like I might lose my life if we are discovered bad.’’

Robbies eyes went comically wide as he croaked his head to the side and stared the elf down. ‘’What exactly are we about to do?’’ He asked to which he got a small shake of the head.

‘’It is as the mare said. The books are forbidden.’’ Sportacus replied low as he gazed up at the other. ‘’The punishment for even touching one is heavy, let alone stealing one.’’

‘’Then we might lose our lives and technically we are just borrowing.’’ Robbie said to which he got another small shake of the head.

‘’Let me speak to my brother.’’ Sportacus urged. ‘’This is not a good idea but it might be the most important one we have had so far – we have to do this.’’ The elf urged.

Robbie took a deep breath before replying. ‘’No one has to know about this.’’ The fae pressed. ‘’We can just take them and not tell anyone.’’

‘’They will know.’’ Sportacus argued softly. ‘’They always know.’’

‘’How?’’ Robbie asked to which the elf shrugged.

‘’I do not know.’’ Sportacus admitted softly on a sigh as he glared down at the ground. ‘’We have to do this.’’ The elf, gaze a thousand yard stare, urged again.

A thick silence fell over the kitchen – even the foxes seemed to be holding their nonexistent breath as the two mused on how best to proceed. ‘’Are you all right?’’ Robbie finally asked, getting another small shrug in return.

‘’We have to do this.’’ Sportacus mumbled instead. ‘’I do not believe there is another way around it.’’

Robbie raised both hands, placed them on either side of the elfs face, before leaning his forehead against the others. ‘’Try not to get us killed.’’ The fae grumbled.

‘’You will be fine.’’

‘’That is not as reassuring as you think it is.’’ Robbie grumbled to which Sportacus chuckled.

’We will be fine.’’ The elf, knowing it was a lie, urged, to which Robbie rolled his eyes.

‘’If you say so.’’ The fae huffed, dropped his hands and took a small step back. ‘’Off with you then.’’ He said as he waved the other off. ‘’Mary hates me anyway.’’

‘’She does not.’’

‘’Does too! Like I am pretty sure she straight up wants to eat me.’’ Robbie yapped as he flicked his fingers towards the ceiling. Sportacus threw him a fond smile as he shook his head and started towards the door.

‘’Whatever you say dearest.’’ The elf chuckled to which he got a low hiss in return.

Robbie felt strange as the door closed behind the elf – the fae letting out a deep sigh as he listened to the retrieving footsteps of the others still bound feet. Technically, the elf did not need the bandages anymore, but neither of the two had dared to go to the deathtrap in the sky, to retrieve a pair of shoes, and so, the others feet remained bound for now.

‘’Ridiculous.’’ Robbie muttered to himself as he suppressed a shudder. ‘’Absolutely ridiculous.’’

Chapter Text

‘’You realize the irony of a nightmare helping us out, right?’’ Glanni huffed, shaking his head as he turned his notebook in his hands and drummed his nails against it. Beside him, looking tired and lost to the world, walked Íþróttaálfurinn – the elfs feet dragging slightly across the floor and nearly stumbling if not for the quick reflexes of the scoffing fae. ‘’Are you actually listening at all?’’ Glanni scolded as he carefully helped steady the other.

‘’I already told you that I need space.’’

‘’And I need attention, so give it.’’ Glanni snapped, to which Íþróttaálfurinn hummed.

‘’You did not sleep last night.’’ The elf quietly remarked.

‘’Neither did you so shut up and worry about your own stupid hide elf.’’ Glanni grumbled, to which, again, Íþróttaálfurinn hummed. A thick, uncomfortable silence fell after that as the two walked through the courtyard and made their way inside.

-

‘’Did you manage it?’’ Ivar softly asked Glanni after he had caught up to the two tense, very keen on ignoring each other, creatures. The fae – while loudly ignoring the curious and suddenly very alert gaze Íþróttaálfurinn regarded him with - threw him a casual shrug before smirking mischievously.

‘’Two out of five remain.’’ Glanni rasped proudly as he handed his notebook over into the waiting hands of the giant – the giant in question nodding curtly as he accepted it. ‘’It’s the one with the pink lettering and tear on top – But yeah, it should be in effect before evening, so we’re good.’’

‘’Should I be worried about this?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked as he slowed his pace and looked between the two.

’You wanted to be ignored, so no.’’ The fae snapped just as Ivar flipped through the notebook and seemingly easily found what he was looking for. In a matter of seconds, the two were engaged in a quick, hushed debate.

Íþróttaálfurinn narrowed his eyes as he listened closely to the vague chatter, but questioned it none. With a small frown, the elf shook his head and upped his pace – making it to and through the decorated double doors way before the scheming others did.

--

 

- The old court -

 

‘’Uhm.’’ Sportacus, clearly worried, started as he quickly skimmed over the side section of the needed items and proceedings of a particular ritual.

‘’Do not bother reading the side effects.’’ The fae chuckled from his place beside and on top of the elfs bed. ‘’They are highly exaggerated anyway.’’

‘’This literally says your blood could turn to ice. That sounds deadly.’’

‘’Well do I look dead to you?’’

The elf fell silent for a beat, as his wide eyes blinked up at the other. ‘’You consumed jimsonweed?’’ he yapped, to which Robbie just shrugged before looking back down at his own book.

‘’Probably not because of the specific ritual that you are looking at there, but yep, I have. Regardless, what is it for?’’ The fae asked as he gestured towards the book in Sportacus’ hands.

’Brief interactions beyond.’’ The elf read aloud. ‘’Apparently you should be able to leave your body and talk to the dead.’’ He mumbled as he tapped a finger against a small scrawl at the bottom. ‘’A personal note says it worked as intended but that the person got trapped for what felt like a month in between with no way out. He must have gotten out somehow though; otherwise, he would not have been able to write this. In addition, it left him with a permanent craving for… Potatoes.’’

‘’That sounds oddly specific and beyond cruel.’’

‘’Potatoes are not that bad.’’

‘’Potatoes are the worst.’’

Sportacus let out a deep sigh as he looked up at the other. ‘’Have you found anything useful?’’ He asked to which the fae shrugged.

‘’Nothing that seems even close to what the mare was talking about.’’ Robbie admitted on a grumble. ‘’Personally, now that is a different matter – I am definitely keeping this book.’’

‘’We already talked about this.’’ The elf lightly scolded. ‘’We cannot keep them.’’

‘’Yes yes, rules rules rules, how boring!’’ Robbie yapped loudly. ‘’Does your superiors even realize what this is?’’ The fae complained as he gestured at the books spread carelessly around him. ‘’Do they actually understand how precious this knowledge is?’’

‘’They do and that is exactly why it is forbidden.’’

’Boring!’’

’Look.’’ Sportacus started in as much of a patient tone as he could muster. ‘’It is not that I disagree with you, but please. Try to treat this with a bit more respect.’’

A strange silence settled between the two before Robbie let out a deep dramatic huff. ‘’If you insist.’’

‘’I do.’’

Sportacus looked down at the ancient book in his hands. The entire thing looked as though it could fall apart if he as much as breathed on it – the pages worn and dusty from years of neglect. Carefully, he lifted a hand to flip the page over, meanwhile loudly ignoring how the old scent of dust nearly made him sneeze.

While the next page held contents that was definitely interesting to say the least - the words ‘Harvesting a soul and how to make it re-bloom in a new vessel’ creating wild ideas and suggestions in his head that sadly, came nowhere close to how absurd the actual use and practice of the ritual below was - it was not what they were looking for.

With a startled noise and a small, barely suppressed shiver, he gingerly flipped to the next page. As much as the ‘correct way to strip the sacrifice and strap them securely down’ was a field he knew nothing off, he really did not need to know more.

The next page, sadly, proved to be just as bad, causing him to flip the page again.

And again.

And again.

‘’What happened to you?’’ Sportacus - after the elf had nearly thrown the book across the room in disgust - asked as he squeezed his eyes shut, gingerly placed a bookmark and closed the book. Enough was enough.

Confused, Robbie blinked up at him in surprise – the fae humming softly in question.

‘’When we…’’ The elf, cheeks going a curious shade of red, started before trailing off.

‘’Fucked?’’

Sportacus bit his lip before clearing his throat. ‘’Your scars.’’ The elf said softly as he looked up at the fae who had gone very still - the flint sharp and back in his eyes.

‘’What about them.’’ Robbie asked.

‘’What happened?’’

The fae glared down at his own book for a moment, before he let out a deep sigh and frowned, clearly not too keen on approaching the subject. ‘’You know, I said I would not throw you to the shade but I am very tempted to do so.’’

A flash of understanding crossed Sportacus’ face as his mind quietly put two and two together. ‘’Nine did this?’’ The elf asked softly. Briefly, he had an ugly flashback to their unfortunate showdown in the kitchen, as Robbie glared coldly at him.

‘’Why do you want to know about this?’’ The fae asked – a small hiss escaping said fae as the offended question sounded worn and defeated, even to his own ears. With another small sigh followed by a dramatic groan, he snapped the book shut and carelessly threw it beside him, where it joined the fifteen others.

’Nine.’’ Robbie mumbled softly as he raked his hands through his hair before he inhaled sharply and pressed the tips of his fingers against his mouth, as though he could somehow shield himself from the words. ‘’I do not truly remember what happened.’’ The fae admitted on a grumble. ‘’Most of it is a hazy blur of colours and sounds but-‘’ He cut himself off as he lowered his head, fingers drifting back up into his hair where he lightly tugged on it. ‘’We tried to rebel. Tried to… break through, break out of the illusion surrounding the town that was as much a shield, as it was a false image presented to the outside world. Mind you, it did not shield us, it was-‘’ Here he cut himself off again, head snapping up to stare at the other with eyes wild and full of old fears and misery.

‘’I know that I got halfway through, the shield already rippling and falling apart, I could have broken through, I was so close but-’’ Robbie sounded desperate as he shook his head. ‘’So close.’’ The fae mumbled again. ‘’I was cornered. I know that he had not seen me as a threat up until that moment, but suddenly I was and... I know he wanted to make sure I knew my place from then on and he knew there was little he could do to beat me down further than he already had.’’ Robbie breathed deeply as he turned his head and stared blankly at the wall beside him.

The fae seemed lost, momentarily trapped in a past, but clearly still painful memory.

‘’I had wings you know.’’ Robbie started on a strangely longing tone. ‘’Big, bright and beautiful. Hurt for weeks as they pushed out through my back when I was young, but it was worth it. Glanni was so proud of me for it, said I had done so well but then-‘’

Sportacus flinched as the fae suddenly got up from the bed and started pacing - hands wringing nervously as he stared at nothing in particular. Startled by the calm, hollow tone, the elf nearly jumped as Robbie started talking again.

‘’I am fairly sure it was a spontaneous act from his side, I don’t- I don’t think he really thought it through at all, but I was on the ground, a splitting headache in my head after he had hit me with something made of metal. A pipe maybe... Or a candlestick, I don’t know - blood was pouring from what felt like everywhere.’’ The fae stopped dead in his tracks as the first tear spilled over his pale cheek – both hands dropping as he leaned his head to the side in a hopeless manner, eyes once more growing faint and distant. Slowly, as to not spook the other, Sportacus got up from the floor and started approaching the hunched over other.

‘’It wasn’t enough for him.’’ Robbie breathed softly. ‘’It wasn’t enough that he had already beaten me within an inch of my life, I needed to suffer more. Needed to suffer more permanently.’’ The fae angrily bit at his bottom lip as he practically spat out the last word, before he lowered his head and glared at the floor.

‘’He wanted to violate me but didn’t when he realized he could do something just as painful and permanent. It- he seemed so happy all of a sudden. This big happy grin split over his face and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas.’’ Robbie shook his head again just as a panicked look briefly flashed over his features.

‘’He didn’t use a knife.’’ Robbie started on a slightly growly voice. ‘’No blade - just ripped them straight from my back- it hurt.’’ The fae barked loudly – the tone harsh and biting enough that Sportacus flinched and instinctually took a small, startled step backwards despite him not being the actual target of the others ire. Worried, and out of the corner of his eye, the elf registered as the bedframe still behind the fae started shaking slightly - the vibrations of it traveling through the floor below, just as a truly ugly sneer spread over Robbies face.

‘’I felt the tendons and muscles rip and tear – felt as the movement and sensations suddenly vanished and nothing but pain and this weird empty coldness remained. It was confusing - I didn’t know what was going on. Just blood, gore and colours that. Colours that-’’

’Robbie.’’ Sportacus urged as softly yet sternly as he could.

The fae took a deep breath, just as the elfs ears popped from the sudden, suffocating pressure in the tension-filled room.

The bed stopped shaking.

‘’I should not have been able to see the deep indigo that centered at the base of my wings.’’ Robbie started on a slightly calmer tone, though he was clearly still agitated. ‘’I’d always had to twist in the mirror to see it, but suddenly I caught that flash of colour on the ground, just carelessly presented and I knew. I understood.’’

In a matter of seconds, the fae seemed more tired than anything - a deep, exhausted sigh escaping him as the elf dared a small step forward, both hands raised in retaliation. ‘’Do you even know how close I came to being paralyzed?’’ Robbie breathed. ‘’He broke my back when he stomped on my spine and then shoved his knee into it. But ripping a faes wings like that. They are deeply embedded- They were deeply embedded along my spine and out through my shoulder blades.’’

Sportacus dared to raise a hand to wipe the still flowing tears away – elf greatly relieved when Robbie sighed and leaned into the touch. ‘’Your father patched me up.’’ The fae continued in a barely audible voice. ‘’I had been left for months in that battered state. Barely able to move and unable to get help – you see, as to boost morale, Nine made sure that whoever tried to help me were punished as well.’’ Robbie closed his eyes as he covered Sportacus’ hand with his own, just as a small, humorless smile replaced the enraged sneer. ‘’He kept me fed however, Nine, that is. Wanted to make sure that I would not parish from my injuries and when I refused to eat what he brought me, he forced it in. Months passed like that and I was ready to die. I was, but I didn’t.’’ He shook his head again. ‘’There was a fire and then suddenly Aki was there.’’

The elf blinked in confusion. ‘’He was the first on the scene?’’ He asked to which Robbie absently nodded, causing Sportacus’ brows to furrow in confusion. ‘’But the notes…’’ The elf trailed off as he thought back to what he had read in the old reports, before they had left town. He knew that his father had been on the scene – had indeed been present as the cleanup took place, but they had mentioned nothing of him being there while the whole affair had still been going down. With a displeased noise, he shook his head and willed himself to settle his focus back onto the shaky mess in front of him.

If anything, he could always ask about it later at a more convenient time. ‘’Why did they not mention you in the notes?’’ Sportacus asked instead. Robbie gazed at him tiredly for a moment.

‘’Because I asked them not to.’’

‘’Why?’’ The elf asked softly.

Robbie was silent for a good while before he shrugged casually. ‘’I dunno.’’ The fae admitted, his voice starting to break again. ‘’I don’t know.’’ He repeated as he shrugged again - the sad smile splitting wider across his face as he did so. ‘’I didn’t want to put it into words, didn’t want it to be real -… I did not want to explain what had happened and they accepted it.’’ He said quietly, voice slightly scratchy and high-pitched. ‘’Your dad knows - Glanni knows a whole lot less but he is aware.’’ Robbie said as he let out a weak, hollow laugh. ‘’And now you do too. Don’t tell this to anyone.’’ The fae clipped to which Sportacus quickly shook his head.

The elf let his hand drop as Robbie sniffled and took a small step back, the fae flailing wildly as the back of his knees hit the edge of the bed - said bed creaking softly as gravity did its job and forcefully sat Robbie down on the edge of it.

Robbie sighed in defeat, reached out and placed a hand on Sportacus’ hip to draw him closer before he buried his face in the elfs hard stomach.

Both remained in a deep silence as Sportacus dared to raise both arms and embrace the other loosely.

‘’What happened to you?’’ Robbie mumbled wetly against his stomach as he nuzzled his face into it. ‘’Your kidnapped thing.’’ The fae mumbled on as the elf hummed in question. ‘’The past hate thing.’’

Sportacus swallowed around a suddenly dry throat, just as his hand stopped its careful tending of the others dark locks. ‘’It is a long story.’’ The elf finally croaked out – said elf feeling a wave of cold, clammy air settle over him, as the small, tight knot in his throat seemed to expand.

‘’I got time.’’ Robbie retorted as he tightened his hold on the elfs hips.

Sportacus chewed on his lip as a hand raised to worry at a neatly trimmed curl still slightly wet from when the fae had cut it in the morning – both of them tired after the visit from the mare, but still unable to go back to sleep from the shared stress of it. Robbies palms were a warm, steadying comfort against his throat as Sportacus kneeled between the faes slightly parted legs and gingerly placed them there. As he looked up, Robbie regarded him with a look, which was as confused as it was focused.

‘’Sense.’’ Sportacus said simply, just as the fae furrowed his brow.

Robbie blinked rapidly, as a small, steady thrum that he had never noticed vibrated against his fingertips – the thrum itself hidden away, buried, as the other had clearly decided it would be so. When nothing else emerged, the fae carefully pushed back against it, feeling it gradually part, like a thick, old curtain drawn aside to reveal the dusty, old secret hidden behind it.

Nothing visual showed, but the fae felt as the texture beneath his glowing fingertips changed - the skin breaking and bending under his careful touch, before ragged and uneven scars pushed out.

‘’This is…’’ Robbie mumbled in bewilderment as he felt the elf breathe slightly less evenly, pulse steady and calm yet it skipped a beat, as the fae gently circled at the already swollen and bruised area – the invisible, mended parts definitely far older than the recent visual damage, the other had suffered.

At once, he understood what he was presented with. A glamour. Elven in nature, but not made by the elf in front of him, who, quite honestly, looked like he wanted to flee, as he wordlessly removed the faes shaking fingers from his throat and instead extended his own hands towards him. Carefully, Robbie placed his fingers against the others upturned wrists – the elf looking away as he did so.

Sportacus seemed strangely worried - something close to shame creping over his features, as he grit his teeth hard enough that the fae briefly worried he would end up cracking one.

Robbie traced over the skin, feeling the strong bones underneath. Moments later, the same ragged texture greeted him here as well – the skin just as torn and wobbly, as though a blunt object had slowly, repeatedly been dragged over the elfs skin for a prolonged period, until it had broken and bled.

‘’Chains?’’ Robbie mused on a barely audible voice, as he gently caressed the broken skin. Slowly, Sportacus gazed up, his expression solemn, as he finally met the others alert eyes.

‘’Ankles as well.’’ The elf whispered softly as he nodded and lowered his eyes again. Robbie hummed in sympathy, as he carefully let his hands drop.

‘’For how long?’’

‘’Little over a decade.’’

Robbie bit at his lip as he shut his eyes and shook his head slightly in disgust. ‘’Who?’’ The fae asked to which Sportacus shrugged in a careless fashion.

‘’I never learned their names.’’ The elf admitted as he crossed his arms and placed them over Robbies knees – said elf sitting further upright to rest his cheek against his bend arm. ‘’I only know the ones we gave them.’’

‘’You were not alone then.’’

‘’No.’’

A short silence settled before Robbie spoke up again. ‘’How did you get out of yours?’’ The fae asked to which Sportacus smiled darkly – the expression a far cry from how gentle he normally looked.

‘’Much like yours actually.’’ The elf rasped. ‘’You know how miners use canaries to tell if enough oxygen is still in the air down in the mines?’’ The small sinister smile stretched further as the fae nodded. ‘’None of the birds survived, that is my only regret from that time.’’ Sportacus admitted as he shifted to get more comfortable on the floor. ‘’In the middle of a particularly harsh winter, we set a small, controlled fire in the lower levels of the tunnels that we had been forced down into. Originally, it was more for warmth than anything but we were too close to one of the pipes, which pumped fresh air in. Coalmines, proper winds and a sudden fire is one hell of a distraction, and while it was not originally meant to be a distraction, it sure became one.’’ The elf whispered with a hint of melancholy as he traced a shaky finger up the inside of Robbies left wrist. ‘’Somehow we all made it out safe and unburned, even if I did have to break my wrists to get out of the shackles. The ‘caretakers’, sadly, did not.’’

‘’You say sadly.’’

‘’And you know that I am capable of sarcasm.’’

Surprised, Robbie blinked down at him. ‘’Do you still hate them?’’ The fae asked to which the elf shrugged.

‘’I never hated them. Hated their ways, surely. But not them.’’ Sportacus admitted. ‘’Do you still hate Nine?’’ The elf asked to which Robbie scoffed.

‘’Yep.’’ The fae clipped coldly. ‘’Are you gonna scold me for that?’’

Sportacus squeezed his hand in reassurance before glancing up at him. ‘’No.’’ The elf said with a genuine smile. ‘’Thank you for telling me this.’’

Robbie shrugged as he let himself flop down on the bed, causing Sportacus to let out a startled laugh. ‘’Likewise.’’ The fae yawned as he reached out and picked up his neglected book. ‘’Now get off my thighs, you are making them fall asleep.’’

--

 

- The hollow trees –

 

Deus let out a deep, annoyed breath as the floor below him finally stopped shaking from the sheer force of the blast that had just ripped through it. Judging from the sweet scent of death and panic still heavy in the air, he knew the entire lower level had just collapsed - most likely the curtesy of one of Greys neglected, or rather, stolen bombs.

Exactly who was trying to blow up the entire place, and quite possibly wiping out all within in the process, he was not sure of, but he could take a big fat guess at it, and he would probably be correct.

More than a little fed up with the intricate workings of their homicidal ringmaster, he snagged a bottle straight from the shelf of the bar, drained it and flipped the bottle before smashing the bottom of it against the counter.

All he had to do now was wait.

The first to come sprinting up the stairs and bolting for the blocked exit was curiously enough not Corvus as he had thought it would be. Instead – and here Deus could not help but glare as he gazed down at Nox, the small, panicked other beating their fists against his still sore chest as they yelled something too high-pitched and fast-spoken for him to catch – minutes ticked by before their culprit actually showed up.

Nox, still caught up in a fit of panic, whined in fear as they spun around and stared wide-eyed at the advancing other before they turned back, grabbed a healthy chunk of Deus’ shirt, eyes bright and tearful as they gazed up with a begging expression.

‘’Vita’s down.’’ They breathed as they did their best to shake Deus by the collar. Truthfully, Deus was barely moved an inch. ‘’She didn’t make it, please, we have to go.’’

Deus craned his neck and glared up at the ceiling as he let out a long, deep sigh. Plans of murder never really work out the way you expect them to, do they? He thought, slightly agitated as he let the broken bottle drop, fetched a prepared bomb, unceremoniously scooped Nox up and held them securely above the, now riddled with glass, ground.

Corvus stopped dead in his tracks as Deus pinned him with a hard, one-eyed glare, daring him to engage as he croaked his head to the side and lifted his remaining eyebrow. Seconds ticked by like that before Deus huffed - loudly ignoring the pinched expression on Corvus face as he shoved the glowing bomb into Nox’s hands, tapping a nail against it as he did so.

A great, scorching warmth ran up Deus’ back as the blocked entrance behind Nox and he exploded – small branches and dirt still raining over the tense trio, as the giant huffed, turned and made towards the cleared entrance.

--

 

- The old court -

 

Both elf and fae jumped in fright as a knock sounded on the door, causing Robbie to literally roll over the edge off the bed before hiding under it. Confused and more than a little worried, Sportacus looked from the shivering Robbie to the door where the soft knocking still sounded.

’Are you expecting anyone?’’ Robbie hissed as lowly as he could while still being sure that he was heard, to which Sportacus quickly shook his head – the elf swift as he grabbed the book Robbie practically shoved at him, before putting it with the others still on the bed and covered the whole thing with a thick blanket.

Not the best cover, but it would have to do.

‘’State your name and business!’’ Sportacus called out as he squared his shoulders and faced the unlocked door.

‘’Must I?’’ The elfs, very unamused sounding fathers’ voice, grumbled back. Sportacus, expecting a trick, hesitantly stepped closer despite Robbies best efforts to gesture for him to do the opposite before he gingerly wrapped a hand around the handle and opened the door.

A tense silence fell as Sportacus, clearly unsure of what to say, stared their newcomer down. ‘’Are you...?’’ The elf trailed off as he took in Akis battered appearance. ‘’What the hell happened?’’

-

‘’Shade took form.’’ Aki started on a clearly exhausted voice as he glared at the soft, lazy, semitransparent tendrils, which rose up from his tea. ‘’Evacuee got frightened and left ward and so, defense fell with it.’’ The older elf grumbled as he took a swig of the still too-hot tea, burning himself in the process but honestly not caring much. ‘’Guards survived but rest did not.’’ He finished with a small shrug.

‘’When you say form?’’ Robbie mumbled. ‘’You mean as in it held it?’’

‘’Twenty minutes successful yes.’’ Aki shrugged again as he gazed over at the tense fae. ‘’Solid enough to grow teeth and eat. Solid enough to bleed when cut.’’

‘’And what does it bleed?’’ Sportacus asked.

‘’Pure shadow.’’

The three fell silent as Robbie turned to lock eyes with the just as tense-looking Sportacus.

‘’Is it stronger now then?’’ Sportacus hesitantly asked to which Aki shrugged.

‘’Depends on fighting method. Personally, it is same for me.’’ Aki said, raking a hand through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. ‘’On different note.’’ The older started on a tone stern enough to send a small shiver down Robbies spine while Sportacus visibly blanched – the younger no doubt smelling trouble coming his way. ‘’Your brother tells me of lines and you looking for a way to expand them. Do I have need to tell why this is bad idea?’’

‘’With all due respect sir.’’ Robbie started carefully as Sportacus gulped and shrunk under his father’s cold glare. ‘’Considering what we already know of them, expanding the lines could really be a good idea if-‘’

‘’Not lines.’’ Aki sharply interrupted the fae as he continued to stare his son down. ‘’Books. You understand why this is bad yes?’’

‘’Dad I-‘’

‘’Is this joke?’’ Aki continued on a slight growl – the older quickly yapping on in their native tongue as Sportacus clearly tried to defend himself. From there, things quickly got heated – the younger of the elves letting out a frustrated noise as he slammed a palm to his chest before tapping twice at the table in front of him. Aki said something back and Robbie made a small mental note to study their language when he got time to actually do so.

With the elder not actually looking directly at him, it took the fae a second to realize that he had been asked a question.

‘’Pardon?’’ Robbie awkwardly mumbled.

‘’Could we have minute alone?’’ Aki asked without taking his eyes off his son, to which Robbie quickly nodded – the fae more than eager to flee the tension-filled kitchen.

-

As it was, Robbie somehow ended up feeling even more awkward, as he kept shuffling around the golden suite – the fae slightly agitated and worried as he picked at his nails. Already, an hour, or possibly more, had passed with the fae desperately trying to kick the small, trailing fox away that would just not leave him alone and gods, he could still hear Akis angry yells echoing down the hall, which was quite the impressive feat considering the kitchen was on a completely different floor!

And still, that godsdamned pesky fox kept pressing itself against the side of his leg as he paced, making him angrier still each time he nearly tripped over it. Robbie loudly growled as he stopped to glare at it – the fae groaning as he pressed his eyes shut and slammed his hands tightly against his ears, hoping to block out the noise from above.

Alas, his attempts were in vain.

Minutes passed like that and when he finally opened his eyes again, startled, he realized that at least a dozen more foxes had started crowding around him. With a small huff, he gave up and just flat out accepted his predicament – the fae giving up pretense as he sat down heavily on the floor.

Soon, he was covered – the fae practically bathed in their bright, beautiful glow. Robbie sighed as one of them yapped and settled itself securely into his lap. With a small huff, he stuck out his tongue at it.

‘’I am not petting you if that is what you are hoping for.’’ The fae grumbled in clear annoyance as he shoved a small adventuress fox off his shoulder.

The fox yipped as it spun and presented its crystal belly to him. Robbie ignored it.

Above, the shouting seemed to have mercifully stopped.

The crystal creature in his lap spun a few more times, clearly hoping to win him over when suddenly, its head snapped up to stare at a point slightly beside and behind the fae. For a few seconds it stayed like that, completely still as if listening intensely for something. Then, Robbie felt something cold and ugly pool in his stomach as it started whining.

Worried, he followed its gaze as its bright fixed eyes stayed directed in the direction of the mirror. ‘’What is it?’’ He mumbled at the seemingly frozen fox, a hand absently reaching down to scratch under its chin, yet immediately, it jerked out of his hold.

That was when the small screeching sound reached him as well - the fox, now no longer in his lap, yipping once in fright before taking off.

To say that the sight of an urban legend trying to crawl her way out of a mirrors surface - a surface, which, most definitely did not want to relent - was unnerving, now that would be a great understatement.

Truly, it seemed as though the very mirror itself was trying to keep her in, as some form of ancient power beyond the faes understanding tried to do its job, but clearly failed at it – the reflective surface cracking and expanding in impossible ways, as it retracted and gave way to her emerging form.

Thick, black hair spilled over her head in great cascades as she dropped heavily onto the ground with a soft thump – her body seemingly limp and lifeless, as she stayed dormant for a beat. Then, her hands came out to brace the ground on either side of her face and slowly, she raised her head, her filthy black hair parting like a grotesque curtain, to reveal the nightmarish form beneath.

She might have been human once, but that was a far cry from whatever it was that time and death had done to her. More ghoul than human. His mind provided coldly as her gaping, black eye sockets stared back at him. He briefly wondered if she was completely blind outside of the mirror world and decided that he would rather not stick around to find out.

Slightly panicked and unfortunately much too late, Robbie started scooting away with a small whimper, just as she reached out her long, broken fingers towards him, and momentarily, he was surprised by how much strength he felt in her grip, as she grasped his ankle tightly.

Unsure of what to do, paralyzed with fear as he was, Robbie let out a terrified shriek, as he tried to shove her away.

You fought a troll and won, this kind of fear is below you. His mind momentarily scolded him. No it isn't! He snapped back just as a pair of sharp teeth bit into his thigh – the vicelike grip she had on his leg practically unmovable as she flexed her jaws and hungrily started biting into his flesh.

The fae had just started letting out small, strangled whimpers of pain and fear, as he desperately attempted to wrestle his leg free from under her pinning grip, when the atmosphere in the room abruptly changed.

Mary, too occupied in her attempted feasting, did not notice the shift, before a now knocked over chair next to Robbies right leg creaked and broke into thick chunks. The remaining wood started to vibrate, then shake violently before the entire frame abruptly explored outwards with a thick, hollow sound.

Clearly startled as the shower of ragged splinters covered them both, she quickly jerked back and off him, before something, a small chuckle or a huff – Robbie was not sure - made her raise her head and stare widely and unseeing at something behind and slightly above him.

Not daring to move, Robbie tilted his head back to see Sportacus’ father fully emerge through the open door, shoulders tense and squared as he glared at her now shivering form. The room seemed to grow darker still, the light greedily swallowed up by Akis vibrating presence as the old elf narrowed his eyes and gazed at Robbies bleeding thigh.

Akis head stayed perfectly still as he moved his gaze back onto Mary, before he pinned her with a glare so intense that even Robbie did not dare look away. Slowly, the old elf shook his head from side to side before going unnervingly still.

She had realized her mistaken way before the temperature in the room truly plummeted.

The sharp, piercing sound of several pieces of furniture splintering and breaking rang out, as an unseen force tore them apart from the inside out – the ghoulish figure frantic as her only means of escape slowly collapsed on her, the mirror she had come through cracking, gently, but surely.

While the mirror had been reluctant to release her, it sure welcomed her back with wide, open arms and if Robbie had not been so busy still whining in terror, he would have realized she was no longer in the room.

Dust and thick pieces of old, termite riddled wood seemed to cover the entirety of the suite as Aki, eyes still trained on the mirror Mary had crawled through, breathed in sharply, blinked and glared down at the whimpering fae still on the ground.

The last time Robbie had seen that cold, wild, intense glare directed at him, was on the damned day the elder had breached the walls of the still burning town and boy did it bring back memories. Truly, it reminded him of just how close Aki was to the wilder, older elves; the visible anger that he seemed to hold in high regard, so far removed from the delightful patience and gentleness both of his sons instead possessed.

Robbie flinched and raised both hands in an instinctual defense as he simultaneously tried to scoot away from the glaring other – the fae crying out in pain as he did so.

Aki, realizing the others still frightened state, stopped dead in his tracks as he rapidly blinked and took a deep, grounding breath, clearly trying to center himself. ‘’Calm.’’ The older elf breathed as he kneeled down beside the trembling fae, the elfs movements slow, as to not spook the other further.

Robbie flinched in pain as Aki pressed his palm over the shallow bite, the tender skin protesting as loudly as the fae did. ‘’What is said to kids of your old town. Be more careful next time?’’ Aki grumbled softly.

‘’Noted.’’ Robbie breathed back – the fae doing his best to stop shaking but failing miserable.

‘’Is magic back to full in you?’’ Aki asked as he vaguely gestured to all of the downed Robbie – the older still pressing against the bite as he gazed around him. ‘’Med kit?’’ He grumbled on.

‘’Should be.’’ The fae quietly murmured as he swallowed bile back down. ‘’And it should be in the room at the end.’’

Aki nodded curtly – the older taking one of the faes pale hands and pressing it against the bite as he himself got up to scout for something to patch the fae back up with.

’Speak of the devil.’’ Robbie chuckled humorlessly in greeting as Sportacus came through and then abruptly paused in the doorway. ‘’Or think, rather.’’ The fae continued on in a strained voice. ‘’I thought of you, I didn’t actually talk, but you’re here and your dad is still as scary as ever, so that is great and could you please just get over here, I need a hand, literally.’’

‘’Are you-‘’

’I am not okay and please, I can’t do small talk right now.’’ The fae grit out, voice breaking slightly at the end as Sportacus gently removed the faes hand and replaced it with his glowing own – the healing flow stuttering a bit at first but soon flowing freely in and mending the worst of the damage. ‘’I was right though, Mary does want to eat me.’’ Robbie said on a sniffle as he shook his head. ‘’I guess congratulations is in order then.’’

‘’How so?’’ Sportacus asked just as Aki returned with a pack of bandages in his hands. The older blinked twice as he noticed what his son was doing before he shrugged casually, threw the supplies on the bed and instead started to untie a bag he had retrieved, presumably from the other room he had just been scouting through.

‘’You finally got me to leave these blasted quarters.’’ Robbie chuckled wetly as Aki picked up the first fox and unceremoniously dumped it into the bag.

‘’Will you stay with me instead then?’’ Sportacus asked as he turned and gazed over at his fox-snatching father – the older in question picking up and shoving his third and final fox into the now glowing bag. If anything, the crystal creatures did not seem to mind the rough handling – the rest of the pack practically bouncing around the elders legs.

‘’If I must.’’ Robbie drawled as he let out a sigh and snaked his finger in between the elfs still glowing ones. ‘’If you would let me.’’ The fae grumbled on softly under his breath – said fae relieved when finally, his shaking subsided. Sportacus gave the others hand a small reassuring squeeze before replying.

‘’Always dear.’’

Chapter Text

‘’Get off!’’ Glanni half shouted as he angrily shoved at the big furry face currently getting all up in his personal space. The beast was still standing, its front legs pressing down on the frantic faes chest, but still, its heavy bulk drooped and pressed against his stomach as it viciously tried to lick his face. ‘’What even are you?!’’

‘’It’s a dog you dumbass.’’ Sevens amused voice sounded somewhere beyond and beside all the fur.

‘’Well shit, get it off!’’

It was quite difficult with the crutches, but after a few harsh words and insistent poking, the dog got the hint, slowly stepping off the huffing fae as it instead started shoving at Sevens raised leg.

’Well good riddance, who the fuck owns such a- NO!’’ Glanni let out a shriek as the second black projectile hurled itself down the hallway, coming straight at him. The fae scooted himself backwards as Ivars second dog nearly managed to pounce on him as well, if not for Sevens flailing crutch, which served as a makeshift shield. Growling under his breath, Glanni angrily tried to get the excess fur off him, though his great efforts hardly made any difference at all.

‘’The fuck happened to you?’’ Glanni asked rather aggressively as he glared up at Seven - the fae doing a piss pour job at recovering from the near, death by dog, experience he had just suffered. ‘’Did you stick your head in an oven or something?’’

Seven glared unimpressed. ‘’Maybe insulting the lill shit helping you out is not the right way to go about this.’’ The elf clipped dryly as he adjusted his grip on the crutches and waved the dogs off – both happily taking off into the courtyard to go bother some other poor individual.

’Whatever.’’ Glanni mumbled as he got up – loudly ignoring the outstretched hand in the process.

The fae shook his head as he gave up trying to brush himself off and instead took out his notebook, flipped it open and added a small ‘X’ next to the four waiting others. All done.

‘’Why are you following me?’’ Glanni growled as the elf hobbled after him – the fae scoffing, as he snapped the notebook shut and put it away.

‘’Cause you a mean piece of shit.’’ Seven snapped right back, causing the fae to stop dead in his tracks. Startled and a tad impressed, he blinked down at the kid.

‘’Glanni Glæpur.’’ The fae offered as he significantly slowed his pace.

‘’Seven.’’ The elf replied.

--

 

- The old court -

 

Robbie worried at the handle of his dagger, spinning it carefully as he examined it closer. Absently, though still with great care, he scraped a nail over the side of an old dent, located right at the base where the handle ended and the blade started. He could be wrong, but it appeared as though the wood around that specific part had been slightly discolored, perhaps from use or the various poisons his cousin so favorited.

The fae spun it again as he suppressed a small shudder. No doubt, this very dagger had seen combat before and not just when his elf had used it on the Tusseladd.

Willing himself a distraction from that specific train of thought, Robbie gazed over at the elf – the elf in question currently sitting against the wall, staring very intently at his hand.

Confused, the fae felt his brow furrow as he observed the focused other closer.

Then, a single, small spark burst between two of the elfs slightly parted fingertips – the spark flaring up briefly once, twice before finally, the small, fragile flame that rose licked down and danced on his uplifted palm. Truly, it was tiny enough that a simple gust of wind would snuff it out, but that hardly mattered.

Robbie felt himself smile as he gazed at it – the fae swift as he put the dagger down and instead headed over to join the elf. ‘’Gorgeous.’’ Robbie praised as he carefully reached out a hand, a single finger extending to trace along the small flame, then circling around it.

‘’I think I get it now.’’ Sportacus said proudly as he gazed up at the other - the small light shimmering and reflecting in the elfs eyes before he looked back down. ‘’Would it-‘’ He continue, cutting himself short with a soft ‘ah’. Robbie could not help but grin and press a soft kiss to the side of the elfs throat, as the flame rose, vibrating once before it died out completely.

‘’It needs constant tending.’’ Robbie chuckled softly – the fae feeling the deep, steady purrs from the elf vibrating against his still smirking lips. ‘’I told you it was a taxing feat.’’

‘’So you did.’’ Sportacus replied meekly as he tilted his head and gave the other better access.

Robbie hummed as he traced a finger over the hem of the elfs shirt. ‘’Strip.’’ The fae ordered, not at all missing how Sportacus’ pulse jumped with the command.

‘’Now?’’ The elf chuckled incredulously to which Robbie huffed lightly.

‘’I need to examine your bruises.’’ The fae grumbled as he tugged a hand under the others shirt, sliding it upwards and finally completely off. No doubt, the others state could still be marked down as ‘banged up and bruised’, but it was coming along nicely.

Still, Robbie let out a small, displeased sigh as he made the elf scoot a bit forward on the floor, before lightly shoving him down onto it – said elf relenting with a surprised grunt.

Sportacus blinked up at him as Robbie fetched a - presumably prepared for the occasion - ointment, which he gingerly heated in his hands before carefully rubbing it into the still black and blue skin of the others chest.

‘’Is it sore?’’ Robbie asked as he raked his hands down over the elfs front- said elf busy purring like a drunken fool as he enjoyed the others careful tending.

‘’A bit.’’ Sportacus replied, feeling a bit of heat start to creep into his cheeks as the other moved his hands lower still. Truthfully, he had gotten a lot better, his leg no longer hurting when he walked on it, while the dull throbbing from his nose had gone curiously quiet as well.

Barely any pain lingered at all, just the stubborn, presumably permanent numbness spread out over his shoulder blades and riding down his spine. The elf let out a small hiss of discomfort, which quickly eased into a moan, as Robbie circled back up and gently traced over his throat.

‘’Great.’’ Robbie grumbled as he leaned down and stole a quick peck from the others slightly parted lips. ‘’We are low on food.’’ The fae breathed to which Sportacus hummed.

‘’Good to know.’’ The elf replied as he carded his fingers through the others hair and drew the fae further down to kiss him proper. ‘’I am just happy you brought any at all.’’ He admitted on a small chuckle to which Robbie shrugged as best as he could.

‘’You tend to be an ungrateful idiot, but you do not deserve to starve.’’ The fae mumbled against the others lips.

‘’I am not that ungrateful.’’ Sportacus objected with a small smirk as he kissed his fae again.

‘’Whatever you-‘’ Robbie started, cutting himself short as a small noise sounded outside and down the hall. ‘’…say.’’ The fae finished softly, as if on an afterthought, as he leaned back and looked to the door.

If anything, the foxes gentle yipping did not sound unfriendly.

‘’I’ll check on it.’’ Robbie sighed as he reluctantly started to get up – the elf pouting slightly as he let go of the others hair.

‘’Shout if you need me.’’ Sportacus urged as he sat up and tried to put his shirt back on, but quickly gave up, once he realized that it was practically impossible, with the thick salve still sinking into his skin.

‘’Yeah whatever.’’

-

There were a lot of things that Robbie had assumed he could get subjected to this early in the morning.

A much too calm-looking Deus with Nox dead asleep in his arms was not one of them.

Frozen in his tracks as he was, the fae scoffed loudly as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared the dirt-covered pair down – said fae feeling his jaw click as the giant croaked his head to the side and lifted his remaining eyebrow.

Finally, Robbie sighed. ‘’You got quite the nerve coming back here.’’

--

 

- In the kitchen of the court -

 

‘’I still can’t believe you would lie about the cake.’’ Seven grumbled and winched, as he cut his finger on the sharp knife for at least the third time this past hour.

‘’Jezz, it’s been weeks. Besides, you don’t deserve cake.’’ Patricia clipped, as she snatched his finger close and examined it – not letting go, until she was convinced, her fellow idiot had not cut down too deep.

’Less yappering and more Focus!’’ Vincent yapped harshly from across the room.

The pair instantly dug their heads down below the back of the bench they were seated at, as they continued to work on getting through the seemingly, endless supply of potatoes.

‘’There’s talk of a gloom-ward of sorts.’’ Patricia started on a low whisper; quickly glancing over Sevens shoulder, to make sure their supervisor was not paying too close attention to their continued gossiping. ‘’Like apparently some wild fae found a way, to use flora, as a sort of shade-repellant and now it's expanding on its own. How cool is that?’’

Seven huffed in a bewildered fashion. ‘’Sounds weird but what do I know.’’ He swiftly dropped the now clean vegetable into the correct bowl, and picked up a still dirtied one. ‘’Speaking of magic, can you still do the windy thing by the way?’’ he asked in a hushed voice, as he narrowed her eyes at her.

Patricia grinned darkly and nodded. ‘’Wanna see?’’

‘’Hell yeah.’’ Both slowly peeked back over the edge of the bench, as Patricia’s face schooled into something focused, while she started doing some weird, circular movement with her left pinky.

‘’Aight, look at the curtain on Vincent’s right side.’’ She whispered and narrowed her eyes, before the entire left side of the curtain did a great spasm – kitchenware, which had been neatly stacked in bowls right under, flying everywhere in the progress. ‘’Shit.’’ Seven heard her hiss, as they both quickly went back to their innocent potato cleaning, just as Vincent let out a loud, indecent yelp of distress, as the silverware fell to the floor around him in a series of loud metallic clangs.

‘’Aight, so I might need some target practice.’’ Patricia laughed lowly, just as a large shadow towered over them, making both elves jump in surprise – Sevens dirtied potato making a wet plop, as it fell from his hand and into the wrong bowl.

‘’What are you two doing?’’ Ivar asked with a raised eyebrow, as he squatted down and retrieved the wayward potato.

’Nothing.’’ Both elves quickly said, as Seven accepted the soggy potato back.

‘’Sure looks like slack and magic to me, but sure.’’ He said unimpressed, as he picked up a knife and set to work, helping the pair out.

In front of him, Patricia shrugged. ‘’We aren’t allowed to leave before we finish up.’’ She said and gestured towards the mountain of potatoes beside her.

‘’Correction, I am not allowed to leave. You decided to be a fuckin doll and help me out.’’ Seven corrected.

Ivar chuckled. ‘’So we are all stuck here for eternity then.’’ He laughed, as he swiftly put his clean potato into the right bowl and picked up another.

‘’Fuck you’re fast.’’ Seven pointed out a bit amazed.

‘’Happens when you work instead of chitchat.’’

Patricia sighed dramatically. ‘’Whatever. How’s life outside the ward?’’

A brief, cold shadow seemed to pass over the taller elf’s features, before he slowly shook his head. ‘’Things are bad, I can tell you that.’’ He replied, as he picked up another potato. ‘’Stocks are running low, the people are antsy and the shadow-mass keeps creeping closer to both the Eastern and the Southern court, yet none of them have decided to get their heads out their asses, and do something about it.’’ He grumbled, as he picked up yet another potato. ‘’As much, as I dislike the Western court, at least they are taking this shit serious.’’ He sighed before continuing. ‘’One of my men got an arrow through his shoulder last he went to try and talk to the common folk near the river.’’

’Shit, what happened?’’ Patricia asked in a low voice, as both of her soggy hands fell into her lap.

Ivar scoffed and gestured towards the slowly decreasing mountain – successfully getting the other elf back to work – before replying. ‘’Stocks are low.’’ He repeated. ‘’And none of the courts would take them in. They blame us instead, claiming this whole thing is a giant scheme to eradicate all peasants.’’

Sevens hands stilled, despite Ivar’s’ continuous gesturing for him to pick up his punishment like a proper elf. ‘’You’re joking, right?’’

Ivar shook his head. ‘’Three of my men died last week, when the shade attacked the city we were evacuating, but arguments that no bodies were left behind was…’’ he let out a tired sigh, as he leaned forward to bodily press a potato into Sevens still slack hands. ‘’No bodies were left behind, so obviously that must mean there is no actual threat.’’

Patricia was about to open her mouth and raise her protests against the ridiculous claim, when a loud crash rang out in front of them - bits and pieces from a stack of plates, dropped from the grasp of a young elf, flying everywhere, as the plates hit and splintered upon impact. The elf herself were nimbly caught, when Ivar’s broad arm closed around her abdomen, before she could fall further and face-plant the tile-floor below.

He quickly steadied her, as he dropped yet another clean potato into the bowl in front of him, before turning to help the five other elves, who had rushed to the flustered elfs side. The small group all bend down in order to help clean up the shards – soft clinks accommodating them, as they were dropped into a fresh bowl, held out by another helpful servant from the kitchen staff.

The two still seated elves craned their necks and stared at the commotion. ‘’You know, if you perfect your windy-thing, this little spell of yours, could be hella nifty in a situation like this.’’

‘’Haha Seven, very funny.’’ Patricia yapped, as she gently tapped him over the back of the head. ‘’Just focus on your fuckin potatoes.’’

--

Patricia and Seven – Ivar still in the kitchen, but now engrossed in hushed conversation with their supervisor - had somehow almost made it through the entire stack, when a guard pushed his way past two chatting elves in the doorway. ‘’Seven!’’ He quickly yelled out into the busy kitchen.

‘’Been here all day - Haven’t done anything, I swear!’’ The elf in question quickly yapped back, as he let go of his tools and threw his hands up on surrender. The guard swiftly cut through the kitchen, after scanning and locating the elf he was looking for - just as at least half of the curious staff promptly went back to work, after Vincent raised his head and yelled at them to stop slacking.

‘’No really, he didn’t do anything this time.’’ Patricia, the saint, quickly promised, as the guard came to a halt in front of the pair.

‘’There’s a fuckin dark one at our door asking for you, so quit your yapping and get up.’’

Chapter Text

‘’Fuck!’’ Seven gasped, as he ducked under the quickly approaching doorframe - narrowly avoiding the collision with his forehead. ‘’Ivar slow down.’’

‘’No can do.’’ Ivar yapped back, as he gripped the other elfs thighs tighter and set into a dead sprint down the hallway – taking the stairs down three steps at a time, and quickly making his way out into the courtyard. ‘’I’m feeding you to my dogs If anyone gets eaten because of this.’’ He promised on a growl, just as the pair made it out of the main gate and out into the yard beyond it.

Here, a small horde of baffled elves, had already huddled together on the front steps – all with their eyes peeled on the dark visitor, who angrily trotted back and forth, just beyond the outer ward.

Ivar stopped dead in his tracks, as he too spotted the main attraction of the evening. ‘’Holy shit.’’ The smaller elf currently clinging to his back, heard him whisper in an awestruck fashion, just as a slightly shaky Patricia ran up beside them – instantly leaning over and putting a hand on her knee, as she handed the crutches towards Seven.

‘’My legs are not as long as yours, gods Ivar you’re gonna be the death of me.’’ She panted out into the cool air, as Seven solemnly accepted the goods, after the taller had helped him back down on the ground.

‘’What am I supposed to do?’’ Seven asked, as he gazed up at the guard, who had originally been sent to retrieve him, when said guard also made his way out to the steps and stopped beside the trio.

‘’It just kept saying your name.’’ the guard helpfully explained.

‘’…So I… What exactly?’’ the smaller elf asked unsure.

’You get the fuck over here.’’ The four elves quickly looked towards where a tense Glanni Glæpur, arms crossed over his chest, had turned towards the newcomers with a sour expression – the fae standing on the lowest step, just within the safety of the ward.

Seven - as quickly as the small elf’s arms and leg could carry him, quickly started down the stairs, towards the weird pair, before any more threats on his life could be voiced.

‘’It is rude to leave a guest waiting.’’ The beast rasped, as it noticed his approach and angrily scratched at the hardened ground. ‘’Come closer elf - stop leaving me dormant on your threshold.’’

The shorter elf slowly made his way out beyond the ward - light tingles going through him, as he passed, causing gooseflesh to rise all over his skin, just as a slightly winded Íþróttaálfurinn made his way out into the area in front of the front-gate as well - crowd quickly parting to let their king pass, as he strode through. ‘’Both of you, go back inside.’’ Íþróttaálfurinns low, stern voice rang out, as he shoved the smaller elf behind him – keeping a firm hand on Sevens arm, less the other fall from the sudden movement.

’Nah.’’ Glanni and Seven said simultaneously – the fae quickly throwing a harsh glare at the smaller elf, to which Seven stuck out his tongue and stared right back.

In front of the trio, the huffing Dedar impatiently continued to pace, as it kicked angrily at the ground.

‘’Greetings.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn offered in a slightly shaky voice, as he lowered his head in obvious respect.

‘’I do not answer to you.’’ The beast replied casually, as it strode forward and bumped its black head against Sevens shoulder – nearly making him fall again, if not for the grip the taller elf still had on him.

‘’He is my superior.’’ Seven argued, as the blow made him accidentally let go of the crutches – both falling to the ground with a soft, hollow clang - and clung to his king instead.

‘’I am well acquainted with the inner functions of your hierarchy.’’ It drawled, as it continued to nudge at him. ‘’Besides, he is not the one who asked for assistance, no?’’

‘’I didn’t ask for assistance.’’

‘’Then what did you wish to gain from pestering my peace?’’

‘’Hopefully a few answers, as to what the fuck is going on.’’ Seven started, as he had to jump on one foot, as the taller elf drew him a bit more back – Beast slowly huffing and puffing, as it stalked after them. ‘’Would also be great to warm ya, so you don’t get snatched.’’ He elaborated and gave a small, semi-casual shrug.

‘’Answers I can provide. Protection I would see as an insult.’’

‘’Answers yep. Got it, great, thanks.’’ The smaller said, just as Íþróttaálfurinn gave up on the tugging and instead held out a hand to try to still the progress of the Dedar – quickly drawing said hand back, when a pair of sharp teeth snapped at it, nearly biting the entire limb off.

The beast lowered its head and sniffed at the ground, before tossing its head slightly – black strands of what appeared to be a disheveled mane, flying around and obscuring its features.

‘’For lack of better terms, seeing as your mind would not be able to receive and comprehend the events, which has occurred, I will attempt to keep it simple.’’ It started, as it snapped at the taller elfs left leg – the king quickly scooping the smaller elf up in a bridal-style-carry and taking three, large steps back. ‘’A galactic earthquake shook the very foundations of the rings, which surrounds the outer corners, connected to this realm of existence. Thus, it created a rift between the two fabrics of reality, which touched in that exact moment.’’ It said, as it started to circle the pair. ‘’A shade managed to slip through, before the rift was closed – said shade stemming from the shadow of a great, ancient one, as it passed close to the rings, just as the rift opened and immediately closed. The time was short, but it was indeed enough for the shard to embed itself into the new, fresh soil, which it had never feasted on before – thus its great, careless hunger drove it to consume as much as possible, without any regard, as to what it might do to its own nature.’’

The beast fell silent for a beat, as Íþróttaálfurinn jumped back into the safety of the ward.

‘’Do not tempt me, so help me elf, I will destroy your wards and eat the remains of your pathetic little rock, you so gracefully call a court.’’

Glanni pressed a glowing hand in between the taller elfs shoulder blades and shoved him back out into the danger zone.

‘’Since this shade does not belong in between these rings, and therefore cannot truly possess what it deems to be its property.’’ Here, the Dedar nodded its dark head towards the general, gathered crowd. ‘’It searched for any type of existence, which had even the bare minimum recollection towards what it itself possessed.’’

‘’Is that why it cannot hold a form for too long?’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked, as he once again jumped back out of the snapping jaws of the beast.

‘’I do not answer to you.’’

‘’Is that why the fucker can’t hold its form?’’ Seven barked, as politely as he could.

The beast huffed, as it set to circling them again. ‘’Indeed.’’

Behind him, Glanni spoke up in a barely audible voice – the fae leaning forward to make sure, only the two others would hear. ‘’Ask it about the owl.’’

‘’Do you know anything about a one-eyed owl?’’ Seven asked just as softly.

The beast tossed its head, as it sneered and kicked at the ground. ‘’I cannot give you an answer to that.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn quickly jumped to the side, as the beast scrapped at the ground and charged at the pair. ‘’I would however warn you, of the possible dangers of this shade ever gaining a true form inside of these rings.’’ It drawled, as its glowing gaze raised towards the sky.

‘’What happens then?’’ Seven quickly asked. The beast did not reply, as it slowly passed in front of the pair. ‘’Is it bad?’’

‘’I cannot tell.’’

The smaller elf looked up at the only means of safety outside of the wards, literally standing between him and being eaten by the dark one. ‘’Should I ask anything more?’’ He asked in a low voice and waited until he had gotten a reply from the other. ‘’What should we do, if we can’t prevent it from holding its form?’’

The beast laughed a low dark tune, before standing eerily still. ‘’Others might deem the effort of collapsing the rings worth it, in order to gain the unique proteins and building stones behind.’’

‘’That wasn’t really an answer.’’ Glanni grumbled, as the fae once again crossed his arms over his chest.

The three fell into a silent standoff – waiting to see if the dark one would indeed share anything more. When a whole minute had passed like that, the beast suddenly took a single step forward, before lowering its head and somehow managed to stare harder at the smaller elf. ‘’I wish for you to give up two of your fingers for this information.’’

’Absolutely not.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn and Glanni quickly yapped in unison – The taller elf jumping three steps back, when the smaller elf extended his left hand towards its slightly parted gums.

‘’Either that or I consume you both. You have kept me waiting long enough as it is, not to mention the stalling upon my first arrival.’’

‘’Anything else.’’ Íþróttaálfurinn asked in a soft, hushed voice. ‘’Take mine, or ask for anything else.’’

The Dedar tossed its head, as it stalked towards the pair. ‘’A price has been claimed.’’ It drawled.

‘’Sure whatever, just don’t put me on kitchen duty for a while yeah.’’ Seven said, as he tried to shove out of the other elf’s hold – huffing when Íþróttaálfurinn did not relent. ‘’Patricia’s gonna fuckin kill me, if we have to clean anymore potatoes.’’ He grumbled, as he put a hand in Íþróttaálfurinns face and rudely shoved at the other.

In front of them, the beast seemed to lose the last threads of its patience, as its lips started to part, revealing row upon row of sharp, rotten teeth.

’Fuck it.’’ Glanni yapped, as he too, strode out of the protection of the ward, and held two of the fingers on his left hand, towards the dedar. ‘’My magic is stronger than that lill fuck over there, just take em and try not to choke.’’ He offered, as the dedar closed its sharp teeth around the offered digits and bit down – successfully separating them from their owner.

-

‘’On behalf of the court-‘’

‘’Shut up Íþrótt.’’

‘’I would very much like to offer my thoughts and appreciation towards-‘’

‘’Seriously, shut the fuck up’’

‘’Your heroic sacrifice in the face off-’’

’’So help me elf, I'm gonna choke you in your sleep.’’

To Glannis left, Íþróttaálfurinn sighed as he finally fell silent and stared at the solemn scene in front of him - their old, withering healer - the best in the realm really - doing what she could in order to save the remains of Glannis two bloody stumps, before the dark one's poison could spread and corrupt the rest of his hand.

The taller elf took a deep breath, as he willed himself not to get provoked. ‘’Would you please just let me give you my thanks?’’ He asked in a soft, hushed voice to which the fae in front of him rudely, bodily turned away.

‘’You just did.’’

‘’The proper way Glanni.’’ The elf gently argued to the others back. ‘’That was not the proper way.’’

Glanni huffed. ‘’I ain't proper, so don't bother with your fuckin formalities.’’

Íþróttaálfurinn inhaled sharply through his nose, as he set to massaging his temple. ‘’Must you be this difficult?’’ He yapped, as he -very kingly -rolled his eyes and glared at the back of the others turned head.

‘’Yeah.’’

The elf took a deep breath, refusing to back down in the face of the ridiculous behavior. ‘’I owe you a favor.’’ He sternly started. ‘’On behalf of the-‘’

‘’I don't want your fuckin favor, just leave me alone.’’

‘’Since when do you turn down favors?’’

The faes shoulders and back went tense, just before he jerked his left hand out of the healers grasp, and got up to properly face the other elf. ‘’I don't give a fuck about what you think I will and will not do - fact is you are dead wrong on that, aight?’’ He yapped, as he grabbed the elf by the collar and drew him up on his tiptoes. ‘’Could it be that I actually just fuckin care for the suicidal idiots in my life? Hmm?’’ He hummed, as he glared at the other. ‘’Could it be that I am actually capable of doing good things from time to another without expecting anything in return?’’ He snapped, as he lightly shook the other. ‘’But fuck it right? Faes are wild, selfish creatures without a scrap of fuckin sympathy in their hearts, so obviously you gotta watch out. So be it elf, there is one fuckin thing I want from you.’’ He yapped, as he drew the other closer and delivered a harsh, biting kiss to the others slack lips. ‘’Done.’’ He snarled, as he let the baffled elf go. ‘’Now get outta my face before I break yours.’’ He growled, as he glared down at him. ‘’Just-‘’ he started, before he was abruptly cut off, as the old healer tugged him back down and continued her work.

Íþróttaálfurinn stood in a stunned silence for all of three seconds, before raising a hand to his lips - softly tracing the bottom, as be realized what had just h