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iron in your mouth (tastes like ice on your tongue)

Chapter Text

 

|in which we meet our hero

 

It is always Winter in these woods, Summer fled a hundred years before. The queen sits imperiously on her steed. Dark blue ichor oozes from a forgotten battle wound high on her proud cheeks. Hooves strike dirt, her mount bellows shrilly scenting the blood. No true bridle frames the stallions proud face; the twin reins across his neck are more ornament then tool. When he breathes, swaths of fog escape too sharp teeth.  Below his hooves the hounds quibble amongst themselves, red eyes glimmering in the fading light. Above, great clouds gather undersides thick with ill weather. 

Flakes swirl down from the sky pressing cool kisses to the Queen's skin. Her eyes two small blocks of ice hewn from the river survey the land. Lupine noses paired with dog muzzles s scent the air. The stallion dances beneath her.  The fae dogs bay, once, twice, her breath quickens. Night young and fleeting yawns forth twisting its way through the trees. Winter cackles and the wind richots through bone branches.

“Come along now,” she mummers to the hunt, “I wish to see my grandson.

 

A wreath of dark hair circles the youths bonfire eyes and curved nose. He slinks across the snow, body hunting dog lean, “Grandmother,”  he says smile wolf sharp, “I've missed you.” Breathtaking as the sandy swell of a river bed, even with summer leaching from his skin, Winter has never been enough to hold him. He's looking a bit gaunt lately there's a bit more night beneath his eyes than usual.

“My boy,” she gestures urging him close brushing locks of his walnut dark hair aside to kiss his cheek. Frost creeps across his skin, they part. 

Sorrow crowns his brow, “You're hurt.” 

“I’m alive,” She counters, “this will not be our peoples last battle,” For what use is the title of Queen without those to govern. The war for the realm was entering its third cycle, they could hold out another two maybe three thanks to her sister. 

 

A foxes guile enters his gaze as he observes her entourage. 

Glancing from Caldimier the great stallion behind her to the hounds poised to hunt, “It’s time then,”

 

She waits. This is to be her greatest gamble and her grandson, her ward, the sacrifice. 

 

A narrow lipped frown betrays his thoughts, “Who do you court tonight?” the old words fell easily from his tongue, he is so bright this one that if she doesn’t send him away now they will take him, the stars or battle.

She has lost so many of her people already, so much of what they once were and now she must lose him too. 

 

The Queen steels herself  unyielding as a blade “Death.”

 Both of them turn towards the summer border. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for her realm for her home. 

In one leap she is astride Caldamier. The stallion springs to attention beneath her battle-ready. The clouds tremble away from his snapping teeth.

 

“Mine own blood,” There is no spell she knows, that can keep him safe she must trust that his will is more than ice and iron. 

“Mine own blood,” He echoes a cloak hewn of starlight and black ice settling upon his shoulders.

“Mischief,” That isn't his name but it’s close enough to curl around his spine and tug his attentions back towards her, “He will be difficult, if- when - you find him, remember the softest snowfall can still freeze skin.”

 

He burns steady as a hearth fire, “I will not fail."

 

 The hounds snarl stirring beneath her hold. Fear is their favorite treat and they can smell it on her.  She grabs that emotion and uses it to sharpen the edges of her teeth. At this moment it's not the prospect of his failure that unsettles her. The last few who dared to contact the beast of the dark realm... .. No, he would not fail.  

 

With a lift of her hand, she cleaves apart the sky. His eyes flash once. The entirety of his body leans- an arrow strung to a bow.

 

Howl's that twist into screeches split the air. Caldamier lunges- spry as a doe her grandson plunges into the woods. 

Chapter Text

 

|in which our hero pets some dogs

 

Stiles pivots around searching teeth darting downhill. Dangerous jaws snap at his heels narrowly missing him. Legs burning he staggers left diving into the nearest thicket. These are not the beasts of his boyhood whose tails swept trees from the ground in search of scraps. Summers blessing tugs at his feet as he calls for swiftness like none before. Hot breath hangs at his back, a dark muzzle lunges for his arm.  

Duvian, his favorite, offers him no quarter.  Iron hot teeth and night fire eyes seek him out as the black beast heads off the pack.  Claws clip his pants leg.

  In one breath and the next, he tumbles to the ground.  He knows these beasts though. Duvian maybe a five hundred pound animal bent on running him down like a hare but Stiles has wrestled with since childhood.

White-hot pain sears his shoulder and he bites back a cry scrambling around head size paws. Blood slides down a cut from his right eye, he tilts his head trying to see out his left side, a desperate kick connects with fur.

Claws barely rake the right half of his face, a snarl far too deep for his frame, fierce as Duvian above him echoes in the clearing. Whimpering the hound backs off eyes flickering with unspent flame. 

“Nice doggy,” He slams his head forward offering a brief apology to the yelping dog, and scrambles up from the knees. . 

 

Stepping into the mortal realm can only be accomplished a handful of ways. Now during the war, there is only the Hunt. For the old ways to work his grandmother, his ‘Queen” had to well and truly drive him out. The hounds behind him are no longer the pups he frolicked with or given ear scratches.  Their cobalt eyes track him bodies cleaved together as flesh, fangs sharp and stomachs hungry. 

 

 

Hooves thunder in the distance, the hounds bay drawing closer. Lighting forks across the sky.

Before him the portal yawns, the way of outcasts opening. His lungs ache, his feet bleed, the hound leaps. Just to his right thick claws tears through his pants. Duvian makes a sound more wolf than dog and stalks closer. 

Stiles pulls himself into a desperate jump even as those same claws rend his skin. 

 

A scream tears free from his lips as power and blood leaches from his bones. For a moment there is only Winter at his back and the hound on his heels as he falls through. Bits of darkness slough off his body and chinks of daylight peek through.  Pain wild and raw seizes him by the throat.

Chapter Text

 

 |in which our hero makes a pit stop

 

 They say the queen's grandson is more lovely than the weirwood, with a smile as wicked as winter. They don’t say he’s an idiot. 

The prince of the dawn, keeper of the rising night son of the moon and herald of winter rolls unto the dewy grass. 

“Shit,”  Stiles breathes after departing the midnight wood. Stepping into the mortal realm was akin to peeling open a galaxy. Sure it can be accomplished with enough raw power but then there's nowhere for anything to go and suddenly a lot of black holes are popping up everywhere. Grandma once had a friend get swallowed by one due to his own dumb portal stepping. Nasty business. True portals or gates couldn't always be utilized depending on the season and then every passage was reported. However, those exiled were not following the old ways of his people if they survived the hunt and he was well and truly exhausted. Stiles feels far too exposed as the sun hums beneath his skin and the night wanders out from his eyes.  He is all at once too much and too little. 

Blood glittering like rubies oozed from his fingers where one hound had got just that close, his skin lost its rosy glow, the shadows still swirled around his ankles eager and wanting buffet his hands. Purring like a cat the trendlis arched under his fingers, despite this the night no longer crowned his brow... .This was the price of his crossing. Endless snows in his lungs melted, the cool river ice in his blood cracked and the mantle of winter left him. For the first time in years, his eyes shone with starlight, moondust blanketing his skin, and his heartfelt empty as the vastness of space. 

No longer ward of the fae, light-years from the comfort of home. He wiped the tears from his eyes.  he was well and truly alone. Air burns through his body every breath the rattle of stars. 

Above the mortal realm of the earth, the moon reigns high and full. Tears prick the corners of Stiles’s eyes. Stretching himself towards the sky he calls, “Mother,”

 

Within the night a voice floats to him riding the back of crashing meteors. 

Her replies have crossed beyond words, beyond worlds it is only now as they peer of the edge of creation that he can hear her.  

 

“Son.” She’s there in the sweep of the solar wind this night as it musses his hair. When the Moondust dances beneath his fingertips it's the ashes of her love born anew.

The stars are fickle and twitter to each other watching him. He calls forth his power, the weight of sorrow on his shoulder and depth of love in every gesture. 

‘My Glory,’ She murmurs when his eyes catch the Moon Light awash with affection. ‘ My Sword.” She praises when he wields rapture as a weapon. These are the last words she whispers, entire being guiding his own towards one dark realm. 

 

His cloak is hewn of Moondust; the tears of love lost and love found. Each row of stitches in the ensemble is a black holes ballad. As he grows older his clothes bare one bit of deep realms thread in particular. Every edge is trimmed with glistening white flowers edges in shadow that steadfastly defies the vacuum of space. 

 

Reaching for that one song of darkness is the same as grasping a black hole. He pulls on that tune of revenge and sorrow until it leads to the monster of the nether. 

Chapter Text

| in which our hero negotiates



It is cold, not the kind he is used to that settles on his skin the pressure reassuring and familiar. No this cold creeps, stealing his breath and freezing his thoughts.  He strains, there is nothing to hear but the rasp of meteorites hurtling beyond planets. His mind rolls a riot of thoughts, inky darkness slick as snake scales circles him. Panic grips his spine with its needles sharp teeth, his arms are heavy his fingers are numb.

Throat tight he fights to speak, "Stop it," Stiles glares even now as spots fill his vision he will not beg. All at once the feeling leaves him. Swaying on his feet his body rocks, Stilessteels himself refusing to fall in relief.

The back of his neck tingles every hair on end. Bumpy gooseflesh coats his arm, he is no longer alone here.

“Why?” A masculine voice wonders.

Stiles's teeth click as he fights a chill deeper than any winter could be, "Rude," he manages, to bite out. The grip around his throat lesson his body shudders, "I'm a guest and you an old wives tale.” 

"Forgive me," The words twist through the air heavy with promise. This is an individual who has never apologized for anything and even now doesn't mean the words.

S tiles turns trying to pinpoint the sound.  Even his eyes equipped for both viewing things in the light of day and the dark of night cannot see. 

 

Straining his ears he can hear a noise like a blade being ground inn the smithy, then....nothing. 

 

"It's been a while," The voice clearly belongs to something male, large and deeply pleased with itself. "Since I’ve had a visitor." 

Eons must have passed since someone dared come to this realm. 

Stiles recalls his grandmother's story to barter with the beast is to die, to not do so is to die. Any and all who have sought this kings contact have only been left as husks after every ounce of what they once were leached from their very soul.

 "You have one now a monster of the reach." There are eyes upon him, the air crackles with anger and something so ancient his skin crawls.  Has he wagered too much too soon?

There is a low wondering hum above.. Oh god, just how big was he? He can't make anything out in the dimness.

"Oh? Why do you seek a monster?"

"War is brewing," Stiles began his practiced script escaping. He shook himself what care did this creature have for war? He had to come up with another way to convince the beast to join them.  Smoke curled in his lungs a silent killer, and he leashed a cough from his chest.

Claws carded through Mischiefs hair and he scowled turning away from the touch.

“Boring,” The masculine voice mused, "Are the warriors of winter not enough?"

Heat burned his cheeks rage filling him with a new purpose. Realms from where his grandmother was astride Caldamier the banners of her court behind her as she rode boldly into battle.

“ I burn bright as the closest star, and deadly as the deepest night, I’m already half the warrior you ever were.”  

“Half the monster-” There was a grating sound the shifting of many scales across stone, heat enveloped him.

“Just so,” Stiles agreed to look up from the ground eyes alight with men's midnight torches. "I ask for you as a warrior, a prince and equal."

 One large slitted pupil revealed itself behind a hooded Serpentine eye which regarded him with cool detachment. Struck still like a deer at the first sign of danger his sides heaved under the unblinking stare.  He swallows down bile and forces himself to remain steady, Stiles’s glimpses galaxies within those depths.

 

A moment then another, time passed differently in the cave he could not tell how long it was just him and the beast.

"It is hard to speak without knowing my audience." He dared. 

 

The cavern shook a few drops of something wet landed on Stiles and he scowled.

Chuffed the monster spoke, "Of course,"  A single tendril of purple flame lit up around him its soft glow enough to light the space. Coils and coils of scaled rope slid grating against rock amid the dark fog encircled. The tips of his fingers brushed cool scales and he jerked his hand back. The armor looked to be plated with the deepest obsidians richest oils and midnights of space each edge held a swallowed star system. 

Dear god.

The vast darkness surrounding him wasn't a cavern at all it was the beast itself.

“All those other vessels have failed you,” He raised his chin, I will not . There was no power without a price and while the monster might be all-powerful that was only in his realm, without a contract, without bannerman, champions in his name he could not extend his influence. 

"You are bound here." Stiles declared a handbreadth from illumination. 

The beast hissed the crashing of an angry ocean wave, "I am.”

His legs trembled his mind ached to try to comprehend but he did not look away.

" I come offering the one thing you do not have, myself and the freedom I can give you."

The dragon, king of the dark reaches, holder of the nether realm grinned showcasing rows and rows of serrated teeth, “Please, call me Peter.”