Chapter 1: Prologue: The Thief
The prison is named Finalizer for a reason.
Though the stone seems weathered and frail, tinged yellow in the strengthening light of dawn, not a soul is ever seen again once the heavy iron gates crash closed behind them. If you are unlucky enough to be sent there it is where you will stay, and where you will die. That is your final fate, murderers and pickpockets alike.
Many would prefer death of course. It was said that if one were to listen carefully, one could hear the faint echoes of the prisoner’s screams from within the bowels of the dungeon.
Nobody escaped The Finalizer. That was certain.
And yet, on this weak winter morning, the bells of the prison began to ring…
Dopheld Mitaka was not having a very good morning.
The mud was heavy and practically suffocating as he wormed his way through the thin opening he had clawed for himself with his hands. Grime and sweat mingled on his skin, coating him in a disgusting film as he wriggled another few feet, breathing in small, sharp gasps due to the overpowering odour of old faeces.
“C’mon, almost there.” He frantically encouraged himself in a whisper as he dug his fingers into the seemingly never-ending wall of dirt inches from his face. Surely the guards would have noticed his absence by now? He had no idea of where this tunnel he was digging was eventually going to lead…he really should have thought this through.
He hadn’t meant to fall down the drain hole exactly, it had been a rather spontaneous, heat-of-the-moment sort of thing. He had been gazing out of the bars of his tiny cell with his gibbering cellmate making up rhymes that made no sense and realised he would rather throw himself down the drain than spent another second inside Finalizer’s walls. And, well. One thing led to another and there he was, quite literally falling down the shit chute.
“Just a little farther…..come on.”
Finally, shockingly, Mitaka felt the wet mud under his hands push free and fall away. Blessed air filtered through the opening and he inhaled deeply, the stench of excrement and earth suddenly inconsequential in the face of stale air and….Mitaka sniffed. Water?
Of course! The sewers!
Redoubling his efforts, Mitaka prayed to the Lord above that his fortune held out. He balled his fists and tore away handfuls of mud until he could squeeze his head through.
“Not unlike escaping Mother’s womb…” he mused to himself as the unintentional hilarity of the situation struck him. “God, what a memory.”
After what seemed like hours, he finally created an opening big enough to fit his frame - a little thinner after months of imprisonment- through and into the running water below. The water was filthy, cold and God be damned if it wasn’t the best water Mitaka had come across in all his wretched life. Letting himself be carried by the flow of the water, he began swimming in earnest, the faint, far-away toll of the prison bells sounding like a dull heartbeat in his ears.
As he turned his head to glimpse behind him his eyes caught sight of some hideous, shapeless thing heading straight towards him, too fast to be anything natural. Sheer, animalistic panic gripped Mitaka, a badly timed gasp of fear causing him to swallow a mouthful of rancid water. Coughing, he splashed about until he reached the side wall of the sewer and clung for dear life, squeezing his eyes shut as what was surely some kind of monster or demon rushed down the tunnel.
“Oh Lord,” he whispered fervently, wet hands slipping momentarily on the cold rock. “If I have ever done anything to warrant your attention, here me now….Please, I will never steal someone’s purse again. I will never ever pick another pocket as long as I live if that thing isn’t what I think it is…”
His voice echoed bizarrely in the tunnel, his breaths sounding harsh and ragged to his own ears. But, he suspected, it always pays to sound sincere in one’s time of trouble, especially if you’re intent on praying your way out of it.
“If you could find it in your wisdom to let me pass through here with my life, I’ll be eternally grateful.” he hissed in terror, watching with mounting dread as the monster in question rocked with the water’s current. Surely it would be upon him soon, and Dopheld Mitaka would be no more. What a horrible end.
“If not,” he concluded, “No hard feelings of course. But I’d be very disappointed.”
The shape drew ever nearer, until it was a mere few feet from Mitaka. The man gripped the wall with all his strength, steeling himself for death…
Until the thing actually went past him and turned over in the current. Mitaka could have laughed himself sick when he saw what it was he’d been so terrified of; not a monster but a cow’s skull with broken horns. Nothing more.
Relief made him lose his grip on the stone as he slid pathetically back into the water, a shaky exhalation escaping him.
“Thank you Lord!” He cried, his limbs splayed awkwardly as he tried to get himself going again. “It pays to have faith, I always knew it.”
The sound of hoof beats and the shouting of orders were thunderous from under the bridge when Mitaka chanced poking his head above water. For a prison that was famous for being impenetrable, nobody seemed to care about securing the sewage system better. The tunnel had ended up at a hole in the walls of Finalizer where he had fallen out rather inelegantly with a splash he was stunned hadn’t attracted the attention of anyone.
News of his escape had reached the guard then. It looked like the whole army had ridden out to find him. Mitaka was almost kind of flattered, that the prison was making so much effort to recover him, though a more sensible part of him pointed out it was probably more due to the fact some had actually escaped their hellish prison rather than Mitaka himself. As crimes go, he’d always felt that being a pick-pocket fell pretty low on the ‘Deserving of Life Imprisonment’ list, the stocks would have been more fitting surely.
Still, he told himself, the aim now was to keep escaping, not just be content with getting out, he had a life to live after all.
Keeping his movements small so as not to attract attention, he began edging his way along the bridge’s edge, allowing only his eyes and nose above water as he drifted. The shadows of the various knights and soldiers played on the grey water’s surface, like strange shadows seen in dreams. As they rode out Mitaka continued to praise the Lord that nobody thought to check the waters below. The cries of the men and whinnies of the horses faded away and Mitaka finally poked his head fully above the water, spitting out what he hoped was just a piece of algae.
Two men were sitting on the stone portion of the bridge, sharing a simple peasant’s meal and chattering. Silently, undetected by both, Mitaka slowly reached a hand up and deftly picked up the small knife lying unattended behind them. His first intention was to slip away quickly, but his eyes soon found a bulging money purse hanging from one of the men’s belts. Mitaka remembered his promise to God about how his gratitude should mean he would leave this man’s money alone. Thou shalt not steal after all.
Using skills he’s long ago sharpened into a good tool, Mitaka cut the purse away without any sort of noise or jostling movement as the men continued their conversation that he payed no heed, pastoral gossip no doubt. Stealthy as a shadow, he sank back down into the water and carried on his way.
“I know what I said, Lord,” he muttered, keeping a tight hold of his newest pilfering, “But then again, You know what a terrible liar I am.”
I hope you enjoy Mitaka suffering because HOO BOY will there be a lot of that.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sun had fallen and risen four times by the time Mitaka stomped his way out of the woods.
The chill was setting into his bones, having spent a good portion of time already soaked to the skin, he’d gotten out of the river and had dragged his protesting body into the nearby woods were he walked and walked….
During the second night he’d been woken up by the distant howl of a wolf and swiftly set off in the hopes of avoiding being eaten in the middle of nowhere. He’d come across someone’s house on the third day and, once the children playing outside had been appropriately distracted, had swiped a tunic that was hanging out to dry, along with an apple from a basket. He would have liked some shoes to go with it the tunic, or some bread with the apple, but the Lord’s mercy only extended so far he guessed.
So, there he was, fresh tunic but bare footed as he picked his way through the trees and grass. The smell of smoke soon found his nostrils, and he followed his grumbling stomach in the hopes of finding some sort of sustenance. A good joint of pork maybe, or a flagon of ale.
True enough; the smoke was coming from an outskirt tavern on the road, a large hog on a spit by the side. A few villagers sat scattered around the place, their voices a low grumble.
Drawing himself up nervously, Mitaka walked towards them with a confidence he did not feel. Striding towards the rough looking tavern owner he plastered what he hoped was a winning smile on his face.
“Good day, one of your finest ales and a side of that hog please.”
The man, grizzled and haggard with one eye clouded with blindness, took in Mitaka’s dishevelled appearance; an ill-fitting subpar tunic, ripped and muddy breeches with bare feet anxiously toeing at the grass. Four days in the woods had not treated Mitaka very kindly and he became acutely aware of a small graze on his forehead where he’d gotten into a quarrel with a squirrel and lost. When that mismatched gaze met his again, the disbelieving sneer was all Mitaka needed to know.
“Oh yeah?” The man said in mock innocence. “And how do you plan to pay for that?”
Mitaka smiled and withdrew the money purse, softly jingling it in his hands once the man caught sight of it. “I have a little funding.”
The man’s eyebrows rose as his face wore an expression of the reluctantly impressed and he drew away to get what Mitaka asked for. Sliding into a worn wooden seat Mitaka eagerly grabbed the meat and bread when it was placed in front of him and ate with enthusiasm, the ale he drank with equal gusto. So intent was he on the task of filling his belly that he neither noticed nor cared when a new group of people came into the tavern for their refreshments.
“You’re hungry.” The keeper noted, pushing another mug of ale into Mitaka’s view as Mitaka wolfed down another bite of steaming meat.
“Mm. I’ve every right to be!” Mitaka coughed, “I’ve been wandering the woods for days.”
Somewhere in the more rational part of Mitaka’s brain a voice told him to keep his mouth shut, to just focus on the food and leave, but the ale, the exhaustion and hunger had made his tongue loose, and he leaned forward conspiratorially;
“I’m a wanted man.”
The man’s mismatched yes flicked over to his other patrons before looking back to Mitaka, his bushy brows drawn in a frown. “Are you now? I won’t have dealings with criminals and murderers here, no matter how big his purse is.”
“I’m not a murderer,” Mitaka protested around another mouthful of food. “No, I just escaped the Finalizer, I expect there’s quite the fuss about it now.”
“Nobody escapes from there!”
“Excuse me my good sir, I did. The fact I’m here is proof enough.”
The keeper blew air out of his nose, bringing a hairy-knuckled hand to scratch absentmindedly at his forehead. “An’ how did you manage that?”
“That I would also like to know.” Cut in a new voice.
Mitaka froze; the voice had the cool female tones he’d often heard in that horrendous place. He knew that voice.
Captain Phasma of the Bishop’s Guard was a tall, frightening woman. She kept her blonde hair cut short in the style of men, and her cold eyes told you that you would soon meet the wrong end of her sword, woman or not. Her shadow fell over Mitaka as a heavy armoured hand grabbed his shoulder and spun him around to face her and the rest of her scarlet robed troop.
“You’ve caused me quite a bit of trouble.” She informed him grimly, hand going to the lethal sword at her side. Panic surged with Mitaka, sweat breaking out in cold needlepoints on his forehead as his limbs froze without his consent. As her armoured fingers gripped the hilt, something broke within him and he flung himself sideways, knocking over his stool and the stool next to him as he tumbled to the ground. Scrambling up he heard Phasma’s shouts and saw the rest of the soldiers rise, unsheathing their own weapons. Uttering a small squeak of terror, Mitaka urged his legs into running as fast as they possibly could. A crossbow bolt whizzed past his ear into a wooden beam as he ducked through the screaming patrons as they ran for cover.
He nearly ran into a table until his legs decided to jump over it before he could really decide what he was doing, the same way his fist found a way to smack into the jaw of a soldier he nearly fell on, all the time his mouth was uttering curses.
Another soldier tried to swing at him with his sword, but Mitaka violently dodged and ended up climbing up a beam into the flowered roof trellis in his sheer desperation to escape, all the while trying to avoid the sudden sword points being thrust up through the gaps by the troop. Out of the corner he saw Captain Phasma watching the display with her head tilted to the side, amusement playing about her stern face. Eventually, Mitaka ran out of room to run, falling to the dirty ground and rolling to his feet. As he tried to sprint away again he was immediately seized by three of the soldiers, dragged over to a beam and pushed against it with his arms held firmly out to the sides.
“A lovely show, thief.” Phasma drawled, bringing her hands together in a slow, sarcastic clap before drawing her sword, the metal glinting maliciously in the light. He struggled to escape the grip of his captor’s but it was no use. Mitaka went a little weak at the knees. So much for his grand escape.
As the sword raised to cut him down, Mitaka screwed his eyes shut.
“May God have mercy on my-!” He began to shriek.
He never finished, another sinister whizz of a crossbow bolt came flying through the air and hit the beam right next to his head with a dull thud. Snapping his eyes open he saw Phasma whirl round furiously to face this new intruder.
The bolt had come from a crossbow fired by a figure astride a huge black Friesian stallion, clad in black leather armour and dark cloak. His gaze was also dark, as was his hair that blew out behind him in the gentle breeze. He looked like something out of a fairytale, some sinister fairy knight here to claim their souls away. His face was somehow youthful and soft yet imposing and haughty all at once; with a slightly hooked nose and dark searching eyes.
Stranger still was the magnificent red hawk perched upon the figure’s shoulder. It stretched its wings and flapped them in a way that commanded respect and a little fear, as though it knew what an odd sight they were. Mitaka was certainly dumbfounded.
Phasma however, cracked a sneering smile as she drew herself to her full height, pointing her sword towards the newcomer threateningly.
“You know,” she said conversationally, as though she wasn’t pointing a weapon at the man. “I heard a rumour from some of my scouts that you’d come out of the woodwork in the Northern passes. I nearly gutted them for lying to me, because I knew you weren’t that stupid.”
The stranger’s lips twisted into a grim smile of his own as he dismounted, the hawk fluttering off and into the sky as he did so. He didn’t answer Phasma, but instead looked past her, directly to Mitaka who threw back a confused expression. The gaze was assessing, critical. Then, without a word, the knight began to walk forward until a younger soldier stepped forward, sword drawn.
The stranger seemed unimpressed, but drew his own weapon in answer. If Phasma’s sword had frightened Mitaka, then the stranger’s was a monster, huge and dangerous, a two-hander that could only be wielded by someone terrifyingly strong. As the warriors looked at each other, the dark one gave another smile, softer this time as he took in the young man’s slightly trembling hold on the sword.
“Thanisson.” He greeted, voice deep and warmer than Mitaka would have expected from someone so ominous looking. The man – a boy, really – gave a shy smile as his own.
“I am your Captain!” Phasma shouted, striding forward, giving the lad a hard shove towards the knight’s drawn sword, “Kill him!”
She’s shoved too hard, going by the look of shock that flooded the stranger’s facer as the lad stumbled forward. The tips of the knight’s sword pierced through his armour like it were merely parchment, through his stomach to emerge dripping red on the other side.
Mitaka couldn’t stop the small cry of shock that escaped him as both soldier and knight collapsed onto the dirty ground, the knight hastily pulling his sword from the other whilst gently rolling Thanisson onto his back. Bright red drops bubbled on the boy’s lips as he looked up at the stranger, a strange mix of fear and respect warring on his face as it drained of colour. The knight gently placed a gloved hand on the boy’s cheek as the life ebbed away from him. Mitaka could only watch as a great wracking breath made Thanisson’s body spasm in the dirt once, twice, before finally slumping still.
Phasma had watched the entire scene impassively, almost casually, as the knight finally drew himself to his feet to glare at Phasma. Mitaka felt a tendril of fear ripple through him which must have rippled into the guard’s holding him, as their grips had relaxed a bit on his arms. The knight in black twirled his sword and the message was crystal clear to Mitaka; he had to get away from both the troop and this frightening spectre.
With a wordless cry of rage the knight in black rushed forward, swinging his sword in a move Phasma parried easily. The other soldiers rushed forward to help their captain and Mitaka took advantage of the confusion to wrench his arms free to hit one of his captors and flee in the opposite direction. With the knight in black causing so much trouble nobody took any notice of a skinny runt running for his life. He could hear the clash of iron against iron and shouts of rage and pain from the melee as he whirled to where some of the villager’s horses were tethered. He ran towards a grey dappled filly and scrambled at the reins.
“Come on, good girl, sweet lady...” he soothed as the horse, spooked by the nearby fighting, tossed her head and kicked at him. Sprawling into the dust Mitaka jumped up and began running on foot instead.
“Filthy strumpet!” he called back over his shoulder at the miserable creature.
A crashing sound reached his ears as ran and he looked back, instantly regretting it.
The giant black stallion has leapt over the fence, its rider atop it with his cloak fanning out behind him. An archer took aim behind the knight but a blur of red feathers and claws swept into view as the hawk savaged the archer, saving its master.
Its master…who was riding straight towards Mitaka.
“No no…nononononononoooo!” Mitaka screeched, willing his legs to run faster as the giant horse bore down on him. A rough gloved hand gripped the scruff of his neck in an almost punishing grip as Mitaka felt himself lifted – legs kicking helplessly – and thrown over the neck of the horse, like a damn lady in distress.
Glancing back towards the now completely wrecked tavern he saw Captain Phasma stumble forward, a cut on her cheek visible even from his quickly diminishing view.
As the horse galloped away her shout carried on the wind, full of frustration and anger.
The knight didn’t answer her but kept riding, one hand keeping Mitaka from falling off the galloping horse. Nothing answered the defeated Captain save for the cry of a hawk.
“Where are we going Sir?”
Every time Mitaka asked this he was met with stony silence. The most he’d gotten out of his kidnapper was that his name was Kylo Ren, but aside from that all his questions and attempts at conversation were evaded or outright ignored, the hawk came back to settle on Ren’s shoulder and remained just as quiet as its master, moving only to offer the back of its head to Ren as he briefly placed an affectionate hand on it.
“Quit your nattering.” The knight had snapped at him at one point, pulling Mitaka upright. Mitaka had, quite wisely, held his tongue until the burning curiosity of his current predicament got the better of him, mindful of the wicked claws on the hawk should it get angry.
They rode until the sunlight began to dim and the shadows lengthened. Ren had announced that they needed to find shelter before it got truly dark and had urged his horse on with a fresh sense of urgency. Mitaka quietly decided to himself that it would be in his best interests not to anger the man, but simply go along with whatever insanity he’d managed to get himself into before deciding on a course of action.
He couldn’t outrun the horse, and the man filled him with a sense of trepidation he couldn’t fully explain.
They rode until they found a woodsman cottage, where they found the owner gathering his timber as he barrel shaped wife caught sight of the horse and scuttled towards her husband, frightened whines piercing the relative quiet of the forest.
“My companion and I need shelter for the night.” Ren announced without so much as a perfunctory greeting.
“N-no. No strangers.” The woodsman said, tightening his grip on the axe as his wife fluttered and whimpered behind him.
The knight sighed. “You will be paid, of course. Please, spare us some hospitality.”
Mitaka saw the protest forming on the man’s lips, a growl beginning deep in his throat as the dull metal of the axe head gleamed in the dwindling night. This man was likely to chop them into pieces if they annoyed him enough. Before the woodsman could get properly irate, Mitaka produced the money purse from under his tunic again.
“My lord is not above compassion for those in misery,” he declared imperiously, giving the coins inside a good rattle to get his point across. “One night good sir, it’s all we ask.”
That got their attention. The woman’s wide face poked out from behind her husband and eyed the purse with interest. Tapping the man’s arm she pointed to a dilapidated building behind them.
“The barn. You sleep in the barn.” The woodsman said shortly. Mitaka glanced at the ramshackle building, its roof curving dangerously inward and the door barely hanging on its hinges. How was that going to be shelter?
“Thank you.” Ren answered, inclining his head in a manner more graciously than Mitaka thought the situation warranted.
Ren had made him saddle the horse when they’d dismounted. Mitaka had complied of course, grumbling about being treated as a servant the entire time. The horse’s name was ‘Vader’ too, how bizarre was that? Everything about this was weird.
Making his way back into the barn he wandered up to the partition that separated his pile of straw from Ren’s (slightly nicer, he noticed) pile of straw. The hawk was perched on the wood, eyeing Mitaka beadily as he approached. He found the knight kneeling, like a man in prayer, whispering softly into one closed fist held close to his mouth.
Mitaka held back a little, prayer was something between a man and God, therefore a little privacy was prudent. Though he could hear no distinct prayers he did catch Ren’s soft murmur;
Mitaka frowned. One day for what? One day until the woodsman came and killed them for denting his straw piles? One day until Phasma caught up with them?
Mitaka cleared his throat. “Sir?”
“Yes?” came the sharp reply. The knight stood and faced him; in his hand Mitaka caught a flash of red cloth. It looked like some sort of sash. No sooner had he caught sight of it had the cloth disappeared into the folds of Ren’s massive black coat. Politely, Mitaka glanced away, pretending he hadn’t intruded on the knight’s private moment.
“If you don’t mind Sir, I think I’ll turn in-”
“No. You can get some wood for our fire.” Ren cut in, blithely ignoring Mitaka’s spluttering protests. “And do not come to me for any reason.” He added, giving the thief a stern glare. “I do not sleep well and will probably tear your throat out before I know it’s you.”
“Oh…o-okay.” Mitaka squeaked, hurrying out the door.
“Treats me like a bloody servant. Mitaka get this, Mitaka get that.”
Night stole in through the forest, the blueish hues suffusing everything in sight. There would be a wicked frost soon; Mitaka could feel it in his bones.
He picked his way through the undergrowth, gathering whatever sticks and branches he could find to make a sufficient fire. The wind began to bite through his tunic. Kylo Ren confused him, the man saved his life from Phasma and her cronies, then dragged him out to the arse end of nowhere, sent him on errands and was just plain rude. Why? To what purpose? If he needed a manservant so badly there were plenty of lads looking for employment, why bother with someone like Mitaka?
What if, in a twisted sense of justice, the knight considered it payment for saving Mitaka’s skin?
“Well, I’m not going to stand for it!” He declared, having stewed on the matter for a good portion of an hour. “I’m still a young man you know, I’ve got prospects!”
He huffed and began to make his way back to the barn to give the knight a piece of his mind when a shuffling noise caught his attention. Some kind of wild animal perhaps….just another squirrel. Although, it had not sounded as small as a squirrel. Something bigger than a squirrel? Bigger, with teeth…
Oh Lord, what if it was bandits?! It would just be his luck wouldn’t it? To have bandits jump him in his one moment of peace. God must be toying with him now.
“I see you’ve drawn your sword Pierre, it is only a rabbit.” Mitaka said loudly, just in case there were people around, hoping that he could fool them into thinking he wasn’t alone. “Louis put that rock down. Let’s all go back to the barn and settle down. Alright? Alright.”
The shuffling noise began increasing in volume and Mitaka’s thin veneer of courage fell away as he dropped his burden of kindling and ran at full speed back towards the barn.
“Lord, just a little bravery would be nice!” He shouted to the heavens as he went.
He made it to the clearing where the barn and woodsman’s house sat, deceptively quiet. Slowing his pace Mitaka desperately tried to suck air back into his lungs, the fright making his pulse race.
He jumped as another noise reached his ears, a shrill cry of someone out for blood.
Whipping his head to the side Mitaka saw the woodsman rushing towards him with his axe raised, murderous intent clear. Mitaka cried out and stumbled backwards until he tripped and fell onto his behind, unable to do anything but stare dumbly whilst his soon to be murderer screamed like a banshee at him.
Out of nowhere a large black shape burst through the bushes and leapt at the woodsman. A horrible, guttural snarl almost deafening.
Mitaka gaped as a huge, shaggy black wolf bit into the woodsman’s throat, sending a hot red spray into the still night air. The wolf pulled at its prey viciously and the man’s screams choked off wetly. As the animal busied itself Mitaka tumbled into the barn with an ungainly crash.
“Sir! Sir, there’s a wolf!!”
There was no answer and the knight was nowhere to be seen. Another cry of fear escaped Mitaka as he grabbed for the knight’s discarded crossbow. Rushing to the window with a bolt between his teeth he struggled to load the weapon. He had to kill the beast, before it killed him-
A pale hand lightly touched his, causing Mitaka to nearly drop the crossbow out of sheer shock. He whirled round, ready to tell the knight to get a move on and do something useful already-
It wasn’t Ren. The face that stared at him instead was thin and paler, almost fae in its delicacy. Light, alert eyes peered out from a dark hood and Mitaka could see strands of coppery red hair poking out from underneath. There was an aura of calm about him, a sense of serenity and stillness out of place with this chaotic land.
Mitaka was stunned. What was this creature? Where did it come from? He opened his mouth to speak but the creature got there first.
Without another word to him the man began to walk towards the door, his feet as bare as Mitaka’s poking out from under the large cloak that dragged slightly along the floor.
The present snapped back to Mitaka and he lurched forward, voice running away with him;
“No! No don’t go out there! Please, my….my lord? There’s a wolf out there, the biggest wolf you’ve ever seen! And…and a dead man-”
“I know.” The man answered, not unkindly. His voice was soothing, calm.
Before Mitaka could do anything, he walked out the door.
Mitaka followed, his small knife drawn for, what, exactly? What was his plan? To fight off a massive beast to protect this man? He had no idea, but all his instincts screamed that he should do something, that he couldn’t, wouldn’t leave this delicate man to be torn apart and killed by a monster.
A complete lack of screams or snarls drew Mitaka up short in the doorway. The wolf had turned from his kill, gore dripping from its fangs, to flash a yellow eyed stare at the newcomer. The man himself only gazed back at the creature, one hand held out to the animal.
The wolf slowly approached and Mitaka stiffened, ready to stupidly leap to the man’s defence when the wolf dipped its head and slowly pushed into the man’s waiting hand.
Mitaka could only stare. The body of the woodsman lay only a few feet away and yet both man and wolf seemed completely unbothered by it. The wolf more interested in the red haired man and the other running a soothing hand through the coarse matted fur.
“I’ve got to be dreaming…” Mitaka muttered, taking in this dreamlike scene. “I’m dreaming I’m awake…..”
The man must have heard him, for he turned back to Mitaka with a slight smile playing about his lips.
“You are dreaming.” He said, voice echoing in the night air.
Without answering him, Mitaka slammed the wooden door on them both, shutting the scene out as he hurried back to practically dive into his damp pile of straw. He drew his dagger close to his chest, curling in on himself.
“I do not believe what I see Lord,” he prayed, clutching at his tiny weapon in the hope the spirit and its beast were gone, far away from him. “I don’t know what just happened but I pray they don’t happen again! These are magical, unexplainable matters, and I beg you not to make me a part of them!”
Did I kill Thanisson off just for cheap shock factor? Yes I did.
If you can see the plot twists coming a mile off don't worry, LITERALLY everybody does.
Well, no, Mitaka doesn't. But that's because, as was his Ladyhawke counterpart, Mitaka is reeeeeeaalllly slow on the uptake.
The sound of Phasma’s horse thundered through the courtyard outside the cathedral as she shouted at her subordinates to move and let her pass. It was bad enough that the lowly pickpocket had escaped both the prison he was sent to rot in and her soldiers, but now Kylo Ren had showed his face. After all this time, Phasma had thought him dead, or off in some dust ridden corner of the world with nothing but his disgrace to sustain his memory.
She had never expected her predecessor to come back after the Bishop told him he would only return to his own execution, she knew she would never test Bishop Snoke’s word. Why had the black clad fool not simply run back to his mother’s blighted country when he was given the chance to get out unscathed?
As she pulled up in front of the gates she internally marvelled at how the famine and disease that riddled their land never touched the Bishop’s property or people. Surely the man was truly blessed, to be able to live so affluently. Wasn’t the church always saying God provided for the righteous?
She dismounted from her horse, the sound intrusively loud in the courtyard. A servant pushed the large oak door open for her as she strode into the garden of the Bishop.
Flowers, heedless of the coming snow, bloomed in a beautiful array of colour near the well-watered grass. A pretty lady from some far off nation was decked in the soft colours of her country as she performed a gentle dance to the tune of a lyre.
Bishop Snoke, scarred from his days in the Holy Wars, sat under a shaded canopy watching the display with detached politeness. His skin seemed almost grey in the light and the robes appeared to weigh down on his thin build. Still, Phasma knew what a shrewd and formidable man the Bishop was, and cursed Ren once more for betraying their Holy leader.
The music came to a halt when Phasma’s heavy footsteps invaded the serenity of the moment, the lady stopping her dance and letting her arms fall to her sides.
“Captain,” The Bishop greeted her, pushing himself up from his gilded chair. “Have you finally caught the pickpocket?”
“Not as yet Sire,” she answered truthfully, slapping her hand to her chest in a salute. “He evaded us outside the woods to the east.”
“Then why do you barge into my private gardens, unwashed? Uninvited?” He snapped back at her, anger evident in his voice. “Did you expect to find him here?”
“Your Holiness, he had help.” Phasma protested. “From Kylo Ren.”
The change over the Bishop was instantaneous; the man stiffened and his eyes became sharper with purpose.
“Walk with me.” He commanded.
She did as he bid, walking with him around the perimeter of the garden whilst his visitors and minstrels quietly removed themselves. For a few moments the Bishop was silent, then turned to look at her out of the corner of his eye.
“Was there a hawk with him?”
“A hawk. There must have been one with him?”
“Y-yes there was.” She answered, unsure where this line of question was coming from a more than a little confused as to why a small satisfied smile briefly pulled at his mouth. "Sir, I will capture the pickpocket, make no mistake-”
“A mere thief is of no consequence.” Snoke replied, waving his hand. “But we do have a reputation to uphold. Nobody ever escapes the Finalizer, the people accept that as a historical fact.”
“When I gave you this job I gave it to you in the faith that you could be my Captain of the Guard.” The tone in the Bishop’s voice sent any protestations and arguments fleeing in the face of his ire. “And yet, in only a handful of years a man has escaped the unescapable and another has returned from exile. Shall we expect the very sun to disappear next?”
“These are not omens of my incompetence!”
“Believing in omens is part of my job, Captain.” Snoke sneered. “Bring the hawk to me.”
Phasma stopped where she stood, confusion clouding her features. “The hawk? Why?”
“God works in mysterious ways my child. Capture Ren if you can, kill him if you must. But the hawk must be brought back unharmed.”
Phasma saluted once more, not voicing her curiosity of the unusual request. “At once Your Holiness.”
Snoke’s dark gaze was steely in his ancient face. “If it dies, I shall be finding myself a new Captain of the Guard.”
The threat hung in the air and Phasma swallowed heavily. “Understood my Lord.”
Something round a heavy bounced scant inches from his face, dragging Mitaka into wakefulness. Cracking one eye open he watched a small apple roll on the floor in front of him.
“Breakfast.” Came an amused voice above him.
Mitaka glanced up to see Ren standing by the partition, adjusting the hawk’s leather jesses and feeding it a small sliver of something slimy. The sunlight glinting red of its feathers.
Red…red like someone’s hair, like blood…
The memories of the night before came flooding back to Mitaka and he jumped up, grabbing the apple as he did so.
“Where were you last night?!”
The knight turned back to look at him, slipping a brown leather hood over the hawk’s eyes. “Hm?”
“Last night, you...you disappeared!” Mitaka cried accusingly, pointing a finger at Ren. “I tried to find you but you were gone!”
“I was scouting ahead.” Ren shrugged. “There wasn’t any trouble.”
“There wasn’t any-?! No, there most certainly was trouble! Didn’t you see the body outside?”
Ren frowned in confusion, as thought Mitaka was sprouting complete gibberish. “What body?”
Now Mitaka was truly incredulous, spluttering and grabbing the knight by the arm and pulling him towards the door heedless of the hawks’ indignant screech at being jostled.
“That body there! The one the wolf killed!” He babbled, wrenching the door open and pointing outside, “That body there!”
Ren stood in the doorway, staring out at what was surely a most gruesome sight in the morning light. Seconds passed before the knight turned back to Mitaka, perplexity written all over his features. “What body where?”
Mitaka pushed past him to stare out at the clearing. The body was completely gone. No trace of blood or a scrap of clothing remained behind. There was not a single sign that any violence had taken place at all. Doubting his own memory, he rushed to the woodsman’s house to bang on the door, nobody answered him. Even the fat wife had disappeared.
“Did the fairy carry them away?” He breathed wonderingly to himself.
“What?” Ren asked from behind him. Mitaka jumped, he had not heard the knight approach him across the clearing.
“N-Nothing.” Mitaka sighed, running a hand across his eyes. “I must have been dreaming…I think.”
“I fear you had too much ale yesterday my friend.” Ren said, amusement tingeing his voice as he clapped a hand on Mitaka’s shoulder. “Eat, and then prepare Vader. We have a long journey ahead of us.”
Ren turned to walk away. Mitaka stared after him, his eyes wandering back to the spot where he’d seen the wolf and man mere hours before. Had it been a dream?
“I’m going mad.” He concluded, taking a bit out of his apple.
They travelled in silence, Mitaka on foot as he flat out refused to ride upon the horse after their less than graceful introduction. The skin on the soles of his feet had thickened enough over the years for the bracken and stones to not bother him so much, though he did feel the chill around his toes.
“We’ll camp here,” Ren said at last when they came across to a grove of trees, blinking up at the greying sky. “Bad weather for travelling.”
He dismounted his horse and left Mitaka to begrudgingly start tying the animal to a tree. The hawk gave a little chirp as Ren made his way over to another tree and sank to the floor, wrapping his cape around him a little tighter. “Rest.”
“Not if I have such strange dreams again.” Mitaka argued, also sinking to the floor and drawing his knees up to his chest. “It was awful. The wolf I dreamt….it could have killed me. But it didn’t. It tore the woodsman’s throat out but totally ignored me. It gets stranger you know.”
“Oh?” Ren said lightly, using the backs of two fingers to slowly stroke the hawk’s chest as it ruffled its feathers and began meticulously cleaning one clawed foot.
“Yes. There was another man there.”
“A man?” Ren repeated, looking up at Mitaka. Feeling emboldened by the knight's interest in his dreams, Mitaka continued;
“Yes, he was pale – like he’d never seen the sun. Red hair, bright green eyes…like a fairy’s. That must have been what he was, some sort of fairy prince. And his voice, so calm considering the wolf outside-”
“He spoke?” Ren’s voice was rough as Mitaka broke off from his half remembered descriptions. “What did he say?”
“I asked if I were dreaming. He said I was.”
Ren dropped his gaze looked down, smiling softly and breathing out a puff of air in a way that sounded almost like a laugh. Mitaka bristled at that, knowing mockery when he saw it.
“I’m telling the truth my lord, you must believe me!”
“No no, I believe you.” Answered Ren, quick to reassure. Though despite his words the thief couldn’t shake the feeling he was being laughed at in some way.
He huffed. “Right.”
“This…this fairy prince,” Ren piped up again, “Did he have a name?”
“Not one he felt inclined to share with me.” Mitaka retorted. “Why?”
“Well,” Ren trailed off, repositioning his arm to pull out the brown leather hood that went with the hawk jesses to pull it over the bird’s eyes. “Maybe he’d be so kind as to wander into my dreams. Wouldn’t it be nice? For me to call him by name and pretend we’d met somewhere before?”
When Mitaka couldn’t find a good reply for that, the knight’s smile went a little brittle around the edges.
“Yes,” Ren continued, almost to himself, “I’ve waited a long time for such a prince…”
The silence fell between them; nothing came to Mitaka as an answer to Ren’s more than enigmatic statement. Let him dream up his own fairy, Mitaka thought, a little sourly. The knight drew a heavy breath and tilted his head back against the tree, closing his eyes. There were still a few hours of daylight left, but Ren was right. The weather was getting worse.
After a short while, his eyes fell back onto the hawk, now silently perched on Ren’s arm.
“That hood you put on the hawk, I’ve – I’ve seen men put similar ones on birds before.”
Ren’s lips twitched, but he didn’t open his eyes. “Have you now?”
“Yes. I was just wondering why. It doesn’t make any sense to me, keeping a bird of prey blind like that.”
Ren sat up a little straighter and opened his eyes to stare levelly at Mitaka, who tried to match the stare but felt he failed miserably.
Ren glanced at the bird on his arm. “Would you believe it calms them down? It’s…comforting for them.”
Mitaka couldn’t quite see how being blind could give one any sense of comfort whatsoever, though he didn’t say so aloud. He looked at the bird, who was indeed a good deal calmer now than it was this morning when it swooped down to catch an unsuspecting mouse.
“Rest.” Ren ordered, his voice had more of a commanding tone to it than his almost wistful talk of princes earlier. “The hawk’s clever; it’ll let us know when anything is nearby.”
With that unconvincing declaration, the knight settled back down again.
Mitaka plucked up the courage to try the question again. “Where are we going Sir?”
Ren didn’t answer.
Gathering kindling for a fire, Mitaka discovered, was easier when you had a sword to help you.
Alright, he didn’t exactly ask Ren to use the sword, but figured a sword of that calibre had to be useful for something.
When he’d carried it to the edge of the grove, he’d noticed it was heavy, as he expected it would. But Ren had wielded it with such grace and ease so how heavy could it really be?
When he tried to swing it to cut a log in half, Mitaka discovered that the answer was really fucking heavy.
His arms got progressively achier every time he tried to swing the sword over his head, and the minuscule pile of chunks he managed to get from it simply annoyed him. Were he some sort of Samson, or Hercules, he could do this with ease. But he was a Dopheld, and Dopheld’s are never particular renowned for feats of strength. Feats of cowardice maybe.
He raised the sword with difficulty again and jerked when Ren’s armoured hand grabbed the blade just below the hilt, pulling it from Mitaka’s already weak grip.
“This sword has been in my family for generations.” Ren informed him coolly. “It has never known defeat,” he glanced at the pathetic pile of wood, “Until now it seems.”
“I-” Mitaka stammered, though Ren was no longer really paying attention to him, twisting the sword in his grip to show Mitaka the jewels set in the large hilt.
“This one,” he said, pointing to a large ruby in the centre, “Was my grandfather’s as a reward for his service in the Crusades. This one,” a sapphire now, “Signifies my father’s alliance with House Organa,” he trailed off, pointing to an empty spot on the right handle. “And this…”
Mitaka blanched. “My lord you don’t think I took-”
“Peace.” Ren interrupted, cutting off Mitaka’s building panic. “This one is mine to fill.”
He turned away from Mitaka then to sit on a moss covered stump. “Every son in my family is called upon to follow his own quest, his divine calling. When I have fulfilled mine, I will place a jewel of my own in there.”
Mitaka raised his eyebrows. “That’s…noble, Sir. Wh-what is your quest?”
Ren placed the tip of the sword next to him on the stump, so it stood up like a magnificent steel crucifix. He bent his forehead to it as a pious man would to pray. Something about his expression changed, a raw anger suffusing his face as his jaw clenched.
“I must kill a man.”
Well, that didn’t sound very holy.
Mitaka bit his tongue to avoid saying that he was pretty sure Ren killed men before, the tavern fiasco still fresh in his mind.
“Tell me,” he said instead, falsely jovial, “Does this corpse-to-be have a name?”
Ren did not look at him, but continued to glower at his sword. “The Bishop Snoke.”
Mitkaka blinked. He didn’t know what name he’d expected out of the knight, but it certainly wasn’t His Holiness. Feeling his eyes go wide with surprise he stared at the man clad in black who had since closed his eyes as though in meditation.
Mitaka felt that now would really be the best time to cut his losses and go. He might be a pickpocket and not a particularly good Christian, but he drew the line at flat-out Bishop murder.
“I, I see.” He blurted, tugging at the hem of his tunic nervously. “Well, you have much to do. You don’t need me dragging you down, busy man like yourself. Hah…um, I hope our paths cross again someday. But if it’s all the same to you I think it’s best if I go.”
He turned but had not taken more than five steps before he heard the man stand up and behind him.
“You are going to help me.”
“Not for the life of my mother!” Mitaka shouted back, whirling round. “Even if I knew who she was!”
“You got out of the Finalizer!” Ren roared back. “Come now you are not some frightened little mouse if you had the mind to do that and live! If you could get out, you can help me get back in.”
“It was chance! Pure luck! I fell down the shitter and dug my way out. Even if you were to get close enough to the Bishop – even though I highly doubt you could - you would need soldiers at your side, warriors! Not some…some thief you happened to pick up along the way.”
The rage was practically coming of Ren in waves and every instinct within Mitaka was to run, get away from here, from this madness. But, against his better judgment, he found his mouth running off without his consent; “I escaped you understand? To get away, I don’t know what sort of grand adventures you knights get up to, but when it comes to an escape, most people don’t do it with the objective to get back in!”
In response to Mitaka’s sudden outburst of hysteria, Ren seemed to get a better handle on himself, composing his face into something a bit more reasonable, more placating. “I have waited all this time – all these years – for some sort of sign. You got out; I need that sort of stealth. I…I am not one for planning, I never have been. Fighting my way out of trouble is what I’m good at. You don’t understand, I need to do this. The Bishop is an evil man…But you, you will be my guiding angel.”
“No offense,” Mitaka replied, evening out his own tone. “I pray to God all the time, and if I were meant to accompany you on your so-called ‘Holy Quest’, I’d like to think He might have mentioned you.”
Ren frowned at him, but Mitaka ploughed on. “I’ll be honest, you saved my life back there, but to repay you would take honour I’ve never had nor will ever likely have. I’m a thief that got lucky, no more than that. You’re a man of honour, so I don’t think you’ll kill me for admitting my faults. I wish you luck on your journey Sir, but it’s not the same one as mine.”
Which was a rather good parting speech, all things considered. Ren continued to stare at him whilst Mitaka nodded decisively and started to march off into the forest, onto another chapter of his so far disastrous journey-
Well, he did until a shining bolt flew out of nowhere past his head.
The sword, thrown at a remarkable speed, landed tip first into the tree immediately to Mitaka’s left, where it wobbled sinisterly.
Mitaka glanced back. Ren did not appear to have moved at all, but the slight smirk on his face was all the convincing Mitaka’s self-preservation needed.
“I’ll, I’ll get some wood for the fire.” He sighed.
The rabbit dashed through the bush before Mitaka, who had been dozing.
Ren had gone off ‘scouting’ again, though not before getting the idea in his head that Mitaka could not be trusted to stay put after his little outburst and had, rather barbarically, tied him to a tree.
Not tight enough so that his hands went numb, but tight enough that no amount of wriggling would help him. The message was very clear: Stay. Put.
The rabbit bounced through the undergrowth, white underbelly flashing too quick for Mitaka’s tired eyes to properly track.
What he could see however, was the man that came sprinting after the rabbit in a futile attempt to catch it.
Mitaka gaped a little as he took in the pale skin and copper hair. It was him, the creature from his nightmare last night. A little less ethereal now maybe, now wearing an oversized tunic belted around the waist and breeches. His feet were still bare.
Mitaka watched dumbstruck as the red haired man crashed to his knees after the rabbit as it fled under a hawthorn bush. Crawling, the man tried to squeeze himself under to catch the animal, muttering under his breath.
“My Lord?” Mitaka called.
The man jumped, startling the rabbit from its hiding place to shoot out into the night, too fast to catch. The man straightened, tried to see the rabbit again, but gave up with a hissed “Damn!”
“My Lord? Over here!” Mitaka called again.
The red haired man whipped his head around to see Mitaka, who gave a cheery smile in greeting. “Hello.”
“You’re from the barn last night.” The man said, in a tone that said it wasn’t a request for confirmation. “What on Earth are you doing on the floor?”
“No offense Your Highness, but you were also on the floor.” Mitaka replied, shrugging. “I was attacked by bandits. Big bandits, at least seven of them. They tied me up and left me here.”
The man raised one red eyebrow in a suspicious arch. “And why didn’t they just kill you?”
“Good question. I suspect they were too mean and too stupid to think of that.” Mitaka lied smoothly; wiggling his bound arms a bit to look extra pathetic. “Help me?”
This seemed to amuse the red haired man, who folded his arms with a crooked smile. “And why should I do that?”
“Weeeellll,” Mitaka considered this, if this man were truly some sort of supernatural being the last thing he wanted to do was give the wrong answer. “I don’t really have anything to give you in return except my eternal gratitude. I know you shouldn’t concern yourself with a wretch like me Your Highness, but I hope there is some compassion in you.”
“Pretty words.” The man returned, laughter colouring his voice. “You have nothing I would want anyway.”
Mitaka’s heart sank, resigning himself to be tied to this tree forever. However, the man came forward, and knelt beside Mitaka to start undoing the knots Ren had made.
“You needn’t call me ‘Highness’,” the man added, brow furrowed in concentration. “I’m just as wretched as you are.”
“I don’t believe that. You’re some kind of royalty, I can tell you know.”
“Oh?” came the amused reply “Meet much royalty do you?”
Mitaka opened his mouth to reply when the air was pierced by the howl of a wolf in the distance, carried on the wind towards them. The ropes fell away from Mitaka’s wrists but the red haired man seemed to forget about him as he stood, looking out into the night where the wolf’s howl had come from.
Arms brought around himself in a cautious self-hug the red haired man sighed. “Do you hear that?”
Mitaka didn’t answer. For Mitaka had already run off.
“Thanks for the help fairy!” He shouted, “Tell Ren he ties a wicked knot!”
As he rushed over a hill and out of sight, the red haired man groaned and ran a hand through his hair distractedly. Looking between where Mitaka had gone and where the wolf was coming from, he cursed his own stupidity.
“Oh God he’s going to kill me.”
The sunlight streamed brightly overhead as Mitaka picked his way across an open field, the yellowing grass tickling his ankles. He was free, free at last! Free from sinister brooding knights and mysterious night dwellers. Free from any plans for murdering Bishops or any kind of ‘adventure’. He was going to find a small village in the north, learn a trade, anything to keep him out of trouble. He laughed a little to himself at his second miraculous escape in the span of a single week.
The shrill cry of a bird caught his attention and he looked to the sky to see the dot of a hawk flying in the distance. He couldn’t help himself; he gave the hawk a rude hand gesture.
“And that goes for your master, you bloody pidgeon.”
Chuckling to himself, Mitaka picked up his pace as he turned around a rocky corner.
Straight into Captain Phasma.
Hey guys, I apologise but updates are going to be a little slower from now on, as I have to go back to work and I won't have as much time to whack out a chapter for a while.
There are some more things I want to say but they contain a few spoilers, so I've put them at the end instead :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The whimper that escaped Mitaka was just as weak as his struggles as Phasma pulled him up by his tunic front.
“We meet again, thief.” She smiled triumphantly as he lifted him a little, his feet scrabbling for some sort of purchase on the ground. “Where’s your friend?”
“He’s not my friend.” He protested meekly, before blinking up at her, “I mean, who?”
“Don’t lie to me,” she snarled, pushing him roughly against the rocks as a handful of her men drew their swords. “Where’s Kylo Ren?”
“Ren? Ren…” Mitaka mused, trying to ignore the several death threats in his immediate vicinity. “Oh, yes, Ren. Big man? Black horse? He….he was riding south I believe.”
Ren may not exactly be his friend, but he had saved Mitaka’s hide, so it seemed only fair that Mitaka try and do the same for him. From what he could gather from his sense of direction Ren really was riding south, but he’d made quite the reputation for himself as a liar, so maybe the guards would buy his deception and head off in the wrong direction.
Sure enough, one of the soldiers laughed in disbelief. “Then we ride north Captain, he’s lying.”
“That’s a little rude to assume of me.” Mitaka told the man primly, “We’ve only just met.”
Phasma had not yet taken her eyes off Mitaka, clenched her jaw and tightened her grip on him. “Yet you suspected we would.”
Shoving him roughly to a waiting soldier, she strode towards her horse tethered nearby. “We ride south. Bind the thief; we’ll take him with us.”
As he was dragged away, Mitaka glared at the sky in exasperation.
“I told the truth, Lord!” He cried as a soldier bound his wrists behind him for a second bloody time in a handful of hours. “How can I learn any moral lessons if you keep confusing me like this?!”
Ren sat upon his horse, eyes following Mitaka’s clumsy tracks with ease. The fool really thought he could just disappear and Ren wouldn’t attempt to find him again. Had Ren not expressed how badly he needed his help? Maybe throwing the sword hadn’t been the best incentive.
A memory of someone sarcastically criticising his persuasion techniques bubbled up through his mind, hearing again a voice that he missed more and more with each passing second. The memory gave him a sharper sense of his objective. Snoke would suffer for what he’d done. Ren swore it with a little more venom every day.
Mitaka had barrelled through the hedges, leaving broken weeds and overturned twigs in his wake. Ren frowned. This was the stealth and cleverness that escaped the Finalizer? Ren had met subtler bulls. Maybe all Mitaka’s blathering about chance and luck had a ring of truth to it. Still, Ren was willing to take the chance. Any chance.
Besides, he thought fondly, holding out his arm for the hawk to land after its circling in the sky, he had the best tracker by his side after all.
The bird landed in a graceful swoop onto his leather gauntlet, fluttering its wings.
“Good morning.” He said lightly, tracing a finger down its soft chest. “Having a good hunt?”
The bird twitched its head, eager to be in the open air again. Ren felt his irritation at finding Mitaka gone when he came back fading as he watched the animal adjust its footing on his arm. He looked at the red feathers and remembered when he’d seen them for the first time, feeling the familiar melancholic ache settle in his veins.
“Let’s go find our mouse.” He smiled; lifting his arm and watching the hawk take off and soar into the sky once more.
It really looked as though Dopheld Mitaka’s morning had failed to improve.
He sat behind an armoured soldier on a horse, arms chained behind his back and gagged with a God damn rag of all things. He sighed heavily, and it had all be going so well this morning.
“Captain,” a messenger panted, running up to Phasma with a scroll in his hand. “His Holiness asked me to give you this.”
“I’m busy” she snapped.
“B-but,” the poor man stuttered, “He wants you to find Bala Tik.”
“The hunter? Why?”
The man turned as red as a beetroot and shuffled a foot in the dirt, looking away.
“Well?” demanded Phasma.
“H-He said he wanted to be certain the task of bringing the hawk back to him was in capable hands.”
“I can capture a fucking bird.” Phasma growled, a muscle in her left cheek twitching in her anger. “I do not need the help of some barbarian like Bala Tik!”
The messenger bit his lip, fear plainly written across his soft face. “A-A thousand apologies Captain, I-I am just relaying the word of his Holiness-”
Phasma uttered a guttural scream of rage as she viciously kicked her horse into moving. “Fine! I’ll find Tik and send him to the Bishop, you!” She cried, addressing the soldiers nearby, “Carry out your orders, if the thief should have a nasty accident on the way back-”
She shot Mitaka a nasty look.
“It’s no great loss.”
Mitaka’s offended reply was muffled and useless through the rag. It didn’t make a difference, as Phasma already set off at a galloping pace. Watching the Captain disappear across the rolling fields, he glared at the back of his fellow rider’s head.
“Looks like you’re out of luck.” A nearby bowman told him gleefully. Mitaka frowned at him.
When at last a dark shape of a rider on horseback was visible coming through the fields, the soldiers began silently loading their crossbows or unsheathing their swords. The hawk swooped around in lazy circles as Ren trotted his horse over the ground.
Mitaka squinted and tried pulling his bonds apart again. If he could get free he might be able to give some sort of warning to the knight, keep him away from where Phasma’s men were hiding. There was just enough room between his wrists for him to lift his arms, slowly circling them in an attempt to bring them over his head to his front. Unfortunately, the movement caught the attention of the soldier whose horse he was sharing just as Ren got in plain view of the army.
“Hey!” The soldier cried, as Mitaka brought his arms down hard, smashing his fists painfully into the helmet hard enough for the man’s eyes to roll back into his head and fall off the horse.
The noise and movement alerted Ren to the presence of the men, and he drew his sword as another crossbow bolt hit the leather saddle inches from his leg.
One rider ran forward with his own sword drawn, only for Ren to meet him and swing his sword violently so the man fell with a scarlet rip opening along his throat. Swinging the sword the knight deflected another bolt aimed at his head.
Mitaka slid from the horse, ripping the rag from his mouth as he did so, it hung around his neck like a particularly awful necktie. The key to the manacles were in the man’s saddlebag, so he hurriedly fished them out and set to work on his chains, casting an urgent glance at the knight.
Ren had already dispatched about four of the men, and was turning away from one when a remaining soldier loaded a crossbow out of the knight’s line of vision and sent it flying.
It hit Ren in the upper arm, causing the man to drop his sword, the momentum pulling him downwards in an inelegant heap. Though the leather armour had taken much of the damage, though it was clear the shock of it had stunned Ren a little.
Mitaka finally pulled his arms free and began to run towards the knight, but saw the soldier reloading the weapon – no doubt about to aim for Ren’s head now the knight was wounded – with a crazed look of triumph on his face.
Mitaka skidded to a halt, scooping up a small stone and hurling it at the bowman with a shout of “No!”
The stone flew and hit the soldier between the shoulder blades. With a grunt of pain the man arched backwards and fell, though he had already released the bolt, which flew into the sky.
Directly into the hawk.
With a cry the bird fell towards the ground, spinning in helpless circles that Mitaka could watch with a pang of regret. It hadn’t been a bad hawk, all things considered, and the poor thing hadn’t deserved a steel bolt shoved through it like that.
The bird’s cry caused Ren’s head to snap up from where he had been bent over pulling the bolt out of his own arm. His already pale face was drained of what little colour it had as he saw what had happened. The man screamed and it shocked Mitaka to hear such rage and anguish in that one drawn out cry.
“No…” Ren moaned, before jumping to his feet and leaping on his horse to ride to where the hawk had landed, Mitaka following on foot.
The poor bird lay in the grass, calling out feebly. Ren jumped from the horse and jammed his sword into the ground where it stood upright before slowly approaching the bird.
“Easy…easy. You’ll be alright.” He said to the bird, deep tones warm and soothing. Turning back to Mitaka with an expression of pain and urgency, he held out a hand. “There’s a cloth in my saddlebag, please!”
“R-Right.” Mitaka went up to the bag and reached around for the bag, he withdrew a red cloth. The same cloth he had seen Ren holding in the stables the other night.
It was truly a magnificent sash; a rich crimson embroidered with gold thread. It was a heavy, well made material nobody with regular means could afford. It was the cloth of a king. How had Ren come across it?
“NOW!” Ren shouted, cutting through Mitaka’s wondrous inspection. Mitaka hurried to give the knight the sash, who snatched it before turning back to the bird.
The droplets of blood stood out of the grass like jewels as Ren folded the wings into a better position and began to wrap the bird up with more gentleness and care than any healer Mitaka had ever encountered, whispering comforting nonsense as he went:
“There…there we go. It’s alright. You’re alright. Ssh now, I know it hurts…”
“I’m sorry.” Mitaka blurted as the bird struggled weakly when Ren picked it up. Ren looked up at him as he stood, determination overtaking his grief for the animal.
“Get on my horse.” He commanded, “There’s a monk living in an old castle about three hours ride to the west. His name is Skywalker, Luke Skywalker. He’ll know what to do. If you ride hard enough, you may get there before nightfall.”
Mitaka frowned as Ren held out the hawk for him to take. He glanced at the metal sticking cruelly out of the bird’s chest.
“What do you mean?” Mitaka asked in confusion. “I’m sorry Sir, it’d be no use. The poor thing is done for-”
“Don’t say that!” Ren snarled, shoving Mitaka hard in the shoulder against Vader’s flanks. “Don’t say that…”
“Just get on the horse.”
“What about you?”
“I can follow on foot. Just get on.”
Mitaka obeyed, gingerly holding onto one of Vader’s reins and balancing the injured hawk in the crook of one elbow.
“Know this,” Ren added, gripping the edge of his saddle. “If you fail me, I’ll follow you the length of my days! And I’d find you.”
Mitaka nodded hurriedly, not one bit surprised by the threat. “I’ll find Skywalker; I’ll give him your hawk. I promise.”
Ren nodded, reassured by Mitaka’s sincerity. “Just…just hurry.”
He slapped the horse’s flank to get it going, and Mitaka desperately tried to hold on, the uneven ground making the hawk jostle in his arm, emitting indignant shrieks with every bump and dip.
The colour of the sky dimmed and the shadows grew the longer Mitaka rode. As the light began to dim the sight of an ancient, crumbling ruin loomed into view on the horizon.
“See? There’s the castle!” Mitaka informed the bird, pointing to the ruins. “Can’t imagine why anyone would live there, but there we’ll find your saviour.”
He attempted to give the bird a reassuring stroke along its head the way he’d seen Ren do on numerous occasions and was rewarded with a sharp nip to the finger, the blood welling up as he withdrew his finger with a curse.
“Well that’s fucking gratitude for you!” He snapped, picking up the reins again as the bird chirped at him. “Fine, let this Skywalker take you. I’ve eaten hawk before you know, your kind are really good with potatoes.”
He pulled up to the beginnings of a ramshackle drawbridge, its wood rotting and split. He didn’t chance their weight across it to knock on the door, so he settled for lifting his head and yelling at the top of his voice.
“Hello?! Hello I’m looking for a monk named Skywalker! For pity’s sake, HELLO?”
“What? What?!” Came a voice from high up on the castle walls, echoing across the space. “Who calls?”
“My name is Dopheld Mitaka, are you Luke Skywalker?”
A man leaned over the crumbling walls, pushing a brown hood away from his eyes. He had a wise, kind face that the years had weathered into a face Mitaka had always imagined a wise monk should have. Hair that had clearly once been blonde had faded and threaded with silver, as had the beard he wore.
“What if I am? What do you want?” He called in a tone not threatening, but not overly friendly either.
Mitaka adjusted his grip on the hawk and held it up a little for the monk to see. “I’ve been asked to bring you this bird Father, it’s been wounded.”
“Good shot!” The monk called back, certainly sounding cheerier, “Bring it in, we’ll feast together.”
“Um,” squeaked Mitaka, fear of Ren’s repercussions overshadowing the temptation to take the man up on his offer, “W-We can’t eat this bird Father.”
“Why not?” The monk asked, squinting, “It’s not Lent again is it?”
“No, but this hawk belongs to a knight named Kylo Ren.”
Mitaka suspected he could have pulled a unicorn out of his arse and it may have surprised Skywalker less. The man’s mouth went slack as his eyes snapped wide open. He gripped the rocks in front of him perceptibly tighter.
“Mother of God…” he muttered, then raised his voice again, “Bring him, Quick, bring him in! Leave your horse; the bridge is too weak for his weight. Walk on the left side – your left, my right – quickly now!”
Mitaka did as he was told; lightly skittering over the left hand side of the bridge with the hawk safely nestled in his arms. The giant door squeaked open, and two youths – a worried looking boy with skin the colour of rich mahogany and a thin, pale girl with three buns in her hair – came forward.
The monk came bustling down a flight of stairs, robes flying behind him.
“Rey, fetch me some blankets and light a fire.” He addressed the girl, who nodded and fled up another flight of stairs into an upper room. The boy gently took the hawk from Mitaka and gave it to Skywalker, who began to carry it back to the back rooms. Mitaka noticed one of his hands that poked out from the large sleeves was false – made of wood.
“Finn, can you set about drawing some water from the brook nearby?” Skywalker added, “I’ll need to make some herbal tea.”
“Uh, sure thing Father.” The boy – Finn – answered, giving Mitaka a welcoming nod as he walked out the door, picking up a bucket as he went.
Skywalker gave Mitaka a long look as Mitaka glanced around him nervously, “And you, you wait outside here.”
“I need to go gather some healing herbs for him,” the monk explained, indicating the hawk with a jerk of his head, “And I only have about an hour until the sun goes down, so I need to move. Under no circumstances are you to interrupt, is that clear?”
There was something so like Ren about the authoritative voice and hard gaze that Mitaka nodded. “Clear.”
That seemed to satisfy Skywalker, who went and took the hawk into the back rooms without another word. Mitaka settled down on a stone pile to wait.
Somewhere, in an open field, Kylo Ren remained on his knees in prayer.
He kept his sights on the sun as it began to sink below the horizon, unable to keep a tear escaping and rolling down one cheek.
“Uncle,” he begged to himself, knowing full well nobody would hear him or answer him, “Please…”
The courtyard of the castle was still and dark, Skywalker still not returned having set out to get some herbs for his medicines. Rey and Finn had gone to bed, wishing Mitaka luck and reassuring them everything would be alright now that ‘Master Luke’ was here to help. Mitaka only wished he had such faith in the old man.
Skywalker had been gone a long time; the bird had probably died since he’d left. Mitaka felt that maybe he should go check, just to make sure the animal still lived. He could only imagine how angry Ren would be if Mitaka let his precious pet die through negligence, despite Skywalker’s insistence Mitaka not go near it. Fear of disappointing Ren outweighed his fear of a monk’s wrath and he got up to creep towards the room he’d seen Skywalker take the hawk into, careful not to wake the man’s…servants? Apprentices?
Walking up to the door he glanced around him, making sure nobody was around, then pushed the door open.
Lying before the fire, naked save for some furs draped across him for modesty, lay the red haired man.
The steel bolt of the crossbow stuck out of his chest just below a clavicle, the wound angry and red against the pale skin. The man rolled his head from where he’d been staring at the fire to look at Mitaka, who turned to flee.
“Wait!” the man called, voice weak and strained, pushing himself up onto one elbow, “Kylo, is he-?”
Mitaka drew a shuddering breath and faced the man, hand still upon the door. “He’s fine. He-He’s just fine my lord.”
The man slumped back with relief, eyes closed.
“There was a battle,” Mitaka recounted, unable to tear his eyes away from the bolt breaking through the man’s skin. “Ren fought like a lion. The hawk…the hawk was struck. B-But you know that, don’t you?”
The man opened his eyes, a spark of amusement deep within them. “Yes.”
A shapeshifter. Mitaka had always believed they were fairy tales, stories to frightened children. This man was no mere mortal, but there he lay, injured in such a mortal way.
Mitaka had to know.
Shaking, he took a few steps forward.
“Tell me the truth, once and for all.” He asked. “Are you flesh? Or are you spirit?”
The spark had gone from the man’s eyes and his mouth was drawn in an unhappy line. He blinked, assessing Mitaka’s question, delivering his answer in a poignant tone:
“I am sorrow.”
Crossing himself hastily, Mitaka backed away towards the door in fear. The man had already turned away from him. The door opened and Skywalker burst through, arms full of herbs. Catching sight of Mitaka, he looked between the two of them.
“I told you to stay away.” He hissed, before sighing. “Never mind, now you know. Just-just get out.”
Mitaka obliged, stumbling into the cool night air. The door closed shut behind him but he found himself plastered against it, watching through a crack in the wood.
After Skywalker had applied herbs around the wound he nodded to the man reassuringly, who nodded back. The monk took a firm grip on the bolt and Mitaka grimaced, knowing what was to happen next. Skywalker placed a hand gently over the red haired man’s eyes.
“Would you believe it calms them down?”
However, Mitaka knew that, whilst he had been a hawk this morning, it was a man that lay in front of Skywalker now. The man reached up and withdrew Skywalker’s hands from his eyes, gripping it tightly and staring up at the man instead.
Without much warning, Skywalker yanked the bolt free, spilling the man’s blood onto the furs as he did so.
The man screamed in pain and, in the very same instant, a wolf howled somewhere in the night.
Mitaka stared out over the countryside, the moon illuminating the hills.
He thought back over the last few days and cursed his own obliviousness. Everything started to make sense.
Skywalker’s apprentices made their way down to the drawbridge, cloaks pulled tight about them. Mitaka watched as Skywalker handed Rey a scroll.
“Are you alright doing this?” he asked them.
“Don’t worry,” Rey smiled warmly, “we can do it.”
“Lemme just -” Finn began, making his way over to Mitaka who’s brow creased in confusion.
“Uhm, I noticed you and-and the other guy in there, neither of you have shoes on.” He said, jerking his head to the room where the red haired man lay sleeping after Skywalker gave him a draught to help him rest. “Frost’s coming in; I reckon you’ll need these.”
He handed out two pairs of boots that Mitaka took, shocked at the generosity, Finn babbled on.
“Sorry, they might not fit either of you properly, b-but I thought it might help.”
“They’re wonderful.” Mitaka smiled gratefully, “Thank you.”
The boy smiled back and headed back to where Rey and Skywalker were waiting, the monk clapping the boy on the shoulder in a fatherly fashion. The two of them exchanged a quick goodbye then headed off into the night.
“Where’re they going?” asked Mitaka.
Skywalker sighed and ran a hand through his greying hair. “I’ve sent them with a message to my sister, the Lady Organa. I think it’s time I finally helped.”
The name rang a bell with Mitaka, having heard it somewhere before. Though it slipped to the back of his mind as the wolf howled again in the distance.
“It’s him, isn’t it?” he asked, looking back over the hills. “Ren I mean, he’s the wolf.”
Skywalker didn’t answer straightaway, but went back over to where another small fire was still burning and sat down to poke at the ashes with a stick. Mitaka followed, sitting next to the monk. Skywalker took a deep breath, looking up at the door their shapeshifting friend slept behind.
“His name is Etienne Hux,” he said, “He’s not a shape-shifter, but was once a whole and true man like you or I. His father was King Brendol of Arkanis-”
“A-ha! I knew he was a prince.” Mitaka interrupted triumphantly but deflated when he caught Skywalker’s stern look. “Sorry. Go on.”
“Well, Etienne was the second son born to the king. The first son, Brendol the Second, is training to take over the throne upon his father’s death. It’s tradition for the second sons of important families to go into the service of the Church, and the House of Hux is no exception. The Bishop Snoke heard the boy was looking for a place to study and serve, and welcomed the boy to his cathedral.
Snoke is…not a pious man. He seeks only to control and to oppress. I was a priest in his service and it pained me to see that there was no love, no compassion in him. A man of God should have more mercy than that monster. It pained me to see that he was shaping this young prince to be the same.”
Mitaka nodded, motioning Skywalker to continue. The monk rubbed at his wooden hand as he searched for the words to continue;
“Snoke believes that to be a true leader one must be hard, even cruel if needs be. He planned to turn Etienne into a creature like him. But, his plans were in vain it seemed.”
Skywalker paused, smiling a little as he looked into the fire.
“You see, the prince had caught the eye of the Captain of the Guard.”
“Ren.” Mitaka confirmed, remembering poor Thanisson addressing the knight as such. Skywalker nodded.
“I remember watching them, wondering how two people constantly sniping at each other and insulting each other could end up falling in love. Though,” he broke off to laugh quietly, “My sister had bickered with Lord Solo for nearly three years before he proposed. Ren must take after his mother that way.”
“Your sis- Ren’s yournephew?”
“So, who did they go from that to….to this?” Mitaka asked, meaning their magical beast forms. Skywalker swallowed hard before speaking, voice heavy with sadness.
“I was foolish. I was so happy my nephew had found someone who understood him, who loved him. Even though they seemed so combative anyone with eyes could see they’d rather throw themselves off the tower than let anything happen to the other. I believe Snoke overheard it from me. He was furious.”
“All his plans were ruined of course. He’d wanted a ruthless Captain of the Guard and an equally cruel prince to help him seize more power. Their love had softened them, in his eyes.”
Mitaka closed his eyes briefly, remembering his shock as to why Ren wanted to kill a holy man.
“They caught on to his anger, of course.” Skywalker continued. “Hux pleaded with Ren to leave, to get out while he could but Ren, stubborn as a mule, refused to flee. Refused to run without Hux. If Hux ran, he’d be disgraced, unwelcome back to his own country and an outcast. Ren wouldn’t allow that. I persuaded them to leave anyway, to go back to Leia’s country. She and Ren had parted during an argument, but I convinced him that going to her was their best option. They fled under the cover of night.”
“Snoke found out.” Mitaka guessed, drawing his knees up to his chest and looked over at the man’s, no, Hux’s door.
“He did.” Skywalker mournfully confirmed. “So great was his rage and need for vengeance that he turned to powers greater than he had. He turned to the Dark Ones.”
Mitaka shivered, despite the fire, and crossed himself again. Skywalker flicked a grave glance at him.
“He found a spell to curse the lovers. The cruellest, worst one. If he’d have killed them outright, they wouldn’t have really suffered you see. So he found one to transform them.
Mindless, dumb beats with no memory of their human lives except the instinctual draw towards each other. By day, Hux is the beautiful red hawk you brought to me…by night; Ren is the black wolf you hear now. They can only see each other for that split second at sunrise and sunset where they can almost touch,” Skywalker gasped shakily, eyes wet. “But can’t.”
“Always together,” Mitaka said, a swell of pity bubbling up inside him as he considered the proud, strange knight that saved his life and the man who slept just beyond. “Eternally apart.”
“I have studied for the better part of six years to find a way to break their curse.” Skywalker said. “I was beginning to give up hope but I think there is a way.”
“In eight days time there will be a night without a day, and a day without a night.” Came the reply, “All Kylo and Etienne have to do is face Snoke and get him to look at them in their human forms. Then, the spell will be broken.”
“But,” Mitaka frowned, “Ren is on his way to kill the Bishop, maybe he thinks that will break the curse.”
“No, no he musn’t do that!” cried Skywalker, “If he does that the spell will never be broken, they will be doomed to their half lives forever.”
Mitaka clenched his jaw despite himself, feeling the phenomenally stupid decision settle itself in his mind.
Skywalker inhaled deeply, “You will.”
“It’s not how I planned this week to go but,” he shrugged, looking away, “You’re right. Ren was right. Snoke can’t use dark magic like that and get away with it. That’s not God’s work.”
Skywalker was quiet as he placed a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“Besides,” Mitaka added, a wry smile pulling at his face. “Ren’s as close to a friend I’ve ever had. If I can persuade him to postpone his revenge on the tiniest chance he can get his life back, then I’ll try.”
The grip on his shoulder tightened briefly and Mitaka cast him a quick look.
“You’ve stumbled into a strange story Dopheld Mitaka.” Skywalker said gravely. “And, like it or not, you are lost in it. The same as the rest of us.”
The monk released Mitaka’s shoulder and stood, bidding him a brief goodnight and muttered something about checking on his patient. Mitaka didn’t move, but stared into the fire as the flames flickered and another melancholic howl echoed through the night.
*slaps Mitaka upside the head.*
Okay, just a few things:
1: I know that the main point of the curse in the movie was the Bishop doing a Frollo and cursing poor Isabeau out of lust and jealously but I didn't really see Snoke lusting after Hux like that to I've simplified it to 'Snoke Is Just A Dick.'
2: I've given Hux the first name Cinaed/Kenneth in my other fics so I decided to give him a different one in this one. I've given him the name 'Etienne' as another nod to Ladyhawke, as Ren's movie counterpart was the knight Etienne Navarre.
Woah, I'm sorry this took so long to update! RL is kicking my ass at the moment.
This chapter includes more awkward action scenes and more Awkward Mitaka Moments. You have been warned.
EDIT: for some reason a large chunk of text kept getting cut out when I uploaded this, I've put it back in but forgive me if you notice anything that looks weird.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The door to Snoke’s chambers opened without ceremony.
Snoke watched Bala Tik stomp into his private space, boots trailing muck onto the polished floor. The man was chewing some sort of root and looking thoroughly unimpressed with the grandeur Snoke had collected for himself here. Snoke reminded himself not to let the man near the silken curtains around the bed.
“You sent for me Your Holiness?” He asked, vowels curling in the way typical of a Northman. Snoke glanced out of the window and the inky night sky before answering.
“I have need of your skills.”
“Your Captain said you needed me to recapture a bird.”
Snoke nodded, placing his hands in front of him, every inch the nobly devout figure he was perceived to be. He noticed with distaste that his fingers looked particularly gnarled in the warm candlelight of the chamber. He needed to have a word with his physician, he was looking withered, old.
“That is what I told her.” He said to Tik, nodding. “I pray you will forgive me for this little deception.”
Tik frowned. Snoke inwardly sighed, lamenting on how people seemed more suspicious with each passing year. He placed the blame fully at Ren’s feet, if he hadn’t turned the prince’s head, Hux wouldn’t have ran and the people would still be accepting Snoke’s word as absolute. Now though, though it was not obvious, Snoke could see people were beginning to doubt.
“I asked Phasma to bring me a hawk,” He admitted to Tik, “But I hear your particular skill is in killing wolves.”
It would be easier to kill Ren, Snoke mused. He couldn’t afford to kill Hux, King Brendol was still demanding a visitation from his younger son and Snoke knew their own frail king could not afford a war with his failing health. While it was a waste to lose such a warrior as Ren in his guard, Snoke knew the two lovers could still ruin his plans. Ren would lash out and fight if Hux were killed, but Prince Hux was the sort of man to harden, Snoke could tell. If Ren was fire – hot and destructive with his emotions – then Hux were ice, and tearing his love away would freeze him entirely. Better a frozen disciple than a burning one.
Tik straightened, raising his chin with a look of pride. “Aye. I’ve skinned hundreds of the things.”
“There’s one particular wolf I need brought down.” Snoke cut in, stalking towards the table and pouring himself a goblet of wine. “A black wolf, monstrous in its size-”
Tik nodded. “I can kill it for you, bring you its skin.”
“You’d need to find the prince first.”
Tik paused, grimy brow furrowed in confusion. “Eh?”
“A prince with red hair and pale eyes. You’ll know him.” Replied Snoke after he’d taken a long slow sip of wine. “He travels by night, only by night. His sun is our moon. His name is Etienne Hux.”
The hunter nodded again, repeating Hux’s name under his breath, clearly committing it to memory.
“Find him and you find the wolf.” Snoke continued, setting his wine back down. “The wolf that…” He trailed off, feeling his own features twist in disgust. “…Loves him.”
A look of incredulity flittered over the hunter’s face but he made no comment, instead dipping in another small bow.
Snoke gestured to the door. “Go. You will be handsomely rewarded when you return.”
The hunter left quickly, his thick boots thudding dully on the polished floors. Snoke watched him go, thinking of where he could best place a black wolfskin in his chambers.
Hux stirred and groaned a little as he woke, beginning to push himself onto his elbows but Mitaka was quick to stop him.
“No, don’t. You’ll open your wound again.”
The prince seemed not to recognise him at first, then his gaze sharpened as Mitaka nervously motioned him to lie back down.
“How long have you been there?” He demanded.
Mitaka shrugged. “A while, you’ve been asleep for a bit. I thought I’d just come in and…um, check.”
“You…were watching me sleep?”
Mitaka cringed, that was not how he wanted to view it. At least he was actually doing something useful whilst Hux had been sleeping, finding an almost clean white nightshirt for the prince to wear and bothering Skywalker for some food. It wasn’t his fault that Hux had woken up once he’d settled back down again.
“When you put it like that it sounds unsavoury.” He protested, ignoring Hux’s amused huff.
Hux settled back down again, studying Mitaka, who felt a little uncomfortable under that pale scrutiny. The urge to squirm was like an itch under his skin.
“What do they call you?” Hux asked.
Mitaka grinned. “Usually? ‘Heyyoustopthief’”
At the exasperated look on Hux’s face, Mitaka stopped grinning quite so widely and instead gave the prince a smaller smile.
“Though if you want a real answer, I’m Dopheld Mitaka. Just Mitaka though, nobody calls me Dopheld unless I’m in trouble.”
“You must get called Dopheld often.”
Mitaka laughed and conceded. Quiet fell back over them as the fire crackled beside Hux. Mitaka strained his ears to hear another wolf howl, though none came.
“You travel with him don’t you?” Hux asked, though his tone of voice indicated that it wasn’t really a question. Mitaka nodded when the prince glanced back at him, trying not to stare too much at the dark spot where the crossbow bolt had been mere hours before. It was strange, to think those pale freckled limbs were feathered wings in the daylight, or that Ren’s haughty stride was now the leaping gait of a wolf as they spoke.
“He saved my life,” he explained, “So I guess that could kind of make us friends. He-He asked me to look after you.”
Hux raised his eyebrow in a gesture Mitaka realised with a weird jolt had become familiar. “He did, did he?”
“Absolutely.” Mitaka insisted, deciding that maybe milking it a bit might make the prince feel a little better. “He told me “Guard this hawk with your life, for he is dearer to me than all the world. Save him, and tell him you and I speak as one, he will listen to you.””
Hux’s other eyebrow went up to join its twin with equal suspicion. “He said that?”
Mitaka nodded again, inwardly cursing the fact he’d clearly gone too far in his impression of Ren. Though after a few seconds the corner of Hux’s mouth twitched upward.
“That’s incredibly melodramatic…sounds like Ren.”
Mitaka hoped his exhalation of relief wasn’t audible as Hux turned away again to stare at the fire. For a while there was no sound except the crackling fire and their steady breathing.
“Will you-” Mitaka began, clearing his throat, “I mean, do you need anything? If you’re going to…change soon?”
Hux regarded him with an even look, no doubt marvelling at Mitaka’s stunning lack of tact.
“No, I have a few hours left.”
“You’ve been asleep. How can you know?”
“I just know.” Came the cool reply.
Mitaka opened his mouth to reply but decided against it, thinking that maybe someone cursed to endure magical sunsets may actually have an authority on this one.
Simply to fill the silence, he told Hux that Ren was on his way. Hux did not look particularly reassured.
“That’s if he hasn’t gotten his foolish arse slaughtered on the way here.”
The prince’s voice had a barely perceptible wobble in it that Mitaka didn’t like. Though the words were almost contemptible, the undercurrent of nervous energy made them far less vicious than perhaps they could have been.
“Give him some credit.” He protested, feeling an absurd need to defend Ren after seeing the knight so distraught earlier. “He’s kept you both alive all this time.”
Hux didn’t answer him, only bringing up a hand to gingerly touch the wound on his shoulder with an expression of one lost in thought.
Mitaka wasn’t sure when he’d dozed off, but he snapped awake to see Hux pushing himself sharply upright as Skywalker burst through the doors.
“Get out of sight!” he hissed at them. Hux scrambled to tug on the tunic Mitaka had found and stood up. Mitaka followed suit, albeit far more groggily.
“What’s wrong?” Hux asked, tone level and commanding in a way that betrayed a royal upbringing. Mitaka imagined very few orders were disobeyed when given in that voice.
“Soldiers. Snoke’s cathedral guard.” Skywalker panted, pushing them towards a rickety staircase partially hidden by hanging cloth.
“What?!” Mitaka spluttered, “How did they find us?”
Ignoring Skywalker’s bark of protest Mitaka lurched towards the door to peer through a crack in the wood. True enough, the tell-tale scarlet capes billowed out behind a handful of men. Squinting, Mitaka could just make out their leader’s face, it wasn’t helmeted, but the nose and frown were the same. It was the soldier Mitaka had thrown a rock at before, causing Hux to be hurt in flight.
“He came from the fight.” He breathed.
“You mean you led him here.” Hux growled accusingly, grabbing a small knife from the plate of discarded food. Mitaka turned to him with wide eyes.
“Excuse me, he wasn’t conscious when I left!” he squeaked.
Hux blanched. “Kylo…”
“Regardless,” Skywalker muttered, flinching a little as a loud thud rang out whilst the soldiers hammered on the door. “You need to hide."
Mitaka didn’t need telling twice. Grabbing Hux’s hand he pulled the prince towards the staircase, ignoring both the soldier’s muffled shouting and Hux’s initial attempt to wrest his arm free. If he was going to get walloped for daring to put his dirty peasant hands on a prince, it could wait until they were out of immediate danger.
A quick tug of the cloth as they passed obscured the staircase from view, though the loud the thundering of the main door continued. Straining his ears, Mitaka heard Skywalker telling the men to wait a moment, that he wasn’t as sprightly as he once was and to be patient. He continued pulling Hux up the stairs, the stale must of the abandoned filling his lungs as he panted.
“Let go of me!” Hux snapped, finally ripping his wrist free of Mitaka’s panicked grip. “It’s me they’re after.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Mitaka shot back, adrenaline making him bold. Hux looked taken aback for a mere split second before his features settled themselves back into cold determination. He adjusted his grip on the tiny dagger.
“Keep moving then.” He urged, practically pushing Mitaka forward a few steps.
Once they reached the top of the stairs, Mitaka paused. A small wooden trapdoor hung just above them. The sounds of crashing echoed up from the bottom of the stairs and heavy footfalls began to reach them at a worrying pace.
“Stay there.” Hux whispered, suddenly disappearing into a small dark space where the stairs began to curve. Before Mitaka could ask the prince just where in the everloving fuck he was going, a soldier came barging up in front of him.
“Oi!” The soldier shouted, spotting Mitaka, who was just stood in plain sight on the stairs. Mitaka stumbled back a bit, a million and one images of his own untimely demise rushing into his mind. A frightened cry died halfway in his throat as the soldier, came bearing down on him-
Except a whirl of white leapt of the corner of his eye as Hux jumped out of his hiding place and sank the dagger – fine as a needle – into the soldier’s jugular. The soldier barely made a sound as he weakly clawed at his own pierced skin, the metallic stench of blood clouding the already unpleasant air. The move was expertly done; a swift murder with a grace unlike any fighting Mitaka had seen Ren do.
As the unfortunate man’s breath stopped and his movements stilled Hux hastily made the sign of the cross, muttering some Latin phrase under his breath.
“There will be more.” He said, seemingly unperturbed by the body at his feet. “We need to get through that trapdoor.”
“R-Right.” Mitaka weakly agreed. “What about Father Luke?”
“I wouldn’t worry about him.” Hux said lightly, flashing Mitaka a blade sharp smile as he stepped over the body. “He’s a tough old bastard. Worry about us first.”
It took them a few attempts, but finally the two of them pushed the door open and climbed out. Now they were outside Mitaka’s insides gave a little lurch, not only at the sudden highness of the narrow turret they found themselves on (Mitaka had been in higher places, but the sight always gave him a little thrill of fear) but with the realisation that it wasn’t as dark as he’d assumed it was.
Dawn was not far off.
The turret was not wide enough for any sort of fighting. Hell, there was barely enough elbow room for them just standing there. One wrong move and one of them could go tumbling past the low crumbling walls, right off onto the stones below.
What had Skywalker been thinking? They were sitting ducks up here!
Risking a glance at Hux Mitaka saw a new dark stain spreading across Hux’s shoulder. The wound had opened again during their run. Hux gave Mitaka a look that just screamed how utterly frustrated yet unsurprised he was. Mitaka saw the moment Hux realised the sun would be up soon as the prince gazed out at the horizon for a second or two.
“Sorry I missed you.” Hux breathed softly; there was no answering howl.
They were broken out of their brief reverie by the trapdoor rattling. The wood opened up a few inches for Mitaka to catch a flash of red.
“We know you’re up there!” came a harsh shout.
Without thinking, Mitaka jumped forward and landed with his full weight upon the trapdoor, slamming it shut on the soldier’s face if the muffled curse was to be believed. Grabbing a loose stone from the turret wall, Mitaka dropped it in front of him, hoping the extra weight would buy them some time.
“This is nothow I wanted this week to go!” Mitaka all but screeched at the wood, fingers desperately clawed in the effort to keep the soldiers down. This wasn’t good he needed to think-
The tip of a sword’s blade was thrust up between the slats of the wood, skimming the side of Mitaka’s hand with a flash of pain. With a yelp Mitaka startled back, forgetting for a moment how small the turret was. He collided hard with Hux who had no real wall behind him to support his weight, and the momentum caused the prince to fall backwards with a startled cry.
Mitaka whirled around and practically threw himself flat onto his stomach, heart in his mouth. Hux had managed to grab a stone jutting out from the wall and was dangling in the free air, his face drained white with fear.
“Oh God!” Mitaka cried, stretching out one hand. “Give me your hand!”
With a great amount of effort, Hux managed to heave himself upwards a little to shoot one hand out to Mitaka before gravity threatened to drop him again. Mitaka gripped the hand so tight it must have been painful. The extra weight made the stones dig painfully into Mitaka’s torso and armpits, and his muscles cried out in protest at holding onto Hux.
“Hold on!” He called down to Hux, whose eyes were as round as bowls. Sweat made their hands slippery.
“I’m trying!” Hux shouted back. With as much care as he could manage, Mitaka tried to shuffle backwards to pull Hux up and Hux tried to do the same, but their positions were wrong. Mitaka’s heart hammered fast – too fast – as he felt Hux’s fingers begin to slip from his.
“Hux!” he screamed.
It was no use, everything felt cold as Mitaka could only watch in horror as Hux’s pale fingers slipped ever more from his shaking grip. With a shout of fear, Hux fell downwards. Mintaka screwed his eyes shut, unable to watch as Hux tumbled in the strengthening light -
The strengthening sunlight.
Eyes snapping back open Mitaka stared down as an empty white tunic fluttered gently towards the ground. The sharp cry of a hawk rang out through the valley and Mitaka let out a bark of relieved laughter. The bird was fine, Hux was fine!
With a dull crashing sound the trapdoor behind him opened as he scrambled back onto his knees. A rough hand grabbed his shoulder.
“Where’s the other one?” The soldier growled.
“He…He flew away…” Mitaka gasped, scanning the watery morning sky.
Not satisfied with Mitaka’s seemingly nonsensical answer, the guard raised his sword threateningly. “I said, where’s the other one?”
“God’s truth,” Mitaka cried, covering his head with his arms, “He flew away!”
The blow of the blade never came. The soldier let out a strangled yell as the telltale sound of a crossbow bolt whizzed through the air. Mitaka looked up in bewilderment as the soldier toppled off the turret, the deadly bolt sticking out of the centre of his chest. Mitaka sprang upwards, squinting at the direction the bolt came from.
Sure enough, stood upon a boulder stood Ren, crossbow held aloft. A greying shirt and ill- fitting breeches looked like he’d haphazardly thrown them on once he transformed. Where had he even gotten those?
Ren gave him a solemn nod that Mitaka shakily returned as the red hawk fluttered down to settle on Ren’s shoulder with a familiar cry.
Ren was adjusting the saddle straps on Vader when Mitaka finally made his way down to him after helping Skywalker pile up the soldier’s bodies to be burned. He’d left Skywalker to his prayers and walked to the knight, now dressed in his full armour.
Ren didn’t look at him. “So, you know?”
It didn’t take a genius to guess at what Ren was referring to. “Yes.”
“You understand why I didn’t tell you sooner?” Ren asked, his voice as tense as the set of his shoulders. “I-I couldn’t trust you yet-”
Mitaka nodded, though Ren couldn’t see it. “Do you trust me now?”
Only then did Ren turn to face him, staring at Mitaka with a burning intensity that gave Mitaka the feeling that, like Hux, Ren could see straight into someone’s mind.
“Yes,” was the knight’s sure reply. “You kept him safe. There is no debt I can owe you greater than that.”
Mitaka frowned, “I don’t want your debt.”
Ren frowned back in confusion as Mitaka swallowed the last of his nerves and took a few steps forward, extending his hand.
“I’ll take your friendship though.”
Ren’s confused expression cleared and the hints of a shy smile twitched at his lips. The knight took a step of his own and tightly grasped Mitaka’s outstretched hand with his own.
Mitaka grinned back as the crunch of footsteps reached them. Ren’s face clouded over once more with the scowl as he glanced over Mitaka’s shoulder, letting go of his hand.
“Nephew-” Skywalker began sadly.
Ren turned his back on them once more and began to angrily fidget with Vader’s saddlebags. “Save your speeches Uncle.”
“I know you’re still angry.” Skywalker sighed, walking forwards. “You have a right to be, but I’ve spent all this time searching for an answer for you and Etienne, a way to break the curse!”
“There is only one way to break it!” Ren spat, turning around to glare at his uncle. “And that way is Snoke’s head on a pike.”
“No you fool. Listen to me. In a weeks time there will be a night without a day and a day without a night-”
“Riddles.” Ren growled.
Mitaka glanced between the two of them nervously as Skywalker wrung his hands together in exasperation in a way that made Mitaka feel a bit sorry for him.
“I have written to your mother for help.”
“My mother had nothing to do with this when it started, she will not be involved now. I must finish this on my own.” Ren insisted.
“Stop your thick-headed stubbornness for once Nephew! I have prayed for absolution these past six years and now God has shown me the way to help you. He has forgiven me! You just stand in front of the Bishop – you and Etienne both – as human beings during that time.”
Mitaka was still puzzled as to how there could be a day without night but didn’t think asking for elaboration on the subject would diffuse the tension swimming between the two men. Finally Ren shook his head with an expression that seemed to be a mixture of repulsion and pity.
“God has not forgiven you Uncle.” He sneered. “He’s just made you mad.”
Without a word the knight stormed off with Vader, his steps echoing around the empty yard.
“I should probably-” Mitaka gestured after Ren. Skywalker’s shoulder slumped in resignation.
“Of course. See if you can convince him on your travels. He can’t kill Snoke, he must be made to realise this.”
“I’ll, I’ll try.” Mitaka promised quietly, Skywalker clapped him encouragingly on the shoulder.
“Thank you.” He sighed again, glancing back at the rising column of smoke from the soldier’s hurried cremations. “I need to clean that up anyway. May we meet again Dopheld.”
Mitaka nodded again as the monk made his way back into his sanctuary of the abandoned monastery. Mitaka found himself wondering if Rey and Finn had known about the curse or if Skwalker had borne the weight of it alone.
When he caught up to Ren the hawk was settled on the knights arm as Ren stroked the feathered chest with his forefinger, murmuring things to it that Mitaka couldn’t hear.
Ren heard him approach and turned to him. “As our friend, you’re no longer obligated to follow me.” He said softly. “You’re free to leave.”
Mitaka held his arms behind his back innocently. “Yessir.”
“Do as you like.”
Ren narrowed his eyes. “Skywalker can give you his donkey if you need it. He’s called it Yoda I think, strange thing.”
Mitaka inclined his head but didn’t move. “Are you really heading back to the Finalizer then?”
Ren nodded curtly, glancing at the hawk on his arm. “I am.”
“Well then,” Mitaka said breezily. “It just so happens I’m heading that way myself. You’re more than welcome to join me.”
The hawk chirped and flapped its wings, Mitaka smiled at it as Ren smirked.
“How kind of you.”
Mitaka grinned and gestured to the hawk. “Will our Hawk Prince be joining us?”
“Hawk Prince?” Ren asked, amused. Mitaka cringed and took the Vader’s reins, leading the horse gently to the gate.
“Don’t tell him I called him that.”
Ren watched him and the horse for a short moment before turning back to the hawk with an unbearably fond look on his face, feeling a warm sensation in his chest as the bird nuzzled closer to his open hand.
“Hawk Prince.” He repeated thoughtfully, smiling as he did so and began to follow his friend.
As always, comments are much appreciated!! :D
Come say hi and be trash with me at tumblr: Burgersandtrenchcoats ^^
Quite a long-ish chapter today, hope you enjoy!
There's a reference to "The Last Unicorn" in this, though I've tweaked it a bit.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The sun had reached its zenith, though it was not warm enough to melt away the pockets of frost and ice that were beginning to gather amongst the grasses and rocks. Mitaka was glad of the shoes Finn had given him, they were worn and a little on the small side but at least he could feel his toes. Their breath made white clouds in the air before them.
They had found Mitaka a pony to ride, having spotted it being tugged along by a traveller. Ren had paid the man handsomely and the man was more than happy to release his plodding companion to Mitaka’s hands. Mitaka was grateful for the animal, his legs had done a lot of walking lately, and they weren’t sure they liked it.
Ren had been mostly silent for their ride. When he’d deemed it an appropriate time to broach the subject, Mitaka opened his mouth to speak;
“But if you could face the Bishop…as men I mean-”
“You will not mention that again.” Ren snapped, looking up to where the hawk was circling. His voice sounded a little rough. “Not to me, not to him. Do you understand?”
The hawk dove sharply downwards, no doubt to end the life of some poor unfortunate rodent in the high grass. Mitaka frowned.
“No I don’t understand. If there was the slightest chance you could break the curse that way, why not just try?”
“Don’t let some the riddles of some soft old man fill your head Mitaka! His so-called answer was nonsense and you know it.”
“But if it wasn’t? You’d keep Hux in the dark about it?”
Ren whirled his horse around to cut across Mitaka’s path, his dark eyes flashing.
“Do you think I wish to keep secrets from him? Believe me if there was another way – which I highly doubt – I’d make sure he knew. But this night without day? That’s an impossible thing…false hope.”
Ren closed his eyes briefly, the hand gripping the reins shaking minutely.
“I can’t….I can’t burden him with false hope. I have no wish to be cruel.”
Mitaka thought for a moment, weighing Ren’s words before giving the hawk another glance as it soared from its kill. He reached out to touch a placating hand on Ren’s arm.
“False hope is bitter,” he began, measuring each word before saying them, “But it’s better than having no hope at all.”
Ren looked at him for a long time but did not answer.
Luke Skywalker slung his bag of supplies over his shoulder and made his way slowly down to where his faithful donkey Yoda was chewing idly at what grass was left untouched by the frosts. The animal brayed at him as he slipped the reins over its head.
“C’mon.” Luke encouraged, tugging the reins to get Yoda moving, “We don’t have much time.”
Once he’d lashed the donkey securely to his dilapidated cart Luke hopped up to steer Yoda out of the monastery’s courtyard for the first time in nearly six years. Yoda was old, slow, but they began to meander across the fields after his nephew.
“I’m going to make this right.” He promised aloud, to nobody in particular.
Ren watched the hawk soar through the air, the weak sun glinting off the red feathers. Knowing that the nights were getting colder again worried him. He always worried in the winter. He tried to light fires or find shelter in time, but knowing Hux would be alone with nothing but the dark and the cold always left him with a sense of dread. While he knew his prince wasn’t exactly a wilting flower in a fight, there was always the lingering fear someone bigger and meaner would come along.
He gathered food whenever he could too; the hawk didn’t exactly eat enough to keep the man going. As a wolf he ate plenty hunting on rabbits and stoats but Hux was essentially living off mice. He’d once joked that Hux ate like a bird at banquets, picking at the bread and fruits. He regretted that now, and not getting Hux into the habit of eating more when he had the chance.
The fact Mitaka was now there made him feel a little better. There wasn’t so large a chance of Hux freezing to death or starving if someone was nearby. The thief seemed as worried for Hux’s health as Ren was, stealing a tunic and breeches from a merchant’s stall while the owner’s back was turned.
“What?” He’d asked when Ren had raised a chiding eyebrow, “No offense M’Lord, but your clothes swamp him, he looks like a child.”
Even as Ren felt his heart twist at the image Mitaka settled down on the ground in front of where Ren was sat.
“Does it hurt?”
Ren blinked at him, about to respond that yes it did, but realised that might not have been what the man was referring to.
Mitaka looked away, a look of embarrassment on his face. Trailing a finger in the dirt Mitaka glanced sidelong at him. “When you change?”
Ren considered the question, thinking back to when they’d first realised what Snoke had done.
They’d been climbing a hill, exhausted but pushing themselves onwards. Ren was in front, clinging to Hux’s hand and all but dragging the prince as they neared the crest of the hill. He hadn’t even been looking at Hux as the first golden rays of sunlight began to peek over the horizons.
The air had seemed to still, growing heavy despite the mild spring weather. Something was wrong; Ren could sense it in his bones.
Hux had ripped his hand from Ren’s, doubling over with a gasp of pain. Ren had immediately known then, that Snoke had done something not of nature. He’d watched helplessly as Hux continued to fold in over on himself. Desperately trying to keep a hold on his beloved Ren found he couldn’t see, the sun was far too bright and burning. Hux had screamed at that moment, but it faded into something animalistic, birdlike…
Ren snapped back into the present to see Mitaka’s dark eyes wide with concern. He cleared his throat.
“It did at first.” He said, relieved that his voice didn’t crack as he assumed it would have done. He only half-remembered his own first transformation, darkness and savage animal instincts. What he did remember, however, was coming back to himself and catching a glimpse of Hux’s frightened face as the gentle dawn light burned the image of his prince away to leave a hawk behind. “Not so much anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” Mitaka sighed, drawing his knees up to his chest. “I know it doesn’t mean much, but I am.”
“It’s alright.” Ren replied gently.
Neither said anything for a long time, each lost in his own thoughts. It was only when the hawk landed with a soft thump on Ren’s knee and ruffled his feathers that Ren noticed that it had begun to rain.
“You’re sure?” Mitaka asked for the seventh time, gripping the hilt of Ren’s sword tightly. The knight laughed lowly.
“If you ask me again I’m going to run you through with it.” He replied in a teasing tone. “I’d sooner leave it with you then leave it lying around.”
Mitaka was still suspicious. “You’d trust a thief to guard your treasure?”
“I’d trust a friend.”
A little swell of pride bubbled up in Mitaka’s chest and he adjusted his grip on the sword. The hawk was perched peacefully on the stable partition, its hood snug around its eyes. They found the small village a few hours ago and found a stable that Mitaka and Hux could sleep in. It was warmer than most and dry, so Mitaka couldn’t really complain.
“Just remember how priceless this treasure is.” Ren said, mock-seriously as he gently loosened the jesses on the hawk and slipped the hood off. Mitaka raised an eyebrow.
“Are we still talking about the sword?”
A quirk of Ren’s lips was neither confirmation nor denial, but Mitaka loosened his grip a little on the sword regardless.
“Will you be alright?” He asked.
“I’ll go into the woods before sundown don’t you worry.”
“I’m not worried! Well, I mean, I am, but I meant about hunters?”
Ren shrugged. “I’ve outrun hunters before. Just hunker down here and let me worry about me.”
Mitaka sighed but didn’t argue.
A few hours passed after Ren left and what started as a light winter drizzle had turned into a full blown downpour; hammering on the roof and streaming into the streets, the torchlight from the nearby inn making it glisten amber in the dark.
Mitaka shivered pulled his arms tighter around his torso, having decided to politely wait outside for Hux to change into the clothes he’d laid out for him. When a short while had passed he timidly pushed the stable door back open, “Your Highness?”
At first glance the stable looked empty save for Vader and Ren’s sword propped against a heap of hay. Before Mitaka could work himself into a proper fright, the familiar shock of red hair came into view as Hux popped his head around the partition, shoulders slumping in relief when he recognised Mitaka.
“Hello.” Mitaka waved cheerfully.
Hux stood up fully and stepped out. The tunic Mitaka had pilfered for him was a soft lilac in colour with a brown belt, far more luxurious than Mitaka could ever afford, but he felt maybe Hux might like clothes that weren’t worn by a sweaty knight less than an hour previously. The breeches came just past his knees and were of a same good quality, though Finn’s other pair of boots were more worn. Despite the fact the tunic still hung a little loosely off his frame, he looked better than he had in just Ren’s cloak.
As if he could read Mitaka’s mind, Hux held out a little corner of the tunic’s hem to indicate the entire thing, “You?”
When Mitaka nodded in confirmation, he nodded back. “Thank you.”
After reaching out to Vader and giving the animal a friendly stroke down the flank Hux looked at Mitaka. “He’s taking us back to Snoke isn’t he?”
Mitaka nodded again. “He is.”
“Fuck.” Hux growled, running a hand through his hair, causing it to stick out at odd angles. “He’s going to get us all killed.”
“He believes killing Snoke will break the curse upon you.” Mitaka explained, shuffling closer. “He swears he’s going to make things right for the both of you. He told me to tell you that he swears that you’ll know such happiness that most people only dream of.”
Ren had said no such thing. What he’d actually said was a gruff take care of him , but Mitaka’s version was much more romantic. Hux gave him a strange look but didn’t question Ren’s supposed declaration.
“But I think he’s wrong.”
Hux’s head snapped up properly to stare at Mitaka. “Wrong?”
“I’ve been talking with Father Luke,” Mitaka said conspiratorially, shuffling some of the hay around with his foot. “He’s been searching for a way to properly break Snoke’s magic for good, without killing him.”
“Has he now?” Hux muttered darkly, “After he got us into this-? No, it can’t be. Snoke has to be destroyed!”
“I know! I know…” Mitaka hushed him reassuringly, “But killing him won’t kill the curse. Killing him will just make it permanent.”
The prince frowned as he took in Mitaka’s words. “That can’t be true.”
Mitaka inwardly groaned, of course both lovers would be stubborn as schoolboys. “Listen to me, Skywalker says that in a weeks’ time there will a day without night and a night without day-”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I…I don’t know.” Admitted Mitaka.
Hux rolled his eyes sarcastically. “Great.”
“I know how it sounds.” Mitaka protested, holding his hands up innocently. “But isn’t it worth taking a chance?”
Hux inhaled sharply, closing his eyes for a moment. “I think you’re crazy, but if Ren gets us to Snoke on time and it does work…”
“Then I have every right to dance around and chant “I was right.”
A startled huff of laughter broke Hux’s stern musing. Mitaka felt that maybe he should talk of lighter things; he had six more nights to convince them to try Skywalker’s way.
“There’s a tavern near here.” He suggested. “Just down the road.” He added when Hux looked at him incredulously.
“Are you suggesting we go to a tavern?”
Hux smirked a little. “All sorts of cheap ale and unsavoury patrons?”
“But of course.”
Hux smiled. A real, actual, delighted smile that somehow made his face about five years younger. Mitaka couldn’t help but grin back at him.
Hux’s grin faltered a little, which for some reason Mitaka found ridiculous. “Don’t tell me you’ve never been dancing?!”
“I have,” Hux said a trifle defensively, “But that was in my father’s halls, not with…I mean, not with-”
Mitaka clucked his tongue in understanding. “With peasants.”
At least the prince had the sense to look a little abashed, clenching his jaw and dropping his gaze a bit. Mitaka felt another twinge of pity; when was the last time Hux danced? When was the last time Hux had done anything in the company of others?
“Well, it’s just the same, but louder.”
“Look, I’ll show you.”
And, thoroughly making a fool of himself, Mitaka hummed a few tuneless bars and hopped about in a shambling version of a dance he’d seen before he went to prison. The quiet sound of Hux’s snort when he finished in a lopsided bow causing him to chuckle at himself too.
“Alright. I haven’t been to a tavern before; it’ll be a learning curve.”
Mitaka grinned again and went to pick Ren’s discarded cloak and sword. Hux glanced at it with an amused expression.
“Planning on being my gallant protector too?”
“Your Highness you deserve the services of a great warrior…unfortunately you’ll have to make do with a second-rate pickpocket. Truth is-” Mitaka paused to heave the cloak over both their heads as protection from the rain outside, “-Ren’ll kill me if I lose it.”
They walked outside together, pushing open the door. The rain fell in a heavy curtain on them and they had their heads bowed, so neither had any clue what was in front of them.
They bumped into it soon enough though, a horse’s side with something wet and soft slung over it. Mitaka raised his head and saw a hunter upon a horse looking at them with disdain.
Looking back at the horse’s side Mitaka gasped. It was the dark skins of a recently slaughtered wolf.
The sharp cold shock of the sight was nothing compared to the wordless shout of rage and pain Hux let out. His hands shook violently as he made an aborted attempt to touch the furs. Mitaka gaped, ignoring the hunter’s disgusted face as he stared at the skin. No, Ren couldn’t be dead…
The torchlight from a nearby building threw the skin into sharper focus; water droplets hung fat of the gristly hairs of the deep russet red…
Wait, russet red?
“I-It’s not him!” He cried, grasping at Hux’s trembling hands. “Calm yourself it’s not him Hux. Hux? Etienne!”
“Etienne?” The hunter piped up from under his heavy hood, accent heavy with that of a Northmen. The man’s face slipped into a greasy leer. “Etienne…”
“Get inside, now!” Mitaka shouted, shoving Hux back inside the stable with more force than was strictly necessary before hefting up Ren’s broadsword at the stranger.
“Get away, leave us alone!” He shouted up at the hunter with much more authority than he felt. “Go away!”
“Easy little man,” The Northman drawled sarcastically, his expression one of mocking apprehensiveness, “You’re frightening me.”
“Did you not hear me? I said get away!” Mitaka repeated, wiggling the blade of the sword ominously enough to worry the hunter’s horse which began to back away.
“I’m going.” The hunter laughed, his voice loud enough to carry. “Name’s Bala Tik if you need a hunter, and tell your hysterical Etienne not to worry. I’m off wolf hunting.”
Mitaka flinched, knowing Hux would have heard that. He kept Ren’s sword raised until the hunter went back off into the woods before dropping it with a sharp exhalation. The sound of hooves caught his attention, and he suddenly remembered he’d pushed Hux – an upset, angry Hux – in a stable that happened to have a horse in it.
The stable door burst open and Mitaka barely had time to leap out of the way before Vader galloped out with Hux astride him.
“No, wait, Hux!” Mitaka called but it was no use, Hux had ridden off after the hunter.
“Oh for the love of-” he grumbled, pushing himself out of his sprawled position and began to follow them at a run.
The rain on the leaves created a cacophony of drumming but Hux barely heard it. All that mattered was the heartbeat in his ears.
He gripped the small dagger he’d taken from Skywalker tightly as he left Vader and picked his way through the forest. The hunter was here. Ren was here. If the Northman got Ren, then Hux would damned well make sure he’d pay with his life.
He strained to hear the tell-tale howl of a wolf nearby but could hear nothing. He tried willing his pulse to steady but it was no use; the rain beat down and there was a heady scent of danger mixed with the wet earth.
Thunder began to rumble in the distance, startling a nesting bird into flight. Hux whirled around as the noise made him jump. There was no sign of any living thing except himself though he didn’t let the tension leave him, instead keeping himself coiled and ready for a fight.
A crack of lightning soon followed, illuminating something in the undergrowth that caught Hux’s eye and made his blood run cold. Cruel metal teeth poked up innocently, leaves hiding the deadly spring from view. A bear-trap.
Picking up a small rock Hux threw it at the centre of the trap, releasing the spring so the teeth clashed together in a cruel bite. Satisfied there was no danger of it catching Ren, he kept his eyes on the undergrowth as he stalked on, every now and again throwing another rock to activate them before they did any real damage.
Footsteps echoed around him and he whipped his head around trying to locate the source. It could be the hunter, it could be Mitaka…
“Show yourself, you fucking coward!” He cried, crouching into a fighting stance he’d learned from Ren when they’d both been whole and human.
Leaves behind him parted as the hunter – Bala Tik – came towards him, an axe hanging casually in his hand. Hux tried to keep one eye on the axe but noticed a freshly placed trap nearby, one he couldn’t get to with the other in the way.
Hux opened his mouth to fling some insult when a growling came from the bushes. A quick blaze of relief flooded through Hux before heavy realisation crashed over him like waves.
Oh, stupid, stupid! Snoke had sent Tik to kill Ren, and had told the man how best to draw out the wolf the same way some had tried to catch the hawk: Threaten the human being it followed.
Still, Hux couldn’t help but smile a little when he took in the black fur and savage yellow eyes. “Kylo?”
“The black wolf…” Tik murmured lifting the axe. The wolf snarled at the newcomer, its hot breath steaming in the wet air as its hackles raised in a threat display.
Tik began to walk forward but Hux got there first.
Shoving the hunter with all his strength Hux caused the man to fall headlong into the undergrowth, right into the trap.
The sickening spring of the trap was dull compared to the high screaming of Tik as the steel teeth pierced the soft skin of his throat. The man struggled to pull his throat out of the trap with blood soaked hands as his scream became more of a gurgling groan. Hux watched impassively as the iron heavy stench of blood filled his senses as the body of Bala Tik twitched and fell still.
“Kylo…” He said again, adrenaline making him shake as he fell to his knees on the drenched soil. The wolf came forward, ears flat and a soft whine low in its throat.
“I’m alright…you’re alright…” He whispered, burying his face into the soaking fur. The wolf whined again.
They stayed like that until Mitaka found them.
Hope you guys enjoyed this ^^
Hey, notice Mitaka's getting a little braver? I know, it surprised me too.
Sorry guys this chapter is a little more dialogue heavy, but there is a little action so hopefully you lovely lot won't be too bored ^^
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Mitaka awoke to the crackling of a fire, the smell of cooking meat enticing and welcome. He cracked open one eye to see Ren crouched nearby, poking at the meat with a stick with a curtain of dark hair falling across his face.
“Good morning.” Ren said without looking up, “Hope you enjoy rabbit.”
Mitaka pushed himself upright and rubbed at one eye, suppressing a yawn. He was back in the stable, Ren’s cloak spread out to dry from last night’s rain. The memories of last night were still fresh in his mind. He’d found Hux and the wolf clinging to each other on the floor, the bloodied corpse of the hunter Tik only a few steps away. The wolf had growled at him when he approached and Mitaka had hung back a little as the prince hushed the creature. When the wolf had deemed that Mitaka was no threat it had backed off to let Mitaka slowly approach to drape the cloak on Hux’s shivering frame and quietly draw him back into the warmth and safety of the stable. They’d spent most of the night in silence, Hux speaking only once to thank him.
Ren also didn’t speak much as they ate, choosing instead to sharpen his sword with a whetstone. Mitaka gathered up their things and they made their way through the forest again, Mitaka subtly guiding Vader through a path that let them avoid stumbling across the remains of Tik, not wanting to let Ren know how upset and reckless Hux had been last night after Ren had entrusted the prince’s wellbeing to him.
“You seem quiet.” Observed Ren as they stopped by a small stream. Mitaka splashed his face with the ice cold water, shivering a little as it dripped down his neck.
“It’s not like you.” There was a small note of teasing in Ren’s voice. “No silly questions today?”
Mitaka’s answer was cut off by the screech of the hawk. Ren’s face lit up as it flew through the trees towards them. The knight held his arm up but the bird flew right past him.
Straight at Mitaka.
With a small yelp Mitaka raised an arm to protect his face from the hawk’s claws and fell back a few stumbling steps as the heavy, unfamiliar weight of the hawk as it landed on his forearm instead.
There was a shocked silence as Mitaka stared at the bird then stared at Ren, whose outstretched arm was still aloft with a look of surprise on his face.
“Umm…” Mitaka said, focusing on the bird and not on the bewildered knight. “N-no, not me, s-silly bird. Him.” He indicated Ren with a shaky motion of the arm though the hawk stubbornly stayed put. “Go to him….go on go to him!”
Ren continued to stare at him and his arm slowly lowered though his expression hadn’t changed. The knight blinked and Mitaka heard his breath escape him in an awkward, aborted attempt at laughter.
“No he’s over there! There…g-go to your gallant knight…” He tried again weakly, thrusting his arm out a few more times. The hawk squawked in offence as Mitaka refused to keep his arm still. Feeling that perhaps he needed to be a bit bolder, Mitaka raised his voice and jerked his arm a little more forcefully.
“Fly!” He ordered in a dramatic tone, looking everywhere but Ren, “Fly, Fly to the one you love!”
The stupid bloody bird still didn’t move. Chancing a glance at the knight he saw Ren, now with both arms by his sides, frowning at him.
“What happened last night?” Ren demanded.
Ren glared, indicating the hawk with an irritable jerk of his chin. Mitaka swallowed.
“We…we just ran into a bit of bother on our way to the tavern, that’s all.”
“Tav-? You…” Ren blinked again with incredulity, “You took a prince to that piss poor alehouse?”
“Um. No. I mean, well, clothes had to be changed first-”
Mitaka blanched. “N-Not together of course! I-”
“You left him alone?” Ren barked angrily, taking a step forward. “Unprotected?”
“What? No, I would never-”
“So you did change together-”
“No!” Mitaka cried desperately, rushing towards to shove the hawk at Ren to stop the knight from merrily leaping to the worst conclusion. “J-Just take him!”
Once the hawk was settled back onto Ren’s forearm Mitaka backed off as Ren brought a possessive hand up to the bird’s head and turning away a little, as a child would to stop its toy getting stolen.
“Look.” Mitaka said, holding his hands up innocently. “He’s handsome…and yes alright I might have had…thoughts…But!” He blabbered hastily when Ren’s expression turned to thunder. “Truth is, all he ever really talks about is you.”
The hawk flapped its wings as Ren looked back down at it, contemplative. Mitaka sighed and brought a hand up to the back of his neck, rubbing it thoughtfully.
“Practically every time I’ve seen him, the first thing he does is ask about you.”
Ren looked back at him, his dark eyes wide and glittering with emotion so intensely that Mitaka found it difficult to look directly at him.
“He loves you more than life Sir.”
Ren made a quiet noise as he ran a finger down the feathered wing of the hawk on his arm, almost a whimper. The proud set of his shoulders slumped a little, as though hearing Mitaka’s words were a great weight on him.
“You know… every second you spend with him, I envy you.” Ren half whispered, his mouth tilting upwards in a bittersweet smirk. A cold draught of wind wafted along the stream, causing Ren’s curls to blow away from his face. He looked tired. “We’ve learned to curse the sun.”
Mitaka wanted to find something to say, but the words never came. With a sad motion of his arm, Ren allowed the hawk to fly off, watching it become a red speck against the sky before turning back to Mitaka.
“Did you know hawks and wolves mate for life?” He asked mournfully, brows drawn together in a frown.
Mitaka shook his head. Ren smiled that bitter smile again and once more lifted his eyes to the sky.
“He left us that at least.”
Snow began to fall not long after and Mitaka found himself bundled in Ren’s cloak as the knight prepared to go into the forest again.
“Try not to freeze to death.” Ren said pleasantly, “Either of you.”
Mitaka poked at the fire Ren had built and threw a few bits of wild thyme he’d found into the simple stew he began. He hoped the herb would be alright, prison food hadn’t exactly left him with a refined palate. He didn’t register Ren carefully placing the hawk on a nearby log until it chirped at him.
“Tell him I love him?” the knight asked plaintively, turning away and striding off before Mitaka could react. He looked at the hawk, which was busy grooming itself with its beak.
“You heard the man.”
The bird, quite naturally, did not reply but carried on with its ablutions. Mitaka rolled his eyes.
“I’ll tell you when you’re….well, human.”
The hawk deigned to spare him a look that Mitaka could only describe as ‘withering’ as he shrugged and threw a bit more thyme into the stew.
“Do you like the stew?”
Hux swallowed another mouthful before answering. “It’s…herby.”
“Exactly how many herbs did you put in this?”
Mitaka shrugged and took another bite of the stew; it tasted earthy on his tongue. There were only a few leftover chunks of rabbit in it, Mitaka having wrapped what was left in a rag after he and Ren had had their fill that morning. Even if it tasted like crap, Hux was polite enough not to outright complain about it, but Mitaka saw the prince wince every now and again.
“I nearly put some kind of weed into it before Ren stopped me.”
“Oh thank the Lord.” Hux muttered sarcastically as he ate another bit of stew.
Mitaka huffed in amusement and returned to his meal. The two of them sat as closer to the fire than normal, their breath making clouds in the freezing night air. Mitaka had spread the cloak over them both as he had the night before, though snowflakes fell about them now instead of rain. Mitaka suspected that within a day or so all the streams and lakes around them would be frozen over.
They were both drawn out of their respective thoughts by the sound of a cart drawing closer in the dark. Both men went incredibly still and Mintaka saw the prince’s hands tighten fractionally on his bowl. The sound of hooves also became clear and Mintaka glanced at Hux, who moved his hand slowly to grip the knife on his hip. The prince glanced at him, his face grim and drawn. He shook his head as either a warning or reassurance, Mintaka wasn’t sure which.
As the cart came closer a voice could be heard, an old man judging by the sound of it.
“Come on Yoda, just a little farther…”
Before putting any thought into the situation whatsoever, Mitaka leapt to his feet and started towards the sound despite Hux’s hissed protest and attempt to grab his arm. Mitaka jogged as an old ramshackle wagon crawled along the leaf strewn path, its driver wrapped in old monk robes.
“Skywalker?” Mitaka gasped. The old man pulled the wagon to a stop as the donkey huffed and puffed, throwing his hood back and laughing when he took in the sight of the shivering Mintaka.
“It seems we meet again young Dopheld.” He chuckled, hopping down from his seat with more energy than Mitaka would have ever given him credit for and wrapped his arms around the thief in a hug. Mitaka patted the monk on the back awkwardly as Hux came forward onto the path.
“Well this is touching.”
Skywalker pulled away from Mitaka and went to clasp Hux around the shoulders, mindful of the prince’s still healing shoulder. Hux smiled thinly.
“What are you doing here, how did you find us?” Mitaka smiled. Skywalker hurried back over to Yoda and unbuckled him, the donkey brayed and went over to flop down by Vader as the horse munched on some nearby grass.
“I knew you were heading back to Snoke,” Skywalker shrugged, “You didn’t have that much of a head start, I’ve been following your tracks, though I lost them after the rains last night.”
Hux hummed in amusement. “Were you just riding through in the hopes you’d find tracks again.”
Skywalker rolled his eyes. “I was….yes. Yes I was.”
Mitaka laughed and motioned Skywalker back to the fire where the monk sat down and helped himself to whatever dregs of stew were left. Hux and Mitaka settle don either side of him.
“Why?” Hux asked once all three were settled. Skywalker wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before answering.
“Dopheld told you of a way to break the curse yes?”
Hux’s gaze flickered to Mitaka briefly. “Yes.”
“You don’t believe it’s possible?”
“I think you’ve been reading too many scrolls in your self-inflicted exile.” Hux snapped, drawing his arms around himself against the cold. “Fairy tales.”
“I-I don’t know if you’ve noticed Your Highness-” Mitaka piped up as Skywalker opened his mouth to defend himself, “But we’re in a pretty fairy tale type situation here.”
“I’m telling you it has merit!” Skywalker argued, completely ignoring Mitaka. Hux continued to look unimpressed. “I have no reason to believe my research has been in vain-”
“Well I mean we’ve got a prince, a knight, creepy forests…” Mitaka continued, more to himself than anyone else, “A magical curse….Snoke could count as an evil wizard right?”
“Right okay, you’re not helping Dopheld.”
“If your so-called research has some weight to it,” Hux cut in coldly, “How, exactly, do you propose we do it? Wander up to Snoke and wait until…what? The magic hour? Please, we’d all be slaughtered before we even had a chance.”
“All I’m proposing is that if we can get the two of you to the cathedral just north of the Finalizer, Snoke will be holding the winter mass there, just in time for the night without day-”
Hux tutted. “Well isn’t that a wonderful coincidence.”
“If you’re only travelling during the day you’ll never get there in time.” Skywalker pressed on, “we only have a few more days.”
Mitaka frowned. “What do you mean?”
Skywalker turned back to him. “I mean, should we travel by night as well as day, we’ll get there in time to confront Snoke.”
“Ren will never agree to it.” Hux said.
“He doesn’t need to.” Skywalker declared, waving his wooden hand. “If we can somehow cage the wolf-”
“No.” Hux hissed angrily. “Absolutely not, he’s not some animal you can trap-”
Skywalker held his hands up, a placating gesture. “Peace Etienne. I only meant that if we could get the wolf to follow us…”
“He’d follow you.” Mitaka concluded, realising where Skywalker was getting at.
The monk sighed as Hux continued to glare at them suspiciously, his hands gripping the material of his breeches so hard his knuckles were turning white. The prince’s gaze flickered back and forth between them, as though reading secret messages from their faces that they themselves didn’t know they were sharing. There was a look of not quite panic, but definitely a look akin to a cornered animal in Hux’s eyes. Mitaka could sympathise. If he were cursed the way Hux was he’d doubt he’d be convinced by a pickpocket and an old monk either.
“Hux,” he said gently, catching Hux’s eye, “There’s a real chance for you to be free.”
The prince huffed and looked away, circling a finger absentmindedly in the dirty snow. He hadn’t turned away quick enough for Mitaka to miss the glint of tears.
“Free…” Hux breathed, not looking at either of them. Mitaka exchanged a worried glance with Skywalker as Hux’s shoulders hunched; the prince seemed to curl in on himself for a moment before straightening and drawing a deep breath.
“And if you’re wrong?” He asked, his voice wavering slightly. Skywalker placed a tentative hand Hux’s shoulder.
“If I am, then what happens after is entirely in my nephew’s hands. I need both of you there.”
“Are you going to tell Kylo of this plan? You can’t just…not tell him! He’s clever, he’ll notice if he wakes up somewhere completely different-”
“Let us worry about my nephew.” Skywalker assured him, squeezing his shoulder to give him some semblance of comfort.
Mitaka nodded at Hux encouragingly, hoping that Hux would place some trust in him, in them all. Hux’s face contorted a little as he grappled with his decision. The fire crackled loudly as snow continued to fall softly around them, the flames matching the colour of Hux’s hair. Clenching his jaw, the prince stood up.
“Alright.” He said, staring at the flames. “Alright we’ll try it your way. When do we start?”
“This is a stupid idea mind you,” Hux mumbled, glancing at Skywalker. “Utter madness. I pray you’re right.”
Skywalker stood and Mitaka followed suit. “So do I Your Highness.”
When they’d found a spot suitable to attempt their wolf capture Mitaka realised he was more right than he’d thought. The nearby lake had indeed frozen over, the icy surface tinged blue in the moonlight.
Their plan was relatively simple; Mitaka and Skywalker were to dig a pit large enough for a wolf to fall into as Hux drew the wolf out. When Hux lead the wolf into the trap they could begin work on fashioning some sort of cage on the back of Skywalker’s wagon. The pit was simply to stop the wolf from running off as they worked. Hux had found some sturdy branches for them to use as struts as they began to dig using shovels and hoes Skywalker had brought from his garden.
“Stop elbowing me!” Skywalker complained as Mitaka tugged at his shovel to dislodge a particularly stubborn clump of earth. The monk wheezed a little as he got up from his half bent position.
“Tell me Father,” Mitaka began pleasantly, “When you kneel before the altar, how long does God have to watch you try to get up again?”
“Why you blasphemous little-”
“Shut it. Both of you.” Hux snapped, glancing over his shoulder at them from his position at the edge of the lake. Ren’s cloak was wrapped around him and fashioned into a hood, the same way it had been when Mitaka had met him for the first time. His skin seemed almost unnaturally pale in the moonlight, and Mitaka could see dark half circles below his eyes. “Is it done?”
“Nearly.” Mitaka said, pulling Skywalker out of the pit by the hand and dragging some leafy branches over the top to obscure the hole from view. “We just need to wait.”
“We’ve no time to wait.” Hux said in an undertone before pulling the hood down to reveal his copper hair before shouting out across the frozen expanse of the lake.
“Kylo!” Hux called, his voice echoing.
For several long moments there was nothing. Mitaka was about to suggest that Hux try again before the familiar howl answered. The dark shape came from the edges of the forest from the side of the lake. The wolf probably could have come down the lake’s edge towards them but it was clear the beast wanted to take the short cut to Hux and began to bound across the thin ice.
“No…” Mitaka said in a horrified whisper before throwing his arm out uselessly. “Kylo! No wait, DON’T-!”
The crack of the ice reminded Mitaka horribly of the whip as it cracked beneath the wolf’s feet and split apart, plunging it into the freezing water.
“No!” Hux cried, taking off towards the yelping creature. The wolf’s claws scrabbled and scratched at the ice as the poor thing tried to pull itself out, making horrible screeching whines as it did so. Hux slipped on the ice but managed to reach the hole in the ice, flinging himself onto his stomach and plunging his hands behind the wolf, desperately trying to pull it out.
Without thinking Mitaka grabbed Ren’s sword beside the cart and charged after him, his own feet nearly giving way as the ice threatened to crack underneath him too.
“Dopheld wait!” Skywalker shouted.
“Throw me some rope!” Mitaka yelled over his shoulder.
Reaching Hux he thrust the sword point down into the ice, making sure it was secure enough to stand on its own. Looking up he saw Skywalker tossing him a long length of rope. Working quickly he tied one end tight the hilt of the sword and pulled the other in Hux’s direction.
“Hux hold onto this!” He shouted, gingerly edging towards the struggling wolf. The wolf snarled and swiped in its fear, snapping its jaws inches from Mitaka’s face.
“E-easy…” He stammered as splashes of the water landed on his skin, “Easy boy-”
Another crack filled the air and, before he registered where exactly it had come from, Mitaka felt the world beneath him gave way only to be replaced by thousands of sharp stabbing needles that tore at his skin as the water folded back down over him.
Mitaka barely heard Hux as he struggled to draw breath with the sudden cold. The wolf was still struggling to pull itself out of the water. Mitaka felt the water crash into his face and he accidentally swallowed some as he gasped. Pushing all his will into his muscles, Mitaka forced himself to swim closer to the wolf. The creature swiped its blind animal fear and Mitaka cried out as he felt the claws drag hot red lines down his chest, tearing his tunic and tearing his skin. The force of it dragged him under the water again.
The churning of the water threatened to keep him under there but Mitaka had never been anything if not terrified of death, so giving himself one last big push he broke the surface again, immediately clawing his fingers into the slippery fur as Hux was trying to do to try and shove the wolf out. The cold made his limbs heavy and difficult to move. It hurt to breathe.
With one last heaving effort, the two of them pulled the wolf so far out of the water that it scrambled the rest of the way by itself. Without the wolf to hold onto Mitaka felt his arms flop back down onto the ice, still half submerged in the water. The entire world felt floaty…weightless…
Hux’s arms came back down around him and pulled.
“Hold on!” The prince grunted, bringing Mitaka out some more of the way. Finding some last reserves of strength within his cold heavy body Mitaka dragged himself out all the way and, using the rope to pull themselves farther away from the thin ice, the three of them fell into a graceless heap on the frozen surface. Mitaka’s breath was coming in short, painful gasps. His body was shaking more badly than he could recall it had ever shaken before. His skin stung and his chest felt on fire compared to the rest of him.
Timid footsteps approached them as Skywalker crouched beside them now they were on thicker ground.
“Oh my children…dear children…” He hushed them, pulling off his own heavy outer robes and draping them over Mitaka’s shivering body and placed a warm reassuring hand on his head. Hux’s own wet hand grasped his as it lay on the ground. The wolf placed its head in Hux’s lap and let out a soft, low whine. Hux let out a noise that Mitaka could only describe as a half-choked sob.
“We can’t go on like this…” the prince said miserably and Mitaka flinched at the sensation of a tear landing on his hand, scalding like hot wax. The worst part was he couldn’t exactly tell whose tear it was.
“We must live Father,” Hux said, his other hand clenching tightly in the shaking wolf’s fur. “As human beings.”
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Chapter 8: Chapter 8: The Heroes
At last, we have reached the end. Thank you SO SO much if you have stuck around with me thus far. This was definitely the hardest chapter to write, I wanted to get all the emotions right, as well as a more action packed scene. Hopefully it all worked out okay.
But first, that scene...THAT scene. Lemme tell you, that's still the most romantic goddamn scene I've ever seen in cinema. You can play ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jCmPpZ1JeA ) over it if you like, tears all round.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dear God, how could you have allowed this curse to happen?
Mitaka’s question went unsaid, dying almost as soon as it sprung up from deep within his mind. The air around them was deathly still, the handful of snowflakes drifting through the nearby leaves the only indication of sound and movement. The sky above had slowly turned a strange pinkish grey as the night had dragged on, a thin veil of clouds only giving a watery indication of the night sky above.
Skywalker lay next to the small fire they’d built, snoring softly as he was bundled in his robes. Mitaka had fought sleep, a sharp needle of fear that if he’d succumbed to sleep he may never have awoken after his impromptu swim had swiftly driven any thought of exhaustion away. He’d sleep when it was warmer. His attention was half on the foreboding sky, and half on the pit a short distance away.
It had been easier to coax the wolf into it than Mitaka had expected; Hux had hopped into it, peeking up at the wolf from under the cloak’s hood and the beast had followed, settling onto the mossy floor to curl up protectively at the prince’s side. They lay there still, Hux also staring up at the sky whilst one hand slowly stroked the dozing wolf’s fur. Time had seemed inconsequential, as though they were trapped in a single bead of glass that could be shattered with so much as a breath. They’d been here for eternity and yet they’d hardly been there any time at all.
Stood up against a tree Mitaka saw the movement of Hux’s hand as it paused in its path and clenched slightly, the skin on the knuckles slightly lighter than the rest. Hux lifted his head a little and Mitaka understood, turning to see the sky lightening from a break in the clouds.
Dawn was coming.
The light filtered through slowly, stretching across the ground in an almost lazy fashion, making patches of snow and ice glitter. Hux’s hand was held aloft and he was gazing at it with an expression that Mitaka could only call apprehensive, then snapping his head back to stare at the wolf.
Weak light fell across the animal, causing it to stir awake. There was a palpable sense of strangeness in the air. Had Mitaka a more sensible frame of mind, he may have just called it tension. However, as he stared at the pair, Mitaka called it magic.
It wasn’t like how he pictured it in his mind. There was no cracking of bones as a body realigned itself, no howling, just a slight glimmer – like Mitaka’s eyes were going out of focus- before the image of the wolf had faded into the shape of a man.
Hux’s hand had now clapped itself to his mouth and Mitaka could see him trembling even from this distance. Ren stiffened as he was dragged fully awake and blinked blearily as he recalled where he was. He lay naked and pale on the damp pit floor; limbs arranged in an awkward way that made him look vulnerable. A slight frown marred the knight’s face as he registered the morning light and his dark head whipped around to stare at Hux, who had pushed himself to his knees. Ren also rolled onto his hands and knees, apparently heedless of how exposed he was. Mitaka felt a small thrill of aversion to the supernatural as he saw that the transformation was not yet over, Ren’s eyes were still the inhuman yellow eyes of the wolf. Those eyes, matched with an expression of both despair and wonder made Ren’s face almost childlike in its openness.
The two of them continued to stare at each other, drinking in the sight of one another silently as though they feared the slightest sound would break whatever fragile hold they had on this moment. Mitaka felt his heart go out to them.
With a shaking hand Hux reached out slowly, uncertainly. He looked just as unbelieving and lost as Ren. Mitaka doubted that not even Bishop Snoke dancing naked in front of them could tear their attention away from one another right now. Ren had also began to extend a hand, a watery smile twisting his mouth.
Skywalker snuffled as he woke and Mitaka felt reality slam back into him like a thunderclap. This moment couldn’t last. The sun was rising and the day was crawling towards them with awful certainty. This terrible, beautiful moment was just that: a moment.
Without realising what he was doing, Mitaka had stepped forward, ignoring his watering eyes, into the sun’s path. For one hopeful, foolish second, he thought that maybe his shadow could give them longer, give them a little more time-
He was wrong. He could only watch as Hux dropped his hand as the light broke through the clouds fully and closed his eyes with half a sigh of resignation. Ren’s mouth opened in an aborted attempt at calling Hux’s name and he lurched forward jerkily, as though to pull Hux back to him, to keep hold of him a moment longer. There was the same glimmer as before and the cloak fell, empty, to the ground.
Ren’s hand was reaching out, scant inches from the flapping red wings of the hawk.
The hawk cried out once, a solitary note that ripped through the quiet air and took off, flying across the lake.
Ren launched forward desperately, his chest slamming up against the rim of the pit with his arm thrown out after the bird. His face was scrunched up with frustration, tears glittering on the dark lashes. The knight’s fingers clawed in the air and he let out a cry of his own. The scream of anguish, anger and hopelessness were all rolled into one in that one long roar, trailing off into something very much like a growl. The dark head fell forward onto the snow covered ground and Ren’s shoulders began to shake. Mitaka opened his mouth to say…something, anything to help stop the crying. Skywalker stood up and began to gather Ren’s armour, poking at the fire again as he did so.
The moment was over. Mitaka turned away.
“Where’s my sword?”
Mitaka ignored him, intent on re-lacing one of his boots. The pain in his chest had muted to a dull ache, the claw marks only stinging if the brushed up against his tunic too roughly. Ren had been moody and sullen all morning, hardly reacting to his uncle’s sudden appearance overnight and barely talking, avoiding them to stare out over the lake. The hawk had soared over head and the knight had tracked it with his eyes. Though Mitaka could understand that what happened at dawn had been of the upmost pain to Ren, frankly, he was a little sick of the brooding.
“I said, where’s my sword?”
“It’s lost.” Mitaka lied easily. “It fell in the lake when the ice broke.”
The sword was actually wrapped up safe, tied to the bottom of Skywalker’s wagon. But letting Ren think it was gone was integral to their plan. Mitaka just prayed the knight bought it.
Judging by the angry growl, he had.
“We couldn’t get it back, I’m sorry.”
Ren seemed almost inarticulate; he was staring at Mitaka as though Mitaka had sprouted a tail.
“That sword was my family’s legacy! My legacy…” He rasped, muscles coiled as though ready for a fight. “My quest-”
“Oh, you and your fucking quest!” Mitaka snapped back, rising to his feet. “Is that all you ever bang on about?”
Skywalker looked up from his own distractions and watched them with mild interest. Mitaka was sure he’d step in and intervene if it got too far, though maybe Ren would scratch his eyes out of something before Skywalker got there.
“How dare you?” Ren spat at him, taking a few sharp steps forward. “I can’t kill the Bishop without it, you know that-”
“Oh I see,” Mitaka said folding his arms, “This is still all about your own personal pride; this has nothing to do with the curse.”
Ren glared at him. “Be careful of how you speak to me thief.”
That hurt a little bit. Mitaka could see Ren wasn’t thinking all that clearly and was just looking to throw something nasty like his past activities at him. Well, he thought, just this once, he was going to give Ren a piece of his mind.
“You go on and on about killing Snoke when you don’t even know if that’ll help you, you haven’t got a clue have you? I don’t think you even care about breaking the curse. Not really. This is a suicide mission for you isn’t it?”
He could see the words hit Ren like arrows, the pink tinge to his face deepening. “Don’t-”
But Mitaka was on a roll.
“Go on then, kill yourself!” He challenged, swinging an arm around to the open air in general, indicating where the hawk had been flying. “Kill him too! It’s not like you’ve ever really given a shit about what he wants anyway! You don’t love him, you just want-”
In hindsight, that was probably not the wisest thing to say.
He saw Ren fly at him, grabbing him roughly by the tunic front to bring them nose-to-nose. Mitaka only had a flash of the hard cold anger – true anger – in Ren’s eyes before the knight threw him roughly onto the hard ground.
He landed badly. A jarring pain shot up his shoulder and he heard Skywalker’s shout of protest. Sucking in a breath, Mitaka rolled onto his back to look up at Ren, only to see the knight staring at him in horror. It took a few seconds for Mitaka to realise why;
Scratches. Livid, scarlet scratches were exposed where Mitaka’s tunic had fallen open in the fall. They stood out against his own pale skin as a painful reminder of the night’s events.
Ren blanched. Pointing to them he turned to Skywalker in bewilderment. “What is that?”
Skywalker didn’t look at Mitaka, only giving his nephew a hard, disapproving stare. “That happened last night,” he said sharply, “when he saved your life.”
Mitaka watched Ren take this information in, his whole demeanour seeming to deflate a little. He turned back to Mitaka, who was regrettably still on the floor. Ren looked a little unsure of what to do, chewing his lip as a child might.
“Forgive me.” He said at last.
Whether he was apologising for the marks or for the physical attack, Mitaka didn’t know but nodded anyway. Holding out a hand Ren helped Mitaka to his feet, Mitaka clinging to his arm for support. Ren cast another baleful look at the claw mark before turning to Skywalker.
“So, what’s this plan of yours?”
Skywalker told him. When he’d finished Ren looked like he was going to argue, but apparently decided against it, shaking his head ruefully.
“It seems like it’s three against one then.”
Mitaka began to frown, but Ren smiled crookedly at him.
He turned away from them and began to pick up their supplies.
“Come on you idiots,” he said, in a tone of voice that could almost be called fond, “I’ll show you how to cage a wolf.”
Snoke didn’t look up as Phasma entered the chamber, keeping his eyes on the pages of his Bible.
“They’ve found Bala Tik. His body was near one of the outlying peasant hamlets.”
Snoke still didn’t look up, instead closing the book and resting one withered hand upon it. “I see.”
Phasma shifted her weight uncomfortably, the Bishop was a stoic man, and only those who’d been in his service for a long time could tell by a flicker of his eyes or a movement of his hand what his emotions were. The news of Tik’s demise didn’t make him angry, he was furious.
“When I give mass at the cathedral, bar the doors after the priests enter.”
“Tik was murdered by Ren, or one of Ren’s cohorts, I know it.” Snoke said softly, his robes swishing quietly as he stood. “They intend to make things difficult for me, we cannot have them undermining our authority now can we?”
Our authority. Phasma liked that. The idea that her Bishop considered her an equal was a source of immense pride. She would not let him down.
She dropped to one knee and clasped a hand to her chest with her eyes lowered. “It will be done.”
“If Ren arrives,” Snoke continued, adjusting one of his heavy gold rings upon his fingers, “I trust you to dispatch him. Bring me his head.”
She looked up with a grim smile. “It’ll be my honour.”
The cart wobbled over some loose stones along the path, making it jerk awkwardly from side to side. They had spent practically the last two days like this, alternating between Mitaka steering the wagon with Ren during the day as Skywalker slept, the hawk flying around near them, then having Skywalker and Hux take over at night whilst Mitaka slept and the wolf paced along its cage. Hux’s presence had a great calming effect on the beast, a mere word or touch causing the growls and snarls to subside. It had hated the cage at first, but sat quietly when Hux made himself known at the front. Mitaka awoke an hour or two before dawn as they drew closer to the city. The frightening silhouette of the Finalizer stood out against the skyline. Mitaka shuddered and looked away.
The main city around the cathedral was guarded by a large stone wall with a massive gate that people passed through. With so many Holy dignitaries coming for the Bishop’s mass security had tightened along the border. Gifts for the Bishop were being inspected; strangers had to be cleared for entry. If a guard thought you looked dodgy enough to not be allowed in, then you weren’t allowed in.
The wolf slumbered in the cage whilst the cart drew close to the gates. After covering the cage with some cloth to avoid scaring people they may encounter, Hux had pulled Ren’s cloak over his head to hide his bright hair in case somebody recognised him as the foreign prince who had disappeared six years ago. He and Mitaka sat quietly by Skywalker as a mean looking guard with a face like a troll came to inspect their cart.
“What’s this?” He grunted, indicating the covered cage with his sword.
“A gift from my parish in the wildlands” Skywalker declared jovially, “Blessings be upon His Holiness.”
The guard sniffed and glanced at Mitaka, barely giving him any attention before frowning at Hux’s still and silent figure. “Who’s this?”
With one rough movement he had reached up to grab the hood and pulled it away, Hux’s red hair reflecting the torchlight. As though Hux’s sharp inhale had alerted it, a growl came from the cage behind them. Mitaka winced as the guard glared at the source of the noise.
“You will forgive my apprentice, he’s a shy lad-” Skywalker was saying hurriedly but the guard ignored them, pulling the cover off the cage to reveal the wolf stood threateningly, its hackles raised. The beast bared its teeth and its breath steamed in the air. The guard stumbled back a few steps, turning back to Skywalker with a wild-eyed look.
“That’s a gift?!”
“Like I said, we’re from the wildlands.”
The guard snorted. “You realise that thing’s far too dangerous to let near the Bishop right? Bloody great monster like that could kill him! It’s a fine gift, but better to kill it now-”
Hux started at that, tensing. Mitaka sat up fully as the guard stalked towards the wolf with his sword drawn. The wolf snarled again, snapping as the man came nearer. Aiming the tip of his sword between the cage bars the man leered;
“It’s been a while since I killed a beast like this, this’ll be fun.”
Hux looked ready to spring at the man, his hands gripping the side of the cart as if he intended to jump over it when Skywalker cleared his throat.
“Strange, that’s exactly what the Bishop said when we told him.”
That gave the guard pause. The thrust of the sword stopped as soon as it began and he glanced at them warily. Mitaka chewed the inside of his lip nervously and Hux was barely keeping himself in check, trembling beneath the voluminous cloak. Skywalker alone seemed unaffected, raising his eyebrows serenely.
“Though I’m sure he’ll be alright with you claiming his prize, he’d a very forgiving sort of fellow after all…”
Mitaka had never before seen a fully armed man squirm uncomfortably under a monk’s gaze before. The flat troll-like face contorted as the man considered the implication of the words, no doubt fearing whatever ‘forgiveness’ Snoke would bestow. The wolf’s snarling became a low growl in its throat when the man hastily recovered the cage, motioning them to move on.
“Wisdom is a virtue my son,” Skywalker said primly, picking up the reins again. “Be grateful that you have it.”
The mass began at noon.
It was almost an hour away and the winter sun shone bright, reflecting the ice and snow around them. Ren squinted at the sky.
“So this is your supposed ‘night without day and day without night’ Uncle?” He drawled with a sarcastic mocking tone to his voice. “Behold, it’s just day. Same as yesterday, same as it will be tomorrow.”
“Don’t be defeatist. There’s still time.”
Ren shrugged. “Either way, this ends today.”
Mitaka ran back towards them, out of breath as they turned from putting their respective horses in the stables. The pickpocket doubled over when he pulled to a stop and sucked in a few breaths.
“B-been talking….to the locals….Th-the cathedral doors will be locked. Nobody who isn’t an official or Bishop’s guard can go in.”
Skywalker frowned, glancing at Ren. “How do you plan on getting in?”
Ren rolled his eyes as if such a question was beneath him. “If Mitaka can get in and unlock the doors from the inside, I can shout a signal and get in.”
He said it as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Mitaka huffed another breath and straightened, frustration colouring his features.
“Er, did you not hear me? I said, nobody can get in unless they’ve been invited. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly the Pope.”
Ren’s lips twisted into an amused smile. Mitaka was instantly suspicious. “What?”
“Doesn’t the sewer system connect to everything? You said you escaped prison that way.”
Skywalker’s eyes widened as he turned to look at Mitaka, who gaped. Something in the monk’s face cleared as he understood. Mitaka glared, waggling a finger angrily at the pair of them.
“No! I am never-- Absolutely not!”
Mitaka was back at the sewers.
Cursing under his breath and imagining many colourful punishments for Ren (and Skywalker too while he was at it, taking Ren’s side like that!) he slid once again into the ice cold water, sucking in a high pitched gasp as it became intimately acquainted with areas he’d rather it not. The hole that led to the sewer that ran beneath the cathedral spat fetid water sluggishly into the river. Mitaka grimaced.
“Seems we’ve come full circle Lord.” He mused. He had considered praying for victory but decided that if God was going to play His hand during this strange journey, He probably would have already done so by now. Maybe it had already been decided.
“I’d like to think there’s some sort of higher meaning in all of this nonsense…” he grumbled as he waded towards the hole to climb in. Sparing a glance to the sky he gave the sky a rueful half-smile. “It would certainly reflect well on you.”
Ren leant against the side of the stable, watching the people mill into the cathedral, their ceremonial robes dragging through the dirt. He could feel himself sneering at them, all their pomp and falsehoods. Half of him was glad Hux had never committed himself to the cloth; Hux was a natural leader, sharp and intelligent. He couldn’t see Hux droning on for hours with sermons to guilt trip the population into behaving themselves.
The hawk seemed to sense his mood, taking a few tiny steps long his arm to be closer. Ren smiled slightly, placing a comforting hand along its side.
“Don’t worry; it’ll all be over soon.”
A stab of guilt ran through him, knowing what he had to ask of his uncle. Luke would try to dissuade him, to persuade him to try another course of action. But there was no other course; it was only Ren who could see that. It had to be this way and if he were to fail what he asked for would be a mercy, though he doubted either Luke or Mitaka would see it that way.
Luke came through the door, bringing a bundle of clothes with him.
“For Etienne.” He explained placing them in a neat pile nearby.
He might not need them. Ren nearly replied, but held his tongue.
“I…I have to ask you something.”
Luke looked up. “Ask away.”
“When I enter the cathedral, I plan on defeating Snoke, one way or another…”
Luke sighed but didn’t argue. “Go on.”
“I might not win.”
The monk frowned and opened his mouth, but Ren pressed on;
“I don’t plan on dragging it out, but if I fail and the mass ends peacefully, the bells will ring. If the bells ring, you’ll know I’ve failed my quest. Take Mitaka if you can and get out of here, go to my mother if you want, but don’t linger.”
Luke blanched and glanced at the hawk. “But…what about Etienne?”
As if on cue, the hawk chirped. Ren felt a heavy sense of loss as he deposited the bird onto Luke’s arm, feeling another chip of his heart felling away as the weight of the animal lifted, leaving him feeling strangely untethered. He took a deep breath and forced his voice to come out as steady as he could.
“I beg you, while he’s still in this form…to take-” He broke off, swallowing his grief and forcing the words out, “To take his life.”
Luke’s voice was loud in the relative quiet of the stable, startling the bird. As the monk busied himself with quieting it, he looked back at Ren with sorrowful eyes. “Why?!”
“We promised each other.” Ren said, was it really only six years ago they’d made their pledge? Surely it had been a lifetime. “If one of us were to fall, we would never leave the other into Snoke’s hands. Hux knew that one day he may have to cut me down, to let me die free-”
“You haven’t fallen yet-”
“Please!” Ren sobbed, feeling a hot ball of helplessness and heartache gathering in his chest, threatening to spill in the form of tears and empty words. “You would condemn Etienne to a half-life like this? Force him to only ever see the darkness? It’s not what we want Uncle! We just want this to be over!If it comes to it….please, make it quick.”
Luke closed his eyes and breathed deep. Opening them again he nodded at the knight.
“Mitaka should be inside by now. Good luck.”
Ren nodded back and sheathed his sword. As he swung up to sit on Vader’s back a warm bubble made itself known, buoying him up a little. It felt ridiculous.
It felt a little like hope.
It turned out cathedral sewers were much like prison sewers. Smelly, slippery and frankly just all round disgusting.
Mitaka tried holding his breath for as long as he could but had to stop when dark spots began dancing across his vision. It was easier to find the cathedral from underground than he’d anticipated. Apparently whoever had built these things was aware of the acoustic advantages and the chanting of priests echoed like a ghostly summons, leading him to a grate in the floor above him.
“I knew you wouldn’t regret saving me Lord.” Mitaka grunted, shoving himself up to cling onto the bars and peeking up to see feet and the hems of robes. “I may be about to help a scandal in your house, but overall I think I’m proving to be a wonderful person.”
If he had any worries about being able to lift the grate, Mitaka clearly wasn’t believing in God hard enough today. It came away with only a little bit of nudging, eerily noiseless instead of the loud scraping he was expecting.
“Thank you Lord” he whispered, climbing out.
Nobody saw him. Priests decked in white, red and all sorts of colours had their faces turned towards the centre of the room.
Bishop Snoke was…smaller than he was expecting. The man looked almost grey in his meticulously cleaned white vestments. Mitaka had heard the Bishop had been involved in the Holy Wars and therefore had a picture in his head of a large, barrel chested man that walked with purpose. Maybe a beard, an eyepatch even. There were a few scars across his face but it gave the man an overall impression of something shrivelled and worn instead of anything interesting or romantic. However, there was an aura of importance about him, some menacing pull that seemed to demand respect and obedience. Had Mitaka not seen the curse in effect, he might have begun to doubt. He looked like such a frail old man.
A gleam near the doors caught Mitaka’s attention and he swallowed heavily as Captain Phasma motioned for her soldiers to shut and lock the doors. Plastering himself to the wall with his head bowed Mitaka prayed she wouldn’t spot him. With her helmet obscuring her face she looked more sinister than ever.
Excrutiatingly slowly so as not to attract attention, Mitaka began to inch his way along the wall.
A handful of lesser ranking members of the Bishop’s Guard were flanked outside the cathedral doors. Ren considered their scarlet capes as he approached, barely able to recall when he had worn one. The courtyard seemed darker than it had an hour ago, shadows lengthening in the corners. They drew their swords as he approached and he did the same, keeping Vader at a steady pace until he was in front of them. Drawing himself up higher with his sword held aloft, his voice carried on the air between them;
“As one who used to lead you, I ask that you let me in.”
“Lord Ren.” A bolder one with a wide face – whose name Ren could not recall – addressed him, urging his horse forward. “You were a good captain once. Had you not disgraced yourself, we’d have allowed you in without question.”
Ren did not even have time to frown before the soldier raised his sword to strike. “But we have our orders.”
He swung his sword to parry the soldier’s strike, the metallic clanging rousing the others into riding forward. There was a reason they were low ranking soldiers, they barely had the skill to keep him at bay and he cut them down with only a little effort. The horses whinnied with fright and scattered, dropping some corpses onto the ground as they did so. Ren urged Vader into a gallop towards the cathedral door.
“Mitaka!” He bellowed, “NOW!”
Mitaka’s had managed to creep towards the door with nobody really taking notice of him, the sound of horses muffled by the walls. As he inched towards the heavy wooden doors he placed his hands on the iron bar that crossed them. With a small grunt he tried to heave it away, and his luck ran out. The noise of iron against wood caused Phasma’s head to whip round and her steely gaze zeroed in on him. Mitaka fumbled with the bar, watching her approach with horror.
“You!” she hissed.
“Mitaka!” Came Ren’s voice, muffled a little by the door, “NOW!”
With incredible effort Mitaka managed to lift the bar and let it drop loudly to the floor, startling several priests. Clinging onto the wood the doors swung open and Ren charged in atop Vader, looking every inch the hero Mitaka thought he could be. Priests and servants clamoured to get out the way, tripping over one another to get out of the way.
Ren pulled Vader to a stop in the middle of the chamber. Snoke looked almost bored with the interruption, as though vengeful knights storming into his cathedral in the middle of mass on a mighty steed was a normal afternoon occurrence for him. Mitaka vaguely wondered if other people had been cursed by Snoke, and dramatic entrances were just par the course. The thought almost made him snicker.
Ren hopped down and patted Vader on the rump, signalling the horse to go about his business. Nobody tried to stop the horse, intent on watching Ren.
“You know why I’m here.” He growled to Snoke, who didn’t respond. “It ends now you bastard.”
Ripples of shock went through the crowd, frantic whispers about how this man dared insult a man of God like that. Ren ignored them, all his attention on the Bishop.
“Alas I do.” Snoke said, taking Mitaka aback with a voice stronger and more commanding than he’d expected to come from that withered figure. “Your disrespect will not be allowed here Kylo Ren. Phasma.”
Ren frowned in confusion and turned to see Phasma coming forward, her sword drawn as she advanced towards him. Ren was forced to once again defend himself as she attacked viciously. She swung again but this time Ren was prepared and countered her attack with expertly executed moves. The fight was encircled by the more daring attendees who were curious. Mitaka watched with wide eyes and Phasma slashed and hacked at Ren, who remained on the defensive. He caught her with the tip of his blade across the arm and she let out an angry yell, the red of her blood staining the chainmail. With a huff of frustration she tore her helmet off, sweaty strands of her blonde hair falling across her forehead.
He glared at Ren, her chest heaving with exertion. “Why won’t you fight back?”
Ren also straightened, breathing a little heavily. Their little scuffle had not left him unmarked. There was a gash along his cheekbone. “My fight is not with you Captain.”
“You’re weak.” She spat contemptuously. “You always have been! I told His Holiness as much when I told him of your little trysts with that prince!”
Ren blanched. “What did you say?”
Phasma laughed bitterly, a cruel sound. “How do you think the Bishop found out? I saw you both! You could never lead the Guard when you were too busy making moon eyes at him. Good thing too, he wouldn’t have been any good for His Holiness after whoring himself out to you-”
Ren launched himself at her with a cry. He had blamed Skywalker all these years for nothing. Their swords met again but Mitaka saw Ren was no longer on the defensive; there was real anger in this fight. Phasma’s ambition and resentment towards her supposedly ‘weak’ superior had fuelled all of this. Mitaka stole another glance at Snoke, who had a small smile on his face as though this whole scene was an amusing distraction. Ren swiped his sword, narrowly missing Phasma’s stomach. He had swung too widely and overbalanced; she took advantage of his mistake and thrust her sword quickly forwards, catching Ren in the side. The knight fell forwards with a grunt, one hand clutching his side as blood began to drip onto the stone floor. Phasma delivered a swift and hard kick to Ren’s side, knocking him over. Mitaka gasped, watching helplessly as Phasma raised her sword to strike a killing blow.
Suddenly Ren sprang forwards with almost frightening speed. Phasma’s sword bashed uselessly against the floor as Ren tackled her. They fell backwards in a graceless heap.
Ren rolled off her, gripping his sword tightly.
The sound of gasps and shrieks filled the hall. Priests began pointing towards the large open windows, shouting accusations of witchcraft and Devil’s work. Mitaka frowned, turning to see what they were looking at. When he saw it, he too gasped and hastily crossed himself.
The sun was disappearing.
A large shadow fell across the sun, as if a disc was moving in front of it, plunging everything into darkness. Mitaka had heard that such a thing had happened before, though none could remember it. An eclipse.
Silence fell again among the people, all staring. Even Phasma had paused to gape.
Ren stood and gazed out of the window, his eyes wide and unbelieving, the wound in his side forgotten.
“Day…without night…” He whispered softly, the words loud to Mitaka’s ears. The knight turned to look at him, and he understood:
A night without a day, a day without a night.
Ren whirled around towards the direction of the doors and began to unsteadily run a few paces.
He didn’t get far before Phasma gave a wordless yell of rage and jumped to her feet and ran after him, her sword aiming for his back. Ren was once again forced to try and drive her back. The low light made it hard to see whose blurry sword moves were whose. Ren’s wound slowed him down but it was clear his skill with the blade was superior to Phasma’s and he had her backed nearly against the steps that led to Snoke’s platform. Phasma snarled and lashed out again. Using her other hand to pull a dagger from her thigh, she made an aggressive stab towards Ren’s neck. Ren dodged it and grabbed her arm. Using her weight and momentum against her he spun her around, now in possession of her dagger. Phasma tried to make a grab for it. Ren was quicker.
The dagger sank between her ribs and she staggered forward. A ragged cough burst from her lips and a bright trickle of blood dribbled down her chin. Ren pulled the dagger back out and threw it on the ground. Phasma buckled forward, staring at Ren with a look of disbelief on her face. Mitaka felt a momentary stab of pity for the woman when she turned to Snoke with pleading eyes.
Snoke said nothing, but looked at her with an expression of disappointment. His face remained impassive as she tried in vain to stagger away, losing her balance every now and again. Snoke had already turned his attention away to speak to an attendant who rushed off towards the bellringers. The mass, it seemed, was over.
Ren, whose attention had been solely fixed on Phasma, registered the movement too late. Mitaka frowned as Ren gasped and began to run towards them, throwing a hand out ineffectually.
The bellringer grabbed the rope and began to ring. The large bronze bell clanged loudly and the sound seemed to make Ren freeze in his tracks. The knight’s eyes were as round as plates and screamed.
Mitaka was confused, what did bells have to do with anything?
Luke watched the sun disappear fully, the moon blocking its path and sending the world into shadow. The bells of the cathedral rang out in the darkness.
The hawk chirped nervously, as if sensing something was wrong. It shifted its weight from one clawed foot to the other on Luke’s arm. It was too late, Ren had failed.
Tears were hot in Luke’s eyes and he brought a hand up to the bird’s neck. Poor Etienne, poor Ren…
“God forgive me.” He whispered to nobody in particular.
The bells were like heartbeats in Mitaka’s ears. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong.
Ren seemed to crumple in on himself, tear tracks damp on his cheeks, cutting through the grime and sweat. One hand fisted in his own hair tightly for a second as he let out a high pitched whine. It sounded wolflike.
“Uncle…” He half whispered. “Make it quick…”
Mitaka took a few steps forward. Nobody stopped him. Half the congregation were transfixed by the sun, the other half by Ren himself. Phasma had fallen by the far wall, a smear of red marking where she had slid down the stone. Her eyes were fixed, open and glassy; she did not appear to be breathing.
Ren suddenly straightened once more, drawing in a huge steadying breath. His face was curiously blank, drained of all emotion. He turned back to Snoke, who continued to smile thinly.
When the knight had reached Snoke, he tightened his grip on his sword. This is where his quest ended. He lifted it:
“Kill me my boy, and your curse will never be broken.” Snoke said condescendingly, as though Ren were no more than a child to be chided. “It would go on forever.” He tilted his head slightly, fixing Ren with a cold stare. “You must think of Etienne.”
Ren let out a bark of laughter. It sounded hollow.
“Etienne is dead.”
Mitaka would have seen Snoke’s frown had he not focused on Ren. It couldn’t be true, Hux wasn’t dead. Why would Ren say that? Hux couldn’t die yet, they were so close…
Ren’s face brooked no argument. There was real grief, real pain in his eyes. He spoke the words with such conviction, his tone seemed completely devoid of emotion but his earlier scream had said it all.
Had Hux died when the bells rang?
“You won.” Ren laughed again, clenching his jaw and glaring at Snoke. “Damn you. Damn you and your curse to hell.”
He lifted his sword even higher. Snoke did not even move as Ren’s sword began its downward arc to cut him down-
Hux’s voice rang as clear as any bell through the chamber. Ren froze. He turned to the doorway with an expression of one who had seen a ghost.
Hux stood in the cathedral doorway, slightly out of breath and his clothes in disarray as if he had run here in a hurry. He and Ren stared at one another across the space.
The Bishop clutched his staff and turned away, squeezing his eyes shut. Ren seemed to come to his senses and grabbed him roughly by his robes. Driving Snoke to his knees Ren forced him to face Hux.
“Look at him.” Ren hissed. Snoke had covered his eyes with one arm. Ren shook him, not caring how cruel he looked.
“Look at him!”
The Bishop lowered his arm and glared at Hux with distaste, every old hatred etched onto his grizzled skin. Ren then shoved at Snoke’s shoulder, holding the sword to his throat.
“Look at me…” he growled. “Look at me!”
Snoke’s eyes snapped to Ren, the same expression of disgust on his face.
Ren backed away, still holding the sword to Snoke’s neck. He stepped back until he was stood in front of him. From the Bishop’s perspective, even though Hux was still at the far end of the hall. They were both facing him.
As human beings.
“Now…you look at us. LOOK AT US.”
Skywalker had edged into the hall, reaching Mitaka who continued to stare at them. Much like the curse, there didn’t seem to be any indication of anything magical happening. Snoke was just glaring at them. Hux began to walk forward.
However, Skywalker clapped Mitaka on the shoulder, smiling shakily.
“It’s over.” He breathed. “It’s broken.”
Well, that was a bit anticlimactic. All things considered.
Ren turned away from Snoke and lurched forward on shaky legs. His wound seemed to catch up on him and he grimaced, clutching his side once more. It didn’t slow him down though, and he knelt on the ground in front of Hux, holding his sword point down. He looked every inch the valiant knight kneeling before his prince. Tears made his dark eyes glisten and Hux once again had a hand pressed to his lips. He extended his hand towards Ren as though he feared Ren wasn’t real. When he had reached the knight he buried his hands in Ren’s hair, a soft sob escaping both of them. Ren’s head turned to press a kiss into the heel of Hux’s palm and Hux bent to press his own kiss into the crown of Ren’s head, a tear escaping one of his eyes as they fluttered shut.
Hux straightened, bestowing another watery smile on Ren before he looked at Snoke. Hux’s pale face drained of all emotion as he stared at the kneeling Bishop. He left Ren on the floor and stalked towards Snoke, a cold look of contempt on his face.
He stood in front of Snoke and reached into his sleeve, he pulled out something leathery and brown. The hawk jesses.
Holding them aloft with barely restrained anger Hux showed them off to Snoke and, without a word, dropped them to the floor.
The message was clear: It’s over. We won.
Hux turned away, leaving the shaking Bishop on the floor. He began to walk back towards his knight as Snoke’s shaking got worse. The Bishop pulled himself upright with his staff and raised it.
Mitaka hadn’t noticed before, but the bottom of the staff was fashioned into a cruel point, jagged an sharp. He raised it and aimed it squarely at Hux’s back.
“Weak” He hissed, rushing towards the prince.
Mitaka gasped. “Look out!”
Ren moved faster than Mitaka had ever seen him; springing up onto his feet and whirled around, throwing his sword as he did so.
It flew past Hux who had turned around to face Snoke. The sword flew straight into Snoke’s shrivelled form, running him through and pinning him to the altar.
Whilst many priests were shocked into silence, one young acolyte screamed. Snoke jerked and writhed, dark blood oozing out onto his white robes. Never taking his eyes off Hux Snoke slumped, his mouth working uselessly.
Ren stalked forward, pressing one hand protectively into Hux’s back. They both stood, side by side, facing the Bishop as the old man sagged and his breath left him all in one rush.
Mitaka didn’t make the sign of the cross; the Devil could take his own.
Hux exhaled shakily, letting Ren enfold him in his arms. They embraced one another, Hux mindful of Ren’s side. Ren buried his face in Hux’s hair, clutching at his prince.
Drawing back Hux ran his fingers along Ren’s jaws, laughing weakly, as though not daring to believe Ren was actually stood before him. Ren brought a hand up to cup Hux’s head, frowning slightly as he studied Hux a little closer.
“You cut your hair.”
“Oh my god-” Hux laughed again, burying his face in Ren’s chest.
The sun shone out again and Ren jerked back, clearly expecting Hux to change back but it never happened. They remained completely, wonderfully, human.
Skywalker hugged Mitaka tightly, which Mitaka returned joyously. They took advantage of Ren and Hux’s distraction as their cue to leave. They began to walk towards to the door when Ren’s voice rang out.
“Where are you going?”
Feeling like a naughty schoolboy caught in the act, Mitaka made his way to them a little sheepishly.
“I don’t want to say I told you so-” Skywalker was saying. Ren laughed.
“You were right. Thank you.”
“Where will you go now?” Mitaka asked.
Ren considered this, glancing to Hux who nodded encouragingly.
“My mother’s country.” Ren supplied, “I…I think it’s past time I make peace with her. My father too.”
Skywalker nodded and smiled warmly. “I think that’ll be a good idea.”
“What about you?” Hux asked him. Skywalker shrugged.
“Back to my home I suppose, I sent Rey and Finn with a message to Ren's mother, they may be on their way back, I’d better wait for them…..I might join you, given time.”
Ren reluctantly left Hux’s side to give his uncle a tight embrace. “Thank you.”
Skywalker flushed and patted Ren awkwardly on the shoulder. He turned to Mitaka with bright eyes. “I fully expect to see you at the Pearly Gates young thief. Don’t you dare let me down.”
“I’ll be there Father,” Mitaka replied cheerfully, “Even if I have to pick the lock.”
Skywalker laughed, a much more happy sound than Mitaka had ever heard from him, and walked out of the cathedral, a spring in his step.
A pale hand landed on Mitaka’s forearm. Hux was looking at him.
“You…you’re a true friend Dopheld.”
Now it was Mitaka’s turn to flush. His cheeks felt very hot as both Hux and Ren smiled at him.
“Come with us to Alderaan.” Ren suggested.
Mitaka inhaled sharply. “You mean that?”
“We did just murder a Bishop.” Ren said in a stage whisper.
Mitaka looked around as various priests began to flock around Snoke’s cooling body, glaring at them. He swallowed thickly.
“Yeah I think that might be best.”
“Then we’d best get moving.” Hux smirked.
“One moment,” Ren interrupted.
Before either Hux or Mitaka could protest Ren swept Hux up in a joyous circle, laughing riotously. Hux yelped in surprise at first, then returned the laugh as Ren span around.
“I love you.” Ren said, craning his head to meet Hux in a passionate kiss.
“I love you.” Hux said when they broke apart.
And so; Kylo Ren, Etienne Hux and their pickpocket friend Dopheld Mitaka left the cathedral, left behind a life of curses and darkness, left behind countless memories of pain and began again. They rode out of this story. And into another.
.....what? I DID tag this as 'shameless fairytale nonsense'.
I really hope you enjoyed this story, I tried to do both the Star Wars characters and the Ladyhawke narrative justice. I hope I did right by them.