Chapter 1: Time
Click, click, click..
Faint echoes bounced off the damp, concrete walls. Indistinguishable murmurs could be heard from behind the thick walls, but the occasional agony filled cry or sobs filled the stale air. They never lasted long and left only silence to take its place. When one had nothing to do but wait, silence allowed thinking, and thinking allowed distractions.
Click, click, click..
The figure continued to toss the rock up and down as they laid on the hard, cold, straw bed on the concrete floor. The tiny pebble they had yanked out of the wall had cut their hand in several different places but the pain was nonexistent. One arm was resting behind their head and they ignored the bits of straw poking the back of their hand.
Click, click click..
They closed their eyes and felt more relaxed than usual. As the rock continued to be tossed up and down, they listened to the distant sounds of the dungeon, but other voices besides their tormentors were rare. They didn’t have any cellmates or neighbours, even though this area held about five more cells. Isolation didn’t scare them.
Five, four, three, two, one.. A distant scream pierced the silence and they found it oddly comforting. They knew the routine, the schedule - and even though there was no possible way of knowing if it was night or day - it was something. One long, agony filled shriek from the far right every few hours, a chorus of screaming from the left every day or so.
They had been left alone for two, maybe three days aside from the food delivery but that person never spoke to them or even looked in their direction. Half a slice of bread and something that resembled mashed potatoes with chunks of spoiled meat. They had convinced the last meal giver to steal more bread for them, but that only lasted two days.
Click, click, click..
The constant clicking of metal boots was the only thing to almost drive them mad. It came from directly above them and barely ever stopped. What was up there, they had no idea. Maybe their guards knew it was a bother and were using it as a torture technique. A strange thought, but most likely not the case. Then, in the distance, there was a creak of metal hinges and a groan as a heavy door was pushed open. Finally. They were about to have visitors.
Soft, indistinguishable voices followed and it almost made them excited. The food bringers never spoke. Perhaps they were going to be tortured in a more direct manner-ah well, it was company. With their head against the cell door, they couldn’t see the newcomers enter the room, but they stopped tossing the rock and rested that hand on their chest.
“Finally,” They sighed, “I was starting to get bored.”
There was no response as two pairs of footsteps entered the small dungeon from the narrow staircase that lead to freedom. The two came to a halt, filling the room with silence again before they sighed. They sat up, stretched for longer than necessary, then finally turned to face the would-be torturers. And was surprised.
“Prisoner,” Said Leonardo - his usual guard that was always the one who whipped, beat and burned them for information. He stood tall; the heavy metal armor hanging off his chubby physique. They wondered how Leonardo could hide such a big belly under that thing. He had short yet choppy black hair, dark eyes and a bushy moustache.
“Aw, what’s the matter?” They cooed, “Don’t know my name?”
Leonardo scowled at them and flashed his rotten, yellow teeth, “You’ll tell us. We can whip you for an eternity.”
They cocked their head to the side, “From the looks of things, you won’t be around for another year, let alone eternity.”
“Listen here, you little runt-”
He was interrupted by a quiet “Sir.”
Their eyes fell on the owner of the voice, who was half a foot shorter and more lanky. His slender frame was covered in chain armor, loosely tied at the waist. Beige tights with brown leather boots. Not ready for battle, but guard duty. A sheathed Rapier hung at his belt, which he was holding onto. His complexion was that of a teenager, possibly a young adult.
His blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail but several strands of his bangs fell down the side of his face. He had dark eyes but they displayed uncertainty, maybe even fear. They couldn’t help but think about how delicious he looked, then bit their lip at the thought of how this newcomer would taste. It would be so easy to charm him.
“I see you brought company..” They mused, standing up so they could grab onto the bars, never taking their eyes off the boy. Their eyes met and they curled their lips into a charming smile, “Why doesn't he come over so I can get a closer look..” As expected, the boy blinked slowly and his grip loosened on his sword, but the older guard caught his tricks immediately.
“He’s using charmspeak, son.” Leonardo growled but rested hand on the boy’s shoulder, who blinked a few times to regain his composure, “This is what we were telling you about.”
They cocked their head to the side, “Awh, you were talking about me? How sweet.”
“Enough of your trickery, sorcerer.” Leo spat, “Your magic has no effect on me, so you will answer my questions.”
“Mmm.. clearly he’s taken by my charms..” They grinned at the boy again, who swallowed down any words he was going to say, “Maybe you should use that sword of yours on the Captain here.” They licked their lips, “So that we can be alone..” The boy’s breath hitched in his throat but he didn’t make a move.
He ripped his gaze away to stare at something much more interesting on the floor. After exhaling quietly, he seemed to return to himself and Leonardo smirked at them much to their disappointment.
“You think we didn’t warn him of your charmspeak? It’s going to take a lot more than that, you Mjik.” Leo snarled.
They rolled their eyes and turned back around, eyeing the concrete walls of the cell. It was brown rock, as if it was carved out by hand. In fact, the whole cell block looked like a small cavern with makeshift rooms built into the stone. They were underground, they knew that much. It’d be hard to escape like they had been planning.
“If you wish not to speak, I will show my apprentice how we treat criminals.”
They scoffed, “Criminals. I got into a scuffle.”
“You stabbed two civilians in broad daylight, and made the shopkeeper burst into flames, Mjik.” The captain angrily scolded, “Not to mention the other crimes we can connect you to.”
Not their doing, but the Captain and his little toy wouldn’t believe it. Burst into flames? No. They had walked into an ongoing robbery. The shopkeeper was set on fire by the assailant to cover his tracks. Sure, they had stabbed the thief and his partner in crime for the fun of it, but.. Nevertheless, they’d get their freedom and show these people what a real criminal looked like.
They turned back again as Leonardo unhinged the whip hanging from his belt and approached the cell. Oooh, what they wouldnt do to take that weapon and turn it on the Captain. They would savour every scream, every sob, all the begging. They turned their lips up in a smile as Leo pulled the tiny vial from his pocket. Knowing the procedure, they reached out and took it, and popped off the cork.
They eyed the bottle of poison - it made them sleepy so the guards could drag them out of the cell. Not today. They took a swig but hid the liquid under their tongue and acted as if they swallowed it. They sat down on the bed, acting like they usually did after drinking it to not raise suspicion. They blinked and leaned against the wall as the Captain unlocked the cell door and entered. He reached down and pulled them up, the scowl still visible. Then, without missing a beat, they spit the liquid in the others face.
Leonardo yelled in alarm and dropped them to grab at his own face, but in a blur of speed, they slammed the captain into the wall where he was knocked unconscious. They snatched up the whip and hopped out of the cell, ready to make a break for it when they felt the sword tip against their neck. They cursed in an ancient language for forgetting about the boy so quick.
“Not so fast.” He spoke, voice calm yet on edge.
He stood at arm's length, the thin blade tip pressing into their adam's apple once they turned around. Clearly he had worked a sword before but they just smiled.
“Underestimated the situation, didn’t I?” They mused.
The boy didn’t reply, just kept staring. His confidence was growing.
“There’s no harm in letting me escape.” They said, “What’dya say?”
“There’s harm in all the citizens you’ll kill, rob and hurt.” The boy said, keeping his arm steady. “You cannot charmspeak your way out of this, sorcerer.”
“No?” They purred, cocking their head to the slide. Charmspeak. What a funny word. “Forget about this.. You can come with me. There’s so many things I’d love to do to you.”
His grip tightened on his sword, “Like maim and kill me, I know.”
“Mmm, not quite. I can do many other things I can do to your body with these hands." Their lips turned up in a smirk
The boy hesitated and his eyes zoned out for a second long enough for them to pounce. They dodged out of the swords way and grabbed the blade to yank it from the others grip. Feeling no pain from where the cold metal cut their palm, they tossed it to the side - before the boy could react to what happened, they jumped him and they both crashed to the floor.
Instantly shaken from his daze, the boy opened his mouth to scream for help, but they covered his lips with their non bloodied hand. They used the other to press down on his shoulder, which kept him pinned down as they straddled his hips. All that smug overconfidence was gone, replaced by the immense fear and panic humans usually had before they thought death was coming for them.
“Shh.. hush now..” They whispered and cocked their head to the side with a lazy smile as the boy's eyes widened, “You scream and I’ll show you what I did to that shopkeeper..”
The boy nodded to the best of his abilities. His heart was beating out of his chest and he reeked of fear - with good reason. They leaned closer to his face and he flinched.
“What’s your name, love?” They asked while they took their hand off his mouth.
The boy shook his head. Clearly he had been told what they could do with a name and didn’t want to fall victim to it.
“C’mon now, it’s just a name..” They cooed, then leaned in closer so that their mouth was at his ear, “You know you want to tell me.”
“N-No..” The boy stuttered; he was trying his hardest to keep the magic out of his head. He struggled to push them off, but they weren’t going anywhere.
They sighed and pulled back to look over at the staircase. Their freedom was right there and Leonardo had the keys. They could unlock the door and smite whoever got in their way. They didn't know what was holding them back - the thought should be enough to get adrenaline pumping. They had been trapped down here for months.
“Why aren’t you running?” The boy asked almost like reading their thoughts. They looked back down at him so see genuine confusion in his eyes, “That’s what you want, right?”
“What I want,” They drawled, “Is none of your concern. I’m more interested in you.”
The boy tensed, “Just kill me already.”
They smiled, “Kill you? No, no, there’s so many other things I’d rather do..” They leaned in again, voice barely above a whisper, “Tell me.. What’s your name?”
He didn’t respond.
They bought both hands up to cup the sides of the boy's neck, then slowly travelled to the sides of his face as they pressed their noses together, “I can tell you’re not like the others. Have you ever killed someone? No.. doubtful.” They paused, enjoying the heat radiation off the boy's body, “I like you.”
“I’ve killed.. your kind before.” The boy said weakly.
They chuckled, “I’m the only one of my kind there is.” They eyed the boy, “There’s no need to lie in my presence, I can sense you’ve never spilled blood.” They moved both hands back to his shoulders to keep him in place, “Now..”
“My names Favian.” The boy said
They clicked their tongue, “Didn’t I just say there’s no need for lying?” They gently massaged his shoulders and smiled, “Tell me.. what is it you desire most in life?”
“None.. of your business.”
With a grin, they pulled back and left a few inches of space between them.
"Why are you fighting so much? Just tell me, love."
The boy's lips parted as he tried to fight the magic, hesitating for only a moment before: "To escape.."
“Hm? Escape what? C’mon, you can tell me.”
His eyes glazed over as he zoned out, letting the words come before he could stop them, “..This place.”
“Why?” They cooed, vaguely interested.
“Yes?” They purred, “Go on.”
"No-" He tried again, "Get out of my head."
But now they were intrigued, "Why do you want to escape?"
“I don’t.." The words slipped out, "..belong..” His voice sounded quiet, unsure, uncertain as to why he was even speaking, but their eyes sparked.
“Seems like we have a lot in common, you and I..” They mused, “Maybe you should take me up on my offer,”
They grinned and flashed their teeth as the boy lay there in a daze. A charming name; not one they had heard before, but a good one nonetheless. Suddenly, the boy - Yantho, blinked and tensed up in fear again at the realization of what just happened.
“Shh, relax yourself, Yantho.” They said softly, and the boy did just that.
From above them, they hard bells start to chime. An alarm of sorts - they had heard it before after they lured an unsuspecting food bringer too close to their cell. With dwindling chance of escape, they weren't sure why this didn’t bother them. They wasted the chance at escape to toy with a boy they would have forgotten in a day's time.
Still, he was interesting. He resisted their magic harder than most others. At least they had their fun. There was something about him that they couldn’t quite place their finger on and they wanted to figure it out. They smiled at the thought, but it was cut short at the sudden throbbing pain in their side.
They blinked back into reality and glanced down to see the boy had freed a hidden knife and had enough lower arm movement to plunge it into their side. With lightening fast speed, Yantho had his right arm free and punched them hard in the face. It was enough for them to lose their balance and fall backwards, where Yantho jumped them.
They blinked in surprise at how quickly the tables turned. They were on their back with the boy straddling them, a knife pressed hard to their throat just under the chin while he used the other to hold onto the base of their throat. His eyes were wild, he was breathing hard and he looked panicked but that same confidence was coming back.
“Well, well, well..”
His grip tightened on their throat as the same distant door opened and footsteps quickly decided down the stairs.
“Yantho!” A voice called.
They looked over to see three figures approaching, but one ran right past them and into the cell where Captain Leonardo still lay unconscious. The boy quickly got off them and into the waiting arms of the person who had called his name while the third figure stood above them, sword pointed at their throat. They sighed loudly.
“To what do I owe the pleasure..?” They asked and eyed the woman now standing above them.
“Quiet!” She hissed, eyes filled with fury.
“Yes Ma’am.” They smirked, but said nothing more.
The pain in their side was still persistent, and they could still feel the sticky warm blood oozing out of the wound. They doubted they’d get properly treated. After all, they had the magic to do it themselves. They flicked eyes over to Yantho but his back was turned as he was ushered away by another man, perhaps a few years older.
Yantho pulled away to walk to the other side of the room where his sword was, examined it for a moment then glanced in their direction for a few seconds. Their gazes met again, but the boy’s eyes only grew dark as he sheathed his blade and headed over to where the first man was picking up the Captain.
He was still unconscious, and a big man like that definitely needed more than one person to carry him away. They took pride in seeing what they had done - It was only a fraction of the pain and humiliation they wanted to inflict upon him, but it would do for now. They watched the second man run over to help.
They dragged him over to the stairs, and Yantho let them pass with an unreadable expression. He didn’t seem very bothered seeing his captain in such a state. Interesting. He looked over and gave them one last look, though his eyes weren’t as cold as before. Annoyance soiled his handsome face. A shame.
Without a word, he nodded to the woman and headed towards the stairs to follow the other three back to safety.
“Yantho,” They called, and the boy paused at the foot of the stairs. The sword pressed into their throat, but it didn’t matter. “I look forward to seeing you again..”
After a moment, Yantho hurried up the stairs without looking back. They sighed with a smile, then eyed the woman whose eyes were now narrowed.
“Hello, beautiful.” They continued to smile.
“Goodnight, Mjik.” She simply said, before she lifted her boot up and brought it down on their head.
Chapter 2: Return
basically ''umm..sweeetie :))" and bitch u thought
Click, click, click..
Click, click, click..
Everything was blurry, misformed blobs of light as reality slowly came into focus when they opened their eyes. Nothing hurt, yet they groaned anyway.
Click, click, click..
The dull, faded stone ceiling was the first thing they noticed. They were lying on their back, and not even on the lump of straw that served as a bed. Someone wasn’t feeling very charitable when dumping them back into the cell. They counted the stains covering the ceiling from the amount of times they had tossed mushy food up to see if it stuck.
With a sigh, they lifted themselves into a sitting position. They sat there for a moment and wondered how much time had passed since the previous events. They remembered the foot to their head which no longer hurt, and enjoyed the thought of doing the same to that woman.
They had tried to use their charms (charmspeak as the humans called it) on her, but either her resistance to magic was high or she genuinely didn’t see the allure. They found that interesting - their physical appearance was that of a human male, so more feminine-appearing humans were more taken by their looks and charmspeak while not as many masculine-appearing humans were.
Their control over the latter didn’t last long because 'charmspeak' was seduction, allure, enticement. And when a human wasn't attracted to them, it wore off quickly. Not that it was their only power, but it was a useful tool to get what they wanted without violence. Is it really theft if you convince the owner to give it to you? Hmm.
With another sigh, they reached under the straw bed to retrieve the small, pocket sized mirror they had talked one of the past guards into giving them. Breaking it for a shiv would be useless since the surface was only two inches wide and long-and besides-why would they destroy the only tool that gave them something beautiful to look at. Themselves.
They grinned into it, brushing a hand through their short, wavy black hair which was combed back except for the rebellious few strands dangling over their forehead. They met their reflections eyes which were a bright, molten gold. They liked it-none of the humans had golden eyes.
They found humans hated certain colours of skin, and most did not seem to like their dark brown complexion as opposed to their odd pale, peachy, prone-to-sunburn selves. It was strange that they seemed to respect the woman who kicked them unconscious, when she was darker than them. Humans were funny little creatures.
Click, click, click..
The sound almost made them want to lie back down on the floor and never get up but they simply put the mirror back under the bed and turned their attention on their right hand. There was a black cuff clamped on their wrist, somehow blocking their power. They suspected it was laced with magic and they couldn’t remove it.
Every time they tried, it was hot to the touch and yanking on it made them weak and dizzy to the point they’d pass out. But it wasn’t impossible-a human had put it on, a human could take it off. They just had to convince the right one. None stayed for long, and they never had the same guard for longer than two days.
They weren't sure why their self-healing skin (along with the amplified charm) were the only powers unaffected by this dilemma, but it was better than nothing. They could get whipped until the sky turned green but they’d still heal and didn't feel pain which angered their captors each time.
Click, click, click..
They were going to take that sound and-- The distant sound of hinges unlocking and a door being pushed open interrupted their thought. They looked over their shoulder in the direction the sound came from and listened. There were footsteps, but no voices. Visitors already? Hm. They couldn’t have been unconscious for more than a day, so perhaps it was imminent punishment.
They smiled to themselves, knowing it was going to happen sooner or later. They had nearly killed two people yesterday. They stretched and yawned loudly then felt a few joints pop. They rolled their neck from side to side, cracking the tired bones and waited for the visitor.
After a moment, a figure appeared in the doorway of the staircase and brushed himself off as he walked into the room. They eyed the stranger curiously - he was one of the people from yesterday. He was tall, tan, seemed in shape but not well built, but his figure was covered in tight chainmail armour.
He had short but messy dark hair, and the beginning of stubble on his face - probably a young adult. From this angle they could see there was a scar running across his jawline from chin to the bottom of his left ear. Attractive, nonetheless.. but he looked familiar.
“Hello, Mjik.” The man said, “Sleep well?”
“Like someone who was kicked unconscious.” They replied.
He laughed and pulled out a leather pouch, “You’re not still mad about that, are you? Surely you’ve had worse.”
“Mhm.” They hummed, watching as the man pulled a small blade out of the pouch and held it up to the light streaming in from the small crack in the far wall,
“Am I to presume that’s why you’re here? To give me worse?”
“In due time, Mjik.” He responded, using the slur like it was their name, “Hopefully you didn’t think you weren’t going to be punished for yesterday?”
They cocked their head to the side, “Of course I did. If your mundane weapons don’t kill me first, boredom will. It’s my only source of entertainment.”
He sighed and finally met their eyes - dark green and filled with smug confidence but a spark of hatred was hidden there too. “I suggested your execution for what you did, but there’s still so much we need to know.”
“More?” They asked with a smile, enjoying the knowledge they had gotten under his skin, “I haven’t told you anything and I’ve been here for an eon.”
The man smirked and leaned against the wooden table in the middle of the room, “We know you’re not human, you have magic and that you’re not a Senj.”
They rolled their eyes. Why would they be a Senj, some goody-two shoes who used their power to help? When you had power, you use it to get what you want, not become a slave to those without. These humans fear what they don’t understand, and even if they were a Senj, the humans wouldn’t trust them. There was no win.
“Well, at least I know you’re not brain dead. How long did it take all of you to figure out those three whole facts?”
The man scowled at them, “We’ll get more out of you. We’ve tortured you, but let’s see how long it takes you to heal from amputated body parts.”
Their smug smile grew, “I’d like to see you try.”
The man lowered the small paring knife, then set it back on the table, “And before you try your charmspeak on me, the names Favian.” He looked over at them, “Just so you know the name of the man who broke you.”
Favian? Ohh. That was the name the other boy - Yantho, tried claiming was his. Why would he use someones he knew? That was an interesting thought. Aside from that, their smile turned venomous. Humans like this had tried the tough act before, but they always broke first. This would be fun,
“I like a challenge.”
The man, Favian, stroked the leather whip that rested on the table while most likely wondering what weapon he should use first. He simply turned and approached the cell, eyes dark and focused while never taking his off theirs. He stopped only half a foot away and they admired his courage - even the tough tormentors kept their distance.
“Oooh, so fearless.” They purred and grabbed onto the bars of the cell, “I like that in a victim.”
He chuckled, “Quit the act, you’re never getting out anywhere near me.”
Favian reached in one of the pouches that hung around his hips and produced a silver key to hold it up in front of him. He let it dangle by the string and they couldn’t help but glance at it for a moment which apparently what the other was waiting for. He laughed and cocked his head to the side as their eyes returned to his.
“You want it? Go ahead, It’s yours. I’ll wait.”
They didn’t make a move even knowing they were faster than this human. If they reached out and snatched it, they’d have nowhere to go. If they reached out and this human was somehow faster and yanked it away, they’d look like a desperate fool. They kept staring at this man who simply smiled and lowered the key.
“No? You sure?” He laughed and put it back in the pouch, “Don’t say I never offered.”
“We’ll see who's laughing when I tear your throat out.”
Favian rolled his eyes, “Aw, don’t get mad, Mjik. It looks like I’m getting to you.”
“It’s going to take a lot more than that, human.”
He studied them with cold eyes for a moment, then reached out and grabbed their wrist through the bars. They raised their eyebrows at the action - no one had ever touched them before out of fear - but they were curious to see what would happen. They let their arm be pulled forcefully out of the cell until their body was pressed against the bars.
Favian gripped onto their wrist with a force in one hand and held that same small bladed knife with the other. They spread their fingers apart and flattened out their hand which earned an annoyed expression from the man. They simply smiled back at him and waited for a knife through the hand. It didn’t come.
Instead, Favian pressed the knife point into the palm of their hand and twisted. It took a moment, but the skin broke and a thin stream of black blood ran down the edge of the knife. The man pushed harder and more trickles of blood joined the small stream, but the blade didn’t go any deeper. The man narrowed his eyes and pulled the knife away.
He simply pressed it against the the side of the joint in their middle finger and pressed - the same thing happened. A cut, a few drops of blood, but the blade didn’t go all the way through no matter how hard this human pushed. They wanted to laugh at the feeble attempts but kept it to themselves. The human lowered the knife and stared at their hand.
“I told you that you could try to cut off parts of my body,” They reminded him, “I never said it would work.”
Even past their hatred and annoyance, they saw curiosity in his eyes. They saw the same curiosity in the captain's eyes the first time they were whipped, bled black blood and healed in the same session. These people wanted to know what they were, how they could do it, and how to use it for themselves. They snorted at the thought.
“What are you..” He murmured quietly to himself, still gripping tightly onto their wrist.
“Use that key to get me out, and maybe I’ll tell you..” They purred, flashing a half-smile and cocked their head to the side. From this close, the sensation that he seemed familiar tugged at them again. Had they met?
Favian met their eyes again and narrowed them, the charmspeak only taking effect for less that a second before he grinned, “Nice try, Mjik. Maybe-”
In the distance, that familiar heavy metal door unlocked and its creaks echoed throughout the small room. Favian’s eyes lit up in uncertainty - it was clear he wasn’t expecting someone else to come and ruin his moment. Annoyance clouded his features and he turned around.
They supposed they could attempt to grab him now that he was distracted, but it wouldn't be worth it. A single pair of footsteps descended and a moment later a figure emerged in the room. They almost smiled - Yantho. The boy was wearing the same thin chainmail from the other day, his hair was tied back again but overall had the same appearance.
“Yantho..?” Favian asked, confusion in his voice, “Why are you here?”
"Because he missed my beautiful face, no doubt." The suggested.
Yantho looked at him and then his gaze found theirs. They cocked their head, smile remaining on their face and waved. He only stared for a moment before returning his gaze back to Favian.
“General Hymn requests your presence.” The boy said, ignoring their words. “He knows of your assignment here, but he says it’s urgent.”
Favian seemed to consider that for a moment. He walked away from the cell and over to the table where he set the black-coated knife down. Yantho stared at it for a second, and they wondered what he was thinking in that very moment. Favian sighed and ran a hand through his short hair, then nodded.
“Have you been sent to take my place, then?”
“I don’t have the authority to continue your practices.” Yantho told him, and they detected a smudge of disappointment in his voice, “But I was told to watch him until your return.”
Their mouth twitched. There they go again with their human pronouns for them. Even though they had never explicitly told them, the mere fact that they weren’t human should be enough to clue these people in. They sighed. It wasn't worth it, these people wouldn't care so neither did they. At least they had someone to toy with.
“Very well.” Favian said, wiping off his hands, “Be careful, I don’t want you to get hurt again.”
Yantho almost looked amused, but he stared at the other, “Yesterday wasn’t my fault. And I can handle myself.”
He laughed, “Believe me, dear. I know.”
With his back to them now, Favian walked around the table and quickly took Yantho’s face in his hands and kissed him gently. They blinked at the unexpected turn of events and watched Yantho shift to stand on his toes and tilt his head. They frowned, unsure as to why they felt bothered by this. It was so easy to torment people with their partners.
After a moment, Favian pulled away but said something softly to the other who responded with a nod. He then wasted no time disappearing into the stairwell. Yantho stood there with a genuine smile on his face until he looked up to meet their eyes and it was replaced with a scowl. A shame, he had a beautiful smile.
“What, no kisses for little ‘ol me?” They asked innocently.
“Over my dead body.” He replied.
They grinned and leaned into the bars, “That’s all it takes?”
Yantho scoffed and walked over to the table where the weapons were lying. He reached out and picked up an old, black stained hammer to examine. They eyed it as well, wondering how many times humans had tried to break their fingers with that tool. The humans sure liked to try to smash their bones to a pulp, infuriated when they didn't and the broken skin healed within the hour.
“Black blood.” Yantho said, and turned over the hammer, “To match your soul, I suppose?”
They smiled, “Soul? I don’t know the meaning of the word.”
Yantho rolled his eyes which they found humorous. Usually when the humans rolled their eyes, it was to show smugness or how little they cared. That didn’t seem to be the case here - the other seemed slightly amused with the answer. The boy set the hammer down and picked up that same small knife then frowned.
“See something you like, love?”
Yantho flashed them a look of annoyance at the petname. Clearly it struck a nerve. Maybe only his lover was allowed to call him that. They wanted to laugh -these people were so easily aggravated.
This was going to be so much fun.
they have a pain kink lol time to kinkshame
As Yantho continued to examine the tools on the table, they watched his movements. He moved slowly, carefully, gracefully sliding his feet as he stepped from side to side and stood with his legs spread apart a few inches. From this angle, they could see the curve of his body and he seemed to be average all around, until he leaned across the table.
Their eyes fell to his backside, which was much more visible now that the chainmail skirt was lifted out of the way. The beige leggings were form fitting, which made the entire view more enjoyable. And to think they had paid to see such a show in the past. A grin formed on their face, even after Yantho had grabbed the object that required leaning across the table to get.
“Am I in prison or the local brothel?” They questioned, still grinning, “How much do you cost, sweetheart?”
Yantho turned to meet their eyes, confused for only a moment before realising what they were talking about. He quickly frowned, eyes narrowed in annoyance but his face showed a different story - his cheeks flushed a light pink. He quickly went around to the other side of the table so that there were facing each other now.
They sighed, slightly disappointed, but continued to watch the other examine each item. He frowned at the shackles and they smiled at the fond memory. Brought outside their cell, chained from links hanging from the ceiling and whipped, poked with sharp tools, beaten with heavy objects. That was fun, now they were just locked up all the time.
Glancing down at the wrist cuff, they wondered how long the spell on it lasted. How glorious it would be if its power wore off in the middle of the night and the humans woke up to find them destroying everything. They wondered what they’d take their wrath out on first. This godforsaken room? It was a cave underground so they might cause a cave-in.
Mmm. Who would they kill first? Captain Leonardo? Yes, that was a tasty thought - they would tear each of his limbs off and feed it to him. Maybe they’d break every bone in his body, or show him the real extent of their powers. Or perhaps they should go after Favian. They could kill him in front of Yantho; make him watch his lover die. They grinned to themselves.
They’d take that whip and seek out General Hymn. They had never seen the man's face before, but he was the reason they were here. He ordered the punishments, the torture, the experiments. Maybe they’d lock him up in this same room, bleed him out and leave him to starve to death. There were so many good options.
“All of these have been used on you?” Yantho asked, his voice breaking through their escape fantasy.
“Mhm.” They replied, “The thumbscrew is one of my favourites.”
As Yantho eyed that exact item on the table, they thought about the times guards had strapped them to the chair at the table in the middle of this room and forced their hand into the small device. Leonardo had personally operated it, taking joy in turning the screw that pressed the metal together to break their fingers.
It never worked, but the pressure of the device caused their unbreaking bones to shift out of place. The only part that made them wince was when some bones stuck out of the skin but they stared at the Captain in the eyes the entire time. Most guards got sick and had to turn away. In the end, Leonardo left radiating with annoyance and frustration.
“You don’t feel pain?” Yantho asked, and they blinked out of their memory. He was staring at them.
“Not at all.” They assured him, “I’ll heal from whatever you humans throw at me.”
Yantho eyed them for a moment with an unreadable expression on his face, then went back to scanning the wooden table.
“Aw, are you concerned for me?” They cooed
Yantho snorted and turned over another object, “Hardly. You’ve grown immune to our techniques of torture,” He glanced up to the chains hanging from the ceiling, “They’re preparing something else above.”
They cocked their head to the side, “Oh? Tell me ..”
"Aw, c'mon Yantho.." They cooed, "Tell me.. please?"
The boy slowly looked up at them again in a daze this time, and squinted in confusion. The look on his face showed it was clear that was something he wasn't supposed to share. His eyes turned glassy and his shoulder relaxed before slowly opening his mouth to speak.
“Another method..” He murmured, “From another kingdom..”
“Yes?” They replied softly, “Go on.”
Yantho gritted his teeth, "They.. no. They have.."
"Have what?" They encouraged.
He tried hard not to speak, visibly fighting the magic.
They smiled playfully, "Playing hard to get, hm? C'mon, love. You can tell me."
“T-They..have a senj.” Yantho continued, speaking before he could stop himself. He looked lost, confused, “Bring..”
They raised their eyebrows. This was an interesting development. As Yantho shook his head and came back to himself, they wondered when they’d get to meet this Senj. So another kingdom had a magic user and they were being sent to this one - they wondered what the trade for that was like. These humans must truly be desperate.
“Stop doing that.” Yantho growled, both hands on the table.
"Doing what?" They asked innocently.
They grinned in return, “Stop being attracted to me then.”
"I'm not." He looked disgusted, "Murderous criminals aren't my type, but thanks."
"I'm everyone's type." They replied matter-o-factly
Yantho’s face twisted, “Not even if you were the last being on earth.”
“Maybe you should come over here and prove me wrong.” They eyed him over, "It'll be fun, yantho."
The disgust on Yantho’s face instantly melted away, replaced by the that same neutral expression. They bit back a smile at how easy this was. He stood in place for a moment as he visibly tried to fight the magic, but in a daze he slowly walked forward, hand still on the table as he walked around it. Their smug grin widened as they watched the boy approach, eyes disoriented and glazed over. He blinked slowly and came to a stop half a meter away.
“Come closer.” They murmured
He slowly took a step forward, closing the small distance, both of them staring at each other. They noticed his eyes weren’t dark at all, but rather a lovely hazel that sparkled in both the natural and candle light. Their eyes drifted to his lips, wondering what hell this boy would bring down if they kissed him with his lover upstairs.
“Hello there, beautiful.” They said, “You come here often?”
“Only to admire the view.” He replied, reaching through the bars and rested his hands on their chest.
They leaned into the bars, savouring the touch, “It’s better up close. Why don’t you come join me in here?”
Yantho smirked, “Okay.”
Overwhelming satisfaction took over their body but before they realised it wasn’t a smirk of approval, the sharp point of a knife was pressed against the bottom of their chin. They blinked in surprise, realizing the boy grabbed a fistful of their shirt with the hands he slipped through the bars. He pressed the knife harder so their raised their head slightly.
“I believe I told you to stay out of my head.” He growled, eyes fierce
“Actually, you said-”
Yantho twisted the weapon and they felt a fresh wound open, drops of blood sliding down their neck. They winced, and hadn’t noticed their control wear off, so this outcome came as a surprise. They tried to keep the confusion off their face, but it didn’t make sense. He had been under the magics influence the whole time. Unless-
“You’re not as smart as you think.” Yantho told him, “You were more affected by your own charmspeak than I was.”
“My, my, you sneaky devil.” They mused, “I’m impressed.”
The disgust returned to every feature of his face, “Understand one thing, Mjik. You’re repulsive, a murderer, a thief. I wouldn’t be attracted to you unless you forced me to.”
They sighed at the words, not bothering to explain how usual charmspeak preyed on pre-existing attraction, and kept their smile.
“Yes, sir.” They mocked, “As you were.”
Yantho glared for a moment, then stepped away before he pulled the knife away as well but the wound was already starting to heal from such a small puncture. He quickly sheathed the blade in a hidden pouch on his belt under the chainmail. They took mental note of that, knowing they could probably take advantage of it in the future.
They turned away from the cell door to stretch, and groaned quietly as several joints in different locations popped. They stood there for a moment with their arms above their head and scanned the small room. Nothing had changed so they didn’t know why they were looking. The same two meter wide and long carved out stone room.
They simply sat down close to the bars and crossed their legs, their tired feet singing in thanks at the decision. They stared at their hands as Yantho went back to the other side of the table, both paying each other no mind. They eyed the cuff around their wrist but made no attempt to remove it. Instead, they put both hands together to form a bowl.
Focus, focus, focus.. They willed the energy to flow, but it was extremely difficult with the restriction. They closed their eyes and took a deep breath before exhaling quietly then allowed themselves to relax. Feeling the familiar static in their palms, they focused on the feeling and allowed it to increase. They opened their eyes.
A tiny spark made up of golden flakes floated in the middle of their hands now; it slowly started spinning and turned into a small swirl. They smiled, spread their hands apart an inch and watched as it turned into something that resembled a star. The faint golden glow illuminated their hands as the star started darting around in their palms, leaving a fading trail wherever it went.
They glanced up to see Yantho staring from where he stood at the other side of the table, curiosity in his eyes but fear was edging into his expression.
“Please, there’s no need to be alarmed.” They said bitterly, and Yantho met their eyes, “This is the extent of my power with this godsforsaken cuff on.”
They returned their gaze to their hands where the star had multiplied, the previous ones disappearing in a puff of yellow light. They pulled their hands apart even more. The sparks had floated to the middle still but had taken the form of a bird flapping its unformed wings. They tried to force more energy to create the rest, but it didn’t come.
“It’s beautiful..” Yantho’s voice broke through the silence. He had since moved to their side of the table and leaned against it, “..when you’re not using it to kill people, that is.”
They smiled, but didn’t meet his gaze, “Where’s the fun in that?”
They felt Yantho’s continued gaze on them, so they twisted their hands slightly and the bird dissolved into the figure of a person walking in place. Trails of light flowed around the person. They’ve done this before, pretending the person was someone they despised for their own amusement. They looked up at him.
“Would you like to see what I’m going to do to your precious Captain?”
Yantho didn’t answer, but he didn’t look away or scoff either. They glanced back down at their hands and pulled them apart, the sparks splitting the figure in half and each side dissolved into small bulbs of light as they brought their hands back together. They wouldn’t use their magic to tear the Captain apart, they’d do it the human way.
"Good luck.” He simply said before turning away, not sounding concerned.
They didn’t reply and just went back to playing with their limited power. They weren’t sure how they could access it with the cuff but they supposed it was better than nothing. It was a source of entertainment for their boring days. Now, they assumed that was going to end after Yantho runs off to tell the Captain about what he saw.
They continued forming different shapes and figures for the next ten minutes while the other finished his examination of the cell block, only feeling his gaze on them twice. They figured he had never seen magic up close hence his obvious curiosity but he tried not to make it too apparent. If they caught him staring, he looked away just as fast.
An interesting one, this boy was. They stared at the golden light, pondering if they should get more information out of him. What did they want to know, or rather care about? Human policies didn’t phase them, and they supposed the higher authorities didn't share secrets with a simple guard like Yantho. However..
“Tell me,” They started, looking up as they closed their hands and the light vanished, “You said some interesting things yesterday..”
Yantho frowned, “I’m not having this conversation with you.”
“No?” They mused, “You had a lot to say before..”
“You forced it out of me.” Yantho growled as he crossed his arms.
They sighed and fixed him with that same endearing smile, “Charmspeak, as you call it, makes you tell how you really feel, shuts off the filter in your brain for a moment. You speak the truth.”
He shook his head, “Whatever you say. Go back to being silent, I prefered it.”
They slowly lifted themselves off the floor to stretch out their legs and approached the cell door again. They grabbed the bars, “You said you wanted to escape because you didn’t belong here. Tell me about that.”
Yantho hesitated for a moment but shook his head once more, “It’s none of your concern.”
“Oh? So there is something.”
"No. Stop talking."
"C'mon, love. Entertain me."
He stared at them for a moment, eyes clouded. It was clear there was something but he was visibly trying to fight the magic in his head to keep from spilling all his dirty little secrets. He never resisted this hard before, so they were even more curious now. They leaned into the bars, never taking their eyes off his.
“No!” He gasped, forcing himself to look away. Then, more forcefully, “No. Stay out of my damn head. I don’t have to tell you anything.”
They considered this for a moment and then sighed, “As you wish. Maybe I’ll force it out of your friend upstairs.”
Yantho’s head snapped back to look at them, eyes wide with alarm. They hadn’t expected that reaction at all and it took them by genuine surprise. This was getting interesting. Where to start with all this new information. Yantho cleared his throat and regained his calm composure but they knew.
“What’s this? You looked, dare I say, scared..” They mused, then gasped softly, “Is he the reason you want to run from here, hm? Young love isn’t all it turned out to be?”
“No! Shut up.” He snapped, “You don’t know anything about us.”
“Oooh, touchy. Hit a nerve, did I?”
Yantho continued to glare at them and then turned away, “Enough.”
They paused, deciding on dropping the subject. For now.
“Fine. Humor me." They rolled their eyes and asked, "How’d you meet?” not caring about the answer.
They rolled their eyes, “You and twat-face.”
Yantho looked over his shoulder, “Why would I tell you that? It’s none of your business.”
“Oh, please,” They rolled their head back, exasperated, “Entertain me, it’s not like I can do anything with it. I’m curious, as your human same sex relationships seemed to be condemned.”
He narrowed his eyes and looked away. Yantho didn’t say anything but finally turned to lean against the table, arms crossed, “Why does it matter? You’ll force me to tell you anyway.”
“Assuming I cared enough about your drab love life to force you,” They retaliated, rolling their eyes, “No forcing here, I’m bored.”
Yantho’s face was expressionless so they couldn't tell what he was thinking.. that bugged them as they could usually read humans like a book. Sometimes this boy was good at hiding his emotions, even when they amped up the charm. They tilted their head ever so slightly and waited for the response, knowing they’d be told to shut up.
“A bar.” Yantho said simply, instead of refusing, “Are you satisfied?”
“A bar? ” They repeated, “How utterly dull.”
They sighed and ran a hand through their hair, “Of course. You met at a bar, two idiots spotted each other from across the room and it was love at first sight. I understand.”
“There’s no such thing as love at first sight.” Yantho told them, looking mildly annoyed, “Love takes time, something you would know nothing about.”
They grinned, “It was love at first sight the first time I saw myself.”
He scoffed, “Gods, could you get any more narcissistic?”
“Glad you asked.” They winked, “What do you want to hear about first? My beautiful hair? My perfect body? My alluring voice? How about-”
“I will shove my sword down your throat if you keep talking.”
Yantho’s face was full of ridicule as he rolled his eyes and walked away while muttering to himself. In the distance, they heard the metal hinges unlock and the prison door opened. They felt a twinge of disappointment while Yantho looked towards the stairwell, eyes sparkling and face expectant. They were just starting to have fun.
“Speak of the devil.” They murmured.
After a moment, Favian appeared in the archway, eyes immediately landing on Yantho who’s smile could brighten the entire room. They wondered if it was just their actions that repulsed him and what it was he saw in that marshmallow of a man. Favian reached out and pulled the other close for a welcome back kiss, which Yantho eagerly returned.
This time however, Yantho wrapped his arms around the taller man's shoulders while Favian laughed into the kiss and placed his hands on the shorters side. They scrunched their nose in distaste, wondering if he was just putting on a show to get on their nerves. It was working. They hated when humans did things like this.
“I missed you.” Yantho murmured after pulling away an inch.
“I was gone twenty minutes.” Favian replied, smile still on his face.
Yantho laughed, “Time away from you feels like an eternity.”
They groaned loudly at that, and both males turned their heads in their direction, the affection vanishing off Favian’s face for only a moment to be replaced with a hateful sneer while Yantho met their eyes and smirked in satisfaction. So it was the little twats plan all along to annoy them with this distasteful human interaction.
“Jealous are we, Mjik?” Favian cooed, sliding his hands down until they were cupping Yantho’s backside, “It’s a nasty disease.”
“Oh yes, the thought of making love to your stale, fish-like lips invades my every thought.” They replied, “How I wish I was in his place.”
Favian rolled his eyes, then glanced back at Yantho, “Maybe I should take you on this table right now,” He murmured, brushing the strand of hair from the shorters face, “Give him a taste of what he can’t have..?”
Yantho lowered his head and laughed, then glanced over at them, “As much as I enjoy the thought..” He turned back to Favian, “I’m sure he’d get off on watching.”
They rolled their eyes so hard they hurt, but didn’t comment. Humans were so obnoxious and.. What was the word? Full of themselves? Many would argue they were, and that was true, but they did it with grace. He groaned quietly when the two returned for another long kiss, and they were almost sure the two were about to start removing clothing.
“Do you have to immediately return to your assignment?” Yantho asked, tilting his head slightly and ran his fingers across the others chest, “We could.. retreat upstairs..?”
Favian’s grin turned devious and he pulled away from Yantho, “I have some time to spare, I suppose the assignment can wait.”
They huffed loudly, “You’re already torturing me with this nonsense, what more could you possibly do to me?”
They both turned to look at them, but only Favian responded, “In due time, Mjik.” Then tugged on his lover's arm, “C’mon darling, it smells of death down here.”
They watched as he turned and headed up the stairs, but Yantho looked over his shoulder and mockingly blew them a kiss as retaliation for earlier. They made a catching motion in return and quickly ripped the imaginary heart in half. He rolled his eyes and turned to run after Favian. Their footsteps echoed up the stairs and soon the door closed behind them.
They sighed and rested their head on the bars. This was going to be a long night.
i hope yantho gets to punch them in the face soon
Click, click, click..
Four hundred, twenty six..
Click, click, click..
Four hundred, twenty nine..
Finally, the sound faded. Huh. Only fifty five more than yesterday.
They had taken to counting the steps; something that was becoming therapeutic rather than mind-numbingly annoying. It was a way to pass the time that seemed to stretch on for an eternity. They got fed every other day usually around the two hundredth click upstairs, so they assumed it was some sort of routine. It had been a week since any fun.
A week since Yantho and Favian had vanished for playtime and they had only seen Leonardo since then. The man returned twice within the past few days, talking about all the ways he’d like to punish them but wasn’t allowed. He would taunt about their execution date which wasn’t a set point in time yet.
They stopped eating out of boredom but someone still brought them food for the next two meals as the plates sat with flies gathering on the other side of the cell door. Someone collected the dishes as they slept and didn’t bring any more. They continued to play with the small rock, tossed it up and down and carved on the wall with it.
They spent most of their time sleeping and even though they didn’t dream, it was the most satisfying because it was time away from this boring place. Their only real source of entertainment had been taunting the visitors, but they received little to none now since the little incident. Captain Leonardo was the only one, and he was already so boring.
Their charm had no effect on him, so they couldn’t toy with him the way they did others - like Yantho. They smiled at the memory; he was the only person in quite some time that they had a hold on with their abilities. Sure, they could lure some of the past foodbringers close, but now they had been replaced with a deaf human.
Yantho was fun, he was easy to charm and got riled up easily - it was an endless cycle, really. They wondered how much he had currently whined to his mentor about it. If he had, surely Leonardo would come down here and brought it up in one of his long, torture-like talking sessions.. Hm. Perhaps poor old Yantho didn’t want others to know he wasn’t immune to this magic.
They accepted the fact they weren’t going to see him again after that first week, and the thought came with slight disappointment but was washed over with relief. The boy was flimsy, whiny, and if they had to witness he and Favian show a smudge more affection, they might just find a way to off themselves. They had peace and quiet.
That was until several days after when they were lying on the straw bed, eyes closed with one hand draped over their chest. In the distance they heard that familiar door unhinge and a small smile crept on their face. Food had stopped being brought to them, so it was a real visitor this time - how exciting.
They sighed quietly as they listened to the pair of footsteps descend down the stone stairs, chains gently clanging together with each step. Finally, someone appeared in the cell block, but they didn’t care enough to turn and face them. The visitor approached slowly, probably unsure if they were asleep or playing dead. They laughed and the steps stopped.
“Comfortable?” The all-too-familiar voice asked
They opened their eyes, smile widening, “Do my ears deceive me?” They rolled over to their stomach and stared at Yantho standing on the other side of the bars, arms crossed with bored half-lidded eyes. They playfully gasped, “Yantho, how I missed you.”
“Uh-huh.” He replied, eyes finding something else to focus on, “Don’t get too excited. I’m not here to stay.”
“I can barely contain myself.” They replied, and rested their head in their hands, elbows digging into the hard ground but they didn’t mind, “I was starting to think you’d forgotten about me.” He didn't look much different from the last time, aside from the cut on his lip.
He huffed, “I wish that were the case. I was doing just fine before I met you.”
“That’s odd, usually people's lives get enriched by my presence.”
They grinned. “What brings you to my humble abode?”
Without a word, Yantho reached for his belt, grabbed a set of metal wrist chains and held the device up for them to see. They kept their grin knowing that they were going to be finally taken somewhere - a change of scenery was long overdue and they needed to stretch their legs anyway. They turned their attention back to Yantho.
“Mm, jumping right into the foreplay? No dinner first?” They mused, “I like it.”
He kept his annoyed expression, “Cooperate or you will be forced.”
"Oooh, you're sexy when you're bossy."
Yantho clenched his teeth together, but said nothing.
They rolled their eyes and slowly pushed themselves into a sitting position but took their precious time with the simple task of standing up. Yantho watched their every move, most likely wanting to avoid what happened last time when they had a chance at freedom. However this time they wouldn’t toy with him - they’d run.
“Hands.” Yantho said, and remained still.
Their smile was still plastered on their face as they walked forward and quickly raised their arms in mock surrender but the quick movement made the boy flinch. They paid it no mind and simply slid their arms through the bars, "Of course."
Yantho stood there for a moment but then took a step forward as he unclasped the shackles and held them out. He was within reaching distance before even closing the cold metal around their wrists, so they could have easily grabbed him.. But then what? It would have accomplished nothing so they let the shackles be put on.
Yantho quickly locked them, but they noticed his hands were shaking ever so slightly even though there was an attempted scowl on his face. Fear was a funny thing in humans, and it made them do stupid things. But it was also very easy to take advantage of an emotional human, especially a scared or angry one.
“Afraid of me, love?” They cooed, “Don’t worry.. I don’t bite - hard.”
Yantho didn’t look at them, “I’m not scared of you.” He adjusted the shackles to make sure they were on securely.
“No? You should be.”
The boy swallowed hard but still didn’t meet their gaze. He finished up what he was doing and quickly pulled away - how fast he stepped backwards just confirmed his fear, but he tried to hide it when he turned around and crossed his arms again. They grinned and stared at his back for a moment before they tilted their head to the side
“Where am I being taken?” They asked curiously, “Or do you just like seeing me in bonds?”
Yantho huffed and turned back around, “I thought you liked surprises.”
Suddenly, more footsteps started descending down the stairs. Yantho didn’t react, but they blinked in surprise. They almost cursed to themselves at the realisation that their escape plan was now out the window.
“If you have a god,” Yantho simply said, “You better start praying.”
He turned and walked towards the exit just as two guards appeared with Favian right behind them. They groaned, definitely not having missed that man in the slightest and yet here he was. However, unbridled excitement took over at Yantho’s ominous words - were things going to get worse? Gods, hopefully.
Favian confidently strut over to the cell door and unlocked it without a word as the two guards stood next to the door with their weapons drawn. They eyed the room, but Yantho had already left. What was the point of him coming down here, then? Was his job to just shackle prisoners and leave? He’d miss all the fun doing that.
Favian yanked them out of their cell and put a bag over their head. They perked up, getting excited that finally something new was going to happen. They were pulled over to the stairwell and got half-dragged up them because Favian refused to be patient. They were pushed, pulled and shoved in a certain direction.
They were lead down a hallway once reaching the top, for what seemed like a minute or two, then got pulled hard to the right and they descended down another flight of stairs. They groaned loudly and was immediately elbowed in the chest then told to be silent. Downstairs - below ground again, surprise surprise.
These stairs weren't as steep as the ones to their cell room, and the hallway didn’t seem as thin. Perhaps this meant the architecture was more spaced out because it was human made rather than a cave in the ground. Hm. They’d have to wait and find out.
The stairs ended and they were brought into an open room; light spilled in through the thin sack over their head. Someone’s grip on their arm tightened as they halted and they immediately sensed other presences in the room. There was murmuring from every direction and then someone cleared his throat.
“Gentlemen,” A deep voice started, and they knew it was one of authority - a voice that cut through the thickness and demanded to be listened to, “Is this any way to treat our guests?”
Guests? Ha, that was rich. At the words, the hand gripping their shoulder slowly released them and then stepped backwards. Someone else grabbed the top of the sack and ripped it off their head. Greeted with blinding light, they slowly opened their eyes against it and took in the room. There were several gasps.
They were standing in front of a large, rectangular dining table, completely empty except the strip of green cloth lining the center and three candles placed down the middle with a cornucopia sitting dead center. They glanced up to eye the crystal chandelier hanging from the arched wooden ceiling, its shadow swallowing the cornucopia.
Eight long-backed chairs lined each side of the table, evenly spaced apart but no one sat at them so they were neatly tucked in, a red velvet cushion on each. Tall, arching, floor to ceiling windows lined the far wall, dark red curtains pulled to the side to allow the light that they assumed was sunlight. Oh, it had been so long since they felt the sun's touch.
They slowly reached out to the beam of sunlight directly in front of them, allowing the warmth to kiss the palm of their hand. At the motion, they heard several people go for their swords in their sheaths which only made them smirk. Humans were so easily frightened. They glanced to their right and eyed the two guards dressed in armour.
Against that wall were large paintings and wooden cabinets filled with books, small boxes and various bottles of alcohol. They met the gaze of one of the guards who promptly looked away, grip tightening on the hilt of his sword. They glanced to their left and saw the same thing, but three guards stood there instead. The symmetry was oddly satisfying.
“Guests..?” They spoke the question and two men flinched. One of the armoured guards met their eyes but they glanced back to the figure at the end of the table, “If you treat all your guests like me, I have to question your hospitality.”
To their surprise, the man at the end of the table chuckled. He was big, form covered in his own set of heavy, metal armour and a red cape rested over his shoulders,
“Apologies about them.” The main said, “They’re a bit rough with outsiders.”
They didn’t say anything as they studied the man sitting in the head chair, leaning forward with his arms crossed on the table. He had a long, bushy beard with splotches of grey, and a shaven head so short he was nearly bald. He had wrinkles under his eyes and mouth as if he laughed a lot then on his forehead, showing his old age.
“I hope they haven’t been treating you too poorly?”
They snorted, “Oh yes, the daily torture is normal for me. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
The man sighed and leaned back in his chair, “Partially my fault, I suppose..” He paused, and they tilted their head, “I ordered them to get information out of you, but I never specified how. Commander Hayes likes his methods.”
“Commander Hayes..” They said, uncertain who that was but didn’t want to ask.
The man told them anyway, “My mistake. Commander Hayes, Favian. My second.”
They glanced to their left and eyed Favian with raised eyebrows. The other simply met their gaze with a venomous smile but then stared straight ahead again. Commander, eh? Now they knew why Yantho liked him - definitely not because of his looks. The little twat was a.. What did the humans call the word? A gold digger. They almost snorted.
“I know you’d rather get straight to the point,” The man said when they turned back to face him with an amused expression, “My name is General Hymn.”
They stared at the general, too many thoughts whirling around in their head at once. This was General Hymn, the man they had fantasized about ripping apart? Interesting. They assumed they would have met him for the first time at their execution, but this was a nice surprise.
“I’d ask for yours, but it seems you’re reluctant to give it.” Hymn mused, studying them closely and the ghost of a smile appeared on their face, “Whatever reason, It matters not.” He paused for a few moments. “Come.”
They frowned slightly at the request, but Favian shoved them forward. They walked around the right ride of the table cautiously, all guards now anxiously holding the hilts on their blades. They kept their eyes on the General who did the same but remained sitting in the same spot, relaxed and calm as if he knew nothing about who was approaching.
The chair to the generals left was pulled out slightly, so they took that as instinctive to slowly sit down, still cautious and uncertain as to what was going on. They glanced over to see Favian walk around the other man to the left side of the table where he sat to the general's right directly across from them. They met each other's eyes and Favian scowled.
“Leave us.” General Hymn ordered calmly.
Behind them, a few guards hesitated but Favian spoke first.
Hymn silenced him with a stern look, “I am no fool, Favian. I know of the potential danger, but this is a private matter.” He stared at the guards, “That’s an order.”
Quickly and silently, the guards left the room one by one and retreated up the stairwell while they felt Favian’s continued glare on them. They simply leaned forward, elbows on the table, chin resting on their knuckles which seemed to make the other even angrier. The general seemed to notice the tension and chuckled.
“Come now, let us be civil.” He rested a hand on Favian’s arm. “Keep that stress up and you’ll age fifty years - your beautiful wife will have to re-marry so soon!”
He laughed again, but they simply raised their eyebrows and eyed Favian who just stared back with dark, warning eyes. Their lips formed a small smirk as they leaned more into their hands. They hadn't noticed before, but there was a gold ring on his finger. Mischief flashed in their golden eyes. Wife? This was something.
“Wife, eh?” They mused outloud, and Favian’s shoulders tensed. The general looked at them, smile still on his face. How fun it would be to reveal the truth. Not now - they could save this for when they really needed it. “Send her my love, won’t you?”
Favian forced himself to smile but said nothing. He looked like the very motion was bringing him pain which only gave them more satisfaction. However, the General didn’t seem to notice and cleared his throat after pulling his hand away. They flicked their eyes over to meet his just as Favian allowed himself to relax.
“There is so much hostility in the air,” He said, “At ease, son. No harm will come to me.”
Favian exhaled with a troubled expression, “Apologies, father. Surely you cannot blame me when this.. creature is sitting a foot away from the most important person in the kingdom.”
Son? Father? Well, well, well.. This just fueled the escape fantasy where they’d get out and tear even more people apart. They’d slaughter Favian in front of his father and Yantho. Perhaps even his wife if she really did exist. Maybe he’d murder the general infront of his son, who’s pain would bring distress to Yantho. They almost laughed.
“Most important? Have you forgotten the king?” The General questioned curiously though his tone was filled with amusement. From this angle, they could see two scars on his cheek stretching across his nose.
“You do more for the people than he,” Favian said, “As far as I’m concerned, you might as well be king.”
Hymn smiled and his eyes sparkled with pride but didn’t reply. Instead, he glanced back over at them; they were feeling more bored by the second. Were they brought here to just witness domestic conversations? If they were blood related why did they have different last names? It didn’t matter, they couldn’t care less than they already did.
“As for why you’re here. I wanted to finally speak face to face.”
“Oh?” They started, “Couldn’t find time in your busy schedule the other one hundred and eighty five days for lil ‘ol me?”
Favian’s fists clenched, “You dare speak to the-”
General Hymn lifted a hand which silenced his son. Favian angrily closed his mouth but continued to glare.
“Been counting the days, eh?” He questioned, ignoring the snark, “It’s true, I’ve been busy fighting a war. Little time for our most.. prized prisoner.”
“Prized.” They repeated, spitting the word like it was poison, “As if I’m something to be won, a gift. I’m hardly something you humans want.”
The general eyed them again at the word human, again separating themselves from these people. It was clear he had questions.
“You say humans as if you’re so different.” The General spoke, “You have the physical appearance of one, you speak our language, you eat our food.”
They rolled their eyes, “I chose this form to blend in with your society, though dark skin seems to make me stand out."
The general and Favian glanced at each other and seemed to have a silent conversation, then looked back at them.
“Some.. humans have their issues, yes. But it brings you trouble, does it not? I was under the assumption you enjoyed causing conflict.”
They shrugged, “Only when necessary - but very human who insults or lays a hand on me because of this form end up with broken bones. I quite enjoy it.” They paused, “My true appearance would not, how you say, fit in. ”
The general took a moment to register this information, “You're.. a shapeshifter?”
They smiled, “Something like that.”
Favian shook his head, “Father, that doesn't make sense, he’s lying. It goes against the very laws of nature."
“No one should be able to summon flames from their flesh or contact the dead or have telekinesis.” Hymn told him, “You’ve seen as much as me, Favian. This is possible.”
“I don’t believe it.”
They scoffed and both men looked at them, “I don’t care what you think. It’s true, whether you believe it or not.” They gazed at Favian again, “Amazing what you can learn from me when I’m not being beaten with chains and whips, isn’t it?”
Hymn studied them for a long moment, most likely deciding what to say. They wondered how Favian was feeling, knowing they just played him like a fiddle. Months of torture over something they freely told through just a simple conversation. They didn’t mind the torture, but they were still going to do the same.
They also wondered if this conversation was going to have a point. General Hymn was tolerating them, treating them like a normal guest after having been down in the dungeons for half a year. Maybe he was truly blind to what had been happening down there. They were snapped back into reality Favian speaking.
“You have magic.” He said flatly.
“Magic implies effort, having to learn.” They rebuked, “Unlike your Senji and Mjik’s, I was created with my abilities, I’ve had several lifetimes to use them.”
“There’s no word for what I am in your human languages.” They replied, enjoying how flustered and confused they were making these two, “I only speak english because that seems to be the main language around here."
“And what do you speak?” The general questioned.
They tilted their head, “וȶ'ɛ йбйэ бф ײַбѱя גбйגэяй." *
They both flinched at the sound that escaped their lips because of course it was nothing like they had ever heard before. It sounded alien, as if they were speaking backwards and scrambled at the same time but it came naturally to them. They hadn’t spoken their native tongue in such a long time and it felt good.
“Fascinating.” Hymn murmured
"ו בп קбוйק ȶб ȶэבя ײַбѱ בֿбȶל ȶб ɛלяэדɛ." They smiled. **
Both men were quiet for several moments before the general cleared his throat loudly. They simply cocked their head to the side and stared at Favian who was glaring hard at the table, avoiding both their gazes. The General sat up straighter and brushed the dust off his shoulder pads before directing his attention to them.
“It appears we got off topic. Shall we begin?”
* "It's none of your concern."
** "I am going to tear you both to shreds."
Chapter 5: Cessation
“I was beginning to think there wasn’t a point to this congregation.” They mused.
The general eyed them, “I’ve wanted to have this meeting for quite some time, even before I got the word our.. methods, were being used on you.”
“Mm, and I’m sure you were exceedingly heartbroken.” They tilted their head to the side and ignored Favian’s intense glare, “Go on.”
The general paid his son no mind, “As I was saying, we do need information, yes. I believe Captain Givina only wanted to know if there were more of your.. kind." He paused, "Or those with similar abilities."
“More of my kind..” They drawled and closed their eyes, “Of that, there is not."
"Surely you've had some sort of family-"
Their eyes snapped to the General, silencing him mid-thought.
"A family." They repeated, "Once upon a time. They're dead now, slaughtered by humans."
The two eyed each other but only Favian spoke, “And left you alive?”
“A choice humans will regret having made for as long as I remain.” Their voice was low, calm, yet the threat was there, “There’s your answer." They wanted to change the subject immediately, "I’ve never met anyone else with abilities, and even if I did, I would not show you where to find them.”
Before Favian could open his mouth to surely to claim how it was another lie, the general sat back in his chair and sighed. He seemed to think about their words for a moment; they didn’t even knew if they spoke the truth. Perhaps they had met someone with abilities, but it was lost to their many, many memories.
“Interesting. You’re far more cooperative than Favian thought you to be.”
“That’s because he’s lying, father.” Favian angrily spoke through gritted teeth, “He’s manipulating you, you don’t know what this creature is like.”
The general sighed, “I’m no fool, Favian. I know he may not speak the full truth, but there is some in the words.” He looked at them, “That’s why I wanted to make an offer.”
“Ithyen will not make offers with-”
“Favian!” The General snapped, rage filling his eyes, “Enough. If you cannot keep your mouth shut, perhaps you should take a walk elsewhere.”
Their lips curled up in a smug smirk but still avoided Favian’s eyes even though he was practically shaking with rage. This kind of torture was almost as satisfying as what they really had in mind for him. They kept their eyes on the general who took a deep breath and relaxed visibly into the chair. He turned his eyes back on them.
“As I was saying,” He spoke, “I believe we can help each other.”
“Doubtful.” They replied, “Unless you want to help me by removing this cuff,” A pause, “And your sons head on a spike.”
Both of Favian’s hands clenched into fists but still he remained silent. However, the General’s face grew cold at the threat over his son. They wondered if this was it; the thing Yantho had warned them about. Perhaps they had to probe harder.
“Set aside your quarrel with my son,” He spoke, “I understand you’re angry, but this isn’t about him. You can help yourself.”
“You’d have to kill me before I did that.” They replied, eyeing Favian, “But please, continue.”
They resisted the urge to sigh loudly - they didn’t want to be here, they didn’t want to play nice, and they certainly didn’t want to work with humans. They were above that. Sadly, they had hoped this would be an interesting meeting and these two would be worthwhile to talk to but they’d rather be back in their cell watching Yantho snog his toy.
Even if they accepted this frivolous offer, there was zero chance the people would give them freedom - they were a prisoner and they’d sooner be put to death than set free to wreak havoc on another kingdom or village. Besides, what could they possibly give them outside of that, that they’d even want? It didn’t hurt to listen, they guessed.
“You were at The Siege of Pawold.” The General said, stating it as a fact not a question.
They thought about it for a moment, letting their memories take over. They had been in many of these humans fights but never stayed around long enough to see the outcome or even learn the name of the place. Pawold. Now that was one they remembered, and they smiled at the memory of how much carnage was caused, and not just by them.
It was amusing how often these people started battles with each other, spilled their own kinds blood out of greed, power and fortune. They envied all three of those things, but they could never do it quite the way humans do. They did it was such blatant disregard for anything, their battle tactics were horribly flawed which resulted in so much bloodshed.
“So you remember.” The general said, “It was a sad loss.”
“Mm, for you, maybe.” Their eyes sparkled, “It was a treat for me, seeing just how reckless and savage humans can be to one another.”
“And it was thirty years ago.” Favian added, voice calm but still angry.
There was an unspoken question there.
They turned their smile on him, “Yes, it was..”
A long pause and both men looked at eachother; it was clear they had more questions about it but also knew they weren’t going to get a straight answer. However, they simply thought about the events of that battle, how their power was barely a match for the carnage the humans inflicted upon each other. But they helped.
They ensured one side's victory, which as it seems, wasn’t this kingdom's. The side they fought with took land, destroyed monuments, seized villages and towns, captured prisoners and killed those who didn’t convert to their side. It was a bloodbath and they relished every single moment of it - the other side had been using peaceful methods.
Remembering the chaos, they almost laughed out loud. There had just been so much that could have been avoided with proper communication and correct battle stratification. With all the humans itching for a fight and longing for the excitement of the battlefield, it had descended into madness rather quickly.
“As I recall,” They thought outloud, “You took mass casualties with your peaceful tactics,” They rolled their eyes, “Clearly you didn’t know how to win a battle.”
Hymn narrowed his eyes, “The General in that fight was my father, so I’d advise you not to speak ill of him.” He paused and made a cross with hand gestures over his chest before continuing, “The King's Army did not have full control over themselves back then because of the King. That’s not the case presently.”
They didn’t care about Hymn’s loss, “Tell me, what point are you trying to make here?”
“You were there.” He pointed out again, “On their side no less. They took something from us, something important.”
They only frowned for a moment, wondering what this man was talking about. Then the memory of the beach hit them like a whip - they remembered standing there, listening to a group of humans talking about it shortly after successfully storming Pawold. They had walked away shortly after but attended the celebrations.
The banquet was one of the finest they had ever been to - there was exotic food that they actually enjoyed, foreign alcohol and more attractive humans than they could count. How many they had indulged in, they’ve long since forgotten. But one thing they did remember was the Commander holding up something, a book, and everyone cheered.
Their lips curled up in a smirk, “Oh, you’re referring to The Codex of Viesyn..” They sighed, “You humans really haven’t changed, have you?”
Both men were staring at them now. The General’s eyes were spaced out, unfocused and they wondered if those words were like charmspeak to him. He said nothing, but Favian slammed his hands on the table and quickly stood up, nearly knocking his chair over which shook the General out of his daze.
“You’re saying it exists?” He demanded, madness in his eyes, “You’ve seen it?”
They bit their lip to contain the growing amusement. This was an entirely new level of desperation and they could easily take advantage of it. If the humans were really after the codex, then nothing had changed in thirty years. They’d probably tear apart half the world looking for it again and it would be a spectacular show.
“I’ve seen it,” They replied, letting the allure coat their words “And I’ve read it..”
The general was silent for a moment, then raised his hand, “Sit, Favian. Do not lose your head over a possible lie.”
Favian remained standing as he took a deep breath and regained his composure. He slowly sat back down and anxiously tapped his fingers against the wooden table. There was still something in his eyes - part of him believed their words and the desire to know was there. They eyed the general, who looked uncertain yet intrigued - it was still clear he wanted to know as well.
Was it true? Oh yes. The Codex was old news to them - twenty nine year old news, actually. It was humorous that after all this time there were still people searching for it even though it had been turned into a rumor, a myth. It had been written in a human language they didn’t understand, so all interest was quickly lost.
Whispers told of an unspeakable treasure, untold riches that would grant you more wealth than all kings combined and more gold than any man knew what to do with. The one who found the fortune would be all-powerful but they could do that on their own without some mythical book. Humans had a selfish nature - they doubted one would make a map to that.
“The Codex.” The general simply said, pausing to choose his words, “You were with them when it was stolen from us.”
They tilted their head, “It cannot be stolen when you did not posses it. You simply.. knew its location, and we found it first.” They ignored Favian’s tedious finger tapping, “And yes. You think humans caused the Haystead Devastation?”
“You really are a monster.” Favian growled, probably thinking back to their history books.
Hymn cleared his throat, “What I’m trying to propose is.. If you tell us its location, perhaps we can grant you leisure. We can.. work something out.”
“There isn’t anything I want that you can give me.” They said in a bored tone, “Even if I suggested my freedom in exchange for its location.”
The general remained silent, his face was unreadable but it was clear from his words that the offer enticed him. If he were truly considering releasing them for the Codex, he was even more foolish than they thought. If they got free, they’d retreat far away away from everyone and have much needed alone time.
“Father!” Favian cried, shaking both of them out of their thoughts. Favian's eyes were filled with fury, mouth twisted into a scowl, “You cannot possibly be considering-”
“Of course not!” Hymn exclaimed, returning the scowl, but his previously dazed expression proved otherwise, “Letting this creature loose in the world would be catastrophic.” He eyed them suspiciously, “You’d be right. However..”
“However?” They and Favian questioned at the same time.
The general paused for a moment, “We can have him lead us to it. Heavily armed, heavily guarded, and he’s still incapacitated by the cuff.”
They pursed their lips at the proposal - they didn’t like the sound of that at all. They didn’t want to be strung along like some sort of mule by these humans, powerless and unable to escape into the wild. Being treated like a slave wasn’t worth the chance to see grass again, feel the sun's warmth, feel the cool breeze against their skin.
Perhaps it could work in their favour, though. Heavily guarded, hm? That was just more opportunity to persuade a guard to remove the cuff and then they’d disappear into the night. That would save all the effort of figuring how to break out of this god-awful place. They weighed the options, but Favian had the first say about it.
“I wish not to question your leadership, sir..” He started, mulling over his words before he continued to speak calmly, “But surely you know the possible consequences if something goes awry, the outrage the very thought would spark in the council?”
“It’s not definite.” The general agreed in the same calm tone, and gently placed his hands on top of each other, “We will consider all other options before I present this to the council. One small error is all it takes.” He pursed his lips, “But it is the most logical.”
Favian stared at him, “Logical? Sir, he could lead us into enemy territory, hidden traps, seduce a member of the cavalier. There are too many variables and not enough certainty.”
“A conversation for another time.” He decided, and they were almost disappointed.
They wanted to know more. If all human plans were this predictable and messy; then they didn’t know why the thought of taking over villages didn't occur long ago. Thirty years ago when they were in the war room with another general, the plan was spilled like water. It was hasty, blunt and obvious, and yet it worked.
They wondered if that was all the general wanted to discuss. Surely they hadn’t been finally brought from the dungeon to listen to an argument over a relic. They felt like they had told more than they had been told, and even though the information they had given wasn’t crucially important, it felt like a loss. Yet, it kept these two confused.
And then their mind drifted back to the earlier conversation with Yantho. He had implied the general was a force to be reckoned with, that so much hell was going to be brought down. Quite the opposite of what they were witnessing; the general seemed like he couldn’t tell his ass from his elbow. Of course Favian was blood related.
Perhaps Yantho wanted them scared, or even just wanted the general to provide serious punishment. How disappointed he’d be when he discovered none of that happened. They looked forward to telling the poor boy by themselves and would relish the look on his face when it was revealed they were still in one piece. They sighed.
“For now,” Hymn cleared his throat, looking at them, “The subject is dropped. The reason you were brought here was to see what I was dealing with.”
They tilted their head and smiled - it was far from genuine, but they got a kick out of what the humans called, being a smartass.
“I know what you’re capable of without that cuff and I know you’d kill everyone in this kingdom if you had the opportunity.” He continued, “If you weren’t killing, you’d use your charm powers to get whatever and whoever you wanted. I understand you, I didn’t need a meeting with you to know that.”
They didn’t say anything for a moment, then asked, “So why am I here?”
“A change of scenery, perhaps?” He mused, “But perhaps a part of me felt it was unethical to treat you the way you were being treated.” They snorted, but the general ignored it, “One is to be tortured and jailed after their crimes have been formally realized. You have not had a trial of any sort, am I correct?”
They eyed Favian who looked just as confused. He spoke first, “That’s.. correct, sir.”
The general nodded, “Then we will set a trial date, and they will decide your fate there.” He looked at them, “With your crimes and what you are, the verdict will most likely be a death sentence. Unless it is revealed you decided to accept our dubious offer, only then will you be granted leniency.”
They raised their eyebrows, “Are you blackmailing me, general?”
The man smiled kindly, but there was no warmth in it, “Think of it as a perdicion, a vision of events predetermined.”
Even Favian shared the general’s unkind smile, but he didn’t speak. However, Hymn cocked his head to the side, “I know not what you mean. I do not issue threats, I let nature run its course and stand in the aftermath. But if that's how you see it..”
They wanted to be annoyed, to feel that same welcoming rage, to rip off his cuff and and slit their throats, but the feeling didn’t come. Instead, they were impressed. A smile of their own slid onto their face as they realised how devious the general could be - they admired this unexpected side. Afterall, they had done the same countless times.
“Regardless,” He changed the subject, and they caught Favian’s gaze. The mans smile was filled with mischief. “I have many things to discuss with the council which may take some time. In the meantime, you’ll be sent back to your cell.”
“Didn’t see that coming.” They replied, sarcasm heavily coating their words.
The general sighed, “I will grant you one accommodation request. Provided we agree to it; think of it as a.. kind gesture.”
They went silent at the words, so many options filling their head at once. The key thing that came to mind was a new room entirely, but they figured that would be denied. The next best thing was a proper bed - it was tedious how the human body needed sleep to function. They wanted to know what the catch was, but of course it was fuel for the persuasion.
His idea of a kind gesture wasn’t removing them from prison, or to stopped being tortured, but rather a present for the moldy, dark dungeon. The idea was humorous, but they could function perfectly fine without light or a proper bed or a new room. No, what they needed was a distraction, a new human toy who wouldn’t be scared off.
“I want someone to play with.” They mused thoughtfully, and rested their head in their hands.
“I beg your pardon?”
They rolled their eyes, “Humans stopped visiting me, and they were so fun to have around..” Their gaze met the generals, “I want company.”
Favian scoffed, “Then we’ll put another criminal in his cell block. Easy.”
“No,” Hymn shook his head, and for a moment they thought he was declining their offer, but he was talking to Favian, “Two criminals sharing their ideals, feeding each other details of tricks and plans to escape? I will not allow it.”
“So what’re you suggesting?” Favian asked, deadpan.
They replied first, “I want someone interesting. And if you choose Leonardo, I might just accept the death sentence.”
“Someone strong-willed, unable to be taken by this creature's influence.” The general said as if he was making a mental checklist, “It cannot be a townie for various reasons, they’d be taken advantage of too easily.”
Favian huffed. “If you’re seriously considering this, sir.. It would have to be someone close, someone we trusted enough to be there alone and not release him.”
“Of course.” He stared at them, “You will not fool them so easily.”
They didn’t want to - if they had to stay underground for even longer, they wanted someone who was fun to toy with and didn’t break after a day. They wanted to have arguments, wanted to make the other person mad, sad, afraid and twist their emotions. It was a benefit if they would get this cuff off day one, but they were thinking rationally.
“A guard then, or perhaps a trainee.” The general decided, “They’re trained for this sort of occurrence.”
“I agree.” Favian nodded, “But which ones do you fully trust, sir?”
The general thought about that for a moment, “The boy Leonardo is apprenticing - Yantho Reeves, isn’t it?”
They and Favian both glanced over at each other at the same time. A venomous smirk slid onto their face while Favian visibly paled, eyes slightly widening. His reaction only furthered how much they wanted the general to make that decision final. Yantho.. They hadn’t even considered him, but the thought of how it would torture Favian was delicious.
“Oh?” They asked innocently, never taking their eyes off Favian’s, “Who’s that?”
Favian was still speechless, but the general spoke, “You’ve met, I believe. He’s usually with the captain, but he came to restrain you today, did he not?”
“Sir!” Favian exclaimed, voice cracking ever so slightly. He was visibly shaken and did little to regain his composure before Hymn looked at him in surprise, “With all due respect, perhaps Reeves isn't the best choice-”
They enjoyed watching Favian close his mouth when the general raised his hand, the smirk still visible on their face.
“Nonsense.” Hymn interrupted, “He’s a fine trainee, he follows orders and he works hard. He’s training to become a member of the Kingsguard, yes?”
Favian anxiously toyed with his hands, “Yes, sir. But-”
“What better way to prove his resilience and devotion to the cause.” The general cut him off, speaking mainly to himself “I trust him, as do several members of the council.”
They just smiled and looked at him, “Aren’t you worried about how I’ll trick him into freeing me?”
The general actually laughed, “It’s only the women I’d be worried about freeing you, you have no power over men. And if you did, I’d only know to remove Mr. Reeves from training.”
They almost laughed, but caught Favian’s eye. Clearly the general didn’t respect female humans as much as he did male; he had much lower expectations for them, even though they had encountered several feminine humans who were immune to their charms. It was clear Favian desperately wanted them to stay silent on the topic.
Curious. They wondered what would happen if it were revealed that Yantho wasn’t immune to their charm - removed from training, hm? Clearly the general didn’t respect that lifestyle and only wondered what he would think of them.. They snorted, knowing the general would surely execute them himself if they discovered how many humans they had laid with.
Even when causing humiliation was something they enjoyed, they had enough dignity to not out these people no matter how much they despised them. However, it would make seeing Yantho again that much more fun. Watching Favian squirm at the mention of his lover possibly having to spend quality time with them was wonderful.
“I’ll summon the others for a meeting about this.” Hymn told favian, either not noticing his discomfort or ignoring it entirely, “Of course, we’ll give young Yantho a say in this. But I’m sure he’ll accept the offer.”
“Yes, I should think so.” Favian replied, forcing a smile, “Perhaps I should fetch him after this meeting and inform him of the summit.”
General Hymn simply nodded and smiled as if he were actually making progress. They rolled their eyes - he hadn’t won anything, but they had. They won the knowledge that these humans could easily be bent and swayed into decisions that would benefit them if it meant their possibly victory in the long run.
Now that they knew why these people had them here, what they wanted, what they’d be willing to do to get it, it made their life much better. They were no longer blind in the dungeon, now they had information that could be used. They didn’t get time to finish their thoughts because the general stood and gestured for the two to do the same.
They both stood as well but before anyone could get a word out, the room door opened and two guards quickly stepped in. They halted next to the door, but their eyes were immediately drawn to the woman who entered the room next and stood in the doorway, holding her hands and bowed her head.
“Sylvia?” Favian spoke, confused.
The woman, Sylvia, kept her head bowed, “Apologies for the interruption, sirs.”
Her voice was melodic, soft and gentle yet loud at the same time. She had only spoken five words, but the effect she had on them was like her own charmspeak; her looks only intensified that feeling. Sylvia was beautiful, to say the least. Her light brown skin, shoulder length curly dark brown locks and features were glowing.
The soft pink dress she wore was plain, simple, yet an eye catcher. Below the waist was larger, more shapely than the rest of the dress. There were strings around the waist, making it obvious she was wearing a corset; with her tall, slender frame, they doubted she needed such an infernal device. Why did humans enjoy suffocating themselves?
“Please, there is no need to bow in my presence, dear.” Hymn told her, though it was clear he was a fan of it, “What can I do for my favourite daughter in law?”
She lifted her head and smiled, “I am your only daughter in law.”
Sylvia and Hymn shared a laugh then she approached quickly and quietly along Favian’s side of the table. They instantly became amused. Favian’s wife was stunning and just like Yantho, they had no idea what either of them saw in that man. Their eyes followed her while Favian glared at them for staring. They ignored him.
She stopped at the general's side, gently touched his arm and whispered something in his ear. His face went cold and he nodded. She backed up, hands folded in front of her but said nothing else - she looked troubled, anxious of what reaction Hymn was going to have. Instead, she glanced around the room and met their eyes.
“Get your filthy eyes off her, Mjik.” Favian growled.
“Favian!” She exclaimed
He moved in front of her, “This ugly creature does not deserve to gaze upon you.”
They smiled, not taking their eyes off Sylvia, “I can’t help it, she’s breathtakingly ravishing.”
Before either could get a word out, Hymn raised his hand to silence the room once more. Something in the atmosphere had changed, the heavy silence coming from the general didn’t seem friendly. He glared at Favian, seemingly having a silent conversation which Favian lost.
”I think this meeting is adjourned.” He spoke, “We have much to discuss.” He waved his other arm and the two guards headed towards them, “Think about my offer, won’t you?”
They didn’t reply but let one of the guards grab their arm and yank them forwards while the other readied the burlap sack. As they were lead across the room, they heard Sylvia murmur something to Favian who shushed her in return. She was probably wondering who exactly they were, but they had different things to focus on.
As the burlap sack was placed over their head, they smiled.
Chapter 6: Upsurge
starts off okay then takes a trip to u-fucked-up town
*This chapter has rape mentions/references (there are no flashbacks to/have any actual rape)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The one thing they noticed when they were completely still, not listening to steps, counting the minutes or distracting themselves with barbaric thoughts? Time passed agonisingly slow. With no voices or servants bringing food, they were left to their own devices and that proved dangerous. They were sitting with their back to the cell door and stared blankly.
Eyes glued to the visibly worn stone floor at the foot of their bed, they studied how they were going to continue. For months, they had been using their limited powers on the small space, the heat enough to start charring and wear down the stone. It wasn’t big - just two hands in width and it certainly wasn’t a deep hole; perhaps half an inch at most.
With access to their full powers they could have taken out the floor, the walls and the roof within minutes but they didn’t. This would have to make do for now and at least they could cover it with the sad excuse for a bed. Besides, they knew there was something below this cell block and they were going to get out of this room even if it took years.
If it lead right into a deeper prison, so be it. At least the humans would be in shambles trying to locate them; scared humans made mistakes.. say, an unlocked door or two in their wake. If it lead into a different room entirely, that was even better. They would have somewhere new to traverse.
They let their mind wander to the events of yesterday, humming thoughtfully at all they had discovered. First impressions were everything and the general did not disappoint - he was fit to command, smart enough (for a human anyway) and radiated authority. His ideals were not the most rationalised or thought out, but any leader would want the same.
He looked like he had seen much bloodshed, been in countless battles and took the lives of many more. His old, dark eyes told innumerable stories and they wondered just how many they had unknowingly been apart of. General Hymn was a powerful man and would make for a dangerous enemy.. but what was one more foe to the endless list?
As for his father the ex-general and supposive war hero, Alexander Hymn , was it? They hadn’t told either of the two, but they and the last general had met once under a white flag of truce. The flag had been issued by Hymn’s side, of course, but it didn’t last long and no agreements were made. Their side was too close to winning and didn’t want to stop.
Now that they thought about it, Alexander had tried to bargain, ransom, do whatever it took to try to enforce some sort of stalemate. Too many of his men were dying , he had pleaded, find mercy in your hearts to do the right thing. Their side hadn’t cared about his people nor his problems, they were too close to victory and pointless guilt trips weren’t going to stop that.
In fact, they had been the one to whisper in their generals ear about how Alexander had just been trying to make a fool out of them, let their guard down and make false promises so he could get past their ranks. It only amplified how their general had felt towards the attempted pity-party, and Alexander’s blood had almost been spilled at the treaty. Almost.
They smiled at the memory after nearly forgetting about it since it happened. That part of history wasn’t even scratching the surface of all they had witnessed and been apart of. They thought back to what had been said about the Haystead Devastation and laughed to themselves. They had no idea fire could burn for that long.
The meeting had disputed what Yantho said about the humans bringing a Senj to ‘meet’ with them, which was disappointing. They had been looking forward to meeting another being with magic - Senji were merely humans with witchcraft and had never encountered something like them before. They could easily tear a Senj apart.
If they refused to help and were in fact given the death sentence, it was likely the humans would try to get help from the Senj, even though they often didn’t have long lives and would have no idea where the Codex was. They were a survivor, they were going to ‘help’ if it meant being outside with the chance to escape. Removing the cuff would be a snap after that.
They also wondered just how long the general knew about them. They weren’t apart of any human history pages or stories, and they assumed a new form when they drifted from place to place. Surely they hadn’t been the only being with magic at the time and no one would have assumed it was them. Once again, they sighed. Questions for later.
They sat in silence wondering how long it would take for the general and the so-called ‘council’ to come up with a decision. They way he had spoken about it, they assumed The Council was working in secret right under the King's nose. Everything seemed to be happening under the king's nose, that man didn’t care about anything but power, they’d heard.
Assuming the members had common sense, they wouldn’t get their wish for a playmate. A shame, really. They could have gone with anyone, easily manipulated or not. They would have been fine with Favian and his constant snarky monologues about what a monster they were and how he was going to enjoy watching them die.
But they’d have much more fun with Yantho. Oh yes, he was a perfect balance between being utterly powerless against their charm and having strong willpower plus resistance. He sat somewhere in between which meant he was so fun to tease. He had claimed to not find them attractive, but then again, so did most of their victims. They smiled. Perhaps--
In the distance, those squeaky metal hinges groaned open.
--They’d have to try harder. Oh? What a lovely surprise. Smile still on their face, they picked up the nearby pebble and turned it over in their hand. Black, charred side up for good news; smooth grey side for bad news, rejection or Favian’s ugly mug. They tossed the rock up in the air as someone came down the stairwell.
“Mjik.” Favian’s voice came, just as the rock landed on its side. They rolled their eyes and snorted, wondering what that meant for them. “Face me.”
They wanted to laugh. It was humorous how threatening Favian thought he was. Even with a torture weapon in hand, they had seen stray dogs that were more dangerous than he was but it was fun to pretend. They remained sitting but looked over their shoulder to where the man was standing, arms crossed with an annoyed expression.
Their eyes flicked across Favian’s body, who was wearing a dull grey chestplate with iron leggings and boots as if he just returned from battle, his short dark hair ruffled and unkempt. He didn’t have any sort of weapon, but a sheath hung at his hips. There was an odd emotion in his eyes that that couldn’t quite place, but it resembled excitement.
“Or what?” They drawled and turned back around to stare at the wall, “You’ll kill me?”
“Not quite.” The man replied. “While the council makes their decision on recent events, I was sent here to… keep an eye on you.”
They perked up and twisted their body back around, “Oh? I like the sound of that.”
Leonardo had used that same terminology. He was just ‘keeping an eye on them’ with hot metal poking their skin, just ‘watching them closely’ when they were being cut open. The spark in Favian’s eyes confirmed that which explained the twinge of excitement they had seen. He kept his eyes on them and smiled but there was no warmth. Perfect.
“I take it you’re familiar with what that means..” He mused quietly, “Good, you know what’s coming.”
“Mhm.” They hummed, and pushed themselves into a standing position with ease. They stretched for a moment, then walked closer to the bars, “What did you have in mind, sweetheart?”
Favian’s nose scrunched up in disgust at the petname which only satisfied them even more. He elected to ignore them and walked forward as well while he reached for the silver key in one of his pouches. Without even bothering to shackle their hands first, he slid the key in the keyhole and turned to unlock the cell door.
They raised their eyebrows as he grabbed the front of their shirt and yanked them out towards him.
"I'm going to enjoy hurting you." He growled, getting right in their face. He was fractionally taller which they hadn't noticed before and supposed it was supposed to be intimidating.
Their eyes flicked across his face, "You've tried before, love. Didn't work too well."
“I've got all the time in the world, cretin." Favian gave them a hard shove, "Now, sit." He nodded to the wooden chair next to the table. He didn’t grab them again, he just simply stared and waited for them to go themselves.
They grinned, "Mm, but I like being manhandled - it's sexy."
Favian's glare intensified, "Sit."
They did. Grin turning into a smirk, they walked over and slowly lowered themselves into it. They already anticipated Favian using the built in shackles to lock in their wrists. He wandered over without a word and locked them by the ankles as well.
As he secured them in, they couldn't help but savour the sight of Favian on his knees. They cocked their head to the side and inched their knees apart, which caught the mans attention. Favian glanced up as they winked; He understood immediately, disgust washing over his face.
The man got back to his feet with a scowl. He dusted a microscopic piece of dust off his chestplate and turned away while they wiggled their wrists around, the cuff digging into their skin even more beneath the metal clamps.
The chair was facing the right, so they had to glance to their left to eye all the items on the dusty, blood stained table. They saw all the usual objects: knives, a whip, a thumbscrew, a metal collar with spikes on the inside, a lead sprinkler, and several blunt weapons. They had experienced it all.
“Father says it’s dangerous to keep my anger bottled up, so I think I’ll take it out on someone new.” He simply said, back to them but he picked a knife up off the table.
“Been hitting your wife, Favvy? Tsk, tsk.” They smiled.
In a blur of speed, he spun around and smacked them across the face, the slap muffled by his leather glove. He was clearly angry at something besides them, but they just laughed.
“Aw, is that all you’ve got?”
“Maybe you should gag me,” They mused, “But I hear-”
This time it was a punch right that connected right with their nose. There was a quiet crack but it didn't quite break, yet their smile just widened as they shook their head and looked back up at him. A small drop of black blood spilled from their nose but they just licked it off their top lip while Favian continued to glare at them.
“I’m going to tell you once more,” Favian threatened, “Shut your mouth. Or else.”
“Or else what? You’ll spank me?”
Favian’s jaw clenched and without hesitating, he swung back around and plunged that same knife into their stomach - well, tried to. They felt the impact and a small cut, but the blade bent as if their skin was rock and the knife was plastic.
They laughed, “We’ve already been through this, Leonardo and I. You cannot penetrate my skin, try all you want.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” He growled, tossing the knife aside to pick up another. Its blade was an inch and a half longer.
As he tried to stab them in the throat, they wondered where this anger was coming from. The effect was the same as before, so his anger only doubled. He wouldn’t be down here in his free time, so they figured it had something to do with this ‘Council’. Had their decision been something Favian didn’t want-?. Of course..
“Is that why you’re down here?” They asked, eyes glinting with mischief, “They decided to let little Yantho come visit me, after all?”
Favian glared daggers at them, jaw still clenched and said nothing.
“I look forward to it..” They cocked their head, “..Playing with him.”
“Nothing's been finalised.” He snapped, but it was clear the general decision had been discussed and confirmed.
They kept their eyes on him, “Mm. And what are you most worried about? That I’m going to make him fall in love with me?”
“No.” He replied, “His heart is mine, as mine is with him. You couldn’t take it even if you were the last man on earth.”
“Let’s hear you say that when I rip it from his chest and crush it with my bare hands right in front of you.” They responded and leaned forwards, "Say that while you watch the life drain from his eyes."
Favian stared at them, “I’m going to send you back to hell.”
He used that same knife to keep cutting their skin for several minutes as if trying to find a weak spot, a chink in their armour. Of course the initial strike or slash always resulted in a small cut, but nothing punctured or went more than a few inches. Favian muttered something about amplifying the cuffs magic properties after the twentieth attempt.
They wondered where these people even got their hands on such a device. Surely they’d still have the being that originally put the magic on this cuff - they were too greedy to let such a person go free. Maybe this mysterious Senj was trusted, worked with the humans, was able to come and go as they chose. Maybe they were locked up as well.
They resisted the urge to sigh loudly after Favian’s attempt to slice their neck open again. This was boring. As Favian twisted the knife in his hand, they wondered if they should play along to entertain themselves; so when he tried to stab them in the chest, they mimicked a cry of pain as if the blade went through. Favian froze, eyes going wide.
As a victorious smirk started to form on his face, they couldn’t help but let out a chuckle which turned into a howl of laughter. The amusement quickly drained from Favian's face as he realised they had faked it. That was fun, seeing hope in his eyes for just a moment before ripping it away seconds later.
“You should see the look on your face." They cooed after their laughing fit, "What's the matter? Thought you had me?"
“Bastard!” He shouted and brought the butt of the knife down across their face. He moved closer, grabbed their chin and forced them to look up at him, “I’ll kill you myself, you hear me? As soon as we block off all your magic, I’ll kill you.” Favian didn’t give them a chance to respond before he smashed the hilt across their face again.
Before they could ask where all this hatred had come from, they both stopped when they heard shuffling from the stairwell entrance. The two looked over at the same time. Standing there, arms crossed with eyes cast to the side, was Yantho. He looked as if he’d rather be anywhere else and didn’t meet their gaze when they stared at him.
So instead, their eyes flickered over him - Instead of his usual set of chainmail, he was dressed in a black long sleeve shirt, collar flattened out while laces tied up the v-neck opening. The cuffs of his shirt had laces as well, fitting snugly around his wrists. The shirt itself was slightly baggy, but more form fitting that the armour with the brown belt tied around his waist.
He had on dark grey trousers with mid-calf high dark brown boots, laces tying up the sides. Dirty blonde hair tied back in that same messy bun. A strange word for a hairstyle. Regardless, at least he didn’t look completely ridiculous today.
“Yantho?” Favian asked, and quickly placed the knife back on the table. At his name, the boy's eyes flickered over to meet his, “Are you alright?”
“Fine.” He responded, “I’m sorry to interupt, but the door was left open and I heard you yelling. I thought..”
Yantho’s eyes met theirs but he didn’t betray any emotion. They knew what he was going to say regardless. I thought they had gotten you. No, that kind of luck wasn’t with them today. They simply smiled at him which made him look back at Favian who brushed both hands through his hair and sighed with relief.
He walked forward to meet Yantho and leaned in, but instead of kissing, he whispered something.
“Yes.” Yantho said at normal volume.
Favian cursed under his breath but said nothing more; Yantho pursed his lips and waited. For what, they weren’t quite sure but the boy looked tense and fiddled with his fingers when Favian shook his head. When he finally glanced over his shoulder at them, Yantho exhaled and relaxed.
"Something the matter?" They smiled
Favian ignored them and turned back to Yantho.
“You had a choice.” Favian told him, scratching his head and eyed his lover, “And you chose to agree with the decision?”
Yantho’s position became defensive. His eyebrows knit together in a confused frown as he shot back, “I am going to join the Kingsguard, Favian. If I do this, they’ll approve me. If I get through these three months, they’ll see I have what it takes. And I do. ”
Three months? They closed their eyes and hummed thoughtfully. So Yantho only had to last three months visiting them, putting up with them, keeping watch, and then his dream would come true? They’d break him long before that, and then he’d never achieve his goal.
“I understand, but there are different ways.” Favian replied, “Ways that don’t involve losing your sanity with this creature.”
There was something in Yantho’s eyes that they hadn’t seen before. He looked genuinely upset, even frustrated and angry. He spoke, “I can handle myself. I thought you’d be proud of me.”
“I'm proud of you.” They offered with a helpful smile, but Yantho simply looked over to them with an annoyed expression.
“Thanks.” He said flatly.
Obviously upset he was being ignored, Favian huffed, “Yanny-”. He grabbed Yantho’s hands and leaned in again to whisper something else. Yanny. They wanted to gag. The two continued to whisper and they sighed - they were bored again. They flexed their fingers while they waited and their tired joints cracked but it felt good.
“I’m glad they agreed, y’know.” They interrupted, making the two of them look over from their private conversation, “I was just telling Favian how I’m going to make you fall in love with me.”
Yantho scoffed, “A likely story.”
“Mm, let’s see how long you think you can resist my charms.”
Favian snorted, “I don’t have to worry about that. He knows of your crimes, your actions, what you almost did to him last week.” He walked back towards the table, “You’re a murderer, a rapist, you’re the most repulsive-”
Their mood soured instantly and the smile dropped from their face, "Enough." Favian blinked in surprise but they spoke before he did, “I am many things. I’ve done many things. I am no rapist.”
Favian hesitated for a moment, possibly unsure of what to make of this. Yantho had since lowered his gaze to the floor and crossed his arms again. Favian then scoffed and shook his head, “You have little regard for human life, you’ve committed every crime imaginable, why would I believe you stop at rape?”
They were completely still, staring straight ahead as the anger threatened to boil over. They were deathly still, hands clenched while their fingernails dug into their palms to prevent them from shaking in quiet rage. They hadn’t felt this sort of anger in a very long time, but they welcomed the warmth of it as it took over.
This. This was the line in the sand, this was when they knew they weren’t going to escape without making Favian suffer first.
“You brag about easily seducing and charming people; you use that to get what you want.” He continued, “You clearly enjoy sex, and would have it even with unwilling victims."
“I don't waste my time with humans who reject my advances." They replied, voice low and quiet, "I'd find the ones that don't."
Favian laughed, “Right, because we’re to believe you're morally just. You’re selfish, you do what you want.”
They slowly looked over at Favian, face filled with rage which made the man flinch but otherwise didn’t react, “Yes.” They said, “I am. And what I want is to skin you alive and rip out your organs. I’ll rip your tongue right out of your skull and watch you choke to death.”
Behind him, Yantho’s breath hitched in his throat. He shifted slightly as if to push himself into the wall to be as far away from them as possible. They wondered if he thought the same as Favian, wondered if that’s why he was truly afraid of them. He glanced over and met their eyes but just as quickly looked away.
“Is that what you told him about me?” They asked, “Is that why he’s so afraid?”
“He can make his own judgements.” Favian snapped, “I just tell him the facts.”
They thought back to last week when they had escaped momentarily, when they had pounced on Yantho and straddled his hips as they taunted him. They assumed he was afraid because they were dangerous, known for killing humans without a second thought. When they had told him they’d like to do so many things to him, they were referring to playing with his innards. It was now clear he was terrified because he assumed he was going to be raped.
“That day when I escaped my cage.” They said, not looking at Yantho but speaking to him, “When we met. You thought.. I was going to force myself on you-?”
Yantho didn’t respond but he squeaked when they looked over at him once again. They wanted to force an answer out of him, but they mostly didn’t want to hear what he had to say. The anger they had been feeling wasn’t as strong as before now that the comprehension settled in. For the first time, they didn’t know what to say, there were no clever or witty remarks to cover this. Yantho thought he was going to entertain a rapist.
“I see.” They said flatly.
“You seem.. surprised.” They heard Yantho say, confusion coating his voice.
“Not surprised, just disappointed.” They looked away, “Humans lie and make up stories all the time, I don’t know why I expected different.”
“You’re scum, disgusting,” Favian spat, interrupting whatever Yantho was going to say next.
“Irredeemable, yes.” They agreed, “But there are lines even I won’t cross.”
They wanted to be alone. They wanted to lie down and never see another human for as long as they lived. If they continued this conversation, they might go mad. However, it was a topic Favian apparently wanted to continue.
“Don't make me laugh, Mjik. How many people have you raped?” He wondered, “Ten? Twenty? Hell, you probably ra-”
That was it. With an inhuman growl, they lashed forward, the momentum only pulling both clamps around their wrist loose. Faster than either could blink, they ripped their arms free from the bonds and reached over to the table just as quickly, where they picked up a throwing dagger and hurled it at him.
lmfao rip in shit
*Mjik = A slur for a being with magic, regardless if its used for good or bad.
*Senj/Senji = A formal word (and its plural form) that refers to a human with magic who uses it for good.
Chapter 7: Repercussions
local man gets fukt up more at 11
*Slight rape mentions again in this chapter, but still no actual rape.*
After witnessing the knife pierce through the armor like butter, they grabbed onto the table with lightening speed and used that same momentum to hurl themselves across it. There was no time for Favian to even react to his new wound before they launched themselves against him, both crashing to the ground with a grunt.
They were on top of him in seconds, one hand tightly clamped around his throat while the other forcefully twisted the dagger deeper into his shoulder. Favian let out a cry of pain, eyes bulging as he clawed at their hand that was around his neck. Rage fueled them to squeeze tighter, wanting nothing more than to watch the life drain from his eyes. They dug their nails into his skin and felt the blood under their fingertips.
“S-Stop!” Yantho yelled from behind them, but made no move to pull them off.
"Stay out of this." They growled, moving both hands to Favian's throat.
Favian's eyes rolled back in his head and their smile turned venomous.
"Please don't-" Yantho's voice came again, but this time he tried to yank on their shoulder. They weren't going anywhere.
They ignored him and squeezed Favian’s neck tighter - hopefully for the last few seconds of his life. His face was red and his grip had become weak most likely to focus all his energy on trying to get air.
Suddenly, there was an explosion of pain against the back of their head and they fell to the ground. They hit the cold stone with a grunt, dazed and confused as to what just happened and why it hurt so much. They coughed, groaned, and shifted themselves slightly. Their vision was blurry as they tried to face Favian but instead, Yantho was standing there with a metal rod in his hands, eyes wild as he stared down at them.
They growled and went to lash out, but Yantho was quicker and stepped forward to bring the metal rod back down across their head with such force it caused them to roll. They ended up on their front, lying on the ground with limbs sprawled everywhere. Their head was pounding, vision was dark and could barely hear anything. They had been struck in the head before, it never phased them, - what the hell was going on?
The pain was unbearable; they had never felt this before. Their entire body felt heavy and they couldn’t move. All they could do was groan quietly. From somewhere in the room, they heard Yantho talk to Favian, urgency in his voice which seemed three octaves higher. With a second grunt, they brought their hand up to their temple where the blood flowed from between their fingers. It was sticky and warm, and they didn’t like it.
They forced themselves to their hands and knees, clenching their fists as another coughing fit shook their body and more blood sprayed against the stone. A growl escaped their throat, now wanting to do the same to Yantho. They’d laugh as they bashed his skull in with that same metal rod, they'd enjoy splattering his brains across the room. They lifted their gaze over to where Yantho was taking off Favian’s chestplate.
“I’m not.. finished with him..” They snarled.
Yantho looked over at them with a mixture of hatred and fear. He would most likely never forgive them, but his body was tense as if waiting for a fight and didn’t want one. He clutched onto Favian and tried to pull him into a sitting position while simultaneously edging farther away from them. They tried to get to their feet but their body wouldn’t function properly.
“We’re leaving.” Yantho said, trying to keep his voice steady, “You attack him again, and I'll make sure you don't get up.”
Favian appeared to already be dying, his face pale while his eyes fluttered open and closed with head lolling from side to side. At this rate there wasn’t much more they could do to him but if they got Yantho out of the way, they could keep him awake with continuous torture. But they were in too much pain themselves.
“I’ll kill him.” They promised. “Maybe not now, maybe not soon, but I’ll kill him. If you get in my way I’ll make you watch, and I’ll do it slow.”
Yantho glared, “I’ll kill you first.”
He slung Favian’s arm around his shoulder and heaved upwards, the weight of the taller and bigger man clearly a strain on Yantho, but he tried. They watched for a moment, then the knife sitting on the ground nearby caught their eye - they could reach it. But when they tried to stand, Yantho lashed out and kicked their chest so hard they lost their balance and went tumbling to the floor once again. They wheezed, definitely having felt a rib crack.
They lied on their side and tried to keep their breathing steady. Their eyes started to close as they watched Yantho cautiously walk by with an almost-unconscious Favian. They wanted to get up and finish the job, but their entire body ached. Why weren’t they healing like usual? Why were they feeling this much pain? Was this tedious cuff finally starting to work properly and sap the rest of their magic?
They closed their eyes as Yantho vanished into the stairwell.
Click, click, click..
The noise cut through their slumber like a knife.
Click, click, click..
They groaned quietly.
Click, click, click..
They became aware they were lying flat on their side with a sharp rock digging into their hip. Their eyes slowly opened and everything came into focus. The next thing they realised were the cold metal shackles clamped around both wrists; the links only a few inches in length. They were digging into their wrists as well, so they felt a pinch. However, that was nothing compared to the pain in their head. It was still throbbing and felt like it had been trampled by a horse.
Their entire body ached in protest when they tried to move - their arms and legs felt heavy, chest felt warm from the broken rib. They couldn’t be sure what human organ had been possibly wounded from the fracture. Their bodies had too many vital internal organs to worry about and keep safe. They took a deep breath and groaned slightly louder at the discomfort what came with that action.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
They blinked the sleep out of their eyes, twisted their body to lie on their back and lifted their head to look at the source of the voice. To their confusion and annoyance, Yantho was sitting on the floor, back against the side of the wooden table with his legs and arms crossed. Their eyes only met briefly before Yantho clenched his jaw then looked away and they simply lowered their head back down to stare at the ceiling.
“Sorry to disappoint.” They mumbled.
The events from before rushed into their mind like a flood gate being opened which only slightly soured their mood. They felt immense satisfaction that they had gotten their hands on Favian and gave him what he deserved, but were still bitter than they hadn’t gotten to finish the job and watch him die. It would have to suffice for now, they supposed. They’d get their chance again, and when they did, it wouldn’t be wasted.
“I’m supposed to ask how you feel.” Yantho said flatly.
“Just peachy.” They replied sarcastically, “You mean to tell me you’re not asking out of the goodness of your heart?”
Yantho snorted, “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
They ran both hands down their face, ignoring how stiff their arms felt. They had been sleeping on one so it was dead asleep and felt like static.
“I'm almost surprised you didn't kill me in my sleep.”
“Me too.” He said deadpan, then paused for a moment, “You were bleeding so much, they thought you were already dying.” He sounded like he couldn't care less, “Guess the cuff is finally working, huh?”
They lifted their arm to stare at the chains covering their wrists and the cuff. Why would its full power finally start to kick in now? It had been on for half a year - that was a very long delay. They could only imagine Leonardo's delight when he hears the news. He’d be back down here in a heartbeat to repay months worth of unsatisfied torture. They touched their temple which was still covered in wet blood, as was most of their hair.
“You’re still bleeding..” Yantho continued, sounding pleased of what he had done. He probably was. “Welcome to being human.”
“I’m no human,” They snapped, “Your bodies are frustratingly fragile. Paper can cut your skin! Paper!”
They pushed themselves up with a huff and propped themselves against the stone wall. They leaned their head against it while they closed their eyes as their head started pounding again. This is what humans had to go through every time they got hit? They winced as a spike of pain shot through their neck - this was inconvenient. They brought one leg up to their chest to rest an arm on it while the other leg remained stretched outwards, left arm on the ground.
“Whatever you are, your body is human.” Yantho said, “And if the cuff is finally starting to work, then you’re going to feel much worse soon enough.”
They grunted, “How exciting. I can barely contain myself.”
They lowered their head to meet Yantho’s eyes just as he smirked, “Not so much of a smartass now, are you? Personally, I cannot wait to see what they have in mind.”
“Ugh,” They squeezed their eyes shut as a jolt of pain shot through their head, “Your voice making my headache worse."
"Now you know how I feel." He responded flatly.
They wanted to laugh, but their ribs ached.
"You deserve it for what you did."
“Speaking of which, how is he?” They asked, not caring for the answer. They opened their eyes to stare, “Not dead from the sounds of things? A shame.”
The boy glared at them, “He’s fine.”
The sudden loss of snark and the glare caught their attention immediately. A knowing smile slowly formed on their face which Yantho spotted and looked away to glare at a nearby rock. Was Favian alive? Sure. Was he fine ? From the reaction, apparently not. They bit back the smile from getting any bigger - he could still bleed out, get infected or die from trying to be saved.
“Oh, it doesn't seem like it.” They said, tilting their head slightly, “Tell me, Yantho. How is your poor, poor, Favian?”
Despite doing his best to ignore them, whatever charm they still had took ahold of him. Yantho looked back at them, eyes full of anger and uncertainty. He was scared, yet hopeful and determined. Yantho didn’t even have to speak for them to read his face like a book - Favian had a good recovery rate but it had been messy start, they had nearly killed him.
Yantho tore eyes away again but they were satisfied with the silent answer. That would teach Favian to accuse them of such monstrosities, to run his mouth when he clearly knew he was edging into dangerous territories. These shackles wouldn’t stop them from attempting again - now they just had something to strangle that man to death with. Maybe even Yantho if he got close enough. He probably agreed with what Favian was saying.
They didn’t want Favian here, and they certainly didn’t want Yantho here. As far as they were concerned, anyone associated with Favian was a dead man walking. Tearing their gaze away from the boy, they elected to ignore him. Telling him to go away would prove useless and probably only give that twat some satisfaction. Instead they focused on the spiderweb in the top right corner of the room, which they tore apart every few days for amusement.
The pleasure of almost fatally wounding that man faded very quickly, replaced with bitterness. No one died, they were in shackles, their magic didn’t work anymore and they were more stuck than ever. For the first time since being captured, they felt vulnerable and weren’t sure what to do next. They glanced down at their chained wrists again; the metal pressed tightly into their skin which left no wiggle room.
“He'll want to kill you himself." Yantho said.
They didn’t reply and kept staring at the chains. They had broken out of several pairs before even without charming their way through it. They still had more strength than the humans and easily broke free. But the bonds these people used seemed to imply they were used to lockpickers and con artists - every time they were put in shackles, they were tight, adjusted so sharp metal dug into the skin and gave little hand freedom.
“You’re ignoring me now?” Yantho asked, sounding confused but there was slight relief there.
Again, they didn’t reply. Yantho was like an annoying fly, constantly buzzing around the room and always just out of swatting range. His voice got on their nerves, he always sounded whiny and unsure of himself. It was clear Favian had all the assertiveness and confidence in that relationship, always speaking on behalf of both of them. They wondered if that dominance affected all aspects of their relationship. Perhaps Yantho liked to be- Ugh . Enough of that.
“This is new.” He said, “You, not talking.”
“Shut up.” They snapped, “Just stop talking and go away.”
Yantho blinked. “Go where? We’re both where we have to be.”
They figured that Yantho could easily get re-assigned a different way to become a member of his precious Kingsguard - with Favian being the son of The General, it should be a snap. Just a little bit of persuasion. After what they did, why wasn't Yantho himself in Hymn’s chambers arguing his case? He’s dangerous! Yantho would plead He almost killed my precious boyf- I mean your son! I could be next!
They continued to glare down at their shackles but were aware that Yantho was staring at them again. They didn’t return the gaze. He was going to keep talking and talking and talking and it was going to drive them mad. He was sitting too far away for them to grab and they doubted they could lure him close. It was unlikely throwing a rock at him would kill him.
“I sense your sudden anger.” Yantho pointed out quietly.
"Real observant, aren't you?” They snapped sarcastically, looking up to glare at him.
Yantho opened his mouth to say something but then quickly shut it. The previous smugness had vanished, now he just squinted as if he couldn’t decide what to feel.
“This isn’t because you couldn’t kill him, is it?” Yantho finally asked.
"But I'm right, aren't I?"
They said nothing and just turned their glare back to their cuffs.
“It’s about what he said.” He continued as he put the mental puzzle together.
They didn’t want to have this conversation with Yantho, or with anyone for that matter. What they wanted was just for Yantho to stop talking, to go away and sob over Favian. However, they felt his continued stare on them and it was infuriating. They wanted to shout at him, tell him to mind his own business. Yet his words also kept them quiet - they were true, and they didn’t know how to dispute it.
“What he said,” Yantho repeated, “It really got to you.”
"You're asking if he hurt my feelings?" They spat, "No, I'm not a child."
"No." He spoke, "That's not what I mean. You don't seem to take anything seriously - except this."
They didn't speak for a long few moments.
“I take credit for everything I do.” Their voice was quiet. "Not that. Never."
Yantho hesitated for a moment, “It’s easily to believe, given your powers. You-”
“Do you believe him?”
They looked up and finally met his eyes. Their face was stone cold but their eyes were tired and sincere - they wanted to know. Yantho frowned slightly at the question and opened his mouth to speak but no words came. All of his anger and smugness had since faded, leaving him looking surprised and unsettled.
“Do you believe him.” They repeated, less of a question this time. “You thought that I..” They paused, “..was going to rape you?”
They hated themselves for sounding so hurt. They didn’t care what humans thought of them or what one single person thought about them. They hated that they actually wanted to know the answer to this question, that whatever Yantho said in return was going to stick with them. Most of all, they hated the look of pity they were receiving from the boy, like they were some sort of kicked stray puppy.
“Yes.” Yantho finally said, voice calm. They swallowed. “Yes, that’s what I thought. I had been told about all the disgusting things you can make people do with your charmspeak.” He paused but they continued staring, “And when you were sitting on me, using your powers to force me to tell you things..”
They looked away, “I see.”
“I was afraid when you pounced on me.” He continued, “Going by what I was told, yes my mind jumped to worst case scenario. Especially since you had been locked up for so long.”
They said nothing.
“I despise you. I know you’re a criminal.” Yantho told them, voice getting more confident, “But I know when people are lying to me. There’s truth to your words.”
They looked back to him so quickly he flinched, "You believe me."
“I've been at the trials of rapists.. even caught some in the act.” Yantho replied, “I saw the looks on their faces, and I saw the look on yours when accused. You may just be a very good actor, but.."
They blinked. They had no idea what to say. They were never speechless, but this caught them off guard - they despised Yantho, he despised them, yet he was willing to tell the truth about something like this. Despite Favian's fear mongering and spreading lies, they didn’t know how many humans knew about their existence, but everyone who did most likely assumed they were a sociopathic rapist. Anger flowed its way back into their body.
“..I’m willing to believe you never used your power for that.” Yantho finished, “But you’re still a heartless murderer - what’d you do to the man whose body you.. took?”
They pursed their lips. They always killed their doppelganger once choosing a body to replicate - they couldn’t have two of the same person wandering around, spreading nonsense. Sometimes the murder was quick, sometimes they enjoyed watching the fear and confusion in a victim's eyes as they watched someone with their skin kill them. It was delightful. Other times..
“Slit his throat." They said simply, not wanting to get into it.
Yantho stared at them and probably decided not to probe, “Let’s get one thing straight. This doesn't change how I feel about you - rapist or not, you still tried to kill the man I love.”
“Yes..” They murmured.
He pursed his lips, “I’d still kill you if there were no consequences.”
“The feeling is completely mutual.”
"Then I'm glad we have something in common."
A pause, “You never answered my question. Do you believe him? All the horror-inducing stories he must have told you?”
Yantho averted his gaze, “I trust his judgement more than a man I barely know-”
They knew that they would never get Yantho’s trust and they were perfectly fine with it (they didn’t want or need it) but the fact that he believed them was slightly satisfying. In the long run, that could prove useful. However he just referred to them as if they were a human male again, and earlier they thought it hadn’t mattered much but if they were going to be stuck down here with Yantho, perhaps they should make a few things clear. So..
“Would you stop that?” They interrupted.
He blinked, "Stop what?"
"Referring to me as he. A Man. It's annoying."
“You-” Yantho started
“-have the appearance of a typical human male?” They guessed, “Yes, I know. Your species doesn't have much variety. But I am not one.”
Yantho stared at them for a moment but didn’t say anything. It was likely he was electing to ignore them which wasn’t surprising - it was useless. Instead of arguing, they learned their head back on the wall and closed their eyes. Their head still hurt and for the first time, they actually wanted to sleep. Sleep brought nothing but darkness. They never looked forward to it but lack of it took a toll on the human body.
They relaxed their shoulders and winced. They felt more stiff than ever, not feeling even a tiny bit better since yesterday's beating. Their whole torso felt heavy and every part of them still ached, but not quite as much as the pounding in their head.
Sleep threatened yet they had only woken up, what, fifteen minutes ago? Was this the normal level of grogginess humans usually felt after a fight?
"I need some beauty rest." They mumbled and shifted themselves over to the bed.
"You sure do." He agreed, "Lots of it." He pushed himself off the ground, "And I have to get back."
They snorted and closed their eyes as soon as their head hit the sheet, “Give Favian a kiss for me?”
“Don’t hold your breath.”
Without opening their eyes, they smiled.
Chapter 8: Preliminary
hey whaddup its ya boi General Hym again
The next time they opened their eyes, it was to the loud clang of metal on metal and someone's loud voice cutting through their sleep. Unaware they had even fallen unconscious, they grunted once they caught their bearings. It seemed they had turned to their side in their sleep with their arm pinned underneath so that it felt dead asleep. The static was incredibly annoying.
The world came into focus slowly as they blinked a few times then shifted against the sharp pebbles digging into their shoulder. They made a mental note to sweep all the excess debris away later but right now they settled on the more pressing issue at hand - they noticed feet, legs, someone standing outside their cell. The same person who had yelled at them to wake up was banging on the bars.
They pushed themselves off the ground to sit up; the blood rushed to their head but they noticed it wasn’t throbbing like yesterday. In Fact, they felt no pain at all when they assumed Humans would still be aching after a blow like that to the head. They glanced at the chains where the cuff was hidden. Maybe their magic was stronger after all. They sighed and brought both hands up to their head.
They weren’t bleeding and they couldn’t feel an open wound but there was still dried blood since they had no way of cleaning it off. A voice called them again so they looked up at the newcomer - they were dressed entirely in a suit of iron armor and even their face was covered. Their arms were behind their back but they stood tall and assertive, clearly waiting to catch their attention. The human didn’t flinch when they stared up at him.
“Your presence has been requested.” The deep, assertive voice growled.
They stood, “By whom, may I ask?”
The human was quiet for a moment. Then: “General Hymn.”
They felt a smirk slide over their face but it quickly vanished. If the General wanted to see them so soon, they assumed he had heard about the other day. They stepped forward, hands stretched outwards so the human could see they were already chained. As the human made sure they were securely locked in, they wondered how the General found out. Did a messenger tell him the news or did Yantho go crying to him shortly after leaving?
As the cell door was unlocked, they wondered what the General had in mind. Would the plan he had for them to lead the humans to the codex be scrapped? Would they simply deem them too dangerous and send them to death? Hmm. Perhaps Yantho had enlightened the General of the cuff’s increase of power and they’d be forced through months of torture again. They severely doubted he didn’t know about what had happened.
The human grabbed their arm tightly and yanked them out. The man was a good foot taller than them and they assumed the armor made this person bulkier than they actually were. Not another word was spoken as he pulled them across the room and towards the exit then gestured to them to walk up the staircase. They sighed softly, and paced up the stone stairs as he followed two feet behind.
They pushed open the large, wooden door; the squeaky metal hinges groaned in protest and it was like music to their ears. They stopped and waited for the human like a proper prisoner, a smile on their face as they looked back to the other who simply pushed them forward once appearing in the doorway. There was no sack over their head this time, so their eyes took in the large five meter wide hallway and the high arching roof as a semi-circle.
The doorway they had emerged from was at the end of a long hallway which stretched out more to their right. To their left, A large, darkened, circular room was filled floor to roof with chests, boxes and furniture covered in white sheets. It seemed abandoned, or maybe just a place to put excess objects in this immense castle. They weren’t given the chance to wonder about it because they were pushed to the right.
The corridor was well lit despite the lack of windows on the walls - there were several skylights in the circular arched ceiling that let warm sunlight stream through. They could see the dust in the air and nearly stumbled over their own feet while walking through a patch of light. They had touched some the other day, but being covered in it was enough to put them in a daze for a few moments.
The human mumbled something and pushed them forward again, so they kept walking as they half-admired the hallway while still trying to get more sunlight. The wallpaper was a pale peach colour, heavily decorated with portraits of unnamed people all dressed vaguely the same along with several mirrors. Both sides of the wall were symmetrically the same, but only the left side had pettite wooden tables against the wall with white cloth draped over them.
The floor was solid grey marble and the pattern resembled the clouds that shined where the sunlight touched. After walking several seconds, they noticed double doors to the left but the wooden handles were chained shut with two different locks. The human pushed them forward again so they continued to walk a few more moments until they neared the end of the long hallway.
They felt as if they walked longer than the last time General Hymn summoned them - observing the door, they noticed it was a set of wooden double doors, unlike the narrow passageway they had entered last time. They stopped and the human knocked a pattern on the door. Once. Twice quickly. Three times slow, then paused. The two of them waited for a moment and then both doors were pushed open.
A woman greeted them - the same woman as before. Favian’s wife, what was her name? Sofie? No, Sylvia. Sylvia stood there, arms at her sides before after opening the door. Her dark, curly hair was tired back, revealing her thin face and narrow jawline, skin glowing in the sunlight. She was wearing a leather chestplate over a plain, light blue ankle long dress with a swordless sheath tied to the belt around her hips. She looked ready for a skirmish.
“Hello again, beautiful.” They smiled lovingly and reached for one of her hands. She let them take it as they kissed her knuckles, “Did you miss me?”
With no warning - though they expected it - she pulled her hand from theirs and smacked them hard across the face.
“That was for my husband, you bastard.” She fumed, then turned back into the room
They rubbed at their cheek with a continued smile as the human beside them chuckled and pushed them into the room. Their eyes followed Sylvia who hurried into the large, open room that didn’t have a staircase like last time. Their eyes scanned their surroundings, finding it was exactly similar to the last meeting room except there was a smaller, square table in the center of the room with only three chairs on each end.
The room was darker now with only two floor to ceiling windows in the far right and left walls but dark red curtains prevented most of the light from entering. A single candlelight sat in the middle of the war-room esq table that was covered in a dark red cloth while countless papers and books sat on top of it. Facing them on the far side of the table was a stone faced General Hymn, arms crossed while he watched them enter.
At his side, slightly shorter and more fat, Leonardo. He was picking at his teeth with a small blade, eyes murderous in the candlelight as he watched them enter as well. The two of them were dressed head to toe in armor like they were two seconds away from being called to battle, and who knows? Maybe they were. They hadn’t seen the surface in half a year. Both men were clearly not in a good mood
“Mjik!” Leo suddenly spread his arms as if he wanted a hug, “So good to finally see you again. I hear you’ve been quite the troublemaker..”
Hymn was not so as expressive, “Indeed.”
They stopped a few feet into the room and eyed everyone. Sylvia had taken a spot on the right side of the table, her beautiful features distorted in disgust at the mere thought of having to stand in the same vicinity as them. Was she really so distraught about having her unfaithful husband near fatally wounded? They figured they’d get much more than a slap to the face with her in charge.
“I sense the tension,” They mused, chained hands resting in front of them, “Come now, You’re not still mad at me, are you?”
Sylvia turned to them, “Engasgar na sua língua, Mjik!” She hissed, then got quieter but still had that same bitterness, “Ou vou arrancar isso eu mesmo." **
It wasn't a foreign language they recognised, but even a child would know she had just insulted or threatened them. They just smiled more and General Hymn raised his hand to silence both her and what they were about to say. The room was eerily silent for several seconds, leaving nothing but only the faint candle crackling. Then Hymn stroked his beard and cleared his throat.
“I suspect you know why you’re here.”
Hymn’s eyes sparked, “You gave my son quite the beating.”
“Perhaps your son should should learn to watch his tongue.” They replied, “Before something happens to it.”
All three pairs of eyes were on them now, but it was the general who spoke.
“Despite having disappointed me in his lack of caution, Favian is still my son.” He spoke quietly but steadily, “Your punishment will be decided by me, as this ordeal has not been heard of by the council. Such news would hinder any decisions.”
“Keeping secrets, are we?” They smiled, “I thought you humans trusted each other more.”
The general studied them for a moment, but ultimately decided to ignore them. “Your actions are only known by those of us in this room.” Sylvia pursed her lips but said nothing, and Leonardo had a dangerous glint in his eyes, “And of course, the boy Yantho, whose heroic actions saved my son and lead to an important discovery..”
“Yes..” They mused with a glance down to their chained hands, “After all this time, your magic finally seems to be affecting my abilities.” They looked back up and eyed Leonardo, “I suspect I’ll be seeing you again soon?”
In response, Leonardo just cracked his knuckles.
“Who knows?” Hymn spoke for him, “Perhaps the death sentence might be an option now.”
Their eyes flickered to the general who already looked back down at the table nonchalantly. A pause, then they cast their attention elsewhere. Without their power, they certainly weren’t looking forward to the torture to come - they had just experienced human pain via blunt trauma, and didn’t want to experience being stabbed. Their best bet was to simply prolong the inevitable, delay the inescapable.
“Regardless,” Hymn spoke through the silence, “I see you’ve met Mrs. Hayes again.”
They smiled, “A pleasure.”
“Senhor, me dê força..” She muttered. **
"If she had her way, you would not be standing here." He told them, "You see? I can be reasonable."
They eyed the table again, wondering what the nature of this meeting was. Clearly it wasn’t a torture session because there were no weapons besides the ones attached to their bodies and the room itself looked too elegant for blood to be spilled in. If they were going to be verbally berated, they assumed the general wouldn’t show himself in the dungeons but found it amusing he’d make a show of bringing them out of their cell to talk.
The general nodded in their direction, but the human behind them grunted and turned back around. They glanced over their shoulder as the man exited the room and closed both doors behind him. They turned back to face the three and cocked their head to the side while they wondered what was going through their minds. Sylvia’s eyes were now closed as if she was attempting to calm herself and Leonardo had returned to picking at his rotten teeth with a knife.
“As I was saying,” Hymn continued, “What happened to my son was unfortunate, but deeply heedless on his part. He should have been more careful when we trained him properly.”
“You humans are very strange, having little care for your own flesh and blood.” They mused, knowing very well most parents would put their child above them, “Think of all your precious morals.”
Leonardo scoffed, “As if you’d know a thing about morals.”
“Your punishment will be swift and carried out as soon as possible,” Hymn said as if he hadn’t heard anyone speak, “Given your newfound vulnerability, I will have Yantho inflict it when he visits you next. I’m sure he’ll accept the request. He’s quite fond of my son.”
They snorted. He had no idea.
“But that’s not the only reason I called you here.” The man said, “Technically speaking, I shouldn’t be sharing this information with you, but hopefully it will sway you.”
They exhaled, smile remaining on their face, “Well, by all means.” They took a step forward and Leonardo visibly tensed. They kept their hands in front of them and just smirked at the man who glared back in return, “Continue..”
General Hymn leaned forward and placed both hands on the table, “I’ve not had the time to discuss this matter yet, but we’ve heard the Senj set for our kingdom and their escorts ran into a problem a few days journey from here.”
“The king has ordered troops to help our allies to safety, for if a Senj gets into the wrong hands..” He shook his head, “We set out in four days as to not raise alarm from neighbouring kingdoms and enemies.”
They pursed their lips, “And this is relevant to me how, exactly?”
“Until the council comes to an arrangement about the journey to find the Codex,” Hymn said slowly, “We’ve been ordered to help. And to bring you along, in case something happens to the Senj and we’re not able to bring them back.”
The humans called the other a Senj, meaning they were proved to be loyal - but they said the Senj, as if the person was an object rather than a human. That rather annoyed them more than being called a Mjik. The slur didn’t bother them. They were more offended by humans calling them an ‘it’ like an item. It seemed in this world if you were something other than an ordinary human, you were an outcast and discriminated.
General Hymn continued to talk for another minute or so about things they didn’t care about; why they were bringing a Senj (they already knew), what happened to compromise the journey (details about an ambush. Yawn.) and what they had to prepare in advance to set out on the rescue. They were already thinking about feeling the breeze again, breathing in fresh air, being away from Favian and Yantho-
“Of course, my son will be accompanying us. He knows the way better than anyone-”
“фбяфѱגк ɛבкэɛ..” They muttered *
“-but I must first await his recovery.” He finished like he hadn’t heard them, “He’s already insisting he is fine, so he should be on his feet within the week.”
“And if you try anything-” Leonardo growled, “I’ll put an end to you.”
General Hymn chuckled, “Calm yourself, friend. He is no threat now that he knows of the consequences.”
That was certainly untrue. It was in their nature to push past safe boundaries and tease.. a smart-ass comment would inevitably be the death of them and they’d smile as it happened. These humans were always so serious, so straight-forward and never appreciated their snide commentary and sarcasm. However, they found that attitude helped them into the beds of many humans since they appreciated a good laugh.
Of course Hymn was technically right - they knew the consequences: a punch or slap, a whipping or stabbing, but these people wouldn't kill them. Not while they were still so desperate for information. They were a creature with all the knowledge they sought after and would kill for. However, they knew the general would not hesitate to kill them if worse came to even worse. If he had to pick between them and his power, well..
Before anyone could say anything else, the doors behind them opened. They rolled their eyes at the interruption and glanced over their shoulder expecting to see the same human that had escorted them here. Instead, Yantho stood there, both hands on a door handle. He looked paler than usual, like he was sweating and had a glint of panic in his eyes. His hair was frizzy with several tufts of loose hair down the sides of his face.
His eyes found theirs immediately and blinked in surprise. Yantho obviously hadn’t expected to see them here, so whatever he was about to say as soon as he entered was lost. They simply flashed a smug smile and gave him a small wave the best they could with the chains limiting their movement. He was wearing the same black long sleeve and brown pants from the other day which were starting to look worn out.
“M-My apologies for interrupting, sir.” Yantho spoke as he tore their eyes away from them and let go of the doors to give a small, awkward bow, “I wasn’t aware you had this much company.”
They looked back at Hymn who smiled brightly, “Worry not, child. You may speak freely, what is it?”
Yantho clasped his hands together and fiddled with his fingers. He was clearly uncomfortable with sharing whatever he had to say with them in the room. Still smiling, they turned back towards the boy who caught their gaze again. Perhaps he was thinking about the other day, perhaps he was afraid they would tell his dirty secret in front of his superiors, or maybe he was always this nervous outside the dungeons. Yantho cleared his throat.
“I only came to request for Lady Hayes’ presence, sir.” He spoke, “If I may.”
Instead of Hymn speaking, Sylvia’s face broke out into a loving smile. She tilted her head to the side and gazed at Yantho, “Lady is a term of royalty, dear. There is no need to address me as such, but I am flattered.”
Yantho forced a smile, “Of course. But as I was saying-”
They wondered how many times those two have met - did Sylvia know her husband was fooling around with a man right under her nose? Did Yantho know how much she seemed to genuinely care for her husband and would be heartbroken to find out the truth? They’d have to press Yantho for those juicy details later. Of course they didn’t care for the relationship itself, just the interesting happenstances surrounding it.
“-your husband is awake,” He finished, “And he’s requesting to see you.”
There was a slight tinge of disappointment in Yantho’s voice, that Favian wanted to see his wife rather than him. That, or they had already spent time together and he was just jealous that he couldn’t take up all of Favian’s time. They wondered if he hated her, despised that he and Favian had to live in secret while she could express her love for Favian anytime she wanted without having to worry what anyone thought.
Sylvia smiled warmly, “That is wonderful news. Thank you, Yantho.” She turned to General Hymn, hands clasped together, “If you will allow it?"
Hymn nodded, “Yes, go to him, sweetheart. But when you return I expect to know how he is fairing.”
She bowed her head, “Of course.”
Sylvia whispered something to Leonardo who nodded, then she turned and briskly walked out of the room, not meeting their eyes but brushing past Yantho as he stepped out of the way. They glanced back again to see her close only one door, then listened as her steps vanished down the hall. Their eyes flicked back to Yantho. He looked more relaxed now and stood upright in the general’s presence.
“I should return now,” He spoke, “Gwen is-”
“Hold on, son,” General Hymn interrupted, “Stay for a moment, there are things to discuss.”
Yantho hesitated for a moment and closed the second door. He walked forward, confidence in his stride but not in his expression. He came to a halt next to them, a foot of space between them but they noted this was the first time they had been so close without attacking each other. Yantho’s hands went behind his back in an attempt to stand straighter, jaw was slightly raised but also clenched. He seemed used to being around his superiors. They had half an inch of height over him.
“Sir?” He asked.
Hymn smiled, “Relax yourself, I know you must feel uncomfortable in this creature's presence, but you’ve proved you can handle yourself.”
They glanced at Yantho who looked at them and kept each other's gaze for a moment. Besides unease, they couldn’t read his expression like usual. They simply smiled and he turned his head away again.
“Apologies.” Yantho said again, “I’m just shaken is all, after almost losing my-” He stopped himself, but continued just as quickly, “-friend.”
Their smile turned smug but didn’t look back at him. The general simply nodded in understanding.
“Which is why I wanted to talk to you. You witnessed this creatures mortality with your own eyes, yes?” He asked, already knowing the answer.
They felt Yantho glance at them, “Yes, sir.”
“I’d like you to experiment with that.” Hymn said, standing straight to put his own hands behind his back, “Take the reigns from my son, after all you're the one spending time with this creature, not him.”
Yantho was quiet for a moment as he processed the general's words. They knew immediately what the man meant: it wouldn’t be Favian or Leonardo torturing them again, it would be Yantho - most likely to give him something to do with his time. They wanted to laugh but kept it in; now they didn’t have to deal with either man's annoying, drawn out taunting monologues. Yantho would enjoy this task, and they’d enjoy taunting him.
“I envy the thought, sir, but I am inexperienced in that sense.” Yantho told him, “I was supposed to learn from example the first time Captain Givina brought me down there.”
Leonardo sighed, “It’s true, the boy has never persecuted a prisoner before. My fault, I suppose.”
They turned their smug smile on Yantho, “I’ll just have to coach you through it. Just picture the time you wanted to cut my tongue out.”
In return, he broke his composure to glare at them, “Which time?”
“Maybe you should draw your blade and do it right now..” They suggested.
Yantho continued to glare and his fingers twitched at his side. If he did, they were sure Leo and Hymn would come to one of two conclusions: One, that Yantho was impulsive and reckless so he shouldn’t do the task or two, the two would assume Yantho was being affected by charmspeak and punish him for it. They simply cocked their head to the side and shifted their body ever so slightly to face the boy, prompting him silently to do it.
“Gentlemen.” Hymn interrupted and Yantho tore his gaze away. They just sighed. “Now is not the time for a dispute. Yantho, you’ll have plenty of time to work out your aggression towards this creature. But for now, at ease.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Yantho lowered his head, “Their mere presence disgusts me, I don’t want any harm to befall anyone else.”
They studied Yantho for a moment, but he didn’t look back.
“I understand.” Hymn told him, “Return here later, and I’ll give you your assignment. For now, please go console Mrs. Hayes, she is very distraught over Favian.”
Another forced smile returned to Yantho’s lips at the words, “Of course.” His voice sounded more bitter than before, “Thank you, sir.”
Without another word, he turned and walked back across the room and ran a hand through his hair as if to smooth it out. He silently reached the doors and they clicked shut behind him, so they simply sighed and turned back to the remaining two. Leonardo eyed them with suspicion, though they didn’t know for what reason. He had since put his knife away, or rather stabbed it on the table which they hadn’t seen or heard.
“I trust you’ll behave yourself for now.” Hymn spoke, “Anymore interruptions, and we’ll see how well cut off limbs take to heal in your state.”
They smiled mockingly, “Yes, sir.”
He whistled and the double doors opened. They glanced over their shoulder once more to see the same human from before enter. The person nodded, walked into the room and grabbed their arm to tug them away. Neither Hymn nor Leo said another word as they were pulled from the room, still smiling.
When Sylvia speaks - "Choke on your tongue." / "Or I'll rip/tear it out myself." (it's portuguese)
When she speaks again - "Lord give me strength."
* Basically means "For fuck sakes."
They stared into the tiny mirror at their own eyes like some sort of unwinnable staring contest. Before all this, they adored mirrors and would always gaze into one whenever they saw one because they loved what they saw. Full body mirrors were a god send, but they were only ever in places of royalty, places that could afford them. They held the pocket sized mirror, knowing it would have to do for now.
Their bright, golden eyes stared back - physically, it was the only way they stood out from the humans because none of them had gold eyes. The closest they had seen was light brown, hazel - like Yantho’s. They turned their head slightly and eyed their temple where they had been struck, but there wasn’t so much as a scar there anymore. Someone had come by earlier with a wet cloth - a poor-man’s bath, but they only wiped their face and head off.
They felt better, but it also reminded themselves that they hadn’t had a bath since arriving. Why they didn’t smell like absolute filth was beyond them, but perhaps that was just a perk of being what they were. They had only ever bathed before because they enjoyed being naked, and that was one of few human ways to be naked without scaring someone. Baths and sex. They missed both. They gasped quietly. Bath sex. They’d have to try that sometime.
Instead, they reflected on the events of yesterday. They hadn’t slept much since then so it gave them plenty of thinking time. Only a few more days until supposedly they set off on a road trip where they were most likely going to meet more humans and a Senj. They licked their lips in anticipation - only a few more days until they could scope out their surroundings and figure out an escape plan. How wonderful it would be to successfully escape on Favian’s watch.
Assuming they were going to be chained more or thrown in the back of a horse and carriage, they would have to find the right human to charm. And that was assuming they still had a little bit of magic in their words. They would be the most guarded thing in the land, second to the gold in the king's treasury. They couldn’t be careless and just make a run for it, they’d have to wait until guards went scouting or got bored.
While in their thoughts, they hadn’t heard the off door open until they caught the sounds of footsteps descending down the stairs. One shoulder facing the cell door, they only had to turn their head slightly to see whoever entered the room. Pleasantly surprised, yet slightly agitated to see Yantho emerge from the darkness. He looked around briefly and met their eyes but didn’t show any emotion in his expression.
“Morning, love.” They called and watched Yantho stride towards the center table.
They didn’t know if it really was morning - it had been morning when they woke up for the meeting - which only seemed like a few hours ago - and they had only slept once since then. Maybe it was still afternoon, going by the small stream of light from the crack in the far wall. Asking was always an option, but they couldn’t be bothered. Instead, they simply sighed and fiddled with the tiny mirror.
“Where’d you get that?” They heard Yantho ask.
They looked over at the boy who was squinting suspiciously at them from the other side of the table and gave him a cocky smile without a reply. Even if he ran off and told someone that they had the item, it wouldn’t matter much. It was only a mirror, and they didn’t remember the face or name of the guard they had tricked into giving it to them those few months ago.
Seeing Yantho so soon was amusing - they assumed the discussion with Hymn was brief, to the point, and that he was here to carry out whatever instructions he had gotten. There were still all the same torture weapons out on the table along with the broken chains dangling from the wooden chair they had been strapped to so many times. Leonardo's favourite weapon was the whip, Favian’s seemed to a knife, and they wondered what Yantho’s would be.
Instead of getting to the point, he crossed his arms and slowly paced around the table. To their surprise, Yantho simply sat himself down in the chair which was facing their cell now, and sighed. They frowned slightly but said nothing and Yantho pursed his lips, expression annoyed like he’d rather be anywhere else. Their eyes met but the annoyance there wasn’t directed at them - it was for someone else.
“Cheer up.” They suggested, “It almost seems like you don’t want to be here.”
Yantho looked at them through half lidded eyes, arms still crossed as he slumped in the chair. He looked two seconds away from pouting.
“I want to be here as much as you do.”
They offered a helpful smile, “And we both want to get away from here. We can help each other, y’know.”
When no reply came, they shifted around, leaned forward and rested their head against the cool bars. They closed their eyes for a moment and sighed in content, even though they could feel Yantho's continued gaze. After a moment they opened them again to stare back but he looked like he was deep in thought, slightly zoned out.
“Thinking about me, I hope?” They called. Yantho blinked a few times and they cocked their head, “Has my beauty caught you in a daze? Don’t worry, it happens to everyone.”
Yantho's expression didn't change, “Gods, you’re so narcissistic.”
“Mhm.” They agreed, “No one loves me more than I love myself.”
“I can believe that.”
“Though, perhaps I can’t speak for the human I encountered a week before ending up in this place,” They added, smiling more, “She certainly loved me. All night long ..”
Yantho’s nose scrunched up in disgust, “I don’t care.”
They closed their eyes at the memory, “Mm. Yes, she kept saying how much she loved it when I would fu-”
“Stop.” The other interrupted, “Don’t finish that thought, just stop talking.”
“Or you’ll shove your sword down my throat?” They cooed, recalling when Yantho had used that threat, “Please do, but be gentle. I’m so fragile.”
Yantho opened his mouth to reply, but then angrily looked away instead, face going a shade pinker which made them grin. It was so easy to make him flustered, despite his obvious hatred towards them. They assumed it was because of this form - devastatingly attractive and hard to resist the charm that came with it. Charmspeak was only as good as the physical appearance of whatever body they took.
“Mm, if you’re disgusted by that, you should hear about the things I’d do to you.” They grinned, “After I make you fall for me, of course.”
Yantho’s glare turned into a scowl, “Not even in the next life.”
“I’ve got plenty more of those, I can wait.”
“If you don’t stop talking, I’ll put these weapons to good use. Your magic doesn't work anymore.” Yantho reminded them, hand on the hilt of his sheathed rapier, “I could kill you.”
“You could,” They agreed, “But you’ve never taken a life, have you? And if you took mine, what would your precious General say about it? Say byebye Kingsguard.”
Yantho clenched his teeth together but said nothing. He got up from the chair, visibly agitated and turned his back to them.
Taunting someone wasn’t as fun as it could be when you barely knew anything about the given person. It was a specialty of theirs to fabricate stories, make assumptions based on what they saw; the old guards were very easy. They wore wedding rings. Symbols of their love for another person, so getting into the minds - making them doubt their spouse loved them as much as they thought or even if they were who they claimed to be - was too easy.
The only thing they knew about Yantho was of his affair with Favian. The two of them were clearly in love, heavily dependant on one another, and Yantho seemed to care about the other more than he cared about himself. They could play on fears that perhaps Favian didn’t return the same amount of love, that he secretly was in love with his wife - they were sure some insecure part of Yantho could believe it.
Other than that, there was nothing. Besides his ever-present eagerness to join the Kingsguard, they knew nothing of value. They figured they could try to engage Yantho in a game of twenty questions but he would most likely decline. They continued to stare at him as he fiddled with the same blade Favian had tried to cut their finger off with. They remembered hearing he had never tortured someone before, and he definitely had never killed.
They sat in silence for what seemed like half an hour, Yantho quietly examining every item on the table as if he didn’t already do that once before. They sighed and rested their head on the bars, deciding to bite the bullet and make small talk.
“Let me ask you something?”
Yantho looked up from the knife he was holding and slowly turned around with a confused expression to look down at them, “You just did.”
The smiled and rolled their eyes. Usually that was their line, “Touché.”
He squinted, “Why ask? Nothing's ever stopped you from running your mouth before.”
They cocked their head to the side. “Since no torture is how you've decided to torture me, and we’re going to be spending quality time together, I figure I’d try to engage in conversation.”
A pause. Then,
“Well, if you’re giving me the option to pick freely?” Yantho mused, “No.”
They sighed, “I’ll answer one of your questions..”
He met their eyes instantly, obviously intrigued. His eyes sparked with interest but didn’t say anything right away - he was rightly suspicious. They already knew he would ask the obvious questions: how does your magic work, how do you shapeshift, and more importantly, the ‘what are you’ question. They weren’t sure if they’d be truthful; it’d be more fun to lie and make up stories.
To be painfully honest, they had no idea what they wanted to ask. Where to start? They weren’t interested in Yantho in the slightest, but if they wanted to keep themselves from dying of boredom they’d have to think of something. They could always pry for information about his private life, about Favian and get more of that juicy gossip, but they severely doubted Yantho would tell them in fear of being outed.
“Okay.” Yantho decided, leaning against the table, “You got me, I’ll bite.”
They smiled, “Hard enough to make me moan?”
He glared at them, face going that same light shade of pink, but otherwise ignored them. They laughed to themselves and got to their feet with ease then took a second to stretch their tired bones. They felt Yantho’s stare on them the entire time, most likely trying to figure out what their ulterior motives were. Sure, the more they knew the more they could manipulate, but surely even a baby could figure that out.
“Go on, then.” Yantho said, keeping his arms crossed, “Ask me something.”
They studied him, wondering what he thought they were going to ask. Given their nature, he probably assumed they were going to ask something invasive, something inappropriate or sincerely none of their business. They crossed Favian off on their mental list. They didn’t want to seem like they were interested in him - because they weren’t. Maybe they could ask about Sylvia.. Ooh, that wasn’t a bad thought. But still too personal.
"What do you think I'm going to ask?"
He frowned, "Is that your question?"
"Nope, this one doesn't count." They replied.
"It does so!" He argued and they snickered at how defensive he sounded. He caught himself, and added; "One question, that's it. Try again."
They sighed, "C'mon, amuse me. I don't care about you in the slightest, so throw me a bone."
Yantho was silent for a few very long seconds, then wiped his hands down his face, "Fine. I think you're going to ask something about my relationship with Favian, even though you don't care. Happy?"
"Not true at all." They countered, "I care immensely about your scandalous love life - it has me on the edge of my seat. Like Sylvia - does she know?"
His eyes bored into them, "Is that your question?"
From his reaction alone, they were tempted to say yes. His face was calm and serious even though he was clearly tense underneath the surface. Either way he answered that question would be satisfying.. yes? He knew that he was a homewrecker? Ohh, maybe Sylvia came into the picture after the two got together and she was the homewrecker. If the answer was no, then there was going to be plenty more drama.
"No.." They mused, pretending to look deep in thought, "You're waiting for me to ask something like that, you're on your toes."
He said nothing.
Instead, they came out of left field, “How old are you?”
Yantho blinked, clearly surprised. “That’s.. Your question?”
They shrugged. They agreed, it was a pretty big waste of a question, but they assumed it was simple enough. They knew he could lie about it, say he was older than he really was, but he was an all-around terrible liar. As if reading their mind, he frowned slightly, most likely debating if he should lie. They were amused with how confused he was but didn’t say anything when Yantho finally opened his mouth.
"Twenty five." He finally said.
They cocked their head, smile getting wider.
"What?" He demanded, "Don't look at me like that."
"Right." They snorted, "You're twenty five."
Yantho pursed his lips angrily - they doubted he expected that lie to work, but he was also annoyed that it didn't.
"Let me guess. You're actually.. twenty? No, sixteen. Am I close?"
He was clearly grumpy, “..Nineteen. And It's not like you're much older?"
They grinned, “Is that your question?”
Yantho immediately closed his mouth and they chuckled quietly. Only nineteen, eh? He looked it; not quite an adult but not quite a child, either. They knew that age was like some sort of gateway for humans, and once you hit twenty, you were welcomed into adulthood. They wondered if Yantho joining the kingsguard was some sort of rite of passage - surely going to war and dying for a king that didn’t care about his people wasn’t that idolized.
However, despite Yantho not asking the same question in return - even though he was clearly curious for the answer now - they were feeling charitable. They glanced over at Yantho who was now deep in thought, eyes trained on one of the metal bars. He broke out of his daze when they took a step forward and leaned into the bars then grabbed the tiny food tray slot. Once again their eyes met and they sighed.
“One hundred sixty eight.”
Yantho blinked in surprise, “What?”
“I’m one hundred and sixty eight years old.” They repeated, “Well, since I last died.”
“One hundred..” He murmured in awe, then looked away, “That's..” He suddenly looked back at them, “..Since you last died? ”
“You don’t age, then?” He asked.
“Magic.” They said, wiggling their fingers and laughed at Yantho’s frustrated expression, “This body is just a copy of the original; he was only twenty three, so I always look twenty three."
Yantho looked like he wanted to ask more, to protest that they couldn't just not tell him what that meant, but they had a flare for the dramatics. Just like Favian and Hymn, they fed Yantho just enough information to fill in some blanks but withheld the rest to watch these humans flop around helplessly trying to piece together things that didn’t make sense. It was clear he had never encountered an immortal, or something that would outlive any human.
“Your turn.” They said simply, changing the subject just like that, “Before I get bored and change my mind.”
Yantho pursed his lips in thought. They could just tell he wouldn't be satisfied with the one question limit and had many, but was trying to figure out the best one. After a long few moments, he spoke:
“What’s your name?”
Yantho simply stared but they tensed, smug smile immediately falling from their face as their eyebrows knit together in confusion. Of all possible questions, they hadn’t guessed that would be one of them and felt incredibly vulnerable for expressing so much emotion is such little time. Their name? They had many, all the people they had ever pretended to be - But they knew what Yantho was talking about.
They quickly cleared their throat and wiped the expressive emotion off their face. They returned to their calm demeanor despite their whole body being tense. It was clear Yantho had seen the wave of surprise that splashed across their face, because he raised his eyebrows. He was more curious than ever, and they knew their reaction to what would normally be a simple question, was strange. However, they could lie.
“My name.." They murmured. Pick a name, any name. "It's Issac."
An amused smile lit up Yantho’s face as he clearly saw through the lie. They didn’t sound or seem very convincing.
“Your name is Isaac.” He repeated, smile growing. "Of course it is."
“Isaac is a sexy name.” They argued, “A sexy name for a sexy being, like myself.”
Yantho paused, “No to both points. That can’t be your name. It’s too.. human.”
They said nothing, he was right.
“You said I could ask you anything.” Yantho reminded him, smile now smug. He was growing in confidence now that they were hesitating, “That’s my question.”
They stared at him, he stared back just as hard. Clearly he wasn’t going to let this go.
“בɛקэJяוѱк” They spoke, voice low.
Yantho visibly flinched at the words, which they knew sounded almost demonic. It was like they were speaking backwards and scrambled at the same time. Their native tongue was unheard of by every human and sounded nothing like any foreign languages they had come across. Since no human could understand it, they hadn’t spoken it in several decades but it felt good having yet another thing these people didn’t.
“You asked.” They mocked while their confidence came back.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, then; "Why are you hesitating so much?"
"I've only told my name to those I trust. Very few." They replied, "You're not one of them."
Yantho tilted his head. "You don't have to trust me, but let's start at toleration."
They studied him for several seconds and wondered if they should tell the truth. Those few people they trusted with their name weren't around anymore; there wasn't anyone in this world they trusted. But maybe he was right.
“Sagejriuk.” They simply said despite their mind telling them to lie, “That’s my name.”
Yantho pursed his lips. Clearly that sounded more inhuman than Isaac.
“That’s a mouthful.” He decided, “I’ll just call you Sage.”
They wrinkled their nose in distaste, “Absolutely not, no nicknames. I’m not your pet.”
“It’s a nickname, not a pet name.” He argued, “Everyone has one.”
“Whatever you say, Yanny. ”
Yantho shuddered with disgust, very obviously not a fan even when the nickname came from someone he loved like Favian. They didn’t blame him - it was possibly one of the worst names they had ever heard. No one had called them their full name in so long, let alone butchered it down for convenience. They didn’t like it and were already starting to regret telling Yantho.
“We can compromise.” They said simply, “Never mention my name again, and I won't kill you when I get free.”
Yantho frowned, “What am I supposed to call you, then?”
They shrugged, “A monster, a freak, Mjik? You humans come up with something new each day, surprise me.”
When he didn’t respond, they simply turned away to walk back across their tiny cell. They wanted to ignore him now, now fully regretting telling him their name because truth be told, they didn’t want him speaking it. Especially around the other humans, who would latch onto any new piece of information they found. They doubted the others would even use their name when humans assumed slurs hurt their feelings.
“How about this,” They heard Yantho say, so they paused. “You don’t ever call me that gods-awful nickname, and I won’t tell the others your name, not The General or even Favian.”
They paused, then turned around.slowly.
Yantho blinked, “Why what?”
“Why keep secrets from Hymn?” They asked, completely puzzled, “I thought you were a rule-following goody two shoes.”
He started at them for a moment, then sighed. “You haven’t told anyone about Favian and I, despite the threat hanging over our heads. Now we’re even.”
They squinted, “You wouldn’t rather just have one over me?”
Yantho continued to stare at them, slight amusement covering his features but something else was in his eyes and they couldn’t quite read it.
“You’re not used to being shown respect like this, are you?”
They wanted to reply but didn’t. A long time ago that wouldn’t be true, when they were burning cities to the ground and murdering anyone who got in their way, they were used to fear grown respect. But it hadn’t been that way in quite some time, ever since they drifted into the shadows, killing when they needed to, stealing what they wanted, changing forms every so often. No one respected them because they were invisible.
This was strange. Just the other day Yantho had nearly killed them out of fear and anger, now he was offering to keep their name a secret from the same person they had tried to kill. It couldn’t just be because they knew about his relationship with Favian - he probably knew they were saving it for a better time, to ruin their lives sometime down the road. They thought about doing it, but decided not to. If that was respect , they had no idea.
“Fine.” They said, ignoring the question, “We have a deal.”
f is for finally thinking of a fuckign name
Chapter 10: Impasse
strangers to enemies to worse enemies rip
Not many words were spoken after that but they didn’t mind. Sagejriuk had went back to sitting against the back wall and tossed the pebble up and down as they watched Yantho on the other side of the bars. He hadn’t been doing much of anything for the past hour, he just simply walked around to examine all six cells. They were all small and empty, some doors wide open while some remained shut. They could practically see inside all of them.
They didn’t know what he was doing and didn’t want to ask. It was amusing to watch as he paced around with slight curiosity. It was as if he had never been in a prison before; if you could call this dark, wet dump a prison. Earlier, Yantho had ventured into one cell only to have a small rat hurriedly sprint out and across the rock floor and he came out grumbling about annoying pests. They wondered how it had gotten in.
In the meantime, they reflected on the earlier conversation. It was strange. Yantho still hated them with his entire being - and the feeling was mutual - but it was very rare (in their past experiences) for even a little respect between the two parties. Yantho now had a name for the one he despised most, so perhaps now he could rant about them in his diary. Still, all the confusion still hadn’t faded away from his leniency.
Perhaps they would have asked more questions if Yantho’s first one hadn’t caught them so off guard - they would have started off simple but gotten more personal with the intent to make him uncomfortable. Watching him squirm would have been fun. How old was he? Why did they care? Why was that the first thing that popped into their mind. They sighed. No matter, the more they knew about someone the better.
It was best not to think about it. While in their thoughts however, Yantho mumbled something about being back later and vanished up the stairs without mentioning what he was doing. Without his constant shuffling, the dungeon went back to being deathly quiet with nothing but the sound of only their breathing to remind them they hadn’t gone deaf. The infernal clicking upstairs hadn’t been heard since returning to their cell.
They shifted their position, back straight against the wall with both legs pulled up against their chest but it was hard to get too comfortable with their wrists still bound. They turned their hands palms up and tried to think of a plan to get out of these. The rusted metal was old but not enough for them to tear apart without breaking something - it rubbed against their skin and burned occasionally but didn’t hurt. It was like an annoying itch.
They’d have to convince the next person that visited them to take these off. If it was Yantho, they were sure they could charm him just long enough to give them the key. If they couldn’t strangle someone to death with them on, perhaps they’d get a good night's sleep without them. They doubted Yantho’s ‘respect’ for them entailed freeing them of bonds meant to protect other humans. They smiled to themselves: charmspeak it was.
While they were at it, they’d find out if Yantho was lying about what he said. Surely he was, no human respected them, no human would ever have even the slightest bit of decency towards them - they suppose being a sociopathic criminal would do that. However, that just proved their own case; Yantho didn’t trust or like them. All that talk was just a tactic to get past their guard which they were annoyed to say worked. They would have to do the same.
They continued to stare at their hands, fading scars still visible from where they had crushed a tiny pebble in their hand while Yantho was talking and wished it was his head. It had broken the skin and blood seeped between their fingers, yet more surprisingly there had been a faint, dull pain. They wanted to curse and yell - they weren’t supposed to feel pain, to be immobilized with broken bones or dazed senses. This infernal cuff needed to be off right now.
They eyed the small round hole in the ground at the foot of their bed for a moment before quietly shifting over to it. They pursed their lips and glanced at their cuffs, then back to the hole they hadn’t worked on in a while. They wondered what would happen if they started beating that spot with their fists - given their newfound humanity as the general put it, they’d break a bone first try.
But they needed something to take their anger out on. They stared at the shallow dip in the ground, clenched their jaw and imagined it was Favian’s face. Without hesitating, they yelled incoherently and slammed their fist into the hard rock. They growled and kept their hand there for a moment until they realised there was no pain. They huffed and knit their eyebrows together in confusion - that should have hurt without magic.
Unless.. they raised their fists again and slammed them back down on the hard rock in the same spot - they felt the impact, felt the rock under their skin, but no pain shot through their hand or up their arm. It was awkward with both fists chained so close together, but both fists would cause double the possible damage. The only sound that echoed around the tiny chamber was the clang of metal shackles against the stone.
They grinned and struck the ground again and again, growling rather than yelling as their fists connected with the rock. They almost laughed with each strike, not even seeing if the impact was doing anything but it felt good to punch something. They kept hitting the same spot while a string of noises escaped their throat, not sure who or what this anger was even aimed at anymore. Not just one person, not just their situation.
Past the anger, they heard the door open in the distance. They gave the ground a few more hits before stopping, palms resting on the warm rock. Curling their fingers slightly, they took a second to catch their breath and listen to a figure descend down the stairs - they closed their eyes but opened them just as fast to look at what they had done. They moved their hands - which were unscraped and undamaged - to admire their work.
The difference was noticeable but insignificant. Several rocks and pebbles had been dislodged from the ground but they brushed those aside and noticed how the ground was fractionally deeper in certain spots. Even with full strength, it would take months to punch their way out of this place and by then a human would notice. Yet, they didn’t need months. They were going to be out in the world in mere days.
They pulled back and ran both hands through their hair that had been messed up in the spur of the moment. Afterwards they simply returned to sitting back against the wall, assuming it was Yantho who was returning. They were going to ready a sarcastic quip but pushed it to the back of their mind after someone else walked through the doorway. The newcomer definitely wasn’t Yantho and they didn’t know if they should be relieved or annoyed.
It was the one from before - that same guard that had taken them from their cell for the meeting with Hymn. Still dressed in the full set of armour, they didn't notice anything new. The human simply walked towards them with key in hand to unlock the cell door. It swung open and they raised their eyebrows at the motion - the human didn’t say anything, but they knew to push themselves to their feet and take a few steps forward.
He grabbed them by the chains and pulled them out with as much carelessness as last time which was almost admirable. The man simply nodded toward the chair and they stared while they walked towards it. The old chains they had ripped though were replaced with thin metal clamps, presumably to lock onto their own chains. One individual short length of chain on each arm dangled over the sides.
With a sigh and a reluctant roll of their eyes, they sat down on the hard, uncomfortable wooden base and let the man attach each clamp to the chains separating each cuff. It’s not like they had much of a choice, but now they had even less free hand movement. The only thing they could do was rest their hands in their lap and huff with annoyance. They glanced up to see the human step back and push up his faceplate.
It wasn’t one they recognised or seen before - the typical older, dark eyed male with a full beard that seemed to be more than half of the guards here. He glared down at them while he simultaneously removed his gauntlets to set them down on the table. Then without wasting another second or even speaking, he drew back and punched them hard across the face, fist striking their temple. They grunted.
The man paused for a moment as if studying their reaction but they didn’t have one. It didn’t hurt, there was no pain. They felt the fist connect and something crack, but it wasn’t anything of theirs. The armoured man simply hummed thoughtfully and brought his fist back across their face, this time causing their nose to crack. Again, they grunted in surprise but still felt no pain. That was odd. A few broken parts of bone, but no pain?
“That’s enough, Luther.”
They glanced over their shoulder but couldn’t quite see Yantho enter the room. The chair was on an angle more aimed at their cell and the entryway was just out of sight. The man in front of them simply nodded and pulled his faceplate back down - he took a step back as Yantho walked into the corner of their vision. He walked slowly, straight posture, hands behind his back and the assertiveness in those three words threw them off for a moment.
Yantho walked closer and they looked up to meet his eyes. There was something different about him. When he left he was somewhat friendly - well, his own annoyed, fed-up, bored version of friendly - and now he was glaring, eyes dark and full of that same hatred they had seen when they met. His jaw was clenched and the rest of his face was set in stone, clearly more aggravated than before he left.
“Ascot County,” He said simply. His voice betrayed no emotion, “That was you?”
They tilted their head. Ascot county.. Ascot county.. Ah, yes. The name rang a bell, they met a human who tried blackmailing them into revealing their true identity. The human hadn’t been a threat, but their death was necessary. To cover their tracks, they put the human in a church that had already been ablaze then simply changed their form and continued as usual. However, they weren’t quite sure how these people figured it out.
“That’s what this is about?” They asked, amused, “It’s hardly-”
Before they could finish, Yantho punched them hard across the face which sent a fresh wave of pain through their already broken nose. They blinked in surprise, then mentally cursed that the cuff chose its moments to start working. They could feel the blood dripping out of their nose as they turned back to face Yantho, nose aching slightly. The boy was fuming, hands clenched into fists at his side, seconds away from striking them again.
“There were children in that church.” Yantho spat, eyes glowing with fury, “Elderly people, sick people.”
They narrowed their eyes slightly but said nothing. Why was he telling them that? They had only fed one body to the fire, not- Ah.
“A tragedy, but not one I care about.”
Yantho’s fist connected with their face again, knuckles against their jaw which cracked faintly but they doubted anything broke. The impact dazed them the most with their vision going blurry for a moment but they shook their head back into reality. They met Yantho’s eyes once more who was showing unbridled rage which was something they hadn’t seen before. They liked it better - the darkness in humans was delicious.
“Luther, you can report back to The General.” Yantho said quietly. His voice sounded gruff, intense. “I can handle this.”
The human, Luther, simply nodded. "How long?"
They weren't sure what the question meant, but Yantho did. He never took his eyes off them, "Ten minutes."
Luther's face was still covered, but he turned to look at them. He shook his head silently and trudged out of the room. His clanking echoed up the stairwell for a few moments, then he was gone.
"Do you have any idea what you've brought upon yourself?" Yantho asked, finally glancing away but his voice was still quiet.
"You'll have to enlighten me."
He was silent as he walked over to the table and leaned into it.
“I’m supposed to get an explanation out of you about Ascot County.” Yantho clarified, “But I don’t want to hear it. You’re a sociopath, that’s all I need to know.”
“I didn’t start the fire.” They said, "Someone beat me to it."
He looked over at them, “A likely story. There was a survivor - she said she watched a figure dump a body and then shapeshift. That sound like anyone you know?”
They opened their mouth to defend themselves but the words didn’t come. Surely the survivor wasn’t the woman they killed - they watched her die, ripped her heart from her chest. They hadn’t looked for living humans while they dumped the dead body in the flames, they just assumed everyone was dead. They remembered wanting to meet whatever psychopath had killed a church full of people and lit the building on fire.
It was also nearly a year ago - it took that long for a survivor to come forward? Next time they killed more than one person, they’d make sure to finish the job unlike whatever humans had done the Ascot County incident. Yantho remained glaring at them.
“I was there.” They agreed, “Because I had just killed a loose end. Then I dumped them in the church that was already aflame. You’d be surprised what monstrosities humans can do.”
Without warning and faster than light, Yantho reached behind him and lunged forward. They were suddenly aware of pain flaring through their entire chest. The grunted back a noise of pain and blinked to see Yantho now leaning over them, holding onto a knife that was plunged into their right shoulder. No, no, even with the cuff, weapons weren’t supposed to pierce their skin. Their flesh was invulnerable. What was this?
“Ɛбпбфב בֿiȶגל” They muttered before sucking in a breath.
Yantho gripped the handle tighter, “I’m going to make you feel as much pain as all those people did.”
“You’re wasting your time.” They growled, glaring up at him. Their faces were only a few inches apart while Yantho was leaning over them like this, so they could clearly see the burning hatred on all his features, “Like I said, I take credit for-”
Yantho twisted the blade. Hard. They winced and bit back a gasp of pain that flared through their right arm. They their teeth in both anger and pain, yet refused to look away from the boy's eyes as a sign of weakness. They knew he was acting on impulse from whatever he had went upstairs for - had someone only given him this news as a way to start torturing them? How very manipulative, but effective.
“You bastard,” He snarled, fingers gripped tight onto wooden chair arm while his knuckles went white from how hard he was holding the knife with his other hand, “You vile, heartless bastard. To think I even tried to be nice to you.”
“The feeling is completely mutual.” They snapped back, “Thinking you could be a rational human being was clearly a mistake on my part.”
Yantho ripped the blade out but immediately sunk it back into their flesh in the exact same spot so they couldn’t help but groan. They pulled on their chains in an attempt to rip their hands free but the pain radiated down their arm. They tried to jerk their body backwards but there was nowhere for it to escape the cold metal in their shoulder. They hadn’t been stabbed successfully before and were now glad of that fact.
“That was one.” He spat, “There were thirty three people in that church.”
“I’ve got all millenia.”
Yantho’s expression changed only slightly and it was to allow amusement, “You feel pain now, you can be hurt. Who’s to say you won’t bleed out and die?”
“Go ahead, kill me. I’ll be back.” They replied, anger flaring, “I’ll be back to put your head on a bloody spike, along with everyone you love.”
He hesitated at their words for only a moment. They wondered if they could charmspeak Yantho into killing them - it would hurt, it usually did, but then they’d truly be free and be back just as fast. At this rate, they doubted they’d need charmspeak because it seemed like Yantho was going to kill them willingly and with pleasure. They’d have to suffer a little, but if they could make him angry enough, maybe he’d stab something important..
“I won’t kill you, not yet.” He said simply, “And I won’t give you this punishment all at once, because General Hymn fears for your mortality.”
"But you don't." They cooed, "You want me to die, you want to kill me." A smile crept onto their face. “It’s just you and I down here, love. So stab me again, you know you want to.”
Yantho pushed the blade deeper and they winced but were mildly satisfied. They could rile him up and make him continue to act on impulse - he’d end up stabbing their hearts and then they’d be gone. They’d leave him here with the wrath of whatever punishment Hymn would inflict upon him. Their smile turned into a grin when Yantho leaned slightly closer, trying to put his full force into the weapon. They could feel his warm breath.
"Stop talking." He demanded.
"But its true. Who cares what Hymn thinks?" They continued, "Think about all those poor, helpless children burning alive, Yantho. Think about how hard they screamed."
The colour drained from his face, "Stop."
“I lied. I did burn down that church.” They added quietly, still grinning. Yantho’s eyes went wide momentarily, but he only stared. “I killed everyone inside, I let the children watch as I slaughtered their families. I killed the children slowly, and I enjoyed it.”
They let charmspeak coat their words and watched them take effect on Yantho who seemed dazed for a mere few seconds before the anger returned to his features. He ripped the knife free to instead stab it right through their left hand. It went right through the back, palm, and even pierced their thigh slightly. They let out a noise of pain from the force behind it, fueled by Yantho’s raw hate and loathing.
"Is that all you've got?" They growled through the pain and relished the range of emotions radiating off Yantho.
“Shut up!” He shouted and twisted the blade sharply. They felt their hand go numb but didn't know what happened. “Shut your goddamned mouth!”
They let out a breathy laugh, “You wanted to know what happened, I told you. I admit it, It was all me.
Yantho yanked the knife out and quickly pulled back with a different, unreadable expression. There was still anger there, but something else took most of its place. He turned away even faster, and dropped the knife to the floor with an echo that bounced around the cavern for a brief moment. They watched as he clamped his hands together behind his neck and started to mumble to himself incoherently. They blinked in surprise, not expecting that.
They wondered if they had gone too far for poor, little Yantho to handle because now his hands were on his face, slurring his words even more. What this meant they weren’t really sure but it was strange how he went from nearly fatally stabbing them to muttering madly to himself in just a few seconds. They supposed that was good - premaature death might not be the solution.
They glanced down at their chains - the links attached to the chair arms were rather thin, they could rip them out like paper with their full strength. Half injured, they tried to pull upwards, gritting their teeth when the pain flared in their arm, chest and hand again. They made as little noise as possible, straining the metal links until they were certain they couldn’t feel their right hand anymore. Dizzy, they gave one last pull and heard wood start to splinter.
Yantho apparently heard it as well, because he turned around just as they gave one last yank of the chains and they ripped out from the wood. They dizzily launched forward and pushed Yantho against their neighbours cell doors where he he was pinned by their shackles. The chains were only long enough for them to place both hands on either side of his head with the chains digging into his throat. The boy made a noise of alarm, but they just grabbed onto the bars which tightened the chains.
They were dizzy, pain throbbing in their hand which was now grabbing onto dirty metal, and their shoulder was still bleeding heavily but tried to focus. They met Yantho’s gaze; his eyes were scared - still angry - but mostly scared. His hands clawed at the chains pressing into his neck, wheezed something incoherent and tried to wiggle his whole body. A smile found its way back onto their face, but they didn’t feel fully satisfied.
“You humans really need to build better restraints.” They said simply, “This is getting too easy.”
Yantho tried to catch his breath but just wheezed again, more fear edging into his expression. His face was going red with the lack of air. They didn’t have the energy to stand here and tease him, and they weren’t even sure if they wanted to kill him. It would be satisfying, yes, but it would get them nowhere in the long run. Favian would have them executed and they'd much rather be freed
Yantho tried to force a word out, but no air escaped his throat. They had strangled humans to death before, they knew he was entering the threshold of death and if they didn’t stop now there’d be no coming back from it.
Kill him. The voice in the back of their mind urged, Kill him, he just tried to kill you.
Yantho weakly kicked out but made no real impact. Most of his energy was most likely focused on trying to breathe - they watched the life slowly start to fade from his eyes as they let the anger take over for a long moment. Their voice was right, Yantho was trying to kill them - wanted to, even. But they listened, watched his lips try to form the words coming from his oxygen deprived brain. They could only read one word; Sage.
They pulled away before they even realised it, releasing the chains from his throat and let him slide down the wall as his weak legs gave out from under him. They pulled their hands close to their wounded chest and stumbled back until their knees hit the back of the chair and they sat right back down. It only made them feel partially better, but they focused on Yantho who looked afraid as he gulped down air, eyes unfocused while he drew his knees to his chest.
“I'm sorry..” He whispered once catching his breath, but they had a strange feeling he wasn't talking to them.
They didn’t think this was the most opportune time to mention that they in fact, didn’t start the fire but Yantho wouldn’t believe them. Why he seemed so shaken by something that happened nearly a year ago they had no idea but didn’t want to ask. They had other things to worry about; why did he say their name rather than the normal human response of ‘stop’ or ‘help’? Why did they react the way they did?
With a glance at their hand which was a blood stained mess, they doubted they’d make it far with their injuries. If someone came down here to see their tormentor wounded and down again while they were free, General Hymn would surely have more than a few words to say this time. They sunk into the chair and took a deep breath, mulling over their very few options. Stay here and wait, or return to their cell for the next fun-fueled day.
With a shake of their head, they stood again. Yantho barely noticed until they took a step forward and loomed over the boy basically curled up into a ball on the floor - he blinked out of his trance and looked up at them, still afraid. Their body seemed to work before their mind because they didn’t realise they were offering their unwounded hand for him to take until Yantho stared at it with uncertainty.
“Just take it.” They said.
He did. Although hesitantly, he slid his hand into their grasp and they winced as they pulled him off the floor. Yantho pressed himself into the wall, while still visibly shaken, his hands trembled as he pulled them away without a word. They pulled theirs away as well and then studied Yantho for a few long moments while they decided what their next course of action would be. They pursed their lips and punched him across the face.
“Hey!” A voice came
They didn’t need to turn to know Luther had just entered the room - at least they got in the last punch, shaking Yantho from his daze and he simply met their eyes with a halfhearted glare. He rubbed his face but made no move to strike back when the human rushed from behind and grabbed their shoulders. They let Luther pull them backwards but Yantho simply shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it.” He spoke, voice quiet, “Just lock them back up and let’s go.”
“Reeves-” He argued.
Yantho interrupted, “Luther.”
The man paused. “As you wish.”
Yantho didn’t spare them a glance as he turned away, slowly walked back towards the stairs and rubbed his face with his hands again. They watched him go, unsure what they were feeling at both the wide range of emotions and lack of any in just a short time. Right before he vanished into the stairwell, Luther pushed them sideways and towards their cell which they obediently walked into without protest.
They stood there in silence as the man closed and locked the door behind them. There was a snide comment about sweet dreams but they didn’t hear it. They weren’t listening. Their entire body still ached but the pain was lessening already as they stared at the stone wall. With a long, quiet exhale, their legs gave out and they sunk to their knees and it felt like pure ecstasy. They rain both hands through their hair and kept them here for a moment.
For once in their life, Sagejriuk didn’t know what to do.
they both need a 'this is our get along shirt'
Chapter 11: Bedevil
Click, click, click..
Their ears were ringing with the same repetitive noise.
Click, click, click..
Sagejriuk raised their arms again and again, banging the metal chains against the hard ground.
Click, click, click..
They had only woken up a few minutes ago after passing out in exhaustion shortly after they had been put back in their cell. They felt too tired to do anything else but lay down on the straw bed and shut their eyes. Since then they started to bash their cuffs against the same tiny rock they had dislodged from the floor - no progress had been made and it didn’t matter much because they were just letting out their frustrations.
How much time had passed since the incident with Yantho, they didn’t know. The sun was streaming through the cracks when they went to sleep, the sun was streaming through the cracks when they woke up. It could have been the same day, the next day, or several days later. Time had no meaning anymore, and they usually were so adamant on keeping track. They huffed in annoyance at the thought of Yantho.
It only made them slam their wrists down on the rock harder. They were annoyed at Yantho for wounding them, for blindly assuming they were behind Ascot County - they weren’t the only murderous criminal in this world. Then again, they couldn’t be too surprised. Humans would pin the blame on anyone if it made sense, as long as then could connect enough dots and seemed even remotely plausible. Fear was a funny thing.
They were annoyed at Yantho and his stupid, wild assumptions of them. Maybe it was a stretch to believe he could be smarter than to assume they were behind every single nefarious act ever committed. If the fire and murders hadn’t been so sloppy, so undeniably of human nature, perhaps they would have taken credit right away. Lately, they were getting blamed for more and more petty, messy crimes and it was insulting.
Just because the reason they had been caught was making a shopkeeper burst into flames after getting regrettably sloppy. You make one person spontaneously combust and everyone thinks you’re an insane, bloodthirsty psychopath. They growled quietly. Again, they brought the metal down on the ground. They’d show these humans a bloodthirsty psychopath.. They’d show everyone who they ran into, who put them down here.
More notably, they were annoyed at themselves as much as they didn’t want to admit it. They kept changing their mind about everything - stay and bide their time, but every time they thought they could smell freedom they tried to pursue it. Don’t kill any human that lets their guard down in fear of repercussions, yet they pounced on their captors every chance they got and almost killed two of them. Be nice to Yantho, hate Yantho.
They hated him. There would be no more switching back and forth, attempting to be civil with that boy. Despite their calm conversation the previous day, things turned sour within seconds. They hated how Yantho had said their name - the nickname, even - like a plea for help, like he knew they were going to stop as if it was the magic word. They still didn’t know why they reacted the way they did.. no one had used their name like that, since..
They pushed the thought out of their head and clenched their jaw. Having so much thinking time used to be a luxury but now they were doing too much of it and it was starting to get tedious. Instead, they bashed their cuffs off the ground a few more times before cursing in frustration and stopped. An angry sigh escaped their lips as they crawled back over to their bed and sat on the paper thin sheet then crossed their arms.
As if their day couldn’t get any worse, they heard the dungeon door open. They rolled their eyes and shook their head, not wanting to deal with whatever was coming their way. They couldn’t even see most of the outside room because they were sitting with their shoulder against the one foot long wall at the front of their cell that the cell door was connected to. Back when, it had been a good place to hide from their captors. Now humans expected it.
While someone descended down the stairs, they closed their eyes and relaxed their tense shoulders. Maybe they should just pretend to be asleep to avoid whatever god-awful conversation that was going to be had. Someone entered the room, still and quiet before making their way closer and closer, but stopped where they assumed the table must be. The person didn’t move and just stood there for a second.
They heard the wooden chair creak across the floor followed by the sounds of a squeak and a quiet grunt as someone sat down seconds later - they frowned for a moment. They didn't speak but neither did the newcomer, maybe the human thought they really were sleeping despite their legs being visible. Oddly enough, they didn't enjoy the silence as much when they knew someone else was there..
Instead of pondering, they simply rested their head against the hard wall and exhaled quietly. Curiosity almost made them speak first but they held their tongue - they doubted Yantho could keep his big, stupid, mouth shut for more than two seconds - so they waited. They closed their eyes and relaxed as if the sharp points of the wall weren't stabbing into their back, as if their hands weren't starting to sting a little from their stone abuse mere minutes ago.
It didn't take long - they weren't expecting the voice, but it shook them out of their thoughts;
"I can sense your frustration." Yantho's voice came, and it sounded quiet, just above a whisper, "I understand. This place takes its toll on everyone, eventually."
Sagejriuk said nothing, they tried to tune out his voice entirely. They'd rather be listening to Captain Leo's daily rants on how they somehow destroyed his life - at least they could get some sort of amusement from that. They continued to sit there, not wanting to admit to themselves that the boy was right - this place was getting under their skin, they were starting to crack and they hated it. They just wanted to be free of this place.
"It drives you mad in time, if you let it." He continued in that same soft voice, "If not the place, then it's the people."
They didn't know what the point to this one-sided conversation was, but they didn't care to ask. Finally, Yantho said something right - this place, for the most part, they could handle. But the people.. they had been doing just fine until the day they met Yantho, and they had started to interact with more and more annoying, whiny humans. The torture, the isolation, the quiet.. that was like playtime.
"I know what you're feeling." Yantho told them, and they rolled their eyes. "Don't roll your eyes; I do." If they hadn't been so annoyed, they would have snorted.
They said nothing in response.
"You deserve to be here," He said, "But I won't pretend I don't feel a little bad for you. I know what this place does to someone's mind."
At that, they didn't know what to say or even think. Did they deserve to be here? Sure. Everyone needs a time out every century or so, some time to cool off and plan it all again. The second part is what got them; was Yantho implying he had been down here on their side of the bars? An interesting thought, but they doubted he was capable of doing something that vile, something to end up here.
"It gives you plenty of time to think, but sometimes that's the worst torture.." Yantho said slightly louder this time, then he paused for a long moment. "I'm rambling.."
They stared at the wall, waiting for the point.
"I only came here to.. apologise."
There it was.
"I've been trying to convince myself out of it," Yantho continued, "That you weren't worth it, that it didn't matter. But it's been nagging at me all day."
They weren't quite sure what to make of that - Yantho was here to apologise yet there was nothing to apologise for. They had almost admired the completely different side of him, the side that wouldn't hesitate to put a knife in someone. It was a sign of weakness, apologising to someone you hated, you were letting them know you had a conscious.
"But I see you're not in the mood." He sliced through their thoughts once again, "I'll be back later, I suppose. I've got two months to put up with you, after all."
They frowned slightly at the words, then heard Yantho stand up a few moments later.
Their own voice surprised them - they hadn't planned on saying anything or engaging in conversation, but they supposed the curious part of their mind won the battle. They were curious why he wanted to apologise for sticking a knife into them, or accusing them of burning down a building and mass murdering everyone inside. He seemed to believe it after all. It was an easy lie to tell.
They heard Yantho pause, "Because I know it wasn't you."
Silence filled the room and their frown deepened. Now he just wasn't talking sense - just earlier he was two seconds away from wanting to strangle them with his bare hands for a heinous crime, now he was saying he knew they didn't do it? They almost laughed at him - it would be fun to try and defend their words yesterday, continue to say they did.
Yantho let out a defeated sigh, "Your silence tells me I'm right."
"Nonsense." They spoke, "Just amused by your human logic, is all. Yesterday, you wanted to kill me."
"I didn't say that changed." He replied, chair creaking as if he sat back down, "But I'm right, aren't I?"
They didn't say anything for a few seconds, then;
"What makes you so certain?"
Their eyes drifted to the cell door, but they couldn't see much of the other side or where Yantho was sitting. They listened to see if he would tap his feet anxiously or sigh with annoyance, swallow nervously or mutter under his breath. He didn't do any of those things. Instead, he also went quiet for a few very long moments before finally speaking.
"I told you I can tell when people are lying." He said simply, "You were genuinely surprised when you realised I was talking about the church.”
“Which you assumed I was responsible for.”
“Yes.” He agreed, “I’m not apologising for that, I’m apologising for losing my head, wanting to keep hurting you even after I realised you were lying.” He paused, “I realised you were taking advantage of my recklessness, trying to provoke me into harming you. And I did, even when I knew I shouldn’t.”
They closed their eyes, “Don’t feel too bad, love. Everyone wants to take a swing at me.”
“I don’t like punishing the wrong people.”
They sensed there was something else. Something he wanted to say but didn’t know how to - he wouldn’t be apologizing if there wasn’t something more. They heard him shift again, followed by a faint, quiet sigh. As annoying as it was, they wanted to press further, wanted him to keep talking to explain what he was getting at. They opened their eyes again and stared at the wall.
“Tell me then,” They mused, “What has you so distraught over a church full of strangers in a town miles away?”
Yantho didn’t say anything right away. The silence dragged on for what felt like an eternity until it seemed like the boy wasn’t even going to speak. Then;
“My best friend was there.” He told them, voice barely a whisper.
“Mm. And what were they doing so far from home?”
Yantho exhaled, “Feeding the sick and poor, taking care of those who couldn’t help themselves. She always put others before herself. - she didn’t deserve to be murdered.” He paused, “I’m going to kill whoever it was with my bare hands.”
They sighed, “Does this mean someone else is going to feel the deaths of thirty three people? I was looking forward to that fun.”
“I’m sure I’ll find something to punish you with.”
A smile formed on their face, “I like it when you talk dirty.”
When Yantho scoffed, a laugh escaped them.
“Maybe I’ll just gag you.” He muttered, “Not hearing yourself talk for five minutes should be torture enough.”
“Mm, bound and gagged? You sure know how to have a good time, don’t you?”
“I hate you.”
“I know you do, love.”
They sat still for a few moments before they shifted, pulled their legs forward and used the wall behind them to push themselves into a standing position where they took a few seconds to stretch. They glanced down at their hands, palms upwards which were still dirty and cracked from clenching their fists and slamming them against the ground - they could go for another bath or at least a wet cloth. They wanted to take care of themselves.
With a quiet huff, they stepped infront of the cell door and glanced outwards to see Yantho sitting in the wooden chair, leaning forwards with his forearms on his knees as he poked the ground with the same metal rod he had used to bash across their head. He didn’t seem to notice them, lost in his own thoughts as he continued to mindlessly poke the hard stone which created a soft, faint echo each time.
They leaned into the bars, “Tell me about her.”
“What?” Yantho asked, blinking out of his daze and over to them.
“The girl.” They elaborated, “I’m bored, tell me why she was worth wanting to stab me to death.”
He eyed them idly, “There are a lot of things I’d stab you to death over.”
“Touche, but you digress.”
They stared at each other for a moment but Yantho looked away first. He sighed and stood up from the chair then crossed his arms.
“Fine.” He said simply, “She-”
Before he could continue, the echoes of the dungeon door opening cut him off. They groaned loudly and dragged it out until Yantho glanced back over to them with an annoyed expression. Every time something like this happened, someone had to come ruin it - they wondered who it was this time. Hymn? Luther? Another deaf human? Maybe someone was going to come tell Yantho more bad news that would make him want to stab them again.
Instead, it was none of the above. Favian himself appeared in the doorway, half draped in the shadows from the narrow hallway. The first thing they noticed was how his wounded shoulder was covered but that arm was in a sling as if they had broken something rather than plunged a knife into his flesh. He wore a simple brown jacket and black pants with ankle high boots but a thin black cape covered most of his body.
His curly black hair had been cut short and his beard had been reduced to a stubble, but his eyes were still as dark as ever. Why the appearance change, they had no idea but now they could see the resemblance between Favian and his father. Before they could sigh again, Yantho called his name and ran around the table then straight into his arms, mood ten times better than it was five seconds ago. They rolled their eyes.
Favian let out a grunt when Yantho ran into him and wrapped his arms around the other's shoulders but quickly laughed and put his free arm around Yantho. The embrace lasted a long few moments and from here they heard him mumbling something to Favian who just nodded and agreed in response. They watched Yantho pull away from the hug but immediately put his hands on either sides of the taller man's face and brought him in for a kiss.
They banged their head against the cell bars.
Ignoring them, Yantho peppered Favian’s face with kisses who simply laughed into it and snaked an arm around his lover's waist. Had they really not seen each other in that long? Were all humans like this in private? Ugh. Many female humans had encouraged them to ‘settle down’ (usually trying to attempt conversation after a night of sex) which was often human talk for fall in love, get married, have children. They’d much rather have fun and sanity.
“I missed you,” Yantho told the other, “It’s good to see you on your feet again.”
They watched Favian smile, “I hope you kept my side of the bed warm.”
Yantho kissed him again, “Very.”
“So you’re not dead?” They interrupted loudly, and smirked when they noticed Yantho rest his head on Favian’s chest and sighed in annoyance, “That’s a shame.”
Favian kept an arm around the shorters waist but looked up to meet their eyes as if just remembering they were there, “Unfortunately for you, yes. It’s going to take a lot more to get rid of me.”
Their smile widened, “Don’t tempt me. I’ve already thought out twelve different ways to kill Yantho, I’m sure I can double that for you.”
He glared, “If you want to kill him, you’ll have to go through me.”
“Is that really all it takes?”
Yantho pulled away from the embrace but leaned up to whisper something in the others ear who nodded. He pulled away from Favian and turned back around to face them.
“We’re leaving now, try not to attack anyone else.”
They cocked their head to the side. “Don’t think of me too much during your naked cuddle time, love. Favian might get jealous.”
Yantho rolled his eyes, “Not even in your dreams.”
“ If I dreamed,” They countered, “I’d make you eat your words.”
“Your theoretical dreams are the only place you think you might have me.” He replied, “And even there you’d still find me with Favian.”
At that, Favian smirked.
“I think you’ll find I can be quite persuasive..” They murmured, keeping his gaze, “It would be easier than you know.”
They could feel the charmspeak, they watched their words take hold of Yantho who was momentarily lost for a response because his eyes glazed over and he hesitated. With a grin, they turned their gaze to Favian who simply glared back in return, then put a hand on Yantho’s shoulder, shaking him out of his daze. They were very pleased to find their charmspeak still worked and still had that effect on the boy.
“Goodbye, Mjik.” Favian simply said, before turning them both to walk out of the room.
They watched the two go, an unexplained wave of satisfaction settling over them.
Darkness settled across the valley like a blanket, the miles and miles of rocky hilltop stretched for as far as the eye could see. From above, standing atop the highest peak, the wind screamed in their ears and the rain pelted the ground which filled the air with a wet earthy scent. From below, a coursing river winded through the valley which only flowed faster with the storm. Somewhere in the distance, dark grey clouds rumbled with thunder.
Barren emptiness stretched far in every direction - endless grassy, muddy hills resembling mountains where everywhere with little to no trees or structures in view. The river split off into several smaller streams, some going through the hills, some going down the side, some just ending completely or fading off into ponds. From high up, it was impossible to see it all clearly but more was hidden and waiting to be discovered.
The rough wind tugged and pulled at Sagejriuk, coaxing them to slowly spin around and gaze far off into the distance at something eerily familiar - the hillside covered in green, with large, thick trees. The fast, heavy rain made it impossible to see clearly or stand properly on the muddy slopes, but they held their ground. They stared for a long time, in a trance, the new view came with a strange sense of Deja-vu.. And confusion.
Thunder boomed throughout the valley followed by bright lightening that lit up the entire night sky and a bolt struck somewhere far off. There was no sound besides the vicious elements, nothing besides the distorted vision and impending sense of dread. The wind tugged harder this time and they took a half-hearted step forward, never tearing their gaze from the forest in the distance. Thunder boomed once more.
Suddenly, lightning struck the ground only a few feet away and everything exploded into white light.
Sagejriuk’s eyes shot open.
The world quickly came into focus and they stared hard at the dull, grey stone ceiling above. Familiar surroundings should have made them feel at ease but moments after waking up they couldn’t feel more tense. They took a deep breath and felt the hard floor below them before they very slowly pushed themselves into a sitting position where they finally blinked. Once, twice, then frowned.
What in the gods names was that? They were outside, somewhere very far away from here and it felt so incredibly real. It was.. A dream? No, they didn’t dream, they had never dreamt before, why would they start now? What changed? It didn’t make sense and even though it hadn’t caused them harm, they didn’t like it. Not understanding things was one of their biggest pet peeves because they should know everything.
Still, a lot of things had been happening recently that hadn't ever happened before and they wondered if the dreams were somehow the result of this cuff. Maybe, somehow, it was turning them more human. They shuddered in horror at the thought - Doubtful, but they didn't know of another logical explanation; they felt pain and could be injured, they were dreaming now - three things humans did.
They shook their head. No, they weren't going to think about this anymore. The cuff would be off soon enough and they wouldn't have to deal with mortality ever again. As for the dream, they couldn't shake the feeling that it felt.. familiar but couldn't remember why. Had they been there before? It would be better to just forget about it for now; it meant nothing. They had more pressing things to focus on now.
How many days had passed since the meeting with Hymn, they couldn't be certain but now that Favian was up and about, they figured they'd all be going on that journey very soon. They could almost smell the fresh air from the dream, feel the breeze against their skin. They knew they'd have to keep their emotions in check and not act out when they stepped foot outside. Thankfully, they were good at that.
They shifted their body and pressed themselves up against the stone wall as they inhaled slowly. It wouldn't do them any good to get antsy now, seem like they were excited, so they simply rested their eyes and set their hands in their lap - awkwardly with their wrists still chained. There were no clicks of footsteps from above today and they wondered why.. the dungeon felt deathly quiet without it.
The far off dungeon door creaked open, and they smiled.
They listened to the rhythm - fast and confident were usually guards, people who didn't know what they were walking into. Favian's steps were more drawn out and there was another faint sound, like he dragged his hands along the walls as he walked. However, these steps were normal yet timid - Yantho walked down the steps at a normal pace then often slowed when he approached the doorway.
They heard Yantho enter the room like he always did; dragging his steps like he was ready to turn and run out at any moment. Perhaps it was because he was ready in case they had somehow gotten out of their cell. He came to a stop near the table just like the other times he came down so they just simply sighed then slowly got to their feet. They appeared in the cell doorway.
"Hello again, Yanny." They offered a smile, "Miss me?"
Yantho was sitting on the table now, feet dangling half an inch from the ground while his hands held the table on either side of him. He sighed as well but seemed relaxed even after the wild few days they had been through - he wasn't immediately in a bad mood which they intended to fix rather quickly. A clean slate was fun to work with and it wasn't quite as fun when he was already mad at something or someone.
“Not particularly.” He replied, not saying anything about the nickname, “Sleep well? You have a big day today.”
“Mm, yes. I had plenty of dreams that would make a priest blush.”
Yantho rolled his eyes.
They cocked their head, “Dreams about you and I that would put whatever you and Favian do in the bedroom to shame.” They wiggled their eyebrows.
“For someone who says they hate me, you sure do think about me naked a lot.” He pointed out, but looked away.
They leaned into the bars and grinned, “Hate sex is a beautiful thing, love. I can’t wait to have it with you.”
Yantho looked back at them and scrunched his nose up in disgust. “Yeah, right. And I can’t wait until that never happens.”
They rolled their eyes, “Well then.. If you aren’t here to bask in my beauty, why are you here?”
"General Hymn wants to speak with you before the journey." He said simply, slid off the table and approached the cell.
They waited for another guard to enter the room. When Yantho pulled a key from his pocket, they raised their eyebrows with amusement, "Just you today? Don't they know what happened the last two times we were alone?"
He shook his head, "They know you won't try anything. I know you won't try anything."
"Is that so?"
Yantho was close enough now that they could reach out and grab him; which they did. Even with their limited hand movement from the restraints, they lashed out and took a fistful of his shirt then yanked him forwards so fast he crashed into the bars with a grunt. Before that however, his reflexes must have kicked in - he put an inch of space between them by latching onto the bars.
They put their face in between the bars, "You clearly don't know me that well, love."
Yantho blinked, but didn't try to struggle free. His face of surprise turned into a halfhearted glare, "If you try this on the journey, they'll kill you in an instant."
"Ooh, careful. You almost sound worried for me."
He clenched his jaw and kept their gaze; they searched his eyes for any sign of fear but there wasn't any. Instead he seemed annoyed, frustrated - at them, at himself? Who knows. They had caught him off guard three times already, and that wasn't exactly ideal for someone who wanted to be a guard and a fighter. But no fear? Perhaps he had been prepared for something like this to happen.
From this close, they noticed a fairly recent cut on his lip and an ugly yellow bruise on his jaw, which usually meant it had just been inflicted. They were highly amused and wanted to laugh - they weren't the only ones beating up Yantho, it seemed. How could he be a member of his dearestkingsguard when he lost every fight he was in? If Yantho really was Captain Leo's trainee, the man was doing an awful job at getting his students in shape.
"Been getting into fights, Yanny?" They mused with a sly smile.
Yantho didn't glare right away like they expected he would - he just simply hesitated, exhaled loudly and then glared which they found interesting.
"Something like that." He replied, bitterness in his voice. Before they could question it, he continued, "Are you going to let go of me, now?"
They cocked their head to the side, "I could.. But wouldn’t you rather kiss me?" They bit their lip and let go of his shirt to rest their hands on his chest but.. he didn't move quite yet, "I'll make it worth your while.."
With a smirk, they watched his eyes flicker down to their lips, lingering just long enough so that he couldn't deny not looking at them afterwards. Their smirk turned into a grin which seemed to be what broke him out of the daze, because he huffed with annoyance and pulled away as they laughed, watching him turn back around. They were very pleased that their charmspeak worked, effectively worked on and irritated Yantho.
He turned back to face them, annoyed as usual but they took satisfaction seeing the light blush spreading across his features. Without a word, he unlocked the door, pulled it open and they only continued to smile as he pulled them from the cell. Yantho held onto their arm tightly as he steered the two of them across the room and into the stairs. They noticed he had to keep adjusting his grip because his hand couldn't quite fit around their bicep.
“If you wanted to see my muscles, you could have just asked.” They said innocently, falling slightly behind as they ascended the narrow staircase, “I’ll even take off my shirt.”
They couldn’t see his face, but they assumed the annoyance was still there, “I’d rather not go blind, thanks.”
The smile didn’t leave their face, “Are you sure? I’d like to find yet another way to one-up Favian.”
They rolled their eyes as they reached the top of the staircase and Yantho unlocked the door then pushed it open with one hand. Once it was open, he tugged them closer and started walking down the hallway without another word, the two of them passing an elderly man walking in the opposite direction. He had started at them the entire time, old eyes wide with confusion and fear once he noticed they were in chains.
Yantho pulled them down the same hallway they had been down twice before, past the first door they had been through, past the second pair of double doors they had been through. Interesting. A new meeting place every time? Was it just Hymn being careful, or were there just more rooms than these people knew what to do with? They bet on the latter. After coming to the end of the very long hallway, they stopped.
They were at a crossroads, even though the hallway straight forwards only went several meters and then a set of double doors sat in the way. To their right and left were other longer hallways leading to gods knows where, but were architecturally the same in every way. They wondered how the humans could navigate this place without a map or getting lost. Instead of moving, Yanto simply let out a sharp whistle which echoed down the halls.
When no reply came, Yantho frowned.
“Something the matter?” They asked, highly amused.
“Shh..” He simply replied, taking a step backwards so that they were both out of the middle of the crossroads.
They took a step back as well, “Now I’m interested.”
Yantho simply shushed them again but otherwise didn’t respond. He seemed more adamant this time, definitely wanting them to be quiet for a reason other than not wanting to hear their voice. It was amusing but they were also curious - they were in a castle - why did he need to whistle down the hall, to tell them to be quiet like it was a bad thing to be heard? They watched him tense up, going still and alert.
“A strange one you are. You-” Before they could finish the sentence, Yantho moved faster than light to push them against the wall, hand covering their mouth.
They raised their eyebrows in amusement as he pressed into them, hand clamped over their mouth as his eyes met theirs; his were full of warning, persistent that they not make a sound. Of course, the rebellion in their mind wanted to try and speak, make a noise that would give away their position to anyone listening. But if Yantho was willing to break his own personal bubble, to invade theirs, then something was truly going on here.
Instead, they poked their tongue out from between their lips and touched the palm of his hand with it, which of course earned a glare from Yantho. They simply smiled under his grip but didn’t act on their thoughts. Near moments later, two figures ran past and headed down the same way Yantho had whistled. They assumed that was his plan, but going by the perplexed expression on his face, he had no idea who those two were.
“They’re here..” He hissed.
He waited until they were a reasonable distance away before he pulled away even quicker than he had pushed them against the wall. He crept over to the far wall to peek around the corner and sighed to himself. Yantho turned back around to look at them but before they could ask what in the gods names all that was about, the ground shook faintly as a distant rumble rocked the corridors. They watched Yantho squeeze his eyes shut.
Yantho cursed under his breath and grabbed their arm once more, pulling them forwards and down the same hallway the two figures had run down. He was cautious and light on his feet and they simply trotted behind but still not speaking. They only walked a few more meters before Yantho stopped dead in his tracks, grip tightening on their arm. The two figures from before emerged from a room to the right of the corridor.
They two figures noticed them immediately and froze. They were covered in head to toe in old, dirty rags which covered all of their face except their eyes - the two looked liked peasants that definitely didn't belong in a place like this. They were about to tell Yantho that they could take care of the intruders, but instead Yantho simply let go of their arm and drew his rapier with confidence then took a step forward.
“Stay here.” He said simply, only loud enough for them to hear. It was a command, not a suggestion, “If you run, you won’t get far.”
They didn’t say anything but simply cocked their head to the side as they watched Yantho spring forward and start running towards the intruders, who were clearly alarmed and hastily drew their daggers at their belts. The one on the right had just drawn their blade when Yantho reached them - he drew back and sliced in an arc, disarming the other in mere seconds and before they could recover, Yantho raised his leg and kicked them square in the chest.
The figure lost their balance and was sent straight crashing into the wall but Yantho’s attention had already turned to the second. Sagejriuk watched with growing amusement as Yantho swung at the second, but they met his strike with metal against metal. He didn’t waste any time by instantly pivoting his feet as they tried to jab, missing by more than a few inches and yelled when Yantho knocked their feet out from under them.
The second crashed to the ground with an audible groan but when Yantho went to pull them up, they rolled to the side and lashed out with their feet but he jumped backwards. The second tried to get up, but Yantho pounced even quicker as he stabbed the sword into the ground a half inch away from their head and kneeled next to them, hand around their throat which kept the figure on the ground.
“Don’t get up.” He growled, and Sagejriuk felt their lips twitch in a smirk.
They clapped, which made Yantho look up at them with annoyance. If truth be told, they were slightly impressed.
“I thought you said you’ve never done that before.” They called, walking towards him.
He narrowed his eyes, “I said I’d never killed anyone before.”
They stopped a few feet away, “All that was kind of sexy, y’know.”
Yantho rolled his eyes hard and lowered his head so they just laughed. They glanced to the first person Yantho had taken down who was now just rolling around, groaning - they doubted Yantho had even kicked them that hard. The second was breathing heavy, lying there without a word and frozen as if they thought Yantho was going to stab them for real. He had since taken his hand off their throat and gotten up.
They blinked in surprise, “You’re not going to question those two? Torture them? Surely they don’t belong here.”
“The guards will be on their way any second.” He said simply, “I want to see what they were running from.”
Yantho walked past them, then grabbed their arm once more as he did so.
“That’s not very kingsguardy of you, Yantho.” They smiled and let themselves be pulled away.
They didn’t even make it back to the corridor they had come from before a loud, violent boom suddenly shook the hallway, followed by another ear-splitting crash as something exploded behind them. They fell to the ground from both surprise and the shockwave, ears ringing which cancelled out all the other noise. Now lying face first on the ground, with their chained hands awkwardly under their weight, they grunted and rolled over to their back.
They stared at the ruins of the hallway; the entire ceiling had collapsed, most of the walls on both sides were all but destroyed leaving nothing but stone rubble blocking off the corridor. The two from before were nowhere in sight, likely buried and dead from the explosion those two likely set off. Smoke rolled off the debris which had nowhere to go but towards them, and they were suddenly aware someone was yelling through the ringing in their ears.
“-up! Get up! ” Yantho’s voice cut through the noise. He was gripping tightly onto their arm, trying to pull them up which they hadn’t noticed. “Sage!”
They snapped their gaze away from the ruins and over to Yantho who was kneeling beside them. His eyes were wild, but they could see how calm he was trying to be.
“What?” They breathed, confused and unsure what they were asking.
Yantho pulled on their arm again, “Get up, let’s go.”
They shifted, still in a daze. It was just an explosion, they had been near those before.
“Can you walk?” Yanto asked, voice less urgent this time, “Are you okay?”
“Of course I can.” They grumbled and pulled their arm free from his grasp, “It’s been a strange day.”
“You’re telling me.” He agreed.
With a grunt, they pushed themselves off the ground.
“Where to next, captain?”
Yantho ran a hand through his hair which was still tried back but more messy than before, and stared at the remains of the explosion. From the way he had been acting, it seemed like he had been expecting something like this to happen. With a long dragged out sigh, he looked back at them and kept their gaze for a few seconds most likely trying to decide what they were thinking. Maybe he thought they somehow did this.
“I need to find the general.” He decided, “He’ll want to keep you in sight.”
“By all means, lead the way.”
Yantho looked down the hallway, grabbed their arm and pursed his lips.
(insert eye emoji here)
Chapter 13: Eventuality
Another explosion rocked the halls even though it came from quite aways back - they were getting closer and closer, almost as if whoever setting off the bombs was looking for something. They ran with Yantho who had since let go of their arm to focus on his own speed and they easily kept his pace - he seemed relieved with that. He only grabbed them when they were changing directions which they did twice. Left, then a hard right.
The only thing that had changed was the wall colours and the increase of paintings, otherwise the corridors looked the same as every other one they had been through. No one emerged from the endless about of wooden double doors on either side which made them curious - where were all the people? Hiding? Unaware to the threats? Maybe they had already evacuated despite the explosions just going off.
Sagejriuk was suddenly glad they chose not to escape during one of their many opportunities because they would get lost in an instant. They’d spend hours, maybe even days trying to navigate this place and get caught eventually. Without their abilities, they weren’t able to smite anyone who got in their way or break their way out so they’d be just another powerless, clueless human and they hated the thought.
Yantho steered them to the left and down a wider hallway which was blocked off by a set of dull, grey metal double doors. He hurried over to them and pulled the doors open so they just stood back. He grabbed their arm again and pulled them through which only lead to a closed in spiral staircase. The two of them descended down the creaky stone steps, while small slivers in the wall that served as windows were their only source of light.
They weren’t even quite sure how far down they were going because the spinning was sending them off balance - they had been in a cell for six months and doing all this at once was a lot to take in. Yantho was still holding their arm which they supposed they were partially grateful for (which they would never admit) so they didn’t fall face first. Another moment later, they heard another muffled explosion followed by voices this time.
The staircase abruptly ended, leading into a few meter long hallway where another wooden door sat in their way.
“Don’t make any sudden moves, don’t speak.” He said quietly.
They didn’t reply or ask what he meant, but when Yantho turned the knob and pushed the door open, they understood. The door opened into a wide room, but this one was wide and bright, skylights in the curved roof letting copious amount of sunlight stream in. Odd, considering they were on the first floor. But.. they assumed the prison was, yet they went down a floor. Or several. Ugh, best not to think about it.
The first thing they noticed was the group of humans in the room. Two casually dressed men stood with their backs to the newcomers, arguing over a large piece of paper or what seemed to be a map. A few feet wide strip of carpet stretched from the doorway all the way through the room while the rest of the ground was covered in glossy marble. Three men were seated at the large wooden table to the right of the entrance, talking loudly.
However, the two reading the map both looked over their shoulders at the same time and their faces went from calm and focused to surprised and angry. The two appeared to notice Yanto first; the boy was dressed like the humans were, stood tall and from this angle they could see the confidence on his face, but the two quickly turned their gazes to them: the shackled figure with glowing eyes - the humans reacted the way they usually did.
The first two yelled in alarm and jumped back which caught the attention of the three sitting down, all of whom jumped up with crossbows in hand. They weren’t phased by this at all and kept their ground despite there being nowhere else to go besides back, but they noticed Yantho tense up and swallow. He simply raised his free hand, fingers spread apart like he was surrendering to show he wasn’t armed.
“Gentlemen,” He spoke clearly, breaking the silence as one of the men with a crossbow walked forward until he was standing beside the other two, “I’d advise you to lower your weapons.”
They supposed that was his first mistake - making it sound like a suggestion rather than a command.
“What in the gods’ names is this, Reeves?” The one with the crossbow demanded. He had long brown hair that was tied back but was a frizzy mess up top, a pencil moustache as well as a clean goatee, “You trying to get us all killed?”
“No, General Hymn-”
“That’s the Mjik!” Another cried, raising his crossbow, “What’s he doing here? He’s going to kill us all!”
They just smirked at how right that human was, and two of the men flinched.
“They’re contained. ” Yantho insisted, letting go on their arm to raise that hand in the air as well. He took half a step forward, half his body now infront of them. “They’re of no threat to you, to any of us.”
The first two men shifted uncomfortably but their eyes never left theirs. Sagejriuk’s gaze flickered to the three men holding crossbows, all of whom tensed when their eyes met. If they were to fire, they supposed they could use Yantho as a meat shield - he was standing in the way so that they were behind him.. All they had to do was throw their wrists around his neck and strangle him from behind with the chains.
“Lower your weapons.” Yantho repeated, “I’m bringing them to General Hymn whether you let us through or not.”
Their eyes flickered back to Yantho who was still as a statue, his jaw was clenched but there was no real promise behind his threat. If this broke into a skirmish, they very much doubted he could handle it despite earlier.
“You sure, kid?” One of the men who had been holding the map asked. He was bald with a bushy grey beard, scar on his cheek, “There’s seven of us who would very much like to see this thing,” He gestured to them, “put out of its misery.”
Yantho slowly lowered his hands, “I don’t want a fight, we’re on the same side. I’m just following orders.”
The same man sneered, “Yeah, daddies perfect little soldier, ain’t ya?” He took a step forward and Yantho adjusted his footing, “If you’re really on our side, you’d let us kill it. You must want it dead too, right? We’ll tell Hymn it was an accident, that it tried to attack us.”
They weren’t surprised that they noticed Yantho hesitate for a few moments, then turn his head slightly to look at them out of the corner of his eye. They suppose they couldn’t blame him - it was a smart decision. They were vulnerable now, could be hurt and who’s to say a few crossbow bolts to the chest wouldn’t kill them instantly now? However, they couldn’t help but feel the faint tinge of betrayal deep down.
“This should be an easy decision, boy.” The man growled, “Unless you weren’t following orders, but breaking it free? Maybe you’re the spy, eh? How much they paying you?”
Yantho took a sharp intake of breath, “I’m no spy, and I’m not breaking them free.”
They could sense the growing tension in the room, all of the men were antsy and glancing from them to Yantho and back again. Maybe they believed the man's words - spy, huh? It was severely unlikely that Yantho was a spy or someone who wanted to break them out, unless he was a very, very good actor. They did believe that a place like this had a spy though, maybe several. And humans believed anything.
“Then step aside, son.” The first man who had spoken replied, “Don’t die trying to protect a serial killer, because we will shoot you too if you don’t move. Do you want a traitor's funeral, Reeves?”
“No, sir, but-”
“ Now! ”
They watched the confidence drain from Yantho who clearly didn’t know what the right thing to do in this scenario was. The fact that he hadn’t immediately stepped out of the way was proof he was still loyal to Hymn and his orders. But it was obvious he didn't want to die for them, so they figured he’d most likely take the punishment that came after they were murdered rather than get himself killed. However..
“If you think you can kill me, go ahead.” They spoke, meeting the bald man’s gaze, “I invite you to try.”
Yantho tensed, and the figured he wasn’t expecting them to speak.
“Don’t..” He muttered under his breath, only loud enough for them to hear.
They ignored him, “What’s seven humans to an immortal, hm? Go on then, shoot me. You know you want to.”
It wasn’t a very clever ruse given their vulnerability but they wanted to take the pressure of Yantho and perhaps he could think of a plan. They didn’t want to die, not now, especially not by the hands of humans so they did what they do best. They raised their chin and stared at the bald man until he looked away and the one next to him with a crossbow started to tremble. The bald man finally shook his head.
“What are you waiting for?” They asked, smile growing, “Too afraid? Do you think I’ll use the boy as a shield? Shooting him seems to be an option, anyway..”
“Shut your filthy mouth, sorcerer.” The bald man spat, meeting their gaze, “You have no power here.” He looked back to Yantho, “I’ll give you five seconds, boy.”
Yantho took a step forward, reaching for his sword and grabbed the hilt but didn’t draw it which made the men with the crossbows shift anxiously, “I’ll give you three to lower your weapons.”
Once again, baldy shook his head, “Foolish child, you could have been a formidable ally. Five..”
Yantho stood his ground.
They glanced down at their shackles, wondering how effective their hand to hand combat would be.
Without warning, a gunshot blast went off.
All the men jumped in surprise, letting out confused yells as they wildly looked around the room with their weapons. It had startled them but clearly took Yantho by complete surprise because he moved backwards so quickly he tripped right into them. They could have just let him fall - it would have been amusing afterwards, but reflexes kicked in and they raised their arms to their chest where they grabbed the back of his arms.
“What is the meaning of this?” A deep, commanding voice demanded.
All the men parted to the side of the room to reveal a very angry Hymn stalk into the room, red cape fluttering behind him. He held a rather large pistol which was still smoking after shooting it in the air and glared at each of the men. They felt Yantho sigh in relief and they glanced down to their hands which were still gripping into his shoulders tightly. This is the closest they had ever been without being at each other's throats, and Yantho seemed to notice too.
They squeezed his arms, which definitely weren’t limp noodles then leaned forward to whisper in his ear: “Been working out, love?”
He quickly pulled himself free with a grumble.
“Well?” Hymn demanded, approaching the center of the room, “I’m waiting for an answer.”
“Sir, we were just being being cautious-”
“By threatening to harm one of our own?” He demanded, gesturing to Yantho, “The citadel was bombed near minutes ago; we have intruders, and you’re sitting here doing what? ”
The bald man stepped forward, “Forgive us sir, we were just anxious. With all the recent talk of spies-”
Hymn turned his fiery eyes towards the man, “Hiding like cowards, no doubt, while Reeves seems to be the only one around here following orders.”
The man went to speak, but Hymn held up his hand, “No more excuses.” He turned to look at Yantho, “You two, come with me quickly.”
Yantho wasted no time following the man through the room, avoiding the glares and ignoring the irritated grumbles. They followed suit, but took their time and just smiled when the humans turned their eyes on them - the bald man’s eyes were filled with fury so they just smirked and raised their chained wrists to blow him a kiss. The taller man next to him had to grab the bald man's arm because he went for the knife at his belt.
They walked through the room with smug confidence because they knew it angered the humans who’d rather see them scared and broken on the ground. The red carpet stretched to the other end of the room and stopped at the base of a set of stairs only three steps high then Yantho looked over his shoulder just as they walked up. He paused for a moment to wait until they crossed the few feet long platform then reach the set of large double doors.
He waited until they walked past him to continue going, most likely wanting to keep an eye on them. Or he just wanted to get a better look at their ass. Either option was fine. He closed the door while they just continued forwards, eyes on Hymn whose cape kept brilliantly flowing behind him. They took that time and glanced around at the hallway which was the same marble white floors and light grey wallpaper but no windows.
The space had no arched roof or skylights, instead it was a rectangle hallway with small, glass chandeliers hanging from the roof every several feet. They could see the end of the hallway which had no other rooms, only side tables lining each wall with various different trinkets covering the tabletops. Some had candles; some lit others not, most had a glass vase with a bouquet of flowers along with other unidentifiable objects.
After ten seconds they teached the end of the hallway to yet another set of double doors. Hymn had already opened them and looked over his shoulder at the two - they still heard Yantho behind them though unsure if he was holding any sort of weapon. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to be behind them anymore where they could have the advantage to strike. With a roll of their eyes, they came to a stop next to Hymn.
The room they had entered didn’t make sense architecturally. It was large and wide open, the room in the shape of a circle with several tunnels to the right and left of the room leading in other directions. In the center of the room, a twin staircase lead up to a balcony that stretched all the way around the room. A tall fountain sat between them. Above them, the dome ceiling was pure glass which served as an effective skylight.
Hymn stepped into the room and they followed, although slowly while they stared up at the skylight that was filling the room with warm sunlight. The sky was blue which let them know it was midday and the bright sun was high in the sky. Their entire self was engulfed in the rays and their body stopped moving - warmth covered their skin from head to toe and it was euphoric after being trapped in the dark for so, so long.
Oh, how they missed the sunlight. Even before, when they were outside all the time it was most enjoyable. Sometimes they would just find a hill or a grassy spot and just lie in it for hours, even though it would result in what the humans called a ‘sunburn’. Sometimes their form would get a tan, which was hard to do with a body that was as white as snow - it would just get burned rather than the result they wanted. Unfortunate.
There was a hand on their shoulder.
They blinked back into reality.
“Sage?” They heard Yantho ask quietly enough to Hymn didn't hear, then stepped into their field of vision.
They looked at him.
“Are you quite alright, son?” Hymn interrupted. He had since turned back around.
“I’m fine.” They replied, “Don’t call me son.” They eyed Yantho, "Or that."
Hymn studied them for a moment before he nodded and turned back around after gesturing for the two to follow. Rather than moving, Yantho withdrew his hand and continued to stare.
“How long has it been since you were outside?”
They returned their gaze to him. The expression on his face was that of pity after seeing their reaction to the sunlight, and they weren’t going to have any of it. They didn’t need humans feeling sorry for them. So instead of replying, they just exhaled and continued walking after Hymn; the man was approaching the left staircase. They followed, not caring enough to look over their shoulder at Yantho who had started walking as well.
There were a few people wandering around the room but barely passed the three of them a glance and just focused on what they were doing. Sagejriuk ascended the staircase and eyed the few people exiting and entering the room in a hurry, most likely reacting to the few explosions that already rocked the citadel. They watched Hymn open the wooden door at the top and vanished through, instructing them to close to door after him.
They were lead through a narrow tunnel and entered the main room. The entire floor was carpeted covered with gold and green designs resembling flowers, and a circular table sat in the middle with several long backed chairs surrounding it. Each chair had a dark red cushion and back, and four were occupied by humans. Two men and a woman they had never seen before, along with Sylvia who was deep in thought.
With a glance around the room, they eyed the dark brown walls; wooden pillars that connected to the support beams on the arched roof. There were three on each side of the room; each had patterns carved into them with a different rectangle flag hanging in the space between. At the far end of the room, a grand fireplace was lit with several candles resting on the shelf above. A large, glass framed map was hung on above.
“General.” Said a one of the men, standing up in Hymn’s presence.
The other three went to do the same, but Hymn motioned for them to sit, “Please, sit. We haven’t much time to discuss.”
The four sat, but their eyes turned to Sagejriuk.
“You brought the creature here?” One woman asked, wide eyed but calm.
Hymn looked over his shoulder but they just eyed Sylvia who had since looked up and glared at them - in return they made a kissing motion. She pursed her lips but didn’t look bothered and only looked away when Hymn spoke again.
“I wasn’t left much of a choice, you see.” He stroked his beard and grabbed the back of the nearest chair, “The explosions were directed towards his prison. They were trying to break in, to break him out.”
“I didn’t realise I had adoring fans..” They mused, just loud enough for all the humans to hear.
“More than you know.” They heard Yantho grumble from behind.
They glanced over to see the boy walk past them, avoiding Sylvia’s gaze who was now staring at him with curiosity.
“We’ve waited too long, my friends.” Hymn spoke, “They’re here for the creature, they know we have him.” Then, under his breath, “I’ll rip that spy limb from limb..”
“I agree.” Sylvia responded with nod, “If it's the creature or our home, I’ll throw him out to the wolves myself. We must act now.”
They smiled, “That’s not very nice. I like it.”
She threw them another glare but spoke to Hymn, “Sir, if we don’t depart today then we won’t get another chance. There are already foes in the woods near the front doors.”
Hymn nodded, “I agree, my dear. It was foolish on my part to drag this out. Is everyone ready?”
“The soldiers are waiting at the back tunnel with the carriages, waiting for your command, sir.” The first man that had spoken replied, “We were just waiting for Commander Hayes to arrive.”
If they were lucky, he was already dead.
“Has there been no word from him?”
“Not since before the explosions, sir.”
Hymn ran a hand through his hair, “Send someone to locate him, we’ll move out as soon as he returns.”
The man nodded and got up. He hurried towards the door they had come from and didn't even look in their direction. They simply smiled to themselves - this was interesting.. Humans were trying to break them out? They wondered why.. Perhaps they wanted to harness their power for themselves - they snorted at the thought. Surely the humans didn’t want to kill them or else they wouldn't have gone through this much effort.
They watched Yantho walk over to Hymn and whisper something in his ear. The man simply nodded and rested a hand on the boys shoulder after saying something in response. Yantho quickly lowered his head and retreated to the far end of the room then vanished into a room on the right. Moments later, Hymn turned and gave them a look.
“Go with him, I cannot have you listening to what we say here.”
“As you wish.” They smiled, sarcasm heavy in their voice.
They walked across the room fully aware that all eyes were on them but didn’t look back. The archway Yantho vanished through had no door which let them casually walk through. The voices continued behind them and of course they could just stay out of view to eavesdrop, but.. Surely these humans had a majority of the details worked out, so they doubted they’d learn much. As much as they liked knowing, they also prefered surprises.
Still, their mind was racing with all that they had learned within the past hour. Spies within the humans’ walls that informed foes of Sagejriuk’s presence? Those same spies who cared enough about to want to break them free rather than kill them? Clearly the spy was someone higher up on the command chain, someone everyone trusted, otherwise how would this person know so much? Maybe the person was just a good eavesdropper.
Maybe the spy had others in the citadel, perhaps some were going with them on the journey or would lead Hymn’s side into an ambush. It would sure save them the trouble of trying to find a way to break free themselves. Someone else would come to their rescue but they were sure any human spy that wanted to help would still leave the cuff on. Hm.. one problem at a time - they had plenty of time to think.
Instead of letting their mind wander, they simply focused on the room they had just entered - it was smaller yet taller. Immediately to their right upon entering was a stone wall so they took a few steps before turning right into the room which was brightly lit from the twin chandeliers hanging above the red carpet that stretched down the center of the room. The walls were made from dark grey bricks and the floor from even darker hardwood.
On either sides of the carpet where six rows of pews; three on each side with a foot of space between them. They were placed closest to the door because two thin floor to ceiling high pillars sat at the end of the red carpet where it separated the sitting area from another spot of the room. They slowly walked in then eyed where the roof turned into a dome similar to that on a curch interior, where a tall stone statue reached skywards.
Its base was made from white marble, making it stand out from the rest of the room. There was a second layer to the base that jutted out slightly more like a two step staircase that wasn’t meant to be climbed. The statues were several meters high but had no defining features - they had the figures of a human being but with no breasts or genitalia despite being what appeared to be, well, naked.
The one infront had its entire body covered in thousands of designs; trees, people, stars, the sun, the moon, houses.. everything that you’d expect to find on the earth's surface and above. It was standing with its legs together, but one arm was bent and holding a globe in front of its chest while the other reached skywards, gesturing to the sky. Its head had eyes, a nose and a mouth but they couldn't see it properly with its head tilted up.
Standing back to back, there was another figure that looked exactly the same except the carvings in its skin were outlined with black. Its head was glancing down, one arm holding a similar globe which drawings were also etched in with black. Its other arm was extended downwards, gesturing to the ground. It was on an angle, like you were only meant to focus on the one in front.
On either side of the pillars in the center of the room were two tire seized globe statues; the one on the right had a faint yellow glow to it and was covered with the same lively designs as the first statue. The one on the left had a grey glow yet had the exact same patterns etched into it. They turned their eyes back to the main statue where they noticed Yantho for the first time.
Yantho was kneeling infront of the statue at the base, forearm resting on his knee with his head lowered. If he heard them enter, he didn’t show it. They tilted their head to notice his sword was unsheathed and resting on the red carpet infront of him. They slowed their pace and stared curiously, wondering what he was doing. However, when they went to open their mouth to question it, they heard that he was already speaking quietly.
“Forgive me, I come here too often.” He was saying, “I hope you will understand.”
They stopped walking and listened.
“I inadvertently caused the death of two men today and I wish to make it right.” Yantho spoke, voice barely above a whisper. He reached out to touch the blade, “..I ask that you grant them access to Idyll, despite what they may have done with their lives.”
If he was waiting for a reply, he didn’t get one.
“Please hear me, for I know you will not respond when I pray to you without this altar.” He tried again, sounding persistent. “That is my only request.. Let them find peace in Idyll. I do not ask for forgiveness; only that.”
Again, he went silent and after a few long moments he exhaled then lowered his head like he heard something he didn’t like. He still didn’t respond to their entrance so they took another step forward and pondered.. he was praying? They knew the humans had a god or several, but they had never cared to learn about them. The human that their current form belonged to had been religious. Or was that the human before ? It didn’t matter.
“If you’ve come to mock me, now is not the time.” Yantho spoke, louder this time to signal he wasn’t talking to the statue anymore.
They kept their eyes on his kneeling form, “I didn’t take you for a religious man.”
“It’s something I find comfort in.” He replied simply.
Sagejriuk didn’t respond. They simply glanced at the pews and sat down at the end of the first row which was only a foot and a half away from the pillars, then sighed to themselves afterwards. They hadn’t been in many churches, but of the few, each interior looked different from the last - this one was the most elegant, though they supposed it was because they were inside a castle rather than a peasant town.
Yantho assumed they were here to mock him for his practices which wasn’t the case at all even if they came here with their own free will. They always liked religious humans, ones that were able to believe something more powerful and important existed, beings that used that same puissance to watch and protect them. They almost smiled, but then their mind wandered to their own and the bitterness returned.
They eyed the room, then Yantho.
“Do they ever reply?”
Yantho’s back was still to them, but he turned his head slightly. “No.”
They glanced upwards, “Yeah, I know how that is.”
He was silent for another few moments and turned his head back to whatever he was doing, so they sighed.
“They still respond.” Yantho elaborated, and they looked back up. “Not with words, but.. sometimes there’s this feeling I get, like a burst of courage in a dark time. Sometimes it’s a dream about something unusual, or I meet someone new..”
They stared at the pillar, “Sounds like a lot of faith.”
“I have a lot to give.” He replied.
After he spoke, Yantho slowly grabbed his sword and rose to his feet but remained facing the statue. He kept his head lowered, then reached down to touch the base and whispered something else. They didn’t know why this was strange, but they supposed it was because they hadn’t been in a human church for years, hadn’t even thought about the gods in many centuries, and now seeing Yantho praying bought back those memories.
They glanced back up at the statues and stared for a few moments, wondering why the two figures were positioned that way - one was infront in plain view, features visible while the other was angled away and the way it was gesturing and looking downwards was like it didn’t want to be noticed. The globes in each of the figures shands matched one of the two larger globes on either side of the archway.
“I haven’t been struck down yet, so your gods must like me..” They mused.
He snorted, “I’m quite sure that’s not the case.”
They cocked their head to the side, “Give it time. I’m sure I’ll do something that justifies being smite on the spot.” They paused, “Oooh, like having sex in a church. Have you ever done that?”
Yantho closed his eyes and exhaled loudly, “No.”
They only grinned when he opened his eyes again, “Would you like to?”
The irritated expression they received was amusing but they didn’t press further and he went back to ignoring them.
“C’mon, that’s boring. Shouldn’t I be punished for being in a holy place like this? Aren’t I a sinner?” They egged him on.
“Vaemys only punishes humans.” Yantho replied in that same quiet voice, “Ones with a soul to lose.”
Their lips twitched in a smile, “Touche.”They paused, “And who, pray tell, is Vaemys?”
Surprisingly, he turned to meet their gaze. The way Yantho stared at them was interesting - it wasn’t filled with that usual annoyance and anger towards them, but it wasn’t friendly either. It seemed neutral, like how he’d look at a complete stranger who asked him the same question. They weren’t sure how to feel about it, but the way he simply sighed was even more interesting.
“Vaemys watches over Idyll.” He simply said, then glanced down at his hands, “They escort the dead from this world into the next. They’re the.. God of the afterlife, if you will.” He paused, “But they.. don’t take everyone - bad souls aren’t taken to Idyll.”
“Mm. What happens to them?”
Yantho looked away, “They just.. die. They don’t get an afterlife, their souls simply fade out. Eternal punishment.” He nervously toyed with his hands, “Those two from earlier are an example, and I asked Vaemys to spare them from that fate.”
They snorted, “Why? They tried to kill you. Let them have what they deserve.”
He replied with that familiar glare, “They don’t deserve that fate. No one does.”
“Not even me?”
Yantho was quiet, but continued to stare, “Maybe.”
He was watching them carefully and they couldn't quite determine the emotion.
“Vaemys and Velyor aren’t a single person - they’re all of us. Velyor, who watches over the living, is the embodiment of everyone on earth. Not a man, not a woman, not even both." He continued, like he knew the question they were about to ask, "Vaemys is the same, but they’re every single soul of someone who has passed.”
A sense of understanding filled Sagejriuk - perhaps this is why Yantho had been so quick to respect their wish not to be referred to as a man.
“It’s why I agreed.” Yantho nodded, “I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t refer to you the same way as I did the gods - despite your appearance.”
“Well, I’ll be damned.” They mused, “Maybe we can get along.”
Something changed in his expression when he pursed his lips. He wasn’t looking at them in that neutral way anymore; he looked tired again - tired of them.
“Don’t count on it. I still don’t like you.”
They wanted to roll their eyes, but stopped themselves. “When you make up your mind about how to feel about me, come find me.”
He frowned with annoyance.
Now they rolled their eyes.
Footsteps entered the room and they slid down their seat with irritation as Favian entered the room from behind, his pace quick. Hearing his name, Yantho’s eyes snapped away from them and towards where they assumed Favian was. A smile lit up his face like the two of them hadn’t just been talking about eternal damnation, then he stepped forward just as Favian walked into the corner of their vision.
It was clear Yantho wanted to embrace the other, but with the group in the other room that didn't seem like the best idea. He simply kept his smile and clamped his hands together, continuing to toy with his fingers while Favian reached him and put a hand on the others shoulder. The man hadn’t seemed to notice them yet, perhaps too absorbed on his oh-so precious love of his life. They wanted to gag.
“And where were you then?” They mused, getting a word out before either could speak.
Favian looked over his shoulder and scowled at them, “What’s it to you?”
“Oh nothing.” They replied innocently, “Yantho and I were just sitting here, not planting bombs and endangering people's lives.”
He glared, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
They smiled, “Why so defensive, love? Something to hide?”
Favian scoffed and tore his gaze away to rest it back on Yantho, “Are you alright?”
Yantho was quiet for a moment as he stared back at the man. His eyebrows were knit together in slight confusion and uncertainty and they weren’t quite sure why.
“I’m fine.” Yantho replied, then pulled himself away from Favian. His expression was suddenly completely different, like he had just remembered something unpleasant. Instead of saying another word to the man, he walked past Favian and looked over at them, “They should be done - let’s go.”
Sagejriuk’s eyebrows shot up in both amusement and surprise at how he completely blew off Favian when he had looked happy to see the other mere seconds ago. They watched Yantho walk down the aisle and out of sight, lips twitching into a smirk as their gaze turned up to Favian. The man looked stunned, eyes still following Yantho. He blinked and swallowed down any words, then caught their eye.
“Trouble in paradise?” They mused.
Favian scowled, “Bite your tongue, Mjik.”
They flicked their eyes over his body, “Plenty of other things I’d rather do with it, darling.”
His hands clenched at his sides, adding to his growing anger. “Keep your mouth closed or I’ll force it shut.”
“Mm. With what?”
Favian let out a frustrated noise and simply stormed off the way Yantho had went. With another eyeroll, they pushed themselves up and stretched before taking one last look around the room, knowing they’d never be here again. If one of the humans’ gods were listening, the two probably hoped the same thing. They wondered what these gods thought of them as they walked down the isle. They probably hadn’t made a good first impression.
They pushed the thought aside and arrived at the archway where the voices had gotten louder. They peered around the corner and the first thing they noticed was Hymn standing at the table having a heated debate with one of the same men as before, but everyone else was nowhere in sight - Aside from Sylvia, whose attention turned to Favian as he walked across the room towards her. Yantho pretended not to notice when Favian gave her a quick kiss.
“Sir.” Yantho said instead, focusing on Hymn.
The General turned to look at the boy despite having been mid-argument. Under his gaze, Yantho squirmed slightly and stood straighter, while the man on the other side of the argument seemed to be relieved Hymn’s attention was elsewhere now. They remained where they were, knowing both Favian and Sylvia were staring at them from across the room; they simply smiled and continued to stare at Yantho.
“All finished, my boy?” Hymn questioned, “I hope there was no rush.”
Yantho nodded, “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” He paused, “However I hope I didn’t stall anything-?”
“Nonsense.” Hymn held up a hand with a smile, “The others went to complete their duties, we’re just waiting for the final word.”
“Perhaps I should inform Gwen-”
Again, the general interrupted Yantho, “I will have Sylvia fill her in, no need to worry. You still need to get prepared for the journey.” He glanced at Favian, “You and my son both.”
Favian took a step forward, “I can take Reeves to the armory, father. We can meet you at the rendezvous once prepared.”
They snorted, but were ignored.
“Excellent.” Hymn clasped his hands together. However, Yantho didn’t look very pleased at this idea even if it meant getting alone time with his boyfriend. “Be quick, they plan to leave within the hour, and the horses are getting antsy. Our foes expect us to depart at sunset.”
"You're not coming?" They drawled, "What a shame."
"That is what my foes expect." The man replied.
Sagejriuk eyed the man over, "That might be for the best. You're supposed to ride horses into battle, not eat them."
Out of the corner of their eye, they noticed Yantho's lips twitch in a near smirk.
"You wound me." Hymn chuckled, and waved them off. He turned back to the other two, "Now go."
Favian shared a look with Yantho, but the two of them had different expressions. They didn’t seem to be agreeing on whatever silent conversation they seemed to be having. After a moment, Favian simply looked away and nodded at his father before the two of them quickly headed towards the main exit. Their eyes followed Yantho who seemed to be lagging behind - it surprised them when he glanced over his shoulder.
Their eyes met for a fraction of a second but they couldn’t quite read the look in his eyes before he vanished through the doorway. They were left with Hymn, Sylvia and the nameless man who all turned and looked at them like just noticing they were there. Unsure what they were supposed to say or do, they did nothing.
“How exciting.” Hymn finally spoke, hands behind his back, “It’s been quite a while since a journey like this. Hopefully you can all get along, hm?”
He eyed them.
They gave a cocky smile, “I’ll be on my best behaviour.”
“Hymn, are you sure we cannot gag him right away?” Sylvia interrupted, “It would make the journey far less stressful on all of us.”
The man simply laughed, “I’ll entertain the thought, dear. But for now, we’ll show one another respect.”
“Yeah. We’ll see how long that lasts, won’t we?”
“We certainly will.”
Before they could respond to the nod, a bag was thrown over their head and the world vanished into darkness.
*junkrat voice* i'll be on me best behavyur
Chapter 15: Ready, set, go
bickering, arguing, character introductions
me to myself: bitcc!!! add more sylvia for gODS SA
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sagejriuk despised having their sight snatched away.
They held their tongue and grudgingly allowed themselves to be tugged through the room though not back towards the main entrance. Their sense of direction was always unreliable when something obscured their view, but they knew the humans had completely turned them around. They couldn't be sure what direction they were being steered towards so they listened intently for any sounds that might give it away.
Voices. They stopped. Someone to their right - they figured it was the man - grunted as he opened something heavy, and its hinges creaked in protest. The man broke out in a coughing fit - perhaps from dust? He grumbled something incoherent; there was a chuckle from Hymn and a few words of non-english from Sylvia. A few moments of silence passed before they felt the grip on their shoulder tighten.
“We’re doing down stairs, son. Watch your steps.”
“I’d rather you carry me with those strong arms of yours.” They replied with an unseen smile, “What if I trip?”
They heard Sylvia sigh, “Hopefully it will be right into a blade.”
They snickered quietly but didn’t respond. However, Hymn spoke quietly of reconsidering the idea to gag them. Huh. Only a mere minute or so since saying they weren’t going to be gagged - that had to be some sort of record. In the meantime, they remained quiet and easily descended down the stairs which seemed to curve over and over so they could only assume it was a spiral staircase leading them underground again.
Even when they knew it was only temporary, irritation nagged once again. They had been underground for six months and didn’t want to live there ever again - they’d sooner intentionally get themselves killed than live through that boredom once more. It seemed they didn’t have to think about that because they heard Hymn murmur about almost being there and then the staircase stopped spiraling.
Whoever held their shoulder pushed them down a hallway which wasn’t quite as dark with the firelight that streamed in through the holes in the sack. Someone was walking beside them, so they figured the hallway was quite wide. Then, after a few moments they were told to stop. They did, but someone else kept walking a few more moments before knocking a pattern on a door. It was the same pattern they remembered hearing Yantho use.
The door was pulled open mere seconds later and sunlight streamed into the darkness. Hushed voices discussed something quietly and before they could attempt to eavesdrop, the bag was pulled from their head. They squinted harshly at the sudden bright sunlight and blinked hard against it until they could see clearly. It took a few moments, but they slowly took in their new surroundings.
The air was damp and filled with dust, making their nose twitch. The hallway was at least two feet wide, covered in moss and looked like they were carved out by hand just like their cell block while the ground was made solely from hardened dirt. Infront of them sat a wooden door already pulled open - no , pulled aside. The thin wooden plank that served as a door was resting against the wall, no hinges in sight.
Moss had grown down the side of it. Their eyes flicked to the open doorway and noticed vines hanging down from somewhere above along with low hanging tree branches that restricted their view. The man had already pushed past it and vanished leaving only the three of them to stand in the damp and gloomy corridor. They weren’t quite sure what they were waiting for, but a quiet whistle interrupted their thoughts.
“This is where I leave you.” Hymn announced, and they glanced over their shoulder in surprise. He stood there with his hands clasped behind his back, “I must attend to things here.”
The unnamed man didn’t say a word. He simply nodded and grabbed onto their shoulder, but they focused on Sylvia and how she studied the general thoughtfully for a moment.
“Não se preocupe.” He spoke quietly, meaning for only her to hear, “Tudo está pronto.”
Her eyes sparked with uncertainty, but there was confidence in her voice. “Eu confio em você.” She glanced at them briefly, then back to Hymn, "Mas eu não confio nele."
Another sharp whistle.
“I know.” Hymn spoke again, “Don’t dwell on it. Now, go. And lookout for my son, won’t you?”
This time, she smiled. “No one else is going to do it for me. Farewell, Cyrus.”
They only saw the general nod curtly before they were shoved forward and then turned back around to face whatever was waiting. They stepped into the patch of sun streaming through the doorway. They shivered with delight at the warm feeling, but squinted as they stepped through the threshold. Nothing but pure white light entered their vision until the scenery came into focus.
It wasn’t a surprise that they were in a forest.
They had stopped trying to make sense of their surroundings ever since they had exited their prison cell from below, only to somehow go deeper to get to the main floor. If that even was the main floor. When they had been caught, a sack was put over their head before they even got remotely close to the citadel. They hadn’t had much chance to map out the surroundings before all this, which they had already cursed about.
The way down the hill was a rocky one. After exiting the door, the four of them kept to the side of the hill that the door had been built into. The cliff side was several meters high with vines hanging from the grassy top out of view somewhere above them. They could see tree branches hanging over the side which made for good cover. They turned their attention back to ground level where the trees stretched taller than the ones on higher ground.
The path was narrow and barely navigable, sharp rocks and twigs threatening to stab through their thin leather shoes. It was uneven and annoying to walk across - every few seconds or so they had to duck under another tree branch, leaves and pines blocking their view from what lie ahead and they supposed that was the point. Your enemies can't find a path they can’t reach or doesn't even look like one.
After many moments of silence, they were instructed to turn right into a very narrow and indistinct opening in the trees that they would have missed if no one pointed it out. The path completely vanished among the mossy forest floor, but Sylvia took the lead navigated through as if there were arrows showing her where to go. They stared at her broad shoulders, admiring her confident stride while they nearly tripped over tree roots.
In the distance, there was another explosion. It made them wonder if perhaps this was a long time coming, that enemies would have started to bomb the citadel no matter what. They hadn’t felt any explosions before today, but maybe there had been attacks in other parts of the kingdom. Attempting small talk with Sylvia wasn’t on the current agenda as she’d gladly rip their throat out for breathing.
“Leon,” She spoke but didn’t look over her shoulder to the human behind them, “Scout ahead.”
The human, Leon, didn’t say a word. Instead, he let go of their arm and hurried ahead. They glanced down at their bound wrists, knowing Sylvia was smart enough to know they might attempt to attack from behind. That wasn’t the plan anyway. Their opportunity was coming, all they had to do was wait and watch. Obey. For now. They weren’t quite sure if they wanted to attack Sylvia anyway - not until they learned the truth.
“I enjoy your silence, but it is also irritating.” She spoke but continued to stare at the path, “You want to speak, so speak before I change my mind.”
“Nonsense, love.” They smiled thoughtfully, “I was just enjoying nature.”
Sylvia scoffed and yanked a low hanging tree branch out of the way, “You are just like the other men in my life. Always lying.”
“Oooh, so I’m a man in your life now?” They grinned, “Tell me more.”
Sylvia looked over her shoulder and flashed them an irritated look which they decided to roll their eyes at. What they said was only half true - they were taking in their surroundings, still slightly dazed by the stream of sunlight through the trees, along with the warm, if not faint, breeze against their skin. The leaves were golden brown while the ones already on the ground were bright orange. Was it autumn already?
They stared at her back, “I’m curious about how far I’d get if I were to run..”
“Try it and find out.” They heard the smile in her words, like she was hoping they would, “I will not stop you.”
Sagejriuk whistled, “Sounds like someone's still mad at me.”
“You hospitalized my husband.”
“And you kicked my face in,” They pointed out, “I’m not mad at you , though.”
“You are also the reason I am leaving the safety of my home.” She countered without any hesitation, and smacked another branch out of the way. “The General only trusts his closest circle to deliver you alive, though Favian would prefer if you were dead.”
“He’s not the only one.”
“Trust me, I am well aware.”
“Bizarre, isn’t it?” They wondered, sarcasm coating their words, “It’s almost as if they don’t like me. I don’t deserve this. I’ve never done anything wrong in my lives.”
Sylvia shook her head, “We should have gagged you.”
They gasped mockingly, “Don’t be rude, I’m just trying to engage in conversation. You let me speak, after all.”
“I decision I am now starting to regret.”
A chuckle escaped them, “I see why you married Favian - you’re both cold as winter.”
“He gets it from me.” She responded.
She didn’t speak after that, so they sighed thoughtfully and kept to themselves. It was strange how emotionless she kept her voice, even while talking about Favian when before she had slapped them and practically spit in their face. They couldn’t tell how or what she was feeling - besides the obvious annoyance in her earlier quips. It seemed like she could put up with them for longer than Yantho or Favian.
Bugging her was quite entertaining, but they weren’t sure getting into it would be worth it. In fact, now that they were outside, they weren’t sure having Yantho around would be worth it at all either. They had only wanted a playmate when they were stuck in their cell. Someone to pass the time. They weren’t anymore. Now they’d be free of him soon enough and they didn’t have to waste their breath.
They eyed the trees around them and noticed that the branches had gotten higher - Sylvia no longer had to swat them out of the way. The decline had also gotten more steady, giving sturdy rocks to step on but far more tree roots stuck out from the ground . How much farther? Where were they going? They supposed it couldn't hurt to ask, but she wouldn’t be too keen on letting them in on their plans-
“Won’t be long now.” Sylvia spoke, as if reading their mind, “They’ll be waiting.”
-It couldn’t hurt to try, though.
“A small, inconspicuous group. Handpicked by Hymn.” She glanced over her shoulder at them and squinted, “Married men that you cannot seduce.”
They grinned, “We’ll see about that.”
“No we will not.” She countered.
“Mm. I guess I’ll just have to work on Favian then, won’t I?”
She let out a short, but amused, burst of laughter. “I cannot think of anyone who despises you more than he does.”
“Yantho might be first on that list.” They replied, “He’s already stabbed me twice, but I bet I can still work my magic.”
Sylvia was silent for a moment, which surprised them.
“Then I suppose I will have to stop both of them from killing you.”
The frowned. It hadn’t occurred to them that Yantho was coming along on the journey.
“No need.” They sighed, “I’m sure they’ll be preoccupied with each other..”
She didn’t say anything, and it only added to their curiosity. Did she know? They had the opportunity to make this journey very interesting and incredibly awkward.
“..But maybe,” They continued, “They’ll make it a team effort to kill me, hm?”
“Yantho would not kill you, no matter how much you annoy him.”
They raised their eyebrows. “I beg to differ. Just give him time.”
Sylvia just shook her head, “He-”
A sharp, long whistle cut off whatever she was going to say, and she froze. Sylvia held out an arm which made them stop too. She held that position, stiff as a board while the birds chirped around them and they didn’t know what to listen for. Then, another whistle. This time it was shorter and quieter - Sylvia relaxed her shoulders and sighed. The two of them started walking again, but at a faster pace.
After half a minute of walking, they eventually noticed a clearing just beyond the trees which peaked their curiosity. They wondered how Leon had gotten so far ahead - did he sprint? Or did he go another direction entirely? They noticed there was a broken path, trampled down dirt and flattened grass lead Sylvia to their new destination. They pushed through some trees but made no comment as they eyed over the new scenery.
It appeared to be what was left of a road; a several meter wide faded dirt path sprinkled with rocks as big as apples. It wasn’t a smooth road by any means, but clearly it hadn’t been used in some time. Tall pines stood unbelievably high on either side, stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see. Most of the way was shaded with the sun hidden behind the trees but thin strips of light still poked through.
“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.”
They glanced to their right and noticed a horse and carriage pulled to the side of the road - it was a small, four wheeled beige carriage with two seats at the front, tied to a single brown horse that was currently eating grass. Leon was there, now turning his head as he watched the second approach - the one who spoke. They wanted to roll their eyes as Leonardo approached them, smirk on his chubby face.
He was dressed neck-to-toe in chainmail, black boots, brown belt hanging loosely around his hips with a sheathed blade at his side. A hard-leather chestplate was clamped around his chest, but with his belly and arms exposed, they didn’t know much much good it would do. Behind him, though much thinner and dark skin, Leon wore the same outfit along with a helmet. He turned his attention back to a bundle of papers.
“I was hoping you tragically died on the way here.” Leonardo interrupted their thoughts, and they glanced up to meet his gaze. “No such luck, eh?”
“Odd.” They mused, “I was thinking the same thing about you. Lady luck isn’t on either of our sides today.”
Leonardo just rolled his eyes, "There's still time for a tragic ''accident''."
"Yes." They agreed, "There is."
To their left, they saw Yantho standing near another beige, but bulkier carriage meant for several people. It was the third and last one in the line of three (though the middle carriage was much smaller). He hadn’t seemed to notice them yet, back turned as he eyed a map Favian was holding out. Sylvia started walking in their direction and they took that incentive to follow since they hadn’t been instructed where to go. They watched Favian glance over his shoulder first, smile forming in his face when he saw her.
Yantho, however, had a different reaction. He noticed her and then looked away, but didn’t seem any happier to notice them trailing behind.
“Ah, speak of the devil, eh, Sylvia?” They grinned, eyeing Yantho.
They wanted to laugh at his alarmed expression - his eyes had slightly widened glancing between the two of them.
“No one was talking about you.” She told them, clearly not noticing Yantho’s expression.
“Ouch, and here I thought we were bonding.”
Favian’s smile turned to a scowl as he interjected, “You will do nothing of the sort-”
“We were just discussing how it is my job to stop the two of you from killing him.” Sylvia told him, obviously not a fan of being interrupted, “I can assure you, we were not bonding.”
They pouted, and when they noticed Yantho staring, they stuck their tongue out at him.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Sylvia continued, “I need a word with Favian.”
He simply smiled and offered a friendly nod, but didn’t spare Yantho a glance as he placed a hand on the small of her back and led her away. They watched the two head back over to where Leonardo was waiting; the man simply nodded and ushered them over to where Leon stood. They decided to ignore the trio for now and simply turned back to face Yantho who rubbed his hands over his face.
Their eyes scanned over him but they noticed he wasn't wearing the same armour as Leonardo and the other man. In fact, he wasn’t wearing any at all. He wore a grey longsleeve that was formfitting with a hard-leather chestplate covering his ribs, strapped around his shoulders. Glancing down, they noticed his dark brown pants tucked into his mid-calf high boots, laced up the center. Was he prepared for a battle or morning jog?
“Stop staring at me.” Yantho’s voice invaded their thoughts.
They blinked out of the daze and simply stared him in the eyes. Yantho’s eyes narrowed slightly but he kept their gaze, not wanting to be the loser of this unspoken staring contest. Perhaps he didn’t want to seem intimidated. His lips were pursed and eyebrows were scrunched together, but his hazel eyes sparkled in the sunlight; they almost seemed as bright as their own. The light also revealed a bruise blooming along his jaw.
“You first.” They told him.
Apparently Yantho did not like backing down from challenges, “You don’t intimidate me.”
“No?” They shifted as if to take a step forward and watched him tense. They searched his eyes but could only read annoyance, like usual, “Well, you don’t intimidate me, either.”
He didn’t say anything.
“But I have to say..” They mused thoughtfully, “The last person to stare at me this long ended up in bed with me.” When he angrily glanced off to the side, they smiled smugly.
They gave him a once-over, but that irritated Yantho as well.
“I said, stop staring at me.”
“I can’t help myself,” They cocked their head, voice filled with mock sarcasm, “You’re just too beautiful to not look at”
They supposed that was half-true. He wasn’t hideous, but they could spend all day pointing out humans who were far better looking.
His glare returned to them, intensified, “I wish I could say the same about you.”
A whistle escaped them, “Ouch. Words hurt, Yanny.”
“My fist is going to hurt more.”
“Depends on where you’re putting it, love.”
Yantho let out an impatient sigh and tore his gaze away as he turned back around to examine whatever he had been holding before. They sighed thoughtfully and lazily glanced over at the others who were deep in conversation. The humans didn’t seem to be in a rush, which contradicted the sense of urgency they had experienced leaving the citadel. Wasn’t this mission supposed to be crucial; weren’t they supposed to leave immediately?
They appeared at Yantho’s side, standing close enough to invade his personal bubble which he certainly didn’t like. He threw them a quick glare and put a few inches of space between the two of them but otherwise didn’t say anything. With his attention back on the map, they nonchalantly glanced over at it. As big as the paper was, the map didn’t appear to be of the entire world; just a single city. The one they were in?
Yantho caught them looking and turned his back to them, blocking their view of however crucial a map of the city could be. It didn’t seem like they were currently in a populated area with miles of trees in every direction. Knowing where they were going could be very helpful; they could easily hide in a place they’ve visited before, but being kept in the dark just crippled them even more. No matter. They’d be free soon enough.
“Can’t you go bother someone else?” He grumbled
They eyed him but he didn’t turn around, “I’m your responsibility now, remember? Unless you’d rather take this cuff off and let me go. I wouldn’t even kill you.”
“I’m feeling charitable.” They told him, “Of course I’d love to watch the life drain from your eyes, but I can always come back later to do that.”
He huffed, “You’re not going to kill me.”
“Oh? I beg to differ. Just give it a few weeks.”
Yantho folded up the map silently and stuck it inside his pant pockets. He then turned around, eyes finding theirs immediately.
“Just shut up and behave until we get this done.” He snapped.
“Behaving isn’t really my thing.”
“I’ve noticed.” He replied, crossing his arms. “You may be my responsibility, but anyone here can kill you if you give them a reason.”
They cocked their head to the side, “On the contrary, that’s just untrue. Y’know why, love?” They inched closer, “Because you humans need me. You threaten to kill me, but you know I’m far too valuable to go to waste.”
Yantho stared at them but glanced away with a quiet, “Shut up.”
“Don’t you just love it when I’m right?” They taunted, “I do. It’s the biggest turn on.”
He scoffed loudly, “You-”
Whatever insult he was about to conjure up, it was interrupted by another voice.
“Alright everyone!” Leonardo’s loud, booming voice came from behind them. He clapped his hands together when they glanced over their shoulder, “Time to get a move on!”
Sylvia and Favian had gone towards the first carriage; they watched him open the cart door and wave his arm in a gesture for her to enter. Even from here, they heard her laugh at the dramatic way he did so but she climbed into the cart and out of sight. Favian glanced back over but didn’t look at them; he was staring at Yantho who wasn’t meeting his eyes. After a moment, the man simply turned and vanished inside.
“Mjik!” Leonardo snapped his fingers, “We don’t have all day, hurry up.” He pointed to the middle carrige in the lineup which Yantho was already walking towards.
“Maybe you should walk.” They helpfully suggested, “I’d hate to see these horses have a heart attack.”
Leonardo sneered, “Cut the clever remarks or i’ll render you unconscious.”
They sighed and watched as yantho opened the carriage door, “Good thing we’re getting in first, huh? Otherwise we’d be stuck out here for an hour.”
Yantho wasn't looking at them, but they noticed his lips twitch.
“Shut your mouth, mjik.” Leonardo grumbled, “Just get in.”
Yantho stood next to the open door and waited for them to enter first.
“How chivalrous.” They mused, “You must like me.”
“Don't flatter yourself.” He simply responded as they shuffled into the cramped confines of the carriage. There were two benches on either side, so they sat with their back to the front.
“Barely any room in here,” They started and watched as Yantho climbed in next, but sat on the opposite side. “Maybe you should sit on my lap.”
He huffed, “Not gonna happen.”
They rolled their eyes and peered out as Yantho shut the door. Leonardo’s voice continued as he walked around the carriage and the whole thing rocked slightly as he climbed aboard the front with the driver.
“I hope you brought another set of wheels.” They murmured just loud enough for Yantho to hear.
This time however, a faint smile formed on his lips as he stared out the window and they leaned their head back against the wall.
When Hymn speaks: "Do not worry." / "Everything is ready."
Sylvia responds, "I trust you." / "But I do not trust him."
Chapter 16: Changed Plans
Sagejriuk barely ever remembers falling asleep.
An odd sensation tugged at them as they stood in the valley, but they ignored it as they scanned their surroundings. They stood next to a several meter wide river, ragged rocks sticking out from the fast moving tide. The water was dark, possibly several more meters deep as the muddy riverbank threatened to pull them in. Pouring rain pelted the water, the land, it felt like tiny knives against their skin.
The wind ripped at the thick, bushy trees scattered across the hillside, knee high grass flowed back and forth like it was waving. They looked up and squinted against the sharp rain hitting their face to scan the huge hills that seemed to stretch to the sky. That same odd feeling spread through their gut, but they simply stared at the skyline before their attention was drawn back downwards to the sounds of splashing.
The water smacked against the rocks, but that wasn’t it. They turned their head to the right and stared down the river that twisted around several bends. Mere moments later, something came into view on the water; they squinted against the rain and tried to make sense of the shape floating down the current. As it got closer, they could make out the shape of a boat. A tiny, slim canoe that rocked dangerously in the tide.
There was a figure inside, face covered by a cloak with a blanket covering the rest of their body. A single ore was sprouting from the mass of cloth, not doing much to steady the boat but the figure slapped it against the water anyway. The person was sitting in the middle of the canoe, huddled into themselves as they focused on what lay ahead. They simply watched the boat pass but their feet pulled them forwards.
Sagejriuk started down the muddy riverbank, eyes on the canoe. Their steps soon turned into a jog which turned into a full sprint as the water carried the figure away faster and faster. They ducked under tree branches, jumped over tangled roots and rocks without ever looking away from the figure as if they had done this before. The mushy, uneven surface slowed them down but they kept going as fast as their legs could take them.
Thunder rumbled overhead, and out of the corner of their eye they noticed lightning in the distance. They didn’t take their eyes off the boat. It rounded another corner, nearly smashed right into a large rock but the current had other plans. It had gotten farther from them now, but their feet refused to slow down and wanted to reach the figure at all costs. The person remained steady despite everything happening around them.
Then, after a few more excruciatingly long moments, a wave put the canoe too high in the air and it sailed right into a group of rocks; smashed the front to pieces. A cry of alarm sliced through the heavy rain as the figure scrambled to situate themselves within a boat that was quickly filling with water. The current nearly swept them away as the figure pushed themselves onto the pile of rocks, wedged between the tide and an unclimbable hillside.
The figure sat there, bundle of blankets soaking wet but they still huddled into themselves, face obscured from view. Mere moments later, the sound of a baby crying filled their ears and the figure moved to try and muffle the sound. Eyes still glued to the figure, Sagejriuk took a step forward but the land seemed to vanish beneath their feet. They fell unexpectedly into the freezing, harsh water, but darkness engulfed them before they felt a thing.
Their eyes snapped open with a sharp intake of breath, and the absence of light made them forget where they were. They blinked and glanced around at the small, confined space and remembered they weren’t underground in their cell. Allowing themselves to relax slightly, the memories flooded back into their mind as they glanced out the semicircle window. Trees as far as the eye could see that showed no signs of vanishing.
Granted, the carriage was moving at a mind-numbingly slow pace but they were already starting to get tired of seeing them. Pine trees didn’t change colour in the fall, so it was an endless sea of dark green as they stared. The sun had already set; the only source of light came from the candlelit lanterns out front where the driver and Leonardo sat. They shifted in their seat and glanced around.
Yantho was awake and staring at them. “What?” They snapped.
“Your eyes.” He murmured, “I forgot they glowed; then you woke up.”
Sagejriuk didn’t reply. They looked away - their eyes usually glowed brightly without this stupid cuff on, but now they couldn’t even see their glow illuminating anything. In the mirror, all they noticed is that their eyes were brighter than a humans should be (especially in the dark) which made them stand out. The man this body belonged to had dark brown eyes, so they knew it was quite the change.
“Bad dream?” he asked, cutting through the much needed silence.
They thought about it. It had been similar to the first dream, but this time they had been in the valley rather than above it. Same place, same gloomy atmosphere and weather, but the nagging sensation that it seemed familiar tugged at them. They never dreamed before all this; now two different dreams within two weeks?
“I told you: I don't dream.” They lied, but kept their eyes glued out the window.
He was silent for a moment, then: “You spoke in your sleep.” They glanced over at him with confusion and he continued, “You kept mumbling wait .”
They knitted their brows together but didn’t know how to respond. Instead they simply shrugged and elected to ignore him once again. Wait? They couldn't find words in their dream, so perhaps they spoke the words allowed. It was a strange word - why would they want the unknown figure to wait for them?
They wanted to ignore it. It was a dream, not reality. It didn't have to make sense so there was no point in trying to decipher it. Just another side effect of this insufferable cuff. Even with Yantho’s gaze on them - probably deciding if they were telling the truth - they exhaled quietly and pushed the thought out of their mind.
And suddenly, they noticed the carriage had stopped. Quiet voices followed by footsteps heading in their direction and a moment later the door opened. Leonardo stood there and peered inside the cabin but his eyes landed on Yantho.
“Time to switch, son.”
Yantho wordlessly nodded and gave them a look of pity as he shifted to slide out of the cabin. It took them a moment to realise what was happening until yantho vanished into the darkness but they groaned as Leonardo hauled himself into the space. The big man basically threw himself onto the bench and sighed with relief. With Yantho presumably sitting where Leonardo was, the carriage started to move again.
“Aw, don’t look so disappointed to see me, Mjik.” He cooed, “You and I are gonna have plenty of fun on this trip.”
“I’m just overflowing with excitement.” They replied, deadpan expression and voice. “That is, if you don’t suffocate me to death.”
The Captain took up more than half of the bench across from them, big legs purposely spread to take up more room than necessary. They sat as close to the wall as possible, bound hands sitting in their lap but the man was still uncomfortably close. At least Yantho had tried to keep to himself, stay close to the wall and give each of them space - it was abundantly clear this man wanted to ruin their day, week and year.
“Told you to cut the snark, boy.” He grunted as he shifted his weight, “Now shut it before I put a blade in you.”
“If you can reach.”
He let out a low growl but they just smirked.
“Don’t know why we can’t just knock ya’ out and throw ya’ in the back.” He grumbled.
“Because you’d hate to ruin my pretty face?”
Leonardo snorted, “A likely story. You’ve got one of the ugliest faces I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty o’ faces.”
“Like your seven Ex-wives?” They offered.
His glare intensified, “Only been married once, Mjik.”
“How much are you paying her?” They asked, ignoring the annoyance growing on his face then gasped in mock surprise, “Oh gods, you kidnapped some poor woman, didn’t you?”
They couldn’t be sure, but they thought they heard muffled laughter. Either not hearing it or ignoring it, Leonardo exhaled angrily and remained staring at them.
“Gonna beat you senseless when we stop.” He promised, “You’re gonna wish that cuff was still working.”
“Mm, well, I like it rough.”
“Un-fucking-believable.” He muttered
“Hey! Watch the language, there’s children around.” Their eyes flicked out to where Yantho was sitting, but if he heard, he didn’t reply.
The Captain narrowed his eyes, “You ain’t look no older than the boy, Mjik.”
“I get that alot.” They replied with a smug smile, “But I guess I’m blessed with eternal youth, huh?”
He didn’t humor them with a response; instead, he simply looked away, crossed his arms over his chest and exhaled through his nose. The man leaned his head back against the wall and shut his eyes despite them still staring at him. Hm. It should have occurred to them that he switched places with Yantho to get some sleep. They didn’t know how long they had been traveling for, but they could assume several hours.
And they were still in the forest? Huh. Maybe the citadel was more hidden than they had originally believed. They had never actively tried to seek it out, but it was a giant castle. A giant castle does not simply stay hidden. When they had first been captured, Leonardo had ranted and taunted as if they had made it their lifelong goal to invade the citadel without getting caught. Whatever helps him sleep at night, they supposed.
“Having trouble sleeping?” They asked innocently as Leonardo shifted in his seat.
“Shut your face.”
“I will, but try not to dream of me too much.”
A smile formed on his face, “The only dreams I have of you are my many fond memories of you getting well-deserved punishment.”
“Like the time you hung me from the ceiling from my ankles?”
“Mm, yes. That would be one of them.” He replied but didn’t open his eyes.
Torture was never meant to be fun, and they didn’t enjoy being powerless, but all the different scenarios they had been put in had been.. interesting. Getting strung up from the ceiling in various ways; by the wrists, the legs, even the neck. Human torture techniques designed for humans, made for humans. Beings that could experience pain or suffer simply by being upside down too long.
Captain Leonardo had been very eager to make them experience everything in the book, from simple lashes and cuts to forcing them to drink poisonous liquids and attempted dismemberment. He had also been furious when their weight had been too much for the chains and they ripped from the ceiling - that, and how they had been making jokes about how The Captain probably would have brought the entire ceiling down in their place.
“What about the eye-catcher?” They mused, “You had plenty of fun with that one.”
“Yes,” He agreed with a nod, “But sadly, neither of your eyes popped out. It was amusing to watch you struggle.”
They recalled the metal clamp-like device placed on their head like a hat. Leonardo had twisted screws that made metal rods push into their temples; they supposed the pressure would eventually crush a normal human's head and make their eyes pop out of their skull. Instead, it only broke the skin and made blood stream down the sides of their face, but no eyeballs popped out.
The force against their head had made them uncomfortable, especially since the man had left the device on them for several hours while he tried other techniques. They had tried to shake it off in annoyance, but Leonardo had translated their annoyance as fear and simply laughed then tightened it. He had also tried pressing a knife into their eye for good measure, but like everything else, it didn’t puncture their skin.
“I’d love to use it on you.” They told him, “There’s plenty of your.. Toys, that I’d love to use against you.”
This time, the man opened his eyes and smirked, “Good luck with that, Mjik. Ain’t getting loose from those chains.”
“Promises, promises.” They stared straight ahead, “I’ll use them to snap your neck.”
“Another threat and I’ll use them to snap your neck.” The Captain retorted
“So scary.” They purred, “I’m shaking in my seat.”
He rolled his eyes, “It’s cute how intimidating you think you are.”
“You think I’m cute?” They gasped playfully and ignored the rage flash across his face. They leaned forward in their seat, “Hey Yantho! He thinks I’m cute!”
They weren’t expecting a reply, but his muffled voice came from the other side of the wall; “ Someone has to, I suppose.”
A snicker escaped them at both the reply and how angry Leonardo was getting. They wondered what aggravated him more - them or his own poor wording? Obviously he knew they were just egging him on - they had been forced to listen to his many lectures about how repulsive both them and the fact they could charm men. Blahblah, Men are supposed to be strong-willed, masculine, enjoy women and women only, blahblah.
They wondered how many times Yantho had endured those lectures, how many times he had to simply nod along and agree. Surely if The Captain knew the truth about his prized student , he’d have a stroke. However, they had no intentions of telling Leonardo; they’d much rather keep the secret to themselves. They didn’t care what he thought about who they seduced, slept with, flirted with. Anyone was fair game.
“Anyways, go back to sleep.” They rolled their eyes, “Or I’ll tell you in great detail about my last sexual experience with a man.”
Leonardo scrunched up his face in disgust, “I don’t take orders from you, and I certainly don’t want to hear about your.. demonic ways.”
“Don’t make me come over there and kiss you.”
“I’ll cut out your fucking tongue.” He hissed.
A smirk slid onto their face, “You expected me to use tongue for our first kiss? Getting a little ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?”
“Would you prefer if I kissed one of the other men you’ve brought along?”
He uncrossed his arms and shifted in his seat, “You will do no such thing.”
“Well surely I can’t kiss Mrs. Hayes, she’s my only friend.” They pointed out.
“She despises you the most.”
They smiled helpfully, “Actually, I think Yantho still gets that title.” Their eyes flickered to the wall again, “Isn’t that right, Yanny?”
This time they didn't get a response so they just sighed.
“He’s going to be the one that kills you.” Leonardo chuckled, “I’ll bet my money on it.”
They raised their eyebrows, “Actually, Sylvia said quite the opposite. She clearly doesn't think lil’ ol’ yanny has the guts.”
The man rolled his eyes, “He’s a patient one, but your time will run out. I’ve trained him myself; you’ll be proved wrong.”
“I’ll prove he has guts when I rip them from his body.” They promised.
They were sure Yantho could still hear every word, but he still didn’t reply. What would he think of all this; did he think he had enough restraint not to kill them or did he silently agree with Leonardo? Initially, they had thought it was going to be easy to get him to kill them, but now they weren’t quite so sure. He was a stickler for the rules and pleasing his superiors - he wouldn’t want to risk killing the humans’ most prized.. possession.
Leonardo closed his eyes once more but this time he stretched his legs out and rested them on the seat next to them. They were positive it was on purpose but he spread out his legs until one leg was pressed against their thigh; they resisted the urge to break it. He crossed his arms and leaned his head back in an attempt to get some sleep. They scrunched their nose in annoyance - if he wasn’t going to stop bothering them, neither would they.
“Ugh. I was wondering what smelled like roadkill.”
He didn’t open his eyes, “Take a whiff o’ yourself, boy. You smell putrid.”
“And who’s fault is that?” They asked with an eye roll, “I was down there for the better part of a year and none of you decided to let me bathe.”
“Ain’t no rights for criminals.”
“Then my point stands.”
He chuckled, “Piss yourself for all I care, you’re not my problem.”
“I’ll piss on your leg if you don’t move it.” They grumbled.
In response, he opened one eye and smirked as he pressed his leg into them slightly harder, but they remained staring as they reached for their belt. Leonardo simply drew his leg back and kicked their side with such force their body slammed against the door. The smirk didn’t leave his face as they grunted and glared back. Satisfied, he simply closed his eyes again and left his leg halfway in their lap.
“Whatcha gonna do?”He asked.
They didn’t reply.
“That’s what I thought, you freak o’ nature.”
Their fingers twitched as they eyed him. They knew they shouldn’t do what they were about to do, but they clenched their teeth together. Five seconds. That’s how long it would take to spring forwards and snap his fat neck. They could attack whoever came to open the door. They closed their eyes and exhaled. Don’t do it. Don’t do it, just wait. They wanted to ignore his foot tapping against their side now, but something snapped.
Sagejriuk launched themselves forwards so quickly the carriage rocked when they slammed into him. Their chained hands were around his neck in seconds and his eyes shot open as he put up his hands in defense. They clenched their teeth as a growl escaped their throat but he thrashed under their grip and swung hard at their face. It knocked their grip loose for half a second but that was all he needed to switch around and get the door open.
They felt the carriage stop with the alarmed cry of horses, but that didn’t stop them from launching forwards again as they tackled the big man through the door. They both landed hard on the cold, wet grass, Sagejriuk back on top with their hands clawing at his throat. The man yelled something incoherent and managed to use his legs to kick them off balance. With both hands on their chest, he heaved them off.
Indistinct shouting filled their ears, but they ignored it as they focused on Leonardo with murder in their eyes. He was scrambling to his feet but they tackled him again and went for the knife he was now holding. Halfway on top of him, they couldn’t quite get a good grip because he was wiggling so much and his size made it near impossible to hold him down. He swiped the knife but they leaned out of the way and grabbed his wrist.
With a hard squeeze and twist, they heard bones break then he cried out in pain as they snatched the weapon from his hands. This hadn’t been the plan. They hadn’t meant their anger to get the best of them, but Leonardo always had a way of getting under their skin. Nevertheless, he managed to get them off once more and scramble to his feet but they grabbed him by the back of the shirt and yanked him back.
They put him in a chokehold and they felt his adam's apple bob against the inside of their elbow as they pressed the blade against his throat just as the humans arrived.
“What now, Mjik?” He spat, “You’re outnumbered.”
Yantho, who had been the first to arrive after scampering off the carriage, was holding a crossbow with absolute calmness. They met his eyes; the two of them glared hard at each other but he showed no signs of stepping down. He was quickly joined by Favian who had a pistol aimed and ready to fire. His eyes were scanning the surroundings instead of where he was aiming, however. They felt Leonardo’s heartbeat speed up.
“Weapons down.” They demanded, “Or I slit his throat.”
Favian was the only one who wavered. Yantho, on the other hand, acted as if they hadn’t spoke and simply looked angrier.
“ Down. ” They raised their voice and pressed the knife harder to his throat, “Do I need to count to three?”
“Do what he says.” Leonardo told them, bitterness in his words.
Favian hesitated for a moment, but he lowered his pistol and glanced over his shoulder where Leon was approaching cautiously. They glanced back at Yantho who hadn’t moved; he shifted his feet but didn’t lower it. Even if he shot them, it wouldn't do anything except make them laugh. Surely the humans knew this by now - if they were shot, they’d simply split the Captain’s throat and run.
“You were given an order, Reeves.” They spoke, a hint of mockery in their voice, “I’d suggest following it before you end up without a Captain.”
He clenched his teeth together, “You’ll kill him either way.”
“Smart boy.” They smirked, “But if you don’t lower your weapon, I’ll kill you too.”
The Captain swallowed, “You know what to do, Reeves.”
They were going to mock the order, knowing he’d lower his weapon and they’d spill the man's blood all over the ground. Instead, Yantho simply inhaled and met their eyes again but his lips turned up in a smug smile. They frowned slightly, unsure where the confidence came from until without hesitation, he shot at them. The realisation came when the arrow pierced their wrist and pain shot up their arm.
“фΞגкוйק לэוו.” They cursed at forgetting their newfound vulnerability.
They yanked their wounded arm back, knife dropping from their grip as they used their unwounded arm to push the heavy man away from them. He stumbled towards the others. Unfazed, Yantho kept his eyes on them and shot again and the arrow narrowly missed their head. They stumbled back and awkwardly ripped the arrow out of their arm, then decided they had no choice but to run.
So they turned and ran.
Chapter 17: Hide-n-Seek
*Re-uploaded due to a missing paragraph
Sagejriuk had been on the run before.
A decade ago they had stolen the apperance of a royal guard, entered into a series of wealthy people's homes under the guise they were looking for a criminal, and stolen handfuls of gold and expensive belongings. It was just enough that those humans wouldn’t notice right away, but by the time they did, they were already gone to the next city. Their act had been caught three cities in, and they were chased for several months despite changing appearances.
Several years before that they had been framed for a murder. An obscenely rich, annoying landlord who taxed his tenants to the afterlife and back. They supposed one of those tenants had enough and stabbed a spike through his neck, but they had stumbled upon the body while attempting to steal from him. Naturally, the blame was put on them (although the townsfolk flourished upon his death) but they burned the mansion down and escaped
They’ve had their fair share of bounty hunters hunting them down. Despite changing forms and staying under the radar for years at a time, a bounty hunter always seemed to catch up with them. Most were surprisingly agile yet under qualified humans, but they had met other beings with magic. They put up a fun fight. None of the hunters knew what they were or how to fight them, but they still persisted. They were probably being hunted right now.
An arrow whizzed past their head and shattered against a tree half a foot away.
Well, by an actual bounty hunter, that is.
They ran across the small stretch of open ground before they ducked into the dark forest just as another arrow sailed over their head. The darkness mixed with the low hanging pine branches made it nearly impossible to navigate without branches slapping them in the face every few moments. Despite those, the trees were quite spaced out which left no cover aside from the uneven terrain.
Under different circumstances they would have used their hands to balance themselves but they were still bound together. Getting far away and out of danger was the first priority; they would worry about breaking off the chains later. They stared straight ahead, pivoted around trees that they noticed at the last minute, unsure which direction was which. They trampled through fallen leaves, twigs,and made enough noise to be heard for miles.
They heard the noises behind them too; snapped branches, heavy stomping, the clicking of the crossbow as Yantho chased them. So far his aim had been far less than impeccable and they hoped it stayed that way - nothing good would come from getting shot down while they were vulnerable like this. They weren’t sure if they’d be able to rely on their brute strength with this cuff on if it came to hand-to-hand.
This was almost definitely a bad idea. They were smarter than this, they had everything planned out. Wait. Wait it out. What happened to that plan? Cursing themselves out would do no good now - sometimes they made snap decisions and regretted them later. What would happen if Yantho managed to track them down and drag them back? The thought angered them. They weren’t some wild animal.
Snapped back to reality, they didn’t notice the small dip of a hidden stream until they missed their footing and crashed into the side of the foot-deep trench. They grunted as the water soaked their piss-poor excuse for shoes, but quickly pulled themselves out and back to their feet as they heard Yantho get closer. They stumbled forward, - shoes barely holding onto their feet - and shook themselves out of their daze.
They ducked under and around a few more trees, guided by only the moonlight shining on the forest floor to prevent them from being totally blind. The land started to get more and more uneven, but they tried to stay on the high ground. Getting lower would make them even more lost than before, but staying up high would make them easy to spot. They ran along the edge of a steep hill that only got higher the farther they ran.
Stamina wasn’t even a question - they were always able to run fast for long periods of time, even after a human ran out of breath. They figured Yantho would tire out soon enough if they kept going.. Or would this stupid cuff limit that too? They hadn’t had the chance to run a marathon in prison, so they’d have to find out the hard way. Focus. Just focus on running forwards and then they’d-
An arrow sailed past but it grazed their arm and sent a spike of pain down it. They nearly lost their balance in surprise, then cursed as they brought their other hand up to cover the wound. They felt the warm, sticky blood seep through their fingers but it wasn’t that deep and would surely stop bleeding soon enough. They couldn’t risk a peek over their shoulder - was yantho hot on their heels or did he have incredibly good eyesight?
And suddenly, pain ripped through their lower leg as an arrow pierced their calf and caused them to crash forwards at full speed. To avoid landing on their face, they jerked their whole body sideways and took most of the impact on their shoulder, but in doing so they rolled off the edge. With no time to curse again, they rolled down the steep hillside and into every sharp rock and tree root on the way.
Sagejriuk tried to straighten themselves out but the surface wasn’t even so they kept stumbling down until eventually the hillside dropped them at the bottom. Wet moss and fallen leaves provided them a somewhat soft landing, but they could only focus on the pounding pain in their leg. Laying face down, they slowly pushed themselves up and glanced at their new surroundings but it looked the same as before except..
The pine trees were incredibly high; the trunks were thick and as tall as them, leaving no dangling branches to cover behind. If they had to run, they’d just have to dodge around the trunks and hope for the best. To their left was an opening in the hillside - a cavern of some sort? They squinted against the darkness and eyed the several meter wide opening, rocky sides covered with moss.
From somewhere above them, they heard branches snap. They sprung into action and ran towards the cavern before Yantho could see them, but quickly paused. They were injured, unable to see, and wanted to hide for a moment. Yantho would know this. He’d see the cavern and assume that’s where they went. They glanced to the side and limped towards one of the many crevices in the hillside covered by moss and vines.
They could just barely push themselves inside the narrow space but now they were out of view as they tried to pull the vines over their hiding spot. With the back of their hands pressed to their chest, they tried to take a deep breath and quiet their breathing. Pain surged up their leg as they tried to shift their weight onto it and nearly cursed aloud. Their thoughts were interrupted by a loud thump .
Silence for a moment, then:
“Sage.” He called out, but they didn’t hear him move, “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
They wanted to tell him to shove his words up his ass, but they held their tongue. He already made it harder by shooting them - if he somehow managed to re-capture them, he’d have to drag a wounded person back up a steep hill. What they hated most was how he said their name (besides the fact he said it at all) like a mother scolding her child for misbehaving, the way he spoke was calm, like he thought they were badly injured.
After those few moments were up, he started walking in their direction. They remained still but shut their eyes as he passed their hiding place, careful not to let their eyes attract his attention. He slowly moved forwards and they cracked their eyes open to watch him approach the darkened cavern they had thought about hiding in just moments prior. Crossbow loaded in one hand while he held a small lantern in the other.
They watched him inch closer and closer to the cave. If they had chosen to hide there they would have been getting ready to jump him. Maybe he had the same idea and was preparing himself for a scuffle. They inched out of their hiding spot but never took their eyes off him. Pain still flared through their leg so they glanced down to see half an arrow still sticking out of their calf.
They awkwardly shifted down and snapped off the part jutting from their leg, but would have to worry about the part inside them later. The snap had been soft and thankfully didn't attract Yantho’s attention. Choosing to ignore it for now, they edged out of their hiding spot and held their breath. He was several meters away now as he stood in the cave entrance and held the lantern up high.
Stealth was their best option but it wasn't going to be plausible. The ground was covered in leaves, sticks and all sorts of noise makers. They'd have to wait until he was fully inside the cavern to make a break for it. Even then, they had no idea how far they'd make it before he shot them again. Yantho inched forward until he was draped in shadows then glanced around for a few moments.
As soon as he vanished around the corner, they pulled themselves out of hiding and quietly stepped around the bushes. They made the mistake of stepping on their wounded foot with all their weight and nearly crashed to the ground. They grunted but caught themselves and decided they had no choice but to limp away from the hillside and into the pine forest. There was no path, so they’d just have to go in one direction and hope for the best.
A distant, high-pitched howl cut through the night. Their head snapped up at the sound and scanned the surroundings even though they knew they’d see nothing. It had been too far away to worry about, so they simply kept going. Instead they focused on the crickets chirping loudly and the sounds of small animals scampering through the treetops.Their own footsteps were muffled against the wet pines and grass.
They tried to stick as close to the tree trunks as possible while they risked a glance over their shoulder; Yantho’s lantern light was still faintly illuminating the cavern opening but he was still nowhere in site. Turning back around, they tried to put more distance between the two of them by limping faster but it only sent fresh waves of pain up their leg. They clenched their teeth together and bit back a string of curses.
Another howl echoed throughout the forest but it seemed closer than the last one, yet still a good distance away. A wolf? Or just a wild dog? They had no way of knowing for sure, so yet again they ignored it and steered themselves off to the left. The flat ground provided no cover or holes to hide in, so if Yantho came out of the cavern and looked their way he’d most likely see someone in the woods.
A sense of unease washed over them when they felt like they were being watched. From what direction, they couldn't be sure. It wasn’t Yantho, because they would have heard him approach or yell at them; it couldn’t be another human either. They pushed the feeling aside despite it nagging at their gut and continued on, but lady luck was definitely not on their side today when they climbed over a log and the wood cracked open.
They inhaled sharply and instinctively looked over their shoulder. Only thirty or so meters away from where they started, they watched the candlelight get brighter until he fully re-emerged from the cavern, crossbow raised as he looked around. They were behind a tree trunk but momentarily forgot about their softly-glowing eyes and how much they’d stand out in a dark forest like this. He noticed immediately.
“ф Ξ גк” They muttered
Picking up the pace, they broke into a run and gritted their teeth against the sharp pain in their leg with every step. They wouldn’t die from this, so they pushed the pain out of their mind and just focused on running despite the warm blood spilling from the wound. Continuing right, they almost didn’t notice the several feet ravine in the ground. It stretched far in either direction and was an even farther fall downwards.
Too wide to jump across in their condition, they kept running alongside it as the ground began to slope downwards but they ran straight towards a clearing just beyond the trees. It was slightly brighter there now that the moon could shine through so they took only a few seconds to look around. They noticed several grassy, oak tree covered hills directly ahead, but the sound of a river caught their attention.
When that feeling they were being watched returned and again, they tried to ignore it. Instead, they hurried towards the water hidden beyond the trees to their right. Just through the trees sat a shallow and wide, but quickly moving river; the dirty riverbank looked solid enough to run along so they did just that. They had no idea where they were going but at least they had the chance to get Yantho lost and possibly eaten by wolves.
They ran as fast as their aching leg would carry them and wondered how much all this running would affect the piece of arrow lodged in their calf. They’d have to wait quite a while to check, and by that point it might be stuck forever. Fortunately, their luck took a turn when they noticed a cave up ahead; surrounded by trees and in the side of a hill that the stream went straight into. They hurried towards it.
The semi-circle shaped mouth of the cave was covered in moss and stalactites hung from the rocky ceiling. The stream they were traveling next to started to thin out as they got closer which left only thin trickles of water that entered the cave but water dripped slowly from the ceiling. They tried not to slip on the wet rocks as they descended into the wide cavern and kept to the wall which they used to balance themselves.
With a three more narrower tunnels splitting off from the main cavern, they decided to stick next to the stream. This tunnel was at least two meters wide and several more high which looked the most promising. If they were lucky, they’d find a place to rest and fix their leg. If they were very lucky, Yantho would head down one of the other tunnels and get lost, but they knew they wouldn’t be that lucky.
The passageway was dark and damp; the humidity was enough to make them feel like they were sweating. The farther in they went, the darker it became despite the tiny holes in the rock that allowed slivers of moonlight through. There were several dead-end tunnels on either sides of the wall that only had a foot and a half of length.. barely enough room to squeeze into if they had to hide.
Sagejriuk rounded the corner and froze. They pushed themselves up against the damp, hard wall as quickly as possible but took a moment to inhale before peering around the corner. In the far corner of the open room was the largest wolf they had ever seen; short, dark greyish brown fur with a long tail resting idly. It’s paws were coated with blood but they could see its sharp claws digging into the ground.
It was as big as a bear but several inches taller; thankfully, however, it was preoccupied tearing open another smaller animal under its massive paws. The wolf was snarling as it ripped apart the pile of blood and guts on the floor, bloodstained fangs visible even from where they were hidden. They had never seen a wolf up close before - and especially with their newfound vulnerability - didn’t want to get any closer.
They didn’t move from their spot but it continued to eat, snarl and rip up chunks of its victim without acknowledging their presence. While they watched, they worked on their chains which were now nearly loose from the hell that they had been through. The loud growling was enough to muffle the soft clacking of metal together, but they still tried to be as quiet as possible.
To make matters worse, they heard footsteps. Quick - yet fairly loud - splashing through the river as someone approached the entrance of the cavern. They held their breath, knowing it was Yantho and he was going to get them both killed, completely oblivious to the threat. They hurried with their chains and slipped a wrist through the stretched metal just as the growling started to quiet down. The wolf was bound to hear Yantho as well.
They pushed themselves further into the shadows but would be stuck in a dead-end if the wolf rounded the corner and noticed the crevice in the wall. It would be a thorn removed from their side if they let Yantho cluelessly walk right past and into the room where a very hungry wolf was clearly up for seconds. Maybe thirds. If it noticed him, it might notice them - they didn’t want to risk it. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Eyes darting to the floor, they watched his shadow slowly come into view so they inched forwards. Then, finally, he walked infront of their crevice so they lunged forwards. They covered his mouth with one hand and yanked him back by the shirt with the other; his shout of fear was muffled but his crossbow clattered to the hard stone floor. They took a step backwards, hand still pressed against his mouth.
“ Stop. ” They muttered when he clawed at their arm and tried to free himself.
Yantho was wiggling against them, so they wrapped their other arm around his body and trapped his arms at his side. With that arm around his waist, he was pressed uncomfortably close with their lips at his ear and his hair brushing against their face, but they resisted the urge to sneeze. He was still trying to speak, muffled voice still too loud and the wolf growling had completely stopped. They heard it pacing.
“Shut up. ” They hissed again, lips practically pressed against his ear.
Thankfully, he did. However, he was still breathing heavily in quick, sharp little bursts. They felt his heartbeat thumping wildly against them and they wanted to curse. Now was not the time to have claustrophobia. This slight panic attack wasn’t helping their situation at all and now they were starting to wonder if they should have just let him get eaten. In their frustration, they hadn’t noticed they were covering his nose as well.
“I’m not trying to kill you.” They whispered harshly, and moved down their hand slightly to uncover his nostrils. He breathed in quickly and they continued, “Just shut up.”
Not two seconds after they finished speaking, the growling started again. They pursed their lips when it got louder and louder as it approached, its claws clicking against the stone floor. By now, Yantho had heard it and thankfully gone silent but still tried to shift away from their iron grip. Slowly, they watched its massive shadow appear against the moonlight and didn’t react though they felt Yantho tense.
The giant wolf slowly walked past their hole in the wall, and stopped. It was half draped in the shadows, but its blood stained forearms and muzzle looked black. It’s fur was matted with dirt like it hadn’t bathed in months, but its nose was pressed against the ground as it sniffed intensely. It slowly raised its head while sniffing the air but still didn’t move the rest of its body. They didn’t know if that was good or bad.
It's head turned in their direction, still quickly sniffing. It was staring straight at them. Yantho let out a quiet squeak, most likely knowing if it came for the two of them they'd throw him to the wolf. They didn't know how far they'd get, though. It was then they noticed it's eyes were glassy and didn’t have fur on most of its face - was it blind? It didn’t lunge for the two of them, so they could safely assume that was the case.
It’s head snapped towards the entrance of the cavern, and let out a loud snarl. Attention diverted from the two of them, Sagejriuk exhaled quietly and watched as it quickly darted forwards out of view. It sounded like it snapped its jaws at something else, which was immediately followed by a high pitched whine. It sounded as if another wolf had just entered the cavern which was bad news for them.
The growling continued for a few more moments until the same wolf appeared and dragged a large chunk of meat past their hiding spot. Right after that, a second wolf trotted past and dragged the carcass of a small animal They hadn’t gotten a good look at the creature, but it had been significantly less smaller than the first wolf. It didn’t make much noise, but soon the growling was replaced by the sounds of ripping meat apart.
They waited several more seconds to make sure no other wolves were going to follow the first two, but none came. They knew they couldn’t wait here until the wolves left - especially now that they had dragged Yantho into their hiding spot - so they quickly planned an escape strategy. Knocking him unconscious was always an option, or simply moving their arm down to suffocate him until he passed out.
Instead, they relaxed their grip on him and spoke quietly into his ear; “I deserve a five second head-start, don’t you think?”
Before he could reply, they spun the two of them around and shoved him into the corner where they had just been standing. He smacked into the wall with a grunt, but they were around the corner before he could even register what happened. Sagejriuk quickly - but quietly - raced up the wet rocks and ignored the trail of blood the wolves had brought down. They emerged back into the night just as they heard Yantho splash into the water.
The cool breeze welcomed them back as they darted back into the forest.
next chapter will be more exciting
Chapter 18: Unwilling Coalition
The cool breeze welcomed them back as they darted into the forest. Unsure of where to go now, they simply ran the way they had come and tried to retrace their steps. Perhaps if they reached the hill they had fallen down and climbed back up, they would eventually be able to find the road. Yes. They’d simply follow it and come across a town soon enough where they could get the restricting cuff off.
Relief was quickly replaced by unease when they felt that same sensation like they were being watched. It lasted longer this time as they pushed bushes aside and trampled over broken logs, and only stopped when they paused behind a large tree trunk. It was Yantho.. It had to be him, who else could be following them? They peeked around the tree trunk but didn’t see or hear anything, despite Yantho being on their tail.
That was odd. Sagejriuk waited a few seconds, but didn’t hear a thing besides crickets and the very distant wolf howl. Maybe one had gotten him before he could even leave the cavern, or he went a completely different direction. Whatever the reason, they poked their head out around the other side of the tree and waited several agonizingly slow moments. Nothing. Fleeing from their hiding spot, they broke into a jog.
The gaze they had felt immediately returned but this time they knew something was behind them. Throwing a glance over their shoulder, their eyes locked on another pair - but they weren't human. A large animal was hot on their trail and even though it wasn't big enough to be the same wolf from before, panic took over. It was an unfamiliar emotion but they had few reasons so be nervous before all this.
It snarled when it caught them staring and just sped up, but they could only go so fast. Focus, focus, focus. Where could they go? Their eyes darted around but the trees offered no escape and the terrain showed no hiding spot. They cursed internally at how slow they were running, limp and all. They’d get eaten before they even made it to the hill they had originally fallen down, and it was still out of sight.
That left the only plausible option: find a tree to climb up. They didn’t have much time left to find a suitable tree because the branches were high up, and barely any had snapped off stubs to even consider climbing. They knew they had to do something or else this wolf would catch up with them within ten seconds. It still growled but now it had gotten louder and they wondered if it was going to call its friends.
Sagejriuk narrowed their eyes and noticed a snapped branch up ahead. It touched the ground from where it clung to the tree, so it was now or never. Only a few feet away, they jumped and latched onto the branch then tried to pull themselves up but couldn’t quite get their footing. The next highest branch was just out of reach so if they could just balance themselves out and push themselves up higher-
They didn’t have time to finish that thought before a massive weight latched around their ankle. Glancing down, the wolf had caught up, latched its jaws into their already wounded ankle and tried to aggressively yank them out of the tree. They sputtered something incoherent as they tried to shake ther leg free but it snarled and pulled harder. It shook its head with their foot still in its teeth and they nearly lost their grip.
Sagejriuk clenched their teeth together in frustration as they tried to pull their leg free and climb at the same time. However, they were focused on clinging onto the tree like their life depended on it (and maybe it did). Giving it another attempt, they managed to pull their leg free when it loosened its grip, but immediately brought it back down to kick the creature hard in the snout.
It yelped and stumbled back, but before they could start climbing again, it growled loudly and launched themselves forward. This time, it bit into their upper calf and yanked hard enough that they lost their grip on the branch. They crashed out of the tree and hit the hard ground with a thud before they could swear. Wasting no time, they quickly scrambled to sit upright and backed themselves into the tree.
The wolf hadn’t attacked again; it was standing a few feet away, low growl continuing as it eyed them. Its head was low to the ground, ears flat against its skull and it looked ready to pounce at any moment. They breathed heavily and only tore their eyes away for a moment to observe their wounded leg, now soaked in black blood from the knee down. Their shoes had gone missing too, but now wasn’t the time.
If they tried to move or get up, they knew the wolf would attack. If they sat here, the wolf would eventually attack. They hated this. Hated being this vulnerable and defenseless, when they were usually in the wolf's position. They were not going to be killed by some stupid animal; it would be humiliating, - even if they didn’t remember when they came back. That feeling of exhaustion returned as they took a few deep breaths.
The finally, it attacked. With another deep throated snarl, it flung its entire body forwards faster than they could flinch - but the impact never came. They blinked in surprise as it crashed to the ground to the right instead, high pitched whimpering filled their ears as they watched it twitch its legs. It was then they noticed the arrow sticking out from the side of its neck so their attention quickly turned to the left.
Yantho emerged from the trees, crossbow still raised. They wanted to groan in annoyance but the sound didn’t come - instead, they simply rested their head back against the trunk and momentarily closed their eyes. When they opened them again, they met Yantho’s gaze who quickly looked away to focus on the wolf. He wore a neutral expression but still stepped closer to get a better look at the creature that was no longer moving.
He was silent for a moment, then caught their eye again. “Now we’re even.”
Head still rested against the trunk, they wiped their dirty hands down their face and kept them there for a few moments. They uncovered it to find Yantho staring at their ankle.
“You can take your ‘I told you so’ and shove it up your ass.” They told him.
He huffed, “I’m not here for I Told You So’s. The faster I get you, the faster I can get out of this godsforsaken forest.” He paused, “Can you walk?”
They snorted, “Clearly, seeing as I out-ran you over and over.”
Yantho shot them an irritated look, “Then get up and let’s go.”
“Why? So you can drag me back to that hellhole?” They scrunched their nose in disgust, “Pass.”
He kept their stare, “You’re not getting out of this forest without my help. Now get up.”
“Or else what? You’ll kill me?” They rolled their eyes, “Do it, then. I regenerate after death, - Do you?”
Yantho pursed his lips in annoyance then quickly casted his eyes to the side. He scanned the woods for a few moments before he turned back to them.
“You don’t want to die, otherwise you wouldn’t have run and put up a fight.” He told them and lowered his crossbow, “We both want to get out of this forest - I know how.” When they opened their mouth to speak, he cut them off. “I won’t take you back yet, but you have to get up right now. ”
At the last word, he held out his free hand and offered it to them. They simply stared at it for a few very long seconds, then back up at him. They supposed his words had truth. They didn’t want to die yet, not really. With still so much to be done, using the death card was something they pulled too often as a bluff. They were a fighter, a survivor, and their newfound vulnerability was only going to make them fight harder.
Deciding to ignore his hand, they pressed into the trunk, put their weight on their uninjured foot, and slowly pushed themselves to their feet. Yantho had since taken a step back and eyed them over but they ignored him as they leaned against the tree. They still felt the weight of exhaustion but like most other things, they ignored it as well. Beside them, Yantho unhooked the lantern from his belt and took a step forward.
“You seem nervous.” They pointed out.
He didn’t look at them, “There’s a reason we travelled through these woods. They knew no one would follow us, not here.”
“Where’s here exactly?”
“The Kings’ Woods.” He replied and glanced around, “Miles and miles of forest, nothing around for hours. Nobody comes here; rumors speak of werewolves roaming these woods.”
They huffed, “Werewolves don’t exist.”
This time, he looked back and met their eyes, “Most people would say that about you.. whatever you are. Now come on.”
He trudged forward and they reluctantly followed back a few feet. It was clear he wasn’t worried about them attacking from behind in their condition, and they were bitter that thought was right. They knew playing nice - which is what they told themselves they’d do from the beginning - was the best option right now. Yantho would lead them out of the forest and hopefully into civilization.
Take time to heal, find a new pair of damn clothes and a lake to wash off in, then find a way to get this cuff off. They glanced down at their wrist. The obsidian black cuff was only a few inches long and a quarter of an inch thick, but was a solid colour with no designs or marks on it. Turning it over, there was no seal to indicate where it separated and had no idea how it even got on because their hand was too big.
There’d be nothing to worry about if they got free of it; they’d easily take down any threat that came their way and confidently walk straight out of these woods. Perhaps they’d take and use Yantho as leverage rather than kill him - Hymn, Leonardo and this so called Council seemed very fond of him and would do anything to get him back. Not that they’d need him once they got their powers back, but it was a clean way of doing things.
They watched as Yantho kept a steady pace, crossbow still raised as he led the two of them deeper into the forest. It gave them time to think about him; how he knew these woods were extremely dangerous and possibly home to lycanthropes but he still chose to risk his own life to chase them down. None of the others had followed, which either showed them how loyal he really is, or how hard he’s trying to impress his superiors.
They didn’t want to rely on him but his determination and resilience could prove useful in the long run. In their current state, he’d help keep them alive because he still believed he could get them back to his little entourage, - and they could work with that. Behave. Play nice, get on his good side. It was a task like that would be difficult after the last few days; he’d naturally get suspicious of any co-operation or the slightest friendliness.
Broken from their thoughts when Yantho suddenly halted after ten or so minutes, they abruptly stopped as well.
“Something wrong?” They asked
He was silent, then, “No.”
They resisted the urge to roll their eyes, “Would you even tell me if there was?”
No pause this time: “No.”
Yantho glanced over at the tree next to him and nodded slightly. He knelt down next to it and brushed his hands against the base until he found a section in between two roots sticking out of the surface. They frowned in confusion as they watched him dig with his fingers, but he seemed determined to find whatever he was looking for. Only half a minute had passed before he stopped and reached to pull something out of the ground.
It was a small, dirty, wooden box that could easily fit in both palms together. He set it on the ground and dug something out of one of the few pouches on his belt. A key. He slid the tiny, silver key into the lock which made the box open instantly. They stepped closer as he pulled a folded piece of paper from it as well as a few coins. Satisfied, he stood and stepped on the box which easily crushed under his foot.
With his back still to them, Yantho unfolded the paper after stuffing both the key and coins into the same pouch.
They stepped closer. “Didn’t you just say you knew where to go?”
“Yes, I did.” He agreed, then glanced over his shoulder with a smug expression at their obvious annoyance, “And now I do.”
Yantho turned back around before they could glare at him, then simply glanced back down at the map. They were close enough now that they could peer over his shoulder to read it, but couldn’t make sense of it. Eighty percent was covered in green while the other parts were littered in illegible cursive, red circles and a drawn compass on the top right. Yantho squinted hard and shifted away when he noticed how close they were.
“I thought these woods were dangerous and no one should come here?” They were admittedly perplexed at this point, “And you just happen to find a map?”
He sighed, “These woods are used for training - in the daytime, that is. There are several dozen buried maps scattered around should we ever get lost. But..”
They didn’t think he was going to reply, but he did. “If you dig up a map, you’re seen as a failure.” The tinge of bitterness was present in his voice, “But no one is supposed to be here in the dark, anyway.”
“Right.” They mused, “And where does it lead?”
“You don’t need to know everything.” He replied.
“Everything? I barely know anything.”
He started forwards, “Good, let’s keep it that way.”
They took a right past that same tree, and headed off further into the forest. Yantho’s gaze switched between the map and the path ahead, but he’d throw the occasional glance their way. For the most part, they just stared straight ahead and toyed with a twig they had picked up off the ground. They felt calm and, now that their life wasn’t in imminent danger, slightly tired. They felt heavier; exhaustion was a human trait they hated.
Keeping to themselves for the next twenty or so minutes, they started to wonder if they were making any progress at all. Every tree looked the same, the moon stayed high in the night sky and the darkness was irritable. On the other hand, Yantho seemed confident in his map-reading skills and never faltered once. They tried to read it over his shoulder several times but he didn’t allow it.
Instead, they had focused their efforts on trying to get what remained of the metal chains off their left wrist. Only a fraction of the original chain hung from the side but they had enough of its annoying clanking. They quickly knelt down and picked up a slim stone, then smacked it against the surface. The rock-on-metal was louder than intended which made Yantho glance over his shoulder, but he didn’t seem phased they were free.
“How did you even get out of those?”
They smacked the rock against it again, “Magic.”
“Do I get a real answer?”
“Only if you tell me where we're going.” When he stayed silent, they rolled their eyes. “Touche.”
For the next few minutes, they continued to smash the rock against metal but it didn’t seem to budge. The way they had gotten their other hand free seemed so easy even if they had been desperate and full of adrenaline. They usually had that strength regardless. In annoyance, they tossed the rock over their shoulder and tried to pull on it as hard as they could, unable to properly latch onto it. They growled quietly.
Yantho abruptly stopped and they almost ran into him from being preoccupied. Their eyes flicked up as he turned around and took a step forward. Clearly annoyed, he reached out for their wrist which they swiftly yanked away. There wasn’t a chance on earth he was going to put more restraints on them. Absolutely not. They glared to get the message across, but his annoyance turned into exasperation as he pulled something from a pouch.
“All your constant noises are driving me mad.” He told them and held out a silver key, “Just take it off, or I will.”
Despite the previous frustration, Sagejriuk’s lips twitched in a smile, “I imagined you saying that under very different circumstances..”
Yantho shut his eyes and exhaled loudly; as he went to draw his arm and the key back, they quickly grabbed onto his wrist.
“Very platonic circumstances, that is.” They added, now offering a grin as they slid their hand against his to grab the key.
He stared at them with that same tired expression, “Just take it.”
They rolled their eyes and plucked the key from his grasp, so he quickly drew his arm back. As they turned to unlock the chain, they pretended not to notice Yantho wipe his hand off on his pants. The key easily slid into place and the metal instantly fell off their wrist; it landed on the wet grass without a sound. They rubbed their wrist and glanced back up at Yantho, mood already improved.
“Does this mean we’re friends again?” They smiled a little too innocently.
Yantho’s expression hadn’t changed, “We were never friends, nor will we ever be.”
“But we bonded so much.”
“Yeah, we sure did.”
They sighed, “I take it this means you’re not going to take off my other cuff? Like best friends should?”
“Not even if my life depended on it.”
They pouted. “That’s fair. Not friends, it is. Would you rather skip right to being lovers?”
Now his face warped into that of disgust, but he didn’t reply.
“Mm. For one, I guarantee I’m better in bed than Fabio.”
“Uh-huh,” Yantho muttered and turned back around.
They cocked their head to the side, “What else would that require? Oh! I can make scrambled eggs like you wouldn’t believe.”
He started to walk again, “Eggs make me sick.”
They quickly followed, “Chicken then, maybe mutton? I’m a great cook, love.”
“I doubt that.” Yantho replied, and they noticed he had put the map away.
“Guess we’ll just have to stick with sausage then, hm?”
The furious look he cast over his shoulder almost made them laugh.
“Now we’re not even acquaintances.”
They gasped, “Yantho! Now you’re just hurting my feelings.”
“I could think of a few, just give me an hour.”
Deciding to ignore their commentary, he continued forward and focused on the way ahead. They sighed again and quietly followed though their mood had slightly improved. They didn't like to be annoyed when they couldn't do anything about it; it was much easier to be able to hate someone and have the ability to kill them with a flick of the wrist. In the meantime, any amusement would have to do.
Initially they worried about being bored to death, but with yantho around - even when he was furious - he always proved to be humorous. Leonardo had bored them to no end - his patience was usually long and couldn't be swayed by their charm which often lead to hours and hours of obnoxious monologuing. Favian ended up being the same way but with far more arrogance and snark at his disposal.
There was something about Yantho they couldn’t quite figure out.
“We’re almost there.” He interrupted, as if hearing their thoughts.
“The suspense is killing me.” They replied
They watched him nod, “Then I guess we should the long way around.”
Though he couldn't see it, they pouted again, “Now you're just being mean.”
“Forgive me if I have no reason to be nice to you.” He muttered, “Now be quiet.”
For once, they sighed and decided to listen to him
Chapter 19: Once Upon A Time
i'm still trying to force them both into a 'this is our get along shirt' shirt lol
After an hour of walking in silence, they finally made it to their destination. Through the trees up ahead they could made out the darkened form of a building. As the pair approached, its features became more clear; a tiny cabin that barely even looked big enough for one room, mossy, stone walls that they figured could easily fall apart and a dilapidated roof. It was wedged into a grove of low-hanging trees, probably for camouflage.
By this point, Yantho’s lantern was on its last life, sputtering weakly and the soft, dim light wasn’t illuminating anything anymore. They didn’t think he noticed or cared though, his attention seemed to be transfixed on the little shack. The roof stretched out a few feet to cover the shoddy excuse of a porch, wooden pillars holding it up from both ends of the porch that ran the length of the shack.
The door was the only sturdy looking thing about the building, aside from the slightly cracked, four-pane glass window in the middle of the wall next to it. They stepped onto the porch which immediately creaked and groaned under their combined weight, yet Yantho paid it no mind as he pulled out that same key from the box and slid it into the lock. With a soft click, he swung open the door and stepped inside.
They followed and glanced around. Their cellblock had been bigger than this.
“It’s not meant for living in,” Yantho told them, and they wondered if he really could read their thoughts, “You rest here, or wait for help. That’s it.”
They didn’t reply and just eyed the room. It was several meters wide in both directions - a perfect rectangle but most of the space was empty. Against the right wall was a clumsily stuffed mattresses - strands of hay poking out of the thin cotton fabric - sitting atop a wooden frame a couple inches from the ground. It didn’t look any more appealing than the bed back in their cell despite being several inches thick.
There was a wooden drawer with three compartments against the opposite wall from the bed where Yantho walked towards and placed the lantern on top of. They watched him set his crossbow down as well, but promptly looked away when he glanced over at them. The only window on the shack was covered by thick, black curtains making it hard to see but even more-so when they shut the door behind them.
Muffled sounds of crickets still made it through the walls, but they felt much more relieved now that they were inside. No other windows lined the walls, nor did there appear to be another way out. It was a small space, but it would work for now. Their eyes flicked to the wooden crates piled in the far corner as Yantho rummaged through one of the drawers, and promptly wondered if there was any food anywhere.
It was dark now that Yantho’s lantern had went out, so they moved over to pull the curtains apart just a hair; enough for a sliver of moonlight to provide some glow. They stared outside into the darkened forest but saw no movement, no rustling trees or hungry wolves. A sigh escaped them as they let go of the curtain and turned their attention to the bed. It didn’t look comfy, but Yantho had said this wasn’t meant for living in.
They blinked out of their thoughts turned to eye Yantho, “What?”
“Get on the bed,” He ordered, now holding a box of similar size to the one he had dug up.
Their lips twitched in a smirk, but Yantho continued before they could open their mouth.
“Don’t even try.” He told them, and they almost snorted. Wow, he already knew them so well. “Just do it.”
Deciding to comply with the order, they walked over to the foot of the bed and sat down with an innocent smile up at him. Their feet easily touched the ground, and they sank into the makeshift mattress until they felt the wooden frame touch their backside. Yeah, real comfortable. They continued to stare at Yantho who studied them in return, but quickly glanced down to his box of goodies.
“Since we’re here for the night, that gives us time..” He glanced down at their wounded foot, which was still throbbing but they still had a little mischief in them.
“We’re gonna need more than a night, love.” They interrupted with a suave smile, then winked as he trailed off. “You aren’t gonna wanna leave this bed when I’m done with you.”
He pursed his lips but didn’t meet their gaze - though it was dark and they didn’t know if he was blushing, he was definitely flustered. Instead of words, he aggressively kicked their ankle which sent a spike of pain up their leg. They winced but kept their eyes on his frustrated expression - it was beyond obvious he didn’t want to share this space with them all night nor fix their leg, but it was his choice after all.
“As I was saying,” He continued, “We need to fix your leg so you stop slowing us down.”
“And whose fault is that?”
He kept staring, “Yours.”
Okay, so that was partially true. They simply rolled their eyes as he set the box down on the bed next to them but held a small jar of clear liquid. Yantho knelt on the ground infront of them, eyed trained on their calf that was now spilling fresh, blackened blood thanks to the recent kick. Uncertainty washed over his face for a few seconds so they stared down at him with a helpful smile.
“Something tells me you're not a doctor.”
“I'm not, but I know how to do basic stitches and cleaning.” He paused, “But..”
They finished his thought, “..you don't know if your medical methods will work on me?”
He nodded, “Yes. Given how you self-heal, I'm not entirely sure how much this will help, but under recent circumstances..”
He trailed off, but they knew what he meant. Instead of saying more, he worked on unscrewing the lid to the labelless jar filled with questionable liquid then glanced back at their would expectantly. The pant leg from the knee down was practically non existent now, little scraps hung on by a thread. He reached out and tore a good chunk off their right pant leg, leaving them with a shoddy pair of shorts.
“Talk about wanting to rip my pants off..” They mused, and he shot them a glare.
“Shut up.” He grumbled as he rolled the fabric into a ball, then quickly reached up and pushed it into their mouth, “Bite this.”
They wanted to spit it out and rant about how disgusting those pants were, but before they had time to wonder about the strange order, Yantho spilled the liquid over their leg. It stung harshly as it touched both the teeth marks and crossbow wound, and they clenched their teeth against the dirty cloth in their mouth. Yantho ignored their reaction and wiped their leg with a clean rag he must have found in the drawers.
They muttered curses past the rag but their sound was muffled, then noticed Yantho’s lips twitch in a half-smile. He kept the smug expression as he poured a little more on their wounds and forcefully wiped the blood away. A low growl escaped their throat which made Yantho glance up at them, but it was clear he was enjoying this. They didn't have time he glare before he looked away again.
He set the small jar down and retrieved a pair of metal pliers from the box then gripped the back of their calf with his other hand. He glanced up at them.
“This might hurt.”
Before they could spit curses again, he brought the tool to the puncture wound and pushed into their skin so hard they tensed. It was clear he wasn't trying to be gentle as he dug the plier head further into the wound, rubbing rusted metal against fresh, bleeding flesh. It felt like their lower leg was on fire; they only clenched their teeth harder and gripped the edges of the bed. They wanted to kick him.
Several very long seconds had passed before the pliers clamped around something and Yantho tugged it out quickly. It sent another jolt of pain through their entire leg as the snapped off arrow slid out of their calf. It burned like hell, but now that it was dislodged, their leg already felt slightly better. Yantho, gods damn him, instantly poured more liquid onto the wound and pressed the cloth to their leg.
“I’m going to kill you.” They grumbled into the rag, but was too muffled to be understood as any real threat.
Yantho ignored them and wiped the excess blood and whatever-the-hell liquid off their lower leg, then nodded to himself as he peered back into the box. He set the tool down along with the half-empty jar while still holding the cloth to their aching leg. He slowly loosened his grip on the back of their lower leg, but kept the cloth pressed against it to soak up anymore blood that was spilling. It was already stained black.
He immediately got to work wrapping the white bandage around their ankle. He did a few layers to make sure it was secure before he carefully made his way upwards; the same few layers every few inches until he reached the bottom of their knee. He muttered something about hairy legs often being impossible to work with, but they couldn’t really point out the hairy leg situation wasn’t technically their fault.
“Okay.” He finally said after a few minutes, “It’s done.”
They immediately spit the tattered pant leg out of their mouth, and it nearly hit him in the face, “Shove anything else in my mouth that's not food or attached to you below the hips, and I’m going to slit your throat.”
Yantho sighed, “You won’t need stitches. But you’ll live.” They detected slight disappointment in his voice at that last part.
“You sound so thrilled about that.”
“I am.” He didn’t even fake enthusiasm, “I’m beyond happy you get to live another day.”
“My knight in shining armour.” They clutched their chest, “How can I ever repay such heroism?”
“Put the gag back in your mouth so I don’t have to hear you.” He offered.
Their gaze flicked over him, still kneeling infront of them, “If you stay on your knees, I might just consider it.”
Predictably, his brows furrowed as he got to his feet and brushed himself off. With a sigh, they glanced down at their patched leg and noticed blood already staining the bandages but the pain had numbed slightly. Yantho moved to the other side of the shack where he took off his leather chestplate and set it on one of the many small crates. With his back to them, he stretched both arms above his head.
He also took his belt off after making sure all four of the pouches were securely shut, then set that down on top of his chestplate. They kept staring as he slowly turned back around while smoothing down his hair. He was only wearing that tight, grey long sleeve, dark pants and boots; a look he easily pulled off especially now with his brooding expression. He noticed them staring but didn’t say anything this time.
Sagejriuk glanced over their shoulder and wondered if they should offer him the bed as a temporary truce. He’d presumably decline and rant about how he needed to keep an eye on them. They could also offer to share, of course, but they figured that would either end up dead or get an hour long lecture about how he wasn’t going to fall for their evil ways. They rolled their eyes and pushed themselves back onto it.
They lied in the center of the it, hands behind their head and sighed. It reminded them of their prison bed, except more soft. Despite the adventure they had been through and the exhaustion they had been feeling, they didn't want to sleep. They weren’t sure if it was due to a lack of trust - Yantho could slit their throat in their sleep - or the dreams. They had dreamed both times they slept recently, and didn't want that unease to return.
Yantho aimlessly paced around the room for a few more minutes and peeked out the curtains numerous times before he finally decided to walk over to the same wall and pile of boxes he set his things on. He glanced over at them uneasily before he exhaled quietly. Yantho sat down next to the cluster of boxes, knees drawn to his chest and crossed arms. He stared off into the middle distance like he didn’t feel their gaze.
They glanced away, closed their eyes and allowed themselves to relax. It had been a rough day. Or few days. Or weeks. Despite everything going on this was the most relaxed they felt in a long time, but it wasn’t going to last long. If they couldn’t escape before Yantho took them back to the others, they’d have to deal with whatever Leonardo threw at them. In the meantime, they enjoyed knowing how stressed the others would be right now.
They had only been on the road for, what, a few hours? Half a day at most, and they already escaped from the humans’ grasp. Clearly they had expected no resistance with the threat of mortality dangling over their head. Sagejriuk wanted to chuckle; they were always full of surprises, even if they had to improvise. They wondered if more people had come after them, or the humans expected Yantho to be enough.
Their thoughts shifted to him. It seemed to be his first instinct to chase after them no matter where the forest took them; he didn’t stop until he found them. They knew him well enough to know that he was not going to go back to the others empty handed, and would probably try to incapacitate them if need be. Failure didn’t seem to be an option to him, he didn’t want to disappoint his superiors.
They opened their eyes and stared at the ceiling filled with cobwebs and wooden beams that looked ready to snap at any moment. Their eyes scanned the room but nothing interesting stood out - they were already bored. They peered at Yantho, who was now staring at the ground with a somber expression. He looked tired and worn out but they severely doubted he would willingly go to sleep around them.
“Tired, but don’t want to sleep thinking I’ll kill you?” They asked aloud.
He didn’t look at them. “Yes.”
“The feelings mutual then.”
He muttered something in response.
“I’m sure we could find other ways to stay awake?” They offered with a helpful smile, “The bed is big enough for two..”
Yantho finally looked up at them with a smug smile, but it turned into a smirk. “Believe me I know. Favian and I have been here before.” He paused, “Why do you think it’s so worn out?”
Sagejriuk gagged loudly and he snickered quietly. Enough of that for now, they decided. They exhaled and shut their eyes, but the mental image of Yantho and Favian going at it on the bed intruded their thoughts. Their eyes shot open and they moved their hands to rest on their chest. They shifted. It took all their willpower to not jump off the bed and out the window. Gods, how much could the two have possibly-
They made a noise of disgust and shifted themselves so that they were sitting against the bedframe, pillows beneath them. They crossed their arms and pretended not to hear Yantho snort at their obvious discomfort. They didn’t want to know about what happened on this bed; didn’t even want to think about it. Every time their mind tried to betray them, they focused on one of their sexual encounters instead.
But it wasn’t helping. Sometimes thinking was worse than speaking.
“Now that you’ve traumatized me, I think you owe me one.” They broke the silence and peered over at him.
He snorted, “Uh-huh. What do you think I owe you?”
They thought for a moment, “I can’t sleep, sing me a lullaby.”
“What about a bedtime story?”
He returned the stare, “What’re you, five?”
They grinned, “You would not believe how many times I get asked that.”
“I think I would.” Yantho muttered, “Also, no. I was liking the silence.”
“ Yantho ..” They whined, the ‘o’ dragged out for several seconds.
He shut his eyes and put his face in his hands but they just smiled innocently until he leaned his head back against the wall.
“Fine.” He snapped, “Once upon a time, there was an irritating, obnoxious, asshole named Sage-”
“That’s me!” They chimed in helpfully.
“-who couldn’t take a hint, or keep their goddamn mouth shut for two seconds.” He continued like they hadn’t interrupted, “One day they stumbled and tripped into a knife then died. Tragically.”
They clapped, “Beautiful. Heartbreaking.” Yantho rolled his eyes when they wiped a fake tear from theirs, “I think you forgot to describe how sexy they were, though. It’s a crucial part of story telling.”
Yantho looked more exasperated than they had ever seen him, “They hadn’t washed in months; they looked bad and smelled even worse. Their clothes resembled that of a homeless person. I could not possibly be more turned on. It’s a shame they’re dead - I really wanted to have sex with them.”
Sagejriuk grinned and tugged at their shirt, “That sounds a lot like me. Maybe I could.. take this handsome stranger's place?”
“I moved on.” He told them, “That’s not my type anymore.”
“Ah yes, your type is..” An image of Favian popped into their mind, “Tall, dark hair, scruffy? Oh, wait a minute..” They ran a hand through their scruffy hair
“Sweet, gentle, and caring.” He shot back. “Looks aren’t everything.”
They snorted, “Clearly.”
Yantho pursed his lips, looking as if he looked as if he wanted to argue. Sadly, he just tore his eyes away and focused on something far more interesting on the ground. Their gaze lingered on him for a moment before they looked away too and went back to stare a hole through the ceiling. They knew constantly making Yantho irritated wasn't a fast route to building a friendly rift between them, but it sure was fun.
The two sat in silence for several more minutes until a distinct smell caught their attention and made them sit up. They inhaled deeply and caught the scent again, so they shifted out of the bed and immediately felt Yantho watching them. They walked around the bed and eyed the box he had used earlier; the smell came from the half-empty jar. With Yantho still staring, they plucked it out and sniffed it.
Was that alcohol? They sniffed again. Yes. That was definitely alcohol. And to think Yantho had wasted half the jar on their leg. Absolutely barbaric. This was far more heartbreaking than the story he had just told them. It had been so long since they had been at a bar and the thought hadn’t even crossed their mind when planning their escape. Sagejriuk eyed the jar again, then popped off the lid with a glance at Yantho.
“Bottoms up, love.” They raised it then downed the rest in a few seconds.
Yantho immediately gagged, “That’s disgusting, Sage!”
It had a strange aftertaste; definitely not a drink they had consumed before but they still felt the familiar burn of alcohol down their throat.
“That hit the spot.”
“It was medicinal alcohol..” The look of disgust stayed on his face, “Mixed with chemicals .”
They ignored him and grinned, “We need to find a bar.”
“No we don’t; we need to find the others.” He reminded them, “And I’m sure a drunk version of you is far worse.”
“I’m much more fun. ” They corrected, “C’mon, don’t you wanna get absolutely plastered? You’re always so tense.”
He narrowed his eyes, “I don’t drink.”
They weren’t quite sure how much more boring Yantho could get. His expression didn’t change as they raised their eyebrows and set the vial back down. A burp immediately escaped them and it had a bitter aftertaste - Yantho pursed his lips. Wondering if they should press him on this, they walked back over to the bed and rolled onto it, now lying instead of sitting. Their gaze turned to the other again.
“Didn’t you say you met Farquad at a bar?”
“And nothing.” He told them, “I wasn’t there to drink, I snuck in with Lily and-”
They interrupted, “Who’s Lily?”
Yantho hesitated and didn’t immediately answer. The accidental name drop seemed to bother him but they hadn’t heard him talk about anyone besides Favian.
“The.. best friend I told you about..” He murmured, voice soft like he hadn’t just been angry with them.
“The one you thought I killed?” They asked even though they knew the answer.
When he went back to staring at the floor, they knew he wasn’t going to elaborate further and this was a subject that needed to be dropped immediately. Of course, they wanted to probe like they always did, but they had endured enough of Yantho’s anger and frustration for one night. Plus, talking about his dead best friend wouldn’t earn them any brownie points. Instead, they went back to the previous subject.
“So you snuck into a bar, how rebellious.” They mused, “What was the occasion?”
He exhaled, “I just turned sixteen. She thought we needed to celebrate like adults.
“Fascinating. She already sounds more interesting than you.”
The corner of his lips twitched, but he didn’t smile. “Lily would have slit your throat by now, if she were in my place.” He paused, “And no, you wouldn’t have seduced her either.”
They sighed and thought for a moment, “Such a captivating story. So what did little, baby-faced Yantho do next?”
“Talked.” Yantho simply said, through he frowned at ‘baby-faced’. “There was already a party going on, and we didn’t want to be noticed.”
Parties? They loved parties, “What for?”
“Favian’s.” Ooh, there it was. “He had just been promoted.”
They nodded, “From douchebag to douchelord, I assume? I’m so proud.”
Yantho exhaled loudly but kept his frustration internalized. Being interrupted wasn’t something he had the patience for, but they couldn’t help it. If they had a thought, they had to spit it out at that very moment. Especially if the interruption had something to do with insulting Favian, then they really could not wait to speak. Still frowning, Yantho remained silent until they rolled over to their side and smiled innocently.
“Carry on, Yantho. I’m dying to know what happens next.”
He leaned his head back against the wall and sighed.
douchebag dosent even sound like a real word the more u say it
Chapter 20: Sunrise Pitfalls
this is literally just filler
Yantho grumbled something and wiped his hands down his face, signaling the end of that discussion. Perhaps it was because they mentioned his dead friend, or they insulted Favian one too many times. Despite their intense stare, he didn’t give in and continue talking so they simply sighed and fell onto their back. Silence filled the shack again and even the crickets outside had stopped chirping.
Sagejriuk put an arm behind their head and draped the other across their chest, then shut their eyes while listening for any sort of distant sound. Strangely enough, silence kept them awake. Back in prison, or before when they were free, white noise was the only way they could fall into slumber. Most nights inside the citadel, there’d be no sound at all so deep underground, so they spent days and weeks wide awake.
Thinking about it, sleeping seemed like a good idea. They’d be safe and make it through the night - Yantho wouldn’t kill them, no matter how much he wanted to. They wouldn’t be here if he was going to. It’s not like he could say the same, though. If he fell asleep, could they puppeteer him? Would using his severed hand successfully get this cuff off? Did the human have to be alive? They could always try..
Did they want to hear more of his story? Not really. They didn’t care about how those two met and cared even less about how they fell in love. However, talking would keep the two of them awake, like they both wanted. A story was a story, and they definitely didn't have any he would want to hear. All the times they pressed a blade to someone's soft, vulnerable throat, or the times they crushed someone's lungs from the inside.
Instead, they peered over at him.
The dark circles under Yantho’s eyes were visible from a mile away, but the shadows across his face and stillness of his body made him resemble a statue. His legs were folded and tilted to one side but he fidgeted with something in his lap. Their gaze fell to whatever he was playing with and noticed something they hadn’t before. A golden band around his ring finger. Yantho seemed anxious the more he toyed with it and they raised their eyebrows.
Yantho tensed at their voice; the shadows shifted over his features as he turned towards them. His tired gaze found theirs for a moment, then gravity seemed to lure it back down to the ring.
“Engaged.” He replied quietly. “But when we get back from this journey and done with you, yes.”
They snorted, “Then I expect to be on the guest list, as short as it’ll be. I have a few toasts to make.”
“Over my dead body.” He muttered.
“Here’s to my dear friend Yarn ball and Frederick, who I’ve known for a solid two weeks.” They held up their arm and pretended to hold a wine glass, “Throwing away their lives like garbage; the greatest sacrifice."
He didn’t respond.
They thought for a moment, “Yantho Hayes, huh? Doesn't have a nice ring to it. It’s not catchy.”
Despite not responding, a tiny, yet warm, smile crept onto his face as he stared at the ring. They supposed he obviously liked the sound of it. He didn’t elaborate further on the subject either, and they wondered how they had missed a ring on his finger. Did he get engaged before they met? Before the journey? Maybe that’s why Favian had been so insistent to talk to Yantho pre-trip. They sighed. His loss. Marriage was a trap.
Married humans were always so.. dull . Well, most of them anyway. The way a couple lives revolved around each other, the way they had to ask each other permission to do anything, the way could only sleep with each other? Boring. Absolutely suffocating. Spending your entire life with the same person? Trading the exciting, adventurous side of life for what? A shiny ring and obnoxious children.
If Yantho and Favian’s married life was just an amplified version of the life they had seen, then they wanted to gag. Favian? With children? They tried to imagine a child running around with his looks and personality but immediately decided the world was better off. Would he wear two different rings? What would their married life mean for Sylvia? She’d find out eventually and they smiled with amusement.
Their mind drifted from that train of thought. They had spent too much precious time thinking about these annoying humans. With an exhale, they let their mind wander elsewhere..
A few hours had passed before they slowly blinked out of their haze and realised they were still awake. With nothing but silence in the shack, they grumbled in annoyance then pushed themselves into a sitting position. Back against the wooden frame, they tried to get comfortable but the bed made it next to impossible. Instead, they looked over at Yantho for a distraction but didn’t find one.
Still tucked into himself, Yantho had fallen asleep with his arms crossed and mouth slightly open as a drop of drool spilled out. They smirked at the sight but their gaze lingered on his face, which finally looked peaceful and at ease. For once, in their presence, he wasn’t soiling his features with relentless irritation towards them. His shoulders were relaxed despite the awkward position he had fallen asleep in.
He looked so small and defenseless curled up in a ball on the ground, and their eyes momentarily flicked towards his crossbow. Both the weapon and the arrows sat atop the boxes which they could easily assemble without him stirring. They had never shot a crossbow nor a bow and arrow, but it had to be easy shooting someone through the heart. Especially when said person was unconscious.
Sagejriuk wiped both hands down their face and groaned. No. They weren’t going to kill Yantho.. - not yet anyway, and not when they still needed him. Fleeing the shack? That wasn’t going to happen either. They had a poor sense of direction and would end up lost for days. Yantho was their only way out of this forest, as much as they hated to admit it. He was far more useful to them alive.
Still, they found themselves staring at him. He seemed so calm and untroubled, but was probably having a dream about Favian. He’d wake up, the first thing he’d see would be them and his sour mood would immediately return. Yantho quietly snored and they almost laughed. Every few minutes or so he would twitch or shift in his sleep and it made them wonder how often they moved in theirs.
They closed their eyes and sighed, knowing it was going to be a long night.
At dawn, Sagejriuk pulled the curtains apart and let the rising sun stream in through the window. Golden orange and yellow streaks shined through the top of the high-rise trees, but its soft warmth engulfed them. Before prison, they hadn’t cared less if it was night or day, but favoured the night because it was easier to cause chaos. Now, they appreciated every single moment of daylight.
They peered out into the still darkened forest which swayed lightly in the breeze but still noticed no signs of animals. The only thing they saw was the spider hard at work spinning its web on the other side of the glass. They exhaled and turned around to scan the room which looked ten times older in the light. One of the beams was cracked down the center. Their gaze landed on Yantho.
He was still sleeping and no longer snoring, but they figured it would be best to wake him up soon so the two could head out. They wanted to stretch and cover more ground before they lost their mind due to boredom; they assumed Yantho wouldn’t want to waste any daylight either. They headed over to the bed, grabbed one of the pillows, eyed his sleeping form and hurled one at him.
Yantho’s eyes shot open. His entire body tensed as the pillow struck his head, and they held back a laugh as he sputtered something incoherent. He instinctively went for his sword at his hips but hadn’t even brought it. Instead, he blinked rapidly and scanned the room until wild, confused eyes landed on them. They smiled helpfully and waved, so he relaxed back into the wall and shut his eyes.
“Good morning, love.” They kept smiling and hopped onto the bed, “Sleep well?”
“What?” His eyes opened again and he took a deep breath, “How long was I..”
“Seven, maybe eight hours?” They shrugged, and he stared at them.
Yantho’s face was unreadable, “And you’re still here?”
“I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving you alone, I’d miss you too much.” They told him. When he fixed them with a disbelieving stare, they rolled their eyes. “Alright, you caught me. You’re my only way back to civilization, Yanny. We both need each other alive.”
Yantho looked skeptical as he slowly pushed himself off the ground and stretched, but kept any thoughts to himself. They couldn’t help but notice the disappointment and frustration on his face, but it wasn’t aimed at them. Lips pursed, he glanced over his pile of belongings and skimmed his fingers over the pouch of arrows. Obviously, he must have thought they stole something but didn’t want to make it apparent.
“Believe me, I thought about it.” They told him and he faced them, “But ultimately decided killing you in your sleep wouldn’t benefit me.”
He kept staring for a moment, then glanced away. “Thanks, I guess.”
“No promises for the future, though.”
“Right back at you.”
They sat in silence and watched as he wordlessly turned from them again to pull his chestplate back on. After making sure it was on securely, he reached for the belt and strapped it around his hips with a small bundle of arrows next to one of the pouches. Lastly, he picked up his crossbow to examine it, then sighed. In response, they rolled off the bed and headed towards the door, ready for another day.
“Wait.” He called, and they stopped.
When they turned around, Yantho walked over to the shelving compartment, knelt down and pulled out the last drawer. They cocked their head to the side in curiosity as he set the weapon down and pulled out a pile of neatly folded laundry. After a moment, he got back to his feet with the clothes in one hand and the crossbow in the other. Yantho’s eyes met theirs for a moment, then skimmed over the rest of them.
“Follow me.” Yantho ordered, then pushed past.
He pulled open the door and stepped out onto the creaky porch. He waited until they took one last look around the shack and stepped out after him. They eagerly followed as he took a left and ducked past the trees towards the back of the building. It had been impossible to see anything beyond the shack last night besides the thick grove of trees and bushes. It almost looked like an entirely new part of the forest.
With no time to wonder, Yantho motioned for them to hurry up as he suddenly took a right away from the shack and down a slight hill. They eyed the ground and noticed the green grass had turned an ugly brown; trampled like many people had been here before, so they quickly followed the trail. The hill only went down a few feet until the two were on even ground again, but the sound of running water caught their attention.
Yantho stopped, glanced over his shoulder then pushed into the trees to their left which they had no choice but to follow. The trees were thinner now with a more distinct path and they could easily see a clearing up ahead. He wordlessly came to a halt so they took in the new surroundings - they were standing on the muddy riverbank of a big, circular pond. The grove of dark trees lining the edge made it impossible to see through.
In the far right, the land stretched out across the water a few feet which resulted in a very short tunnel with a thin waterfall spilling over the edge. It came out of a hidden stream from the direction they had come, but didn’t think too much about it. The water looked clean enough to drink, but got darker towards the middle of the pond. Curiosity finally washed over as they eyed Yantho, but he turned around and shoved the clothes in their arms.
“You’ve got twenty minutes.” He simply said.
It took them a moment to register what he meant, then it hit. A smile twitched at their lips now that they could kill two birds with one stone - a cool, much needed bath plus a fresh change of clothes? And to think they thought they’d have to wait longer. They glanced down at themselves - worn, tattered black long-sleeve with an even darker pair of pants, that had been reduced to shorts. Both articles of clothing looked like they’d been through war.
“How thoughtful.” They mused, “How do I know this isn’t some diabolical plot to see me naked?”
He flashed them a look, “If I wanted to see you naked, I’m sure I’d only have to ask.”
“You caught me.” They sighed, “Though it’d be much sexier if you ordered me to.”
Yantho’s glare intensified, “Nineteen minutes.”
Sagejriuk rolled their eyes and turned to look at the water again. With the wind and early morning temperature, they figured the water was going to be cold but didn’t mind. After letting the pile of clothes drop to the ground, they crossed their arms and grabbed the hem of their shirt, but stopped and peered over their shoulder with Yantho’s gaze still on them.
“So you just wanna watch me strip, huh? Did you want a lap dance too?”
Yantho’s eyes went wide for half a second, then they smirked as he quickly turned around and crossed his arms. They pulled off their shirt and tossed it to the side, just now noticing how damp and sticky it was. As they fiddled with the button on their pants, they took a few steps forwards. A thoughtful hum escaped them as they felt Yantho’s gaze return but just as quickly vanish when they started pulling off their pants.
The humming continued as they glanced over their shoulder to where Yantho was glaring hard at the ground, arms still crossed. They smiled to themselves as they removed the rest of their clothing and slowly walked into the water. It was cold and sent a shiver up their spine as they got knee deep, but the icy sensation was refreshing against their skin. They kept walking until the water touched their hips, then quickly dove forwards to submerge the rest.
Sagejriuk swam under the water for a few seconds which wasn’t as clear as it looked from the riverbank. They swam deeper until they reached the bottom that must have been two times their height, then used it to push back towards the top. They broke the surface with a gasp of air, then pushed their wet hair back as they glanced around. Still fairly close to the land, they made eye contact with Yantho who had since turned back around.
“Why don’t you come join me, love? The water's nice.” They called.
Yantho flashed them his middle finger and they rolled their eyes.
They swam over to the waterfall. It was a steady stream and very easy to swim under while they ran both hands through their hair again. They felt the dried blood and clumps of dirt wash out almost immediately, then rubbed both hands over their face to do the same. They let out a loud, satisfied sigh as the grime rubbed off. The waterfall spilled over them for a few more minutes as they washed their body.
Dunking back under the water, they swam the length of the pond within seconds then went down further to examine the bottom. It was only covered with rocks but their hands skimmed over all of it. They quickly shot back towards the surface and gulped down some air. They knew from experience that water, of all things, could kill them. Drowning was so boring but drowning other people? Now that was fun.
After a for minutes of both washing and swimming, they sighed with content. The water felt somewhat warm now, and no one else was going to entertain them so the bliss of it all had worn off. They slowly swam towards shore where Yantho was on his knees facing the forest, head down like before when he had been praying. They quietly made it to land and headed over to their new pile of clothes, but also listened.
“..allowing us safe passage..” He murmured. They picked up their old shirt and dried themselves off but he didn’t seem to notice them. “..continue to do so..”
Sagejriuk heard bits and pieces as they sorted through the new clothes until they picked out a pair of underwear. They slipped those on and then carefully pulled their still-perfectly bandaged leg through black, cotton pants stitched up the sides. A rope was pulled through the belt loops so they tied that into a knot and clipped together two buttons. The pants weren’t baggy like their previous pair, and thank the gods for that.
“..optimistic about returning..” Yantho went on, still seemingly oblivious to their presence. His hands were clasped and rested on his lap unlike the last time, “..treated very well..”
They grabbed the thick, wool socks and reluctantly pulled those on as well. It was then they noticed a pair of shoes and eagerly inspected them. The shoes were dark, hardened leather with strong soles (which is what they were the most pleased about). They sat slightly above the ankles with a series of laces around the front to tighten them. Without sitting, they stepped into the shoes and sighed in satisfaction.
“Peace be with you, Velyor.” He spoke louder this time. The name sounded familiar. Was that the god he prayed to earlier? “As is with me.”
They picked up the final piece of clothing - a dark red, buttonless, stringless longsleeve shirt that looked a little small in the arms.
“Tell Velyor I said hello.” They suggested with a smile, and Yantho glanced over.
“That’s not the way it..” He started to scold them, but his eyes drifted over their bare chest and lingered for a few seconds, “..works.”
Their smile turned smug, “My eyes are up here, Yantho.”
Words quickly forgotten, Yantho’s face returned to that lovely, familiar, shade of pink. It was a wonder how it wasn’t permanently stuck that colour. Then, with only a moment's hesitation where he seemed frozen, he tore his gaze away and glared hard at the ground. Their eyes lingered on his tense shoulders and flustered expression - they loved how embarrassed they could make him and how much he hated it.
“Stop staring at me.” He muttered, “Go put clothes on.”
They cocked their head, “I can do one or the other, love. I can’t do both.”
“You’ll do both.” He shot back. In a show of defiance, he got to his feet and turned towards them but his eyes were trained on theirs. His face was still flushed, “Then we leave.”
They kept his gaze for several seconds but he didn’t back down. There was a certain display of confidence and authority on his face that they hadn’t seen in awhile, but it was a welcome return. Annoying, whiny, love stricken Yantho was boring. This version was much better despite the fact that wanted to see his eyes waver for just a moment and flick over them. That tinge of satisfaction didn’t come, so they rolled their eyes.
“Fine, you win.” They sighed, “I’ll wear clothes.. - if you insist.”
“Buzzkill.” They muttered and lifted the dark red shirt over their head.
Just as they suspected, it was a size too small. The tightness on the sleeves left no room for guessing as it showed off their muscular arms - not that they minded, of course - but it made the rest of the shirt feel smaller. It was slightly loose around their midsection, but thankfully it was a soft fabric unlike the itchy and rough texture of their old shirt. They felt fresh and five times better than before.
“If you’re done drooling over yourself, I’d like to head out.”
Sagejriuk flashed him an amused stare, “You seemed like the one drooling over me.”
“I absolutely was not.” He clenched his teeth together
“Do’ya want another peak?” They teasingly lifted the hem of their shirt up, and his eyes were drawn to it for a split second. “I can understand why one would drool over me.”
That familiar annoyance flared on his face, “I wasn’t.”
“Oh, I think you were..”
“Kiss my ass.” He spat, but seemed to realise his mistake when they smirked
He ripped his gaze away as they replied, “It would be my pleasure, Yantho.”
Muttering something most likely about wanting to kill them, he turned and stomped back towards the way they had come.
70k words and still no plot?????????????//????/??????lol
Chapter 21: Passing Time
more filler, tons of bickering
Within the hour, Sagejriuk noticed four little things they hadn’t before.
The way the thin, damp grass swayed in the breeze under their feet just as much as the brilliant orange tree tops. Countless crisp, multi-coloured leaves gently fell from grace with the soft wind while others floated through the air in another direction. They watched it pull at Yantho’s clothes and hair, but the sunlight reflecting off his golden hair showed all the loose strands and just how frizzy it was.
The way the air felt cold, yet warm both at the same time. The early morning breeze caused them to shiver every few moments, - especially with their hair still wet. The insistent sunrise doused them with warmth right after, like two different people desperately trying to get their attention and unable to succeed for long. The patches of gloomy, dark shadows extending from the wide trees which felt like ice; like the sun didn’t exist for a split second.
The sound of a forest at dawn; birdsong that came in lulls and bursts, the silence and the singing working together as well as any improvised melody. Fallen leaves that sounded like dried cereal being crunched underfoot, with their papery remains pushed deep into the soft soil. Bugs zipped by their ears, humming and buzzing their little annoying songs while always being just out of reach.
The scent of a forest was always strangely calming. In this case, the smell of pine was immensely overwhelming and it was tough to depict anything else. At sunrise, however, they had noticed the way early-morning, dew covered grass smelled, the pollen filled air from blooming flowers and even all the animal waste. Anything was better than the stale, dusty air they breathed in for six months.
They closed their eyes and listened to the slow footsteps from Yantho, who was now walking behind them. All this time he had been walking infront, so perhaps he realised the error of letting his captive walk behind him. Especially now that they were untied and in perfect health -- they stepped into a small, shallow hole and twisted their foot which immediately sent a jolt of pain up their wounded leg -- well, almost perfect.
With the sun now high in the sky, the cold shadows were no more and the rays of light touched virtually every surface. They were submerged in the warmth; it was only then that they noticed a fifth thing. They realised how absolutely exhausted they were. It hit all at once, and their leg started to faintly ache as if just being reminded it had been an open wound less than twenty four hours ago. They winced.
As if being triggered by the realisation, their throat felt dry and parched, shoulders seemed weighed down like they had just been holding something heavy, and their legs felt weak. Strange. They pushed forward as they felt a surge of fatigue induced dizziness take over, so they stumbled forwards and caught themselves. They paused, squeezed their eyes shut and brought a hand to their head.
This was so sudden, and it was confusing.
“Why’d you stop?” Yantho asked from behind them; his voice sounded close yet distant at the same time.
They mumbled something incoherent and took a few more steps forward, hand still pressed against their temple. The dizziness didn’t fade - the more tired the sun made them, the stronger it got. They glanced over to the side for a spot of shade; some of those irritating shadows from before, but their vision went in and out of focus. They gritted their teeth together and tried to push past whatever they were experiencing.
“Are you alright?” He asked, and appeared in their line of sight.
“M’fine.” They grumbled.
“You look weak.” Yantho told them and took a step towards them.
Anger flared through them. Weak? Weak? They were the farthest thing from weak and it could easily be proved; they could crush his head with one hand, they could rip the air right out of lungs, they could..
He was only standing a few seet away, but was a blob of colour. “Shut your mouth.”
They tried to sound threatening, but their voice sounded rusty when they had spoken fine a few hours ago.
He had to have done something. But when? He had been the one sleeping and let his guard down, not them. They had only felt this sluggish back in prison when he had stuck them, and that hadn’t happened recently. The world was spinning and they didn’t know how to make it stop. Their eyes focused just enough to see the puzzled expression on his face. His wide, hazel eyes looked somewhat alarmed at their sudden change in pace
“I’m just..” They barely got the words out before their vision blackened for a moment. They swayed and shut their eyes, “..gonna take a nap..”
Sagejriuk fell unconscious before they even hit the ground.
A thunderous boom rolled across the valley; dangerous rumbles from the thick, grey clouds that blocked out the morning light and casted the valley into premature twilight. The strong, insistent wind ripped at the treetops and grass alike - everything swayed violently like it was being pulled back and forth. It influenced the heavy rain that poured down in sheets; left to right instead of straight down and drenched everything.
They were in a forest this time, but unlike the others. Thin, but impossibly high spruce trees stretched throughout it. Some had fallen, others had grown on an angle, but most stood tall and touched the sky. Leafy green plants had grown out of the holes and crevices within the wood, while moss completely covered the fallen trees. Those same plants sprouted from the pine needle covered forest floor.
Suddenly, a blur of black rushed past and their head turned to follow. A small, hunched over figure with a black cloak hiding their whole body as they quickly ran along a dirt path just barely visible. Their own feet turned and ran after the figure, already drenched from the relentless downpour but watched as the other only slowed to moved around logs and fallen trees or small holes in the ground.
The only sound they heard was the howling wind in their ears and the faint sloshing as they both splashed through mud puddles. The figure was quick - quicker than they were, despite being covered head to toe and carrying a child. They maneuvered through the forest, tall trees still visibly showing the path ahead. It was flat land as far as the eye could see, but hazardous terrain was the only obstacle.
The beaten path became more visible after a few more moments; it stretched wide and split into two different ways. Without hesitation, the figure turned right and ran the path where the trees seemed more spaced apart. There was a faint, barely detectable decline in the forest floor that was only noticeable when the two started to run faster and made it harder to leap over unearthed roots or fallen trees.
The path had become more clear; a wide, gravel road that crunched underfoot and split into two more different directions. One path lead to the right -it stayed within the forest, while the second path slowly eased outwards. The hooded figure kept right and soon the trees faded altogether as the two sprinted throughout a grassy field. It was quite large and open, but green, tree-covered hills sat on either side.
The relentless downpour almost seemed to be hitting them harder in the open space, but they pursued. The stamina of the other seemed to be endless with no signs of slowing, not even when brilliant lightening lit up the sky. Thunder rumbled moments later, followed by screaming child whose sobs would wake up those miles away. Then, suddenly, more rumbles filled their ears but it wasn’t loud enough to be thunder.
A choked, fear-filled scream escaped the figure infront of them - the sound had come from a terrified woman. The rumble was louder now - and it came from behind them, but their gaze never left the woman. Mere seconds later two large, dark shapes bolted past. Two more figures on horseback who rode several feet infront on the already slowing woman, then commanded their horses to halt.
They slowed as the original figure froze in her tracks when the two horses slowly started to trot in her direction. The two riders drew their blades in usion but stopped and stared while the woman took a half-step back. She knew she had nowhere to go and seemed to accept this fact, but the child still wailed uncontrollably beneath her robes. Both of the newcomers climbed off their horses yet kept their distance.
‘Give us the child.’ The first spoke, ‘You have nowhere else to go.’
The woman didn’t more nor speak.
‘She is cursed.’ The second yelled past the rain, ‘She is a cursed child; as long as she lives, we are not safe.’
Again, the figure didn’t respond and the child's cries grew louder.
‘I do not like killing women.’ He continued, ‘But you are making this difficult.’
As he spoke, both approached with their weapons. They were all drenched, including the horses who skittered nervously. The rain pelted her cloak as she huddled into herself, fell to her knees in the muddy field, and clutched the child close. It seemed like she was accepting her fate, but when they stepped closer, they heard her mumbles. The two men cautiously approached, though the first had put away his weapon.
They were drawn closer to the woman until they could hear her speak;
‘I will protect you.’
The men were only two feet away when the hooded woman suddenly lifted her head, but at the same time the air seemed to ripple around her and the hidden baby. It resembled humidity despite being icy cold, and the rain surrounding the four of them slowed like it was in slow motion. Before the men could react, the rippling air sparked with electricity and suddenly struck them like a shockwave.
Acting like they had been hit by a brick wall, the two men flew backwards several feet with strangled screams. They hit the ground near one of the horses that let out a terrified noise and took off running, but the other only shifted nervously. The two men lay unmoving, light grey smoke curling from their burnt clothes but it didn’t seem to phase the hooded woman. She slowly got to her feet and walked forward.
The woman approached the skittish horse, grabbed the reigns and carefully climbed into the saddle with only one arm. With no regard for the two strangers, she commanded the horse to move. It took off like a bullet in the same direction the first had gone, but the other was already out of sight. They watched her ride off and their body refused to follow - instead, their gaze lifted skywards as thunder rumbled.
A bolt of lightening struck the ground mere inches away, and everything went white .
Sagejriuk’s eyes shot open. Their entire body tensed and inhaled so quickly their lungs seemed to lock up; they felt paralyzed as they gripped the warm, soft ground. Blinking rapidly, they quickly took in their surroundings. Tall, yet thick, tree trunks topped with multi-coloured leaves - most of which sat on the forest floor. Patches of yellowing grass poked out through the piles of leaves, but they could still feel how moist the ground was.
Their back was to a tree trunk.. had they fallen asleep sitting down? Memories flooded back and they shook their head. No, they had fallen unconscious. They blinked once more and groaned softly, leg aching more than it was before. It had seemed fine earlier, but now it, along with the rest of their body, felt heavy. All they could do was slowly relax and take a deep breath at the realization they were back in reality.
Their eyes found Yantho’s, who was kneeling next to them a few feet away. His eyebrows were knit together in confusion while his eyes were still filled with that same uncertainty before they fell unconscious. Still, there was another emotion on his face. Relief? They brushed it off and mentally shook their head. No, he wouldn’t be relieved to see them awake. If anything, they were surprised there was no disappointment in his eyes.
“What did you do to me?” They grumbled. Their voice was hoarse, so it didn’t sound as demanding and threatening as they had intended.
“When was the last time you ate?” He asked.
They squinted, “I don’t need to eat.”
Yantho pursed his lips. He obviously didn’t like that answer. “When did you sleep last?”
“I don’t need that either.”
Truth be told, they hated sleeping. They hated most limitations of the human body, but sadly, sleep was the second most necessary and essential part of functioning properly. The last time they slept was a few days ago, minus the nap they took in the carriage. Sometimes it brought the darkness and silence they craved, but now.. now every time they closed their eyes these dreams invaded their mind.
It was different than the previous ones, but made even less sense than usual. This time they discovered the hooded figure was a woman, that she was trying to protect some faceless child, but from what? It had been the first time someone had spoken in a dream, and those men seemed to want the baby dead even though it looked that the woman was the one with.. powers. They felt uneasy.
“Hey!” Yantho snapped his fingers infront of their face.
They smacked his hand away, “Do that again and I’ll break your fingers.”
“Well?” He demanded, and they had no idea what they did to make him irritated already. “Don’t tell me you don’t sleep, because I’ve seen you drooling all over that bed and snoring loud enough to wake up the entire citadel.”
It was a strange thought. They wondered how many times he had come to visit while they were sleeping.
“Days ago.” They snapped, “And I haven't eaten in a week or so. Are you satisfied?”
Yantho was silent for a few seconds, and it was only then did they hear the soft crackle of a fire. Behind him, they noticed a very small, poorly constructed firepit producing more smoke than fire. Noticing them starting at it, he got up, turned, and walked over to it where he dropped to his knees. He poked at it with a stick which sent another puff of smoke into the air, but he grabbed something and stood back up.
He approached them and held a stick that was speared through a large chunk of meat. It was a dark, crispy brown and although most of it looked burned, the smell it gave off made their stomach rumble. They blinked in surprise at the noise - their body had never done that before so they glanced up at Yantho who obviously heard it. He raised his eyebrows but said nothing and kept offering the meat.
They slowly reached out and plucked the stick from his grasp. They studied it as the other returned to his spot a few feet away and rummaged through his belt. As their stomach rumbled a second time, they decided to finally take a bite. Before this mess, they never ate much meat, despite the humans claim that it ‘made you stronger than a god’ - they just prefered breads, fruits and other flavourful things.
Still, they enjoyed the taste of whatever poor animal Yantho had hunted down. It was tender and juicy, despite its burns. They were halfway through it when they remembered to breathe; realising they were eating so fast they had forgotten everything else. Despite their protests of not being hungry, they glanced up and noticed Yantho watching them with that same I told you so expression from before.
“It’s been awhile since I had this much meat in my mouth.” They thought outloud, then took another bite to hide the grin when they felt Yantho’s intense glare.
When he didn't reply, they quickly scarfed the rest down and promptly burped. It hadn't been much meat but they didn’t want to admit to still being hungry and get another one of those annoying looks from Yantho. It would have to do for now, - at least until they got into a real town and found some real food. Unfortunately, Yantho would insist on paying for the food they intended on stealing
“How do you feel?” He asked, instead of entertaining them.
They shrugged. He stared.
They exhaled, “Stop calling me that.”
“Stop calling you, what?” He responded, “Your name?”
“Stop saying it like that. ” They looked up and met his gaze.
Yantho paused for a moment. “Okay..” He pursed his lips together for a second then spoke again, “..Sagejriuk.”
They scrunched their nose in distaste, hearing him say the full, proper version of their name. In fact, they didn’t like him saying it at all. Especially the way he pronounced it, and the look on his face indicated it felt strange to say.
“What?” He responded when he noticed their narrowed eyes.
“You don't say it right.” was their response. “Don't say it at all.”
“I'm saying it the exact same way you told me it.” Yantho countered, “It’s probably your accent.”
They stared at him, attempting to intimidate him into dropping the conversation.
“Why don't you like it?” He pressed on
They pursed their lips before speaking again, “It makes me sound human. Being given a name, that is.”
“So why do you have one?”
They exhaled loudly but didn't want to get into this argument.
“I feel marvelous.” They replied, changing the subject. “If not slightly exhausted. How do you humans live like this?”
He stared at them for a moment, but it was a silent argument he wasn’t going to win. Instead, he sighed and they reached over to grab the metal canteen.
“Ah, it’s partially my fault, I suppose..” Yantho admitted and scratched his neck, “My arrows. The tips are coated with Hemlock, enough to instantly takedown a human three times your size.” He paused, and they kept staring. “With humans, it paralyses us. Our muscles spasm or we fall unconscious long enough to get the job done.”
Their eyes drifted to his belt where the other arrows were, “I bet you’re glad I didn’t decide to shoot you while you slept?”
He ignored them, “I’m assuming it reacted differently to you, since you haven’t vomited, had trouble breathing or fallen into a coma yet.”
“I’ll drink to that.” They muttered and brought the canteen to their lips.
To signal the end of that conversation, Yantho went back to fiddling with his hands which sat in his lap. They took another drink but watched him closely wondering why he seemed so distracted. Even back with the others, he was always tense and alert, waiting for them to make one wrong move. Just because they needed each other alive, didn’t explain why he wasn’t being a royal pain in their ass.
“Tell me something, Yantho. If you hate me so much why are you being so civil?”
He met their gaze, but the somber expression didn't change. “I could ask you the same thing.”
They smiled, “I asked first.”
Yantho huffed, “Whatever.” He looked away, “I find it's easier to handle criminals when you don't beat them every few minutes, or immobilize them with chains.”
With a nod, they hummed thoughtfully, “How charitable. You’re not antagonizing me as much as Favian or Leonardo, though.” They gasped, “You’re starting to like me, aren’t you?”
“Not a chance.”
“You laughed at one of my jokes earlier.” They pointed out
“No, I didn’t.”
“You did.” They reminded him, and reminisced about the faint smile he cracked after they poked fun at Leonardo’s weight, “Tell me, how many of his ex wives did he eat?”
Yantho didn’t amuse them with a reply.
“All seven, I presume?” They wondered aloud, “I bet if you get close enough to his belly, you'll hear a woman screaming for help.”
“What's his current wife like? When does he plan of eating her too?”
“She wouldn't fit..” He mumbled to himself.
They smirked, “Then I guess she's gonna eat him? Oh, how the tables have turned.”
Taking them by surprise, the corners of his lips pulled up in a faint, amused smile but kept staring at the ground. A twinge of satisfaction shot through them at the sight of it, even though when he looked back up to meet their gaze, the smile quickly vanished. That familiar scowl returned when they grinned back at him. Why he was annoyed at himself for smiling was beyond them, but some people were just born boring.
“Gods, you’re so dull.” They rolled their eyes, “ Your parents must be proud of you.”
Unexpectedly, he narrowed his eyes, returned his gaze to the ground and clenched his teeth angrily. The scowl remained on his face, gaze intense enough to burn a hole in the ground.
“Hit a nerve, did I?”
Yantho pushed himself to his feet, gaze still averted. They could sense the anger radiating from his body but wasn't quite sure of the reason. Maybe he was a disappointment to his parents. Maybe they wanted grandchildren.
“Get up, we need to head out.” He snapped, then walked over to the fire.
They slowly stood up and watched as he kicked dirt onto the fire, smoke billowing off it as the flames went out. They wanted to comment on how he had more more swings than any female they had encountered, but decided against it. Yantho headed back in their direction, grabbed his crossbow and gestured in the direction he wanted to go. With a sigh, they ran a hand through their hair and reluctantly headed back into the forest.
Chapter 22: Reassemble
i found the plot, it was hiding in a dumpster
Three hours of silence passed before either said a word, and they could still feel the sour vibe Yantho was giving off. Three whole hours they held off making a smart-ass comment - and frankly, they were damn proud of that personal achievement - because they didn’t want to deal with another potential, annoying injury. However, three hours was enough time to sulk and brood. They had gotten bored.
“Yanthooo..” They drawled, dragging out the ‘o’. “Talk to me, I’m bored.”
Still walking ahead of him, they couldn’t see his face. Though, If they could hazard a guess, they assumed he was wearing that never ending scowl. Surprise, surprise, they had pissed him off again, but this time it seemed more intense. Maybe the topic of his parents was a sensitive subject. Maybe he hated them. Maybe they hated him . The possibilities were endless and it only made them want to know even more.
“Yantho.” They tried again, then grinned, “Yanny? Speak to me, Yanny.”
Again, no reply.
Still, they persisted, “Yan-Yan? Ying-Yang? Yip-Yap?” A pause, “Yogurt?” They snickered quietly, even though they could feel his burning glare. Trying to think of more names, they suddenly snapped their fingers, “C’mon, Yarn ball.”
“Don’t call me that.” He snapped.
They smiled to themselves with satisfaction, knowing their pestering never went too long before those on the receiving end threatened verbal or physical violence. If they had a gold coin for every time someone had gotten mad at them, they’d be the richest one on earth and pay everyone to like them. They snorted, knowing they’d be filthy rich from all the time spent alone with Yantho.
“Apologies.” They rolled their eyes, “Is that a special name? Only Favvy-wavvy is allowed to all you that?”
“No. No one calls me that, especially not you.”
“So bossy..” The drawled, “It’s quite sexy, actually. Order me to get on my knees.”
“Shut up. ”
They hummed thoughtfully, “I’m sure your parents wouldn’t approve of you being so mean to me. Oh, maybe that’s why they left you, hm? You’re so-”
Just then, a hand gripped the back of their shirt and yanked them backwards. Not that they hadn’t been expecting some sort of retaliation, but they were somewhat confused when Yantho spun them around to face him, then socked them hard across the face without a moments hesitation. His fist hit square in the jaw, and a spike of pain shot through their cheek and neck while something definitely cracked.
They stumbled back a step, blinked and brought a hand up to their jaw. The most they had expected was a few angry words, but they supposed this outcome was far more unexpected and.. thrilling. It hurt, yes, but the exhilaration they felt outweighed the bad and a goofy grin formed on their face. That was the Yantho they wanted to see more of. They met his gaze but he didn’t share the same excitement.
His eyes were filled with such.. pure intensity, which almost seemed to glow as brightly as their own. His face was set and jaw clenched, almost like he wanted to prevent himself from saying all the nasty insults that were surely on his mind. He should let loose. It would be fun to hear what he really thought of them. Instead, he noticed their goofy grin and exhaled loudly then shut his eyes as he did so.
“I take it back.” They broke the tense silence, “ That was sexy. Do it again”
His composure broke as he ran both hands down his face, “Gods, do you ever take anything seriously?”
“I’m glad you asked.” They replied with that same smile. When he looked at them again, they continued: “No.”
As he forced out another sigh, his shoulder sagged.
“I don't have parents, alright?” He snapped, “I never met them. My father died before I was born, and my Mother followed soon after. Are you satisfied?”
From the bitterness in his voice, they figured most others would know to drop or change the subject. They weren't most people.
“An orphan, huh? No wonder you're so miserable all the time.”
Warning flashed in his eyes, “I'm not an orphan. Captain Givina is my uncle.”
They shuddered trying to picture Leonardo being a father-figure to anything . He’d kill - and eat - any living thing he got his sweaty fingers on.
They whistled, “So that explains it. The constant irritated mood swings, the resting bitch-face. Bravo to you for not killing yourself yet.”
He shook his head and harshly grabbed their shoulder to spin them back around. With a push, they headed back in the direction the two were going before the punch.
“He’s not that bad.” Yantho mumbled, but it didn’t sound at all convincing.
With the end of that conversation, they sighed but decided not to probe anymore. It was getting them nowhere and doing nothing for their ‘get on Yantho’s good side’ plan. He was angry. They had hit a few too many nerves lately. This was going to take a lot more time than they had hoped; they’d probably be free halfway across the world by the time he finally warmed up to them, if at all.
So they walked in silence. He was still marching behind them, but could no longer feel his gaze on their back. Perhaps he was finally glaring holes through something other than them, or perhaps he was lost in thought. They noticed that when he was angry or frustrated - which was almost always - he fell silent. He was in a trance-like state, maybe lost in his imagination where they didn’t exist. That’d be boring.
Instead of souring the mood further, they followed by example and didn’t say a word. Instead, they wondered how far away from any sort of town they were. Was it possible Yantho was taking them in the complete opposite direction - back to the citadel? The very thought put a bitter taste in their mouth. They wouldn’t willingly go back there and if Yantho tried forcing them, he’d simply be knocked unconscious.
Twenty or so minutes had passed before Yantho broke the silence, which surprised them.
“What did you dream about?” He asked quietly, like he didn’t want them to hear a question obviously meant for them.
They narrowed their eyes. It was a strange question, considering what had just happened between the two. “Nothing. I told you I don’t dream.”
“Right.” He replied flatly; they knew he had expected that answer, but sounded somewhat disappointed.
When he didn’t probe, they pressed on instead.
“Does it matter?”
“No.” The retort was instant, “But I’d rather have a conversation than have you silently plot an escape plan.”
They pursued their lips. That hadn’t even occurred to them. Maybe it was a good thing - he expected them to attack at any moment, to fight him and run. He wasn’t expecting them to behave and bide their time, so they had the element of surprise. Still, talking to someone about their recent and frequent dreams when they had no idea why they were even happening? It wasn’t high on their to-do list. However, if it kept his suspicion away..
“A storm.” They decided to respond, “I keep dreaming of storms.”
It took a moment to get a reply, but his voice was still quiet.
“You called out to someone. You kept telling them to wait.”
They frowned. In the dreams, they could never find their voice nor did calling out to the woman occur to them. Twice now had they spoken in the real world, wanting the woman to wait or stop.It was impossible to figure out why - they had no idea who she even was. Did it matter? It was just a dream, afterall. It wasn't real. It was childish to become invested in daydreams or anything other than solid reality.
“I was chasing someone.” They told him, “We ran through a storm, probably trying to find shelter.” They paused and tried to find a way to change the subject. “Besides, I’d rather not be struck by lightening again. It's an incredibly unpleasant way to die.”
“..Again?” he asked after a moment's hesitation by they had a feeling that wasn't really the question he wanted to ask, “What’s it like?”
Their mind drifted. They remembered climbing the highest tree in sight during a bad storm, not caring about the consequences. They had drunk, deep in the woods. The people at the tavern had told stories about demons in the trees, so they set out to drunkenly fight these so called monsters. They’d easily become lost.The goal had been to scout out their surroundings, but that was right when a bolt of white-hot lightning struck the tree they were perched in.
“Have you ever seen your skin split open, blood unable to spill out because your skin was charred and burned so badly?” It was a rhetorical question, so they continued. “I could smell my own burning flesh, my ear-drums had burst and left me deaf, my muscles spasmed and twitched so much I could barely crawl.” They paused, “I was sure an eye popped out, but I was more worried about my severed arm.”
Yet again, there was another pause. “How did you-?”
“Survive?” They guessed, “I didn’t. I can heal from most things but a lightening bolt to the head isn't one of them, apparently.” They sighed, “I died for a couple years. Now here I am again.”
“Yet, until recently, nothing was able to wound or kill you.” Yantho replied
They corrected him: “Not by humans or your weapons. But I've been connecting the dots, see. I’ve drowned before, fell off a cliff and to my demise, suffocated while buried alive - well, twice actually. The other times, I don't remember but I'm sure my death was similar. See the connection?”
Yantho was quiet for several long seconds, but he was smart.
“You.. can only be killed by natural causes?” He sounded bewildered, unable to keep the confusion out if his words.
“Mm.” They smiled, “So unless you pray for Vaymes or whoever to smite me with another lightning bolt, I'm here to stay.”
During the deaths they remembered, there was no pain. It was strange when they stopped to think about it, but ultimately decided it boiled down to them not being human. They weren’t burdened with feeling pain or suffering like humans were. Until recently. Something changed, and it had something to do with the cuff on their wrist. The being that put some sort of spell on it must have been powerful, and they wanted to meet the other.
Yes. Originally, they had assumed it was a simple Senj. It was plausible someone else with an understanding of magic could take away their powers, but.. who was strong enough to make them vulnerable? Human? Not a friend of theirs, that was all they knew. If they behaved from now on, and they went on this journey to locate the friendly senj, perhaps they’d have an opportunity to get some answers.
A question they could attempt to probe Yantho for, but they assumed it would end up making him suspicious. He didn’t need to know of their plans, even if it meant having another conversation to rid of this somewhat awkward silence. There was so much they needed to know, and it was uncertain of he even knew the answers. Still, it couldn’t hurt to try, especially when they were doing the very thing he didn’t want them doing.
Before they could open their mouth, they heard something.
Voices. Real, actual voices besides Yantho’s. They were quiet and muffled, but distinct nonetheless. It was a welcome sound after only having one person to talk to for nearly twenty-four hours. It was far too long of a timespan to be alone with a singular person, in their opinion. They wanted to laugh. This was much better than another conversation with Yantho. And as if hearing their thoughts, he glanced back with narrowed eyes.
Yantho raised his crossbow and crept forward so they eagerly followed, expecting and wishing for a fight. The little scuffle they had with Leonardo was enough for the adrenaline to kick in, but it only lasted long enough to run through the woods. They loved the rush. During physical, hand-to-hand fights. While committing a senseless crime and getting caught. While watching the life drain from someone's eyes.
However Yantho stopped dead in his tracks once he peered through the trees. His gaze was locked on something beyond the green, but it didn’t take long for him to process whatever he saw. A sigh, rather than a frustrated cry, escaped him and the expression on his face when he turned back around was pure relief. They frowned slightly when he walked over, grabbed their arm and yanked them forward.
They raised an arm to shield against the sunlight after bursting through the other side of the thick bushes. Now squinting, they tried to make out what he had even seen now that the voices stopped, but was very quickly disappointed. Yantho’s iron-like grip only tightened around their bicep as he half-dragged them towards the waiting carriages. Overwhelming annoyance took over as the gravel road lead to where Leonardo was standing.
“Reeves!” The fat man shouted, arms spread wide as if waiting for a hug. “Thought we lost ya!”
A growl-like noise escaped their throat, but Yantho squeezed their arm so tightly his fingernails dug into the skin. It pinched.
“Thought it killed ya.” Leonardo clarified, then looked in their direction.
They stared back, “So I’m an ‘it’ now, huh?”
Instead of replying, the man sneered and gestured for the two of them to come closer. The road was wider than before, but covered with leaves. The last place they wanted to be was close enough to see the sweat beads on the man's forehead, but Yantho left them no choice when he pulled them with him again. Leonardo never took his beady eyes off them, so they wondered if they should pose.
Instead, Leonardo drew a hand back and they braced for impact. He was slow. That, and they predicted he'd do as much. The blow they had been expecting on their face, struck their stomach. They grunted as his fist struck right below their ribs, but they still sucked in a breath and doubled over. They stumbled back but quickly glanced back up to see the main raise his fist again, but Yantho stepped between the two.
He held a hand up to Leonardo and swallowed hard, “Sir..”
Leonardo stopped himself, stared for a moment then huffed angrily.
“Get it out of my sight.” He commanded, “And find something to tie it back up. Securely.”
“Yes, sir.” Yantho nodded and yet again pulled them towards the second carriage in the line.
Strange. There had been three before they ran off. They also didn’t notice any other people despite the handful they encountered earlier. Only the horses remained, and they skittered nervously as Sagejriuk reached out to touch its mane. Only their fingertips touched its fur before Yantho - as impatient as he was - yanked them away again.
“C’mon.” He grumbled as they reached the door to the second. He pulled it open but finally let go of their arm to step inside and rummage around one of the three chests. Their mood turned sour at the idea of being chained up again, but they had no room to argue. They were still peeved that he brought them back here, despite the idea they could possibly meet the Senj. They had no idea what to think.
Yantho climbed out of the carriage and looked into their narrowed eyes.
“Don't look at me like that. You knew this was coming.” He held up the thin rope, “If he had his way, you’d have heavy chains around your legs and hands.”
Despite their bad mood, they cocked their head to the side curiously. “So why aren’t you doing that? Is it because we’re friends?
His eyebrows knit together in a frown. “No..?” The way he said it sounded like a question,so he quickly clarified; “Like I said, criminals behave better when they’re not immobilized or constantly beaten. That’s all.”
Before he saw the smug smile grow on their face, he grabbed their shoulder and forced their arms together. He gave them a look so they rolled their eyes and steadily held out their arms so he could have his way. Yantho glanced back down and focused on tying their wrists together, tighter than they were secured before. One wrist was placed on top of the other, rather than last time when their palms had touched.
He wordlessly fiddled with the ropes for a few more moments. Right when they attempted to speak, they were interrupted.
“Yantho.” Leonardo called, “A word?”
Yantho nodded and walked to the back of the first carriage. It was several feet away from where he left them, but not enough distance to run very far, should they attempt escape again. They leaned against the door, but watched him leave with eveny intention on eavesdropping. He looked nervous. He fiddled with his fingers as he turned to face Leonardo, whose back was to them.
“Captain Givina.” He spoke quietly, uncertainty present in his tone.
The big man chuckled, “No need for formalities around family, son. It’s just you and I.”
Yantho slowly nodded, but seemed unsure what to think.
“I ain’t mad at you, if that’s what yer thinkin.” Leonardo started, then placed a hand on the reins of the horse he stood next to, “In fact, I’m impressed.”
Yantho’s face lit up. He raised his eyebrows as the nervousness faded from his features; his lips parted like he was going to say something, but stopped.
“You know I don’t like taking blame, but I admit this was my fault. It escaping.” He continued when the other didn't speak, “But you cleaned up my mess. Took off faster than a damn bullet, chased it right into these dangerous woods. Those gods o’ yours ‘prolly knew none of the other sorrys sons of bitches woulda taken action like you did.”
The expression on Yantho’s face turned content; if they had to guess, they’d assume Leonardo didn’t compliment others very much, if at all. He looked satisfied with himself and his posture became more assertive. They cocked their head to the side and didn’t know what to think of seeing an emotion from him that wasn't anger or frustration. They caught his eye, but the expression didn’t falter. In fact, it only seemed to improve his mood.
“Err, what I’m tryin’ to say here is..” Leonardo cleared his throat, so Yantho’s attention turned back to the man, “I’m proud of you.” At that, a real, genuine smile formed in his face and they couldn’t stop staring. Not a forced one or half-ass or almost smile - a real one. It looked strange. His eyes seemed to sparkle while his mood improved tenfold.
“T-Thank you, sir.” He bowed his head slightly, “But I was just-”
The man laughed again, “Following orders? No. Had you stayed and listened to me, I woulda told you to kill it, hunt it down like the animal it is.” Yantho swallowed and pursed his lips, but the smile returned right after. “No, you brought it back in one piece. You have your head on straight, which apparently cannot be said for me.”
Technically, his head was on, but..
“It’s because we’re friends now, sir. ” They called over, so both looked their way, “The power of friendship works in mysterious ways.”
Leonardo clenched his jaw, but seemingly decided it would be best to keep his mouth shut. On the other hand, Yantho shook his head and looked away
“Where did the others go?” He questioned, rather than entertain them. By That, he probably meant ‘where's favian’.
“There's a toll checkpoint ahead, they've gone to take care of it.”
Yantho pursed his lips but didn't respond. They wondered just how far his dislike of killing extended, even of it was a couple of thieves who threatened poor folk for money in order to pass through. They reminisced about the time they stumbled across a toll checkpoint and a smug smile appeared on their face. One had passed out on the spot when they ripped another's arm right out of his socket.
“Hello again, demon.”
The voice came from behind them, which they hadn’t been expecting. They would never admit that it scared them just a tad. Quickly turning to face the newcomer, they were both confused and slightly relieved to see it was that man from before. Leon, was it? Last time they saw him, he had run off on Sylvia’s command to scout ahead. He must have been the one Leonardo was talking to before the two arrived.
“Hello, human.” They replied.
He looked different up close - younger, perhaps in his early thirties. His skin was a light brown similar to Sylvia’s but every visible inch of it was covered with old and new scars. A line across his throat was the most interesting; how many battles had he fought and won? His eyes were dark and serious, but they could tell immediately he wasn’t afraid of them. That was something they always found interesting.
“I see I owe Mrs. Hayes a gold coin.” Leon said as he studied them, but they held his gaze.
They snorted, “Betting on my life, are we?”
“Not exactly.” He replied and peered over where Yantho was still talking to Leonardo, “On his. I assumed you would kill him. Sylvia thought otherwise.”
“What kind of person would I be to kill the one who helped me?” They mused, “I have morals.”
Leon didn’t amuse them with a sarcastic quip or even an eye roll. “Yes.. help comes from mysterious places, doesn't it?”
His gaze returned to Yantho and the statement took them off guard. Before they could respond however, Leon took a step forward into their personal space, but they didn’t flinch. He leaned in until his lips were next to their ear and spoke quietly:
“Be careful who you trust, demon. The trees have ears.”
Leon bumped shoulders with them as he pushed past without another word, but they turned to watch as he headed back over to Leonardo. They blinked, truly dumbfounded. They quickly took their head but they could only focus on the man, already engaged in a conversation with Leonardo. Very few times in their life did they become speechless, but they had no idea what to make of that.
They ignored Yantho when he walked back towards them and ran his hands through his hair after finishing the conversation. He simply moved around them and vanished back into the carriage then rummaged through the same chests he had gotten the rope from. Their eyes followed him inside, now suddenly curious what he was looking for. He mumbled something, then came back into view empty handed.
What an interesting day.