The Unforgivable Part 2
The Temple of Phorein filled, hundreds of faerlins hiding in there, silently praying to their idols to save them from the darkness that has befallen the “lesser nations” as they listen to the words of their chosen leaders, the faerlins lords that have made pacts with the Journeymen to keep the faerlins quiet and out of the way while they lead the world to ruin.
Into this officious atmosphere, a figure crashes from the ceiling, spilling the chaos of dust and rubble down onto the parishioners. A dark winged man unfolds to stand on the alter steps like an avenging devil. The worshipers scream in fear and shock. He leaps high into the air, his black wings of membrane thundering in the room, knocking the flames from the candles. He descends upon the head priest and claws his head back to bite into his neck and tear his throat, spitting the pulp out at the terrified mass. The Faerlin High Guard move in for the attack, but the black-haired creature swats one aside as if it were a curtain, snatching the sword from the armored fae’s hand and flourishes it high to drive back the others. Leaping towards the spectators who are now pushing and rushing to the exits, he shouts for them to get out; then lunges to the roof, busting through it with one shoulder. The falling stones chasing more from the sacred place as the maddened beast flies back in from the stained glass window, the shattered pieces cutting the screaming faces below. In his hands is a long chain he brandishes like a whip. Hanging in the air like a dust speck dancing in the sunlight, the pale arms hurl the chain around one tall pillar and he pulls. The thin support cracking.
The black wings flap; his muscles straining; the daemon tumbles the carved imitation of a tall ash tree and snaps his instrument of destruction free as the trunk topples and crashes into the next pillar, snapping it from the molded ceiling to bump the next.
With a mighty lash, he encircles the pillar before the alter on the opposite side of the chapel. The fleeing congregation scream in horror as their false forest of stone and glass is brought down around them. The sun’s pale light bursting through the dark roof as massive pieces crash to the ground. The faerlins tumble out into the dust filled air and bright morning, blinking as if blinded by nature as Dharromarriekhiall reduces the temple to ruins before rising high into the glow of the heavens to drift on the winds, above the treetops as exhaustion falls over his scratched and cut form.
The traitor’s blood still fresh on his lips and claws. His blue eyes stared down impassively through the fluttering curtain of his black hair as he watched the fae rediscovering the glory of the forest around them with frightened faces. He wondered where the call of the dead would lead him next.
Looking up, her terror-filled eyes adjusting to the brightness, Marae’ana saw the dark winged figure of their deliverer rising into the celestial clouds above them, just a shadow stretched against silver, his face etched forever in her mind. It had been both terrible and beautiful.
Waking in a wood, he brushed the dried blood from his face and looked around him. The forest had hidden him from the world throughout the day with a blanket of leaves and earth. As the sun lowered to the east, Dharromar rose and watched the light bounce and play through the branches, flashing in the brilliant colors of the fall, nature’s patchwork quilt laid out across the forest’s feet. His body was healed, reformed to his usual perfection; though he was left weak and unsteady as he stood. The wings had disappeared back inside him once more and the autumn air kissed his bare skin sensuously with its chill and teasing lips. Wiping the leaves from his arms, he began to walk. Uncertain of why his feet lead him, he walked north. There were no voices this afternoon, no great calls for him to answer. Just a shadow braided forest to explore as the trees settled protectively around him.
His boots crunched the crisp foliage as he sought a meaning for his steps, but when he began to recognize the shape and scent of the wood around him, he paused.
He was home.
His path of destruction had led him to the heart of the Eastern Fae Woods where he had been born to this world. The city was near, but it had been deserted when the Darquone had attacked more than a century before. The buildings burnt; the walls smashed; vines had crawled in to smother the memories of overcrowded streets and closed halls. Toadstools rings and a variety of fungi feasted daily on the fallen gardens and broken furniture as the last rays of the white sun glinted off broken glass in doors and tall windows of mansions that had locked the faerlins away from the rest of their world. Away from their obligations and promises.
Stepping into the shattered city now, he ran his fingers along the lumps and leafing nests that were once walls and homes. He read their histories with his touch and looked about in a hollow wonder, expecting to hear the echoes of shouts that were meant to chase him from their grounds.
But, the flora and animals had taken over, and they did not judge him as others had.
“Surveying your handiwork?”
Spinning, Dharromar looked for the owner of the voice. He had not felt any other presence here and wanted to kick himself for not being more alert. Finally, he located Keinigan up in a tree, like a brown gargoyle, watching him. Dharromar relaxed.
“I didn’t do this. It was the Darquone.” He snapped at the cheeky faerlin.
Landing near the dark fae with a soft thump, Keinigan pointed out with his usual nagging reserve for details, that Dharromar had been the portal which had released the Darquone on this area all those years ago.
“I may have been created as a key for vengeful destruction, but they had no idea that it would be turned against them.” He smirked as he ran his hand along the peaked edge of a broken window pane delicately.
“Where have you been?” Keinigan strolled beside him, eying the bare torso and torn breeches. Dharromar shrugged, but did not look at him.
“Destroying the Temple of Phorein on the edge of the forest.”
He could feel Keinigan’s eyes tracing up and down him, seeking the truth of this statement and finding it all too real. Then, to his surprise, the faerlin smiled.
“Well, it probably needed to come down, I suppose.” Keinigan mused.
Shaking his head in quiet amusement at the other’s flexibility in accepting the strange paths their lives had taken, Dharromar smiled and eyed him with approval. “You really don’t care?” he asked.
Keinigan shrugged as he walked, the limp that had plagued him since their first unfortunate adventure together evident to the changeling’s acute vision. “It doesn’t really matter if I do or not, now does it? Things are changing and if I don’t adapt, then I’ll be as bad as those that we’re fighting.”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting everyone.” Dharromar murmured under his breath. He felt Keinigan’s eyes leave him to stare through the trees.
“Where is Abigail?” Keinigan asked suddenly. “Have you seen her lately?”
Dharromar stopped, his gut refusing to let him move. The faerlin should know where the little girl was, for he was constantly with Oromatsu. His clawed hands curled in readiness in case this turned out to be some kind of trick. Shapeshifters were everywhere, it seemed. And some were on the side of the Crymson Fist. He said slowly. “I left her somewhere safe. Do you mean that she is not still there?”
Keinigan’s green eyes came back to meet his. “Then you haven’t heard?”
Dharromar glared at him hard, waiting. His muscles straining to pounce at the slightest sign that something was amiss. The faerlin shrugged impassively. “Oromatsu hasn’t returned. He found out that Kaija-Fang was missing, and went out looking for her. Then Ammarron took Abigail and wandered off. No one knows where. Some say that she took the girl to a Faery Ring and sent her away to another realm. I was just curious to know if you had heard or seen them. She was your responsibility after all.”
“No,” he glanced around them, his nerves prickling as he sensed another presence near. “I haven’t seen Shadowjak either, if that was your next question. I’ve been alone since the battle. Where exactly have you been?”
“Me?” Keinigan dramatically pointed to his own chest. “I’m not anything special. But, I’ve been busy.”
Dharromar glared at his vague reply; though typically Keinigan, there was something strange about him. A lingering scent on his clothes. A murky, moist smell like something that has lain out in the rain too often with no sun to dry it. Without a word, the changeling struck the faerlin in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Startled, Keinigan looked up, blinking and put a hand to his face where the claws had torn it open in shallow scratches. “What was that for?” he shouted.
“Had to make sure you weren’t a puppet.” Dharromar shrugged before moving further into the city; his eyes searching for the presence that was bothering him. “There have been a lot of spies.”
Perturbed, the faerlin scrambled to a stand, snatching up a stone from the ground and hurled it at the changeling’s head. Irritatingly, the dark-haired crown flinched to the side at the last second as if he had seen the rock coming and it whizzing past him to clatter on a tree growing out of an old well.
“You sure you want to start this now, faerlin?” Dharromar almost chuckled without looking at him. “There is someone watching us. And, I don’t entirely trust that you are not being manipulated –so don’t push me.”
Keinigan watched the other move away with a mounting heat of frustration and took it out on a rotted window frame that shattered satisfactorily under his fist. He imagined that it was the changeling’s backbone. But, it didn’t make him feel much better. With a snort, he followed the pale back into the maze of tangle covered buildings. “Where are you going now?” he asked, not expecting an answer.
“I don’t know.” The changeling shrugged again. He continued to wander, his feet going instinctively while his mind flashed with half-remembered childhood images. He told himself that he didn’t care if the faerlin followed or not, but it was reassuring to know that there was someone with him. Someone that was material, not a figment of his imagination. Nevertheless, he remarked over his shoulder, “Don’t feel obligated to come with me.”
The words echoed in his head, reminding him of Lylith. A bittersweet pang swirled in his chest and he frowned. The shadows were growing long and deep, but still he walked, not sure of his path until he saw the gates of an estate that once had manicured gardens of flowers and sculpted trees filling it. Now, it was a wild mass of tall, crisp grasses and half-grown seedlings netted over by a carpet of dry vines. He yanked hard on the rusted iron fence and pulled it from its hinges. Insects and a few skittering creatures fled the area in surprise.
He went far into the property that had once been owned by a wealthy fae lord or perhaps a member of the Triad’s family. The house, that would have been a marvel of nature manipulated into walls and an intricate ceiling, was now a massive mountain of vegetation that seemed to go on forever.
Keinigan came behind him silently, looking at the hidden structures in wonder. Then he saw the changeling stop. He was down a sloping hill in a small, leaf covered enclosure that had once been a walled meditation seat called a private sanctorin. The beautiful paintings and relief carved into the stone walls around the low bench were meant to help the viewer block out all other distractions and focus their minds beyond the veil of this existence. Dharromar’s eyes were drinking in every inch of the place even though mold and rot had worn most of it away.
“Where are we?” Keinigan asked.
“I think this is where she met with him.” Came the reply. When the faerlin asked for more specifics, the changeling shook his head, distracted. “The place Ammarron thought that she was meeting with her fae lord, but it was Harroemon instead. Here to seduce her. This is where I was conceived.”
“Great. Lovely. A walk down memory lane on the creepy side. Why are we here.” Keinigan joked to ease the discomfort he felt.
“It is also where the darquones arrived when they followed my bloodlink. It brought them here.” He turned to look at the skeptical fae. “It is somehow the beginning. The start of the chaos and war.”
“But, that was a hundred years ago.” Keinigan shrugged. “Why are you drawn here now?”
“I wish I knew.” Dharromar looked up into the darkening sky above. “Maybe I have to find something here. Though, I’ve never been here in my lifetime, it is connected to me.”
Keinigan was about to ask if they were still being watched, when he heard a crack far off in the woods. Both fae men turned to look; though Dharromar seemed a bit more expectant than the faerlin, who had to calm his nerves as he saw the lithe figure of a petite faerlin girl dressed in the iridescent white of a temple robe stepping from the forest. She looked like a ghost in the half light of dusk. Her dark blonde hair loose and long, her pale face beautiful and stern as she approached them. Dusty smudges tarnished her garment and skin, telling the tale of her struggle through the forests to find the object of her devoted journey. She stepped into the little, broken sanctorin, getting as close to Dharromar as her nerves would allow before she knelt down to stare up at him wordlessly.
Keinigan didn’t even have a quip to fit this strange situation, so he just watched with a stupefied expression. In the female’s gray eyes was the stamp of fervor that told them both instantly that she would die for the changeling, if he asked.
“What is your name?” The raven-haired fae asked as he looked down at her dispassionately.
“Marae’ana.” She replied, her soft voice as smooth as the rippling of a brook. Looking at her, the warm scent of her hair and skin teasing his senses, Keinigan realized how much he missed faerlin women. The attraction from one faerl to another was undeniably strong and in this untamed atmosphere he had to steady himself against a swoon.
“Are you an Emmissar?” she asked, her zealous eyes never wavering from the blue eyes of the changeling. Keinigan might have been invisible for all that she noticed. “A real one?”
As he wondered at how the changeling could stand there without a hint of reaction with the nubile girl so close to him, Keinigan almost laughed at the absurdity of her query. But, Dharromar merely put out one long, pale arm and touched her chin, signaling her to rise. Which she did, as he answered her quietly. “Unfortunately, I am.”
“Why unfortunate?” she breathed with sudden excitement and awe. “We have been waiting for a messenger. For those that wasted their lives in service to the corrupt, and for those of us that were looking for the reality and truth, you are an answer to our prayers!”
“No, I’m not.” He shook his head gently as a cool breeze kicked up and circled around in the rubble enclosed space. “I’m no answer to anyone’s prayer.”
“Yes, you are!” she insisted. “If you are a true incarnate than you are!”
He spun away from her with a sudden fury, shaking her faith away from him as if it were a smothering sheet. “No! I’m not! Who prays for death?! No one! Don’t you see? I’m an envoy of vengeance! Nothing else. I can only bring destruction; you call for me then you call down violence and blood!”
Turning back, his face fiercely snarling at her, he roared, “Run far from me and tell them! Tell them all that I will be on their heels! All the complacent, arrogant misers that worship only their own power in this insignificant world. Tell them that death is coming for them, and nothing will stop it.”
Keinigan stepped back in horror, not sure what to expect from this lunatic fae, but Dharromar seemed to crumple then, struggling with his own emotion. Grabbing at his head, the changeling dropped to his knees before the startled girl, fighting to keep something back or else keep it from entering –it was hard to tell which. He snarled, rocking on his heels in frantic despair until she stepped forward and put her slender hands on his dark head.
Feeling suddenly out of place, Keinigan was torn by his curiosity over the changeling’s strange behavior and the need to be anywhere other than here standing as a mute witness to these two. Everything that he had seen and heard, he knew he should tell to someone; so he quietly left the sanctorin and crept back through the woods.
His face squeezed into his hands, Dharromar felt the touch of Marae’ana ground him; her scent awaken him. With his eyes closed to all that was around him, he nestled against her soft belly as she brushed his hair, cradling his head like a loving parent standing over a frightened child. She began to hum a fae lullaby, and he felt the rage slowly dissipate into the purple sky above them. The scale within him began to tip once more as his hands relaxed and crawled around her waist to hold her closer. Blood seeping from the claw marks on his forehead stained her gossamer gown (though neither of them noticed.) Sucking in life from the air, he looked up into her calm face and found reassurance that he was not insane.
Gently, he pulled her down to sit with him; her soothing voice mingling with the song of the winds through the forest and along the rustling leaves on the ground. This madness around them was not his fault. The world would continue on its dance whether they chose destruction or rebirth. He was just an instrument by which the music could be heard. Her song sang of hope and love. The sparkle of the rising moons in her eyes told him that he was made for more than killing. There had always been two instincts at war within him; two skills for which he had been notorious through the decades. Though, it had always been his aptitude for death that he had seen through to fruition. Never creation.
Until his relationship with Anterria had caused him to doubt this. In the brief days in which he had thought himself capable of that most intimate act of natural creation, he had experienced the strangest array of emotions. It had released something inside him. The impossible was suddenly possible. Now, he didn’t know what to believe about himself, or of what he was truly capable. But, as he had always done, he had continued to follow his instincts. As he felt this faerlin maiden’s caress, his skin ignited with the need for more; the urge to savor her; bury himself in her scent and touch.
Marae’ana came to the end of her song, her voice fading away as the sound of the dark forest around them invaded her mind once more. The light of the moons, each in waxing phases growing full and thick, trickled down upon them. His skin was illuminated to a glorious lavender, the black hair speckled with silver as lovely to her as the starry heavens above them. He sat before her as still as a statue, staring into her soul. For a moment, she feared he had transformed into a stone, carved and smoothed to perfection, but cold and still. Reaching out tentatively, she saw her small hand moving without a conscious thought as she pressed it to his warm and yielding flesh. The tips of her fingers tingled with his energy and her pulse raced until she could think of nothing but melting into his warmth; still the part of her that had found nothing except disappointment in all her brushes with romance, stood back and stared hard at this dark fae, reserving her judgment of what she would be willing to sacrifice for him and his acceptance. Did he feel the same desire? Her heart cautioned. She could not move closer without some reassurance.
But, her rebellious hand, drawn along the firm curve of his musculature by the vibrating pulse within it, was not waiting for her heart’s permission. It was exploring for the pure pleasure of touch; seeking out a reaction from him; seeking to bring him as much pleasure as it was receiving by his mere essence.
Her eyes watched his unmoving form with a quickly failing hope, but as her fingers marked soft trails down and around his chest slowly his eyes closed and his head tilted as if he were falling asleep. His strong hand closed over her wandering one, and he brought the wayward limb to his lips to adorn it with kisses. The caress sending a tremble through her; and she knew in that instant that she would be his tonight.