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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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2016 - Winter - Rewind: Pre-2016 Themes Entry

Voli Me Tangere - 1. Voli Me Tangere

Voli Me Tangere


‘Tell us, Gramma…’

‘Once upon a time, there was only Solus, no before, no after. He took from himself to build and deconstruct, to fuse, to rip apart, to pour and empty with one purpose only: to satisfy his curiosity. After he had used everything up but his mere essence, he watched what he had put in motion, for his creations didn’t remain the way he had made them. They changed in accordance to newfound laws and rules. Suddenly, direction existed. Time existed.

For ages, Solus walked the universes, still yearning for something he couldn’t name. He explored unimaginable things we will never be able to lay our eyes on—to no avail.

Solus had lost almost all his hope, when he sensed a thin thread pulling at him. Intrigued, he followed its twists and turns and found a blue jewel in the dark. Essence similar to his own had taken form here. He had seen hints of this at a few other places before, not this elaborate, but still, he was disappointed for it wasn’t what he needed. Then he heard the sound that had called to him from infinite space—the laughter of his children, those we call Gods.

But his joy didn’t last. Caught in a fight for dominance, Solus’ children misused the power of the essence, causing mayhem and destruction. Burning lava erupted from volcanos. The skies darkened. Storms and floods destroyed the little that was left, until a freezing cold turned everything into ice.

Grief consumed Solus. He had once sworn to let things run its course, to watch but never interfere again, but witnessing his children destroying each other, he couldn’t adhere to his vow any longer. He took a comet, melted its ice, and threw the core at the fighting pair. Just before it reached them, it broke apart, and the pieces embedded themselves into the ground, trapping his children inside a ring of black stones. The boulders were buried so deeply, they reached the planet’s burning heart and soon became a red-glowing prison never to be left until a truce had been found. While the planet slowly healed from the horrible wounds Solus’ children had inflicted, they raged— against their prison walls and against each other.

After eons, they finally did what Solus had demanded. They agreed to peace. Solus helped them dividing the planet into the Northern Realm, now home of the Patriarch’s Court, and the Southern Realm, now home of the Matriarch’s Court. Seeing how much he cared for his own offspring, he then suggested they should have sons and daughters of their own. Focusing on their well-being would prevent future wars—or so he thought.

Each was allowed to give their children a special gift. We, as the Matriarch’s children, can let things grow and wither with our very thoughts. The Patriarch’s children join with an animal spirit the day they are born, and they can change into its shape when they become sixteen times twelve-cycles. Solus made sure the gifts came with a price, though. The men are to live in the form of their animal for three days and nights per cycle, or they die a painful death. We have to drink blood and absorb its life essence at least once every day or we suffer the same end as the men. We think it is to remind us that power always comes with a price.’

‘So, the Matriarch and the Patriarch are Gods?’

‘No, Cay. They are like us, well, almost.’

‘And I will live at the Patriarch’s Court when I’m old enough, with my father?’

‘Yes, your father, Gidon, will—‘

‘But Gramma, why can’t Cay stay with us?’

‘Because one day Cay will shift into his animal, and shifting is strictly forbidden at the Matriarch’s Court, Hilda. The men belong to the North.’

‘But they come here all the time!’

‘No, sweetie. They only visit at the longest and shortest night of the twelve-cycles, when those of us who want children invite them to come to our houses. Only the girls stay with their mothers, the boys have to leave at the age of six times twelve-cycles.’

‘But he’s my pfent!”

‘I know he is your friend, but that’s how it has always been. Men don’t get along well with us women and vise versa. In two times twelve-cycles, Cay will accompany his birthmother to the council meadow to live with Gidon, his birthfather, while you stay with Ratka, your birthmother.’

‘Not fair! He’s mine!’

***

By day, the Council Meadow was an endless sea of swaying yellow, dotted with the last flowers of autumn, Goldenrod and Ironweed. Soft falling leaves brought in from The Great Forests of the Patriarch’s Court, danced in the sun, until they met the ground and decayed. A last hurrah to fall, a first greeting to winter.

But it was night, and the moon had stolen all those autumnal colors and dipped everything in her pale, silvery light, glistening in a hue of the first frost.

While I walked behind the Matriarch through the knee-high grass, I thought about Gidon, my father—I was looking forward to seeing him, wondering if he would be at the meeting place or waiting for me at the Patriarch’s Court—and Antandra, my birthmother. After tonight, I would only ever see her again if I ran into her once I was old enough to visit the women of the Matriarch’s Court. All those ends and new beginnings weighed heavily on my mind. The harsh noise of brittle, dry underbrush clinging to my legs and crushing under my feet, made me feel even more on edge, which was why I jumped so hard when Antandra suddenly appeared beside me, touching my arm.

The Matriarch’s most trusted warriors guarded us, and the creaking of leather armor wasn’t anything special, but the clicking of the amber pearls my birthmother always threaded through her many braids should have clued me in that she was coming to my side.

“How are you holding up?” Her quiet presence had always been soothing to me. Where others saw a fearsome warrior, who wielded her favorite weapon, the spear, with deadly precision, I only saw a loving protector against the machinations of the Matriarch’s Court.

“I’m fine. I’m ju—” A cutting voice drowned out my words.

“I think I can already smell the stink of dog.” Being the Matriarch’s consort, Ratka always walked on her right side, and talked down to almost everyone and everything, but especially the men of the Patriarch’s Court, the Patriarch himself, and his animal spirit, the wolf. Twirling her customary weapon, a whip she named Bite, she continued, “I’d love to give my darling here a piece off his mangy hide.” We knew she hated the Patriarch because he never visited her when he came with his men to the Matriarch’s Court. She had demanded him many times, but he had always ignored her and chose other women as mothers for his children.

As I too would soon be a member of his court and be able to shift into my animal, her words were as much a jab at them as they were at me.

Antandra squeezed my shoulder. “Let it go. She isn’t worth it.” Ratka couldn’t stand me. The feeling was mutual.

However, there were people who liked her. Her curly, black hair, and her voluptuous figure, which she loved squeezing in too-tight, red leather, had made her very popular with the Ladies of her court. Before she became the Matriarch’s lover of course; the Ladies weren’t suicidal. It spoke for the quality of her character that sometimes, Ratka tried to get them into trouble by flirting outrageously with them.

I heard giggling in front of us, and an answering snort from behind. It had to be Fianna and Njeri, Ratka’s cousins. As identical twins, they were indistinguishable to most, but not me.

Small and slender, with their red hair almost black by night, they blended in with the shadows, became as invisible and silent as their many knives, which always flew unnoticed—until they hit their target.

“My Prince.” When a warm hand touched the small of my back, and snow-white hair gleamed in the moonlight, I knew mother’s lover Serilda had come up to my other side.

“Don’t call me that.” Serilda meant well, but she was always so formal. She was my second mother and had taught me everything about etiquette and family history. Her tall, thin body was clad in her customary dark green and brown leathers. She could move almost as quietly as the twins could, and her arrows always found their aim from the greatest distance.

“It’s your title, Cay, like it or not, and one of the reasons Ratka hates you so much. And as it is most unlikely that the Patriarch or any of the other men of his family like your father for example, will ever give her a child; her greatest wish will stay unfulfilled. Her children will never be nobility. Poor Hilda hears it all the time.”

It was extremely rare for the ruling families to have offspring, who survive pregnancy and birth. The Matriarch had been delighted when she heard Antandra was pregnant with Gidon’s child, until she learned that I was male. She almost killed Antandra and me in a fit of rage.

We stayed behind the Matriarch and Ratka in the respectful distance protocol demanded, but I couldn’t resist peeking around them from time to time, trying to catch a glimpse at what was lying ahead of us: the sacred meeting place of the two great realms. Soon, I would meet Gidon, my birthfather. Since we had stepped on the meadow, a strange feeling of restlessness and anticipation had befallen me. When I once again stretched to be able to look over Ratka’s head, I stumbled over a root sticking out from the ground and almost fell on my face.

Serilda had finally enough and hit me upside my head. “Just stop it already!”

Out of spite as well as gaining advantages for herself, the Matriarch had refused to give me over to my father at the usual age of six times twelve-cycles. As a prince, I was valuable, and she could press concession after concession from the Patriarch. Even as he threatened to withhold his men from visiting her women, she didn’t give in. She knew she had the upper hand. Only when I approached sixteen times twelve-cycles, the age I would be able to shift into my animal half, she finally had to let me go.

Our path soon opened into a clearing. We had reached the center of the council meadow, the Ring of Stones, where Solus once held our Gods prison. As they swallowed all the light, the towering, dark boulders could be portals to the great void beyond the skies.

No weapons were allowed. Those who disobeyed were severely punished, a continuous reminder of how much the Two Gods hated fighting and what could happen would there ever be a war between the two courts.

The Matriarch lifted her hand to stop us from going any further and pointed at a large, flat boulder. “You know how it goes. Divest of your weapons”—she turned around to catch the eye of every one of her warriors—“of all your weapons and put them on this stone.” Then she took her own sword from the scabbard on her back.

One by one, her women stepped up to follow suit. The twins were the last, and it took them several minutes until they had parted from their last hidden knife.

The Matriarch looked at me. “Cay?”

“I don’t have any weapons, Matriarch. I left them at Antandra’s house as I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to take them with me.” I smirked. I bet Ratka had been looking forward to snatching up my two fighting blades and my rare bow, which had been owned by Antandra’s family for many cycles.

She smiled. “Good.” I thought I detected a glimpse of understanding in her eyes. “Ready?”

I nodded and she entered the stone ring, gesturing for me to follow her inside. Ratka scowled when I passed her. She was right behind me, practically breathing down my neck.

I ignored her and watched the other side of the ring, where I expected to catch a first glimpse at the Patriarch and his men. A sudden hiss, immediately followed by a loud bang and a cry, made me quickly turn around again. At first, I couldn’t understand what I saw. Ratka was lying on the ground, her hands covering her face. She was wailing in agony. When the Matriarch took down her hands though, I saw it. Something hot had hit her face, split open the flesh on her forehead, nose and lips, and cauterized it at the same time.

The Matriarch held Ratka’s chin, perusing the ugly wounds. “I told you this would happen if you carried a weapon, you dumb cow! You’re lucky the lightning bolt didn’t kill you.” She frantically frisked Ratka’s clothing. “Where did you hide it? I need to take it outside. Quick! Tell me!”

Sobbing, Ratka shook her head wildly. I couldn’t understand her garbled answer. Then the top of the nearest boulder flashed white, emitting another lightning bolt. This time it hit her in the chest, barely missing the Matriarch’s head, and split open the armor over Ratka’s breasts. I could see her heart fluttering desperately in the gaping wound. It was horrible.

“I don’t have… a weapon.” She pointed at me with a trembling hand. “He has.”

I flushed. “Me? No!”

Antandra quickly grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the stone ring, where she immediately ran her hands all over me.

“Antandra! Matriarch! I don’t have…” I tried to push her away. How could she believe… “I never would—”

She grunted when she found something in the seam of my coat. “I know! That bitch had a knife sewed into your coat.”

“What?” I stared at Antandra’s hand where the blade of a small knife was piercing through the cloth of my favorite coat.

“She wanted you struck to death by the lightning bolts.” Antandra ripped the coat from my shoulders, and threw it on the stone on top of the other weapons. Then she grabbed her spear. “I’m going to kill the little that is left of her!”

“No, you won’t!” The Matriarch came up behind us, carrying Ratka’s bloody body in her arms. “Fianna!”

The woman stepped forward and the Matriarch carefully transferred Ratka to her. “Get her home. If she doesn’t die on the way, put her into a cell. She is not to be healed until I’m back.”

“But, Matriarch…”

“Don’t test my patience, child.” Then the Matriarch turned to Antandra and me. “Rest assured, she will be punished, should she survive long enough. Her jealousy and pride made her foolish.” She went back into the ring, murmuring, “As if the stones wouldn’t recognize who brought the weapon.” She shook her head. “On top of it, I now have to deal with that smug bastard Cahal. I bet he loved every moment of her making a fool of herself—and me!”

Even though Ratka wasn’t my favorite person and it had been her own fault thinking she could outsmart the Two Gods, what happened to her was brutal and had been hard to watch. When I entered the stone ring, I couldn’t help but hold my breath. I had to force myself to release it slowly when I realized no more lightning bolts were snapping at people.

I almost missed the huge wolf turning up between the black stones. Just when he was about to cross into the ring, his body blurred, and a large, black-haired, and very naked man stood in front of us, his long hair whipping around him in a sudden gust of wind. He acknowledged our presence with a mere tilt of his head, before a smirk appeared on his face. The Matriarch huffed, then responded similarly, minus the smirk of course.

Seconds later, a blond man, only slightly smaller than the Patriarch, stood by his side, who only moments before had been a lumbering, white bear. I assumed he was Rainer, the Patriarch’s consort, but I didn’t listen to the conversation, for a cawing raven had my attention. Craning my neck, I tried to spot him, and then I followed him with my gaze. I knew it had to be Gidon, my father. The bird finally landed on the ground and quickly changed into a tall, lean man, with short black hair. He winked at me and then gave my birthmother a broad smile. “Antandra.”

I felt the call to him immediately and involuntarily took a step forward, but the Matriarch’s hand on my arm held me back. Irritated, I tugged it free from her grip, but, before I could complain, a boar and a badger distracted me. They had to be Vidar and Taisto, identical twins like Fianna and Njeri, at least when they were men. Finally Ivor, the last of the Patriarch’s trusted warriors, walked into the ring, already in human form of course. Serilda hummed behind me. She had once told me he liked to make a secret of his animal, but as he was the father of her two daughters, she knew it was a fox.

The large, black stones cast dark shadows in the moonlight, flickering erratically as clouds raced the sky. To me they looked like pits, leading into doom, trying to lure me in. I shivered.

No one spoke for long minutes. The only noises were the wind rustling through the meadow and an owl hooting somewhere. I became twitchy. This looked more and more like a challenge to me rather than just a harmless meeting.

After a last smirk, the Patriarch eventually drawled, “I gather there will be no more demands for me to bed your consort in the near future.”

I stepped a little closer to one of the boulders, taking cover against the wrath I was sure the Matriarch was about to unleash on him. The stones radiated pleasant warmth against the chill of late fall, and somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered Gramma’s story of how they came to our planet and pressed the palm of my hand against it.

The Matriarch didn’t react as I expected. The only sign she had registered the Patriarch’s callous words was a tightening of her lips and a clenching of her fists, before she spoke with a voice that was way too calm. “On to the reason we came here, Cahal. I have a consort to care for. Before I can release Cay to you—”

“No!” I winced as the Patriarch’s booming voice sounded through the ring. “No more games, Gabi.” He briskly turned to me. “Come here, Cay.”

My feet moved on their own accord and didn’t stop until I stood slightly behind him. The Matriarch tried to grab my shoulder, but I swiftly sidestepped her hand, something I would have never dared before. She no longer had power over me.

The Patriarch pushed me farther to Gidon’s side. “You withheld Cay from us long enough. For almost ten times twelve-cycles you pressed concession after concession from me, and never followed through about handing him over as soon as you got what you wanted.”

The Matriarch waved her hand dismissively. “You have him now.”

“Only because he will shift into his animal soon, which is strictly forbidden at your court. You’d be milking me for many times twelve-cycles to come, I’m sure, if you only knew how to prevent it without harming him permanently.” The Patriarch’s jaw tightened, and he took a step forward. “This needs to end tonight. The loose agreement of you handing over all boys at the age of six times twelve-cycles we had in place obviously doesn’t work for children of my family, which is why we will draw up a binding contract, right here in the God’s Ring, with them as witnesses.”

The Matriarch narrowed her eyes. “I won’t sign any contract.”

“Yes, you will. This way you won’t be able to break it without suffering the God’s punishment. I should have done this a long time ago. I always knew I couldn’t trust you.”

“This is unnecessary. I can think of many reasons why we cannot give you a child at six times twelve-cycles. He could be ill–”

“…or he could be a prince. That would make him important to us, and you could press us again into giving you anything you want. Besides, we do have very capable healers.”

“What an idea!” The Matriarch laughed. “We cannot just write up a complicated contract on a whim—”

“There is nothing complicated about it.” The Patriarch gestured for Rainer, who pulled out a roll of paper from a leather bag he had strung over his shoulder. “I drew it up already.” He unrolled the sheet of paper. “It states here, ‘I, Gabi, Matriarch of the Southern Court, declare in a binding contract with the Two Gods as our witnesses, that every male child born to a female of my court will be handed over to the leader of the Northern Court, Cahal, or his birthfather at the age of six times twelve-cycles with no exception. Otherwise the Gods may punish me as they see fit.”

The Matriarch held her hand out for the contract, and, after short hesitation, the Patriarch gave it to her. She immediately ripped it apart and let the shreds be taken away by the wind. “I won’t sign anything like this.”

The Patriarch nodded, as if he had expected nothing less. “Very well. My men won’t visit your women until this contract is signed here, in the Ring of Stones.”

The Matriarch snorted, and Serilda lifted her eyebrow. We had never heard anything like this from the Matriarch before. “We still have some of your children. What will prevent me from killing them, one by one, until you send your men again, with you leading them, giving my consort the child she desires from you?”

“You won’t risk the Gods’ wrath! The children are innocent!”

“I could keep them and then cage them at sixteen, only let them out for breeding.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When I looked at Antandra and Serilda, I found my thoughts mirrored in the expression on their faces. The Patriarch’s men seemed equally shocked by her words.

“You have four boys, one is only two cycles old, two are a little about one time twelve-cycles, the last is three times twelve-cycles, if I remember correctly. It will take a long time until you can breed with them. We will find ways to free them before that happens.”

The Matriarch’s lips curled in a cruel smile. “Entering the Southern Realm uninvited means war.”

“If these are your last words.” The Patriarch lifted his hand, and his men left the ring quietly. I threw one last look over my shoulder at Antandra and Serilda. I was sad to leave them like this, but I knew I didn’t belong there any longer.

No one shifted into their animal outside the ring. The Patriarch led the way through the council meadow, and we followed him somberly until a young lynx came running toward us. He circled the group almost like a shepherd dog. The Patriarch finally snapped his finger, and the lynx became a boy not much older than I was.

Gidon touched my arm. “Cay! Let me introduce you to Oak. He is my partner’s son and only recently changed into his lynx for the first time.” He grinned. “Obviously, he couldn’t wait until we got home to get to know you.” He gestured for Oak to come closer. “You are lucky the Patriarch didn’t punish you for your impatience, boy. He isn’t in a good mood.”

“What happened?” Oak looked from Gidon to me. “Didn’t she want to let Cay go?”

“We will talk about this at home, so I won’t have to tell it a second time.” Gidon smiled at me. “You and Oak are going to share a room for a while. Niam and I thought he could help you with getting accustomed to your new home and tell you all about changing into your animal for the first time. He can be your guide, what do you think?”

“Niam?”

“My partner.”

“Are you quite done over there, Gidon?” The Patriarch’s voice was stern, but I could swear it was tinged with amusement too.

“Of course, Patriarch. I’m sorry.”

***

Oak and I had an instant connection. I cannot explain it, but it felt as if I had known him all my life and I could trust him with everything. I had so many questions, most of them about shifting, and he answered them all with the utmost patience. According to him, the tension and restlessness I felt was a sign my first shift was imminent. He assured me I didn’t need to be afraid, but how could I not? Even demonstrating its painlessness by shifting to his lynx and back several times couldn’t take away my fear. He was used to seeing the men transforming into their animal form all the time; I had only witnessed it once when the Patriarch and his warriors changed back into men, and I had been much too nervous to remember if it was painful for them. And even when it was not. It was the Patriarch and his strongest men, after all.

Three days after I arrived at Gidon and Niam’s house, I shifted into a stag. I had pictured it as a gruesome transition, where my bones would crack, sinew would snap and muscles would rebuild. Every reassurance from Oak and Gidon that the process was painless had to be a lie so I wouldn’t panic when it finally happened.

It hadn’t been a lie. I didn’t feel anything. One moment I was a boy, and the next I was a stag. My whole perception changed, though. I could smell and hear much better than before, but my eyes didn’t work as well as I was used to—and I was colorblind. Sudden movement made my heart beat faster, and I felt the strong urge to run every time I saw something in the corner of my eye. Herbs, grass, leaves, fresh shoots and buds, crops and forest fruits became my new diet. It felt as if I was looking through someone else’s eyes. I was in the background, still in charge, but more relying on instinct than rational thoughts.

What I hadn’t expected was that my first shift garnered so much attention. No one but the Patriarch had ever shifted into a stag, or his second animal, a wolf, something only he could do.

After my animal had manifested the court was in an uproar. Many believed the Patriarch’s time had come, and I was his successor. Only when I wasn’t able to change into a wolf, but still just into a stag after six cycles, the dust settled and most men dubbed it a joke the Two Gods had at the Patriarch’s expense to take him down a peg for threatening the Matriarch with war. Some however, predicted the end of the time we knew.

After the first shock, I didn’t think too much about this. I had to make up for the ten years I lived at the Matriarch’s Court when I should have been in the north, finding my place at the Patriarch’s Court.

My first lesson was when Gidon showed me how to stretch out my senses so I was able to recognize the men who were in their animal form, and I didn’t accidentally kill them when we went out to hunt.

By the Patriarch’s order, the weapons master personally put me through hard selection training to determine the most fitting weapon. It soon became apparent I was best with the bow, with two long fighting knives coming second. Being a marvelous archer, Serilda had trained me well. The fighting knives however, were an altogether different matter. I thought I knew how to use them, only to learn I was just a beginner. Many cuts and bruises later, I was finally getting the hang of it, and as a reward, the Patriarch promoted me to accompany the sentinels guarding the border. I was slowly finding my place at the Northern Court.

 

Even though Oak was only a few days older than I was, he had lived at the Patriarch’s Court since he was six times twelve-cycles and knew all the ins and outs of this complicated world. At the Matriarch’s Court, I had been an outsider, an oddity. Even when I was old enough, I never hunted with the other women, only with Serilda and Antandra. I wasn’t invited to meetings or feasts, and I never even visited an inn, things the girls my age did all the time. I didn’t know much about how to behave in the company of others, about ranks, statuses or who belonged to which family in the Northern Court. Oak saved me from putting my foot in my mouth many times. He became my teacher and my best friend.

I also learned a completely new aspect about my friend and the Northern Court in general. Oak was quite the man about town, or better, the Northern Court. When I first saw him sneaking away from a feast for a time with one of his friends, I didn’t think much about it, until he came back looking—very relaxed. I realized what they had done and was put off by the casual nature of it. Oak explained to me later that until one found his life partner, the men at the Patriarch’s Court took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy each other’s company at any opportunity. It was their way to ensure friendship and strengthen bonds.

Living at the Matriarch’s Court for so long hadn’t prepared me for this, and I felt insecure and shy. I wasn’t used to being bluntly propositioned at an inn, to see men fuck at feasts, barely hidden in alcoves or side rooms. Oak became my teacher once more. He showed me how to savor another man’s body, to get to know him in a unique way.

With all these new impressions and experiences, I had almost forgotten about the quarrel with the Matriarch’s Court. The men didn’t talk much about it either, and when they did, most of them supported the Patriarch in his decisions. The first time everything came rushing back to me was after a little more than two times twelve-cycles, when a sentinel came looking for me, telling me I was needed at the border. I didn’t know what to expect and was shocked when I found Antandra and Serilda, their two daughters, and the four boys that had still been living with their birthmothers at the Matriarch’s Court. They were pale and gaunt, their hair thin and stringy. I almost didn’t recognize them. Both women had fresh cuts and bruises all over their bodies and the boys were covered in bite marks and scratches.

“Cay!” Antandra took a step in my direction as soon as she saw me, but the sentinel immediately pointed his sword at her and stopped her from crossing over. She lifted her hand, as if she wanted to touch me. “It’s so good to see you, my boy!” She had tears in her eyes, something I had never seen before. “You’re looking good.” Serilda had to take her hand and pull her back; she would have tried to come to me, despite the weapon directed at her.

“Antandra! What happened? Why are you here?”

“We brought the boys. They aren’t safe any longer at the Matriarch’s Court.”

I didn’t understand. “What do you mean they aren’t safe?”

Antandra looked at Serilda, who answered my question in such a low voice I barely heard her. “The Matriarch ordered for the boys to be brought to her in the morning.”

Another sentinel, who had just joined us, pointed at the boys. “Are those bite marks?”

Serilda, who had her gaze fixed to the ground rather than looking at us, finally lifted her head and straightened her back. “Yes. It happened about twelve cycles after the last meeting at the Ring of Stones, some of our sisters fell ill. The healers tried everything they could think of, but nothing helped; the women became weaker and weaker. Finally we discovered that we needed something only your blood could provide. It had never been an issue because we drank the men’s blood during sex, and, by biting our sisters throughout the next six cycles, we spread it to those who haven’t been with a man. Now that you do not visit us any longer, those components obviously thinned out. As a result, some of us weaken, and others become extremely aggressive.” She looked at the four boys, who were hiding behind Antandra. “We fear the point has been reached where the Matriarch will take the boys in order to gain a steady blood source. We couldn’t let this happen.” She gestured for the boys to come forward. “Come on boys, you’re safe here.”

“Serilda, Antandra, I heard you brought the boys.” I jumped when I suddenly heard the Patriarch’s voice behind me. The sentinels must have called him the same time they had me. Ignoring the warning of his guard, he approached the border. “We heard there were… problems at the Matriarch’s Court, but never thought it was this bad.” Then he bowed his head to the women. “I have to thank you. You took a great risk in bringing them to us.”

Serilda nodded. “Three of the birthmothers gave the boys voluntarily to us; they were glad we were getting them to safety at your court. One we had to fight. She used little Atlas here to protect herself from getting ill and even sold his blood to some of the sisters. She will most likely have gone to the Matriarch the moment we took him.”

The Patriarch frowned. “How can she go to the Matriarch with this? She will be punished for abusing a child.”

For a short moment, Serilda closed her eyes. “The Matriarch isn’t herself anymore. We think that since she hadn’t been with a man for a very long time, she didn’t build a reserve of the components you gave to us. She clearly depended on Ratka um... getting around. After Ratka died following the incident at the Ring of Gods, she changed. She was among the first who were affected by the illness.” Serilda looked to Antandra, who nodded. When she turned back to the Patriarch, her expression became defeated. “We suspect the Matriarch was one of Atlas’ birthmother’s... clients. She most certainly would have us killed for taking away her chance of staying healthy.”

“You can’t go back then!”

The Patriarch ignored my outcry. “I see.” Then I felt his hand briefly squeezing my shoulder. “I’ll allow you and your family to enter our lands. You will be safe here. I have to talk to the council though, before I can make any final decisions about the duration of your stay. Wait here. I won’t take long.”

As soon as Antandra stepped over the border I ran to her, ready to take her into my arms, but she lifted her hand and stopped me. “No, Cay! I don’t know how long I can refrain myself from biting you when you are this close.” She looked at the men surrounding us. “Or you. Please. Step back. I don’t want to ruin the chances for our daughters’ safety by hurting any one of you.”

Eventually, they settled down under a tree, waiting for the Patriarch’s verdict. I wanted to give them my blood and make them feel better, but Serilda said it was too dangerous. They didn’t know if they would be able to stop drinking it, even if it was mine.

The Patriarch came back carrying two mugs. My nose twitched when he passed by me. Blood. After he set the mugs carefully on the ground, he stepped back and gestured for the women to have at them. The view wasn’t pleasant, and I had to turn away because I couldn’t look at them practically fighting over the blood.

“We have decided that if you want, you can move into a hut not far from here. We will mark a perimeter you cannot cross. It will be enough space for you to hunt. Cay will bring you everything else you need including blood. When this dispute is over, you will move back to the Southern Realm. I will make sure to include you into the negotiations and demand guarantees for your wellbeing and safe return. What say you?”

The relief on Antandra’s and Serilda’s faces was apparent. They briefly talked, before Serilda stepped forward and bowed deeply. “We accept your gracious offer, Patriarch.” Only a short moment later, I found myself finally wrapped in their arms, shuddering as their familiar scent encased me.

Now that we knew what was happening at the Matriarch’s Court, fear of an imminent war rose dramatically, and the Patriarch sent envoys to the Ring of Stones in an attempt to resume negotiations. After three days of waiting, they came back empty-handed.

And, as if that hadn’t been enough drama, I realized I had fallen in love with Oak. In the beginning, I just found ways to distract him, reasons why he couldn’t go with whichever friend came to him for some fun. I dragged him in the opposite direction and initiated us to have fun of our own. I didn’t do it consciously at first, but one evening when we had some people over and he disappeared with one of them to our room, it felt as if he was ripping my heart out. I went outside and changed into my stag. I stayed out the entire night. It was then when I admitted, at least to myself, that I wanted him for my own.

I tried to find out if he felt the same, but when I asked him if he could see himself settling down, he said he was having too much fun. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I faked illness, visited Antandra, and worked more, doing everything I could to distance myself so I wouldn’t see him with other men. When he asked me what was going on, I told him I was worrying about the situation at the Matriarch’s Court and my birthmother’s exile. He obviously didn’t believe me, but he accepted my explanation.

One evening Oak had already left for the inn as usual, and I was about to go to our room when Gidon stopped me as I passed the kitchen. “Cay, would you come in, please?”

It was phrased as a question, but I wasn’t fooled; it wasn’t a request. When I found Niam already waiting for us at the kitchen table, I immediately did a quick mental check to find out what I could have done wrong.

Gidon pointed at a chair opposite from him. “Sit down, please.” At least he smiled when he saw how nervous I was. “It’s nothing bad.”

Niam huffed. “No?”

Gidon shook his head at him, before his attention was back on me. “Let me get right to it. We noticed that you and Oak don’t do as much together as you did in the past.”

“Um....”

“I believe there is a birthday celebration at the inn tonight. Many of your friends will be there. Why didn’t you go with him?”

“I wasn’t in the mood.” I looked down at my fingers, picking at a hangnail. I was perfectly aware they wouldn’t let me get away with that.

Niam stood up to fetch a jug and poured us some water. “Again?”

Before I could think of a reply, Gidon butted in. “I’ve also been told you volunteered to take on more guard duty at the border.”

“With what is happening at the Matriarch’s Court, I thought—”

Gidon slapped his hand on the table so hard I jumped. “Don’t lie to us, Cay!”

Furious at them for putting me on the spot, and embarrassed for being so stupid to fall in love with my best friend, I pushed my chair back and stood up. “My reasons are my own! I don’t have to tell you anything!” I needed to get out before I said something I would regret later.

“Sit down, Cay! You won’t find a solution for your… problem by hiding in the house or running away from it.”

“There is no solution!” I had just to wait until it was over.

“You’re in love with my son.” Niam narrowed his eyes at me, daring me to contradict him.

I glared right back at him. “So?”

“Did you tell him?”

“Of course not!”

“Why not?”

Why not? “When do you suggest I should do that? Right after he comes back from fucking one of his friends? Or should I give him some time to get the stupid grin off his face?” I fell back into the chair, hiding my face in my hands.

“Talk to him, Cay, that’s all I’m asking. Oak knows something is wrong. My son isn’t stupid. You owe him at least that. And just maybe he’ll surprise you.”

I knew that they were right. Even if Oak didn’t love me back the way I wanted, he was still my best friend, and I couldn’t lose him. This had taken me far too long already. I went back to our room. Oak would be home late. I planned to talk to him in the morning, so when I heard the door, I expected to see Gidon.

“Oak?” When he looked warily at me, I knew I had waited too long. Only if I were very, very lucky, would our friendship survive my stupidity. I couldn’t lose that. I had to explain myself.

“Yes?”

He stood before me, and I took his hands in mine. “I know you’re wondering why I’m… why I didn’t….”

“Why you are shutting me out?”

“Yes! No!” This wasn’t going well. I took in another deep breath, tried to calm myself. “I didn’t mean to shut you out. It’s just that I can’tstandyousleepingwithallthoseothermen.” I didn’t dare look at him.

“What?”

“I can’t stand you sleeping with all those other men. Every time you disappear with one of your friends, it feels as if my heart is breaking. I’m sorry, Oak. I should have told you.” I had to get through this, one way or the other. Gidon had been right. “I’ve been an—”

“Idiot—” He stopped midsentence. “And I’m an idiot too. I went to Father weeks ago, asked him what I should do. I had fallen in love with you, and I thought you knew and were pulling back because you didn’t love me back.”

“You have a funny way to show me your love,” I all but sneered. “You still sleep with your friends!”

“No! No, I don’t. I-I didn’t. It was only Tassart and Mihi, and they knew... I didn’t want to lose your friendship, and I thought when I showed you I wasn’t interested—”

I grabbed him and kissed him hard until we both ran out of breath. “We stop this nonsense right now!” I couldn’t believe how stupid we had been. If it hadn’t been for Gidon and Niam’s intervention, who knows what would have happened.

He rested his head on my shoulder. “What does this mean, Cay?”

Just the thought of Oak with anyone else made my blood boil. What had he said? You will know when you found your life partner. He’s the only one you’ll want. No more fucking around.

“Do you want to be my life partner, Oak?”

He smiled. “There is nothing I want more.”

I couldn’t be happier. I had found my true home at the Patriarch’s Court.

***

After several females crossed the border and attacked two of our guards, the dispute with the Matriarch’s Court was back on everyone’s mind. It was clear the situation was escalating. War became possible, and fear silently circled the skies over the Patriarch’s Court, like a bird of prey waiting to attack.

The Gods forbid any form of war after they had almost destroyed the planet themselves, and they had threatened both courts with unthinkable consequences, should they not adhere to their rules.

Our spies told us the state at the Southern Realm was dire, as more and more women became delirious due to the lack of the men’s blood. Civil war-like conditions were apparent. It was only a matter of time until we had to fight back a major attack.

In a last attempt to avoid the worst, the Patriarch sent an envoy to the Ring of Stones. Only this time, the Matriarch didn’t even answer.

Finally, the Patriarch offered to provide the women with small amounts of blood, trying to defuse the situation and make negotiations possible again, but it was too late. A large-scale attack was already under way.

It didn’t go far, though. Lightning bolts appeared from everywhere and immediately stopped the combatants. Next, the border became impenetrable for either troops, and then the Patriarch disappeared. The Gods had summoned him.

We waited days for his return. Finally, when the messengers called all men to assemble at the great hall, rumors were running wild. Some claimed to know that the Gods had killed the Patriarch and the Matriarch on the spot for starting a war. Others said they demanded a fight to the death within the Ring of Stones to resolve the conflict.

I thought the last possibility was unlikely, as the Two Gods hated fighting. A fight to the death would send the entirely wrong message.

While everyone was talking in low voices, the Patriarch had climbed up on the dais. The relief of seeing him alive was so great some men shouted their greeting in joy, but the Patriarch’s expression was grim. To hush the men, he slammed his goblet so hard on the table, its roughhewn wood was sprayed with wine. The bright, red dots reminded me of freshly spilled blood. I could almost smell it.

Oak instantly noticed something was wrong. He took my hand and whispered, “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know. I just have a very bad feeling.”

“Everything will be okay.” He brushed his lips over the outer shell of my ear and made me shudder. “The Patriarch will find a way to get us out of this mess. He always does.”

Looking at the man, though, I wasn’t so sure. He looked strange; his eyes were wide open, his gaze darting wildly around, and his chest was heaving with fury when he roared, “Silence!”

All of a sudden it was so quiet that we could hear the oak logs and pinecones crackling in the large fireplace at the far end of the hall.

“The Matriarch and I have been summoned to the Realm above the Mountains. Even though the Two Gods were furious, they were gracious enough to still give us the chance to explain ourselves.

“The Matriarch immediately claimed it was I who started the conflict by demanding a binding contract, which would force her to give us the male children at the age of six times twelve-cycles under any circumstances, which was unacceptable in her opinion. She demanded compensation for the agony I brought upon her and her sisters by denying them our blood. She even accused me of indirectly killing her consort, by not giving Ratka a child.

“I knew what the Two Gods expected me to do. They wanted me to give up my position as an equal leader. They wanted me to bow to the Matriarch and follow her every demand, to give her not only myself but you also, my children, as an ultimate sacrifice to regain peace.”

The Patriarch took in a deep breath, held it for a long moment, and then released it slowly. I found myself mirroring him.

“It could have been a simple test of my resolve to accept the Two Gods rule to maintain peace at any cost, even if it meant sacrificing everything dear to me, and then later they might have generously reinstated me. Or—by agreeing to the Matriarch’s terms—I would have surrendered us.” The Patriarch’s gaze hadn’t been on us when he spoke these words; he was looking some place above our heads.

“It was too great a risk. I couldn’t do it.” He closed his eyes. Tears were running down his face. “I’m sorry.”

We stood frozen in place. What did this mean? Rainer finally helped him sit down again while he quietly talked to him. The Patriarch kept shaking his head. In the end, Rainer straightened his shoulders and turned to us. “By the will of the Two Gods, the Patriarch and the Matriarch are no longer the leaders of the two courts. They are nothing but mere people.”

A general outcry drowned out his next words. Questions rained down on the Patriarch’s consort. He lifted his hands to quiet us. “The new leaders will be nominated in a great assembly of the two courts at the council meadow in two days.”

That had never happened before.

***

The two courts stood at opposing ends of the council meadow, the space between them an insurmountable abyss. Tension was palpable. The air was charged with animosity.

Suddenly, a man with long, black hair appeared out of thin air, holding the hand of a blonde woman. They looked like an ethereal version of the Matriarch and the Patriarch.

The Two Gods were among us, uttering only one word. “Mingle.”

No one moved. Soon, the fury of the Two Gods was pressing down on me so much it physically hurt. When I took a tentative step forward, Mara, Serilda’s oldest daughter, followed me. I walked over to the women of the Southern Court. Their cutting glares almost stopped me, but then I felt Oak by my side. Finally, hesitantly at first, other men did the same, as did some of the women. Still, it took a long time until the two courts didn’t stand separately any longer separately.

“We learned long ago the consequences of war. We almost destroyed our father’s work and hope. We will never allow this to happen to our children and grandchildren. Petty squabbles for superiority, resources, and the quest for more power brought you to the brink of war as your former leaders failed to maintain peace.

“Therefore, we decided you were in need of new leaders that will be able to unite the two courts.

“One will live with us at the Mountain Realm. The other will live here on neutral ground. The one living with us will be able to look into your hearts and souls. They will see your dearest wishes, learn your greatest hopes, and fears. They will talk to their counterpart living among you, who then will be able to lead you with wisdom and knowledge. Every dawn of the longest and shortest day, they will switch positions. By taking turns, they will still be a part of the communities and families.”

Then the female God turned to me and stretched out her hand. “Cay.”

At the same time, the male God called Mara’s name.

My hand tightened around Oak’s. I didn’t want to let go of him. I didn’t want to be living on some mountain, away from my love and my family. I didn’t want to know people’s every wish, thought, and fear. When I looked at Mara, I could see my very thoughts mirrored in her face.

The male God was holding a short branch, complete with small green buds, ready to spring open at any time, and held it out to me.

“Cay, you will ascend with us for the remaining three cycles. This budding spring branch will be a symbol of your power, a scepter of peace. At dawn of the longest day, you will hand it over to Mara. It will become a winter branch as a sign it is her turn to be living with us.” As soon as he said this, the buds vanished.

Mara and I faced each other. I looked over her shoulder. My gaze was on Oak. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. Just when I had finally found him, I would be losing him. Would he wait for me? Would he be allowed to live with me in my new house near the Ring of Stones?

The Two Gods lifted their arms into the air, and a golden shimmering dome began to descend from the sky. Just when it was about to reach us, someone yelled, “No! He is mine! I will be his queen!”

I would have recognized Hilda’s voice anywhere, even after all this time. She pushed through the people standing in her way, with mad determination shining in her eyes. The dome had almost touched our shoulders, when, in a last attempt to reach us in time, she shoved Oak. Only, instead of getting him out of the way, she catapulted him directly into Mara. She fell on the ground, and, with an expression full of apology, she rolled away just before the dome enclosed us. Oak and I stared at each other, and for a short moment I was happy he was with me. I stretched my hand out to help him up. As soon as I touched him, I felt power surging through me, linking me to Oak’s mind. I could hear what he was thinking, and I saw myself through his eyes.

Outside a muffled cracking sounded, then the dome disintegrated abruptly into a shower of light.

Oak and I stared at each other, still holding hands. What had just happened? What did this mean for us? This wasn’t what the Two Gods wanted. Would they undo what happened? Could they undo what happened? We looked around searching for the Two Gods, when we saw Hilda lying on the ground, her chest split open in the same way it had on her mother. She died right in front of our eyes.

We learned there was nothing that could be done. The Two Gods did not have the power to undo the magic they had incanted. Only Solus could do that, and he was somewhere in the great beyond.

***

Since then, many times twelve-cycles have passed. One of us lives in the small stone house near the Ring of Stones that the men and women of the two courts built for us, the other lives with the Two Gods on their mountain. Due to our link, one sees when darkness and unrest threatens, so that the other can diffuse any developing discord and unrest. We both detest prying on the mind of our brothers and sisters, but we are bound to the Gods’ will. I hope that in time, the two courts grow together, and they will learn to preserve peace without our help so that we will be free to live our life together.

Until then, we can only leave small tokens of our love for the other to find when they come to live at the house. And our hearts break every time our fingers touch in that one fragile moment at dawn of the shortest and longest day, when we hand over the scepter of peace.

I can still hear the one voice of the Two Gods. “Reign well, and there is hope.”

Hope...

Thank you Cole and Val, for pointing me in the right direction and encouraging me to finish. Thank you Lisa, for your expert and extra speedy editing. Thank you Cia, for proofing and for your kind words.
I wanted to write a Solstice story for the Advent Calendar. But my mind wouldn't stop, in the end I threw out almost the entire plot, and started new, which made me very, very late. Please, tell me what you think. Any comment is very welcome.
Copyright © 2016 aditus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

2016 - Winter - Rewind: Pre-2016 Themes Entry
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What a fantastic story, Adi. Once again humans pay for the folly of Gods. I'm so :pissed: with those 'superior' beings for not listening to the Patriarch but chosing to believe that power hungry female. But I loved the whole concept of the two courts and the fact everyone were pretty much bisexual or gay. :P I also liked the loyalty of his two mothers who knew what was the right thing to do. I wonder if the females fell on the men and bit them at the meeting place once the influenc of the Gods was gone? I shall have to hope the two young men will be able to be together at some point.

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What a horrible thing to have happened to Solus.His two insolent children ruining the world for everyone else.

 

I didn't like what happened to Cay and Oak at the end, but at least Cay has that bond with Oak and not the girl. I guess they should be thanking Hilda for that. But she had to die in the end. Hilda never forgot Cay.

 

I also hold out hope that the two courts will someday be able to live together in peace and harmony so that Cay and Oak can be together again.

 

Great story, Addy! :)

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It was an evocative story, Adi, well told, and tragic in the end. I wonder how men and women would have behaved if the god's stopped their damned interference. I think you showed well that superior beings are not actually superior. Rather, they are warped by their divinity. The Matriarch was anything but motherly, and appeared the biggest villain here. I did see hope, though, that maybe Cay and Oak are the right ones to bring a lasting peace that will allow them their love. Great job, Adi... cheers... Gary....

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*Tissue Warning*

 

I can't imagine never being with the one I love, and yet being linked to his mind always.

 

Only having small things to remember him by. Living on the hope that one day we will be together again.

 

A great story, but very sad as well.

 

:hug:

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This story made me think. So good work! ;)

 

A very sad ending even if it ended with the word hope. Perhaps the state of the world makes that a very struggling light...

 

I feel the gods weren't much godlike when they couldn't even tell right from wrong, true from false. They seemed to be fumbling just as much as the humans are. Not very much guidance to be had from them.

 

It seemed a bit lopsided to me that the men could live indefinitely without women while the women went feral without a man... Or rather their blood. It would have been a good balance to the story and not so 'one supreme villain' if the men had a need or a weakness too. The threat of far off extinction sure, but something else would have provided a balance. Just a thought.

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Oh NO ! After reading the reviews I had to go back and re-read the ending ... Sh-t ! F-ck ! The gods had royally f-cked up the lives of Cay and Oak, separating them before they could start their lives together ... NO ! This is atrocious ...

 

:pissed:
:angry:
:(

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On 12/23/2016 08:03 AM, Timothy M. said:

What a fantastic story, Adi. Once again humans pay for the folly of Gods. I'm so :pissed: with those 'superior' beings for not listening to the Patriarch but chosing to believe that power hungry female. But I loved the whole concept of the two courts and the fact everyone were pretty much bisexual or gay. :P I also liked the loyalty of his two mothers who knew what was the right thing to do. I wonder if the females fell on the men and bit them at the meeting place once the influenc of the Gods was gone? I shall have to hope the two young men will be able to be together at some point.

Thank you, Tim. I really glad you like VMT. It was a struggle to write it and took me ages. Without Cole's And Val's help I wouldn't have finished it. The new world kinda overwhelmed me, so many ideas.

And yes, you're spot on. Gods are no superior beings, they make mistakes, and the humans had to pay for it. I don't know if I'm done with this world, but I'm definitely done with anthologies.

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On 12/23/2016 02:45 PM, Lisa said:

What a horrible thing to have happened to Solus.His two insolent children ruining the world for everyone else.

 

I didn't like what happened to Cay and Oak at the end, but at least Cay has that bond with Oak and not the girl. I guess they should be thanking Hilda for that. But she had to die in the end. Hilda never forgot Cay.

 

I also hold out hope that the two courts will someday be able to live together in peace and harmony so that Cay and Oak can be together again.

 

Great story, Addy! :)

It was so horrible, he couldn't refrain from intervening. The question is, what would have happened if he hadn't done that. Would they have destroyed the planet? Each other? Or would they have found a way to reconcile on their own? We will never know now.

Thank you for your comment, Lisa. And for the super speedy editing. Awesome!

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On 12/24/2016 10:18 AM, Headstall said:

It was an evocative story, Adi, well told, and tragic in the end. I wonder how men and women would have behaved if the god's stopped their damned interference. I think you showed well that superior beings are not actually superior. Rather, they are warped by their divinity. The Matriarch was anything but motherly, and appeared the biggest villain here. I did see hope, though, that maybe Cay and Oak are the right ones to bring a lasting peace that will allow them their love. Great job, Adi... cheers... Gary....

Yes, no superiority here. The gods judged over the two courts with their own flaws in mind. Warped...that's a good word.

They put the fate of the planet in Cay's and Oak's hands...easy way out for them. And yes I strongly support the concept of hope, if nothing else.

Thank you, Gary.

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On 12/28/2016 01:36 AM, Caz Pedroso said:

*Tissue Warning*

 

I can't imagine never being with the one I love, and yet being linked to his mind always.

 

Only having small things to remember him by. Living on the hope that one day we will be together again.

 

A great story, but very sad as well.

 

:hug:

I should have probably put that warning at the beginning of the story, huh?

Cay's and Oak's fate is brutal, as is their task. Thinking about it, the story fits the Pandora's Box theme as well. At the bottom of the box is hope...always hope.

Thank you, Caz. And sorry for the tissue thing.

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On 12/28/2016 04:01 AM, Puppilull said:

This story made me think. So good work! ;)

 

A very sad ending even if it ended with the word hope. Perhaps the state of the world makes that a very struggling light...

 

I feel the gods weren't much godlike when they couldn't even tell right from wrong, true from false. They seemed to be fumbling just as much as the humans are. Not very much guidance to be had from them.

 

It seemed a bit lopsided to me that the men could live indefinitely without women while the women went feral without a man... Or rather their blood. It would have been a good balance to the story and not so 'one supreme villain' if the men had a need or a weakness too. The threat of far off extinction sure, but something else would have provided a balance. Just a thought.

Thanks? lol

I like that: 'a very struggling light'. It's actually perfect for their situation.

No, they are not godlike. At least not what we think a god should be like: all knowing, caring, loving...

No they are full of flaws. As was the women's need for the men's blood. It was an error. No one knew about it, not the men, not the women and maybe not even the gods? If they had, would the Matriarch have risked alienating the men, even grieve stricken as she was? She thought she had the upper hand, but in the end she didn't.

Children are most vulnerable in a society. A powerful pledge in the hands of the women, who were entrusted in caring for them.

This was meant to be unbalanced, to be wrong. The gods made mistakes and the humans have to make it right again.

Maybe Solus should have let the fight running its course.

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On 12/28/2016 01:53 PM, hohochan657 said:

Oh NO ! After reading the reviews I had to go back and re-read the ending ... Sh-t ! F-ck ! The gods had royally f-cked up the lives of Cay and Oak, separating them before they could start their lives together ... NO ! This is atrocious ...

 

:pissed:

:angry:

:(

Yes it is. But there is still hope...

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On 12/29/2016 02:44 PM, Mikiesboy said:

Nice job, Adi. With Gods like these, who needs enemies?

Thank you, Tim. That about sums it up nicely.

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An enjoyable and intriguing take on the battle of the sexes. Can men and women ever learn to cohabit peacefully? It is tempting to speculate that the semi bondage of females in past ages and in some present day societies, is the result of behaviour similar to that which caused the rift in this strange land. And that raises the possibility that current moves to treat both genders as equals might fall foul of the natural animosity between males and females and result in disaster for one group.

Inevitably, it was Hilda, a disobedient woman who butted in and ensured the tragic result of Oak and Cay being separated forever. Very sad. Why must women interfere?:no:

 

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3
4 hours ago, Rigby Taylor said:

An enjoyable and intriguing take on the battle of the sexes. Can men and women ever learn to cohabit peacefully? It is tempting to speculate that the semi bondage of females in past ages and in some present day societies, is the result of behaviour similar to that which caused the rift in this strange land. And that raises the possibility that current moves to treat both genders as equals might fall foul of the natural animosity between males and females and result in disaster for one group.

Inevitably, it was Hilda, a disobedient woman who butted in and ensured the tragic result of Oak and Cay being separated forever. Very sad. Why must women interfere?:no:

 

 

I'm so glad you chose Voli Me Tangere to get to know my work, not many people read this story.  I'm intrigued by your conclusion: (and that raises the possibility that current moves to treat both genders as equals might fall foul of the natural animosity between males and females and result in disaster for one group.) 

Thank you, Rigby. :)

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