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*Violence, adult content, PTSD, anxiety, depression*

Stoke - 12. It's a Girl

The church was much bigger than I originally anticipated. We’d been there for a few days now and the building’s sheer size made it easy to avoid Loren. I didn’t regret bringing Rah along, but gods’ the man was insufferable. If he kept it up, I had no doubt that either Talon or Wren would go after him. The former assassin wouldn’t even show that he was watching, but the minute he even breathed in Eon’s direction, a snowy head popped up between them. Talon was having trouble on two fronts. Loren came onto me, which of course made him crazy, but he also overstepped with Talon himself. I hummed softly, irritated at my thoughts and a shoulder bumped into mine gently. Talon looked down at me curiously and I smiled warmly up at him. No use spending our time with each other thinking about Loren.
The library and the small bookshelf in my room were becoming favorites, second only to the bath tub. I read a lot. I read for my studies as well as for fun now. I went through nearly a book a day on my own and was beginning to understand Talon and Tyren’s vast collections. We strolled into what looked to be a makeshift sitting room. We hadn’t been to this room yet. Pausing to glance around, I frowned when I spotted Rah. She sat on a formal couch in the center of the room, fingers curled up as she toyed with an object against her neck. I noticed it hung from the silver chain she always wore. Talon followed me into the room with a tray of tea and coffee, and I held up my hand, nodding my head in her direction. His smile faded.

“Rah? Why are you sitting here alone? Where’s Loren?” I stepped closer to the couch. She tucked what might be a piece of metal back into the neck of her dress and turned to us.

“By the footsteps, it’s you and your…less than pleasant lover, Kalian?” She wet her lower lip and then pressed them together in a thin line.

“That’s me. Less than pleasant lover, present. Don’t worry. I will make myself absent just for you cyka.” Talon monotoned and I glared at him as he turned and walked off, taking the tea and coffee with him I noticed. I frowned softly. We’d been able to spend a lot of time together since coming to the church even between my lessons with Tyren and my new improved, additional endurance training with Amaris and Wren. Free time off during the day was still rare. This was the first time we’d planned something together when the sun was up in quite a while. I couldn’t even hear Talon’s footsteps anymore. Every time we entered a room with Rah or Loren in it, he tensed right away. With Rah, I noticed, his reactions were even worse than with Loren. Talon practically ran from the girl.

I looked in the direction he’d gone and then sighed, stepping farther into the room. I didn’t have a lot to compare to, but Rah dressed so differently than the women I was used to. Her hairstyle was rough. A jagged, almost masculine, style but then she favored dresses. She was more solid than I had thought originally, now that she wasn’t hidden under a long coat. She was still undeniably feminine, but she had wider shoulders and definite muscle tone under the black fabric she wore. As usual, she was in a long dress. Her decolletage, arms, and chest were covered in black satin that seemed to spread down her torso. She wore a black, sculpted, metal breastplate with strips of fabric draped over it as well. Rah had switched out Talon’s tattered temporary blindfold the day we got here to one made of red silk trimmed with black lace. The skirt was of the same material as the top but as she shifted, I realized there was a long slit. This revealed that she was also wearing high-heeled, leather boots underneath that extended to her upper thigh.

“He called me a bitch.” She said flatly, but I was surprised to see a small smile on her lips.

“Wow, your boots are amazing.” I gasped as I sat next to her, desperately trying to change the subject.

She turned in my direction and her lips downturned slightly as if she didn’t know how to answer, “Oh, they’re leather. The heel’s not very practical for the snow but I love them.”

I smiled softly at her and shifted a tiny bit closer, “That’s okay. I was complimenting them. You didn’t have to justify them to me. I want some. I’ll have to make Talon buy me some whenever we go shopping again. He’s better at haggling.”

“You want some like them? Complimenting me…Talon would buy you something like that?” She asked, voice thoroughly confused.

“Not to sound, uh spoiled, but Talon pretty much does what I want. He only acts tough.” I giggled and scooted back on the couch.

“What’s…he like? When you get to know him.” She turned to me abruptly, hands gripping her skirt tight as if she feared the answer.

“Why?” There was defensiveness in my voice. For once I didn’t feel guilty about it.

“I’m curious. As I said the other day. You are a strange pair.” Her hands fluttered in her lap and then settled again.

“Not really. I’m sure from the outside it looks that way. Uh, how to describe Talon? He’s caring, sweet, protective, and intelligent. I don’t know what you really want to know.” I laughed nervously. She faced forward, playing with a piece of fabric from her dress as she seemed to consider.

“He seems suspicious and violent. Also standoffish with a bad temper.” The blindfold turned in my direction and for once I was thankful for it. I had no doubt that with eyes, Rah would be even more intimidating.

“Everyone here is capable of being violent and you yourself have a temper at times. That being said, you aren’t wrong. He’s been through a lot. He’s had a rough life. Talon’s earned the right to be suspicious of other humans. They’ve done enough to him. As for the specific suspicion geared towards you and Loren, neither of you have been volunteering information.”

“A rough life.” She frowned and faced forward again, “He has had a rough life…”

“I’m not going to go into why. Those are his stories to tell and he’s a private person. I don’t know what else to tell you, really. If he’s loyal to you, he’ll defend you with his life. If he thinks you’re a threat…Talon doesn’t normally hesitate to eliminate those.” I finished with a sigh, knowing exactly where she and her companion currently resided on the scale.

“That’s fine. I suppose I’m not sure what kind of information I’m after.” Rah admitted softly.

“What made you want to ask?” I tilted my head to the side. My earlier conversations with Talon still in my mind, the thought that she may be after information made me a little nervous.

Her hand rose from her lap and then she curled her fingers into a fist and covered it with her other hand, “No reason. I apologize for bringing it up at all.”

“What’s Loren like? Is he really how he’s been acting with us?” I leaned back against the arm of the couch, tucking my leg underneath me as I studied her. She was attractive in a strange way. In a familiar way, my brain interjected. Something crashed nearby and I heard voices. Both our heads snapped in the noise’s direction, conversation forgotten.

“What was that?” She gasped and I stood.

“Stay here.” There was a door at the back of the room, opposite the one that Talon and I had entered. I curled my fingers around the knob and pressed my ear against the wood to listen. I heard what sounded like voices again, but I couldn’t make out any of the words. The Soul Eater? Here? This seemed strange. Taking a deep breath, I steeled my nerves and turned the knob as quietly as I could. I wrenched the door open and blinked rapidly as my eyes adjusted to dim lighting. My entire face went red, and I froze. Paint cans were spilled all over the ground of a room that was now being used as a utility closet.
Brooms, mops, painting supplies, a disheveled Amaris with very wide eyes, and a very smug looking Loren glancing back over a muscled shoulder at me. I could barely see Amaris as she peeked around him at me. She was pinned between him and the wall, half undressed, and legs hooked up and over his hips. Loren’s torso was bare, and I stared at his back. He was leaner than Talon or Eon, smaller in general, but he still had a fair amount of muscle. What caught my eye, though, was the tiger tattoo that took up his entire back. Its roaring jaw sat on the back of his left shoulder and its back feet ended underneath his waistband. The colors vibrant. Bright oranges, deep blacks, it’s eyes a striking blue, and it’s mouth was a blood red.

“Kalian?” Talon, and by the sounds of it, at least one other were coming closer. The room seemed frozen in time until Loren sighed dramatically.

He lowered Amaris to her feet and picked clothing up off the ground. Waving in her general direction, he made his way out of the room. Loren stroked fingers under my chin as he passed, “You really are pretty.”

I jerked away and glanced back to where my friend avoided my eyes as she dressed. I turned slowly and watched for a few seconds as Loren draped his shirt over his shoulders as he walked. He didn’t bother to fix his half-undone pants that sat dangerously low on his hips.

“Who do you think you are?” I started after him, glaring.

“Kalian, it’s okay!” I frowned at her, clenching my fists as I watched him go. He still hadn’t bothered with his shirt and now stood in front of Rah, holding his hands out. She took them and they left the room as Talon and Eon came into it. Talon watched the other man go, appraising.

“Like what you see, my gloomy king? I’ve heard what you can do but it still pains me that I haven’t at least seen it.” Loren inclined his head, eyes dipping to below Talon’s waist as he pressed his tongue against his top teeth.

“No. You’ll never be privy to any of it.” Talon dismissed his existence completely and his shoulders lowered a fraction when he saw me. He’d been gearing up for a fight automatically. Why wouldn’t he? It seemed to be our luck. He had developed a new behavior that worried me. Every time Talon was stressed now, he had this terrible habit of tensing his shoulders so hard they almost rose up to his damn ears. Loren’s eyes were wide for a moment as he digested Talon’s quick write off. Then he smirked and led Rah from the room. I glared after him but turned back to Amaris. I shut the door behind me and silently helped her get dressed without a word to the other two men now in the room.

I was fixing her braid when she finally spoke, “He’s not that bad when we’re alone.”

“He acted like you were nothing when he left. He even made a pass at me and Talon again. You deserve someone who looks at you like…like…” I trailed off, unsure of where my sentence was going. I fished her discarded hair ribbon off the ground. I tied the red ribbon around the end of her braid instead of finishing the thought.

“Like the way Tyren and Hanja look at each other? Even though Hanja tries to hide it. Or the way you and Talon do?” She smiled up at me, “Or the way Wren looks at a battlefield of unsuspecting people?”

I laughed and hugged her to me, kissing her forehead gently, “Yes. You deserve to be happy.”

“I don’t know what that means for me Kal. I don’t want the marriage, kids, tiny little house dream. None of that is for me. I want adventure. I don’t want to be tied down to a place for the rest of my life. Sure, having a person would be great, but I don’t know. When I had feelings for Talon, I think that may have been part of why. He wouldn’t have wanted that life with me either. Not the way he wants it with you.”

“Amaris, I’m not sure that Talon thinks about things like that. Hanja had to save him from the brink of death for him to admit that he loved me. I don’t want to go through another near-death experience to have the ‘settling down’ talk.” She giggled and I kissed her cheek sloppily. There was a twinge inside as I remembered the ring the Soul Eater had shown me in the illusion.

We stood and I opened the door for her. Eon sat on the couch and Talon sat next to him on the arm of it. He looked at Amaris and then the door I was closing behind me. His eyes then trailed the direction Loren had taken.

“So, are we officially sleeping with the enemy now?” He asked, inclining his head as she rewarded him with a glare.

“It wasn’t a secret that I was interested. Everyone saw me go with him when they joined us. Also, when did they become the enemy Talon? When did it become your business?” I sighed softly at the defensiveness in her tone, knowing this conversation could only end badly. I glanced toward Talon, irritation building.

“It is not Talon’s business.” I narrowed my eyes at him and he inclined his head, chewing on his cheek.

“Did something fall?” Tyren hurried into the room, a sleepy looking Hanja trudging along behind him. A strange panel in the ceiling shifted open roughly and Wren dropped down, dust and cobwebs coating his white hair. I wondered for a second what it meant that I wasn’t even fazed by his antics anymore.

“Well, now that we’re all here, we might as well talk about it.” Talon announced, gesturing around the room, “I don’t trust them. I think they’re up to something and I think it’s their fault we were attacked. I think she wanted us to be. Hence why they attacked us and whoever those people were found us again.”

Hanja sunk into an armchair and Tyren in another next to him. Wren hopped over the back of the couch and gave Eon a toothy grin. My brother’s nose scrunched at the filth covering his hair and he started picking what he could off.

“Talon. You are smarter than this.” Hanja looked disappointed and Talon looked away from him, “You think a girl who was almost sexually assaulted and was visibly emotionally distressed afterward planned for it to happen? I treated her wounds. Her hands were covered in defensive ones. Her fingernails were near broken off. While they are suspicious and have given us very little information about themselves, you are forcing a narrative together to justify how you feel. Which is threatened and jealous.” I blinked, eyes wide as I looked away. Hanja was sometimes so blunt and so brave with his words that I wasn’t sure where he got the courage.

Talon scowled but remained silent and refused to meet anyone’s eyes. Eon was still picking at Wren’s hair and sighed, “I don’t trust them much either. He’s an excellent fighter. Years of elite training. How does he end up with a blind girl in the countryside?”

“Rah said that she was imprisoned and then sold to a baron. They met at this baron’s estate where he was a stable boy. He’d already had his training then and broke them out. That’s all she told me. Uh, also he has a giant tiger tattoo over his whole back and is from Illiath if that means anything to anyone?” I said, sitting next to Wren. Amaris still stood, glowering at nothing in particular since Talon wouldn’t meet her eye.

Talon looked up at the ceiling, “Kalian. Phoenix, lion, tiger…”

“What? Oh yeah, when we got here Loren said something weird to me about a lion going for a pheonix’s wings and how tigers and panthers have to stick together.” I rushed through the words and Eon and Tyren looked up at me with mixed emotions on their faces.

“Kal, our house crest was a phoenix, Lex’s was a lion.” Eon raised an eyebrow and I felt foolish, heat creeping over my cheeks. I had only worn clothes emblazoned with the dumb bird. Only rode in carriages with it stamped on the side. I had known Lex my whole life and seen his crest almost as much as my own. Why were things like this slipping my mind so frequently?

“It would appear that perhaps Loren’s may be a tiger, or he at least identifies with them.” Tyren added, smiling encouragingly at me as he saw me struggle.

Eon looked to Talon briefly and then very quietly mumbled, “The Dlethian royal family’s symbol is a black panther. I saw it when I was trying to research that angle to get Kal out of the marriage.”

“What did he actually say to you? What were his exact words?” Hanja questioned, looking frustrated. Talon was glaring down at Eon from where he was perched above him, nose wrinkled in distaste.

Gripping my knees, I took a breath and tried to calm down my thoughts,“He said, ‘Everyone knows what happened to the lion when he tried to snatch at your wings. Talon will like me. Rah does.’ Then something about tigers and panthers having to stick together ‘cause they’re misunderstood or something.”

Then it clicked. I stared at Talon and he raised an eyebrow, taking a break from giving Eon dirty looks. I stalked over to him and slapped my hand over the top of his face. He almost fell off his perch and gripped my wrist, “What the fuc-“

“You’ve known. You’ve been looking at her practically since we met them. If we come into a room with her you run away. You knew.” I looked down at the lower half of his face. Yes, the features were stronger, but they were obviously from the same gene pool.

“I haven’t been running away. I don’t run away. I didn’t know for sure. I thought maybe.”

“Rah. Lyrah. Talon!” I dropped my hand and stared at him. Again, why was I having so much damn trouble making the simplest connections? For all my thinking and possibly over thinking, I never reached conclusions. What was wrong with me? I had no idea what I was feeling. It was so obvious, and I was so stupid. Then, pain set in. Her face, her eyes, everything that had happened to her. The poor girl had led a life as terrible as her older brother’s. That nudging at the back of my brain that had been telling me I was missing something. It was a huge something.

“What’s going on?” Eon asked, eyebrows raised.

“Lyrah is Talon’s little sister.” I said.

“We don’t have any proof of that!” Talon argued and I saw discomfort and shame start to mix with his anger as he stood. His eyes darted around and his whole body was tensed as if he were bracing himself. Talon looked like he was going to run despite his earlier claims. I went to him, my fingers lightly touching his wrist. He calmed the tiniest bit but still looked like he’d rather not be in the room with us anymore.

“Her eyes. She was imprisoned…Wouldn’t that mean everyone’s favorite monster would have met her?” I stared at Wren, and he looked back at me, eyes blank.

“I was given Talon when they wanted him. I never saw a girl.” Wren shrugged.

Talon turned slowly to face Wren, “Nothing in that palace was supposed to happen without you knowing it. That’s what you always told me. You said she never came to the palace or you’d have known.”

“Anders has managed to get things past me before. It’s not impossible. Don’t know anything. Sorry.”

Wren met Talon’s eyes and I saw a flash of something there. Wren was lying. Or if he wasn’t lying, he was withholding some of the truth. Talon must have seen it too. Wren kept his eyes on Talon’s and very slowly lifted his hands, then his shoulders in a shrug so heavy with indifference that it hurt me. In the next second Talon had lunged from next to me, over Eon, and we watched in horror as he tackled Wren and they rolled across the floor. Black flew up Talon’s arms and Wren snarled as black claws jammed into his shoulder.
Wren’s eyes looked crazed and angry, but he was trying hard to stay defensive while Talon appeared to be trying to murder him. Eon and I exchanged a look and I shook my head. There was no way we could separate them. There were too many claws and too much strength. Eon dragged me out of the way as the thrashing bodies slammed into the couch, sliding it across the wood floor. Talon’s hand ripped from Wren’s shoulder and blood splattered over the wood under them. He brought the hand down again and Wren caught his wrist, gripping so tight it looked like it might snap. Tyren, Hanja, and Amaris joined us at the doors to the room. We watched helplessly, Eon’s arm around my shoulders. Wren’s control was slipping. He had claw marks crossing his upper torso and a nasty looking slash across his cheek. He was getting angry as they growled and fought to get the upper hand.

“You told me you never knew anything about her!” I pressed my palm to my chest as Talon yelled into Wren’s snarling face. There was so much pain flying over the connection that I had to blink a few times to keep my cheeks dry.

“If I told you the kingdom’s secrets, I wouldn’t be a very good spymaster or head assassin, would I? You wouldn’t have been able to save her anyway.” Wren rolled them and slammed Talon down hard on his stomach, pressing his cheek to the ground, “Stop. Traveling together really has made you stupid. You wouldn’t have dreamed of attacking me before.”

Talon struggled and my heart sank even lower as I watched the black creep farther over his skin. It slid up his cheeks and into his hairline. He gripped the wrist holding him down and twisted hard. Everyone, Wren included, was lost in shock as Talon forced Wren off him. He punched him hard in the face, knuckles catching on fangs. I winced as his hand came away with gashes in the skin. Talon uncurled his fingers, flexing long claws that he lifted above Wren’s face. Pink eyes were huge and wide.

“Talon, Talon, no. Stop! Right now!” He didn’t look at me. I’m not sure he even heard my voice. Wren’s pink eyes were wide as he tried to loosen the grip Talon had on his wrist before the claws descended. The raised hand stopped in its trek downward and Talon shook his head hard. He let go of Wren and stumbled back until he tripped over his own feet and landed on the ground. His hands came up, claws covering his eyes as his whole body shuddered. Wren held his already bruising wrist, staring at his former ward, speechless. As far as I knew, no one besides the Soul Eater had ever overpowered Wren. He looked from his wrist to Talon again and then stood. Talon was still and his claws were retracting to normal again, covering his face as he gasped behind them. His skin was back to its usual pale color.

“Talon.” Wren strode forward, mouth still slightly agape. Talon dropped his hands and looked up at the smaller white-haired male.

“You said you didn’t know anything. I tried for years. No one would tell me. I thought maybe they just killed her.” His voice broke and he let his head hang again.

Wren looked so uncomfortable that it almost made me laugh. He lowered himself down, stooping beside the long, stretched out legs and resting a hand on top of Talon’s head, “I never saw her. I don’t know where they kept her but she was only in the palace for a month. I hadn’t even heard the king’s plans for you then. She was taken somewhere else after that. Sold to one of the king’s friends.”

Grey eyes studied Wren, but Talon didn’t answer. Wren ruffled his hair gently and I watched something pass between the two. They both looked away and Wren’s hand dropped. None of the rest of us had moved yet and I jumped when I heard a softer voice behind us, “I never knew that part. I never knew you tried to find me. Even while you went through your own struggles.”

Rah-or maybe Lyrah now-walked slowly into the room. I looked around, confused that she seemed to be alone. She held her skirts in her right hand and as we watched her come closer, I noticed her left hand outstretched. The air in front of it shifted strangely and I noticed when it hit the wall she steered around it.

“You’re able to navigate with your power!” Tyren gasped, hands flying over his chest as if looking for his pencil and paper.

“Yes, it’s hard in the snow and I like for people to think I’m more helpless than I am. Sorry. I’ve been, sneaky. Having tricks up your sleeve can keep you from getting killed. I wanted to know I could trust you. Kalian confirmed that I could.” Talon and Wren stared at her from the floor as she made her way to the couch that had been roughly shoved across the room. She hovered her hand over it before sitting, crossing one leg over the other. Looking at them now, it was clear. Rah was a smaller, feminine version of Talon. They even carried themselves the same way. Intimidating and a little hostile, but secretly kind.

“Have you known this whole time?” Amaris piped up, staring at Rah as if she’d seen a ghost. Her eyes jumped from the girl’s every feature then to Talon’s. Wren was standing, but Talon was still sitting on the ground, eyes wide.

“Yes, since we found you. We initially sought you out for a different reason however.” The feeling in the room shifted right away. We were suddenly on guard, except for Talon who still stared at Rah in shock.

“For what purpose?” Hanja deadpanned, eyes narrowed.

“There’s a bounty on your heads, we were going to collect. Then, I saw his stupid face.” Rah sighed.

“Actually, we heard how strong your group was and watched you slaughter an entire band of Anders’ little army of mercenaries. Then we decided to rethink our strategy. I really didn’t want a knife stuck into my soft palate. Then she saw his stupid face up close.” Loren strolled up behind us, hands in his pockets, “What put you in the sharing mood Rah? I thought we were going to leave and keep our air of mystery.”

“Quiet, immature child. Your foolishness if what created problems for us in the first place.” Rah gave another sigh, this one from exasperation.

“You are 14 plus years younger than me-“

“And far wiser. Not the point, if you can find the strength to keep it in your pants and keep your waggling tongue in your mouth, I’d like to tell them what’s led us to this point. Is that alright with you?” The corners of her lips raised in a sneer that had to be hereditary and Loren held up his hands. He backed up to stand in line with the rest of my group in the doorway.

“We are technically in the service of Diman’s Crusade army. General Anders’ private army. Loren was recruited by one of their dashing young captains. Apparently, he made him an offer that Loren’s thighs couldn’t refuse. They’ve been gathering mercenaries and anyone good with a sword for months, building a rag tag army. They promise money, standing, forgiveness for those with less than admirable records. We wanted to leave Dimian. It seemed like our only chance.” Rah explained.

”We love Anders’ captains.” Wren hissed softly.

“Let me guess which one it was.” Amaris groaned.

Loren tilted his head to the side, “He was this half-crazed blond. Nice to look at but definitely off his rocker. Captain- “

“Mallex Nainde.” Our entire group filled in for him and Loren blinked and then frowned and nodded.

“You slept with Lex?” I gasped, feeling my stomach churn.

“Oh no. No. Believe me. I tried. The man was like a monk. He didn’t touch anyone. There were rumors he was a eunuch, he was so resistant to carnal urges. He sure knew when to smile and when to strategically touch, though. That one was all charm, and biceps.” Loren sighed dreamily and I felt my stomach twist.

“I am…slightly less attracted to you right now.” Amaris grimaced. Her hand pressed to her mouth as we exchanged a look. Loren pouted and looked around as if he thought he was missing a joke.

“Sorry to ruin your day but Talon killed him.” I crossed the room and kneeled by Talon, running fingers through his hair. He turned to look at me and I helped him get to his feet. Loren pouted at us both, still clearly lost.
Rah turned to me, “The captain is dead? Hm, good. There was something wrong with him.”

“Okay, am I understanding this correctly? You’re supposed to turn us in then? To Anders? You’re being paid to do it?” Tyren asked, Hanja partially standing in front of him.

“That was the original plan and then little miss storm cloud figured out that the tall king of brooding was her big brother.” Loren grinned, “Among other things.” His eyes swept over Amaris, and she regarded him coolly.

“The only issue now is, Anders seemed to doubt our loyalty from the start. He’s already made threats. Implied he’d turn us in to our respective families which is a death sentence.” Rah continued, smoothing her skirt.

“Your families?” Eon asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You didn’t notice the air of royalty in the way we carry ourselves? No matter, peasants wouldn’t.” Loren laughed to himself, seemingly unbothered that he laughed alone.

Rah sighed and pressed the heel of her hand to her blindfolded eye in irritation, “Loren is 7th in line for the Illiathian throne. His brothers sold him into slavery at a young age because he was their father’s favorite. Hence the complex. Talon and I are the current Dlethian king’s grandchildren. The children of his oldest son who escaped the night before his arranged wedding and was marked for death. He ran off to marry a commoner. It was incredibly romantic. I guess grandpa extended his death decree to us as well. Dad dying in Dimian wasn’t good enough.” Rah explained everything without emotion, only cringing a bit at the romantic part.

“Things just keep getting better.” Amaris whined.

“Talon, congratulations on the sister. That’s an answer to a question I didn’t even have. The soldiers in red, these are Dimian’s Crusade? The unit or army made entirely of mercenaries?” Eon ran his fingers over his beard, and I watched Wren step close enough to press against him. He was stroking his fingers over the bruise marks on his skin.

“Correct. A force that answers only to Anders.” Rah answered curtly. Talon leaned against me and I skimmed my hand over his back, trying to soothe.

“Kalian, do you still have all of the maps and papers? It seems we need to get on track and fast.” Eon forced out a heavy sigh.

“Yes, upstairs.” I kneaded my fingers over tense muscle as I looked over at Eon.

“Tomorrow. I’ve dealt with you all enough today.” Hanja waved his hand dismissively behind him as he walked from the room. Tyren followed, glancing around with an uneasy look on his face. Wren and Eon were next and then Amaris. She stepped around the hand Loren held out and didn’t acknowledge him.

“Rah are y-“

“Go try and fix your mistake cock-for-brains.” She cut him off and huffed in annoyance. I choked on a laugh and Loren saluted. He jogged out and we were alone with the girl.

“I won’t be offended if you aren’t ready to address it tonight.” Rah mumbled when the room fell into awkward silence with only the three of us remaining.

“Yeah, thanks.” Talon let out a soft breath of relief. Slowly, she pulled the chain from her neckline. She held it up and Talon peered at it. He gave up when he realized he couldn’t see the two-inch disc from across the room. He approached her, dragging me with. The disc turned on the chain but when it came back around and caught the light, I saw the jagged triangles pointing downward.

“It was yours. You picked me up. You were too small to carry me far. Your arms got tired, and I couldn’t run fast enough. When I fell, I ripped it off. Out of our family, for some reason, your face was the only one I remembered clearly.” Her voice broke a little and I could hear Talon’s breathing coming harder.

“I-I need to go. I have to go.” He near panted and left the room so fast I was alone with Rah before I knew it.

“I didn’t mean to upset him. I thought it might help.” She pushed her blindfold up and wiped at her eyes.
Hesitantly, I leaned over to rest a hand on her knee, “That day is one of the worst of his life. I’m sure yours as well. He’s blamed himself ever since.”

“For what?” She wiped at her eyes more, eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

“He seems to think that prepubescent Talon should’ve fought off armed adult guards to save you.” I squeezed her knee gently and let my fingers slip away.

It startled me when she grabbed for them, holding them lightly in hers, “That’s ludicrous. Then my entire family would have died that day.”

I looked down at our joined hands, “Talon is hard to sway when he has an idea in his head.”

“I’ll let you go. I’m not your partner. It isn’t your job to console me.” She released my hand and stood gracefully, gathering her skirts.

“I don’t consider consoling someone a burden.” I bit my lip and paused before forcing the words out, “If you need someone to talk to…I’m a good listener.”

“O-oh, thank you.” She whispered.

“I’ll walk with you to your room at least.” I offered my arm almost shyly and felt odd excitement when her hands felt along my forearm before wrapping her arm around it.


We were in our temporary bedroom. Talon was silent, laying face down on the bed with his arms crossed over his head as if he were protecting it. His body shook and I could hear sniffles which made me ache, but I held back. The position he was in looked horribly uncomfortable, but until he was ready to talk, I wasn’t going to disturb him. I sat at the foot of the bed, flipping through the alchemy book again, chewing my thumbnail. I had dropped Rah off on the way and I had a hard time imagining what the two were feeling. What did you say to your long-lost sibling that you hadn’t seen for over a decade? I set the book in my lap as I thought back to the night Talon had shown me the attack on his family. She could not have been more than four or five. Judging by her speech I’d lean towards four. Talon had been 10 or 11. He was 26 now. So that put Rah around, what, 19, 20? I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the footboard hard. She was so young, and she’d been through so much. So had Talon. The universe really took their family and tried its best to destroy it. One member at a time.

“Are you alive up there?” I called softly.

“I feel like my chest might explode and my eyes hurt.” Came the muffled response. I laid the book on the ground and crawled over to his side of the bed. I poked the cage he’d made with his hands and he released his head, stretching his arms above it. He shifted onto his side and looked down at me. His eyes were red, rubbed raw, and he looked miserable. I reached up, combing his hair away from his face with my fingers.

“Move over.” I ordered quietly. He scooted over on the bed and I climbed up, offering my arms. He curled into them and I held his much bigger frame to mine. Kissing his forehead, I began rubbing his shoulders. I wanted to ask him questions. I wanted to make him talk about it. That was the worst thing I could do. Forcing Talon to be vulnerable would make him do the opposite of what I wanted. So, I kept my mouth shut and snuggled him. He rested his face in my neck and I felt his warm breath puff against my skin. It was oddly comforting and I found myself getting sleepy. My hands slowed and I squeezed him to me as I settled into him and the bed.

“I have been a shit older brother so far.” He mumbled, mouth now having drifted to my shoulder.

“Do you know how many times I have called Eon names? Or vice versa? That part’s pretty normal.” I chuckled softly.

“Did he also accuse you of plotting something when Lex sexually assaulted you?” More, slightly harder to understand mumbles.

“Well, on the bright side, I stopped that from happening to her. Talon, you know that you can apologize for things, right? You don’t wrong a person and then avoid them forever. You can apologize and they can choose to forgive you.” I kissed his temple and he looked up at me, eyes narrowed as if I’d presented a foreign concept.

I kissed his nose, “What? I’ve apologized to you plenty of times and you have as well. Why is this any different?”

He hid his face again, “I didn’t leave you in an alley because your legs were half a foot long and I was scared.”

“Talk to her about it.”

“That sounds like the adult thing to do.” He rolled out of my arms and laid on his back, rubbing his poor eyes, “Which explains why I don’t want to do it. Fuck that.”

I rolled my eyes and crawled to him, throwing my leg over and pulling myself up to straddle his lap, “You survived everything you’ve been through up to this point. You survived Wren. You go into battle regularly. You fought the Soul Eater hand-to-hand. You can’t talk to your little sister?”

He looked up at me, resting his hands on my hips, “Have you seen her? She’s fucking scary.”

“She’s actually very nice and also…you two are somewhat similar.” I shook my head and dried his wet cheeks.

“Are you saying I’m scary? Of course she’s nice to you. You make friends with everyone. It surprises me that you haven’t invited the Soul Eater to join us at this point.” I ran my fingers gently over his cheekbones and removed a stray piece of hair that had fallen over his eyes. He looked up at me and I rubbed the center of his chest. Mine ached for him. The endless torrent of emotion that streamed out of his cracked walls was overwhelming. The worst part is that he was trying to keep most of it in. His mind must be a real maelstrom. I leaned down, pressing my lips softly to his.

“No, I don’t find you scary. Either of you. You have to try. You owe it to yourself and her.” He closed his eyes and leaned into my touch as I massaged my fingertips over his scalp. I’d push him later on. The man deserved a break for now. We were accustomed to hard days, but this one had been a different kind of difficult. I wasn’t sure what kind of relationship they could have now. They were strangers with similar faces. They’d lived most of their equally horrible lives apart and it’d shaped them both into stubborn, unyielding people. I wasn't sure if they'd be able to fit their sharp edges together after being absent from the same puzzle for so long.

We'd find out fast.


Copyright © 2021 Demiurge; All Rights Reserved.
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It's been obvious for awhile Rah aka Lyrah was Talon's long missing sister. Did Anders know? It would seem incredibly stupid of him to knowingly let them ever meet. Now they've come clean, we now seem to have a force of nine.

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Posted (edited)

“Are you saying I’m scary? Of course she’s nice to you. You make friends with everyone. It surprises me that you haven’t invited the Soul Eater to join us at this point.”

hahaha 🤪

I had to laugh literally out loud, as this notion of the power of light makes me think that the Soul Eater couldn’t actually tolerate Kalian’s power; the taste of his magik too revolting 🤮 once the Soul Eater tried. So the possibility of an agreement, much like Wren’s is not entirely beyond consideration. Even if Anders’ power is of similar ancient distaste, the power of his armies could be an delightful smorgasbord for the Soul Eater…and friends; pace yourselves boys.

Knowledge of the ancient languages and runes seems to have the power to bind sure beings or to eliminate them if breaking rules or pacts.

As for Loren…

“Go try and fix your mistake cock for brains.” She cut him off and huffed in annoyance. I choked on a laugh and Loren saluted.


@Demiurge, three steps forward and two back; delightful progress none the less!

Edited by Philippe
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Posted (edited)

Hummm...Methinks more than something is rotten in Denmark...just saying...

Love You Kiss GIF by swerk

Edited by drsawzall
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59 minutes ago, Demiurge said:

@drpaladin I don’t do happy royal families I guess 😬

They have a tendency toward dour anyway.

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2 hours ago, drpaladin said:

They have a tendency toward dour anyway.

They all need a healthy dose of Ben Gay for the issues with their backsides!!!

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I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I didn’t even start to suspect that Rah was Talon’s sister. When I think back, it should have been obvious. That’s okay, it made reading this chapter so exciting!

I melted when Kalian knew exactly how to respond to Talon when he was vulnerable. It was just so sweet. 

Loved this chapter ❤️

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