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

Stoke - 4. Blood Runes

**Blood, Swearing**

The sunrise in Dleth was like everything else in the country, bleak and uninspiring. I blinked open my eyes and rubbed my cheek as I craned my neck to look out the window. The light filtering in through our little window made the room grey and I wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. I barely registered that there was something rust colored on the window. The safehouse was in the middle of the woods. It was a little run down. It wasn’t a surprise that the windows were dirty. Talon was nowhere to be found, which was surprising. Mornings were one of Talon’s most formidable enemies. He rarely woke up before I did. I stretched my arms over my head and let out a small breath of relief when I noticed he’d cleaned us up last night. That would have been an absolutely disgusting way to wake up. I smiled softly to myself. He acted so tough but he really was a giant sweetheart. An obnoxious dork, but a sweetheart all the same. I stood and rummaged through Talon’s clothes, stealing a thick black tunic. I pulled it over my head. The sleeves were a few inches longer than my arms and I pulled out some of my thicker leggings. I shivered against the cold air in the room as I jumped into the clothing, yanking them over my backside. I tugged my boots on and finally exited the room.

I could hear voices downstairs and tromped down the steps. Talon was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, a steaming mug in his hand. I shook my head as I realized he had forgone a shirt. He smirked, lips against his cup, as he noticed his shirt hanging off me.

“He’s here. We going to talk about it now?” I raised my eyebrow as Talon looked around the room, sipping whatever was in his cup. I frowned and crossed the room to lean next to him. He moved to stand behind me, his chest pressing against my back as he wrapped an arm around my waist. He was delightfully warm, and I eyed the dark liquid he was drinking.

“What is that?” I asked as I looked up at him.

“Mm coffee. You want some? It’s hot.” When I looked up at him in confusion, he grinned. I’d never heard of it. It smelled nice enough. He held the drink out and I blew on it before taking a tentative sip. It was…

“Disgusting.” I stuck my tongue out and shoved it back into his hands. We didn’t have that at home in Krinn. Or at least my parents had never purchased any. It seemed odd for a port town. You’d think we would have all manner of exotic things coming from transports across the sea. My parents did rarely venture out of their comfort zones. I suppose that could be why. I was getting distracted. Talon smirked softly but then his eyes fell on Wren. He and Eon sat at the table, their chairs unusually close. My brother had a strange, dreamy look on his face as he looked at the former assassin with his head resting on his palm.

“Wren.” Talon prompted, “You want to tell us why there’s blood smeared all over the windows and the front door?” I blinked again and looked behind me. Sure enough, strange shapes were drawn on the windowpanes. That explained why Talon had attached himself to my back. He was trying to block my view. The bright red shapes made me shudder as I noticed the smell. There was a faint smell of blood in the kitchen. I looked down and saw a broken bowl with water sitting in its curve. The water was mixed with a fair amount of red. My stomach protested immediately and I grimaced.

“I made runes.” Wren answered simply.

“Runes?” Tyren gasped and even Hanja looked surprised.

“What? What are runes?” I asked confused. It was at this point that I looked down and saw the orb around my neck was solid black. Parler Noir. I hadn’t been exposed to it yet and the necklace felt heavy on my chest. When I used Disputatio the orb would feel slightly warm. With Parker Noir it felt like a chip of ice against my sternum.

“Runes are old Magik. They’re a type of physical spell. You have to draw out shapes to complete whatever you’re trying to accomplish. I had thought that the practice was long forgotten. I’ve never seen them.” Tyren muttered as his eyes darted from window to window. Hanja rolled his eyes and rubbed his face.

“There aren’t many who still remember. I don’t like to use them.” Wren near whispered, “But I have no choice. This is the only thing that I could see buying us a little time.”

“But what are they?” I asked, frowning at the lack of clear answer.

“I’ve marked every entrance into the safehouse. If the runes are strong enough, the Soul Eater won’t be able to cross the threshold. Runes, as Tyren said, are old Magik. They’re from a time when all we had was spells and raw power. Spells and runes helped us focus the power we had. Over time they were made obsolete because Magik became more stable. Our understanding of it had grown and we adapted. The languages you are learning, those were humanity’s first attempts to gain control.”

Wren rubbed his face, and I noticed his forearm was bandaged, “Runes are…symbols. They were never documented because it was considered blasphemy. I don’t remember why but I remember being told that runes were not to be committed to paper. They were passed along through an oral history. The ones I’ve made are for protection, obviously. They are the only ones I can do with any kind of success. I’ve…I forgot the others.”

“So how does it work? Are your finger paintings flexible? Can they tell who’s crossing the threshold? Are they specific to the Soul Eater? Can we leave the house or are we stuck inside?” Talon asked as his thumb rubbed my hip soothingly. I hadn’t even noticed how quickly my anxiety was spiking.

“You may leave, but I will have to fix the runes where you go out.” Wren looked tired and was missing his normal feral smile and sass. Tyren was now in front of a window, lips moving as he whispered to himself. His eyes followed the lines and a paper and pencil appeared in his hands. I had no idea where he’d gotten them. His thick burnt orange jacket didn’t look like it had much storage.

“How long will they last?” Hanja asked and Tyren looked up abruptly, apparently interested in the answer.

“I…I don’t know. I can’t remember and I don’t know how irritating my blood is to it. It could have developed an immunity.” Tyren turned back to the window and Hanja’s head tilted to the side.

“Why do you believe it would have developed an immunity?” His calm voice carried across the room and Wren stiffened.

He didn’t answer for a few minutes, silence stretching over the room, “It escaped somehow. The runes sealing it either wore down or…”

“Or?” I asked, apprehension filling my chest.

“Or something or someone helped it get out.” Talon sighed, “Why can’t we do anything easy? For once I want my hardest question of the day to be whether I want red or white wine.”

I smiled weakly up at him and his hand splayed flat over my stomach, rubbing gently. He dipped his head and nuzzled my neck. I was surrounded in his smell and I felt my nerves slowly start to calm. I turned back to Wren. I had a question to ask but it died on my lips as I noticed his fingers linked with my brother’s under the table. Bite marks sprung back into my mind. Eon had marks that night I’d had a nightmare. I narrowed my eyes and stared a hole in the side of Eon’s face. He turned to me and raised his eyebrows as his head tilted back. He looked strangely defiant as if he were daring me to voice my suspicions.

“The day this group does something simple and normal is the day pigs fly.” Amaris threw up her hands.

“If that’s all it takes, I’m pretty sure I could find a way to chuck a pig. How far does it need to go?” Talon said, words slightly muffled as he pressed his lips to my neck.

“On a scale of one to ten, how much trouble are we in Wren?” I asked, linking my fingers with Talon’s over my stomach.

“Mm…forty-seven?” The white-haired man replied.

“What does me hearing and feeling it last night mean? How was that possible?” Talon asked against my shoulder now.

“What? You didn’t tell me that.” I frowned.

”He failed to tell anyone that.” Hanja remarked.

”I was distracted.” Talon mumbled.

“It’s getting closer. I’m not sure how its able to…project if that’s the correct word.” Pink eyes flicked to the man behind me and my frown deepened.

“You heard it last night? When?” I turned in Talon’s arms to look up. He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly as he grinned down at me.

“Right before I came upstairs.” That meant it would have been right before we…His grin faltered a little when my face slipped into a glare.

“You are shameless. What is wrong with you?” I hissed so that only he could hear.

“Either way, starting today, we all need to be on high alert.” I heard Eon say behind me as I ripped into Talon through the connection.

 

 

I was sitting at the table with Tyren, brushing up on Disputatio, “No, it arches a bit more here. If you don’t follow through it makes it a different letter. See?” I watched Tyren and made a few attempts of my own. It was a little tense in the room. Amaris sat with us, slowly learning how to make the letters herself, hair piled atop her head messily. Talon was laying on the floor in front of the tiny fireplace, throwing a ball up and catching it. He was losing his mind. Being cooped up and told you couldn’t go anywhere didn’t seem to sit well with most of our group. Hanja was reading something in a language I’d never seen before. It had sharp letters that ran vertically on the page in a mixture of strokes and boxes. Tyren had explained it wasn’t a dead language. It was just from a different country and was Hanja’s native tongue. His hair was down and periodically Amaris would ask to play with it. Hanja merely stared at her until she resigned herself to working on letters with us again.

Eon was changing the bandages on Wren’s arms. I looked away as the jagged edges were exposed. I couldn’t stand to look at the bloody bandages either. The tip of the pencil I’d been using snapped, and I let out a soft breath as I tried to relax. My body was set on having a meltdown. It wasn’t even that much blood. Wren’s wound wasn’t gushing or anything. Combined with the smears on the windows, the smell, and Wren’s injury I was failing to keep it together. I was slipping. One of the worst parts was that the others claimed there wasn’t a blood smell. There had to be. It was so thick in my nose that I felt like I could taste it. I laid my palms on the table and swallowed hard as I gagged. I could power through this. I’d been down here all morning and part of the afternoon. Why was it hitting me now?

Talon? My voice bounced against his walls, and I felt a slight shudder as he dropped his defenses.

You alright? Are you going to be sick?

Upstairs.

“Well, as fun as this is. I want to take a nap.” Talon rose and made his way to me, “C’mon babe.”

“You can’t take a nap by yourself?” Eon questioned as he finished securing the bandage.

“Eon, think. Do you really want me to answer why I want your brother to come to bed with me?” Talon’s voice was teasing and unbothered, but I could feel his concern sliding over the tether. I swallowed hard again and blinked my eyes as they began to water. He was creating a distraction, drawing attention away from my building struggles. His hands slid under my arms, and he easily lifted me. He held me to him tightly, my legs and arms wrapping around him like a monkey.

“Last I knew, Kalian could walk.” Amaris’ voice was unimpressed. I was thankful no one was picking up on the fact that I was falling apart in real time.

“I like carrying him. Go be jealous somewhere else. It’s unladylike.” Talon snapped and it was the only indication that he was starting to lose patience with their questions. He passed it off as annoyance at being teased, but I could feel his own nerves fray as my fingers dug into his back and my breath started to come in pants. Uncertainty rolled off him and it was starting to make me panic.

“Take him upstairs and have him breathe deep. In for seven seconds, hold for seven seconds, then exhale for seven. If that doesn’t work have him start naming items around the room. Be cautious of touch…it can be overstimulating.” Hanja didn’t look up from his book as he spoke. How had he picked up on what was going on? The room went quiet, but it didn’t matter. Talon was already moving up the stairs, me latched to him. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes and my hands crept up to grasp at his shoulders. I couldn’t get a good grip. Skin didn’t bunch up and fill my hands like fabric did. For some reason, that took my breath away and I was gasping. Talon was still shirtless from this morning. I needed something I could grab. I needed…I needed…shit.

“Alright, look at me. Hey. Kalian.” He’d sat me on the bed, and I was struggling to get in even half a breath. His knees hit the ground so hard it pulled my attention for a brief second. His hands rested on the bed next to my legs and I grabbed at my leggings, clutching the material in my fingers.

“Do you remember what Hanja said love? The breathing? Let’s try it.” He started to count. and I shook my head as I hiccupped in between gasps. Tears slid down my face and my hands were sweaty gripped around the fabric.

His voice lowered, softened, “Kalian, focus on me. Focus on my voice.” I let out a sob and held my hand out for…what? I didn’t know. He shifted upward and my fingers slid through his hair before closing around the strands. I was gripping too hard. It had to hurt. But it helped. It was him. Talon was here. Nothing bad was going to happen to me with Talon right in front of me. A breath got caught in my chest and I listened as Talon started talking. He was going over the first time it’d snowed. The first time I’d seen snow.

“You remember love? We were all talking, and you went silent in the middle of a sentence. Next thing I know you’re running outside. I thought something was wrong, but no. I get out there, assuming the world is ending, and you’re spinning in a circle. The ridiculous giant flakes were sticking to your hair and eyelashes, and you pulled me along with you as you lost it. You literally frolicked and I was positive that I could never be more in love with you than I was in those moments. In a rare occurrence, I was wrong. Each day I’m more head over heels than the last. I’m hopeless. A lost cause.” He was rambling now, but I was locked on his voice. His tone and cadence were soothing, and I was finally able to take a real breath.

“There you go. You’re doing so well. Let’s try the breathing again, eh?” The counting started again, and I took a shaky breath. I began to follow along which earned me a bright smile. It took a few long minutes, but I managed to get enough oxygen back into my lungs. My heart was still racing, but even that was getting better. I wasn’t so light headed.

“Please.” I rasped and he looked up at me. Words were so hard. Hold me?

Talon moved slow, arranging my limp body on the bed. He laid down next to me and tucked me into his chest. He pulled up the blanket and I hauled it higher. I was completely covered, my cheek smashed against his sternum as the blanket blocked out the light. His fingers worked up and down my back over the blanket and I tried to do the breathing on my own. It was like a mantra. In seven, hold seven, out seven. I was relieved that it seemed to have worked and was still working. I was almost back to normal. “Look at us go. Handled something without one of us completely losing our cool.” I let out a surprised little laugh and I felt Talon’s chuckle through my cheek.

“How we doing there Sunshine?”

“B-better. I’m okay.” I was so close that my lips dragged over his skin when I spoke. I was unwilling to put any space between us.

“Can I do anything else?” A hand slid up and ran gently over my covered head.

“Nap. I want to nap.”

“I can handle that.”

 

I woke up off and on throughout the day, but I didn’t leave the bed again. Talon brought me lunch and fed it to me with more patience than I’d ever seen from him. I could do it of course, but I was making an entire day out of pouting. Having my partner dote on me seemed like the only thing I needed. He brought me dinner as well. My sleep was only broken up by these moments. Each time he left the room again, I fell back asleep. I didn’t remember ever sleeping this much in my entire life. I felt like it should bother me. I wasted an entire day after all. But I couldn’t be bothered. You have to be conscious to be bothered.

The final time Talon woke me up was to join me. His arms wrapped around me, and I greedily leeched his warmth. I didn’t understand how he was warm all the time. Eon made sense. He was a human heater, but Talon wasn’t. Oh well. I benefitted directly from his weird body so why was I complaining? His lips pressed to mine and then to my forehead. After only a few minutes his breathing evened out and I watched his face relax. Gods I was in love. It was almost disgusting how much. I studied his face and started feeling drowsiness creep back up. How? I shook my head and tried to shake off the fatigue as well. I was failing miserably. My head kept dipping to my chest and I finally gave up and gave in.

 

 

I swore as I opened my eyes and found myself at the start of a path. Trees rose high above me. For the first time, I wasn’t immersed in the woods, and I looked around. My heart stilled as I saw the cottage-the safehouse. I hadn’t seen the outside but I knew that’s where I was. I was so close. I tried to turn my feet, to go toward the house. I struggled and jerked as I tried to turn around. I couldn’t. My feet remained pointed to the woods. I glanced back and noticed just how dark the spaces between the trees were. My heart hammered in my chest and I let out a whimper as my feet started walking. They marched me forward, into the trees. I glanced back over my shoulder at the safehouse. As I did it crumpled in on itself, twisting and bending until it blinked out of sight. I stared until my head was forced back around. I had no control over my body. My feet led the rest of my body farther into the woods and I tried to grab anything that I passed.

“What the fuck!” I growled and tried again to will my feet to stop. Instead, they broke into an awkward jog. It was like the rest of my body wanted to do one thing and my feet and head wanted to do another. I tried to hold onto that sliver of free will I had left. It didn’t last long. My struggling slowed my progress and suddenly my whole body joined my feet in the jog. My arms pumped up and down and I flew through the trees. Branches and leaves smacked and scrapped my skin. It was there again. That black void at the end of the path where everything seemed to cease to exist. As expected, my feet and the rest of me were heading right to it. I gave up on fighting whatever held my body and tried to sense the power around me. There was the tiniest little string of it and I fought to get to it. My senses had almost reached it when I was plunged into pitch black. The Magik fizzled out and my feet abruptly stopped. I pitched forward and landed on my knees and elbows.

“Welcome back child.” I froze at the voice, or voices rather, trying to sense any movements around me. I pushed myself to standing and prepared myself for when it spoke next.

“I want to see your gift. Show me.” I opened my mouth to snap that I couldn’t because of it’s damn dark, but I closed my mouth just as fast. No, that would put me at an even greater disadvantage. Also, I wasn’t sure how it worked. It had attacked me in the first dream and my Magik had exploded from me. The voices had come from my left, and I turned to face where I’d last heard it. I still hadn’t seen it move, but I could hear it.

“Want to see. Show us. Now. Show us now. Now!” The voices all talked at once and I dodged at the last minute, feeling what I assumed was a body surge past me.

“How about you show me what you are! You’re the one hiding in shadows.” I snapped, turning in a circle as I felt the presence around me shift. I made a realization suddenly that made me feel like an idiot. I was turning in a circle, twisting around, dodging, I’d fallen earlier. I could move. I was in control of my body. I waited until I thought it was directly in front of me. I turned on my heel and sprinted in the opposite direction. A chorus of screams battered my eardrums, but I didn’t raise my hands. I didn’t stop running. I didn’t slow down, and I didn’t look back. The screams dropped in register and morphed into a horrifying roar that shook the ground. The path disappeared from under my feet, and I narrowly missed a root sticking out of the ground. I leapt over it and the next one. Then another. They sprung up in front of me. Trees snagged my tunic, thorns dragged across my skin. It was as if the whole forest was trying to catch me.

Meanwhile, that roar was getting closer and louder. The ground still shook, and my stomach was uneasy from the volume alone. I tried to center myself. I had done this with Talon. That seemed like forever ago. I threw myself over a downed tree, ducked under a suspiciously low branch, and forced myself to keep my steps light and fast. I should be out by now. The trees kept stretching farther away from me and I screamed in frustration as I listened to it crash through the trees behind me. My own impatience is what brought me down. With my growing anger I didn’t watch my steps as closely, my jumps became sloppy. A root sprung up at the last minute and my foot hooked into it. I flew forward and my arms buckled when I tried to catch myself. My head hit the ground hard, and my world spun. The roaring tapered off. Wails and laughter filled the air and I heard it approaching.

I flailed around and felt it. My power was here. I sunk my fingers in figuratively and flopped onto my back. I caught the outline of a head, an impossibly tall body. Then I unloaded. I held my hands together in a ‘V’ shape and light erupted from my palms. I spread my hands farther apart and the largest beam I had ever produced slammed into whatever had been chasing me and the woods behind it. The voices rose to screams of rage and pain and my world spun. I had hit my head. That’s right. It made sense that I was dizzy. Logical. I fell back, bent leg falling flat to the ground as my world spun. I closed my eyes and sleep overwhelmed me.

 

I was being shaken. I opened my eyes fast and tried to figure out where I was, jerking away from whatever or whoever was touching me. I was on the first floor. In the safehouse. Yes, that was right. I looked down at my hand as I felt moisture. I was holding a wet rag, standing in front of the door. My hand with the cloth was raised and had been descending to the wood. I had been trying to wipe a rune away. After sleepwalking. I had never sleepwalked in my entire life. I turned my attention to my side where Wren studied me. He glanced to the door and scanned for a minute. He nodded as if all was well and waved me over to the table. I watched him sink into a chair. I managed to snap out of my shock and follow him. I sat down across from him, unsure where this was going.

“It came to you again.” He said matter of factly and I nodded, “What did you tell it?”

“Nothing. I ran and then found my Magik and blasted it away from me. Then I woke up.” Wren’s light eyes dipped from me back to the door. A small frown pulled at his features, his upper lip lifting to expose the tips of his fangs when he scrunched his nose.

“It’s hunting you. It wants something from you. I thought it just wanted to eat you for your power, but I think it’s more. The dreams are unnecessary. There’s another layer to this and I can’t, for the life of me, imagine what it could be. Other than now breaking the protection I’ve placed.” His eyes ran over my face and I didn’t know how to answer him. Wren closed his eyes for a couple seconds and then his full attention returned to me, “It’s going to find you. It knows where you are. It’s inevitable. All you can do is take precautions.”

“Precautions. Like what?” I glanced over my shoulder at the door as if it had any answers.

“It appears that you’re now being used as an accomplice if the way I found you is any indication. Have Talon restrain you somehow.” An amused grin slid over his lips, “I’m sure that would not take very much convincing. In your dreams you could also try to escape sooner if you can. I don’t have very many solutions for you unfortunately. I’ve never heard of it doing anything like this.”

“Why is it so obsessed with me? I seem to attract that a lot.” I pushed my hair away from my face as my thoughts tried to revisit Lex. That was a trail of thought we did not follow. Ever.

“Power Sunbeam.” Wren shrugged, “Every human and creature like the Soul Eater want power. They crave it for one reason or another. More importantly, you are new and exciting. No one’s been born with your gift and it is in a stark contrast to the Soul Eater’s own power. You are Talon’s balance and equal, perhaps it is the same for the creature.”

“I can balance the monster? I’m its equal?” I shook my head in disbelief.

“I am wondering if curiosity is the reason for its change in behavior. It has never been exposed to your gift. I wonder if you are a sort of beacon for those of us who’ve been in the dark our entire lives. The Soul Eater is the living manifestation of the dark. It could even be possible that Talon’s and it’s power are connected or at least similar. I’m sorry. I don’t know. A lot of this is educated guess.”

“Have you heard of a connection like the one Talon and I have?”

“No,” Wren’s claws traced a line of the wood grain, “I have never seen anything like either of you, let alone this connection. The gods are up to something with that. They know what’s coming for us, for you two. Focus on your dead language, on getting better and stronger. You have to be prepared for whatever it is.”

“Is there a way to kill it? Can we fight back? We don’t even know how to prepare.” I looked into his unsettling eyes and saw the despair there, the defeat. Wren had already given up.

“No, we’re all going to die.”

 

I snuck into my bedroom, creeping along on tiptoes as I lowered myself onto the bed beside Talon. He lay on his back, an arm over his face, the other extended out and hanging over the edge of the bed. The bed creaked and I winced, carefully tugging up the blanket. His breathing was still slow and even. I rolled over and looked up at him. My head rested on his extended arm, and I toyed with the hair that reached his ears. It curled up ever so slightly and the longer hair on top hung over his forehead. I covered him up for my benefit more than his. I could not be trusted with his entire muscled torso on display.

“Enjoying the view?” I squeaked and looked up. He rubbed his arm over his forehead, effectively pushing the hair out of his face. The grey of his irises was free of black, and his pupils were small. He was trying to blink sleep out of his eyes as he seemed to note that I was wide awake and had left his side at some point. My clothes were chilled from leaving bed. In my defense, I managed to maintain my self-control in the face of a sleepy, vulnerable Talon. I didn’t want to ruin his fragile tranquility, but he’d be livid if I didn’t tell him. Not that he’d thought it important to tell me what happened to him when he’d felt the monster.

“I had another dream. Another one with the…Soul Eater.” The calm and relaxation died abruptly. His focus sharpened and he sat up. He was tense and the corners of his mouth dropped in a frown.

“What happened this time? Did it ask more questions?” He was really asking if I’d told it anything else. He was just asking in a much nicer way. He’d been trying harder since our argument, and I had to give it to him. He’d handled my freak out better than he’d ever handled one of the breakdowns I’d had in the past.

“I didn’t tell it anything. At the start, I was totally under its control. I couldn’t stop myself from walking towards it. I couldn’t even look away. I managed to get away though. I ran and when I got far enough away my Magik came back, and I blasted it away from me. Then I woke up.” Talon looked a little concerned and a lot angry.

“W-when I woke up, I was downstairs and trying to wipe away the runes Wren put on the front door.” I cleared my throat and looked up at him.

“So, it can control you now? When you’re asleep?” Talon’s fingers curled into the blankets as he tried to keep his emotions under control, “There’s no way for us to keep you safe. We’re helpless. All we can do is wait for this thing to come and slaughter you?”

“Well, in all fairness, it will slaughter all of us.” I tilted my head to the side and winced when Talon glared at me.

“That’s not funny.”

“None of this is funny. I know that. I was just trying to lighten the mood.” I slid onto his lap and traced the tattoo on his chest with my finger. He rested his hands on my thighs and let his eyes slip closed as his head fell back. There was a storm of emotions behind his walls, so turbulent that I could feel it clearly without reaching out. Rage and hatred were at the forefront but as I paid more attention, I noticed the overwhelming note that slipped under all the surface emotions. Fear. Talon was scared. Of what? Facing the monster? Losing our friends?

“No one’s going to die. I don’t know how, but we’re going to figure this out. Ancient, Magik eating, powerful being or not. I’m going to kick its ass if it touches you in the real world. I can’t be there in your dreams but the minute it’s here, physically, it’s not getting away.” He opened his eyes and his fierce expression added intensity to his words.

“Wait…maybe you can be. In my dreams I mean! When we were still in Syrin, the first night I ever came to you, it was because your dreams merged with mine. I saw them even though you were asleep. What if you stayed awake and when the dreams started you jumped in?” Excitement laced through my voice. I was suddenly hopeful. I was positive that this could work. The only reason our thoughts weren’t constantly flowing back and forth is because our walls were up at all times.

“No. That sounds way too risky. What if it does more harm than good? Also, we were both asleep. We have no idea how this thing really works.”

“We could talk about it with the group. They can weigh in and Hanja and Tyren always seem to have advice. Wren might even have some insight. He’s the only one that has real more knowledge of this thing.” I frowned, my fingers lingering over the Verseckt tattoo on his arm. The tree across his abdomen flexed as he sat up more, jostling me slightly.

“We can. We can talk to them, but at the end of the day, the ones being put in danger are you and I. This thing lures you into the dark. What if my power had no effect? What if I’m a disadvantage? You’d have to somehow get both of us out. I don’t like it Kalian.” I could feel his eyes on me and his index finger ran down the slope of my nose, “I’m not willing to put you in more danger. You seem to find enough on your own.

“Babe, please, this could work.” I looked up at him through my lashes, pushing my lip out in a pout.

“Oh, get away from me.” He groaned and rubbed his eyes with his fingertips. The tiniest amount of grey light was starting to spill into the room. It was already morning and I felt like I hadn’t slept at all. I wanted to see this through though. Even if our friends shot the idea down, at least I tried. No one else seemed to have any answers or solutions. Wren thought we were doomed, Talon was set on fighting this thing, and I wasn’t even sure where the others stood on the issue at hand. There had been a shift in the balance, and I was worried we hadn’t been doing as well making decisions as a group.

“Fine. We’ll talk with the others. Fuck, we can vote if that’s what you want, but the minute I don’t like something, I’m going to say it. Okay?” Talon was still frowning at me.

“Of course. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with any plan we make.” I nodded eagerly.

“It won’t happen. If I’m uncomfortable we’re not doing it. I don’t care what they say.” I frowned up at him, but the hard set of his jaw let me know Talon had decided. There was no swaying him when he was like this. It had been endearing at first, the protectiveness. Now, I was worried it was clouding his judgement. If this was our only chance, we had to take it. Right?

I climbed off him and he rolled onto his side, head resting on his bent arm. I lay on my side as well next to him and snuggled into his chest. His face was guarded and serious. As I yanked the blanket up and tucked it around us, I felt him looking at me still. I pressed my lips to the black ink on his pec and rested my face in his neck, nuzzling. Talon had always been so receptive to physical affection that it threw me off when he didn’t wrap himself around me. He didn’t even touch me. It worried me enough that I opened my eyes and searched his face. Grey eyes met my own and we were quiet as I felt his mental walls slip ever so slightly. I followed suit and closed my eyes as our thoughts mingled. It rarely happened this way. Talon didn’t like to open fully to me, but this time he let me in. He shared his fears, his worry over the risk. About everything. The Soul Eater was our current priority but he still struggled with the whole Anders situation. He was terrified of something happening to me. He was scared of our friends getting hurt or dying. He thought that if it came down to it, we would all become selfish and save the one most important to us. Talon was positive Amaris would be left high and dry.

Going deeper than all of that was a different kind of fear, not connected to the dangerous obstacles we faced. There was a powerful feeling of inadequacy. Talon had convinced himself he didn’t know how to be a good friend or partner. He didn’t take care of people. It required skills that he didn’t possess. He was suffering from feeling like a fake, an imposter. We thought he was playing a role, but it wasn’t who he really was. Did he really have the capacity to make me happy? Why was Amaris so much better at taking care of me? Why couldn’t he do what she did? Fuck why was he so useless?

I pulled back, gasping softly as I tugged his face to me, “You’re a gods damned idiot.” He blinked at me, grey eyes wide, “No one is expecting you to be the perfect friend or lover. We’re all human, well not Wren, but the point is, we’re all just trying our best Talon. No one is an expert on life. We’re all stumbling through with varying degrees of success. Yes, you suck at feelings and communication sometimes. So do I.”

“You’ve gotten better…” He mumbled, gaze darting away from mine.

“Ugh, dumbest smart person I’ve ever…So have you Talon. The way you handled my meltdown earlier was something you couldn’t do even a week ago.” I was still holding his face and I pushed myself up on the bed to join our lips. His arms wrapped around me, and I snuggled into him as our lips moved. It was slow, almost lazy and neither of us pushed it farther. Talon broke the kiss and rested his forehead against mine, stealing a kiss every so often. My lids grew heavy as I settled into the warmth. His fingers rubbed the small of my back until he started nodding off. He shifted and closed his eyes, slipping into sleep fast. I was exhausted, but the nagging thought that the Soul Eater might return to put me through another nightmare made me hesitant to rest. I wanted to hold out, but my sleep had been awful for months. I had little control now. I was comfortable, warm, wrapped in Talon, and absolutely exhausted. I adjusted the pillow under my head and gave in like earlier. If I was to have another nightmare there was nothing I could do. I needed sleep and it was a risk I’d have to take. Talon’s soft snores lulled me farther from consciousness until I fell under the surface. To my surprise, I managed to avoid dreaming completely.

I now return to our regularly scheduled program after the Eon and Wren segue.

This chapter was part of a longer one. I decided it needed to be broken up.

I'm hoping to adhere to the Tuesday/Thursday update schedule that I had for Awaken.

Thanks for reading/your amazing comments! :thankyou:

🖤D

Copyright © 2021 Demiurge; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

Well I somehow missed the last chapter so was able to have a nice little binge today. The tension is certainly building as the group comes to terms with the situation they now find themselves in. I think Kal is right though. They are not the same people they were a few months ago. Each person has changed or grown in some way and I hope that that will be enough to see them through this trial. Only time will tell 😁

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46 minutes ago, HobbyGoblin said:

Well I somehow missed the last chapter so was able to have a nice little binge today. The tension is certainly building as the group comes to terms with the situation they now find themselves in. I think Kal is right though. They are not the same people they were a few months ago. Each person has changed or grown in some way and I hope that that will be enough to see them through this trial. Only time will tell 😁

I'm glad to know I am not the only one not getting notifications of a new chapter.

Kalian has intrigued the Soul Eater with his power and uniqueness, but I feel it is flirting with its own doom. This culture is immersed in Magic. Are there no protections against dream magic?

I like Kalian's idea. Kalian and Talon are stronger together.

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Not for nothing, Talon and Kalian together have the combined power to send this soul eater to whence it came from or utterly destroy it. It is clear Anders is behind it's release and there has to be some connection betwixt the two a-holes! What would be interesting to see is how the demise of the soul eater disrupts Anders plans!!!

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Philippe

Posted (edited)

On 6/15/2021 at 8:48 PM, HobbyGoblin said:

Well I somehow missed the last chapter so was able to have a nice little binge today. The tension is certainly building as the group comes to terms with the situation they now find themselves in. I think Kal is right though. They are not the same people they were a few months ago. Each person has changed or grown in some way and I hope that that will be enough to see them through this trial. Only time will tell 😁

hahaha 🤣 I’m not the only one to see it late; delayed observation I guess for me.

Hmmm 🤔, just the Band of Misfits itself kinda redefines the past transitioning into the present as to who they are now; it’s interesting to reflect specifically for a moment on each character’s’ introduction and then the migration towards the misfits. 

On 6/15/2021 at 9:45 PM, drpaladin said:

I'm glad to know I am not the only one not getting notifications of a new chapter.

Kalian has intrigued the Soul Eater with his power and uniqueness, but I feel it is flirting with its own doom. This culture is immersed in Magic. Are there no protections against dream magic?

I like Kalian's idea. Kalian and Talon are stronger together.

So my read was delayed, but that puts us closer to the next post, right @Demiurge? Tuesday/Thursday??? 😝 Just kidding, but I selfishly hope you can post that often. 😃 

I hope Wren’s seemingly distracted thoughts are him reviewing is many memories to unlock some hidden nuggets to give Kalian and this BoM a breakthrough into the hidden powers Kalian is yet to understand; including that protection spell!

14 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Not for nothing, Talon and Kalian together have the combined power to send this soul eater to whence it came from or utterly destroy it. It is clear Anders is behind it's release and there has to be some connection betwixt the two a-holes! What would be interesting to see is how the demise of the soul eater disrupts Anders plans!!!

I have to believe that the destinies are intertwined to fulfill a prophesied return of majiks to the masses; perhaps weakening families some and returning trades or skills to the common folks.

You bring up an excellent thought to consider of Anders as possibly an ancient himself or whether the more snap conclusion of just his greed and arrogance leads to him releasing a beast he thinks he’ll control. The irony would be a tragicaly hilarious event where Anders has already been consumed by the beast, which he helped free, but that would also help lead the beast to Kalian.

Either way, Anders definitely deserves a painful death ☠️, so the beast? Wren?? Or Kalian??? He needs to feel his grip losing against his opponent, and to face his own horror as he faces the opposition that consumes his all powerful ego!

Once again @Demiurge, you deliver the ever climbing rollercoaster of suspense, I can’t wait for all the fast twists and turns as the dominoes of evil topple and the powers of past are brought to justice and a balanced system requiring earned respect; the White Lord delivers Light! Hahaha 😝 My fantasy wish for good over evil. Thanks again for sharing your this exciting adventure of majik and mystery.

Edited by Philippe
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I’ve been meaning to say this for awhile now: when is Amaris gonna get someone? A girl, a boy, a Wren-like nonhuman, somebody! It’s gotta suck being the odd girl out not only because she’s the only female, but she’s the only one without a partner. I bet she’s also worried she’d get left if shit got real. 

Ready for some strategy talk with the teachers. Surely they know something!

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The cuter and snugglier Talon and Kalian get, the more tension I feel that they’re going to get ripped apart by someone or something. Stupid soul eater 😡

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