The Kindling Moon

The Kindling Moon

By Sora Kess

kindled2

Part 1

[24 pages; Rated M for graphic sex, language, and themes]

Summary: Suddenly granted mortality after spending over a millennium as a ghost, Aryas struggles to recall the circumstances around his life and death. But the cruelly beautiful prince Supaya, who is dealing with his own ghosts, proves to be more than just a distraction; he may just be Aryas’ undoing. Which one of them will be the victor?

 

-1-

The spirit woke to the blood-tinged light of the Kindling Moon, his consciousness expanding, unreeling outward to encompass the crumbling stones of the cenotaph and the bare, bony branches of ancient trees. He had woken before, many times, and as though with regularity, always in the light of that same small moon.

He had been somebody once, a man with purpose, but long years of dreamless sleep and formless haunting had crushed his memory and scattered the remnants like ashes. Each time he woke, there was less of him left. He supposed there would come a day when he would simply fade away, become absorbed by the landscape, like the Anu he could no longer quite recall. What he did remember was the binding that held him in place, the Hell Gate that rose up in the distance, palatial and sprawling across the hills. That he could not forget, for its existence was bound up in his very being. Strange then, that he should be bound to this distant spot—chained, as it were, by the proximity of the ground his blood had once watered. That was something else he could not forget. He kept forgetting all the wrong things.

He watched the forest day-by-day, unable to leave its decrepit confines. People rarely came here, more and more rarely as the years had passed, and now even the song birds had fled, leaving only ravens with their lonely voices. In boredom, he wove himself in and out of the branches or through the cracks in the stone. The cenotaph was old—older than he was, he suspected—and its stones were crumbling from exposure and full of secret places. There was writing etched into one face, but the forms had softened, their edges blurring, so that he could not read the stories they might have told him.

By night, however…

The cold light of the Soughing Moon caught a tracery of fine wires set into the stones slabs surrounding the cenotaph. He liked to follow these as far as his leash would allow—further each night of his waking, while the seals on the Hell Gate grew weaker and weaker. He would drift through the silent shadows, following threads of fog that wafted through the ferns and clung to the brush, shaping himself after the fractals the wires created, reproducing their intricacies in himself. And sometimes, when the nights were deepest, he might see something more interesting still: people sneaking about doing as people do when there is no one about to see: plotting, or thieving, or fucking.

It was one of these that called his attention one night. He had coiled into himself, woven into the crevices between the bricks of the cenotaph, when suddenly the sound of footsteps crunched through the night, silencing the sound of crickets. Then:

“There’s no use, Supaya. I’m tired of your games.”

A snort, derisive and sharp. “What else did you expect? It’s not as though I ever made pretentions.”

Curious, the spirit detached from the stones and spun himself through the semi-darkness. They stood very close by, two men—a nobleman and, the spirit noted with quiet fury pricked by some forgotten memory, a prince.

The prince had the exquisite features that had characterized the last few generations, but his large eyes were narrowed in anger, and his full lips were twisted into an animal sneer. He was leaning with his back against to the stone, one arm casually draped at his side while his other hand toyed with the beads woven into his braids.

The nobleman scowled, the expression neither as beautiful nor as cruel as the prince’s, and stepped forward. He was of a height with his companion, though wider, but there was something in the scene that recalled to the ghost a fly approaching a spider.

“I have done everything you asked up till now. My own wife… Even if she lives, her family is ruined. And for what? For nothing! Give me what you promised, you little slut.”

“Or what? Will you betray me too, Keda?” The prince cocked his head to the side, but there was nothing childish or playful in the gesture. “Or maybe you only turn traitor when there’s an ass to stuff.”

The nobleman’s fist took the prince in the mouth, knocking that beautiful head back into the stone of the dais with an audible crack. Shaking fingers caught hold of gleaming sable hair and forced the prince’s neck to arch back at a dangerous angle. Blood darkened the young man’s teeth, oozing from his mouth, and painting his lips as though for court. With a noise somewhere between a growl and a howl, the nobleman caught his mouth in a violent kiss.

For a moment the prince resisted, body twisting as his hands sought purchase. But suddenly, the nobleman grunted, shifted, tried to pull away. The prince’s hands tangled in his hair, knuckles white with the effort of holding him in place. Then, with in a flurry of silks and flying hair, the boy threw the nobleman to the ground.

“So that’s how it’s to be,” he said, his smile dark with his own blood. “Is that what you thought? Did you really think there was anyone in the world who could make me do something I don’t want to do?”

“I… I didn’t…” The nobleman tried to climb to his feet, but the prince kicked him in the stomach.

“I’ll give it to you then, since you want me so badly.”

The man’s eyes grew round in his face. There was blood smeared across his mouth. The ghost wondered if all of it belonged to the prince.

With his mouth still twisted into that little smile, the prince untied his sash and pushed his robes off his shoulders. They fell to the ground with a sigh, exposing a long, lean body. He was pale, a creature of the palace, but his muscles were defined and his lines clean. He was only half erect, which seemed to amuse him, because he quirked have a smile at the sight.

“ Suck me,” he said. “Lick it, Keda. You wanted my body, didn’t you? So take your tongue and—”

The nobleman grabbed the prince’s hips, pink tongue flicking out and sliding over the engorged shaft. The prince grabbed the man’s hair, bejeweled fingers twisting in locks woven through with strings of brightly colored beads, tugging them like reigns. His face was a mask of twisted pleasure, eyes glinting cruelly from under their fringe of black lashes, full lips blood-stained and benevolent. “Ah yes,” he murmured. “Like that. Lick it like a dog.”

With a groan, the nobleman’s lips folded around the cock, swallowing it down. The prince’s head lolled to the side, pleasure softening the wicked caste of his features enough to draw the spirit in. He was young under all that depravity, his jaw still sharp with youth and his brow yet unfurrowed. The long lines of his body were art, as though he had been carved to resemble garden figures, or as though he were descended from the holy Anu themselves. Had the spirit blood, it would have heated; had he a mouth, it would have dried. He wrapped himself around prince, the essence of who he had been mingling with the sweet scent of perfume and sex and the heat rising off the boy’s flushed skin

As though sensing it, the prince threw back his head as his hands forced the nobleman to take him deeper. The softest moan issued from between closed lips, eyes shut tight in a mask of ecstasy. For a heartbeat, the spirit stayed tangled with the boy, a singular possessiveness he knew to be his own warred with emotions he could not pin—desire, hate, sickness—and then the prince lashed out with a slipper-encased foot, taking the nobleman in the stomach once more. The man toppled backward, eyes bulging. He spit an arc of blood-flecked semen onto the stones.

The prince regarded the puddle with quirked lips and narrowed eyes. “Didn’t care for the taste after all, Keda?”

“I…” The nobleman scrubbed his lips, as though trying to absolve them of a foul taste. Just who was this prince, to inspire such desire and such loathing?

“…Have had enough, I’m sure,” the prince finished. “Go, but do not bother me again. You really do sicken me.”

The nobleman scurried to his feet and all but ran from the monument, his disgrace trailing behind him like a cloak. The prince watched him go, a small, sharp smile twisting the corners of his mouth as he arranged his robes back into order. Then he turned his attention to the milky puddle.

“I should have slit his throat,” he murmured, wiping the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. “That or my own. Bloody fuckwit.” With a grimace, he spit into the puddle and strode into the deeper shadows of the trees, all dignity and cutting beauty. The spirit strained after him with unfathomable hunger. In all the years he had been bound to this cycle of waking and dreamless, hell-laced sleep, he had never felt such burning need to touch, or to be felt. Yet when he had wrapped himself around the boy…

A coincidence, surely. But what if it was not?

The spirit shrunk itself and moved to the puddle, hovering over it. He could smell the essence of the prince in it—blood, semen, saliva, all that capacity for life, gleaming in one small puddle not even half the width of a man’s palm. It was his own blood, his own capacity, wasn’t it? The prince, his beautiful cousin removed in time and relationship through countless generations… The memory sparked, flared, faded, leaving loose strands of history wafting like smoke in the air. The spirit dipped down into the mess, relishing the feel of his own bloodline, the mortality fate and his father had denied him…

But cold granite was hard on his knees, the stone unforgiving. He rocked back, unbalanced, and fell to his side. The puddle was near his nose; his breath ruffled the surface.

Shocked to utter stillness, a man caught breath that had not been caught in more than a thousand years.

#

Supaya flopped down on his couch, becoming a monument at the head of a long trail of discarded silks. Relieved of his clothing and his wigs, he felt almost light enough to float. Would it be so terrible if he did, if he just floated right up through the ceiling and disappeared into the sky? Well, that would get someone’s attention at least, if only fleetingly. Disconsolate, he rolled onto his back and stared up through the window that had been cut there. A night sky stared back, bleak and wracked with stars. The Ghosting moon was up, nearly full, her small creamy face trailing the thin crescent of the much larger Soughing moon. Somewhere in that vast and limitless sky, the Kindling Moon was lost in their luminous wake, like a youngest son got on a disfavored wife.

He wanted for a bath, but he knew better than risk the pools this late at night. Drunk men were dangerous in groups—especially drunk men you had threatened to kill a time or two. But he could still feel Keda’s mouth on him, still smell the man’s perfume, and it nauseated him. Stupid fellow! But they were all like that in the end, thinking to barter favors for sex, or else thinking to use superior strength to steal what they couldn’t buy. Each and every one of them forgot the one simple truth: strength was a matter of birth, not body. Supaya was the third strongest man in the world. Let them fuck themselves with that!

“Shall I fetch you a drink?” Supaya’s brother stood in the doorway, back rigid and face straight. Robes of midnight blue warred with cream, like moonlight filtered against the sky.  Supaya regarded him from under the arm he had thrown over his eyes, fighting back a scowl.

“Drop the act, Teyu. There’s no one here to fool but me, and I’m past it.”

Teyu snorted and turned away. “A drink then,” he said. “Something hard. Bitter tea and pepper?”

He returned a moment later, a pearlescent snifter in his hand. Supaya pushed himself up until he was sitting, drawing his knees up and resting his chin on them. Sipping the drink, Teyu sat beside him.

“You met with Lord pu Keda today, didn’t you. I take it went badly.”

“The bastard poisoned his wife, you know. Framed his father-in-law. All I ever said was lower the Tanetheregai in my father’s eyes and that’s where he went with it. And people call me twisted.” He smiled, canting his head to the side, all innocence.

Teyu pushed the sifter on him. “You knew he’d do something wretched. You goaded him.”

“I might have,” Supaya admitted with half a shrug. “Stupid fuck had it coming, though—those wandering hands and horrible eyes of his. And the Tanatheregai needed dealing with anyhow after that rubbish with the succession.”

“Supaya…” Teyu leaned close enough that Supaya could feel his brother’s breath moving across his lips. Warm hands rose, familiar fingers stretching themselves to the curves of Supaya’s face, cupping his jaw. “We’ve spoken of this. You must not.”

Supaya lifted his chin, letting the fingers drop lower. He relished the sensation of them sliding around his throat. They fit there like a well-worn garment. “Mustn’t I? The only thing I mustn’t do is die before I’ve made each and every one of them pay for taking you from me.”

“I don’t need that from you.” Teyu’s fingers tightened, as they always did. Then, as they always did, they dropped away. Faded away. The moons looked down through the window, their wan light forcing sickly shadows up the wall.  “I took myself away, and you know it.”

“Because you didn’t need me,” Supaya told the emptiness.

Impassive and wrought with shadows, it whispered back, And I still don’t.

#

Through the dark a single figure moved, mustard colored robes twining and twisting about his ankles with each step. He brought with him the faint sound of chiming bells, for hundreds of the things—tiny as ants—were woven into the thick, matted locks of his colorless hair and beard. When he stopped moving, the chiming continued for a single breath more, and then faded, leaving the silence sharper for its absence.

The spirit—now a man—looked up from where he lay huddled on the cold stones and met the ancient gaze that had been leveled knowingly upon him. The old man held out a hand, dropped a packet. It bounced off the granite, tumbled, and came to rest by the man’s knee.

“Clothing, spirit. You’ll need them while you walk in the mortal world, or you won’t be mortal for long.”

“You know me?” The man barely knew himself, for all of that. Even his name seemed nothing but meaningless syllables bound together with bonds of vague familiarity.

The priest ducked his head, setting his long beard waving. “I know your kind, well enough. Demon-soul, some call you; the Hell-Bound. But whatever you might be, you’re mortal enough for the time being, and the Guardian Gods look after all mortal things.”

“I am… How? None of this makes any sense.”

The priest shrugged and pointed at the packet. “Clothe yourself, creature. Your answers will come, I’m sure. But they always come in their own time, don’t they?”

But he already had his answer; it was written on the granite in the remnants of the Prince’s fluids: blood, semen, and saliva. Obediently, the man-who-was-no-longer-dead unwound the packet and began to dress. The priest watched on, silent and unmoved.

“I won’t go back, old man. Just so you know, I have no intention of going back to that.” he gestured towards the cenotaph.

The old man turned on his heel with an animal snort and began walking away. “Nothing happens the Gods don’t intend. Find your answers; make your life; do whatever you must. If you don’t want to go back, prove it to the Gods. I brought you clothes. That was all they bade me do.”

The priest turned to leave, his bells chiming. Heart pounding, the dead-man rushed after him.

“You’re leaving me? You can’t mean to leave me alone!”

“Can’t I?” The old man tossed a glance over his shoulder. “I’ve done what I must, creature. The rest is up to you. Fate, eh? She’s a cruel, cruel mistress.” With a toss of his hand he forestalled any further attempts by the spirit to follow. The he, too, disappeared into the shadows.

Head back to contemplate the sky, the dead-man met gazes with the moons. Like the priest, they cared nothing for his plight and offered no advice worth noting. But how could that be so? Turning, he examined the trail that lead through the grove into the garden, and beyond to the palace. To the Hell Gate. Was that his only option then? As though in confirmation, the light brightened as the Kindling Moon moved from behind a cloud and lit the trees, silhouetting the palace against the horizon. The red light shimmered like flames on the periphery, twisting everything out of true. His answer, then.

Back straight, he put one foot in front of the other and made his way towards the world that had eclipsed his own.

 

-2-

Rage simmered low in Supaya’s belly, like untended passion mounting and overwhelming. It always happened that way when he was forced into attendance on his older brother. It was a complicated feeling, hindered not at all by the faint yearning that tugged at the prince like a word he could not remember. Sitting attendance on Ineyu pu Sukata, the Buran Prince, was far too much like sitting attendance on a particularly humorless version of Suteyu’s ghost. It put Supaya in the foulest of moods.

“Paya, are you paying attention?” They were discussing something about taxes,  or something equally useless. Unlike the man he resembled, that and Hennish philosophy were about the only things Kata ever talked about. He was even more terribly boring that his councilors. Supaya was fairly certain that all the man really needed was a good fucking, but Hennish as he was, the only thing he was shoving up his ass was the stick so he’d permanently lodged there.

Supaya flicked his wrist. “If I have anything useful to add, be sure I will.”

“You definitely aren’t paying attention.”

At Kata’s level look, Supaya looked around, face heating. The councilors had left. He was alone with his brother and a few servants. Quick to cover, he snorted, saying, “Aren’t you the least bit afraid to be alone with me?”

Sukata sat back in his chair, cradling a bowl of tea in his slender hands. His elaborate headpiece arced back from his head, an intricately carved hollow tusk; braids of many different colors spilled from the end, sparkling with gems. For all of that, he might have been any man enjoying a cup of tea at the end of a long day. “Why would I be afraid you, Paya? Do you still think me swayed by idle speculation?”

“Do you still think it nothing but idle speculation?”

The Buran waved the comment aside with a flick of his little finger—a grand gesture from a man known to be exceptionally unexpressive. “I do not believe a boy of twelve killed our brother, whatever you may do now.”

Supaya raised a brow. “I fucked him, though.” His reward was the red that bloomed in his brother’s cheeks. Damn Henn—they were all so very prudish. Offending them lacked art.

“The other way around, I would say,” Kata managed, recovering. “It’s hardly your sin, Paya, and it’s hardly a new story. Quit trying to own it.”

“Quit trying to take it from me. You know nothing but your damned Hennish morality! How’s this: I let him fuck me. I liked it. I’d do it again. And I’d let you fuck me too, if only because you look like him. Want to try me?”

Kata sighed. He sipped his tea, then carefully set the bowl on the table beside him. With a triumphant thrill, Supaya noted that his hand was trembling.

“You may stop now, little one. And you may go, since you so clearly wish to be elsewhere. I will ever blame you though, and I will never stop trying to make you believe that. Whatever else, we share the same blood.”

And if they didn’t, would Kata still try? Supaya was close to spitting. Three deaths Suteyu had caused—his own among them; but he had failed when it came to this man. Supaya would have traded Kata for Teyu without a second thought.

With exaggerated elegance, Supaya rose and bowed. “Whatever you need, brother, if it makes you happy. But do keep in mind that my throat is as tight as my ass, should your need extend in that direction. They served Teyu’s needs well enough.” But Kata needed Supaya even less that Teyu had, and a still-beating heart filled in all the blanks Supaya was accustomed to filling when he imagined himself talking with Teyu. He could no more pretend that Kata needed him than he could retain the warmth of Teyu’s fingers. One last jab: “Whether it’s sex or something else, Kata, you’ll fuck me one way or another. Might as well do it and get it over with before I decide to fuck you instead.”

Unsmiling, the prince swept from the room leaving a devastated silence in his wake. He couldn’t make them need him maybe, but he sure as Hells could make them need him dead. Hate was vastly preferable to indifference. It was something at least.

It was something.

 

Supaya would not likely believe his oldest surviving brother wept for him. Even if he saw it, he would only think it a ploy. At best, he would take offense at the implied victimization.  Was it really so much easier to tell the world you had seduced your own brother—to let them think you had tempted and used him—than to admit to yourself that you were too small to fight him off?

There was an answer somewhere, maybe—a charm that could scare away the demon of guilt and corruption that Sukata saw eating away at his youngest brother’s soul. But there was absolutely nothing he could say, nor any comfort that would be welcome.

And so he did weep. He wept for the child he had been unable to protect, and the man that child had become. He wept for the brother he had lost to murder. And he wept for the brother who had tainted their family with his twisted spirit and greedy, lecherous heart.

He wept for all of them, because none of them had been left clean in the wake of Teyu’s sins.

 -3-

Aryas remembered himself in moments, in half-drawn sensations of things unseen, of things that were no longer there. He slipped into the palace like he belonged there, which he did after a fashion, and nobody questioned his presence. It was his clothing, in part, which were two generation out-of-date but looked foreign in a court so often brimming with foreigners. His hair, an unbraided black fall that brushed his shoulders looked foreign as well, short and devoid as it was of braids and beads. Even his speech, with its lilting inflection and outmoded phrases sounded only like the words of a man accustomed more to the writings of a tongue than its spoken use. The nobles and courtiers and bureaucrats let him move unmolested, each certain the others must know him, and all too wary of their carefully cultivated positions to let their own ignorance show. It was in this relative anonymity that Aryas wandered the halls and remembered.

The palace was not the palace he had been raised in. That had been torn down long ago, the grand colonnades and gardens destroyed to make room for narrow Dhervish halls with their alcoves and towering Guardians and the great chambers modeled after the universe and the Devine Principals.

Most glaringly, was the lack of women—even among the servants—for Dhervish law dictated a separate world for them. The New Palace accounted for that, as well, built as it had been to mirror itself, with a row of banked housing where men and women might cohabitate by night. Yet come morning, women would depart through one door, and men through another, both into their separate worlds, as though the other did not exist at all.

He remembered some of this. It had been new in his time, an affectation of his Father’s. But he had always believed it would die away with time. Who but madmen could look upon the beauty of the living Anu and see anything but holiness? He had not thought the entire world capable of madness. He had not…

And so he remembered another thing the world was missing: Erikires.

He remembered him in the dark of night when the Soughing Moon was growing fat again, her light leaking in through the windows lancing the cold, black stone and limning the features of yet another sightless statue arrayed before a burst of filament fine gold imbedded in the wall. That light, clarion clear and blue as breast milk shimmered over hard features, gifting them with life they lacked in the torrid light of torches. The eyes glinted as though watching him, hinting at colors and emotions moonlight could not account for. It seemed he saw the massive stone chest rise and fall in breath. And in that moment the past slammed into him, toppling him through the present, pulling him under and dragging him back like a temporal rip-tide.

Erikires, his skin the same fair blue of a winter’s evening, hair a halo of silver and smoke, falling in a tangle over his shoulder like a cloud down a mountain. His eyes were never still, their color always churning, proof of his holiness, proof of his life…

Down into his arms Aryas would fall, down in the shadows of the garden or in the sunny places that smelled of green, growing things. The world where the Anu lived, their version of the world—the Pneumastrata—a second home for the man who would one day be king. And they had been inseparable, hadn’t they, Crown Prince and God? They had inspired awe wherever they went, for who would not want to be ruled by the beloved of a god? They had inspired fear and resentment for the same reasons.

He recalled it, standing there in the darkness, a different darkness in a different age. The ropes biting into his wrists were not as painful as the sight of the welts rising on Erikires’ skin. They stood beside each other among the trees of a sacred grove, two figures condemned, dwarfed by the stones of a cenotaph built to memorialize the deaths of other men.

“Go,” he said again, or tried to say; his throat was dry and raw with shouting, the night having been spent denying the accusations of his brothers and crying out GO! Over and over again to a lover who would not listen.

Erikires met his gaze, the entire universe churning in his eyes. “Thou foolish,” he murmured. “Thou beloved. I will not leave you. What point is another season if you’re not with me to watch it turn?”

“Anu don’t die, Eri. They must not. So please, for me, go.”

The ropes should not have held him. All he needed to do was desire himself across the Videstata and he would be across. But Erikires only smiled and touched bound hands to Aryas’ cheek. “There’s no point in growing old and fading away; your memory will not keep me warm. Better I die here with you, my Ryas.”

His lips quirked towards a smile, but his eyes bulged instead and he stumbled back as his tether was yanked. A breath later Aryas stumbled too. Pulled to their knees, they lowered their heads as the king appeared through the trees. Hope welled in his breast, the notion that the years he had enjoyed as his father’s favorite child still held some sway. At the very least, Eri…

“Iodiyes h’kai Aryas, you have been condemned. Anyu Erikires, you too, have been condemned. Both of you are charged with conspiring at regicide, and both of you are deemed apostate.”

How did one deem a god apostate for not believing in a religion that did not believe in him?  Certainly, the failure in logic could not be lost on his father. Quaking, Aryas tried to find the words to call it out, but Erikires threw him a look so fraught with warning, the words dried in his throat.

“Let the Anu go free,” Ryas croaked, ignoring his lover’s sharp intake of breath. “He has done nothing. Please, father?”

Almost too silent to hear, Erikires breathed, “Hsst. Dignity, beloved. Please.”

They were to have no dignity, though, for at some sign Aryas did not see, both prisoners were pulled to their feet, knives placed at their jugulars.

“The sentence for these crimes is death,” the king intoned, and all the Gods United, if that voice was not heavy with grief. All hope of forgiveness shriveled inside Aryas, leaving in its wake a dull, grating hollowness. If only the knife would bite him quickly…

But the knife bit Eri first. His eyes grew round, his mouth slackened with surprise. Blood poured down, spreading like a red fan across his chest. It should have been honey spreading across that winter-blue skin, shouldn’t it? Surely gods bled golden light and nectar, not the gory red of mortal men.

The tortured seconds stretched themselves out of shape, the moment growing larger than the souls it constrained. Erikires locked gazes with Aryas, the gesture full of words his gaping throat would not allow him to speak. All their moments were caught in that gaze, the momentous events and the inconsequential things—the sigh of breath on the nape of a neck, the shape of a smile pressed to moist skin… Anger and joy and all the boring, trivial, pedestrian things that went unnoticed day-to-day painted themselves in a single gaze—

—And in a single gaze, bid their farewells.

The knife bit Aryas’ throat the moment Eri’s body hit the ground, but by then the Anu’s eyes were already blank. By then, the only part of Aryas that had ever really lived was dead.

#

 

Aryas rocked back from the statue, tremors sweeping through his body in waves that left his limbs weakened and his pulse thundering. Cold sweat stood out on his brow; locks of hair stuck to it, like coal dusted over a mourner’s forehead. He pressed his hand to his mouth, tried to bite back the despair welling in his throat, black and bitter as tar, but the noise leaked through his lips and seeped through his fingers. He crumpled under it, under the weight of his own grief; his vision blurred and he fell back against the wall, still choking on his own sobs. He wanted to forget again, or to wake and find he had only been dreaming, but the truth burned like a knife in his heart. He turned accusing eyes to the statue, but it watched on, impassive and limned in moons’ light, its face a mask of half-familiar features that mocked his fractured memories.

How long, he wondered. How long since his father had killed him and murdered a god? How many years had the Hell Gate stood there, a timeless monument commemorating the unnamed dead?

Footsteps shuffled down the hall, echoing from deep shadows—a single set, he thought. He bit down on his tongue, righted himself, turning his shoulder to the hall so that his swollen eyes would not give him away. He could not hide his grief from insistent eyes, not even in the shadows, but he’d be dead and damned all over again before he’d share it willingly.

The steps grew louder, and with them came the sound of silk sweeping silk and the rhythmic clacking of glass beads. A cloud of scent rose in the air, warm and heavy as a presence, and draped itself around Aryas’ shoulders. It smelled of jasmine and oranges, warm, spicy, and slightly bitter. Bile burned the back of his throat, but heat suffused his member, causing it to swell.

“What are you doing?” Soft syllables dropped from lips unaccustomed to softness—biting, for all the pleasure their cadence evoked. The words came as Ryas was on the edge of turning, enthralled by the fragrance. He pivoted the moment the voice caressed him, and recoiled when his eyes confirmed what his ears and nose had already determined.

The prince stood in a slanted ray of light, his figure picked out in black and silver and shades of gray, as though he, too, were a statue. And he might have been, for all his stately elegance: he was tall, almost as tall as Aryas, though far more slender than the dead man remembered. His hair was gathered under a curving diadem of carved ivory and arranged into a nest of braids and loose hair that coursed from under the fanning headpiece, and fell in river of gleaming shadows to his waist. His robes were no doubt impeccably matched, but in the darkness, all Aryas could make out were the striations of light, dark, and darker-still. It was his face, though, that dried Aryas’ mouth and arrested his breath. He was… There were no words to describe that kind of beauty, not in any of the languages Ryas knew. As though he knew exactly where Aryas’ thoughts had gone, the youth’s straight brows lowered over eyes that shone sharper than the knife that had sliced away Aryas’ life. His full lips twisted into a sneer.

“I did ask you a question, foreigner. Who are you and what are you doing, standing alone in the dark like this?”

To be called a foreigner in the very halls his father had destroyed a world to build and sacrificed his son to prote! It did not matter the Aryas that he had spent the last week attempting to pass as foreign; his blood had drained from his body and mingled in the dust with that of a dead god’s to give this place its life, and what remained of it flowed in this young man’s veins. His nationality was just one more thing they were stealing from him. But what good would his rage do him now? It was gone, the past: who he had been, who he had loved—even the world he had known. The prince was waiting, and it was obvious from the expression breaking like a storm across his face that he was not used to being kept waiting. Rage would only raise suspicion and perhaps lose him the mortality fate had seen fit to return to him.

“M-my apologies, your highness. I just… Iodiyes Aryas. I was looking at the statue and…” Having sought to rely on the truth, he faltered when it abandoned him.

The prince regarded him in silence for a long, breathless moment. His eyes maintained a steady gaze, irises solid black discs in the darkness. At last he glanced down, long lashes sweeping his cheek in a delicate movement that felt so calculated to disarm, it caused thrill of apprehension to prickle the back of Ryas’ neck. Almost hesitantly, the boy shuffled towards Aryas, closing the distance between them. The wall was at his back; there was nowhere to go to escape. A pale hand rose through the dimness, long fingers unfolding like a fan. The fingers came to rest on Aryas’ jaw, the longest one touching the corner of his lips. It made his mouth water. He fought back the urge to taste it and the boy smiled an evil smile, as though he were completely aware of the struggle he induced. Aryas was certain he was.

“If I kiss you, Ioryas, will you taste of foreign things?”

Ioryas? He filed the pronunciation away; he hadn’t the mind to deal with it at the moment. “I… I’d taste the same as any other man,” he managed.

A snort—of derision or amusement? Did it matter? Ryas tried to clear his mind, but it was filled with that scent, that touch, those eyes…

“I’d wager you taste of stories,” the prince continued. His hand moved, fingers dragging over Aryas’ lips in a way that made it hard to think about anything except for other things they could be touching. Under his plain robes, Aryas’ member ached with hardness. “Tell them to me.”

What was it about him? Aryas swallowed, but desire was lodged in his throat, and with it a barb of rage.

“You’re playing with me.”

The prince’s smile was derisive; he lifted one shoulder, let it fall. His hand fell with it, though the memory of his touch burned like a brand. “You stand here weeping in the darkness at the feet of a statue and expect anything else?”

Perhaps it was the laughter lacing his voice, but as he turned away, a flash of white-hot anger burned through Aryas like a bolt of lightning, painting a negative image across his vision. His arm shot out, grabbing the prince and yanking him around. Wide eyed, the youth stared at the fingers holding him hostage, then up into the face of the man they belonged to. Rage sparked in his eyes, but it was the rage of a creature who delighted in rage. For whatever reason, the prince was excited. Aryas quailed, caught himself, and tightened his grip.

He was the taller of the two by half a hand, and wider of chest and shoulder. Where physical strength was concerned, he was the better man. But he remembered the cenotaph when sex and blood and hate had conspired to weave his mortality once again. The prince had been the weaker man then, too; he’d also been the victor.

“Well?” He shook his arm to free himself, but Aryas yanked it up, twisting it around to keep the other man off balance. The prince swore under his breath and brought up his knee, but Aryas was expecting that, and simply spun him around, throwing him up against the wall. He wrestled the prince’s other arm up and pinned both wrists with his hand.

“You will not laugh at me.”

Fire in those eyes, fear and lust that kindled a wave of need. Panting, Aryas tried to clear his vision, but the sensation of the body pressed against his was too much. He leaned forward, intent on capturing the prince’s mouth.

A glob of saliva hit Aryas in the face. He tangled his free hand in the prince’s mass of hair, slamming his head back into the wall. The prince cried out, but before the sound had quite finished leaving his mouth, Aryas had covered his lips with his own. His tongue slid into the prince’s mouth, muffling the cry, drawing out another. Caught between Aryas and the wall, the prince struggled, but with his hands pinned and his body all but crushed, he could not escape.

Withdrawing before the minx could bite him, he used the prince’s cheek to dry his own. “Where’s your laughter now, princeling?”

To his surprise, the prince neither cowed nor raged. Rather, his demeanor seemed thoughtful. He tugged his hands as though testing, but stopped when he discovered them still firmly held. “You taste like bullshit and lust,” he said, words punctuated by that steady gaze he seemed to prefer. “You taste like negotiation. How very, very common.”

It was Ryas’ turn to snort. “Disappointed?”

“Rot in Hell.”

There was the fire. Good. This mildness burned; there was no way to fight back against it.

How long had it been since passion had seared his blood? He thought back to Eri, their fevered lovemaking and nightmarish death. He’d been alive just a week, but how long had it been since he’d died? Whatever the prince might claim, was no room for negotiation in this story. His life had been stolen from him; he’d watched it bleed away, seen it pooling on the ground with his lover’s. And now…

“Since you don’t like my story, let me tell you a different one,” he whispered. The prince’s eyes grew large under their thick fringe of lashes. He yanked his hands again, no longer testing, but Aryas tightened his grip until his own fingers ached. He pulled his other hand from the hair he had tangled it in, and forced it down between them to seek out the mysterious folds of the prince’s robes.

The prince’s eyes snapped open so wide, Ryas could see the white around his irises. Harsh breathing issued from between moist, parted lips. But the look on his face was fury, the kind of fury that burned away reason. Didn’t the Dhervish worship Passion? Well, the prince was filled to brimming with all the aspects of his god, it seemed.

“You think you’ve lost?” Aryas’ fingers found the overlapping cloth and slipped inside. Another layer of cloth greeted him, smooth and filmy—the prince’s inner robe. Aryas ran his hand over the thin fabric, relishing the firm muscles trembling beneath. “You think you know what loss is? Lose everything, Prince Supaya. Lose yourself in the trash you’d heap on me.”

“I’ll gut you.” The words lacked heat and were all the more frightening for it. Even so, Arays could only smile.

“Yours will not be the first knife to part my flesh. Should I show you what it feels like?” His roving fingers ran across the hollow of Supaya’s stomach, over his hip bone, and brushed something hard. With a spark of recognition lighting his nerves, Aryas grabbed hold and pulled. His hand emerged, fingers laced around the hilt of a short dagger. “Or maybe I could carve my story into you, instead.”

The prince stopped struggling and his body went slack. But as Aryas raised the blade to the prince’s slender throat, the corner of his mouth twisted into a smile.

“Do it then,” he said, arching his neck back to expose the column of pale, flawless skin. “Cut me, if you want. It will mean your death in the end, but I have found that dying men are the most fun.”

The words had an effect, though whether or not it was the one the young man desired, Aryas could only guess. His hand shook, his grip on the knife slackening. He would not spend his mortality on this man—this man who, after all, had never actually committed any harm against him.

And whose erection was jabbing Aryas’ thigh, commanding as much attention as the avid expectation flickering in his gaze. Aryas caught his breath as understanding settled in his belly. The reasons he could not win against the prince were as obvious as the smirk spreading across his hostage’s face. With trembling hands, he tossed the knife into the shadows and stepped back, releasing the prince’s hands. Laughing low and deep, the prince rubbed his wrists while regarding Ryas with the eyes of a predator.

“Well aren’t you seven kinds of exciting,” he said. “You had me for a moment. It was foolish to let me go. But then, we are always seeking after our own destruction, aren’t we? You’ve found it today, my Ioryas. Watch and see.”

With those words, the prince swept away and was swallowed by the shadows. Aryas stood there, the damned statue staring judgment, until the sound of his footsteps had faded to nothing but a hazy memory. Only then did he realize he had forgotten to breath.

 

 

-4-

Supaya rushed through the hallways with a speed he had not allowed himself in ages. Nobles he passed watched him with suspicious gazes, whispering behind their hands as he passed, but he paid them little mind; there would be time enough to face the consequences of his failure once he had cooled. For the time being, he simply could not shake the sensation of the stranger’s presence.

The halls grew wider as he wandered, mazelike in complexity, older. The palace had grown over generations, each more Dhervish that the last, but the underlying Istilish structure was still retained in places, and it was to one of these that Supaya fled.

“You almost lost yourself there, Paya.”

Startled, Supaya stumbled. Teyu smirked but offered a helping hand. Supaya accepted it, but his reticence made his brother frown.

“I handled it well enough, thank you.”

Teyu paced alongside Supaya, his thick braids jouncing silently behind him. “But you didn’t, did you. He had you up against a wall—pinned you like a fucking animal.”

“Pinned me like you did, you mean.”

Teyu shrugged agreement. “I never let you get to me, so I never let you go.”

And he still hadn’t, Supaya supposed.  Lengthening his stride, he said, “So he isn’t you. Nothing to mourn about that.”

“And yet you do. Paya…”

They came around a corner and the hall opened up into a forgotten rotunda. Moonlight streamed through cracks in the ceiling and struggled through the curtains of ivy draped across the arches cut into the curving wall. Spider webs clung like milky fog in the gloom, softening the edges of fallen columns and scattered rubble. Supaya slowed his pace, suddenly reverent, as his feet dusted aside centuries of detritus to reveal badly marred scrollwork that glowed faintly, pale on dark, where the moonlight touched it.

Teyu’s hand wrapped around Paya’s arm, arresting further movement. He drew close, moonlight catching like sparks in his hair. “You do mourn me, though. I’m seven years dead, and still I live inside you. How’s that for immortality?”

“Fuck you.” Supaya jerked his arm away, but Teyu held it firm. “I never asked for this, and I don’t want it. You’re dead, Teyu, so fucking die!”

“Will you die with me then?”

Supaya wanted to meet his brother’s gaze, but found he couldn’t. He was trembling, caught up in the pain of having been abandoned over and over, and resentful of the memory that insisted on haunting him. He couldn’t bring himself to look up, let alone look into the eyes of a man he knew wasn’t even there.

Teyu shook him “Well?”

“I gave you everything, Teyu. You wanted my body, so I gave it; you wanted my pride, and I gave you that, too. I gave you my entire self—everything I had. So yes, I would have given you my life. I still would. Just let me…” He forced himself to look up and meet that ghostly gaze. Teyu looked back mildly, his face a mask of passive disdain.

“What makes you think I want you?”

“But you…”

Pain lanced Supaya’s shoulder as Teyu jerked it up and back. “What I wanted from you, I took. Everything I wanted. Your body, your pride…they belonged to me from the moment I decided I wanted them. But your life? That I never wanted.”

“Stop!”

“Why should I?” Teyu yanked Paya close and bent him back. Ghostly breath stretched itself over his lips, only a memory of what breath should feel like. Supaya shuddered, retched, but did not struggle. Teyu snorted. “See? You fought him, didn’t you. Yet you won’t fight me. Who would want such a selfless creature? Let me go, Supaya. I’m tired of being tied to you and your damned longing.”

“Teyu, I can’t. I’m not some selfless creature, and I’m not some innocent child who doesn’t understand what his brother is asking of him. I can’t just stop loving you because it’s become inconvenient for you.”

“You’re not in love, Paya; you’re just a wild animal who can’t stop looking at the man who trapped it. You think you love me, but the truth is you hate the fact that I caught you, and your pride demands you change the story. Do you think it was all kisses and sweet nothings between us? You seem to have forgotten how hard you used to cry when I fucked you—how you used to beg me to stop. But I liked that, Paya. I enjoyed hurting you. And if you have to lie about it, then I don’t see how you can claim to have ever loved me at all.”

He released Supaya with a shove, and the prince toppled back into the rubble on the floor. He laid there, pain stretching hot fingers up through his muscles while the breath tore raggedly from his lungs, staring up at the silhouette of his dead brother. Crassly, he considered spreading his legs and offering an invitation, but Teyu would only scorn him and that humiliation would sting worse than all the scrapes burning his skin.

Teyu. Teyu who no longer existed in this world. And the dead…

Supaya drew his knees to his chest and folded himself around them. How many years must he do this to himself, haunt himself? The dead were dead, but sometimes the living forgot that. He looked up through his hair into the empty shadows.

“Teyu?”

Silence answered him, scornful for all that it was expected. He had chased the memory away, leaving him free to ponder the first hands that had held him captive since his brother’s had fallen away. The stranger, who seeme, like Teyu, the echo of a memory as he wandered through the halls and galleries—would he haunt Supaya, too?

Shuddering, Supaya buried his face in his arms and wept.

#

 

By day the King sat his twelve-tiered throne surrounded by a flock of butterfly-bright courtiers in the center of the universe. But by night the throne room was empty, its cavernous reaches lonely,  their depiction of the heavens complete. The room had not existed in Aryas’ time, though its construction had been begun. It was built on the bones of an old palace shrine. Aryas and Eri had made love there when the Ghosting Moon was full. The irony was not lost on him. Neither was the pain.

Twice as long as it was wide, the room was divided into five sections by rows of black marble pillars that soared twenty feet and more to support the arching vaults of the stars-truck marble ceiling. Frescoes had been raised across the walls and painted with pigments made from precious gems and metals to depict the creation of the cosmos by the Dhervish Principals. A floor of shining black granite reflected the room upside down, cut through by three thin lines of gold that ran from the great circle by the chamber door to the golden disk inscribed at the foot of the royal dais. Aryas followed these as though compelled, his own reflection running among the stars beneath his feet. When he came to the dais, however, he discovered that the wires broke away, the three lies becoming many thinner wires that stretched around the throne, mapping some secret of the cosmos beyond his ken, to disappear in the shadows of the great cage that locked away a strange, towering door of dark wood cut with concentric rings of gold.

As the shadow of the cage fell over his skin, chills pricked up his spine. This, then, was the face of the Hell Gate, the place where all the bindings came together in a single knot of constraining magic.

“Are you here to open it?”

Aryas jumped, pivoting. The prince stood with his back to the dais. His arms were folded behind his head and his robes hung in disarray, revealing the fine lines of his chest and abdomen. In the distance, a figure crept away, body shaking hard enough to alter its gait. The prince quirked a brow as though he knew the line of Aryas’ thoughts.

“The Torch Mage unfettered the bindings tonight,” he said, running languid fingers through his fall of hair. “Sucked Miya’s cock right where you’re standing, in front of the entire court. His lordship wished to replicate the scene. I like to be of assistance where I might.”

Miya… Sumiya, that would be, the Bastard Prince of Ayn Ein. There was magic in him, Aryas understood, though what that meant exactly, he didn’t know. He was valuable, whatever it was, for he had been given to a Dhervish Torch Mage as payment for resealing the Hell Gate.

Still against the wall, the youth brought his arms down slowly and massaged each wrist in turn. Gaze still leveled at Ryas, he said, “You oughtn’t have let me go so easily last night.”

“It isn’t worth my time to kill you, Prince.”

“Supaya, please.” The prince rolled his shoulder as if it smarted. “And of course it isn’t. Yet…” He lifted his chin and stepped forward, closing a bit of the distance between them. Just as in the grove, Aryas was put in mind of a spider trapping prey.

Aryas stepped back and Supaya’s lips quirked in a small, tight smile.

“See now?” he said. “You hold a knife to my throat and now act as though I am the monster. You amuse me, Ioryas. Please, do continue.”

Continue what? Aryas wanted to touch him. Wanted… Hunting for anything to say, he settled on the obvious. “Why do you call me that?”

Straight brows rose over startled eyes and Aryas felt a tiny thrill that he had elicited a genuine reaction. “Why do I call you by your name? Is it not?”

The confusion lacing his voice seemed unfeigned, and for a moment, Aryas saw past the mask he affected to the wary boy beneath. His youth was tarnished maybe, and his predilection for cruelty made him seem wiser than he was; but at his core, he was nothing more than an uncertain child trying very hard not to be frightened of a world he didn’t fully understand. The realization opened something in Aryas, exposed an old wound that was still tender. What sort of world preferred monstrosity to innocence? Quaking with the need to take Supaya in his arms, Aryas flinched back, but found the woven metal cage behind him. The prince flashed a knowing smile, and the insight crumbled.

“Iodeyes Aryas, you said. Do you prefer different patronymic? Or perhaps… Perhaps you aren’t Dhervish at all, Aryas. Perhaps you are the sort of man who will sneak his way inside a palace using the name of an apostate-prince a thousand years dead.”

Aryas froze. “How did you…?” A thousand years?

“Did you think I wouldn’t know my history, living as I do in the relic he imposed upon this world? Iodeyes h’Kai Aryas, who sacrificed a god in a failed bid to destroy his father and instead tore a hole through the videstrata, necessitating the Hell Gate. Thanks to him, the world nearly unraveled. You could not have chosen a more obvious name if you had donned ochre and called yourself Dherva.

The words hit him like a fist in the gut, doubling him over. That after everything else they would blame him for Eri’s death… His fists clench with the need to destroy something, somebody, to undo all the things that had been done to him.

“But…” Misunderstanding—and how could he not?—Supaya thumbed his mouth thoughtfully. “I see no reason others must know the truth of you, so long as it continues to amuse me. So worry not, my lovely Ryas, I shall not reveal your secret. For a price.”

“A price?” Despite everything, a pulse of desire beat low in Aryas’ belly, and shame heated his face. How could he want so badly to be abused by this creature when so much had already been done to him? Or perhaps it was something in the character of the man—like a drug he secreted with his scent. Ryas recalled the nobleman at the cenotaph who had been compelled by lust even in the face of overwhelming revulsion.

Supaya Strode forward until they stood an arms-length apart and examined Aryas with a keen interest that seemed to flay him where his stood. He was overwhelmed by the sensation of growing smaller, huddling before the gaze levelled upon him. Whatever gods the prince bound himself to, it was clear he’d long since made a sacrifice of his humanity.

“I will not be your victim,” Arays said. His voice was quiet, but sounded much firmer that it should have.

The prince quirked a smile that made Aryas’ belly tighten. “You will be whatever I want you to be, my Ryas. You will weep because of me, and you will beg me to kiss your tears away. You will be my victim, because if you try to be anything else, I will destroy you.”

It was too much: the threats, the gaze, that exquisite face with its expression of bland amusement. So quickly that he shocked even himself, Ryas grabbed Supaya and pulled him close. The young man’s body was firm in his arms, stiff with surprise, but he did not struggle. He lowered his lips until they brushed Supaya’s ear and was rewarded by a flinch.

“So you say, my prince, but shall we see which of cries first?”

Supaya’s hand tangled in Ryas’ hair, forcing his head around. Lips met his, cool and demanding, and a tongue pressed for entrance he couldn’t deny. Turning, Aryas pressed the youth against the cage, deepening their kiss as his hand sought entrance into the other’s robes.

With a soft moan, Supaya turned his head away. Aryas followed, the taste of the prince lingering like wine on his lips, but Supaya stopped him with a hand. Deftly, the prince picked the already loose knot of his sash and pushed his robes off his shoulder. They fell to the floor with a whispered promise.

The fragrance he exuded and the smooth perfection of his body worked in tandem like an intoxicant. The world grew distant, sound distorted. Aryas drew deep shallow breaths through his nose, body strung with tension. His mouth descended on the boy’s, while his hands sought bare skin, silken and fevered under his fingers. The prince arched into his touch, his body undulating to meet the fingers as they moved lower. They shared a moan between them when Aryas’ fingers closed around Supaya’s stiff member.

“Do you think I’ll let you fuck me, just like that?” Despite his words, Supaya’s cheeks were flushed and his eyes were hooded with desire. Aryas’ kissed the words away. When he pumped his hand, the prince thrust into it.

“What I think,” Aryas breathed, “is that if you didn’t want me to, I’d most likely be dead right now.”

Supaya snorted, lips curving against Aryas’, and twined his arms around Aryas’ neck. Aryas responded to the gentle pressure, letting it push him down. His mouth traced a line down Supaya’s neck and across his collarbone while the youth urged him on with cries that were half-sigh. When Aryas scraped his tongue over a taught nipple, however, the cry deepened and fingers knit in his hair. Relishing the body pressed against his, Aryas sought the second nipple with his fingers, pinching lightly, as he continued to lathe the first one. Forcefully, he pumped the swollen cock again, this time seeking a rhythm. Supaya bucked against his hand, cries reaching through the shadows like a refrain of music, soft and sweet, and not at all subtle. Aryas mouth watered for more, even as his throat grew parched with longing.

He dropped to his knees, hands trailing down that smooth skin to find purchase on equally smooth hips. Supaya’s hand fisted in his hair, and when Aryas glanced up, he found the prince watching him with a cool expression.

“You should know that I will hurt you over and over, because it pleases me to do so and because I can.”

“I expect you will try.”

Supaya ducked his head and his hair cascaded forward in a river of bronze. His eyes shone from behind it like moons, clear and bright. “I intend to destroy you, Ryas.”

Ryas laughed. Hadn’t Supaya created him, after a fashion? Smiling, he ran his tongue up the length of Paya’s swollen shaft, eliciting an enticing groan. “We’ll see.”

If the boy intended further words, Arays gave him no chance, instead swallowing the head of his cock with skill. Supaya cried out and the hands he had tangled in Aryas’ hair tightened their grip, seeming to both push and pull, as though he could not decide what he wanted. Aryas gave him no chance to think. He pulled back, swirling his tongue around the leaking head. Like a demon from some foreign story, he fed off the sounds Paya made, fed into them by slurping harder. Bitter fluid smeared across his tongue; Supaya’s buttocks tightened under his hands as the prince tried to force himself deeper into Arya’s throat. But Aryas denied him the entry he wanted, controlled him through forced restraint.

Then, just as Supaya’s frustration reached vocal levels, Aryas plunged a sweat-soaked finger into his body, simultaneously swallowing the shaft all the way to the hilt. Supaya cried out, body convulsing, and hot fluid splashed low in Arya’s throat. He milked the organ with his mouth, relishing each sticky wave, as he pumped his finger in Supaya’s hot hole.

The convulsions died away, and after a moment, the hands tangled in Aryas’ hair forced his head away. He let the cock slide out of his throat with regret, the heady thrum of sex still threading his pulse. A hand caught his wrist and forced that away, too. He removed the finger from the prince’s body with a sigh.

“That’s enough, Ioryas. Enough.”

Ryas glance up a Paya and found him staring back, something like horror in his eyes.

Numb with confusion, Ryas caught up the robes from the floor and handed them up. Paya took them without thanks and began to dress.

“This isn’t over,” he said from the floor. “We aren’t done.”

The prince glanced down. “We are for now. But only for now.”

“For as long as you say.”

Supaya’s lips curved into a smile, cold and sharp as the crescent of a moon. “Or until I break you. Whichever comes first.”

 

#

Woken in the rafters, a spirit watched them as they left—followed first the prince with his voluminous robes the color of water and his fall of thick hair, and the then the dead man with his newly minted mortality shining bright as polished gold. Their scent was heavy in the room, thick as incense smoke, as nauseating as it was intoxicating.

Anger stirred inside him, the heavy, sticky feeling of betrayal. He remembered his death, the bite of a knife in the shadow of an old building, the sound of many trees weeping in the wind, and the eyes of his lover as his life had bled out into the dust.

Hampered as he was by living flesh, Aryas had remembered himself in moments. Erikires had no constraints; he remembered fully.

And he raged.

 

-End, Part 1-

 

Author’s Note:

Hello minna-san! Thank you for making it this far. This is the first part of a three part story, and one of three stories in The Princes of Fire series, which tells the stories of all three brothers. The Kindling Moon is very cobbled together right now—gomen!—and I must apologize for that. Until I started this story a few weeks ago,I didn’t actually know anything about the characters, except that Paya is really messed up probably needs intensive therapy. I’d actually refused to work with him previously.

Arigatou!

 

About the Author:

Hello and thank you for making it this far. This is the first part of a three part story, and one of three stories in The Princes of Fire series, which tells the stories of all three brothers: Sukata, Sumiya, and Supaya. I hope you have enjoyed this enough to look for the other stories in this series. I will be releasing them monthly.
Regarding the themes in this story: I am so, so sorry. These people are awful. I don’t know what to do about them. Sumiya and Sukata are both far nicer and require far less therapy. So there’s that, at least.
If you are interested in following this story and other stories I write, or if you want a good example of the kind of person you should not grow up to be, I maintain a very modest page on FB under the name Sora Kess where many writerly things are likely to occur, often with illustrations. I can also be found at Legacysyndicate.deviantart.com and wattpad.com/user/SoraKess, where I store my updated stories. I am currently relocating to a new website, but who knows when I’ll actually get it finished!
Thank you!

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