An AU that inserts a character into "Mistress of Evil"
As the sun slanted down and began to shut its bright eye like a child drifting contentedly off to sleep, the shadow of wings were dark against the brilliantly lit ocean waves. The shadow elongated as it moved over the surf and became almost serpentine as the sun dipped lower. The flyer kept the sun at her back, her shadow now becoming a compass arrow pointing the way toward a craggy outcropping hid among many such near a rocky, jagged shore. A single pinnacle stood taller than the other dark points of stone that jabbed upward out of the sea like the claws of a monstrous fiend. There a watchtower had been hewn from the rock, an eye to the sea, protecting an unwelcoming inlet long abandoned. Those who had been drawn to settle the tumultuous coast were soon defeated by the violence of the sea surge that hurled itself against those cursed cliffs. They had left the caves, carved with great effort from the cliff face for friendlier waters.
The shadow became jagged as those same spires of stone, then shrank, climbed and connected with its host. For a moment, the winged one was just another dark crag against so many clinging precariously against the wash of waves. Then, the shadow-form melded with a dark crevasse, a black mouth with too regular a shape to be any natural opening.
Away from the salty surge, the winged-one shuddered the wetness from her feathers, stood tall and looked up at a high, dimly lit aperture that only the slightest hint of ruined stairs reached for. Barely boosting from her standing position, she shot up with one hard pump of her great wings, tucked them tight as a diver in reverse, and seemed to just float at the apex of her leap to stand within the chamber at the top of the tower.
Three crude windows were carved in the wall, two gazing in opposite directions along the coast and the third seeing only the sea. Thick strands of dried seaweed were draped heavily over the apertures, letting in only a modicum of light even when the sun was at its highest. Now, all was lost in the darkest grey of dusk that would drown in complete darkness in moments
The space was small and something like the long wick of an inverted candle hung from the ragged roof at its center. One could walk up to it and peer between thick, leathery folds at a sleeping face within, a visage composed of sharp angles that mirrored this strange, forbidding roost.
The dim light that found its way through the covered windows faded completely and night took up its worldly abode. In that moment , luminescent eyes glowed to life and leathery wings snapped open to flare and stretch, brushing the walls and whispering silkily against the stone.
"Good nightfall Sathe," Maleficent with a pearly smile, standing at her full height, her face inches from the other fae's.
"Star-shine upon you Moari," he said, the fae honorific oddly inflected not only because of the pronouncement of it in a long-dead language, but because his slightly protruding canines caused a not -unpleasant slur in his words.
"Come down please," she said in her clipped, commanding tone (a tone she so easily fell into anymore after so long using it as a barrier to the world).
Sathe let go his inverted hold. The first time Maleficent saw this, she almost expected him to fall heavily to the ground; it was so close. Sathe merely folded his wings and executed an incredibly tight tuck and turned to land in only a slight crouch, fully on his feet.
"I need your…" Maleficent paused. Her gaze flicked from the slightly glowing orbs of his eyes to the odd, flat whirl of his nose and the weird, steep climb of his wide ears. In silhouette, he almost seemed to have horns as the tips of his ears stood above the black fringe of his short, thick hair. Maleficant closed her eyes as if in some annoyance, looking for the right word, then smiled evilly (which, like her speech, had become habitual) and gazed at him again. "…your unique senses at my disposal tonight."
"Of course Moari," he said, dipping his head slightly in deference. His eyes flicked up a moment later with devilish light, his own smile calculating. Sathe then swept his dark, leathery wings around, capturing her in the unique splay of finger-like bones and webbing, pulling her close and into his arms.
The first time he'd seen her, she had looked like a strange meteor trailing jade luminescence in her wake. Sathe had been hunting shearwaters on a moonless night, catching the birds and settling on jutting ledge to bite into a feathered breast as if it were a ripe fruit. He stared at the distant lights of Ulstead as he sat dropping the small, bloodless corpses into a deep pool below his perch where sharks had learned to wait for the leavings.
The horizon was already graying slightly with dawn by the time Sathe's night peering vision focused enough to tell him what the falling star actually was.
Even as he leaped off rocks, Sathe knew the sun would catch him. He counted on the thick bank of fog collecting over water to muffle the searing light of that lidless eye. He swam through the thick, dark cloud, leathery wings soundless in the wind. Feathers disrupted the slipstream and would have made echo-location impossible with their thunderous, windy noise. That was how he found her, his singular ears picking up the disconcerting noise of feathers thrashing against the wind in freefall. He dove, catching her as expertly as if she were just another shearwater. The ultra-high pitch of his hunting voice returning to his own ears told him where the shore was, but there was nothing that could warn him of the sudden dissipation of the fog.
Blinding pain cut through his skull as light overwhelmed senses that were only attuned to forge in the deepest dark. There was no way to fight the response of clamping his eyes shut and curling his body away from this attack, but he had enough presence of mind to wrap his wings around them both for what little protection those delicate appendages could offer when they hit the water.
Sathe was immediately deaf and drowning as none of his being was habituated to the water. He didn't know to hold his breath and the ocean filled his wide ears as water would an empty pitcher. He inadvertently saved them both when he shredded her heavy garments with taloned hands trying to de-tangle himself and keep from sinking. A wave caught them in its surge, then nearly dashed them on a rough, sloping ledge of beach.
Sathe lost consciousness in the lee of a rough boulder that barely cast a shadow against the rising sun. He recalled waking once as the shade of the rock melted away and the sun beat down in a bright, sickening blaze. He vomited seawater streaked with clots of shearwater blood and raked feebly at the pebbly sand, imagining he could dig a deep hole away from the horrible brightness. Only when the shadow of that other fae's wings, like a sad, ragged lean-to, blocked the light, did painful consciousness fade again.
He'd made it back to his roost in the darkness of the night, the feathered fae trailing in his wake, her side bloody where the iron ball that felled her had deeply grazed but not lodged. Though the iron had only torn through her, just it's touch within her body was enough to begin the poison circulating through her system. She was failing even as she found the strength to gain the watchtower's upper warren behind him, found him hanging like a grotesque stalactite. She'd pushed back his encircling wings and demanded answers. Sathe's ears thrummed with pain from the collected seawater and his eyes were aching, dry stones. His vision was intact, though, and like the bats he so resembled, he could actually see the fever building within her. He answered as best he could, her fascination with the information, her weakness making her unaware until he pinned her in his arms, pulled her in and bit deeply at her shoulder just where the collarbone curved down. The poison couldn't hurt him. Not this way. He sought to draw out that thread of toxin before it reached her heart and spread, deep and deadly.
Even among the outcasts there are outcasts.
She was to discover this when Sathe led her to the hidden home of the Dark Fae. Sathe was the lost and last of a separate fae, as like his feathered brethren fae as night-living bats to day-loving birds. So much the same yet too different to ever live near each other. All the dark fae had become seperate, driven out if the Moores. There were as many kind of feathered fae as there were birds in the sky, and they had dominated the strange oasis that had become home. The Nyght Fae were few to begin with, and now , with only Sathe, they were nearly none.
He showed Maleficent the scorched cave where he had grown.
Sent out on a journey that all young Nyght Fae took when at the cusp of adulthood (he alone was of age at the time) he avoided the plague that swept through the community. All he had found on his return was blackened stone - a Dragon Diamond had seared the caves with blue-white flames so hot that not even ash was left behind. Everything he'd known was gone.
Beyond the caves, there was a long cascade of water falling down a rock face where a watercourse near the surface tumbled into the caverns. The noon sun reached this same spot for a few hours from the same aperture and a wide shelf of stone was a jungle microcosm. It was amongst this foliage that Sathe confessed to Maleficent that the actions of catching her when she fell from the sky and then setting his teeth in her so closely mirrored the actions of a Nyght Fae pairing that he was effectively bound to her.
That's when they discovered that the diverse among the fae were not so different after all.
Sathe, with his particular sight and use of sound, was able to lead the few Dark Fae willing to follow through the pitch blackness of the Moor forest. Maleficent thought it best to investigate her strange of something wrong in the Moors under cover of darkness.
Sathe stopped in confusion when he detected a void in the forest. The tiniest glow attracted his attention and he brought Maleficent a tomb bloom that faded into darkness as he held it.
The void was the Meadow of the Dead. All of the tomb blooms had been stolen.
Suddenly, as the fae sat stunned at the desecration, a flaming arc struck a tree and flared into a torch. Then another, and another. The group of dark fae were illuminated and Sathe blinded.
Confused and horrified by the theft of the golden, glowing tomb blooms, Maleficent did not hear the whistle of iron pellets in the air or realize the danger until fae around her began to fall. Though blinded by the light and overwhelmed by noise that came from all around, Sathe instinctively tracked the sound of movement, needing to know in his dark world what was in his way or moving toward him. In as much, he knew more than the confused fae around him and was able to detect the danger before the others thought to move. He threw himself in the way of a hail of iron that would have dropped Maleficent from her perch. The barrage took Sathe as he shielded her, so many wounding him at once that he died almost instantly in her arms.
Tomb blooms grow over the resting place of the faerie dead.
The hidden home of the fae became a quiet monument to the fallen of the battle of Ulstead. Golden tomb blooms sprouted by twos and threes in almost every part of that old haven.
Deep in a lonely place where it seems only waterfalls reach, in a sequestered glade, a single tomb bloom, red as heart's blood and with a constant moonlike illumination, grows alone from the rocky sand. It is to this spot that many young Dark Fae journey to learn of the last Nyght Fae and a sacrifice that affected every story that came after.
Read the next chapter for a prequal to "Fey"