Disclaimer: Unfortunately enough the world of Osten Ard and all its characters belong to Tad Williams. I promise to give them back when I'm done playing.
Inspiration: "As the smoke and licking flames rose, the northerners routed out the last of the Sithi – those who had been too weak to or timid to flee, or who had felt too much loyalty to their immemorial home. In those fires Fingil's Rimmersmen did terrible deeds; the remaining Sithi had little strength left to resist. Their world had come to an end. The cruel murders, the heartless tortures and ravishings of unresisting victims, the laughing destruction of thousands exquisite and irreplaceable things – with all these Fingil Redhand's army put its crimson stamp on our history, and left a strain that never can be removed." Jarnauga (The Dragonbone Chair, Chapter 33 'From the Ashes of Asu'a)
Warning: This chapter contains dark topics like murder and rape. Even though I forego explicit descriptions, I increased the rating for this story. Consider yourself as being 'warned'.
Unimpressed by the death of the young Rimmersmen, the smoke followed its unswerving dance at the dark corridor. If there hadn't been his bright armour, the motionless silhouette of the Sitha man had been blended completely into the dark vapours.
Silent he stood, the expression as dark as his braided hair. His gaze was fixed on the limp body of his opponent, who had slumped down as life left him, dragging the black blade in his chest along.
With an odd fluent movement, which seemed to mock the existence of joints, the fairy men taunted his sword arm and shoulder as he tried to free the weapon from the clasp of the corpse's chest. There was a scrapping sound, which seemed far too tiny to be heard at the madness of Asu'a last day, and the blade's movement stopped.
The Sitha's features changed into a mask of bewilderment, the golden eyes wide within the darkness. Another try to release the blade served only to prove its motionlessness. The fruitless struggle for the weapon's freedom seemed only to add to the blades owner's dark frame of mind since he produced a sound from his throat, which could have been both to a mortal's ear; a snort of disgust or a sob of despair.
Whatever it was, it died away before long and remained the only one of its kind. The head bend to one side and the golden eyes closed the Sitha remained unmoving once more.
After a short moment the golden eyes reopened with a strong-willed glint. Slowly, as if he was fighting against some kind of maelstrom, the Sitha put one of his small foot on the Rimmersmen's armour clad back to reinforce his stance and resumed to pull at the sword's hilt.
Before long, the blade came free with an almost violent jolt, which let the sword's owner tumble back various steps.
But instead of moving on now to wherever he was headed to, the slender body sank to the floor. The angular face ashen and sweaty he laid next to the cooling body of his slain opponent on the corridor's alabaster tiles, trembling in cramps of some sort for long minutes.
With his limbs finally stilled and the air returning to his lungs the black haired Sitha dragged himself to his feet and moved slowly down the way before him, the sounds of his unsteady steps swallowed by the ever present noise of battle.
The face still ashen but the steps more steady now, the fairy swordsmen followed the path of the corridor, using the once shining walls to support himself from time to time.
The air around him was full of tiny sooty particles and the heavy odour of burned things. But albeit of its choking stench, the smoke couldn't completely mask the new sweet-metallic aroma which now began to fill the nostrils of the lonely Sitha.
The small eyes glinting with alertness he stopped his steps and remained hidden in the shadows of the corridor – examining the scent like a hurt predator, which tried to decide if the game before him would be worth the risk of attacking.
Suddenly a drift of air, which - by mortal standards – shouldn't be able to exist at this place, chased the smoky tendrils from his sight and revealed three still silhouettes on the floor.
Lifeless they lay there, like rag dolls, who had been abandoned by their small owners.
After a silent moment he hesitantly started to approach the two slender schemes, while forgoing the third more compact shadow completely. Kneeling down, he turned around the first body with unsteady hands. When he could finally see the face of his fallen kinsman, his brows knotted in faint sorrow.
However, the mourning couldn't mask the other emotion, which was written to the features of his normally composed face. In an odd way, the Sitha seemed relieved as though he had expected someone else lying dead on the floor. The body under his hands decided to use this very moment to prove his lacking medical judgment to him by moving a little.
Clearly taken aback the black haired one peered into the face of the fallen Sitha before him, whose hair might have been orange like the sunset once, before it became tainted with blood.
"...my…Hana'yome…" The eyes remained closed, while the voice, which was nothing more than a hoarse whisper from a tattered body, spoke. As though the few words alone had swallowed what he had left of strength, he felt silent again.
The black haired one nodded and even though the other couldn't see his small motion of understanding his torn body relaxed a bit.
Forsaking his kneeling position next to his fallen kinsmen, the fairy swordsman approached the second still figure, which lay only a few paces away from the first.
When his gaze felt upon her bloody body, a small strangled sound escaped his throat. The shreds of the once shiny dress and the blood on her inner thighs witnessed the ordeal she had to endure before death claimed her.
He took off the thin cloak, which he had worn, and wrapped the still female body into it. Before long the traces of her violent end disappeared under the cloak, even though bloody flowers bloomed on the pale fabric within seconds.
As the wrapped bundle was placed next to him, the fallen sitha man turned his face towards it and a small smile touched his lips. For a moment it seemed as if he had wanted to say something else, but his chest never rose again.
No one listened as the departing steps faded into silence.
His hair was red as the fire, whose shine was glinting on its braided surface. These very braids, which dangled before his eyes now, had become the curtains of his narrowed world. This world had been made up of light and air for countless years and but with this fateful day it suddenly became constricted to two most trivial things: a chain of cold iron, which was pulled tightly against his throat from behind and the mocking voice of his attacker.
"You did ask for this kind of game, you know" the Rimmersman grunted, "biting me as playfully as you did". The voice of the northern soldier sounded a bit washed-out as though its owner wasn't completely in control of his tongue. Blood was wetting his bottom lip. "But this bridle should rein you for sure, wild one".
Even though his face was contorted with obvious pain and some strange kind to revulsion, the red haired Sitha growled and snarled like a crazy beast while fighting against his cruel bond and the one, who bestowed it upon him. His not quite human sounds of hate and fear mingled with the surprised grunting of the Rimmersman and were echoed by the shiny walls of the hall.
Suddenly there was a yelp of pain from beyond and he was free. The iron chain clattered to the ground and the freed Sitha broke to his knees. While cooling his burning brow against the tiles of the hall's ground, he stayed on his elbows and knees for long moments, as though he prayed to his ancestors to end this madness.
When he felt a small hand on his back, he slowly lifted himself into a sitting position. He turned his gaze to his saviour and the raw emotions in his eyes dimmished. "Aniki. It is you." Even though the red-haired Sitha seemed to have regained his collectedness to some point, his voice trembled a little when he spoke.
The black-haired fairy swordsman frowned unhappy. "I have been … delayed. Forgive me". He rose to his feet and helped his companion to follow his suit. When they both stood, the burning eyes of the dark haired one started to move in his mask-like face. Apparently the subject of this search wasn't to be found and a frown crept slowly over his golden features. "I expected to find you sister with you". His companion lifted his gaze from the tiles, at which he had stared in what seemed to be a strange way of fascination for awhile now. "She was. I fell short to ensure safety of our passage. And then…" The Sitha fell silent and touched lightly his throat, while turning his burning gaze to the silent mass, which lay not far away from them. "She should not be far head", he said at last and turned around to point to the smoke clouded doorway to their left.
"Let's move on then. Time is short."
A pair of golden eyes stared unseeing to the ceiling above. Still as stone, she lay, undisturbed by the presence of the sword wielder, who stood next to her fallen body. Both silhouettes remained unmoving, even though the sound of approaching foot steps started to infiltrate the silence of the great hall.
The sound of the steps rose in volume until two male Sithi emerged from the darkness of the corridor. As their eyes took in the solemn scene before them, their steps faltered and they came to halt just a few paces away from the silent body and its unmoving observer.
Although it was covered with blood, both males recognized the face of the slain woman before them and while the face the fairy swordsman was clouded with heavy grief, his red haired kinsmen blanched as though he had lost all of his blood due some terrible but invisible wound. When his black haired companion turned around and touched his shoulder, the grief-stricken Sitha shook it off.
After this failed attempt of comfort the black-haired Sitha left his relative to himself and approached the still unmoving sword wielder. Even from the distance he could see the petrified face and tense posture of the Sitha woman, who stood there. When he reached her side he raised his hand to her face as if to see for himself that she was a living creature and not a statue made of precious stone. She didn't acknowledge his presence though, regardless of the still lingering touch of his fingertips on the line of her jaw.
"Another knot in the endless skein", he said, the voice hushed and sad, "but our mourning songs for her will have to wait. I came to fetch you because time is short." Stirred by the gentle words the silent female turned her head somewhat, so she could see his face from the corner of her eyes. Due to this small movement the polished stones, which were weaved into her coppery braids, made muted clicking sounds. "We can't leave her" she said, her voice being as cold as the attire of her hair. The black haired male made an unconscious sound in the back of his throat. "We have to. First Grandmother is waiting for us" he said with a voice that hold more then a hint of urgency.
When she turned her face away from him to resume her silent observation of the fallen body before her, the fairy swordsmen closed the last distance between them and rested his brow on her temple.
"Please, koibito", he said. His words were almost inaudible, small whispers, meant for her ears alone. "I promised to my grandmother that I would live, but I won't leave our great house without you. After everything we lost, you can't ask that from me."
Hearing his pleading words, her features melted into an expression of something akin to fondness and she gave him a small unhappy smile. "To weight me with his kind of responsibility is a cruel thing of you to do. But you are right. I promised we would leave together and I won't shrink away from my obligation". She freed herself from his strange embracement and approached the red haired male, who still starred at the fallen body with an ashen face and a feverish glint in his eyes. "Come, my brother", she said, her voice suddenly strong and metallic as the shade of her hair, "let us move on. If we are lucky, life awaits us." When her brother didn't move, her eyes became small and gave him a little shove. This earned her a small hiss and an angry glare from her target, but he started to move on nevertheless.
Leaving the fallen body behind, the trio crossed to hall together in silence. Her companions had already vanished into another smoke filled corridor, when the stern woman stopped and turned around for a last glance at the silent silhouette one the hall's floor. "Farewell, mother…" she said before following her brother and her beloved into the shadows. Together they headed to a new world, since theirs had ended.
Note of the author:
The acting sithi characters of this 'chapter' aren't meant to be random. Although I didn't give away their names, I think their identity is quite obvious to all, who did read the books.
One more thing concerning their kind of speech: In the Sithi society, as it is described at MS&T, there can be found various references to the Japanese culture, e.g. some of the characters names. Since there isn't a whole phase book for the language of the garden (I mourn this fact gravely), I decided to use the few Japanese terms I know instead:
Aniki: this is a formal term for 'older brother', which is often used to refer to senior member of a group. Since the two male sithi in this story aren't true brothers, I found it more fitting than 'o-ni-san'.
Koibito: this term literally means 'beloved'. It is used as term of address for someone you love in a non-platonic way.