Author's Note: Oh, dear. Gerald's absolutely furious with me. He thinks I portrayed him as too much of a sappy romantic in 'Every Now And Then'. Just to make matter worse, my other muses have been squabbling something dreadful, and it's only making Gerald more irritated. Calesta, you little son of a... oh no you don't! Don't even think about trying to steal Damien! Just because he's letting Gerald corrupt him doesn't mean you get a chance too! Damn Iezu. The only one I like is Karril. Oh, great, now he's going to get a swelled head. Argh! Why won't these characters just behave? At any rate, this is my peace offering. After all, nothing appeases an angry Hunter like a nice entree of helpless priest. With a side dish of world domination, of course, and a small helping of personal vengeance for desert.
Warnings: Slash. Slightly vampiric Tarrant. Mild swearing: I was feeling a little ticked-off about the real world when I wrote this (really, are all employers total $$#*!^$?), and I may have used it as an outlet. Nothing too heinous, but more than my other fics - keep in mind, in real life I never swear. Overall, pretty dark - depending on how you look at it.
Disclaimer: Do I LOOK like a world-famous author? DO I? NO! Therefore, I am NOT C.S. Friedman! I hope that has now been cleared up. Honestly, who starts these rumors? Hmph. Probably Karril, now that I think about it... dratted Iezu.
A.N.2: Title borrowed from the Loreena Mckennitt song, 'The Mystic's Dream', from the album The Mask and Mirror. The full line is "When darkness lays her crimson cloak/ Your lamps will call, call me home". Soundtrack is Crimson and Crystal by Julia Ecklar, and The Mystic's Dream by Loreena Mckennitt.
A.N.3: Is anyone thinking that I have the weirdest taste in music? Anyway, this fic completely ignores WTNF and CoS: I'm sort of pretending that Calesta just didn't exist. He's not important to the storyline, so I made him go away. It's one of the perks of writing fanfiction: even Iezu have to obey. Well, most of the time...
A.N.4: I would like to dedicate this fic to every poor fangirl who's fallen hopelessly in love with a villain. I suffer a dreadful bad-boy complex myself, with my main obsessions being Gerald Tarrant - of course - Raistlin Majere of Dragonlance, Dalamar Argent of Dragonlance, Artemis Fowl, Tom Riddle of Harry Potter, and... dare I say it... Chemosh of Dragonlance. To all the girls who fall in love with totally demented fictional villains - and I know you're out there - this one's for you. Villains forever!
Thunder crashed overhead, making Damien's horse sidestep nervously. Damien gripped the reins tighter and touched its neck, trying futilely to calm it - despite being extremely nervous himself. Not from the thunder. From the dark trees around him.
For the thousandth time, he cursed the Patriarch for an overbearing, seriously-in-denial fool. It was because of him that Damien was currently riding with extreme caution down a pathway in the Forest of Jahanna, on his way to challenge the Hunter. Certainly, they had achieved victory in the rakhlands, but that wasn't enough for the Patriarch. He wasn't going to be satisfied until the Hunter was dead, and he had elected Damien as the perfect idiot for the job.
The Hunter knew Damien was here: the priest was sure of that. Just after he had ridden beneath the eaves of the trees at sundown, a change had come over the Forest. It had grown still and breathless, the soft sounds of living creatures fading away until Damien might have been the only life form in the entire woodland. He knew what that portended: the Hunt had begun, and this time, he was the prey.
A thunderstorm had blown up shortly thereafter. The wind howled and rain poured down in buckets, but very few droplets penetrated the thick canopy. His horse, however, was growing more spooked with each passing second: Damien didn't know if it was the thunderstorm, though, or if that meant the Hunter was close. Judging by the agitated motions of the beast now, it might well be the latter.
Suddenly the horse reared, screaming in panic. Damien read the signs in a heartbeat: he had just enough time to slide from the saddle before the maddened animal bolted. That left him on foot, but it was definitely a good choice. The horse had vanished almost instantly among the trees, but only a moment later, another scream echoed back to where the priest stood. No mistaking that sound. If Damien ever got out of here, he would be doing so under his own power.
Swearing, Damien drew his sword. This was definitely not good. Even as he turned to scan the night-darkened woods, though, he felt a cold certainty settle into the pit of his stomach. Deep down, he knew he wasn't getting out of this alive. How could he? The Hunter was evil and power incarnate: Damien was only a mortal priest, too foolish and too stubborn to know when to quit.
Even deeper down, Damien knew he hadn't come because of the Patriarch. He hadn't come to fight; he hadn't come believing that he would win. He had come because he had nowhere else to go. He had come because he was going to die, no matter which road he chose - and if he was already damned, he wanted to see Gerald Tarrant once more before he died.
For all his denial and all his supposed hatred, Damien had fallen hard for the Darkest Prince of Hell. He'd fought against the feelings with all his might, denied it time and again - even when, in his dreams, he'd found himself in Tarrant's arms. He still wasn't sure how those dreams had started, whether he himself had begun them or if Tarrant had been experimenting, but once they started he couldn't find the strength to make them stop. Tarrant must have known - his power was wrapped around every cell of Damien's mind, he could hardly fail to notice that intensity of attraction - but he had never said anything, for which Damien was profoundly grateful. Now, though, Damien's hand was played out. He was out of aces and out of tricks, and one way or another he'd be dead by sunrise. If he was going to die anyway... he'd rather meet his end at the hands of that demon prince in an angel's skin who had stolen his heart, than on the sword of a Church-hired assassin.
A sound behind him made him spin, sword lifting - and something sleek and dark shot past him, millimeters from his exposed arm. Off-balance, he stumbled and almost fell, but his fall was broken by some sort of plant that he had stumbled into. "Vulking hell." he muttered, yanking himself away from the clinging vegetation. "This can't be good."
Then he registered the pain in his arm, and looked down. There was a foot-long gash on his forearm - and when he looked back up, he could see the telltale scarlet smears on the limbs of a strange, vine-like plant behind him. The vine-like limbs were lined with vicious, curving thorns - thorns that were quite clearly weeping droplets of some thick, greenish fluid.
Damn the accursed plant life in this place! Damien felt a numbness stealing up his arm, followed quickly by searing pain. Obviously the plant was poisonous, whatever the hell it might be. The priest staggered slightly, the world beginning to spin around him: the venom was working through his bloodstream quickly, fogging his mind and leeching the strength from his body. Lovely. The great Reverend Damien Kilcannon Vryce, brought low by a bloody vegetable. I'm sure Gerald's going to love the irony.
Damien's legs gave out from underneath him and he collapsed to the leaf-strewn ground, sword slipping from suddenly nerveless fingers. Overhead, a brilliant shaft of lightning split the sky, the blue-white light just barely piercing the thickly webbed leaves. Damien fought to keep his eyes open, trying to stave off the inevitable...
The sound of a quiet approach then, soft footfalls on the dead leaves, barely audible over the distant howl of the wind and rain. Dragging his eyes open once more, Damien watched with blurring vision as the Hunter came into view. The adept kneeled down next to him, a sardonic smile on his face as he shook his Core-golden head.
"Why, Vryce? You had to know that you had no chance... why did you come?"
"I had to." Damien rasped. He left the rest unsaid, but he saw the flash in silver eyes and knew that the Hunter understood. The adept's mocking smile faded away, and he reached out one slender hand, brushing a lock of dark hair back from Damien's face, studying him intently.
Damien's mental processes were severely delayed by the plant's venom, and he blamed that handicap for the fact that the words made it out of his mouth. "You're an evil son of a bitch, but... you're so beautiful..."
"I thought you were determined to never admit that?" Tarrant said softly, an emotion flickering in his eyes that Damien couldn't decipher. The priest managed a weak half-smile.
"Only because I didn't think I could live with the guilt." He winced as pain shot through him, centered on the wound in his arm. Tarrant noted the gash, and frowned.
"How typical. Of all the plants in the Forest, you just had to stumble into the one that will kill you the slowest." The adept considered him a moment, silent, then he said softly, "You had to know how this would end, Vryce. Were you really so willing to die?"
"Didn't get much choice in the matter, actually." Damien muttered, trying to ignore the feeling that there was a giant hand slowly crushing his chest. "Apparently the Patriarch's more ruthless than I thought: he told me quite plainly that either I came here and finished you off, or I was going to mysteriously and tragically disappear on the way to Faraday." A growl of thunder punctuated his words.
One of Tarrant's delicately sculpted eyebrows quirked upward, a mixture of skepticism and amusement on his angelic face. "The Patriarch himself threatened to have you assassinated? You must have seriously pissed him off, Vryce."
Damien snorted weakly. "One of my many talents..."
Tarrant's expression turned thoughtful. Damien left his eyes fall closed again, struggling against the pain that was searing through him. Tarrant was right, as usual - it was just his luck he'd found a slow-acting venom. Maybe he should have just let his panicking horse run off a cliff with him still in the saddle; it would have been faster.
Ah, but then, I wouldn't have gotten to see him a last time... granted, he's more or less evil personified, but he's so Goddamn beautiful...
A cold hand touched his cheek then, the icy flesh a shock against his burning skin, and the Hunter's soft voice came through the darkness. "It doesn't have to end like this, Vryce."
Damien opened his eyes again, after a moment of struggle - it was getting harder every time he closed them - and stared up into Tarrant's silver eyes. "What do you mean?"
"There's still time for me to reverse the poison." Tarrant murmured, his gaze never wavering from Damien's face. "You wouldn't be obligated to try again to kill me, you know: you only swore to make the effort, you've more than fulfilled that vow."
Damien frowned slightly. "Why would you do that?" he whispered, the world momentarily losing focus as another wave of pain swept through him. Tarrant leaned down further, until he was hovering only inches above the fallen priest.
"Because you're among the last of a dying breed, Reverend - and it would be a shame to let you go." He hesitated, then added, "And because I'd much rather keep you for myself..."
Damien's eyes opened wide with shock. "You can't meant that." he choked out. There was simply no way that his attraction to the elegant adept was reciprocated. Tarrant smiled faintly.
"Are you so sure of that?" he breathed, then he closed the last sliver of distance and pressed their lips together.
Damien let his eyes flutter closed. Tarrant's lips were as cold as a winter wind, but they were sweet and soft and wholly intoxicating. The icy chill spread through him from that simple contact, numbing the pain of the poison in his veins. He relaxed into it, accepting the trickle of coldfire into his body as he returned the Hunter's kiss.
Tarrant lingered a moment longer, lips still pressed to Damien's, then he slowly withdrew. Damien's eyes shot open and they stared at each for a moment, then a faint smile curled the adept's mouth. "Well, Vryce? Would you prefer to let that poison finish you off... or will you swear allegiance to me?"
Damien actually grinned. "Not much of a choice, you know." he murmured, his eyes feasting on the delicate planes of the Hunter's face. Tarrant smiled.
"Good." he purred, and leaned down to capture Damien's mouth with his own.
Dazed by the heavenly sensations of kissing Gerald Tarrant, Damien hardly noticed when the adept's slender hands flattened against his chest. What he did feel, however, was when the Hunter sent a wave of coldfire into his body. He broke the kiss with a choked cry of pain as the faeborn flame seared through his veins: in its wake, though, the burning agony faded. The venom was gone.
Tarrant's slim fingers played softly over his skin as the adept murmured against his lips, "I'm sorry. Eventually, your body will come to recognize my power, and it won't hurt anymore: for now, there's very little I can do to reduce the pain."
"It's not that bad." Damien mumbled, more concerned with the Hunter's soft mouth on his own than with the lingering flashes of discomfort dancing across his nerves. Kissing the adept felt so damn good, it had to be a sin, all mention of the Unnamed aside. He felt Tarrant's lips curve in a smile, then Tarrant drew back, rising and helping Damien to his feet.
The priest swayed slightly as he stood, his body still feeling slightly numb from icy coldfire, but a hell of a lot steadier than he had been before the run-in with the plant. Tarrant smiled faintly, holding his arm to steady him, amusement flickering in his silver eyes. The adept lifted his free hand and rested the tips of his fingers against Damien's chin, turning the priest's head so that they were gazing directly into each other's eyes. After a moment, the Hunter spoke softly.
"You never really thought you had a chance, did you?"
Damien sighed. He hadn't planned on admitting this, but it seemed the time for secrets was past. "No. I thought I was finished. I just... I would rather you, than some mercenary that the Patriarch dug out of the gutter." Steeling himself, he looked straight into those glittering quicksilver eyes. "I wanted to see you, one last time."
Tarrant's eyes softened, and he moved forward and pressed himself against Damien, kissing him passionately. Damien wrapped his arm around the Hunter's waist, holding the adept close as his other hand lifted to bury itself in Tarrant's golden hair. They remained that way for several long minutes, holding each other, slowly devouring each other's mouths. Finally Tarrant pulled back slightly, his pale eyes uncharacteristically warm as he gently traced the lines of Damien's face. "I'm glad." he whispered. "It's been a long time since I cared about anyone, but I find myself caring about you... Damien."
The priest smiled: he would never have thought it would feel so good to hear the Hunter say his given name. The fair-haired adept pressed another swift kiss on his lips, then murmured, "I'm going to mark you - to make sure that everyone knows you're mine. This will most likely hurt at first." Damien nodded, bracing himself for whatever the Hunter was planning. Tarrant lowered his head slightly, pressing his lips against Damien's throat: the priest tensed, realizing what he intended.
"Relax." Tarrant murmured, then his fangs pierced through Damien's skin.
It was nothing like what Damien had expected. From the one time before that Tarrant had bit him, after the rescue in the rakhlands, he had been expecting rather a lot of pain; however, that wasn't the case. He felt the Hunter's ivory teeth slip smoothly into his flesh, sliding in as easily as a sword slipping into its sheath. There was a brief spike of pain, but it was drowned almost instantly in a strange lethargic pleasure. Tarrant made a soft moaning sound in the back of his throat as he clung to Damien, hissing around Damien's flesh.
"God... you taste so good, Damien..."
Damien grinned ruefully. "That's a compliment I didn't think I'd ever hear." he muttered, head spinning from the strange sensation of Tarrant's ice-cold fangs in his neck. The Hunter's cold tongue was lapping at his skin as his fangs shifted, drawing the blood from his veins: the sensation was oddly pleasant, a soft tugging that seemed to coax him gently down into darkness.
Reluctantly, Tarrant withdrew his sharp canines from Damien's neck, the wound healing over almost instantly. "Now, to seal the bond..." he breathed, eyes gleaming with hunger. He reached to his belt and drew out the slender knife he carried: Damien felt a stab of apprehension.
"This will ensure that we are permanently bonded." Tarrant murmured, dragging the razor-edged blade across his own wrist: a line of deep crimson welled up, glittering in the flash of another lightning bolt through the stormy heavens. He lifted his arm, offering his cut wrist to Damien, and the priest stared at him, stunned. He had heard of this kind of blood-bonding - it was extremely powerful, and definitely permanent. It seemed Tarrant did genuinely care about him: why else would he offer this kind of union?
"You're sure?" he asked softly. Tarrant nodded, silver eyes lidded.
Damien caught hold of Tarrant's arm to hold it steady, and lowered his mouth to the bleeding gash in the Hunter's perfect alabaster skin.
The first taste of the adept's blood shot through him like the lightning overhead. Sharp and cold and impossibly sweet, searing his tongue like coldfire. It slid down his throat like liquid silk, smooth and fluid: Damien felt it creep through him, cold spreading through his body. It was much like that time in the rakhlands when he had first submitted to Tarrant's Workings... except that the revulsion that had tainted that incident was gone now. For the first time, Damien allowed himself to truly enjoy the beauty of the dark power sliding through his veins.
Tarrant's soul brushed against his, a fleeting yet enchanting contact: the touch of his spirit was like the strains of a distant song, haunting and beautiful. Damien let his shields fall away, embracing the Hunter's darkness - it didn't hurt at all this time. His own soul seemed to recognize Tarrant's, welcoming him in. The fae swirled around them in a starburst of blinding power as the bond flared to full life at last, binding them together for eternity.
Damien lifted his head, releasing the Hunter's wrist, stunned. Tarrant smiled at him, eyes luminous with fae-light as he breathed, "Now nothing can keep us apart, my love..."
Disregarding his own blood that still stained the Hunter's lips, Damien pulled him into a fierce kiss. Tarrant matched his passion eagerly, moaning as their blood mingled on their tongues. They kissed hungrily, frantically, letting the accumulated longing of seven months fuel their desire. Tarrant bit lightly at Damien's mouth, letting his thoughts flow across the bond: the priest pulled out of the kiss long enough to chuckle, his hazel eyes dark with lust.
"I think I like the way your mind works, Gerald."
The Hunter smiled wickedly, already reaching for the fastenings on Damien's tunic as he purred, "I've been dreaming of this night for some time, Damien - and four centuries of celibacy does wonders for one's inspiration."
Quite some time later...
Gerald Tarrant lay twined comfortably around his lover, smiling to himself as he listened to Damien's steady breathing. He doubted the priest even knew how far he had already been corrupted: the Hunter's darkness was inside him now, wrapped around his soul like ivy around a stone. And, by a clause in Gerald's compact, they truly would be together forever - by the laws of the Unnamed, if the Hunter corrupted anyone to the point that they accepted a blood-bond with him, then that person would share in his immortality. Damien was his, now and forever, and Gerald would never let him go.
He studied the priest's face a moment longer, then turned his gaze to the tiny snatches of sky visible through the canopy, and his smile widened. You truly thought it would be that simple, your Holiness? he mentally asked of the far-distant Patriarch. Perhaps you did. You realized that Damien and I were closer than we should have been, didn't you? And you played on that. You threatened his life to drive him here, knowing he would come to me - and you planted a Working in his mind that would have compelled him to fight me. You didn't know that the venom of my plants counters all forms of Working, you couldn't possibly have known. You thought that we would fight, that I would hesitate because of my feelings for him, and he would strike me down - only to take his own life out of remorse and grief. Both of your greatest problems, cut down with a single stroke of the sword. Clever, your Holiness, but you made a terrible mistake. He's mine now, completely: he'll never return to you or your cause. And someday, when you try again, when you come for me in turn - when that day arrives, it is you that Damien will strike down, at the merest word from me. What will come then of all your schemes, you Holiness?
He shifted closer to Damien, the priest's arms tightening around him in his sleep, and smiled to himself as he let his lover's heartbeat calm him, soothing away the turmoil of planning and schemes that so often filled his mind.
I'll have my revenge yet, your Holiness. If I was banished from my own Church for my gift of the fae... then no adept shall ever hold a place within the ranks of my Church. I do have to thank you, though: without your foolhardy actions, it might have taken a long time indeed to win Damien's heart.
Feeling truly content for the first time in centuries, Gerald Tarrant rested his head on Damien's chest and let himself drift into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.