Chapter Nineteen: His Shadow

He purred, black wings snapping out to catch the gentle breeze that moved like a warm caress against his skin, snowy white beneath the dark sky. His body shifted, twisting mid-flight to let him gaze upwards at the thousands of stars. In all his years, those stars had been unchanging; relentless in their eternal beauty and youthful despite the centuries they had burned.

Enka sighed, silver eyes sliding shut as he skimmed above the tree tops, fingers dipped to brush against each passing branch soft with the bloom of new leaves and new petals. His black hair was loose as it often was, a mass of silken dark that was sleek against his back with the speed of his wings, their gentle rocking driving him almost to a lullaby state; a place where he could dream.

He so often put his fate in dreams. As distant and untouchable as the stars, his dreams would forever elude him. An ache for a family he would never know, a want for a child of his own, a need to be accepted. Why did he torment himself so coming to the Gatherings? Why did he not give in to the loneliness, the simple truth that he had lived by for so long. Why would there always be hope within him to find someone? Who would even look at him twice?

He lifted a pale hand, eyes sliding open to stare at the white skin as though it were a curse, the youthful palm and sculpted nails that lied of youth and good breeding. Good breeding. What a farce. The son of a councilman, a noble birth and a noble figure head and a noble brother to live up to and what life had it given him? One pierced with hardships, with the knowledge from birth that he would never be good enough, that he was different. His Sire's hopes had been pinned on Tero; his beautiful brother, so alike had they been in face and face alone. A fine Dragonette governed by instinct and swift with a blade. Tero had been magnificent in his father's eyes, the perfect example of good breeding.

Enka scowled, the expression one that twisted his pretty features and burned his cheeks. And what had he become? A monster. A beast so insistent on tearing one mateship apart for the hand of a submissive that he had abandoned them, destroyed a family and destroyed himself. Near a decade ago that had been and still, Enka felt his brother's betrayal like a knife in his stomach. The fool had not even left a body behind to bury, so obsessed with his... gift that the only thing to mark him by had been his blood painted across the stone work of the village; a stain that had been washed away with the evening rain.

The hand before Enka's face quivered, a tendril of darkness seeping from the creased shadows to wrap around his wrist like a lover's grasp. The shadow pulled taut with Enka's memories, stretching over the limb until there existed nothing to look upon. No hand, no fingers, no pale skin; nothing. He was a figment of the night.

Some gift. Enka shook his hand free of the darkness, eyes sliding shut as he dropped from the sky, his wings tucked tight until he landed soundlessly amidst the grass, his body strengthening in a tense stretch. As if he needed any help being invisible to his fellow Dragonettes and the Destined that shied from him. As if he had ever needed his shadows to feel alone in a room of people or a festival. Family and friendship eluded him as perfectly as his shadows masked him from the sneering and the indifference and the blatant refusal.

His silver eyes gazed, half-lidded, at the tent he shared with the two young Dragonettes, a pair that had welcomed him like one would welcome a stray dog. With curiosity, with gentleness, their awareness of his past obvious in their departure each morning, their desire to leave him to his own devices. It was little he could complain about, it was a friendliness he had never experienced and so he was grateful for it. He wished only that they would see beyond what uselessness he held as a Dragonette alone. Like they had...

He smiled, the ache within him fading for one beautiful second as he stopped to stare at the tent beside his own, the tent that housed the violet eyed Dragonette and his beautiful mateship. Young, but with experience enough to be strong, to be kind, Baro had embraced him like a friend; a true friend. He had pushed his youngling into Enka's arms with only his fate to go on, so trusting it had all but brought the smaller Dragonette to his knees with gratitude. He had held a child, an innocent, in arms that had never received so much as a loving embrace from his father.

It was a mateship filled with love, filled with sweetness and he adored it. Each moment that Myvi had walked the perimeter with Enka on the inside, as though he was one of them, her sharp blue eyes swift to drive back playful Dragonettes with the golden haired Theo by her side. Each second that Erin had baffled him with question after question, his eyes sly and his smile brilliant as he tried to gauge how old Enka truly was. Each time Harry looked at him with those green eyes, so old for one so young, his pink lips splitting in a rare smile every time Enka caught his eye as though the black haired Dragonette had passed some unknown test. He would mourn for the hole they left in his heart when they returned home and he was left in the dark once more.

Enka watched the darkened tent, his wings flicking from the length of his spine briefly. The barest flutter of sound had him freezing, his silver eyes widening curiously before a hand clamped down upon his lips. He stilled, something like a whine muffled behind that hand as he slumped forward. Don't fight, he couldn't fight, he would never win...

A dark chuckle had his skin paling of what little colour he had, a desperate twisting in his stomach as that sound resonated through him, dragging with it memories that he had buried deep down; memories he could not bare to relive.

"Sweet, baby brother, you are as human now as you were the day I died."

Enka's breathing stilled, his chest heaving with panic-filled jolts that held no air. This could not be happening. His brother was dead. His brother was dead. His brother was dead.

"Of course, I didn't really die, did I? You should have known that, sweet Enka. You should have known that I am a King when it comes to hide and seek. Remember our games, brother? Remember the fun we would have?"

Nightmares of dark spaces, of dark laughter in a world devoid of sight; the shadows so black against his eyes that he was hidden from even himself. Hands barely old enough to wield a wooden sword tore at the bindings until they too would become nothing but shadow. Nothing but darkness.

"No, Tero, please, I don't want to play these games, please..."

"And how do you expect to learn how to wield shadows? Who do you think told me to teach you to master our art, Enka?"

"Papa wouldn't..."

"Papa doesn't care about you. He wishes he never had you, what Destined would be proud to bring a pathetic Dragonette like you into the world? You're lucky father didn't send you to the humans to be burned alive."

"You're lying!"

"Are you sure?"

Enka sobbed, struggling against the darkness that froze his slender hands behind his back and forced him to his knees. Shadows crept like silent enemies along the edges of his vision, dousing him in darkness and chilling his very soul. A gentle hum came from behind him, forcing the memories to brighten, his eyes seeing not the slumbering forest but the terror and loneliness that had been his youth.

A face bowed before him, a near mirror reflection of his own pale beauty. It looked at him as the shadows took him over, hiding him from whatever eyes may land upon him and silencing his sobs in a layer of darkness. Silver eyes blinked slowly, his lips curling in a soft smile as he placed a kiss against Enka's forehead. Tero curled a strand of perfect black hair around his finger as he straightened, his free hand snapping upwards until the shadows dragged Enka further into the forest, his thrashing form invisible in the stretching limbs of the trees and his silver eyes now pinned on the tent that held Harry and his mateship.

"He's not yours! This isn't right!"

"Oh? And are you going to do something about it, dearest Enka? Will you run to father with your plea? Would he even believe you? When has he ever believed you... Face it, brother, there is nothing you can do to stop me."

"Please... Tero, you'll be killed... They'll be killed, Tero, please."

Enka bowed his head in defeat, eyes seeing only the emptiness of his brother's shadows. Tero... Please...