WARNING: If you have not read Blizzard these stories will make absolutely no sense to you. There are also OCs ahead, continue at your own peril.
A/N: Waaay, way, waaaay, way late start to the one-shot request prize I offered my very amazing and lovely reviewers in Blizzard. This one is for Rani-Girl, who requested Eros/Lornan's backstory. I experimented with this a lot, I'm sorry, so I have no idea how clear it is or if it makes any sense at all, but enjoy regardless.
He is six years old when the oldest man in the village grimly predicts that the world is going to come to a bad end.
The older boys laugh, as they always do when old Brecken speaks of dark things they do not understand, but he is young, impressionable, and horrified. He runs to his mother in tears to ask her in frantic worry if there is any power great enough to save the whole world, and, if so, where it might be found. She smiles at him as only a mother can and assures him Brecken does not know what he speaks of, and that the world will last a good many years yet.
She does not answer his question, and he is left to wonder if there is an answer, or whether the world is truly doomed.
He is eight years old when the village falls short of food, and he knows this has not happened before. His parents exchange glances and speak in whispers of a war and nightmares and pirates, though they always fall silent when he draws near, their conversations held only in shadows. He sees them glance sometimes at the mountain that controls the horizon, and he wonders if he imagines the fears in their eyes. He forgets such thoughts later, when the days wear on and the food grows less.
He has always been frail, the smallest, and he is hungry, but he knows they all are, so he says nothing as the helpings on the table grow less and less and his skin grows ever tighter across his bones. He stops playing in the autumn sunlight he has always loved that dapples the ground outside their home, his energy little enough that he can barely make it out of bed, let alone venture into the outside world. His brother tries to coax him into the crisp air, but before too long realizes it a lost cause, and leaves him to his solitude. He sits in the window and watches the people fade day by day, and one morning he simply does not get out of bed.
It is not long before his parents and brother seek him out, and they sit with him and gently cajole him into swallowing mouthfuls of a warm but thin gruel. He sees the way his brother's eyes hungrily follow each spoonful, and the wistful glances his mother and father exchange, and he understands, though he knows they think he does not.
He is not well enough to rise for many days, and autumn is past and winter drawing to an end before he is able to leave his bedchambers. By then the worst of the famine has passed and aid arrives from another world, but it comes too late. His father lies in a cold, wooden box, buried deep in the earth, because even a man such as he could not survive without food for so long.
They think he does not understand, but he does, and he weeps silent tears for his father's sacrifice long after they have forgotten.
He is eight years old when he learns what love is.
He is ten years old when he notices the way his mother's eyes mist when she watches him.
He has just returned from his first hunt with his brother, and he holds his catch aloft with pride and a grin wide enough to split his cheeks. His mother smiles, but he sees the tears in her eyes and begs to know what is wrong. She insists it is nothing, but he knows she is lying, and he watches as the days go by and she looks at him more and more with such sadness. He thinks he is doing something wrong, and he turns to his brother for answers, but finds none even there, in the thoughts of his elder.
His brother starts to teach him the way of the bow, and, though it takes him several days to master it to a standard that satisfies his own high expectations, his brother tells him he is a natural. He practices regularly, alone and with instruction, and it is not long before the bolts tearing their way through the bulls-eye are no shots of luck at all. He catches his mother watching him one day, after a shot that makes him particularly proud, and he races to her side to hear her praise.
She smiles at him through her tears, and, bewildered, he hears her say, "You are so like your father."
It is then he understands, and he comforts her, and he does his best to learn the weapon that was his father's own. His mother watches him often, and he wonders sometimes whether she is watching him or the man she married. The man who is nothing more than a ghost now, lingering to haunt them all.
He is ten years old when he learns that love hurts.
He is twelve years old when the shadows come, armed and dangerous and ready to harm. He is playing in the field behind the village, and his mother sends him running with a command not to look back. He flees, and he hides, but she does not come, and so he goes back. He is small and quick and the men do not see him. He watches as the women and children are herded into the village square, the men and older boys packed instead into carts, hauled away towards the mountain. He sees his brother among them, and for a moment their eyes meet, and a promise is made though no words are spoken across the distance. The carts leave, and he returns to his hiding place, and he waits. Two days later he is cold and hungry, but his brother returns, armed and bloodied, with others at his side.
His brother takes them into hiding, into the marshes and caves the shadows could not possibly navigate. His brother puts his bow in his hands with a nod, and naïve is he to not realize what that means. He practices, and so does his brother, and he watches as the young men and boys around him turn into something more. Something dangerous.
He keeps his silence for a time, but he cannot hold his questions forever, and so he asks his brother for news of their mother and sister. His brother's gaze is dark and frightening, and he wonders at the change even as he listens to the response. Their family is held captive, his brother tells him, put to work as slaves by these men of nightmares and pirates of dreams. But they will be rescued, and they will be brought back.
This is not the brother he knows, but something else, something more, and he takes comfort in knowing that where he stands lost his brother knows the way.
He is twelve years old when he learns that love strengthens
He is fourteen years old and he is not the youngest, and for that he is glad. His brother is more and more a stranger to him, though he still loves his elder and believes that love returned. There is an undeniable distance, however, made only deeper by the way his arrows never find a home in flesh. He can make the enemy soldiers dance as his bolts pepper the ground about their feet, but he will not make them fall, and for that his brother often treats him with disdain.
So he takes solace in the youngest among them, one who knows less than he and whom he can guide. They travel together, they fight together, and they speak at night of the lives they left behind and the people they have yet to rescue. He finds it easier to remember what happiness is when bright blue eyes, still innocent and pure, are staring into his own, and their brotherhood is as strong as any familial bond.
His brother comes to him one night, excited and eager, and he himself is soon the same as he hears they finally have a way to rescue their family. He does not hesitate to pitch in, to throw his support behind his brother, and his younger follower goes where he leads. They are to be the centre of his brother's plans, whilst the more able warriors are the distraction, and they march right into the heart of the enemy's hold to do so. All is well, he sees his mother and his sister again, worn and weary but alive, and they flee. But their enemy is more cunning than they have guessed, and the youngest who trails behind him is caught.
The commander of the invaders makes his demands. The exchange of the rescued prisoners for the young one's life, and he turns to beg his brother for the safety of this one he cares for so dearly. But his brother's face is set, and the elder does not move but to tell the men to flee, taking those they have rescued with them. He is holding his bow, and his brother takes it from him, and kills the youngest himself.
Later his brother tells him it was kindness. That the invaders would have tortured any prisoner for information, and that the boy has been spared much pain. He cannot look his brother in the eye for months afterwards, and he cannot hold his bow without feeling a sick twist in his stomach. His mother and his sister are safe, but they are small comfort against pleading blue eyes that begged him for life, and accused him of murder when he could not deliver it.
He is fourteen years old when he learns that love kills
He is sixteen years old and he is not the same.
He knows this, and sometimes he regrets it, but the jagged wound in his heart has to heal, and it does so with thick walls and cold resignation. He lives each day expecting to die, and is almost disappointed when he does not. He will not speak to his mother and sister, and he barely converses with his brother, and he does not know what has happened to him and he does not care to look deep enough to find out. The numbness makes the grief easier to bear, and he prefers nothing to the agony caring has become.
His brother leads a raid against a patrol of invaders, and he follows as he always has. The battle is worse than usual, their enemy aware of their coming, and so many fall on both sides that he can no longer see who is friend and who is foe. The pain takes him by surprise, and he falls to the bloodied ground alongside the bodies that already lie there. He thinks he dies, and is almost certain of it when he wakes to find the face of an angel hovering above. But she speaks soft words and uses a gentle touch that hurts regardless, and he knows and despairs that he is somehow among the living.
She nurses him through fever and through dark, bleak despair, and he comes to see her face as the sunshine of every morning. She does not know who he is. What he is. And he does not tell her. Instead he does not return to his brother or his mother or his sister. He simply stays, and exists, and pretends this is a life he could live, and slowly the scars are peeled away and the skin beneath is clean, and, for the first time in so long, he can breathe.
He is sixteen years old when he learns that love heals.
He is eighteen years old when he is found. It is an inevitability, he supposes. He cannot hide forever, but it still grates on his nerves and sets his heart thundering in his chest when he opens the door one day to see his brother standing on the doorstep. This is not a man he wants to see, except that he has missed him, and forgiveness is lingering nearer to the surface of his heart than his mind might wish to accept. He allows his brother inside, and they talk in low voices of what has happened and things that are long since past.
They need him, his brother tells him, but he shakes his head and says he wants no part of that now, and his brother leaves.
Three days later she walks into the room with tears in her eyes, his angel, and there is such accusation where trust once lay. His brother has spoken with her, he learns, has told her everything, and he has never seen her so angry. Did not even think her capable of it. He endures the storm, the barrage, and waits until she has spent herself before reminding her with soft sincerity that he never told her what he wasn't, and the one thing he has always told her, that he loves her, is true.
He does not wait for the storm to pass over. For her forgiveness. He packs his belongings and he leaves in the night without saying goodbye. She knows now, and she will always know, and that is a danger to her and to him and he can't let her live in fear. He returns to the outlaws hiding in the wild, and he looks his brother in the eye and forgives him for the death of those young, blue eyes, but not for what he has done since. Because his brother knew what the truth would cause. His brother knew and acted for that very reason, and he knows now another hard truth.
He is eighteen years old when he learns that love betrays.
He is twenty years old and he barely knows his sister.
She is younger than he, but it has never felt like it, for long years of frail health and delayed growth have left him perceived as the weakest in his small family. She is bold and courageous and there is a fire in her eyes that burns with such intensity he fears it at times, for he knows it has sprung from hatred. His mother does not see the danger, and neither does his brother, but he does not know her so he sees what they will not.
He tries to speak with her, to counsel, because, just as the emptiness of grief had once consumed him, he knows her hatred will do the same to her. She brushes him away with force, calling him a deserter and a traitor and more hurtful words that he does not care to remember. He watches her from a distance after that, and tries to guard her when her reckless abandon leads her to make foolish mistakes that could so easily cost her life. It will take but one misstep, one stumble, and he knows this and he fears this, but his brother and his mother will not see.
His brother conceives a plan to steal some badly needed supplies, and he sees how the plan revolves around her. He speaks warnings, but he is not heeded, for she is his brother's sister and his mother's daughter, and she is perfect in their eyes. His brother's plan is good, and they escape cleanly, but she has done too much, and harmed unnecessarily when she should have left well alone, and their enemy does not let such acts go unpunished.
She is careless one day, and they see her and they pursue her and she leads them straight back to where the others hide. He loses count of how many are slaughtered, or how many lives his own arrows steal away because he does not have a choice and there are so many dying and what has his life become? She is among the dead, and his brother grieves and hardens further and his mother wails and he stands to the side and wishes he did not so dearly want to remind them that he had warned them. He had known, but they had refused to, and it cost them too great a sum to measure.
He is twenty years old when he learns that love blinds
He is twenty-two years old when his brother walks into the midst of their still diminished company and tells them all he has found a way to defeat their enemy once and for all. The plan is brutal and bloody and all he can see is how much death this will cause. He argues, and he is ignored, pushed aside as ever, and for the first time he begins to resent the way he does not seem to matter. His brother wants him to fire the arrow that will start it all, he is their best shot and his brother knows this, but he refuses, and stalks away into the darkness to try and remember what it is they are even fighting for.
His brother finds him after the sun has dipped below the horizon and plunged them into darkness, his tread light through years of caution, but not so quiet that his approach is unheard. He does not move, allowing his elder to come stand behind him, and they stare into the distance together in silence. It is some time before his brother speaks, and when he does it is of the burdens of leading the young warriors who were all that survived the initial invasion. Of watching the older men be marched away and executed because they were not malleable enough to be of any use. Of the lives that have been lost and the children that have died and how he simply wants to make it all stop. His brother looks him in the eye and promises him that, once they have won, once this is over and done with, the death will stop, and further blood will not be spilled.
He is still reluctant, but this man is his brother, and he loves him despite everything that has happened. He nods his head and shoulders his quiver and tries not to think of the human lives inside the building he sets alight. He does not take a single life with a bolt that night, he retreats as soon as his task is done, but that does not stop the screams of the dying from trailing in his wake and haunting his sleep for so many nights after. His brother is right, and they win the battle. The village is theirs, and he stands at long last in the doorway to his old home and wonders whether it will ever feel like home again.
It is days later that his brother begins to have captives dragged into the square, enemies and traitors he calls them, people who chose to serve the shadows rather than to fight, and lived comfortably as a result. Their deaths are ordered, and he does not speak out because his voice has abandoned him. They have won, the battle is over, and his brother's promise burns to ashes as surely as the men he sentences to a fiery death.
He is twenty-two when he learns that love lies.
He is twenty-four when he realizes reason no longer exists in the man he calls brother.
He is no longer the only one to speak out against the decisions made by their self-appointed leader, but all those who do so now are either punished or killed, and his brother holds such a sway that fear begins to lend him a reputation others dare not challenge. He is changed, this man he once called brother, and he wonders if the shadow has truly been defeated, or if it merely found another way to triumph over those who dared resist.
His brother draws him aside one day and tells him he is the only one still worthy of trust. He nearly weeps, for that is a burden he has never wanted to carry, but he does not know there is worse yet to come.
A commotion sounds in the square one day, and he knows another so-called traitor has been called to trial. He nearly walks away, except the cries of the woman they have seized are too familiar, so he walks forward instead and stares into the emerald eyes of his angel. There is such fear in her gaze, but it departs when she sees him, and she wrenches herself free to run to him only to be grabbed again and hauled back into place. He does not hesitate, then, he hastens to stand between his brother and his angel, and he pleads on her behalf for he knows this is not a fate she deserves. His brother insists she aided the invaders, that, had she known what he was sooner, she would have handed him over to the enemy, but this he knows not to be true and he finally knows also that his brother is no longer a man but a monster.
He has let the battle take his heart, and there is nothing left of what he once was.
His brother orders him to slay the traitor, knowing all the while it is something he cannot do. They argue, and his brother's anger grows, until finally the elder snatches away the bow and arrow with every intend of firing it himself. He cannot allow that, cannot see another loved one fall, and so he throws himself between and tries not to scream when his own missile runs him through. He hits the ground and he knows he is finished. He looks up and meets his brother's eyes, and see no regret, no remorse, just a cold disappointment that he has proved not so trustworthy after all. He weeps then, for the man he loves is gone, and he did not see that the affection he felt for his brother was no longer returned until it was too late.
He is twenty-four when he learns that love dies
He wakes and he knows he is dead, for the angel that leans over him is not his own.
Eyes of a mismatched color stare down at him with soft compassion, and she speaks, though he cannot yet make out what words. She has wings, this strange, small creature. Wings like the brittle leaves of autumn, and she is clad in bronze and yellows, her dress rustling slightly with each movement she makes. Smaller, winged figures hover near her, flitting all around, and he thinks vaguely that this is a pleasant dream.
"It is not a dream," she tells him, and he wonders if he spoke aloud or if this figment of his imagination can read his thoughts. "The little ones found you lying here."
It is only then that he realizes that here is not where here used to be. He is lying beneath trees that are brown enough winter cannot be far off even though he knows autumn has barely begun, and as he blinks in slow confusion at the forest that surrounds him a single twig snaps, and a leaf makes a slow, swirling descent to the forest floor. He recalls, suddenly, why he should not be here, and his hand flies to his stomach. His shirt is torn where the barb pierced him, but the skin underneath is untouched, and he finds himself fully able of sitting up. The strange being watches him with a curious look as he does so, and he turns away suddenly, unable to bear that innocence and youth in another's eyes.
He rises, and takes a step before a weight at his back makes him raise his hand and feel the bow and quiver resting there. The weapon makes his hands shake, and he tears it from his back and casts it away, for it is something he never wants to wield again. What has his talent ever brought him, but lies and death and grief? Tears blur his vision, and he sinks to his knees, head bowed in defeat and hands clenched in his lap. He does not know where he is or if this is some kind of punishment for his failures, and he does not care, because the grief he has kept at bay for twelve years now takes him, and he knows nothing but the sharp sound of his own cries.
He weeps for what seems like hours, and when he finally lifts his head again the strange woman is still standing there, watching him with concern and compassion, her face twisted into an odd expression as if she wishes to help but does not know how. She extends her hands, and he stares blankly at his weapons resting in her small palms.
"They are not what they once were," she promises him. "Your kind are never brought into this world without being changed."
He does not know why, but he believes her, and so he takes back what he cast away, and let's it rest against his back again. For some reason the weight is comforting this time, a strengthening presence, and he rises, looking at her and speaking for the first time.
"What is this world?"
She holds out her hand, childish excitement flashing across features that by rights are too old to bear such an expression.
"Let me show you."
He hesitates, then almost laughs at himself, for what does he now have left to lose? He takes her hand, and he lets her lead him away, and show him a realm that has existed alongside his own for many years. He is astounded, and amazed, and he begins to forget what it is that brought him here. His arrows and bow he keeps with him always, but they never leave their casing, and he sees no reason to wield a weapon in such a peaceful place as this seems to be.
Time has little meaning, and he does not know how much of it passes as he explores his new home. Sometimes his guide accompanies him, but more and more often he finds himself seeking solitude. Seeking a purpose. A reason for why he is here. He searches for answers but does not fret when he cannot find them, because it is strangely pleasant to have nothing expected of him. That is just as well, for the answers he seeks appear in the least likely of forms when he meets one who is quite possibly the most bizarre acquaintance he has ever made. Whilst trying not to openly stare at the eccentric looking rabbit before him, he wonders briefly if he is to receive judgement for the many conies he has hunted when in need of food, but instead the creature asks for his weapons.
He hands them over, and watches with interest as his companion studies them closely, pulling off the ends he had discovered some time ago had been added to the quiver, and flicking the fletching of the separate sets of arrows. The rabbit hands them back eventually, and then he is finally told the truth, and given a reason for his presence in this strange and wonderful world he had not even known existed for so long.
It is a chance for redemption, he realizes, and he grasps it with both hands.
He wakes and he knows he is dead, and he thinks maybe he is better off for it.
He is six years old when he asks his mother if there is any power great enough to save the whole world.
A lifetime later, he knows the answer is yes.