Having made full recovery, Rhys and Hoel left the Glass Fortress and ventured back into the mines where many of their companions received them with unabashed relief and joy back in their ranks: their faces split with a wide grin, their arms engulfing them in a tight grip, their words voicing their satisfaction that Trevor and Ellis no longer haunted the place.
Much inquiry was made about that fateful day of the assault, but upon a vow of silence Rhys and Hoel had agreed, so they revealed only what didn’t threaten to expose the secret of their nightly outings.
‘’Let us not speak of this ever again. Worse torment than that I’ve known after all, and I’ve prevailed–twisted blackguard that I am But my brother,’’ Rhys fixed Hoel to his side, his arm draped over the shoulders of the child, ‘’I will have this incident fade from his memory as if a troubling dream of the past, its specter never again to hound him.’’
Silence descended over all upon such revelation, stunned looks and gaping mouths comprising the reactions of some of the miners while alarm coloured the expressions of the coterie of those who had once formed a clucking crowd around Trevor and Ellis, buoying their ruffian ways.
‘’Your brother?’’ cried out Idris, pickaxe and gad halted in a midair motion. ‘’Did I hear you well?’’
Hoel gazed up at Rhys–his mouth quirking in a blissful beam–then at the congregation. ‘’Of a truth. The blood now running in our veins makes us so, more potent through the force of the arts that binds us even beyond the grave.’’
‘’Let this be proof of our ties.’’ Rhys lifted his wrist along with Hoel’s, bringing them to the same level; a crimson, serpent-like mark pulsed upon their flesh, breathing with a life of its own. ‘’Just because they saw no crown on my head, the fools fancied I was without power.’’ Rhys parted his lips in a feral smile, his teeth bared. ‘’Dearly, I’m informed, they paid for their blindness. So now it is known what plight awaits those who might entertain thoughts of similar foolishness.
‘’Of the house of Ariancorn I am and will always be, Chieftain or not. And through the might of my life force and awen so is Hoel and will always be. Such house gives birth to no weaklings. Let it be heard then to the very bowels of the earth this is the way the Ariancorns deal with any foe who dares strike against us.’’
And while in silvery tones he spoke, burning fire flashed in Rhys’ eyes, fixed as they remained on those who had once allied themselves with his now vanquished enemies. And they did not care to hold his stare, for as if in front of the form of a wrathful god who had taken flesh and bone, they averted theirs swiftly, their tongues releasing no words.
If they cannot respect us, they will learn to fear us. At their subjugation to his authority, dark delight blossomed in Rhys who then and only then shifted his attention away from them.
Quite a few of the miners congratulated them for this turn of events, wishing them well, content with Hoel’s good fortune and the mellowing out his presence had brought upon Rhys’ wilder edges.
‘’By the wheel of Belenus!’’ Maddox smirked at him as the night fell and everyone retired to the sleeping chambers, the two of them enjoying a moment of quiet after the day’s hard labour, seated as they were at the mouth of a galley. ‘’Aren’t you proud of your achievement? Blast your swagger, Rhys! Prancing around and boasting of your new brother like a peacock fanning out its eye-spotted train. Sweaty and quaking you had them in their tatters. That was a sight to behold.’’
Rhy’ brows darkened; his hands balled into tight fists at his sides. ‘’You cannot know, Maddox. You can never know. The terror that crushed me under its heel when I saw Hoel falling in a heap, writhing like a flopping fish caught on a hook under the effects of the poison.
‘’A child of fire I was born, and yet my whole life I had denied my birthright. For there was a missing piece in me–the spark, the tinder to help me claim my gift. Until Hoel shot into my soul like a falling star full of blaze and set me aflame. If he doesn’t burn, if I don’t burn, if we don’t burn, how can the world birth the ashes of the darkness and breathe into the light?
‘’I’m sick and tired of wandering amidst the dusk and the gloom. Without purpose or direction. Now I only yearn to burn without end.’’ Rhys leaned back against the hard ridge of stone, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He nodded. ‘’So, yes, let them shrink with dread. Let their sleep be filled with nightmares. That’s the punishment of the profane for coveting the sacred.’’
Maddox let out a low whistle from amongst his teeth. ‘’I had never fully understood the magnitude of your bond with the child until now. You adore him beyond reason. But too much of anything, I always question the wisdom of it.’’
Rhys shrugged. ‘’Well, I don’t. That is how we fae are fashioned by nature. We know not how to be any other way. We simply yield.’’
‘’Have no worries, Chieftain.’’ Maddox clapped him on the shoulder, then rose to his feet. ‘’Should they prick their ears, their friends’ howls as my knout flayed their skin from their back and their demented ramblings still echo off the walls. Indeed, the lessons taught in blood are the hardest to forget.’’
‘’Much as I find pleasure in your company, I best withdraw. I do not wish to leave Hoel alone for long.’’
Bidding each other good night, they parted to seek their rest.
An excerpt from my mythic fantasy novel currently titled The Fruit of Passion.
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